Part 6 out of 6
Trembled her limbs, fear-frenzied was her heart;
Rent were her hoary tresses and besprent
With ashes of the hearth, cast by her hands
When she saw Priam slain and Troy aflame.
And aye she deeply groaned for thraldom's day
That trapped her vainly loth. Each hero led
A wailing Trojan woman to his ship.
Here, there, uprose from these the wild lament,
The woeful-mingling cries of mother and babe.
As when with white-tusked swine the herdmen drive
Their younglings from the hill-pens to the plain
As winter closeth in, and evermore
Each answereth each with mingled plaintive cries;
So moaned Troy's daughters by their foes enslaved,
Handmaid and queen made one in thraldom's lot.
But Helen raised no lamentation: shame
Sat on her dark-blue eyes, and cast its flush
Over her lovely cheeks. Her heart beat hard
With sore misgiving, lest, as to the ships
She passed, the Achaeans might mishandle her.
Therefore with fluttering soul she trembled sore;
And, her head darkly mantled in her veil,
Close-following trod she in her husband's steps,
With cheek shame-crimsoned, like the Queen of Love,
What time the Heaven-abiders saw her clasped
In Ares' arms, shaming in sight of all
The marriage-bed, trapped in the myriad-meshed
Toils of Hephaestus: tangled there she lay
In agony of shame, while thronged around
The Blessed, and there stood Hephaestus' self:
For fearful it is for wives to be beheld
By husbands' eyes doing the deed of shame.
Lovely as she in form and roseate blush
Passed Helen mid the Trojan captives on
To the Argive ships. But the folk all around
Marvelled to see the glory of loveliness
Of that all-flawless woman. No man dared
Or secretly or openly to cast
Reproach on her. As on a Goddess all
Gazed on her with adoring wistful eyes.
As when to wanderers on a stormy sea,
After long time and passion of prayer, the sight
Of fatherland is given; from deadly deeps
Escaped, they stretch hands to her joyful-souled;
So joyed the Danaans all, no man of them
Remembered any more war's travail and pain.
Such thoughts Cytherea stirred in them, for grace
To Helen starry-eyed, and Zeus her sire.
Then, when he saw that burg beloved destroyed,
Xanthus, scarce drawing breath from bloody war,
Mourned with his Nymphs for ruin fallen on Troy,
Mourned for the city of Priam blotted out.
As when hail lashes a field of ripened wheat,
And beats it small, and smites off all the ears
With merciless scourge, and levelled with the ground
Are stalks, and on the earth is all the grain
Woefully wasted, and the harvest's lord
Is stricken with deadly grief; so Xanthus' soul
Was utterly whelmed in grief for Ilium made
A desolation; grief undying was his,
Immortal though he was. Mourned Simois
And long-ridged Ida: all who on Ida dwelt
Wailed from afar the ruin of Priam's town.
But with loud laughter of glee the Argives sought
Their galleys, chanting the triumphant might
Of victory, chanting now the Blessed Gods,
Now their own valour, and Epeius' work
Ever renowned. Their song soared up to heaven,
Like multitudinous cries of daws, when breaks
A day of sunny calm and windless air
After a ruining storm: from their glad hearts
So rose the joyful clamour, till the Gods
Heard and rejoiced in heaven, all who had helped
With willing hands the war-fain Argive men.
But chafed those others which had aided Troy,
Beholding Priam's city wrapped in flame,
Yet powerless for her help to override
Fate; for not Cronos' Son can stay the hand
Of Destiny, whose might transcendeth all
The Immortals, and Zeus sanctioneth all her deeds.
The Argives on the flaming altar-wood
Laid many thighs of oxen, and made haste
To spill sweet wine on their burnt offerings,
Thanking the Gods for that great work achieved.
And loudly at the feast they sang the praise
Of all the mailed men whom the Horse of Tree
Had ambushed. Far-famed Sinon they extolled
For that dire torment he endured of foes;
Yea, song and honour-guerdons without end
All rendered him: and that resolved soul
Glad-hearted joyed for the Argives victory,
And for his own misfeaturing sorrowed not.
For to the wise and prudent man renown
Is better far than gold, than goodlihead,
Than all good things men have or hope to win.
So, feasting by the ships all void of fear,
Cried one to another ever and anon:
"We have touched the goal of this long war, have won
Glory, have smitten our foes and their great town!
Now grant, O Zeus, to our prayers safe home-return!"
But not to all the Sire vouchsafed return.
Then rose a cunning harper in their midst.
And sang the song of triumph and of peace
Re-won, and with glad hearts untouched by care
They heard; for no more fear of war had they,
But of sweet toil of law-abiding days
And blissful, fleeting hours henceforth they dreamed.
All the War's Story in their eager ears
He sang -- how leagued peoples gathering met
At hallowed Aulis -- how the invincible strength
Of Peleus' son smote fenced cities twelve
In sea-raids, how he marched o'er leagues on leagues
Of land, and spoiled eleven -- all he wrought
In fight with Telephus and Eetion --
How he slew giant Cycnus -- all the toil
Of war that through Achilles' wrath befell
The Achaeans -- how he dragged dead Hector round
His own Troy's wall, and how he slew in fight
Penthesileia and Tithonus' son: --
How Aias laid low Glaucus, lord of spears,
Then sang he how the child of Aeacus' son
Struck down Eurypylus, and how the shafts
Of Philoctetes dealt to Paris death.
Then the song named all heroes who passed in
To ambush in the Horse of Guile, and hymned
The fall of god-descended Priam's burg;
The feast he sang last, and peace after war;
Then many another, as they listed, sang.
But when above those feasters midnight's stars
Hung, ceased the Danaans from the feast and wine,
And turned to sleep's forgetfulness of care,
For that with yesterday's war-travail all
Were wearied; wherefore they, who fain all night
Had revelled, needs must cease: how loth soe'er,
Sleep drew them thence; here, there, soft slumbered they.
But in his tent Menelaus lovingly
With bright-haired Helen spake; for on their eyes
Sleep had not fallen yet. The Cyprian Queen
Brooded above their souls, that olden love
Might be renewed, and heart-ache chased away.
Helen first brake the silence, and she said:
"O Menelaus, be not wroth with me!
Not of my will I left thy roof, thy bed,
But Alexander and the sons of Troy
Came upon me, and snatched away, when thou
Wast far thence. Oftentimes did I essay
By the death-noose to perish wretchedly,
Or by the bitter sword; but still they stayed
Mine hand, and still spake comfortable words
To salve my grief for thee and my sweet child.
For her sake, for the sake of olden love,
And for thine own sake, I beseech thee now,
Forget thy stern displeasure against thy wife."
Answered her Menelaus wise of wit:
"No more remember past griefs: seal them up
Hid in thine heart. Let all be locked within
The dim dark mansion of forgetfulness.
What profits it to call ill deeds to mind?"
Glad was she then: fear flitted from her heart,
And came sweet hope that her lord's wrath was dead.
She cast her arms around him, and their eyes
With tears were brimming as they made sweet moan;
And side by side they laid them, and their hearts
Thrilled with remembrance of old spousal joy.
And as a vine and ivy entwine their stems
Each around other, that no might of wind
Avails to sever them, so clung these twain
Twined in the passionate embrace of love.
When came on these too sorrow-drowning sleep,
Even then above his son's head rose and stood
Godlike Achilles' mighty shade, in form
As when he lived, the Trojans' bane, the joy
Of Greeks, and kissed his neck and flashing eyes
Lovingly, and spake comfortable words:
"All hail, my son! Vex not thine heart with grief
For thy dead sire; for with the Blessed Gods
Now at the feast I sit. Refrain thy soul
From sorrow, and plant my strength within thy mind.
Be foremost of the Argives ever; yield
To none in valour, but in council bow
Before thine elders: so shall all acclaim
Thy courtesy. Honour princely men and wise;
For the true man is still the true man's friend,
Even as the vile man cleaveth to the knave.
If good thy thought be, good shall be thy deeds:
But no man shall attain to Honour's height,
Except his heart be right within: her stem
Is hard to climb, and high in heaven spread
Her branches: only they whom strength and toil
Attend, strain up to pluck her blissful fruit,
Climbing the Tree of Honour glow-crowned.
Thou therefore follow fame, and let thy soul
Be not in sorrow afflicted overmuch,
Nor in prosperity over-glad. To friends,
To comrades, child and wife, be kindly of heart,
Remembering still that near to all men stand
The gates of doom, the mansions of the dead:
For humankind are like the flower of grass,
The blossom of spring; these fade the while those bloom:
Therefore be ever kindly with thy kind.
Now to the Argives say -- to Atreus' son
Agamemnon chiefly -- if my battle-toil
Round Priam's walls, and those sea-raids I led
Or ever I set foot on Trojan land,
Be in their hearts remembered, to my tomb
Be Priam's daughter Polyxeina led --
Whom as my portion of the spoil I claim --
And sacrificed thereon: else shall my wrath
Against them more than for Briseis burn.
The waves of the great deep will I turmoil
To bar their way, upstirring storm on storm,
That through their own mad folly pining away
Here they may linger long, until to me
They pour drink-offerings, yearning sore for home.
But, when they have slain the maiden, I grudge not
That whoso will may bury her far from me."
Then as a wind-breath swift he fleeted thence,
And came to the Elysian Plain, whereto
A path to heaven reacheth, for the feet
Ascending and descending of the Blest.
Then the son started up from sleep, and called
His sire to mind, and glowed the heart in him.
When to wide heaven the Child of Mist uprose,
Scattering night, unveiling earth and air,
Then from their rest upsprang Achaea's sons
Yearning for home. With laughter 'gan they hale
Down to the sea the keels: but lo, their haste
Was reined in by Achilles' mighty son:
He assembled them, and told his sire's behest:
"Hearken, dear sons of Argives battle-staunch,
To this my glorious father's hest, to me
Spoken in darkness slumbering on my bed:
He saith, he dwells with the Immortal Gods:
He biddeth you and Atreus' son the king
To bring, as his war-guerdon passing-fair,
To his dim dark tomb Polyxeina queenly-robed,
To slay her there, but far thence bury her.
But if ye slight him, and essay to sail
The sea, he threateneth to stir up the waves
To bar your path upon the deep, and here
Storm-bound long time to hold you, ships and men."
Then hearkened they, and as to a God they prayed;
For even now a storm-blast on the sea
Upheaved the waves, broad-backed and thronging fast
More than before beneath the madding wind.
Tossed the great deep, smit by Poseidon's hands
For a grace to strong Achilles. All the winds
Swooped on the waters. Prayed the Dardans all
To Achilles, and a man to his fellow cried:
"Great Zeus's seed Achilles verily was;
Therefore is he a God, who in days past
Dwelt among us; for lapse of dateless time
Makes not the sons of Heaven to fade away."
Then to Achilles' tomb the host returned,
And led the maid, as calf by herdmen dragged
For sacrifice, from woodland pastures torn
From its mother's side, and lowing long and loud
It moans with anguished heart; so Priam's child
Wailed in the hands of foes. Down streamed her tears
As when beneath the heavy sacks of sand
Olives clear-skinned, ne'er blotched by drops of storm,
Pour out their oil, when the long levers creak
As strong men strain the cords; so poured the tears
Of travail-burdened Priam's daughter, haled
To stern Achilles' tomb, tears blent with moans.
Drenched were her bosom-folds, glistened the drops
On flesh clear-white as costly ivory.
Then, to crown all her griefs, yet sharper pain
Fell on the heart of hapless Hecuba.
Then did her soul recall that awful dream,
The vision of sleep of that night overpast:
Herseemed that on Achilles' tomb she stood
Moaning, her hair down-streaming to the ground,
And from her breasts blood dripped to earth the while,
And drenched the tomb. Fear-haunted touching this,
Foreboding all calamity, she wailed
Piteously; far rang her wild lament.
As a dog moaning at her master's door,
Utters long howls, her teats with milk distent,
Whose whelps, ere their eyes opened to the light,
Her lords afar have flung, a prey to kites;
And now with short sharp cries she plains, and now
Long howling: the weird outcry thrills the air;
So wailed and shrieked for her child Hecuba:
"Ah me! what sorrows first or last shall I
Lament heart-anguished, who am full of woes?
Those unimagined ills my sons, my king
Have suffered? or my city, or daughters shamed?
Or my despair, my day of slavery?
Oh, the grim fates have caught me in a net
Of manifold ills! O child, they have spun for thee
Dread weird of unimagined misery!
They have thrust thee away, when near was Hymen"s hymn,
From thine espousals, marked thee for destruction
Dark, unendurable, unspeakable!
For lo, a dead man's heart, Achilles' heart,
Is by our blood made warm with life to-day!
O child, dear child, that I might die with thee,
That earth might swallow me, ere I see thy doom!"
So cried she, weeping never-ceasing tears,
For grief on bitter grief encompassed her.
But when these reached divine Achilles' tomb,
Then did his son unsheathe the whetted sword,
His left hand grasped the maid, and his right hand
Was laid upon the tomb, and thus he cried:
"Hear, father, thy son's prayer, hear all the prayers
Of Argives, and be no more wroth with us!
Lo, unto thee now all thine heart's desire
Will we fulfil. Be gracious to us thou,
And to our praying grant sweet home-return."
Into the maid's throat then he plunged the blade
Of death: the dear life straightway sobbed she forth,
With the last piteous moan of parting breath.
Face-downward to the earth she fell: all round
Her flesh was crimsoned from her neck, as snow
Stained on a mountain-side with scarlet blood
Rushing, from javelin-smitten boar or bear.
The maiden's corpse then gave they, to be borne
Unto the city, to Antenor's home,
For that, when Troy yet stood, he nurtured her
In his fair halls, a bride for his own son
Eurymachus. The old man buried her,
King Priam's princess-child, nigh his own house,
By Ganymedes' shrine, and overagainst
The temple of Pallas the Unwearied One.
Then were the waves stilled, and the blast was hushed
To sleep, and all the sea-flood lulled to calm.
Swift with glad laughter hied they to the ships,
Hymning Achilles and the Blessed Ones.
A feast they made, first severing thighs of kine
For the Immortals. Gladsome sacrifice
Steamed on all sides: in cups of silver and gold
They drank sweet wine: their hearts leaped up with hope
Of winning to their fatherland again.
But when with meats and wine all these were filled,
Then in their eager ears spake Neleus' son:
"Hear, friends, who have 'scaped the long turmoil of war,
That I may say to you one welcome word:
Now is the hour of heart's delight, the hour
Of home-return. Away! Achilles soul
Hath ceased from ruinous wrath; Earth-shaker stills
The stormy wave, and gentle breezes blow;
No more the waves toss high. Haste, hale the ships
Down to the sea. Now, ho for home-return!"
Eager they heard, and ready made the ships.
Then was a marvellous portent seen of men;
For all-unhappy Priam's queen was changed
From woman's form into a pitiful hound;
And all men gathered round in wondering awe.
Then all her body a God transformed to stone --
A mighty marvel for men yet unborn!
At Calchas' bidding this the Achaeans bore
In a swift ship to Hellespont's far side.
Then down to the sea in haste they ran the keels:
Their wealth they laid aboard, even all the spoil
Taken, or ever unto Troy they came,
From conquered neighbour peoples; therewithal
Whatso they took from Ilium, wherein most
They joyed, for untold was the sum thereof.
And followed with them many a captive maid
With anguished heart: so went they aboard the ships.
But Calchas would not with that eager host
Launch forth; yea, he had fain withheld therefrom
All the Achaeans, for his prophet-soul
Foreboded dread destruction looming o'er
The Argives by the Rocks Capherean.
But naught they heeded him; malignant
Fate Deluded men's souls: only Amphilochus
The wise in prophet-lore, the gallant son
Of princely Amphiaraus, stayed with him.
Fated were these twain, far from their own land,
To reach Pamphylian and Cilician burgs;
And this the Gods thereafter brought to pass.
But now the Achaeans cast the hawsers loose
From shore: in haste they heaved the anchor-stones.
Roared Hellespont beneath swift-flashing oars;
Crashed the prows through the sea. About the bows
Much armour of slain foes was lying heaped:
Along the bulwarks victory-trophies hung
Countless. With garlands wreathed they all the ships,
Their heads, the spears, the shields wherewith they had fought
Against their foes. The chiefs stood on the prows,
And poured into the dark sea once and again
Wine to the Gods, to grant them safe return.
But with the winds their prayers mixed; far away
Vainly they floated blent with cloud and air.
With anguished hearts the captive maids looked back
On Ilium, and with sobs and moans they wailed,
Striving to hide their grief from Argive eyes.
Clasping their knees some sat; in misery some
Veiled with their hands their faces; others nursed
Young children in their arms: those innocents
Not yet bewailed their day of bondage, nor
Their country's ruin; all their thoughts were set
On comfort of the breast, for the babe's heart
Hath none affinity with sorrow. All
Sat with unbraided hair and pitiful breasts
Scored with their fingers. On their cheeks there lay
Stains of dried tears, and streamed thereover now
Fresh tears full fast, as still they gazed aback
On the lost hapless home, wherefrom yet rose
The flames, and o'er it writhed the rolling smoke.
Now on Cassandra marvelling they gazed,
Calling to mind her prophecy of doom;
But at their tears she laughed in bitter scorn,
In anguish for the ruin of her land.
Such Trojans as had scaped from pitiless war
Gathered to render now the burial-dues
Unto their city's slain. Antenor led
To that sad work: one pyre for all they raised.
But laughed with triumphing hearts the Argive men,
As now with oars they swept o'er dark sea-ways,
Now hastily hoised the sails high o'er the ships,
And fleeted fast astern Dardania-land,
And Hero Achilles' tomb. But now their hearts,
How blithe soe'er, remembered comrades slain,
And sorely grieved, and wistfully they looked
Back to the alien's land; it seemed to them
Aye sliding farther from their ships. Full soon
By Tenedos' beaches slipt they: now they ran
By Chrysa, Sminthian Phoebus' holy place,
And hallowed Cilla. Far away were glimpsed
The windy heights of Lesbos. Rounded now
Was Lecton's foreland, where is the last peak
Of Ida. In the sails loud hummed the wind,
Crashed round the prows the dark surge: the long waves
Showed shadowy hollows, far the white wake gleamed.
Now had the Argives all to the hallowed soil
Of Hellas won, by perils of the deep
Unscathed, but for Athena Daughter of Zeus
The Thunderer, and her indignation's wrath.
When nigh Euboea's windy heights they drew,
She rose, in anger unappeasable
Against the Locrian king, devising doom
Crushing and pitiless, and drew nigh to Zeus
Lord of the Gods, and spake to him apart
In wrath that in her breast would not be pent:
"Zeus, Father, unendurable of Gods
Is men's presumption! They reck not of thee,
Of none of the Blessed reck they, forasmuch
As vengeance followeth after sin no more;
And ofttimes more afflicted are good men
Than evil, and their misery hath no end.
Therefore no man regardeth justice: shame
Lives not with men! And I, I will not dwell
Hereafter in Olympus, not be named
Thy daughter, if I may not be avenged
On the Achaeans' reckless sin! Behold,
Within my very temple Oileus' son
Hath wrought iniquity, hath pitied not
Cassandra stretching unregarded hands
Once and again to me; nor did he dread
My might, nor reverenced in his wicked heart
The Immortal, but a deed intolerable
He did. Therefore let not thy spirit divine
Begrudge mine heart's desire, that so all men
May quake before the manifest wrath of Gods."
Answered the Sire with heart-assuaging words:
"Child, not for the Argives' sake withstand I thee;
But all mine armoury which the Cyclops' might
To win my favour wrought with tireless hands,
To thy desire I give. O strong heart, hurl
A ruining storm thyself on the Argive fleet."
Then down before the aweless Maid he cast
Swift lightning, thunder, and deadly thunderbolt;
And her heart leapt, and gladdened was her soul.
She donned the stormy Aegis flashing far,
Adamantine, massy, a marvel to the Gods,
Whereon was wrought Medusa's ghastly head,
Fearful: strong serpents breathing forth the blast
Of ravening fire were on the face thereof.
Crashed on the Queen's breast all the Aegis-links,
As after lightning crashes the firmament.
Then grasped she her father's weapons, which no God
Save Zeus can lift, and wide Olympus shook.
Then swept she clouds and mist together on high;
Night over earth was poured, haze o'er the sea.
Zeus watched, and was right glad as broad heaven's floor
Rocked 'neath the Goddess's feet, and crashed the sky,
As though invincible Zeus rushed forth to war.
Then sped she Iris unto Acolus,
From heaven far-flying over misty seas,
To bid him send forth all his buffering winds
O'er iron-bound Caphereus' cliffs to sweep
Ceaselessly, and with ruin of madding blasts
To upheave the sea. And Iris heard, and swift
She darted, through cloud-billows plunging down --
Thou hadst said: "Lo, in the sky dark water and fire!"
And to Aeolia came she, isle of caves,
Of echoing dungeons of mad-raging winds
With rugged ribs of mountain overarched,
Whereby the mansion stands of Aeolus
Hippotas' son. Him found she therewithin
With wife and twelve sons; and she told to him
Athena's purpose toward the homeward-bound
Achaeans. He denied her not, but passed
Forth of his halls, and in resistless hands
Upswung his trident, smiting the mountain-side
Within whose chasm-cell the wild winds dwelt
Tempestuously shrieking. Ever pealed
Weird roarings of their voices round its vaults.
Cleft by his might was the hill-side; forth they poured.
He bade them on their wings bear blackest storm
To upheave the sea, and shroud Caphereus' heights.
Swiftly upsprang they, ere their king's command
Was fully spoken. Mightily moaned the sea
As they rushed o'er it; waves like mountain-cliffs
From all sides were uprolled. The Achaeans' hearts
Were terror-palsied, as the uptowering surge
Now swung the ships up high through palling mist,
Now hurled them rolled as down a precipice
To dark abysses. Up through yawning deeps
Some power resistless belched the boiling sand
From the sea's floor. Tossed in despair, fear-dazed,
Men could not grasp the oar, nor reef the sail
About the yard-arm, howsoever fain,
Ere the winds rent it, could not with the sheets
Trim the torn canvas, buffeted so were they
By ruining blasts. The helmsman had no power
To guide the rudder with his practised hands,
For those ill winds hurled all confusedly.
No hope of life was left them: blackest night,
Fury of tempest, wrath of deathless Gods,
Raged round them. Still Poseidon heaved and swung
The merciless sea, to work the heart's desire
Of his brother's glorious child; and she on high
Stormed with her lightnings, ruthless in her rage.
Thundered from heaven Zeus, in purpose fixed
To glorify his daughter. All the isles
And mainlands round were lashed by leaping seas
Nigh to Euboea, where the Power divine
Scourged most with unrelenting stroke on stroke
The Argives. Groan and shriek of perishing men
Rang through the ships; started great beams and snapped
With ominous sound, for ever ship on ship
With shivering timbers crashed. With hopeless toil
Men strained with oars to thrust back hulls that reeled
Down on their own, but with the shattered planks
Were hurled into the abyss, to perish there
By pitiless doom; for beams of foundering ships
From this, from that side battered out their lives,
And crushed were all their bodies wretchedly.
Some in the ships fell down, and like dead men
Lay there; some, in the grip of destiny,
Clinging to oars smooth-shaven, tried to swim;
Some upon planks were tossing. Roared the surge
From fathomless depths: it seemed as though sea, sky,
And land were blended all confusedly.
Still from Olympus thundering Atrytone
Wielded her Father's power unshamed, and still
The welkin shrieked around. Her ruin of wrath
Now upon Aias hurled she: on his ship
Dashed she a thunderbolt, and shivered it
Wide in a moment into fragments small,
While earth and air yelled o'er the wreck, and whirled
And plunged and fell the whole sea down thereon.
They in the ship were all together flung
Forth: all about them swept the giant waves,
Round them leapt lightnings flaming through the dark.
Choked with the strangling surf of hissing brine,
Gasping out life, they drifted o'er the sea.
But even in death those captive maids rejoiced,
As some ill-starred ones, clasping to their breasts
Their babes, sank in the sea; some flung their arms
Round Danaans' horror-stricken heads, and dragged
These down with them, so rendering to their foes
Requital for foul outrage down to them.
And from on high the haughty Trito-born
Looked down on all this, and her heart was glad.
But Aias floated now on a galley's plank,
Now through the brine with strong hands oared his path,
Like some old Titan in his tireless might.
Cleft was the salt sea-surge by the sinewy hands
Of that undaunted man: the Gods beheld
And marvelled at his courage and his strength.
But now the billows swung him up on high
Through misty air, as though to a mountain's peak,
Now whelmed him down, as they would bury him
In ravening whirlpits: yet his stubborn hands
Toiled on unwearied. Aye to right and left
Flashed lightnings down, and quenched them in the sea;
For not yet was the Child of Thunderer Zeus
Purposed to smite him dead, despite her wrath,
Ere he had drained the cup of travail and pain
Down to the dregs; so in the deep long time
Affliction wore him down, tormented sore
On every side. Grim Fates stood round the man
Unnumbered; yet despair still kindled strength.
He cried: "Though all the Olympians banded come
In wrath, and rouse against me all the sea,
I will escape them!" But no whit did he
Elude the Gods' wrath; for the Shaker of Earth
In fierceness of his indignation marked
Where his hands clung to the Gyraean Rock,
And in stern anger with an earthquake shook
Both sea and land. Around on all sides crashed
Caphereus' cliffs: beneath the Sea-king's wrath
The surf-tormented beaches shrieked and roared.
The broad crag rifted reeled into the sea,
The rock whereto his desperate hands had clung;
Yet did he writhe up round its jutting spurs,
While flayed his hands were, and from 'neath his nails
The blood ran. Wrestling with him roared the waves,
And the foam whitened all his hair and beard.
Yet had he 'scaped perchance his evil doom,
Had not Poseidon, wroth with his hardihood,
Cleaving the earth, hurled down the chasm the rock,
As in the old time Pallas heaved on high
Sicily, and on huge Enceladus
Dashed down the isle, which burns with the burning yet
Of that immortal giant, as he breathes
Fire underground; so did the mountain-crag,
Hurled from on high, bury the Locrian king,
Pinning the strong man down, a wretch crushed flat.
And so on him death's black destruction came
Whom land and sea alike were leagued to slay.
Still over the great deep were swept the rest
Of those Achaeans, crouching terror-dazed
Down in the ships, save those that mid the waves
Had fallen. Misery encompassed all;
For some with heavily-plunging prows drave on,
With keels upturned some drifted. Here were masts
Snapped from the hull by rushing gusts, and there
Were tempest-rifted wrecks of scattered beams;
And some had sunk, whelmed in the mighty deep,
Swamped by the torrent downpour from the clouds:
For these endured not madness of wind-tossed sea
Leagued with heaven's waterspout; for streamed the sky
Ceaselessly like a river, while the deep
Raved round them. And one cried: "Such floods on men
Fell only when Deucalion's deluge came,
When earth was drowned, and all was fathomless sea!"
So cried a Danaan, seeing soul-appalled
That wild storm. Thousands perished; corpses thronged
The great sea-highways: all the beaches were
Too strait for them: the surf belched multitudes
Forth on the land. The heavy-booming sea
With weltering beams of ships was wholly paved,
And here and there the grey waves gleamed between.
So found they each his several evil fate,
Some whelmed beneath broad-rushing billows, some
Wretchedly perishing with their shattered ships
By Nauplius' devising on the rocks.
Wroth for that son whom they had done to death,
He; when the storm rose and the Argives died,
Rejoiced amid his sorrow, seeing a God
Gave to his hands revenge, which now he wreaked
Upon the host he hated, as o'er the deep
They tossed sore-harassed. To his sea-god sire
He prayed that all might perish, ships and men
Whelmed in the deep. Poseidon heard his prayer,
And on the dark surge swept them nigh his land.
He, like a harbour-warder, lifted high
A blazing torch, and so by guile he trapped
The Achaean men, who deemed that they had won
A sheltering haven: but sharp reefs and crags
Gave awful welcome unto ships and men,
Who, dashed to pieces on the cruel rocks
In the black night, crowned ills with direr ills.
Some few escaped, by a God or Power unseen
Plucked from death's hand. Athena now rejoiced
Her heart within, and now was racked with fears
For prudent-souled Odysseus; for his weird
Was through Poseidon's wrath to suffer woes
But Earth-shaker's jealousy now
Burned against those long walls and towers uppiled
By the strong Argives for a fence against
The Trojans' battle-onset. Swiftly then
He swelled to overbrimming all the sea
That rolls from Euxine down to Hellespont,
And hurled it on the shore of Troy: and Zeus,
For a grace unto the glorious Shaker of Earth,
Poured rain from heaven: withal Far-darter bare
In that great work his part; from Ida's heights
Into one channel led he all her streams,
And flooded the Achaeans' work. The sea
Dashed o'er it, and the roaring torrents still
Rushed on it, swollen by the rains of Zeus;
And the dark surge of the wide-moaning sea
Still hurled them back from mingling with the deep,
Till all the Danaan walls were blotted out
Beneath their desolating flood. Then earth
Was by Poseidon chasm-cleft: up rushed
Deluge of water, slime and sand, while quaked
Sigeum with the mighty shock, and roared
The beach and the foundations of the land
Dardanian. So vanished, whelmed from sight,
That mighty rampart. Earth asunder yawned,
And all sank down, and only sand was seen,
When back the sea rolled, o'er the beach outspread
Far down the heavy-booming shore. All this
The Immortals' anger wrought. But in their ships
The Argives storm-dispersed went sailing on.
So came they home, as heaven guided each,
Even all that 'scaped the fell sea-tempest blasts.