The Fall of Troy
How the Son of Achilles was brought to the War from the Isle of
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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