The Fall of Troy

Page: 123

  Still from Olympus thundering Atrytone
  Wielded her Father's power unshamed, and still
  The welkin shrieked around. Her ruin of wrath
  Now upon Aias hurled she: on his ship
  Dashed she a thunderbolt, and shivered it
  Wide in a moment into fragments small,
  While earth and air yelled o'er the wreck, and whirled
  And plunged and fell the whole sea down thereon.
  They in the ship were all together flung
  Forth: all about them swept the giant waves,
  Round them leapt lightnings flaming through the dark.
  Choked with the strangling surf of hissing brine,
  Gasping out life, they drifted o'er the sea.

  But even in death those captive maids rejoiced,
  As some ill-starred ones, clasping to their breasts
  Their babes, sank in the sea; some flung their arms
  Round Danaans' horror-stricken heads, and dragged
  These down with them, so rendering to their foes
  Requital for foul outrage down to them.
  And from on high the haughty Trito-born
  Looked down on all this, and her heart was glad.

  But Aias floated now on a galley's plank,
  Now through the brine with strong hands oared his path,
  Like some old Titan in his tireless might.
  Cleft was the salt sea-surge by the sinewy hands
  Of that undaunted man: the Gods beheld
  And marvelled at his courage and his strength.
  But now the billows swung him up on high
  Through misty air, as though to a mountain's peak,
  Now whelmed him down, as they would bury him
  In ravening whirlpits: yet his stubborn hands
  Toiled on unwearied. Aye to right and left
  Flashed lightnings down, and quenched them in the sea;
  For not yet was the Child of Thunderer Zeus
  Purposed to smite him dead, despite her wrath,
  Ere he had drained the cup of travail and pain
  Down to the dregs; so in the deep long time
  Affliction wore him down, tormented sore
  On every side. Grim Fates stood round the man
  Unnumbered; yet despair still kindled strength.
  He cried: "Though all the Olympians banded come
  In wrath, and rouse against me all the sea,
  I will escape them!" But no whit did he
  Elude the Gods' wrath; for the Shaker of Earth
  In fierceness of his indignation marked
  Where his hands clung to the Gyraean Rock,
  And in stern anger with an earthquake shook
  Both sea and land. Around on all sides crashed
  Caphereus' cliffs: beneath the Sea-king's wrath
  The surf-tormented beaches shrieked and roared.
  The broad crag rifted reeled into the sea,
  The rock whereto his desperate hands had clung;
  Yet did he writhe up round its jutting spurs,
  While flayed his hands were, and from 'neath his nails
  The blood ran. Wrestling with him roared the waves,
  And the foam whitened all his hair and beard.

  Yet had he 'scaped perchance his evil doom,
  Had not Poseidon, wroth with his hardihood,
  Cleaving the earth, hurled down the chasm the rock,
  As in the old time Pallas heaved on high
  Sicily, and on huge Enceladus
  Dashed down the isle, which burns with the burning yet
  Of that immortal giant, as he breathes
  Fire underground; so did the mountain-crag,
  Hurled from on high, bury the Locrian king,
  Pinning the strong man down, a wretch crushed flat.
  And so on him death's black destruction came
  Whom land and sea alike were leagued to slay.

  Still over the great deep were swept the rest
  Of those Achaeans, crouching terror-dazed
  Down in the ships, save those that mid the waves
  Had fallen. Misery encompassed all;
  For some with heavily-plunging prows drave on,
  With keels upturned some drifted. Here were masts
  Snapped from the hull by rushing gusts, and there
  Were tempest-rifted wrecks of scattered beams;
  And some had sunk, whelmed in the mighty deep,
  Swamped by the torrent downpour from the clouds:
  For these endured not madness of wind-tossed sea
  Leagued with heaven's waterspout; for streamed the sky
  Ceaselessly like a river, while the deep
  Raved round them. And one cried: "Such floods on men
  Fell only when Deucalion's deluge came,
  When earth was drowned, and all was fathomless sea!"