The Fall of Troy

Page: 111

  Then through his throat that terrible warrior drave
  The deadly blade, and thrust it straight to where
  The paths of man's life lead by swiftest way
  Blood-paved to doom: death palsied his poor strength
  By Diomedes' hands. Thence rushed he on
  Slaying the Trojans, storming in his might
  All through their fortress: pierced by his long spear
  Eurycoon fell, Perimnestor's son renowned.
  Amphimedon Aias slew: Agamemnon smote
  Damastor's son: Idomeneus struck down
  Mimas: by Meges Deiopites died.

  Achilles' son with his resistless lance
  Smote godlike Pammon; then his javelin pierced
  Polites in mid-rush: Antiphonus
  Dead upon these he laid, all Priam's sons.
  Agenor faced him in the fight, and fell:
  Hero on hero slew he; everywhere
  Stalked at his side Death's black doom manifest:
  Clad in his sire's might, whomso he met he slew.
  Last, on Troy's king in murderous mood he came.
  By Zeus the Hearth-lord's altar. Seeing him,
  Old Priam knew him and quaked not; for he longed
  Himself to lay his life down midst his sons;
  And craving death to Achilles' seed he spake:
  "Fierce-hearted son of Achilles strong in war,
  Slay me, and pity not my misery.
  I have no will to see the sun's light more,
  Who have suffered woes so many and so dread.
  With my sons would I die, and so forget
  Anguish and horror of war. Oh that thy sire
  Had slain me, ere mine eyes beheld aflame
  Illium, had slain me when I brought to him
  Ransom for Hector, whom thy father slew.
  He spared me—so the Fates had spun my thread
  Of destiny. But thou, glut with my blood
  Thy fierce heart, and let me forget my pain."
  Answered Achilles' battle-eager son:
  "Fain am I, yea, in haste to grant thy prayer.
  A foe like thee will I not leave alive;
  For naught is dearer unto men than life."

  With one stroke swept he off that hoary head
  Lightly as when a reaper lops an ear
  In a parched cornfield at the harvest-tide.
  With lips yet murmuring low it rolled afar
  From where with quivering limbs the body lay
  Amidst dark-purple blood and slaughtered men.
  So lay he, chiefest once of all the world
  In lineage, wealth, in many and goodly sons.
  Ah me, not long abides the honour of man,
  But shame from unseen ambush leaps on him
  So clutched him Doom, so he forgat his woes.

  Yea, also did those Danaan car-lords hurl
  From a high tower the babe Astyanax,
  Dashing him out of life. They tore the child
  Out of his mother's arms, in wrathful hate
  Of Hector, who in life had dealt to them
  Such havoc; therefore hated they his seed,
  And down from that high rampart flung his child—
  A wordless babe that nothing knew of war!
  As when amid the mountains hungry wolves
  Chase from the mother's side a suckling calf,
  And with malignant cunning drive it o'er
  An echoing cliffs edge, while runs to and fro
  Its dam with long moans mourning her dear child,
  And a new evil followeth hard on her,
  For suddenly lions seize her for a prey;
  So, as she agonized for her son, the foe
  To bondage haled with other captive thralls
  That shrieking daughter of King Eetion.
  Then, as on those three fearful deaths she thought
  Of husband, child, and father, Andromaehe
  Longed sore to die. Yea, for the royally-born
  Better it is to die in war, than do
  The service of the thrall to baser folk.
  All piteously the broken-hearted cried:
  "Oh hurl my body also from the wall,
  Or down the cliff, or cast me midst the fire,
  Ye Argives! Woes are mine unutterable!
  For Peleus' son smote down my noble father
  In Thebe, and in Troy mine husband slew,
  Who unto me was all mine heart's desire,
  Who left me in mine halls one little child,
  My darling and my pride—of all mine hopes
  In him fell merciless Fate hath cheated me!
  Oh therefore thrust this broken-hearted one
  Now out of life! Hale me not overseas
  Mingled with spear-thralls; for my soul henceforth
  Hath no more pleasure in life, since God hath slain
  My nearest and my dearest! For me waits
  Trouble and anguish and lone homelessness!"