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Medieval and Classical Library

The Fall of Troy

How the Son of Achilles was brought to the War from the Isle of Scyros.

Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #18b

     When heaven hid his stars, and Dawn awoke
     Outspraying splendour, and night's darkness fled,
     Then undismayed the Argives' warrior-sons
     Marched forth without the ships to meet in fight
     Eurypylus, save those that tarried still
     To render to Machaon midst the ships
     Death-dues, with Nireus -- Nireus, who in grace
     And goodlihead was like the Deathless Ones,
     Yet was not strong in bodily might: the Gods
10   Grant not perfection in all things to men;
     But evil still is blended with the good
     By some strange fate: to Nireus' winsome grace
     Was linked a weakling's prowess.  Yet the Greeks
     Slighted him not, but gave him all death-dues,
     And mourned above his grave with no less grief
     Than for Machaon, whom they honoured aye,
     For his deep wisdom, as the immortal Gods.
     One mound they swiftly heaped above these twain.

     Then in the plain once more did murderous war
20   Madden: the multitudinous clash and cry
     Rose, as the shields were shattered with huge stones,
     Were pierced with lances.  So they toiled in fight;
     But all this while lay Podaleirius
     Fasting in dust and groaning, leaving not
     His brother's tomb; and oft his heart was moved
     With his own hands to slay himself.  And now
     He clutched his sword, and now amidst his herbs
     Sought for a deadly drug; and still his friends
     Essayed to stay his hand and comfort him
30   With many pleadings.  But he would not cease
     From grieving: yea, his hands had spilt his life
     There on his noble brother's new-made tomb,
     But Nestor heard thereof, and sorrowed sore
     In his affliction, and he came on him
     As now he flung him on that woeful grave,
     And now was casting dust upon his head,
     Beating his breast, and on his brother's name
     Crying, while thralls and comrades round their lord
     Groaned, and affliction held them one and all.
40   Then gently spake he to that stricken one:
     "Refrain from bitter moan and deadly grief,
     My son.  It is not for a wise man's honour
     To wail, as doth a woman, o'er the fallen.
     Thou shalt not bring him up to light again
     Whose soul hath fleeted vanishing into air,
     Whose body fire hath ravined up, whose bones
     Earth has received.  His end was worthy his life.
     Endure thy sore grief, even as I endured,
     Who lost a son, slain by the hands of foes,
50   A son not worse than thy Machaon, good
     With spears in battle, good in counsel.  None
     Of all the youths so loved his sire as he
     Loved me.  He died for me yea, died to save
     His father.  Yet, when he was slain, did I
     Endure to taste food, and to see the light,
     Well knowing that all men must tread one path
     Hades-ward, and before all lies one goal,
     Death's mournful goal.  A mortal man must bear
     All joys, all griefs, that God vouchsafes to send."

60   Made answer that heart-stricken one, while still
     Wet were his cheeks with ever-flowing tears:
     "Father, mine heart is bowed 'neath crushing grief
     For a brother passing wise, who fostered me
     Even as a son.  When to the heavens had passed
     Our father, in his arms he cradled me:
     Gladly he taught me all his healing lore;
     We shared one table; in one bed we lay:
     We had all things in common these, and love.
     My grief cannot forget, nor I desire,
70   Now he is dead, to see the light of life."

     Then spake the old man to that stricken one:
     "To all men Fate assigns one same sad lot,
     Bereavement: earth shall cover all alike,
     Albeit we tread not the same path of life,
     And none the path he chooseth; for on high
     Good things and bad lie on the knees of
     Gods Unnumbered, indistinguishably blent.
     These no Immortal seeth; they are veiled
     In mystic cloud-folds.  Only Fate puts forth
80   Her hands thereto, nor looks at what she takes,
     But casts them from Olympus down to earth.
     This way and that they are wafted, as it were
     By gusts of wind.  The good man oft is whelmed
     In suffering: wealth undeserved is heaped
     On the vile person.  Blind is each man's life;
     Therefore he never walketh surely; oft
     He stumbleth: ever devious is his path,
     Now sloping down to sorrow, mounting now
     To bliss.  All-happy is no living man
90   From the beginning to the end, but still
     The good and evil clash.  Our life is short;
     Beseems not then in grief to live.  Hope on,
     Still hope for better days: chain not to woe
     Thine heart.  There is a saying among men
     That to the heavens unperishing mount the souls
     Of good men, and to nether darkness sink
     Souls of the wicked.  Both to God and man
     Dear was thy brother, good to brother-men,
     And son of an Immortal.  Sure am I
100  That to the company of Gods shall he
     Ascend, by intercession of thy sire."

     Then raised he that reluctant mourner up
     With comfortable words.  From that dark grave
     He drew him, backward gazing oft with groans.
     To the ships they came, where Greeks and Trojan men
     Had bitter travail of rekindled war.

     Eurypylus there, in dauntless spirit like
     The War-god, with mad-raging spear and hands
     Resistless, smote down hosts of foes: the earth
110  Was clogged with dead men slain on either side.
     On strode he midst the corpses, awelessly
     He fought, with blood-bespattered hands and feet;
     Never a moment from grim strife he ceased.
     Peneleos the mighty-hearted came
     Against him in the pitiless fray: he fell
     Before Eurypylus' spear: yea, many more
     Fell round him.  Ceased not those destroying hands,
     But wrathful on the Argives still he pressed,
     As when of old on Pholoe's long-ridged heights
120  Upon the Centaurs terrible Hercules rushed
     Storming in might, and slew them, passing-swift
     And strong and battle-cunning though they were;
     So rushed he on, so smote he down the array,
     One after other, of the Danaan spears.
     Heaps upon heaps, here, there, in throngs they fell
     Strewn in the dust.  As when a river in flood
     Comes thundering down, banks crumble on either side
     To drifting sand: on seaward rolls the surge
     Tossing wild crests, while cliffs on every hand
130  Ring crashing echoes, as their brows break down
     Beneath long-leaping roaring waterfalls,
     And dikes are swept away; so fell in dust
     The war-famed Argives by Eurypylus slain,
     Such as he overtook in that red rout.
     Some few escaped, whom strength of fleeing feet
     Delivered.  Yet in that sore strait they drew
     Peneleos from the shrieking tumult forth,
     And bare to the ships, though with swift feet themselves
     Were fleeing from ghastly death, from pitiless doom.
140  Behind the rampart of the ships they fled
     In huddled rout: they had no heart to stand
     Before Eurypylus, for Hercules,
     To crown with glory his son's stalwart son,
     Thrilled them with panic.  There behind their wall
     They cowered, as goats to leeward of a hill
     Shrink from the wild cold rushing of the wind
     That bringeth snow and heavy sleet and haft.
     No longing for the pasture tempteth them
     Over the brow to step, and face the blast,
150  But huddling screened by rock-wall and ravine
     They abide the storm, and crop the scanty grass
     Under dim copses thronging, till the gusts
     Of that ill wind shall lull: so, by their towers
     Screened, did the trembling Danaans abide
     Telephus' mighty son.  Yea, he had burnt
     The ships, and all that host had he destroyed,
     Had not Athena at the last inspired
     The Argive men with courage.  Ceaselessly
     From the high rampart hurled they at the foe
160  With bitter-biting darts, and slew them fast;
     And all the walls were splashed with reeking gore,
     And aye went up a moan of smitten men.

     So fought they: nightlong, daylong fought they on,
     Ceteians, Trojans, battle-biding Greeks,
     Fought, now before the ships, and now again
     Round the steep wall, with fury unutterable.
     Yet even so for two days did they cease
     From murderous fight; for to Eurypylus came
     A Danaan embassage, saying, "From the war
170  Forbear we, while we give unto the flames
     The battle-slain."  So hearkened he to them:
     From ruin-wreaking strife forebore the hosts;
     And so their dead they buried, who in dust
     Had fallen.  Chiefly the Achaeans mourned
     Peneleos; o'er the mighty dead they heaped
     A barrow broad and high, a sign for men
     Of days to be.  But in a several place
     The multitude of heroes slain they laid,
     Mourning with stricken hearts.  On one great pyre
180  They burnt them all, and buried in one grave.
     So likewise far from thence the sons of Troy
     Buried their slain.  Yet murderous Strife slept not,
     But roused again Eurypylus' dauntless might
     To meet the foe.  He turned not from the ships,
     But there abode, and fanned the fury of war.

     Meanwhile the black ship on to Scyros ran;
     And those twain found before his palace-gate
     Achilles' son, now hurling dart and lance,
     Now in his chariot driving fleetfoot steeds.
190  Glad were they to behold him practising
     The deeds of war, albeit his heart was sad
     For his slain sire, of whom had tidings come
     Ere this.  With reverent eyes of awe they went
     To meet him, for that goodly form and face
     Seemed even as very Achilles unto them.
     But he, or ever they had spoken, cried:
     "All hail, ye strangers, unto this mine home
     Say whence ye are, and who, and what the need
     That hither brings you over barren seas."

200  So spake he, and Odysseus answered him:
     "Friends are we of Achilles lord of war,
     To whom of Deidameia thou wast born --
     Yea, when we look on thee we seem to see
     That Hero's self; and like the Immortal Ones
     Was he.  Of Ithaca am I: this man
     Of Argos, nurse of horses -- if perchance
     Thou hast heard the name of Tydeus' warrior son
     Or of the wise Odysseus.  Lo, I stand
     Before thee, sent by voice of prophecy.
210  I pray thee, pity us: come thou to Troy
     And help us.  Only so unto the war
     An end shall be.  Gifts beyond words to thee
     The Achaean kings shall give: yea, I myself
     Will give to thee thy godlike father's arms,
     And great shall be thy joy in bearing them;
     For these be like no mortal's battle-gear,
     But splendid as the very War-god's arms.
     Over their marvellous blazonry hath gold
     Been lavished; yea, in heaven Hephaestus' self
220  Rejoiced in fashioning that work divine,
     The which thine eyes shall marvel to behold;
     For earth and heaven and sea upon the shield
     Are wrought, and in its wondrous compass are
     Creatures that seem to live and move -- a wonder
     Even to the Immortals.  Never man
     Hath seen their like, nor any man hath worn,
     Save thy sire only, whom the Achaeans all
     Honoured as Zeus himself.  I chiefliest
     From mine heart loved him, and when he was slain,
230  To many a foe I dealt a ruthless doom,
     And through them all bare back to the ships his corse.
     Therefore his glorious arms did Thetis give
     To me.  These, though I prize them well, to thee
     Will I give gladly when thou com'st to Troy.
     Yea also, when we have smitten Priam's towns
     And unto Hellas in our ships return,
     Shall Menelaus give thee, an thou wilt,
     His princess-child to wife, of love for thee,
     And with his bright-haired daughter shall bestow
240  Rich dower of gold and treasure, even all
     That meet is to attend a wealthy king."

     So spake he, and replied Achilles' son:
     "If bidden of oracles the Achaean men
     Summon me, let us with to-morrow's dawn
     Fare forth upon the broad depths of the sea,
     If so to longing Danaans I may prove
     A light of help.  Now pass we to mine halls,
     And to such guest-fare as befits to set
     Before the stranger.  For my marriage-day --
250  To this the Gods in time to come shall see."

     Then hall-ward led he them, and with glad hearts
     They followed.  To the forecourt when they came
     Of that great mansion, found they there the Queen
     Deidameia in her sorrow of soul
     Grief-wasted, as when snow from mountain-sides
     Before the sun and east-wind wastes away;
     So pined she for that princely hero slain.
     Then came to her amidst her grief the kings,
     And greeted her in courteous wise.  Her son
260  Drew near and told their lineage and their names;
     But that for which they came he left untold
     Until the morrow, lest unto her woe
     There should be added grief and floods of tears,
     And lest her prayers should hold him from the path
     Whereon his heart was set.  Straight feasted these,
     And comforted their hearts with sleep, even all
     Which dwelt in sea-ringed Scyros, nightlong lulled
     By long low thunder of the girdling deep,
     Of waves Aegean breaking on her shores.
270  But not on Deidameia fell the hands
     Of kindly sleep.  She bore in mind the names
     Of crafty Odysseus and of Diomede
     The godlike, how these twain had widowed her
     Of battle-fain Achilles, how their words
     Had won his aweless heart to fare with them
     To meet the war-cry where stern Fate met him,
     Shattered his hope of home-return, and laid
     Measureless grief on Peleus and on her.
     Therefore an awful dread oppressed her soul
280  Lest her son too to tumult of the war
     Should speed, and grief be added to her grief.

     Dawn climbed the wide-arched heaven, straightway they
     Rose from their beds.  Then Deidameia knew;
     And on her son's broad breast she cast herself,
     And bitterly wailed: her cry thrilled through the air,
     As when a cow loud-lowing mid the hills
     Seeks through the glens her calf, and all around
     Echo long ridges of the mountain-steep;
     So on all sides from dim recesses rang
290  The hall; and in her misery she cried:
     "Child, wherefore is thy soul now on the wing
     To follow strangers unto Ilium
     The fount of tears, where perish many in fight,
     Yea, cunning men in war and battle grim?
     And thou art but a youth, and hast not learnt
     The ways of war, which save men in the day
     Of peril.  Hearken thou to me, abide
     Here in thine home, lest evil tidings come
     From Troy unto my ears, that thou in fight
300  Hast perished; for mine heart saith, never thou
     Hitherward shalt from battle-toil return.
     Not even thy sire escaped the doom of death --
     He, mightier than thou, mightier than all
     Heroes on earth, yea, and a Goddess' son --
     But was in battle slain, all through the wiles
     And crafty counsels of these very men
     Who now to woeful war be kindling thee.
     Therefore mine heart is full of shuddering fear
     Lest, son, my lot should be to live bereaved
310  Of thee, and to endure dishonour and pain,
     For never heavier blow on woman falls
     Than when her lord hath perished, and her sons
     Die also, and her house is left to her
     Desolate.  Straightway evil men remove
     Her landmarks, yea, and rob her of her all,
     Setting the right at naught.  There is no lot
     More woeful and more helpless than is hers
     Who is left a widow in a desolate home."

     Loud-wailing spake she; but her son replied:
320  "Be of good cheer, my mother; put from thee
     Evil foreboding.  No man is in war
     Beyond his destiny slain.  If my weird be
     To die in my country's cause, then let me die
     When I have done deeds worthy of my sire."

     Then to his side old Lycomedes came,
     And to his battle-eager grandson spake:
     "O valiant-hearted son, so like thy sire,
     I know thee strong and valorous; yet, O yet
     For thee I fear the bitter war; I fear
330  The terrible sea-surge.  Shipmen evermore
     Hang on destruction's brink.  Beware, my child,
     Perils of waters when thou sailest back
     From Troy or other shores, such as beset
     Full oftentimes the voyagers that ride
     The long sea-ridges, when the sun hath left
     The Archer-star, and meets the misty Goat,
     When the wild blasts drive on the lowering storm,
     Or when Orion to the darkling west
     Slopes, into Ocean's river sinking slow.
340  Beware the time of equal days and nights,
     When blasts that o'er the sea's abysses rush,
     None knoweth whence in fury of battle clash.
     Beware the Pleiads' setting, when the sea
     Maddens beneath their power nor these alone,
     But other stars, terrors of hapless men,
     As o'er the wide sea-gulf they set or rise."

     Then kissed he him, nor sought to stay the feet
     Of him who panted for the clamour of war,
     Who smiled for pleasure and for eagerness
350  To haste to the ship.  Yet were his hurrying feet
     Stayed by his mother's pleading and her tears
     Still in those halls awhile.  As some swift horse
     Is reined in by his rider, when he strains
     Unto the race-course, and he neighs, and champs
     The curbing bit, dashing his chest with foam,
     And his feet eager for the course are still
     Never, his restless hooves are clattering aye;
     His mane is a stormy cloud, he tosses high
     His head with snortings, and his lord is glad;
360  So reined his mother back the glorious son
     Of battle-stay Achilles, so his feet
     Were restless, so the mother's loving pride
     Joyed in her son, despite her heart-sick pain.

     A thousand times he kissed her, then at last
     Left her alone with her own grief and moan
     There in her father's halls.  As o'er her nest
     A swallow in her anguish cries aloud
     For her lost nestlings which, mid piteous shrieks,
     A fearful serpent hath devoured, and wrung
370  The loving mother's heart; and now above
     That empty cradle spreads her wings, and now
     Flies round its porchway fashioned cunningly
     Lamenting piteously her little ones:
     So for her child Deidameia mourned.
     Now on her son's bed did she cast herself,
     Crying aloud, against his door-post now
     She leaned, and wept: now laid she in her lap
     Those childhood's toys yet treasured in her bower,
     Wherein his babe-heart joyed long years agone.
380  She saw a dart there left behind of him,
     And kissed it o'er and o'er yea, whatso else
     Her weeping eyes beheld that was her son's.

     Naught heard he of her moans unutterable,
     But was afar, fast striding to the ship.
     He seemed, as his feet swiftly bare him on,
     Like some all-radiant star; and at his side
     With Tydeus' son war-wise Odysseus went,
     And with them twenty gallant-hearted men,
     Whom Deidameia chose as trustiest
390  Of all her household, and unto her son
     Gave them for henchmen swift to do his will.
     And these attended Achilles' valiant son,
     As through the city to the ship he sped.
     On, with glad laughter, in their midst he strode;
     And Thetis and the Nereids joyed thereat.
     Yea, glad was even the Raven-haired, the Lord
     Of all the sea, beholding that brave son
     Of princely Achilles, marking how he longed
     For battle.  Beardless boy albeit he was,
400  His prowess and his might were inward spurs
     To him.  He hasted forth his fatherland
     Like to the War-god, when to gory strife
     He speedeth, wroth with foes, when maddeneth
     His heart, and grim his frown is, and his eyes
     Flash levin-flame around him, and his face
     Is clothed with glory of beauty terror-blent,
     As on he rusheth: quail the very Gods.
     So seemed Achilles' goodly son; and prayers
     Went up through all the city unto Heaven
410  To bring their noble prince safe back from war;
     And the Gods hearkened to them.  High he towered
     Above all stateliest men which followed him.

     So came they to the heavy-plunging sea,
     And found the rowers in the smooth-wrought ship
     Handling the tackle, fixing mast and sail.
     Straightway they went aboard: the shipmen cast
     The hawsers loose, and heaved the anchor-stones,
     The strength and stay of ships in time of need.
     Then did the Sea-queen's lord grant voyage fair
420  To these with gracious mind; for his heart yearned
     O'er the Achaeans, by the Trojan men
     And mighty-souled Eurypylus hard-bestead.
     On either side of Neoptolemus sat
     Those heroes, gladdening his soul with tales
     Of his sire's mighty deeds -- of all he wrought
     In sea-raids, and in valiant Telephus' land,
     And how he smote round Priam's burg the men
     Of Troy, for glory unto Atreus' sons.
     His heart glowed, fain to grasp his heritage,
430  His aweless father's honour and renown.

     In her bower, sorrowing for her son the while,
     Deidameia poured forth sighs and tears.
     With agony of soul her very heart
     Melted in her, as over coals doth lead
     Or wax, and never did her moaning cease,
     As o'er the wide sea her gaze followed him.
     Ay, for her son a mother fretteth still,
     Though it be to a feast that he hath gone,
     By a friend bidden forth.  But soon the sail
440  Of that good ship far-fleeting o'er the blue
     Grew faint and fainter -- melted in sea-haze.
     But still she sighed, still daylong made her moan.

     On ran the ship before a following wind,
     Seeming to skim the myriad-surging sea,
     And crashed the dark wave either side the prow:
     Swiftly across the abyss unplumbed she sped.
     Night's darkness fell about her, but the breeze
     Held, and the steersman's hand was sure.  O'er gulfs
     Of brine she flew, till Dawn divine rose up
450  To climb the sky.  Then sighted they the peaks
     Of Ida, Chrysa next, and Smintheus' fane,
     Then the Sigean strand, and then the tomb
     Of Aeacus' son.  Yet would Laertes' seed,
     The man discreet of soul, not point it out
     To Neoptolemus, lest the tide of grief
     Too high should swell within his breast.  They passed
     Calydnae's isles, left Tenedos behind;
     And now was seen the fane of Eleus,
     Where stands Protesilaus' tomb, beneath
460  The shade of towcry elms; when, soaring high
     Above the plain, their topmost boughs discern
     Troy, straightway wither all their highest sprays.
     Nigh Ilium now the ship by wind and oar
     Was brought: they saw the long strand fringed with keels
     Of Argives, who endured sore travail of war
     Even then about the wall, the which themselves
     Had reared to screen the ships and men in stress
     Of battle.  Even now Eurypylus' hands
     To earth were like to dash it and destroy;
470  But the quick eyes of Tydeus' strong son marked
     How rained the darts and stones on that long wall.
     Forth of the ship he sprang, and shouted loud
     With all the strength of his undaunted breast:
     "Friends, on the Argive men is heaped this day
     Sore travail!  Let us don our flashing arms
     With speed, and to yon battle-turmoil haste.
     For now upon our towers the warrior sons
     Of Troy press hard -- yea, haply will they tear
     The long walls down, and burn the ships with fire,
480  And so the souls that long for home-return
     Shall win it never; nay, ourselves shall fall
     Before our due time, and shall lie in graves
     In Troyland, far from children and from wives."

     All as one man down from the ship they leapt;
     For trembling seized on all for that grim sight --
     On all save aweless Neoptolemus
     Whose might was like his father's: lust of war
     Swept o'er him.  To Odysseus' tent in haste
     They sped, for close it lay to where the ship
490  Touched land.  About its walls was hung great store
     Of change of armour, of wise Odysseus some,
     And rescued some from gallant comrades slain.
     Then did the brave man put on goodly arms;
     But they in whose breasts faintlier beat their hearts
     Must don the worser.  Odysseus stood arrayed
     In those which came with him from Ithaca:
     To Diomede he gave fair battle-gear
     Stripped in time past from mighty Socus slain.
     But in his father's arms Achilles' son
500  Clad him and lo, he seemed Achilles' self!
     Light on his limbs and lapping close they lay --
     So cunning was Hephaestus' workmanship --
     Which for another had been a giant's arms.
     The massive helmet cumbered not his brows;
     Yea, the great Pelian spear-shaft burdened not
     His hand, but lightly swung he up on high
     The heavy and tall lance thirsting still for blood.

     Of many Argives which beheld him then
     Might none draw nigh to him, how fain soe'er,
510  So fast were they in that grim grapple locked
     Of the wild war that raged all down the wall.
     But as when shipmen, under a desolate isle
     Mid the wide sea by stress of weather bound,
     Chafe, while afar from men the adverse blasts
     Prison them many a day; they pace the deck
     With sinking hearts, while scantier grows their store
     Of food; they weary till a fair wind sings;
     So joyed the Achaean host, which theretofore
     Were heavy of heart, when Neoptolemus came,
520  Joyed in the hope of breathing-space from toil.
     Then like the aweless lion's flashed his eyes,
     Which mid the mountains leaps in furious mood
     To meet the hunters that draw nigh his cave,
     Thinking to steal his cubs, there left alone
     In a dark-shadowed glen but from a height
     The beast hath spied, and on the spoilers leaps
     With grim jaws terribly roaring; even so
     That glorious child of Aeacus' aweless son
     Against the Trojan warriors burned in wrath.
530  Thither his eagle-swoop descended first
     Where loudest from the plain uproared the fight,
     There weakest, he divined, must be the wall,
     The battlements lowest, since the surge of foes
     Brake heaviest there.  Charged at his side the rest
     Breathing the battle-spirit.  There they found
     Eurypylus mighty of heart and all his men
     Scaling a tower, exultant in the hope
     Of tearing down the walls, of slaughtering
     The Argives in one holocaust.  No mind
540  The Gods had to accomplish their desire!
     But now Odysseus, Diomede the strong,
     Leonteus, and Neoptolemus, as a God
     In strength and beauty, hailed their javelins down,
     And thrust them from the wall.  As dogs and shepherds
     By shouting and hard fighting drive away
     Strong lions from a steading, rushing forth
     From all sides, and the brutes with glaring eyes
     Pace to and fro; with savage lust for blood
     Of calves and kine their jaws are slavering;
550  Yet must their onrush give back from the hounds
     And fearless onset of the shepherd folk;
     [So from these new defenders shrank the foe]
     A little, far as one may hurl a stone
     Exceeding great; for still Eurypylus
     Suffered them not to flee far from the ships,
     But cheered them on to bide the brunt, until
     The ships be won, and all the Argives slain;
     For Zeus with measureless might thrilled all his frame.
     Then seized he a rugged stone and huge, and leapt
560  And hurled it full against the high-built wall.
     It crashed, and terribly boomed that rampart steep
     To its foundations.  Terror gripped the Greeks,
     As though that wall had crumbled down in dust;
     Yet from the deadly conflict flinched they not,
     But stood fast, like to jackals or to wolves
     Bold robbers of the sheep -- when mid the hills
     Hunter and hound would drive them forth their caves,
     Being grimly purposed there to slay their whelps.
     Yet these, albeit tormented by the darts,
570  Flee not, but for their cubs' sake bide and fight;
     So for the ships' sake they abode and fought,
     And for their own lives.  But Eurypylus
     Afront of all the ships stood, taunting them:
     "Coward and dastard souls!  no darts of yours
     Had given me pause, nor thrust back from your ships,
     Had not your rampart stayed mine onset-rush.
     Ye are like to dogs, that in a forest flinch
     Before a lion!  Skulking therewithin
     Ye are fighting -- nay, are shrinking back from death!
580  But if ye dare come forth on Trojan ground,
     As once when ye were eager for the fray,
     None shall from ghastly death deliver you:
     Slain by mine hand ye all shall lie in dust!"

     So did he shout a prophecy unfulfilled,
     Nor heard Doom's chariot-wheels fast rolling near
     Bearing swift death at Neoptolemus' hands,
     Nor saw death gleaming from his glittering spear.
     Ay, and that hero paused not now from fight,
     But from the ramparts smote the Trojans aye.
590  From that death leaping from above they quailed
     In tumult round Eurypylus: deadly fear
     Gripped all their hearts.  As little children cower
     About a father's knees when thunder of Zeus
     Crashes from cloud to cloud, when all the air
     Shudders and groans, so did the sons of Troy,
     With those Ceteians round their great king, cower
     Ever as prince Neoptolemus hurled; for death
     Rode upon all he cast, and bare his wrath
     Straight rushing down upon the heads of foes.
600  Now in their hearts those wildered Trojans said
     That once more they beheld Achilles' self
     Gigantic in his armour.  Yet they hid
     That horror in their breasts, lest panic fear
     Should pass from them to the Ceteian host
     And king Eurypylus; so on every side
     They wavered 'twixt the stress of their hard strait
     And that blood-curdling dread, 'twixt shame and fear.
     As when men treading a precipitous path
     Look up, and see adown the mountain-slope
610  A torrent rushing on them, thundering down
     The rocks, and dare not meet its clamorous flood,
     But hurry shuddering on, with death in sight
     Holding as naught the perils of the path;
     So stayed the Trojans, spite of their desire
     [To flee the imminent death that waited them]
     Beneath the wall.  Godlike Eurypylus
     Aye cheered them on to fight.  He trusted still
     That this new mighty foe would weary at last
     With toil of slaughter; but he wearied not.

620  That desperate battle-travail Pallas saw,
     And left the halls of Heaven incense-sweet,
     And flew o'er mountain-crests: her hurrying feet
     Touched not the earth, borne by the air divine
     In form of cloud-wreaths, swifter than the wind.
     She came to Troy, she stayed her feet upon
     Sigeum's windy ness, she looked forth thence
     Over the ringing battle of dauntless men,
     And gave the Achaeans glory.  Achilles' son
     Beyond the rest was filled with valour and strength
630  Which win renown for men in whom they meet.
     Peerless was he in both: the blood of Zeus
     Gave strength; to his father's valour was he heir;
     So by those towers he smote down many a foe.
     And as a fisher on the darkling sea,
     To lure the fish to their destruction, takes
     Within his boat the strength of fire; his breath
     Kindles it to a flame, till round the boat
     Glareth its splendour, and from the black sea
     Dart up the fish all eager to behold
640  The radiance -- for the last time; for the barbs
     Of his three-pointed spear, as up they leap,
     Slay them; his heart rejoices o'er the prey.
     So that war-king Achilles' glorious son
     Slew hosts of onward-rushing foes around
     That wall of stone.  Well fought the Achaeans all,
     Here, there, adown the ramparts: rang again
     The wide strand and the ships: the battered walls
     Groaned ever.  Men with weary ache of toil
     Fainted on either side; sinews and might
650  Of strong men were unstrung.  But o'er the son
     Of battle-stay Achilles weariness
     Crept not: his battle-eager spirit aye
     Was tireless; never touched by palsying fear
     He fought on, as with the triumphant strength
     Of an ever-flowing river: though it roll
     'Twixt blazing forests, though the madding blast
     Roll stormy seas of flame, it feareth not,
     For at its brink faint grows the fervent heat,
     The strong flood turns its might to impotence;
660  So weariness nor fear could bow the knees
     Of Hero Achilles' gallant-hearted son,
     Still as he fought, still cheered his comrades on.
     Of myriad shafts sped at him none might touch
     His flesh, but even as snowflakes on a rock
     Fell vainly ever: wholly screened was he
     By broad shield and strong helmet, gifts of a God.
     In these exulting did the Aeacid's son
     Stride all along the wall, with ringing shouts
     Cheering the dauntless Argives to the fray,
670  Being their mightiest far, bearing a soul
     Insatiate of the awful onset-cry,
     Burning with one strong purpose, to avenge
     His father's death: the Myrmidons in their king
     Exulted.  Roared the battle round the wall.

     Two sons he slew of Meges rich in gold,
     Scion of Dymas -- sons of high renown,
     Cunning to hurl the dart, to drive the steed
     In war, and deftly cast the lance afar,
     Born at one birth beside Sangarius' banks
680  Of Periboea to him, Celtus one,
     And Eubius the other.  But not long
     His boundless wealth enjoyed they, for the
     Fates Span them a thread of life exceeding brief.
     As on one day they saw the light, they died
     On one day by the same hand.  To the heart
     Of one Neoptolemus sped a javelin; one
     He smote down with a massy stone that crashed
     Through his strong helmet, shattered all its ridge,
     And dashed his brains to earth.  Around them fell
690  Foes many, a host untold.  The War-god's work
     Waxed ever mightier till the eventide,
     Till failed the light celestial; then the host
     Of brave Eurypylus from the ships drew back
     A little: they that held those leaguered towers
     Had a short breathing-space; the sons of Troy
     Had respite from the deadly-echoing strife,
     From that hard rampart-battle.  Verily all
     The Argives had beside their ships been slain,
     Had not Achilles' strong son on that day
700  Withstood the host of foes and their great chief
     Eurypylus.  Came to that young hero's side
     Phoenix the old, and marvelling gazed on one
     The image of Peleides.  Tides of joy
     And grief swept o'er him --  grief, for memories
     Of that swift-footed father -- joy, for sight
     Of such a son.  He for sheer gladness wept;
     For never without tears the tribes of men
     Live -- nay, not mid the transports of delight.
     He clasped him round as father claspeth son
710  Whom, after long and troublous wanderings,
     The Gods bring home to gladden a father's heart.
     So kissed he Neoptolemus' head and breast,
     Clasping him round, and cried in rapture of joy:
     "Hail, goodly son of that Achilles whom
     I nursed a little one in mine own arms
     With a glad heart.  By Heaven's high providence
     Like a strong sapling waxed he in stature fast,
     And daily I rejoiced to see his form
     And prowess, my life's blessing, honouring him
720  As though he were the son of mine old age;
     For like a father did he honour me.
     I was indeed his father, he my son
     In spirit: thou hadst deemed us of one blood
     Who were in heart one: but of nobler mould
     Was he by far, in form and strength a God.
     Thou art wholly like him -- yea, I seem to see
     Alive amid the Argives him for whom
     Sharp anguish shrouds me ever.  I waste away
     In sorrowful age -- oh that the grave had closed
730  On me while yet he lived!  How blest to be
     By loving hands of kinsmen laid to rest!
     Ah child, my sorrowing heart will nevermore
     Forget him!  Chide me not for this my grief.
     But now, help thou the Myrmidons and Greeks
     In their sore strait: wreak on the foe thy wrath
     For thy brave sire.  It shall be thy renown
     To slay this war-insatiate Telephus' son;
     For mightier art thou, and shalt prove, than he,
     As was thy father than his wretched sire."

740  Made answer golden-haired Achilles' son:
     "Ancient, our battle-prowess mighty Fate
     And the o'ermastering War-god shall decide."

     But, as he spake, he had fain on that same day
     Forth of the gates have rushed in his sire's arms;
     But night, which bringeth men release from toil,
     Rose from the ocean veiled in sable pall.

     With honour as of mighty Achilles' self
     Him mid the ships the glad Greeks hailed, who had won
     Courage from that his eager rush to war.
750  With princely presents did they honour him,
     With priceless gifts, whereby is wealth increased;
     For some gave gold and silver, handmaids some,
     Brass without weight gave these, and iron those;
     Others in deep jars brought the ruddy wine:
     Yea, fleetfoot steeds they gave, and battle-gear,
     And raiment woven fair by women's hands.
     Glowed Neoptolemus' heart for joy of these.
     A feast they made for him amidst the tents,
     And there extolled Achilles' godlike son
760  With praise as of the immortal Heavenly Ones;
     And joyful-voiced Agamemnon spake to him:
     "Thou verily art the brave-souled Aeacid's son,
     His very image thou in stalwart might,
     In beauty, stature, courage, and in soul.
     Mine heart burns in me seeing thee.  I trust
     Thine hands and spear shall smite yon hosts of foes,
     Shall smite the city of Priam world-renowned --
     So like thy sire thou art!  Methinks I see
     Himself beside the ships, as when his shout
770  Of wrath for dead Patroclus shook the ranks
     Of Troy.  But he is with the Immortal Ones,
     Yet, bending from that heaven, sends thee to-day
     To save the Argives on destruction's brink."

     Answered Achilles' battle-eager son:
     "Would I might meet him living yet, O King,
     That so himself might see the son of his love
     Not shaming his great father's name. I trust
     So shall it be, if the Gods grant me life."

     So spake he in wisdom and in modesty;
780  And all there marvelled at the godlike man.
     But when with meat and wine their hearts were filled,
     Then rose Achilles' battle-eager son,
     And from the feast passed forth unto the tent
     That was his sire's.  Much armour of heroes slain
     Lay there; and here and there were captive maids
     Arraying that tent widowed of its lord,
     As though its king lived.  When that son beheld
     Those Trojan arms and handmaid-thralls, he groaned,
     By passionate longing for his father seized.
790  As when through dense oak-groves and tangled glens
     Comes to the shadowed cave a lion's whelp
     Whose grim sire by the hunters hath been slain,
     And looketh all around that empty den,
     And seeth heaps of bones of steeds and kine
     Slain theretofore, and grieveth for his sire;
     Even so the heart of brave Peleides' son
     With grief was numbed.  The handmaids marvelling gazed;
     And fair Briseis' self, when she beheld
     Achilles' son, was now right glad at heart,
800  And sorrowed now with memories of the dead.
     Her soul was wildered all, as though indeed
     There stood the aweless Aeacid living yet.

     Meanwhile exultant Trojans camped aloof
     Extolled Eurypylus the fierce and strong,
     As erst they had praised Hector, when he smote
     Their foes, defending Troy and all her wealth.
     But when sweet sleep stole over mortal men,
     Then sons of Troy and battle-biding Greeks
     All slumber-heavy slept unsentinelled.

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