The Fall of Troy

Page: 48

  So spake Laertes' son the world-renowned.
  Then on that strife disastrous of the strong
  The sons of Troy gave judgment. Victory
  And those immortal arms awarded they
  With one consent to Odysseus mighty in war.
  Greatly his soul rejoiced; but one deep groan
  Brake from the Greeks. Then Aias' noble might
  Stood frozen stiff; and suddenly fell on him
  Dark wilderment; all blood within his frame
  Boiled, and his gall swelled, bursting forth in flood.
  Against his liver heaved his bowels; his heart
  With anguished pangs was thrilled; fierce stabbing throes
  Shot through the filmy veil 'twixt bone and brain;
  And darkness and confusion wrapped his mind.
  With fixed eyes staring on the ground he stood
  Still as a statue. Then his sorrowing friends
  Closed round him, led him to the shapely ships,
  Aye murmuring consolations. But his feet
  Trod for the last time, with reluctant steps,
  That path; and hard behind him followed Doom.

  When to the ships beside the boundless sea
  The Argives, faint for supper and for sleep,
  Had passed, into the great deep Thetis plunged,
  And all the Nereids with her. Round them swam
  Sea-monsters many, children of the brine.

  Against the wise Prometheus bitter-wroth
  The Sea-maids were, remembering how that Zeus,
  Moved by his prophecies, unto Peleus gave
  Thetis to wife, a most unwilling bride.
  Then cried in wrath to these Cymothoe:
  "O that the pestilent prophet had endured
  All pangs he merited, when, deep-burrowing,
  The eagle tare his liver aye renewed!"

  So to the dark-haired Sea-maids cried the Nymph.
  Then sank the sun: the onrush of the night
  Shadowed the fields, the heavens were star-bestrewn;
  And by the long-prowed ships the Argives slept
  By ambrosial sleep o'ermastered, and by wine
  The which from proud Idomeneus' realm of Crete:
  The shipmen bare o'er foaming leagues of sea.

  But Aias, wroth against the Argive men,
  Would none of meat or drink, nor clasped him round
  The arms of sleep. In fury he donned his mail,
  He clutched his sword, thinking unspeakable thoughts;
  For now he thought to set the ships aflame,
  And slaughter all the Argives, now, to hew
  With sudden onslaught of his terrible sword
  Guileful Odysseus limb from limb. Such things
  He purposed—nay, had soon accomplished all,
  Had Pallas not with madness smitten him;
  For over Odysseus, strong to endure, her heart
  Yearned, as she called to mind the sacrifices
  Offered to her of him continually.
  Therefore she turned aside from Argive men
  The might of Aias. As a terrible storm,
  Whose wings are laden with dread hurricane-blasts,
  Cometh with portents of heart-numbing fear
  To shipmen, when the Pleiads, fleeing adread
  From glorious Orion, plunge beneath
  The stream of tireless Ocean, when the air
  Is turmoil, and the sea is mad with storm;
  So rushed he, whithersoe'er his feet might bear.
  This way and that he ran, like some fierce beast
  Which darteth down a rock-walled glen's ravines
  With foaming jaws, and murderous intent
  Against the hounds and huntsmen, who have torn
  Out of the cave her cubs, and slain: she runs
  This way and that, and roars, if mid the brakes
  Haply she yet may see the dear ones lost;
  Whom if a man meet in that maddened mood,
  Straightway his darkest of all days hath dawned;
  So ruthless-raving rushed he; blackly boiled
  His heart, as caldron on the Fire-god's hearth
  Maddens with ceaseless hissing o'er the flames
  From blazing billets coiling round its sides,
  At bidding of the toiler eager-souled
  To singe the bristles of a huge-fed boar;
  So was his great heart boiling in his breast.
  Like a wild sea he raved, like tempest-blast,
  Like the winged might of tireless flame amidst
  The mountains maddened by a mighty wind,
  When the wide-blazing forest crumbles down
  In fervent heat. So Aias, his fierce heart
  With agony stabbed, in maddened misery raved.
  Foam frothed about his lips; a beast-like roar
  Howled from his throat. About his shoulders clashed
  His armour. They which saw him trembled, all
  Cowed by the fearful shout of that one man.