The Fall of Troy

Page: 89

  So 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!"