The Fall of Troy

Page: 75

  He spake; and from the chariot sprang to earth
  That glorious man: he swung the long spear up.
  But in his brawny hand his foe hath seized
  A monstrous stone: full at the golden shield
  Of Neoptolemus he sped its flight;
  But, no whir staggered by its whirlwind rush,
  He like a giant mountain-foreland stood
  Which all the banded fury of river-floods
  Can stir not, rooted in the eternal hills;
  So stood unshaken still Achilles' son.
  Yet not for this Eurypylus' dauntless might
  Shrank from Achilles' son invincible,
  On-spurred by his own hardihood and by Fate.
  Their hearts like caldrons seethed o'er fires of wrath,
  Their glancing armour flashed about their limbs.
  Like terrible lions each on other rushed,
  Which fight amid the mountains famine-stung,
  Writhing and leaping in the strain of strife
  For a slain ox or stag, while all the glens
  Ring with their conflict; so they grappled, so
  Clashed they in pitiless strife. On either hand
  Long lines of warriors Greek and Trojan toiled
  In combat: round them roared up flames of war.
  Like mighty rushing winds they hurled together
  With eager spears for blood of life athirst.
  Hard by them stood Enyo, spurred them on
  Ceaselessly: never paused they from the strife.
  Now hewed they each the other's shield, and now
  Thrust at the greaves, now at the crested helms.
  Reckless of wounds, in that grim toil pressed on
  Those aweless heroes: Strife incarnate watched
  And gloated o'er them. Ran the sweat in streams
  From either: straining hard they stood their ground,
  For both were of the seed of Blessed Ones.
  From Heaven, with hearts at variance, Gods looked down;
  For some gave glory to Achilles' son,
  Some to Eurypylus the godlike. Still
  They fought on, giving ground no more than rock.
  Of granite mountains. Rang from side to side
  Spear-smitten shields. At last the Pelian lance,
  Sped onward by a mighty thrust, hath passed
  Clear through Eurypylus' throat. Forth poured the blood
  Torrent-like; through the portal of the wound
  The soul from the body flew: darkness of death
  Dropped o'er his eyes. To earth in clanging arms
  He fell, like stately pine or silver fir
  Uprooted by the fury of Boreas;
  Such space of earth Eurypylus' giant frame
  Covered in falling: rang again the floor
  And plain of Troyland. Grey death-pallor swept
  Over the corpse, and all the flush of life
  Faded away. With a triumphant laugh
  Shouted the mighty hero over him:
  "Eurypylus, thou saidst thou wouldst destroy
  The Danaan ships and men, wouldst slay us all
  Wretchedly—but the Gods would not fulfil
  Thy wish. For all thy might invincible,
  My father's massy spear hath now subdued
  Thee under me, that spear no man shall 'scape,
  Though he be brass all through, who faceth me."

  He spake, and tore the long lance from the corse,
  While shrank the Trojans back in dread, at sight
  Of that strong-hearted man. Straightway he stripped
  The armour from the dead, for friends to bear
  Fast to the ships Achaean. But himself
  To the swift chariot and the tireless steeds
  Sprang, and sped onward like a thunderbolt
  That lightning-girdled leaps through the wide air
  From Zeus's hands unconquerable—the bolt
  Before whose downrush all the Immortals quail
  Save only Zeus. It rusheth down to earth,
  It rendeth trees and rugged mountain-crags;
  So rushed he on the Trojans, flashing doom
  Before their eyes; dashed to the earth they fell
  Before the charge of those immortal steeds:
  The earth was heaped with slain, was dyed with gore.
  As when in mountain-glens the unnumbered leaves
  Down-streaming thick and fast hide all the ground,
  So hosts of Troy untold on earth were strewn
  By Neoptolemus and fierce-hearted Greeks,
  Shed by whose hands the blood in torrents ran
  'Neath feet of men and horses. Chariot-rails
  Were dashed with blood-spray whirled up from the tyres.

  Now had the Trojans fled within their gates
  As calves that flee a lion, or as swine
  Flee from a storm—but murderous Ares came,
  Unmarked of other Gods, down from the heavens,
  Eager to help the warrior sons of Troy.
  Red-fire and Flame, Tumult and Panic-fear,
  His car-steeds, bare him down into the fight,
  The coursers which to roaring Boreas
  Grim-eyed Erinnys bare, coursers that breathed
  Life-blasting flame: groaned all the shivering air,
  As battleward they sped. Swiftly he came
  To Troy: loud rang the earth beneath the feet
  Of that wild team. Into the battle's heart
  Tossing his massy spear, he came; with a shout
  He cheered the Trojans on to face the foe.
  They heard, and marvelled at that wondrous cry,
  Not seeing the God's immortal form, nor steeds,
  Veiled in dense mist. But the wise prophet-soul
  Of Helenus knew the voice divine that leapt
  Unto the Trojans' ears, they knew not whence,
  And with glad heart to the fleeing host he cried:
  "O cravens, wherefore fear Achilles' son,
  Though ne'er so brave? He is mortal even as we;
  His strength is not as Ares' strength, who is come
  A very present help in our sore need.
  That was his shout far-pealing, bidding us
  Fight on against the Argives. Let your hearts
  Be strong, O friends: let courage fill your breasts.
  No mightier battle-helper can draw nigh
  To Troy than he. Who is of more avail
  For war than Ares, when he aideth men
  Hard-fighting? Lo, to our help he cometh now!
  On to the fight! Cast to the winds your fears!"

  They fled no more, they faced the Argive men,
  As hounds, that mid the copses fled at first,
  Turn them about to face and fight the wolf,
  Spurred by the chiding of their shepherd-lord;
  So turned the sons of Troy again to war,
  Casting away their fear. Man leapt on man
  Valiantly fighting; loud their armour clashed
  Smitten with swords, with lances, and with darts.
  Spears plunged into men's flesh: dread Ares drank
  His fill of blood: struck down fell man on man,
  As Greek and Trojan fought. In level poise
  The battle-balance hung. As when young men
  In hot haste prune a vineyard with the steel,
  And each keeps pace with each in rivalry,
  Since all in strength and age be equal-matched;
  So did the awful scales of battle hang
  Level: all Trojan hearts beat high, and firm
  Stood they in trust on aweless Ares' might,
  While the Greeks trusted in Achilles' son.
  Ever they slew and slew: stalked through the midst
  Deadly Enyo, her shoulders and her hands
  Blood-splashed, while fearful sweat streamed from her limbs.
  Revelling in equal fight, she aided none,
  Lest Thetis' or the War-god's wrath be stirred.