The Fall of Troy

Page: 96

  Aeneas hurled his spear; it found the waist
  Of Anthalus' son, it pierced the navel through,
  Dragging the inwards with it. Stretched in dust,
  Clutching with agonized hands at steel and bowels,
  Horribly shrieked he, tore with his teeth the earth
  Groaning, till life and pain forsook the man.
  Scared were the Argives, like a startled team
  Of oxen 'neath the yoke-band straining hard,
  What time the sharp-fanged gadfly stings their flanks
  Athirst for blood, and they in frenzy of pain
  Start from the furrow, and sore disquieted
  The hind is for marred work, and for their sake,
  Lest haply the recoiling ploughshare light
  On their leg-sinews, and hamstring his team;
  So were the Danaans scared, so feared for them
  Achilles' son, and shouted thunder-voiced:
  "Cravens, why flee, like starlings nothing-worth
  Scared by a hawk that swoopeth down on them?
  Come, play the men! Better it is by far
  To die in war than choose unmanly flight!"

  Then to his cry they hearkened, and straightway
  Were of good heart. Mighty of mood he leapt
  Upon the Trojans, swinging in his hand
  The lightening spear: swept after him his host
  Of Myrmidons with hearts swelled with the strength
  Resistless of a tempest; so the Greeks
  Won breathing-space. With fury like his sire's
  One after other slew he of the foe.
  Recoiling back they fell, as waves on-rolled
  By Boreas foaming from the deep to the strand,
  Are caught by another blast that whirlwind-like
  Leaps, in a short lull of the north-wind, forth,
  Smites them full-face, and hurls them back from the shore;
  So them that erewhile on the Danaans pressed
  Godlike Achilles' son now backward hurled
  A short space only brave Aeneas' spirit
  Let him not flee, but made him bide the fight
  Fearlessly; and Enyo level held
  The battle's scales. Yet not against Aeneas
  Achilles' son upraised his father's spear,
  But elsewhither turned his fury: in reverence
  For Aphrodite, Thetis splendour-veiled
  Turned from that man her mighty son's son's rage
  And giant strength on other hosts of foes.
  There slew he many a Trojan, while the ranks
  Of Greeks were ravaged by Aeneas' hand.
  Over the battle-slain the vultures joyed,
  Hungry to rend the hearts and flesh of men.
  But all the Nymphs were wailing, daughters born
  Of Xanthus and fair-flowing Simois.

  So toiled they in the fight: the wind's breath rolled
  Huge dust-clouds up; the illimitable air
  Was one thick haze, as with a sudden mist:
  Earth disappeared, faces were blotted out;
  Yet still they fought on; each man, whomso he met,
  Ruthlessly slew him, though his very friend
  It might be—in that turmoil none could tell
  Who met him, friend or foe: blind wilderment
  Enmeshed the hosts. And now had all been blent
  Confusedly, had perished miserably,
  All falling by their fellows' murderous swords,
  Had not Cronion from Olympus helped
  Their sore strait, and he swept aside the dust
  Of conflict, and he calmed those deadly winds.
  Yet still the hosts fought on; but lighter far
  Their battle-travail was, who now discerned
  Whom in the fray to smite, and whom to spare.
  The Danaans now forced back the Trojan host,
  The Trojans now the Danaan ranks, as swayed
  The dread fight to and fro. From either side
  Darts leapt and fell like snowflakes. Far away
  Shepherds from Ida trembling watched the strife,
  And to the Heaven-abiders lifted hands
  Of supplication, praying that all their foes
  Might perish, and that from the woeful war
  Troy might win breathing-space, and see at last
  The day of freedom: the Gods hearkened not.
  Far other issues Fate devised, nor recked
  Of Zeus the Almighty, nor of none beside
  Of the Immortals. Her unpitying soul
  Cares naught what doom she spinneth with her thread
  Inevitable, be it for men new-born
  Or cities: all things wax and wane through her.
  So by her hest the battle-travail swelled
  'Twixt Trojan chariot-lords and Greeks that closed
  In grapple of fight—they dealt each other death
  Ruthlessly: no man quailed, but stout of heart
  Fought on; for courage thrusts men into war.