The Fall of Troy

Page: 14

  So railed he long and loud: the mighty heart
  Of Peleus' son leapt into flame of wrath.
  A sudden buffet of his resistless hand
  Smote 'neath the railer's ear, and all his teeth
  Were dashed to the earth: he fell upon his face:
  Forth of his lips the blood in torrent gushed:
  Swift from his body fled the dastard soul
  Of that vile niddering. Achaea's sons
  Rejoiced thereat, for aye he wont to rail
  On each and all with venomous gibes, himself
  A scandal and the shame of all the host.
  Then mid the warrior Argives cried a voice:
  "Not good it is for baser men to rail
  On kings, or secretly or openly;
  For wrathful retribution swiftly comes.
  The Lady of Justice sits on high; and she
  Who heapeth woe on woe on humankind,
  Even Ate, punisheth the shameless tongue."

  So mid the Danaans cried a voice: nor yet
  Within the mighty soul of Peleus' son
  Lulled was the storm of wrath, but fiercely he spake:
  "Lie there in dust, thy follies all forgot!
  'Tis not for knaves to beard their betters: once
  Thou didst provoke Odysseus' steadfast soul,
  Babbling with venomous tongue a thousand gibes,
  And didst escape with life; but thou hast found
  The son of Peleus not so patient-souled,
  Who with one only buffet from his hand
  Unkennels thy dog's soul! A bitter doom
  Hath swallowed thee: by thine own rascalry
  Thy life is sped. Hence from Achaean men,
  And mouth out thy revilings midst the dead!"

  So spake the valiant-hearted aweless son
  Of Aeacus. But Tydeus' son alone
  Of all the Argives was with anger stirred
  Against Achilles for Thersites slain,
  Seeing these twain were of the self-same blood,
  The one, proud Tydeus' battle-eager son,
  The other, seed of godlike Agrius:
  Brother of noble Oeneus Agrius was;
  And Oeneus in the Danaan land begat
  Tydeus the battle-eager, son to whom
  Was stalwart Diomedes. Therefore wroth
  Was he for slain Thersites, yea, had raised
  Against the son of Peleus vengeful hands,
  Except the noblest of Aehaea's sons
  Had thronged around him, and besought him sore,
  And held him back therefrom. With Peleus' son
  Also they pleaded; else those mighty twain,
  The mightiest of all Argives, were at point
  To close with clash of swords, so stung were they
  With bitter wrath; yet hearkened they at last
  To prayers of comrades, and were reconciled.

  Then of their pity did the Atreid kings—
  For these too at the imperial loveliness
  Of Penthesileia marvelled—render up
  Her body to the men of Troy, to bear
  Unto the burg of Ilus far-renowned
  With all her armour. For a herald came
  Asking this boon for Priam; for the king
  Longed with deep yearning of the heart to lay
  That battle-eager maiden, with her arms,
  And with her war-horse, in the great earth-mound
  Of old Laomedon. And so he heaped
  A high broad pyre without the city wall:
  Upon the height thereof that warrior-queen
  They laid, and costly treasures did they heap
  Around her, all that well beseems to burn
  Around a mighty queen in battle slain.
  And so the Fire-god's swift-upleaping might,
  The ravening flame, consumed her. All around
  The people stood on every hand, and quenched
  The pyre with odorous wine. Then gathered they
  The bones, and poured sweet ointment over them,
  And laid them in a casket: over all
  Shed they the rich fat of a heifer, chief
  Among the herds that grazed on Ida's slope.
  And, as for a beloved daughter, rang
  All round the Trojan men's heart-stricken wail,
  As by the stately wall they buried her
  On an outstanding tower, beside the bones
  Of old Laomedon, a queen beside
  A king. This honour for the War-god's sake
  They rendered, and for Penthesileia's own.
  And in the plain beside her buried they
  The Amazons, even all that followed her
  To battle, and by Argive spears were slain.
  For Atreus' sons begrudged not these the boon
  Of tear-besprinkled graves, but let their friends,
  The warrior Trojans, draw their corpses forth,
  Yea, and their own slain also, from amidst
  The swath of darts o'er that grim harvest-field.
  Wrath strikes not at the dead: pitied are foes
  When life has fled, and left them foes no more.