The Fall of Troy

Page: 7

  All through the tangle of that desperate fray
  Stalked slaughter and doom. The incarnate Onset-shout
  Raved through the rolling battle; at her side
  Paced Death the ruthless, and the Fearful Faces,
  The Fates, beside them strode, and in red hands
  Bare murder and the groans of dying men.
  That day the beating of full many a heart,
  Trojan and Argive, was for ever stilled,
  While roared the battle round them, while the fury
  Of Penthesileia fainted not nor failed;
  But as amid long ridges of lone hills
  A lioness, stealing down a deep ravine,
  Springs on the kine with lightning leap, athirst
  For blood wherein her fierce heart revelleth;
  So on the Danaans leapt that warrior-maid.
  And they, their souls were cowed: backward they shrank,
  And fast she followed, as a towering surge
  Chases across the thunder-booming sea
  A flying bark, whose white sails strain beneath
  The wind's wild buffering, and all the air
  Maddens with roaring, as the rollers crash
  On a black foreland looming on the lee
  Where long reefs fringe the surf-tormented shores.
  So chased she, and so dashed the ranks asunder
  Triumphant-souled, and hurled fierce threats before:
  "Ye dogs, this day for evil outrage done
  To Priam shall ye pay! No man of you
  Shall from mine hands deliver his own life,
  And win back home, to gladden parents eyes,
  Or comfort wife or children. Ye shall lie
  Dead, ravined on by vultures and by wolves,
  And none shall heap the earth-mound o'er your clay.
  Where skulketh now the strength of Tydeus' son,
  And where the might of Aeacus' scion?
  Where is Aias' bulk? Ye vaunt them mightiest men
  Of all your rabble. Ha! they will not dare
  With me to close in battle, lest I drag
  Forth from their fainting frames their craven souls!"

  Then heart-uplifted leapt she on the foe,
  Resistless as a tigress, crashing through
  Ranks upon ranks of Argives, smiting now
  With that huge halberd massy-headed, now
  Hurling the keen dart, while her battle-horse
  Flashed through the fight, and on his shoulder bare
  Quiver and bow death-speeding, close to her hand,
  If mid that revel of blood she willed to speed
  The bitter-biting shaft. Behind her swept
  The charging lines of men fleet-footed, friends
  And brethren of the man who never flinched
  From close death-grapple, Hector, panting all
  The hot breath of the War-god from their breasts,
  All slaying Danaans with the ashen spear,
  Who fell as frost-touched leaves in autumn fall
  One after other, or as drops of rain.
  And aye went up a moaning from earth's breast
  All blood-bedrenched, and heaped with corse on corse.
  Horses pierced through with arrows, or impaled
  On spears, were snorting forth their last of strength
  With screaming neighings. Men, with gnashing teeth
  Biting the dust, lay gasping, while the steeds
  Of Trojan charioteers stormed in pursuit,
  Trampling the dying mingled with the dead
  As oxen trample corn in threshing-floors.

  Then one exulting boasted mid the host
  Of Troy, beholding Penthesileia rush
  On through the foes' array, like the black storm
  That maddens o'er the sea, what time the sun
  Allies his might with winter's Goat-horned Star;
  And thus, puffed up with vain hope, shouted he:
  "O friends, in manifest presence down from heaven
  One of the deathless Gods this day hath come
  To fight the Argives, all of love for us,
  Yea, and with sanction of almighty Zeus,
  He whose compassion now remembereth
  Haply strong-hearted Priam, who may boast
  For his a lineage of immortal blood.
  For this, I trow, no mortal woman seems,
  Who is so aweless-daring, who is clad
  In splendour-flashing arms: nay, surely she
  Shall be Athene, or the mighty-souled
  Enyo—haply Eris, or the Child
  Of Leto world-renowned. O yea, I look
  To see her hurl amid yon Argive men
  Mad-shrieking slaughter, see her set aflame
  Yon ships wherein they came long years agone
  Bringing us many sorrows, yea, they came
  Bringing us woes of war intolerable.
  Ha! to the home-land Hellas ne'er shall these
  With joy return, since Gods on our side fight."