The Fall of Troy
Page: 30So hurled he forth a vain word, knowing not
How far in might above him was the man
Whom his spear threatened. Battle-bider Aias
Darkly and scornfully glaring on him, said
"Thou craven wretch, and knowest thou not this,
How much was Hector mightier than thou
In war-craft? yet before my might, my spear,
He shrank. Ay, with his valour was there blent
Discretion. Thou thy thoughts are deathward set,
Who dar'st defy me to the battle, me,
A mightier far than thou! Thou canst not say
That friendship of our fathers thee shall screen;
Nor me thy gifts shall wile to let thee pass
Scatheless from war, as once did Tydeus' son.
Though thou didst 'scape his fury, will not I
Suffer thee to return alive from war.
Ha, in thy many helpers dost thou trust
Who with thee, like so many worthless flies,
Flit round the noble Achilles' corpse? To these
Death and black doom shall my swift onset deal."
Then on the Trojans this way and that he turned,
As mid long forest-glens a lion turns
On hounds, and Trojans many and Lycians slew
That came for honour hungry, till he stood
Mid a wide ring of flinchers; like a shoal
Of darting fish when sails into their midst
Dolphin or shark, a huge sea-fosterling;
So shrank they from the might of Telamon's son,
As aye he charged amidst the rout. But still
Swarmed fighters up, till round Achilles' corse
To right, to left, lay in the dust the slain
Countless, as boars around a lion at bay;
And evermore the strife waxed deadlier.
Then too Hippolochus' war-wise son was slain
By Aias of the heart of fire. He fell
Backward upon Achilles, even as falls
A sapling on a sturdy mountain-oak;
So quelled by the spear on Peleus' son he fell.
But for his rescue Anchises' stalwart son
Strove hard, with all his comrades battle-fain,
And haled the corse forth, and to sorrowing friends
Gave it, to bear to Ilium's hallowed burg.
Himself to spoil Achilles still fought on,
Till warrior Aias pierced him with the spear
Through the right forearm. Swiftly leapt he back
From murderous war, and hasted thence to Troy.
There for his healing cunning leeches wrought,
Who stanched the blood-rush, and laid on the gash
Balms, such as salve war-stricken warriors' pangs.
But Aias still fought on: here, there he slew
With thrusts like lightning-flashes. His great heart
Ached sorely for his mighty cousin slain.
And now the warrior-king Laertes' son
Fought at his side: before him blenched the foe,
As he smote down Peisander's fleetfoot son,
The warrior Maenalus, who left his home
In far-renowned Abydos: down on him
He hurled Atymnius, the goodly son
Whom Pegasis the bright-haired Nymph had borne
To strong Emathion by Granicus' stream.
Dead by his side he laid Orestius' son,
Proteus, who dwelt 'neath lofty Ida's folds.
Ah, never did his mother welcome home
That son from war, Panaceia beauty-famed!
He fell by Odysseus' hands, who spilt the lives
Of many more whom his death-hungering spear
Reached in that fight around the mighty dead.
Yet Alcon, son of Megacles battle-swift,
Hard by Odysseus' right knee drave the spear
Home, and about the glittering greave the blood
Dark-crimson welled. He recked not of the wound,
But was unto his smiter sudden death;
For clear through his shield he stabbed him with his spear
Amidst his battle-fury: to the earth
Backward he dashed him by his giant might
And strength of hand: clashed round him in the dust
His armour, and his corslet was distained
With crimson life-blood. Forth from flesh and shield
The hero plucked the spear of death: the soul
Followed the lance-head from the body forth,
And life forsook its mortal mansion. Then
Rushed on his comrades, in his wound's despite,
Odysseus, nor from that stern battle-toil
Refrained him. And by this a mingled host
Of Danaans eager-hearted fought around
The mighty dead, and many and many a foe
Slew they with those smooth-shafted ashen spears.
Even as the winds strew down upon the ground
The flying leaves, when through the forest-glades
Sweep the wild gusts, as waneth autumn-tide,
And the old year is dying; so the spears
Of dauntless Danaans strewed the earth with slain,
For loyal to dead Achilles were they all,
And loyal to hero Aias to the death.
For like black Doom he blasted the ranks of Troy.
Then against Aias Paris strained his bow;
But he was ware thereof, and sped a stone
Swift to the archer's head: that bolt of death
Crashed through his crested helm, and darkness closed
Round him. In dust down fell he: naught availed
His shafts their eager lord, this way and that
Scattered in dust: empty his quiver lay,
Flew from his hand the bow. In haste his friends
Upcaught him from the earth, and Hector's steeds
Hurried him thence to Troy, scarce drawing breath,
And moaning in his pain. Nor left his men
The weapons of their lord, but gathered up
All from the plain, and bare them to the prince;
While Aias after him sent a wrathful shout:
"Dog, thou hast 'scaped the heavy hand of death
To-day! But swiftly thy last hour shall come
By some strong Argive's hands, or by mine own,
But now have I a nobler task in hand,
From murder's grip to rescue Achilles' corse."
Then turned he on the foe, hurling swift doom
On such as fought around Peleides yet.
'These saw how many yielded up the ghost
Neath his strong hands, and, with hearts failing them
For fear, against him could they stand no more.
As rascal vultures were they, which the swoop
Of an eagle, king of birds, scares far away
From carcasses of sheep that wolves have torn;
So this way, that way scattered they before
The hurtling stones, the sword, the might of Aias.
In utter panic from the war they fled,
In huddled rout, like starlings from the swoop
Of a death-dealing hawk, when, fleeing bane,
One drives against another, as they dart
All terror-huddled in tumultuous flight.
So from the war to Priam's burg they fled
Wretchedly clad with terror as a cloak,
Quailing from mighty Aias' battle-shout,
As with hands dripping blood-gouts he pursued.
Yea, all, one after other, had he slain,
Had they not streamed through city-gates flung wide
Hard-panting, pierced to the very heart with fear.
Pent therewithin he left them, as a shepherd
Leaves folded sheep, and strode back o'er the plain;
Yet never touched he with his feet the ground,
But aye he trod on dead men, arms, and blood;
For countless corpses lay o'er that wide stretch
Even from broad-wayed Troy to Hellespont,
Bodies of strong men slain, the spoil of Doom.
As when the dense stalks of sun-ripened corn
Fall 'neath the reapers' hands, and the long swaths,
Heavy with full ears, overspread the field,
And joys the heart of him who oversees
The toil, lord of the harvest; even so,
By baleful havoc overmastered, lay
All round face-downward men remembering not
The death-denouncing war-shout. But the sons
Of fair Achaea left their slaughtered foes
In dust and blood unstripped of arms awhile
Till they should lay upon the pyre the son
Of Peleus, who in battle-shock had been
Their banner of victory, charging in his might.
So the kings drew him from that stricken field
Straining beneath the weight of giant limbs,
And with all loving care they bore him on,
And laid him in his tent before the ships.
And round him gathered that great host, and wailed
Heart-anguished him who had been the Achaeans' strength,
And now, forgotten all the splendour of spears,
Lay mid the tents by moaning Hellespont,
In stature more than human, even as lay
Tityos, who sought to force Queen Leto, when
She fared to Pytho: swiftly in his wrath
Apollo shot, and laid him low, who seemed
Invincible: in a foul lake of gore
There lay he, covering many a rood of ground,
On the broad earth, his mother; and she moaned
Over her son, of blessed Gods abhorred;
But Lady Leto laughed. So grand of mould
There in the foemen's land lay Aeacus' son,
For joy to Trojans, but for endless grief
To Achaean men lamenting. Moaned the air
With sighing from the abysses of the sea;
And passing heavy grew the hearts of all,
Thinking: "Now shall we perish by the hands
Of Trojans!" Then by those dark ships they thought
Of white-haired fathers left in halls afar,
Of wives new-wedded, who by couches cold
Mourned, waiting, waiting, with their tender babes
For husbands unreturning; and they groaned
In bitterness of soul. A passion of grief
Came o'er their hearts; they fell upon their faces
On the deep sand flung down, and wept as men
All comfortless round Peleus' mighty son,
And clutched and plucked out by the roots their hair,
And east upon their heads defiling sand.
Their cry was like the cry that goeth up
From folk that after battle by their walls
Are slaughtered, when their maddened foes set fire
To a great city, and slay in heaps on heaps
Her people, and make spoil of all her wealth;
So wild and high they wailed beside the sea,
Because the Danaans' champion, Aeacus' son,
Lay, grand in death, by a God's arrow slain,
As Ares lay, when She of the Mighty Father
With that huge stone down dashed him on Troy's plain.