The Fall of Troy
("Quintus of Smyrna")
Fl. 4th Century A.D.
Originally written in Greek, sometime about the middle of the 4th Century A.D. Translation by A.S. Way, 1913.
Way, A.S. (Ed. & Trans.): "Quintus Smyrnaeus: The Fall of Troy" (Loeb Classics #19; Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, 1913). Greek text with side-by-side English translation.
Combellack, Frederick M. (Trans.): "The War at Troy: What Homer Didn't Tell" (University of Oklahoma Press, Norman OK, 1968).
Fitzgerald, Robert (Trans.): "Homer: The Iliad" (Viking Press, New York, 1968).
Homer's "Iliad" begins towards the close of the last of the ten years of the Trojan War: its incidents extend over some fifty days only, and it ends with the burial of Hector. The things which came before and after were told by other bards, who between them narrated the whole "cycle" of the events of the war, and so were called the Cyclic Poets. Of their works none have survived; but the story of what befell between Hector's funeral and the taking of Troy is told in detail, and well told, in a poem about half as long as the "Iliad". Some four hundred years after Christ there lived at Smyrna a poet of whom we know scarce anything, save that his first name was Quintus. He had saturated himself with the spirit of Homer, he had caught the ring of his music, and he perhaps had before him the works of those Cyclic Poets whose stars had paled before the sun.
We have practically no external evidence as to the date or place of birth of Quintus of Smyrna, or for the sources whence he drew his materials. His date is approximately settled by two passages in the poem, viz. vi. 531 sqq., in which occurs an illustration drawn from the man-and-beast fights of the amphitheatre, which were suppressed by Theodosius I. (379-395 A.D.); and xiii. 335 sqq., which contains a prophecy, the special particularity of which, it is maintained by Koechly, limits its applicability to the middle of the fourth century A.D.
His place of birth, and the precise locality, is given by himself in xii. 308-313, and confirmatory evidence is afforded by his familiarity, of which he gives numerous instances, with many natural features of the western part of Asia Minor.
With respect to his authorities, and the use he made of their writings, there has been more difference of opinion. Since his narrative covers the same ground as the "Aethiopis" ("Coming of Memnon") and the "Iliupersis" ("Destruction of Troy") of Arctinus (circ. 776 B.C.), and the "Little Iliad" of Lesches (circ. 700 B.C.), it has been assumed that the work of Quintus "is little more than an amplification or remodelling of the works of these two Cyclic Poets." This, however, must needs be pure conjecture, as the only remains of these poets consist of fragments amounting to no more than a very few lines from each, and of the "summaries of contents" made by the grammarian Proclus (circ. 140 A.D.), which, again, we but get at second-hand through the "Bibliotheca" of Photius (ninth century). Now, not merely do the only descriptions of incident that are found in the fragments differ essentially from the corresponding incidents as described by Quintus, but even in the summaries, meagre as they are, we find, as German critics have shown by exhaustive investigation, serious discrepancies enough to justify us in the conclusion that, even if Quintus had the works of the Cyclic poets before him, which is far from certain, his poem was no mere remodelling of theirs, but an independent and practically original work. Not that this conclusion disposes by any means of all difficulties. If Quintus did not follow the Cyclic poets, from what source did he draw his materials? The German critic unhesitatingly answers, "from Homer." As regards language, versification, and general spirit, the matter is beyond controversy; but when we come to consider the incidents of the story, we find deviations from Homer even more serious than any of those from the Cyclic poets. And the strange thing is, that each of these deviations is a manifest detriment to the perfection of his poem; in each of them the writer has missed, or has rejected, a magnificent opportunity. With regard to the slaying of Achilles by the hand of Apollo only, and not by those of Apollo and Paris, he might have pleaded that Homer himself here speaks with an uncertain voice (cf. "Iliad" xv. 416-17, xxii. 355-60, and xxi. 277-78). But, in describing the fight for the body of Achilles ("Odyssey" xxiv. 36 sqq.), Homer makes Agamemnon say:
"So we grappled the livelong day, and we had not refrained us then, But Zeus sent a hurricane, stilling the storm of the battle of men."
Now, it is just in describing such natural phenomena, and in blending them with the turmoil of battle, that Quintus is in his element; yet for such a scene he substitutes what is, by comparison, a lame and impotent conclusion. Of that awful cry that rang over the sea heralding the coming of Thetis and the Nymphs to the death-rites of her son, and the panic with which it filled the host, Quintus is silent. Again, Homer ("Odyssey" iv. 274-89) describes how Helen came in the night with Deiphobus, and stood by the Wooden Horse, and called to each of the hidden warriors with the voice of his own wife. This thrilling scene Quintus omits, and substitutes nothing of his own. Later on, he makes Menelaus slay Deiphobus unresisting, "heavy with wine," whereas Homer ("Odyssey" viii. 517-20) makes him offer such a magnificent resistance, that Odysseus and Menelaus together could not kill him without the help of Athena. In fact, we may say that, though there are echoes of the "Iliad" all through the poem, yet, wherever Homer has, in the "Odyssey", given the outline-sketch of an effective scene, Quintus has uniformly neglected to develop it, has sometimes substituted something much weaker—as though he had not the "Odyssey" before him!
For this we have no satisfactory explanation to offer. He may have set his own judgment above Homer—a most unlikely hypothesis: he may have been consistently following, in the framework of his story, some original now lost to us: there may be more, and longer, lacunae in the text than any editors have ventured to indicate: but, whatever theory we adopt, it must be based on mere conjecture.
The Greek text here given is that of Koechly (1850) with many of Zimmermann's emendations, which are acknowledged in the notes. Passages enclosed in square brackets are suggestions of Koechly for supplying the general sense of lacunae. Where he has made no such suggestion, or none that seemed to the editors to be adequate, the lacuna has been indicated by asterisks, though here too a few words have been added in the translation, sufficient to connect the sense.
—A. S. Way
I How died for Troy the Queen of the Amazons, Penthesileia. II How Memnon, Son of the Dawn, for Troy's sake fell in the Battle. III How by the shaft of a God laid low was Hero Achilles. IV How in the Funeral Games of Achilles heroes contended. V How the Arms of Achilles were cause of madness and death unto Aias. VI How came for the helping of Troy Eurypylus, Hercules' grandson. VII How the Son of Achilles was brought to the War from the Isle of Scyros. VIII How Hercules' Grandson perished in fight with the Son of Achilles. IX How from his long lone exile returned to the war Philoctetes. X How Paris was stricken to death, and in vain sought help of Oenone. XI How the sons of Troy for the last time fought from her walls and her towers. XII How the Wooden Horse was fashioned, and brought into Troy by her people. XIII How Troy in the night was taken and sacked with fire and slaughter. XIV How the conquerors sailed from Troy unto judgment of tempest and shipwreck.
How died for Troy the Queen of the Amazons, Penthesileia.
When godlike Hector by Peleides slain Passed, and the pyre had ravined up his flesh, And earth had veiled his bones, the Trojans then Tarried in Priam's city, sore afraid Before the might of stout-heart Aeacus' son: As kine they were, that midst the copses shrink From faring forth to meet a lion grim, But in dense thickets terror-huddled cower; So in their fortress shivered these to see That mighty man. Of those already dead They thought of all whose lives he reft away As by Scamander's outfall on he rushed, And all that in mid-flight to that high wall He slew, how he quelled Hector, how he haled His corse round Troy;—yea, and of all beside Laid low by him since that first day whereon O'er restless seas he brought the Trojans doom. Ay, all these they remembered, while they stayed Thus in their town, and o'er them anguished grief Hovered dark-winged, as though that very day All Troy with shrieks were crumbling down in fire.
Then from Thermodon, from broad-sweeping streams, Came, clothed upon with beauty of Goddesses, Penthesileia—came athirst indeed For groan-resounding battle, but yet more Fleeing abhorred reproach and evil fame, Lest they of her own folk should rail on her Because of her own sister's death, for whom Ever her sorrows waxed, Hippolyte, Whom she had struck dead with her mighty spear, Not of her will—'twas at a stag she hurled. So came she to the far-famed land of Troy. Yea, and her warrior spirit pricked her on, Of murder's dread pollution thus to cleanse Her soul, and with such sacrifice to appease The Awful Ones, the Erinnyes, who in wrath For her slain sister straightway haunted her Unseen: for ever round the sinner's steps They hover; none may 'scape those Goddesses. And with her followed twelve beside, each one A princess, hot for war and battle grim, Far-famous each, yet handmaids unto her: Penthesileia far outshone them all. As when in the broad sky amidst the stars The moon rides over all pre-eminent, When through the thunderclouds the cleaving heavens Open, when sleep the fury-breathing winds; So peerless was she mid that charging host. Clonie was there, Polemusa, Derinoe, Evandre, and Antandre, and Bremusa, Hippothoe, dark-eyed Harmothoe, Alcibie, Derimacheia, Antibrote, And Thermodosa glorying with the spear. All these to battle fared with warrior-souled Penthesileia: even as when descends Dawn from Olympus' crest of adamant, Dawn, heart-exultant in her radiant steeds Amidst the bright-haired Hours; and o'er them all, How flawless-fair soever these may be, Her splendour of beauty glows pre-eminent; So peerless amid all the Amazons Unto Troy-town Penthesileia came. To right, to left, from all sides hurrying thronged The Trojans, greatly marvelling, when they saw The tireless War-god's child, the mailed maid, Like to the Blessed Gods; for in her face Glowed beauty glorious and terrible. Her smile was ravishing: beneath her brows Her love-enkindling eyes shone like to stars, And with the crimson rose of shamefastness Bright were her cheeks, and mantled over them Unearthly grace with battle-prowess clad.
Then joyed Troy's folk, despite past agonies, As when, far-gazing from a height, the hinds Behold a rainbow spanning the wide sea, When they be yearning for the heaven-sent shower, When the parched fields be craving for the rain; Then the great sky at last is overgloomed, And men see that fair sign of coming wind And imminent rain, and seeing, they are glad, Who for their corn-fields' plight sore sighed before; Even so the sons of Troy when they beheld There in their land Penthesileia dread Afire for battle, were exceeding glad; For when the heart is thrilled with hope of good, All smart of evils past is wiped away: So, after all his sighing and his pain, Gladdened a little while was Priam's soul. As when a man who hath suffered many a pang From blinded eyes, sore longing to behold The light, and, if he may not, fain would die, Then at the last, by a cunning leech's skill, Or by a God's grace, sees the dawn-rose flush, Sees the mist rolled back from before his eyes,— Yea, though clear vision come not as of old, Yet, after all his anguish, joys to have Some small relief, albeit the stings of pain Prick sharply yet beneath his eyelids;—so Joyed the old king to see that terrible queen— The shadowy joy of one in anguish whelmed For slain sons. Into his halls he led the Maid, And with glad welcome honoured her, as one Who greets a daughter to her home returned From a far country in the twentieth year; And set a feast before her, sumptuous As battle-glorious kings, who have brought low Nations of foes, array in splendour of pomp, With hearts in pride of victory triumphing. And gifts he gave her costly and fair to see, And pledged him to give many more, so she Would save the Trojans from the imminent doom. And she such deeds she promised as no man Had hoped for, even to lay Achilles low, To smite the wide host of the Argive men, And cast the brands red-flaming on the ships. Ah fool!—but little knew she him, the lord Of ashen spears, how far Achilles' might In warrior-wasting strife o'erpassed her own!
But when Andromache, the stately child Of king Eetion, heard the wild queen's vaunt, Low to her own soul bitterly murmured she: "Ah hapless! why with arrogant heart dost thou Speak such great swelling words? No strength is thine To grapple in fight with Peleus' aweless son. Nay, doom and swift death shall he deal to thee. Alas for thee! What madness thrills thy soul? Fate and the end of death stand hard by thee! Hector was mightier far to wield the spear Than thou, yet was for all his prowess slain, Slain for the bitter grief of Troy, whose folk The city through looked on him as a God. My glory and his noble parents' glory Was he while yet he lived—O that the earth Over my dead face had been mounded high, Or ever through his throat the breath of life Followed the cleaving spear! But now have I Looked—woe is me!—on grief unutterable, When round the city those fleet-footed steeds Haled him, steeds of Achilles, who had made Me widowed of mine hero-husband, made My portion bitterness through all my days."
So spake Eetion's lovely-ankled child Low to her own soul, thinking on her lord. So evermore the faithful-hearted wife Nurseth for her lost love undying grief.
Then in swift revolution sweeping round Into the Ocean's deep stream sank the sun, And daylight died. So when the banqueters Ceased from the wine-cup and the goodly feast, Then did the handmaids spread in Priam's halls For Penthesileia dauntless-souled the couch Heart-cheering, and she laid her down to rest; And slumber mist-like overveiled her eyes [depths Like sweet dew dropping round. From heavens' blue Slid down the might of a deceitful dream At Pallas' hest, that so the warrior-maid Might see it, and become a curse to Troy And to herself, when strained her soul to meet; The whirlwind of the battle. In this wise The Trito-born, the subtle-souled, contrived: Stood o'er the maiden's head that baleful dream In likeness of her father, kindling her Fearlessly front to front to meet in fight Fleetfoot Achilles. And she heard the voice, And all her heart exulted, for she weened That she should on that dawning day achieve A mighty deed in battle's deadly toil Ah, fool, who trusted for her sorrow a dream Out of the sunless land, such as beguiles Full oft the travail-burdened tribes of men, Whispering mocking lies in sleeping ears, And to the battle's travail lured her then!
But when the Dawn, the rosy-ankled, leapt Up from her bed, then, clad in mighty strength Of spirit, suddenly from her couch uprose Penthesileia. Then did she array Her shoulders in those wondrous-fashioned arms Given her of the War-god. First she laid Beneath her silver-gleaming knees the greaves Fashioned of gold, close-clipping the strong limbs. Her rainbow-radiant corslet clasped she then About her, and around her shoulders slung, With glory in her heart, the massy brand Whose shining length was in a scabbard sheathed Of ivory and silver. Next, her shield Unearthly splendid, caught she up, whose rim Swelled like the young moon's arching chariot-rail When high o'er Ocean's fathomless-flowing stream She rises, with the space half filled with light Betwixt her bowing horns. So did it shine Unutterably fair. Then on her head She settled the bright helmet overstreamed With a wild mane of golden-glistering hairs. So stood she, lapped about with flaming mail, In semblance like the lightning, which the might, The never-wearied might of Zeus, to earth Hurleth, what time he showeth forth to men Fury of thunderous-roaring rain, or swoop Resistless of his shouting host of winds. Then in hot haste forth of her bower to pass Caught she two javelins in the hand that grasped Her shield-band; but her strong right hand laid hold On a huge halberd, sharp of either blade, Which terrible Eris gave to Ares' child To be her Titan weapon in the strife That raveneth souls of men. Laughing for glee Thereover, swiftly flashed she forth the ring Of towers. Her coming kindled all the sons Of Troy to rush into the battle forth Which crowneth men with glory. Swiftly all Hearkened her gathering-ery, and thronging came, Champions, yea, even such as theretofore Shrank back from standing in the ranks of war Against Achilles the all-ravager. But she in pride of triumph on she rode Throned on a goodly steed and fleet, the gift Of Oreithyia, the wild North-wind's bride, Given to her guest the warrior-maid, what time She came to Thrace, a steed whose flying feet Could match the Harpies' wings. Riding thereon Penthesileia in her goodlihead Left the tall palaces of Troy behind. And ever were the ghastly-visaged Fates Thrusting her on into the battle, doomed To be her first against the Greeks—and last! To right, to left, with unreturning feet The Trojan thousands followed to the fray, The pitiless fray, that death-doomed warrior-maid, Followed in throngs, as follow sheep the ram That by the shepherd's art strides before all. So followed they, with battle-fury filled, Strong Trojans and wild-hearted Amazons. And like Tritonis seemed she, as she went To meet the Giants, or as flasheth far Through war-hosts Eris, waker of onset-shouts. So mighty in the Trojans' midst she seemed, Penthesileia of the flying feet.
Then unto Cronos' Son Laomedon's child Upraised his hands, his sorrow-burdened hands, Turning him toward the sky-encountering fane Of Zeus of Ida, who with sleepless eyes Looks ever down on Ilium; and he prayed: "Father, give ear! Vouchsafe that on this day Achaea's host may fall before the hands Of this our warrior-queen, the War-god's child; And do thou bring her back unscathed again Unto mine halls: we pray thee by the love Thou bear'st to Ares of the fiery heart Thy son, yea, to her also! is she not Most wondrous like the heavenly Goddesses? And is she not the child of thine own seed? Pity my stricken heart withal! Thou know'st All agonies I have suffered in the deaths Of dear sons whom the Fates have torn from me By Argive hands in the devouring fight. Compassionate us, while a remnant yet Remains of noble Dardanus' blood, while yet This city stands unwasted! Let us know From ghastly slaughter and strife one breathing-space!"
In passionate prayer he spake:—lo, with shrill scream Swiftly to left an eagle darted by And in his talons bare a gasping dove. Then round the heart of Priam all the blood Was chilled with fear. Low to his soul he said: "Ne'er shall I see return alive from war Penthesileia!" On that selfsame day The Fates prepared his boding to fulfil; And his heart brake with anguish of despair.
Marvelled the Argives, far across the plain Seeing the hosts of Troy charge down on them, And midst them Penthesileia, Ares' child. These seemed like ravening beasts that mid the hills Bring grimly slaughter to the fleecy flocks; And she, as a rushing blast of flame she seemed That maddeneth through the copses summer-scorched, When the wind drives it on; and in this wise Spake one to other in their mustering host: "Who shall this be who thus can rouse to war The Trojans, now that Hector hath been slain— These who, we said, would never more find heart To stand against us? Lo now, suddenly Forth are they rushing, madly afire for fight! Sure, in their midst some great one kindleth them To battle's toil! Thou verily wouldst say This were a God, of such great deeds he dreams! Go to, with aweless courage let us arm Our own breasts: let us summon up our might In battle-fury. We shall lack not help Of Gods this day to close in fight with Troy."
So cried they; and their flashing battle-gear Cast they about them: forth the ships they poured Clad in the rage of fight as with a cloak. Then front to front their battles closed, like beasts Of ravin, locked in tangle of gory strife. Clanged their bright mail together, clashed the spears, The corslets, and the stubborn-welded shields And adamant helms. Each stabbed at other's flesh With the fierce brass: was neither ruth nor rest, And all the Trojan soil was crimson-red.
Then first Penthesileia smote and slew Molion; now Persinous falls, and now Eilissus; reeled Antitheus 'neath her spear The pride of Lernus quelled she: down she bore Hippalmus 'neath her horse-hoofs; Haemon's son Died; withered stalwart Elasippus' strength. And Derinoe laid low Laogonus, And Clonie Menippus, him who sailed Long since from Phylace, led by his lord Protesilaus to the war with Troy. Then was Podarces, son of Iphiclus, Heart-wrung with ruth and wrath to see him lie Dead, of all battle-comrades best-beloved. Swiftly at Clonie he hurled, the maid Fair as a Goddess: plunged the unswerving lance 'Twixt hip and hip, and rushed the dark blood forth After the spear, and all her bowels gushed out. Then wroth was Penthesileia; through the brawn Of his right arm she drave the long spear's point, She shore atwain the great blood-brimming veins, And through the wide gash of the wound the gore Spirted, a crimson fountain. With a groan Backward he sprang, his courage wholly quelled By bitter pain; and sorrow and dismay Thrilled, as he fled, his men of Phylace. A short way from the fight he reeled aside, And in his friends' arms died in little space. Then with his lance Idomeneus thrust out, And by the right breast stabbed Bremusa. Stilled For ever was the beating of her heart. She fell, as falls a graceful-shafted pine Hewn mid the hills by woodmen: heavily, Sighing through all its boughs, it crashes down. So with a wailing shriek she fell, and death Unstrung her every limb: her breathing soul Mingled with multitudinous-sighing winds. Then, as Evandre through the murderous fray With Thermodosa rushed, stood Meriones, A lion in the path, and slew: his spear Right to the heart of one he drave, and one Stabbed with a lightning sword-thrust 'twixt the hips: Leapt through the wounds the life, and fled away. Oileus' fiery son smote Derinoe 'Twixt throat and shoulder with his ruthless spear; And on Alcibie Tydeus' terrible son Swooped, and on Derimacheia: head with neck Clean from the shoulders of these twain he shore With ruin-wreaking brand. Together down Fell they, as young calves by the massy axe Of brawny flesher felled, that, shearing through The sinews of the neck, lops life away. So, by the hands of Tydeus' son laid low Upon the Trojan plain, far, far away From their own highland-home, they fell. Nor these Alone died; for the might of Sthenelus Down on them hurled Cabeirus' corse, who came From Sestos, keen to fight the Argive foe, But never saw his fatherland again. Then was the heart of Paris filled with wrath For a friend slain. Full upon Sthenelus Aimed he a shaft death-winged, yet touched him not, Despite his thirst for vengeance: otherwhere The arrow glanced aside, and carried death Whither the stern Fates guided its fierce wing, And slew Evenor brazen-tasleted, Who from Dulichium came to war with Troy. For his death fury-kindled was the son Of haughty Phyleus: as a lion leaps Upon the flock, so swiftly rushed he: all Shrank huddling back before that terrible man. Itymoneus he slew, and Hippasus' son Agelaus: from Miletus brought they war Against the Danaan men by Nastes led, The god-like, and Amphimachus mighty-souled. On Mycale they dwelt; beside their home Rose Latmus' snowy crests, stretched the long glens Of Branchus, and Panormus' water-meads. Maeander's flood deep-rolling swept thereby, Which from the Phrygian uplands, pastured o'er By myriad flocks, around a thousand forelands Curls, swirls, and drives his hurrying ripples on Down to the vine-clad land of Carian men These mid the storm of battle Meges slew, Nor these alone, but whomsoe'er his lance Black-shafted touched, were dead men; for his breast The glorious Trito-born with courage thrilled To bring to all his foes the day of doom. And Polypoetes, dear to Ares, slew Dresaeus, whom the Nymph Neaera bare To passing-wise Theiodamas for these Spread was the bed of love beside the foot Of Sipylus the Mountain, where the Gods Made Niobe a stony rock, wherefrom Tears ever stream: high up, the rugged crag Bows as one weeping, weeping, waterfalls Cry from far-echoing Hermus, wailing moan Of sympathy: the sky-encountering crests Of Sipylus, where alway floats a mist Hated of shepherds, echo back the cry. Weird marvel seems that Rock of Niobe To men that pass with feet fear-goaded: there They see the likeness of a woman bowed, In depths of anguish sobbing, and her tears Drop, as she mourns grief-stricken, endlessly. Yea, thou wouldst say that verily so it was, Viewing it from afar; but when hard by Thou standest, all the illusion vanishes; And lo, a steep-browed rock, a fragment rent From Sipylus—yet Niobe is there, Dreeing her weird, the debt of wrath divine, A broken heart in guise of shattered stone.
All through the tangle of that desperate fray Stalked slaughter and doom. The incarnate Onset-shout Raved through the rolling battle; at her side Paced Death the ruthless, and the Fearful Faces, The Fates, beside them strode, and in red hands Bare murder and the groans of dying men. That day the beating of full many a heart, Trojan and Argive, was for ever stilled, While roared the battle round them, while the fury Of Penthesileia fainted not nor failed; But as amid long ridges of lone hills A lioness, stealing down a deep ravine, Springs on the kine with lightning leap, athirst For blood wherein her fierce heart revelleth; So on the Danaans leapt that warrior-maid. And they, their souls were cowed: backward they shrank, And fast she followed, as a towering surge Chases across the thunder-booming sea A flying bark, whose white sails strain beneath The wind's wild buffering, and all the air Maddens with roaring, as the rollers crash On a black foreland looming on the lee Where long reefs fringe the surf-tormented shores. So chased she, and so dashed the ranks asunder Triumphant-souled, and hurled fierce threats before: "Ye dogs, this day for evil outrage done To Priam shall ye pay! No man of you Shall from mine hands deliver his own life, And win back home, to gladden parents eyes, Or comfort wife or children. Ye shall lie Dead, ravined on by vultures and by wolves, And none shall heap the earth-mound o'er your clay. Where skulketh now the strength of Tydeus' son, And where the might of Aeacus' scion? Where is Aias' bulk? Ye vaunt them mightiest men Of all your rabble. Ha! they will not dare With me to close in battle, lest I drag Forth from their fainting frames their craven souls!"
Then heart-uplifted leapt she on the foe, Resistless as a tigress, crashing through Ranks upon ranks of Argives, smiting now With that huge halberd massy-headed, now Hurling the keen dart, while her battle-horse Flashed through the fight, and on his shoulder bare Quiver and bow death-speeding, close to her hand, If mid that revel of blood she willed to speed The bitter-biting shaft. Behind her swept The charging lines of men fleet-footed, friends And brethren of the man who never flinched From close death-grapple, Hector, panting all The hot breath of the War-god from their breasts, All slaying Danaans with the ashen spear, Who fell as frost-touched leaves in autumn fall One after other, or as drops of rain. And aye went up a moaning from earth's breast All blood-bedrenched, and heaped with corse on corse. Horses pierced through with arrows, or impaled On spears, were snorting forth their last of strength With screaming neighings. Men, with gnashing teeth Biting the dust, lay gasping, while the steeds Of Trojan charioteers stormed in pursuit, Trampling the dying mingled with the dead As oxen trample corn in threshing-floors.
Then one exulting boasted mid the host Of Troy, beholding Penthesileia rush On through the foes' array, like the black storm That maddens o'er the sea, what time the sun Allies his might with winter's Goat-horned Star; And thus, puffed up with vain hope, shouted he: "O friends, in manifest presence down from heaven One of the deathless Gods this day hath come To fight the Argives, all of love for us, Yea, and with sanction of almighty Zeus, He whose compassion now remembereth Haply strong-hearted Priam, who may boast For his a lineage of immortal blood. For this, I trow, no mortal woman seems, Who is so aweless-daring, who is clad In splendour-flashing arms: nay, surely she Shall be Athene, or the mighty-souled Enyo—haply Eris, or the Child Of Leto world-renowned. O yea, I look To see her hurl amid yon Argive men Mad-shrieking slaughter, see her set aflame Yon ships wherein they came long years agone Bringing us many sorrows, yea, they came Bringing us woes of war intolerable. Ha! to the home-land Hellas ne'er shall these With joy return, since Gods on our side fight."
In overweening exultation so Vaunted a Trojan. Fool!—he had no vision Of ruin onward rushing upon himself And Troy, and Penthesileia's self withal. For not as yet had any tidings come Of that wild fray to Aias stormy-souled, Nor to Achilles, waster of tower and town. But on the grave-mound of Menoetius' son They twain were lying, with sad memories Of a dear comrade crushed, and echoing Each one the other's groaning. One it was Of the Blest Gods who still was holding back These from the battle-tumult far away, Till many Greeks should fill the measure up Of woeful havoc, slain by Trojan foes And glorious Penthesileia, who pursued With murderous intent their rifled ranks, While ever waxed her valour more and more, And waxed her might within her: never in vain She aimed the unswerving spear-thrust: aye she pierced The backs of them that fled, the breasts of such As charged to meet her. All the long shaft dripped With steaming blood. Swift were her feet as wind As down she swooped. Her aweless spirit failed For weariness nor fainted, but her might Was adamantine. The impending Doom, Which roused unto the terrible strife not yet Achilles, clothed her still with glory; still Aloof the dread Power stood, and still would shed Splendour of triumph o'er the death-ordained But for a little space, ere it should quell That Maiden 'neath the hands of Aeaeus' son. In darkness ambushed, with invisible hand Ever it thrust her on, and drew her feet Destruction-ward, and lit her path to death With glory, while she slew foe after foe. As when within a dewy garden-close, Longing for its green springtide freshness, leaps A heifer, and there rangeth to and fro, When none is by to stay her, treading down All its green herbs, and all its wealth of bloom, Devouring greedily this, and marring that With trampling feet; so ranged she, Ares' child, Through reeling squadrons of Achaea's sons, Slew these, and hunted those in panic rout.
From Troy afar the women marvelling gazed At the Maid's battle-prowess. Suddenly A fiery passion for the fray hath seized Antimachus' daughter, Meneptolemus' wife, Tisiphone. Her heart waxed strong, and filled With lust of fight she cried to her fellows all, With desperate-daring words, to spur them on To woeful war, by recklessness made strong. "Friends, let a heart of valour in our breasts Awake! Let us be like our lords, who fight With foes for fatherland, for babes, for us, And never pause for breath in that stern strife! Let us too throne war's spirit in our hearts! Let us too face the fight which favoureth none! For we, we women, be not creatures cast In diverse mould from men: to us is given Such energy of life as stirs in them. Eyes have we like to theirs, and limbs: throughout Fashioned we are alike: one common light We look on, and one common air we breathe: With like food are we nourished—nay, wherein Have we been dowered of God more niggardly Than men? Then let us shrink not from the fray See ye not yonder a woman far excelling Men in the grapple of fight? Yet is her blood Nowise akin to ours, nor fighteth she For her own city. For an alien king She warreth of her own heart's prompting, fears The face of no man; for her soul is thrilled With valour and with spirit invincible. But we—to right, to left, lie woes on woes About our feet: this mourns beloved sons, And that a husband who for hearth and home Hath died; some wail for fathers now no more; Some grieve for brethren and for kinsmen lost. Not one but hath some share in sorrow's cup. Behind all this a fearful shadow looms, The day of bondage! Therefore flinch not ye From war, O sorrow-laden! Better far To die in battle now, than afterwards Hence to be haled into captivity To alien folk, we and our little ones, In the stern grip of fate leaving behind A burning city, and our husbands' graves."
So cried she, and with passion for stern war Thrilled all those women; and with eager speed They hasted to go forth without the wall Mail-clad, afire to battle for their town And people: all their spirit was aflame. As when within a hive, when winter-tide Is over and gone, loud hum the swarming bees What time they make them ready forth to fare To bright flower-pastures, and no more endure To linger therewithin, but each to other Crieth the challenge-cry to sally forth; Even so bestirred themselves the women of Troy, And kindled each her sister to the fray. The weaving-wool, the distaff far they flung, And to grim weapons stretched their eager hands.
And now without the city these had died In that wild battle, as their husbands died And the strong Amazons died, had not one voice Of wisdom cried to stay their maddened feet, When with dissuading words Theano spake: "Wherefore, ah wherefore for the toil and strain Of battle's fearful tumult do ye yearn, Infatuate ones? Never your limbs have toiled In conflict yet. In utter ignorance Panting for labour unendurable, Ye rush on all-unthinking; for your strength Can never be as that of Danaan men, Men trained in daily battle. Amazons Have joyed in ruthless fight, in charging steeds, From the beginning: all the toil of men Do they endure; and therefore evermore The spirit of the War-god thrills them through. 'They fall not short of men in anything: Their labour-hardened frames make great their hearts For all achievement: never faint their knees Nor tremble. Rumour speaks their queen to be A daughter of the mighty Lord of War. Therefore no woman may compare with her In prowess—if she be a woman, not A God come down in answer to our prayers. Yea, of one blood be all the race of men, Yet unto diverse labours still they turn; And that for each is evermore the best Whereto he bringeth skill of use and wont. Therefore do ye from tumult of the fray Hold you aloof, and in your women's bowers Before the loom still pace ye to and fro; And war shall be the business of our lords. Lo, of fair issue is there hope: we see The Achaeans falling fast: we see the might Of our men waxing ever: fear is none Of evil issue now: the pitiless foe Beleaguer not the town: no desperate need There is that women should go forth to war."
So cried she, and they hearkened to the words Of her who had garnered wisdom from the years; So from afar they watched the fight. But still Penthesileia brake the ranks, and still Before her quailed the Achaeans: still they found Nor screen nor hiding-place from imminent death. As bleating goats are by the blood-stained jaws Of a grim panther torn, so slain were they. In each man's heart all lust of battle died, And fear alone lived. This way, that way fled The panic-stricken: some to earth had flung The armour from their shoulders; some in dust Grovelled in terror 'neath their shields: the steeds Fled through the rout unreined of charioteers. In rapture of triumph charged the Amazons, With groan and scream of agony died the Greeks. Withered their manhood was in that sore strait; Brief was the span of all whom that fierce maid Mid the grim jaws of battle overtook. As when with mighty roaring bursteth down A storm upon the forest-trees, and some Uprendeth by the roots, and on the earth Dashes them down, the tail stems blossom-crowned, And snappeth some athwart the trunk, and high Whirls them through air, till all confused they lie A ruin of splintered stems and shattered sprays; So the great Danaan host lay, dashed to dust By doom of Fate, by Penthesileia's spear.
But when the very ships were now at point To be by hands of Trojans set aflame, Then battle-bider Aias heard afar The panic-cries, and spake to Aeacus' son: "Achilles, all the air about mine ears Is full of multitudinous eries, is full Of thunder of battle rolling nearer aye. Let us go forth then, ere the Trojans win Unto the ships, and make great slaughter there Of Argive men, and set the ships aflame. Foulest reproach such thing on thee and me Should bring; for it beseems not that the seed Of mighty Zeus should shame the sacred blood Of hero-fathers, who themselves of old With Hercules the battle-eager sailed To Troy, and smote her even at her height Of glory, when Laomedon was king. Ay, and I ween that our hands even now Shall do the like: we too are mighty men."
He spake: the aweless strength of Aeacus' son Hearkened thereto, for also to his ears By this the roar of bitter battle came. Then hasted both, and donned their warrior-gear All splendour-gleaming: now, in these arrayed Facing that stormy-tossing rout they stand. Loud clashed their glorious armour: in their souls A battle-fury like the War-god's wrath Maddened; such might was breathed into these twain By Atrytone, Shaker of the Shield, As on they pressed. With joy the Argives saw The coming of that mighty twain: they seemed In semblance like Aloeus' giant sons Who in the old time made that haughty vaunt Of piling on Olympus' brow the height Of Ossa steeply-towering, and the crest Of sky-encountering Pelion, so to rear A mountain-stair for their rebellious rage To scale the highest heaven. Huge as these The sons of Aeacus seemed, as forth they strode To stem the tide of war. A gladsome sight To friends who have fainted for their coming, now Onward they press to crush triumphant foes. Many they slew with their resistless spears; As when two herd-destroying lions come On sheep amid the copses feeding, far From help of shepherds, and in heaps on heaps Slay them, till they have drunken to the full Of blood, and filled their maws insatiate With flesh, so those destroyers twain slew on, Spreading wide havoc through the hosts of Troy.
There Deiochus and gallant Hyllus fell By Alas slain, and fell Eurynomus Lover of war, and goodly Enyeus died. But Peleus' son burst on the Amazons Smiting Antandre, Polemusa then, Antibrote, fierce-souled Hippothoe, Hurling Harmothoe down on sisters slain. Then hard on all their-reeling ranks he pressed With Telamon's mighty-hearted son; and now Before their hands battalions dense and strong Crumbled as weakly and as suddenly As when in mountain-folds the forest-brakes Shrivel before a tempest-driven fire.
When battle-eager Penthesileia saw These twain, as through the scourging storm of war Like ravening beasts they rushed, to meet them there She sped, as when a leopard grim, whose mood Is deadly, leaps from forest-coverts forth, Lashing her tail, on hunters closing round, While these, in armour clad, and putting trust In their long spears, await her lightning leap; So did those warriors twain with spears upswung Wait Penthesileia. Clanged the brazen plates About their shoulders as they moved. And first Leapt the long-shafted lance sped from the hand Of goodly Penthesileia. Straight it flew To the shield of Aeacus' son, but glancing thence This way and that the shivered fragments sprang As from a rock-face: of such temper were The cunning-hearted Fire-god's gifts divine. Then in her hand the warrior-maid swung up A second javelin fury-winged, against Aias, and with fierce words defied the twain: "Ha, from mine hand in vain one lance hath leapt! But with this second look I suddenly To quell the strength and courage of two foes,— Ay, though ye vaunt you mighty men of war Amid your Danaans! Die ye shall, and so Lighter shall be the load of war's affliction That lies upon the Trojan chariot-lords. Draw nigh, come through the press to grips with me, So shall ye learn what might wells up in breasts Of Amazons. With my blood is mingled war! No mortal man begat me, but the Lord Of War, insatiate of the battle-cry. Therefore my might is more than any man's."
With scornful laughter spake she: then she hurled Her second lance; but they in utter scorn Laughed now, as swiftly flew the shaft, and smote The silver greave of Aias, and was foiled Thereby, and all its fury could not scar The flesh within; for fate had ordered not That any blade of foes should taste the blood Of Aias in the bitter war. But he Recked of the Amazon naught, but turned him thence To rush upon the Trojan host, and left Penthesileia unto Peleus' son Alone, for well he knew his heart within That she, for all her prowess, none the less Would cost Achilles battle-toil as light, As effortless, as doth the dove the hawk.
Then groaned she an angry groan that she had sped Her shafts in vain; and now with scoffing speech To her in turn the son of Peleus spake: "Woman, with what vain vauntings triumphing Hast thou come forth against us, all athirst To battle with us, who be mightier far Than earthborn heroes? We from Cronos' Son, The Thunder-roller, boast our high descent. Ay, even Hector quailed, the battle-swift, Before us, e'en though far away he saw Our onrush to grim battle. Yea, my spear Slew him, for all his might. But thou—thine heart Is utterly mad, that thou hast greatly dared To threaten us with death this day! On thee Thy latest hour shall swiftly come—is come! Thee not thy sire the War-god now shall pluck Out of mine hand, but thou the debt shalt pay Of a dark doom, as when mid mountain-folds A pricket meets a lion, waster of herds. What, woman, hast thou heard not of the heaps Of slain, that into Xanthus' rushing stream Were thrust by these mine hands?—or hast thou heard In vain, because the Blessed Ones have stol'n Wit and discretion from thee, to the end That Doom's relentless gulf might gape for thee?"
He spake; he swung up in his mighty hand And sped the long spear warrior-slaying, wrought By Chiron, and above the right breast pierced The battle-eager maid. The red blood leapt Forth, as a fountain wells, and all at once Fainted the strength of Penthesileia's limbs; Dropped the great battle-axe from her nerveless hand; A mist of darkness overveiled her eyes, And anguish thrilled her soul. Yet even so Still drew she difficult breath, still dimly saw The hero, even now in act to drag Her from the swift steed's back. Confusedly She thought: "Or shall I draw my mighty sword, And bide Achilles' fiery onrush, or Hastily cast me from my fleet horse down To earth, and kneel unto this godlike man, And with wild breath promise for ransoming Great heaps of brass and gold, which pacify The hearts of victors never so athirst For blood, if haply so the murderous might Of Aeacus' son may hearken and may spare, Or peradventure may compassionate My youth, and so vouchsafe me to behold Mine home again?—for O, I long to live!"
So surged the wild thoughts in her; but the Gods Ordained it otherwise. Even now rushed on In terrible anger Peleus' son: he thrust With sudden spear, and on its shaft impaled The body of her tempest-footed steed, Even as a man in haste to sup might pierce Flesh with the spit, above the glowing hearth To roast it, or as in a mountain-glade A hunter sends the shaft of death clear through The body of a stag with such winged speed That the fierce dart leaps forth beyond, to plunge Into the tall stem of an oak or pine. So that death-ravening spear of Peleus' son Clear through the goodly steed rushed on, and pierced Penthesileia. Straightway fell she down Into the dust of earth, the arms of death, In grace and comeliness fell, for naught of shame Dishonoured her fair form. Face down she lay On the long spear outgasping her last breath, Stretched upon that fleet horse as on a couch; Like some tall pine snapped by the icy mace Of Boreas, earth's forest-fosterling Reared by a spring to stately height, amidst Long mountain-glens, a glory of mother earth; So from the once fleet steed low fallen lay Penthesileia, all her shattered strength Brought down to this, and all her loveliness.
Now when the Trojans saw the Warrior-queen Struck down in battle, ran through all their lines A shiver of panic. Straightway to their walls Turned they in flight, heart-agonized with grief. As when on the wide sea, 'neath buffetings Of storm-blasts, castaways whose ship is wrecked Escape, a remnant of a crew, forspent With desperate conflict with the cruel sea: Late and at last appears the land hard by, Appears a city: faint and weary-limbed With that grim struggle, through the surf they strain To land, sore grieving for the good ship lost, And shipmates whom the terrible surge dragged down To nether gloom; so, Troyward as they fled From battle, all those Trojans wept for her, The Child of the resistless War-god, wept For friends who died in groan-resounding fight.
Then over her with scornful laugh the son Of Peleus vaunted: "In the dust lie there A prey to teeth of dogs, to ravens' beaks, Thou wretched thing! Who cozened thee to come Forth against me? And thoughtest thou to fare Home from the war alive, to bear with thee Right royal gifts from Priam the old king, Thy guerdon for slain Argives? Ha, 'twas not The Immortals who inspired thee with this thought, Who know that I of heroes mightiest am, The Danaans' light of safety, but a woe To Trojans and to thee, O evil-starred! Nay, but it was the darkness-shrouded Fates And thine own folly of soul that pricked thee on To leave the works of women, and to fare To war, from which strong men shrink shuddering back."
So spake he, and his ashen spear the son Of Peleus drew from that swift horse, and from Penthesileia in death's agony. Then steed and rider gasped their lives away Slain by one spear. Now from her head he plucked The helmet splendour-flashing like the beams Of the great sun, or Zeus' own glory-light. Then, there as fallen in dust and blood she lay, Rose, like the breaking of the dawn, to view 'Neath dainty-pencilled brows a lovely face, Lovely in death. The Argives thronged around, And all they saw and marvelled, for she seemed Like an Immortal. In her armour there Upon the earth she lay, and seemed the Child Of Zeus, the tireless Huntress Artemis Sleeping, what time her feet forwearied are With following lions with her flying shafts Over the hills far-stretching. She was made A wonder of beauty even in her death By Aphrodite glorious-crowned, the Bride Of the strong War-god, to the end that he, The son of noble Peleus, might be pierced With the sharp arrow of repentant love. The warriors gazed, and in their hearts they prayed That fair and sweet like her their wives might seem, Laid on the bed of love, when home they won. Yea, and Achilles' very heart was wrung With love's remorse to have slain a thing so sweet, Who might have borne her home, his queenly bride, To chariot-glorious Phthia; for she was Flawless, a very daughter of the Gods, Divinely tall, and most divinely fair.
Then Ares' heart was thrilled with grief and rage For his child slain. Straight from Olympus down He darted, swift and bright as thunderbolt Terribly flashing from the mighty hand Of Zeus, far leaping o'er the trackless sea, Or flaming o'er the land, while shuddereth All wide Olympus as it passeth by. So through the quivering air with heart aflame Swooped Ares armour-clad, soon as he heard The dread doom of his daughter. For the Gales, The North-wind's fleet-winged daughters, bare to him, As through the wide halls of the sky he strode, The tidings of the maiden's woeful end. Soon as he heard it, like a tempest-blast Down to the ridges of Ida leapt he: quaked Under his feet the long glens and ravines Deep-scored, all Ida's torrent-beds, and all Far-stretching foot-hills. Now had Ares brought A day of mourning on the Myrmidons, But Zeus himself from far Olympus sent Mid shattering thunders terror of levin-bolts Which thick and fast leapt through the welkin down Before his feet, blazing with fearful flames. And Ares saw, and knew the stormy threat Of the mighty-thundering Father, and he stayed His eager feet, now on the very brink Of battle's turmoil. As when some huge crag Thrust from a beetling cliff-brow by the winds And torrent rains, or lightning-lance of Zeus, Leaps like a wild beast, and the mountain-glens Fling back their crashing echoes as it rolls In mad speed on, as with resistless swoop Of bound on bound it rushes down, until It cometh to the levels of the plain, And there perforce its stormy flight is stayed;
So Ares, battle-eager Son of Zeus, Was stayed, how loth soe'er; for all the Gods To the Ruler of the Blessed needs must yield, Seeing he sits high-throned above them all, Clothed in his might unspeakable. Yet still Many a wild thought surged through Ares' soul, Urging him now to dread the terrible threat Of Cronos' wrathful Son, and to return Heavenward, and now to reck not of his Sire, But with Achilles' blood to stain those hands, The battle-tireless. At the last his heart Remembered how that many and many a son Of Zeus himself in many a war had died, Nor in their fall had Zeus availed them aught. Therefore he turned him from the Argives—else, Down smitten by the blasting thunderbolt, With Titans in the nether gloom he had lain, Who dared defy the eternal will of Zeus.
Then did the warrior sons of Argos strip With eager haste from corpses strown all round The blood-stained spoils. But ever Peleus' son Gazed, wild with all regret, still gazed on her, The strong, the beautiful, laid in the dust; And all his heart was wrung, was broken down With sorrowing love, deep, strong as he had known When that beloved friend Patroclus died.
Loud jeered Thersites, mocking to his face: "Thou sorry-souled Achilles! art not shamed To let some evil Power beguile thine heart To pity of a pitiful Amazon Whose furious spirit purposed naught but ill To us and ours? Ha, woman-mad art thou, And thy soul lusts for this thing, as she were Some lady wise in household ways, with gifts And pure intent for honoured wedlock wooed! Good had it been had her spear reached thine heart, The heart that sighs for woman-creatures still! Thou carest not, unmanly-souled, not thou, For valour's glorious path, when once thine eye Lights on a woman! Sorry wretch, where now Is all thy goodly prowess? where thy wit? And where the might that should beseem a king All-stainless? Dost not know what misery This self-same woman-madness wrought for Troy? Nothing there is to men more ruinous Than lust for woman's beauty; it maketh fools Of wise men. But the toil of war attains Renown. To him that is a hero indeed Glory of victory and the War-god's works Are sweet. 'Tis but the battle-blencher craves The beauty and the bed of such as she!"
So railed he long and loud: the mighty heart Of Peleus' son leapt into flame of wrath. A sudden buffet of his resistless hand Smote 'neath the railer's ear, and all his teeth Were dashed to the earth: he fell upon his face: Forth of his lips the blood in torrent gushed: Swift from his body fled the dastard soul Of that vile niddering. Achaea's sons Rejoiced thereat, for aye he wont to rail On each and all with venomous gibes, himself A scandal and the shame of all the host. Then mid the warrior Argives cried a voice: "Not good it is for baser men to rail On kings, or secretly or openly; For wrathful retribution swiftly comes. The Lady of Justice sits on high; and she Who heapeth woe on woe on humankind, Even Ate, punisheth the shameless tongue."
So mid the Danaans cried a voice: nor yet Within the mighty soul of Peleus' son Lulled was the storm of wrath, but fiercely he spake: "Lie there in dust, thy follies all forgot! 'Tis not for knaves to beard their betters: once Thou didst provoke Odysseus' steadfast soul, Babbling with venomous tongue a thousand gibes, And didst escape with life; but thou hast found The son of Peleus not so patient-souled, Who with one only buffet from his hand Unkennels thy dog's soul! A bitter doom Hath swallowed thee: by thine own rascalry Thy life is sped. Hence from Achaean men, And mouth out thy revilings midst the dead!"
So spake the valiant-hearted aweless son Of Aeacus. But Tydeus' son alone Of all the Argives was with anger stirred Against Achilles for Thersites slain, Seeing these twain were of the self-same blood, The one, proud Tydeus' battle-eager son, The other, seed of godlike Agrius: Brother of noble Oeneus Agrius was; And Oeneus in the Danaan land begat Tydeus the battle-eager, son to whom Was stalwart Diomedes. Therefore wroth Was he for slain Thersites, yea, had raised Against the son of Peleus vengeful hands, Except the noblest of Aehaea's sons Had thronged around him, and besought him sore, And held him back therefrom. With Peleus' son Also they pleaded; else those mighty twain, The mightiest of all Argives, were at point To close with clash of swords, so stung were they With bitter wrath; yet hearkened they at last To prayers of comrades, and were reconciled.
Then of their pity did the Atreid kings— For these too at the imperial loveliness Of Penthesileia marvelled—render up Her body to the men of Troy, to bear Unto the burg of Ilus far-renowned With all her armour. For a herald came Asking this boon for Priam; for the king Longed with deep yearning of the heart to lay That battle-eager maiden, with her arms, And with her war-horse, in the great earth-mound Of old Laomedon. And so he heaped A high broad pyre without the city wall: Upon the height thereof that warrior-queen They laid, and costly treasures did they heap Around her, all that well beseems to burn Around a mighty queen in battle slain. And so the Fire-god's swift-upleaping might, The ravening flame, consumed her. All around The people stood on every hand, and quenched The pyre with odorous wine. Then gathered they The bones, and poured sweet ointment over them, And laid them in a casket: over all Shed they the rich fat of a heifer, chief Among the herds that grazed on Ida's slope. And, as for a beloved daughter, rang All round the Trojan men's heart-stricken wail, As by the stately wall they buried her On an outstanding tower, beside the bones Of old Laomedon, a queen beside A king. This honour for the War-god's sake They rendered, and for Penthesileia's own. And in the plain beside her buried they The Amazons, even all that followed her To battle, and by Argive spears were slain. For Atreus' sons begrudged not these the boon Of tear-besprinkled graves, but let their friends, The warrior Trojans, draw their corpses forth, Yea, and their own slain also, from amidst The swath of darts o'er that grim harvest-field. Wrath strikes not at the dead: pitied are foes When life has fled, and left them foes no more.
Far off across the plain the while uprose Smoke from the pyres whereon the Argives laid The many heroes overthrown and slain By Trojan hands what time the sword devoured; And multitudinous lamentation wailed Over the perished. But above the rest Mourned they o'er brave Podarces, who in fight Was no less mighty than his hero-brother Protesilaus, he who long ago Fell, slain of Hector: so Podarces now, Struck down by Penthesileia's spear, hath cast Over all Argive hearts the pall of grief. Wherefore apart from him they laid in clay The common throng of slain; but over him Toiling they heaped an earth-mound far-descried In memory of a warrior aweless-souled. And in a several pit withal they thrust The niddering Thersites' wretched corse. Then to the ships, acclaiming Aeacus' son, Returned they all. But when the radiant day Had plunged beneath the Ocean-stream, and night, The holy, overspread the face of earth, Then in the rich king Agamemnon's tent Feasted the might of Peleus' son, and there Sat at the feast those other mighty ones All through the dark, till rose the dawn divine.
How Memnon, Son of the Dawn, for Troy's sake fell in the Battle.
When o'er the crests of the far-echoing hills The splendour of the tireless-racing sun Poured o'er the land, still in their tents rejoiced Achaea's stalwart sons, and still acclaimed Achilles the resistless. But in Troy Still mourned her people, still from all her towers Seaward they strained their gaze; for one great fear Gripped all their hearts—to see that terrible man At one bound overleap their high-built wall, Then smite with the sword all people therewithin, And burn with fire fanes, palaces, and homes. And old Thymoetes spake to the anguished ones: "Friends, I have lost hope: mine heart seeth not Or help, or bulwark from the storm of war, Now that the aweless Hector, who was once Troy's mighty champion, is in dust laid low. Not all his might availed to escape the Fates, But overborne he was by Achilles' hands, The hands that would, I verily deem, bear down A God, if he defied him to the fight, Even as he overthrew this warrior-queen Penthesileia battle-revelling, From whom all other Argives shrank in fear. Ah, she was marvellous! When at the first I looked on her, meseemed a Blessed One From heaven had come down hitherward to bring Light to our darkness—ah, vain hope, vain dream! Go to, let us take counsel, what to do Were best for us. Or shall we still maintain A hopeless fight against these ruthless foes, Or shall we straightway flee a city doomed? Ay, doomed!—for never more may we withstand Argives in fighting field, when in the front Of battle pitiless Achilles storms."
Then spake Laomedon's son, the ancient king: "Nay, friend, and all ye other sons of Troy, And ye our strong war-helpers, flinch we not Faint-hearted from defence of fatherland! Yet let us go not forth the city-gates To battle with yon foe. Nay, from our towers And from our ramparts let us make defence, Till our new champion come, the stormy heart Of Memnon. Lo, he cometh, leading on Hosts numberless, Aethiopia's swarthy sons. By this, I trow, he is nigh unto our gates; For long ago, in sore distress of soul, I sent him urgent summons. Yea, and he Promised me, gladly promised me, to come To Troy, and make all end of all our woes. And now, I trust, he is nigh. Let us endure A little longer then; for better far It is like brave men in the fight to die Than flee, and live in shame mid alien folk."
So spake the old king; but Polydamas, The prudent-hearted, thought not good to war Thus endlessly, and spake his patriot rede: "If Memnon have beyond all shadow of doubt Pledged him to thrust dire ruin far from us, Then do I gainsay not that we await The coming of that godlike man within Our walls—yet, ah, mine heart misgives me, lest, Though he with all his warriors come, he come But to his death, and unto thousands more, Our people, nought but misery come thereof; For terribly against us leaps the storm Of the Achaeans' might. But now, go to, Let us not flee afar from this our Troy To wander to some alien land, and there, In the exile's pitiful helplessness, endure All flouts and outrage; nor in our own land Abide we till the storm of Argive war O'erwhelm us. Nay, even now, late though it be, Better it were for us to render back Unto the Danaans Helen and her wealth, Even all that glory of women brought with her From Sparta, and add other treasure—yea, Repay it twofold, so to save our Troy And our own souls, while yet the spoiler's hand Is laid not on our substance, and while yet Troy hath not sunk in gulfs of ravening flame. I pray you, take to heart my counsel! None Shall, well I wot, be given to Trojan men Better than this. Ah, would that long ago Hector had hearkened to my pleading, when I fain had kept him in the ancient home!"
So spake Polydamas the noble and strong, And all the listening Trojans in their hearts Approved; yet none dared utter openly The word, for all with trembling held in awe Their prince and Helen, though for her sole sake Daily they died. But on that noble man Turned Paris, and reviled him to his face: "Thou dastard battle-blencher Polydamas! Not in thy craven bosom beats a heart That bides the fight, but only fear and panic. Yet dost thou vaunt thee—quotha!—still our best In counsel!—no man's soul is base as thine! Go to, thyself shrink shivering from the strife! Cower, coward, in thine halls! But all the rest, We men, will still go armour-girt, until We wrest from this our truceless war a peace That shall not shame us! 'Tis with travail and toil Of strenuous war that brave men win renown; But flight?—weak women choose it, and young babes! Thy spirit is like to theirs. No whit I trust Thee in the day of battle—thee, the man Who maketh faint the hearts of all the host!"
So fiercely he reviled: Polydamas Wrathfully answered; for he shrank not, he, From answering to his face. A caitiff hound, A reptile fool, is he who fawns on men Before their faces, while his heart is black With malice, and, when they be gone, his tongue Backbites them. Openly Polydamas Flung back upon the prince his taunt and scoff: "O thou of living men most mischievous! Thy valour—quotha!—brings us misery! Thine heart endures, and will endure, that strife Should have no limit, save in utter ruin Of fatherland and people for thy sake! Ne'er may such wantwit valour craze my soul! Be mine to cherish wise discretion aye, A warder that shall keep mine house in peace."
Indignantly he spake, and Paris found No word to answer him, for conscience woke Remembrance of all woes he had brought on Troy, And should bring; for his passion-fevered heart Would rather hail quick death than severance From Helen the divinely fair, although For her sake was it that the sons of Troy Even then were gazing from their towers to see The Argives and Achilles drawing nigh.
But no long time thereafter came to them Memnon the warrior-king, and brought with him A countless host of swarthy Aethiops. From all the streets of Troy the Trojans flocked Glad-eyed to gaze on him, as seafarers, With ruining tempest utterly forspent, See through wide-parting clouds the radiance Of the eternal-wheeling Northern Wain; So joyed the Troyfolk as they thronged around, And more than all Laomedon's son, for now Leapt in his heart a hope, that yet the ships Might by those Aethiop men be burned with fire; So giantlike their king was, and themselves So huge a host, and so athirst for fight. Therefore with all observance welcomed he The strong son of the Lady of the Dawn With goodly gifts and with abundant cheer. So at the banquet King and Hero sat And talked, this telling of the Danaan chiefs, And all the woes himself had suffered, that Telling of that strange immortality By the Dawn-goddess given to his sire, Telling of the unending flow and ebb Of the Sea-mother, of the sacred flood Of Ocean fathomless-rolling, of the bounds Of Earth that wearieth never of her travail, Of where the Sun-steeds leap from orient waves, Telling withal of all his wayfaring From Ocean's verge to Priam's wall, and spurs Of Ida. Yea, he told how his strong hands Smote the great army of the Solymi Who barred his way, whose deed presumptuous brought Upon their own heads crushing ruin and woe. So told he all that marvellous tale, and told Of countless tribes and nations seen of him. And Priam heard, and ever glowed his heart Within him; and the old lips answering spake: "Memnon, the Gods are good, who have vouchsafed To me to look upon thine host, and thee Here in mine halls. O that their grace would so Crown this their boon, that I might see my foes All thrust to one destruction by thy spears. That well may be, for marvellous-like art thou To some invincible Deathless One, yea, more Than any earthly hero. Wherefore thou, I trust, shalt hurl wild havoc through their host. But now, I pray thee, for this day do thou Cheer at my feast thine heart, and with the morn Shalt thou go forth to battle worthy of thee."
Then in his hands a chalice deep and wide He raised, and Memnon in all love he pledged In that huge golden cup, a gift of Gods; For this the cunning God-smith brought to Zeus, His masterpiece, what time the Mighty in Power To Hephaestus gave for bride the Cyprian Queen; And Zeus on Dardanus his godlike son Bestowed it, he on Erichthonius; Erichthonius to Tros the great of heart Gave it, and he with all his treasure-store Bequeathed it unto Ilus, and he gave That wonder to Laomedon, and he To Priam, who had thought to leave the same To his own son. Fate ordered otherwise. And Memnon clasped his hands about that cup So peerless-beautiful, and all his heart Marvelled; and thus he spake unto the King: "Beseems not with great swelling words to vaunt Amidst the feast, and lavish promises, But rather quietly to eat in hall, And to devise deeds worthy. Whether I Be brave and strong, or whether I be not, Battle, wherein a man's true might is seen, Shall prove to thee. Now would I rest, nor drink The long night through. The battle-eager spirit By measureless wine and lack of sleep is dulled."
Marvelled at him the old King, and he said: "As seems thee good touching the banquet, do After thy pleasure. I, when thou art loth, Will not constrain thee. Yea, unmeet it is To hold back him who fain would leave the board, Or hurry from one's halls who fain would stay. So is the good old law with all true men."
Then rose that champion from the board, and passed Thence to his sleep—his last! And with him went All others from the banquet to their rest: And gentle sleep slid down upon them soon.
But in the halls of Zeus, the Lightning-lord, Feasted the gods the while, and Cronos' son, All-father, of his deep foreknowledge spake Amidst them of the issue of the strife: "Be it known unto you all, to-morn shall bring By yonder war affliction swift and sore; For many mighty horses shall ye see In either host beside their chariots slain, And many heroes perishing. Therefore ye Remember these my words, howe'er ye grieve For dear ones. Let none clasp my knees in prayer, Since even to us relentless are the fates."
So warned he them, which knew before, that all Should from the battle stand aside, howe'er Heart-wrung; that none, petitioning for a son Or dear one, should to Olympus vainly come. So, at that warning of the Thunderer, The Son of Cronos, all they steeled their hearts To bear, and spake no word against their king; For in exceeding awe they stood of him. Yet to their several mansions and their rest With sore hearts went they. O'er their deathless eyes The blessing-bringer Sleep his light veils spread.
When o'er precipitous crests of mountain-walls Leapt up broad heaven the bright morning-star Who rouseth to their toils from slumber sweet The binders of the sheaf, then his last sleep Unclasped the warrior-son of her who brings Light to the world, the Child of Mists of Night. Now swelled his mighty heart with eagerness To battle with the foe forthright. And Dawn With most reluctant feet began to climb Heaven's broad highway. Then did the Trojans gird Their battle-harness on; then armed themselves The Aethiop men, and all the mingled tribes Of those war-helpers that from many lands To Priam's aid were gathered. Forth the gates Swiftly they rushed, like darkly lowering clouds Which Cronos' Son, when storm is rolling up, Herdeth together through the welkin wide. Swiftly the whole plain filled. Onward they streamed Like harvest-ravaging locusts drifting on In fashion of heavy-brooding rain-clouds o'er Wide plains of earth, an irresistible host Bringing wan famine on the sons of men; So in their might and multitude they went. The city streets were all too strait for them Marching: upsoared the dust from underfoot.
From far the Argives gazed, and marvelling saw Their onrush, but with speed arrayed their limbs In brass, and in the might of Peleus' son Put their glad trust. Amidst them rode he on Like to a giant Titan, glorying In steeds and chariot, while his armour flashed Splendour around in sudden lightning-gleams. It was as when the sun from utmost bounds Of earth-encompassing ocean comes, and brings Light to the world, and flings his splendour wide Through heaven, and earth and air laugh all around. So glorious, mid the Argives Peleus' son Rode onward. Mid the Trojans rode the while Memnon the hero, even such to see As Ares furious-hearted. Onward swept The eager host arrayed about their lord.
Then in the grapple of war on either side Closed the long lines, Trojan and Danaan; But chief in prowess still the Aethiops were. Crashed they together as when surges meet On the wild sea, when, in a day of storm, From every quarter winds to battle rush. Foe hurled at foe the ashen spear, and slew: Screams and death-groans went up like roaring fire. As when down-thundering torrents shout and rave On-pouring seaward, when the madding rains Stream from God's cisterns, when the huddling clouds Are hurled against each other ceaselessly, And leaps their fiery breath in flashes forth; So 'neath the fighters' trampling feet the earth Thundered, and leapt the terrible battle-yell Through frenzied air, for mad the war-cries were.
For firstfruits of death's harvest Peleus' son Slew Thalius and Mentes nobly born, Men of renown, and many a head beside Dashed he to dust. As in its furious swoop A whirlwind shakes dark chasms underground, And earth's foundations crumble and melt away Around the deep roots of the shuddering world, So the ranks crumbled in swift doom to the dust Before the spear and fury of Peleus's son.
But on the other side the hero child Of the Dawn-goddess slew the Argive men, Like to a baleful Doom which bringeth down On men a grim and ghastly pestilence. First slew he Pheron; for the bitter spear Plunged through his breast, and down on him he hurled Goodly Ereuthus, battle-revellers both, Dwellers in Thryus by Alpheus' streams, Which followed Nestor to the god-built burg Of Ilium. But when he had laid these low, Against the son of Neleus pressed he on Eager to slay. Godlike Antilochus Strode forth to meet him, sped the long spear's flight, Yet missed him, for a little he swerved, but slew His Aethiop comrade, son of Pyrrhasus. Wroth for his fall, against Antilochus He leapt, as leaps a lion mad of mood Upon a boar, the beast that flincheth not From fight with man or brute, whose charge is a flash Of lightning; so was his swift leap. His foe Antilochus caught a huge stone from the ground, Hurled, smote him; but unshaken abode his strength, For the strong helm-crest fenced his head from death; But rang the morion round his brows. His heart Kindled with terrible fury at the blow More than before against Antilochus. Like seething cauldron boiled his maddened might. He stabbed, for all his cunning of fence, the son Of Nestor above the breast; the crashing spear Plunged to the heart, the spot of speediest death.
Then upon all the Danaans at his fall Came grief; but anguish-stricken was the heart Of Nestor most of all, to see his child Slain in his sight; for no more bitter pang Smiteth the heart of man than when a son Perishes, and his father sees him die. Therefore, albeit unused to melting mood, His soul was torn with agony for the son By black death slain. A wild cry hastily To Thrasymedes did he send afar: "Hither to me, Thrasymedes war-renowned! Help me to thrust back from thy brother's corse, Yea, from mine hapless son, his murderer, That so ourselves may render to our dead All dues of mourning. If thou flinch for fear, No son of mine art thou, nor of the line Of Periclymenus, who dared withstand Hercules' self. Come, to the battle-toil! For grim necessity oftentimes inspires The very coward with courage of despair."
Then at his cry that brother's heart was stung With bitter grief. Swift for his help drew nigh Phereus, on whom for his great prince's fall Came anguish. Charged these warriors twain to face Strong Memnon in the gory strife. As when Two hunters 'mid a forest's mountain-folds, Eager to take the prey, rush on to meet A wild boar or a bear, with hearts afire To slay him, but in furious mood he leaps On them, and holds at bay the might of men; So swelled the heart of Memnon. Nigh drew they, Yet vainly essayed to slay him, as they hurled The long spears, but the lances glanced aside Far from his flesh: the Dawn-queen turned them thence. Yet fell their spears not vainly to the ground: The lance of fiery-hearted Phereus, winged With eager speed, dealt death to Meges' son, Polymnius: Laomedon was slain By the wrath of Nestor's son for a brother dead, The dear one Memnon slew in battle-rout, And whom the slayer's war-unwearied hands Now stripped of his all-brazen battle-gear, Nought recking, he, of Thrasymedes' might, Nor of stout Phereus, who were unto him But weaklings. A great lion seemed he there Standing above a hart, as jackals they, That, howso hungry, dare not come too nigh.
But hard thereby the father gazed thereon In agony, and cried the rescue-cry To other his war-comrades for their aid Against the foe. Himself too burned to fight From his war-car; for yearning for the dead Goaded him to the fray beyond his strength. Ay, and himself had been on his dear son Laid, numbered with the dead, had not the voice Of Memnon stayed him even in act to rush Upon him, for he reverenced in his heart The white hairs of an age-mate of his sire: "Ancient," he cried, "it were my shame to fight. With one so much mine elder: I am not Blind unto honour. Verily I weened That this was some young warrior, when I saw Thee facing thus the foe. My bold heart hoped For contest worthy of mine hand and spear. Nay, draw thou back afar from battle-toil And bitter death. Go, lest, how loth soe'er, I smite thee of sore need. Nay, fall not thou Beside thy son, against a mightier man Fighting, lest men with folly thee should charge, For folly it is that braves o'ermastering might."
He spake, and answered him that warrior old: "Nay, Memnon, vain was that last word of thine. None would name fool the father who essayed, Battling with foes for his son's sake, to thrust The ruthless slayer back from that dear corpse, But ah that yet my strength were whole in me, That thou might'st know my spear! Now canst thou vaunt Proudly enow: a young man's heart is bold And light his wit. Uplifted is thy soul And vain thy speech. If in my strength of youth Thou hadst met me—ha, thy friends had not rejoiced, For all thy might! But me the grievous weight Of age bows down, like an old lion whom A cur may boldly drive back from the fold, For that he cannot, in his wrath's despite, Maintain his own cause, being toothless now, And strengthless, and his strong heart tamed by time. So well the springs of olden strength no more Now in my breast. Yet am I stronger still Than many men; my grey hairs yield to few That have within them all the strength of youth."
So drew he back a little space, and left Lying in dust his son, since now no more Lived in the once lithe limbs the olden strength, For the years' weight lay heavy on his head. Back leapt Thrasymedes likewise, spearman good, And battle-eager Phereus, and the rest Their comrades; for that slaughter-dealing man Pressed hard on them. As when from mountains high A shouting river with wide-echoing din Sweeps down its fathomless whirlpools through the gloom, When God with tumult of a mighty storm Hath palled the sky in cloud from verge to verge, When thunders crash all round, when thick and fast Gleam lightnings from the huddling clouds, when fields Are flooded as the hissing rain descends, And all the air is filled with awful roar Of torrents pouring down the hill-ravines; So Memnon toward the shores of Hellespont Before him hurled the Argives, following hard Behind them, slaughtering ever. Many a man Fell in the dust, and left his life in blood 'Neath Aethiop hands. Stained was the earth with gore As Danaans died. Exulted Memnon's soul As on the ranks of foemen ever he rushed, And heaped with dead was all the plain of Troy. And still from fight refrained he not; he hoped To be a light of safety unto Troy And bane to Danaans. But all the while Stood baleful Doom beside him, and spurred on To strife, with flattering smile. To right, to left His stalwart helpers wrought in battle-toil, Alcyoneus and Nychius, and the son Of Asius furious-souled; Meneclus' spear, Clydon and Alexippus, yea, a host Eager to chase the foe, men who in fight Quit them like men, exulting in their king. Then, as Meneclus on the Danaans charged, The son of Neleus slew him. Wroth for his friend, Whole throngs of foes fierce-hearted Memnon slew. As when a hunter midst the mountains drives Swift deer within the dark lines of his toils— The eager ring of beaters closing in Presses the huddled throng into the snares Of death: the dogs are wild with joy of the chase Ceaselessly giving tongue, the while his darts Leap winged with death on brocket and on hind; So Memnon slew and ever slew: his men Rejoiced, the while in panic stricken rout Before that glorious man the Argives fled. As when from a steep mountain's precipice-brow Leaps a huge crag, which all-resistless Zeus By stroke of thunderbolt hath hurled from the crest; Crash oakwood copses, echo long ravines, Shudders the forest to its rattle and roar, And flocks therein and herds and wild things flee Scattering, as bounding, whirling, it descends With deadly pitiless onrush; so his foes Fled from the lightning-flash of Memnon's spear.
Then to the side of Aeacus' mighty son Came Nestor. Anguished for his son he cried: "Achilles, thou great bulwark of the Greeks, Slain is my child! The armour of my dead Hath Memnon, and I fear me lest his corse Be cast a prey to dogs. Haste to his help! True friend is he who still remembereth A friend though slain, and grieves for one no more."
Achilles heard; his heart was thrilled with grief: He glanced across the rolling battle, saw Memnon, saw where in throngs the Argives fell Beneath his spear. Forthright he turned away From where the rifted ranks of Troy fell fast Before his hands, and, thirsting for the fight, Wroth for Antilochus and the others slain, Came face to face with Memnon. In his hands That godlike hero caught up from the ground A stone, a boundary-mark 'twixt fields of wheat, And hurled. Down on the shield of Peleus' son It crashed. But he, the invincible, shrank not Before the huge rock-shard, but, thrusting out His long lance, rushed to close with him, afoot, For his steeds stayed behind the battle-rout. On the right shoulder above the shield he smote And staggered him; but he, despite the wound, Fought on with heart unquailing. Swiftly he thrust And pricked with his strong spear Achilles' arm. Forth gushed the blood: rejoicing with vain joy To Aeacus' son with arrogant words he cried: "Now shalt thou in thy death fill up, I trow, Thy dark doom, overmastered by mine hands. Thou shalt not from this fray escape alive! Fool, wherefore hast thou ruthlessly destroyed Trojans, and vaunted thee the mightiest man Of men, a deathless Nereid's son? Ha, now Thy doom hath found thee! Of birth divine am I, The Dawn-queen's mighty son, nurtured afar By lily-slender Hesperid Maids, beside The Ocean-river. Therefore not from thee Nor from grim battle shrink I, knowing well How far my goddess-mother doth transcend A Nereid, whose child thou vauntest thee. To Gods and men my mother bringeth light; On her depends the issue of all things, Works great and glorious in Olympus wrought Whereof comes blessing unto men. But thine— She sits in barren crypts of brine: she dwells Glorying mid dumb sea-monsters and mid fish, Deedless, unseen! Nothing I reck of her, Nor rank her with the immortal Heavenly Ones."
In stern rebuke spake Aeacus' aweless son: "Memnon, how wast thou so distraught of wit That thou shouldst face me, and to fight defy Me, who in might, in blood, in stature far Surpass thee? From supremest Zeus I trace My glorious birth; and from the strong Sea-god Nereus, begetter of the Maids of the Sea, The Nereids, honoured of the Olympian Gods. And chiefest of them all is Thetis, wise With wisdom world-renowned; for in her bowers She sheltered Dionysus, chased by might Of murderous Lycurgus from the earth. Yea, and the cunning God-smith welcomed she Within her mansion, when from heaven he fell. Ay, and the Lightning-lord she once released From bonds. The all-seeing Dwellers in the Sky Remember all these things, and reverence My mother Thetis in divine Olympus. Ay, that she is a Goddess shalt thou know When to thine heart the brazen spear shall pierce Sped by my might. Patroclus' death I avenged On Hector, and Antilochus on thee Will I avenge. No weakling's friend thou hast slain! But why like witless children stand we here Babbling our parents' fame and our own deeds? Now is the hour when prowess shall decide."
Then from the sheath he flashed his long keen sword, And Memnon his; and swiftly in fiery fight Closed they, and rained the never-ceasing blows Upon the bucklers which with craft divine Hephaestus' self had fashioned. Once and again Clashed they together, and their cloudy crests Touched, mingling all their tossing storm of hair. And Zeus, for that he loved them both, inspired With prowess each, and mightier than their wont He made them, made them tireless, nothing like To men, but Gods: and gloated o'er the twain The Queen of Strife. In eager fury these Thrust swiftly out the spear, with fell intent To reach the throat 'twixt buckler-rim and helm, Thrust many a time and oft, and now would aim The point beneath the shield, above the greave, Now close beneath the corslet curious-wrought That lapped the stalwart frame: hard, fast they lunged, And on their shoulders clashed the arms divine. Roared to the very heavens the battle-shout Of warring men, of Trojans, Aethiops, And Argives mighty-hearted, while the dust Rolled up from 'neath their feet, tossed to the sky In stress of battle-travail great and strong.
As when a mist enshrouds the hills, what time Roll up the rain-clouds, and the torrent-beds Roar as they fill with rushing floods, and howls Each gorge with fearful voices; shepherds quake To see the waters' downrush and the mist, Screen dear to wolves and all the wild fierce things Nursed in the wide arms of the forest; so Around the fighters' feet the choking dust Hung, hiding the fair splendour of the sun And darkening all the heaven. Sore distressed With dust and deadly conflict were the folk. Then with a sudden hand some Blessed One Swept the dust-pall aside; and the Gods saw The deadly Fates hurling the charging lines Together, in the unending wrestle locked Of that grim conflict, saw where never ceased Ares from hideous slaughter, saw the earth Crimsoned all round with rushing streams of blood, Saw where dark Havoc gloated o'er the scene, Saw the wide plain with corpses heaped, even all Bounded 'twixt Simois and Xanthus, where They sweep from Ida down to Hellespont.
But when long lengthened out the conflict was Of those two champions, and the might of both In that strong tug and strain was equal-matched, Then, gazing from Olympus' far-off heights, The Gods joyed, some in the invincible son Of Peleus, others in the goodly child Of old Tithonus and the Queen of Dawn. Thundered the heavens on high from east to west, And roared the sea from verge to verge, and rocked The dark earth 'neath the heroes' feet, and quaked Proud Nereus' daughters all round Thetis thronged In grievous fear for mighty Achilles' sake; And trembled for her son the Child of the Mist As in her chariot through the sky she rode. Marvelled the Daughters of the Sun, who stood Near her, around that wondrous splendour-ring Traced for the race-course of the tireless sun By Zeus, the limit of all Nature's life And death, the dally round that maketh up The eternal circuit of the rolling years. And now amongst the Blessed bitter feud Had broken out; but by behest of Zeus The twin Fates suddenly stood beside these twain, One dark—her shadow fell on Memnon's heart; One bright—her radiance haloed Peleus' son. And with a great cry the Immortals saw, And filled with sorrow they of the one part were, They of the other with triumphant joy.
Still in the midst of blood-stained battle-rout Those heroes fought, unknowing of the Fates Now drawn so nigh, but each at other hurled His whole heart's courage, all his bodily might. Thou hadst said that in the strife of that dread day Huge tireless Giants or strong Titans warred, So fiercely blazed the wildfire of their strife, Now, when they clashed with swords, now when they leapt Hurling huge stones. Nor either would give back Before the hail of blows, nor quailed. They stood Like storm-tormented headlands steadfast, clothed With might past words, unearthly; for the twain Alike could boast their lineage of high Zeus. Therefore 'twixt these Enyo lengthened out The even-balanced strife, while ever they In that grim wrestle strained their uttermost, They and their dauntless comrades, round their kings With ceaseless fury toiling, till their spears Stood shivered all in shields of warriors slain, And of the fighters woundless none remained; But from all limbs streamed down into the dust The blood and sweat of that unresting strain Of fight, and earth was hidden with the dead, As heaven is hidden with clouds when meets the sun The Goat-star, and the shipman dreads the deep. As charged the lines, the snorting chariot-steeds Trampled the dead, as on the myriad leaves Ye trample in the woods at entering-in Of winter, when the autumn-tide is past.
Still mid the corpses and the blood fought on Those glorious sons of Gods, nor ever ceased From wrath of fight. But Eris now inclined The fatal scales of battle, which no more Were equal-poised. Beneath the breast-bone then Of godlike Memnon plunged Achilles' sword; Clear through his body all the dark-blue blade Leapt: suddenly snapped the silver cord of life. Down in a pool of blood he fell, and clashed His massy armour, and earth rang again. Then turned to flight his comrades panic-struck, And of his arms the Myrmidons stripped the dead, While fled the Trojans, and Achilles chased, As whirlwind swift and mighty to destroy.
Then groaned the Dawn, and palled herself in clouds, And earth was darkened. At their mother's hest All the light Breathings of the Dawn took hands, And slid down one long stream of sighing wind To Priam's plain, and floated round the dead, And softly, swiftly caught they up, and bare Through silver mists the Dawn-queen's son, with hearts Sore aching for their brother's fall, while moaned Around them all the air. As on they passed, Fell many blood-gouts from those pierced limbs Down to the earth, and these were made a sign To generations yet to be. The Gods Gathered them up from many lands, and made Thereof a far-resounding river, named Of all that dwell beneath long Ida's flanks Paphlagoneion. As its waters flow 'Twixt fertile acres, once a year they turn To blood, when comes the woeful day whereon Died Memnon. Thence a sick and choking reek Steams: thou wouldst say that from a wound unhealed Corrupting humours breathed an evil stench. Ay, so the Gods ordained: but now flew on Bearing Dawn's mighty son the rushing winds Skimming earth's face and palled about with night.
Nor were his Aethiopian comrades left To wander of their King forlorn: a God Suddenly winged those eager souls with speed Such as should soon be theirs for ever, changed To flying fowl, the children of the air. Wailing their King in the winds' track they sped. As when a hunter mid the forest-brakes Is by a boar or grim-jawed lion slain, And now his sorrowing friends take up the corse, And bear it heavy-hearted; and the hounds Follow low-whimpering, pining for their lord In that disastrous hunting lost; so they Left far behind that stricken field of blood, And fast they followed after those swift winds
With multitudinous moaning, veiled in mist Unearthly. Trojans over all the plain And Danaans marvelled, seeing that great host Vanishing with their King. All hearts stood still In dumb amazement. But the tireless winds Sighing set hero Memnon's giant corpse Down by the deep flow of Aesopus' stream, Where is a fair grove of the bright-haired Nymphs, The which round his long barrow afterward Aesopus' daughters planted, screening it With many and manifold trees: and long and loud Wailed those Immortals, chanting his renown, The son of the Dawn-goddess splendour-throned.
Now sank the sun: the Lady of the Morn Wailing her dear child from the heavens came down. Twelve maidens shining-tressed attended her, The warders of the high paths of the sun For ever circling, warders of the night And dawn, and each world-ordinance framed of Zeus, Around whose mansion's everlasting doors From east to west they dance, from west to east, Whirling the wheels of harvest-laden years, While rolls the endless round of winter's cold, And flowery spring, and lovely summer-tide, And heavy-clustered autumn. These came down From heaven, for Memnon wailing wild and high; And mourned with these the Pleiads. Echoed round Far-stretching mountains, and Aesopus' stream. Ceaseless uprose the keen, and in their midst, Fallen on her son and clasping, wailed the Dawn; "Dead art thou, dear, dear child, and thou hast clad Thy mother with a pall of grief. Oh, I, Now thou art slain, will not endure to light The Immortal Heavenly Ones! No, I will plunge Down to the dread depths of the underworld, Where thy lone spirit flitteth to and fro, And will to blind night leave earth, sky, and sea, Till Chaos and formless darkness brood o'er all, That Cronos' Son may also learn what means Anguish of heart. For not less worship-worthy Than Nereus' Child, by Zeus's ordinance, Am I, who look on all things, I, who bring All to their consummation. Recklessly My light Zeus now despiseth! Therefore I Will pass into the darkness. Let him bring Up to Olympus Thetis from the sea To hold for him light forth to Gods and men! My sad soul loveth darkness more than day, Lest I pour light upon thy slayer's head:
Thus as she cried, the tears ran down her face Immortal, like a river brimming aye: Drenched was the dark earth round the corse. The Night Grieved in her daughter's anguish, and the heaven Drew over all his stars a veil of mist And cloud, of love unto the Lady of Light.
Meanwhile within their walls the Trojan folk For Memnon sorrowed sore, with vain regret Yearning for that lost king and all his host. Nor greatly joyed the Argives, where they lay Camped in the open plain amidst the dead. There, mingled with Achilles' praise, uprose Wails for Antilochus: joy clasped hands with grief.
All night in groans and sighs most pitiful The Dawn-queen lay: a sea of darkness moaned Around her. Of the dayspring nought she recked: She loathed Olympus' spaces. At her side Fretted and whinnied still her fleetfoot steeds, Trampling the strange earth, gazing at their Queen Grief-stricken, yearning for the fiery course. Suddenly crashed the thunder of the wrath Of Zeus; rocked round her all the shuddering earth, And on immortal Eos trembling came.
Swiftly the dark-skinned Aethiops from her sight Buried their lord lamenting. As they wailed Unceasingly, the Dawn-queen lovely-eyed Changed them to birds sweeping through air around The barrow of the mighty dead. And these Still do the tribes of men "The Memnons" call; And still with wailing cries they dart and wheel Above their king's tomb, and they scatter dust Down on his grave, still shrill the battle-cry, In memory of Memnon, each to each. But he in Hades' mansions, or perchance Amid the Blessed on the Elysian Plain, Laugheth. Divine Dawn comforteth her heart Beholding them: but theirs is toil of strife Unending, till the weary victors strike The vanquished dead, or one and all fill up The measure of their doom around his grave.
So by command of Eos, Lady of Light, The swift birds dree their weird. But Dawn divine Now heavenward soared with the all-fostering Hours, Who drew her to Zeus' threshold, sorely loth, Yet conquered by their gentle pleadings, such As salve the bitterest grief of broken hearts. Nor the Dawn-queen forgat her daily course, But quailed before the unbending threat of Zeus, Of whom are all things, even all comprised Within the encircling sweep of Ocean's stream, Earth and the palace-dome of burning stars. Before her went her Pleiad-harbingers, Then she herself flung wide the ethereal gates, And, scattering spray of splendour, flashed there-through.
How by the shaft of a God laid low was Hero Achilles.
When shone the light of Dawn the splendour-throned, Then to the ships the Pylian spearmen bore Antilochus' corpse, sore sighing for their prince, And by the Hellespont they buried him With aching hearts. Around him groaning stood The battle-eager sons of Argives, all, Of love for Nestor, shrouded o'er with grief. But that grey hero's heart was nowise crushed By sorrow; for the wise man's soul endures Bravely, and cowers not under affliction's stroke. But Peleus' son, wroth for Antilochus His dear friend, armed for vengeance terrible Upon the Trojans. Yea, and these withal, Despite their dread of mighty Achilles' spear, Poured battle-eager forth their gates, for now The Fates with courage filled their breasts, of whom Many were doomed to Hades to descend, Whence there is no return, thrust down by hands Of Aeacus' son, who also was foredoomed To perish that same day by Priam's wall. Swift met the fronts of conflict: all the tribes Of Troy's host, and the battle-biding Greeks, Afire with that new-kindled fury of war.
Then through the foe the son of Peleus made Wide havoc: all around the earth was drenched With gore, and choked with corpses were the streams Of Simois and Xanthus. Still he chased, Still slaughtered, even to the city's walls; For panic fell on all the host. And now All had he slain, had dashed the gates to earth, Rending them from their hinges, or the bolts, Hurling himself against them, had he snapped, And for the Danaans into Priam's burg Had made a way, had utterly destroyed That goodly town—but now was Phoebus wroth Against him with grim fury, when he saw Those countless troops of heroes slain of him. Down from Olympus with a lion-leap He came: his quiver on his shoulders lay, And shafts that deal the wounds incurable. Facing Achilles stood he; round him clashed Quiver and arrows; blazed with quenchless flame His eyes, and shook the earth beneath his feet. Then with a terrible shout the great God cried, So to turn back from war Achilles awed By the voice divine, and save from death the Trojans: "Back from the Trojans, Peleus' son! Beseems not That longer thou deal death unto thy foes, Lest an Olympian God abase thy pride."
But nothing quailed the hero at the voice Immortal, for that round him even now Hovered the unrelenting Fates. He recked Naught of the God, and shouted his defiance. "Phoebus, why dost thou in mine own despite Stir me to fight with Gods, and wouldst protect The arrogant Trojans? Heretofore hast thou By thy beguiling turned me from the fray, When from destruction thou at the first didst save Hector, whereat the Trojans all through Troy Exulted. Nay, thou get thee back: return Unto the mansion of the Blessed, lest I smite thee—ay, immortal though thou be!"
Then on the God he turned his back, and sped After the Trojans fleeing cityward, And harried still their flight; but wroth at heart Thus Phoebus spake to his indignant soul: "Out on this man! he is sense-bereft! But now Not Zeus himself nor any other Power Shall save this madman who defies the Gods!"
From mortal sight he vanished into cloud, And cloaked with mist a baleful shaft he shot Which leapt to Achilles' ankle: sudden pangs With mortal sickness made his whole heart faint. He reeled, and like a tower he fell, that falls Smit by a whirlwind when an earthquake cleaves A chasm for rushing blasts from underground; So fell the goodly form of Aeacus' son. He glared, a murderous glance, to right, to left, [Upon the Trojans, and a terrible threat] Shouted, a threat that could not be fulfilled: "Who shot at me a stealthy-smiting shaft? Let him but dare to meet me face to face! So shall his blood and all his bowels gush out About my spear, and he be hellward sped! I know that none can meet me man to man And quell in fight—of earth-born heroes none, Though such an one should bear within his breast A heart unquailing, and have thews of brass. But dastards still in stealthy ambush lurk For lives of heroes. Let him face me then!— Ay! though he be a God whose anger burns Against the Danaans! Yea, mine heart forebodes That this my smiter was Apollo, cloaked In deadly darkness. So in days gone by My mother told me how that by his shafts I was to die before the Scaean Gates A piteous death. Her words were not vain words."
Then with unflinching hands from out the wound Incurable he drew the deadly shaft In agonized pain. Forth gushed the blood; his heart Waxed faint beneath the shadow of coming doom. Then in indignant wrath he hurled from him The arrow: a sudden gust of wind swept by, And caught it up, and, even as he trod Zeus' threshold, to Apollo gave it back; For it beseemed not that a shaft divine, Sped forth by an Immortal, should be lost. He unto high Olympus swiftly came, To the great gathering of immortal Gods, Where all assembled watched the war of men, These longing for the Trojans' triumph, those For Danaan victory; so with diverse wills Watched they the strife, the slayers and the slain.