The Fall of Troy

Page: 67

  Naught heard he of her moans unutterable,
  But was afar, fast striding to the ship.
  He seemed, as his feet swiftly bare him on,
  Like some all-radiant star; and at his side
  With Tydeus' son war-wise Odysseus went,
  And with them twenty gallant-hearted men,
  Whom Deidameia chose as trustiest
  Of all her household, and unto her son
  Gave them for henchmen swift to do his will.
  And these attended Achilles' valiant son,
  As through the city to the ship he sped.
  On, with glad laughter, in their midst he strode;
  And Thetis and the Nereids joyed thereat.
  Yea, glad was even the Raven-haired, the Lord
  Of all the sea, beholding that brave son
  Of princely Achilles, marking how he longed
  For battle. Beardless boy albeit he was,
  His prowess and his might were inward spurs
  To him. He hasted forth his fatherland
  Like to the War-god, when to gory strife
  He speedeth, wroth with foes, when maddeneth
  His heart, and grim his frown is, and his eyes
  Flash levin-flame around him, and his face
  Is clothed with glory of beauty terror-blent,
  As on he rusheth: quail the very Gods.
  So seemed Achilles' goodly son; and prayers
  Went up through all the city unto Heaven
  To bring their noble prince safe back from war;
  And the Gods hearkened to them. High he towered
  Above all stateliest men which followed him.

  So came they to the heavy-plunging sea,
  And found the rowers in the smooth-wrought ship
  Handling the tackle, fixing mast and sail.
  Straightway they went aboard: the shipmen cast
  The hawsers loose, and heaved the anchor-stones,
  The strength and stay of ships in time of need.
  Then did the Sea-queen's lord grant voyage fair
  To these with gracious mind; for his heart yearned
  O'er the Achaeans, by the Trojan men
  And mighty-souled Eurypylus hard-bestead.
  On either side of Neoptolemus sat
  Those heroes, gladdening his soul with tales
  Of his sire's mighty deeds—of all he wrought
  In sea-raids, and in valiant Telephus' land,
  And how he smote round Priam's burg the men
  Of Troy, for glory unto Atreus' sons.
  His heart glowed, fain to grasp his heritage,
  His aweless father's honour and renown.

  In her bower, sorrowing for her son the while,
  Deidameia poured forth sighs and tears.
  With agony of soul her very heart
  Melted in her, as over coals doth lead
  Or wax, and never did her moaning cease,
  As o'er the wide sea her gaze followed him.
  Ay, for her son a mother fretteth still,
  Though it be to a feast that he hath gone,
  By a friend bidden forth. But soon the sail
  Of that good ship far-fleeting o'er the blue
  Grew faint and fainter—melted in sea-haze.
  But still she sighed, still daylong made her moan.

  On ran the ship before a following wind,
  Seeming to skim the myriad-surging sea,
  And crashed the dark wave either side the prow:
  Swiftly across the abyss unplumbed she sped.
  Night's darkness fell about her, but the breeze
  Held, and the steersman's hand was sure. O'er gulfs
  Of brine she flew, till Dawn divine rose up
  To climb the sky. Then sighted they the peaks
  Of Ida, Chrysa next, and Smintheus' fane,
  Then the Sigean strand, and then the tomb
  Of Aeacus' son. Yet would Laertes' seed,
  The man discreet of soul, not point it out
  To Neoptolemus, lest the tide of grief
  Too high should swell within his breast. They passed
  Calydnae's isles, left Tenedos behind;
  And now was seen the fane of Eleus,
  Where stands Protesilaus' tomb, beneath
  The shade of towery elms; when, soaring high
  Above the plain, their topmost boughs discern
  Troy, straightway wither all their highest sprays.
  Nigh Ilium now the ship by wind and oar
  Was brought: they saw the long strand fringed with keels
  Of Argives, who endured sore travail of war
  Even then about the wall, the which themselves
  Had reared to screen the ships and men in stress
  Of battle. Even now Eurypylus' hands
  To earth were like to dash it and destroy;
  But the quick eyes of Tydeus' strong son marked
  How rained the darts and stones on that long wall.
  Forth of the ship he sprang, and shouted loud
  With all the strength of his undaunted breast:
  "Friends, on the Argive men is heaped this day
  Sore travail! Let us don our flashing arms
  With speed, and to yon battle-turmoil haste.
  For now upon our towers the warrior sons
  Of Troy press hard—yea, haply will they tear
  The long walls down, and burn the ships with fire,
  And so the souls that long for home-return
  Shall win it never; nay, ourselves shall fall
  Before our due time, and shall lie in graves
  In Troyland, far from children and from wives."