The Fall of Troy

Page: 72


How Hercules' Grandson perished in fight with the Son of Achilles.

  When from the far sea-line, where is the cave
  Of Dawn, rose up the sun, and scattered light
  Over the earth, then did the eager sons
  Of Troy and of Achaea arm themselves
  Athirst for battle: these Achilles' son
  Cheered on to face the Trojans awelessly;
  And those the giant strength of Telephus' seed
  Kindled. He trusted to dash down the wall
  To earth, and utterly destroy the ships
  With ravening fire, and slay the Argive host.
  Ah, but his hope was as the morning breeze
  Delusive: hard beside him stood the Fates
  Laughing to scorn his vain imaginings.

  Then to the Myrmidons spake Achilles' son,
  The aweless, to the fight enkindling them:
  "Hear me, mine henchmen: take ye to your hearts
  The spirit of war, that we may heal the wounds
  Of Argos, and be ruin to her foes.
  Let no man fear, for mighty prowess is
  The child of courage; but fear slayeth strength
  And spirit. Gird yourselves with strength for war;
  Give foes no breathing-space, that they may say
  That mid our ranks Achilles liveth yet."

  Then clad he with his father's flashing arms
  His shoulders. Then exulted Thetis' heart
  When from the sea she saw the mighty strength
  Of her son's son. Then forth with eagle-speed
  Afront of that high wall he rushed, his ear
  Drawn by the immortal horses of his sire.
  As from the ocean-verge upsprings the sun
  In glory, flashing fire far over earth—
  Fire, when beside his radiant chariot-team
  Races the red star Sirius, scatterer
  Of woefullest diseases over men;
  So flashed upon the eyes of Ilium's host
  That battle-eager hero, Achilles' son.
  Onward they whirled him, those immortal steeds,
  The which, when now he longed to chase the foe
  Back from the ships, Automedon, who wont
  To rein them for his father, brought to him.
  With joy that pair bore battleward their lord,
  So like to Aeacus' son, their deathless hearts
  Held him no worser than Achilles' self.
  Laughing for glee the Argives gathered round
  The might resistless of Neoptolemus,
  Eager for fight as wasps [whose woodland bower
  The axe] hath shaken, who dart swarming forth
  Furious to sting the woodman: round their nest
  Long eddying, they torment all passers by;
  So streamed they forth from galley and from wall
  Burning for fight, and that wide space was thronged,
  And all the plain far blazed with armour-sheen,
  As shone from heaven's vault the sun thereon.
  As flees the cloud-rack through the welkin wide
  Scourged onward by the North-wind's Titan blasts,
  When winter-tide and snow are hard at hand,
  And darkness overpalls the firmament;
  So with their thronging squadrons was the earth
  Covered before the ships. To heaven uprolled,
  Dust hung on hovering wings' men's armour clashed;
  Rattled a thousand chariots; horses neighed
  On-rushing to the fray. Each warrior's prowess
  Kindled him with its trumpet-call to war.

  As leap the long sea-rollers, onward hurled
  By two winds terribly o'er th' broad sea-flood
  Roaring from viewless bournes, with whirlwind blasts
  Crashing together, when a ruining storm
  Maddens along the wide gulfs of the deep,
  And moans the Sea-queen with her anguished waves
  Which sweep from every hand, uptowering
  Like precipiced mountains, while the bitter squall,
  Ceaselessly veering, shrieks across the sea;
  So clashed in strife those hosts from either hand
  With mad rage. Strife incarnate spurred them on,
  And their own prowess. Crashed together these
  Like thunderclouds outlightening, thrilling the air.
  With shattering trumpet-challenge, when the blasts
  Are locked in frenzied wrestle, with mad breath
  Rending the clouds, when Zeus is wroth with men
  Who travail with iniquity, and flout
  His law. So grappled they, as spear with spear
  Clashed, shield with shield, and man on man was hurled.