The Fall of Troy
How the Arms of Achilles were cause of madness and death unto
Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #18b
So when all other contests had an end, Thetis the Goddess laid down in the midst Great-souled Achilles' arms divinely wrought; And all around flashed out the cunning work Wherewith the Fire-god overchased the shield Fashioned for Aeacus' son, the dauntless-souled. Inwrought upon that labour of a God Were first high heaven and cloudland, and beneath Lay earth and sea: the winds, the clouds were there, 10 The moon and sun, each in its several place; There too were all the stars that, fixed in heaven, Are borne in its eternal circlings round. Above and through all was the infinite air Where to and fro flit birds of slender beak: Thou hadst said they lived, and floated on the breeze. Here Tethys' all-embracing arms were wrought, And Ocean's fathomless flow. The outrushing flood Of rivers crying to the echoing hills All round, to right, to left, rolled o'er the land. 20 Round it rose league-long mountain-ridges, haunts Of terrible lions and foul jackals: there Fierce bears and panthers prowled; with these were seen Wild boars that whetted deadly-clashing tusks In grimly-frothing jaws. There hunters sped After the hounds: beaters with stone and dart, To the life portrayed, toiled in the woodland sport. And there were man-devouring wars, and all Horrors of fight: slain men were falling down Mid horse-hoofs; and the likeness of a plain 30 Blood-drenched was on that shield invincible. Panic was there, and Dread, and ghastly Enyo With limbs all gore-bespattered hideously, And deadly Strife, and the Avenging Spirits Fierce-hearted -- she, still goading warriors on To the onset they, outbreathing breath of fire. Around them hovered the relentless Fates; Beside them Battle incarnate onward pressed Yelling, and from their limbs streamed blood and sweat. There were the ruthless Gorgons: through their hair 40 Horribly serpents coiled with flickering tongues. A measureless marvel was that cunning work Of things that made men shudder to behold Seeming as though they verily lived and moved. And while here all war's marvels were portrayed, Yonder were all the works of lovely peace. The myriad tribes of much-enduring men Dwelt in fair cities. Justice watched o'er all. To diverse toils they set their hands; the fields Were harvest-laden; earth her increase bore. 50 Most steeply rose on that god-laboured work The rugged flanks of holy Honour's mount, And there upon a palm-tree throned she sat Exalted, and her hands reached up to heaven. All round her, paths broken by many rocks Thwarted the climbers' feet; by those steep tracks Daunted ye saw returning many folk: Few won by sweat of toil the sacred height. And there were reapers moving down long swaths Swinging the whetted sickles: 'neath their hands 60 The hot work sped to its close. Hard after these Many sheaf-binders followed, and the work Grew passing great. With yoke-bands on their necks Oxen were there, whereof some drew the wains Heaped high with full-eared sheaves, and further on Were others ploughing, and the glebe showed black Behind them. Youths with ever-busy goads Followed: a world of toil was there portrayed. And there a banquet was, with pipe and harp, Dances of maids, and flashing feet of boys, 70 All in swift movement, like to living souls. Hard by the dance and its sweet winsomeness Out of the sea was rising lovely-crowned Cypris, foam-blossoms still upon her hair; And round her hovered smiling witchingly Desire, and danced the Graces lovely-tressed. And there were lordly Nereus' Daughters shown Leading their sister up from the wide sea To her espousals with the warrior-king. And round her all the Immortals banqueted 80 On Pelion's ridge far-stretching. All about Lush dewy watermeads there were, bestarred With flowers innumerable, grassy groves, And springs with clear transparent water bright. There ships with sighing sheets swept o'er the sea, Some beating up to windward, some that sped Before a following wind, and round them heaved The melancholy surge. Seared shipmen rushed This way and that, adread for tempest-gusts, Hauling the white sails in, to 'scape the death -- 90 It all seemed real -- some tugging at the oars, While the dark sea on either side the ship Grew hoary 'neath the swiftly-plashing blades. And there triumphant the Earth-shaker rode Amid sea-monsters' stormy-footed steeds Drew him, and seemed alive, as o'er the deep They raced, oft smitten by the golden whip. Around their path of flight the waves fell smooth, And all before them was unrippled calm. Dolphins on either hand about their king 100 Swarmed, in wild rapture of homage bowing backs, And seemed like live things o'er the hazy sea Swimming, albeit all of silver wrought. Marvels of untold craft were imaged there By cunning-souled Hephaestus' deathless hands Upon the shield. And Ocean's fathomless flood Clasped like a garland all the outer rim, And compassed all the strong shield's curious work. And therebeside the massy helmet lay. Zeus in his wrath was set upon the crest 110 Throned on heaven's dome; the Immortals all around Fierce-battling with the Titans fought for Zeus. Already were their foes enwrapped with flame, For thick and fast as snowflakes poured from heaven The thunderbolts: the might of Zeus was roused, And burning giants seemed to breathe out flames. And therebeside the fair strong corslet lay, Unpierceable, which clasped Peleides once: There were the greaves close-lapping, light alone To Achilles; massy of mould and huge they were. 120 And hard by flashed the sword whose edge and point No mail could turn, with golden belt, and sheath Of silver, and with haft of ivory: Brightest amid those wondrous arms it shone. Stretched on the earth thereby was that dread spear, Long as the tall-tressed pines of Pelion, Still breathing out the reek of Hector's blood. Then mid the Argives Thetis sable-stoled In her deep sorrow for Achilles spake; "Now all the athlete-prizes have been won 130 Which I set forth in sorrow for my child. Now let that mightiest of the Argives come Who rescued from the foe my dead: to him These glorious and immortal arms I give Which even the blessed Deathless joyed to see." Then rose in rivalry, each claiming them, Laertes' seed and godlike Telamon's son, Aias, the mightiest far of Danaan men: He seemed the star that in the glittering sky Outshines the host of heaven, Hesperus, 140 So splendid by Peleides' arms he stood; "And let these judge," he cried, "Idomeneus, Nestor, and kingly-counselled Agamemnon," For these, he weened, would sureliest know the truth Of deeds wrought in that glorious battle-toil. "To these I also trust most utterly," Odysseus said, "for prudent of their wit Be these, and princeliest of all Danaan men." But to Idomeneus and Atreus' son Spake Nestor apart, and willingly they heard: 150 "Friends, a great woe and unendurable This day the careless Gods have laid on us, In that into this lamentable strife Aias the mighty hath been thrust by them Against Odysseus passing-wise. For he, To whichsoe'er God gives the victor's glory -- O yea, he shall rejoice! But he that 1oseth -- All for the grief in all the Danaans' hearts For him! And ours shall be the deepest grief Of all; for that man will not in the war 160 Stand by us as of old. A sorrowful day It shall be for us, whichsoe'er of these Shall break into fierce anger, seeing they Are of our heroes chiefest, this in war, And that in counsel. Hearken then to me, Seeing that I am older far than ye, Not by a few years only: with mine age Is prudence joined, for I have suffered and wrought Much; and in counsel ever the old man, Who knoweth much, excelleth younger men. 170 Therefore let us ordain to judge this cause 'Twixt godlike Aias and war-fain Odysseus, Our Trojan captives. They shall say whom most Our foes dread, and who saved Peleides' corse From that most deadly fight. Lo, in our midst Be many spear-won Trojans, thralls of Fate; And these will pass true judgment on these twain, To neither showing favour, since they hate Alike all authors of their misery." He spake: replied Agamemnon lord of spears: 180 "Ancient, there is none other in our midst Wiser than thou, of Danaans young or old, In that thou say'st that unforgiving wrath Will burn in him to whom the Gods herein Deny the victory; for these which strive Are both our chiefest. Therefore mine heart too Is set on this, that to the thralls of war This judgment we commit: the loser then Shall against Troy devise his deadly work Of vengeance, and shall not be wroth with us." 190 He spake, and these three, being of one mind, In hearing of all men refused to judge Judgment so thankless: they would none of it. Therefore they set the high-born sons of Troy There in the midst, spear-thralls although they were, To give just judgment in the warriors' strife. Then in hot anger Aias rose, and spake: "Odysseus, frantic soul, why hath a God Deluded thee, to make thee hold thyself My peer in might invincible? Dar'st thou say 200 That thou, when slain Achilles lay in dust, When round him swarmed the Trojans, didst bear back That furious throng, when I amidst them hurled Death, and thou coweredst away? Thy dam Bare thee a craven and a weakling wretch Frail in comparison of me, as is A cur beside a lion thunder-voiced! No battle-biding heart is in thy breast, But wiles and treachery be all thy care. Hast thou forgotten how thou didst shrink back 210 From faring with Achaea's gathered host To Ilium's holy burg, till Atreus' sons Forced thee, the cowering craven, how loth soe'er, To follow them -- would God thou hadst never come! For by thy counsel left we in Lemnos' isle Groaning in agony Poeas' son renowned. And not for him alone was ruin devised Of thee; for godlike Palamedes too Didst thou contrive destruction -- ha, he was Alike in battle and council better than thou! 230 And now thou dar'st to rise up against me, Neither remembering my kindness, nor Having respect unto the mightier man Who rescued thee erewhile, when thou didst quaff In fight before the onset of thy foes, When thou, forsaken of all Greeks beside, Midst tumult of the fray, wast fleeing too! Oh that in that great fight Zeus' self had stayed My dauntless might with thunder from his heaven! Then with their two-edged swords the Trojan men 240 Had hewn thee limb from limb, and to their dogs Had cast thy carrion! Then thou hadst not presumed To meet me, trusting in thy trickeries! Wretch, wherefore, if thou vauntest thee in might Beyond all others, hast thou set thy ships In the line's centre, screened from foes, nor dared As I, on the far wing to draw them up? Because thou wast afraid! Not thou it was Who savedst from devouring fire the ships; But I with heart unquailing there stood fast 250 Facing the fire and Hector ay, even he Gave back before me everywhere in fight. Thou -- thou didst fear him aye with deadly fear! Oh, had this our contention been but set Amidst that very battle, when the roar Of conflict rose around Achilles slain! Then had thine own eyes seen me bearing forth Out from the battle's heart and fury of foes That goodly armour and its hero lord Unto the tents. But here thou canst but trust 260 In cunning speech, and covetest a place Amongst the mighty! Thou -- thou hast not strength To wear Achilles' arms invincible, Nor sway his massy spear in thy weak hands! But I they are verily moulded to my frame: Yea, seemly it is I wear those glorious arms, Who shall not shame a God's gifts passing fair. But wherefore for Achilles' glorious arms With words discourteous wrangling stand we here? Come, let us try in strife with brazen spears 270 Who of us twain is best in murderous right! For silver-footed Thetis set in the midst This prize for prowess, not for pestilent words. In folkmote may men have some use for words: In pride of prowess I know me above thee far, And great Achilles' lineage is mine own." He spake: with scornful glance and bitter speech Odysseus the resourceful chode with him: "Aias, unbridled tongue, why these vain words To me? Thou hast called me pestilent, niddering, 280 And weakling: yet I boast me better far Than thou in wit and speech, which things increase The strength of men. Lo, how the craggy rock, Adamantine though it seem, the hewers of stone Amid the hills by wisdom undermine Full lightly, and by wisdom shipmen cross The thunderous-plunging sea, when mountain-high It surgeth, and by craft do hunters quell Strong lions, panthers, boars, yea, all the brood Of wild things. Furious-hearted bulls are tamed 290 To bear the yoke-bands by device of men. Yea, all things are by wit accomplished. Still It is the man who knoweth that excels The witless man alike in toils and counsels. For my keen wit did Oeneus' valiant son Choose me of all men with him to draw nigh To Hector's watchmen: yea, and mighty deeds We twain accomplished. I it was who brought To Atreus' sons Peleides far-renowned, Their battle-helper. Whensoe'er the host 300 Needeth some other champion, not for the sake Of thine hands will he come, nor by the rede Of other Argives: of Achaeans I Alone will draw him with soft suasive words To where strong men are warring. Mighty power The tongue hath over men, when courtesy Inspires it. Valour is a deedless thing; And bulk and big assemblage of a man Cometh to naught, by wisdom unattended. But unto me the Immortals gave both strength 310 And wisdom, and unto the Argive host Made me a blessing. Nor, as thou hast said, Hast thou in time past saved me when in flight From foes. I never fled, but steadfastly Withstood the charge of all the Trojan host. Furious the enemy came on like a flood But I by might of hands cut short the thread Of many lives. Herein thou sayest not true Me in the fray thou didst not shield nor save, But for thine own life roughtest, lest a spear 320 Should pierce thy back if thou shouldst turn to flee From war. My ships? I drew them up mid-line, Not dreading the battle-fury of any foe, But to bring healing unto Atreus' sons Of war's calamities: and thou didst set Far from their help thy ships. Nay more, I seamed With cruel stripes my body, and entered so The Trojans' burg, that I might learn of them All their devisings for this troublous war. Nor ever I dreaded Hector's spear; myself 330 Rose mid the foremost, eager for the fight, When, prowess-confident, he defied us all. Yea, in the fight around Achilles, I Slew foes far more than thou; 'twas I who saved The dead king with this armour. Not a whit I dread thy spear now, but my grievous hurt With pain still vexeth me, the wound I gat In fighting for these arms and their slain lord. In me as in Achilles is Zeus' blood." He spake; strong Aias answered him again. 340 "Most cunning and most pestilent of men, Nor I, nor any other Argive, saw Thee toiling in that fray, when Trojans strove Fiercely to hale away Achilles slain. My might it was that with the spear unstrung The knees of some in fight, and others thrilled With panic as they pressed on ceaselessly. Then fled they in dire straits, as geese or cranes Flee from an eagle swooping as they feed Along a grassy meadow; so, in dread 350 The Trojans shrinking backward from my spear And lightening sword, fled into Ilium To 'scape destruction. If thy might came there Ever at all, not anywhere nigh me With foes thou foughtest: somewhere far aloot Mid other ranks thou toiledst, nowhere nigh Achilles, where the one great battle raged." He spake; replied Odysseus the shrewd heart: "Aias, I hold myself no worse than thou In wit or might, how goodly in outward show 360 Thou be soever. Nay, I am keener far Of wit than thou in all the Argives' eyes. In battle-prowess do I equal thee Haply surpass; and this the Trojans know, Who tremble when they see me from afar. Aye, thou too know'st, and others know my strength By that hard struggle in the wrestling-match, When Peleus' son set glorious prizes forth Beside the barrow of Patroclus slain." So spake Laertes' son the world-renowned. 370 Then on that strife disastrous of the strong The sons of Troy gave judgment. Victory And those immortal arms awarded they With one consent to Odysseus mighty in war. Greatly his soul rejoiced; but one deep groan Brake from the Greeks. Then Aias' noble might Stood frozen stiff; and suddenly fell on him Dark wilderment; all blood within his frame Boiled, and his gall swelled, bursting forth in flood. Against his liver heaved his bowels; his heart 380 With anguished pangs was thrilled; fierce stabbing throes Shot through the filmy veil 'twixt bone and brain; And darkness and confusion wrapped his mind. With fixed eyes staring on the ground he stood Still as a statue. Then his sorrowing friends Closed round him, led him to the shapely ships, Aye murmuring consolations. But his feet Trod for the last time, with reluctant steps, That path; and hard behind him followed Doom. When to the ships beside the boundless sea 390 The Argives, faint for supper and for sleep, Had passed, into the great deep Thetis plunged, And all the Nereids with her. Round them swam Sea-monsters many, children of the brine. Against the wise Prometheus bitter-wroth The Sea-maids were, remembering how that Zeus, Moved by his prophecies, unto Peleus gave Thetis to wife, a most unwilling bride. Then cried in wrath to these Cymothoe: "O that the pestilent prophet had endured 400 All pangs he merited, when, deep-burrowing, The eagle tare his liver aye renewed!" So to the dark-haired Sea-maids cried the Nymph. Then sank the sun: the onrush of the night Shadowed the fields, the heavens were star-bestrewn; And by the long-prowed ships the Argives slept By ambrosial sleep o'ermastered, and by wine The which from proud Idomeneus' realm of Crete: The shipmen bare o'er foaming leagues of sea. But Aias, wroth against the Argive men, 410 Would none of meat or drink, nor clasped him round The arms of sleep. In fury he donned his mail, He clutched his sword, thinking unspeakable thoughts; For now he thought to set the ships aflame, And slaughter all the Argives, now, to hew With sudden onslaught of his terrible sword Guileful Odysseus limb from limb. Such things He purposed -- nay, had soon accomplished all, Had Pallas not with madness smitten him; For over Odysseus, strong to endure, her heart 420 Yearned, as she called to mind the sacrifices Offered to her of him continually. Therefore she turned aside from Argive men The might of Aias. As a terrible storm, Whose wings are laden with dread hurricane-blasts, Cometh with portents of heart-numbing fear To shipmen, when the Pleiads, fleeing adread From glorious Orion, plunge beneath The stream of tireless Ocean, when the air Is turmoil, and the sea is mad with storm; 430 So rushed he, whithersoe'er his feet might bear. This way and that he ran, like some fierce beast Which darteth down a rock-walled glen's ravines With foaming jaws, and murderous intent Against the hounds and huntsmen, who have torn Out of the cave her cubs, and slain: she runs This way and that, and roars, if mid the brakes Haply she yet may see the dear ones lost; Whom if a man meet in that maddened mood, Straightway his darkest of all days hath dawned; 440 So ruthless-raving rushed he; blackly boiled His heart, as caldron on the Fire-god's hearth Maddens with ceaseless hissing o'er the flames From blazing billets coiling round its sides, At bidding of the toiler eager-souled To singe the bristles of a huge-fed boar; So was his great heart boiling in his breast. Like a wild sea he raved, like tempest-blast, Like the winged might of tireless flame amidst The mountains maddened by a mighty wind, 450 When the wide-blazing forest crumbles down In fervent heat. So Aias, his fierce heart With agony stabbed, in maddened misery raved. Foam frothed about his lips; a beast-like roar Howled from his throat. About his shoulders clashed His armour. They which saw him trembled, all Cowed by the fearful shout of that one man. From Ocean then uprose Dawn golden-reined: Like a soft wind upfloated Sleep to heaven, And there met Hera, even then returned 460 To Olympus back from Tethys, unto whom But yester-morn she went. She clasped him round, And kissed him, who had been her marriage-kin Since at her prayer on Ida's erest he had lulled To sleep Cronion, when his anger burned Against the Argives. Straightway Hera passed To Zeus's mansion, and Sleep swiftly flew To Pasithea's couch. From slumber woke All nations of the earth. But Aias, like Orion the invincible, prowled on, 470 Still bearing murderous madness in his heart. He rushed upon the sheep, like lion fierce Whose savage heart is stung with hunger-pangs. Here, there, he smote them, laid them dead in dust Thick as the leaves which the strong North-wind's might Strews, when the waning year to winter turns; So on the sheep in fury Aias fell, Deeming he dealt to Danaans evil doom. Then to his brother Menelaus came, And spake, but not in hearing of the rest: 480 "This day shall surely be a ruinous day For all, since Aias thus is sense-distraught. It may be he will set the ships aflame, And slay us all amidst our tents, in wrath For those lost arms. Would God that Thetis ne'er Had set them for the prize of rivalry! Would God Laertes' son had not presumed In folly of soul to strive with a better man! Fools were we all; and some malignant God Beguiled us; for the one great war-defence 490 Left us, since Aeacus' son in battle fell, Was Aias' mighty strength. And now the Gods Will to our loss destroy him, bringing bane On thee and me, that all we may fill up The cup of doom, and pass to nothingness." He spake; replied Agamemnon, lord of spears: "Now nay, Menelaus, though thine heart he wrung, Be thou not wroth with the resourceful king Of Cephallenian folk, but with the Gods Who plot our ruin. Blame not him, who oft 500 Hath been our blessing and our enemies' curse." So heavy-hearted spake the Danaan kings. But by the streams of Xanthus far away 'Neath tamarisks shepherds cowered to hide from death, As when from a swift eagle cower hares 'Neath tangled copses, when with sharp fierce scream This way and that with wings wide-shadowing He wheeleth very nigh; so they here, there, Quailed from the presence of that furious man. At last above a slaughtered ram he stood, 510 And with a deadly laugh he cried to it: "Lie there in dust; be meat for dogs and kites! Achilles' glorious arms have saved not thee, For which thy folly strove with a better man! Lie there, thou cur! No wife shall fall on thee, And clasp, and wail thee and her fatherless childs, Nor shalt thou greet thy parents' longing eyes, The staff of their old age! Far from thy land Thy carrion dogs and vultures shall devour!" So cried he, thinking that amidst the slain 520 Odysseus lay blood-boltered at his feet. But in that moment from his mind and eyes Athena tore away the nightmare-fiend Of Madness havoc-breathing, and it passed Thence swiftly to the rock-walled river Styx Where dwell the winged Erinnyes, they which still Visit with torments overweening men. Then Aias saw those sheep upon the earth Gasping in death; and sore amazed he stood, For he divined that by the Blessed Ones 530 His senses had been cheated. All his limbs Failed under him; his soul was anguished-thrilled: He could not in his horror take one step Forward nor backward. Like some towering rock Fast-rooted mid the mountains, there he stood. But when the wild rout of his thoughts had rallied, He groaned in misery, and in anguish wailed: "Ah me! why do the Gods abhor me so? They have wrecked my mind, have with fell madness filled, Making me slaughter all these innocent sheep! 540 Would God that on Odysseus' pestilent heart Mine hands had so avenged me! Miscreant, he Brought on me a fell curse! O may his soul Suffer all torments that the Avenging Fiends Devise for villains! On all other Greeks May they bring murderous battle, woeful griefs, And chiefly on Agamemnon, Atreus' son! Not scatheless to the home may he return So long desired! But why should I consort, I, a brave man, with the abominable? 550 Perish the Argive host, perish my life, Now unendurable! The brave no more Hath his due guerdon, but the baser sort Are honoured most and loved, as this Odysseus Hath worship mid the Greeks: but utterly Have they forgotten me and all my deeds, All that I wrought and suffered in their cause." So spake the brave son of strong Telamon, Then thrust the sword of Hector through his throat. Forth rushed the blood in torrent: in the dust 560 Outstretched he lay, like Typhon, when the bolts Of Zeus had blasted him. Around him groaned The dark earth as he fell upon her breast. Then thronging came the Danaans, when they saw Low laid in dust the hero; but ere then None dared draw nigh him, but in deadly fear They watched him from afar. Now hasted they And flung themselves upon the dead, outstretched Upon their faces: on their heads they cast Dust, and their wailing went up to the sky. 570 As when men drive away the tender lambs Out of the fleecy flock, to feast thereon, And round the desolate pens the mothers leap Ceaselessly bleating, so o'er Aias rang That day a very great and bitter cry. Wild echoes pealed from Ida forest-palled, And from the plain, the ships, the boundless sea. Then Teucer clasping him was minded too To rush on bitter doom: howbeit the rest Held from the sword his hand. Anguished he fell 580 Upon the dead, outpouring many a tear More comfortlessly than the orphan babe That wails beside the hearth, with ashes strewn On head and shoulders, wails bereavement's day That brings death to the mother who hath nursed The fatherless child; so wailed he, ever wailed His great death-stricken brother, creeping slow Around the corpse, and uttering his lament: "O Aias, mighty-souled, why was thine heart Distraught, that thou shouldst deal unto thyself 590 Murder and bale? All, was it that the sons Of Troy might win a breathing-space from woes, Might come and slay the Greeks, now thou art not? From these shall all the olden courage fail When fast they fall in fight. Their shield from harm s broken now! For me, I have no will To see mine home again, now thou art dead. Nay, but I long here also now to die, That so the earth may shroud me -- me and thee Not for my parents so much do I care, 600 If haply yet they live, if haply yet Spared from the grave, in Salamis they dwell, As for thee, O my glory and my crown!" So cried he groaning sore; with answering moan Queenly Tecmessa wailed, the princess-bride Of noble Aias, captive of his spear, Yet ta'en by him to wife, and household-queen O'er all his substance, even all that wives Won with a bride-price rule for wedded lords. Clasped in his mighty arms, she bare to him 610 A son Eurysaces, in all things like Unto his father, far as babe might be Yet cradled in his tent. With bitter moan Fell she on that dear corpse, all her fair form Close-shrouded in her veil, and dust-defiled, And from her anguished heart cried piteously: "Alas for me, for me now thou art dead, Not by the hands of foes in fight struck down, But by thine own! On me is come a grief Ever-abiding! Never had I looked 620 To see thy woeful death-day here by Troy. Ah, visions shattered by rude hands of Fate! Oh that the earth had yawned wide for my grave Ere I beheld thy bitter doom! On me No sharper, more heart-piercing pang hath come -- No, not when first from fatherland afar And parents thou didst bear me, wailing sore Mid other captives, when the day of bondage Had come on me, a princess theretofore. Not for that dear lost home so much I grieve, 630 Nor for my parents dead, as now for thee: For all thine heart was kindness unto me The hapless, and thou madest me thy wife, One soul with thee; yea, and thou promisedst To throne me queen of fair-towered Salamis, When home we won from Troy. The Gods denied Accomplishment thereof. And thou hast passed Unto the Unseen Land: thou hast forgot Me and thy child, who never shall make glad His father's heart, shall never mount thy throne. 640 But him shall strangers make a wretched thrall: For when the father is no more, the babe Is ward of meaner men. A weary life The orphan knows, and suffering cometh in From every side upon him like a flood. To me too thraldom's day shall doubtless come, Now thou hast died, who wast my god on earth." Then in all kindness Agamemnon spake: "Princess, no man on earth shall make thee thrall, While Teucer liveth yet, while yet I live. 650 Thou shalt have worship of us evermore And honour as a Goddess, with thy son, As though yet living were that godlike man, Aias, who was the Achaeans' chiefest strength. Ah that he had not laid this load of grief On all, in dying by his own right hand! For all the countless armies of his foes Never availed to slay him in fair fight." So spake he, grieved to the inmost heart. The folk Woefully wafted all round. O'er Hellespont 660 Echoes of mourning rolled: the sighing air Darkened around, a wide-spread sorrow-pall. Yea, grief laid hold on wise Odysseus' self For the great dead, and with remorseful soul To anguish-stricken Argives thus he spake: "O friends, there is no greater curse to men Than wrath, which groweth till its bitter fruit Is strife. Now wrath hath goaded Aias on To this dire issue of the rage that filled His soul against me. Would to God that ne'er 670 Yon Trojans in the strife for Achilles' arms Had crowned me with that victory, for which Strong Telamon's brave son, in agony Of soul, thus perished by his own right hand! Yet blame not me, I pray you, for his wrath: Blame the dark dolorous Fate that struck him down. For, had mine heart foreboded aught of this, This desperation of a soul distraught, Never for victory had I striven with him, Nor had I suffered any Danaan else, 680 Though ne'er so eager, to contend with him. Nay, I had taken up those arms divine With mine own hands, and gladly given them To him, ay, though himself desired it not. But for such mighty grief and wrath in him I had not looked, since not for a woman's sake Nor for a city, nor possessions wide, I then contended, but for Honour's meed, Which alway is for all right-hearted men The happy goal of all their rivalry. 690 But that great-hearted man was led astray By Fate, the hateful fiend; for surely it is Unworthy a man to be made passion's fool. The wise man's part is, steadfast-souled to endure All ills, and not to rage against his lot." So spake Laertes' son, the far-renowned. But when they all were weary of grief and groan, Then to those sorrowing ones spake Neleus' son: "O friends, the pitiless-hearted Fates have laid Stroke after stroke of sorrow upon us, 700 Sorrow for Aias dead, for mighty Achilles, For many an Argive, and for mine own son Antilochus. Yet all unmeet it is Day after day with passion of grief to wail Men slain in battle: nay, we must forget Laments, and turn us to the better task Of rendering dues beseeming to the dead, The dues of pyre, of tomb, of bones inurned. No lamentations will awake the dead; No note thereof he taketh, when the Fates, 710 The ruthless ones, have swallowed him in night." So spake he words of cheer: the godlike kings Gathered with heavy hearts around the dead, And many hands upheaved the giant corpse, And swiftly bare him to the ships, and there Washed they away the blood that clotted lay Dust-flecked on mighty limbs and armour: then In linen swathed him round. From Ida's heights Wood without measure did the young men bring, And piled it round the corpse. Billets and logs 720 Yet more in a wide circle heaped they round; And sheep they laid thereon, fair-woven vests, And goodly kine, and speed-triumphant steeds, And gleaming gold, and armour without stint, From slain foes by that glorious hero stripped. And lucent amber-drops they laid thereon, Years, say they, which the Daughters of the Sun, The Lord of Omens, shed for Phaethon slain, When by Eridanus' flood they mourned for him. These, for undying honour to his son, 730 The God made amber, precious in men's eyes. Even this the Argives on that broad-based pyre Cast freely, honouring the mighty dead. And round him, groaning heavily, they laid Silver most fair and precious ivory, And jars of oil, and whatsoe'er beside They have who heap up goodly and glorious wealth. Then thrust they in the strength of ravening flame, And from the sea there breathed a wind, sent forth By Thetis, to consume the giant frame 740 Of Aias. All the night and all the morn Burned 'neath the urgent stress of that great wind Beside the ships that giant form, as when Enceladus by Zeus' levin was consumed Beneath Thrinacia, when from all the isle Smoke of his burning rose -- or like as when Hercules, trapped by Nessus' deadly guile, Gave to devouring fire his living limbs, What time he dared that awful deed, when groaned All Oeta as he burned alive, and passed 750 His soul into the air, leaving the man Far-famous, to be numbered with the Gods, When earth closed o'er his toil-tried mortal part. So huge amid the flames, all-armour clad, Lay Aias, all the joy of fight forgot, While a great multitude watching thronged the sands. Glad were the Trojans, but the Achaeans grieved. But when that goodly frame by ravening fire Was all consumed, they quenched the pyre with wine; They gathered up the bones, and reverently 760 Laid in a golden casket. Hard beside Rhoeteium's headland heaped they up a mound Measureless-high. Then scattered they amidst The long ships, heavy-hearted for the man Whom they had honoured even as Achilles. Then black night, bearing unto all men sleep, Upfloated: so they brake bread, and lay down Waiting the Child of the Mist. Short was sleep, Broken by fitful staring through the dark, Haunted by dread lest in the night the foe 770 Should fall on them, now Telamon's son was dead.
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