The Fall of Troy

Page: 54

  So spake he but to try the Argive men.
  Far other thoughts than these made his heart burn
  With passionate desire to slay his foes,
  To break the long walls of their city down
  From their foundations, and to glut with blood
  Ares, when Paris mid the slain should fall.
  Fiercer is naught than passionate desire!
  Thus as he pondered, sitting in his place,
  Uprose Tydeides, shaker of the shield,
  And chode in fiery speech with Menelaus:
  "O coward Atreus' son, what craven fear
  Hath gripped thee, that thou speakest so to us
  As might a weakling child or woman speak?
  Not unto thee Achaea's noblest sons
  Will hearken, ere Troy's coronal of towers
  Be wholly dashed to the dust: for unto men
  Valour is high renown, and flight is shame!
  If any man shall hearken to the words
  Of this thy counsel, I will smite from him
  His head with sharp blue steel, and hurl it down
  For soaring kites to feast on. Up! all ye
  Who care to enkindle men to battle: rouse
  Our warriors all throughout the fleet to whet
  The spear, to burnish corslet, helm and shield;
  And cause both man and horse, all which be keen
  In fight, to break their fast. Then in yon plain
  Who is the stronger Ares shall decide."

  So speaking, in his place he sat him down;
  Then rose up Thestor's son, and in the midst,
  Where meet it is to speak, stood forth and cried:
  "Hear me, ye sons of battle-biding Greeks:
  Ye know I have the spirit of prophecy.
  Erewhile I said that ye in the tenth year
  Should lay waste towered Ilium: this the Gods
  Are even now fulfilling; victory lies
  At the Argives' very feet. Come, let us send
  Tydeides and Odysseus battle-staunch
  With speed to Scyros overseas, by prayers
  Hither to bring Achilles' hero son:
  A light of victory shall he be to us."

  So spake wise Thestius' son, and all the folk
  Shouted for joy; for all their hearts and hopes
  Yearned to see Calchas' prophecy fulfilled.
  Then to the Argives spake Laertes' son:
  "Friends, it befits not to say many words
  This day to you, in sorrow's weariness.
  I know that wearied men can find no joy
  In speech or song, though the Pierides,
  The immortal Muses, love it. At such time
  Few words do men desire. But now, this thing
  That pleaseth all the Achaean host, will I
  Accomplish, so Tydeides fare with me;
  For, if we twain go, we shall surely bring,
  Won by our words, war-fain Achilles' son,
  Yea, though his mother, weeping sore, should strive
  Within her halls to keep him; for mine heart
  Trusts that he is a hero's valorous son."

  Then out spake Menelaus earnestly:
  "Odysseus, the strong Argives' help at need,
  If mighty-souled Achilles' valiant son
  From Scyros by thy suasion come to aid
  Us who yearn for him, and some Heavenly One
  Grant victory to our prayers, and I win home
  To Hellas, I will give to him to wife
  My noble child Hermione, with gifts
  Many and goodly for her marriage-dower
  With a glad heart. I trow he shall not scorn
  Either his bride or high-born sire-in-law."

  With a great shout the Danaans hailed his words.
  Then was the throng dispersed, and to the ships
  They scattered hungering for the morning meat
  Which strengtheneth man's heart. So when they ceased
  From eating, and desire was satisfied,
  Then with the wise Odysseus Tydeus' son
  Drew down a swift ship to the boundless sea,
  And victual and all tackling cast therein.
  Then stepped they aboard, and with them twenty men,
  Men skilled to row when winds were contrary,
  Or when the unrippled sea slept 'neath a calm.
  They smote the brine, and flashed the boiling foam:
  On leapt the ship; a watery way was cleft
  About the oars that sweating rowers tugged.
  As when hard-toiling oxen, 'neath the yoke
  Straining, drag on a massy-timbered wain,
  While creaks the circling axle 'neath its load,
  And from their weary necks and shoulders streams
  Down to the ground the sweat abundantly;
  So at the stiff oars toiled those stalwart men,
  And fast they laid behind them leagues of sea.
  Gazed after them the Achaeans as they went,
  Then turned to whet their deadly darts and spears,
  The weapons of their warfare. In their town
  The aweless Trojans armed themselves the while
  War-eager, praying to the Gods to grant
  Respite from slaughter, breathing-space from toil.

  To these, while sorely thus they yearned, the Gods
  Brought present help in trouble, even the seed
  Of mighty Hercules, Eurypylus.
  A great host followed him, in battle skilled,
  All that by long Caicus' outflow dwelt,
  Full of triumphant trust in their strong spears.
  Round them rejoicing thronged the sons of Troy:
  As when tame geese within a pen gaze up
  On him who casts them corn, and round his feet
  Throng hissing uncouth love, and his heart warms
  As he looks down on them; so thronged the sons
  Of Troy, as on fierce-heart Eurypylus
  They gazed; and gladdened was his aweless soul
  To see those throngs: from porchways women looked
  Wide-eyed with wonder on the godlike man.
  Above all men he towered as on he strode,
  As looks a lion when amid the hills
  He comes on jackals. Paris welcomed him,
  As Hector honouring him, his cousin he,
  Being of one blood with him, who was born Of
  Astyoche, King Priam's sister fair
  Whom Telephus embraced in his strong arms,
  Telephus, whom to aweless Hercules
  Auge the bright-haired bare in secret love.
  That babe, a suckling craving for the breast,
  A swift hind fostered, giving him the teat
  As to her own fawn in all love; for Zeus
  So willed it, in whose eyes it was not meet
  That Hercules' child should perish wretchedly.
  His glorious son with glad heart Paris led
  Unto his palace through the wide-wayed burg
  Beside Assaracus' tomb and stately halls
  Of Hector, and Tritonis' holy fane.
  Hard by his mansion stood, and therebeside
  The stainless altar of Home-warder Zeus
  Rose. As they went, he lovingly questioned him
  Of brethren, parents, and of marriage-kin;
  And all he craved to know Eurypylus told.
  So communed they, on-pacing side by side.
  Then came they to a palace great and rich:
  There goddess-like sat Helen, clothed upon
  With beauty of the Graces. Maidens four
  About her plied their tasks: others apart
  Within that goodly bower wrought the works
  Beseeming handmaids. Helen marvelling gazed
  Upon Eurypylus, on Helen he.
  Then these in converse each with other spake
  In that all-odorous bower. The handmaids brought
  And set beside their lady high-seats twain;
  And Paris sat him down, and at his side
  Eurypylus. That hero's host encamped
  Without the city, where the Trojan guards
  Kept watch. Their armour laid they on the earth;
  Their steeds, yet breathing battle, stood thereby,
  And cribs were heaped with horses' provender.