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Medieval and Classical Library

The Fall of Troy

How in the Funeral Games of Achilles heroes contended.

Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #18b

     Nor did the hapless Trojans leave unwept
     The warrior-king Hippolochus' hero-son,
     But laid, in front of the Dardanian gate,
     Upon the pyre that captain war-renowned.
     But him Apollo's self caught swiftly up
     Out of the blazing fire, and to the winds
     Gave him, to bear away to Lycia-land;
     And fast and far they bare him, 'neath the glens
     Of high Telandrus, to a lovely glade;
10   And for a monument above his grave
     Upheaved a granite rock. The Nymphs therefrom
     Made gush the hallowed water of a stream
     For ever flowing, which the tribes of men
     Still call fair-fleeting Glaucus. This the gods
     Wrought for an honour to the Lycian king.

     But for Achilles still the Argives mourned
     Beside the swift ships: heart-sick were they all
     With dolorous pain and grief.  Each yearned for him
     As for a son; no eye in that wide host
20   Was tearless.  But the Trojans with great joy
     Exulted, seeing their sorrow from afar,
     And the great fire that spake their foe consumed.
     And thus a vaunting voice amidst them cried:
     "Now hath Cronion from his heaven vouchsafed
     A joy past hope unto our longing eyes,
     To see Achilles fallen before Troy.
     Now he is smitten down, the glorious hosts
     Of Troy, I trow, shall win a breathing-space
     From blood of death and from the murderous fray.
30   Ever his heart devised the Trojans' bane;
     In his hands maddened aye the spear of doom
     With gore besprent, and none of us that faced
     Him in the fight beheld another dawn.
     But now, I wot, Achaea's valorous sons
     Shall flee unto their galleys shapely-prowed,
     Since slain Achilles lies.  Ah that the might
     Of Hector still were here, that he might slay
     The Argives one and all amidst their tents!"

     So in unbridled joy a Trojan cried;
40   But one more wise and prudent answered him:
     "Thou deemest that yon murderous Danaan host
     Will straightway get them to the ships, to flee
     Over the misty sea.  Nay, still their lust
     Is hot for fight: us will they nowise fear,
     Still are there left strong battle-eager men,
     As Aias, as Tydeides, Atreus' sons:
     Though dead Achilles be, I still fear these.
     Oh that Apollo Silverbow would end them!
     Then in that day were given to our prayers
50   A breathing-space from war and ghastly death."

     In heaven was dole among the Immortal Ones,
     Even all that helped the stalwart Danaans' cause.
     In clouds like mountains piled they veiled their heads
     For grief of soul.  But glad those others were
     Who fain would speed Troy to a happy goal.
     Then unto Cronos' Son great Hera spake:
     "Zeus, Lightning-father, wherefore helpest thou
     Troy, all forgetful of the fair-haired bride
     Whom once to Peleus thou didst give to wife
60   Midst Pelion's glens?  Thyself didst bring to pass
     Those spousals of a Goddess: on that day
     All we Immortals feasted there, and gave
     Gifts passing-fair.  All this dost thou forget,
     And hast devised for Hellas heaviest woe."

     So spake she; but Zeus answered not a word;
     For pondering there he sat with burdened breast,
     Thinking how soon the Argives should destroy
     The city of Priam, thinking how himself
     Would visit on the victors ruin dread
70   In war and on the great sea thunder-voiced.
     Such thoughts were his, ere long to be fulfilled.

     Now sank the sun to Ocean's fathomless flood:
     O'er the dim land the infinite darkness stole,
     Wherein men gain a little rest from toil.
     Then by the ships, despite their sorrow, supped
     The Argives, for ye cannot thrust aside
     Hunger's importunate craving, when it comes
     Upon the breast, but straightway heavy and faint
     Lithe limbs become; nor is there remedy
80   Until one satisfy this clamorous guest
     Therefore these ate the meat of eventide
     In grief for Achilles' hard necessity
     Constrained them all.  And, when they had broken bread,
     Sweet sleep came on them, loosening from their frames
     Care's heavy chain, and quickening strength anew

     But when the starry Bears had eastward turned
     Their heads, expectant of the uprushing light
     Of Helios, and when woke the Queen of Dawn,
     Then rose from sleep the stalwart Argive men
90   Purposing for the Trojans death and doom.
     Stirred were they like the roughly-ridging sea
     Icarian, or as sudden-rippling corn
     In harvest field, what time the rushing wings
     Of the cloud-gathering West sweep over it;
     So upon Hellespont's strand the folk were stirred.
     And to those eager hearts cried Tydeus' son:
     "If we be battle-biders, friends, indeed,
     More fiercely fight we now the hated foe,
     Lest they take heart because Achilles lives
100  No longer.  Come, with armour, car, and steed
     Let us beset them.  Glory waits our toil?"

     But battle-eager Aias answering spake
     "Brave be thy words, and nowise idle talk,
     Kindling the dauntless Argive men, whose hearts
     Before were battle-eager, to the fight
     Against the Trojan men, O Tydeus' son.
     But we must needs abide amidst the ships
     Till Goddess Thetis come forth of the sea;
     For that her heart is purposed to set here
110  Fair athlete-prizes for the funeral-games.
     This yesterday she told me, ere she plunged
     Into sea-depths, yea, spake to me apart
     From other Danaans; and, I trow, by this
     Her haste hath brought her nigh.  Yon Trojan men,
     Though Peleus' son hath died, shall have small heart
     For battle, while myself am yet alive,
     And thou, and noble Atreus' son, the king."

     So spake the mighty son of Telamon,
     But knew not that a dark and bitter doom
120  For him should follow hard upon those games
     By Fate's contrivance.  Answered Tydeus' son
     "O friend, if Thetis comes indeed this day
     With goodly gifts for her son's funeral-games,
     Then bide we by the ships, and keep we here
     All others.  Meet it is to do the will
     Of the Immortals: yea, to Achilles too,
     Though the Immortals willed it not, ourselves
     Must render honour grateful to the dead."

     So spake the battle-eager Tydeus' son.
130  And lo, the Bride of Peleus gliding came
     Forth of the sea, like the still breath of dawn,
     And suddenly was with the Argive throng
     Where eager-faced they waited, some, that looked
     Soon to contend in that great athlete-strife,
     And some, to joy in seeing the mighty strive.
     Amidst that gathering Thetis sable-stoled
     Set down her prizes, and she summoned forth
     Achaea's champions: at her best they came.

     But first amidst them all rose Neleus' son,
140  Not as desiring in the strife of fists
     To toil, nor strain of wrestling; for his arms
     And all his sinews were with grievous eld
     Outworn, but still his heart and brain were strong.
     Of all the Achaeans none could match himself
     Against him in the folkmote's war of words;
     Yea, even Laertes' glorious son to him
     Ever gave place when men for speech were met;
     Nor he alone, but even the kingliest
     Of Argives, Agamemnon, lord of spears.
150  Now in their midst he sang the gracious Queen
     Of Nereids, sang how she in willsomeness
     Of beauty was of all the Sea-maids chief.
     Well-pleased she hearkened.  Yet again he sang,
     Singing of Peleus' Bridal of Delight,
     Which all the blest Immortals brought to pass
     By Pelion's crests; sang of the ambrosial feast
     When the swift Hours brought in immortal hands
     Meats not of earth, and heaped in golden maunds;
     Sang how the silver tables were set forth
160  In haste by Themis blithely laughing; sang
     How breathed Hephaestus purest flame of fire;
     Sang how the Nymphs in golden chalices
     Mingled ambrosia; sang the ravishing dance
     Twined by the Graces' feet; sang of the chant
     The Muses raised, and how its spell enthralled
     All mountains, rivers, all the forest brood;
     How raptured was the infinite firmament,
     Cheiron's fair caverns, yea, the very Gods.

     Such noble strain did Neleus' son pour out
170  Into the Argives' eager ears; and they
     Hearkened with ravished souls.  Then in their midst
     He sang once more the imperishable deeds
     Of princely Achilles.  All the mighty throng
     Acclaimed him with delight.  From that beginning
     With fitly chosen words did he extol
     The glorious hero; how he voyaged and smote
     Twelve cities; how he marched o'er leagues on leagues
     Of land, and spoiled eleven; how he slew
     Telephus and Eetion's might renowned
180  In Thebe; how his spear laid Cyenus low,
     Poseidon's son, and godlike Polydorus,
     Troilus the goodly, princely Asteropaeus;
     And how he dyed with blood the river-streams
     Of Xanthus, and with countless corpses choked
     His murmuring flow, when from the limbs he tore
     Lycaon's life beside the sounding river;
     And how he smote down Hector; how he slew
     Penthesileia, and the godlike son
     Of splendour-throned Dawn; -- all this he sang
190  To Argives which already knew the tale;
     Sang of his giant mould, how no man's strength
     In fight could stand against him, nor in games
     Where strong men strive for mastery, where the swift
     Contend with flying feet or hurrying wheels
     Of chariots, nor in combat panoplied;
     And how in goodlihead he far outshone
     All Danaans, and how his bodily might
     Was measureless in the stormy clash of war.
     Last, he prayed Heaven that he might see a son
200  Like that great sire from sea-washed Scyros come.

     That noble song acclaiming Argives praised;
     Yea, silver-looted Thetis smiled, and gave
     The singer fleetfoot horses, given of old
     Beside Caicus' mouth by Telephus
     To Achilles, when he healed the torturing wound
     With that same spear wherewith himself had pierced
     Telephus' thigh, and thrust the point clear through.
     These Nestor Neleus' son to his comrades gave,
     And, glorying in their godlike lord, they led
210  The steeds unto his ships.  Then Thetis set
     Amidst the athlete-ring ten kine, to be
     Her prizes for the footrace, and by each
     Ran a fair suckling calf.  These the bold might
     Of Peleus' tireless son had driven down
     From slopes of Ida, prizes of his spear.

     To strive for these rose up two victory-fain,
     Teucer the first, the son of Telamon,
     And Aias, of the Locrian archers chief.
     These twain with swift hands girded them about
220  With loin-cloths, reverencing the Goddess-bride
     Of Peleus, and the Sea-maids, who with her
     Came to behold the Argives' athlete-sport.
     And Atreus' son, lord of all Argive men,
     Showed them the turning-goal of that swift course.
     Then these the Queen of Rivalry spurred on,
     As from the starting-line like falcons swift
     They sped away.  Long doubtful was the race:
     Now, as the Argives gazed, would Aias' friends
     Shout, now rang out the answering cheer from friends
230  Of Teucer.  But when in their eager speed
     Close on the end they were, then Teucer's feet
     Were trammelled by unearthly powers: some god
     Or demon dashed his foot against the stock
     Of a deep-rooted tamarisk.  Sorely wrenched
     Was his left ankle: round the joint upswelled
     The veins high-ridged.  A great shout rang from all
     That watched the contest.  Aias darted past
     Exultant: ran his Locrian folk to hail
     Their lord, with sudden joy in all their souls.
240  Then to his ships they drave the kine, and cast
     Fodder before them.  Eager-helpful friends
     Led Teucer halting thence.  The leeches drew
     Blood from his foot: then over it they laid
     Soft-shredded linen ointment-smeared, and swathed
     With smooth bands round, and charmed away the pain.

     Then swiftly rose two mighty-hearted ones
     Eager to match their strength in wrestling strain,
     The son of Tydeus and the giant Aias.
     Into the midst they strode, and marvelling gazed
250  The Argives on men shapen like to gods.
     Then grappled they, like lions famine-stung
     Fighting amidst the mountains o'er a stag,
     Whose strength is even-balanced; no whit less
     Is one than other in their deadly rage;
     So these long time in might were even-matched,
     Till Aias locked his strong hands round the son
     Of Tydeus, straining hard to break his back;
     But he, with wrestling-craft and strength combined,
     Shifted his hip 'neath Telamon's son, and heaved
260  The giant up; with a side-twist wrenched free
     From Aias' ankle-lock his thigh, and so
     With one huge shoulder-heave to earth he threw
     That mighty champion, and himself came down
     Astride him: then a mighty shout went up.
     But battle-stormer Aias, chafed in mind,
     Sprang up, hot-eager to essay again
     That grim encounter.  From his terrible hands
     He dashed the dust, and challenged furiously
     With a great voice Tydeides: not a whit
270  That other quailed, but rushed to close with him.
     Rolled up the dust in clouds from 'neath their feet:
     Hurtling they met like battling mountain-bulls
     That clash to prove their dauntless strength, and spurn
     The dust, while with their roaring all the hills
     Re-echo: in their desperate fury these
     Dash their strong heads together, straining long
     Against each other with their massive strength,
     Hard-panting in the fierce rage of their strife,
     While from their mouths drip foam-flakes to the ground;
280  So strained they twain with grapple of brawny hands.
     'Neath that hard grip their backs and sinewy necks
     Cracked, even as when in mountain-glades the trees
     Dash storm-tormented boughs together.  Oft
     Tydeides clutched at Aias' brawny thighs,
     But could not stir his steadfast-rooted feet.
     Oft Aias hurled his whole weight on him, bowed
     His shoulders backward, strove to press him down;
     And to new grips their hands were shifting aye.
     All round the gazing people shouted, some
290  Cheering on glorious Tydeus' son, and some
     The might of Aias.  Then the giant swung
     The shoulders of his foe to right, to left;
     Then gripped him 'neath the waist; with one fierce heave
     And giant effort hurled him like a stone
     To earth.  The floor of Troyland rang again
     As fell Tydeides: shouted all the folk.
     Yet leapt he up all eager to contend
     With giant Aias for the third last fall:
     But Nestor rose and spake unto the twain:
300  "From grapple of wrestling, noble sons, forbear;
     For all we know that ye be mightiest
     Of Argives since the great Achilles died."

     Then these from toil refrained, and from their brows
     Wiped with their hands the plenteous-streaming sweat:
     They kissed each other, and forgat their strife.
     Then Thetis, queen of Goddesses, gave to them
     Four handmaids; and those strong and aweless ones
     Marvelled beholding them, for these surpassed
     All captive-maids in beauty and household-skill,
310  Save only lovely-tressed Briseis.  These
     Achilles captive brought from Lesbos' Isle,
     And in their service joyed.  The first was made
     Stewardess of the feast and lady of meats;
     The second to the feasters poured the wine;
     The third shed water on their hands thereafter;
     The fourth bare all away, the banquet done.
     These Tydeus' son and giant Aias shared,
     And, parted two and two, unto their ships
     Sent they those fair and serviceable ones.

320  Next, for the play of fists Idomeneus rose,
     For cunning was he in all athlete-lore;
     But none came forth to meet him, yielding all
     To him, the elder-born, with reverent awe.
     So in their midst gave Thetis unto him
     A chariot and fleet steeds, which theretofore
     Mighty Patroclus from the ranks of Troy
     Drave, when he slew Sarpedon, seed of Zeus,
     These to his henchmen gave Idomeneus
     To drive unto the ships: himself remained
330  Still sitting in the glorious athlete-ring.
     Then Phoenix to the stalwart Argives cried:
     "Now to Idomeneus the Gods have given
     A fair prize uncontested, free of toil
     Of mighty arms and shoulders, honouring
     The elder-born with bloodless victory.
     But lo, ye younger men, another prize
     Awaiteth the swift play of cunning hands.
     Step forth then: gladden great Peleides' soul."

     He spake, they heard; but each on other looked,
340  And, loth to essay the contest, all sat still,
     Till Neleus' son rebuked those laggard souls:
     "Friends, it were shame that men should shun the play
     Of clenched hands, who in that noble sport
     Have skill, wherein young men delight, which links
     Glory to toil.  Ah that my thews were strong
     As when we held King Pelias' funeral-feast,
     I and Acastus, kinsmen joining hands,
     When I with godlike Polydeuces stood
     In gauntlet-strife, in even-balanced fray,
350  And when Ancaeus in the wrestlers' ring
     Mightier than all beside, yet feared and shrank
     From me, and dared not strive with me that day,
     For that ere then amidst the Epeian men --
     No battle-blenchers they! -- I had vanquished him,
     For all his might, and dashed him to the dust
     By dead Amaryncus' tomb, and thousands round
     Sat marvelling at my prowess and my strength.
     Therefore against me not a second time
     Raised he his hands, strong wrestler though he were;
360  And so I won an uncontested prize.
     But now old age is on me, and many griefs.
     Therefore I bid you, whom it well beseems,
     To win the prize; for glory crowns the youth
     Who bears away the meed of athlete-strife."

     Stirred by his gallant chiding, a brave man
     Rose, son of haughty godlike Panopeus,
     The man who framed the Horse, the bane of Troy,
     Not long thereafter.  None dared meet him now
     In play of fists, albeit in deadly craft
370  Of war, when Ares rusheth through the field,
     He was not cunning.  But for strife of hands
     The fair prize uncontested had been won
     By stout Epeius -- yea, he was at point
     To bear it thence unto the Achaean ships;
     But one strode forth to meet him, Theseus' son,
     The spearman Acamas, the mighty of heart,
     Bearing already on his swift hands girt
     The hard hide-gauntlets, which Evenor's son
     Agelaus on his prince's hands had drawn
380  With courage-kindling words.  The comrades then
     Of Panopeus' princely son for Epeius raised
     A heartening cheer.  He like a lion stood
     Forth in the midst, his strong hands gauntleted
     With bull's hide hard as horn.  Loud rang the cheers
     From side to side of that great throng, to fire
     The courage of the mighty ones to clash
     Hands in the gory play.  Sooth, little spur
     Needed they for their eagerness for fight.
     But, ere they closed, they flashed out proving blows
390  To wot if still, as theretofore, their arms
     Were limber and lithe, unclogged by toil of war;
     Then faced each other, and upraised their hands
     With ever-watching eyes, and short quick steps
     A-tiptoe, and with ever-shifting feet,
     Each still eluding other's crushing might.
     Then with a rush they closed like thunder-clouds
     Hurled on each other by the tempest-blast,
     Flashing forth lightnings, while the welkin thrills
     As clash the clouds and hollow roar the winds;
400  So 'neath the hard hide-gauntlets clashed their jaws.
     Down streamed the blood, and from their brows the sweat
     Blood-streaked made on the flushed cheeks crimson bars.
     Fierce without pause they fought, and never flagged
     Epeius, but threw all his stormy strength
     Into his onrush.  Yet did Theseus' son
     Never lose heart, but baffled the straight blows
     Of those strong hands, and by his fighting-craft
     Flinging them right and left, leapt in, brought home
     A blow to his eyebrow, cutting to the bone.
410  Even then with counter-stroke Epeius reached
     Acamas' temple, and hurled him to the ground.
     Swift he sprang up, and on his stalwart foe
     Rushed, smote his head: as he rushed in again,
     The other, slightly swerving, sent his left
     Clean to his brow; his right, with all his might
     Behind it, to his nose.  Yet Acamas still
     Warded and struck with all the manifold shifts
     Of fighting-craft.  But now the Achaeans all
     Bade stop the fight, though eager still were both
420  To strive for coveted victory.  Then came
     Their henchmen, and the gory gauntlets loosed
     In haste from those strong hands.  Now drew they breath
     From that great labour, as they bathed their brows
     With sponges myriad-pored.  Comrades and friends
     With pleading words then drew them face to face,
     And prayed, "In friendship straight forget your wrath."
     So to their comrades' suasion hearkened they;
     For wise men ever bear a placable mind.
     They kissed each other, and their hearts forgat
430  That bitter strife.  Then Thetis sable-stoled
     Gave to their glad hands two great silver bowls
     The which Euneus, Jason's warrior son
     In sea-washed Lemnos to Achilles gave
     To ransom strong Lycaon from his hands.
     These had Hephaestus fashioned for his gift
     To glorious Dionysus, when he brought
     His bride divine to Olympus, Minos' child
     Far-famous, whom in sea-washed Dia's isle
     Theseus unwitting left.  The Wine-god brimmed
440  With nectar these, and gave them to his son;
     And Thoas at his death to Hypsipyle
     With great possessions left them.  She bequeathed
     The bowls to her godlike son, who gave them up
     Unto Achilles for Lycaon's life.
     The one the son of lordly Theseus took,
     And goodly Epeius sent to his ship with joy
     The other.  Then their bruises and their scars
     Did Podaleirius tend with loving care.
     First pressed he out black humours, then his hands
450  Deftly knit up the gashes: salves he laid
     Thereover, given him by his sire of old,
     Such as had virtue in one day to heal
     The deadliest hurts, yea, seeming-cureless wounds.
     Straight was the smart assuaged, and healed the scars
     Upon their brows and 'neath their clustering hair

     Then for the archery-test Oileus' son
     Stood forth with Teucer, they which in the race
     Erewhile contended.  Far away from these
     Agamemnon, lord of spears, set up a helm
460  Crested with plumes, and spake: "The master-shot
     Is that which shears the hair-crest clean away."
     Then straightway Aias shot his arrow first,
     And smote the helm-ridge: sharply rang the brass.
     Then Teucer second with most earnest heed
     Shot: the swift shaft hath shorn the plume away.
     Loud shouted all the people as they gazed,
     And praised him without stint, for still his foot
     Halted in pain, yet nowise marred his aim
     When with his hands he sped the flying shaft.
470  Then Peleus' bride gave unto him the arms
     Of godlike Troilus, the goodliest
     Of all fair sons whom Hecuba had borne
     In hallowed Troy; yet of his goodlihead
     No joy she had; the prowess and the spear
     Of fell Achilles reft his life from him.
     As when a gardener with new-whetted scythe
     Mows down, ere it may seed, a blade of corn
     Or poppy, in a garden dewy-fresh
     And blossom-flushed, which by a water-course
480  Crowdeth its blooms -- mows it ere it may reach
     Its goal of bringing offspring to the birth,
     And with his scythe-sweep makes its life-work vain
     And barren of all issue, nevermore
     Now to be fostered by the dews of spring;
     So did Peleides cut down Priam's son
     The god-like beautiful, the beardless yet
     And virgin of a bride, almost a child!
     Yet the Destroyer Fate had lured him on
     To war, upon the threshold of glad youth,
490  When youth is bold, and the heart feels no void.

     Forthwith a bar of iron massy and long
     From the swift-speeding hand did many essay
     To hurl; but not an Argive could prevail
     To cast that ponderous mass.  Aias alone
     Sped it from his strong hand, as in the time
     Of harvest might a reaper fling from him
     A dry oak-bough, when all the fields are parched.
     And all men marvelled to behold how far
     Flew from his hand the bronze which scarce two men
500  Hard-straining had uplifted from the ground.
     Even this Antaeus' might was wont to hurl
     Erstwhile, ere the strong hands of Hercules
     O'ermastered him.  This, with much spoil beside,
     Hercules took, and kept it to make sport
     For his invincible hand; but afterward
     Gave it to valiant Peleus, who with him
     Had smitten fair-towered Ilium's burg renowned;
     And he to Achilles gave it, whose swift ships
     Bare it to Troy, to put him aye in mind
510  Of his own father, as with eager will
     He fought with stalwart Trojans, and to be
     A worthy test wherewith to prove his strength.
     Even this did Aias from his brawny hand
     Fling far.  So then the Nereid gave to him
     The glorious arms from godlike Memnon stripped.
     Marvelling the Argives gazed on them: they were
     A giant's war-gear.  Laughing a glad laugh
     That man renowned received them: he alone
     Could wear them on his brawny limbs; they seemed
520  As they had even been moulded to his frame.
     The great bar thence he bore withal, to be
     His joy when he was fain of athlete-toil.

     Still sped the contests on; and many rose
     Now for the leaping.  Far beyond the marks
     Of all the rest brave Agapenor sprang:
     Loud shouted all for that victorious leap;
     And Thetis gave him the fair battle-gear
     Of mighty Cycnus, who had smitten first
     Protesilaus, then had reft the life
530  From many more, till Peleus' son slew him
     First of the chiefs of grief-enshrouded Troy.

     Next, in the javelin-cast Euryalus
     Hurled far beyond all rivals, while the folk
     Shouted aloud: no archer, so they deemed,
     Could speed a winged shaft farther than his cast;
     Therefore the Aeacid hero's mother gave
     To him a deep wide silver oil-flask, ta'en
     By Achilles in possession, when his spear
     Slew Mynes, and he spoiled Lyrnessus' wealth.

540  Then fiery-hearted Aias eagerly
     Rose, challenging to strife of hands and feet
     The mightiest hero there; but marvelling
     They marked his mighty thews, and no man dared
     Confront him.  Chilling dread had palsied all
     Their courage: from their hearts they feared him, lest
     His hands invincible should all to-break
     His adversary's face, and naught but pain
     Be that man's meed.  But at the last all men
     Made signs to battle-bider Euryalus,
550  For well they knew him skilled in fighting-craft;
     But he too feared that giant, and he cried:
     "Friends, any other Achaean, whom ye will,
     Blithe will I face; but mighty Alas -- no!
     Far doth he overmatch me.  He will rend
     Mine heart, if in the onset anger rise
     Within him: from his hands invincible,
     I trow, I should not win to the ships alive."

     Loud laughed they all: but glowed with triumph-joy
     The heart of Aias.  Gleaming talents twain
560  Of silver he from Thetis' hands received,
     His uncontested prize.  His stately height
     Called to her mind her dear son, and she sighed.

     They which had skill in chariot-driving then
     Rose at the contest's summons eagerly:
     Menelaus first, Eurypylus bold in fight,
     Eumelus, Thoas, godlike Polypoetes
     Harnessed their steeds, and led them to the cars
     All panting for the joy of victory.
     Then rode they in a glittering chariot rank
570  Out to one place, to a stretch of sand, and stood
     Ranged at the starting-line.  The reins they grasped
     In strong hands quickly, while the chariot-steeds
     Shoulder to shoulder fretted, all afire
     To take the lead at starting, pawed the sand,
     Pricked ears, and o'er their frontlets flung the foam.
     With sudden-stiffened sinews those ear-lords
     Lashed with their whips the tempest-looted steeds;
     Then swift as Harpies sprang they forth; they strained
580  Furiously at the harness, onward whirling
     The chariots bounding ever from the earth.
     Thou couldst not see a wheel-track, no, nor print
     Of hoof upon the sand -- they verily flew.
     Up from the plain the dust-clouds to the sky
     Soared, like the smoke of burning, or a mist
     Rolled round the mountain-forelands by the might
     Of the dark South-wind or the West, when wakes
     A tempest, when the hill-sides stream with rain.
     Burst to the front Eumelus' steeds: behind
590  Close pressed the team of godlike Thoas: shouts
     Still answered shouts that cheered each chariot, while
     Onward they swept across the wide-wayed plain.


     "From hallowed Elis, when he had achieved
     A mighty triumph, in that he outstripped
     The swift ear of Oenomaus evil-souled,
     The ruthless slayer of youths who sought to wed
     His daughter Hippodameia passing-wise.
     Yet even he, for all his chariot-lore,
     Had no such fleetfoot steeds as Atreus' son --
600  Far slower! -- the wind is in the feet of these."

     So spake he, giving glory to the might
     Of those good steeds, and to Atreides' self;
     And filled with joy was Menelaus' soul.
     Straightway his henchmen from the yoke-band loosed
     The panting team, and all those chariot-lords,
     Who in the race had striven, now unyoked
     Their tempest-footed steeds.  Podaleirius then
     Hasted to spread salves over all the wounds
     Of Thoas and Eurypylus, gashes scored
610  Upon their frames when from the cars they fell
     But Menelaus with exceeding joy
     Of victory glowed, when Thetis 1ovely-tressed
     Gave him a golden cup, the chief possession
     Once of Eetion the godlike; ere
     Achilles spoiled the far-famed burg of Thebes.

     Then horsemen riding upon horses came
     Down to the course: they grasped in hand the whip
     And bounding from the earth bestrode their steeds,
     The while with foaming mouths the coursers champed
620  The bits, and pawed the ground, and fretted aye
     To dash into the course.  Forth from the line
     Swiftly they darted, eager for the strife,
     Wild as the blasts of roaring Boreas
     Or shouting Notus, when with hurricane-swoop
     He heaves the wide sea high, when in the east
     Uprises the disastrous Altar-star
     Bringing calamity to seafarers;
     So swift they rushed, spurning with flying feet
     The deep dust on the plain.  The riders cried
630  Each to his steed, and ever plied the lash
     And shook the reins about the clashing bits.
     On strained the horses: from the people rose
     A shouting like the roaring of a sea.
     On, on across the level plain they flew;
     And now the flashing-footed Argive steed
     By Sthenelus bestridden, had won the race,
     But from the course he swerved, and o'er the plain
     Once and again rushed wide; nor Capaneus' son,
     Good horseman though he were, could turn him back
640  By rein or whip, because that steed was strange
     Still to the race-course; yet of lineage
     Noble was he, for in his veins the blood
     Of swift Arion ran, the foal begotten
     By the loud-piping West-wind on a Harpy,
     The fleetest of all earth-born steeds, whose feet
     Could race against his father's swiftest blasts.
     Him did the Blessed to Adrastus give:
     And from him sprang the steed of Sthenelus,
     Which Tydeus' son had given unto his friend
650  In hallowed Troyland.  Filled with confidence
     In those swift feet his rider led him forth
     Unto the contest of the steeds that day,
     Looking his horsemanship should surely win
     Renown: yet victory gladdened not his heart
     In that great struggle for Achilles' prizes;
     Nay, swift albeit he was, the King of Men
     By skill outraced him.  Shouted all the folk,
     "Glory to Agamemnon!"  Yet they acclaimed
     The steed of valiant Sthenelus and his lord,
660  For that the fiery flying of his feet
     Still won him second place, albeit oft
     Wide of the course he swerved.  Then Thetis gave
     To Atreus' son, while laughed his lips for joy,
     God-sprung Polydorus' breastplate silver-wrought.
     To Sthenelus Asteropaeus' massy helm,
     Two lances, and a taslet strong, she gave.
     Yea, and to all the riders who that day
     Came at Achilles' funeral-feast to strive
     She gave gifts.  But the son of the old war-lord,
670  Laertes, inly grieved to be withheld
     From contests of the strong, how fain soe'er,
     By that sore wound which Alcon dealt to him
     In the grim fight around dead Aeacas' son.

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