The Fall of Troy

Page: 50

  Then Aias saw those sheep upon the earth
  Gasping in death; and sore amazed he stood,
  For he divined that by the Blessed Ones
  His senses had been cheated. All his limbs
  Failed under him; his soul was anguished-thrilled:
  He could not in his horror take one step
  Forward nor backward. Like some towering rock
  Fast-rooted mid the mountains, there he stood.
  But when the wild rout of his thoughts had rallied,
  He groaned in misery, and in anguish wailed:
  "Ah me! why do the Gods abhor me so?
  They have wrecked my mind, have with fell madness filled,
  Making me slaughter all these innocent sheep!
  Would God that on Odysseus' pestilent heart
  Mine hands had so avenged me! Miscreant, he
  Brought on me a fell curse! O may his soul
  Suffer all torments that the Avenging Fiends
  Devise for villains! On all other Greeks
  May they bring murderous battle, woeful griefs,
  And chiefly on Agamemnon, Atreus' son!
  Not scatheless to the home may he return
  So long desired! But why should I consort,
  I, a brave man, with the abominable?
  Perish the Argive host, perish my life,
  Now unendurable! The brave no more
  Hath his due guerdon, but the baser sort
  Are honoured most and loved, as this Odysseus
  Hath worship mid the Greeks: but utterly
  Have they forgotten me and all my deeds,
  All that I wrought and suffered in their cause."

  So spake the brave son of strong Telamon,
  Then thrust the sword of Hector through his throat.
  Forth rushed the blood in torrent: in the dust
  Outstretched he lay, like Typhon, when the bolts
  Of Zeus had blasted him. Around him groaned
  The dark earth as he fell upon her breast.

  Then thronging came the Danaans, when they saw
  Low laid in dust the hero; but ere then
  None dared draw nigh him, but in deadly fear
  They watched him from afar. Now hasted they
  And flung themselves upon the dead, outstretched
  Upon their faces: on their heads they cast
  Dust, and their wailing went up to the sky.
  As when men drive away the tender lambs
  Out of the fleecy flock, to feast thereon,
  And round the desolate pens the mothers leap
  Ceaselessly bleating, so o'er Aias rang
  That day a very great and bitter cry.
  Wild echoes pealed from Ida forest-palled,
  And from the plain, the ships, the boundless sea.

  Then Teucer clasping him was minded too
  To rush on bitter doom: howbeit the rest
  Held from the sword his hand. Anguished he fell
  Upon the dead, outpouring many a tear
  More comfortlessly than the orphan babe
  That wails beside the hearth, with ashes strewn
  On head and shoulders, wails bereavement's day
  That brings death to the mother who hath nursed
  The fatherless child; so wailed he, ever wailed
  His great death-stricken brother, creeping slow
  Around the corpse, and uttering his lament:
  "O Aias, mighty-souled, why was thine heart
  Distraught, that thou shouldst deal unto thyself
  Murder and bale? All, was it that the sons
  Of Troy might win a breathing-space from woes,
  Might come and slay the Greeks, now thou art not?
  From these shall all the olden courage fail
  When fast they fall in fight. Their shield from harm
  Is broken now! For me, I have no will
  To see mine home again, now thou art dead.
  Nay, but I long here also now to die,
  That so the earth may shroud me—me and thee
  Not for my parents so much do I care,
  If haply yet they live, if haply yet
  Spared from the grave, in Salamis they dwell,
  As for thee, O my glory and my crown!"