The Fall of Troy
Page: 89So glorying in those arms he smote the foe.
But Paris at the last to meet him sprang
Fearlessly, bearing in his hands his bow
And deadly arrows—but his latest day
Now met himself. A flying shaft he sped
Forth from the string, which sang as leapt the dart,
Which flew not vainly: yet the very mark
It missed, for Philoctetes swerved aside
A hair-breadth, and it smote above the breast
Cleodorus war-renowned, and cleft a path
Clear through his shoulder; for he had not now
The buckler broad which wont to fence from death
Its bearer, but was falling back from fight,
Being shieldless; for Polydamas' massy lance
Had cleft the shoulder-belt whereby his targe
Hung, and he gave back therefore, fighting still
With stubborn spear. But now the arrow of death
Fell on him, as from ambush leaping forth.
For so Fate willed, I trow, to bring dread doom
On noble-hearted Lernus' scion, born
Of Amphiale, in Rhodes the fertile land.
But soon as Poeas' battle-eager son
Marked him by Paris' deadly arrow slain,
Swiftly he strained his bow, shouting aloud:
"Dog! I will give thee death, will speed thee down
To the Unseen Land, who darest to brave me!
And so shall they have rest, who travail now
For thy vile sake. Destruction shall have end
When thou art dead, the author of our bane."
Then to his breast he drew the plaited cord.
The great bow arched, the merciless shaft was aimed
Straight, and the terrible point a little peered
Above the bow, in that constraining grip.
Loud sang the string, as the death-hissing shaft
Leapt, and missed not: yet was not Paris' heart
Stilled, but his spirit yet was strong in him;
For that first arrow was not winged with death:
It did but graze the fair flesh by his wrist.
Then once again the avenger drew the bow,
And the barbed shaft of Poeas' son had plunged,
Ere he could swerve, 'twixt flank and groin. No more
He abode the fight, but swiftly hasted back
As hastes a dog which on a lion rushed
At first, then fleeth terror-stricken back.
So he, his very heart with agony thrilled,
Fled from the war. Still clashed the grappling hosts,
Man slaying man: aye bloodier waxed the fray
As rained the blows: corpse upon corpse was flung
Confusedly, like thunder-drops, or flakes
Of snow, or hailstones, by the wintry blast
At Zeus' behest strewn over the long hills
And forest-boughs; so by a pitiless doom
Slain, friends with foes in heaps on heaps were strown.
Sorely groaned Paris; with the torturing wound
Fainted his spirit. Leeches sought to allay
His frenzy of pain. But now drew back to Troy
The Trojans, and the Danaans to their ships
Swiftly returned, for dark night put an end
To strife, and stole from men's limbs weariness,
Pouring upon their eyes pain-healing sleep.
But through the livelong night no sleep laid hold
On Paris: for his help no leech availed,
Though ne'er so willing, with his salves. His weird
Was only by Oenone's hands to escape
Death's doom, if so she willed. Now he obeyed
The prophecy, and he went—exceeding loth,
But grim necessity forced him thence, to face
The wife forsaken. Evil-boding fowl
Shrieked o'er his head, or darted past to left,
Still as he went. Now, as he looked at them,
His heart sank; now hope whispered, "Haply vain
Their bodings are!" but on their wings were borne
Visions of doom that blended with his pain.
Into Oenone's presence thus he came.
Amazed her thronging handmaids looked on him
As at the Nymph's feet that pale suppliant fell
Faint with the anguish of his wound, whose pangs
Stabbed him through brain and heart, yea, quivered through
His very bones, for that fierce venom crawled
Through all his inwards with corrupting fangs;
And his life fainted in him agony-thrilled.
As one with sickness and tormenting thirst
Consumed, lies parched, with heart quick-shuddering,
With liver seething as in flame, the soul,
Scarce conscious, fluttering at his burning lips,
Longing for life, for water longing sore;
So was his breast one fire of torturing pain.
Then in exceeding feebleness he spake:
"O reverenced wife, turn not from me in hate
For that I left thee widowed long ago!
Not of my will I did it: the strong Fates
Dragged me to Helen—oh that I had died
Ere I embraced her—in thine arms had died!
All, by the Gods I pray, the Lords of Heaven,
By all the memories of our wedded love,
Be merciful! Banish my bitter pain:
Lay on my deadly wound those healing salves
Which only can, by Fate's decree, remove
This torment, if thou wilt. Thine heart must speak
My sentence, to be saved from death or no.
Pity me—oh, make haste to pity me!
This venom's might is swiftly bringing death!
Heal me, while life yet lingers in my limbs!
Remember not those pangs of jealousy,
Nor leave me by a cruel doom to die
Low fallen at thy feet! This should offend
The Prayers, the Daughters of the Thunderer Zeus,
Whose anger followeth unrelenting pride
With vengeance, and the Erinnys executes
Their wrath. My queen, I sinned, in folly sinned;
Yet from death save me—oh, make haste to save!"