The Fall of Troy

Page: 38

  So spake she; but Zeus answered not a word;
  For pondering there he sat with burdened breast,
  Thinking how soon the Argives should destroy
  The city of Priam, thinking how himself
  Would visit on the victors ruin dread
  In war and on the great sea thunder-voiced.
  Such thoughts were his, ere long to be fulfilled.

  Now sank the sun to Ocean's fathomless flood:
  O'er the dim land the infinite darkness stole,
  Wherein men gain a little rest from toil.
  Then by the ships, despite their sorrow, supped
  The Argives, for ye cannot thrust aside
  Hunger's importunate craving, when it comes
  Upon the breast, but straightway heavy and faint
  Lithe limbs become; nor is there remedy
  Until one satisfy this clamorous guest
  Therefore these ate the meat of eventide
  In grief for Achilles' hard necessity
  Constrained them all. And, when they had broken bread,
  Sweet sleep came on them, loosening from their frames
  Care's heavy chain, and quickening strength anew

  But when the starry Bears had eastward turned
  Their heads, expectant of the uprushing light
  Of Helios, and when woke the Queen of Dawn,
  Then rose from sleep the stalwart Argive men
  Purposing for the Trojans death and doom.
  Stirred were they like the roughly-ridging sea
  Icarian, or as sudden-rippling corn
  In harvest field, what time the rushing wings
  Of the cloud-gathering West sweep over it;
  So upon Hellespont's strand the folk were stirred.
  And to those eager hearts cried Tydeus' son:
  "If we be battle-biders, friends, indeed,
  More fiercely fight we now the hated foe,
  Lest they take heart because Achilles lives
  No longer. Come, with armour, car, and steed
  Let us beset them. Glory waits our toil?"

  But battle-eager Aias answering spake
  "Brave be thy words, and nowise idle talk,
  Kindling the dauntless Argive men, whose hearts
  Before were battle-eager, to the fight
  Against the Trojan men, O Tydeus' son.
  But we must needs abide amidst the ships
  Till Goddess Thetis come forth of the sea;
  For that her heart is purposed to set here
  Fair athlete-prizes for the funeral-games.
  This yesterday she told me, ere she plunged
  Into sea-depths, yea, spake to me apart
  From other Danaans; and, I trow, by this
  Her haste hath brought her nigh. Yon Trojan men,
  Though Peleus' son hath died, shall have small heart
  For battle, while myself am yet alive,
  And thou, and noble Atreus' son, the king."

  So spake the mighty son of Telamon,
  But knew not that a dark and bitter doom
  For him should follow hard upon those games
  By Fate's contrivance. Answered Tydeus' son
  "O friend, if Thetis comes indeed this day
  With goodly gifts for her son's funeral-games,
  Then bide we by the ships, and keep we here
  All others. Meet it is to do the will
  Of the Immortals: yea, to Achilles too,
  Though the Immortals willed it not, ourselves
  Must render honour grateful to the dead."

  So spake the battle-eager Tydeus' son.
  And lo, the Bride of Peleus gliding came
  Forth of the sea, like the still breath of dawn,
  And suddenly was with the Argive throng
  Where eager-faced they waited, some, that looked
  Soon to contend in that great athlete-strife,
  And some, to joy in seeing the mighty strive.
  Amidst that gathering Thetis sable-stoled
  Set down her prizes, and she summoned forth
  Achaea's champions: at her best they came.

  But first amidst them all rose Neleus' son,
  Not as desiring in the strife of fists
  To toil, nor strain of wrestling; for his arms
  And all his sinews were with grievous eld
  Outworn, but still his heart and brain were strong.
  Of all the Achaeans none could match himself
  Against him in the folkmote's war of words;
  Yea, even Laertes' glorious son to him
  Ever gave place when men for speech were met;
  Nor he alone, but even the kingliest
  Of Argives, Agamemnon, lord of spears.
  Now in their midst he sang the gracious Queen
  Of Nereids, sang how she in willsomeness
  Of beauty was of all the Sea-maids chief.
  Well-pleased she hearkened. Yet again he sang,
  Singing of Peleus' Bridal of Delight,
  Which all the blest Immortals brought to pass
  By Pelion's crests; sang of the ambrosial feast
  When the swift Hours brought in immortal hands
  Meats not of earth, and heaped in golden maunds;
  Sang how the silver tables were set forth
  In haste by Themis blithely laughing; sang
  How breathed Hephaestus purest flame of fire;
  Sang how the Nymphs in golden chalices
  Mingled ambrosia; sang the ravishing dance
  Twined by the Graces' feet; sang of the chant
  The Muses raised, and how its spell enthralled
  All mountains, rivers, all the forest brood;
  How raptured was the infinite firmament,
  Cheiron's fair caverns, yea, the very Gods.

  Such noble strain did Neleus' son pour out
  Into the Argives' eager ears; and they
  Hearkened with ravished souls. Then in their midst
  He sang once more the imperishable deeds
  Of princely Achilles. All the mighty throng
  Acclaimed him with delight. From that beginning
  With fitly chosen words did he extol
  The glorious hero; how he voyaged and smote
  Twelve cities; how he marched o'er leagues on leagues
  Of land, and spoiled eleven; how he slew
  Telephus and Eetion's might renowned
  In Thebe; how his spear laid Cyenus low,
  Poseidon's son, and godlike Polydorus,
  Troilus the goodly, princely Asteropaeus;
  And how he dyed with blood the river-streams
  Of Xanthus, and with countless corpses choked
  His murmuring flow, when from the limbs he tore
  Lycaon's life beside the sounding river;
  And how he smote down Hector; how he slew
  Penthesileia, and the godlike son
  Of splendour-throned Dawn;—all this he sang
  To Argives which already knew the tale;
  Sang of his giant mould, how no man's strength
  In fight could stand against him, nor in games
  Where strong men strive for mastery, where the swift
  Contend with flying feet or hurrying wheels
  Of chariots, nor in combat panoplied;
  And how in goodlihead he far outshone
  All Danaans, and how his bodily might
  Was measureless in the stormy clash of war.
  Last, he prayed Heaven that he might see a son
  Like that great sire from sea-washed Scyros come.