How Paris was stricken to death, and in vain sought help of Oenone.
Now were the Trojans all without the town
Of Priam, armour-clad, with battle-cars
And chariot-steeds; for still they burnt their dead,
And still they feared lest the Achaean men
Should fall on them. They looked, and saw them come
With furious speed against the walls. In haste
They cast a hurried earth-mound o'er the slain,
For greatly trembled they to see their foes.
Then in their sore disquiet spake to them
Polydamas, a wise and prudent chief:
"Friends, unendurably against us now
Maddens the war. Go to, let us devise
How we may find deliverance from our strait.
Still bide the Danaans here, still gather strength:
Now therefore let us man our stately towers,
And thence withstand them, fighting night and day,
Until yon Danaans weary, and return
To Sparta, or, renownless lingering here
Beside the wall, lose heart. No strength of theirs
Shall breach the long walls, howsoe'er they strive,
For in the imperishable work of Gods
Weakness is none. Food, drink, we shall not lack,
For in King Priam's gold-abounding halls
Is stored abundant food, that shall suffice
For many more than we, through many years,
Though thrice so great a host at our desire
Should gather, eager to maintain our cause."
Then chode with him Anchises' valiant son:
"Polydamas, wherefore do they call thee wise,
Who biddest suffer endless tribulations
Cooped within walls? Never, how long soe'er
The Achaeans tarry here, will they lose heart;
But when they see us skulking from the field,
More fiercely will press on. So ours shall be
The sufferance, perishing in our native home,
If for long season they beleaguer us.
No food, if we be pent within our walls,
Shall Thebe send us, nor Maeonia wine,
But wretchedly by famine shall we die,
Though the great wall stand firm. Nay, though our lot
Should be to escape that evil death and doom,
And not by famine miserably to die;
Yet rather let us fight in armour clad
For children and grey fathers! Haply Zeus
Will help us yet; of his high blood are we.
Nay, even though we be abhorred of him,
Better straightway to perish gloriously
Fighting unto the last for fatherland,
Than die a death of lingering agony!"
Shouted they all who heard that gallant rede.
Swiftly with helms and shields and spears they stood
In close array. The eyes of mighty Zeus
From heaven beheld the Trojans armed for fight
Against the Danaans: then did he awake
Courage in these and those, that there might be
Strain of unflinching fight 'twixt host and host.
That day was Paris doomed, for Helen's sake
Fighting, by Philoctetes' hands to die.
To one place Strife incarnate drew them all,
The fearful Battle-queen, beheld of none,
But cloaked in clouds blood-raining: on she stalked
Swelling the mighty roar of battle, now
Rushed through Troy's squadrons, through Achaea's now;
Panic and Fear still waited on her steps
To make their father's sister glorious.
From small to huge that Fury's stature grew;
Her arms of adamant were blood-besprent,
The deadly lance she brandished reached the sky.
Earth quaked beneath her feet: dread blasts of fire
Flamed from her mouth: her voice pealed thunder-like
Kindling strong men. Swift closed the fronts of fight
Drawn by a dread Power to the mighty work.
Loud as the shriek of winds that madly blow
In early spring, when the tall woodland trees
Put forth their leaves -- loud as the roar of fire
Blazing through sun-scorched brakes -- loud as the voice
Of many waters, when the wide sea raves
Beneath the howling blast, with thunderous crash
Of waves, when shake the fearful shipman's knees;
So thundered earth beneath their charging feet.
Strife swooped on them: foe hurled himself on foe.
First did Aeneas of the Danaans slay
Harpalion, Arizelus' scion, born
In far Boeotia of Amphinome,
Who came to Troy to help the Argive men
With godlike Prothoenor. 'Neath his waist
Aeneas stabbed, and reft sweet life from him.
Dead upon him he cast Thersander's son,
For the barbed javelin pierced through Hyllus' throat
Whom Arethusa by Lethaeus bare
In Crete: sore grieved Idomeneus for his fall.
By this Peleides' son had swiftly slain
Twelve Trojan warriors with his father's spear.
First Cebrus fell, Harmon, Pasitheus then,
Hysminus, Schedius, and Imbrasius,
Phleges, Mnesaeus, Ennomus, Amphinous,
Phasis, Galenus last, who had his home
By Gargarus' steep -- a mighty warrior he
Among Troy's mighties: with a countless host
To Troy he came: for Priam Dardanus' son
Promised him many gifts and passing fair.
Ah fool! his own doom never he foresaw,
Whose weird was suddenly to fall in fight
Ere he bore home King Priam's glorious gifts.
Doom the Destroyer against the Argives sped
Valiant Aeneas' friend, Eurymenes.
Wild courage spurred him on, that he might slay
Many -- and then fill death's cup for himself.
Man after man he slew like some fierce beast,
And foes shrank from the terrible rage that burned
On his life's verge, nor reeked of imminent doom.
Yea, peerless deeds in that fight had he done,
Had not his hands grown weary, his spear-head
Bent utterly: his sword availed him not,
Snapped at the hilt by Fate. Then Meges' dart
Smote 'neath his ribs; blood spurted from his mouth,
And in death's agony Doom stood at his side.
Even as he fell, Epeius' henchmen twain,
Deileon and Amphion, rushed to strip
His armour; but Aeneas brave and strong
Chilled their hot hearts in death beside the dead.
As one in latter summer 'mid his vines
Kills wasps that dart about his ripening grapes,
And so, ere they may taste the fruit, they die;
So smote he them, ere they could seize the arms.
Menon and Amphinous Tydeides slew,
Both goodly men. Paris slew Hippasus' son
Demoleon, who in Laconia's land
Beside the outfall of Eurotas dwelt,
The stream deep-flowing, and to Troy he came
With Menelaus. Under his right breast
The shaft of Paris smote him unto death,
Driving his soul forth like a scattering breath.
Teucer slew Zechis, Medon's war-famed son,
Who dwelt in Phrygia, land of myriad flocks,
Below that haunted cave of fair-haired Nymphs
Where, as Endymion slept beside his kine,
Divine Selene watched him from on high,
And slid from heaven to earth; for passionate love
Drew down the immortal stainless Queen of Night.
And a memorial of her couch abides
Still 'neath the oaks; for mid the copses round
Was poured out milk of kine; and still do men
Marvelling behold its whiteness. Thou wouldst say
Far off that this was milk indeed, which is
A well-spring of white water: if thou draw
A little nigher, lo, the stream is fringed
As though with ice, for white stone rims it round.
Rushed on Alcaeus Meges, Phyleus' son,
And drave his spear beneath his fluttering heart.
Loosed were the cords of sweet life suddenly,
And his sad parents longed in vain to greet
That son returning from the woeful war
To Margasus and Phyllis lovely-girt,
Dwellers by lucent streams of Harpasus,
Who pours the full blood of his clamorous flow
Into Maeander madly rushing aye.
With Glaucus' warrior-comrade Scylaceus
Odeus' son closed in the fight, and stabbed
Over the shield-rim, and the cruel spear
Passed through his shoulder, and drenched his shield with blood.
Howbeit he slew him not, whose day of doom
Awaited him afar beside the wall
Of his own city; for when Illium's towers
Were brought low by that swift avenging host
Fleeing the war to Lycia then he came
Alone; and when he drew nigh to the town,
The thronging women met and questioned him
Touching their sons and husbands; and he told
How all were dead. They compassed him about,
And stoned the man with great stones, that he died.
So had he no joy of his winning home,
But the stones muffled up his dying groans,
And of the same his ghastly tomb was reared
Beside Bellerophon's grave and holy place
In Tlos, nigh that far-famed Chimaera's Crag.
Yet, though he thus fulfilled his day of doom,
As a God afterward men worshipped him
By Phoebus' hest, and never his honour fades.
Now Poeas' son the while slew Deioneus
And Acamas, Antenor's warrior son:
Yea, a great host of strong men laid he low.
On, like the War-god, through his foes he rushed,
Or as a river roaring in full flood
Breaks down long dykes, when, maddening round its rocks,
Down from the mountains swelled by rain it pours
An ever-flowing mightily-rushing stream
Whose foaming crests over its forelands sweep;
So none who saw him even from afar
Dared meet renowned Poeas' valiant son,
Whose breast with battle-fury was fulfilled,
Whose limbs were clad in mighty Hercules' arms
Of cunning workmanship; for on the belt
Gleamed bears most grim and savage, jackals fell,
And panthers, in whose eyes there seems to lurk
A deadly smile. There were fierce-hearted wolves,
And boars with flashing tusks, and mighty lions
All seeming strangely alive; and, there portrayed
Through all its breadth, were battles murder-rife.
With all these marvels covered was the belt;
And with yet more the quiver was adorned.
There Hermes was, storm-footed Son of Zeus,
Slaying huge Argus nigh to Inachus' streams,
Argus, whose sentinel eyes in turn took sleep.
And there was Phaethon from the Sun-car hurled
Into Eridanus. Earth verily seemed
Ablaze, and black smoke hovered on the air.
There Perseus slew Medusa gorgon-eyed
By the stars' baths and utmost bounds of earth
And fountains of deep-flowing Ocean, where
Night in the far west meets the setting sun.
There was the Titan Iapetus' great son
Hung from the beetling crag of Caucasus
In bonds of adamant, and the eagle tare
His liver unconsumed -- he seemed to groan!
All these Hephaestus' cunning hands had wrought
For Hercules; and these to Poeas' son,
Most near of friends and dear, he gave to bear.
So glorying in those arms he smote the foe.
But Paris at the last to meet him sprang
Fearlessly, bearing in his hands his bow
And deadly arrows -- but his latest day
Now met himself. A flying shaft he sped
Forth from the string, which sang as leapt the dart,
Which flew not vainly: yet the very mark
It missed, for Philoctetes swerved aside
A hair-breadth, and it smote above the breast
Cleodorus war-renowned, and cleft a path
Clear through his shoulder; for he had not now
The buckler broad which wont to fence from death
Its bearer, but was falling back from fight,
Being shieldless; for Polydamas' massy lance
Had cleft the shoulder-belt whereby his targe
Hung, and he gave back therefore, fighting still
With stubborn spear. But now the arrow of death
Fell on him, as from ambush leaping forth.
For so Fate willed, I trow, to bring dread doom
On noble-hearted Lernus' scion, born
Of Amphiale, in Rhodes the fertile land.
But soon as Poeas' battle-eager son
Marked him by Paris' deadly arrow slain,
Swiftly he strained his bow, shouting aloud:
"Dog! I will give thee death, will speed thee down
To the Unseen Land, who darest to brave me!
And so shall they have rest, who travail now
For thy vile sake. Destruction shall have end
When thou art dead, the author of our bane."
Then to his breast he drew the plaited cord.
The great bow arched, the merciless shaft was aimed
Straight, and the terrible point a little peered
Above the bow, in that constraining grip.
Loud sang the string, as the death-hissing shaft
Leapt, and missed not: yet was not Paris' heart
Stilled, but his spirit yet was strong in him;
For that first arrow was not winged with death:
It did but graze the fair flesh by his wrist.
Then once again the avenger drew the bow,
And the barbed shaft of Poeas' son had plunged,
Ere he could swerve, 'twixt flank and groin. No more
He abode the fight, but swiftly hasted back
As hastes a dog which on a lion rushed
At first, then fleeth terror-stricken back.
So he, his very heart with agony thrilled,
Fled from the war. Still clashed the grappling hosts,
Man slaying man: aye bloodier waxed the fray
As rained the blows: corpse upon corpse was flung
Confusedly, like thunder-drops, or flakes
Of snow, or hailstones, by the wintry blast
At Zeus' behest strewn over the long hills
And forest-boughs; so by a pitiless doom
Slain, friends with foes in heaps on heaps were strown.
Sorely groaned Paris; with the torturing wound
Fainted his spirit. Leeches sought to allay
His frenzy of pain. But now drew back to Troy
The Trojans, and the Danaans to their ships
Swiftly returned, for dark night put an end
To strife, and stole from men's limbs weariness,
Pouring upon their eyes pain-healing sleep.
But through the livelong night no sleep laid hold
On Paris: for his help no leech availed,
Though ne'er so willing, with his salves. His weird
Was only by Oenone's hands to escape
Death's doom, if so she willed. Now he obeyed
The prophecy, and he went -- exceeding loth,
But grim necessity forced him thence, to face
The wife forsaken. Evil-boding fowl
Shrieked o'er his head, or darted past to left,
Still as he went. Now, as he looked at them,
His heart sank; now hope whispered, "Haply vain
Their bodings are!" but on their wings were borne
Visions of doom that blended with his pain.
Into Oenone's presence thus he came.
Amazed her thronging handmaids looked on him
As at the Nymph's feet that pale suppliant fell
Faint with the anguish of his wound, whose pangs
Stabbed him through brain and heart, yea, quivered through
His very bones, for that fierce venom crawled
Through all his inwards with corrupting fangs;
And his life fainted in him agony-thrilled.
As one with sickness and tormenting thirst
Consumed, lies parched, with heart quick-shuddering,
With liver seething as in flame, the soul,
Scarce conscious, fluttering at his burning lips,
Longing for life, for water longing sore;
So was his breast one fire of torturing pain.
Then in exceeding feebleness he spake:
"O reverenced wife, turn not from me in hate
For that I left thee widowed long ago!
Not of my will I did it: the strong Fates
Dragged me to Helen -- oh that I had died
Ere I embraced her -- in thine arms had died!
All, by the Gods I pray, the Lords of Heaven,
By all the memories of our wedded love,
Be merciful! Banish my bitter pain:
Lay on my deadly wound those healing salves
Which only can, by Fate's decree, remove
This torment, if thou wilt. Thine heart must speak
My sentence, to be saved from death or no.
Pity me -- oh, make haste to pity me!
This venom's might is swiftly bringing death!
Heal me, while life yet lingers in my limbs!
Remember not those pangs of jealousy,
Nor leave me by a cruel doom to die
Low fallen at thy feet! This should offend
The Prayers, the Daughters of the Thunderer Zeus,
Whose anger followeth unrelenting pride
With vengeance, and the Erinnys executes
Their wrath. My queen, I sinned, in folly sinned;
Yet from death save me -- oh, make haste to save!"
So prayed he; but her darkly-brooding heart
Was steeled, and her words mocked his agony:
"Thou comest unto me! -- thou, who didst leave
Erewhile a wailing wife in a desolate home! --
Didst leave her for thy Tyndarid darling! Go,
Lie laughing in her arms for bliss! She is better
Than thy true wife -- is, rumour saith, immortal!
Make haste to kneel to her but not to me!
Weep not to me, nor whimper pitiful prayers!
Oh that mine heart beat with a tigress' strength,
That I might tear thy flesh and lap thy blood
For all the pain thy folly brought on me!
Vile wretch! where now is Love's Queen glory-crowned?
Hath Zeus forgotten his daughter's paramour?
Have them for thy deliverers! Get thee hence
Far from my dwelling, curse of Gods and men!
Yea, for through thee, thou miscreant, sorrow came
On deathless Gods, for sons and sons' sons slain.
Hence from my threshold! -- to thine Helen go!
Agonize day and night beside her bed:
There whimper, pierced to the heart with cruel pangs,
Until she heal thee of thy grievous pain."
So from her doors she drave that groaning man --
Ah fool! not knowing her own doom, whose weird
Was straightway after him to tread the path
Of death! So Fate had spun her destiny-thread.
Then, as he stumbled down through Ida's brakes,
Where Doom on his death-path was leading him
Painfully halting, racked with heart-sick pain,
Hera beheld him, with rejoicing soul
Throned in the Olympian palace-court of Zeus.
And seated at her side were handmaids four
Whom radiant-faced Selene bare to the Sun
To be unwearying ministers in Heaven,
In form and office diverse each from each;
For of these Seasons one was summer's queen,
And one of winter and his stormy star,
Of spring the third, of autumn-tide the fourth.
So in four portions parted is man's year
Ruled by these Queens in turn -- but of all this
Be Zeus himself the Overseer in heaven.
And of those issues now these spake with her
Which baleful Fate in her all-ruining heart
Was shaping to the birth the new espousals
Of Helen, fatal to Deiphobus --
The wrath of Helenus, who hoped in vain
For that fair bride, and how, when he had fled,
Wroth with the Trojans, to the mountain-height,
Achaea's sons would seize him and would hale
Unto their ships -- how, by his counselling
Strong Tydeus' son should with Odysseus scale
The great wall, and should slay Alcathous
The temple-warder, and should bear away
Pallas the Gracious, with her free consent,
Whose image was the sure defence of Troy; --
Yea, for not even a God, how wroth soe'er,
Had power to lay the City of Priam waste
While that immortal shape stood warder there.
No man had carven that celestial form,
But Cronos' Son himself had cast it down
From heaven to Priam's gold-abounding burg.
Of these things with her handmaids did the Queen
Of Heaven hold converse, and of many such,
But Paris, while they talked, gave up the ghost
On Ida: never Helen saw him more.
Loud wailed the Nymphs around him; for they still
Remembered how their nursling wont to lisp
His childish prattle, compassed with their smiles.
And with them mourned the neatherds light of foot,
Sorrowful-hearted; moaned the mountain-glens.
Then unto travail-burdened Priam's queen
A herdman told the dread doom of her son.
Wildly her trembling heart leapt when she heard;
With failing limbs she sank to earth and wailed:
"Dead! thou dead, O dear child! Grief heaped on grief
Hast thou bequeathed me, grief eternal! Best
Of all my sons, save Hector alone, wast thou!
While beats my heart, my grief shall weep for thee.
The hand of Heaven is in our sufferings:
Some Fate devised our ruin -- oh that I
Had lived not to endure it, but had died
In days of wealthy peace! But now I see
Woes upon woes, and ever look to see
Worse things -- my children slain, my city sacked
And burned with fire by stony-hearted foes,
Daughters, sons' wives, all Trojan women, haled
Into captivity with our little ones!"
So wailed she; but the King heard naught thereof,
But weeping ever sat by Hector's grave,
For most of all his sons he honoured him,
His mightiest, the defender of his land.
Nothing of Paris knew that pierced heart;
But long and loud lamented Helen; yet
Those wails were but for Trojan ears; her soul
With other thoughts was busy, as she cried:
"Husband, to me, to Troy, and to thyself
A bitter blow is this thy woeful death!
In misery hast thou left me, and I look
To see calamities more deadly yet.
Oh that the Spirits of the Storm had snatched
Me from the earth when first I fared with thee
Drawn by a baleful Fate! It might not be;
The Gods have meted ruin to thee and me.
With shuddering horror all men look on me,
All hate me! Place of refuge is there none
For me; for if to the Danaan host I fly,
With torments will they greet me. If I stay,
Troy's sons and daughters here will compass me
And rend me. Earth shall cover not my corpse,
But dogs and fowl of ravin shall devour.
Oh had Fate slain me ere I saw these woes!"
So cried she: but for him far less she mourned
Than for herself, remembering her own sin.
Yea, and Troy's daughters but in semblance wailed
For him: of other woes their hearts were full.
Some thought on parents, some on husbands slain,
These on their sons, on honoured kinsmen those.
One only heart was pierced with grief unfeigned,
Oenone. Not with them of Troy she wailed,
But far away within that desolate home
Moaning she lay on her lost husband's bed.
As when the copses on high mountains stand
White-veiled with frozen snow, which o'er the glens
The west-wind blasts have strown, but now the sun
And east-wind melt it fast, and the long heights
With water-courses stream, and down the glades
Slide, as they thaw, the heavy sheets, to swell
The rushing waters of an ice-cold spring,
So melted she in tears of anguished pain,
And for her own, her husband, agonised,
And cried to her heart with miserable moans:
"Woe for my wickedness! O hateful life!
I loved mine hapless husband -- dreamed with him
To pace to eld's bright threshold hand in hand,
And heart in heart! The gods ordained not so.
Oh had the black Fates snatched me from the earth
Ere I from Paris turned away in hate!
My living love hath left me! -- yet will I
Dare to die with him, for I loathe the light."
So cried she, weeping, weeping piteously,
Remembering him whom death had swallowed up,
Wasting, as melteth wax before the flame
Yet secretly, being fearful lest her sire
Should mark it, or her handmaids till the night
Rose from broad Ocean, flooding all the earth
With darkness bringing men release from toil.
Then, while her father and her maidens slept,
She slid the bolts back of the outer doors,
And rushed forth like a storm-blast. Fast she ran,
As when a heifer 'mid the mountains speeds,
Her heart with passion stung, to meet her mate,
And madly races on with flying feet,
And fears not, in her frenzy of desire,
The herdman, as her wild rush bears her on,
So she but find her mate amid the woods;
So down the long tracks flew Oenone's feet;
Seeking the awful pyre, to leap thereon.
No weariness she knew: as upon wings
Her feet flew faster ever, onward spurred
By fell Fate, and the Cyprian Queen. She feared
No shaggy beast that met her in the dark
Who erst had feared them sorely -- rugged rock
And precipice of tangled mountain-slope,
She trod them all unstumbling; torrent-beds
She leapt. The white Moon-goddess from on high
Looked on her, and remembered her own love,
Princely Endymion, and she pitied her
In that wild race, and, shining overhead
In her full brightness, made the long tracks plain.
Through mountain-gorges so she won to where
Wailed other Nymphs round Alexander's corpse.
Roared up about him a great wall of fire;
For from the mountains far and near had come
Shepherds, and heaped the death-bale broad and high
For 1ove's and sorrow's latest service done
To one of old their comrade and their king.
Sore weeping stood they round. She raised no wail,
The broken-hearted, when she saw him there,
But, in her mantle muffling up her face,
Leapt on the pyre: loud wailed that multitude.
There burned she, clasping Paris. All the Nymphs
Marvelled, beholding her beside her lord
Flung down, and heart to heart spake whispering:
"Verily evil-hearted Paris was,
Who left a leal true wife, and took for bride
A wanton, to himself and Troy a curse.
Ah fool, who recked not of the broken heart
Of a most virtuous wife, who more than life
Loved him who turned from her and loved her not!"
So in their hearts the Nymphs spake: but they twain
Burned on the pyre, never to hail again
The dayspring. Wondering herdmen stood around,
As once the thronging Argives marvelling saw
Evadne clasping mid the fire her lord
Capaneus, slain by Zeus' dread thunderbolt.
But when the blast of the devouring fire
Had made twain one, Oenone and Paris, now
One little heap of ashes, then with wine
Quenched they the embers, and they laid their bones
In a wide golden vase, and round them piled
The earth-mound; and they set two pillars there
That each from other ever turn away;
For the old jealousy in the marble lives.
Medieval Greece / Byzantine Empire