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Medieval and Classical Library

The Fall of Troy

How by the shaft of a God laid low was Hero Achilles.

Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #18b

     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
10   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
20   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
30   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,
40   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."

50   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
60   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!"

70   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]
80   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
90   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
100  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,
110  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
120  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
130  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
140  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,
150  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
160  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
170  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
180  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
190  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
200  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
210  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,
220  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,
230  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
240  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,
250  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
260  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
270  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
280  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
290  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
300  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,
310  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
320  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
330  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
340  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,
350  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,
360  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
370  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
380  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
390  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
400  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
410  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,
420  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
430  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
440  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
450  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
460  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,
470  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
480  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,
490  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,
500  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,
510  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
520  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,
530  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
540  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
550  `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,
560  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
570  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
580  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.

590  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
600  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,
610  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
620  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,
630  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
640  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
650  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
660  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
670  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
680  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
690  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
700  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
710  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.
720  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,
730  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,
740  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
750  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,
760  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.

770  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
780  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,
790  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
800  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.
810  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
820  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
830  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
840  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
850  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,
860  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,
870  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,
880  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.

890  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,
900  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
910  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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