The Fall of Troy

Page: 80

  He spake, and wiped the hot tears from his face;
  And to his father's ships passed swiftly thence:
  With him went Myrmidon warriors two and ten,
  And white-haired Phoenix followed on with these
  Woefully sighing for the glorious dead.

  Night rose o'er earth, the stars flashed out in heaven;
  So these brake bread, and slept till woke the Dawn.
  Then the Greeks donned their armour: flashed afar
  Its splendour up to the very firmament.
  Forth of their gates in one great throng they poured,
  Like snowflakes thick and fast, which drift adown
  Heavily from the clouds in winter's cold;
  So streamed they forth before the wall, and rose
  Their dread shout: groaned the deep earth 'neath their tramp.

  The Trojans heard that shout, and saw that host,
  And marvelled. Crushed with fear were all their hearts
  Foreboding doom; for like a huge cloud seemed
  That throng of foes: with clashing arms they came:
  Volumed and vast the dust rose 'neath their feet.
  Then either did some God with hardihood thrill
  Deiphobus' heart, and made it void of fear,
  Or his own spirit spurred him on to fight,
  To drive by thrust of spear that terrible host
  Of foemen from the city of his birth.
  So there in Troy he cried with heartening speech:
  "O friends, be stout of heart to play the men!
  Remember all the agonies that war
  Brings in the end to them that yield to foes.
  Ye wrestle not for Alexander alone,
  Nor Helen, but for home, for your own lives,
  For wives, for little ones, for parents grey,
  For all the grace of life, for all ye have,
  For this dear land—oh may she shroud me o'er
  Slain in the battle, ere I see her lie
  'Neath foemen's spears—my country! I know not
  A bitterer pang than this for hapless men!
  O be ye strong for battle! Forth to the fight
  With me, and thrust this horror far away!
  Think not Achilles liveth still to war
  Against us: him the ravening fire consumed.
  Some other Achaean was it who so late
  Enkindled them to war. Oh, shame it were
  If men who fight for fatherland should fear
  Achilles' self, or any Greek beside!
  Let us not flinch from war-toil! have we not
  Endured much battle-travail heretofore?
  What, know ye not that to men sorely tried
  Prosperity and joyance follow toil?
  So after scourging winds and ruining storms
  Zeus brings to men a morn of balmy air;
  After disease new strength comes, after war
  Peace: all things know Time's changeless law of change."

  Then eager all for war they armed themselves
  In haste. All through the town rang clangour of arms
  As for grim fight strong men arrayed their limbs.
  Here stood a wife, shuddering with dread of war,
  Yet piling, as she wept, her husband's arms
  Before his feet. There little children brought
  To a father his war-gear with eager haste;
  And now his heart was wrung to hear their sobs,
  And now he smiled on those small ministers,
  And stronger waxed his heart's resolve to fight
  To the last gasp for these, the near and dear.
  Yonder again, with hands that had not lost
  Old cunning, a grey father for the fray
  Girded a son, and murmured once and again:
  "Dear boy, yield thou to no man in the war!"
  And showed his son the old scars on his breast,
  Proud memories of fights fought long ago.