The Fall of Troy
Page: 28Then with a terrible shout the great God cried,
So to turn back from war Achilles awed
By the voice divine, and save from death the Trojans:
"Back from the Trojans, Peleus' son! Beseems not
That longer thou deal death unto thy foes,
Lest an Olympian God abase thy pride."
But nothing quailed the hero at the voice
Immortal, for that round him even now
Hovered the unrelenting Fates. He recked
Naught of the God, and shouted his defiance.
"Phoebus, why dost thou in mine own despite
Stir me to fight with Gods, and wouldst protect
The arrogant Trojans? Heretofore hast thou
By thy beguiling turned me from the fray,
When from destruction thou at the first didst save
Hector, whereat the Trojans all through Troy
Exulted. Nay, thou get thee back: return
Unto the mansion of the Blessed, lest
I smite thee—ay, immortal though thou be!"
Then on the God he turned his back, and sped
After the Trojans fleeing cityward,
And harried still their flight; but wroth at heart
Thus Phoebus spake to his indignant soul:
"Out on this man! he is sense-bereft! But now
Not Zeus himself nor any other Power
Shall save this madman who defies the Gods!"
From mortal sight he vanished into cloud,
And cloaked with mist a baleful shaft he shot
Which leapt to Achilles' ankle: sudden pangs
With mortal sickness made his whole heart faint.
He reeled, and like a tower he fell, that falls
Smit by a whirlwind when an earthquake cleaves
A chasm for rushing blasts from underground;
So fell the goodly form of Aeacus' son.
He glared, a murderous glance, to right, to left,
[Upon the Trojans, and a terrible threat]
Shouted, a threat that could not be fulfilled:
"Who shot at me a stealthy-smiting shaft?
Let him but dare to meet me face to face!
So shall his blood and all his bowels gush out
About my spear, and he be hellward sped!
I know that none can meet me man to man
And quell in fight—of earth-born heroes none,
Though such an one should bear within his breast
A heart unquailing, and have thews of brass.
But dastards still in stealthy ambush lurk
For lives of heroes. Let him face me then!—
Ay! though he be a God whose anger burns
Against the Danaans! Yea, mine heart forebodes
That this my smiter was Apollo, cloaked
In deadly darkness. So in days gone by
My mother told me how that by his shafts
I was to die before the Scaean Gates
A piteous death. Her words were not vain words."
Then with unflinching hands from out the wound
Incurable he drew the deadly shaft
In agonized pain. Forth gushed the blood; his heart
Waxed faint beneath the shadow of coming doom.
Then in indignant wrath he hurled from him
The arrow: a sudden gust of wind swept by,
And caught it up, and, even as he trod
Zeus' threshold, to Apollo gave it back;
For it beseemed not that a shaft divine,
Sped forth by an Immortal, should be lost.
He unto high Olympus swiftly came,
To the great gathering of immortal Gods,
Where all assembled watched the war of men,
These longing for the Trojans' triumph, those
For Danaan victory; so with diverse wills
Watched they the strife, the slayers and the slain.
Him did the Bride of Zeus behold, and straight
Upbraided with exceeding bitter words:
"What deed of outrage, Phoebus, hast thou done
This day, forgetful of that day whereon
To godlike Peleus' spousals gathered all
The Immortals? Yea, amidst the feasters thou
Sangest how Thetis silver-footed left
The sea's abysses to be Peleus' bride;
And as thou harpedst all earth's children came
To hearken, beasts and birds, high craggy hills,
Rivers, and all deep-shadowed forests came.
All this hast thou forgotten, and hast wrought
A ruthless deed, hast slain a godlike man,
Albeit thou with other Gods didst pour
The nectar, praying that he might be the son
By Thetis given to Peleus. But that prayer
Hast thou forgotten, favouring the folk
Of tyrannous Laomedon, whose kine
Thou keptest. He, a mortal, did despite
To thee, the deathless! O, thou art wit-bereft!
Thou favourest Troy, thy sufferings all forgot.
Thou wretch, and doth thy false heart know not this,
What man is an offence, and meriteth
Suffering, and who is honoured of the Gods?
Ever Achilles showed us reverence—yea,
Was of our race. Ha, but the punishment
Of Troy, I ween, shall not be lighter, though
Aeacus' son have fallen; for his son
Right soon shall come from Scyros to the war
To help the Argive men, no less in might
Than was his sire, a bane to many a foe.
But thou—thou for the Trojans dost not care,
But for his valour enviedst Peleus' son,
Seeing he was the mightest of all men.
Thou fool! how wilt thou meet the Nereid's eyes,
When she shall stand in Zeus' hall midst the Gods,
Who praised thee once, and loved as her own son?"
So Hera spake, in bitterness of soul
Upbraiding, but he answered her not a word,
Of reverence for his mighty Father's bride;
Nor could he lift his eyes to meet her eyes,
But sat abashed, aloof from all the Gods
Eternal, while in unforgiving wrath
Scowled on him all the Immortals who maintained
The Danaans' cause; but such as fain would bring
Triumph to Troy, these with exultant hearts
Extolled him, hiding it from Hera's eyes,
Before whose wrath all Heaven-abiders shrank.
But Peleus' son the while forgat not yet
War's fury: still in his invincible limbs
The hot blood throbbed, and still he longed for fight.
Was none of all the Trojans dared draw nigh
The stricken hero, but at distance stood,
As round a wounded lion hunters stand
Mid forest-brakes afraid, and, though the shaft
Stands in his heart, yet faileth not in him
His royal courage, but with terrible glare
Roll his fierce eyes, and roar his grimly jaws;
So wrath and anguish of his deadly hurt
To fury stung Peleides' soul; but aye
His strength ebbed through the god-envenomed wound.
Yet leapt he up, and rushed upon the foe,
And flashed the lightning of his lance; it slew
The goodly Orythaon, comrade stout
Of Hector, through his temples crashing clear:
His helm stayed not the long lance fury-sped
Which leapt therethrough, and won within the bones
The heart of the brain, and spilt his lusty life.
Then stabbed he 'neath the brow Hipponous
Even to the eye-roots, that the eyeball fell
To earth: his soul to Hades flitted forth.
Then through the jaw he pierced Alcathous,
And shore away his tongue: in dust he fell
Gasping his life out, and the spear-head shot
Out through his ear. These, as they rushed on him,
That hero slew; but many a fleer's life
He spilt, for in his heart still leapt the blood.