SABCL - Volume 5
An Epic in Quantitative Hexameters
Book I. The Book of the Herald
Book II. The Book of the Statesman
Book III. The Book of the Assembly
Book IV. The Book of Partings
Book V. The Book of Achilles
Book VI. The Book of the Chieftains
Book VII. The Book of the Woman
Book VIII. The Book of the Gods
Dawn the beginner of things with the night for their rest or their ending,
Pallid and bright-lipped arrived from the mists and the chill of the Euxine.
Woke to the wonder of life and its passion and sorrow and beauty,
All on her bosom sustaining, the patient compassionate Mother.
Given to the gaze of the azure she lay in her garment of greenness,
Ida climbed with her god-haunted peaks into diamond lustres,
Ida first of the hills with the ranges silent beyond her
Watching the dawn in their giant companies, as since the ages
First began they had watched her, upbearing Time on their summits.
Stealing to wideness beyond, crept Simois lame in his currents,
Guiding his argent thread mid the green of the reeds and the grasses.
Xanthus clamoured aloud as he ran to the far-surging waters,
Joining his call to the many-voiced roar of the mighty Aegean,
Answering Ocean’s limitless cry like a whelp to its parent.
Fateful she came with her eyes impartial looking on all things,
Bringer to man of the day of his fortune and day of his downfall.
Fateful she paused unconcerned above Ilion’s mysteried greatness,
Domes like shimmering tongues of the crystal flames of the morning,
Opalesque rhythm-line of tower-tops, notes of the lyre of the sun-god.
Lighting the last time highway and homestead, market and temple,
Looking on men who must die and women destined to sorrow,
Looking on beauty fire must lay low and the sickle of slaughter,
Fateful she lifted the doom-scroll red with the script of the Immortals,
Deep in the invisible air that folds in the race and its morrows
Fixed it, and passed on smiling the smile of the griefless and deathless,–
Dealers of death though death they know not, who in the morning
Scatter the seed of the event for the reaping ready at nightfall.
Out of the sun and its spaces she came, pausing tranquil and fatal,
And, at a distance followed by the golden herds of the sun-god,
Carried the burden of Light and its riddle and danger to Hellas.
Swiftly when Life fleets, invisibly changing the arc of the soul-drift,
And, with the choice that has chanced or the fate man has called and now suffers
Weighted, the moment travels driving the past towards the future,
Only its face and its feet are seen, not the burden it carries.
Man knows not; least knows the messenger chosen for the summons.
Whistle of winds in the tree-tops of Time and the rustle of Nature.
Even while dawn was a gleam in the east, he had cried to his coursers.
Hearing the jar of the wheels and the throb of the hooves’ exultation,
Hooves of the horses of Greece as they galloped to Phrygian Troya.
Whinnying high as in scorn crossed Simois’ tangled currents,
Xanthus’ reed-girdled twin, the gentle and sluggard river.
Old and alone he arrived, insignificant, feeblest of mortals,
Carrying Fate in his helpless hands and the doom of an empire.
Rapid there neared a running of feet, and the cry of the summons
Beat round the doors that guarded the domes of the splendour of Priam.
Parleying stands at the portals of Troy in the grey of the dawning.”
Charioted far in his dreams amid visions of glory and terror,
Scenes of a vivider world,– though blurred and deformed in the brain-cells,
Vague and inconsequent, there full of colour and beauty and greatness,–
Suddenly drawn by the pull of the conscious thread of the earth-bond
And of the needs of Time and the travail assigned in the transience
Warned by his body, Deiphobus, reached in that splendid remoteness,
Touched through the nerve-ways of life that branch to the brain of the dreamer,
Heard the terrestrial call and slumber startled receded
Back from the light of the fields beyond death, from the wonderful kingdoms
Where he had wandered a soul among souls in the countries beyond us,
Free from the toil and incertitude, free from the struggle and danger:
Now, compelled, he returned from the respite given to the time-born,
Called to the strife and the wounds of the earth and the burden of daylight.
Donning apparel and armour strode through the town of his fathers,
Watched by her gods on his way to his fate, towards Pergama’s portals.
Years of the wrath of the gods, and the leaguer still threatened the ramparts
Since through a tranquil morn the ships came past Tenedos sailing
And the first Argive fell slain as he leaped on the Phrygian beaches;
Still the assailants attacked, still fought back the stubborn defenders.
Weary of fruitless toil grows the transient heart of the mortal.
Prayed to the gods for release and return to the land of their fathers:
Weary of battle the Phrygians beset in their beautiful city
Prayed to the gods for an end of the danger and mortal encounter.
Old like a life long past one remembers hardly believing
But as a dream that has happened, but as the tale of another.
Slowly had dimmed the faces loved and the scenes once cherished:
Yet was the dream still dear to them longing for wife and for children,
Longing for hearth and glebe in the far-off valleys of Hellas.
Tide of the battle, race of the onset relentlessly thundered
Caria, Lycia, Thrace and the war-lord mighty Achaia
Glory of conquest and glory of fall, and the empty hearth-side,
Weeping and fortitude, terror and hope and the pang of remembrance,
Anguish of hearts, the lives of the warriors, the strength of the nations
Thrown were like weights into Destiny’s scales, but the balance wavered
Heroes half divine whose names are like stars in remoteness,
Triumphed and failed and were winds or were weeds on the dance of the surges,
But from the peaks of Olympus and shimmering summits of Ida
Gleaming and clanging the gods of the antique ages descended.
Mingled unseen in the mellay, or sometimes, marvellous, maskless,
Forms of undying beauty and power that made tremble the heart-strings
Parting their deathless secrecy crossed through the borders of vision,
Plain as of old to the demigods out of their glory emerging,
Heard by mortal ears and seen by the eyeballs that perish.
Blue-lidded, maned with the Night, Poseidon smote for the future,
Earth-shaker who with his trident releases the coils of the Dragon,
Freeing the forces unborn that are locked in the caverns of Nature.
Fixed in the sight of a Will foreknowing and silent and changeless,
Hera sent by Zeus and Athene lifting his aegis
Ares impetuous called to the fire in men’s hearts, and his passion
Woke in the shadowy depths the forms of the Titan and demon;
Dumb and coerced by the grip of the gods in the abyss of the being,
Formidable, veiled they sit in the grey subconscient darkness
Seer and magician and prophet who beholds what the thought cannot witness,
Lifting the godhead within us to more than a human endeavour,
Slayer and saviour, thinker and mystic, leaped from his sun-peaks
Guarding in Ilion the wall of his mysteries Delphic Apollo.
Life like a decimal ever recurring repeats the old figure;
Goal seems there none for the ball that is chased throughout Time by the Fate-teams;
Evil once ended renews and no issue comes out of living:
Only an Eye unseen can distinguish the thread of its workings.
All went backwards and forwards tossed in the swing of the death-game.
Spray as of surf on the cliffs when it moans unappeased, unrequited
Joy succeeded to grief; defeat only greatened the vanquished,
Victory offered an empty delight without guerdon or profit.
Faced and turned as a man and a maiden trampling the grasses
Face and turn and they laugh in their joy of the dance and each other.
Mortal his works are and ways and the anguish ends like the rapture.
Beautiful, deathless, august, the Olympians turned from the carnage,
Leaving the battle already decided, leaving the heroes
Slain in their minds, Troy burned, Greece left to her glory and downfall.
Turn from the cry and the strife, forgetting the wounded and fallen,
Calm they repose from their toil and incline to the joy of the banquet,
Watching the feet of the wine-bearers rosily placed on the marble,
Filling their hearts with ease, so they to their sorrowless ether
Passed from the wounded earth and its air that is ploughed with men’s anguish;
Calm they reposed and their hearts inclined to the joy and the silence.
Man was restored to his smallness, the world to its inconscient labour.
Light was released from their blaze and the earth was released from their greatness.
Wearily hunted the spears their quarry; strength was disheartened;
Silence increased with the march of the months on the tents of the leaguer.
Slowly the shadow deepened on Ilion mighty and scornful:
Dragging her days went by; in the rear of the hearts of her people
Something that knew what they dared not know and the mind would not utter,
Something that smote at her soul of defiance and beauty and laughter,
Neared, assailing the skies: the sense of her lived in all pastimes;
Time was pursued by unease and a terror woke in the midnight:
Even the ramparts felt her, stones that the gods had erected.
Seeing before her the end and, imagining massacre calmly,
Laughed and admired the flames and rejoiced in the cry of the captives.
Clanging in arms through the streets of the beautiful insolent city,
Brilliant, a gleaming husk but empty and left by the daemon.
Seen in its form by men, but itself goes phantom-like fleeting
Void and null and dark through the uncaring infinite vastness,
So now he seemed to the sight that sees all things from the Real.
Mighty and bright was his body, but shadowy the shape of his spirit
Only an eidolon seemed of the being that had lived in him, fleeting
Vague like a phantom seen by the dim Acherontian waters.
Out of the waking city Deiphobus swiftly arriving
Called, and swinging back the huge gates slowly, reluctant,
Parted admitting her destiny, then with a sullen and iron
Old Talthybius, propping his steps on the staff of his errand;
Feeble his body, but fierce still his glance with the fire within him;
Speechless and brooding he gazed on the hated and coveted city.
Marvellous, rhythmic, a child of the gods with marble for raiment,
Smiting the vision with harmony, splendid and mighty and golden,
Ilion stood up around him entrenched in her giant defences.
Filled with her deeds and her dreams her gods looked out on the Argive,
Helpless and dumb with his hate as he gazed on her, they too like mortals
Knowing their centuries past, not knowing the morrow before them.
All Greece gazed in them, hated, admired, grew afraid, grew relentless.
Fixing his ominous eyes with the god in them straight on the Trojan:
“Messenger, voice of Achaia, wherefore confronting the daybreak
Comest thou driving thy car from the sleep of the tents that besiege us?
Raised up thy aged limbs from the couch of their rest in the stillness,–
Thoughts of a mortal but forged by the Will that uses our members
And of its promptings our speech and our acts are the tools and the image.
Lights that we think our own, yet they are but tokens and counters,
Signs of the Forces that flow through us serving a Power that is secret.
Now in the ending of Time, when the gods are weary of struggle?
“Trojan Deiphobus, daybreak, silence of night and the evening
Sink and arise and even the strong sun rests from his splendour.
Held on the wind-swept marge of the thunder and laughter of ocean.
Proudly receive them, honour the gifts of the mighty Achilles.
Peace if your fate can turn and the god in you chooses to hearken.
Meanly to common ears, but where counsel and majesty harbour
Far from the crowd in the halls of the great and to wisdom and foresight
Secrecy whispers, there I will speak among Ilion’s princes.”
Vain is the offer of peace that sets out with a threat for its prelude.
Started to run at the bidding a swift-footed youth of the Trojans
First in the race and the battle, Thrasymachus son of Aretes.
Measuring Fate with his thoughts in the troubled vasts of his spirit,
Back through the stir of the city returned to the house of his fathers,
Taming his mighty stride to the pace infirm of the Argive.
Came to the halls in the youth of the wonderful city by Ilus
Built for the joy of the eye; for he rested from war and, triumphant,
Last of its mortal possessors to walk in its flowering gardens,
Great Anchises lay in that luminous house of the ancients
Soothing his restful age, the far-warring victor Anchises,
High Bucoleon’s son and the father of Rome by a goddess;
Lonely and vagrant once in his boyhood divine upon Ida
White Aphrodite ensnared him and she loosed her ambrosial girdle
Looking for servant or guard, but felt only a loneness of slumber
Drawing the soul’s sight within away from its life and things human;
Soundless, unheeding, the vacant corridors fled into darkness.
Trusted his high-voiced call, and from chambers still dim in their twilight
Strong Aeneas armoured and mantled, leonine striding,
Came, Anchises’ son; for the dawn had not found him reposing,
But in the night he had left his couch and the clasp of Creüsa,
Rising from sleep at the call of his spirit that turned to the waters
Prompted by Fate and his mother who guided him, white Aphrodite.
“Hero Aeneas, swift be thy stride to the Ilian hill-top.
Glows on their anvils of destiny, clang we can hear of their hammers.
Whether of evil or good it is they who shall choose who are masters
Calm, unopposed; they are gods and they work out their iron caprices.
Yearning and thought are their engines, our will is their shadow and helper.
Shaft of their will they have shot from the bow of the Grecian leaguer,
Lashing themselves at his steeds, Talthybius sent by Achilles.”
Weaving Fate on their looms, and yesterday, now and tomorrow
Are but the stands they have made with Space and Time for their timber,
Ever can pierce where they dwell and uncover their far-stretching purpose?
Yet to the rider on Fate I abase myself, wielder of thunder,
He who with shadowy hands heaps error and truth upon mortals,
Helpless in Ilion’s streets with the fire and the foeman around me.
Clang of the arms of the Greeks was in Troya, and thwarting the clangour
Voices were crying and calling me over the violent Ocean
Borne by the winds of the West from a land where Hesperus harbours.”
Parting they turned to their tasks and their lives now close but soon severed:
Destined to perish even before his perishing nation,
Back to his watch at the gate sped Thrasymachus rapidly running;
Large of pace and swift, but with eyes absorbed and unseeing,
Driven like a car of the gods by the whip of his thoughts through the highways,
Turned to his mighty future the hero born of a goddess.
Loser of his world by the will of a heaven that seemed ruthless and adverse,
Founder of a newer and greater world by daring adventure.
High towards a pondering of domes and the mystic Palladium climbing,
Fronted with the morning ray and joined by the winds of the ocean,
Fate-weighed up Troy’s slope strode musing strong Aeneas.
Dreamed in the light of the dawn; above watched the citadel, sleepless
Lonely and strong like a goddess white-limbed and bright on a hill-top,
Looking far out at the sea and the foe and the prowling of danger.
Home of the gods of the earth, Laomedon’s marvellous vision
Held in the thought that accustomed his will to unearthly achievement
And in the blaze of his spirit compelling heaven with its greatness,
Dreamed by the harp of Apollo, a melody caught into marble.
Each of its halls was a strophe, its chambers lines of an epode,
Voiceless with thought, the brilliant megaron crowded with paintings,
Paved with a splendour of marble, and saw Deiphobus seated,
Son of the ancient house by the opulent hearth of his fathers,
And at his side like a shadow the grey and ominous Argive.
Brilliant, beautiful, glamoured with gold and a fillet of gem-fire,
Paris, plucked from the song and the lyre by the Grecian challenge,
Came with the joy in his face and his eyes that Fate could not alter.
Facing destiny’s look with the careless laugh of a comrade,
He with his vision of delight and beauty brightening the earth-field
Passed through its peril and grief on his way to the ambiguous Shadow.
Far in the heart of the house with the deep-bosomed daughters of Priam,
Noble and tall and erect in a nimbus of youth and of glory,
Claiming the world and life as a fief of her strength and her courage,
Dawned through a doorway that opened to distant murmurs and laughter,
Capturing the eye like a smile or a sunbeam, Penthesilea.
Regal and fleet, with her voice that was mighty and dire in its sweetness:
“What with such speed has impelled from the wind-haunted beaches of Troas,
Herald, thy car while1 the sun yet hesitates under the mountains?
Once when the streams of my East sang low to my ear, not this Ocean
Loud, and I roamed in my mountains uncalled by the voice of Apollo?
Challenge of war when the spears fall thick on the shields of the fighters,
Lightly the wheels leap onward chanting the anthem of Ares,
Death is at work in his fields and the heart is enamoured of danger?
Now that their gods are reluctant, now victory darts not from heaven
Down from the clouds above Ida directing the luminous legions
Armed by Fate, now Pallas forgets, now Poseidon slumbers?
Mercy they knew not, but shouted and ravened and ran to the slaughter
Eager as hounds when they chase, till a woman met them and stayed them,
What say the vaunters of Greece to the virgin Penthesilea?”
Now for the timbrels of peace and now for the drums of the battle.
Swift as his sword and his spear are the speech and the wrath from his bosom.
Dire, the voice of a lion unsatisfied, gnawed by his hunger,
Errs a dangerous gleam in the woodlands, fatal and silent.
Patient yet in his terrible grace as assured of his banquet;
But he has lacked too long and he lifts his head and to heaven
Shrink from the dreadful alarum, the cattle gallop to shelter.
Touches his strings to a varied music, seeks for a concord;
Sweet was his voice like a harp’s though heard in the front of the onset,–
One of the sons of Fate by the people loved whom he ruined,
Leader in counsel and battle, the Priamid, he in his beauty
Carelessly walking who scattered the seeds of Titanic disaster.
Sitting alarmed in the shadows who listen pale to their nurses?
Greek, thou art standing in Ilion now and thou speak’st to2 princes.
Friendship we clasp from Achilles, but challenge outpace with our challenge
Meeting the foe ere he moves in his will to the clash of encounter.
Seated Troy on her hill with Ocean3 for comrade and sister.”
Rise,4 Talthybius, meet in her spaces the car of the morning;
Challenge her coursers divine as they bound through the plains of the Troad.
Herald charged with my will to a haughty and obstinate nation,
Speak in the palace of Priam the word of the Phthian Achilles.
But as a ruler in Hellas I send thee, king of my nations.
Long I lingered5 apart from the mellay of gods in the Troad,
Long has my listless spear leaned back on the peace of my tent-side,
Deaf to the talk of the trumpets, the whine of the chariots speeding;
Sole with my heart I have lived, unheeding the Hellene murmur,
Chid when it roared for the hunt the lion-pack of the war-god,
Day after day I walked at dawn and in blush of the sunset,
Far by the call of the seas and alone with the gods and my dreaming,
Leaned to the unsatisfied chant of my heart and the rhythms of Ocean,
Sung to by hopes that were sweet-lipped and vain. Polyxena’s6 brothers
Still are the brood of the Titan Laomedon slain in his greatness,
Engines of God unable to bear all the might that they harbour.
Stay have they none in the gods who approve, giving calmness to mortals:
But like the Titans of old they have hugged to them grandeur and ruin.
Seek then the race self-doomed and the7 leaders blinded by heaven –
Not in the agora swept by the winds of debate and the shoutings
Speak out my word to the hero Deiphobus, head of the mellay,
Paris the racer of doom and the stubborn strength of Aeneas.
Herald of Greece, when thy feet shall stand8 on the gold and the marble,
Rise in the Ilian megaron, curb not the cry of the challenge.
Thus shalt thou say to them stroking9 the ground with the staff of defiance,
Fronting the tempests of war, the insensate, the gamblers with ruin10.
Not in the battle alone, as a warrior glad of his foemen,
Glad of11 the strength that mates with his own, in peace we encountered.
Scarred by the dints of my sword and the eyes I had seen through the battle,
Ate rejoicing the food of the East at the tables of Priam,
Served by the delicatest hands in the world, by Hecuba’s daughter,
Or with our souls reconciled in some careless and rapturous midnight
Drank of the sweetness of Phrygian wine, admired12 your bodies
Shaped by the gods indeed and my spirit revolted from hatred;
Softening it yearned in its strings to the beauty and joy of its foemen,
Yearned from the death that o’ertakes and the flame that cries and desires
Even at the end to save and even on the verge to deliver
Troy and her wonderful works and her sons and her deep-bosomed daughters.
Deaf with its thoughts, I offered you friendship, I offered you bridal,
Hellas for comrade, Achilles for brother, the world for enjoyment
Splendid and subtle and false; we are speakers of truth, we are Hellenes,
Men of the northland faithful in friendship and noble in anger,
Hoping to seize what I will not yield and you flattered your people.
Praying to Pallas the wise that the doom might turn13 from your mansions
Buildings delightful, gracious as rhythms, lyrics in marble,
Works of the transient gods; – and I yearned for the end of the war-din
Hoping that Death might relent to the beautiful sons of the Trojans.
Heavy upon me like iron the intolerable yoke of inaction
Xanthus was crossed on a bridge of the fallen, not by Achilles.
Rang with the voice of Deiphobus shouting and slaying the Argives;
Often my heart like an anxious mother for Greece and her children
Leaped, for the air was full of the leonine roar of Aeneas.
New was the voice that climbed through the din and sailed on the breezes,
High, insistent, clear, and it shouted an unknown war-cry
Regal and insolent, fair as the morning and fell as the northwind,
Freed from the distaff who grasps at the sword and spurns14 at subjection
Fleet-footed, happy and pitiless, laughing she runs to the slaughter;
Strong with the gait that allures she leaps from her car to the slaying,
War is her paean, the chariots thunder of Penthesilea.
Ajax sleeps for ever,15 Meriones lies on the beaches,
One by one they are falling before you, the great in Achaia.
Past my ships, and they hush their moans as they near and in silence
Gaze at the legions inactive accusing the fame of Achilles.
Longing for bridal torches, not flame on the Ilian housetops,
Blood in the chambers of sweetness, the golden amorous city
Hopeless, weary of toil in the ebb of my glorious spirit,
But from my stress of compassion for doom of the kindred nations,
But for her sake whom my soul desires, for the daughter of Priam.
Once ere the Fury, abrupt from Erebus, deaf to your crying,
Mad with the joy of the massacre, seizes on wealth and on women
Calling to Fire as it strides and Ilion sinks into ashes.
Legions swift to your call; the yoke of your pride and your splendour
Lies not now on the nations of earth as when Fortune desired you,
Strength was your slave and Troya the lioness hungrily roaring
Threatened the western world from her ramparts built by Apollo.
Curbing their manhood the peoples arise and they pray for your ruin;
Piled are their altars with gifts; their blessings help the Achaians.
Darken no more like a cloud over thunder and surge of the onset.
Or on the banks of the Strymon to wheel in her Orphean measure,
Not in the revel of swords and fronting the spears of the Hellenes.
Life in her gracious clasp and forgetfulness, grave of earth’s passions,
Asia join with Greece, our16 world from the frozen rivers
Trod by the hooves of the Scythian to farthest undulant Ganges.
Tyndarid Helen yield,17 the desirable cause of your danger,
Back to Greece that is empty long of her smile and her movements.
Endlessly groaning with gold that arrive with the ransom of nations.
Breathed in the sails of the Trojan ravisher helping his oarsmen.
Justice contented trace back her steps and for brands of the burning
Torches delightful shall break into Troy with20 the swords of the bridal.
Safe from the envy of Argos, from Lacedaemonian hatred,
Safe from the hunger of Crete and the Locrian’s violent rapine.
Crying for battle within you deluded by Hera and Pallas,
Swiftly fierce21 death’s surges shall close over Troy and her ramparts
Built by the gods shall be stubble and earth to the tread of the Hellene.
Master of Truth who sits within Delphi fathomless brooding
Sole in the caverns of Nature and hearkens her underground murmur,
Giving my oath to his keeping mute and stern who forgets not.
Locked of hope and death in the ruthless clasp of the mellay
Leaving again the Trojan ramparts unmounted, leaving
Greece unavenged, the Aegean a lake and Europe a province.
Choosing the field for my chamber of sleep and the battle for hearthside
I shall go warring on till Asia enslaved to my footsteps
Feels the tread of the God in my sandal pressed on her bosom.
Thus shall the past pay its Titan ransom22 and, Fate her balance
Changing, a continent ravished suffer the fortune of Helen.
Looked back amazed on their past and into the night of their future.
Poised on the thoughts of her mortals. At length with a magical23 laughter
Sweet as the jangling of bells upon anklets leaping in measure
Answered high24 to the gods the virgin Penthesilea.
Ignorant still while I played with the ball and ran in the dances
Thinking not ever to war; but I dreamed of the shock of the hero.
Toss of the yellow mane and the tawny march and the voices
Lionlike claiming earth as a prey for the clamorous waters.
Glad, whether victor I live or defeated travel to the27 shadows.
Honour and fame they cherish, not life by the gift of a foeman.
Chiefs whom the world admires, do you fear then the shock of the Phthian?
Brought thee to Troy and her haters Olympian shielded thy coming,
Vainly who feedest men’s hearts with a hope that the gods have rejected.
“Hast thou not ended the errand they gave thee, envoy of Hellas?
Nor as a lover to Troy hast thou hastened with amorous footing
Greed of the Ilian gold and lust of the Phrygian women.
Witness it, Salamis speak of my fatal arrival and Argos
“Hearken then to the words of the Hellene, Penthesilea.
Lioness vain of thy bruit thou28 besiegest the paths of the battle!
And of thy fate thou complainest that ever averse to thy wishes
Cloisters the Phthian and matches with weaklings Penthesilea.
Nor of the sleek-coat Argive wild-bulls sates me the hunting;’
So hast thou said, ‘I would bury my spear in the lion of Hellas.’
Were not thy limbs made cunningly by linking29 sweetness to sweetness?
Work of the jar at the well and the hush of our innermost chambers;
These were appointed thee, but thou hast scorned them, O Titaness grasping
Tramplest o’er laws that are old to the pleasure thy heart has demanded.
Mingled with men in their works and depriving the age of thy beauty?
Clanging in war and when30 thou matchest thy voice with the shout of assemblies.
Not to this rhythm Heaven tuned its pipe in thy throat of enchantment
Armoured like men to go warring forth and with hardness and fierceness
Mix in the strife and the hate while the varied meaning of Nature
Perishes hurt in its heart and life is emptied of music.
Court the imperious mob of their slaves and their suppliant gesture
Shameless and venal offends the majestic tradition of ages:
Princes plead in the agora; spurred by the tongue of a coward,
Heroes march to an impious war at a priestly bidding.
Here in a cause not thine, in a quarrel remote from thy beauty,
Leaving a land that is lovely and far to be slain among strangers?
Break with excess and he is the wisest who walks by a measure.
There will I give thee the fame thou desirest; captive in Hellas,
Men shall point to thee always, smiling and whispering, saying,
«This is the woman who fought with the Greeks, overthrowing their heroes;
This is the slayer of Ajax, this is the slave of Achilles.»”
“Well do I hope that Achilles enslaved shall taste of that glory
Or on the Phrygian fields lie slain by the spear of a woman.”
“Rest in the halls of thy foes and ease thy fatigue and thy winters.
Monarchs of men who drive their nations dumb to the battle.
Whispered councils prevail and the few dispose of the millions;
But with their nation consulting, feeling the hearts of the commons
Ilion’s princes march to the war or give peace to their foemen.
Met in the ancient assembly where Ilus founded his columns
And since her famous centuries, names that the ages remember
Leading her, Troya proclaims her decrees to obedient nations.”
Grey he sat and endured the food and the wine of his foemen,–
Chiding his spirit that murmured within him and gazed undelighted,
Memory winged it back to a sward half-forgotten, a village
Nestling in leaves and low hills watching it crowned with the sunset.
But in its caverns his heart was weary and, hurt by the splendours,
Longed for Greece and the smoke-darkened roof of a cottage in Argos,
Eyes of a woman faded and children crowding the hearthside.
Gold Hyperion rose in the wake of the dawn like the eyeball
Flaming of God revealed by his uplifted luminous eyelid.
Amorous seized on her ways, lived glad in her plains and her pastures,
Yearns to the beauty desired that again shall not wake to his kisses,
So over Ilion doomed leaned the yearning immense of the sunrise.
Lifted the gaze of her perishable immortality sunwards.
Temples of Phryx and Dardanus touched with the gold of the morning,
Columns triumphant of Ilus, domes of their greatness enamoured,
Stones that intended to live; and her citadel climbed up to heaven
White like the soul of the Titan Laomedon claiming his kingdoms,
Thrilled to the steps of her sons and a murmur began in her high-roads.
Life that pursuing her boundless march to a goal which we know not,
Ever her own law obeys, not our hopes, who are slaves of her heart-beats.
Eagerly turning their eyes to the lure and the tool and the labour.
Bent o’er his instruments handling the work he never would finish,
Busy as if their lives were for ever, today in its evening
Only the hopes of the earth, but the hearts of her votaries kneeling
Came to her marble shrines and upraised to our helpers eternal
Missioned the prayer and the hymn or silent, subtly adoring
Filled all the temples of Troy with the cry of our souls to the azure.
Children laughed in her doorways; joyous they played, by their mothers
Smiled on still, but their tender bosoms31 unknowing awaited
Grecian spearpoints sharpened by Fate for their unripe bosoms,
Murmuring swarmed to the well-heads the large-eyed daughters of Troya,
Deep-bosomed, limbed like the gods,– glad faces of old that were sentient
Rapturous flowers of the soul, bright bodies that lived under darkness
Heavily32 massed of their locks like day under night made resplendent,
Daughters divine of the earth in the ages when heaven was our father.
Or in the river baring their knees to the embrace of the coolness
Dipped their white feet in the clutch of his streams, in the haste of Scamander,
Lingering this last time with laughter and talk of the day and the morrow
Crowding his channel with dancing billows and turbulent murmurs.
Even as of old he had played with Troy’s ancient fair generations
Mingling his deathless voice with the laughter and joy of their ages,
Laughter of dawns that are dead and a joy that the earth has rejected.
Now, if we listen long in our souls, the bygone voices.
Joyous they leaned and they knew not yet of the wells of Mycenae,
Drew not yet from Eurotas the jar for an alien master,
Mixed not Pineus33 yet with their tears. From the clasp of the current
Now in their groups they arose and dispersed through the streets and the byways,
Turned from the freedom of earth to the works and the joy of the hearthside,
Lightly, they rose and returned through the lanes of the wind-haunted city
Swaying with rhythmical steps while the anklets jangled and murmured.
Built with such hopes by mortal man for his transient lodging;
Fragrant the gardens strewed on dark tresses their white-smiling jasmines
Dropped like a silent boon of purity soft from the branches:
Flowers by the wayside were budding, cries flew winged round the tree-tops.
Blast of the trumpets that call to assembly clamoured through Troya
Turned like a steed to the trumpet, rejoicing in war and ambition,
Gathered alert to the call the democracy hated of heaven.
Eagle-crested, with hoary hair like the snow upon Ida,
Ilion’s senators paced, Antenor and wide-browed Anchises,
Athamas famous for ships and the war of the waters, Tryas
Still whose name was remembered by Oxus the orient river,
Astyoches and Ucalegon, dateless Pallachus, Aetor,
Aspetus who of the secrets divine knew all and was silent,
Ascanus, Iliones, Alcesiphron, Orus, Aretes.
Priam and Priam’s sons, Aeneas leonine striding,
Followed34 by the heart of a nation adoring her Penthesilea.
Marching in front and behind and the tramp of their feet was a rhythm
Tuned to the arrogant fortunes of Ilion ruled by incarnate
Demigods, Ilus and Phryx and Dardanus, Tros of the conquests,
Tros and far-ruling Laomedon who to his grandiose35 labour
Drew down the sons of the skies and was served by the ageless immortals.
Bathed and anointed they came like gods in their beauty and grandeur.
Session of wrath the violent mighty democracy hastened;
Thousands of ardent lives with the heart yet unslain in their bosoms
Lifted to heaven the voice of man and his far-spreading rumour.
Trod in martial measure or dancing with lyrical paces
Chanted the glory of Troy and the wonderful deeds of their fathers.
Thousands on thousands the tramp and the murmur poured; in their armoured
Glittering tribes they were ranked, an untameable high-hearted nation
Ancient, remote from their days, the last of the gods who were passing,
Left like a soul uncompanioned in worlds where his strength shall not conquer:
Sole like a column gigantic alone on a desolate hill-side
Aimed their hostile looks where calm though by heaven abandoned,
Left to his soul and his lucid mind and its thoughts unavailing,
Head of36 the age-chilled few whom the might of their hearts had not blinded,
Famous Antenor was seated, the fallen unpopular statesman,
Wisest of speakers in Troy but rejected, stoned and dishonoured.
When with the thirst of the honey they swarm on the thyme and the linden,
Hundreds humming and flitting till all that place is a murmur.
Slowly erect in his vast tranquillity silenced the people:
Lonely, august he stood like one whom death has forgotten,
Reared like a column of might and of silence over the assembly.
Crowned were his heights by the locks that slept37 like the mass of the snow-swathe
Clothing his giant shoulders; his eyes of deep meditation,
Eyes that beheld now the end and accepted it like the beginning
Gazed on the throng of the people as on a pomp that is painted:
Slowly he spoke like one who is far from the scenes where he sojourns.
Speak thou or good, thou canst speak that only: Necessity fashions
Say on this dawn of her making what issue of death or of triumph
Fate in his38 suddenness puts to the unseeing, what summons to perish
Send39 to this nation men who revolt and gods who are hostile.”
Less in his build, yet the mightiest man and tallest whom coursers
Bore or his feet to the fight since Ajax fell by the Xanthus.
Slaying and slain, but the years persist and the struggle is endless.
Suffers the foot of the Greek to tread on the beaches of Troas.
Under some far-seeing chief, Odysseus, Peleus, Achilles,
Not on the banks of Scamander and skirts of the azure Aegean
Fainting would cease the audacious emprise, the Titanic endeavour;
Tigris would flee from their tread and Indus be drunk by their coursers.
Suffering, smiting, alive, though doomed to all eyes that behold her,
Flinging back Death from her walls and bronze to the shock and the clamour,
Driven by a thought that has risen in the dawn from the tents on the beaches
Grey Talthybius’ chariot waits in the Ilian portals,
Far voice40 of the Hellene demigod challenges timeless Troya.
Stripped of helpers you stand alone against Doom and Achilles41,
Left by the earth that served you, by heaven that helped you rejected:
Death insists at your gates and the flame and the sword are impatient.
Asia’s wealth for the lust of the young barbarian nations.
City divine, whose fame overroofed like heaven the nations42,
Joined to my northern realms deliver the East to the Hellene;
Ilion, to Hellas be yoked; wide Asia, fringe thou Peneus.
Cast by your weakness and fall on immense Necessity’s altar;
Yield to the grasp of my43 longing Polyxena, Hecuba’s deep-bosomed daughter,
Her whom my heart desires. Accept from me44 peace and her healing
Joy of mornings secure and death repulsed from your hearthsides.
Yield these45 and live, else I leap on you, Fate in front, Hades behind me.
Till from high Ida my shadow extends to the Mede and Euphrates.
Hear not the voice of your heroes; their fame is a trumpet in Hades:
Only they conquer while yet my horses champ free in their stables.
Gods with him walk; his chariot is led; his arm is assisted.’
Called by some word, by some gesture it leaps, then ’tis graven, ’tis granite.
Firmer my spear shall I grasp or cast from my hand and for ever?
Awed by the shadow vast of doom, indignant with Fortune.
Tamer of beasts in the cage of the lions, eyeing the monsters
Brilliant, tawny of mane, and he knows if his courage waver,
Falter his eye or his nerve be surprised by the gods that are hostile,
Death will leap on him there in the crowded helpless arena.
Cruel and threatening, hoarse like the voice of the sea upon boulders;
Hisses thrilled through the roar and one man cried to another,
“Lo, he will speak of peace who has swallowed the gold of Achaia!
For he beheld his past and the agora crowded and cheering,
Passionate, full of delight while Antenor spoke to the people,
Troy that he loved and his fatherland proud of her eloquent statesman.
Conquering men’s hearts with a note of doom in its sorrowful sweetness.
Once will I speak though you slay me; for who would shrink from destruction
Knowing that soon of his city and nation, his house and his dear ones
Slain today may I join the victorious souls of our fathers,
Not for the anguish be kept and the irremediable weeping.
Loud yet will46 I speak the word that the gods have breathed in my spirit,
Memoried temples shelter the shrines of our gods and the altars
Pure where we worshipped, the beautiful children smile on us passing,
Played at a mother’s feet mid the trees and the hills of our country,
Hoping our manhood toiled and our youth had its seekings for godhead; –
Thou for our age keepst repose mid the love and the honour of kinsmen,
Silent our relics shall lie with the city guarding our ashes!
Earth who hast fostered our parents, earth who hast given us49 our offspring,
Soil that created our race where fed from the bosom of Nature
Happy our children shall dwell50 in the storied homes of their fathers,
Souls that our souls have stamped, sweet forms of ourselves when we perish!
Who from thy spirit revolt and only thy name make an idol
Hating thy faithful sons and the cult of thy ancient ideal!
Silence the tongues that degrade thee, prophets profane of thy godhead.
Served her with words and deeds and adored with victories and triumphs
Ever could think of enslaving her breast to the heel of a foeman!
Leading his sons and his children’s sons by the hand in the market,
Showing his rags since his need is so bitter of gold from the Argives!
Hush then your feeble roar and your ear to the past and the distance
Fields of the mighty mown by my sword’s edge, Chersonese conquered,
Thrace and her snows where we fought on the frozen streams and were victors
Then when they were unborn who are now your delight and your leaders.
Made Troy mightier guiding her safe through the shocks of her foemen.
Now my reproach, your fathers who saw not the Greeks round their ramparts:
They were not cooped by an upstart race in the walls of Apollo,
Saw not Hector slain and Troilus dragged by his coursers.
Far51 over wrathful Jaxartes they rode; the shaken Achaian
Then when Antenor guided Troy, this old man, this traitor,
Not Laocoon, nay, not even Paris nor Hector.
Selfish, chilled as old men seem to the young and the headstrong,
Counselling safety and ease, not the ardour of noble decisions.
Fallen slaying the foe in a war between sin and the Furies.
Speeds to the front of the mellay outstripping the sons of Antenor?
Doomed by the gods, abandoned by Pallas, by Hera afflicted.
Paris doomed in his beauty, Aeneas slain by his valour?
Dream that they care not if justice be done on the earth or oppression!
Signs that the gods have54 left, but in vain. For they look for a nation,
One that can conquer itself having conquered the world, but they find none.
Death receives their hopes and the void their stirrings of action.
Tros I have seen, Laomedon’s hand has lain55 on my temples.
Now I behold Laocoon, now our leader56 is Paris.
Hewing her stones as vast as his thoughts his high-seated fortress,
Planned he a lair for a beast of prey, for a pantheress dire-souled
Crouched in the hills for her bound or self-gathered against the avenger?
Dardanaus57 shepherded Asia’s coasts and her sapphire-girt islands.
Caria, Lycia’s kings and the Paphlagon, strength of the Mysian;
Minos’ Crete recovered the sceptre of old Rhadamanthus.
Troy triumphant following the urge of their souls to the vastness
[Helmeted, crowned like a queen of the gods with the fates for her coursers]58
Rode through the driving sleet of the spears to Indus and Oxus.
There where discord had clashed, sweet Peace sat girded with plenty,
There where tyranny counted her blows came the hands of a father.
Builders of power that endured; but it perishes lost to their offspring,
Trampled, scorned by an arrogant age, by a violent nation.
Stern as his sword and hard as the silent bronze of his armour.
Even as Ida the mountain I praise, a refuge for lions;
But in the council I laud him not, he who a god for his kindred
Lives for the rest without bowels of pity or fellowship, lone-souled,
Scorning the world that he rules, who untamed by the weight of an empire
Holds allies as subjects, subjects as slaves and drives to the battle,
Careless more of their wills than the coursers61 yoked to his war-car.
When against subjects murmuring discord and faction appointed
Scatter unblest gold, the heart of a people is poisoned,
Virtue pursued and baseness triumphs tongued like a harlot,
Brother against brother arrayed that the rule may endure of a stranger.
Mute they endure for a while that the doom may be swifter and greater.
Stretched from the risen sun to his rest in the occident waters,
Dreams of a city throned on the hills with her foot on the nations.
Gods who deceived to slay, press swords on your children’s bosoms.
Governed your fathers’ youth, all the Orient was joined to our banners.
Scythians worshipped in Ilion’s shrines, the Phoenician trader
Bartered her tokens, Babylon’s wise men paused at our thresholds;
Fair-haired sons of the snows came rapt towards golden Troya
Hoarse Chaleidice62, dim Chersonesus married their waters
Under the o’erarching yoke of Troy twixt the term-posts of Ocean.
Followed their lure like women snared by a magical tempter:
High was their chant as they paced and it came from continents distant.
Speakers whose counsels persuaded our strength from the labour before us63,
Artisans new of your destiny fashioned this far-spreading downfall,
Counsellors blind who scattered your strength to the hooves of the Scythian,
Barren victories, trophies of skin-clad Illyrian pastors.
Leaves for the far and ungrasped earth’s close and provident labour?
Step by step to advance on her bosom, to grow by her seasons,
Order our works by her patience and limit our thought by her spaces.
Minds that saw vaster than life and strengths that God’s hour could not limit!
Dreaming of Africa’s suns and bright Hesperian orchards,
Carthage our mart and our feet on the sunset hills of the Latins.
Troy stretched to Gades; even the gods and the Fates had grown Trojan.
Zeus is denied and adored some shadow huge of their natures
Losing the shape of man in a dream that is splendid and monstrous.
Titans, clanging they fall and the world is full of their ruin.
Welcome your keels and the Isles of the Blest grew your wonderful gardens;
Lulled in the dream, you saw not the black-drifting march of the storm-rack,
Heard not the galloping wolves of the doom and the howl of their hunger.
Patient, preparing the north, the wisdom and silence of Peleus,
Atreus’ craft and the Argives gathered to King Agamemnon.
Dreams that walk in the night and voices obscure of the silence?
Patient and heedful to toil at the work that is near in the daylight.
Hadst thou been faithful to64 Wisdom the counsellor seated and ancient,
Then would the hour not have dawned when Paris lingered in Sparta
Led by the goddess fatal and beautiful, white Aphrodite.
Dread the dark65 rose of the gods, flee the honey that tempts from its petals!
Maddening the earth with the scream of her blood-thirst, bowelless, stone-eyed,
Claiming her victims from God and bestriding the hate and the clamour.
Still had the high gods mercy remembering66 Teucer and Ilus.
Sped by the hand of the Thunderer67 Discord flaming from Ida
Glared from the ships in her wrath68 through the camp of the victor Achaians,–
Love to the69 discord added her flowerlike lips of Briseis;
Faltering lids of Polyxena conquered the strength of Pelides.
Vainly those helpers high70 have opened the gates of salvation!
Vainly the winds of their mercy have breathed71 on our fevered existence!
These too74 were here whom Hera had chosen to ruin this nation:
Charioteers cracking the whips of their speed on the paths of destruction,
Demigods they! they have come down from Heaven glad to that labour;
Filled is75 the world with the fame of their wheels as they race down to Hades.
Harsh Necessity’s dealings, sparing our innocent children,
Saving the Trojan women and aged from bonds and the sword-edge!
Must you be then to yourselves, when the gods even faltering with pity
Turn from the grief that must come and the agony vast and the weeping?
And we are even as the ant in our toil and the beast in our dying;
Only who cling to the hands of the gods can rise up from the earth-mire.
Raises his head; soon he heals his heart and forgets he has suffered.
Every fall without morrow, who then would counsel submission?
Fallen, again ascend, since death like birth is our portion,
Ripening, mowed, to be sown again like corn by the farmer,
Let us be patient still with the gods and be clay for their handling76.
Dream77 not defeat I welcome. Think not to Hellas submitting
But to be even as your high-crested forefathers, greatest of mortals.
Flamed to the heavens from her plains and her smoke-blackened citadel sheltered
Hardly78 the joyless rest of her sons and the wreck of her greatness.
Helped her to live; disguised from her mightiness Troy crouched weeping79.
Patient, scrupulous, wise, like a craftsman carefully toiling
Over a helmet or over a breastplate, testing it always,
Toiled in the eye of the Masters of all and had heed of its labour.
They out of Ida sent into Ilion Pallas Athene;
Secret she came and he went with her into the luminous silence.
Self-gathered work in the night and secrecy shrouding your bosoms.
Is this not happier than Troya captured and wretchedly burning,
Time to await in his stride when the southern and northern Achaians
Gazing with dull distaste now over their severing isthmus
Hate-filled shall move to the shock by the spur of the gods in them driven,
Pelops march upon Attica, Thebes descend on the Spartan?
Then shall Victory cry to our banners over the Ocean
Then shall Troy rise in her strength and stride over Greece up to Gades.”
Moved and swayed with his words like the waters ruled by Poseidon.
Curvet and rear their crests like the hooded wrath of a serpent,
Green-eyed under their cowls sublime,– unwilling they journey
Foam-bannered, hoarse-voiced, shepherded, forced by the wind, to the margin
Meant for their rest, and can turn not at all, though they rage, on their driver,–
Last with a sullen applause and consenting lapse into thunder,
Where they were led all the while they sink down huge and astonished,
So in their souls that withstood and obeyed and hated the yielding,
Lashed by his censure, indignant, the Trojans moved towards his purpose:
Sometimes a roar arose, then only, weakened, rarer,
Angry murmurs swelled between sullen stretches of silence;
Last, a reluctant applause broke dull from the throats of the commons.
Troubled the faction of Paris turned to the face of their leader.
Gazing with brilliant eyes at the sculptured pillars of Ilus.
Waited mute for a voice that could lead and a heart to encourage,
Up in the silence deep Laocoon rose up, far-heard,–
Heard by the gods in their calm and heard by men in their passion –
Cloud-haired, clad in mystic red, flamboyant, sombre,
Priam’s son Laocoon, fate-darkened seer of Apollo.
And mid the rocks and the foam uplifting the voice of its musings
Opens the chant of its turbulent harmonies, so rose the far-borne
Voice of Laocoon soaring mid columns of Ilion’s glories,
Claiming the earth and the heavens for the field of its confident rumour.
Live, O nation!” he thundered forth and Troy’s hearts80 and her pillars
Ilion rose in her agora filling the heavens with shoutings,
Bearing a name to the throne of Zeus in her mortal defiance.
Nature and man feel the pain of the lightnings repressed in their bosoms,
Dangerous and dull is the air, then suddenly strong from the anguish
Zeus of the thunders starts into glories releasing his storm-voice,
Earth exults in the kiss of the rain and the life-giving laughters,
So from the silence broke forth the thunder of Troya arising;
Fiercely she turned from prudence and wisdom and turned back to greatness,
Casting her voice to the heavens from the depths of her fathomless spirit.
Raised by those clamours, triumphant once more in81 this scene of his greatness,
Tool of the gods, but he deemed of his strength as a leader in Nature,
Took for his own a voice that was given and dreamed that he fashioned
Fate that fashions us all, Laocoon stood mid the shouting
Kindled the flame of the prophet that blinds at once and illumines;
Quivering thought-besieged lips and shaken locks of the lion,
Tired of itself at last disappeared in the bosom of silence,
Once more he started erect and his voice o’er the hearts of his hearers
Swept like Ocean’s impatient cry when it calls from its surges,
Ocean loud with a thought sublime in its measureless marching.
Mortal found in the end to the gods and the Greeks and Antenor,
And when a barbarous chieftain’s menace and insolent mercy
Bring here their pride to insult the columned spirit of Ilus,
Armed, with his strength and his numbers, in Troya they sought for her slayer,
Gathered their wiles in a voice and they chose a man famous and honoured,
Summoned Ate to aid and corrupted the heart of Antenor.
Doubt, affliction and weakness chilling the hearts of the fighters,
Always his voice with its cadenced and subtle possession for evil
Breaks the constant will and maims the impulse heroic.
Dallying, shamefast, with vileness, lured by the call of dishonour.
Yet in the frenzy cold of his greed and his fallen ambition
Doom from heaven he calls down on his countrymen, Trojan abuses
Troy, his country, extolling her enemies, blessing her slayers.
That if one evil man have not way for his greed and his longing
Cities are doomed and kings must be slain and a nation must perish!
Gold-hungry raven of Troy who croakst from thy nest at her princes.
Only one downfall endures; ’tis the ruin of greatness and virtue,
Mourning when Freedom departs from the life and the heart of a people,
Into her room comes creeping the mind of the slave and it poisons
Manhood and joy and the voice to lying is trained and subjection
Easy feels to the neck of man who is next to the godheads.
Vileness of men appals me, baseness I fear and its voices.
Boons to accept, to take safety and ease from the foe and the stranger,
Fallen from the virtue stern that heaven permits to a mortal?
Conquered by sorrow and doubt, fate’s hammerers, fires of her furnace.
Else could the heart of Troya82 have recoiled from the loom of the shadow
Cast by Achilles’ spear or shrunk at the sound of his car-wheels?
Victor at last to constrain in his stride the walls of Apollo
More than the stones83 and the mortar! Troy had a soul once, O Trojans,
Firm as her god-built ramparts. When in the hour of his passion84,
When85 Sarpedon fell and Zeus averted his visage,
Xanthus red to the sea ran sobbing with bodies of Trojans,
When in the day of the silence of heaven the far-glancing helmet
Ceased from the ways of the fight, and panic slew with Achilles
Hosts who were left unshepherded pale at the fall of their greatest,
Strength has renounced you, Fate has finished the thread of her spinning.
Resting his curls on the asphodel he has forgotten his country;
Strong Sarpedon lies in Bellerophon’s city sleeping:
Memnon is slain and the blood of Rhesus has dried on the Troad:
All of the giant Asius sums in a handful of ashes.
Grievous86 are these things; our hearts still keep all the pain of them treasured,
Hard though they grow by use and iron caskets of sorrow.
Hear yet87, O fainters in wisdom snared by your pathos,
Know this iron world we live in where Hell casts its shadow.
For we are mortals bound in our strength and beset in our labour.
Toil and loss have gained in the constant siege of our bodies.
Men must sow earth with their lives88 and their tears that their country may prosper;
Earth who bore and devours us that life may be born from our remnants
Then shall the Sacrifice reap89 its fruits when the war-shout is silent,
Nor shall the blood be in vain that our mother has felt on her bosom
Nor shall the seed of the mighty fail when90 Death is the sower.
Still Deiphobus shouts in the war-front trampling the Argives,
Strong Aeneas’ far-borne voice is heard from our ramparts,
Paris’ hands are swift and his feet in the chases of Ares.
Lo, when deserted we fight91 by Asia’s soon-wearied peoples,
Men ingrate who enjoyed the protection and loathed the protector,
Heaven has sent us replacing a continent Penthesilea!
Tall Meriones lies and measures his portion of booty.
Even her name on unwarlike lips, much more in the mellay
Shout of the daughter of battles, armipotent Penthesilea?
Young men burning-eyed to outdare all the deeds of their elders,
Each in his beauty a Troilus, each in his valour a Hector,
Yet were the measures poised in the equal balance of Ares.
All that was Troy? For O, if she yield, let her use not for ever92
One of her titles! shame not the shade93 of Teucer and Ilus,
Nor with the flight of their spears is the wing of their hopes towards Troya.
Sullenly dragging backwards, desiring the paths of the Ocean,
Dreaming of hearths that are far and the children growing to manhood
Who are small infant faces still in the thoughts of their fathers.
All Poseidon whitening lean to the west in his waters
Thick with the sails of the Greeks departing beaten to Hellas.
Thus who loves his country and worships the soil of his fathers!
Yearns for the touch of a yoke on his neck and desires the aggressor?
Leaving this city which freemen have founded, freemen have dwelt in,
Far on the beach let him make his couch in the tents of Achilles,
Not in this mighty Ilion, not with the94 lioness fighting,
Guarding the lair of her young and roaring back at her hunters.
Other-hearted shall march from our gates to answer Achilles.
Cherished as slave-girls are, who are taken in war, by their captors?
Cold-blooded age, or gold insatiably tempts from its coffers
Pleading for safety from foreign hands and the sack and the plunder.
Sharpest shall torture their hearts when they know that still you are Trojans.
Dardanus95, hearken the sound divine that comes to you mounting
Out of the solemn ravines from the mystic seat on the tripod!
Storm is the dance of the locks of the God assenting to greatness,
Zeus who with secret compulsion orders the ways of our nature;
Veiled in events he lives and working disguised in the mortal
Builds our strength by pain, and an empire is born out of ruins.
Shatters the roof, if the lintels flame at last and each cornice
Shrieks with pain96 of the blast, if the very pillars totter,
Keep yet your faith in Zeus, hold fast to the word of Apollo.
Trained is the nation chosen by Zeus for a dateless dominion.
Long must it labour rolled in the wrath97 of the fathomless surges,
Often neighbour with death and ere Ares grow firm to its banners
Feel on the pride of its Capitol tread of the triumphing victor,
Hear the barbarian knock at its gates or the neighbouring foeman
Glad of the transient smile of his fortune suffer insulting; –
They, the nation eternal, brook their taunts who must perish!
And when some leader returns from the battle sole of his thousands
Crushed by the hammers of God, yet never despair of their country.
Over the timeless domes and over the roof-tops of Priam,
But I have looked beyond and have seen the smile of Apollo.
If, near her ramparts outnumbered she fights, by the nations forsaken,
Lonely again on her hill, by her streams, and her meadows and beaches,
Once where she revelled, shake to the tramp of her countless invaders,
Teaches our wills by disaster and strikes down the props that would weaken,
Fate and the Thought on high that is wiser than yearnings of mortals.
Lingers helpless in Hades a shade among shades disappointed.)
Now I release what my spirit has kept and it saw in its vision;
Nor will be silent for gibe of the cynic or sneer of the traitor.
Hear it and tremble, O Greece, in thy youth and the dawn of thy future;
Rather forget while thou canst, but the gods in their hour shall remind thee.
Tremble, nations98 of Asia, false to the greatness within you.
Troy shall triumph! Though nations conspire and the gods99 lead her foemen,
Fate that is born of the spirit is greater than they and will shield her.
Oceans shall be her walls at the end and the desert her limit;
Indus shall send to her envoys; her eyes shall look northward from Thule.
She shall o’ervault all the lands with her rule like the limitless azure.”
Lapsed on his seat like one seized and abandoned and weakened; nor ended
Only in iron applause, but throughout with a stormy approval
Ares broke from the hearts of his people in ominous thunder.
Wounded, yet trusting to tear out the entrails live of its hunters,
Savage and cruel and threatening doom to the foe and opponent.
Trembling with age and with wrath and in accents hurried and piping
Faltered a senile fierceness forth on the maddened assembly.
Favourites vile of a people sent mad by the gods, and thou risest,
Dark Laocoon, prating of heroes and spurning for100 cowards,
Smiting for traitors the aged and wise who were grey when they spawned thee!
Thou who hast never prevailed against even the feeblest Achaian.
Leading the panic, and shrieked as thou ranst to the foeman101 for mercy
Who were a mile behind thee, O matchless and wonderful racer.
Thou who wilt102 not die in the battle! For even swiftest Achilles
Could not o’ertake thee, I ween, nor wind-footed Penthesilea.
Timeless Ilion thou alone ruinest, helped by the Furies.
And thou conspirest to sack this Troy with the greed of the Cretan.”
Voicing angers shrill; for the people astonished were silent;
Long he pursued not; a shouting broke from that stupor of fury,
Men sprang pale to their feet and hurled out menaces lethal;
All that assembly swayed like a forest swept by the storm-wind.
Worse yet with anger, clamoured feebly back at the people,
Lion-voiced, hurting the heart with sound and daunting the nature,
Till from some stalwart hand a javelin whistling and vibrant
Missing the silvered head of the senator rang disappointed
Out on the distant wall of a house by the side of the market.
Tossing his hands he stood; but Antenor seized him and Aetor,
Dragged him down on his seat though he strove, and chid him and silenced.
High with thy aged treble to alter the rage of the Ocean
Effort unhelpful, wrap thy days in a mantle of silence;
Give to the gods their will and dry-eyed wait for the ending.”
Cowed by the storm of the people’s wrath they desisted from hoping.
One man yet rose up unafraid and beckoned for silence,
Not of the aged, but ripe in his look and ruddy of visage,
Stalwart and bluff and short-limbed, Halamus son of Antenor.
For he was ever first in the mellay and loved by the fighters.
Rather pray for her aid in this dangerous hour of your fortunes.
Not to scalp103 Laocoon, too much praising his swiftness,
Trojans, I rise; for some are born brave with the spear in the war-car,
Others bold with the tongue, nor equal gifts unto all men
Zeus has decreed who guides his world in a round that is devious
Carried this way and that like a ship that is tossed on the waters.
Yet is the halt man no runner, nor, friends, must you rise up and slay me,
If I should say of this priest, he is neither Sarpedon nor Hector.
Hugs to him Argive gold which I see not, his son, in his mansion,
Sometimes fight; did you see with my house’s allies how I gambolled,
Changed, when with sportive spear I was tickling the ribs of my Argives,
Nudges of friendly counsel inviting to entry in Troya?
Wise when they speak; but their speech is other than ours and their wisdom
Hard for a mortal mind to hold and not madden or wander;
But for myself I see only the truth as a soldier who battles
Judging the strength of his foes and the chances of iron encounter.
Bound to our numbers,– they by the Ocean hemmed from their kinsmen,
We by our fortunes, waves of the gods that are harder to master,
They like a rock that is chipped, but we like a mist that disperses.
Bring to us respite, help, though bought at a price, yet full-measured,
Strengths of the North at our side and safety assured from the Achaian
For he is true though a Greek, will you shun this mighty advantage?
Peace at the least104 we shall have, though gold we lose and much glory;
Peace we will use for our strength to breathe in, our wounds to recover,
Teaching Time to prepare for happier wars in the future.
Peace these desire; for who would exchange wide death for subjection?
Knowing that empires at last must sink and perish all cities,
Than to preserve to the end posterity’s praise and its greatness
Ceasing in clangour of arms and a city’s flames for our death-pyre?
We but a handful, Troy can prevail over Greece and Achilles.
Choose with a noble and serious greatness fates fit for Troya.
Or, unappeased, we will curb our strength for the hope of the future.”
Bright, of the sun-god a ray, and even before he had spoken
Sending the joy of his brilliance into the hearts of his hearers,
Eagerly turned as if feeling that all before which was spoken
Were but a prelude and this was the note he has waited for always.
Softened with touches of music thoughts that were hard to be suffered,
Sweet like a string that is lightly struck, but it penetrates wholly.
I too would have you decide before Heaven in the strength of your spirits
Not to the past and its memories moored like the thoughts of Antenor
Hating the vivid march of the present, nor towards the future
Panting through dreams like my brother Laocoon vexed by Apollo.
Silent it lies on the knees of the gods in their105 luminous stillness.
And ’tis our spirit within is the Pythoness tortured in Delphi.
Whether one cry ‘Thus devise and thy heart shall be given its wanting’,
Vainly the other ‘The heavens have spoken; hear then their message’.
They can be followed and seized, not the gods when they move towards their purpose.
Seizes secure on the thrones of the world for her glorious portion,
Down to the bottomless pit the good man is thrust in his virtue.
Take what thou canst from the hour that is thine and be fearless in spirit;
This is the greatness of man and the joy of his stay in the sunlight.
Empty and sad shall return or sacred Ilion perish,
Priam be slain and for ever cease this imperial nation,
These things the gods are strong to conceal from the hopings of mortals.
Man can be sure, the will in his heart and his strength in his purpose:
This too is Fate and this too the gods, nor the meanest in Heaven.
Life speeds warm through his veins and his heart is assured of the sunlight.
Earth and her wars and her cares, her joys and her gracious concessions,
Whether for ever he sleeps in the chambers of Nature unmindful
Or into wideness wakes like a dreamer called from his visions.
Great let her end; let her offer her freedom to fire, not the Hellene.
Lifted her piles to the sky, a seat not for slaves but the mighty.
Even from afar as the lion is known by his roar and his preying.
Either to stand with her108 feet on the world oppressing the nations
Straight from Zeus is our race and the Thunderer lives in our nature.
Long I have suffered this111 taunt that Paris was Ilion’s ruin
Born on a night of the gods and of Ate, clothed in a body.
Scornful I strode on my path112 secure of the light in my bosom,
Turned from the muttering voices of envy, their hates who are fallen,
Voices of hate that cling round the wheels of the triumphing victor;
Now if I speak, ’tis the strength in me answers, not to belittle,
That excusing which most I rejoice in and glory for ever,
Tyndaris’ rape whom I seized by the will of divine Aphrodite.
Sunk, by the trumpets of Fate unaroused and the morning within her,
Only were Paris unborn and the world had not gazed upon Helen.
Tending an Argive loom, not the glorious prize of the Trojans,
Greece would have banded her nations though Paris had drunk not Eurotas,
Coast against coast I set not, nor Ilion opposite Argos.
Curse Poseidon who fringed with Greece the blue of his waters:
Then was this war first decreed and then Agamemnon was fashioned;
Armed he strode forth in the secret Thought that is womb of the future.
Fate and Necessity guided these113 vessels, captained their armies.
‘Troy, renounce thy alliances, draw back humbly from Hellas’,
Should she have hearkened persuading her strength to a shameful compliance,
Ilion queen of the world114 whose voice was the breath of the storm-gods?
Blame then Paris, say then that Helen was cause of the struggle.
But I have sullied the hearth and unsealed the gaze of the Furies,115
Heaven I have armed with my sin, I have trampled the gift and the guest-rule,116
So was Troy doomed who righteous had triumphed, locked with the Argive.
Veils of purity weaving, names misplacing ideal
When our desires we disguise and paint the lusts of our nature.
Lie not! say117 not that nations live by righteousness, justice
Shields them, gods out of heaven look down118 on the crimes of the mighty!
Known have men what screened itself119 mouthing these semblances. Crouching
Dire like a beast in the green of the thicket120, selfishness silent
Crunches the bones of its prey while the priest and the statesman are glozing.
Taught to reconcile fear of the gods with their lusts and their passions,
So with a lie on their lips they march to the rapine and slaughter.
Shrieked their ravished virgins, their peasants been hewn in the vineyards?
But to the strength of the lion the high gods offered a victim,
Force that is God in the lion’s breast with the forest for altar.
Reverent flamed up to Pallas who slew them aiding the Argives.
Whom had the island cities offended, stormed by the Locrian,
Wave-kissed homes of peace but given to the sack and the spoiler?
Was then King Atreus just and the house accursed121 of Pelops,
Tantalus’ race, whose deeds men shuddering hear and are silent?
Not at their sins and their virtues the high gods look in that trial;
Which is the strongest, which is the subtlest, this they consider.
Prowess alone in the battle is virtue, skill in the fighting
Only helps, the gods aid only the strong and the valiant.
Nor that for justice trampled Pallas and Hera abandon.
Armed with strength we have come; as our strength is, so is our joyance.
Horses and armour and gold required;122 possession allures us
Adding always as field to field some fortunate farmer.
Slaves to our works and desires that our hearts may bask golden in leisure.
Blame first the gods; but for us, we must live by its laws or we perish.
Even as luminous, passionless, wonderful, high over all things
Sit in their calmness the gods and oppressing our grief-tortured nations
Helped by the toil behind and the agelong effort of Nature.
Pallas aspires in me, Phoebus in flames goes battling and singing,
Ares and Artemis chase through the fields of my soul in their hunting,
Last in some hour of the Fates a Birth stands released and triumphant;
Poured by its deeds over earth it rejoices fulfilled in its splendour.
Rest we cannot; a world cries in us for space and for fullness.
Stamping our image on man123 and events to be Zeus or be Ares.
Rage like a fire unquenchable burning the world and creating,
Nor till humanity dies will they sink in the ashes of Nature.
Wrestling we strive to expand in our souls, to be wide, to be joyous.124
Taking the world for our own and our will from our slaves and our subjects,
Smiting the proud and sparing the suppliant, Trojans, is conquest.
Imaging freely a flawless world where none were afflicted,
No man inferior, all could sublimely equal and brothers
Live in a peace divine like the gods in their luminous regions.
Setting an iron yoke, nor regarding their need and their nature,
Then to say ‘I am just; I slay not save by procedure,
Rob not save by law’ is an outrage to Zeus and his creatures.
Lures of the sophist within us draping our passions with virtue.
Bow not your heads to reproach nor your hearts to the sin of repentance;
For you have done what the gods desired in your breasts and are blameless.
Fight with the Greeks and the world and trample down the rebellious,
What you have lost recover, nor yield to the hurricane passing.
When ’tis withdrawn, not a moment of life can be added by virtue.
All men worship success and in failure and weakness abandon.
Seeing in Troy a head and by barbarous foemen afflicted.
Never this nation concede.125 O Antenor’s golden phrases
Glorifying rest to the tired and confuting patience and courage,
Garbed with a subtlety lax and the hopes that palliate surrender!
Hard is the breaking fetters once worn, for the virtue has perished.
Hugging their chains when the weak feel easier trampled than rising
Or though they groan, yet have heart nor strength for the anguish of effort,
Then to cast down whom, armed and strong, you prevailed not127 opposing?
Or have you dreamed that Achilles will save, this128 son of the gods and the Ocean?
Know you so little the mood of the pursuer132? Think you the lion
Only will lick his prey, that his jaws will refrain from the banquet?
Perished with Hector, nor with Polydamas vision has left her;
Troy is not eager to slay her soul in133 a pyre of dishonour.
Pay down his wealth if he will and his daughters serve Menelaus.
Troy I will leave and her shame and live with my heart and my honour
Refuged with lions in134 Ida or build in the highlands a city
Or in an isle of the seas or by dark-driven Pontic waters.
Yet to the soul that is free no spot on the earth is an exile.
Flow in their lucid streams to the Ocean, there is our country.
Shorn of my will and disgraced in my strength and the mock of my rivals.
Men! what through ten loud years we denied with the spear for our answer,
That what Trojan will ever renounce, though his city should perish?
Clamour the Argive spears in135 our walls? Are the ladders erected?
See them stalking vast in the ranks of the Greeks and the shoutings
Dire of Poseidon they hear and are blind with the aegis of Pallas.
Trample the gods in the sound of their chariot-wheels, victory leading:
Argos falls red in her heaps to their scythes; they shelter the Trojans;
Victory unleashed follows and fawns upon Penthesilea.
Nor with the tremblings vain and the haunted thoughts of Antenor,
But with a noble and serious strength and an obstinate valour
Suffer the shock of your foes, O nation chosen by Heaven;
Proudly determine on victory, live by disaster unshaken.
Drawing in horn and wing or widened for scouting and forage,
Bridging the floods, avoiding the mountains, threading the valleys,
Fast with their flashing panoply clad in gold and in iron
Moved the array of his thoughts; and throughout delight and approval
Followed their march, in triumph led but like prisoners willing,
Lord of opinion, though by the aged frowned on and censured,
But to this voice of their thoughts the young men vibrated wholly.
Stern and armed from his seat like a war-god helmèd Aeneas
Rose by King Priam approved in this last of Ilion’s sessions,
Hear and assent or refuse as your right is, masters of Troya,
Ancient and sovereign people, act that your kings have determined
Sitting in council high, their reply to the strength of Achilles.
Rather we choose; it is nearer to Dardanus, King of the Hellenes.
Nor down the paths of peace revisit her fathers’ Eurotas.
Lowering Priam’s heights and darkening Ilion’s splendours.
Not with her gold Troy traffics for safety,136 but with her spear-points.
Armed to descend from the calm of Olympian heights to thy succour
Hedging thy fame from defeat; for we all desire thee in battle,
Mighty to end thee or tame at last by the floods of the Xanthus.’”
And with a voice that conquered the earth and invaded the heavens
Loud they approved their doom and fulfilled their impulse immortal.
“Proudly and well have you answered, O nation beloved of Apollo;
Fearless of death they must walk who would live and be mighty for ever.
Meet in your armèd companies, chariots and hoplites and archers,
Strong be your hearts, let your courage be stern like the sun when it blazes;
Fierce will the shock be today ere he sink blood-red in the waters.”
Filling the streets with her tread Troy strode from her Ilian forum.
All now pressed to their homes for the food of their strength in the battle;
Ilion turned her thoughts in a proud expectancy seaward
Waiting to hear the sounds that she loved and the cry of the mellay.
Now from the gates Talthybius issued grey in his chariot;
But in the halls of Anchises Aeneas not doffing his breastpiece
Hastily ate of the corn of his country, cakes of the millet
Doubled with wild-deer’s flesh, from the quiet hands of Creüsa.
“Ever thou hastest to battle, O warrior, ever thou fightest
Far in the front of the ranks and thou seekest out Locrian Ajax,
Turnest thy ear to the roar for the dangerous shout of Tydides;
There, once heard, leaving all thou drivest, O stark in thy courage.
Quiet at old Anchises’ feet when I see thee in vision
Sole with the shafts hissing round thee and say to my quivering spirit,
‘Now he is striking at Ajax, now he has met Diomedes.’
Phoebus, the Thunderer’s son, and thy mother, gold Aphrodite;
Such are the fates that demand thee, O destined head of the future.
Sore is my heart with pity for other Ilian women
Who in this battle are losing their children and well-loved husbands,
Brothers too dear, for the eyes that are wet, for the hearts that are silent.
“Surely the gods protect, yet is Death too always mighty.
Grudging works to abridge their days and to widow the sunlight;
Most, disappointed, he rages against the belovèd of Heaven;
Striking their lives through their hearts he mows down their loves and their pleasures.
Ever for thine I fear lest he find thee out in his anger,
Missing my head in the fight, when he comes here crossed in his godhead.
“So may it be that I go before thee, seeing, Aeneas,
Over my dying eyes thy lips bend down for the parting.
Afterwards there we hope that the hands shall join which were parted.”
Clasped his father’s knees, the ancient mighty Anchises:
Even today may I hurl down Ajax, slay Diomedes,
And on the morrow gaze on the empty beaches of Troas.”
Long Anchises sat unmoving, silent, sombre,
Gazing into his soul with eyes that were closed to the sunlight.
Prosper, Aeneas; and if for Troy some doom is preparing,
Suffer always the will of the gods with a piety constant.
Only they will what Necessity fashions, impelled139 by the Silence.
Work;140 she shall give thee the crown of thy deeds or their ending appointed,
Whether glorious thou pass or in silent shadows forgotten.
So141 from the house of his fathers Aeneas rapidly striding
Came to the city echoing now with the wheels of the chariots,
Clanging with arms and astream with the warlike tramp of her thousands.
Greatened in heart and went on with loftier thoughts towards battle.
Striding came, and he turned to its courts and the bronze of its threshold
Trod which had suffered the feet of so many princes departed.
Leaping up light to his feet and laughing with sudden pleasure,
War-hardened hand with a palm that was smooth as a maiden’s or infant’s,
“Well art thou come, Aeneas,” he said, “and good fortune has sent thee!
I shall go forth in thy car or warring by Penthesilea,
Famous, give to her grasp the spear that shall smite down Achilles.”
Carry thee far to the front; thou shalt fight with Epeus and slay him.
But for a while with the bulls142 should it rather strive, O hero,
Till in the play and the wrestle its softness grow hard143 for the smiting.”
This is the last of our fights for today will Penthesilea
Meet Achilles in battle and slay him ending the Argives.
Saw the return or the flight, but never the deed and the triumph’?
Friend, if thou144 take me not forth, I shall die of grief ere the sunset.”
Vast; and over the floor of the spacious hall they hastened
Laughing, the gracious child and the mighty hero and statesman,
Flower of a present stock and the burdened star of the future.
Cried145 to the remnants left of his blood the aged Antenor:
“Hearken you who are sprung from my loins and children, their offspring!
Meet him wroth; he shall die in his sin and his name be forgotten.
Fighting for Troy and her greatness earned by my toil and my fathers’.
But at the last our life is ours and the gods’ and the future’s.
Fleeing the doom and bearing my treasures; the ships shall receive them
Gathered, new-keeled by my care and the gods’, in the narrow Propontis.
Bellying out with their sails let them cleave to the untravelled distance
Ocean’s crests and resign to their fates the doomed and the evil.”
Awed by his voice and the dread of his curse they obeyed, though in sorrow.
Reverend, loved, of a father, dreadful his curse to his children.
She for whose sake I would be in Tartarus tortured for ever.
There where Polydamas sleeps and the many comrades I cherished.
Yet having fought for my country, true in my fall to my nation.”
“Go then and perish doomed with the doomed and the hated of heaven;
Nor shall the gods forgive thee dying nor shall thy father.”
Wrestling with wrath and he went to his doom nor looked back at his dear ones.
Met in the paths of their fates where they knotted and crossed for the parting,
One with the curse of the gods and his sire fast wending to Hades,
Fortunate, blessed the other; yet equal their minds were and virtues.
Bough of Antenor; sore is our need today of thy counsels,
Endless our want of their arms that are strong and their hearts that recoil not
Meeting myriads stark with the spear in unequal battle.”
There where Troy yet lives and far from the halls of my fathers;
Sitting unarmed in their halls while their brothers fall in the battle.”
Take to the fight with you; I will make war on the Greeks for my uncles;
One for all I will fill their place in the shock with the foemen.”
“Scamp of my heart, thou torment! into146 thy chamber and rest there,
Bound with cords lest thou cease, thou flutter-brain, scourged into quiet;
So shall thy lust of the fight be healed and our mansion grow tranquil.”
Yet with a dubious smile like a moonbeam lighting his beauty.
“Late the Antenorids learn to flinch from the spears of the Argives,
Even this boy of their blood has Polydamas’ heart and his valour.
If for the fault of the people virtue and Troy were forgotten.
Over the people the gods are; over a man is his country;
This is the deity first adored by the hearths of the noble.
And for our nation’s weal we offer our lives and our children’s.
Selfishly seeking their good, but the gods’ and the State’s and the fathers’.”
“Great is the soul in thee housed and stern is thy will, O Aeneas;
Onward it moves undismayed to its goal though a city be ruined.
They too guide thee who deepest see of the unageing147 immortals,
One with her heart and one in his spirit, Cypris and Phoebus.
‘Spurring Priam’s race to its fall he endangers this city,
Hoping to build a throne out of ruins sole in the Troad.’
They whose eyes are the gods and they walk by a light that is secret.”
“High wert thou always, nurtured in wisdom, ancient Antenor.
Feign auguster names and mimic the gait of the deathless.”
Wisest of men but with wisdom of mortals, aged Antenor:
“Led or misled we are mortals and walk by a light that is given;
Most they err who deem themselves most from error excluded.
Holding the Greeks as once and driving back Fate from their country.
Even now who went forth a victim self-offered to Hades,
Last whom their wills have plucked from the fated house of Antenor.”
Forth from the hall148 of Antenor Aeneas rapidly striding
Passed149 once more through the city hurrying now with its car-wheels,
Filled with a mightier rumour of war and the march of its thousands,
Till at Troy’s upward curve he found the Antenorid crestward
Mounting the steep incline that climbed to the palace of Priam
Hardly their feet had attempted the hill when behind them they hearkened
Sweet-tongued a call and the patter and hurry of light-running sandals;
Turning they beheld with a flush on his cheeks and a light on his lashes
Challenging mutely and pleading the boyish beauty of Eurus.
Dived under chariot-wheels to arrive here and I return not.
Breasting the Ilian hill where Laomedon’s mansion was tented150,
They from the crest down gazing saw their country’s house-tops
Under their feet and heard the murmur of Troya below them.
Filled all the corridors; smoke from the kitchens curled in its plenty
Rich with savour and breathed from the labouring lungs of Hephaestus.
Anklets jangling ran and sang back from doorway to doorway,
Mocking with music of speed and its laughters the haste of the happy,
Sound came of arms, there was tread of the great, there were murmurs of women,–
Voices glad of the doomed in Laomedon’s marvellous mansion.
Lifted high151 upon columns that soared like the thoughts of its dwellers,
Thoughts that transcended the earth though they sank down at last into ashes.
Domed, as if seeking to roof men’s lives with a hint of the heavens;
Marble his columns rose and with marble his roofs were appointed,
Conquered wealth of the world in its largeness suffered, supporting
Blazed there the brutal pomps, but images mystic or mighty
Crowded ceiling and wall, a work that the gods even admire
Hardly believing that forms like these were imagined by mortals
Here upon earth where sight is a blur and the soul lives encumbered.
Bordered the lines of the stone and the forms of serpent and Naiad
Ran in relief on those walls of pride in the palace of Priam
Mingled with Dryads who tempted and fled and Satyrs who followed,
Sports of the nymphs in the sea and the woods and their meetings with mortals,
Sessions and battles of Trojan demigods, deaths that were famous,
Wars and loves of men and the deeds of the golden immortals.
Pillars sculptured with gods and with giants soared from152 bases
Lion-carved or were seated on bulls and bore into grandeur
Amply those halls where they soared, or in153 lordliness slenderly fashioned,
Dressed in flowers and reeds like virgins standing on Ida,
Guarded the screens of stone and divided alcove and chamber.
Cherished in sandalwood triumphed and teemed in the palace of Priam;
Doors that were carven and fragrant sheltered the joys of its princes.
Fastened his cuirass, bound the greaves and settled the hauberk,
Thrilling his limbs with her touch that was heaven to the yearning of mortals,
She with her hands of delight caressing the senseless metal
Pressed her lips to his brilliant armour; she bowed down, she whispered:
“Cuirass, allowed by the gods, protect the beauty of Paris:
Keep for me that for which country was lost and my child and my brothers.”
Then as she gazed up, changed grew her mood; for the Daemon within her
Rose that had banded Greece and was burning Troy into ashes.
Dawned like the sunlight on Paradise; strangely she looked on her lover.
Passing an hour on the earth ere she rose up white to Olympus.
Leads this Troy where thou wilt, O thou mighty one veiled in thy beauty
First in the dance and the revel, first in the joy of the mellay;
Who would not leave for thy sake and repent it not country and homestead?
Years of this heaven of the gods, O ravisher, since from my hearthstone
Seizing thou borest me compelled to thy ships and my joy on the waters.
Mighty souls of heroes have gone down prone to the darkness;
Thou and I abide! the mothers wail for our pleasure.
Brilliant, careless of death and of sin as if sure of thy rapture?
What then if Fate today were to lay her hand154 on thee, Paris?”
For whose desire great Troy was a sacrifice, tranquil regarded
Lovely and dire on the lips he loved that smile of a goddess,
Saw the daughter of Zeus in the woman, yet was not shaken.
How then thy will that to mine is a captive, or how, though with battle,
He who has lost thee, unhappy, the Spartan, bright Menelaus?
When like a god he wills without remorse or longing.
But with thy lids that fell thou veiledst thy heart of compliance.
Even as here upon earth I knew, in heaven as in Sparta;
I on Elysian fields will enjoy thee as now in the Troad.”
Rapturous, heard by himself alone and his lover in heaven,
Then in her beauty compelling she rose up divine among women.
Good is the155 play of the world; it is good, the joy and the torture.
Churning the senseless waves that knew not the bliss of their burden!
Laughing with joy in my heart for the arms that bore and enchained me!
Nor, whatever156 betide, can the hour be unlived of our rapture.
Heroes be slain and a theme be made for the songs of the poets,
Songs that shall thrill with the name of Helen, the beauty of Paris.
Well that for Helen Hector ended, Memnon was slaughtered,
Strong Sarpedon fell and Troilus ceased in his boyhood.
This is the sign of the gods and the type of things that are mortal.
High on this ancient stage of the Troad with gods for spectators,
Play till the end thy part, O thou wondrous and beautiful actor:
Fight and slay the Greeks, my countrymen; victor returning
Take for reward of the play, thy delight of Argive Helen.
Rob in the kiss of my lips a pang from the raptures of heaven.”
Flushed like the gods with unearthly wine and rejoiced in his ruin.
Last upon earth, a fleet-footed slave-girl came to the chamber:
“Paris, thy father and mother desire thee; there in the strangers’
Outer hall Aeneas and Halamus wait for thy coming.”
Far in Laomedon’s house where Troy looked upwards to Ida.
Waiting him sat in their chairs of ivory calm in their greatness;
Hid in her robes at their feet lay Cassandra crouched from her visions.
Surely shall help me today in my strife with the strength of Achilles.
[Pallas and Hera, flame-sandalled Artemis, Zeus and Apollo.]157
Firm with his will uplifted a steadfast flame towards the heavens,
Ares works in his heart and Hephaestus burns in his labour.”
All things happen on earth and yet we must strive who are mortals.
Drives like the flock that is herded and urged towards shambles or pasture.
So have the gods158 fashioned these tools of their action and pleasure;
Failure and grief are their engines no less than the might of the victor;
They in the blow descend and resist in the sobs of the smitten.
Even I who know must send for thee, moved by Cassandra.
“No, for my heart has changed since I cried for him, vexed by Apollo.
Only, my comrades, not men in their thoughts, not my brothers and kinsmen.
Half-blind prophets of hope entertained by the gods in the mortal!
Round me already there gleamed the ray of the vision prophetic,
Thrill of that rapture I felt and the joy of the god in his seeing,
Nor did I know that the knowledge of mortals is bound unto blindness.
Treading the greenness of earth and deeming the touch of things real,
Or if they see, by the curse of the gods their sight into falsehood
Easily turns and leads them more stumbling astray than the sightless.
Over the face of the Truth their shield of gold is extended.
‘Give me thy vision sheer, not such as thou giv’st to thy prophets,
Troubled though luminous; clear be the vision and ruthless to error,
Far-darting god who art veiled by the sun and by death thou art shielded.
Driven by Fate and his heart; but I mocked him, I broke from my promise;
Courage fatal helping my heart to its ruin with laughter.
Hear the voice divine and implacable: ‘Since thou deceivest
Even the gods and thou hast not feared to lie to Apollo,
Speak shalt thou henceforth only truth, but none shall believe thee:
Scorned in thy words, rejected yet more for their bitter fulfilment,
Scourged by the gods thou must speak though thy sick heart yearns to be silent.
Girl, it is thou who hast lost; thy voice is mine and thy bosom.’
Since then all whom I love must perish slain by my loving.
Grasped mid the flames of my city and shouts of her merciless victors.”
“Sister of mine, afflicted and seized by the dreadful Apollo,
All whose eyes can pierce that curtain, gaze into dimness;
This they have glimpsed and that they imagine deceived by their natures
Seeing the forms in their hearts of dreadful things and of joyous;
As in the darkness our eyes are deceived by shadows uncertain,
Such is their sight who rend the veil that the dire gods have woven.
Tender and loving, plagued by this war and its fear159 for thy loved ones,
Sees calamity everywhere; when the event like the vision
Seems, as in every war the beloved must fall and the cherished,
Then the heart cries, ‘It has happened as all shall happen I mourn for.’
Rather of great Pelides slain by my spear in the onset.”
“Yes, he shall fall and his slayer too shall perish160 and Troy with his slayer.”
“Let but this word come true; for the rest, the gods shall avert it.
See, O seer, my safe return with the spoils of Achilles.”
“Thou shalt return for thy hour while Troy yet stands in the sunshine.”
Since through a heart that we love must be pierced the heart of Achilles,
Fate, with this evil satisfied, turn in the end from Troya.
Still forgive that thy children have fallen for Helen and Paris.”
“All for thy hyacinth curls was forgiven even from childhood
And for thy sunlit looks, O wonder of charm, O Paris.
Blessing the gods who have lent thee to me for a while in their sunshine.
Even the griefs are dear that come from their hands while they love us.
Venging Hector return, my son, to the clasp of thy mother.”
“Victor so mightst thou come, so gladden the heart of thy mother.”
Bright and immortal and sad like a star that grows near to the dawning
And on its pale companions looks who now fade from its vision:
“Me too pardon and love, my parents, even Helen,
Cause of all bane and all death; but I came from the gods for this ruin
Born as a torch for the burning of empires, cursed with this beauty.
But to the distant gods I was born and nursed as an alien
Here by earth from fear, not affection, compelled by the thunders.
Either touching mortality suffers and bears not the contact.
“That which thou art the gods have made thee; thou couldst not be other:
That which thou didst, the gods have done; thou couldst not prevent them.
Rail at me murmuring, ‘Priam has lost what his fathers had gathered;
Cursed is this king by heaven and cursed who are born as his subjects’?
Each of us curses his neighbour protecting his heart with illusions:
Therefore like children we blame each other and hate and are angry.
Wearing my sorrow even as I wear the imperial purple,
Praise yet the gods for my days that have seen thee at last in my ending.
Lightly went forth and161 gladly; pursuing their footsteps the mother,
Mother once of Troilus, mother once of Hector,
Stood at the door with her death in her eyes, nor returned from her yearning,
But as one after a vanishing sunbeam gazes in prison,
Gazed down the corridors after him, long who had passed from her vision.
Staggered erect and tossing her snow-white arms of affliction
Cried to the heavens in her pain; for the fierce god tortured her bosom:
“Woe is me, woe for the guile and the bitter gift of Apollo!
Those who have borne for your sake the evil burden of greatness.
Taking no thought for the good of mankind, with no yearnings for knowledge.
Sin shall be scourged, though her deeds were compelled by the gods in their anger.
Argos shall grow by her crimes till the gods shall destroy her for ever.
Over the palace of Priam and over the armèd nation
Marching resolved to the war in the pride of its centuries conquered,
Centuries slain by a single day of the anger of heaven.
Grew; in his ivory chair King Priam sat like a shadow
Throned mid the ghosts of departed kings and forgotten empires.
Seeking the pillared megaron wide where Deiphobus armoured
Waited his coming forth with the warlike chiefs of the Trojans.
Daughters and wives of King Priam and wives of his sons and their playmates,
Niches of joy that were peopled with murmurs and sweet-tongued laughters,
Troubled like trees with their birds in a morning of sun and of shadow
Where in some garden of kings one walks with his heart in the sunshine,
Out from her door where she stood for him waiting Polyxena started,
Seized his hand and looked in his face and spoke to her brother.
Joyless he turned his face from her eyes of beauty and sorrow.
“So is it164 come, the hour that I feared, and thou goest, O Paris,
Armed with the strength of Fate to strike at my heart in the battle;
For he is doomed and thou and I, a victim to Hades.
Burning with Troy in their palace, nor could thy country persuade thee,
Nor dost thou care for thy sister’s happiness pierced by thy arrows.
Passing tranquil days with her husband, bright Menelaus,
Paris replied: “O my sister165 Polyxena, blame me not wholly.
And when she drives perforce must love, for death or for gladness:
Weighed in unequal scales she deals them to one or another.
“Evilly deal with thy166 days the immortals happy in heaven;
Yes, I accuse the gods and I curse them who heed not our sorrow.
One whose terrible hands have been stained with the blood of my brothers,
This now they do, they have taken the two whom I love beyond heaven,
Brother and husband, and drive to the fight to be slain by each other.
Since now my heart must be borne as a victim bleeding to please them,
So let it be, let me deck myself and be bright for the altar.”
He for a moment stood, then passed to the megaron slowly;
Dim was the light in his eyes and clouded his glorious beauty.
Distant clouds of war, Surabdas and iron Surenas,
Pharatus planned like the hills, Somaranes, Valarus, Tauron,
High-crested Sumalus, Arithon, Sambas167 and Artavoruxes.
And with them Eurus came, Polydamas’ son, who most dearly
Loved was of all the Trojan boys by the glorious virgin.
“Eurus, forgotten of grace, dost thou gad like a stray in the city
Eager to mix with the armoured men and the chariots gliding?
So wilt thou sooner be part of this greatness rather than straining
Yearn from afar to the distance that veils the deeds of the mighty.”
“Not that remoteness to see have I come to the palace of Priam
Leaving the house of my fathers, but for the spear and the breast-piece.
And mid the heroes who heard him laughter arose for a moment,
Yet with a sympathy stirred; they remembered the days of their childhood,
Thinking168 of Troy still mighty, life in its rose-touched dawning
When they had longed for the clash of the fight and the burden of armour.
Couchant she lies with her paws before her and joys in his gambols,
Over the prey as he frisks and is careless,– answered the virgin:
“Younger than thou in my nation have mounted the steed and the war-car.
Reaching my shafts for the cast from the rim of my car in the battle
Handle perhaps the spear that shall smite down the Phthian Achilles.
Worthy Polydamas’ son and the warlike house of Antenor?”
Sombre replied and threatened with Fate the high-hearted virgin.
Slain by a father’s curse we fight who are kin to Antenor.
Aim through the shield and the shielder to wreak the curse of the grandsire.
Swiftly to Halamus answered the high-crested strength169 of the virgin:
“Curses leave lightly the lips when the soul of a man is in anger
Even as blessings easily crowd round the head that is cherished.
Never Death has drawn170 back from the doomed by the power of a blessing.
Cried with her voice like the call of heaven’s bugles Penthesilea:171
“Go, find the spear, gird the sword, don the cuirass, child of the mighty.
Armed when thou standest172 on the plain of the Xanthus, field of thy fathers,
See that thou fight on this day like the comrade of Penthesilea.
Where were the shields of the mighty, the arms of the mansion of Teucer;
There from the house-thralls he wrung the greaves and the cuirass and helmet
Troilus wore, the wonderful boy who, ere ripened his prowess,
Conquered the Greeks and drove to the ships and fought with Achilles.
Bearing spears and a sword and rejoiced in the clank on his armour.
Opened the doors of their warlike debate to the strength of the virgin:
“Well do I hope that our courage outwearying every opponent
Triumph shall lift to her ancient seat on the Pergaman turrets;
Clouds from Zeus come and pass; his sunshine eternal survives them.
Hardly pushed back in shock after shock with the Myrmidon numbers
Swelled returns; they fight with a hope that broken refashion
Helpful skies and a man now leads them who conquers and slaughters,
One of the sons of the gods and armed by the gods for the struggle.
And but as mortals striving with stubborn mortal courage,
Hated and scorned and alone in the world by the nations rejected,
Fight with the gods and mankind and Achilles and numbers against us,
Keeping our country from death in this bitter hour of her fortunes.
Whether far out to fight on the seaward plain with the Argives
Or behind Xanthus the river impetuous friendly to Troya.
Not behind vain defences choosing a tardy destruction,
Rather as Zeus with his spear of the lightning and chariot of tempest
Scatters and chases the heavy mass of the clouds through the heavens,
So would I hunt the Greeks through the plains to their lair by the Ocean,
Straight at the throat of my foeman so would I leap in the battle.
“There where I find my foe I will fight him, whether by Xanthus
Or at the fosse of the ships where they crouch behind bulwarks for shelter,
Or if they dare by Scamander the higher marching on Troya.”
Meeting the foe ere he moves173 in his will to the clash of encounter.”
“Joy of the battle, joy of the tempest, joy of the gamble
Mated are in thy blood, O virgin, daughter of Ares,
Thou like the deathless wouldst have us combat, us who are human?
Fiercer joy than this the gods have not given to mortals.”
Highly to Paris answered the174 virgin armipotent Penthesilea,
“Paris and Halamus, shafts of the war-god, fear not for Troya.
But in my vision of strength and the soul that is seated within me,
Not while I live and war, shall the host of the Myrmidon fighters
Forcing the currents, lave as once they were wont, in Scamander
Vaunting their victor car-wheels red with the blood of the vanquished.
Fight again if you will behind high-banked fast-flowing Xanthus.”
Flinging Troy as a stake on the doubtful diceboard of Ares.
Mighty Pelides’ head who gives victory still to the Argives.
Easy the Greeks to destroy if175 Achilles once slain on the Troad,
But if the Peleid lives the fire shall yet finish with Troya.
Paris’ fatal shafts and the missiles of Penthesilea.
Fighting shall hold back Pylos and Argolis, Crete and the Locrian.
I with Polydamas’ spear will dare to restrain and discourage
Ajax’ feet though they yearn for pursuit and are hungry for swiftness;
Knot of retreat behind let some strong experienced captain
Stand with our younger levies guarding the fords of the Xanthus,
Fortify the wavering line and dawn as fresh strength on the wearied.
Over the plains, but draw back sternly and slowly to Troya.”
Only the savage speed of the Locrian rescues their legions.
Marshal we so the176 field. Stand, Halamus, covering Xanthus,
Helping our need when the foe press hard on the Ilian fighters.
Fighting in front or guarding behind the fate of our country.”
Gleaming returned and the room grew glad with the light of his armour.
Gods of the household sighed and smiled at his courage and beauty,
They who had seen so many pass over their floors and return not
Hasting to battle, the fair and mighty177, the curled and the grizzled,
All of them treading one path like the conscious masks of one pageant
Winding past through the glare of a light to the shadows178 beyond them.
Seized him and cried aloud, her wild and warlike nature
Moved by the mother’s heart that the woman loses not ever.
Rather than Locrian Ajax, rather than Phthian Achilles.
Greedy and glad who feel as a lioness eyeing her booty.
But, when this war ends, will bear thee away to the hills of my country
And, as a robber might, with my captive glad and unwilling
Bring thee a perfect gift to my sisters Ditis and Anna.
Gazed not on yet, with their craggy tops besieging Cronion,
Sheeted in virgin white and chilling his feet with their vastness.
Lakes of Elysium dreaming and wide and rivers of wonder.
Broken only by call of the birds and the plashing of waters.
There179 shalt repose in my father’s house and walk in the gardens
Green where I played at the ball with my sisters Ditis and Anna.”
Bidding her think for the last time now of the haunts of her childhood
Gazing180 in her soul with a parting love at the thought of her sisters
And of the lovely and distant land where she played through her summers,
Brief was the touch; for she changed at once and only of triumph
Dreamed and only yearned in her heart for the shock of Achilles.
Halls where the air seemed sobbing yet with the cry of Cassandra;
Clad in their brilliant armour, bright in their beauty and courage,
Sons of the passing demigods, they to their latest battle
Down the ancestral hill of the Pergamans, moved to the gateway
Loud with an endless march, with a tireless gliding to meet them
All Troy streamed from her streets and her palaces armed for the combat;
Then to the voice of Deiphobus clanging high o’er the rumour
Wide the portals swung that shall close on blood-red181 evening,
Slow, foreboding, reluctant, and through the yawn of the gateway
Drove with a cry her steeds the virgin Penthesilea
Calling aloud, “O steeds of my east, we drive to Achilles.”
Scared with his eyes lest Antenor his grandsire should rise in the gateway,
Hardly believing his fate that led him safe through the portals.
Gold on his helm; a mighty bow hung slack on his shoulder,
Propped o’er his arm a spear, as he drove his car through the gateway.
Helenus, Priam’s son, Thrasymachus, grizzled Aretes,
Came like the tempest his father, Aiamos182, son of the Northwind –
Orus old in the battle183 and Eumachus, kin to Aeneas,
Who was Creüsa’s brother and richest of men in the Troad
After Antenor only and Priam, Ilion’s monarch.
Halamus drove and Corecbus184 led on his Lycian levies.
Doomed to the sword? for never again from the ancient city
Foot would march or chariots crash in their pride to the Xanthus.
They in the portals met and their ancient eyes on each other
Looked amazed, admiring on age the harness of battle.
They in the turreted head of the gateway talked185 and conversed.
Since in the battle thy car was seen and the arm of thy prowess
Move once more thy body infirm and thy eyes that are faded?”
Old and weary hast sat in thy halls and desisted from battle.
Crushed by the stones of my falling house or slain like a victim
Dragged through the blood of my kin on the sacred hearth of my fathers,
Knowing that Troy yet stands in her pride though doomed in her morrows?
Old are thy limbs, but thy heart still188 young and hot for the war-din.”
Nobly in battle, nor end disgraced by disease or subjection.
Arms that have fought by the Oxus and conquered the Orient’s heroes
Famous in Priam’s wars, and a heart that is faithful to Troya.
Joined by the love of our race who in life were divided in counsel.
Out with the rest to the fight towards the sea and the spears of the Argives.
Only once from their speed189 they gazed back silent on Troya
Lifting her marble pride in the golden joy of the morning.
Filling the heavens with the dust and the war-cry, marched on the Argives.
Spurred by the secret thought of the Fates who change not nor falter.
Troas’ god like a lion wroth and afraid; to meet him
Whistling the ocean breezes came and Ida regarded.
So with his haste in his190 wheels the herald oceanward driving
Came through the gold of the morn o’er the trampled green of the pastures
Back to the ships and the roar of the sea and the iron-hooped leaguer.
Trooped like a flock of the sea-fowl pensive and still on the margin.
He past the outposts rapidly coursed to the fosse191 of the Argives.
Bridging the moat of the ships Talthybius drove in his chariot
Out of the wide plains azure-roofed and the silence of Nature
Passing in to the murmur of men and the thick of the leaguer.
Down from the high seat climbed of the war-car framed for the mighty.
Slowly the old man toiled with his eager heart, and to meet him
Sauntering forth from his tent at the sound of the driving car-wheels
Strong Automedon came who was charioteer of Achilles.
What in their armoured assembly counsel the Kings192 of the Argives?”
Nor have I mixed with the Greeks in their cohorts ranked by the Ocean,
Nor have I stood in their tents who are kings in sceptred Achaia,
But from Achilles sent to Achilles I bring back the message.
Soothed by the lyre or hearing the chanted deeds of the mighty,
Or does he walk as he loves by the shore of the far-sounding waters?”
“Now from the meal he rests and Briseis lyres to him singing
One of the Ilian chants of old in the tongue of the Trojans.”
High on the sands or under the tents we have eaten and rested.
All are like straining hounds; for Achilles shares not his counsels,
But on the ships, in the tents the talk has run like Peneus;
These upon Troy to be loosed and the hard-fighting wolf-brood of Priam,
These hope starkly with Argos embraced, to have done with the Spartan,
Ending his brilliance in blood, to193 sport on the sands of the margent
Playing at bowls with the heads of the Cretan and crafty Odysseus.
Quicken heart-beats dulled and limbs that are numb with reposing.
Splendid and spacious even as the hall of a high-crested chieftain,
Lofty, held by a hundred stakes to the Phrygian meadow.
Sword and spear and helmet and cuirass of fallen heroes
Slain by the hand of mighty194 Achilles warring with Troya.
Craftsman’s work and the wood well-carved and the ivory painted,
Work of bronze and work of gold and the dreams of the artist.
Nobler195 boys and daughters of high-born Phrygians captive,
Borne from the joyless ruins that now were the sites of their childhood,
Served in the land of their sires the will of the Phthian Achilles.
Loved by the Fates and doomed by them, spear of their will against Troya,
Peleus’ hero son by the foam-white child of the waters
Dreaming reposed and his death-giving hand hung lax o’er the couch-side.
Sung196 to the Grecian victor chants of the land of her fathers,
Sang the chant of Ilus, the tale of the glories of Troya.
Heart-delighted if with some tears; for easy are mortal
Hearts to be bent by Fate and soon we consent to our fortunes.
And at the ominous coming the voice of the singer faltered,
Faltering hushed like a thought melodious ceasing in heaven.
But from his couch the Peleid sprang to action, rejoicing197,
Gladly delivered from patience long and he cried to the herald:
“Long hast thou lingered in Ilion, envoy, mute in the chambers
Golden of Priam old; while around thee darkened the counsels
Wavering blindly and fiercely of minds that revolt from compulsion,
Whatever198 the thoughts of Deiphobus locked in that nature of iron
Now that he stands confronting his fate in the town of his fathers.
Cast from the inflexible heart and the faltering tongue of Aeneas
Or with the golden laugh of the tameless bright Alexander?”
Wrapping her locks round their ears and their eyes, lest they see and escape her,
Kissing their tongue with her fatal lips and dictating its answers.
Rather we choose; it is nearer to Dardanus, King of the Hellenes.
Nor down the paths of peace revisit her fathers’ Eurotas.
Lowering Priam’s heights and darkening Ilion’s splendours;
Not with her gold Troy purchases safety but with her spear-point.
Armed to descend from the calm of Olympian heights to thy succour,
Hedging thy fame from defeat; for we all desire thee in battle,
Mighty to end thee or tame at last by the floods of the Xanthus.’
Insolent, warlike, regal and swift as herself is her message:
‘Sea of renown and of valour that fillest the world with thy rumour,
Speed of the battle incarnate, mortal image of Ares!
Far from thy knowledge, in mountains that never have rung to thy war-cry.
So was I seized with delight that my heart was hurt with its rapture,
Knowing today I shall gaze with my eyes on that which I imaged
Only in air of the mind or met in the paths of my dreaming.
Or as a woman weak of these plains fit but for the distaff,
Promisest capture in war and fame as thy slave-girl in Phthia,–
Surely I think that death today will reply to that promise,–
Now I will give thee my answer and warn thee ere we encounter.
Didst thou not number the Argives over199 ere I came to the battle?
And in the battle behind me thunder the heroes Eoan,
Ranks whose feeblest can match with the vaunted chiefs of the Argives.
Always ’tis to return like death recircling on mortals.
I on the left of the Trojans war with my bright-armed numbers,
Thou on the Argive right come forth, Achilles, and meet me!
Do thy utmost will and make thee more glorious than gods are,
Serving thy couch in Phthia and drawing the jar from thy rivers.
If ’tis thy hope indeed that the sun can turn back from the Orient,
But if thou canst not, death of myself or thyself thou shalt capture.”
Musing heard and was silent a while200 the strength of Achilles,
Musing of Fate and the wills of men and the purpose of Heaven,
Then from his thoughts he broke and turned in his soul towards battle.
When from their will they are thrust and harried by Fate and disaster:
Fierceness then is the armour of strength against grief and its yieldings.
Once had defiance waked from my depths a Fury far-striding201
Flaming for justice and vengeance, nor had it, satisfied, rested,
Sunk to its lair till the insulter died torn or was kneeling for pardon.
Joy more I find in saving and cherishing than in the carnage.
Nobler to build and to govern than what the ages have laboured
Putting their godhead forth to create or the high gods have fashioned,
Opens my heart to the valour of man and the beauty of woman,
Works of the world and delight; the cup of my victory sweetens
Not with the joys of hate, but the human pride of the triumph.
Placed in a world where all things strive from the worm to the Titan.
So will I woo with the sword and with love the delight of my foeman,
Troy and Polyxena, beauty of Paris and glory of Priam.
There where Ilus sat and Tros, where Laomedon triumphed,
Peleus’ house shall reign, the Hellene sit where the Trojan
Thunder my chariot-wheels, nor let any give back in the battle,
Good if he wills from me, till through the conquered gates of the foeman
Storming we herd in their remnants and press into Troy as with evening
Put by thy lyre, O girl; it shall gladden my heart in my triumph
Victor returned from Troy to listen pleased to thy singing,
Bearing a captive bound to my car-wheels Penthesilea,
Bearing my valour’s reward, Polyxena, daughter of Priam,
Won in despite of her city and brothers and spears of her kindred.
Changing the hum of the tents as he raced into shoutings of battle;
For with the giant din of a nation triumphant arising
Hellas sprang from her irksome ease and mounted her war-car;
Donning her armour bright she rejoiced in the trumpet202 of battle.
Shuddered under his gaze and shrank from the voice of the hero:
“Thou to the tents of thy kings, Talthybius, herald of Argos!
Rather as living speech from the iron breast of the Hellene.
Thus shalt thou speak my will to the brittle and fugitive legions: –
‘Now Achilles turns towards Troya and fast-flowing Xanthus,
Now he leaps at the iron zone, the impregnable city.
When with a doubtful word in his soul he came wind-helped from Hellas
Cleaving the Aegean deep towards the pine-crested vision of Ida.
Only on death he can reckon not whether it comes in the midnight
Treading the couch of Kings in their pride or speeds in the spear-shaft.
Claiming one of the equal Fates that stand robed for the fighter,
For to my last dire wrestle I go with the Archer of heaven,
And ere the morning gleam have awakened the eagles on Ida,
Whether cold Hades dim or Indus waits for my coming
Pouring down vast to the sea with the noise of his numberless waters,
Rushing to Troy like the eagle of Zeus when he flies towards the thunders,–
Winged with might, the bird of the spaces, upbuoying his pinions.
Tramp of the Argive multitudes helping my lonely courage,
Neither the transient swell of the cry Achaian behind me
Seek, nor the far-spreading207 voice of Atrides guiding his legions.
Quelled when the stern Eoans break and Penthesilea
Round the accustomed chiefs, round the old victorious wrestlers
Wearied strengths Deiphobus leaves you or sternest Aeneas.
Brilliant with blood when we stand amid Ilion’s marble splendours,
Then let none seat deaf flame on the glory of Phrygia’s marbles
Or with his barbarous rapine shatter the chambers of sweetness
Slaying the work of the gods and the beauty the ages have lived for.
Spurred like a steed to its goal by my spear dug deep in his bosom;
Fast he shall fleet to the waters of wailing, the pleasureless pastures.
Empty of wide-rolling wheels and the tramp of a turbulent people
Troy with her marble domes shall live for our nations in beauty
Hushed mid the trees and the corn and the pictured halls of the ancients,
Watching her image of dreams in the gliding waves of Scamander,
Sacred and still, a city of memory spared by the Grecians.’208
Lest upon Greece an evil should fall and her princes should perish.
Sparing their pride and their hearts but dooming their lives to the death-stroke.
Wroth grew the209 old man’s heart, but he feared Achilles and slowly
Over the margin grey on the shore of the far-sounding Ocean
Silent paced to the tents of the Greeks and the Argive assembly.
Strove in vain with their droning roar, awaiting their chieftains
Each in his tribe and his people far down the margin Aegean,
Argolis’ sons and Epirote spears and the isles and the southron,
Locris’ swarms and Messene’s pikes and the strength of the Theban,
Hosts bright-armed, bright-eyed, bright-haired, time-hardened to Ares,
Stretched in harsh and brilliant lines with a glitter of spear-points
Swarmed upon Asia’s coasts disgorged from their210 ships in their hundreds.
High where the grass and the meadow-bloom failed on the sand-rifted sward-edge,
Pouring his argent voice Epeus spoke to the princes,
Rapid in battle and speech; and even as boy211 in a courtyard
Tosses his ball in the air and changes his hands for the seizing,
So he played with his counsel212 and thought and rejoiced in his swiftness.
Dumb, unthought, unphrased, to us dark, but the caverns of Nature
Hear its cry when God’s moment changing our fate comes visored
Silently into our lives and the spirit too knows, for it watches.
Old Talthybius paced, nor paused till he stood at the midmost
Fronting that council of Kings and nearest to Locrian Ajax
And where Sthenelus sat and where sat the great Diomedes,
Chiefs of the South, but their love was small for the Kings of the Spartans.
Sole of all sounds at night, for the kite is at rest and the tiger
Sleeps from the hunt returned in the deepest hush of the jungle.
One is the voice of the great and the many shall hear it inclining.
And when the eagle’s scream shall arise in the dawn over Ida,
Troy shall have fallen or earth shall be empty of Phthian Achilles.
Whether the fast-closed hands above have kept for his morrows
Chill of the joyless shades or earth and her wooings of sunlight
Still shall detain his days with the doubtful meed of our virtues,
Threshed by the flails of Fate; ’tis the soul of the hero that conquers.
Not on the tramp of the multitudes, not in213 the cry of the legions
Founds the strong man his strength but the god that he carries within him.
He has no need of thy voice, O Atreus214, guiding the legions,
He is the leader, he215 is the soul of magnificent emprise.
Rest, O ye sons of the Greeks,216 the Phthian shall conquer for Hellas!
Meet him stark in the mellay surging217 Deiphobus’ coursers,
Guiding Aeneas’ spear; recover the souls of your fathers.
And in this marble Ilion bowed218 to the tread of her foemen
Watched by the ancient domes you stand by the timeless turrets,
Counselled of Ate, torch of the burning, hand of the plunder
Groping for gold but finding death in her opulent chambers.
Spurred by the spear in his arrogant breast like a steed to the gorges:
Fast he shall fleet to the flowerless meadows, the sorrowful pastures.
Touch not the city Apollo built, where Poseidon laboured221,
Slay not the work of the gods and the glory the ages have lived for.
Timeless Troy leave solitary dreaming by ancient Scamander
Sacred and still, a city of memory spared by the Grecians.”222
Male and kingly of front like a lion conscious of puissance
Rose a form august, the monarch great Agamemnon.
Governing the beast and the demon within by the god who is mighty.
Shadowing thy hoary brows, thou herald of pride and of insult.
Thus to be seized and controlled as in fetters by Zeus and Athene.
Curbed by the god in them painfully move the lives of the noble,
Forced to obey the eye that watches within in their bosoms.
Scourged by the heavens in my dearest, wronged by men and their clamours
Griefs untold I have borne in Argos and Aulis and Troas,
Yoked to the228 sacred toil of the Greeks for their children and country,
Bound by the gods to a task that is heavy, a load that is bitter.
Broods upon private wrongs or serving his231 lonely ambition
Studies to reap his gain from the labour and woe of his fellows.
All that has hurt its chords and wounded the wings of my spirit.
Nor like his sire of the wise-still heart deep-sighted232 and patient
Bearing the awful ruin233 of the gods, but hastes to his longings;
Dire is234 his wrath and pursued by the band of his giant ambitions.
Zeus created our strength, but that earth might have help from her children.
Valiant or fearful and as was our birth by the gods and their thinkings
Formed, so already enacted and fixed by their wills are our fortunes.
Armoured wisdoms oppose, let not Ate seize on your passions.
Nor of your spirits of wrath take counsel but of Athene.
Suffer, O hearts of his seed, O souls who are chosen and mighty,
All forgetting but Greece and her good; resolve what is noble.
But Menelaus arose, the Spartan, the husband of Helen,
Atreus’ younger son from a lesser womb, in his brilliance
Dwarfed by the other’s port, yet tall was he, gracile and splendid,
As if a panther might hunt by a lion’s side in the forest.
“Woe to me, shameless, born to my country a cause of affliction,
Since for my sake all wrongs must be borne and all shames be encountered;
And for my sake you have spun through the years down the grooves of disaster
Bearing the shocks of the Trojans and ravaged by Zeus and by Hector,
Slaughtered by Rhesus and Memnon, Sarpedon and Penthesilea;
Or by the Archer pierced, the hostile dreadful Apollo,
Evilly end the days of the Greeks remote from their kindred –
Slain on an alien soil by Asian Xanthus and Ida.
Passing serenely my portals to joy in the chambers of Troya.
Child of thy sire, cause still of thy griefs and never of blessing?
But in our ships that sailed close-fraught with this dolorous Ate
Worse was the bane they bore which King Peleus begot on white Thetis.
One who afflicts with his light or his force mortality’s weakness
Stripping for falsehoods their verities, shaking the walls they erected.
Hostile all things the scourge divine overbears or, if helpful237,
Fit in the frame of things earthly but shatters their rhythm and order
Rending the measures just that the wise have decreed for our growing.
So have our mortal plannings broken in238 this fateful Achilles
And with our blood and our anguish Heaven has fostered his greatness.
Stand from the shock and the cry where Hellene meets with Eoan,
Troy and Phthia locked, Achilles and Penthesilea,
Nor any more than watchers care who line an arena;
Calm like the impartial gods they approve239 the bravest and swiftest.
So240 let him fight! The fates shall preserve him he vaunts of or gather,
Even as death shall gather us all for memory’s clusters,
All in their day who were great or were little, heroes or cowards.
Whirled if he break – for the high gods ride on the hiss of his spear-shaft,–
Ours is the gain who shall break rejoicing through obdurate portals
Praising Pallas alone and Hera daughter of Heaven.
Nor do I deem that the man has been born in Asia or Hellas
Who in the dreadful field can prevail against Penthesilea,–
If to their tents the Myrmidons fleeing cumber the meadows
Slain by a girl in her speed and leaving the corpse of their leader,
Ours is the gain, we are rid of a shame and a hate and a danger.
Yet shall our hearts be light because earth is void of Achilles.
Let it all go, let the salt floods swallow it, fate and oblivion
Bury it out in the night; let us sail o’er the waves to our country
Leaving Helen in Troy since the gods are the friends of transgressors.”
Raised his brow of pride in the lofty Argive assembly.
Overpeering a cascade’s edge and is seen from the valleys,
Such he seemed to their eyes who remembered Greece and her waters,
Heard in their souls the torrent’s leap and the wind on the hill-top241:
Armies so many, chieftains so warlike suffer in silence
Pride of a single man when he thunders and lightens in Troas.
Doubtless the winds of the north have made him a runner and spearman.
Choosing for leader and king I have come to the toil and the warfare.
But for this whelp of the northlands, nursling of rocks and the sea-cliff,
Who with his bleak and rough-hewn Myrmidons hastes to the carnage,
Leader of wolves to their prey, not the king of a humanised nation.
Crude to our culture and light and void of our noble fulfilments
Minos shall bend his knee nor Crete, a barbarian’s vassal,
Born in the senseless seas mid the erring wastes of the Ocean!244
Claim one more of this breed, we can bear that excess to her245 glories,
Not upon earth these new-born deities huge-passioned, sateless
Who with their mouth as of Orcus and stride of the ruinous Ocean
Sole would be seen mid her sons and devour all life’s joy and its greatness.
Millions must empty their lives that a few men246 may o’ershadow the nations,
Numberless homes must weep but their247 hunger of glory is sated!
All her greatness and deeds that now end in miserable ashes,
Ceasing shall fade and be as a tale that was forged by the poets.
Naked to hatred and rapine and punished with rape and with slaughter.
Look forth dominion and menace over the crested Aegean
Shadowing250 Achaia. Fire shall abolish the fame of her ramparts,
Earth her foundations forget. Shall she stand then affronting251 the azure?
Leap and roar of her led by the spear of Achilles, not Hector!
Asia by Peleus guided252 shall stride on us after Antenor?
Instincts of men discover their foe and like hounds in the darkness
Trains to bondage sons of the race of whom Aeolus father
Storm-voiced was and free, nor like other groupings of mortals
Moulded we were by Zeus, but supremely were sifted and fashioned;
Other are Danaus’ sons and other the lofty Achaians:
Chainless like Nature’s tribes in their many-voiced colonies founded
They their god-given impulse shall keep and their natures of freedom.
Bowed to the voice of a law that is just, obeying their leaders
Life shall move golden, free in its steps and just in its measure,
Glad of a manhood complete, by excess and defect untormented.
Freedom is life to the Argive’s253 soul, to Aeolia’s peoples.
Changed into phantoms of men with the name of a Greek for a byword.
Hearts let him seek that are friends with the dust, overpowered by their heavens,
Here in these Asian vastnesses, here where the heats and the perfumes
Sicken the soul and the sense and a soil of indolent plenty
Breeds like the corn in its multitudes natures accustomed to thraldom.
Not in the sea-ringed isles and not in the mountains Achaian.
Hurting our hearts we have toiled; shall they reap not their ease in the vengeance?
Troas is strewn254 with the lives of our friends and with ashes remembered;
Shall not Meriones slain be reckoned in blood and in treasure?
Slaying and burning will stride through the city of music and pleasure,
Babes of her blood borne high on the spears at the head of my column,
Wives of her princes dragged through her streets in its pomp to their passion,
Gold of Troy stream richly past in the gaze of Achilles.
Yet shall a Cretan spear make search in his heart for his godhead.
After him rose from the throne257 the Locrian swift-footed Ajax.
“Kings of the Greeks, throw a veil o’er258 your griefs, lay a curb on your anger.
This is the burden of man that he acts from his heart and his passions,
Madness they made the heart’s comrade, repentance they gave for its scourger.
Who shall forbid the cry and who shall measure the anguish?
Shame coils a snake in my back when thought whispers of Penthesilea.
Not from the slayer of Hector, not from the doom of Sarpedon,
Memnon’s mighty o’erthrower, the blood-stained splendid Achilles.
Vainly has brought him victory leaving life to the hated;
This is a wound to our race that a Greek should whisper of mercy.
Pity that only disturbs God’s measures and false and unrighteous
Holds man back from the joy he might win and troubles his bosom.
Blood of the fall and anguish of flight when the heroes are slaughtered,
Days without joy while we labour and see not the eyes of our parents,
Toil of the war-cry, nights that drag past upon alien beaches,
Helen ravished, Paris triumphant, endless the items
Crowd on a wrath in the memory, kept as in bronze the credit
Graved in the hearts of our fathers that still by our youth is remembered,
Hellas waiting and crouching, dreading the spear of the Trojan,
Flattering, sending gifts and pale in her mortal anguish,
Agony long of a race at the mercy of iron invaders,
This shall261 pay most, the city of pride, the insolent nation,
Pay with her temples charred and her golden mansions in ruins,
Pay with the shrieks of her ravished virgins, the groans of the aged
Shall be in Troy of another sort than she loved in her greatness,
Merry with conquered gold and insulting the world with her flutings.
Out of our shame she chiselled them, rich with our blood they were coloured.
This not your will, O ye Greeks, shall deny to the Locrian Ajax.
Cumbered my path I would push her aside to leap on my victims.
Frowning Tydeus’s262 son, the Tirynthian, strong Diomedes.
Hector fell, nor Sarpedon, nor Troilus leading the war-cry.
Still have a living tongue for ingratitude but for the hero.
Him shall the termless centuries praise when we are forgotten.
Has not Atrides curbed who is greatest of all in our nations
Wrath in the heart and the words that are winged for our bale from our bosoms?
Discord then let arise or concord solder our nations.”
Great Tydides spoke and ceased; and there rose up impatient
Tall mid263 the spears of the north the hero king Prothoënor,
Prince in Cadmeian Thebes who with Leitus led on his thousands:
“Loudly thou vauntest thy freedom Ionian Minos recalling:
Lord of thy southern isles who gildst with thy tribute264 Mycenae!
We have not bowed our neck to Pelops’ line or at265 Argos’
Iron heel have not crouched nor clasped like thy time-wearied nations,
Python-befriended, gripped in the coils of an iron protection,
Bondage soothed by a name and destruction masked as a helper.
Pride and266 his strength and his deeds renouncing for joy of that vision,
Yielded his hoary right to the sapling stock of Atrides.
Fits his wrath and hate to the bow and aims at the heart-strings
But from the Truth that is seated within me compelling my accents,
Taught by my fathers stern not to lie nor to hide what I harbour,
Truth the goddess I speak, nor constrain the voice in my bosom.
Brave but less than Achilles, wise but not as Odysseus,
Love of thy house and thy tribe disfigures the king in thy nature;
Thou thy brother preferrest, thy friends and thy nation267 unjustly,
Even as a common man whose heart is untaught by Athene,
Beastlike favours his brood forgetting the law of the noble.
Over the angry seas this stern fierce268 toil of the nations;
Therefore Achilles has turned in his soul and gazed towards the Orient.
Greece and her safety and good in our269 passions strive to remember.
Nor270 of this stamp was thy brother’s speech; such words Lacedaemon
Hearing may praise in her kings; we speak not in Thebes what is shameful.
Nor will forsake the daughter of Zeus and white glory of Hellas,
Helen the golden-haired Tyndarid, left for the joy of our foemen,
Chained to Paris’ delight, earth’s goddess the slave of the Phrygian,
Though Menelaus the Spartan abandon his wife to the Trojans
And from the field where he lavished the unvalued blood of his people
Greece to defend we have toiled through the summers and lingering autumns
Blind with our blood; for our country we bleed, repelling her foemen.
Claiming its price from the heavens, though thou sail with thy brother and cohorts.
Still will the Greeks fight on in the Troad helped by thy absence.
Standing friendless and few on the huge and hostile champaign,
Always a few will be left whom the threatenings of Fate cannot conquer,
Always earth has sons271 whose courage waits not on fortune;
Hellas’ heart will be firm confronting the threat of the victor,
Sthenelus war and Tydides, Odysseus and Locrian Ajax,
Thebes’ unconquered sons and the hero chiefs of the northland.
We will clash on in the fight unsatisfied, fain of the war-cry,
Helped by the gods and our cause through the dawns and the blood-haunted evenings,
Rising in armour with morn and outstaying the red of the sunset,
Till in her ashes Troy forgets that she lusted for empire
Or in our own the honour and valour of Greece are extinguished.”
But to the northern kings they were summer rain on the visage.
Rose up wide-acclaimed; like an oak was he stunted in stature,
Broad-shouldered, firm-necked, lone and sufficient, as on some island
Regnant one peak whose genial streams flow down to the valley,
Dark272 on its slopes are the olives, the storms butt in vain at its shoulders,–
Such he stood and pressed the earth with his feet like one vanquished,
Atlas whose vastness free from impatience suffers the heavens,
Suffering spares the earth, the thought-haunted motionless Titan,
For as the Master of all guides humanity, so this Odysseus
Dealt with men and helped and guided them, careful and selfless,
Crafty, tender and wise,– like the Master who bends o’er his creatures,
Suffers their sins and their errors and guides them screening his273 guidance;
Each through his nature He leads and the world by the lure of His wisdom.
Warriors vowed to a sacred hate and a vengeance that’s holy,
Sateless still is that hate, that vengeance cries for its victims,
Still is the altar unladen, the priest yet waits with the death-knife.
Who while the rites are unfinished, the gods274 unsatisfied, impious
Turns in his heart to the feuds of the275 house and his strife with his equals?
But it was anger and sorrow that spoke, it was not Menelaus.
Back to his home in populous city or orcharded island;
There from his ships disembarked look round upon eyes that grow joyless
Seeking a father or husband slain, a brother heart-treasured,
Mothers in tears for their children, and when he is asked, ‘O our chieftain,
What dost thou bring back in place of our dead to fill hearts that are empty?’
Troy yet stands confronting her skies and Helen in Troya?’
Nor276 for such foil will I go back to Ithaca or to Laertes,
Rather far would I sail in my ships past southern Cythera,
Turning away in silence from waters where on some headland
Gazing south o’er the waves my father waits for my coming,
Leaving Sicily’s shores and on through the pillars of Gades.
Out into tossing worlds and weltering reaches of tempest
Dwarfing the swell of the wide-wayed Aegean,– oceans unbounded
Either by cliff or by sandy margin, only the heavens
Ever receding before my keel as it ploughs on for ever
Seeking some island unknown, not return with shame to my fathers.
Wounds and defeat you have borne; bear too their errors who lead you.
Discord and deaf rebellion that speed like a poison through kingdoms,
Break all this army in pieces while Ate mocking at mortals
Trails to a shameful end this noble279 essay of the nations.
Not as a perfect arbiter armed with impossible virtues
Far o’er our heads and our ken like a god high-judging his creatures,
But as a man among men who is valiant, wise and far-seeing,
One of ourselves and the knot of our wills and the sword of our action.
Greece we obey; for she walks in his gait and commands by his gestures.
Falling apart from his nation; who, wed to a solitary virtue,
Deeming he does but right, renounces the yoke of his fellows,–
Errs more than hearts of the mire that in blindness and weakness go stumbling.
Even in his virtues sins and, erring, calls up Ate:
For among men we were born, not as wild beasts sole in a fastness.
Chasing highly some image of good they trample its substance.
God we would force and enchain to the throb of our hearts the immortals,–
Justice and Virtue, her sister; for where is justice mid creatures
Dreams by his light or his force to compel this deity earth-born,
Evil though his wisdom exceeded the gathered light of the millions,
Evil though his single fate were vaster than Troy and Achaia.
Just is the slow and common march, not a lonely swiftness
Far from our human reach that is vowed to impossible strivings.
Worse is the bane: lo, the Ilian battlefield red282 with his errors!
Though with some pride it return and reproaching the friends that it fled from,
Be not less fond than heart-satisfied parents who yearn o’er that coming,
Never has beat on my grief-vexed ears than the steps of Achilles
Turning back to this Greece and the cry of his strength in its rising.
Zeus is awake in this man who his dreadful and world-slaying283 puissance
Gave in an hour of portentous birth to the single Achilles.
Cross not the man whom the gods have chosen to work out their purpose
Then when he rises; his hour is his, though thine be all morrows.
Afterwards bale that is best shall be done persuading Achilles;
Doubt not the gods’ decisions, awful, immutable, ruthless.
O not today, not284 now remember the faults of the hero!
Guide your fate through the war-surge loud in the wake of his exploits,
Rise, O ye kings of the Greeks! leave debate for the voices of battle.
Ever the pack by the voice of the mighty is seized and attracted!
Gave and around him arose the Kings of the west and its leaders.
Men whose hearts were burning yet with implacable passion
Felt Odysseus’ strength and rose up clay to his counsels.
Rose at his word the Cretan and Locrian, Thebes and Epirus,
Nestor rose, the time-tired hoary chief of the Pylians.
Forth from their tent on the shores of the Troad, splendid in armour,
Into the golden blaze of the sun and the race of the sea-winds.
Shone in their eyes the lust of blood and of earth and of pillage;
For in their hearts those fires replaced the passions of discord,
Forging a brittle peace by a common hatred and yearning.
Sating with massacre, plunder and rape and the groans of their foemen
Death and Hell in our mortal bosoms seated and shrouded;
There they have altars and seats in mankind in this fair-builded temple
Made for purer gods; but we turn from tender285 luminous temptings,
Vainly the divine whispers seek us; the heights are rejected.104
Man to his earth drawn always prefers the murmurs of her286 promptings,
Man, devouring, devoured who is slayer and slain through the ages
Since by the beast he soars held and exceeds not that pedestal’s measure.
Glued like the forest pack to the war-scarred coat of its leader,
Glued as the pack when wolves follow their prey like Doom that can turn not.
Brilliant eyes and fierce of souls that remembered the forest,
Wild beasts touched by thought and savages lusting for beauty,
Dire and fierce and formidable chieftains followed Atrides,
Merciless kings of merciless men and the founders of Europe,
Sackers of Troy and sires of the Parthenon, Athens and Caesar.
For, it is said, from the savage we rose and were born to a wild beast.
Drawn towards height but fullness contemning, called by the azure,
Life when we fail in, poor in our base and forgetting our mother,
Back we are hurled to our roots; we recover our sap from the savage.
Such were those frames of old as the sons of Heaven might have chosen
Who in the dawn of eternity wedded the daughters of Nature,
Cultures touched by the morning star, vast, bold and poetic,
Titans’ works and joys, but thrust down from their puissance and pleasure
Fainting now fell from the paces of Time or were left by his ages.
Lucid and slender and perfectly little as fit for this mortal
Ever who sinks back fatigued from immortality’s stature;
Man, repelled by the gulfs within him and shrinking from vastness,
Form of the earth accepts and is glad of the lap of his mother.
Chasing the dawns and the wondrous horizons, eternity’s secrets
Driven and led by the breath of God who meets him with tempest,
Death and limits are known; so he clings to them hating the summons.
Amorous grown of its marble walls and its noble adornments,
Lost to mightier cares and the spaces boundlessly calling,
Lust of the infinite skies he forgets and the kiss of the storm-winds,
So might one live who inured to his days of the field and the farm-yard
Shrinks from the grandiose mountain-tops; shut up in lanes and in hedges
Only his furrows he leads and only orders his gardens,
Only his fleeces weaves and drinks of the yield of his vine-rows:
Lost to his ear is the song of the waterfall, wind in the forests.
That still is Europe though by the Christ-touch troubled and tortured,
Seized by the East but clasping her chains and resisting our freedom.
Then by the spear of Achilles, then in the Trojan death-cry;
Bearers mute of a future world were those armoured Achaians.
Out from the tent emerging on Phrygia’s coasts in their armour;
Those of the early seed Pelasgian slighter in stature,
Dark-haired, hyacinth-curled from the isles of the sea and the southron
Soft-eyed men with pitiless hearts; bright-haired the Achaians
Hordes of the Arctic Dawn who had fled from the ice and the death-blasts287;
Children of conquerors lured to the coasts and the breezes and olives,
Noons of Mediterranean suns and the kiss of the south-wind
Mingled their brilliant force with the plastic warmth of the Hamite.
Break down Hellene doors and trample stern through the passes.
Perfect and beautiful figures and fronts, not as now are we mortals
Marred and crushed by our burden long of thought and of labour;
Perfect were these as our race bright-imaged was first by the Thinker
Seen who in golden lustres shapes all the glories we tarnish,
Rich from the moulds of gods and unmarred in their splendour and swiftness
Many and mighty they came o’er288 the beaches loud of the Aegean,
Roots of an infant world and the morning stars of this Europe,
Great Agamemnon’s kingly port and the bright Menelaus,
Tall Idomeneus, Nestor, Odysseus Atlas-shouldered,
Helmeted Ajax, his chin of the beast and his eyes of the dreamer.
Parted as hastens a shaft from the string and he sped on intently
Swift where the beaches were bare or threading the gaps of the nations;
Crossing Thebes and Epirus he passed through the Lemnian archers,
Ancient Gnossus’ hosts and Meriones’ leaderless legions.
Heedless of cry and of laughter and calling289 over the sea-sands
Swiftly he laboured, wind in his hair and the sea to him crying,
Straight he ran to the Myrmidon hosts and the tents of Achilles.
Glittering-helmed with the sun that climbed now the cusp of Cronion,
Nobly tall, excelling humanity, planned like Apollo.
Golden-haired, hard and white was the boy Neoptolemus, fire-eyed.
Led to this latest of all his father’s fights in the Troad
He for his earliest battle waited, the son of Achilles.
Even as our souls travelling different paths have met in the ages
Each for its work and they cling for an hour to the names of affection,
Then Time’s long waves bear them apart for new forms we shall know not,
So these two long severed had met in the shadow of parting.
Bent his ear to the plains or restless moved like a war-horse
Curbed by his master’s will, when he stands new-saddled for battle
Hearing the voice of the trumpets afar and pawing the meadows.
Sunlike smiled the golden Achilles and into the tent-space
Spurred by thy eager will or the trusted stern Diomedes?
Or from the Greeks like the voice still loud290 from a heart that is hollow?
Bringst291 thou flattery pale or an empty and futureless menace?”
“Response none send292 the Greeks to thy high-voiced message and challenge;
Only their shout at thy side will reply when thou leapst into Troya.
“Wise is Odysseus, wise are the hearts of Achaia’s chieftains.
Hurrying Fate to advance on the spear of the Phthian Achilles.”
Urged not my feet; but Tiryn’s293 chieftain strong Diomedes
Sent me claiming a word long old that first by his war-car
Young Neoptolemus come from island Scyros should enter
Far-crashing into the fight that has lacked this shoot of Achilles,
Pressing in front with his father’s strength in the playground of Ares,
Shouting his father’s cry as he clashed to his earliest battle.
Seal of the ancient friendship new-sworn twixt your sires in their boyhood
Then when they learned the spear to guide and strove in the wrestle.”
And to the Argive’s word consented the strength of Pelides.
Laid his fateful hand and spoke from his prescient spirit:
Opening the foemen’s ranks than the hero stern Diomedes.
Traverse Ocean’s rocks and the cities that dream on his margin,
Phocian dales, Aetolia’s cliffs and Arcady’s pastures,
Never a second man wilt thou find, but alone Diomedes.
If in this battle I fall and Fate has denied to me Troya.
Noble be in peace, invincible, brave in the battle,
Favour and wrath as thou walkst heed never, son of Achilles.
Forth with Acirrous went from his sire to the joy of the battle.
Spoke from the lips of Achilles, but deemed at sunset returning,
Slaying Halamus, Paris or dangerous mighty Aeneas,
Proudly to lay at his father’s feet the spoils of the foeman.
Turned to the door of his tent and was striding forth to the battle,
When from her inner chamber Briseis parting the curtain,–
Long had she stood there spying and waiting her lonely occasion,–
Came and caught and held his hand like a creeper detaining
Vainly a moment the deathward stride of the kings of the forest.
Hearkening a woman’s fears and the voice of a dream in the midnight.
Marvelling much at their pallor and awe we have listened and wondered.
Hero, nor any humble heart ever trembled to near thee.
Lightly thou layest294 thy yoke on us, kind as the clasp of a lover
Sparing the weak as thou breakest the mighty, O godlike Achilles.
We have presumed and played295 with the strength at which nations have trembled.
“Something surely296 thou needst, for thou flatterest long, O Briseis.
White-armed net of bliss slipped down from the gold Aphrodite.”
“Long have they vexed my soul in the tents of the Greeks, O Achilles,
Telling of Thetis thy mother who bore thee in caves of the Ocean
Clasped by a mortal and of her fear from the threats of the Ancients,
Weavers of doom who play with our hopes and smile at our passions
Painting Time with the red of our hearts on the web they have woven,
How on the Ocean’s bosom she hid thee in vine-tangled Scyros
Clothed like a girl among girls with the daughters of King Lycomedes,–
Art thou not fairer than woman’s beauty, yet great as Apollo?–
Nearing I saw a terror august over moonlit waters,
Cloud and a fear and a face that was young and lovely and hostile.
Still was the sky and still was the land and still were the waters,–
Echoing a mighty voice, ‘Take back, O King, what thou gavest;
Strength, take thy strong man, sea, take thy wave, till the warfare eternal
Need him again to thunder through Asia’s plains to the Ganges.’
Clang I heard of the argent bow and I gazed on Apollo.
Shrilly I cried, for ’twas297 thee that the shaft of the heavens had yearned for,
Thee that it sought like a wild thing in anger straight at its quarry,
Held thee safe in my arms, yet hardly believed that thou livest.
“This was a dream indeed, O princess, daughter of Brises!
Jealousy shaping thy dreams to frighten me back from her capture?”
Yet with a smile half-pleased made answer to mighty Achilles:
Hurting this body, my world, nor venture sole midst thy foemen,
Leaving thy shielders behind as oft thou art wont in thy war-rage
Lured by thy tempting gods who seek their advantage to slay thee,
Fighting divinely, careless of all but thy spear and thy foeman.
Once again my life must become if I lose thee, Achilles?
Down into Hades’ depths or wherever thy footsteps go clanging,
Hunting thee always,– didst thou not seize me here for thy pleasure?–
Holding her delicate hands like gathered flowers in his bosom,
Pressing her passionate mouth like a rose that trembles with beauty:
“There then follow me even as I would have drawn thee, O woman,
Voice that chimes with my soul and hands that are eager for service,
Beautiful spoil beloved of my foemen, perfect Briseis.
Shadows are these from our souls and who shall discern what they figure?
Moan that seems wind in his oaks immemorable, how should they alter
Fate that the stern gods have planned from the first when the earth was unfashioned,
Only one way for a man through the world, O my slave-girl Briseis,
Valiant to be and noble and truthful and just to the humble.
Time and result are the gods’; with these things be not thou troubled.”
Seized the reins and shouted his cry and drove with a far-borne
Sound of wheels mid the clamour of hooves and neigh298 of the war-steeds
Swift through the line of the tents and forth from the heart of the leaguer.
Chieftains impetuous prone to the mellay and swift at the war-cry
Came, who long held from the lust of the spear and the joy of the war-din
Rushed over earth like hawks released through the air; a shouting
Limitless rolled behind, for nations followed each war-cry.
Many a Dorian, many a Phthian, many a Hellene,
Names now lost to the ear though then reputed immortal!
Drawn are they back to his bosom vast whence they came in their fierceness
Thinking to conquer the earth and dominate Time and his ages.
Forth from the line of the leaguer that skirted the far-sounding waters,
Ranked behind Tydeus’ son and the Spartan, bright Menelaus,
Ithaca’s chief and Epeus, Idomeneus lord of the Cretans,
Acamos299, Nestor, Neleus’ son, and the brave Ephialtus,
Prothous, Meges, Leitus the bold and the king Prothoënor,
Wise Alceste’s son and the Lemnian, stern Philoctetes,
These and unnumbered warlike captains marching the Argives.
Even as a shepherd who follows his flock to the green of the pastures,
Atreus’ far-famed son, the monarch great Agamemnon.
Saw behind Xanthus rolling with dust like a cloud full of thunder,
Ominous, steadily nearing, shouting their war-cry the Trojans.
Europe and Asia, met on their borders, clashed in the Troad.
Sowing Fate with their deeds and had other fruit than they hoped for.
Weaving a tapestry fit for the gods to admire, who in silence
Joy, by the cloud and the sunbeam veiled, and men know not their movers.
Or in their temples worshipped in vain or with heart-strings of mortals
Sated their vast desire and enjoying the world and each other
Sported free and unscourged; for the earth was their prey and their playground.
Zeus looked forth; he beheld the earth in its flowering greenness
Spread like an emerald dream that the eyes have enthroned in the sunlight,
Heard the symphonies old of the ocean recalling the ages
Lost and dead from its marches salt and unharvested furrows,
Felt in the pregnant hour the unborn hearts of the future.
Lords of the glebe and the serf subdued to the yoke of his fortunes,
Slave-girls tending the fire and herdsmen driving the cattle,
Artisans labouring long for a little hire in men’s cities,
Labour long and the meagre reward for a toil that is priceless.
Patiently heaped up our transient wealth like the ants in their hillock.
Hurting the eternal soul and maiming heaven for some metal
Judges condemned their brothers to chains and to death and to torment,
Criminals scourgers of crime,– for so are these ant-heaps founded,–
Punishing sin by a worse affront to our crucified natures.
Naked were to his gaze; in the moonlit orchards there wandered
Lovers dreaming of love that endures – till the moment of treason;
Helped by the anxious joy of their kindred supported their anguish
Women with travail racked for the child who shall rack them with sorrow.
Yearning that claimed all time for its date and all life for its fuel,
All that we wonder at gazing back when the passion has fallen,
Labour blind and vain expense and sacrifice wasted,
These he beheld with a heart unshaken; to each side he studied
Seas of confused attempt and the strife and the din and the crying.
Lids on which sleep dare not settle, the Father of men on his creatures;
Nor by the cloud and the mist was obscured which baffles our eyeballs,
But he distinguished our source and saw to the end of our labour.
God beholds, but the spirit behind that has joy of the torture.
Red, intolerable, anguish of ore that is fused in the hell-heat,
Shrink and yearn for coolness and peace and condemn all the labour?
Rather rejoice with the master who stands in his gladness accepting
Heat of the glorious god and the fruitful pain of the iron.
Helmed and armed, knew all the craft in the brain of Odysseus,
Saw Deiphobus stern in his car and the fates of Aeneas,
Greece of her heroes empty, Troy enringed by her slayers,
Paris a setting star and the beauty of Penthesilea.
Blessed our toil and grew full of its fruits, as the Artist eternal
Watched his vehement drama staged twixt the sea and the mountains,
Phrased in the clamour and glitter of arms and closed by the firebrand,
Act itself out in the blood300 and in passions fierce on the Troad.
Hearing the noise of his brood and pleased with their play and their quarrels,
Into his mind he gazed where Time is reflected and, conscient,
Knew the iron knot of our human fates in their warfare.
Lifted above301 mortal mind where Time and Space are but figures
Lightly imagined by Thought divine in her luminous stillness,
Zeus has his palace high and there he has stabled his war-car.
Meet with the divine air, he touches and enters our regions.
There where all life is bliss and each feeling an ecstasy mastered.
Winged through the world to the gods, and they came at the call, they ascended
Up from their play and their calm and their works through the infinite azure.
Cool from the winds of the earth or quivering with perishable fragrance
Came, or our laughter they bore and the song of the sea in their paces.
Whence we draw breath; for there all things have life, the stone like the ilex,
Clay of those realms like the children of men and the brood of the giants.
Under a living Aetna and flames that have joy of his entrails.
Hastened by every pang and counts long Time by his writhings.
There in eternal groves the lovers have pleasure for ever,
There are the faery climes and there are the wonderful pastures.
Million-ecstasied, climbed like flames that in silence aspire
Windless, erect in a motionless dream, yet ascending for ever.
Hera came in her pride, the spouse of Zeus and his sister.
Rose in the cloud of her golden hair like the moon in its halo.
Rushing the call and the heavens thrilled with the joy of her footsteps
Dumbly repeating her name, as insulted and trampled by beauty
Thrill might the soul of a lover and cry out the name of its tyrant.
Shaking the world with the force of his advent thundered Poseidon;
Shone and his silver clang was heard with alarm in our kingdoms.
Themis’ steps appeared and Ananke, the mystic Erinnys;
Nor was Hephaestus’ flaming strength from his father divided.
Seemed; but his rays are the shades and his voice is the call of the silence.
Calls to eternal Time and the glories of Space are his answer:
Thence were these bright worlds born and persist by the throb of their heart-beats.
Mists of this earthly dust from their eyes in their moments of greatness
Shone those unaging Powers; nor as in our centuries radiant
Mortal-seeming bodies they wore when they mixed with our nations.
Flowers and the sunlight were felt and the earth was glad like a mother.
Earth desires for her bliss,– thin veils, for the god through them glimmered.
Gods from the wood and the valley, gods from the obvious wayside,
Gods on the secret hills leaped out from their light on the mortal.
Seized and subjected our clay to the greatness of passions supernal,
Grasping the earthly virgin and forcing heaven on this death-dust.
Clymene when he pursued or yearned in vain for Marpessa;
Glorifying earth with a human-seeming face of the beauty
Brought from her heavenly climes Aphrodite mixed with Anchises.
Dryad and Naiad in river and forest, Oreads haunting
Glens and the mountain-glades where they played with the manes of our lions
Glimmered on death-claimed eyes; for the gods then were near us and clasped us,
Heaven leaned down in love with our clay and yearned to its transience.
Nearer our poorer kindred; leaned to the ant and the ferret.
Likened in mood to the things we gaze at and are in our vestures:
Therefore we toil unhelped; we are left to our weakness and blindness.
Dropped in the vestibules huge of their vigorous realms that besiege us
All that reminded of earth; then clothed with raiment of swiftness
Straight they went quivering up in a glory like fire or the storm-blast.
Mind’s more subtle fields and agree with its limitless regions
Peopled by creatures of bliss and forms more true than earth’s shadows,–
Mind that pure from this density, throned in her splendours immortal
Looks up at Light and suffers bliss from ineffable kingdoms
Where beyond Mind and its rays is the gleam of a glory supernal:
There our sun cannot shine and our moon has no place for her lustres,
There our lightnings flash not, nor fire of these spaces is suffered.
But for a higher delight, to a brighter sense, with more sweetness
Palpable there and visible, thrilled with a lordlier joyance,
Came to the courts of Zeus and his heavens sang to their footsteps.
Veiled his thought in sound that was heard in their souls as they listened.
Light too great from the skies and men to their destiny clear-eyed
Walk unsustained like the gods; then Night and Dawn were defeated
And of their masks the deities robbed would be slaves to their subjects.
Rapture is ours and eternity measures our lives by his aeons.
Knowledge eternal possessing we work for an end that is destined
Long already beyond by the Will of which Time is the courser.
Out of the clod who have come and would climb from their mire to our heavens
Blindly mistaking the throb of their mortal desires for our guidance304.
Rough and remote is that path; that ascent is too hard for the death-bound.
Ease discourage and penetrate coarseness; sternness celestial
Forces their souls towards the skies and their bodies by anguish are sifted.
And by the flame of our lightnings choose out the vessels of godhead.
Travails excited; pain is the bed of her blossoms of pleasure.
Left to her joys rests inert and content with her gains and her station.
She would go glad and the goal would be missed and the aeons be wasted.
Soon would the hero turn beast and the sage reel back to the savage;
Man from his difficult heights would recoil and be mud in the earth-mud.
Blind is the thought and presumptuous the hope and they swerve from our goading;
Blinded are human hearts by desire and fear and possession,
Darkened is knowledge on earth by hope the helper of mortals.
Beat at our thrones; ’tis the grief and the wrath of fate-stricken creatures,
Mortals struggling with destiny, hearts that are slaves to their sorrow.
Chase from your hearts their prayers, blow back from your nostrils the incense.
Sinks in her turn by the ruder strength of the half-savage Achaians.
Nations formed in the ice and mist, confused and crude-hearted.
Till in its turn to a ruder and darker it falls and is shattered.
Light has been helper to death and darkness increases the victor.
Night forbidden how shall a greater dawn be effected?
Always then shall desire and passion strive with Ananke?
Spoke to his sons in their souls and they heard him, mighty in silence.305
“Zeus, we remember, thy sons forget, Apollo and Ares.”
Doing the work they have chosen they turn not for fruit nor for failure.
Clutch at every beam and mistake their one ray for all splendour.
Rose in their midst the voice of the loud impetuous Ares
Sounding far in the luminous fields of his soul as with thunder.
Still to strive and never to yield to the evil that conquers.
And because lives of the great and the blood of the strong are my portion.
Force is my soul and strength is my bosom; I shout in the battle
Breaking cities like toys and the nations are playthings of Ares:
Hither and thither I shove them and throw down or range on my table.
Fugitive hearts I abhor and the nature fickle as sea-foam.
Tros fights no more on the earth, nor now Heracles tramples and struggles,
Bane of the hydra or slaying the Centaurs o’er Pelion driven,–
Now if the earth no more must be shaken by Titan horse-hooves,
Since to a pettier framework all things are fitted consenting,
Yet will I dwell not in Greece nor favour the nurslings of Pallas.
Consuls browed like the cliffs and plebeians stern of the wolf-brood,
Senates of kings and armies of granite that grow by disaster;
Such be the nation august that is fit for the favour of Ares!
Through the long centuries rule and at last because earth is impatient,
Slowly with haughtiness perish compelled by mortality’s transience
Leaving a Roman memory stamped on the ages of weakness.”
“So let it be since such is the will in thee, mightiest Ares;
Thou shalt till sunset prevail, O war-god, fighting for Troya.”
Flaming through Space in his cloud in a headlong glory descended,
Prone like a thunderbolt flaming down from the hand of the Father.
Thundered down to earth’s plains the mighty impetuous Ares.
Smiting the Achaian myriads back on the right of the carnage,
Over the hosts in his car he stood and darkened the Argives.
“Ares resisting a present Fate for the hope of the future
More than thy brother assailed by the night that darkens o’er creatures.
Golden joy of the worlds, O thou roseate white Aphrodite.”
Glowing and rosy-limbed cried the wonderful white Aphrodite,
Drawing her fingers like flowers through the flowing gold of her tresses,
Calm, discontented, her perfect mouth a306 rose of resistance
Chidingly budded ’gainst Fate, a charm to their senses enamoured:
“Well do I know thou hast given my world to Hera and Pallas.
And though the Greek be a priest for my thoughts and a lyre for my singing,
Beauty pursuing and light through the figures of grace and of rhythm,–
Forms shall he mould for men’s eyes that the earth has forgotten and mourns for,
Mould even the workings of Pallas to commune with Paphia’s sweetness,
Mould Hephaestus’ craft in the gaze of the gold Aphrodite,–
Only my form he pursues that I wear for a mortal enchantment,
He to whom now thou givest the world, the Ionian, the Hellene,
But for my might is unfit which Babylon worshipped and Sidon
Palely received from the past in images faint of the gladness
Once that was known by the children of men when the thrill of their members
Was but the immortal joy of the spirit overflowing in Nature307
Wine-cups of God’s desire; but their clay from my natural greatness
Falters betrayed to pain, their delight they have turned into ashes.
There where the senses swoon but the heart is delivered by rapture:
Never my touch can cling to his soul nor reply from his heart-strings.
Once the world in its orbit danced to a marvellous rhythm.
Life was moved by a chant of delight that sang308 from the spaces
Met on lone mountain peaks or, linked on wild beach and green meadow,
Naked and loosing my golden hair like a nimbus of glory
O’er a deep-ecstasied earth that was drunk with my roses and whiteness.
Equal313 were heaven and earth, twin gods on the lap of Dione.
They shall not hold the god, but lose in unsatisfied orgies
Yet what the earth has kept of my joy, my glory, my puissance,
Who shall but drink for a troubled hour in the dusk of the sunset
Dregs of my wine Pandemian missing the Uranian sweetness.
Creeds that refuse shall persuade the world to revolt from its mother.
Beauty shall pass from men’s work and delight from their play and their labour;
Earth restored to the Cyclops shall shrink from the gold Aphrodite.
Birds of the air and the gods in their heavens, but disgraced in the mortal.”
Zeus replied, the Father divine: “O goddess Astarte,
What are these thoughts thou hast suffered to wing from thy rose-mouth immortal?
Art thou not womb of the world and from thee are the throngings314 of creatures?
Building thee temples in Paphos and Eryx and island Cythera,
Building the fane more enduring and bright of thy golden ideal.
Rose of love and sea of delight, O my child Aphrodite
Still wouldst thou live in the worship they gave thee protected from fading,
Splendidly statured315 and shrined in men’s works and men’s thoughts, Cytherea.”
Answered, as cries a harp in heaven, the gold Aphrodite:
“Father, I know and I spoke but to hear from another my praises.
And if discouraged I ceased, God’s world would lose heart and perish316.
Hera, queen of heaven, and thou, O my sister Athene?
Lost though the317 glories of form to the earth, though their confident gladness
Pass from a race misled and forgetting the sap that it sprang from,
They are eternal in man in the worship of beauty and rapture.
And while a Will supernal works through the passions of Nature,
Me shall men seek with my light or their darkness, sweetly or crudely,
Cold on the ice of the north or warm with318 the heats of the southland,
Slowly enduring my touch or with violence rapidly burning.
Life shall be bathed in my flames and be purified gold or be ashes.
Hostile, rebuke my heart and turn from my joy and my sweetness,
I will resist and not yield, nor care what I do, so I conquer.
Often I lay at Hera’s feet and obeyed her commandments
Tranquil and proud or o’ercome by a honeyed and ancient compulsion
Fawned on thy pureness and served thy behests, O my sister Pallas.
Love divided, love united, love was our mover.319
War I declare on you all, O my Father and brothers and sisters.
All whom I can, I will bind; I will drive at the bliss of my workings,
Whether men’s hearts are seized by the joy or seized by the torture.
Most will I320 plague your men, your worshippers and in my malice
Break up your works with confusion divine, O my mother and sister;
Then shall you fume and resist and be helpless and pine with my torments.
Cruel and tyrannous, hurtful and subtle, a charm and a torture.
Called in each moment to judge thou shalt chafe at our cry and our quarrels,
Often grope for thy thunderbolt, often frown magisterial
Joining in vain thy awful brows o’er thy turbulent children.
Hurt me not then too much lest the world and thyself too should suffer.
Love preserve lest the heart of the world grow dulled and forsaken.”
White Aphrodite arose in her loveliness armed for the conflict.
Flits from bough to bough and resumes its chant interrupted.
Love where her fair321 feet trod bloomed up like a flower from the spaces;
Mad round her touches billowed incessantly laughter and rapture.322
Gleaming and blushing, veiled and bare and with ecstasy smiting
Burned out rosy and white through her happy ambrosial raiment,
Golden-tressed and a charm, her bosom a fragrance and peril.
And in her breathing tenement laughs at the eyes that can see her.
Strong and beautiful, might of the warring and glory of armour,
Over her son Aeneas she stood, his guard in the battle.
“Thou for a day and a night and another day and a nightfall,
White Aphrodite, prevail; o’er thee too the night is extended.
Joy shall fade and mighty Love grow fickle and fretful;
Even as a child that is scared in the night, he shall shake in his chambers.
Caverned already who sittest in Delphi knowing thy future,
What wilt thou do with the veil and the night, O burning Apollo?”
Bright and austere replied the beautiful mystic Apollo:
“Zeus, I know that I fade; already the night is around me.
Therefore Cassandra cries in vain to her sire and her brothers.
All I foresee I approve; for I know what is willed, O Cronion.
And for the human race fierce pity works in my bosom;
Wroth is my splendid heart with the cowering knowledge of mortals,
Wroth are my burning eyes with the purblind vision of reason.
There to guard the flame and the mystery; vast in my moments
Rare and sublime to sound like a sea against Time and its limits,
Cry like a spirit in pain in the hearts of the priest and the poet,
Cry against limits set and disorder sanities bounded.
Shatter the moulds that men make to imprison their limitless spirits.
Whenso the clear gods think they have conquered earth and its mortals,
Hidden God from all eyes, they shall wake from their dream and recoiling
Still they shall find in their paths the fallen and darkened Apollo.”
And from their high seats passed, his soul august and resplendent
Drawn to the anguish of men and the fierce terrestrial labour.
And in his fierce and burning spirit intense and uplifted
Sure of his luminous truth and careless for weakness of mortals
Flaming oppressed the earth with his dire intolerant beauty.
He through the spaces angrily drew towards the tramp and the shouting
Over the speeding of Xanthus and over the pastures of Troya.
Stern was his pace like Fate’s; so he came to the warfare of mortals
And behind Paris strong and inactive waited God’s moment
Knowing what should arrive, nor disturbed like men by their hopings.
Turned like a menaced king on his counsellor smiling augustly:
“Seest thou, Poseidon, this sign that great gods revolting have left us,
Thou and I will do our will with the world, O earth-shaker.”
“This is our strength and our right, for we are the kings and the masters.
Into the battle and thrust down Troy with my hand to the silence,
Even though she cling round the snowy knees of our child Aphrodite
Or with Apollo’s sun take refuge from Night and her shadows.
For on my paths I receive earth’s skill and her merchandise gather,
Traffic richly in pearls and bear the swift ships in323 my bosom.
Lured by324 the shifting surges they launch their delight and their treasures
Trusting the toil of years to the perilous moments of Ocean.
Huge man’s soul325 in its petty frame goes wrestling with Nature
Over her vasts and his fragile ships between my horizons
Buffeting death in his solitudes labour through swell and through storm-blast
Bound for each land with her sons and watched for by eyes in each haven.
And on my vast and spuming Atlantic suffer their rudders.
Still were denied me and kept for strong Ares and brilliant Apollo.
Peace I will build with gold and heaven with the pearls of my caverns.”
“Lord of the boundless seas, Poseidon, soul of the surges,
Well thou knowest that earth shall be seized as a booth for the trader.
Takes from Time its reign; for it came for its throne and its godhead.
And at their end the king and the prophet shall govern the nations.
Wailed by the merchant afar as he sees the red glow from the Ocean.”
Round him purple and dominant rippled326 and murmured and whispered,
Whispered of argosies sunk and the pearls and the Nereids playing,
Murmured of azure solitudes, sounded of storm and the death-wail.
Flowing on endless through Time; with the glittering symbol327 of empire
Crowned were his fatal brows; in his grasp was the wrath of the trident,
Tripled forces328, life-shattering, brutal, imperial, sombre.
Proud and victorious he came to his home in the far-spuming waters.
So he plunged like a rock through the foam; for it falls from a mountain
Overpeering the waves in some silence of desolate waters
Left to the wind and the sea-gull where Ocean alone with the ages
Dreams of the calm of the skies or tosses its spray to the wind-gods,
Tosses for ever its foam in the solitude huge of its longings
Came to his coral halls and the sapphire stables of Nereus
Ever where champ their bits the harnessed steeds of the Ocean
Watched by foam-white girls in the caverns of still Amphitrite.
Born of the fleeing sea-spray and shod with the north-wind who journey
Black like the front of the storm and clothed with their manes as with thunder.
Bearing the awful brows and the mighty form of the sea-god
And from the roar of the surges fast o’er the giant margin
Came remembering the storm and the swiftness wide329 towards the Troad.
Close by the stern Diomedes stood and frowned o’er the battle.
Iron Tydeus’ son and the adamant heart of young Pyrrhus.
Turned in his heart to the brilliant offspring born of his musings,
She who tranquil observes and judges her father and all things.
Darkened Cypris’ smile, dimmed Hera’s son and Latona’s?
Girl, thou shalt rule with the Greek and the Saxon, the Frank and the Roman.
Men shall leave all temples to crowd in thy courts, O Athene.
Wisely and soberly, tenderly smiled she chiding her father
Even as a mother might rail at her child when he hides and dissembles:
“Zeus, I see and I am not deceived by thy words in my spirit.
Even as men are we tools for thee, who are thy children and dear ones.
Making a toil of the game and a play of the serious labour.
This consulting, that to our wills confiding, O Ruler;
Choosing thy helpers, hastened by those whom thou lurest to oppose thee
Guile thou usest with gods as with mortals, scheming, deceiving,
And at the wrath and the love thou hast prompted laughest in secret.
So we too330 who are sisters and enemies, lovers and rivals,
Fondled and baffled in turn obey thy will and thy cunning,
I, thy girl of war, and the rosy-white Aphrodite.
Always each other we helped by our play and our wrestlings and quarrels.
And at the end as his sister and slave and bride I must sojourn
Rapt to his courts of mystic light and unbearable brilliance.
Seized like a lyre in my body to sob and to laugh out his music,
Shake as a leaf in his fierceness and leap as a flame in his splendours?
Robbed of my loneliness pure and coerced in my radiant freedom,
Now whose clearness and pride are the sovereign joy of thy creatures.
Swift-footed rose the daughter of Zeus from her sessions immortal:
Breasts of the morning unveiled in a purity awful and candid,
Head of the mighty Dawn, the goddess Pallas Athene!
Down from the courts of the Mighty descending, darting on Ida.
Joy and woe to the world that is given to the whims of the child-god
Greedy for rule and play and the minds of men and their doings!
Shining-eyed in her boyish beauty severe and attractive
Came to the fields of the Troad, came to the fateful warfare,
Veiled, the goddess calm and pure in her luminous raiment
Close o’er Odysseus she stood and clear-eyed governed the battle.
Turned, Hephaestus the strong-souled, priest and king and a bond-slave,
Servant of men in their homes and their workshops, servant of Nature,
He who has built these worlds and kindles the fire for a mortal.
He who is blind revolts and he who is limited struggles:
Strife is not for the infinite; wisdom observes to accomplish.
“Yes, I obey thee, my Father, and That which than thou is more mighty;
Even as thou obeyest by rule, so I by my labour.
I who have flamed on the altar of sacrifice helping the sages.
Holy the pomp of my flames ascendent331 from pyre and from altar
Robed men’s souls for their heavens and my smoke was a pillar to Nature.
Now is no nobler hymn for my ear than the clanging of metal,
Breath of human greed and the dolorous pant of the engines.
Still I repine not, but toil; for to toil was I332 yoked by my Maker.
“What is the thought thou hast uttered betrayed by thy speech, O Hephaestus?
Fill men’s eyes and their souls shall be stunned with the clang of the hammers,
Yet in the end there is rest on the peak of a labour accomplished.
Nor shall the soul of the warrior despair in the darkness triumphant,
For when the night shall be deepest, dawn shall increase on the mountains
And in the heart of the worst the best shall be born by my wisdom.
Down upon earth he came with his lame omnipotent motion;
And with uneven steps absorbed and silent the Master
Worked employed mid the wheels of the cars as a smith in his smithy,
But it was death and bale that he forged, not the bronze and the iron.
Helping Ajax’ war and the Theban and Phocian fighters.
Calm in her greatness waited the mighty command of her husband:
“Hera, sister and spouse, what my will is thou knowest, O consort.
Waits, but each other we know and ourselves and the Vast and the heavens,
Life and all between and all beyond and the ages.
And with her flowing garment and mystical zone through the spaces
Haloed came like the moon on an evening of luminous silence
Down upon Ida descending, a snow-white swan on the greenness,
Down upon Ida the mystic haunted by footsteps immortal
Ever since out of the Ocean it rose and lived gazing towards heaven.
Voiceless and mighty she paused333 like a thought on the summits of being
Clasped by all heaven; the winds at play in her gust-scattered raiment
Sported insulting her gracious strength with their turbulent sweetness,
Played with their mother and queen; but she stood absorbed and unheeding,
Mute, with her sandalled foot for a moment thrilling the grasses,
Dumbly adored by a soul in the mountains, a thought in the rivers,
Entered her soul profound and it heard eternity’s rumour.
Master of Time its instrument, grieflessly hastening forward
Parted with greatnesses dead and summoned new strengths from their stables;
Maned they came to her call and filled with their pacings the future.
Down in a billow of whiteness and gold and delicate raiment
Gliding the daughter of Heaven came to the earth that received her
Glad of the tread divine and bright with her more than with sunbeams.
Mixed unseen with the far-glinting spears of the haughty334 Mycenae.
Zeus, while his gaze over many forms and high-seated godheads
Passed like a swift-fleeing eagle over the peaks and the glaciers
When to his eyrie he flies alone through the vastness and silence:
“Artemis, child of my loins and you, O legioned immortals,
Labour rejoicing whose task is joy and your bliss is creation;
Shrink from no act that Necessity asks from your luminous natures.
Huntress swift of the worlds who with purity all things pursuest.
Helped are the souls that wait more than strengths soon fulfilled and exhausted.
Zeus to the Silence obscure under iron brows of that goddess,–
Griefless, unveiled was her visage, dire and unmoved and eternal:
“Thou and I, O Dis, remain and our sister Ananke.
Flitting mid flowers of sense for the honey of thought, have not captured,
That which Poseidon forgets mid the pomp and the roar of his waters,
By thy tremendous consent to the silence and darkness, O Hades,
By her delight renounced and the prayers and the worship of mortals
Making herself as an engine of God without bowels or vision,–
Yet in that engine are only heart-beats, yet is her riddle
Only Love that is veiled and pity that suffers and slaughters,
We three are free from ourselves, O Dis, and free from each other.
Not my behest, but What she and thou and I are for ever.”
Then came a voice from the silence of Dis, from the night there came wisdom.
Though to the courts of the gods I come as a threat and a shadow,
Even though none to their counsels call me, none to their pastime,
None companions me willingly; even thy daughter, my consort,
Trembling whom once from our sister Demeter I plucked like a blossom335
Torn from Sicilian336 fields, while Fate reluctant, consenting,
Bowed her head, lives but by her gasps of the sun and the azure;
Stretched are her hands to the light and she seeks for the clasp of her mother.
He who shuns not, He am I and thou and Ananke.
For out of death is Life and not by birth and her motions
And behind Night is light and not in the sun and his splendours.
Triumphing passed out of heaven with Themis and silent Ananke.
Zeus alone in the spheres of his bliss, in his kingdom337 of brilliance
Sat divine and alarmed; for even the gods in their heavens
Scarce shall live who have gazed on the unveiled face of Ananke,
Heard the accents dire of the Darkness that waits for the ages.
Back from his nature he drew to the passionless peaks of the spirit,
Throned where it dwells for ever uplifted and silent and changeless
Far beyond living and death, beyond Nature and ending of Nature.
Then to the works of the world he returned and the joy of his musings.
Dawned again in the heavenly eyes and the majestied semblance.
Earth oppressed moaned long like a woman striving with anguish.
Ceased for a while on her slopes the eternal laughter of fountains.
Darkening her victor domes and her gardens of life and its sweetness
Pallas’ marble shrine where stern and white in her beauty,
Armed on her pedestal, trampling the prostrate image of darkness
Mighty Athene’s statue guarded imperial Troya.
Huge a rushing sound was heard from her gardens and places
And in their musings her seers as they strove with night and with error
And in the fane of Apollo Laocoon torn by his visions
Heard aghast the voice of Troy’s deities fleeing from Troya,
Saw the flaming lords of her households drive in a death-rout
Forth from her ancient halls and their noble familiar sessions.
Moaning the Dryads fled and his338 Naiads passed from Scamander
Leaving the world to deities dumb of the clod and the earth-smoke,
And from their tombs and their shrines the shadowy Ancestors faded.
Ruthless Ananke’s deeds and the mortal conquests of Hades.
Entered the darkened shrine and saw on the suffering marble
Shattered Athene’s mighty statue prostrate as conquered,
But on its pedestal rose o’er the unhurt image of darkness
Awful shapes, a Trinity dim and dire unto mortals.
Meanwhile340 moved by their unseen spirits, led by the immortal
Phalanxes, who of our hopes and our fears are the reins and the drivers,–
Minds they use as if steam and our bodies like power-driven engines,
Leading our lives towards the goal that the gods have prepared for our striving,–
Men upon earth fulfilled their harsh ephemeral labour.
But in the Troad the armies clashed on the plain of the Xanthus.
Swift from their ships the Argives marched,– more swiftly through Xanthus
Driving their chariots the Trojans came and Penthesilea
Led and Anchises’ son and Deiphobus the Priamid hero.
Now ere the armies met, ere their spears were nearer, Apollo
Sent a thought for his bale to the heart of Zethus the Hellene.
He to Achilles’ car drew close and cried to the hero:
“Didst thou not promise a boon to me, son of Peleus and Thetis,
Then when I guarded thy life-breath in Memnon’s battle from Hades?
Therefore I claim the proudest of boons, one worthy a Hellene.
Here in the front I will fight against dangerous Penthesilea.
Thou on our left make war with the beauty and cunning of Paris.”
But from his heart dismayed Achilles made answer to Zethus:
“What hast thou said, O Zethus, betrayed by some Power that is hostile?
Art thou then hired by the gods for the bale and the slaughter of Hellas?”
Zethus answered him, “Alone art thou mighty, Achilles, in Phthia?
Tyrant art thou of this fight and keepst for thee all of its glory –
We are but wheels of thy chariot, reins of thy courser, Achilles.
What though dire be thy lust, yet here thou canst gather not glory,
Only thy shame and the Greeks’, if a girl must be matched with Achilles!”
“Zethus, evil thy word and from death are the wings of its folly.
Even a god might hesitate fronting the formidable virgin.
Many the shafts that, borne in her chariot, thirst for the blood-draught.
Pages ride in her car behind and hand to her swiftly
Death in the rapid spears and she hurls them and drives and she stays not.
Forty wind-footed men of the mountains race with her chariot
Shielded and armed and bring back the spears from their hearts whom she slaughters.
So like the lightning she moves incessantly flashing and slaying,
Not like men’s warring her fight who battle for glory and plunder.
Never she pauses to pluck back her point nor to strip off the armour.
Only to slay she cares and only the legions to shatter.
Come thou not near to her wheels; preserve thy life for thy father.
Pity Arithoa’s heart who shall wait in vain for her children.”
Wroth at Pelides’ scorn made answer Zethus the Hellene,
“Give me my boon I have chosen and thou fight far from my battle
Lest it be said that Achilles was near and therefore she perished.
Cycnus and I [...........................]341 will strike down the terror of Argos.”
Moved the mighty Achilles answered him, “Zethus and Cycnus,
Granted your will; I am bound by my truth, as are you now by Hades.”
So he spoke and cried to his steeds, who the wings of the southwind
Racing outvied to the left where from Xanthus galloping swiftly
Came in a mass the Ilian chariots loud towards the Hellenes.
Phoces was with him and Echemus drove and Drus and Thretaon,
They were like rays of the sun, but nighest him, close to his shadow
Ascanus, Phrinix’ son, who fought ever near to his war-car.
And from the Trojan battle gleaming in arms like the sungod
Paris beheld that dangerous spear and he cried to the heroes:
“See now where death on the Trojans comes in the speed of that war-car.
Warriors, fight not [......................................................] Achilles
But where you see him guiding his spear or turning his coursers,
Menace his days and shield the Trojan life that he threatens.
Fighting together hide with your spear-rain his head from the heavens.
Zeus perhaps shall, blinded, forget to cover the hero.”
So as he spoke, the armies neared and they clashed in the mellay.
Who first shed the blood [.........] that fell in that combat
Thick with the fall of the mighty, last of the battles of Troya?
Helenus first, King Priam’s son, smote down in that battle
Phoces, Amarus’ son, who fought in the front of Pelides.
He by the point twixt his brows surprised left the spear he had lifted;
Down he clanged from his car with his armour sounding upon him.
Echemus wroth let drive at Helenus, grieved for his comrade.
Him he missed but Ahites slew who was Helenus’ henchman.
Helenus wroth in his turn at Echemus aimed and his spear-point
Bit through the shield and quivering paused,– by Ananke arrested.
Back avoiding death the Hellene shrank from the forefront.
Nor had Achilles mingled yet his strength with the fighters.
But like a falconer on a hillock lone in his war-car
Shouting his dreadful cry in the pause ere the shock he had lingered
Wheeling slowly his gaze for the choice of a prey or a victim
For with his host was his heart [....................................] behind Zethus
Herding in shepherded [......................................................]
Ill at ease was his heart [....................................] or lying
Slain on the Trojan [..........................................] Ares.
Forward [.............................................] towards the Trojans
Helenus [..........................................] his shield from the death-blow.
But o’er his [..................................................................] Apollo extended.
And from the left and the right the heroes of Ilion gathered.
Dyus and Polites came and Eumachus threatened Achilles.
Paris’ fatal shafts sang joyously now from the bowstring.
Fast from the Hellene [..................................................................]
Ares’ iron [.................................................................................]
Neighing [........................................................................] of the war-cries.
Nor could the Trojan fighters break through the walls342 of their foemen,
Nor could the mighty Pelides slay in his war-rage the Trojans.
For to each spear of his strength full twenty hissed round his helmet,
Cried343 on his shield, attempted his cuirass or leaped at his coursers
Or at Automedon ran like living things in their blood-thirst.
Wrathful Achilles wheeled and threatened seeking a victim.
Seek for its tongues an offering fit for the gods, but ’tis answered
Only by spitting rain that a dense cloud sends out of heaven.
Rail at the glorious flame, desiring an end of its brilliance.
Paris loosed his lethal shafts at the head of the Hellene.
Seized on the tongue of the prophet and spoke out344 their thoughts in his accents,
Thoughts by men rejected who follow the beast in their reason,
Only advantage seek, and honour and pride are forgotten:
“Paris, not thus shalt thou slay Achilles but only thy glory.
Thee and thy bow and thy numbers, hearing the347 shame of the Trojans?
Who have the awe of their deeds and follow the way of the mighty.”
Care should I have for fame, or the gods and their punishments, heeding
Joy for my living heart, not a dream and a breath for my ashes.
But let my country live and her foes be slain on her beaches.”
Aimed and loosed the death at the greatness that heaven protected348.
Waiting the Eoan horse-hooves that checked at the difficult crossing
Watched their advent stern and encouraged the legions behind him:
“Now is the hour of your highest fame, O ye sons of the Hellenes.
Reap all the good I have won for our lives this morn from Achilles.
Lonely in Phthia, desiring death or the eyes of her children.
Heaped up Ilion’s wealth and the golden bricks of King Priam
And for the halls of our fathers a famous and noble adornment
Bear349 the beautiful head of the virgin Penthesilea.”
Proud of their victories past and incredulous grown of disaster.
Rolling thunder-voiced with the tramp of the runners behind them,
Dust like a flag and dire with the battle-cry, full on the Hellenes.
Waited their onset.350 Zethus first with his cry of the cascade
Hurrying-footed headlong that leaps far down to the valley:
“Curb, but curb thy advance, O Amazon Penthesilea!
“Who art thou biddest to pause the horse-hooves of Penthesilea,
Hellene, thou in thy strength who standest forth from thy shielders?
Stand at my either side, and thou passest not352 farther, Bellona.
Who in this field that is wide must needs all three perish together
Piled on one altar of death by the spear-shafts of Penthesilea.
Forward swung to the blow and loosed it hissing and ruthless
Straight at the Hellene shield, and it tore through the bronze and groaning
Butted and pushed through the cuirass and split the breast of the hero.
Even as a diver who leaps from the shed of the bath to the current,
Launched out so headlong, struggled, sideward collapsed, then was quiet,
Yet alive now seized, then rage came blinding the eyeballs.
Death like a forest beast yet played with the might of the virgin.
Fell back like reeds that are thrown at a boulder by boys on the sea-shore.
Lay in353 their couch of the hostile soil reunited in slumber
As in their childhood they lay in Hellas watched by their mother,
Three of them side by side and she dreamed for her darlings their future.
Messengers they from Zeus to discourage the pride and the blood-lust.
As from a snake a traveller scorned for a bough by the wayside,
But it arises puffing its hood and hisses its hatred.
Onward the Eoan thousands rolled o’er the ground that was conquered
Trampling the fallen men into earth with the wheels of their war-cars.
Drove towards the ranks of the foe and her spear-shafts hastened before her,
Messengers whistling shrilly to death; she354 came like a wolf-hound
Called by his master’s voice and silently fell on the quarry.
Cirrhes died, though he faced not the blow while he hastened to shelter.
Slain by her prowess fierce, alarmed by the might of her helpers.
And at her left hill-shouldered Pharatus slaughtered the Hellenes.
Cried to their hosts and recalled their unstained fame and their valour
Never so lightly conquered before in the trial355 of Ares,
And of Achilles they spoke and King Peleus waiting in Phthia,
Listening for Troy overthrown356 not his hosts overcome by a woman.
Hillus fair as a drifting moon but fierce as the winter;
Pryas came the Thessalian and Sebes whom Pharsalus honoured,
Victors in countless fights who had stood against Memnon and Hector.
Mightier strengths they met and a sterner brood of the war-god.
Crashed through his helmet and left him supine on the pastures of Troya;
Ar to Surabdas fell and the blood-spirting head of Aglauron
Dropped like a fruit from a branch by its weight to the discus of Sambus;
Iron Surenas’ mace-head shattered the beauty of Hillus;
Pryas by Pharatus slain lay still and had rest from the war-cry.
Shuddered back from her spear and the cry of her tore at the357 heart-strings.
So as the358 heroes yielded before her, Penthesilea
Lifted with victory cried to her henchman, Aurus of Ellae,
Who had the foot of the wind and its breath that scants not for running:
“Hasten, hasten, Aurus; race to the right where unwarring
Valarus leads his host; bid him close with the strength of the Hellenes.
Swift let him turn like the wind in its paths and follow me, pouring
Down, a victorious flood,359 on the Myrmidon left and Achilles.
So she spoke and Aurus ran by the chariot360 protected.
But from the Argive’s361 right where she battled Pallas Athene
Saw and was wroth and she missioned her thought to Automedon speeding,
Splendid it came and found him out mid the hiss of the spear-shafts
Guiding, endangered, Achilles’ steeds in the thick of the battle.
Helmed with the Hellene crest it knocked at the gate362 of his spirit,
Shaking his363 hero’s heart with the vision that came to his eyeballs;
Silent he stared aghast and turned his ear to the war-din.
Rings in my ears, but faint and sparse come the shouts of our nation.
“It is the doom that I feared and the fatal madness of Zethus;
Slain are the men of my nations364 or routed by Penthesilea.
Fasten their seal and her heroes flee from the strength of a woman.”
Rose as if seeking their old accustomed paths in the heavens,
Then through the ranks that parted they galloped as gallops a365 dust-cloud
When the cyclone is abroad and the high trees snap by the wayside,
And from the press of the Hellenes into the plain of the Xanthus
Thundering, neighing came with the war-car borne like a dead leaf
Eyes that in all of us sleep, yet can see the near and the distant,
Eyes that the gods in their pity have sealed from the giant confusion,
Near him the Eoans holding the plain and out in the distance
High-crested Sumalus fight366, Somaranes swift in the onset,
Bull-shouldered Tauron’s blows and the hero Artavoruxes.
Even in defeat these were Hellenes and fit to be hosts of Achilles,–
But like a doom on them thundered the war-car of Penthesilea,
Pharatus smote and Surabdas and Sambus and iron Surenas,
Down the leaders fell and the armies reeled towards the Ocean.
Swift like a wind o’er the grasses galloped the car of Achilles.
Phoces alone in the dust of the Troad lay there and moved not.
For from the forefront forth on the knot of the swift-speeding war-cars
High an Eoan chariot came drawn fast by its coursers
Bearing a mighty chieftain, Valarus son of Supaures.
Nor to his challenging shout nor his spear the warlike Pelides
Answered at all, but made haste like a flood to the throng and the mellay.
But ’twixt367 the chariots behind and their leader the mighty Eoan
Drove his dark-maned steeds and stood like a cliff to their onset.
Nor from that fatal hand parted vainly the pitiless envoy,
Drus fell prone and tore with dying fingers the grasses.
Echemus son of Aëtes, one of the mighty in Hellas,
Thus returns. Let Ares judge ’twixt368 the Greek and the Eastern.”
Shouting, the deadly point that could pierce not his iron refusal.
“Echemus, shrill369 thy vaunt has reached me, but unfelt is thy spear-point.
Aims with reeds not spears at pastoral cheeses not iron.
Crouching Thretaon heard the keen death over him whistle;
Ascanus hurt in the shoulder cried out and paused from his war-lust.
Bit and fastened as fastens a hound on the ear of the wild boar
Wroth with the cry and the hunt, that gores the pack and his hunters.
Sat back dead in his seat and the chariot wild with its coursers
Snorting and galloping bore his corpse o’er the plains to the Hellenes.
Ascanus sprang down swift from his car and armed with his sword-point
Clove the Eoan’s neck as the lightning springs at an oak-trunk
Seized in the stride of the storm and severs that might with its sharpness.
Mightier released to the gods and it rose to the heavens of the noble.
Ascanus gathered the spear-shaft370; loud was his shout as exulting
Back he leaped to the car triumphant o’er death and its menace:
“Lie there, Valarus, King of the East, with imperial Troya.
Loud with the clamour of hooves and the far-rolling gust of the war-cry;
Wroth at their chieftain’s fall they moved to the help of their nation,
Now by the unearthly horses neared and the might of Achilles.
Then from the Hellenes who heard the noise and cry371 of their coming
Lifted eyes dismayed, but saw the familiar war-car,
Saw the heaven-born steeds and the helm unconquered in battle,
Rises o’er lower sounds of the storm, o’er the din of the battle
Rose the Hellene shout and rose the name of Achilles.
[The rest of Book Nine is missing]
Later edition of this work: The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo.- Set in 37 volumes.- Volume 2.- Collected Poems.- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 2009.- 751 p.
2 facest her
3 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: with the Ocean
5 I have walked
6 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: For Polyxena’s
7 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: , the
8 be pressed
9 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: striking
13 for the doom to swerve
14 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: and she spurns
15 Here, as in some other lines, Ajax is spoken of as having been slain by Penthesilea. Elsewhere in the poem we come across a living Ajax. The discrepancy is explained by the fact that in the Trojan War there were two Ajaxes, the Great and the Small. The latter, called also the Locrian, figures as alive in Ilion.
16 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: one
18 Frame in | Chase in | Equal with | Double with
19 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: waggons
21 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: the fierce
22 the Titan ransom be paid
23 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: musical
27 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: travel the
28 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: who
29 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: cunningly linking
30 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: war when
31 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: bodies
33 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Peneus
35 soul’s strong
37 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: swept
38 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: her
40 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Voice
41 This line and next two lines were absent in this edition and were taken from the edition of 2009 year
42 This line was absent in this edition and was taken from the edition of 2009 year
43 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: to my
44 I bring to you
2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: She shall leave with you
46 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: will
47 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: gold
48 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: accursèd
52 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: your
53 gates as your victor
54 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: had
57 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Dardanus
58 Brackets in the original
61 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: courser’s
62 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Chalcidice
63 This line is absent in the edition of 2009 year
64 If thou hadst kept faith with
65 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: dusk
67 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Just was the heart of their anger.
68 Hundred-eyed glared from the ships
Hundred-voiced glared from the ships
69 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: that
70 Vainly the gods who pity
71 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: breathe
72 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: passions
74 They still
2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Deaf is
76 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: accepting their purpose
77 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Deem
79 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: waiting
80 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: streets
81 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: on
82 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Troy
83 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: stone
84 (i) in the hour of his uplifting (ii) by the Fates (gods) (spears) overtaken
85 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Strong
86 Wretched | Miserable
87 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: me yet
90 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: where
92 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: not ever
93 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: shades
94 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: this
95 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Dardanans
96 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: with the pain
98 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: O nations
99 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: and gods
100 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: as
101 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: foemen
102 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Thou wilt
103 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: exalt
104 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: at least
106 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: and from Fate
107 Paris the Priamid keeps what he seized from Time and Fate while
111 brooked their
113 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: those
114 ways | world ways
115 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: I have trampled the gift and the guest-rite,
116 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: and unsealed the gaze of the Furies,
2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: down wroth
119 thing lies screened
2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: thing has screened itself
120 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: thickets
121 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: accursèd
123 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: men
126 After this line come two verses which seem to have been rejected in the manuscript:
O let us give ourselves bound to the swallowing lust of the Ocean!
Surely ’twill bear up our sloth on its crests to a harbour of Triumph!
127 could hold not | were mastered
128 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Achilles, this
129 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Aught
131 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: pursuer
132 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: mighty
133 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: on
134 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: on
135 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: on
136 seeks out her foemen,
137 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: sayst
138 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: needst
139 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: compelled
142 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: ball
143 is trained
144 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: you
146 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: in to
147 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: ageless
148 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: halls
150 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: seated
151 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Lifted on high
152 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: soared up from
154 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: hands
155 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: this
156 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: whatsoever
157 Brackets in the original.
158 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: the high gods
159 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: fears
160 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: too perish
161 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: went and
162 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: and the house
163 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: accursèd
164 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: it is
165 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: O sister
166 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: my
167 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Sambus
169 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: might
171 Cried with her voice like the call of heaven’s bugles waking the heroes,
Blown by the lips of gold-haired Valkyries, Penthesilea:
172 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: standst
173 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: move
174 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Paris the
175 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: lay
176 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: this
177 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: and the mighty
179 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Thou
180 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Gaze
181 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: on a blood-red
182 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Adamas
185 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: halted
186 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: war-cry and hymn
187 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: of the chariots
188 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: heart is still
189 , as they drove,
190 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: the
193 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: blood or to
194 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: of the mighty
195 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Noble
196 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Sang
197 In 2009 ed. instead the second part of this line and the next line: and he cried to the herald.
198 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: What were
199 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: once
200 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: awhile
201 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: far-striding fury
202 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: trumpets
203 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: cry to the vanquished
204 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: who fled
205 stoop low
206 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: the earth
207 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: far-speeding
209 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Wroth the
210 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: her
211 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: as a boy
212 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: with counsel
213 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: on
214 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Atrides
215 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: his
216 O Greeks in your tents,
217 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: urging
220 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: the sacrifice
221 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: has laboured
223 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2:
Then as from common hills great Pelion rises to heaven
So from the throng uprearing a brow that no crown could ennoble,
224 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Happy
225 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: thy
226 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: com’st
227 Ten lines alternative to six lines 4-9:
Wroth he rose with a reddened brow as reddens the forehead
Wide of the heavens with a glory of wrath on the eve of a (Alternative: some) tempest.
“Well is it, herald, that sacred thou comst with the aegis of heaven
Sheltering thy hoary brows; for thy age should not shield thee nor pardon.
Well is it, herald, that sacred thou comst and protected of heaven,
Bearing this stab to Achaia nor fearest insulting her princes.)
Shame to the ancient years and the Argive tongue that can utter
Words like these into Argive ears from the mouth of a Hellene.
Well is it too for the length of his days who sent thee, O envoy,
Voicing (Alternative: Voice of) his pride, the haughty (Alternative: insolent) chief of a barbarous nation,
One who imagines that sole upon earth he is brave and a fighter.
Well for his days that my strength is restrained by a voice that within me
228 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: this
230 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: of friends
231 lured by a
232 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: far-sighted
233 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: rein
234 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: in
235 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: them, where
236 of being?
237 This line was absent in this edition and was taken from the edition of 2009 year
238 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: on
239 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: gods, approve
240 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Sole
241 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: hill-tops
243 , O Greeks,
244 White and swift and foam-footed, vast Oceanus’ daughter!
In the edition of 2009 year this line is placed in main text before the line Gods we adore enough...
245 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: of his
246 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: a man
247 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: his
248 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: must marble
249 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: high-domed
250 Lessening | Stunting | Dwarfing
251 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: stand affronting
253 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Argive
255 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: then rally
256 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: triumphs
257 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: throng
259 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: goads
261 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: This she shall
262 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Tydeus’
263 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: from
264 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: with tribute
265 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: line, at
266 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: of
267 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: nations
268 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: fierce-locked
269 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: good our
270 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Not
271 souls are born
272 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Dusk
273 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: the
274 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: god
275 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: his
276 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Not
280 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: lifted too high
281 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: for
282 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: strewn
283 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: dreadful world-slaying
284 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: nor
285 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: their
286 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: his nethermost
287 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: death-blast
288 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: over
289 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: laughter calling
290 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: loved
291 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Bringest
292 man rejects them.
293 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Tiryns’
294 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: layedst
295 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: and have played
296 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: sorely
297 it was
298 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: and the neigh
299 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Acamas
300 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: in blood
301 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: o’er
302 The original which seems scratched out in favour of “grew near” was “were drawn”.
303 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: the
304 In 2009 ed. this line is placed before the words How shall they win in their earth...
305 “Silence” was cancelled in the MS. but remained unsubstituted.
306 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: mouth like a
307 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: their bodies,
308 There is some uncertainty about this word in relation to the next line which now begins with “Sung” but originally did so with “Out”. Originally, “sprang” stood instead of “sang” in the first line.
309 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Sang
311 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: rapture
313 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Equals
314 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: thronging
315 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: statued
316 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: and would perish
317 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: their
318 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: in
319 the master.
320 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: I will
321 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: white
322 Alternatives to this line and the preceding:
Thrilled with her feet was the bosom of Space, for her amorous motion
Floated a flower on the wave of her bliss or swayed like the lightning.
In the edition of 2009 year these two lines are placed in main text after the line Mad round her touches...
323 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: on
326 Originally the word here was: sounded.
328 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: force
330 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: two
331 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: ascendant
332 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: I was
334 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: of haughty
337 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: kingdoms
338 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: her
339 No title for this book in the MS.
340 The text from this line till mark *** was absent in this edition and was taken from the edition of 2009 year
341 Here and below some words have been lost as a result of damage to the manuscript. – Ed. (Note from 2009 ed.)
342 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: wall
344 fashioned | framed
345 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Hast
346 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: no
347 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: this
348 This line is absent in the edition of 2009 year
349 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Severed
351 Alternative to this line and the preceding:
But like the northwind high and clear answered Penthesilea
In the edition of 2009 year this line is placed in the main text before the line High like the north-wind...
352 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: no
353 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: on
354 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: he
356 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: o’erthrown
357 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: their
358 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: their
359 All in a victor flood,
360 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: chariots
361 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Argives’
362 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: gates
363 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: the
364 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: nation
365 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: the
367 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: twixt
368 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: twixt
369 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: surely
370 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: spear-shafts
371 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: and the cry