The Fall of Troy

Page: 85

  Straight to the strand dull-thundering and the ship,
  Laughing for joy, they bare him with his bow.
  There washed they all his body and that foul wound
  With sponges, and with plenteous water bathed:
  So was his soul refreshed. Then hasted they
  And made meat ready for the famished man,
  And in the galley supped with him. Then came
  The balmy night, and sleep slid down on them.
  Till rose the dawn they tarried by the strand
  Of sea-girt Lemnos, but with dayspring cast
  The hawsers loose, and heaved the anchor-stones
  Out of the deep. Athena sent a breeze
  Blowing behind the galley taper-prowed.
  They strained the sail with either stern-sheet taut;
  Seaward they pointed the stout-girdered ship;
  O'er the broad flood she leapt before the wind;
  Broken to right and left the dark wave sighed,
  And seething all around was hoary foam,
  While thronging dolphins raced on either hand
  Flashing along the paths of silver sea.

  Full soon to fish-fraught Hellespont they came
  And the far-stretching ships. Glad were the Greeks
  To see the longed-for faces. Forth the ship
  With joy they stepped; and Poeas' valiant son
  On those two heroes leaned thin wasted hands,
  Who bare him painfully halting to the shore
  Staying his weight upon their brawny arms.
  As seems mid mountain-brakes an oak or pine
  By strength of the woodcutter half hewn through,
  Which for a little stands on what was left
  Of the smooth trunk by him who hewed thereat
  Hard by the roots, that its slow-smouldering wood
  Might yield him pitch—now like to one in pain
  It groans, in weakness borne down by the wind,
  Yet is upstayed upon its leafy boughs
  Which from the earth bear up its helpless weight;
  So by pain unendurable bowed down
  Leaned he on those brave heroes, and was borne
  Unto the war-host. Men beheld, and all
  Compassionated that great archer, crushed
  By anguish of his hurt. But one drew near,
  Podaleirius, godlike in his power to heal.
  Swifter than thought he made him whole and sound;
  For deftly on the wound he spread his salves,
  Calling on his physician-father's name;
  And soon the Achaeans shouted all for joy,
  All praising with one voice Asclepius' son.
  Lovingly then they bathed him, and with oil
  Anointed. All his heaviness of cheer
  And misery vanished by the Immortals' will;
  And glad at heart were all that looked on him;
  And from affliction he awoke to joy.
  Over the bloodless face the flush of health
  Glowed, and for wretched weakness mighty strength
  Thrilled through him: goodly and great waxed all his limbs.
  As when a field of corn revives again
  Which erst had drooped, by rains of ruining storm
  Down beaten flat, but by warm summer winds
  Requickened, o'er the laboured land it smiles,
  So Philoctetes' erstwhile wasted frame
  Was all requickened:—in the galley's hold
  He seemed to have left all cares that crushed his soul.

  And Atreus' sons beheld him marvelling
  As one re-risen from the dead: it seemed
  The work of hands immortal. And indeed
  So was it verily, as their hearts divined;
  For 'twas the glorious Trito-born that shed
  Stature and grace upon him. Suddenly
  He seemed as when of old mid Argive men
  He stood, before calamity struck him down.
  Then unto wealthy Agamemnon's tent
  Did all their mightiest men bring Poeas' son,
  And set him chief in honour at the feast,
  Extolling him. When all with meat and drink
  Were filled, spake Agamemnon lord of spears:
  "Dear friend, since by the will of Heaven our souls
  Were once perverted, that in sea-girt Lemnos
  We left thee, harbour not thine heart within
  Fierce wrath for this: by the blest Gods constrained
  We did it; and, I trow, the Immortals willed
  To bring much evil on us, bereft of thee,
  Who art of all men skilfullest to quell
  With shafts of death all foes that face thee in fight.
  For all the tangled paths of human life,
  By land and sea, are by the will of Fate
  Hid from our eyes, in many and devious tracks
  Are cleft apart, in wandering mazes lost.
  Along them men by Fortune's dooming drift
  Like unto leaves that drive before the wind.
  Oft on an evil path the good man's feet
  Stumble, the brave finds not a prosperous path;
  And none of earth-born men can shun the Fates,
  And of his own will none can choose his way.
  So then doth it behove the wise of heart
  Though on a troublous track the winds of fate
  Sweep him away to suffer and be strong.
  Since we were blinded then, and erred herein,
  With rich gifts will we make amends to thee
  Hereafter, when we take the stately towers
  Of Troy: but now receive thou handmaids seven,
  Fleet steeds two-score, victors in chariot-race,
  And tripods twelve, wherein thine heart may joy
  Through all thy days; and always in my tent
  Shall royal honour at the feast be thine."