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Medieval and Classical Library

The Fall of Troy

How Troy in the night was taken and sacked with fire and slaughter.

Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #18b

     So feasted they through Troy, and in their midst
     Loud pealed the flutes and pipes: on every hand
     Were song and dance, laughter and cries confused
     Of banqueters beside the meats and wine.
     They, lifting in their hands the beakers brimmed,
     Recklessly drank, till heavy of brain they grew,
     Till rolled their fluctuant eyes.  Now and again
     Some mouth would babble the drunkard's broken words.
     The household gear, the very roof and walls
10   Seemed as they rocked: all things they looked on seemed
     Whirled in wild dance.  About their eyes a veil
     Of mist dropped, for the drunkard's sight is dimmed,
     And the wit dulled, when rise the fumes to the brain:
     And thus a heavy-headed feaster cried:
     "For naught the Danaans mustered that great host
     Hither!  Fools, they have wrought not their intent,
     But with hopes unaccomplished from our town
     Like silly boys or women have they fled."

     So cried a Trojan wit-befogged with wine,
20   Fool, nor discerned destruction at the doors.

     When sleep had locked his fetters everywhere
     Through Troy on folk fulfilled of wine and meat,
     Then Sinon lifted high a blazing torch
     To show the Argive men the splendour of fire.
     But fearfully the while his heart beat, lest
     The men of Troy might see it, and the plot
     Be suddenly revealed.  But on their beds
     Sleeping their last sleep lay they, heavy with wine.
     The host saw, and from Tenedos set sail.

30   Then nigh the Horse drew Sinon: softly he called,
     Full softly, that no man of Troy might hear,
     But only Achaea's chiefs, far from whose eyes
     Sleep hovered, so athirst were they for fight.
     They heard, and to Odysseus all inclined
     Their ears: he bade them urgently go forth
     Softly and fearlessly; and they obeyed
     That battle-summons, pressing in hot haste
     To leap to earth: but in his subtlety
     He stayed them from all thrusting eagerly forth.
40   But first himself with swift unfaltering hands,
     Helped of Epeius, here and there unbarred
     The ribs of the Horse of beams: above the planks
     A little he raised his head, and gazed around
     On all sides, if he haply might descry
     One Trojan waking yet.  As when a wolf,
     With hunger stung to the heart, comes from the hills,
     And ravenous for flesh draws nigh the flock
     Penned in the wide fold, slinking past the men
     And dogs that watch, all keen to ward the sheep,
50   Then o'er the fold-wall leaps with soundless feet;
     So stole Odysseus down from the Horse: with him
     Followed the war-fain lords of Hellas' League,
     Orderly stepping down the ladders, which
     Epeius framed for paths of mighty men,
     For entering and for passing forth the Horse,
     Who down them now on this side, that side, streamed
     As fearless wasps startled by stroke of axe
     In angry mood pour all together forth
     From the tree-bole, at sound of woodman's blow;
60   So battle-kindled forth the Horse they poured
     Into the midst of that strong city of Troy
     With hearts that leapt expectant.  [With swift hands
     Snatched they the brands from dying hearths, and fired
     Temple and palace.  Onward then to the gates
     Sped they,] and swiftly slew the slumbering guards,
     [Then held the gate-towers till their friends should come.]
     Fast rowed the host the while; on swept the ships
     Over the great flood: Thetis made their paths
     Straight, and behind them sent a driving wind
70   Speeding them, and the hearts Achaean glowed.
     Swiftly to Hellespont's shore they came, and there
     Beached they the keels again, and deftly dealt
     With whatso tackling appertains to ships.
     Then leapt they aland, and hasted on to Troy
     Silent as sheep that hurry to the fold
     From woodland pasture on an autumn eve;
     So without sound of voices marched they on
     Unto the Trojans' fortress, eager all
     To help those mighty chiefs with foes begirt.
80   Now these -- as famished wolves fierce-glaring round
     Fall on a fold mid the long forest-hills,
     While sleeps the toil-worn watchman, and they rend
     The sheep on every hand within the wall
     In darkness, and all round [are heaped the slain;
     So these within the city smote and slew,
     As swarmed the awakened foe around them; yet,
     Fast as they slew, aye faster closed on them
     Those thousands, mad to thrust them from the gates.]
     Slipping in blood and stumbling o'er the dead
90   [Their line reeled,] and destruction loomed o'er them,
     Though Danaan thousands near and nearer drew.

     But when the whole host reached the walls of Troy,
     Into the city of Priam, breathing rage
     Of fight, with reckless battle-lust they poured;
     And all that fortress found they full of war
     And slaughter, palaces, temples, horribly
     Blazing on all sides; glowed their hearts with joy.
     In deadly mood then charged they on the foe.
     Ares and fell Enyo maddened there:
100  Blood ran in torrents, drenched was all the earth,
     As Trojans and their alien helpers died.
     Here were men lying quelled by bitter death
     All up and down the city in their blood;
     Others on them were falling, gasping forth
     Their life's strength; others, clutching in their hands
     Their bowels that looked through hideous gashes forth,
     Wandered in wretched plight around their homes:
     Others, whose feet, while yet asleep they lay,
     Had been hewn off, with groans unutterable
110  Crawled mid the corpses.  Some, who had rushed to fight,
     Lay now in dust, with hands and heads hewn off.
     Some were there, through whose backs, even as they fled,
     The spear had passed, clear through to the breast, and some
     Whose waists the lance had pierced, impaling them
     Where sharpest stings the anguish-laden steel.
     And all about the city dolorous howls
     Of dogs uprose, and miserable moans
     Of strong men stricken to death; and every home
     With awful cries was echoing.  Rang the shrieks
120  Of women, like to screams of cranes, which see
     An eagle stooping on them from the sky,
     Which have no courage to resist, but scream
     Long terror-shrieks in dread of Zeus's bird;
     So here, so there the Trojan women wailed,
     Some starting from their sleep, some to the ground
     Leaping: they thought not in that agony
     Of robe and zone; in naught but tunics clad
     Distraught they wandered: others found nor veil
     Nor cloak to cast about them, but, as came
130  Onward their foes, they stood with beating hearts
     Trembling, as lettered by despair, essaying,
     All-hapless, with their hands alone to hide
     Their nakedness.  And some in frenzy of woe:
     Their tresses tore, and beat their breasts, and screamed.
     Others against that stormy torrent of foes
     Recklessly rushed, insensible of fear,
     Through mad desire to aid the perishing,
     Husbands or children; for despair had given
     High courage.  Shrieks had startled from their sleep
140  Soft little babes whose hearts had never known
     Trouble -- and there one with another lay
     Gasping their lives out!  Some there were whose dreams
     Changed to a sudden vision of doom.  All round
     The fell Fates gloated horribly o'er the slain.
     And even as swine be slaughtered in the court
     Of a rich king who makes his folk a feast,
     So without number were they slain.  The wine
     Left in the mixing-bowls was blent with blood
     Gruesomely.  No man bare a sword unstained
150  With murder of defenceless folk of Troy,
     Though he were but a weakling in fair fight.
     And as by wolves or jackals sheep are torn,
     What time the furnace-breath of midnoon-heat
     Darts down, and all the flock beneath the shade
     Are crowded, and the shepherd is not there,
     But to the homestead bears afar their milk;
     And the fierce brutes leap on them, tear their throats,
     Gorge to the full their ravenous maws, and then
     Lap the dark blood, and linger still to slay
160  All in mere lust of slaughter, and provide
     An evil banquet for that shepherd-lord;
     So through the city of Priam Danaans slew
     One after other in that last fight of all.
     No Trojan there was woundless, all men's limbs
     With blood in torrents spilt were darkly dashed.

     Nor seetheless were the Danaans in the fray:
     With beakers some were smitten, with tables some,
     Thrust in the eyes of some were burning brands
     Snatched from the hearth; some died transfixed with spits
170  Yet left within the hot flesh of the swine
     Whereon the red breath of the Fire-god beat;
     Others struck down by bills and axes keen
     Gasped in their blood: from some men's hands were shorn
     The fingers, who, in wild hope to escape
     The imminent death, had clutched the blades of swords.
     And here in that dark tumult one had hurled
     A stone, and crushed the crown of a friend's head.
     Like wild beasts trapped and stabbed within a fold
     On a lone steading, frenziedly they fought,
180  Mad with despair-enkindled rage, beneath
     That night of horror.  Hot with battle-lust
     Here, there, the fighters rushed and hurried through
     The palace of Priam.  Many an Argive fell
     Spear-slain; for whatso Trojan in his halls
     Might seize a sword, might lift a spear in hand,
     Slew foes -- ay, heavy though he were with wine.

     Upflashed a glare unearthly through the town,
     For many an Argive bare in hand a torch
     To know in that dim battle friends from foes.

190  Then Tydeus' son amid the war-storm met
     Spearman Coroebus, lordly Mygdon's son,
     And 'neath the left ribs pierced him with the lance
     Where run the life-ways of man's meat and drink;
     So met him black death borne upon the spear:
     Down in dark blood he fell mid hosts of slain.
     Ah fool!  the bride he won not, Priam's child
     Cassandra, yea, his loveliest, for whose sake
     To Priam's burg but yesterday he came,
     And vaunted he would thrust the Argives back
200  From Ilium.  Never did the Gods fulfil
     His hope: the Fates hurled doom upon his head.
     With him the slayer laid Eurydamas low,
     Antenor's gallant son-in-law, who most
     For prudence was pre-eminent in Troy.
     Then met he Ilioneus the elder of days,
     And flashed his terrible sword forth.  All the limbs
     Of that grey sire were palsied with his fear:
     He put forth trembling hands, with one he caught
     The swift avenging sword, with one he clasped
210  The hero's knees.  Despite his fury of war,
     A moment paused his wrath, or haply a God
     Held back the sword a space, that that old man
     Might speak to his fierce foe one word of prayer.
     Piteously cried he, terror-overwhelmed:
     "I kneel before thee, whosoe'er thou be
     Of mighty Argives.  Oh compassionate
     My suppliant hands!  Abate thy wrath!  To slay
     The young and valiant is a glorious thing;
     But if thou smite an old man, small renown
220  Waits on thy prowess.  Therefore turn from me
     Thine hands against young men, if thou dost hope
     Ever to come to grey hairs such as mine."

     So spake he; but replied strong Tydeus' son:
     "Old man, I look to attain to honoured age;
     But while my Strength yet waxeth, will not I
     Spare any foe, but hurl to Hades all.
     The brave man makes an end of every foe."

     Then through his throat that terrible warrior drave
     The deadly blade, and thrust it straight to where
230  The paths of man's life lead by swiftest way
     Blood-paved to doom: death palsied his poor strength
     By Diomedes' hands.  Thence rushed he on
     Slaying the Trojans, storming in his might
     All through their fortress: pierced by his long spear
     Eurycoon fell, Perimnestor's son renowned.
     Amphimedon Aias slew: Agamemnon smote
     Damastor's son: Idomeneus struck down
     Mimas: by Meges Deiopites died.

     Achilles' son with his resistless lance
240  Smote godlike Pammon; then his javelin pierced
     Polites in mid-rush: Antiphonus
     Dead upon these he laid, all Priam's sons.
     Agenor faced him in the fight, and fell:
     Hero on hero slew he; everywhere
     Stalked at his side Death's black doom manifest:
     Clad in his sire's might, whomso he met he slew.
     Last, on Troy's king in murderous mood he came.
     By Zeus the Hearth-lord's altar.  Seeing him,
     Old Priam knew him and quaked not; for he longed
250  Himself to lay his life down midst his sons;
     And craving death to Achilles' seed he spake:
     "Fierce-hearted son of Achilles strong in war,
     Slay me, and pity not my misery.
     I have no will to see the sun's light more,
     Who have suffered woes so many and so dread.
     With my sons would I die, and so forget
     Anguish and horror of war.  Oh that thy sire
     Had slain me, ere mine eyes beheld aflame
     Illium, had slain me when I brought to him
260  Ransom for Hector, whom thy father slew.
     He spared me -- so the Fates had spun my thread
     Of destiny.  But thou, glut with my blood
     Thy fierce heart, and let me forget my pain."
     Answered Achilles' battle-eager son:
     "Fain am I, yea, in haste to grant thy prayer.
     A foe like thee will I not leave alive;
     For naught is dearer unto men than life."

     With one stroke swept he off that hoary head
     Lightly as when a reaper lops an ear
270  In a parched cornfield at the harvest-tide.
     With lips yet murmuring low it rolled afar
     From where with quivering limbs the body lay
     Amidst dark-purple blood and slaughtered men.
     So lay he, chiefest once of all the world
     In lineage, wealth, in many and goodly sons.
     Ah me, not long abides the honour of man,
     But shame from unseen ambush leaps on him
     So clutched him Doom, so he forgat his woes.

     Yea, also did those Danaan car-lords hurl
280  From a high tower the babe Astyanax,
     Dashing him out of life.  They tore the child
     Out of his mother's arms, in wrathful hate
     Of Hector, who in life had dealt to them
     Such havoc; therefore hated they his seed,
     And down from that high rampart flung his child --
     A wordless babe that nothing knew of war!
     As when amid the mountains hungry wolves
     Chase from the mother's side a suckling calf,
     And with malignant cunning drive it o'er
290  An echoing cliffs edge, while runs to and fro
     Its dam with long moans mourning her dear child,
     And a new evil followeth hard on her,
     For suddenly lions seize her for a prey;
     So, as she agonized for her son, the foe
     To bondage haled with other captive thralls
     That shrieking daughter of King Eetion.
     Then, as on those three fearful deaths she thought
     Of husband, child, and father, Andromaehe
     Longed sore to die.  Yea, for the royally-born
300  Better it is to die in war, than do
     The service of the thrall to baser folk.
     All piteously the broken-hearted cried:
     "Oh hurl my body also from the wall,
     Or down the cliff, or cast me midst the fire,
     Ye Argives!  Woes are mine unutterable!
     For Peleus' son smote down my noble father
     In Thebe, and in Troy mine husband slew,
     Who unto me was all mine heart's desire,
     Who left me in mine halls one little child,
310  My darling and my pride -- of all mine hopes
     In him fell merciless Fate hath cheated me!
     Oh therefore thrust this broken-hearted one
     Now out of life!  Hale me not overseas
     Mingled with spear-thralls; for my soul henceforth
     Hath no more pleasure in life, since God hath slain
     My nearest and my dearest!  For me waits
     Trouble and anguish and lone homelessness!"

     So cried she, longing for the grave; for vile
     Is life to them whose glory is swallowed up
320  Of shame: a horror is the scorn of men.
     But, spite her prayers, to thraldom dragged they her.

     In all the homes of Troy lay dying men,
     And rose from all a lamentable cry,
     Save only Antenor's halls; for unto him
     The Argives rendered hospitality's debt,
     For that in time past had his roof received
     And sheltered godlike Menelaus, when
     He with Odysseus came to claim his own.
     Therefore the mighty sons of Achaea showed
330  Grace to him, as to a friend, and spared his life
     And substance, fearing Themis who seeth all.

     Then also princely Anchises' noble son --
     Hard had he fought through Priam's burg that night
     With spear and valour, and many had he slain --
     When now he saw the city set aflame
     By hands of foes, saw her folk perishing
     In multitudes, her treasures spoiled, her wives
     And children dragged to thraldom from their homes,
     No more he hoped to see the stately walls
340  Of his birth-city, but bethought him now
     How from that mighty ruin to escape.
     And as the helmsman of a ship, who toils
     On the deep sea, and matches all his craft
     Against the winds and waves from every side
     Rushing against him in the stormy time,
     Forspent at last, both hand and heart, when now
     The ship is foundering in the surge, forsakes
     The helm, to launch forth in a little boat,
     And heeds no longer ship and lading; so
350  Anchises' gallant son forsook the town
     And left her to her foes, a sea of fire.
     His son and father alone he snatched from death;
     The old man broken down with years he set
     On his broad shoulders with his own strong hands,
     And led the young child by his small soft hand,
     Whose little footsteps lightly touched the ground;
     And, as he quaked to see that work of deaths
     His father led him through the roar of fight,
     And clinging hung on him the tender child,
360  Tears down his soft cheeks streaming.  But the man
     O'er many a body sprang with hurrying feet,
     And in the darkness in his own despite
     Trampled on many.  Cypris guided them,
     Earnest to save from that wild ruin her son,
     His father, and his child.  As on he pressed,
     The flames gave back before him everywhere:
     The blast of the Fire-god's breath to right and left
     Was cloven asunder.  Spears and javelins hurled
     Against him by the Achaeans harmless fell.
370  Also, to stay them, Calchas cried aloud:
     "Forbear against Aeneas' noble head
     To hurl the bitter dart, the deadly spear!
     Fated he is by the high Gods' decree
     To pass from Xanthus, and by Tiber's flood
     To found a city holy and glorious
     Through all time, and to rule o'er tribes of men
     Far-sundered.  Of his seed shall lords of earth
     Rule from the rising to the setting sun.
     Yea, with the Immortals ever shall he dwell,
380  Who is son of Aphrodite lovely-tressed.
     From him too is it meet we hold our hands
     Because he hath preferred his father and son
     To gold, to all things that might profit a man
     Who fleeth exiled to an alien land.
     This one night hath revealed to us a man
     Faithful to death to his father and his child."

     Then hearkened they, and as a God did all
     Look on him.  Forth the city hasted he
     Whither his feet should bear him, while the foe
390  Made havoc still of goodly-builded Troy.

     Then also Menelaus in Helen's bower
     Found, heavy with wine, ill-starred Deiphobus,
     And slew him with the sword: but she had fled
     And hidden her in the palace.  O'er the blood
     Of that slain man exulted he, and cried:
     "Dog!  I, even I have dealt thee unwelcome death
     This day!  No dawn divine shall meet thee again
     Alive in Troy -- ay, though thou vaunt thyself
     Spouse of the child of Zeus the thunder-voiced!
400  Black death hath trapped thee slain in my wife's bower!
     Would I had met Alexander too in fight
     Ere this, and plucked his heart out!  So my grief
     Had been a lighter load.  But he hath paid
     Already justice' debt, hath passed beneath
     Death's cold dark shadow.  Ha, small joy to thee
     My wife was doomed to bring!  Ay, wicked men
     Never elude pure Themis: night and day
     Her eyes are on them, and the wide world through
     Above the tribes of men she floats in air,
410  Holpen of Zeus, for punishment of sin."

     On passed he, dealing merciless death to foes,
     For maddened was his soul with jealousy.
     Against the Trojans was his bold heart full
     Of thoughts of vengeance, which were now fulfilled
     By the dread Goddess Justice, for that theirs
     Was that first outrage touching Helen, theirs
     That profanation of the oaths, and theirs
     That trampling on the blood of sacrifice
     When their presumptuous souls forgat the Gods.
420  Therefore the Vengeance-friends brought woes on them
     Thereafter, and some died in fighting field,
     Some now in Troy by board and bridal bower.

     Menelaus mid the inner chambers found
     At last his wife, there cowering from the wrath
     Of her bold-hearted lord.  He glared on her,
     Hungering to slay her in his jealous rage.
     But winsome Aphrodite curbed him, struck
     Out of his hand the sword, his onrush reined,
     Jealousy's dark cloud swept she away, and stirred
430  Love's deep sweet well-springs in his heart and eyes.
     Swept o'er him strange amazement: powerless all
     Was he to lift the sword against her neck,
     Seeing her splendour of beauty.  Like a stock
     Of dead wood in a mountain forest, which
     No swiftly-rushing blasts of north-winds shake,
     Nor fury of south-winds ever, so he stood,
     So dazed abode long time.  All his great strength
     Was broken, as he looked upon his wife.
     And suddenly had he forgotten all
440  Yea, all her sins against her spousal-troth;
     For Aphrodite made all fade away,
     She who subdueth all immortal hearts
     And mortal.  Yet even so he lifted up
     From earth his sword, and made as he would rush
     Upon his wife but other was his intent,
     Even as he sprang: he did but feign, to cheat
     Achaean eyes.  Then did his brother stay
     His fury, and spake with pacifying words,
     Fearing lest all they had toiled for should be lost:
450  "Forbear wrath, Menelaus, now: 'twere shame
     To slay thy wedded wife, for whose sake we
     Have suffered much affliction, while we sought
     Vengeance on Priam.  Not, as thou dost deem,
     Was Helen's the sin, but his who set at naught
     The Guest-lord, and thine hospitable board;
     So with death-pangs hath God requited him."

     Then hearkened Menelaus to his rede.
     But the Gods, palled in dark clouds, mourned for Troy,
     A ruined glory save fair-tressed Tritonis
460  And Hera: their hearts triumphed, when they saw
     The burg of god-descended Priam destroyed.
     Yet not the wise heart Trito-born herself
     Was wholly tearless; for within her fane
     Outraged Cassandra was of Oileus son
     Lust-maddened.  But grim vengeance upon him
     Ere long the Goddess wreaked, repaying insult
     With mortal sufferance.  Yea, she would not look
     Upon the infamy, but clad herself
     With shame and wrath as with a cloak: she turned
470  Her stern eyes to the temple-roof, and groaned
     The holy image, and the hallowed floor
     Quaked mightily.  Yet did he not forbear
     His mad sin, for his soul was lust-distraught.

     Here, there, on all sides crumbled flaming homes
     In ruin down: scorched dust with smoke was blent:
     Trembled the streets to the awful thunderous crash.
     Here burned Aeneas' palace, yonder flamed
     Antimachus' halls: one furnace was the height
     Of fair-built Pergamus; flames were roaring round
480  Apollo's temple, round Athena's fane,
     And round the Hearth-lord's altar: flames licked up
     Fair chambers of the sons' sons of a king;
     And all the city sank down into hell.

     Of Trojans some by Argos' sons were slain,
     Some by their own roofs crashing down in fire,
     Giving at once in death and tomb to them:
     Some in their own throats plunged the steel, when foes
     And fire were in the porch together seen:
     Some slew their wives and children, and flung themselves
490  Dead on them, when despair had done its work
     Of horror.  One, who deemed the foe afar,
     Caught up a vase, and, fain to quench the flame,
     Hasted for water.  Leapt unmarked on him
     An Argive, and his spirit, heavy with wine,
     Was thrust forth from the body by the spear.
     Clashed the void vase above him, as he fell
     Backward within the house.  As through his hall
     Another fled, the burning roof-beam crashed
     Down on his head, and swift death came with it.
500  And many women, as in frenzied flight
     They rushed forth, suddenly remembered babes
     Left in their beds beneath those burning roofs:
     With wild feet sped they back -- the house fell in
     Upon them, and they perished, mother and child.
     Horses and dogs in panic through the town
     Fled from the flames, trampling beneath their feet
     The dead, and dashing into living men
     To their sore hurt.  Shrieks rang through all the town.
     In through his blazing porchway rushed a man
510  To rescue wife and child.  Through smoke and flame
     Blindly he groped, and perished while he cried
     Their names, and pitiless doom slew those within.

     The fire-glow upward mounted to the sky,
     The red glare o'er the firmament spread its wings,
     And all the tribes of folk that dwelt around
     Beheld it, far as Ida's mountain-crests,
     And sea-girt Tenedos, and Thracian Samos.
     And men that voyaged on the deep sea cried:
     "The Argives have achieved their mighty task
520  After long toil for star-eyed Helen's sake.
     All Troy, the once queen-city, burns in fire:
     For all their prayers, no God defends them now;
     For strong Fate oversees all works of men,
     And the renownless and obscure to fame
     She raises, and brings low the exalted ones.
     Oft out of good is evil brought, and good
     From evil, mid the travail and change of life."

     So spake they, who from far beheld the glare
     Of Troy's great burning.  Compassed were her folk
530  With wailing misery: through her streets the foe
     Exulted, as when madding blasts turmoil
     The boundless sea, what time the Altar ascends
     To heaven's star-pavement, turned to the misty south
     Overagainst Arcturus tempest-breathed,
     And with its rising leap the wild winds forth,
     And ships full many are whelmed 'neath ravening seas;
     Wild as those stormy winds Achaea's sons
     Ravaged steep Ilium while she burned in flame.
     As when a mountain clothed with shaggy woods
540  Burns swiftly in a fire-blast winged with winds,
     And from her tall peaks goeth up a roar,
     And all the forest-children this way and that
     Rush through the wood, tormented by the flame;
     So were the Trojans perishing: there was none
     To save, of all the Gods.  Round these were staked
     The nets of Fate, which no man can escape.

     Then were Demophoon and Acamas
     By mighty Theseus' mother Aethra met.
     Yearning to see them was she guided on
550  To meet them by some Blessed One, the while
     'Wildered from war and fire she fled.  They saw
     In that red glare a woman royal-tall,
     Imperial-moulded, and they weened that this
     Was Priam's queen, and with swift eagerness
     Laid hands on her, to lead her captive thence
     To the Danaans; but piteously she moaned:
     "Ah, do not, noble sons of warrior Greeks,
     To your ships hale me, as I were a foe!
     I am not of Trojan birth: of Danaans came
560  My princely blood renowned.  In Troezen's halls
     Pittheus begat me, Aegeus wedded me,
     And of my womb sprang Theseus glory-crowned.
     For great Zeus' sake, for your dear parents' sake,
     I pray you, if the seed of Theseus came
     Hither with Atreus' sons, O bring ye me
     Unto their yearning eyes.  I trow they be
     Young men like you.  My soul shall be refreshed
     If living I behold those chieftains twain."

     Hearkening to her they called their sire to mind,
570  His deeds for Helen's sake, and how the sons
     Of Zeus the Thunderer in the old time smote
     Aphidnae, when, because these were but babes,
     Their nurses hid them far from peril of fight;
     And Aethra they remembered -- all she endured
     Through wars, as mother-in-law at first, and thrall
     Thereafter of Helen.  Dumb for joy were they,
     Till spake Demophoon to that wistful one:
     "Even now the Gods fulfil thine heart's desire:
     We whom thou seest are the sons of him,
580  Thy noble son: thee shall our loving hands
     Bear to the ships: with joy to Hellas' soil
     Thee will we bring, where once thou wast a queen."

     Then his great father's mother clasped him round
     With clinging arms: she kissed his shoulders broad,
     His head, his breast, his bearded lips she kissed,
     And Acamas kissed withal, the while she shed
     Glad tears on these who could not choose but weep.
     As when one tarries long mid alien men,
     And folk report him dead, but suddenly
590  He cometh home: his children see his face,
     And break into glad weeping; yea, and he,
     His arms around them, and their little heads
     Upon his shoulders, sobs: echoes the home
     With happy mourning's music-beating wings;
     So wept they with sweet sighs and sorrowless moans.

     Then, too, affliction-burdened Priam's child,
     Laodice, say they, stretched her hands to heaven,
     Praying the mighty Gods that earth might gape
     To swallow her, ere she defiled her hand
600  With thralls' work; and a God gave ear, and rent
     Deep earth beneath her: so by Heaven's decree
     Did earth's abysmal chasm receive the maid
     In Troy's last hour.  Electra's self withal,
     The Star-queen lovely-robed, shrouded her form
     In mist and cloud, and left the Pleiad-band,
     Her sisters, as the olden legend tells.
     Still riseth up in sight of toil-worn men
     Their bright troop in the skies; but she alone
     Hides viewless ever, since the hallowed town
610  Of her son Dardanus in ruin fell,
     When Zeus most high from heaven could help her not,
     Because to Fate the might of Zeus must bow;
     And by the Immortals' purpose all these things
     Had come to pass, or by Fate's ordinance.

     Still on Troy's folk the Argives wreaked their wrath,
     And battle's issues Strife Incarnate held.

Go to Book XIV