The Fall of Troy
How Troy in the night was taken and sacked with fire and
Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #18b
So feasted they through Troy, and in their midst Loud pealed the flutes and pipes: on every hand Were song and dance, laughter and cries confused Of banqueters beside the meats and wine. They, lifting in their hands the beakers brimmed, Recklessly drank, till heavy of brain they grew, Till rolled their fluctuant eyes. Now and again Some mouth would babble the drunkard's broken words. The household gear, the very roof and walls 10 Seemed as they rocked: all things they looked on seemed Whirled in wild dance. About their eyes a veil Of mist dropped, for the drunkard's sight is dimmed, And the wit dulled, when rise the fumes to the brain: And thus a heavy-headed feaster cried: "For naught the Danaans mustered that great host Hither! Fools, they have wrought not their intent, But with hopes unaccomplished from our town Like silly boys or women have they fled." So cried a Trojan wit-befogged with wine, 20 Fool, nor discerned destruction at the doors. When sleep had locked his fetters everywhere Through Troy on folk fulfilled of wine and meat, Then Sinon lifted high a blazing torch To show the Argive men the splendour of fire. But fearfully the while his heart beat, lest The men of Troy might see it, and the plot Be suddenly revealed. But on their beds Sleeping their last sleep lay they, heavy with wine. The host saw, and from Tenedos set sail. 30 Then nigh the Horse drew Sinon: softly he called, Full softly, that no man of Troy might hear, But only Achaea's chiefs, far from whose eyes Sleep hovered, so athirst were they for fight. They heard, and to Odysseus all inclined Their ears: he bade them urgently go forth Softly and fearlessly; and they obeyed That battle-summons, pressing in hot haste To leap to earth: but in his subtlety He stayed them from all thrusting eagerly forth. 40 But first himself with swift unfaltering hands, Helped of Epeius, here and there unbarred The ribs of the Horse of beams: above the planks A little he raised his head, and gazed around On all sides, if he haply might descry One Trojan waking yet. As when a wolf, With hunger stung to the heart, comes from the hills, And ravenous for flesh draws nigh the flock Penned in the wide fold, slinking past the men And dogs that watch, all keen to ward the sheep, 50 Then o'er the fold-wall leaps with soundless feet; So stole Odysseus down from the Horse: with him Followed the war-fain lords of Hellas' League, Orderly stepping down the ladders, which Epeius framed for paths of mighty men, For entering and for passing forth the Horse, Who down them now on this side, that side, streamed As fearless wasps startled by stroke of axe In angry mood pour all together forth From the tree-bole, at sound of woodman's blow; 60 So battle-kindled forth the Horse they poured Into the midst of that strong city of Troy With hearts that leapt expectant. [With swift hands Snatched they the brands from dying hearths, and fired Temple and palace. Onward then to the gates Sped they,] and swiftly slew the slumbering guards, [Then held the gate-towers till their friends should come.] Fast rowed the host the while; on swept the ships Over the great flood: Thetis made their paths Straight, and behind them sent a driving wind 70 Speeding them, and the hearts Achaean glowed. Swiftly to Hellespont's shore they came, and there Beached they the keels again, and deftly dealt With whatso tackling appertains to ships. Then leapt they aland, and hasted on to Troy Silent as sheep that hurry to the fold From woodland pasture on an autumn eve; So without sound of voices marched they on Unto the Trojans' fortress, eager all To help those mighty chiefs with foes begirt. 80 Now these -- as famished wolves fierce-glaring round Fall on a fold mid the long forest-hills, While sleeps the toil-worn watchman, and they rend The sheep on every hand within the wall In darkness, and all round [are heaped the slain; So these within the city smote and slew, As swarmed the awakened foe around them; yet, Fast as they slew, aye faster closed on them Those thousands, mad to thrust them from the gates.] Slipping in blood and stumbling o'er the dead 90 [Their line reeled,] and destruction loomed o'er them, Though Danaan thousands near and nearer drew. But when the whole host reached the walls of Troy, Into the city of Priam, breathing rage Of fight, with reckless battle-lust they poured; And all that fortress found they full of war And slaughter, palaces, temples, horribly Blazing on all sides; glowed their hearts with joy. In deadly mood then charged they on the foe. Ares and fell Enyo maddened there: 100 Blood ran in torrents, drenched was all the earth, As Trojans and their alien helpers died. Here were men lying quelled by bitter death All up and down the city in their blood; Others on them were falling, gasping forth Their life's strength; others, clutching in their hands Their bowels that looked through hideous gashes forth, Wandered in wretched plight around their homes: Others, whose feet, while yet asleep they lay, Had been hewn off, with groans unutterable 110 Crawled mid the corpses. Some, who had rushed to fight, Lay now in dust, with hands and heads hewn off. Some were there, through whose backs, even as they fled, The spear had passed, clear through to the breast, and some Whose waists the lance had pierced, impaling them Where sharpest stings the anguish-laden steel. And all about the city dolorous howls Of dogs uprose, and miserable moans Of strong men stricken to death; and every home With awful cries was echoing. Rang the shrieks 120 Of women, like to screams of cranes, which see An eagle stooping on them from the sky, Which have no courage to resist, but scream Long terror-shrieks in dread of Zeus's bird; So here, so there the Trojan women wailed, Some starting from their sleep, some to the ground Leaping: they thought not in that agony Of robe and zone; in naught but tunics clad Distraught they wandered: others found nor veil Nor cloak to cast about them, but, as came 130 Onward their foes, they stood with beating hearts Trembling, as lettered by despair, essaying, All-hapless, with their hands alone to hide Their nakedness. And some in frenzy of woe: Their tresses tore, and beat their breasts, and screamed. Others against that stormy torrent of foes Recklessly rushed, insensible of fear, Through mad desire to aid the perishing, Husbands or children; for despair had given High courage. Shrieks had startled from their sleep 140 Soft little babes whose hearts had never known Trouble -- and there one with another lay Gasping their lives out! Some there were whose dreams Changed to a sudden vision of doom. All round The fell Fates gloated horribly o'er the slain. And even as swine be slaughtered in the court Of a rich king who makes his folk a feast, So without number were they slain. The wine Left in the mixing-bowls was blent with blood Gruesomely. No man bare a sword unstained 150 With murder of defenceless folk of Troy, Though he were but a weakling in fair fight. And as by wolves or jackals sheep are torn, What time the furnace-breath of midnoon-heat Darts down, and all the flock beneath the shade Are crowded, and the shepherd is not there, But to the homestead bears afar their milk; And the fierce brutes leap on them, tear their throats, Gorge to the full their ravenous maws, and then Lap the dark blood, and linger still to slay 160 All in mere lust of slaughter, and provide An evil banquet for that shepherd-lord; So through the city of Priam Danaans slew One after other in that last fight of all. No Trojan there was woundless, all men's limbs With blood in torrents spilt were darkly dashed. Nor seetheless were the Danaans in the fray: With beakers some were smitten, with tables some, Thrust in the eyes of some were burning brands Snatched from the hearth; some died transfixed with spits 170 Yet left within the hot flesh of the swine Whereon the red breath of the Fire-god beat; Others struck down by bills and axes keen Gasped in their blood: from some men's hands were shorn The fingers, who, in wild hope to escape The imminent death, had clutched the blades of swords. And here in that dark tumult one had hurled A stone, and crushed the crown of a friend's head. Like wild beasts trapped and stabbed within a fold On a lone steading, frenziedly they fought, 180 Mad with despair-enkindled rage, beneath That night of horror. Hot with battle-lust Here, there, the fighters rushed and hurried through The palace of Priam. Many an Argive fell Spear-slain; for whatso Trojan in his halls Might seize a sword, might lift a spear in hand, Slew foes -- ay, heavy though he were with wine. Upflashed a glare unearthly through the town, For many an Argive bare in hand a torch To know in that dim battle friends from foes. 190 Then Tydeus' son amid the war-storm met Spearman Coroebus, lordly Mygdon's son, And 'neath the left ribs pierced him with the lance Where run the life-ways of man's meat and drink; So met him black death borne upon the spear: Down in dark blood he fell mid hosts of slain. Ah fool! the bride he won not, Priam's child Cassandra, yea, his loveliest, for whose sake To Priam's burg but yesterday he came, And vaunted he would thrust the Argives back 200 From Ilium. Never did the Gods fulfil His hope: the Fates hurled doom upon his head. With him the slayer laid Eurydamas low, Antenor's gallant son-in-law, who most For prudence was pre-eminent in Troy. Then met he Ilioneus the elder of days, And flashed his terrible sword forth. All the limbs Of that grey sire were palsied with his fear: He put forth trembling hands, with one he caught The swift avenging sword, with one he clasped 210 The hero's knees. Despite his fury of war, A moment paused his wrath, or haply a God Held back the sword a space, that that old man Might speak to his fierce foe one word of prayer. Piteously cried he, terror-overwhelmed: "I kneel before thee, whosoe'er thou be Of mighty Argives. Oh compassionate My suppliant hands! Abate thy wrath! To slay The young and valiant is a glorious thing; But if thou smite an old man, small renown 220 Waits on thy prowess. Therefore turn from me Thine hands against young men, if thou dost hope Ever to come to grey hairs such as mine." So spake he; but replied strong Tydeus' son: "Old man, I look to attain to honoured age; But while my Strength yet waxeth, will not I Spare any foe, but hurl to Hades all. The brave man makes an end of every foe." Then through his throat that terrible warrior drave The deadly blade, and thrust it straight to where 230 The paths of man's life lead by swiftest way Blood-paved to doom: death palsied his poor strength By Diomedes' hands. Thence rushed he on Slaying the Trojans, storming in his might All through their fortress: pierced by his long spear Eurycoon fell, Perimnestor's son renowned. Amphimedon Aias slew: Agamemnon smote Damastor's son: Idomeneus struck down Mimas: by Meges Deiopites died. Achilles' son with his resistless lance 240 Smote godlike Pammon; then his javelin pierced Polites in mid-rush: Antiphonus Dead upon these he laid, all Priam's sons. Agenor faced him in the fight, and fell: Hero on hero slew he; everywhere Stalked at his side Death's black doom manifest: Clad in his sire's might, whomso he met he slew. Last, on Troy's king in murderous mood he came. By Zeus the Hearth-lord's altar. Seeing him, Old Priam knew him and quaked not; for he longed 250 Himself to lay his life down midst his sons; And craving death to Achilles' seed he spake: "Fierce-hearted son of Achilles strong in war, Slay me, and pity not my misery. I have no will to see the sun's light more, Who have suffered woes so many and so dread. With my sons would I die, and so forget Anguish and horror of war. Oh that thy sire Had slain me, ere mine eyes beheld aflame Illium, had slain me when I brought to him 260 Ransom for Hector, whom thy father slew. He spared me -- so the Fates had spun my thread Of destiny. But thou, glut with my blood Thy fierce heart, and let me forget my pain." Answered Achilles' battle-eager son: "Fain am I, yea, in haste to grant thy prayer. A foe like thee will I not leave alive; For naught is dearer unto men than life." With one stroke swept he off that hoary head Lightly as when a reaper lops an ear 270 In a parched cornfield at the harvest-tide. With lips yet murmuring low it rolled afar From where with quivering limbs the body lay Amidst dark-purple blood and slaughtered men. So lay he, chiefest once of all the world In lineage, wealth, in many and goodly sons. Ah me, not long abides the honour of man, But shame from unseen ambush leaps on him So clutched him Doom, so he forgat his woes. Yea, also did those Danaan car-lords hurl 280 From a high tower the babe Astyanax, Dashing him out of life. They tore the child Out of his mother's arms, in wrathful hate Of Hector, who in life had dealt to them Such havoc; therefore hated they his seed, And down from that high rampart flung his child -- A wordless babe that nothing knew of war! As when amid the mountains hungry wolves Chase from the mother's side a suckling calf, And with malignant cunning drive it o'er 290 An echoing cliffs edge, while runs to and fro Its dam with long moans mourning her dear child, And a new evil followeth hard on her, For suddenly lions seize her for a prey; So, as she agonized for her son, the foe To bondage haled with other captive thralls That shrieking daughter of King Eetion. Then, as on those three fearful deaths she thought Of husband, child, and father, Andromaehe Longed sore to die. Yea, for the royally-born 300 Better it is to die in war, than do The service of the thrall to baser folk. All piteously the broken-hearted cried: "Oh hurl my body also from the wall, Or down the cliff, or cast me midst the fire, Ye Argives! Woes are mine unutterable! For Peleus' son smote down my noble father In Thebe, and in Troy mine husband slew, Who unto me was all mine heart's desire, Who left me in mine halls one little child, 310 My darling and my pride -- of all mine hopes In him fell merciless Fate hath cheated me! Oh therefore thrust this broken-hearted one Now out of life! Hale me not overseas Mingled with spear-thralls; for my soul henceforth Hath no more pleasure in life, since God hath slain My nearest and my dearest! For me waits Trouble and anguish and lone homelessness!" So cried she, longing for the grave; for vile Is life to them whose glory is swallowed up 320 Of shame: a horror is the scorn of men. But, spite her prayers, to thraldom dragged they her. In all the homes of Troy lay dying men, And rose from all a lamentable cry, Save only Antenor's halls; for unto him The Argives rendered hospitality's debt, For that in time past had his roof received And sheltered godlike Menelaus, when He with Odysseus came to claim his own. Therefore the mighty sons of Achaea showed 330 Grace to him, as to a friend, and spared his life And substance, fearing Themis who seeth all. Then also princely Anchises' noble son -- Hard had he fought through Priam's burg that night With spear and valour, and many had he slain -- When now he saw the city set aflame By hands of foes, saw her folk perishing In multitudes, her treasures spoiled, her wives And children dragged to thraldom from their homes, No more he hoped to see the stately walls 340 Of his birth-city, but bethought him now How from that mighty ruin to escape. And as the helmsman of a ship, who toils On the deep sea, and matches all his craft Against the winds and waves from every side Rushing against him in the stormy time, Forspent at last, both hand and heart, when now The ship is foundering in the surge, forsakes The helm, to launch forth in a little boat, And heeds no longer ship and lading; so 350 Anchises' gallant son forsook the town And left her to her foes, a sea of fire. His son and father alone he snatched from death; The old man broken down with years he set On his broad shoulders with his own strong hands, And led the young child by his small soft hand, Whose little footsteps lightly touched the ground; And, as he quaked to see that work of deaths His father led him through the roar of fight, And clinging hung on him the tender child, 360 Tears down his soft cheeks streaming. But the man O'er many a body sprang with hurrying feet, And in the darkness in his own despite Trampled on many. Cypris guided them, Earnest to save from that wild ruin her son, His father, and his child. As on he pressed, The flames gave back before him everywhere: The blast of the Fire-god's breath to right and left Was cloven asunder. Spears and javelins hurled Against him by the Achaeans harmless fell. 370 Also, to stay them, Calchas cried aloud: "Forbear against Aeneas' noble head To hurl the bitter dart, the deadly spear! Fated he is by the high Gods' decree To pass from Xanthus, and by Tiber's flood To found a city holy and glorious Through all time, and to rule o'er tribes of men Far-sundered. Of his seed shall lords of earth Rule from the rising to the setting sun. Yea, with the Immortals ever shall he dwell, 380 Who is son of Aphrodite lovely-tressed. From him too is it meet we hold our hands Because he hath preferred his father and son To gold, to all things that might profit a man Who fleeth exiled to an alien land. This one night hath revealed to us a man Faithful to death to his father and his child." Then hearkened they, and as a God did all Look on him. Forth the city hasted he Whither his feet should bear him, while the foe 390 Made havoc still of goodly-builded Troy. Then also Menelaus in Helen's bower Found, heavy with wine, ill-starred Deiphobus, And slew him with the sword: but she had fled And hidden her in the palace. O'er the blood Of that slain man exulted he, and cried: "Dog! I, even I have dealt thee unwelcome death This day! No dawn divine shall meet thee again Alive in Troy -- ay, though thou vaunt thyself Spouse of the child of Zeus the thunder-voiced! 400 Black death hath trapped thee slain in my wife's bower! Would I had met Alexander too in fight Ere this, and plucked his heart out! So my grief Had been a lighter load. But he hath paid Already justice' debt, hath passed beneath Death's cold dark shadow. Ha, small joy to thee My wife was doomed to bring! Ay, wicked men Never elude pure Themis: night and day Her eyes are on them, and the wide world through Above the tribes of men she floats in air, 410 Holpen of Zeus, for punishment of sin." On passed he, dealing merciless death to foes, For maddened was his soul with jealousy. Against the Trojans was his bold heart full Of thoughts of vengeance, which were now fulfilled By the dread Goddess Justice, for that theirs Was that first outrage touching Helen, theirs That profanation of the oaths, and theirs That trampling on the blood of sacrifice When their presumptuous souls forgat the Gods. 420 Therefore the Vengeance-friends brought woes on them Thereafter, and some died in fighting field, Some now in Troy by board and bridal bower. Menelaus mid the inner chambers found At last his wife, there cowering from the wrath Of her bold-hearted lord. He glared on her, Hungering to slay her in his jealous rage. But winsome Aphrodite curbed him, struck Out of his hand the sword, his onrush reined, Jealousy's dark cloud swept she away, and stirred 430 Love's deep sweet well-springs in his heart and eyes. Swept o'er him strange amazement: powerless all Was he to lift the sword against her neck, Seeing her splendour of beauty. Like a stock Of dead wood in a mountain forest, which No swiftly-rushing blasts of north-winds shake, Nor fury of south-winds ever, so he stood, So dazed abode long time. All his great strength Was broken, as he looked upon his wife. And suddenly had he forgotten all 440 Yea, all her sins against her spousal-troth; For Aphrodite made all fade away, She who subdueth all immortal hearts And mortal. Yet even so he lifted up From earth his sword, and made as he would rush Upon his wife but other was his intent, Even as he sprang: he did but feign, to cheat Achaean eyes. Then did his brother stay His fury, and spake with pacifying words, Fearing lest all they had toiled for should be lost: 450 "Forbear wrath, Menelaus, now: 'twere shame To slay thy wedded wife, for whose sake we Have suffered much affliction, while we sought Vengeance on Priam. Not, as thou dost deem, Was Helen's the sin, but his who set at naught The Guest-lord, and thine hospitable board; So with death-pangs hath God requited him." Then hearkened Menelaus to his rede. But the Gods, palled in dark clouds, mourned for Troy, A ruined glory save fair-tressed Tritonis 460 And Hera: their hearts triumphed, when they saw The burg of god-descended Priam destroyed. Yet not the wise heart Trito-born herself Was wholly tearless; for within her fane Outraged Cassandra was of Oileus son Lust-maddened. But grim vengeance upon him Ere long the Goddess wreaked, repaying insult With mortal sufferance. Yea, she would not look Upon the infamy, but clad herself With shame and wrath as with a cloak: she turned 470 Her stern eyes to the temple-roof, and groaned The holy image, and the hallowed floor Quaked mightily. Yet did he not forbear His mad sin, for his soul was lust-distraught. Here, there, on all sides crumbled flaming homes In ruin down: scorched dust with smoke was blent: Trembled the streets to the awful thunderous crash. Here burned Aeneas' palace, yonder flamed Antimachus' halls: one furnace was the height Of fair-built Pergamus; flames were roaring round 480 Apollo's temple, round Athena's fane, And round the Hearth-lord's altar: flames licked up Fair chambers of the sons' sons of a king; And all the city sank down into hell. Of Trojans some by Argos' sons were slain, Some by their own roofs crashing down in fire, Giving at once in death and tomb to them: Some in their own throats plunged the steel, when foes And fire were in the porch together seen: Some slew their wives and children, and flung themselves 490 Dead on them, when despair had done its work Of horror. One, who deemed the foe afar, Caught up a vase, and, fain to quench the flame, Hasted for water. Leapt unmarked on him An Argive, and his spirit, heavy with wine, Was thrust forth from the body by the spear. Clashed the void vase above him, as he fell Backward within the house. As through his hall Another fled, the burning roof-beam crashed Down on his head, and swift death came with it. 500 And many women, as in frenzied flight They rushed forth, suddenly remembered babes Left in their beds beneath those burning roofs: With wild feet sped they back -- the house fell in Upon them, and they perished, mother and child. Horses and dogs in panic through the town Fled from the flames, trampling beneath their feet The dead, and dashing into living men To their sore hurt. Shrieks rang through all the town. In through his blazing porchway rushed a man 510 To rescue wife and child. Through smoke and flame Blindly he groped, and perished while he cried Their names, and pitiless doom slew those within. The fire-glow upward mounted to the sky, The red glare o'er the firmament spread its wings, And all the tribes of folk that dwelt around Beheld it, far as Ida's mountain-crests, And sea-girt Tenedos, and Thracian Samos. And men that voyaged on the deep sea cried: "The Argives have achieved their mighty task 520 After long toil for star-eyed Helen's sake. All Troy, the once queen-city, burns in fire: For all their prayers, no God defends them now; For strong Fate oversees all works of men, And the renownless and obscure to fame She raises, and brings low the exalted ones. Oft out of good is evil brought, and good From evil, mid the travail and change of life." So spake they, who from far beheld the glare Of Troy's great burning. Compassed were her folk 530 With wailing misery: through her streets the foe Exulted, as when madding blasts turmoil The boundless sea, what time the Altar ascends To heaven's star-pavement, turned to the misty south Overagainst Arcturus tempest-breathed, And with its rising leap the wild winds forth, And ships full many are whelmed 'neath ravening seas; Wild as those stormy winds Achaea's sons Ravaged steep Ilium while she burned in flame. As when a mountain clothed with shaggy woods 540 Burns swiftly in a fire-blast winged with winds, And from her tall peaks goeth up a roar, And all the forest-children this way and that Rush through the wood, tormented by the flame; So were the Trojans perishing: there was none To save, of all the Gods. Round these were staked The nets of Fate, which no man can escape. Then were Demophoon and Acamas By mighty Theseus' mother Aethra met. Yearning to see them was she guided on 550 To meet them by some Blessed One, the while 'Wildered from war and fire she fled. They saw In that red glare a woman royal-tall, Imperial-moulded, and they weened that this Was Priam's queen, and with swift eagerness Laid hands on her, to lead her captive thence To the Danaans; but piteously she moaned: "Ah, do not, noble sons of warrior Greeks, To your ships hale me, as I were a foe! I am not of Trojan birth: of Danaans came 560 My princely blood renowned. In Troezen's halls Pittheus begat me, Aegeus wedded me, And of my womb sprang Theseus glory-crowned. For great Zeus' sake, for your dear parents' sake, I pray you, if the seed of Theseus came Hither with Atreus' sons, O bring ye me Unto their yearning eyes. I trow they be Young men like you. My soul shall be refreshed If living I behold those chieftains twain." Hearkening to her they called their sire to mind, 570 His deeds for Helen's sake, and how the sons Of Zeus the Thunderer in the old time smote Aphidnae, when, because these were but babes, Their nurses hid them far from peril of fight; And Aethra they remembered -- all she endured Through wars, as mother-in-law at first, and thrall Thereafter of Helen. Dumb for joy were they, Till spake Demophoon to that wistful one: "Even now the Gods fulfil thine heart's desire: We whom thou seest are the sons of him, 580 Thy noble son: thee shall our loving hands Bear to the ships: with joy to Hellas' soil Thee will we bring, where once thou wast a queen." Then his great father's mother clasped him round With clinging arms: she kissed his shoulders broad, His head, his breast, his bearded lips she kissed, And Acamas kissed withal, the while she shed Glad tears on these who could not choose but weep. As when one tarries long mid alien men, And folk report him dead, but suddenly 590 He cometh home: his children see his face, And break into glad weeping; yea, and he, His arms around them, and their little heads Upon his shoulders, sobs: echoes the home With happy mourning's music-beating wings; So wept they with sweet sighs and sorrowless moans. Then, too, affliction-burdened Priam's child, Laodice, say they, stretched her hands to heaven, Praying the mighty Gods that earth might gape To swallow her, ere she defiled her hand 600 With thralls' work; and a God gave ear, and rent Deep earth beneath her: so by Heaven's decree Did earth's abysmal chasm receive the maid In Troy's last hour. Electra's self withal, The Star-queen lovely-robed, shrouded her form In mist and cloud, and left the Pleiad-band, Her sisters, as the olden legend tells. Still riseth up in sight of toil-worn men Their bright troop in the skies; but she alone Hides viewless ever, since the hallowed town 610 Of her son Dardanus in ruin fell, When Zeus most high from heaven could help her not, Because to Fate the might of Zeus must bow; And by the Immortals' purpose all these things Had come to pass, or by Fate's ordinance. Still on Troy's folk the Argives wreaked their wrath, And battle's issues Strife Incarnate held.
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