The Fall of Troy

Page: 77

  Then had the Argives a short breathing-space
  From war, when they had penned the hosts of Troy
  In Priam's burg, as shepherds pen up lambs
  Upon a lonely steading. And, as when
  After hard strain, a breathing-space is given
  To oxen that, quick-panting 'neath the yoke,
  Up a steep hill have dragged a load, so breathed
  Awhile the Achaeans after toil in arms.
  Then once more hot for the fray did they beset
  The city-towers. But now with gates fast barred
  The Trojans from the walls withstood the assault.
  As when within their steading shepherd-folk
  Abide the lowering tempest, when a day
  Of storm hath dawned, with fury of lightnings, rain
  And heavy-drifting snow, and dare not haste
  Forth to the pasture, howsoever fain,
  Till the great storm abate, and rivers, wide
  With rushing floods, again be passable;
  So trembling on their walls they abode the rage
  Of foes against their ramparts surging fast.
  And as when daws or starlings drop in clouds
  Down on an orchard-close, full fain to feast
  Upon its pleasant fruits, and take no heed
  Of men that shout to scare them thence away,
  Until the reckless hunger be appeased
  That makes them bold; so poured round Priam's burg
  The furious Danaans. Against the gates
  They hurled themselves, they strove to batter down
  The mighty-souled Earth-shaker's work divine.

  Yet did tim Troyfolk not, despite their fear,
  Flinch from the fight: they manned their towers, they toiled
  Unresting: ever from the fair-built walls
  Leapt arrows, stones, and fleet-winged javelins down
  Amidst the thronging foes; for Phoebus thrilled
  Their souls with steadfast hardihood. Fain was he
  To save them still, though Hector was no more.

  Then Meriones shot forth a deadly shaft,
  And smote Phylodamas, Polites' friend,
  Beneath the jaw; the arrow pierced his throat.
  Down fell he like a vulture, from a rock
  By fowler's barbed arrow shot and slain;
  So from the high tower swiftly down he fell:
  His life fled; clanged his armour o'er the corpse.
  With laughter of triumph stalwart Molus' son
  A second arrow sped, with strong desire
  To smite Polites, ill-starred Priam's son:
  But with a swift side-swerve did he escape
  The death, nor did the arrow touch his flesh.
  As when a shipman, as his bark flies on
  O'er sea-gulfs, spies amid the rushing tide
  A rock, and to escape it swiftly puts
  The helm about, and turns aside the ship
  Even as he listeth, that a little strength
  Averts a great disaster; so did he
  Foresee and shun the deadly shaft of doom.

  Ever they fought on; walls, towers, battlements
  Were blood-besprent, wherever Trojans fell
  Slain by the arrows of the stalwart Greeks.
  Yet these escaped not scatheless; many of them
  Dyed the earth red: aye waxed the havoc of death
  As friends and foes were stricken. O'er the strife
  Shouted for glee Enyo, sister of War.

  Now had the Argives burst the gates, had breached
  The walls of Troy, for boundless was their might;
  But Ganymedes saw from heaven, and cried,
  Anguished with fear for his own fatherland:
  "O Father Zeus, if of thy seed I am,
  If at thine best I left far-famous Troy
  For immortality with deathless Gods,
  O hear me now, whose soul is anguish-thrilled!
  I cannot bear to see my fathers' town
  In flames, my kindred in disastrous strife
  Perishing: bitterer sorrow is there none!
  Oh, if thine heart is fixed to do this thing,
  Let me be far hence! Less shall be my grief
  If I behold it not with these mine eyes.
  That is the depth of horror and of shame
  To see one's country wrecked by hands of foes."