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Medieval and Classical Library

The Fall of Troy

How the sons of Troy for the last time
fought from her walls and her towers.

Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #18b

     Troy's daughters mourned within her walls; might none
     Go forth to Paris' tomb, for far away
     From high-built Troy it lay.  But the young men
     Without the city toiled unceasingly
     In fight wherein from slaughter rest was none,
     Though dead was Paris; for the Achaeans pressed
     Hard on the Trojans even unto Troy.
     Yet these charged forth -- they could not choose but so,
     For Strife and deadly Enyo in their midst
10   Stalked, like the fell Erinyes to behold,
     Breathing destruction from their lips like flame.
     Beside them raged the ruthless-hearted Fates
     Fiercely: here Panic-fear and Ares there
     Stirred up the hosts: hard after followed
     Dread With slaughter's gore besprent, that in one host
     Might men see, and be strong, in the other fear;
     And all around were javelins, spears, and darts
     Murder-athirst from this side, that side, showered.
     Aye, as they hurled together, armour clashed,
20   As foe with foe grappled in murderous fight.

     There Neoptolemus slew Laodamas,
     Whom Lycia nurtured by fair Xanthus' stream,
     The stream revealed to men by Leto, bride
     Of Thunderer Zeus, when Lycia's stony plain
     Was by her hands uptorn mid agonies
     Of travail-throes wherein she brought to light
     Mid bitter pangs those babes of birth divine.
     Nirus upon him laid he dead; the spear
     Crashed through his jaw, and clear through mouth and tongue
30   Passed: on the lance's irresistible point
     Shrieking was he impaled: flooded with gore
     His mouth was as he cried.  The cruel shaft,
     Sped on by that strong hand, dashed him to earth
     In throes of death.  Evenor next he smote
     Above the flank, and onward drave the spear
     Into his liver: swiftly anguished death
     Came upon him.  Iphition next he slew:
     He quelled Hippomedon, Hippasus' bold son,
     Whom Ocyone the Nymph had borne beside
40   Sangarius' river-flow.  Ne'er welcomed she
     Her son's returning face, but ruthless Fate
     With anguish thrilled her of her child bereaved.

     Bremon Aeneas slew, and Andromachus,
     Of Cnossus this, of hallowed Lyctus that:
     On one spot both from their swift chariots fell;
     This gasped for breath, his throat by the long spear
     Transfixed; that other, by a massy stone,
     Sped from a strong hand, on the temple struck,
     Breathed out his life, and black doom shrouded him.
50   The startled steeds, bereft of charioteers,
     Fleeing, mid all those corpses were confused,
     And princely Aeneas' henchmen seized on them
     With hearts exulting in the goodly spoil.

     There Philoctetes with his deadly shaft
     Smote Peirasus in act to flee the war:
     The tendons twain behind the knee it snapped,
     And palsied all his speed.  A Danaan marked,
     And leapt on that maimed man with sweep of sword
     Shearing his neck through.  On the breast of earth
60   The headless body fell: the head far flung
     Went rolling with lips parted as to shriek;
     And swiftly fleeted thence the homeless soul.

     Polydamas struck down Eurymachus
     And Cleon with his spear.  From Syme came
     With Nireus' following these: cunning were both
     In craft of fisher-folk to east the hook
     Baited with guile, to drop into the sea
     The net, from the boat's prow with deftest hands
     Swiftly and straight to plunge the three-forked spear.
70   But not from bane their sea-craft saved them now.

     Eurypylus battle-staunch laid Hellus low,
     Whom Cleito bare beside Gygaea's mere,
     Cleito the fair-cheeked.  Face-down in the dust
     Outstretched he lay: shorn by the cruel sword
     From his strong shoulder fell the arm that held
     His long spear.  Still its muscles twitched, as though
     Fain to uplift the lance for fight in vain;
     For the man's will no longer stirred therein,
     But aimlessly it quivered, even as leaps
80   The severed tail of a snake malignant-eyed,
     Which cannot chase the man who dealt the wound;
     So the right hand of that strong-hearted man
     With impotent grip still clutched the spear for fight.

     Aenus and Polydorus Odysseus slew,
     Ceteians both; this perished by his spear,
     That by his sword death-dealing.  Sthenelus
     Smote godlike Abas with a javelin-cast:
     On through his throat and shuddering nape it rushed:
     Stopped were his heart-beats, all his limbs collapsed.

90   Tydeides slew Laodocus; Melius fell
     By Agamemnon's hand; Deiphobus
     Smote Alcimus and Dryas: Hippasus,
     How war-renowned soe'er, Agenor slew
     Far from Peneius' river.  Crushed by fate,
     Love's nursing-debt to parents ne'er he paid.

     Lamus and stalwart Lyncus Thoas smote,
     And Meriones slew Lycon; Menelaus
     Laid low Archelochus.  Upon his home
     Looked down Corycia's ridge, and that great rock
100  Of the wise Fire-god, marvellous in men's eyes;
     For thereon, nightlong, daylong, unto him
     Fire blazes, tireless and unquenchable.
     Laden with fruit around it palm-trees grow,
     While mid the stones fire plays about their roots.
     Gods' work is this, a wonder to all time.

     By Teucer princely Hippomedon's son was slain,
     Menoetes: as the archer drew on him,
     Rushed he to smite him; but already hand
     And eye, and bow-craft keen were aiming straight
110  On the arching horn the shaft.  Swiftly released
     It leapt on the hapless man, while sang the string.
     Stricken full front he heaved one choking gasp,
     Because the fates on the arrow riding flew
     Right to his heart, the throne of thought and strength
     For men, whence short the path is unto death.

     Far from his brawny hand Euryalus hurled
     A massy stone, and shook the ranks of Troy.
     As when in anger against long-screaming cranes
     A watcher of the field leaps from the ground,
120  In swift hand whirling round his head the sling,
     And speeds the stone against them, scattering
     Before its hum their ranks far down the wind
     Outspread, and they in huddled panic dart
     With wild cries this way and that, who theretofore
     Swept on in ordered lines; so shrank the foe
     To right and left from that dread bolt of doom
     Hurled of Euryalus.  Not in vain it flew
     Fate-winged; it shattered Meles' helm and head
     Down to the eyes: so met him ghastly death.

130  Still man slew man, while earth groaned all around,
     As when a mighty wind scourges the land,
     And this way, that way, under its shrieking blasts
     Through the wide woodland bow from the roots and fall
     Great trees, while all the earth is thundering round;
     So fell they in the dust, so clanged their arms,
     So crashed the earth around.  Still hot were they
     For fell fight, still dealt bane unto their foes.

     Nigh to Aeneas then Apollo came,
     And to Eurymachus, brave Antenor's son;
140  For these against the mighty Achaeans fought
     Shoulder to shoulder, as two strong oxen, matched
     In age, yoked to a wain; nor ever ceased
     From battling.  Suddenly spake the God to these
     In Polymestor's shape, the seer his mother
     By Xanthus bare to the Far-darter's priest:
     "Eurymachus, Aeneas, seed of Gods,
     'Twere shame if ye should flinch from Argives!  Nay,
     Not Ares' self should joy to encounter you,
     An ye would face him in the fray; for Fate
150  Hath spun long destiny-threads for thee and thee."

     He spake, and vanished, mingling with the winds.
     But their hearts felt the God's power: suddenly
     Flooded with boundless courage were their frames,
     Maddened their spirits: on the foe they leapt
     Like furious wasps that in a storm of rage
     Swoop upon bees, beholding them draw nigh
     In latter-summer to the mellowing grapes,
     Or from their hives forth-streaming thitherward;
     So fiercely leapt these sons of Troy to meet
160  War-hardened Greeks.  The black Fates joyed to see
     Their conflict, Ares laughed, Enyo yelled
     Horribly.  Loud their glancing armour clanged:
     They stabbed, they hewed down hosts of foes untold
     With irresistible hands.  The reeling ranks
     Fell, as the swath falls in the harvest heat,
     When the swift-handed reapers, ranged adown
     The field's long furrows, ply the sickle fast;
     So fell before their hands ranks numberless:
     With corpses earth was heaped, with torrent blood
170  Was streaming: Strife incarnate o'er the slain
     Gloated.  They paused not from the awful toil,
     But aye pressed on, like lions chasing sheep.
     Then turned the Greeks to craven flight; all feet
     Unmaimed as yet fled from the murderous war.
     Aye followed on Anchises' warrior son,
     Smiting foes' backs with his avenging spear:
     On pressed Eurymachus, while glowed the heart
     Of Healer Apollo watching from on high.

     As when a man descries a herd of swine
180  Draw nigh his ripening corn, before the sheaves
     Fall neath the reapers' hands, and harketh on
     Against them his strong dogs; as down they rush,
     The spoilers see and quake; no more think they
     Of feasting, but they turn in panic flight
     Huddling: fast follow at their heels the hounds
     Biting remorselessly, while long and loud
     Squealing they flee, and joys the harvest's lord;
     So rejoiced Phoebus, seeing from the war
     Fleeing the mighty Argive host.  No more
190  Cared they for deeds of men, but cried to the Gods
     For swift feet, in whose feet alone was hope
     To escape Eurymachus' and Aeneas' spears
     Which lightened ever all along their rear.

     But one Greek, over-trusting in his strength,
     Or by Fate's malice to destruction drawn,
     Curbed in mid flight from war's turmoil his steed,
     And strove to wheel him round into the fight
     To face the foe.  But fierce Agenor thrust
     Ere he was ware; his two-edged partizan
200  Shore though his shoulder; yea, the very bone
     Of that gashed arm was cloven by the steel;
     The tendons parted, the veins spirted blood:
     Down by his horse's neck he slid, and straight
     Fell mid the dead.  But still the strong arm hung
     With rigid fingers locked about the reins
     Like a live man's.  Weird marvel was that sight,
     The bloody hand down hanging from the rein,
     Scaring the foes yet more, by Ares' will.
     Thou hadst said, "It craveth still for horsemanship!"
210  So bare the steed that sign of his slain lord.

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

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

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

     But now when many had perished in the dust,
300  Then did the Argive might prevail at last
     By stern decree of Pallas; for she came
     Into the heart of battle, hot to help
     The Greeks to lay waste Priam's glorious town.
     Then Aphrodite, who lamented sore
     For Paris slain, snatched suddenly away
     Renowned Aeneas from the deadly strife,
     And poured thick mist about him.  Fate forbade
     That hero any longer to contend
     With Argive foes without the high-built wall.
310  Yea, and his mother sorely feared the wrath
     Of Pallas passing-wise, whose heart was keen
     To help the Danaans now -- yea, feared lest she
     Might slay him even beyond his doom, who spared
     Not Ares' self, a mightier far than he.

     No more the Trojans now abode the edge
     Of fight, but all disheartened backward drew.
     For like fierce ravening beasts the Argive men
     Leapt on them, mad with murderous rage of war.
     Choked with their slain the river-channels were,
320  Heaped was the field; in red dust thousands fell,
     Horses and men; and chariots overturned
     Were strewn there: blood was streaming all around
     Like rain, for deadly Doom raged through the fray.

     Men stabbed with swords, and men impaled on spears
     Lay all confusedly, like scattered beams,
     When on the strand of the low-thundering sea
     Men from great girders of a tall ship's hull
     Strike out the bolts and clamps, and scatter wide
     Long planks and timbers, till the whole broad beach
330  Is paved with beams o'erplashed by darkling surge;
     So lay in dust and blood those slaughtered men,
     Rapture and pain of fight forgotten now.

     A remnant from the pitiless strife escaped
     Entered their stronghold, scarce eluding doom.
     Children and wives from their limbs blood-besprent
     Received their arms bedabbled with foul gore;
     And baths for all were heated.  Leeches ran
     Through all the town in hot haste to the homes
     Of wounded men to minister to their hurts.
340  Here wives and daughters moaned round men come back
     From war, there cried on many who came not
     Here, men stung to the soul by bitter pangs
     Groaned upon beds of pain; there, toil-spent men
     Turned them to supper.  Whinnied the swift steeds
     And neighed o'er mangers heaped.  By tent and ship
     Far off the Greeks did even as they of Troy.

     When o'er the streams of Ocean Dawn drove up
     Her splendour-flashing steeds, and earth's tribes waked,
     Then the strong Argives' battle-eager sons
350  Marched against Priam's city lofty-towered,
     Save some that mid the tents by wounded men
     Tarried, lest haply raiders on the ships
     Might fall, to help the Trojans, while these fought
     The foe from towers, while rose the flame of war.

     Before the Scaean gate fought Capaneus' son
     And godlike Diomedes.  High above
     Deiphobus battle-staunch and strong Polites
     With many comrades, stoutly held them back
     With arrows and huge stones.  Clanged evermore
360  The smitten helms and shields that fenced strong men
     From bitter doom and unrelenting fate,

     Before the Gate Idaean Achilles' son
     Set in array the fight: around him toiled
     His host of battle-cunning Myrmidons.
     Helenus and Agenor gallant-souled,
     Down-hailing darts, against them held the wall,
     Aye cheering on their men.  No spurring these
     Needed to fight hard for their country's walls.

     Odysseus and Eurypylus made assault
370  Unresting on the gates that fated the plain
     And looked to the swift ships.  From wall and tower
     With huge stones brave Aeneas made defence.

     In battle-stress by Simons Teucer toiled.
     Each endured hardness at his several post.

     Then round war-wise Odysseus men renowned,
     By that great captain's battle cunning ruled,
     Locked shields together, raised them o'er their heads
     Ranged side by side, that many were made one.
     Thou hadst said it was a great hall's solid roof,
380  Which no tempestuous wind-blast misty wet
     Can pierce, nor rain from heaven in torrents poured.
     So fenced about with shields firm stood the ranks
     Of Argives, one in heart for fight, and one
     In that array close-welded.  From above
     The Trojans hailed great stones; as from a rock
     Rolled these to earth.  Full many a spear and dart
     And galling javelin in the pierced shields stood;
     Some in the earth stood; many glanced away
     With bent points falling baffled from the shields
390  Battered on all sides.  But that clangorous din
     None feared; none flinched; as pattering drops of rain
     They heard it.  Up to the rampart's foot they marched:
     None hung back; shoulder to shoulder on they came
     Like a long lurid cloud that o'er the sky
     Cronion trails in wild midwinter-tide.
     On that battalion moved, with thunderous tread
     Of tramping feet: a little above the earth
     Rose up the dust; the breeze swept it aside
     Drifting away behind the men.  There went
400  A sound confused of voices with them, like
     The hum of bees that murmur round the hives,
     And multitudinous panting, and the gasp
     Of men hard-breathing.  Exceeding glad the sons
     Of Atreus, glorying in them, saw that wall
     Unwavering of doom-denouncing war.
     In one dense mass against the city-gate
     They hurled themselves, with twibills strove to breach
     The long walls, from their hinges to upheave
     The gates, and dash to earth.  The pulse of hope
410  Beat strong in those proud hearts.  But naught availed
     Targes nor levers, when Aeneas' might
     Swung in his hands a stone like a thunderbolt,
     Hurled it with uttermost strength, and dashed to death
     All whom it caught beneath the shields, as when
     A mountain's precipice-edge breaks off and falls
     On pasturing goats, and all that graze thereby
     Tremble; so were those Danaans dazed with dread.
     Stone after stone he hurled on the reeling ranks,
     As when amid the hills Olympian Zeus
420  With thunderbolts and blazing lightnings rends
     From their foundations crags that rim a peak,
     And this way, that way, sends them hurtling down;
     Then the flocks tremble, scattering in wild flight;
     So quailed the Achaeans, when Aeneas dashed
     To sudden fragments all that battle-wall
     Moulded of adamant shields, because a God
     Gave more than human strength.  No man of them
     Could lift his eyes unto him in that fight,
     Because the arms that lapped his sinewy limbs
430  Flashed like the heaven-born lightnings.  At his side
     Stood, all his form divine in darkness cloaked,
     Ares the terrible, and winged the flight
     Of what bare down to the Argives doom or dread.
     He fought as when Olympian Zeus himself
     From heaven in wrath smote down the insolent bands
     Of giants grim, and shook the boundless earth,
     And sea, and ocean, and the heavens, when reeled
     The knees of Atlas neath the rush of Zeus.
     So crumbled down beneath Aeneas' bolts
440  The Argive squadrons.  All along the wall
     Wroth with the foeman rushed he: from his hands
     Whatso he lighted on in onslaught-haste
     Hurled he; for many a battle-staying bolt
     Lay on the walls of those staunch Dardan men.
     With such Aeneas stormed in giant might,
     With such drave back the thronging foes.  All round
     The Trojans played the men.  Sore travail and pain
     Had all folk round the city: many fell,
     Argives and Trojans.  Rang the battle-cries:
450  Aeneas cheered the war-fain Trojans on
     To fight for home, for wives, and their own souls
     With a good heart: war-staunch Achilles' son
     Shouted: "Flinch not, ye Argives, from the walls,
     Till Troy be taken, and sink down in flames!"
     And round these twain an awful measureless roar
     Rang, daylong as they fought: no breathing-space
     Came from the war to them whose spirits burned,
     These, to smite Ilium, those, to guard her safe.

     But from Aeneas valiant-souled afar
460  Fought Aias, speeding midst the men of Troy
     Winged death; for now his arrow straight through air
     Flew, now his deadly dart, and smote them down
     One after one: yet others cowered away
     Before his peerless prowess, and abode
     The fight no more, but fenceless left the wall

     Then one, of all the Locrians mightiest,
     Fierce-souled Alcimedon, trusting in his prince
     And his own might and valour of his youth,
     All battle-eager on a ladder set
470  Swift feet, to pave for friends a death-strewn path
     Into the town.  Above his head he raised

     The screening shield; up that dread path he went
     Hardening his heart from trembling, in his hand
     Now shook the threatening spear, now upward climbed ú
     Fast high in air he trod the perilous way.
     Now on the Trojans had disaster come,
     But, even as above the parapet
     His head rose, and for the first time and the last
     From her high rampart he looked down on Troy,
480  Aeneas, who had marked, albeit afar,
     That bold assault, rushed on him, dashed on his head
     So huge a stone that the hero's mighty strength
     Shattered the ladder.  Down from on high he rushed
     As arrow from the string: death followed him
     As whirling round he fell; with air was blent
     His lost life, ere he crashed to the stony ground.
     Strong spear, broad shield, in mid fall flew from his hands,
     And from his head the helm: his corslet came
     Alone with him to earth.  The Locrian men
490  Groaned, seeing their champion quelled by evil doom;
     For all his hair and all the stones around
     Were brain-bespattered: all his bones were crushed,
     And his once active limbs besprent with gore.

     Then godlike Poeas' war-triumphant son
     Marked where Aeneas stormed along the wall
     In lion-like strength, and straightway shot a shaft
     Aimed at that glorious hero, neither missed
     The man: yet not through his unyielding targe
     To the fair flesh it won, being turned aside
500  By Cytherea and the shield, but grazed
     The buckler lightly: yet not all in vain
     Fell earthward, but between the targe and helm
     Smote Medon: from the tower he fell, as falls
     A wild goat from a crag, the hunter's shaft
     Deep in its heart: so nerveless-flung he fell,
     And fled away from him the precious life.
     Wroth for his friend, a stone Aeneas hurled,
     And Philoctetes' stalwart comrade slew,
     Toxaechmes; for he shattered his head and crushed
510  Helmet and skull-bones; and his noble heart
     Was stilled.  Loud shouted princely Poeas' son:
     "Aeneas, thou, forsooth, dost deem thyself
     A mighty champion, fighting from a tower
     Whence craven women war with foes!  Now if
     Thou be a man, come forth without the wall
     In battle-harness, and so learn to know
     In spear-craft and in bow-craft Poeas' son!"

     So cried he; but Anchises' valiant seed,
     How fain soe'er, naught answered, for the stress
520  Of desperate conflict round that wall and burg
     Ceaselessly raging: pause from fight was none:
     Yea, for long time no respite had there been
     For the war-weary from that endless toil.

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