The Fall of Troy

Page: 119

  Then as a wind-breath swift he fleeted thence,
  And came to the Elysian Plain, whereto
  A path to heaven reacheth, for the feet
  Ascending and descending of the Blest.
  Then the son started up from sleep, and called
  His sire to mind, and glowed the heart in him.

  When to wide heaven the Child of Mist uprose,
  Scattering night, unveiling earth and air,
  Then from their rest upsprang Achaea's sons
  Yearning for home. With laughter 'gan they hale
  Down to the sea the keels: but lo, their haste
  Was reined in by Achilles' mighty son:

  He assembled them, and told his sire's behest:
  "Hearken, dear sons of Argives battle-staunch,
  To this my glorious father's hest, to me
  Spoken in darkness slumbering on my bed:
  He saith, he dwells with the Immortal Gods:
  He biddeth you and Atreus' son the king
  To bring, as his war-guerdon passing-fair,
  To his dim dark tomb Polyxeina queenly-robed,
  To slay her there, but far thence bury her.
  But if ye slight him, and essay to sail
  The sea, he threateneth to stir up the waves
  To bar your path upon the deep, and here
  Storm-bound long time to hold you, ships and men."

  Then hearkened they, and as to a God they prayed;
  For even now a storm-blast on the sea
  Upheaved the waves, broad-backed and thronging fast
  More than before beneath the madding wind.
  Tossed the great deep, smit by Poseidon's hands
  For a grace to strong Achilles. All the winds
  Swooped on the waters. Prayed the Dardans all
  To Achilles, and a man to his fellow cried:
  "Great Zeus's seed Achilles verily was;
  Therefore is he a God, who in days past
  Dwelt among us; for lapse of dateless time
  Makes not the sons of Heaven to fade away."

  Then to Achilles' tomb the host returned,
  And led the maid, as calf by herdmen dragged
  For sacrifice, from woodland pastures torn
  From its mother's side, and lowing long and loud
  It moans with anguished heart; so Priam's child
  Wailed in the hands of foes. Down streamed her tears
  As when beneath the heavy sacks of sand
  Olives clear-skinned, ne'er blotched by drops of storm,
  Pour out their oil, when the long levers creak
  As strong men strain the cords; so poured the tears
  Of travail-burdened Priam's daughter, haled
  To stern Achilles' tomb, tears blent with moans.
  Drenched were her bosom-folds, glistened the drops
  On flesh clear-white as costly ivory.

  Then, to crown all her griefs, yet sharper pain
  Fell on the heart of hapless Hecuba.
  Then did her soul recall that awful dream,
  The vision of sleep of that night overpast:
  Herseemed that on Achilles' tomb she stood
  Moaning, her hair down-streaming to the ground,
  And from her breasts blood dripped to earth the while,
  And drenched the tomb. Fear-haunted touching this,
  Foreboding all calamity, she wailed
  Piteously; far rang her wild lament.
  As a dog moaning at her master's door,
  Utters long howls, her teats with milk distent,
  Whose whelps, ere their eyes opened to the light,
  Her lords afar have flung, a prey to kites;
  And now with short sharp cries she plains, and now
  Long howling: the weird outcry thrills the air;
  So wailed and shrieked for her child Hecuba:
  "Ah me! what sorrows first or last shall I
  Lament heart-anguished, who am full of woes?
  Those unimagined ills my sons, my king
  Have suffered? or my city, or daughters shamed?
  Or my despair, my day of slavery?
  Oh, the grim fates have caught me in a net
  Of manifold ills! O child, they have spun for thee
  Dread weird of unimagined misery!
  They have thrust thee away, when near was Hymen's hymn,
  From thine espousals, marked thee for destruction
  Dark, unendurable, unspeakable!
  For lo, a dead man's heart, Achilles' heart,
  Is by our blood made warm with life to-day!
  O child, dear child, that I might die with thee,
  That earth might swallow me, ere I see thy doom!"
  So cried she, weeping never-ceasing tears,
  For grief on bitter grief encompassed her.
  But when these reached divine Achilles' tomb,
  Then did his son unsheathe the whetted sword,
  His left hand grasped the maid, and his right hand
  Was laid upon the tomb, and thus he cried:
  "Hear, father, thy son's prayer, hear all the prayers
  Of Argives, and be no more wroth with us!
  Lo, unto thee now all thine heart's desire
  Will we fulfil. Be gracious to us thou,
  And to our praying grant sweet home-return."