The Fall of Troy
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.
Him did the Bride of Zeus behold, and straight
Upbraided with exceeding bitter words:
"What deed of outrage, Phoebus, hast thou done
This day, forgetful of that day whereon
To godlike Peleus' spousals gathered all
The Immortals? Yea, amidst the feasters thou
Sangest how Thetis silver-footed left
The sea's abysses to be Peleus' bride;
And as thou harpedst all earth's children came
To hearken, beasts and birds, high craggy hills,
Rivers, and all deep-shadowed forests came.
All this hast thou forgotten, and hast wrought
A ruthless deed, hast slain a godlike man,
Albeit thou with other Gods didst pour
The nectar, praying that he might be the son
By Thetis given to Peleus. But that prayer
Hast thou forgotten, favouring the folk
Of tyrannous Laomedon, whose kine
Thou keptest. He, a mortal, did despite
To thee, the deathless! O, thou art wit-bereft!
Thou favourest Troy, thy sufferings all forgot.
Thou wretch, and doth thy false heart know not this,
What man is an offence, and meriteth
Suffering, and who is honoured of the Gods?
Ever Achilles showed us reverence -- yea,
Was of our race. Ha, but the punishment
Of Troy, I ween, shall not be lighter, though
Aeacus' son have fallen; for his son
Right soon shall come from Scyros to the war
To help the Argive men, no less in might
Than was his sire, a bane to many a foe.
But thou -- thou for the Trojans dost not care,
But for his valour enviedst Peleus' son,
Seeing he was the mightest of all men.
Thou fool! how wilt thou meet the Nereid's eyes,
When she shall stand in Zeus' hall midst the Gods,
Who praised thee once, and loved as her own son?"
So Hera spake, in bitterness of soul
Upbraiding, but he answered her not a word,
Of reverence for his mighty Father's bride;
Nor could he lift his eyes to meet her eyes,
But sat abashed, aloof from all the Gods
Eternal, while in unforgiving wrath
Scowled on him all the Immortals who maintained
The Danaans' cause; but such as fain would bring
Triumph to Troy, these with exultant hearts
Extolled him, hiding it from Hera's eyes,
Before whose wrath all Heaven-abiders shrank.
But Peleus' son the while forgat not yet
War's fury: still in his invincible limbs
The hot blood throbbed, and still he longed for fight.
Was none of all the Trojans dared draw nigh
The stricken hero, but at distance stood,
As round a wounded lion hunters stand
Mid forest-brakes afraid, and, though the shaft
Stands in his heart, yet faileth not in him
His royal courage, but with terrible glare
Roll his fierce eyes, and roar his grimly jaws;
So wrath and anguish of his deadly hurt
To fury stung Peleides' soul; but aye
His strength ebbed through the god-envenomed wound.
Yet leapt he up, and rushed upon the foe,
And flashed the lightning of his lance; it slew
The goodly Orythaon, comrade stout
Of Hector, through his temples crashing clear:
His helm stayed not the long lance fury-sped
Which leapt therethrough, and won within the bones
The heart of the brain, and spilt his lusty life.
Then stabbed he 'neath the brow Hipponous
Even to the eye-roots, that the eyeball fell
To earth: his soul to Hades flitted forth.
Then through the jaw he pierced Alcathous,
And shore away his tongue: in dust he fell
Gasping his life out, and the spear-head shot
Out through his ear. These, as they rushed on him,
That hero slew; but many a fleer's life
He spilt, for in his heart still leapt the blood.
But when his limbs grew chill, and ebbed away
His spirit, leaning on his spear he stood,
While still the Trojans fled in huddled rout
Of panic, and he shouted unto them:
"Trojan and Dardan cravens, ye shall not
Even in my death, escape my merciless spear,
But unto mine Avenging Spirits ye
Shall pay -- ay, one and all -- destruction's debt!"
He spake; they heard and quailed: as mid the hills
Fawns tremble at a lion's deep-mouthed roar,
And terror-stricken flee the monster, so
The ranks of Trojan chariot-lords, the lines
Of battle-helpers drawn from alien lands,
Quailed at the last shout of Achilles, deemed
That he was woundless yet. But 'neath the weight
Of doom his aweless heart, his mighty limbs,
At last were overborne. Down midst the dead
He fell, as fails a beetling mountain-cliff.
Earth rang beneath him: clanged with a thundercrash
His arms, as Peleus' son the princely fell.
And still his foes with most exceeding dread
Stared at him, even as, when some murderous beast
Lies slain by shepherds, tremble still the sheep
Eyeing him, as beside the fold he lies,
And shrinking, as they pass him, far aloof
And, even as he were living, fear him dead;
So feared they him, Achilles now no more.
Yet Paris strove to kindle those faint hearts;
For his own heart exulted, and he hoped,
Now Peleus' son, the Danaans' strength, had fallen,
Wholly to quench the Argive battle-fire:
"Friends, if ye help me truly and loyally,
Let us this day die, slain by Argive men,
Or live, and hale to Troy with Hector's steeds
In triumph Peleus' son thus fallen dead,
The steeds that, grieving, yearning for their lord
To fight have borne me since my brother died.
Might we with these but hale Achilles slain,
Glory were this for Hector's horses, yea,
For Hector -- if in Hades men have sense
Of righteous retribution. This man aye
Devised but mischief for the sons of Troy;
And now Troy's daughters with exultant hearts
From all the city streets shall gather round,
As pantheresses wroth for stolen cubs,
Or lionesses, might stand around a man
Whose craft in hunting vexed them while he lived.
So round Achilles -- a dead corpse at last! --
In hurrying throngs Troy's daughters then shall come
In unforgiving, unforgetting hate,
For parents wroth, for husbands slain, for sons,
For noble kinsmen. Most of all shall joy
My father, and the ancient men, whose feet
Unwillingly are chained within the walls
By eld, if we shall hale him through our gates,
And give our foe to fowls of the air for meat."
Then they, which feared him theretofore, in haste
Closed round the corpse of strong-heart Aeacus' son,
Glaucus, Aeneas, battle-fain Agenor,
And other cunning men in deadly fight,
Eager to hale him thence to Ilium
The god-built burg. But Aias failed him not.
Swiftly that godlike man bestrode the dead:
Back from the corpse his long lance thrust them all.
Yet ceased they not from onslaught; thronging round,
Still with swift rushes fought they for the prize,
One following other, like to long-lipped bees
Which hover round their hive in swarms on swarms
To drive a man thence; but he, recking naught
Of all their fury, carveth out the combs
Of nectarous honey: harassed sore are they
By smoke-reek and the robber; spite of all
Ever they dart against him; naught cares he;
So naught of all their onsets Aias recked;
But first he stabbed Agelaus in the breast,
And slew that son of Maion: Thestor next:
Ocythous he smote, Agestratus,
Aganippus, Zorus, Nessus, Erymas
The war-renowned, who came from Lycia-land
With mighty-hearted Glaucus, from his home
In Melanippion on the mountain-ridge,
Athena's fane, which Massikyton fronts
Anigh Chelidonia's headland, dreaded sore
Of scared seafarers, when its lowering crags
Must needs be doubled. For his death the blood
Of famed Hippolochus' son was horror-chilled;
For this was his dear friend. With one swift thrust
He pierced the sevenfold hides of Aias' shield,
Yet touched his flesh not; stayed the spear-head was
By those thick hides and by the corset-plate
Which lapped his battle-tireless limbs. But still
From that stern conflict Glaucus drew not back,
Burning to vanquish Aias, Aeacus' son,
And in his folly vaunting threatened him:
"Aias, men name thee mightiest man of all
The Argives, hold thee in passing-high esteem
Even as Achilles: therefore thou, I wot,
By that dead warrior dead this day shalt lie!"
So hurled he forth a vain word, knowing not
How far in might above him was the man
Whom his spear threatened. Battle-bider Aias
Darkly and scornfully glaring on him, said
"Thou craven wretch, and knowest thou not this,
How much was Hector mightier than thou
In war-craft? yet before my might, my spear,
He shrank. Ay, with his valour was there blent
Discretion. Thou thy thoughts are deathward set,
Who dar'st defy me to the battle, me,
A mightier far than thou! Thou canst not say
That friendship of our fathers thee shall screen;
Nor me thy gifts shall wile to let thee pass
Scatheless from war, as once did Tydeus' son.
Though thou didst 'scape his fury, will not I
Suffer thee to return alive from war.
Ha, in thy many helpers dost thou trust
Who with thee, like so many worthless flies,
Flit round the noble Achilles' corpse? To these
Death and black doom shall my swift onset deal."
Then on the Trojans this way and that he turned,
As mid long forest-glens a lion turns
On hounds, and Trojans many and Lycians slew
That came for honour hungry, till he stood
Mid a wide ring of flinchers; like a shoal
Of darting fish when sails into their midst
Dolphin or shark, a huge sea-fosterling;
So shrank they from the might of Telamon's son,
As aye he charged amidst the rout. But still
Swarmed fighters up, till round Achilles' corse
To right, to left, lay in the dust the slain
Countless, as boars around a lion at bay;
And evermore the strife waxed deadlier.
Then too Hippolochus' war-wise son was slain
By Aias of the heart of fire. He fell
Backward upon Achilles, even as falls
A sapling on a sturdy mountain-oak;
So quelled by the spear on Peleus' son he fell.
But for his rescue Anchises' stalwart son
Strove hard, with all his comrades battle-fain,
And haled the corse forth, and to sorrowing friends
Gave it, to bear to Ilium's hallowed burg.
Himself to spoil Achilles still fought on,
Till warrior Aias pierced him with the spear
Through the right forearm. Swiftly leapt he back
From murderous war, and hasted thence to Troy.
There for his healing cunning leeches wrought,
Who stanched the blood-rush, and laid on the gash
Balms, such as salve war-stricken warriors' pangs.
But Aias still fought on: here, there he slew
With thrusts like lightning-flashes. His great heart
Ached sorely for his mighty cousin slain.
And now the warrior-king Laertes' son
Fought at his side: before him blenched the foe,
As he smote down Peisander's fleetfoot son,
The warrior Maenalus, who left his home
In far-renowned Abydos: down on him
He hurled Atymnius, the goodly son
Whom Pegasis the bright-haired Nymph had borne
To strong Emathion by Granicus' stream.
Dead by his side he laid Orestius' son,
Proteus, who dwelt 'neath lofty Ida's folds.
Ah, never did his mother welcome home
That son from war, Panaceia beauty-famed!
He fell by Odysseus' hands, who spilt the lives
Of many more whom his death-hungering spear
Reached in that fight around the mighty dead.
Yet Alcon, son of Megacles battle-swift,
Hard by Odysseus' right knee drave the spear
Home, and about the glittering greave the blood
Dark-crimsom welled. He recked not of the wound,
But was unto his smiter sudden death;
For clear through his shield he stabbed him with his spear
Amidst his battle-fury: to the earth
Backward he dashed him by his giant might
And strength of hand: clashed round him in the dust
His armour, and his corslet was distained
With crimson life-blood. Forth from flesh and shield
The hero plucked the spear of death: the soul
Followed the lance-head from the body forth,
And life forsook its mortal mansion. Then
Rushed on his comrades, in his wound's despite,
Odysseus, nor from that stern battle-toil
Refrained him. And by this a mingled host
Of Danaans eager-hearted fought around
The mighty dead, and many and many a foe
Slew they with those smooth-shafted ashen spears.
Even as the winds strew down upon the ground
The flying leaves, when through the forest-glades
Sweep the wild gusts, as waneth autumn-tide,
And the old year is dying; so the spears
Of dauntless Danaans strewed the earth with slain,
For loyal to dead Achilles were they all,
And loyal to hero Aias to the death.
For like black Doom he blasted the ranks of Troy.
Then against Aias Paris strained his bow;
But he was ware thereof, and sped a stone
Swift to the archer's head: that bolt of death
Crashed through his crested helm, and darkness closed
Round him. In dust down fell he: naught availed
His shafts their eager lord, this way and that
Scattered in dust: empty his quiver lay,
Flew from his hand the bow. In haste his friends
Upcaught him from the earth, and Hector's steeds
Hurried him thence to Troy, scarce drawing breath,
And moaning in his pain. Nor left his men
The weapons of their lord, but gathered up
All from the plain, and bare them to the prince;
While Aias after him sent a wrathful shout:
"Dog, thou hast 'scaped the heavy hand of death
To-day! But swiftly thy last hour shall come
By some strong Argive's hands, or by mine own,
But now have I a nobler task in hand,
From murder's grip to rescue Achilles' corse."
Then turned he on the foe, hurling swift doom
On such as fought around Peleides yet.
'These saw how many yielded up the ghost
Neath his strong hands, and, with hearts failing them
For fear, against him could they stand no more.
As rascal vultures were they, which the swoop
Of an eagle, king of birds, scares far away
From carcasses of sheep that wolves have torn;
So this way, that way scattered they before
The hurtling stones, the sword, the might of Aias.
In utter panic from the war they fled,
In huddled rout, like starlings from the swoop
Of a death-dealing hawk, when, fleeing bane,
One drives against another, as they dart
All terror-huddled in tumultuous flight.
So from the war to Priam's burg they fled
Wretchedly clad with terror as a cloak,
Quailing from mighty Aias' battle-shout,
As with hands dripping blood-gouts he pursued.
Yea, all, one after other, had he slain,
Had they not streamed through city-gates flung wide
Hard-panting, pierced to the very heart with fear.
Pent therewithin he left them, as a shepherd
Leaves folded sheep, and strode back o'er the plain;
Yet never touched he with his feet the ground,
But aye he trod on dead men, arms, and blood;
For countless corpses lay o'er that wide stretch
Even from broad-wayed Troy to Hellespont,
Bodies of strong men slain, the spoil of Doom.
As when the dense stalks of sun-ripened corn
Fall 'neath the reapers' hands, and the long swaths,
Heavy with full ears, overspread the field,
And joys the heart of him who oversees
The toil, lord of the harvest; even so,
By baleful havoc overmastered, lay
All round face-downward men remembering not
The death-denouncing war-shout. But the sons
Of fair Achaea left their slaughtered foes
In dust and blood unstripped of arms awhile
Till they should lay upon the pyre the son
Of Peleus, who in battle-shock had been
Their banner of victory, charging in his might.
So the kings drew him from that stricken field
Straining beneath the weight of giant limbs,
And with all loving care they bore him on,
And laid him in his tent before the ships.
And round him gathered that great host, and wailed
Heart-anguished him who had been the Achaeans' strength,
And now, forgotten all the splendour of spears,
Lay mid the tents by moaning Hellespont,
In stature more than human, even as lay
Tityos, who sought to force Queen Leto, when
She fared to Pytho: swiftly in his wrath
Apollo shot, and laid him low, who seemed
Invincible: in a foul lake of gore
There lay he, covering many a rood of ground,
On the broad earth, his mother; and she moaned
Over her son, of blessed Gods abhorred;
But Lady Leto laughed. So grand of mould
There in the foemen's land lay Aeacus' son,
For joy to Trojans, but for endless grief
To Achaean men lamenting. Moaned the air
With sighing from the abysses of the sea;
And passing heavy grew the hearts of all,
Thinking: "Now shall we perish by the hands
Of Trojans!" Then by those dark ships they thought
Of white-haired fathers left in halls afar,
Of wives new-wedded, who by couches cold
Mourned, waiting, waiting, with their tender babes
For husbands unreturning; and they groaned
In bitterness of soul. A passion of grief
Came o'er their hearts; they fell upon their faces
On the deep sand flung down, and wept as men
All comfortless round Peleus' mighty son,
And clutched and plucked out by the roots their hair,
And east upon their heads defiling sand.
Their cry was like the cry that goeth up
From folk that after battle by their walls
Are slaughtered, when their maddened foes set fire
To a great city, and slay in heaps on heaps
Her people, and make spoil of all her wealth;
So wild and high they wailed beside the sea,
Because the Danaans' champion, Aeacus' son,
Lay, grand in death, by a God's arrow slain,
As Ares lay, when She of the Mighty Father
With that huge stone down dashed him on Troy's plain.
Ceaselessly wailed the Myrmidons Achilles,
A ring of mourners round the kingly dead,
That kind heart, friend alike to each and all,
To no man arrogant nor hard of mood,
But ever tempering strength with courtesy.
Then Aias first, deep-groaning, uttered forth
His yearning o'er his father's brother's son
God-stricken -- ay, no man had smitten him
Of all upon the wide-wayed earth that dwell!
Him glorious Aias heavy-hearted mourned,
Now wandering to the tent of Peleus' son,
Now cast down all his length, a giant form,
On the sea-sands; and thus lamented he:
"Achilles, shield and sword of Argive men,
Thou hast died in Troy, from Phthia's plains afar,
Smitten unwares by that accursed shaft,
Such thing as weakling dastards aim in fight!
For none who trusts in wielding the great shield,
None who for war can skill to set the helm
Upon his brows, and sway the spear in grip,
And cleave the brass about the breasts of foes,
Warreth with arrows, shrinking from the fray.
Not man to man he met thee, whoso smote;
Else woundless never had he 'scaped thy lance!
But haply Zeus purposed to ruin all,
And maketh all our toil and travail vain --
Ay, now will grant the Trojans victory
Who from Achaea now hath reft her shield!
Ah me! how shall old Peleus in his halls
Take up the burden of a mighty grief
Now in his joyless age! His heart shall break
At the mere rumour of it. Better so,
Thus in a moment to forget all pain.
But if these evil tidings slay him not,
Ah, laden with sore sorrow eld shall come
Upon him, eating out his heart with grief
By a lone hearth Peleus so passing dear
Once to the Blessed! But the Gods vouchsafe
No perfect happiness to hapless men."
So he in grief lamented Peleus' son.
Then ancient Phoenix made heart-stricken moan,
Clasping the noble form of Aeacus' seed,
And in wild anguish wailed the wise of heart:
"Thou art reft from me, dear child, and cureless pain
Hast left to me! Oh that upon my face
The veiling earth had fallen, ere I saw
Thy bitter doom! No pang more terrible
Hath ever stabbed mine heart no, not that hour
Of exile, when I fled from fatherland
And noble parents, fleeing Hellas through,
Till Peleus welcomed me with gifts, and lord
Of his Dolopians made me. In his arms
Thee through his halls one day he bare, and set
Upon my knees, and bade me foster thee,
His babe, with all love, as mine own dear child:
I hearkened to him: blithely didst thou cling
About mine heart, and, babbling wordless speech,
Didst call me `father' oft, and didst bedew
My breast and tunic with thy baby lips.
Ofttimes with soul that laughed for glee I held
Thee in mine arms; for mine heart whispered me
`This fosterling through life shall care for thee,
Staff of thine age shall be.' And that mine hope
Was for a little while fulfilled; but now
Thou hast vanished into darkness, and to me
Is left long heart-ache wild with all regret.
Ah, might my sorrow slay me, ere the tale
To noble Peleus come! When on his ears
Falleth the heavy tidings, he shall weep
And wail without surcease. Most piteous grief
We twain for thy sake shall inherit aye,
Thy sire and I, who, ere our day of doom,
Mourning shall go down to the grave for thee --
Ay, better this than life unholpen of thee!"
So moaned his ever-swelling tide of grief.
And Atreus' son beside him mourned and wept
With heart on fire with inly smouldering pain:
"Thou hast perished, chiefest of the Danaan men,
Hast perished, and hast left the Achaean host
Fenceless! Now thou art fallen, are they left
An easier prey to foes. Thou hast given joy
To Trojans by thy fall, who dreaded thee
As sheep a lion. These with eager hearts
Even to the ships will bring the battle now.
Zeus, Father, thou too with deceitful words
Beguilest mortals! Thou didst promise me
That Priam's burg should be destroyed; but now
That promise given dost thou not fulfil,
But thou didst cheat mine heart: I shall not win
The war's goal, now Achilles is no more."
So did he cry heart-anguished. Mourned all round
Wails multitudinous for Peleus' son:
The dark ships echoed back the voice of grief,
And sighed and sobbed the immeasurable air.
And as when long sea-rollers, onward driven
By a great wind, heave up far out at sea,
And strandward sweep with terrible rush, and aye
Headland and beach with shattered spray are scourged,
And roar unceasing; so a dread sound rose
Of moaning of the Danaans round the corse,
Ceaselessly wailing Peleus' aweless son.
And on their mourning soon black night had come,
But spake unto Atreides Neleus' son,
Nestor, whose own heart bare its load of grief
Remembering his own son Antilochus:
"O mighty Agamemnon, sceptre-lord
Of Argives, from wide-shrilling lamentation
Refrain we for this day. None shall withhold
Hereafter these from all their heart's desire
Of weeping and lamenting many days.
But now go to, from aweless Aeacus' son
Wash we the foul blood-gouts, and lay we him
Upon a couch: unseemly it is to shame
The dead by leaving them untended long."
So counselled Neleus' son, the passing-wise.
Then hasted he his men, and bade them set
Caldrons of cold spring-water o'er the flames,
And wash the corse, and clothe in vesture fair,
Sea-purple, which his mother gave her son
At his first sailing against Troy. With speed
They did their lord's command: with loving care,
All service meetly rendered, on a couch
Laid they the mighty fallen, Peleus' son.
The Trito-born, the passing-wise, beheld
And pitied him, and showered upon his head
Ambrosia, which hath virtue aye to keep
Taintless, men say, the flesh of warriors slain.
Like softly-breathing sleeper dewy-fresh
She made him: over that dead face she drew
A stern frown, even as when he lay, with wrath
Darkening his grim face, clasping his slain friend
Patroclus; and she made his frame to be
More massive, like a war-god to behold.
And wonder seized the Argives, as they thronged
And saw the image of a living man,
Where all the stately length of Peleus' son
Lay on the couch, and seemed as though he slept.
Around him all the woeful captive-maids,
Whom he had taken for a prey, what time
He had ravaged hallowed Lemnos, and had scaled
The towered crags of Thebes, Eetion's town,
Wailed, as they stood and rent their fair young flesh,
And smote their breasts, and from their hearts bemoaned
That lord of gentleness and courtesy,
Who honoured even the daughters of his foes.
And stricken most of all with heart-sick pain
Briseis, hero Achilles' couchmate, bowed
Over the dead, and tore her fair young flesh
With ruthless fingers, shrieking: her soft breast
Was ridged with gory weals, so cruelly
She smote it thou hadst said that crimson blood
Had dripped on milk. Yet, in her griefs despite,
Her winsome loveliness shone out, and grace
Hung like a veil about her, as she wailed:
"Woe for this grief passing all griefs beside!
Never on me came anguish like to this
Not when my brethren died, my fatherland
Was wasted -- like this anguish for thy death!
Thou wast my day, my sunlight, my sweet life,
Mine hope of good, my strong defence from harm,
Dearer than all my beauty -- yea, more dear
Than my lost parents! Thou wast all in all
To me, thou only, captive though I be.
Thou tookest from me every bondmaid's task
And like a wife didst hold me. Ah, but now
Me shall some new Achaean master bear
To fertile Sparta, or to thirsty Argos.
The bitter cup of thraldom shall I drain,
Severed, ah me, from thee! Oh that the earth
Had veiled my dead face ere I saw thy doom!"
So for slain Peleus' son did she lament
With woeful handmaids and heart-anguished Greeks,
Mourning a king, a husband. Never dried
Her tears were: ever to the earth they streamed
Like sunless water trickling from a rock
While rime and snow yet mantle o'er the earth
Above it; yet the frost melts down before
The east-wind and the flame-shafts of the sun.
Now came the sound of that upringing wail
To Nereus' Daughters, dwellers in the depths
Unfathomed. With sore anguish all their hearts
Were smitten: piteously they moaned: their cry
Shivered along the waves of Hellespont.
Then with dark mantles overpalled they sped
Swiftly to where the Argive men were thronged.
As rushed their troop up silver paths of sea,
The flood disported round them as they came.
With one wild cry they floated up; it rang,
A sound as when fleet-flying cranes forebode
A great storm. Moaned the monsters of the deep
Plaintively round that train of mourners. Fast
On sped they to their goal, with awesome cry
Wailing the while their sister's mighty son.
Swiftly from Helicon the Muses came
Heart-burdened with undying grief, for love
And honour to the Nereid starry-eyed.
Then Zeus with courage filled the Argive men,
That-eyes of flesh might undismayed behold
That glorious gathering of Goddesses.
Then those Divine Ones round Achilles' corse
Pealed forth with one voice from immortal lips
A lamentation. Rang again the shores
Of Hellespont. As rain upon the earth
Their tears fell round the dead man, Aeacus' son;
For out of depths of sorrow rose their moan.
And all the armour, yea, the tents, the ships
Of that great sorrowing multitude were wet
With tears from ever-welling springs of grief.
His mother cast her on him, clasping him,
And kissed her son's lips, crying through her tears:
"Now let the rosy-vestured Dawn in heaven
Exult! Now let broad-flowing Axius
Exult, and for Asteropaeus dead
Put by his wrath! Let Priam's seed be glad
But I unto Olympus will ascend,
And at the feet of everlasting Zeus
Will cast me, bitterly planning that he gave
Me, an unwilling bride, unto a man --
A man whom joyless eld soon overtook,
To whom the Fates are near, with death for gift.
Yet not so much for his lot do I grieve
As for Achilles; for Zeus promised me
To make him glorious in the Aeacid halls,
In recompense for the bridal I so loathed
That into wild wind now I changed me, now
To water, now in fashion as a bird
I was, now as the blast of flame; nor might
A mortal win me for his bride, who seemed
All shapes in turn that earth and heaven contain,
Until the Olympian pledged him to bestow
A godlike son on me, a lord of war.
Yea, in a manner this did he fulfil
Faithfully; for my son was mightiest
Of men. But Zeus made brief his span of life
Unto my sorrow. Therefore up to heaven
Will I: to Zeus's mansion will I go
And wail my son, and will put Zeus in mind
Of all my travail for him and his sons
In their sore stress, and sting his soul with shame."
So in her wild lament the Sea-queen cried.
But now to Thetis spake Calliope,
She in whose heart was steadfast wisdom throned:
"From lamentation, Thetis, now forbear,
And do not, in the frenzy of thy grief
For thy lost son, provoke to wrath the Lord
Of Gods and men. Lo, even sons of Zeus,
The Thunder-king, have perished, overborne
By evil fate. Immortal though I be,
Mine own son Orpheus died, whose magic song
Drew all the forest-trees to follow him,
And every craggy rock and river-stream,
And blasts of winds shrill-piping stormy-breathed,
And birds that dart through air on rushing wings.
Yet I endured mine heavy sorrow: Gods
Ought not with anguished grief to vex their souls.
Therefore make end of sorrow-stricken wail
For thy brave child; for to the sons of earth
Minstrels shall chant his glory and his might,
By mine and by my sisters' inspiration,
Unto the end of time. Let not thy soul
Be crushed by dark grief, nor do thou lament
Like those frail mortal women. Know'st thou not
That round all men which dwell upon the earth
Hovereth irresistible deadly Fate,
Who recks not even of the Gods? Such power
She only hath for heritage. Yea, she
Soon shall destroy gold-wealthy Priam's town,
And Trojans many and Argives doom to death,
Whomso she will. No God can stay her hand."
So in her wisdom spake Calliope.
Then plunged the sun down into Ocean's stream,
And sable-vestured Night came floating up
O'er the wide firmament, and brought her boon
Of sleep to sorrowing mortals. On the sands
There slept they, all the Achaean host, with heads
Bowed 'neath the burden of calamity.
But upon Thetis sleep laid not his hand:
Still with the deathless Nereids by the sea
She sate; on either side the Muses spake
One after other comfortable words
To make that sorrowing heart forget its pain.
But when with a triumphant laugh the Dawn
Soared up the sky, and her most radiant light
Shed over all the Trojans and their king,
Then, sorrowing sorely for Achilles still,
The Danaans woke to weep. Day after day,
For many days they wept. Around them moaned
Far-stretching beaches of the sea, and mourned
Great Nereus for his daughter Thetis' sake;
And mourned with him the other Sea-gods all
For dead Achilles. Then the Argives gave
The corpse of great Peleides to the flame.
A pyre of countless tree-trunks built they up
Which, all with one mind toiling, from the heights
Of Ida they brought down; for Atreus' sons
Sped on the work, and charged them to bring thence
Wood without measure, that consumed with speed
Might be Achilles' body. All around
Piled they about the pyre much battle-gear
Of strong men slain; and slew and cast thereon
Full many goodly sons of Trojan men,
And snorting steeds, and mighty bulls withal,
And sheep and fatling swine thereon they cast.
And wailing captive maids from coffers brought
Mantles untold; all cast they on the pyre:
Gold heaped they there and amber. All their hair
The Myrmidons shore, and shrouded with the same
The body of their king. Briseis laid
Her own shorn tresses on the corpse, her gift,
Her last, unto her lord. Great jars of oil
Full many poured they out thereon, with jars
Of honey and of wine, rich blood of the grape
That breathed an odour as of nectar, yea,
Cast incense-breathing perfumes manifold
Marvellous sweet, the precious things put forth
By earth, and treasures of the sea divine.
Then, when all things were set in readiness
About the pyre, all, footmen, charioteers,
Compassed that woeful bale, clashing their arms,
While, from the viewless heights Olympian, Zeus
Rained down ambrosia on dead Aeacus' son.
For honour to the Goddess, Nereus' child,
He sent to Aeolus Hermes, bidding him
Summon the sacred might of his swift winds,
For that the corpse of Aeacus' son must now
Be burned. With speed he went, and Aeolus
Refused not: the tempestuous North in haste
He summoned, and the wild blast of the West;
And to Troy sped they on their whirlwind wings.
Fast in mad onrush, fast across the deep
They darted; roared beneath them as they flew
The sea, the land; above crashed thunder-voiced
Clouds headlong hurtling through the firmament.
Then by decree of Zeus down on the pyre
Of slain Achilles, like a charging host
Swooped they; upleapt the Fire-god's madding breath:
Uprose a long wail from the Myrmidons.
Then, though with whirlwind rushes toiled the winds,
All day, all night, they needs must fan the flames
Ere that death-pyre burned out. Up to the heavens
Vast-volumed rolled the smoke. The huge tree-trunks
Groaned, writhing, bursting, in the heat, and dropped
The dark-grey ash all round. So when the winds
Had tirelessly fulfilled their mighty task,
Back to their cave they rode cloud-charioted.
Then, when the fire had last of all consumed
That hero-king, when all the steeds, the men
Slain round the pyre had first been ravined up,
With all the costly offerings laid around
The mighty dead by Achaia's weeping sons,
The glowing embers did the Myrmidons quench
With wine. Then clear to be discerned were seen
His bones; for nowise like the rest were they,
But like an ancient Giant's; none beside
With these were blent; for bulls and steeds, and sons
Of Troy, with all that mingled hecatomb,
Lay in a wide ring round his corse, and he
Amidst them, flame-devoured, lay there alone.
So his companions groaning gathered up
His bones, and in a silver casket laid
Massy and deep, and banded and bestarred
With flashing gold; and Nereus' daughters shed
Ambrosia over them, and precious nards
For honour to Achilles: fat of kine
And amber honey poured they over all.
A golden vase his mother gave, the gift
In old time of the Wine-god, glorious work
Of the craft-master Fire-god, in the which
They laid the casket that enclosed the bones
Of mighty-souled Achilles. All around
The Argives heaped a barrow, a giant sign,
Upon a foreland's uttermost end, beside
The Hellespont's deep waters, wailing loud
Farewells unto the Myrmidons' hero-king.
Nor stayed the immortal steeds of Aeacus' son
Tearless beside the ships; they also mourned
Their slain king: sorely loth were they to abide
Longer mid mortal men or Argive steeds
Bearing a burden of consuming grief;
But fain were they to soar through air, afar
From wretched men, over the Ocean's streams,
Over the Sea-queen's caverns, unto where
Divine Podarge bare that storm-foot twain
Begotten of the West-wind clarion-voiced
Yea, and they had accomplished their desire,
But the Gods' purpose held them back, until
From Scyros' isle Achilles' fleetfoot son
Should come. Him waited they to welcome, when
He came unto the war-host; for the Fates,
Daughters of holy Chaos, at their birth
Had spun the life-threads of those deathless foals,
Even to serve Poseidon first, and next
Peleus the dauntless king, Achilles then
The invincible, and, after these, the fourth,
The mighty-hearted Neoptolemus,
Whom after death to the Elysian Plain
They were to bear, unto the Blessed Land,
By Zeus' decree. For which cause, though their hearts
Were pierced with bitter anguish, they abode
Still by the ships, with spirits sorrowing
For their old lord, and yearning for the new.
Then from the surge of heavy-plunging seas
Rose the Earth-shaker. No man saw his feet
Pace up the strand, but suddenly he stood
Beside the Nereid Goddesses, and spake
To Thetis, yet for Achilles bowed with grief:
"Refrain from endless mourning for thy son.
Not with the dead shall he abide, but dwell
With Gods, as doth the might of Herakles,
And Dionysus ever fair. Not him
Dread doom shall prison in darkness evermore,
Nor Hades keep him. To the light of Zeus
Soon shall he rise; and I will give to him
A holy island for my gift: it lies
Within the Euxine Sea: there evermore
A God thy son shall be. The tribes that dwell
Around shall as mine own self honour him
With incense and with steam of sacrifice.
Hush thy laments, vex not thine heart with grief."
Then like a wind-breath had he passed away
Over the sea, when that consoling word
Was spoken; and a little in her breast
Revived the spirit of Thetis: and the God
Brought this to pass thereafter. All the host
Moved moaning thence, and came unto the ships
That brought them o'er from Hellas. Then returned
To Helicon the Muses: 'neath the sea,
Wailing the dear dead, Nereus' Daughters sank,
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