The Fall of Troy

Page: 32

  So moaned his ever-swelling tide of grief.
  And Atreus' son beside him mourned and wept
  With heart on fire with inly smouldering pain:
  "Thou hast perished, chiefest of the Danaan men,
  Hast perished, and hast left the Achaean host
  Fenceless! Now thou art fallen, are they left
  An easier prey to foes. Thou hast given joy
  To Trojans by thy fall, who dreaded thee
  As sheep a lion. These with eager hearts
  Even to the ships will bring the battle now.
  Zeus, Father, thou too with deceitful words
  Beguilest mortals! Thou didst promise me
  That Priam's burg should be destroyed; but now
  That promise given dost thou not fulfil,
  But thou didst cheat mine heart: I shall not win
  The war's goal, now Achilles is no more."

  So did he cry heart-anguished. Mourned all round
  Wails multitudinous for Peleus' son:
  The dark ships echoed back the voice of grief,
  And sighed and sobbed the immeasurable air.
  And as when long sea-rollers, onward driven
  By a great wind, heave up far out at sea,
  And strandward sweep with terrible rush, and aye
  Headland and beach with shattered spray are scourged,
  And roar unceasing; so a dread sound rose
  Of moaning of the Danaans round the corse,
  Ceaselessly wailing Peleus' aweless son.

  And on their mourning soon black night had come,
  But spake unto Atreides Neleus' son,
  Nestor, whose own heart bare its load of grief
  Remembering his own son Antilochus:
  "O mighty Agamemnon, sceptre-lord
  Of Argives, from wide-shrilling lamentation
  Refrain we for this day. None shall withhold
  Hereafter these from all their heart's desire
  Of weeping and lamenting many days.
  But now go to, from aweless Aeacus' son
  Wash we the foul blood-gouts, and lay we him
  Upon a couch: unseemly it is to shame
  The dead by leaving them untended long."

  So counselled Neleus' son, the passing-wise.
  Then hasted he his men, and bade them set
  Caldrons of cold spring-water o'er the flames,
  And wash the corse, and clothe in vesture fair,
  Sea-purple, which his mother gave her son
  At his first sailing against Troy. With speed
  They did their lord's command: with loving care,
  All service meetly rendered, on a couch
  Laid they the mighty fallen, Peleus' son.

  The Trito-born, the passing-wise, beheld
  And pitied him, and showered upon his head
  Ambrosia, which hath virtue aye to keep
  Taintless, men say, the flesh of warriors slain.
  Like softly-breathing sleeper dewy-fresh
  She made him: over that dead face she drew
  A stern frown, even as when he lay, with wrath
  Darkening his grim face, clasping his slain friend
  Patroclus; and she made his frame to be
  More massive, like a war-god to behold.
  And wonder seized the Argives, as they thronged
  And saw the image of a living man,
  Where all the stately length of Peleus' son
  Lay on the couch, and seemed as though he slept.

  Around him all the woeful captive-maids,
  Whom he had taken for a prey, what time
  He had ravaged hallowed Lemnos, and had scaled
  The towered crags of Thebes, Eetion's town,
  Wailed, as they stood and rent their fair young flesh,
  And smote their breasts, and from their hearts bemoaned
  That lord of gentleness and courtesy,
  Who honoured even the daughters of his foes.
  And stricken most of all with heart-sick pain
  Briseis, hero Achilles' couchmate, bowed
  Over the dead, and tore her fair young flesh
  With ruthless fingers, shrieking: her soft breast
  Was ridged with gory weals, so cruelly
  She smote it thou hadst said that crimson blood
  Had dripped on milk. Yet, in her griefs despite,
  Her winsome loveliness shone out, and grace
  Hung like a veil about her, as she wailed:
  "Woe for this grief passing all griefs beside!
  Never on me came anguish like to this
  Not when my brethren died, my fatherland
  Was wasted—like this anguish for thy death!
  Thou wast my day, my sunlight, my sweet life,
  Mine hope of good, my strong defence from harm,
  Dearer than all my beauty—yea, more dear
  Than my lost parents! Thou wast all in all
  To me, thou only, captive though I be.
  Thou tookest from me every bondmaid's task
  And like a wife didst hold me. Ah, but now
  Me shall some new Achaean master bear
  To fertile Sparta, or to thirsty Argos.
  The bitter cup of thraldom shall I drain,
  Severed, ah me, from thee! Oh that the earth
  Had veiled my dead face ere I saw thy doom!"