The Fall of Troy

Page: 83

  Then unto Ares' work their spirits flamed.
  Down on the Trojans charged they: yea, and these
  Fought with high courage, round their city now,
  And now from wall and gate-towers. Never lulled
  The rage of war, while Trojan hearts were hot
  To hurl the foemen back, and the strong Greeks
  To smite the town: grim havoc compassed all.

  Then, eager for the Trojans' help, swooped down
  Out of Olympus, cloaked about with clouds,
  The son of Leto. Mighty rushing winds
  Bare him in golden armour clad; and gleamed
  With lightning-splendour of his descent the long
  Highways of air. His quiver clashed; loud rang
  The welkin; earth re-echoed, as he set
  His tireless feet by Xanthus. Pealed his shout
  Dreadly, with courage filling them of Troy,
  Scaring their foes from biding the red fray.
  But of all this the mighty Shaker of Earth
  Was ware: he breathed into the fainting
  Greeks Fierce valour, and the fight waxed murderous
  Through those Immortals' clashing wills. Then died
  Hosts numberless on either side. In wrath
  Apollo thought to smite Achilles' son
  In the same place where erst he smote his sire;
  But birds of boding screamed to left, to stay
  His mood, and other signs from heaven were sent;
  Yet was his wrath not minded to obey
  Those portents. Swiftly drew Earth-shaker nigh
  In mist celestial cloaked: about his feet
  Quaked the dark earth as came the Sea-king on.
  Then, to stay Phoebus' hand, he cried to him:
  "Refrain thy wrath: Achilles' giant son
  Slay not! Olympus' Lord himself shall be
  Wroth for his death, and bitter grief shall light
  On me and all the Sea-gods, as erstwhile
  For Achilles' sake. Nay, get thee back to heights
  Celestial, lest thou kindle me to wrath,
  And so I cleave a sudden chasm in earth,
  And Ilium and all her walls go down
  To darkness. Thine own soul were vexed thereat."

  Then, overawed by the brother of his sire,
  And fearing for Troy's fate and for her folk,
  To heaven went back Apollo, to the sea
  Poseidon. But the sons of men fought on,
  And slew; and Strife incarnate gloating watched.

  At last by Calchas' counsel Achaea's sons
  Drew back to the ships, and put from them the thought
  Of battle, seeing it was not foreordained
  That Ilium should fall until the might
  Of war-wise Philoctetes came to aid
  The Achaean host. This had the prophet learnt.
  From birds of prosperous omen, or had read
  In hearts of victims. Wise in prophecy-lore
  Was he, and like a God knew things to be.

  Trusting in him, the sons of Atreus stayed
  Awhile the war, and unto Lemnos, land
  Of stately mansions, sent they Tydeus' son
  And battle-staunch Odysseus oversea.
  Fast by the Fire-god's city sped they on
  Over the broad flood of the Aegean Sea
  To vine-clad Lemnos, where in far-off days
  The wives wreaked murderous vengeance on their lords,
  In fierce wrath that they gave them not their due,
  But couched beside the handmaid-thralls of Thrace,
  The captives of their spears when they laid waste
  The land of warrior Thracians. Then these wives,
  Their hearts with fiery jealousy's fever filled,
  Murdered in every home with merciless hands
  Their husbands: no compassion would they show
  To their own wedded lords—such madness shakes
  The heart of man or woman, when it burns
  With jealousy's fever, stung by torturing pangs.
  So with souls filled with desperate hardihood
  In one night did they slaughter all their lords;
  And on a widowed nation rose the sun.