The Fall of Troy

Quintus Smyrnaeus


How Hercules' Grandson perished in fight with the Son of Achilles.

When from the far sea-line, where is the cave
Of Dawn, rose up the sun, and scattered light
Over the earth, then did the eager sons
Of Troy and of Achaea arm themselves
Athirst for battle: these Achilles' son
Cheered on to face the Trojans awelessly;
And those the giant strength of Telephus' seed
Kindled. He trusted to dash down the wall
To earth, and utterly destroy the ships
With ravening fire, and slay the Argive host.
Ah, but his hope was as the morning breeze
Delusive: hard beside him stood the Fates
Laughing to scorn his vain imaginings.

Then to the Myrmidons spake Achilles' son,
The aweless, to the fight enkindling them:
"Hear me, mine henchmen: take ye to your hearts
The spirit of war, that we may heal the wounds
Of Argos, and be ruin to her foes.
Let no man fear, for mighty prowess is
The child of courage; but fear slayeth strength
And spirit. Gird yourselves with strength for war;
Give foes no breathing-space, that they may say
That mid our ranks Achilles liveth yet."

Then clad he with his father's flashing arms
His shoulders. Then exulted Thetis' heart
When from the sea she saw the mighty strength
Of her son's son. Then forth with eagle-speed
Afront of that high wall he rushed, his ear
Drawn by the immortal horses of his sire.
As from the ocean-verge upsprings the sun
In glory, flashing fire far over earth --
Fire, when beside his radiant chariot-team
Races the red star Sirius, scatterer
Of woefullest diseases over men;
So flashed upon the eyes of Ilium's host
That battle-eager hero, Achilles' son.
Onward they whirled him, those immortal steeds,
The which, when now he longed to chase the foe
Back from the ships, Automedon, who wont
To rein them for his father, brought to him.
With joy that pair bore battleward their lord,
So like to Aeacus' son, their deathless hearts
Held him no worser than Achilles' self.
Laughing for glee the Argives gathered round
The might resistless of Neoptolemus,
Eager for fight as wasps [whose woodland bower
The axe] hath shaken, who dart swarming forth
Furious to sting the woodman: round their nest
Long eddying, they torment all passers by;
So streamed they forth from galley and from wall
Burning for fight, and that wide space was thronged,
And all the plain far blazed with armour-sheen,
As shone from heaven's vault the sun thereon.
As flees the cloud-rack through the welkin wide
Scourged onward by the North-wind's Titan blasts,
When winter-tide and snow are hard at hand,
And darkness overpalls the firmament;
So with their thronging squadrons was the earth
Covered before the ships. To heaven uprolled,
Dust hung on hovering wings' men's armour clashed;
Rattled a thousand chariots; horses neighed
On-rushing to the fray. Each warrior's prowess
Kindled him with its trumpet-call to war.

As leap the long sea-rollers, onward hurled
By two winds terribly o'er th' broad sea-flood
Roaring from viewless bournes, with whirlwind blasts
Crashing together, when a ruining storm
Maddens along the wide gulfs of the deep,
And moans the Sea-queen with her anguished waves
Which sweep from every hand, uptowering
Like precipiced mountains, while the bitter squall,
Ceaselessly veering, shrieks across the sea;
So clashed in strife those hosts from either hand
With mad rage. Strife incarnate spurred them on,
And their own prowess. Crashed together these
Like thunderclouds outlightening, thrilling the air.
With shattering trumpet-challenge, when the blasts
Are locked in frenzied wrestle, with mad breath
Rending the clouds, when Zeus is wroth with men
Who travail with iniquity, and flout
His law. So grappled they, as spear with spear
Clashed, shield with shield, and man on man was hurled.

And first Achilles' war-impetuous son
Struck down stout Melaneus and Alcidamas,
Sons of the war-lord Alexinomus,
Who dwelt in Caunus mountain-cradled, nigh
The clear lake shining at Tarbelus' feet
'Neath snow-capt Imbrus. Menes, fleetfoot son
Of King Cassandrus, slew he, born to him
By fair Creusa, where the lovely streams
Of Lindus meet the sea, beside the marches
Of battle-biding Carians, and the heights
Of Lycia the renowned. He slew withal
Morys the spearman, who from Phrygia came;
Polybus and Hippomedon by his side
He laid, this stabbed to the heart, that pierced between
Shoulder and neck: man after man he slew.
Earth groaned 'neath Trojan corpses; rank on rank
Crumbled before him, even as parched brakes
Sink down before the blast of ravening fire
When the north wind of latter summer blows;
So ruining squadrons fell before his charge.

Meanwhile Aeneas slew Aristolochus,
Crashing a great stone down on his head: it brake
Helmet and skull together, and fled his life.
Fleetfoot Eumaeus Diomede slew; he dwelt
In craggy Dardanus, where the bride-bed is
Whereon Anchises clasped the Queen of Love.
Agamemnon smote down Stratus: unto Thrace
Returned he not from war, but died far off
From his dear fatherland. And Meriones
Struck Chlemus down, Peisenor's son, the friend
Of god-like Glaucus, and his comrade leal,
Who by Limurus' outfall dwelt: the folk
Honoured him as their king, when reigned no more
Glaucus, in battle slain, -- all who abode
Around Phoenice's towers, and by the crest
Of Massicytus, and Chimaera's glen.

So man slew man in fight; but more than all
Eurypylus hurled doom on many a foe.
First slew he battle-bider Eurytus,
Menoetius of the glancing taslet next,
Elephenor's godlike comrades. Fell with these
Harpalus, wise Odysseus' warrior-friend;
But in the fight afar that hero toiled,
And might not aid his fallen henchman: yet
Fierce Antiphus for that slain man was wroth,
And hurled his spear against Eurypylus,
Yet touched him not; the strong shaft glanced aside,
And pierced Meilanion battle-staunch, the son
Of Cleite lovely-faced, Erylaus' bride,
Who bare him where Caicus meets the sea.
Wroth for his comrade slain, Eurypylus
Rushed upon Antiphus, but terror-winged
He plunged amid his comrades; so the spear
Of the avenger slew him not, whose doom
Was one day wretchedly to be devoured
By the manslaying Cyclops: so it pleased
Stern Fate, I know not why. Elsewhither sped
Eurypylus; and aye as he rushed on
Fell 'neath his spear a multitude untold.
As tall trees, smitten by the strength of steel
In mountain-forest, fill the dark ravines,
Heaped on the earth confusedly, so fell
The Achaeans 'neath Eurypylus' flying spears --
Till heart-uplifted met him face to face
Achilles' son. The long spears in their hands
They twain swung up, each hot to smite his foe.
But first Eurypylus cried the challenge-cry;
"Who art thou? Whence hast come to brave me here?
To Hades merciless Fate is bearing thee;
For in grim fight hath none escaped mine hands;
But whoso, eager for the fray, have come
Hither, on all have I hurled anguished death.
By Xanthus' streams have dogs devoured their flesh
And gnawed their bones. Answer me, who art thou?
Whose be the steeds that bear thee exultant on?"

Answered Achilles' battle-eager son:
"Wherefore, when I am hurrying to the fray,
Dost thou, a foe, put question thus to me,
As might a friend, touching my lineage,
Which many know? Achilles' son am I,
Son of the man whose long spear smote thy sire,
And made him flee -- yea, and the ruthless fates
Of death had seized him, but my father's self
Healed him upon the brink of woeful death.
The steeds which bear me were my godlike sire's;
These the West-wind begat, the Harpy bare:
Over the barren sea their feet can race
Skimming its crests: in speed they match the winds.
Since then thou know'st the lineage of my steeds
And mine, now put thou to the test the might
Of my strong spear, born on steep Pelion's crest,
Who hath left his father-stock and forest there."

He spake; and from the chariot sprang to earth
That glorious man: he swung the long spear up.
But in his brawny hand his foe hath seized
A monstrous stone: full at the golden shield
Of Neoptolemus he sped its flight;
But, no whir staggered by its whirlwind rush,
He like a giant mountain-foreland stood
Which all the banded fury of river-floods
Can stir not, rooted in the eternal hills;
So stood unshaken still Achilles' son.
Yet not for this Eurypylus' dauntless might
Shrank from Achilles' son invincible,
On-spurred by his own hardihood and by Fate.
Their hearts like caldrons seethed o'er fires of wrath,
Their glancing armour flashed about their limbs.
Like terrible lions each on other rushed,
Which fight amid the mountains famine-stung,
Writhing and leaping in the strain of strife
For a slain ox or stag, while all the glens
Ring with their conflict; so they grappled, so
Clashed they in pitiless strife. On either hand
Long lines of warriors Greek and Trojan toiled
In combat: round them roared up flames of war.
Like mighty rushing winds they hurled together
With eager spears for blood of life athirst.
Hard by them stood Enyo, spurred them on
Ceaselessly: never paused they from the strife.
Now hewed they each the other's shield, and now
Thrust at the greaves, now at the crested helms.
Reckless of wounds, in that grim toil pressed on
Those aweless heroes: Strife incarnate watched
And gloated o'er them. Ran the sweat in streams
From either: straining hard they stood their ground,
For both were of the seed of Blessed Ones.
From Heaven, with hearts at variance, Gods looked down;
For some gave glory to Achilles' son,
Some to Eurypylus the godlike. Still
They fought on, giving ground no more than rock.
Of granite mountains. Rang from side to side
Spear-smitten shields. At last the Pelian lance,
Sped onward by a mighty thrust, hath passed
Clear through Eurypylus' throat. Forth poured the blood
Torrent-like; through the portal of the wound
The soul from the body flew: darkness of death
Dropped o'er his eyes. To earth in clanging arms
He fell, like stately pine or silver fir
Uprooted by the fury of Boreas;
Such space of earth Eurypylus' giant frame
Covered in falling: rang again the floor
And plain of Troyland. Grey death-pallor swept
Over the corpse, and all the flush of life
Faded away. With a triumphant laugh
Shouted the mighty hero over him:
"Eurypylus, thou saidst thou wouldst destroy
The Danaan ships and men, wouldst slay us all
Wretchedly -- but the Gods would not fulfil
Thy wish. For all thy might invincible,
My father's massy spear hath now subdued
Thee under me, that spear no man shall 'scape,
Though he be brass all through, who faceth me."

He spake, and tore the long lance from the corse,
While shrank the Trojans back in dread, at sight
Of that strong-hearted man. Straightway he stripped
The armour from the dead, for friends to bear
Fast to the ships Achaean. But himself
To the swift chariot and the tireless steeds
Sprang, and sped onward like a thunderbolt
That lightning-girdled leaps through the wide air
From Zeus's hands unconquerable -- the bolt
Before whose downrush all the Immortals quail
Save only Zeus. It rusheth down to earth,
It rendeth trees and rugged mountain-crags;
So rushed he on the Trojans, flashing doom
Before their eyes; dashed to the earth they fell
Before the charge of those immortal steeds:
The earth was heaped with slain, was dyed with gore.
As when in mountain-glens the unnumbered leaves
Down-streaming thick and fast hide all the ground,
So hosts of Troy untold on earth were strewn
By Neoptolemus and fierce-hearted Greeks,
Shed by whose hands the blood in torrents ran
'Neath feet of men and horses. Chariot-rails
Were dashed with blood-spray whirled up from the tyres.

Now had the Trojans fled within their gates
As calves that flee a lion, or as swine
Flee from a storm -- but murderous Ares came,
Unmarked of other Gods, down from the heavens,
Eager to help the warrior sons of Troy.
Red-fire and Flame, Tumult and Panic-fear,
His car-steeds, bare him down into the fight,
The coursers which to roaring Boreas
Grim-eyed Erinnys bare, coursers that breathed
Life-blasting flame: groaned all the shivering air,
As battleward they sped. Swiftly he came
To Troy: loud rang the earth beneath the feet
Of that wild team. Into the battle's heart
Tossing his massy spear, he came; with a shout
He cheered the Trojans on to face the foe.
They heard, and marvelled at that wondrous cry,
Not seeing the God's immortal form, nor steeds,
Veiled in dense mist. But the wise prophet-soul
Of Helenus knew the voice divine that leapt
Unto the Trojans' ears, they knew not whence,
And with glad heart to the fleeing host he cried:
"O cravens, wherefore fear Achilles' son,
Though ne'er so brave? He is mortal even as we;
His strength is not as Ares' strength, who is come
A very present help in our sore need.
That was his shout far-pealing, bidding us
Fight on against the Argives. Let your hearts
Be strong, O friends: let courage fill your breasts.
No mightier battle-helper can draw nigh
To Troy than he. Who is of more avail
For war than Ares, when he aideth men
Hard-fighting? Lo, to our help he cometh now!
On to the fight! Cast to the winds your fears!"

They fled no more, they faced the Argive men,
As hounds, that mid the copses fled at first,
Turn them about to face and fight the wolf,
Spurred by the chiding of their shepherd-lord;
So turned the sons of Troy again to war,
Casting away their fear. Man leapt on man
Valiantly fighting; loud their armour clashed
Smitten with swords, with lances, and with darts.
Spears plunged into men's flesh: dread Ares drank
His fill of blood: struck down fell man on man,
As Greek and Trojan fought. In level poise
The battle-balance hung. As when young men
In hot haste prune a vineyard with the steel,
And each keeps pace with each in rivalry,
Since all in strength and age be equal-matched;
So did the awful scales of battle hang
Level: all Trojan hearts beat high, and firm
Stood they in trust on aweless Ares' might,
While the Greeks trusted in Achilles' son.
Ever they slew and slew: stalked through the midst
Deadly Enyo, her shoulders and her hands
Blood-splashed, while fearful sweat streamed from her limbs.
Revelling in equal fight, she aided none,
Lest Thetis' or the War-god's wrath be stirred.

Then Neoptolemus slew one far-renowned,
Perimedes, who had dwelt by Smintheus' grove;
Next Cestrus died, Phalerus battle-staunch,
Perilaus the strong, Menalcas lord of spears,
Whom Iphianassa bare by the haunted foot
Of Cilla to the cunning craftsman Medon.
In the home-land afar the sire abode,
And never kissed his son's returning head:
For that fair home and all his cunning works
Did far-off kinsmen wrangle o'er his grave.
Deiphobus slew Lycon battle-staunch:
The lance-head pierced him close above the groin,
And round the long spear all his bowels gushed out.
Aeneas smote down Dymas, who erewhile
In Aulis dwelt, and followed unto Troy
Arcesilaus, and saw never more
The dear home-land. Euryalus hurled a dart,
And through Astraeus' breast the death-winged point
Flew, shearing through the breathways of man's life;
And all that lay within was drenched with blood.
And hard thereby great-souled Agenor slew
Hippomenes, hero Teucer's comrade staunch,
With one swift thrust 'twixt shoulder and neck: his soul
Rushed forth in blood; death's night swept over him.
Grief for his comrade slain on Teucer fell;
He strained his bow, a swift-winged shaft he sped,
But smote him not, for slightly Agenor swerved.
Yet nigh him Deiophontes stood; the shaft
Into his left eye plunged, passed through the ball,
And out through his right ear, because the Fates
Whither they willed thrust on the bitter barbs.
Even as in agony he leapt full height,
Yet once again the archer's arrow hissed:
It pierced his throat, through the neck-sinews cleft
Unswerving, and his hard doom came on him.

So man to man dealt death; and joyed the Fates
And Doom, and fell Strife in her maddened glee
Shouted aloud, and Ares terribly
Shouted in answer, and with courage thrilled
The Trojans, and with panic fear the Greeks,
And shook their reeling squadrons. But one man
He scared not, even Achilles' son; he abode,
And fought undaunted, slaying foes on foes.
As when a young lad sweeps his hand around
Flies swarming over milk, and nigh the bowl
Here, there they lie, struck dead by that light touch,
And gleefully the child still plies the work;
So stern Achilles' glorious scion joyed
Over the slain, and recked not of the God
Who spurred the Trojans on: man after man
Tasted his vengeance of their charging host.
Even as a giant mountain-peak withstands
On-rushing hurricane-blasts, so he abode
Unquailing. Ares at his eager mood
Grew wroth, and would have cast his veil of cloud
Away, and met him face to face in fight,
But now Athena from Olympus swooped
To forest-mantled Ida. Quaked the earth
And Xanthus' murmuring streams; so mightily
She shook them: terror-stricken were the souls
Of all the Nymphs, adread for Priam's town.
From her immortal armour flashed around
The hovering lightnings; fearful serpents breathed
Fire from her shield invincible; the crest
Of her great helmet swept the clouds. And now
She was at point to close in sudden fight
With Ares; but the mighty will of Zeus
Daunted them both, from high heaven thundering
His terrors. Ares drew back from the war,
For manifest to him was Zeus's wrath.
To wintry Thrace he passed; his haughty heart
Reeked no more of the Trojans. In the plain
Of Troy no more stayed Pallas; she was gone
To hallowed Athens. But the armies still
Strove in the deadly fray; and fainted now
The Trojans' prowess; but all battle-fain
The Argives pressed on these as they gave ground.
As winds chase ships that fly with straining sails
On to the outsea -- as on forest-brakes
Leapeth the fury of flame -- as swift hounds drive
Deer through the mountains, eager for the prey,
So did the Argives chase them: Achilles' son
Still cheered them on, still slew with that great spear
Whomso he overtook. On, on they fled
Till into stately-gated Troy they poured.

Then had the Argives a short breathing-space
From war, when they had penned the hosts of Troy
In Priam's burg, as shepherds pen up lambs
Upon a lonely steading. And, as when
After hard strain, a breathing-space is given
To oxen that, quick-panting 'neath the yoke,
Up a steep hill have dragged a load, so breathed
Awhile the Achaeans after toil in arms.
Then once more hot for the fray did they beset
The city-towers. But now with gates fast barred
The Trojans from the walls withstood the assault.
As when within their steading shepherd-folk
Abide the lowering tempest, when a day
Of storm hath dawned, with fury of lightnings, rain
And heavy-drifting snow, and dare not haste
Forth to the pasture, howsoever fain,
Till the great storm abate, and rivers, wide
With rushing floods, again be passable;
So trembling on their walls they abode the rage
Of foes against their ramparts surging fast.
And as when daws or starlings drop in clouds
Down on an orchard-close, full fain to feast
Upon its pleasant fruits, and take no heed
Of men that shout to scare them thence away,
Until the reckless hunger be appeased
That makes them bold; so poured round Priam's burg
The furious Danaans. Against the gates
They hurled themselves, they strove to batter down
The mighty-souled Earth-shaker's work divine.

Yet did tim Troyfolk not, despite their fear,
Flinch from the fight: they manned their towers, they toiled
Unresting: ever from the fair-built walls
Leapt arrows, stones, and fleet-winged javelins down
Amidst the thronging foes; for Phoebus thrilled
Their souls with steadfast hardihood. Fain was he
To save them still, though Hector was no more.

Then Meriones shot forth a deadly shaft,
And smote Phylodamas, Polites' friend,
Beneath the jaw; the arrow pierced his throat.
Down fell he like a vulture, from a rock
By fowler's barbed arrow shot and slain;
So from the high tower swiftly down he fell:
His life fled; clanged his armour o'er the corpse.
With laughter of triumph stalwart Molus' son
A second arrow sped, with strong desire
To smite Polites, ill-starred Priam's son:
But with a swift side-swerve did he escape
The death, nor did the arrow touch his flesh.
As when a shipman, as his bark flies on
O'er sea-gulfs, spies amid the rushing tide
A rock, and to escape it swiftly puts
The helm about, and turns aside the ship
Even as he listeth, that a little strength
Averts a great disaster; so did he
Foresee and shun the deadly shaft of doom.

Ever they fought on; walls, towers, battlements
Were blood-besprent, wherever Trojans fell
Slain by the arrows of the stalwart Greeks.
Yet these escaped not scatheless; many of them
Dyed the earth red: aye waxed the havoc of death
As friends and foes were stricken. O'er the strife
Shouted for glee Enyo, sister of War.

Now had the Argives burst the gates, had breached
The walls of Troy, for boundless was their might;
But Ganymedes saw from heaven, and cried,
Anguished with fear for his own fatherland:
"O Father Zeus, if of thy seed I am,
If at thine best I left far-famous Troy
For immortality with deathless Gods,
O hear me now, whose soul is anguish-thrilled!
I cannot bear to see my fathers' town
In flames, my kindred in disastrous strifeϊ
Perishing: bitterer sorrow is there none!
Oh, if thine heart is fixed to do this thing,
Let me be far hence! Less shall be my grief
If I behold it not with these mine eyes.
That is the depth of horror and of shame
To see one's country wrecked by hands of foes."

With groans and tears so pleaded Ganymede.
Then Zeus himself with one vast pall of cloud
Veiled all the city of Priam world-renowned;
And all the murderous fight was drowned in mist,
And like a vanished phantom was the wall
In vapours heavy-hung no eye could pierce;
And all around crashed thunders, lightnings flamed
From heaven. The Danaans heard Zeus' clarion peal
Awe-struck; and Neleus' son cried unto them:
"Far-famous lords of Argives, all our strength
Palsied shall be, while Zeus protecteth thus
Our foes. A great tide of calamity
On us is rolling; haste we then to the ships;
Cease we awhile from bitter toil of strife,
Lest the fire of his wrath consume us all.
Submit we to his portents; needs must all
Obey him ever, who is mightier far
Than all strong Gods, all weakling sons of men.
On the presumptuous Titans once in wrath
He poured down fire from heaven: then burned all earth
Beneath, and Ocean's world-engirdling flood
Boiled from its depths, yea, to its utmost bounds:
Far-flowing mighty rivers were dried up:
Perished all broods of life-sustaining earth,
All fosterlings of the boundless sea, and all
Dwellers in rivers: smoke and ashes veiled
The air: earth fainted in the fervent heat.
Therefore this day I dread the might of Zeus.
Now, pass we to the ships, since for to-day
He helpeth Troy. To us too shall he grant
Glory hereafter; for the dawn on men,
Though whiles it frown, anon shall smile. Not yet,
But soon, shall Fate lead us to smite yon town,
If true indeed was Calchas' prophecy
Spoken aforetime to the assembled Greeks,
That in the tenth year Priam's burg should fall."

Then left they that far-famous town, and turned
From war, in awe of Zeus's threatenings,
Hearkening to one with ancient wisdom wise.
Yet they forgat not friends in battle slain,
But bare them from the field and buried them.
These the mist hid not, but the town alone
And its unscaleable wall, around which fell
Trojans and Argives many in battle slain.
So came they to the ships, and put from them
Their battle-gear, and strode into the waves
Of Hellespont fair-flowing, and washed away
All stain of dust and sweat and clotted gore.

The sun drave down his never-wearying steeds
Into the dark west: night streamed o'er the earth,
Bidding men cease from toil. The Argives then
Acclaimed Achilles' valiant son with praise
High as his father's. Mid triumphant mirth
He feasted in kings' tents: no battle-toil
Had wearied him; for Thetis from his limbs
Had charmed all ache of travail, making him
As one whom labour had no power to tire.
When his strong heart was satisfied with meat,
He passed to his father's tent, and over him
Sleep's dews were poured. The Greeks slept in the plain
Before the ships, by ever-changing guards
Watched; for they dreaded lest the host of Troy,
Or of her staunch allies, should kindle flame
Upon the ships, and from them all cut off
Their home-return. In Priam's burg the while
By gate and wall men watched and slept in turn,
Adread to hear the Argives' onset-shout.