The Fall of Troy

Page: 23

  Then from the sheath he flashed his long keen sword,
  And Memnon his; and swiftly in fiery fight
  Closed they, and rained the never-ceasing blows
  Upon the bucklers which with craft divine
  Hephaestus' self had fashioned. Once and again
  Clashed they together, and their cloudy crests
  Touched, mingling all their tossing storm of hair.
  And Zeus, for that he loved them both, inspired
  With prowess each, and mightier than their wont
  He made them, made them tireless, nothing like
  To men, but Gods: and gloated o'er the twain
  The Queen of Strife. In eager fury these
  Thrust swiftly out the spear, with fell intent
  To reach the throat 'twixt buckler-rim and helm,
  Thrust many a time and oft, and now would aim
  The point beneath the shield, above the greave,
  Now close beneath the corslet curious-wrought
  That lapped the stalwart frame: hard, fast they lunged,
  And on their shoulders clashed the arms divine.
  Roared to the very heavens the battle-shout
  Of warring men, of Trojans, Aethiops,
  And Argives mighty-hearted, while the dust
  Rolled up from 'neath their feet, tossed to the sky
  In stress of battle-travail great and strong.

  As when a mist enshrouds the hills, what time
  Roll up the rain-clouds, and the torrent-beds
  Roar as they fill with rushing floods, and howls
  Each gorge with fearful voices; shepherds quake
  To see the waters' downrush and the mist,
  Screen dear to wolves and all the wild fierce things
  Nursed in the wide arms of the forest; so
  Around the fighters' feet the choking dust
  Hung, hiding the fair splendour of the sun
  And darkening all the heaven. Sore distressed
  With dust and deadly conflict were the folk.
  Then with a sudden hand some Blessed One
  Swept the dust-pall aside; and the Gods saw
  The deadly Fates hurling the charging lines
  Together, in the unending wrestle locked
  Of that grim conflict, saw where never ceased
  Ares from hideous slaughter, saw the earth
  Crimsoned all round with rushing streams of blood,
  Saw where dark Havoc gloated o'er the scene,
  Saw the wide plain with corpses heaped, even all
  Bounded 'twixt Simois and Xanthus, where
  They sweep from Ida down to Hellespont.

  But when long lengthened out the conflict was
  Of those two champions, and the might of both
  In that strong tug and strain was equal-matched,
  Then, gazing from Olympus' far-off heights,
  The Gods joyed, some in the invincible son
  Of Peleus, others in the goodly child
  Of old Tithonus and the Queen of Dawn.
  Thundered the heavens on high from east to west,
  And roared the sea from verge to verge, and rocked
  The dark earth 'neath the heroes' feet, and quaked
  Proud Nereus' daughters all round Thetis thronged
  In grievous fear for mighty Achilles' sake;
  And trembled for her son the Child of the Mist
  As in her chariot through the sky she rode.
  Marvelled the Daughters of the Sun, who stood
  Near her, around that wondrous splendour-ring
  Traced for the race-course of the tireless sun
  By Zeus, the limit of all Nature's life
  And death, the dally round that maketh up
  The eternal circuit of the rolling years.
  And now amongst the Blessed bitter feud
  Had broken out; but by behest of Zeus
  The twin Fates suddenly stood beside these twain,
  One dark—her shadow fell on Memnon's heart;
  One bright—her radiance haloed Peleus' son.
  And with a great cry the Immortals saw,
  And filled with sorrow they of the one part were,
  They of the other with triumphant joy.