How Memnon, Son of the Dawn, for Troy's sake fell in the Battle.
When o'er the crests of the far-echoing hills
The splendour of the tireless-racing sun
Poured o'er the land, still in their tents rejoiced
Achaea's stalwart sons, and still acclaimed
Achilles the resistless. But in Troy
Still mourned her people, still from all her towers
Seaward they strained their gaze; for one great fear
Gripped all their hearts -- to see that terrible man
At one bound overleap their high-built wall,
Then smite with the sword all people therewithin,
And burn with fire fanes, palaces, and homes.
And old Thymoetes spake to the anguished ones:
"Friends, I have lost hope: mine heart seeth not
Or help, or bulwark from the storm of war,
Now that the aweless Hector, who was once
Troy's mighty champion, is in dust laid low.
Not all his might availed to escape the Fates,
But overborne he was by Achilles' hands,
The hands that would, I verily deem, bear down
A God, if he defied him to the fight,
Even as he overthrew this warrior-queen
From whom all other Argives shrank in fear.
Ah, she was marvellous! When at the first
I looked on her, meseemed a Blessed One
From heaven had come down hitherward to bring
Light to our darkness -- ah, vain hope, vain dream!
Go to, let us take counsel, what to do
Were best for us. Or shall we still maintain
A hopeless fight against these ruthless foes,
Or shall we straightway flee a city doomed?
Ay, doomed! -- for never more may we withstand
Argives in fighting field, when in the front
Of battle pitiless Achilles storms."
Then spake Laomedon's son, the ancient king:
"Nay, friend, and all ye other sons of Troy,
And ye our strong war-helpers, flinch we not
Faint-hearted from defence of fatherland!
Yet let us go not forth the city-gates
To battle with yon foe. Nay, from our towers
And from our ramparts let us make defence,
Till our new champion come, the stormy heart
Of Memnon. Lo, he cometh, leading on
Hosts numberless, Aethiopia's swarthy sons.
By this, I trow, he is nigh unto our gates;
For long ago, in sore distress of soul,
I sent him urgent summons. Yea, and he
Promised me, gladly promised me, to come
To Troy, and make all end of all our woes.
And now, I trust, he is nigh. Let us endure
A little longer then; for better far
It is like brave men in the fight to die
Than flee, and live in shame mid alien fo1k."
So spake the old king; but Polydamas,
The prudent-hearted, thought not good to war
Thus endlessly, and spake his patriot rede:
"If Memnon have beyond all shadow of doubt
Pledged him to thrust dire ruin far from us,
Then do I gainsay not that we await
The coming of that godlike man within
Our walls -- yet, ah, mine heart misgives me, lest,
Though he with all his warriors come, he come
But to his death, and unto thousands more,
Our people, nought but misery come thereof;
For terribly against us leaps the storm
Of the Achaeans' might. But now, go to,
Let us not flee afar from this our Troy
To wander to some alien land, and there,
In the exile's pitiful helplessness, endure
All flouts and outrage; nor in our own land
Abide we till the storm of Argive war
O'erwhelm us. Nay, even now, late though it be,
Better it were for us to render back
Unto the Danaans Helen and her wealth,
Even all that glory of women brought with her
From Sparta, and add other treasure -- yea,
Repay it twofold, so to save our Troy
And our own souls, while yet the spoiler's hand
Is laid not on our substance, and while yet
Troy hath not sunk in gulfs of ravening flame.
I pray you, take to heart my counsel! None
Shall, well I wot, be given to Trojan men
Better than this. Ah, would that long ago
Hector had hearkened to my pleading, when
I fain had kept him in the ancient home!"
So spake Polydamas the noble and strong,
And all the listening Trojans in their hearts
Approved; yet none dared utter openly
The word, for all with trembling held in awe
Their prince and Helen, though for her sole sake
Daily they died. But on that noble man
Turned Paris, and reviled him to his face:
"Thou dastard battle-blencher Polydamas!
Not in thy craven bosom beats a heart
That bides the fight, but only fear and panic.
Yet dost thou vaunt thee -- quotha! -- still our best
In counsel! -- no man's soul is base as thine!
Go to, thyself shrink shivering from the strife!
Cower, coward, in thine halls! But all the rest,
We men, will still go armour-girt, until
We wrest from this our truceless war a peace
That shall not shame us! 'Tis with travail and toil
Of strenuous war that brave men win renown;
But flight? -- weak women choose it, and young babes!
Thy spirit is like to theirs. No whit I trust
Thee in the day of battle -- thee, the man
Who maketh faint the hearts of all the host!"
So fiercely he reviled: Polydamas
Wrathfully answered; for he shrank not, he,
From answering to his face. A caitiff hound,
A reptile fool, is he who fawns on men
Before their faces, while his heart is black
With malice, and, when they be gone, his tongue
Backbites them. Openly Polydamas
Flung back upon the prince his taunt and scoff:
"O thou of living men most mischievous!
Thy valour -- quotha! -- brings us misery!
Thine heart endures, and will endure, that strife
Should have no limit, save in utter ruin
Of fatherland and people for thy sake!
Ne'er may such wantwit valour craze my soul!
Be mine to cherish wise discretion aye,
A warder that shall keep mine house in peace."
Indignantly he spake, and Paris found
No word to answer him, for conscience woke
Remembrance of all woes he had brought on Troy,
And should bring; for his passion-fevered heart
Would rather hail quick death than severance
From Helen the divinely fair, although
For her sake was it that the sons of Troy
Even then were gazing from their towers to see
The Argives and Achilles drawing nigh.
But no long time thereafter came to them
Memnon the warrior-king, and brought with him
A countless host of swarthy Aethiops.
From all the streets of Troy the Trojans flocked
Glad-eyed to gaze on him, as seafarers,
With ruining tempest utterly forspent,
See through wide-parting clouds the radiance
Of the eternal-wheeling Northern Wain;
So joyed the Troyfolk as they thronged around,
And more than all Laomedon's son, for now
Leapt in his heart a hope, that yet the ships
Might by those Aethiop men be burned with fire;
So giantlike their king was, and themselves
So huge a host, and so athirst for fight.
Therefore with all observance welcomed he
The strong son of the Lady of the Dawn
With goodly gifts and with abundant cheer.
So at the banquet King and Hero sat
And talked, this telling of the Danaan chiefs,
And all the woes himself had suffered, that
Telling of that strange immortality
By the Dawn-goddess given to his sire,
Telling of the unending flow and ebb
Of the Sea-mother, of the sacred flood
Of Ocean fathomless-rolling, of the bounds
Of Earth that wearieth never of her travail,
Of where the Sun-steeds leap from orient waves,
Telling withal of all his wayfaring
From Ocean's verge to Priam's wall, and spurs
Of Ida. Yea, he told how his strong hands
Smote the great army of the Solymi
Who barred his way, whose deed presumptuous brought
Upon their own heads crushing ruin and woe.
So told he all that marvellous tale, and told
Of countless tribes and nations seen of him.
And Priam heard, and ever glowed his heart
Within him; and the old lips answering spake:
"Memnon, the Gods are good, who have vouchsafed
To me to look upon thine host, and thee
Here in mine halls. O that their grace would so
Crown this their boon, that I might see my foes
All thrust to one destruction by thy spears.
That well may be, for marvellous-like art thou
To some invincible Deathless One, yea, more
Than any earthly hero. Wherefore thou,
I trust, shalt hurl wild havoc through their host.
But now, I pray thee, for this day do thou
Cheer at my feast thine heart, and with the morn
Shalt thou go forth to battle worthy of thee."
Then in his hands a chalice deep and wide
He raised, and Memnon in all love he pledged
In that huge golden cup, a gift of Gods;
For this the cunning God-smith brought to Zeus,
His masterpiece, what time the Mighty in Power
To Hephaestus gave for bride the Cyprian Queen;
And Zeus on Dardanus his godlike son
Bestowed it, he on Erichthonius;
Erichthonius to Tros the great of heart
Gave it, and he with all his treasure-store
Bequeathed it unto Ilus, and he gave
That wonder to Laomedon, and he
To Priam, who had thought to leave the same
To his own son. Fate ordered otherwise.
And Memnon clasped his hands about that cup
So peerless-beautiful, and all his heart
Marvelled; and thus he spake unto the King:
"Beseems not with great swelling words to vaunt
Amidst the feast, and lavish promises,
But rather quietly to eat in hall,
And to devise deeds worthy. Whether I
Be brave and strong, or whether I be not,
Battle, wherein a man's true might is seen,
Shall prove to thee. Now would I rest, nor drink
The long night through. The battle-eager spirit
By measureless wine and lack of sleep is dulled."
Marvelled at him the old King, and he said:
"As seems thee good touching the banquet, do
After thy pleasure. I, when thou art loth,
Will not constrain thee. Yea, unmeet it is
To hold back him who fain would leave the board,
Or hurry from one's halls who fain would stay.
So is the good old law with all true men."
Then rose that champion from the board, and passed
Thence to his sleep -- his last! And with him went
All others from the banquet to their rest:
And gentle sleep slid down upon them soon.
But in the halls of Zeus, the Lightning-lord,
Feasted the gods the while, and Cronos' son,
All-father, of his deep foreknowledge spake
Amidst them of the issue of the strife:
"Be it known unto you all, to-morn shall bring
By yonder war affliction swift and sore;
For many mighty horses shall ye see
In either host beside their chariots slain,
And many heroes perishing. Therefore ye
Remember these my words, howe'er ye grieve
For dear ones. Let none clasp my knees in prayer,
Since even to us relentless are the fates."
So warned he them, which knew before, that all
Should from the battle stand aside, howe'er
Heart-wrung; that none, petitioning for a son
Or dear one, should to Olympus vainly come.
So, at that warning of the Thunderer,
The Son of Cronos, all they steeled their hearts
To bear, and spake no word against their king;
For in exceeding awe they stood of him.
Yet to their several mansions and their rest
With sore hearts went they. O'er their deathless eyes
The blessing-bringer Sleep his light veils spread.
When o'er precipitous crests of mountain-walls
Leapt up broad heaven the bright morning-star
Who rouseth to their toils from slumber sweet
The binders of the sheaf, then his last sleep
Unclasped the warrior-son of her who brings
Light to the world, the Child of Mists of Night.
Now swelled his mighty heart with eagerness
To battle with the foe forthright. And Dawn
With most reluctant feet began to climb
Heaven's broad highway. Then did the Trojans gird
Their battle-harness on; then armed themselves
The Aethiop men, and all the mingled tribes
Of those war-helpers that from many lands
To Priam's aid were gathered. Forth the gates
Swiftly they rushed, like darkly lowering clouds
Which Cronos' Son, when storm is rolling up,
Herdeth together through the welkin wide.
Swiftly the whole plain filled. Onward they streamed
Like harvest-ravaging locusts drifting on
In fashion of heavy-brooding rain-clouds o'er
Wide plains of earth, an irresistible host
Bringing wan famine on the sons of men;
So in their might and multitude they went.
The city streets were all too strait for them
Marching: upsoared the dust from underfoot.
From far the Argives gazed, and marvelling saw
Their onrush, but with speed arrayed their limbs
In brass, and in the might of Peleus' son
Put their glad trust. Amidst them rode he on
Like to a giant Titan, glorying
In steeds and chariot, while his armour flashed
Splendour around in sudden lightning-gleams.
It was as when the sun from utmost bounds
Of earth-encompassing ocean comes, and brings
Light to the world, and flings his splendour wide
Through heaven, and earth and air laugh all around.
So glorious, mid the Argives Peleus' son
Rode onward. Mid the Trojans rode the while
Memnon the hero, even such to see
As Ares furious-hearted. Onward swept
The eager host arrayed about their lord.
Then in the grapple of war on either side
Closed the long lines, Trojan and Danaan;
But chief in prowess still the Aethiops were.
Crashed they together as when surges meet
On the wild sea, when, in a day of storm,
From every quarter winds to battle rush.
Foe hurled at foe the ashen spear, and slew:
Screams and death-groans went up like roaring fire.
As when down-thundering torrents shout and rave
On-pouring seaward, when the madding rains
Stream from God's cisterns, when the huddling clouds
Are hurled against each other ceaselessly,
And leaps their fiery breath in flashes forth;
So 'neath the fighters' trampling feet the earth
Thundered, and leapt the terrible battle-yell
Through frenzied air, for mad the war-cries were.
For firstfruits of death's harvest Peleus' son
Slew Thalius and Mentes nobly born,
Men of renown, and many a head beside
Dashed he to dust. As in its furious swoop
A whirlwind shakes dark chasms underground,
And earth's foundations crumble and melt away
Around the deep roots of the shuddering world,
So the ranks crumbled in swift doom to the dust
Before the spear and fury of Peleus's son.
But on the other side the hero child
Of the Dawn-goddess slew the Argive men,
Like to a baleful Doom which bringeth down
On men a grim and ghastly pestilence.
First slew he Pheron; for the bitter spear
Plunged through his breast, and down on him he hurled
Goodly Ereuthus, battle-revellers both,
Dwellers in Thryus by Alpheus' streams,
Which followed Nestor to the god-built burg
Of Ilium. But when he had laid these low,
Against the son of Neleus pressed he on
Eager to slay. Godlike Antilochus
Strode forth to meet him, sped the long spear's flight,
Yet missed him, for a little he swerved, but slew
His Aethiop comrade, son of Pyrrhasus.
Wroth for his fall, against Antilochus
He leapt, as leaps a lion mad of mood
Upon a boar, the beast that flincheth not
From fight with man or brute, whose charge is a flash
Of lightning; so was his swift leap. His foe
Antilochus caught a huge stone from the ground,
Hurled, smote him; but unshaken abode his strength,
For the strong helm-crest fenced his head from death;
But rang the morion round his brows. His heart
Kindled with terrible fury at the blow
More than before against Antilochus.
Like seething cauldron boiled his maddened might.
He stabbed, for all his cunning of fence, the son
Of Nestor above the breast; the crashing spear
Plunged to the heart, the spot of speediest death.
Then upon all the Danaans at his fall
Came grief; but anguish-stricken was the heart
Of Nestor most of all, to see his child
Slain in his sight; for no more bitter pang
Smiteth the heart of man than when a son
Perishes, and his father sees him die.
Therefore, albeit unused to melting mood,
His soul was torn with agony for the son
By black death slain. A wild cry hastily
To Thrasymedes did he send afar:
"Hither to me, Thrasymedes war-renowned!
Help me to thrust back from thy brother's corse,
Yea, from mine hapless son, his murderer,
That so ourselves may render to our dead
All dues of mourning. If thou flinch for fear,
No son of mine art thou, nor of the line
Of Periclymenus, who dared withstand
Hercules' self. Come, to the battle-toil!
For grim necessity oftentimes inspires
The very coward with courage of despair."
Then at his cry that brother's heart was stung
With bitter grief. Swift for his help drew nigh
Phereus, on whom for his great prince's fall
Came anguish. Charged these warriors twain to face
Strong Memnon in the gory strife. As when
Two hunters 'mid a forest's mountain-folds,
Eager to take the prey, rush on to meet
A wild boar or a bear, with hearts afire
To slay him, but in furious mood he leaps
On them, and holds at bay the might of men;
So swelled the heart of Memnon. Nigh drew they,
Yet vainly essayed to slay him, as they hurled
The long spears, but the lances glanced aside
Far from his flesh: the Dawn-queen turned them thence.
Yet fell their spears not vainly to the ground:
The lance of fiery-hearted Phereus, winged
With eager speed, dealt death to Meges' son,
Polymnius: Laomedon was slain
By the wrath of Nestor's son for a brother dead,
The dear one Memnon slew in battle-rout,
And whom the slayer's war-unwearied hands
Now stripped of his all-brazen battle-gear,
Nought recking, he, of Thrasymedes' might,
Nor of stout Phereus, who were unto him
But weaklings. A great lion seemed he there
Standing above a hart, as jackals they,
That, howso hungry, dare not come too nigh.
But hard thereby the father gazed thereon
In agony, and cried the rescue-cry
To other his war-comrades for their aid
Against the foe. Himself too burned to fight
From his war-car; for yearning for the dead
Goaded him to the fray beyond his strength.
Ay, and himself had been on his dear son
Laid, numbered with the dead, had not the voice
Of Memnon stayed him even in act to rush
Upon him, for he reverenced in his heart
The white hairs of an age-mate of his sire:
"Ancient," he cried, "it were my shame to fight.
With one so much mine elder: I am not
Blind unto honour. Verily I weened
That this was some young warrior, when I saw
Thee facing thus the foe. My bold heart hoped
For contest worthy of mine hand and spear.
Nay, draw thou back afar from battle-toil
And bitter death. Go, lest, how loth soe'er,
I smite thee of sore need. Nay, fall not thou
Beside thy son, against a mightier man
Fighting, lest men with folly thee should charge,
For folly it is that braves o'ermastering might."
He spake, and answered him that warrior old:
"Nay, Memnon, vain was that last word of thine.
None would name fool the father who essayed,
Battling with foes for his son's sake, to thrust
The ruthless slayer back from that dear corpse,
But ah that yet my strength were whole in me,
That thou might'st know my spear! Now canst thou vaunt
Proudly enow: a young man's heart is bold
And light his wit. Uplifted is thy soul
And vain thy speech. If in my strength of youth
Thou hadst met me -- ha, thy friends had not rejoiced,
For all thy might! But me the grievous weight
Of age bows down, like an old lion whom
A cur may boldly drive back from the fold,
For that he cannot, in his wrath's despite,
Maintain his own cause, being toothless now,
And strengthless, and his strong heart tamed by time.
So well the springs of olden strength no more
Now in my breast. Yet am I stronger still
Than many men; my grey hairs yield to few
That have within them all the strength of youth."
So drew he back a little space, and left
Lying in dust his son, since now no more
Lived in the once lithe limbs the olden strength,
For the years' weight lay heavy on his head.
Back leapt Thrasymedes likewise, spearman good,
And battle-eager Phereus, and the rest
Their comrades; for that slaughter-dealing man
Pressed hard on them. As when from mountains high
A shouting river with wide-echoing din
Sweeps down its fathomless whirlpools through the gloom,
When God with tumult of a mighty storm
Hath palled the sky in cloud from verge to verge,
When thunders crash all round, when thick and fast
Gleam lightnings from the huddling clouds, when fields
Are flooded as the hissing rain descends,
And all the air is filled with awful roar
Of torrents pouring down the hill-ravines;
So Memnon toward the shores of Hellespont
Before him hurled the Argives, following hard
Behind them, slaughtering ever. Many a man
Fell in the dust, and left his life in blood
'Neath Aethiop hands. Stained was the earth with gore
As Danaans died. Exulted Memnon's soul
As on the ranks of foemen ever he rushed,
And heaped with dead was all the plain of Troy.
And still from fight refrained he not; he hoped
To be a light of safety unto Troy
And bane to Danaans. But all the while
Stood baleful Doom beside him, and spurred on
To strife, with flattering smile. To right, to left
His stalwart helpers wrought in battle-toil,
Alcyoneus and Nychius, and the son
Of Asius furious-souled; Meneclus' spear,
Clydon and Alexippus, yea, a host
Eager to chase the foe, men who in fight
Quit them like men, exulting in their king.
Then, as Meneclus on the Danaans charged,
The son of Neleus slew him. Wroth for his friend,
Whole throngs of foes fierce-hearted Memnon slew.
As when a hunter midst the mountains drives
Swift deer within the dark lines of his toils --
The eager ring of beaters closing in
Presses the huddled throng into the snares
Of death: the dogs are wild with joy of the chase
Ceaselessly giving tongue, the while his darts
Leap winged with death on brocket and on hind;
So Memnon slew and ever slew: his men
Rejoiced, the while in panic stricken rout
Before that glorious man the Argives fled.
As when from a steep mountain's precipice-brow
Leaps a huge crag, which all-resistless Zeus
By stroke of thunderbolt hath hurled from the crest;
Crash oakwood copses, echo long ravines,
Shudders the forest to its rattle and roar,
And flocks therein and herds and wild things flee
Scattering, as bounding, whirling, it descends
With deadly pitiless onrush; so his foes
Fled from the lightning-flash of Memnon's spear.
Then to the side of Aeacus' mighty son
Came Nestor. Anguished for his son he cried:
"Achilles, thou great bulwark of the Greeks,
Slain is my child! The armour of my dead
Hath Memnon, and I fear me lest his corse
Be cast a prey to dogs. Haste to his help!
True friend is he who still remembereth
A friend though slain, and grieves for one no more."
Achilles heard; his heart was thrilled with grief:
He glanced across the rolling battle, saw
Memnon, saw where in throngs the Argives fell
Beneath his spear. Forthright he turned away
From where the rifted ranks of Troy fell fast
Before his hands, and, thirsting for the fight,
Wroth for Antilochus and the others slain,
Came face to face with Memnon. In his hands
That godlike hero caught up from the ground
A stone, a boundary-mark 'twixt fields of wheat,
And hurled. Down on the shield of Peleus' son
It crashed. But he, the invincible, shrank not
Before the huge rock-shard, but, thrusting out
His long lance, rushed to close with him, afoot,
For his steeds stayed behind the battle-rout.
On the right shoulder above the shield he smote
And staggered him; but he, despite the wound,
Fought on with heart unquailing. Swiftly he thrust
And pricked with his strong spear Achilles' arm.
Forth gushed the blood: rejoicing with vain joy
To Aeacus' son with arrogant words he cried:
"Now shalt thou in thy death fill up, I trow,
Thy dark doom, overmastered by mine hands.
Thou shalt not from this fray escape alive!
Fool, wherefore hast thou ruthlessly destroyed
Trojans, and vaunted thee the mightiest man
Of men, a deathless Nereid's son? Ha, now
Thy doom hath found thee! Of birth divine am I,
The Dawn-queen's mighty son, nurtured afar
By lily-slender Hesperid Maids, beside
The Ocean-river. Therefore not from thee
Nor from grim battle shrink I, knowing well
How far my goddess-mother doth transcend
A Nereid, whose child thou vauntest thee.
To Gods and men my mother bringeth light;
On her depends the issue of all things,
Works great and glorious in Olympus wrought
Whereof comes blessing unto men. But thine --
She sits in barren crypts of brine: she dwells
Glorying mid dumb sea-monsters and mid fish,
Deedless, unseen! Nothing I reck of her,
Nor rank her with the immortal Heavenly Ones."
In stern rebuke spake Aeacus' aweless son:
"Memnon, how wast thou so distraught of wit
That thou shouldst face me, and to fight defy
Me, who in might, in blood, in stature far
Surpass thee? From supremest Zeus I trace
My glorious birth; and from the strong Sea-god
Nereus, begetter of the Maids of the Sea,
The Nereids, honoured of the Olympian Gods.
And chiefest of them all is Thetis, wise
With wisdom world-renowned; for in her bowers
She sheltered Dionysus, chased by might
Of murderous Lycurgus from the earth.
Yea, and the cunning God-smith welcomed she
Within her mansion, when from heaven he fell.
Ay, and the Lightning-lord she once released
From bonds. The all-seeing Dwellers in the Sky
Remember all these things, and reverence
My mother Thetis in divine Olympus.
Ay, that she is a Goddess shalt thou know
When to thine heart the brazen spear shall pierce
Sped by my might. Patroclus' death I avenged
On Hector, and Antilochus on thee
Will I avenge. No weakling's friend thou hast slain!
But why like witless children stand we here
Babbling our parents' fame and our own deeds?
Now is the hour when prowess shall decide."
Then from the sheath he flashed his long keen sword,
And Memnon his; and swiftly in fiery fight
Closed they, and rained the never-ceasing blows
Upon the bucklers which with craft divine
Hephaestus' self had fashioned. Once and again
Clashed they together, and their cloudy crests
Touched, mingling all their tossing storm of hair.
And Zeus, for that he loved them both, inspired
With prowess each, and mightier than their wont
He made them, made them tireless, nothing like
To men, but Gods: and gloated o'er the twain
The Queen of Strife. In eager fury these
Thrust swiftly out the spear, with fell intent
To reach the throat 'twixt buckler-rim and helm,
Thrust many a time and oft, and now would aim
The point beneath the shield, above the greave,
Now close beneath the corslet curious-wrought
That lapped the stalwart frame: hard, fast they lunged,
And on their shoulders clashed the arms divine.
Roared to the very heavens the battle-shout
Of warring men, of Trojans, Aethiops,
And Argives mighty-hearted, while the dust
Rolled up from 'neath their feet, tossed to the sky
In stress of battle-travail great and strong.
As when a mist enshrouds the hills, what time
Roll up the rain-clouds, and the torrent-beds
Roar as they fill with rushing floods, and howls
Each gorge with fearful voices; shepherds quake
To see the waters' downrush and the mist,
Screen dear to wolves and all the wild fierce things
Nursed in the wide arms of the forest; so
Around the fighters' feet the choking dust
Hung, hiding the fair splendour of the sun
And darkening all the heaven. Sore distressed
With dust and deadly conflict were the folk.
Then with a sudden hand some Blessed One
Swept the dust-pall aside; and the Gods saw
The deadly Fates hurling the charging lines
Together, in the unending wrestle locked
Of that grim conflict, saw where never ceased
Ares from hideous slaughter, saw the earth
Crimsoned all round with rushing streams of blood,
Saw where dark Havoc gloated o'er the scene,
Saw the wide plain with corpses heaped, even all
Bounded 'twixt Simois and Xanthus, where
They sweep from Ida down to Hellespont.
But when long lengthened out the conflict was
Of those two champions, and the might of both
In that strong tug and strain was equal-matched,
Then, gazing from Olympus' far-off heights,
The Gods joyed, some in the invincible son
Of Peleus, others in the goodly child
Of old Tithonus and the Queen of Dawn.
Thundered the heavens on high from east to west,
And roared the sea from verge to verge, and rocked
The dark earth 'neath the heroes' feet, and quaked
Proud Nereus' daughters all round Thetis thronged
In grievous fear for mighty Achilles' sake;
And trembled for her son the Child of the Mist
As in her chariot through the sky she rode.
Marvelled the Daughters of the Sun, who stood
Near her, around that wondrous splendour-ring
Traced for the race-course of the tireless sun
By Zeus, the limit of all Nature's life
And death, the dally round that maketh up
The eternal circuit of the rolling years.
And now amongst the Blessed bitter feud
Had broken out; but by behest of Zeus
The twin Fates suddenly stood beside these twain,
One dark -- her shadow fell on Memnon's heart;
One bright -- her radiance haloed Peleus' son.
And with a great cry the Immortals saw,
And filled with sorrow they of the one part were,
They of the other with triumphant joy.
Still in the midst of blood-stained battle-rout
Those heroes fought, unknowing of the Fates
Now drawn so nigh, but each at other hurled
His whole heart's courage, all his bodily might.
Thou hadst said that in the strife of that dread day
Huge tireless Giants or strong Titans warred,
So fiercely blazed the wildfire of their strife,
Now, when they clashed with swords, now when they leapt
Hurling huge stones. Nor either would give back
Before the hail of blows, nor quailed. They stood
Like storm-tormented headlands steadfast, clothed
With might past words, unearthly; for the twain
Alike could boast their lineage of high Zeus.
Therefore 'twixt these Enyo lengthened out
The even-balanced strife, while ever they
In that grim wrestle strained their uttermost,
They and their dauntless comrades, round their kings
With ceaseless fury toiling, till their spears
Stood shivered all in shields of warriors slain,
And of the fighters woundless none remained;
But from all limbs streamed down into the dust
The blood and sweat of that unresting strain
Of fight, and earth was hidden with the dead,
As heaven is hidden with clouds when meets the sun
The Goat-star, and the shipman dreads the deep.
As charged the lines, the snorting chariot-steeds
Trampled the dead, as on the myriad leaves
Ye trample in the woods at entering-in
Of winter, when the autumn-tide is past.
Still mid the corpses and the blood fought on
Those glorious sons of Gods, nor ever ceased
From wrath of fight. But Eris now inclined
The fatal scales of battle, which no more
Were equal-poised. Beneath the breast-bone then
Of godlike Memnon plunged Achilles' sword;
Clear through his body all the dark-blue blade
Leapt: suddenly snapped the silver cord of life.
Down in a pool of blood he fell, and clashed
His massy armour, and earth rang again.
Then turned to flight his comrades panic-struck,
And of his arms the Myrmidons stripped the dead,
While fled the Trojans, and Achilles chased,
As whirlwind swift and mighty to destroy.
Then groaned the Dawn, and palled herself in clouds,
And earth was darkened. At their mother's hest
All the light Breathings of the Dawn took hands,
And slid down one 1ong stream of sighing wind
To Priam's plain, and floated round the dead,
And softly, swiftly caught they up, and bare
Through silver mists the Dawn-queen's son, with hearts
Sore aching for their brother's fall, while moaned
Around them all the air. As on they passed,
Fell many blood-gouts from those pierced limbs
Down to the earth, and these were made a sign
To generations yet to be. The Gods
Gathered them up from many lands, and made
Thereof a far-resounding river, named
Of all that dwell beneath long Ida's flanks
Paphlagoneion. As its waters flow
'Twixt fertile acres, once a year they turn
To blood, when comes the woeful day whereon
Died Memnon. Thence a sick and choking reek
Steams: thou wouldst say that from a wound unhealed
Corrupting humours breathed an evil stench.
Ay, so the Gods ordained: but now flew on
Bearing Dawn's mighty son the rushing winds
Skimming earth's face and palled about with night.
Nor were his Aethiopian comrades left
To wander of their King forlorn: a God
Suddenly winged those eager souls with speed
Such as should soon be theirs for ever, changed
To flying fowl, the children of the air.
Wailing their King in the winds' track they sped.
As when a hunter mid the forest-brakes
Is by a boar or grim-jawed lion slain,
And now his sorrowing friends take up the corse,
And bear it heavy-hearted; and the hounds
Follow low-whimpering, pining for their lord
In that disastrous hunting lost; so they
Left far behind that stricken field of blood,
And fast they followed after those swift winds
With multitudinous moaning, veiled in mist
Unearthly. Trojans over all the plain
And Danaans marvelled, seeing that great host
Vanishing with their King. All hearts stood still
In dumb amazement. But the tireless winds
Sighing set hero Memnon's giant corpse
Down by the deep flow of Aesopus' stream,
Where is a fair grove of the bright-haired Nymphs,
The which round his long barrow afterward
Aesopus' daughters planted, screening it
With many and manifold trees: and long and loud
Wailed those Immortals, chanting his renown,
The son of the Dawn-goddess splendour-throned.
Now sank the sun: the Lady of the Morn
Wailing her dear child from the heavens came down.
Twelve maidens shining-tressed attended her,
The warders of the high paths of the sun
For ever circling, warders of the night
And dawn, and each world-ordinance framed of Zeus,
Around whose mansion's everlasting doors
From east to west they dance, from west to east,
Whirling the wheels of harvest-laden years,
While rolls the endless round of winter's cold,
And flowery spring, and lovely summer-tide,
And heavy-clustered autumn. These came down
From heaven, for Memnon wailing wild and high;
And mourned with these the Pleiads. Echoed round
Far-stretching mountains, and Aesopus' stream.
Ceaseless uprose the keen, and in their midst,
Fallen on her son and clasping, wailed the Dawn;
"Dead art thou, dear, dear child, and thou hast clad
Thy mother with a pall of grief. Oh, I,
Now thou art slain, will not endure to light
The Immortal Heavenly Ones! No, I will plunge
Down to the dread depths of the underworld,
Where thy lone spirit flitteth to and fro,
And will to blind night leave earth, sky, and sea,
Till Chaos and formless darkness brood o'er all,
That Cronos' Son may also learn what means
Anguish of heart. For not less worship-worthy
Than Nereus' Child, by Zeus's ordinance,
Am I, who look on all things, I, who bring
All to their consummation. Recklessly
My light Zeus now despiseth! Therefore I
Will pass into the darkness. Let him bring
Up to Olympus Thetis from the sea
To hold for him light forth to Gods and men!
My sad soul loveth darkness more than day,
Lest I pour light upon thy slayer's head"
Thus as she cried, the tears ran down her face
Immortal, like a river brimming aye:
Drenched was the dark earth round the corse. The Night
Grieved in her daughter's anguish, and the heaven
Drew over all his stars a veil of mist
And cloud, of love unto the Lady of Light.
Meanwhile within their walls the Trojan folk
For Memnon sorrowed sore, with vain regret
Yearning for that lost king and all his host.
Nor greatly joyed the Argives, where they lay
Camped in the open plain amidst the dead.
There, mingled with Achilles' praise, uprose
Wails for Antilochus: joy clasped hands with grief.
All night in groans and sighs most pitiful
The Dawn-queen lay: a sea of darkness moaned
Around her. Of the dayspring nought she recked:
She loathed Olympus' spaces. At her side
Fretted and whinnied still her fleetfoot steeds,
Trampling the strange earth, gazing at their Queen
Grief-stricken, yearning for the fiery course.
Suddenly crashed the thunder of the wrath
Of Zeus; rocked round her all the shuddering earth,
And on immortal Eos trembling came.
Swiftly the dark-skinned Aethiops from her sight
Buried their lord lamenting. As they wailed
Unceasingly, the Dawn-queen lovely-eyed
Changed them to birds sweeping through air around
The barrow of the mighty dead. And these
Still do the tribes of men "The Memnons" call;
And still with wailing cries they dart and wheel
Above their king's tomb, and they scatter dust
Down on his grave, still shrill the battle-cry,
In memory of Memnon, each to each.
But he in Hades' mansions, or perchance
Amid the Blessed on the Elysian Plain,
Laugheth. Divine Dawn comforteth her heart
Beholding them: but theirs is toil of strife
Unending, till the weary victors strike
The vanquished dead, or one and all fill up
The measure of their doom around his grave.
So by command of Eos, Lady of Light,
The swift birds dree their weird. But Dawn divine
Now heavenward soared with the all-fostering Hours,
Who drew her to Zeus' threshold, sorely loth,
Yet conquered by their gentle pleadings, such
As salve the bitterest grief of broken hearts.
Nor the Dawn-queen forgat her daily course,
But quailed before the unbending threat of Zeus,
Of whom are all things, even all comprised
Within the encircling sweep of Ocean's stream,
Earth and the palace-dome of burning stars.
Before her went her Pleiad-harbingers,
Then she herself flung wide the ethereal gates,
And, scattering spray of splendour, flashed there-through.
Medieval Greece / Byzantine Empire