The Fall of Troy

Page: 35

  Then, sorrowing sorely for Achilles still,
  The Danaans woke to weep. Day after day,
  For many days they wept. Around them moaned
  Far-stretching beaches of the sea, and mourned
  Great Nereus for his daughter Thetis' sake;
  And mourned with him the other Sea-gods all
  For dead Achilles. Then the Argives gave
  The corpse of great Peleides to the flame.
  A pyre of countless tree-trunks built they up
  Which, all with one mind toiling, from the heights
  Of Ida they brought down; for Atreus' sons
  Sped on the work, and charged them to bring thence
  Wood without measure, that consumed with speed
  Might be Achilles' body. All around
  Piled they about the pyre much battle-gear
  Of strong men slain; and slew and cast thereon
  Full many goodly sons of Trojan men,
  And snorting steeds, and mighty bulls withal,
  And sheep and fatling swine thereon they cast.
  And wailing captive maids from coffers brought
  Mantles untold; all cast they on the pyre:
  Gold heaped they there and amber. All their hair
  The Myrmidons shore, and shrouded with the same
  The body of their king. Briseis laid
  Her own shorn tresses on the corpse, her gift,
  Her last, unto her lord. Great jars of oil
  Full many poured they out thereon, with jars
  Of honey and of wine, rich blood of the grape
  That breathed an odour as of nectar, yea,
  Cast incense-breathing perfumes manifold
  Marvellous sweet, the precious things put forth
  By earth, and treasures of the sea divine.

  Then, when all things were set in readiness
  About the pyre, all, footmen, charioteers,
  Compassed that woeful bale, clashing their arms,
  While, from the viewless heights Olympian, Zeus
  Rained down ambrosia on dead Aeacus' son.
  For honour to the Goddess, Nereus' child,
  He sent to Aeolus Hermes, bidding him
  Summon the sacred might of his swift winds,
  For that the corpse of Aeacus' son must now
  Be burned. With speed he went, and Aeolus
  Refused not: the tempestuous North in haste
  He summoned, and the wild blast of the West;
  And to Troy sped they on their whirlwind wings.
  Fast in mad onrush, fast across the deep
  They darted; roared beneath them as they flew
  The sea, the land; above crashed thunder-voiced
  Clouds headlong hurtling through the firmament.
  Then by decree of Zeus down on the pyre
  Of slain Achilles, like a charging host
  Swooped they; upleapt the Fire-god's madding breath:
  Uprose a long wail from the Myrmidons.
  Then, though with whirlwind rushes toiled the winds,
  All day, all night, they needs must fan the flames
  Ere that death-pyre burned out. Up to the heavens
  Vast-volumed rolled the smoke. The huge tree-trunks
  Groaned, writhing, bursting, in the heat, and dropped
  The dark-grey ash all round. So when the winds
  Had tirelessly fulfilled their mighty task,
  Back to their cave they rode cloud-charioted.

  Then, when the fire had last of all consumed
  That hero-king, when all the steeds, the men
  Slain round the pyre had first been ravined up,
  With all the costly offerings laid around
  The mighty dead by Achaia's weeping sons,
  The glowing embers did the Myrmidons quench
  With wine. Then clear to be discerned were seen
  His bones; for nowise like the rest were they,
  But like an ancient Giant's; none beside
  With these were blent; for bulls and steeds, and sons
  Of Troy, with all that mingled hecatomb,
  Lay in a wide ring round his corse, and he
  Amidst them, flame-devoured, lay there alone.
  So his companions groaning gathered up
  His bones, and in a silver casket laid
  Massy and deep, and banded and bestarred
  With flashing gold; and Nereus' daughters shed
  Ambrosia over them, and precious nards
  For honour to Achilles: fat of kine
  And amber honey poured they over all.
  A golden vase his mother gave, the gift
  In old time of the Wine-god, glorious work
  Of the craft-master Fire-god, in the which
  They laid the casket that enclosed the bones
  Of mighty-souled Achilles. All around
  The Argives heaped a barrow, a giant sign,
  Upon a foreland's uttermost end, beside
  The Hellespont's deep waters, wailing loud
  Farewells unto the Myrmidons' hero-king.

  Nor stayed the immortal steeds of Aeacus' son
  Tearless beside the ships; they also mourned
  Their slain king: sorely loth were they to abide
  Longer mid mortal men or Argive steeds
  Bearing a burden of consuming grief;
  But fain were they to soar through air, afar
  From wretched men, over the Ocean's streams,
  Over the Sea-queen's caverns, unto where
  Divine Podarge bare that storm-foot twain
  Begotten of the West-wind clarion-voiced
  Yea, and they had accomplished their desire,
  But the Gods' purpose held them back, until
  From Scyros' isle Achilles' fleetfoot son
  Should come. Him waited they to welcome, when
  He came unto the war-host; for the Fates,
  Daughters of holy Chaos, at their birth
  Had spun the life-threads of those deathless foals,
  Even to serve Poseidon first, and next
  Peleus the dauntless king, Achilles then
  The invincible, and, after these, the fourth,
  The mighty-hearted Neoptolemus,
  Whom after death to the Elysian Plain
  They were to bear, unto the Blessed Land,
  By Zeus' decree. For which cause, though their hearts
  Were pierced with bitter anguish, they abode
  Still by the ships, with spirits sorrowing
  For their old lord, and yearning for the new.