The Fall of Troy

Page: 29

  But when his limbs grew chill, and ebbed away
  His spirit, leaning on his spear he stood,
  While still the Trojans fled in huddled rout
  Of panic, and he shouted unto them:
  "Trojan and Dardan cravens, ye shall not
  Even in my death, escape my merciless spear,
  But unto mine Avenging Spirits ye
  Shall pay—ay, one and all—destruction's debt!"

  He spake; they heard and quailed: as mid the hills
  Fawns tremble at a lion's deep-mouthed roar,
  And terror-stricken flee the monster, so
  The ranks of Trojan chariot-lords, the lines
  Of battle-helpers drawn from alien lands,
  Quailed at the last shout of Achilles, deemed
  That he was woundless yet. But 'neath the weight
  Of doom his aweless heart, his mighty limbs,
  At last were overborne. Down midst the dead
  He fell, as fails a beetling mountain-cliff.
  Earth rang beneath him: clanged with a thundercrash
  His arms, as Peleus' son the princely fell.
  And still his foes with most exceeding dread
  Stared at him, even as, when some murderous beast
  Lies slain by shepherds, tremble still the sheep
  Eyeing him, as beside the fold he lies,
  And shrinking, as they pass him, far aloof
  And, even as he were living, fear him dead;
  So feared they him, Achilles now no more.

  Yet Paris strove to kindle those faint hearts;
  For his own heart exulted, and he hoped,
  Now Peleus' son, the Danaans' strength, had fallen,
  Wholly to quench the Argive battle-fire:
  "Friends, if ye help me truly and loyally,
  Let us this day die, slain by Argive men,
  Or live, and hale to Troy with Hector's steeds
  In triumph Peleus' son thus fallen dead,
  The steeds that, grieving, yearning for their lord
  To fight have borne me since my brother died.
  Might we with these but hale Achilles slain,
  Glory were this for Hector's horses, yea,
  For Hector—if in Hades men have sense
  Of righteous retribution. This man aye
  Devised but mischief for the sons of Troy;
  And now Troy's daughters with exultant hearts
  From all the city streets shall gather round,
  As pantheresses wroth for stolen cubs,
  Or lionesses, might stand around a man
  Whose craft in hunting vexed them while he lived.
  So round Achilles—a dead corpse at last!—
  In hurrying throngs Troy's daughters then shall come
  In unforgiving, unforgetting hate,
  For parents wroth, for husbands slain, for sons,
  For noble kinsmen. Most of all shall joy
  My father, and the ancient men, whose feet
  Unwillingly are chained within the walls
  By eld, if we shall hale him through our gates,
  And give our foe to fowls of the air for meat."

  Then they, which feared him theretofore, in haste
  Closed round the corpse of strong-heart Aeacus' son,
  Glaucus, Aeneas, battle-fain Agenor,
  And other cunning men in deadly fight,
  Eager to hale him thence to Ilium
  The god-built burg. But Aias failed him not.
  Swiftly that godlike man bestrode the dead:
  Back from the corpse his long lance thrust them all.
  Yet ceased they not from onslaught; thronging round,
  Still with swift rushes fought they for the prize,
  One following other, like to long-lipped bees
  Which hover round their hive in swarms on swarms
  To drive a man thence; but he, recking naught
  Of all their fury, carveth out the combs
  Of nectarous honey: harassed sore are they
  By smoke-reek and the robber; spite of all
  Ever they dart against him; naught cares he;
  So naught of all their onsets Aias recked;
  But first he stabbed Agelaus in the breast,
  And slew that son of Maion: Thestor next:
  Ocythous he smote, Agestratus,
  Aganippus, Zorus, Nessus, Erymas
  The war-renowned, who came from Lycia-land
  With mighty-hearted Glaucus, from his home
  In Melanippion on the mountain-ridge,
  Athena's fane, which Massikyton fronts
  Anigh Chelidonia's headland, dreaded sore
  Of scared seafarers, when its lowering crags
  Must needs be doubled. For his death the blood
  Of famed Hippolochus' son was horror-chilled;
  For this was his dear friend. With one swift thrust
  He pierced the sevenfold hides of Aias' shield,
  Yet touched his flesh not; stayed the spear-head was
  By those thick hides and by the corset-plate
  Which lapped his battle-tireless limbs. But still
  From that stern conflict Glaucus drew not back,
  Burning to vanquish Aias, Aeacus' son,
  And in his folly vaunting threatened him:
  "Aias, men name thee mightiest man of all
  The Argives, hold thee in passing-high esteem
  Even as Achilles: therefore thou, I wot,
  By that dead warrior dead this day shalt lie!"