The Fall of Troy

Page: 45

  And there were man-devouring wars, and all
  Horrors of fight: slain men were falling down
  Mid horse-hoofs; and the likeness of a plain
  Blood-drenched was on that shield invincible.
  Panic was there, and Dread, and ghastly Enyo
  With limbs all gore-bespattered hideously,
  And deadly Strife, and the Avenging Spirits
  Fierce-hearted—she, still goading warriors on
  To the onset they, outbreathing breath of fire.
  Around them hovered the relentless Fates;
  Beside them Battle incarnate onward pressed
  Yelling, and from their limbs streamed blood and sweat.
  There were the ruthless Gorgons: through their hair
  Horribly serpents coiled with flickering tongues.
  A measureless marvel was that cunning work
  Of things that made men shudder to behold
  Seeming as though they verily lived and moved.

  And while here all war's marvels were portrayed,
  Yonder were all the works of lovely peace.
  The myriad tribes of much-enduring men
  Dwelt in fair cities. Justice watched o'er all.
  To diverse toils they set their hands; the fields
  Were harvest-laden; earth her increase bore.

  Most steeply rose on that god-laboured work
  The rugged flanks of holy Honour's mount,
  And there upon a palm-tree throned she sat
  Exalted, and her hands reached up to heaven.
  All round her, paths broken by many rocks
  Thwarted the climbers' feet; by those steep tracks
  Daunted ye saw returning many folk:
  Few won by sweat of toil the sacred height.

  And there were reapers moving down long swaths
  Swinging the whetted sickles: 'neath their hands
  The hot work sped to its close. Hard after these
  Many sheaf-binders followed, and the work
  Grew passing great. With yoke-bands on their necks
  Oxen were there, whereof some drew the wains
  Heaped high with full-eared sheaves, and further on
  Were others ploughing, and the glebe showed black
  Behind them. Youths with ever-busy goads
  Followed: a world of toil was there portrayed.

  And there a banquet was, with pipe and harp,
  Dances of maids, and flashing feet of boys,
  All in swift movement, like to living souls.

  Hard by the dance and its sweet winsomeness
  Out of the sea was rising lovely-crowned
  Cypris, foam-blossoms still upon her hair;
  And round her hovered smiling witchingly
  Desire, and danced the Graces lovely-tressed.

  And there were lordly Nereus' Daughters shown
  Leading their sister up from the wide sea
  To her espousals with the warrior-king.
  And round her all the Immortals banqueted
  On Pelion's ridge far-stretching. All about
  Lush dewy watermeads there were, bestarred
  With flowers innumerable, grassy groves,
  And springs with clear transparent water bright.

  There ships with sighing sheets swept o'er the sea,
  Some beating up to windward, some that sped
  Before a following wind, and round them heaved
  The melancholy surge. Seared shipmen rushed
  This way and that, adread for tempest-gusts,
  Hauling the white sails in, to 'scape the death—
  It all seemed real—some tugging at the oars,
  While the dark sea on either side the ship
  Grew hoary 'neath the swiftly-plashing blades.

  And there triumphant the Earth-shaker rode
  Amid sea-monsters' stormy-footed steeds
  Drew him, and seemed alive, as o'er the deep
  They raced, oft smitten by the golden whip.
  Around their path of flight the waves fell smooth,
  And all before them was unrippled calm.
  Dolphins on either hand about their king
  Swarmed, in wild rapture of homage bowing backs,
  And seemed like live things o'er the hazy sea
  Swimming, albeit all of silver wrought.

  Marvels of untold craft were imaged there
  By cunning-souled Hephaestus' deathless hands
  Upon the shield. And Ocean's fathomless flood
  Clasped like a garland all the outer rim,
  And compassed all the strong shield's curious work.

  And therebeside the massy helmet lay.
  Zeus in his wrath was set upon the crest
  Throned on heaven's dome; the Immortals all around
  Fierce-battling with the Titans fought for Zeus.
  Already were their foes enwrapped with flame,
  For thick and fast as snowflakes poured from heaven
  The thunderbolts: the might of Zeus was roused,
  And burning giants seemed to breathe out flames.

  And therebeside the fair strong corslet lay,
  Unpierceable, which clasped Peleides once:
  There were the greaves close-lapping, light alone
  To Achilles; massy of mould and huge they were.

  And hard by flashed the sword whose edge and point
  No mail could turn, with golden belt, and sheath
  Of silver, and with haft of ivory:
  Brightest amid those wondrous arms it shone.
  Stretched on the earth thereby was that dread spear,
  Long as the tall-tressed pines of Pelion,
  Still breathing out the reek of Hector's blood.

  Then mid the Argives Thetis sable-stoled
  In her deep sorrow for Achilles spake;
  "Now all the athlete-prizes have been won
  Which I set forth in sorrow for my child.
  Now let that mightiest of the Argives come
  Who rescued from the foe my dead: to him
  These glorious and immortal arms I give
  Which even the blessed Deathless joyed to see."

  Then rose in rivalry, each claiming them,
  Laertes' seed and godlike Telamon's son,
  Aias, the mightiest far of Danaan men:
  He seemed the star that in the glittering sky
  Outshines the host of heaven, Hesperus,
  So splendid by Peleides' arms he stood;
  "And let these judge," he cried, "Idomeneus,
  Nestor, and kingly-counselled Agamemnon,"
  For these, he weened, would sureliest know the truth
  Of deeds wrought in that glorious battle-toil.
  "To these I also trust most utterly,"
  Odysseus said, "for prudent of their wit
  Be these, and princeliest of all Danaan men."