Aeneid (Williams)/Book II
A general silence fell; and all gave ear,
While, from his lofty station at the feast,
Father Æneas with these words began:—
A grief unspeakable thy gracious word,
O sovereign lady, bids my heart live o’er: 5
How Asia’s glory and afflicted throne
The Greek flung down; which woeful scene I saw,
And bore great part in each event I tell.
But O! in telling, what Dolopian churl,
Or Myrmidon, or gory follower 10
Of grim Ulysses could the tears restrain?
’T is evening; lo! the dews of night begin
To fall from heaven, and yonder sinking stars
Invite to slumber. But if thy heart yearn
To hear in brief of all our evil days 15
And Troy’s last throes, although the memory
Makes my soul shudder and recoil in pain,
I will essay it.
Wearied of the war,
And by ill-fortune crushed, year after year,
The kings of Greece, by Pallas’ skill divine, 20
Build a huge horse, a thing of mountain size,
With timbered ribs of fir. They falsely say
It has been vowed to Heaven for safe return,
And spread this lie abroad. Then they conceal
Choice bands of warriors in the deep, dark side, 25
And fill the caverns of that monstrous womb
With arms and soldiery. In sight of Troy
Lies Tenedos, an island widely famed
And opulent, ere Priam’s kingdom fell,
But a poor haven now, with anchorage 30
Not half secure; ’t was thitherward they sailed,
And lurked unseen by that abandoned shore.
We deemed them launched away and sailing far,
Bound homeward for Mycenæ. Teucria then
Threw off her grief inveterate; all her gates 35
Swung wide; exultant went we forth, and saw
The Dorian camp untenanted, the siege
Abandoned, and the shore without a keel.
“Here!” cried we, “the Dolopian pitched; the host
“Of fierce Achilles here; here lay the fleet; 40
“And here the battling lines to conflict ran.”
Others, all wonder, scan the gift of doom
By virgin Pallas given, and view with awe
That horse which loomed so large. Thymœtes then
Bade lead it through the gates, and set on high 45
Within our citadel,—or traitor he,
Or tool of fate in Troy’s predestined fall.
But Capys, as did all of wiser heart,
Bade hurl into the sea the false Greek gift,
Or underneath it thrust a kindling flame, 50
Or pierce the hollow ambush of its womb
With probing spear. Yet did the multitude
Veer round from vice to voice and doubt of all.
Then from the citadel, conspicuous,
Laocoön, with all his following choir, 55
Hurried indignant down; and from afar
Thus hailed the people: “O unhappy men!
“What madness is this? Who deems our foemen fled?
“Think ye the gifts of Greece can lack for guile?
“Have ye not known Ulysses? The Achæan 60
“Hides, caged in yonder beams; or this is reared
“For engin’ry on our proud battlements,
“To spy upon our roof-tops, or descend
“In ruin on the city. ’T is a snare.
“Trust not this horse, O Troy, whate’er it bode! 65
“I fear the Greeks, though gift on gift they bear.”
So saying, he whirled with ponderous javelin
A sturdy stroke straight at the rounded side
Of the great, jointed beast. A tremor struck
Its towering form, and through the cavernous womb 70
Rolled loud, reverberate rumbling, deep and long.
If heaven’s decree, if our own wills, that hour,
Had not been fixed on woe, his spear had brought
A bloody slaughter on our ambushed foe,
And Troy were standing on the earth this day! 75
O Priam’s towers, ye were unfallen still!
But, lo! with hands fast bound behind, a youth
By clamorous Dardan shepherds haled along,
Was brought before our King,—to this sole end
A self-surrendered captive, that he might, 80
Although a nameless stranger, cunningly
Deliver to the Greek the gates of Troy.
His firm-set mind flinched not from either goal,—
Success in crime, or on swift death to fall.
The thronging Trojan youth made haste his way 85
From every side, all eager to see close
Their captive’s face, and flout with emulous scorn.
Hear now what Greek deception is, and learn
From one dark wickedness the whole. For he,
A mark for every eye, defenceless, dazed, 90
Stood staring at our Phrygian hosts, and cried:
“Woe worth the day! What ocean or what shore
“Will have me now? What desperate path remains
“For miserable me? Now have I lost
“All foothold with the Greeks, and o’er my head 95
“Troy’s furious sons call bloody vengeance down.”
Such groans and anguish turned all rage away
And stayed our lifted hands. We bade him tell
His birth, his errand, and from whence might be
Such hope of mercy for a foe in chains. 100
Then fearing us no more, this speech he dared:
“O King! I will confess, whate’er befall,
“The whole unvarnished truth. I will not hide
“My Grecian birth. Yea, thus will I begin.
“For Fortune has brought wretched Sinon low; 105
“But never shall her cruelty impair
“His honor and his truth. Perchance the name
“Of Palamedes, Belus’ glorious son,
“Has come by rumor to your listening ears;
“Whom by false witness and conspiracy, 110
“Because his counsel was not for this war,
“The Greeks condemned, though guiltless, to his death,
“And now make much lament for him they slew.
“I, his companion, of his kith and kin,
“Sent hither by my humble sire’s command, 115
“Followed his arms and fortunes from my youth.
“Long as his throne endured, and while he throve
“In conclave with his kingly peers, we twain
“Some name and lustre bore; but afterward,
“Because that cheat Ulysses envied him 120
“(Ye know the deed), he from this world withdrew,
“And I in gloom and tribulation sore
“Lived miserably on, lamenting loud
“My lost friend’s blameless fall. A fool was I
“That kept not these lips closed; but I had vowed 125
“That if a conqueror home to Greece I came,
“I would avenge. Such words moved wrath, and were
“The first shock of my ruin; from that hour,
“Ulysses whispered slander and alarm;
“Breathed doubt and malice into all men’s ears, 130
“And darkly plotted how to strike his blow.
“Nor rest had he, till Calchas, as his tool—
“But why unfold this useless, cruel story?
“Why make delay? Ye count all sons of Greece
“Arrayed as one; and to have heard thus far 135
“Suffices you. Take now your ripe revenge!
“Ulysses smiles and Atreus’ royal sons
“With liberal price your deed of blood repay.”
We ply him with passionate appeal
And question all his cause: of guilt so dire 140
Or such Greek guile we harbored not the thought.
So on he prates, with well-feigned grief and fear,
And from his lying heart thus told his tale:
“Full oft the Greeks had fain achieved their flight,
“And raised the Trojan siege, and sailed away 145
“War-wearied quite. O, would it had been so!
“Full oft the wintry tumult of the seas
“Did wall them round, and many a swollen storm
“Their embarcation stayed. But chiefly when,
“All fitly built of beams of maple fair, 150
“This horse stood forth,—what thunders filled the skies!
“With anxious fears we sent Eurypylus
“To ask Apollo’s word; and from the shrine
“He brings the sorrowful commandment home:
“‘By flowing blood and by a virgin slain 155
“‘The wild winds were appeased, when first ye came,
“‘Ye sons of Greece, to Ilium’s distant shore.
“‘Through blood ye must return. Let some Greek life
“‘Your expiration be.’
The popular ear
“The saying caught, all spirits were dimmed o’er; 160
“Cold doubt and horror through each bosom ran,
“Asking what fate would do, and on what wretch
“Apollo’s choice would all. Ulysses, then,
“Amid the people’s tumult and acclaim,
“Thrust Calchas forth, some prophecy to tell 165
“To all the throng: he asked him o’er and o’er
“What Heaven desired. Already not a few
“Foretold the murderous plot, and silently
“Watched the dark doom upon my life impend.
“Twice five long days the seer his lips did seal, 170
“And hid himself, refusing to bring forth
“His word of guile, and name what wretch should die.
“At last, reluctant, and all loudly urged
“By false Ulysses, he fulfils their plot,
“And, lifting up his voice oracular, 175
“Points out myself the victim to be slain.
“Nor did one voice oppose. The mortal stroke
“Horribly hanging o’er each coward head
“Was changed to one man’s ruin, and their hearts
“Endured it well. Soon rose th’ accursed morn; 180
“The bloody ritual was ready; salt
“Was sprinkled on the sacred loaf; my brows
“Were bound with fillets for the offering.
“But I escaped that death—yes! I deny not!
“I cast my fetters off, and darkling lay 185
“Concealed all night in lake-side sedge and mire,
“Awaiting their departure, if perchance
“They should in truth set sail. But nevermore
“Shall my dear, native country greet these eyes.
“No more my father or my tender babes 190
“Shall I behold. Nay, haply their own lives
“Are forfeit, when my foemen take revenge
“For my escape, and slay those helpless ones,
“In expiation of my guilty deed.
“O, by yon powers in heaven which witness truth, 195
“By aught in this dark world remaining now
“Of spotless human faith and innocence,
“I do implore thee look with pitying eye
“On these long sufferings my heart hath borne.
“O, pity! I deserve not what I bear.” 200
Pity and pardon to his tears we gave,
And spared his life. King Priam bade unbind
The fettered hands and loose those heavy chains
That pressed him sore; then with benignant mien
Addressed him thus: “Whate’er thy place or name, 205
“Forget the people thou hast lost, and be
“Henceforth our countryman. But tell me true!
“What means the monstrous fabric of this horse?
“Who made it? Why? What offering to Heaven,
“On engin’ry of conquest may it be?” 210
He spake; and in reply, with skilful guile,
Greek that he was! the other lifted up
His hands, now freed and chainless, to the skies:
“O ever-burning and inviolate fires,
“Witness my word! O altars and sharp steel, 215
“Whose curse I fled, O fillets of the gods,
“Which bound a victim’s helpless forehead, hear!
“’T is lawful now to break the oath that gave
“My troth to Greece. To execrate her kings
“Is now my solemn duty. Their whole plot 220
“I publish to the world. No fatherland
“And no allegiance binds me any more.
“O Troy, whom I have saved, I bid thee keep
“The pledge of safety by good Priam given,
“For my true tale shall my rich ransom be. 225
“The Greeks’ one hope, since first they opened war,
“Was Pallas’ grace and power. But from the day
“When Diomed, bold scorner of the gods,
“And false Ulysses, author of all guile,
“Rose up and violently bore away 230
“Palladium, her holy shrine, hewed down
“The sentinels of her acropolis,
“And with polluted, gory hands dared touch
“The goddess’ virgin fillets, white and pure,—
“Thenceforth, I say, the courage of the Greeks 235
“Ebbed utterly away; their strength was lost,
“And favoring Pallas all her grace withdrew.
“No dubious sign she gave. Scarce had they set
“Her statue in our own camp, when glittering flame
“Flashed from the staring eyes; from all its limbs 240
“Salt sweat ran forth; three times (O wondrous tale!)
“It gave a sudden skyward leap, and made
“Prodigious trembling of her lance and shield.
“The prophet Calchas bade us straightway take
“Swift flight across the sea; for fate had willed 245
“The Trojan citadel should never fall
“By Grecian arm, till once more they obtain
“New oracles at Argos, and restore
“That god the round ships hurried o’er the sea.
“Now in Mycenæ, whither they are fled, 250
“New help of heaven they find, and forge anew
“The means of war. Back hither o’er the waves
“They suddenly will come. So Calchas gave
“The meaning of the god. Warned thus, they reared
“In place of Pallas’ desecrated shrine 255
“Yon image of the horse, to expiate
“The woeful sacrilege. Calchas ordained
“That they should build a thing of monstrous size
“Of jointed beams, and rear it heavenward,
“So might it never pass your gates, nor come 260
“Inside your walls, nor anywise restore
“Unto the Trojans their lost help divine.
“For had your hands Minerva’s gift profaned,
“A ruin horrible—O, may the gods
“Bring it on Calchas rather!—would have come 265
“On Priam’s throne and all the Phrygian power.
“But if your hands should lift the holy thing
“To your own citadel, then Asia’s host
“Would hurl aggression upon Pelops’ land,
“And all that curse on our own nation fall.” 270
Thus Sinon’s guile and practised perjury
Our doubt dispelled. His stratagems and tears
Wrought victory where neither Tydeus’ son,
Nor mountain-bred Achilles could prevail,
Nor ten years’ war, nor fleets a thousand strong. 275
But now a vaster spectacle of fear
Burst over us, to vex our startled souls.
Laocoön, that day by cast of lot
Priest unto Neptune, was in act to slay
A huge bull at the god’s appointed fane. 280
Lo! o’er the tranquil deep from Tenedos
Appeared a pair (I shudder as I tell)
Of vastly coiling serpents, side by side,
Stretching along the waves, and to the shore
Taking swift course; their necks were lifted high, 285
Their gory dragon-crests o’ertopped the waves;
All else, half seen, trailed low along the sea;
While with loud cleavage of the foaming brine
Their monstrous backs wound forward fold on fold.
Soon they made land; the furious bright eyes 290
Glowed with ensanguined fire; their quivering tongues
Lapped hungrily the hissing, gruesome jaws.
All terror-pale we fled. Unswerving then
The monsters to Laocoön made way.
First round the tender limbs of his two sons 295
Each dragon coiled, and on the shrinking flesh
Fixed fast and fled. Then seized they on the sire,
Who flew to aid, a javelin in his hand,
Embracing close in bondage serpentine
Twice round the waist; and twice in scaly grasp 300
Around his neck, and o’er him grimly peered
With lifted head and crest; he, all the while,
His holy fillet fouled with venomous blood,
Tore at his fetters with a desperate hand,
And lifted up such agonizing voice, 305
As when a bull, death-wounded, seeks to flee
The sacrificial altar, and thrusts back
From his doomed head the ill-aimed, glancing blade.
Then swiftly writhed the dragon-pair away
Unto the templed height, and in the shrine 310
Of cruel Pallas sure asylum found
Beneath the goddess’ feet and orbèd shield.
Such trembling horror as we ne’er had known
Seized now on every heart. “Of his vast guilt
“Laocoön,” they say, “receives reward; 315
“For he with most abominable spear
“Did strike and violate that blessèd wood.
“Yon statue to the temple! Ask the grace
“Of glorious Pallas!” So the people cried
In general acclaim. Ourselves did make 320
A breach within our walls and opened wide
The ramparts of our city. One and all
Were girded for the task. Smooth-gliding wheels
Were ’neath its feet; great ropes stretched round its neck,
Till o’er our walls the fatal engine climbed, 325
Pregnant with men-at-arms. On every side
Fair youths and maidens made a festal song.
And hauled the ropes with merry heart and gay.
So on and up it rolled, a tower of doom,
And in proud menace through our Forum moved. 330
O Ilium, my country, where abode
The gods of all my sires! O glorious walls
Of Dardan’s sons! before your gates it passed,
Four times it stopped and dreadful clash of arms
Four times from its vast concave loudly rang. 335
Yet frantic we pressed on, our hearts all blind,
And in the consecrated citadel
Set up the hateful thing. Cassandra then
From heaven-instructed heart our doom foretold;
But doomed to unbelief were Ilium’s sons. 340
Our hapless nation on its dying day
Flung free o’er streets and shrines the votive flowers.
The skies rolled on; and o’er the ocean fell
The veil of night, till utmost earth and heaven
And all their Myrmidonian stratagems 345
Were mantled darkly o’er. In silent sleep
The Trojan city lay; dull slumber chained
Its weary life. But now the Greek array
Of ordered ships moved on from Tenedos,
Their only light the silent, favoring moon, 350
On to the well-known strand. The King displayed
A torch from his own ship, and Sinon then,
Whom wrathful Heaven defended in that hour,
Let the imprisoned band of Greeks go free
From that huge womb of wood; the open horse 355
Restored them to the light; and joyfully
Emerging from the darkness, one by one,
Princely Thessander, Sthenelus, and dire
Ulysses glided down the swinging cord.
Closely upon them Neoptolemus, 360
The son of Peleus, came, and Acamas,
King Menelaus, Thoas and Machaon,
And last, Epeüs, who the fabric wrought.
Upon the town they fell, for deep in sleep
And drowsed with wine it lay; the sentinels 365
They slaughtered, and through gates now opened wide
Let in their fellows, and arrayed for war
Th’ auxiliar legions of the dark design.
That hour it was when heaven’s first gift of sleep
On weary hearts of men most sweetly steals. 370
O, then my slumbering senses seemed to see
Hector, with woeful face and streaming eyes;
I seemed to see him from the chariot trailing.
Foul with dark dust and gore, his swollen feet
Pierced with a cruel thong. Ah me! what change 375
From glorious Hector when he homeward bore
The spoils of fierce Achilles; or hurled far
That shower of torches on the ships of Greece!
Unkempt his beard, his tresses thick with blood,
And all those wounds in sight which he did take 380
Defending Troy. Then, weeping as I spoke,
I seemed on that heroic shape to call
With mournful utterance: “O star of Troy!
“O surest hope and stay of all her sons!
“Why tarriest thou so long? What region sends 385
“The long-expected Hector home once more?
“These weary eyes that look on thee have seen
“Hosts of thy kindred die, and fateful change
“Upon thy people and thy city fall.
“O, say what dire occasion has defiled 390
“Thy tranquil brows? What mean those bleeding wounds?”
Silent he stood, nor anywise would stay
My vain lament; but groaned, and answered thus:
“Haste, goddess-born, and out of yonder flames
“Achieve thy flight. Our foes have scaled the wall; 395
“Exalted Troy is falling. Fatherland
“And Priam ask no more. If human arm
“Could profit Troy, my own had kept her free.
“Her Lares and her people to thy hands
“Troy here commends. Companions let them be 400
“Of all thy fortunes. Let them share thy quest
“Of that wide realm, which, after wandering far,
“Thou shalt achieve, at last, beyond the sea.”
He spoke: and from our holy hearth brought forth
The solemn fillet, the ancestral shrines, 405
And Vesta’s ever-bright, inviolate fire.
Now shrieks and loud confusion swept the town;
And though my father’s dwelling stood apart
Embowered deep in trees, th’ increasing din
Drew nearer, and the battle-thunder swelled. 410
I woke on sudden, and up-starting scaled
The roof, the tower, then stood with listening ear:
’T was like an harvest burning, when wild winds
Uprouse the flames; ’t was like a mountain stream
That bursts in flood and ruinously whelms 415
Sweet fields and farms and all the ploughman’s toil
Whirling whole groves along; while dumb with fear,
From some far cliff the shepherd hears the sound.
Now their Greek plot was plain, the stratagem
At last laid bare. Deiphobus’ great house 420
Sank vanquished in the fire. Ucalegon’s
Hard by was blazing, while the waters wide
Around Sigeum gave an answering glow.
Shrill trumpets rang; loud shouting voices roared;
Wildly I armed me (when the battle calls, 425
How dimly reason shines!); I burned to join
The rally of my peers, and to the heights
Defensive gather. Frenzy and vast rage
Seized on my soul. I only sought what way
With sword in hand some noble death to die. 430
When Panthus met me, who had scarce escaped
The Grecian spears,—Panthus of Othrys’ line,
Apollo’s priest within our citadel;
His holy emblems, his defeated gods,
And his small grandson in his arms he bore, 435
While toward the gates with wild, swift steps he flew.
“How fares the kingdom, Panthus? What strong place
“Is still our own?” But scarcely could I ask
When thus, with many a groan, he made reply:—
“Dardania’s death and doom are come to-day, 440
“Implacable. There is no Ilium now;
“Our Trojan name is gone, the Teucrian throne
“Quite fallen. For the wrathful power of Jove
“Has given to Argos all our boast and pride.
“The Greek is lord of all yon blazing towers. 445
“Yon horse uplifted on our city’s heart
“Disgorges men-at-arms. False Sinon now,
“With scorn exultant, heaps up flame on flame.
“Others throw wide the gates. The whole vast horde
“That out of proud Mycenæ hither sailed 450
“Is at us. With confronting spears they throng
“Each narrow passage. Every steel-bright blade
“Is flashing naked, making haste for blood.
“Our sentries helpless meet the invading shock
“And give back blind and unavailing war.” 455
By Panthus’ word and by some god impelled,
I flew to battle, where the flames leaped high,
Where grim Bellona called, and all the air
Resounded high as heaven with shouts of war.
Rhipeus and Epytus of doughty arm 460
Were at my side, Dymas and Hypanis,
Seen by a pale moon, join our little band;
And young Corœbus, Mygdon’s princely son,
Who was in Troy that hour because he loved
Cassandra madly, and had made a league 465
As Priam’s kinsman with our Phrygian arms:
Ill-starred, to heed not what the virgin raved!
When these I saw close-gathered for the fight,
I thus addressed them: “Warriors, vainly brave,
“If ye indeed desire to follow one 470
“Who dares the uttermost brave men may do,
“Our evil plight ye see: the gods are fled
“From every altar and protecting fire,
“Which were the kingdom’s stay. Ye offer aid
“Unto your country’s ashes. Let us fight 475
“Unto the death! To arms, my men, to arms!
“The single hope and stay of desperate men
“Is their despair.” Thus did I rouse their souls.
Then like the ravening wolves, some night of cloud,
When cruel hunger in an empty maw 480
Drives them forth furious, and their whelps behind
Wait famine-throated; so through foemen’s steel
We flew to surest death, and kept our way
Straight through the midmost town. The wings of night
Brooded above us in vast vault of shade. 485
But who the bloodshed of that night can tell?
What tongue its deaths shall number, or what eyes
Find meed of tears to equal all its woe?
The ancient City fell, whose throne had stood
Age after age. Along her streets were strewn 490
The unresisting dead; at household shrines
And by the temples of the gods they lay.
Yet not alone was Teucrian blood required:
Oft out of vanquished hearts fresh valor flamed,
And the Greek victor fell. Anguish and woe 495
Were everywhere; pale terrors ranged abroad,
And multitudinous death met every eye.
Androgeos, followed by a thronging band
Of Greeks, first met us on our desperate way;
But heedless, and confounding friend with foe, 500
Thus, all unchallenged, hailed us as his own:
“Haste, heroes! Are ye laggards at this hour?
“Others bear off captives and the spoil
“Of burning Troy. Just from the galleys ye?”
He spoke; but straightway, when no safe reply 505
Returned, he knew himself entrapped, and fallen
Into a foeman’s snare; struck dumb was he
And stopped both word and motion; as one steps,
When blindly treading a thick path of thorns,
Upon a snake, and sick with fear would flee 510
That lifted wrath and swollen gorge of green:
So trembling did Androgeos backward fall.
At them we flew and closed them round with war;
And since they could not know the ground, and fear
Had whelmed them quite, we swiftly laid them low. 515
Thus Fortune on our first achievement smiled;
And, flushed with victory, Corœbus cried:
“Come, friends, and follow Fortune’s finger, where
“She beckons us what path deliverance lies.
“Change we our shields, and these Greek emblems wear. 520
“’Twixt guile and valor who will nicely weigh
“When foes are met? These dead shall find us arms.”
With this, he dons Androgeos’ crested helm
And beauteous, blazoned shield; and to his side
Girds on a Grecian blade. Young Rhipeus next, 525
With Dymas and the other soldiery,
Repeat the deed, exulting, and array
Their valor in fresh trophies from the slain.
Now intermingled with our foes we moved,
And alien emblems wore; the long, black night 530
Brought many a grapple, and a host of Greeks
Down to the dark we hurled. Some fled away,
Seeking their safe ships and the friendly shore.
Some cowards foul went clambering back again
To that vast horse and hid them in its maw. 535
But woe is me! If gods their help withhold,
’T is impious to be brave. That very hour
The fair Cassandra passed us, bound in chains,
King Priam’s virgin daughter, from the shrine
And altars of Minerva; her loose hair 540
Had lost its fillet; her impassioned eyes
Were lifted in vain prayer,—her eyes alone!
For chains of steel her frail, soft hands confined.
Corœbus’ eyes this horror not endured,
And, sorrow-crazed, he plunged him headlong in 545
The midmost fray, self-offered to be slain,
While in close mass our troop behind him poured.
But, at this point, the overwhelming spears
Of our own kinsmen rained resistless down
From a high temple-tower; and carnage wild 550
Ensued, because of the Greek arms we bore
And our false crests. The howling Grecian band,
Crazed by Cassandra’s rescue, charged at us
From every side; Ajax of savage soul,
The sons of Atreus, and that whole wild horde 555
Achilles from Dolopian deserts drew.
’T was like the bursting storm, when gales contend,
West wind and South, and jocund wind of morn
Upon his orient steeds—while forests roar,
And foam-flecked Nereus with fierce trident stirs 560
The dark deep of the sea.
All who did hide
In shadows of the night, by our assault
Surprised, and driven in tumultuous flight,
Now start to view. Full well they now can see
Our shields and borrowed arms, and clearly note 565
Our speech of alien sound; their multitude
O’erwhelms us utterly. Corœbus first
At mailed Minerva’s altar prostrate lay,
Pierced by Peneleus’ blade; then Rhipeus fell;
We deemed him of all Trojans the most just, 570
Most scrupulously righteous; but the gods
Gave judgment otherwise. There Dymas died,
And Hypanis, by their compatriots slain;
Nor thee, O Panthus, in that mortal hour,
Could thy clean hands or Phœbus’ priesthood save. 575
O ashes of my country! funeral pyre
Of all my kin! bear witness that my breast
Shrank not from any sword the Grecian drew,
And that my deeds the night my country died
Deserved a warrior’s death, had Fate ordained. 580
But soon our ranks were broken; at my side
Stayed Iphitus and Pelias; one with age
Was long since wearied, and the other bore
The burden of Ulysses’ crippling wound.
Straightway the roar and tumult summoned us 585
To Priam’s palace, where a battle raged
As if to save this no conflict else were known,
And all Troy’s dying brave were mustered there.
There we beheld the war-god unconfined;
The Greek besiegers to the roof-tops fled; 590
Or, with shields tortoise-back, the gates assailed.
Ladders were on the walls; and round by round,
Up the huge bulwark as they fight their way,
The shielded left-hand thwarts the falling spears,
The right to every vantage closely clings. 595
The Trojans hurl whole towers and roof-tops down
Upon the mounting foe; for well they see
That the last hour is come, and with what arms
The dying must resist. Rich gilded beams,
With many a beauteous blazon of old time, 600
Go crashing down. Men armed with naked swords
Defend the inner doors in close array.
Thus were our hearts inflamed to stand and strike
For the king’s house, and to his body-guard
Bring succor, and renew their vanquished powers. 605
A certain gate I knew, a secret way,
Which gave free passage between Priam’s halls,
And exit rearward; hither, in the days
Before our fall, the lone Andromache
Was wont with young Astyanax to pass 610
In quest of Priam and her husband’s kin.
This way to climb the palace roof I flew,
Where, desperate, the Trojans with vain skill
Hurled forth repellent arms. A tower was there,
Reared skyward from the roof-top, giving view 615
Of Troy’s wide walls and full reconnaissance
Of all Achæa’s fleets and tented field;
This, with strong steel, our gathered strength assailed,
And as the loosened courses offered us
Great threatening fissures, we uprooted it 620
From its aerial throne and thrust it down:
It fell with instantaneous crash of thunder
Along the Danaan host in ruin wide.
But fresh ranks soon arrive; thick showers of stone
Rain down, with every missile rage can find. 625
Now at the threshold of the outer court
Pyrrhus triumphant stood, with glittering arms
And helm of burnished brass. He glittered like
Some swollen viper, fed on poison-leaves,
Whom chilling winter shelters underground, 630
Till, fresh and strong, he sheds his annual scales
And, crawling forth rejuvenate, uncoils
His slimy length; his lifted gorge insults
The sunbeam with three-forked and quivering tongue.
Huge Periphas was there; Automedon, 635
Who drove Achilles’ steeds, and bore his arms.
Then Scyros’ island-warriors assault
The palaces, and hurl reiterate fire
At wall and tower. Pyrrhus led the van;
Seizing an axe he clove the ponderous doors 640
And rent the hinges from their posts of bronze;
He cut the beams, and through the solid mass
Burrowed his way, till like a window huge
The breach yawned wide, and opened to his gaze
A vista of long courts and corridors, 645
The hearth and home of many an ancient king,
And Priam’s own; upon its sacred bourne
The sentry, all in arms, kept watch and ward.
Confusion, groans, and piteous turmoil
Were in that dwelling; women shrieked and wailed 650
From many a dark retreat, and their loud cry
Rang to the golden stars. Through those vast halls
The panic-stricken mothers wildly roved,
And clung with frantic kisses and embrace
Unto the columns cold. Fierce as his sire, 655
Pyrrhus moves on; nor bar nor sentinel
May stop his way; down tumbles the great door
Beneath the battering beam, and with it fall
Hinges and framework violently torn.
Force bursts all bars; th’ assailing Greeks break in, 660
Do butchery, and with men-at-arms possess
What place they will. Scarce with an equal rage
A foaming river, when its dykes are down,
O’erwhelms its mounded shores, and through the plain
Rolls mountain-high, while from the ravaged farms 665
Its fierce flood sweeps along both flock and fold.
My own eyes looked on Neoptolemus
Frenzied with slaughter, and both Atreus’ sons
Upon the threshold frowning; I beheld
Her hundred daughters with old Hecuba; 670
And Priam, whose own bleeding wounds defiled
The altars where himself had blessed the fires;
There fifty nuptial beds gave promise proud
Of princely heirs; but all their brightness now,
Of broidered cunning and barbaric gold, 675
Lay strewn and trampled on. The Danaan foe
Stood victor, where the raging flame had failed.
But would ye haply know what stroke of doom
On Priam fell? Now when his anguish saw
His kingdom lost and fallen, his abode 680
Shattered, and in his very hearth and home
Th’ exulting foe, the aged King did bind
His rusted armor to his trembling thews,—
All vainly,—and a useless blade of steel
He girded on; then charged, resolved to die 685
Encircled by the foe. Within his walls
There stood, beneath the wide and open sky,
A lofty altar; an old laurel-tree
Leaned o’er it, and enclasped in holy shade
The statues of the tutelary powers. 690
Here Hecuba and all the princesses
Took refuge vain within the place of prayer.
Like panic-stricken doves in some dark storm,
Close-gathering they sate, and in despair
Embraced their graven gods. But when the Queen 695
Saw Priam with his youthful harness on,
“What frenzy, O my wretched lord,” she cried,
“Arrayed thee in such arms? O, whither now?
“Not such defences, nor such arm as thine,
“The time requires, though thy companion were 700
“Our Hector’s self. O, yield thee, I implore!
“This altar now shall save us one and all,
“Or we must die together.” With these words
She drew him to her side, and near the shrine
Made for her aged spouse a place to cling. 705
But, lo! just ’scaped of Pyrrhus’ murderous hand,
Polites, one of Priam’s sons, fled fast
Along the corridors, through thronging foes
And a thick rain of spears. Wildly he gazed
Across the desolate halls, wounded to death. 710
Fierce Pyrrhus followed after, pressing hard
With mortal stroke, and now his hand and spear
Were close upon:—when the lost youth leaped forth
Into his father’s sight, and prostrate there
Lay dying, while his life-blood ebbed away. 715
Then Priam, though on all sides death was nigh,
Quit not the strife, nor from loud wrath refrained:
“Thy crime and impious outrage, may the gods
“(If Heaven to mortals render debt and due)
“Justly reward and worthy honors pay! 720
“My own son’s murder thou hast made me see,
“Blood and pollution impiously throwing
“Upon a father’s head. Not such was he,
“Not such, Achilles, thy pretended sire,
“When Priam was his foe. With flush of shame 725
“He nobly listened to a suppliant’s plea
“In honor made. He rendered to the tomb
“My Hector’s body pale, and me did send
“Back to my throne a king.”
With this proud word
The aged warrior hurled with nerveless arm 730
His ineffectual spear, which hoarsely rang
Rebounding on the brazen shield, and hung
Piercing the midmost boss,—but all in vain.
Then Pyrrhus: “Take these tidings, and convey
“A message to my father, Peleus’ son! 735
“Tell him my naughty deeds! Be sure and say
“How Neoptolemus hath shamed his sires.
With this, he trailed before the shrines
The trembling King, whose feet slipped in the stream
Of his son’s blood. Then Pyrrhus’ left hand clutched 740
The tresses old and gray; a glittering sword
His right hand lifted high, and buried it
Far as the hilt in that defenceless heart.
So Priam’s story ceased. Such final doom
Fell on him, while his dying eyes surveyed 745
Troy burning, and her altars overthrown,
Though once of many an orient land and tribe
The boasted lord. In huge dismemberment
His severed trunk lies tombless on the shore,
The head from shoulder torn, the corpse unknown. 750
Then first wild horror on my spirit fell
And dazed me utterly. A vision rose
Of my own cherished father, as I saw
The King, his aged peer, sore wounded lying
In mortal agony; a vision too 755
Of lost Creüsa at my ravaged hearth,
And young Iulus’ peril. Then my eyes
Looked round me seeking aid. But all were fled,
War-wearied and undone; some earthward leaped
From battlement or tower; some in despair 760
Yielded their suffering bodies to the flame.
I stood there sole surviving; when, behold,
To Vesta’s altar clinging in dumb fear,
Hiding and crouching in the hallowed shade,
Tyndarus’ daughter!—’t was the burning town 765
Lighted full well my roving steps and eyes.
In fear was she both of some Trojan’s rage
For Troy o’erthrown, and of some Greek revenge,
Or her wronged husband’s long indignant ire.
So hid she at that shrine her hateful brow, 770
Being of Greece and Troy, full well she knew,
The common curse. Then in my bosom rose
A blaze of wrath; methought I should avenge
My dying country, and with horrid deed
Pay crime for crime. “Shall she return unscathed 775
“To Sparta, to Mycenæ’s golden pride,
“And have a royal triumph? Shall her eyes
“Her sire and sons, her hearth and husband see,
“While Phrygian captives follow in her train?
“Is Priam murdered? Have the flames swept o’er 780
“My native Troy? and doth our Dardan strand
“Sweat o’er and o’er with sanguinary dew?
“O, not thus unavenged! For though there be
“No glory if I smite a woman’s crime,
“Nor conqueror’s fame for such a victory won, 785
“Yet if I blot this monster out, and wring
“Full punishment from guilt, the time to come
“Will praise me, and sweet pleasure it will be
“To glut my soul with vengeance and appease
“The ashes of my kindred.”
So I raved, 790
And to such frenzied purpose gave my soul.
Then with clear vision (never had I seen
Her presence so unclouded) I beheld,
In golden beams that pierced the midnight gloom,
My gracious mother, visibly divine, 795
And with that mien of majesty she wears
When seen in heaven; she stayed me with her hand,
And from her lips of rose this counsel gave:
“O son, what sorrow stirs thy boundless rage?
“What madness this? Or whither vanisheth 800
“Thy love of me? Wilt thou not seek to know
“Where bides Anchises, thy abandoned sire,
“Now weak with age? or if Creüsa lives
“And young Ascanius, who are ringed about
“With ranks of Grecian foes, and long ere this— 805
“Save that my love can shield them and defend—
“Had fallen on flame or fed some hungry sword?
“Not Helen’s hated beauty works thee woe;
“Nor Paris, oft-accused. The cruelty
“Of gods, of gods unaided, overwhelms 810
“Thy country’s power, and from its lofty height
“Casts Ilium down. Behold, I take away
“The barrier-cloud that dims thy mortal eye,
“With murk and mist o’er-veiling. Fear not thou
“To heed thy mother’s word, nor let thy heart 815
“Refuse obedience to her counsel given.
“’Mid yonder trembling ruins, where thou see’st
“Stone torn from stone, with dust and smoke uprolling,
“’T is Neptune strikes the wall; his trident vast
“Makes her foundation tremble, and unseats 820
“The city from her throne. Fierce Juno leads
“Resistless onset at the Scæan gate,
“And summons from the ships the league of powers,
“Wearing her wrathful sword. On yonder height
“Behold Tritonia in the citadel 825
“Clothed with the lightning and her Gorgon-shield!
“Unto the Greeks great Jove himself renews
“Their courage and their power; ’t is he thrusts on
“The gods themselves against the Trojan arms.
“Fly, O my son! The war’s wild work give o’er! 830
“I will be always nigh and set thee safe
“Upon thy father’s threshold.” Having said,
She fled upon the viewless night away.
Then loomed o’er Troy the apparition vast
Of her dread foes divine; I seemed to see 835
All Ilium sink in fire, and sacred Troy,
Of Neptune’s building, utterly o’erthrown.
So some huge ash-tree on the mountain’s brow
(When rival woodmen, heaving stroke on stroke
Of two-edged axes, haste to cast her down) 840
Sways ominously her trembling, leafy top,
And drops her smitten head; till by her wounds
Vanquished at last, she makes her dying groan,
And falls in loud wreck from the cliffs uptorn.
I left the citadel; and, led by Heaven, 845
Threaded the maze of deadly foes and fires,
Through spears that glanced aside and flames that fell.
Soon came I to my father’s ancient seat,
Our home and heritage. But lo! my sire
(Whom first of all I sought, and first would bear 850
To safe asylum in the distant hills)
Vowed he could never, after fallen Troy,
Live longer on, or bear an exile’s woe.
“O you,” he cried, “whose blood not yet betrays
“The cruel taint of time, whose powers be still 855
“Unpropped and undecayed, go, take your flight.
“If heavenly wrath had willed my life to spare,
“This dwelling had been safe. It is too much
“That I have watched one wreck, and for too long
“Outlived my vanquished country. Thus, O, thus! 860
“Compose these limbs for death, and say farewell.
“My own hand will procure it; or my foe
“Will strip me bare. It is an easy loss
“To have no grave. For many a year gone by,
“Accursed of Heaven, I tarry in this world 865
“A useless burden, since that fatal hour
“When Jove, of gods the Sire and men the King,
“His lightnings o’er me breathed and blasting fire.”
Such fixed resolve he uttered o’er and o’er
And would not yield, though with my tears did join 870
My spouse Creüsa, fair Ascanius,
And our whole house, imploring the gray sire
Not with himself to ruin all, nor add
Yet heavier burdens to our crushing doom.
He still cried, “No!” and clung to where he sate 875
And to the same dread purpose. I once more
Back to the fight would speed. For death alone
I made my wretched prayer. What space was left
For wisdom now? What chance or hope was given?
“Didst thou, dear father, dream that I could fly 880
“Sundered from thee? Did such an infamy
“Fall from a father’s lips? If Heaven’s decree
“Will of this mighty nation not let live
“A single soul, if thine own purpose be
“To cast thyself and thy posterity 885
“Into thy country’s grave, behold, the door
“Is open to thy death! Lo, Pyrrhus comes
“Red-handed from King Priam! He has slain
“A son before his father’s eyes, and spilt
“A father’s blood upon his own hearthstone. 890
“Was it for this, O heavenly mother mine,
“That thou hast brought me safe through sword and fire?
“That I might see these altars desecrate
“By their worst foes? that I might look upon
“My sire, my wife, and sweet Ascanius 895
“Dead at my feet in one another’s blood?
“To arms, my men, to arms! The hour of death
“Now beckons to the vanquished. Let me go
“Whither the Greeks are gathered; let me stand
“Where oft revives the flagging stroke of war: 900
“Not all of us unavenged this day!”
I clasped my sword-belt round me once again,
Fitted my left arm to my shield, and turned
To fly the house; but at the threshold clung
Creüsa to my knees, and lifted up 905
Iulus to his father’s arms. “If thou
“Wouldst rush on death,” she cried, “O, suffer us
“To share thy perils with thee to the end.
“But if this day’s work bid thee trust a sword,
“Defend thy hearthstone first. Who else shall guard 910
“Thy babe Iulus, or thy reverend sire?
“Or me, thy wife that was—what help have I?”
So rang the roof-top with her piteous cries:
But lo! a portent wonderful to see
On sudden rose; for while his parents’ grief 915
Held the boy close in arm and full in view,
There seemed upon Iulus’ head to glow
A flickering peak of fire; the tongue of flame
Innocuous o’er his clustering tresses played,
And hovered round his brows.
We, horror-struck, 920
Grasped at his burning hair, and sprinkled him,
To quench that holy and auspicious fire.
Then sire Anchises with exultant eyes
Looked heavenward, and lifted to the stars
His voice and outstretched hands. “Almighty Jove, 925
“If aught of prayer may move thee, let thy grace
“Now visit us! O, hear this holy vow!
“And if for service at thine altars done,
“We aught can claim, O Father, lend us aid,
“And ratify the omen thou hast given!” 930
Scarce ceased his aged voice, when suddenly
From leftward, with a deafening thunder-peal,
Cleaving the blackness of the vaulted sky,
A meteor-star in trailing splendor ran,
Exceeding bright. We watched it glide sublime 935
O’er tower and town, until its radiant beam
In forest-mantled Ida died away;
But left a furrow on its track in air,
A glittering, long line, while far and wide
The sulphurous fume and exhalation flowed. 940
My father strove not now; but lifted him
In prayer to all the gods, in holy awe
Of that auspicious star, and thus exclaimed:
“Tarry no moment more! Behold, I come!
“Whithersoe’er ye lead, my steps obey. 945
“Gods of my fathers, O, preserve our name!
“Preserve my son, and his! This augury
“Is yours; and Troy on your sole strength relies.
“I yield, dear son; I journey at thy side.”
He spoke; and higher o’er the blazing walls 950
Leaped the loud fire, while ever nearer drew
The rolling surges of tumultuous flame.
“Haste, father, on these bending shoulders climb!
“This back is ready, and the burden light;
“One peril smites us both, whate’er befall; 955
“One rescue both shall find. Close at my side
“Let young Iulus run, while, not too nigh,
“My wife Creüsa heeds what way we go.
“Ye servants of our house, give ear, I pray,
“To my command. Outside the city’s gates 960
“Lies a low mound and long since ruined fane
“To Ceres vowed; a cypress’ ancient shade
“O’erhangs it, which our fathers’ pious care
“Protected year by year; by various paths
“Be that our meeting-place.
“But in thy hands 965
“Bring, sire, our household gods, and sanctities:
“For me to touch, who come this very hour
“From battle and the fresh blood of the slain,
“Were but abomination, till what time
“In living waters I shall make me clean.” 970
So saying, I bowed my neck and shoulders broad,
O’erspread me with a lion’s tawny skin,
And lifted up my load. Close at my side
Little Iulus twined his hand in mine
And followed, with unequal step, his sire. 975
My wife at distance came. We hastened on,
Creeping through shadows; I, who once had viewed
Undaunted every instrument of war
And all the gathered Greeks in grim array,
Now shook at every gust, and heard all sounds 980
With fevered trepidation, fearing both
For him I bore and him who clasped my hand.
Now near the gates I drew, and deemed our flight
Safely at end, when suddenly I heard
The sounding tread of many warriors 985
That seemed hard-by, while through the murky night
My father peered, and shouted, “O my son,
“Away, away! for surely all our foes
“Are here upon us, and my eyes behold
“The glance of glittering shields and flash of arms.” 990
O, then some evil-working, nameless god
Clouded my senses quite: for while I sped
Along our pathless way, and left behind
All paths and regions known—O wretched me!—
Creüsa on some dark disaster fell; 995
She stopped, or wandered, or sank down undone,—
I never knew what way,—and nevermore
I looked on her alive. Yet knew I not
My loss, nor backward turned a look or thought,
Till by that hallowed hill to Ceres vowed 1000
We gathered all,—and she alone came not,
While husband, friends, and son made search in vain.
What god, what man, did not my grief accuse
In frenzied word? In all the ruined land
What worse woe had I seen? Entrusting then 1005
My sire, my son, and all the Teucrian gods
To the deep shadows of a slanting vale
Where my allies kept guard, I hied me back
To that doomed town, re-girt in glittering arms.
Resolved was I all hazards to renew, 1010
All Troy to re-explore, and once again
Offer my life to perils without end.
The walls and gloomy gates whence forth I came
I first revisit, and retrace my way,
Searching the night once more. On all sides round 1015
Horror spread wide; the very silence breathed
A terror on my soul. I hastened then
Back to my fallen home, if haply there
Her feet had strayed; but the invading Greeks
Were its possessors, though the hungry fire 1020
Was blown along the roof-tree, and the flames
Rolled raging upward on the fitful gale.
To Priam’s house I haste, and climb once more
The citadel; in Juno’s temple there,
The chosen guardians of her wasted halls, 1025
Phœnix and dread Ulysses watched the spoil.
Here, snatched away from many a burning fane,
Troy’s treasures lay,—rich tables for the gods,
Thick bowls of massy gold, and vestures rare,
Confusedly heaped up, while round the pile 1030
Fair youths and trembling virgins stood forlorn.
Yet oft my voice rang dauntless through the gloom,
From street to street I cried with anguish vain;
And on Creüsa piteously calling,
Woke the lamenting echoes o’er and o’er. 1035
While on this quest I roamed the city through,
Of reason reft, there rose upon my sight—
O shape of sorrow!—my Creüsa’s ghost,
Hers truly, though a loftier port it wore.
I quailed, my hair rose, and I gasped for fear; 1040
But thus she spoke, and soothed my grief away:
“Why to these frenzied sorrows bend thy soul,
“O husband ever dear! The will of Heaven
“Hath brought all this to pass. Fate doth not send
“Creüsa the long journeys thou shalt take, 1045
“Nor hath th’ Olympian King so given decree.
“Long is thy banishment; thy ship must plough
“The vast, far-spreading sea. Then shalt thou come
“Unto Hesperia, whose fruitful plains
“Are watered by the Tiber, Lydian stream, 1050
“Of smooth, benignant flow. Thou shalt obtain
“Fair fortunes, and a throne and royal bride.
“For thy beloved Creüsa weep no more!
“No Myrmidon’s proud palace waits me now;
“Dolopian shall not scorn, nor Argive dames 1055
“Command a slave of Dardan’s royal stem
“And wife to Venus’ son. On these loved shores
“The Mother of the Gods compels my stay.
“Farewell! farewell! O, cherish evermore
“Thy son and mine!”
Her utterance scarce had ceased, 1060
When, as I strove through tears to make reply,
She left me, and dissolved in empty air.
Thrice would my frustrate arms her form enfold;
Thrice from the clasp of hand that vision fled,
Like wafted winds and like a fleeting dream. 1065
The night had passed, and to my friends once more
I made my way, much wondering to find
A mighty multitude assembled there
Of friends new-come,—matrons and men-at-arms,
And youth for exile bound,—a doleful throng. 1070
From far and near they drew, their hearts prepared
And their possessions gathered, to sail forth
To lands unknown, wherever o’er the wave
I bade them follow.
Now above the crest
Of loftiest Ida rose the morning-star, 1075
Chief in the front of day. The Greeks held fast
The captive gates of Troy. No help or hope
Was ours any more. Then, yielding all,
And lifting once again my aged sire,
For refuge to the distant hills I fled. 1080