The Fall of Troy
a.k.a. the Posthomerica
(c. 4th Century AD)
"How Died for Troy the Queen of the Amazons, Penthesileia"
a.k.a. the Penthesileiad
by Quintus of Smyrna (c. 4th Century AD)
Translation (1913) by Arthur S. Way (1847-1930)
When godlike Hector by Peleides slain
Passed, and the pyre had ravined up his flesh,
And earth had veiled his bones, the Trojans then
Tarried in Priam's city, sore afraid
Before the might of stout-heart Aeacus' son:
As kine they were, that midst the copses shrink
From faring forth to meet a lion grim,
But in dense thickets terror-huddled cower;
So in their fortress shivered these to see
That mighty man. Of those already dead
They thought of all whose lives he reft away
As by Scamander's outfall on he rushed,
And all that in mid-flight to that high wall
He slew, how he quelled Hector, how he haled
His corse round Troy; -- yea, and of all beside
Laid low by him since that first day whereon
O'er restless seas he brought the Trojans doom.
Ay, all these they remembered, while they stayed
Thus in their town, and o'er them anguished grief
Hovered dark-winged, as though that very day
All Troy with shrieks were crumbling down in fire.
Then from Thermodon, from broad-sweeping streams,
Came, clothed upon with beauty of Goddesses,
Penthesileia -- came athirst indeed
For groan-resounding battle, but yet more
Fleeing abhorred reproach and evil fame,
Lest they of her own folk should rail on her
Because of her own sister's death, for whom
Ever her sorrows waxed, Hippolyte,
Whom she had struck dead with her mighty spear,
Not of her will -- 'twas at a stag she hurled.
So came she to the far-famed land of Troy.
Yea, and her warrior spirit pricked her on,
Of murder's dread pollution thus to cleanse
Her soul, and with such sacrifice to appease
The Awful Ones, the Erinnyes, who in wrath
For her slain sister straightway haunted her
Unseen: for ever round the sinner's steps
They hover; none may 'scape those Goddesses.
And with her followed twelve beside, each one
A princess, hot for war and battle grim,
Far-famous each, yet handmaids unto her:
Penthesileia far outshone them all.
As when in the broad sky amidst the stars
The moon rides over all pre-eminent,
When through the thunderclouds the cleaving heavens
Open, when sleep the fury-breathing winds;
So peerless was she mid that charging host.
Clonie was there, Polemusa, Derinoe,
Evandre, and Antandre, and Bremusa,
Hippothoe, dark-eyed Harmothoe,
Alcibie, Derimacheia, Antibrote,
And Thermodosa glorying with the spear.
All these to battle fared with warrior-souled
Penthesileia: even as when descends
Dawn from Olympus' crest of adamant,
Dawn, heart-exultant in her radiant steeds
Amidst the bright-haired Hours; and o'er them all,
How flawless-fair soever these may be,
Her splendour of beauty glows pre-eminent;
So peerless amid all the Amazons Unto
Troy-town Penthesileia came.
To right, to left, from all sides hurrying thronged
The Trojans, greatly marvelling, when they saw
The tireless War-god's child, the mailed maid,
Like to the Blessed Gods; for in her face
Glowed beauty glorious and terrible.
Her smile was ravishing: beneath her brows
Her love-enkindling eyes shone like to stars,
And with the crimson rose of shamefastness
Bright were her cheeks, and mantled over them
Unearthly grace with battle-prowess clad.
Then joyed Troy's folk, despite past agonies,
As when, far-gazing from a height, the hinds
Behold a rainbow spanning the wide sea,
When they be yearning for the heaven-sent shower,
When the parched fields be craving for the rain;
Then the great sky at last is overgloomed,
And men see that fair sign of coming wind
And imminent rain, and seeing, they are glad,
Who for their corn-fields' plight sore sighed before;
Even so the sons of Troy when they beheld
There in their land Penthesileia dread
Afire for battle, were exceeding glad;
For when the heart is thrilled with hope of good,
All smart of evils past is wiped away:
So, after all his sighing and his pain,
Gladdened a little while was Priam's soul.
As when a man who hath suffered many a pang
From blinded eyes, sore longing to behold
The light, and, if he may not, fain would die,
Then at the last, by a cunning leech's skill,
Or by a God's grace, sees the dawn-rose flush,
Sees the mist rolled back from before his eyes, --
Yea, though clear vision come not as of old,
Yet, after all his anguish, joys to have
Some small relief, albeit the stings of pain
Prick sharply yet beneath his eyelids; -- so
Joyed the old king to see that terrible queen --
The shadowy joy of one in anguish whelmed
For slain sons. Into his halls he led the Maid,
And with glad welcome honoured her, as one
Who greets a daughter to her home returned
From a far country in the twentieth year;
And set a feast before her, sumptuous
As battle-glorious kings, who have brought low
Nations of foes, array in splendour of pomp,
With hearts in pride of victory triumphing.
And gifts he gave her costly and fair to see,
And pledged him to give many more, so she
Would save the Trojans from the imminent doom.
And she such deeds she promised as no man
Had hoped for, even to lay Achilles low,
To smite the wide host of the Argive men,
And cast the brands red-flaming on the ships.
Ah fool! -- but little knew she him, the lord
Of ashen spears, how far Achilles' might
In warrior-wasting strife o'erpassed her own!
But when Andromache, the stately child
Of king Eetion, heard the wild queen's vaunt,
Low to her own soul bitterly murmured she:
"Ah hapless! why with arrogant heart dost thou
Speak such great swelling words? No strength is thine
To grapple in fight with Peleus' aweless son.
Nay, doom and swift death shall he deal to thee.
Alas for thee! What madness thrills thy soul?
Fate and the end of death stand hard by thee!
Hector was mightier far to wield the spear
Than thou, yet was for all his prowess slain,
Slain for the bitter grief of Troy, whose folk
The city through looked on him as a God.
My glory and his noble parents' glory
Was he while yet he lived -- O that the earth
Over my dead face had been mounded high,
Or ever through his throat the breath of life
Followed the cleaving spear! But now have I
Looked -- woe is me! -- on grief unutterable,
When round the city those fleet-footed steeds
Haled him, steeds of Achilles, who had made
Me widowed of mine hero-husband, made
My portion bitterness through all my days."
So spake Eetion's lovely-ankled child
Low to her own soul, thinking on her lord.
So evermore the faithful-hearted wife
Nurseth for her lost love undying grief.
Then in swift revolution sweeping round
Into the Ocean's deep stream sank the sun,
And daylight died. So when the banqueters
Ceased from the wine-cup and the goodly feast,
Then did the handmaids spread in Priam's halls
For Penthesileia dauntless-souled the couch
Heart-cheering, and she laid her down to rest;
And slumber mist-like overveiled her eyes [depths
Like sweet dew dropping round. From heavens' blue
Slid down the might of a deceitful dream
At Pallas' hest, that so the warrior-maid
Might see it, and become a curse to Troy
And to herself, when strained her soul to meet;
The whirlwind of the battle. In this wise
The Trito-born, the subtle-souled, contrived:
Stood o'er the maiden's head that baleful dream
In likeness of her father, kindling her
Fearlessly front to front to meet in fight
Fleetfoot Achilles. And she heard the voice,
And all her heart exulted, for she weened
That she should on that dawning day achieve
A mighty deed in battle's deadly toil
Ah, fool, who trusted for her sorrow a dream
Out of the sunless land, such as beguiles
Full oft the travail-burdened tribes of men,
Whispering mocking lies in sleeping ears,
And to the battle's travail lured her then!
But when the Dawn, the rosy-ankled, leapt
Up from her bed, then, clad in mighty strength
Of spirit, suddenly from her couch uprose
Penthesileia. Then did she array
Her shoulders in those wondrous-fashioned arms
Given her of the War-god. First she laid
Beneath her silver-gleaming knees the greaves
Fashioned of gold, close-clipping the strong limbs.
Her rainbow-radiant corslet clasped she then
About her, and around her shoulders slung,
With glory in her heart, the massy brand
Whose shining length was in a scabbard sheathed
Of ivory and silver. Next, her shield
Unearthly splendid, caught she up, whose rim
Swelled like the young moon's arching chariot-rail
When high o'er Ocean's fathomless-flowing stream
She rises, with the space half filled with light
Betwixt her bowing horns. So did it shine
Unutterably fair. Then on her head
She settled the bright helmet overstreamed
With a wild mane of golden-glistering hairs.
So stood she, lapped about with flaming mail,
In semblance like the lightning, which the might,
The never-wearied might of Zeus, to earth
Hurleth, what time he showeth forth to men
Fury of thunderous-roaring rain, or swoop
Resistless of his shouting host of winds.
Then in hot haste forth of her bower to pass
Caught she two javelins in the hand that grasped
Her shield-band; but her strong right hand laid hold
On a huge halberd, sharp of either blade,
Which terrible Eris gave to Ares' child
To be her Titan weapon in the strife
That raveneth souls of men. Laughing for glee
Thereover, swiftly flashed she forth the ring
Of towers. Her coming kindled all the sons
Of Troy to rush into the battle forth
Which crowneth men with glory. Swiftly all
Hearkened her gathering-ery, and thronging came,
Champions, yea, even such as theretofore
Shrank back from standing in the ranks of war
Against Achilles the all-ravager.
But she in pride of triumph on she rode
Throned on a goodly steed and fleet, the gift
Of Oreithyia, the wild North-wind's bride,
Given to her guest the warrior-maid, what time
She came to Thrace, a steed whose flying feet
Could match the Harpies' wings. Riding thereon
Penthesileia in her goodlihead
Left the tall palaces of Troy behind.
And ever were the ghastly-visaged Fates
Thrusting her on into the battle, doomed
To be her first against the Greeks -- and last!
To right, to left, with unreturning feet
The Trojan thousands followed to the fray,
The pitiless fray, that death-doomed warrior-maid,
Followed in throngs, as follow sheep the ram
That by the shepherd's art strides before all.
So followed they, with battle-fury filled,
Strong Trojans and wild-hearted Amazons.
And like Tritonis seemed she, as she went
To meet the Giants, or as flasheth far
Through war-hosts Eris, waker of onset-shouts.
So mighty in the Trojans' midst she seemed,
Penthesileia of the flying feet.
Then unto Cronos' Son Laomedon's child
Upraised his hands, his sorrow-burdened hands,
Turning him toward the sky-encountering fane
Of Zeus of Ida, who with sleepless eyes
Looks ever down on Ilium; and he prayed:
"Father, give ear! Vouchsafe that on this day
Achaea's host may fall before the hands
Of this our warrior-queen, the War-god's child;
And do thou bring her back unscathed again
Unto mine halls: we pray thee by the love
Thou bear'st to Ares of the fiery heart
Thy son, yea, to her also! is she not
Most wondrous like the heavenly Goddesses?
And is she not the child of thine own seed?
Pity my stricken heart withal! Thou know'st
All agonies I have suffered in the deaths
Of dear sons whom the Fates have torn from me
By Argive hands in the devouring fight.
Compassionate us, while a remnant yet
Remains of noble Dardanus' blood, while yet
This city stands unwasted! Let us know
From ghastly slaughter and strife one breathing-space!"
In passionate prayer he spake: -- lo, with shrill scream
Swiftly to left an eagle darted by
And in his talons bare a gasping dove.
Then round the heart of Priam all the blood
Was chilled with fear. Low to his soul he said:
"Ne'er shall I see return alive from war
Penthesileia!" On that selfsame day
The Fates prepared his boding to fulfil;
And his heart brake with anguish of despair.
Marvelled the Argives, far across the plain
Seeing the hosts of Troy charge down on them,
And midst them Penthesileia, Ares' child.
These seemed like ravening beasts that mid the hills
Bring grimly slaughter to the fleecy flocks;
And she, as a rushing blast of flame she seemed
That maddeneth through the copses summer-scorched,
When the wind drives it on; and in this wise
Spake one to other in their mustering host:
"Who shall this be who thus can rouse to war
The Trojans, now that Hector hath been slain --
These who, we said, would never more find heart
To stand against us? Lo now, suddenly
Forth are they rushing, madly afire for fight!
Sure, in their midst some great one kindleth them
To battle's toil! Thou verily wouldst say
This were a God, of such great deeds he dreams!
Go to, with aweless courage let us arm
Our own breasts: let us summon up our might
In battle-fury. We shall lack not help
Of Gods this day to close in fight with Troy."
So cried they; and their flashing battle-gear
Cast they about them: forth the ships they poured
Clad in the rage of fight as with a cloak.
Then front to front their battles closed, like beasts
Of ravin, locked in tangle of gory strife.
Clanged their bright mail together, clashed the spears,
The corslets, and the stubborn-welded shields
And adamant helms. Each stabbed at other's flesh
With the fierce brass: was neither ruth nor rest,
And all the Trojan soil was crimson-red.
Then first Penthesileia smote and slew
Molion; now Persinous falls, and now
Eilissus; reeled Antitheus 'neath her spear
The pride of Lernus quelled she: down she bore
Hippalmus 'neath her horse-hoofs; Haemon's son
Died; withered stalwart Elasippus' strength.
And Derinoe laid low Laogonus,
And Clonie Menippus, him who sailed
Long since from Phylace, led by his lord
Protesilaus to the war with Troy.
Then was Podarces, son of Iphiclus,
Heart-wrung with ruth and wrath to see him lie
Dead, of all battle-comrades best-beloved.
Swiftly at Clonie he hurled, the maid
Fair as a Goddess: plunged the unswerving lance
'Twixt hip and hip, and rushed the dark blood forth
After the spear, and all her bowels gushed out.
Then wroth was Penthesileia; through the brawn
Of his right arm she drave the long spear's point,
She shore atwain the great blood-brimming veins,
And through the wide gash of the wound the gore
Spirted, a crimson fountain. With a groan
Backward he sprang, his courage wholly quelled
By bitter pain; and sorrow and dismay
Thrilled, as he fled, his men of Phylace.
A short way from the fight he reeled aside,
And in his friends' arms died in little space.
Then with his lance Idomeneus thrust out,
And by the right breast stabbed Bremusa. Stilled
For ever was the beating of her heart.
She fell, as falls a graceful-shafted pine
Hewn mid the hills by woodmen: heavily,
Sighing through all its boughs, it crashes down.
So with a wailing shriek she fell, and death
Unstrung her every limb: her breathing soul
Mingled with multitudinous-sighing winds.
Then, as Evandre through the murderous fray
With Thermodosa rushed, stood Meriones,
A lion in the path, and slew: his spear
Right to the heart of one he drave, and one
Stabbed with a lightning sword-thrust 'twixt the hips:
Leapt through the wounds the life, and fled away.
Oileus' fiery son smote Derinoe
'Twixt throat and shoulder with his ruthless spear;
And on Alcibie Tydeus' terrible son
Swooped, and on Derimacheia: head with neck
Clean from the shoulders of these twain he shore
With ruin-wreaking brand. Together down
Fell they, as young calves by the massy axe
Of brawny flesher felled, that, shearing through
The sinews of the neck, lops life away.
So, by the hands of Tydeus' son laid low
Upon the Trojan plain, far, far away
From their own highland-home, they fell. Nor these
Alone died; for the might of Sthenelus
Down on them hurled Cabeirus' corse, who came
From Sestos, keen to fight the Argive foe,
But never saw his fatherland again.
Then was the heart of Paris filled with wrath
For a friend slain. Full upon Sthenelus
Aimed he a shaft death-winged, yet touched him not,
Despite his thirst for vengeance: otherwhere
The arrow glanced aside, and carried death
Whither the stern Fates guided its fierce wing,
And slew Evenor brazen-tasleted,
Who from Dulichium came to war with Troy.
For his death fury-kindled was the son
Of haughty Phyleus: as a lion leaps
Upon the flock, so swiftly rushed he: all
Shrank huddling back before that terrible man.
Itymoneus he slew, and Hippasus' son
Agelaus: from Miletus brought they war
Against the Danaan men by Nastes led,
The god-like, and Amphimachus mighty-souled.
On Mycale they dwelt; beside their home
Rose Latmus' snowy crests, stretched the long glens
Of Branchus, and Panormus' water-meads.
Maeander's flood deep-rolling swept thereby,
Which from the Phrygian uplands, pastured o'er
By myriad flocks, around a thousand forelands
Curls, swirls, and drives his hurrying ripples on
Down to the vine-clad land of Carian men
These mid the storm of battle Meges slew,
Nor these alone, but whomsoe'er his lance
Black-shafted touched, were dead men; for his breast
The glorious Trito-born with courage thrilled
To bring to all his foes the day of doom.
And Polypoetes, dear to Ares, slew
Dresaeus, whom the Nymph Neaera bare
To passing-wise Theiodamas for these
Spread was the bed of love beside the foot
Of Sipylus the Mountain, where the Gods
Made Niobe a stony rock, wherefrom
Tears ever stream: high up, the rugged crag
Bows as one weeping, weeping, waterfalls
Cry from far-echoing Hermus, wailing moan
Of sympathy: the sky-encountering crests
Of Sipylus, where alway floats a mist
Hated of shepherds, echo back the cry.
Weird marvel seems that Rock of Niobe
To men that pass with feet fear-goaded: there
They see the likeness of a woman bowed,
In depths of anguish sobbing, and her tears
Drop, as she mourns grief-stricken, endlessly.
Yea, thou wouldst say that verily so it was,
Viewing it from afar; but when hard by
Thou standest, all the illusion vanishes;
And lo, a steep-browed rock, a fragment rent
From Sipylus -- yet Niobe is there,
Dreeing her weird, the debt of wrath divine,
A broken heart in guise of shattered stone.
All through the tangle of that desperate fray
Stalked slaughter and doom. The incarnate Onset-shout
Raved through the rolling battle; at her side
Paced Death the ruthless, and the Fearful Faces,
The Fates, beside them strode, and in red hands
Bare murder and the groans of dying men.
That day the beating of full many a heart,
Trojan and Argive, was for ever stilled,
While roared the battle round them, while the fury
Of Penthesileia fainted not nor failed;
But as amid long ridges of lone hills
A lioness, stealing down a deep ravine,
Springs on the kine with lightning leap, athirst
For blood wherein her fierce heart revelleth;
So on the Danaans leapt that warrior-maid.
And they, their souls were cowed: backward they shrank,
And fast she followed, as a towering surge
Chases across the thunder-booming sea
A flying bark, whose white sails strain beneath
The wind's wild buffering, and all the air
Maddens with roaring, as the rollers crash
On a black foreland looming on the lee
Where long reefs fringe the surf-tormented shores.
So chased she, and so dashed the ranks asunder
Triumphant-souled, and hurled fierce threats before:
"Ye dogs, this day for evil outrage done
To Priam shall ye pay! No man of you
Shall from mine hands deliver his own life,
And win back home, to gladden parents eyes,
Or comfort wife or children. Ye shall lie
Dead, ravined on by vultures and by wolves,
And none shall heap the earth-mound o'er your clay.
Where skulketh now the strength of Tydeus' son,
And where the might of Aeacus' scion?
Where is Aias' bulk? Ye vaunt them mightiest men
Of all your rabble. Ha! they will not dare
With me to close in battle, lest I drag
Forth from their fainting frames their craven souls!"
Then heart-uplifted leapt she on the foe,
Resistless as a tigress, crashing through
Ranks upon ranks of Argives, smiting now
With that huge halberd massy-headed, now
Hurling the keen dart, while her battle-horse
Flashed through the fight, and on his shoulder bare
Quiver and bow death-speeding, close to her hand,
If mid that revel of blood she willed to speed
The bitter-biting shaft. Behind her swept
The charging lines of men fleet-footed, friends
And brethren of the man who never flinched
From close death-grapple, Hector, panting all
The hot breath of the War-god from their breasts,
All slaying Danaans with the ashen spear,
Who fell as frost-touched leaves in autumn fall
One after other, or as drops of rain.
And aye went up a moaning from earth's breast
All blood-bedrenched, and heaped with corse on corse.
Horses pierced through with arrows, or impaled
On spears, were snorting forth their last of strength
With screaming neighings. Men, with gnashing teeth
Biting the dust, lay gasping, while the steeds
Of Trojan charioteers stormed in pursuit,
Trampling the dying mingled with the dead
As oxen trample corn in threshing-floors.
Then one exulting boasted mid the host
Of Troy, beholding Penthesileia rush
On through the foes' array, like the black storm
That maddens o'er the sea, what time the sun
Allies his might with winter's Goat-horned Star;
And thus, puffed up with vain hope, shouted he:
"O friends, in manifest presence down from heaven
One of the deathless Gods this day hath come
To fight the Argives, all of love for us,
Yea, and with sanction of almighty Zeus,
He whose compassion now remembereth
Haply strong-hearted Priam, who may boast
For his a lineage of immortal blood.
For this, I trow, no mortal woman seems,
Who is so aweless-daring, who is clad
In splendour-flashing arms: nay, surely she
Shall be Athene, or the mighty-souled
Enyo -- haply Eris, or the Child
Of Leto world-renowned. O yea, I look
To see her hurl amid yon Argive men
Mad-shrieking slaughter, see her set aflame
Yon ships wherein they came long years agone
Bringing us many sorrows, yea, they came
Bringing us woes of war intolerable.
Ha! to the home-land Hellas ne'er shall these
With joy return, since Gods on our side fight."
In overweening exultation so
Vaunted a Trojan. Fool! -- he had no vision
Of ruin onward rushing upon himself
And Troy, and Penthesileia's self withal.
For not as yet had any tidings come
Of that wild fray to Aias stormy-souled,
Nor to Achilles, waster of tower and town.
But on the grave-mound of Menoetius' son
They twain were lying, with sad memories
Of a dear comrade crushed, and echoing
Each one the other's groaning. One it was
Of the Blest Gods who still was holding back
These from the battle-tumult far away,
Till many Greeks should fill the measure up
Of woeful havoc, slain by Trojan foes
And glorious Penthesileia, who pursued
With murderous intent their rifled ranks,
While ever waxed her valour more and more,
And waxed her might within her: never in vain
She aimed the unswerving spear-thrust: aye she pierced
The backs of them that fled, the breasts of such
As charged to meet her. All the long shaft dripped
With steaming blood. Swift were her feet as wind
As down she swooped. Her aweless spirit failed
For weariness nor fainted, but her might
Was adamantine. The impending Doom,
Which roused unto the terrible strife not yet
Achilles, clothed her still with glory; still
Aloof the dread Power stood, and still would shed
Splendour of triumph o'er the death-ordained
But for a little space, ere it should quell
That Maiden 'neath the hands of Aeaeus' son.
In darkness ambushed, with invisible hand
Ever it thrust her on, and drew her feet
Destruction-ward, and lit her path to death
With glory, while she slew foe after foe.
As when within a dewy garden-close,
Longing for its green springtide freshness, leaps
A heifer, and there rangeth to and fro,
When none is by to stay her, treading down
All its green herbs, and all its wealth of bloom,
Devouring greedily this, and marring that
With trampling feet; so ranged she, Ares' child,
Through reeling squadrons of Achaea's sons,
Slew these, and hunted those in panic rout.
From Troy afar the women marvelling gazed
At the Maid's battle-prowess. Suddenly
A fiery passion for the fray hath seized
Antimachus' daughter, Meneptolemus' wife,
Tisiphone. Her heart waxed strong, and filled
With lust of fight she cried to her fellows all,
With desperate-daring words, to spur them on
To woeful war, by recklessness made strong.
"Friends, let a heart of valour in our breasts
Awake! Let us be like our lords, who fight
With foes for fatherland, for babes, for us,
And never pause for breath in that stern strife!
Let us too throne war's spirit in our hearts!
Let us too face the fight which favoureth none!
For we, we women, be not creatures cast
In diverse mould from men: to us is given
Such energy of life as stirs in them.
Eyes have we like to theirs, and limbs: throughout
Fashioned we are alike: one common light
We look on, and one common air we breathe:
With like food are we nourished -- nay, wherein
Have we been dowered of God more niggardly
Than men? Then let us shrink not from the fray
See ye not yonder a woman far excelling
Men in the grapple of fight? Yet is her blood
Nowise akin to ours, nor fighteth she
For her own city. For an alien king
She warreth of her own heart's prompting, fears
The face of no man; for her soul is thrilled
With valour and with spirit invincible.
But we -- to right, to left, lie woes on woes
About our feet: this mourns beloved sons,
And that a husband who for hearth and home
Hath died; some wail for fathers now no more;
Some grieve for brethren and for kinsmen lost.
Not one but hath some share in sorrow's cup.
Behind all this a fearful shadow looms,
The day of bondage! Therefore flinch not ye
From war, O sorrow-laden! Better far
To die in battle now, than afterwards
Hence to be haled into captivity
To alien folk, we and our little ones,
In the stern grip of fate leaving behind
A burning city, and our husbands' graves."
So cried she, and with passion for stern war
Thrilled all those women; and with eager speed
They hasted to go forth without the wall
Mail-clad, afire to battle for their town
And people: all their spirit was aflame.
As when within a hive, when winter-tide
Is over and gone, loud hum the swarming bees
What time they make them ready forth to fare
To bright flower-pastures, and no more endure
To linger therewithin, but each to other
Crieth the challenge-cry to sally forth;
Even so bestirred themselves the women of Troy,
And kindled each her sister to the fray.
The weaving-wool, the distaff far they flung,
And to grim weapons stretched their eager hands.
And now without the city these had died
In that wild battle, as their husbands died
And the strong Amazons died, had not one voice
Of wisdom cried to stay their maddened feet,
When with dissuading words Theano spake:
"Wherefore, ah wherefore for the toil and strain
Of battle's fearful tumult do ye yearn,
Infatuate ones? Never your limbs have toiled
In conflict yet. In utter ignoranee
Panting for labour unendurable,
Ye rush on all-unthinking; for your strength
Can never be as that of Danaan men,
Men trained in daily battle. Amazons
Have joyed in ruthless fight, in charging steeds,
From the beginning: all the toil of men
Do they endure; and therefore evermore
The spirit of the War-god thrills them through.
'They fall not short of men in anything:
Their labour-hardened frames make great their hearts
For all achievement: never faint their knees
Nor tremble. Rumour speaks their queen to be
A daughter of the mighty Lord of War.
Therefore no woman may compare with her
In prowess -- if she be a woman, not
A God come down in answer to our prayers.
Yea, of one blood be all the race of men,
Yet unto diverse labours still they turn;
And that for each is evermore the best
Whereto he bringeth skill of use and wont.
Therefore do ye from tumult of the fray
Hold you aloof, and in your women's bowers
Before the loom still pace ye to and fro;
And war shall be the business of our lords.
Lo, of fair issue is there hope: we see
The Achaeans falling fast: we see the might
Of our men waxing ever: fear is none
Of evil issue now: the pitiless foe
Beleaguer not the town: no desperate need
There is that women should go forth to war."
So cried she, and they hearkened to the words
Of her who had garnered wisdom from the years;
So from afar they watched the fight. But still
Penthesileia brake the ranks, and still
Before her quailed the Achaeans: still they found
Nor screen nor hiding-place from imminent death.
As bleating goats are by the blood-stained jaws
Of a grim panther torn, so slain were they.
In each man's heart all lust of battle died,
And fear alone lived. This way, that way fled
The panic-stricken: some to earth had flung
The armour from their shoulders; some in dust
Grovelled in terror 'neath their shields: the steeds
Fled through the rout unreined of charioteers.
In rapture of triumph charged the Amazons,
With groan and scream of agony died the Greeks.
Withered their manhood was in that sore strait;
Brief was the span of all whom that fierce maid
Mid the grim jaws of battle overtook.
As when with mighty roaring bursteth down
A storm upon the forest-trees, and some
Uprendeth by the roots, and on the earth
Dashes them down, the tail stems blossom-crowned,
And snappeth some athwart the trunk, and high
Whirls them through air, till all confused they lie
A ruin of splintered stems and shattered sprays;
So the great Danaan host lay, dashed to dust
By doom of Fate, by Penthesileia's spear.
But when the very ships were now at point
To be by hands of Trojans set aflame,
Then battle-bider Aias heard afar
The panic-cries, and spake to Aeacus' son:
"Achilles, all the air about mine ears
Is full of multitudinous eries, is full
Of thunder of battle rolling nearer aye.
Let us go forth then, ere the Trojans win
Unto the ships, and make great slaughter there
Of Argive men, and set the ships aflame.
Foulest reproach such thing on thee and me
Should bring; for it beseems not that the seed
Of mighty Zeus should shame the sacred blood
Of hero-fathers, who themselves of old
With Hercules the battle-eager sailed
To Troy, and smote her even at her height
Of glory, when Laomedon was king.
Ay, and I ween that our hands even now
Shall do the like: we too are mighty men."
He spake: the aweless strength of Aeacus' son
Hearkened thereto, for also to his ears
By this the roar of bitter battle came.
Then hasted both, and donned their warrior-gear
All splendour-gleaming: now, in these arrayed
Facing that stormy-tossing rout they stand.
Loud clashed their glorious armour: in their souls
A battle-fury like the War-god's wrath
Maddened; such might was breathed into these twain
By Atrytone, Shaker of the Shield,
As on they pressed. With joy the Argives saw
The coming of that mighty twain: they seemed
In semblance like A1oeus' giant sons
Who in the old time made that haughty vaunt
Of piling on Olympus' brow the height
Of Ossa steeply-towering, and the crest
Of sky-encountering Pelion, so to rear
A mountain-stair for their rebellious rage
To scale the highest heaven. Huge as these
The sons of Aeacus seemed, as forth they strode
To stem the tide of war. A gladsome sight
To friends who have fainted for their coming, now
Onward they press to crush triumphant foes.
Many they slew with their resistless spears;
As when two herd-destroying lions come
On sheep amid the copses feeding, far
From help of shepherds, and in heaps on heaps
Slay them, till they have drunken to the full
Of blood, and filled their maws insatiate
With flesh, so those destroyers twain slew on,
Spreading wide havoc through the hosts of Troy.
There Deiochus and gallant Hyllus fell
By Alas slain, and fell Eurynomus
Lover of war, and goodly Enyeus died.
But Peleus' son burst on the Amazons
Smiting Antandre, Polemusa then,
Antibrote, fierce-souled Hippothoe,
Hurling Harmothoe down on sisters slain.
Then hard on all their-reeling ranks he pressed
With Telamon's mighty-hearted son; and now
Before their hands battalions dense and strong
Crumbled as weakly and as suddenly
As when in mountain-folds the forest-brakes
Shrivel before a tempest-driven fire.
When battle-eager Penthesileia saw
These twain, as through the scourging storm of war
Like ravening beasts they rushed, to meet them there
She sped, as when a leopard grim, whose mood
Is deadly, leaps from forest-coverts forth,
Lashing her tail, on hunters closing round,
While these, in armour clad, and putting trust
In their long spears, await her lightning leap;
So did those warriors twain with spears upswung
Wait Penthesileia. Clanged the brazen plates
About their shoulders as they moved. And first
Leapt the long-shafted lance sped from the hand
Of goodly Penthesileia. Straight it flew
To the shield of Aeacus' son, but glancing thence
This way and that the shivered fragments sprang
As from a rock-face: of such temper were
The cunning-hearted Fire-god's gifts divine.
Then in her hand the warrior-maid swung up
A second javelin fury-winged, against
Aias, and with fierce words defied the twain:
"Ha, from mine hand in vain one lance hath leapt!
But with this second look I suddenly
To quell the strength and courage of two foes, --
Ay, though ye vaunt you mighty men of war
Amid your Danaans! Die ye shall, and so
Lighter shall be the load of war's affliction
That lies upon the Trojan chariot-lords.
Draw nigh, come through the press to grips with me,
So shall ye learn what might wells up in breasts
Of Amazons. With my blood is mingled war!
No mortal man begat me, but the Lord
Of War, insatiate of the battle-cry.
Therefore my might is more than any man's."
With scornful laughter spake she: then she hurled
Her second lance; but they in utter scorn
Laughed now, as swiftly flew the shaft, and smote
The silver greave of Aias, and was foiled
Thereby, and all its fury could not scar
The flesh within; for fate had ordered not
That any blade of foes should taste the blood
Of Aias in the bitter war. But he
Recked of the Amazon naught, but turned him thence
To rush upon the Trojan host, and left
Penthesileia unto Peleus' son
Alone, for well he knew his heart within
That she, for all her prowess, none the less
Would cost Achilles battle-toil as light,
As effortless, as doth the dove the hawk.
Then groaned she an angry groan that she had sped
Her shafts in vain; and now with scoffing speech
To her in turn the son of Peleus spake:
"Woman, with what vain vauntings triumphing
Hast thou come forth against us, all athirst
To battle with us, who be mightier far
Than earthborn heroes? We from Cronos' Son,
The Thunder-roller, boast our high descent.
Ay, even Hector quailed, the battle-swift,
Before us, e'en though far away he saw
Our onrush to grim battle. Yea, my spear
Slew him, for all his might. But thou -- thine heart
Is utterly mad, that thou hast greatly dared
To threaten us with death this day! On thee
Thy latest hour shall swiftly come -- is come!
Thee not thy sire the War-god now shall pluck
Out of mine hand, but thou the debt shalt pay
Of a dark doom, as when mid mountain-folds
A pricket meets a lion, waster of herds.
What, woman, hast thou heard not of the heaps
Of slain, that into Xanthus' rushing stream
Were thrust by these mine hands? -- or hast thou heard
In vain, because the Blessed Ones have stol'n
Wit and discretion from thee, to the end
That Doom's relentless gulf might gape for thee?"
He spake; he swung up in his mighty hand
And sped the long spear warrior-slaying, wrought
By Chiron, and above the right breast pierced
The battle-eager maid. The red blood leapt
Forth, as a fountain wells, and all at once
Fainted the strength of Penthesileia's limbs;
Dropped the great battle-axe from her nerveless hand;
A mist of darkness overveiled her eyes,
And anguish thrilled her soul. Yet even so
Still drew she difficult breath, still dimly saw
The hero, even now in act to drag
Her from the swift steed's back. Confusedly
She thought: "Or shall I draw my mighty sword,
And bide Achilles' fiery onrush, or
Hastily cast me from my fleet horse down
To earth, and kneel unto this godlike man,
And with wild breath promise for ransoming
Great heaps of brass and gold, which pacify
The hearts of victors never so athirst
For blood, if haply so the murderous might
Of Aeacus' son may hearken and may spare,
Or peradventure may compassionate
My youth, and so vouchsafe me to behold
Mine home again? -- for O, I long to live!"
So surged the wild thoughts in her; but the Gods
Ordained it otherwise. Even now rushed on
In terrible anger Peleus' son: he thrust
With sudden spear, and on its shaft impaled
The body of her tempest-footed steed,
Even as a man in haste to sup might pierce
Flesh with the spit, above the glowing hearth
To roast it, or as in a mountain-glade
A hunter sends the shaft of death clear through
The body of a stag with such winged speed
That the fierce dart leaps forth beyond, to plunge
Into the tall stem of an oak or pine.
So that death-ravening spear of Peleus' son
Clear through the goodly steed rushed on, and pierced
Penthesileia. Straightway fell she down
Into the dust of earth, the arms of death,
In grace and comeliness fell, for naught of shame
Dishonoured her fair form. Face down she lay
On the long spear outgasping her last breath,
Stretched upon that fleet horse as on a couch;
Like some tall pine snapped by the icy mace
Of Boreas, earth's forest-fosterling
Reared by a spring to stately height, amidst
Long mountain-glens, a glory of mother earth;
So from the once fleet steed low fallen lay
Penthesileia, all her shattered strength
Brought down to this, and all her loveliness.
Now when the Trojans saw the Warrior-queen
Struck down in battle, ran through all their lines
A shiver of panic. Straightway to their walls
Turned they in flight, heart-agonized with grief.
As when on the wide sea, 'neath buffetings
Of storm-blasts, castaways whose ship is wrecked
Escape, a remnant of a crew, forspent
With desperate conflict with the cruel sea:
Late and at last appears the land hard by,
Appears a city: faint and weary-limbed
With that grim struggle, through the surf they strain
To land, sore grieving for the good ship 1ost,
And shipmates whom the terrible surge dragged down
To nether gloom; so, Troyward as they fled
From battle, all those Trojans wept for her,
The Child of the resistless War-god, wept
For friends who died in groan-resounding fight.
Then over her with scornful laugh the son
Of Peleus vaunted: "In the dust lie there
A prey to teeth of dogs, to ravens' beaks,
Thou wretched thing! Who cozened thee to come
Forth against me? And thoughtest thou to fare
Home from the war alive, to bear with thee
Right royal gifts from Priam the old king,
Thy guerdon for slain Argives? Ha, 'twas not
The Immortals who inspired thee with this thought,
Who know that I of heroes mightiest am,
The Danaans' light of safety, but a woe
To Trojans and to thee, O evil-starred!
Nay, but it was the darkness-shrouded Fates
And thine own folly of soul that pricked thee on
To leave the works of women, and to fare
To war, from which strong men shrink shuddering back."
So spake he, and his ashen spear the son
Of Peleus drew from that swift horse, and from
Penthesileia in death's agony.
Then steed and rider gasped their lives away
Slain by one spear. Now from her head he plucked
The helmet splendour-flashing like the beams
Of the great sun, or Zeus' own glory-light.
Then, there as fallen in dust and blood she lay,
Rose, like the breaking of the dawn, to view
'Neath dainty-pencilled brows a lovely face,
Lovely in death. The Argives thronged around,
And all they saw and marvelled, for she seemed
Like an Immortal. In her armour there
Upon the earth she lay, and seemed the Child
Of Zeus, the tireless Huntress Artemis
Sleeping, what time her feet forwearied are
With following lions with her flying shafts
Over the hills far-stretching. She was made
A wonder of beauty even in her death
By Aphrodite glorious-crowned, the Bride
Of the strong War-god, to the end that he,
The son of noble Peleus, might be pierced
With the sharp arrow of repentant love.
The warriors gazed, and in their hearts they prayed
That fair and sweet like her their wives might seem,
Laid on the bed of love, when home they won.
Yea, and Achilles' very heart was wrung
With love's remorse to have slain a thing so sweet,
Who might have borne her home, his queenly bride,
To chariot-glorious Phthia; for she was
Flawless, a very daughter of the Gods,
Divinely tall, and most divinely fair.
Then Ares' heart was thrilled with grief and rage
For his child slain. Straight from Olympus down
He darted, swift and bright as thunderbolt
Terribly flashing from the mighty hand Of
Zeus, far leaping o'er the trackless sea,
Or flaming o'er the land, while shuddereth
All wide Olympus as it passeth by.
So through the quivering air with heart aflame
Swooped Ares armour-clad, soon as he heard
The dread doom of his daughter. For the Gales,
The North-wind's fleet-winged daughters, bare to him,
As through the wide halls of the sky he strode,
The tidings of the maiden's woeful end.
Soon as he heard it, like a tempest-blast
Down to the ridges of Ida leapt he: quaked
Under his feet the long glens and ravines
Deep-scored, all Ida's torrent-beds, and all
Far-stretching foot-hills. Now had Ares brought
A day of mourning on the Myrmidons,
But Zeus himself from far Olympus sent
Mid shattering thunders terror of levin-bolts
Which thick and fast leapt through the welkin down
Before his feet, blazing with fearful flames.
And Ares saw, and knew the stormy threat
Of the mighty-thundering Father, and he stayed
His eager feet, now on the very brink
Of battle's turmoil. As when some huge crag
Thrust from a beetling cliff-brow by the winds
And torrent rains, or lightning-lance of Zeus,
Leaps like a wild beast, and the mountain-glens
Fling back their crashing echoes as it rolls
In mad speed on, as with resistless swoop
Of bound on bound it rushes down, until
It cometh to the levels of the plain,
And there perforce its stormy flight is stayed;
So Ares, battle-eager Son of Zeus,
Was stayed, how loth soe'er; for all the Gods
To the Ruler of the Blessed needs must yield,
Seeing he sits high-throned above them all,
Clothed in his might unspeakable. Yet still
Many a wild thought surged through Ares' soul,
Urging him now to dread the terrible threat
Of Cronos' wrathful Son, and to return
Heavenward, and now to reck not of his Sire,
But with Achilles' blood to stain those hands,
The battle-tireless. At the last his heart
Remembered how that many and many a son
Of Zeus himself in many a war had died,
Nor in their fall had Zeus availed them aught.
Therefore he turned him from the Argives -- else,
Down smitten by the blasting thunderbolt,
With Titans in the nether gloom he had lain,
Who dared defy the eternal will of Zeus.
Then did the warrior sons of Argos strip
With eager haste from corpses strown all round
The blood-stained spoils. But ever Peleus' son
Gazed, wild with all regret, still gazed on her,
The strong, the beautiful, laid in the dust;
And all his heart was wrung, was broken down
With sorrowing love, deep, strong as he had known
When that beloved friend Patroclus died.
Loud jeered Thersites, mocking to his face:
"Thou sorry-souled Achilles! art not shamed
To let some evil Power beguile thine heart
To pity of a pitiful Amazon
Whose furious spirit purposed naught but ill
To us and ours? Ha, woman-mad art thou,
And thy soul lusts for this thing, as she were
Some lady wise in household ways, with gifts
And pure intent for honoured wedlock wooed!
Good had it been had her spear reached thine heart,
The heart that sighs for woman-creatures still!
Thou carest not, unmanly-souled, not thou,
For valour's glorious path, when once thine eye
Lights on a woman! Sorry wretch, where now
Is all thy goodly prowess? where thy wit?
And where the might that should beseem a king
All-stainless? Dost not know what misery
This self-same woman-madness wrought for Troy?
Nothing there is to men more ruinous
Than lust for woman's beauty; it maketh fools
Of wise men. But the toil of war attains
Renown. To him that is a hero indeed
Glory of victory and the War-god's works
Are sweet. 'Tis but the battle-blencher craves
The beauty and the bed of such as she!"
So railed he long and loud: the mighty heart
Of Peleus' son leapt into flame of wrath.
A sudden buffet of his resistless hand
Smote 'neath the railer's ear, and all his teeth
Were dashed to the earth: he fell upon his face:
Forth of his lips the blood in torrent gushed:
Swift from his body fled the dastard soul
Of that vile niddering. Achaea's sons
Rejoiced thereat, for aye he wont to rail
On each and all with venomous gibes, himself
A scandal and the shame of all the host.
Then mid the warrior Argives cried a voice:
"Not good it is for baser men to rail
On kings, or secretly or openly;
For wrathful retribution swiftly comes.
The Lady of Justice sits on high; and she
Who heapeth woe on woe on humankind,
Even Ate, punisheth the shameless tongue."
So mid the Danaans cried a voice: nor yet
Within the mighty soul of Peleus' son
Lulled was the storm of wrath, but fiercely he spake:
"Lie there in dust, thy follies all forgot!
'Tis not for knaves to beard their betters: once
Thou didst provoke Odysseus' steadfast soul,
Babbling with venomous tongue a thousand gibes,
And didst escape with life; but thou hast found
The son of Peleus not so patient-souled,
Who with one only buffet from his hand
Unkennels thy dog's soul! A bitter doom
Hath swallowed thee: by thine own rascalry
Thy life is sped. Hence from Achaean men,
And mouth out thy revilings midst the dead!"
So spake the valiant-hearted aweless son
Of Aeacus. But Tydeus' son alone
Of all the Argives was with anger stirred
Against Achilles for Thersites slain,
Seeing these twain were of the self-same blood,
The one, proud Tydeus' battle-eager son,
The other, seed of godlike Agrius:
Brother of noble Oeneus Agrius was;
And Oeneus in the Danaan land begat
Tydeus the battle-eager, son to whom
Was stalwart Diomedes. Therefore wroth
Was he for slain Thersites, yea, had raised
Against the son of Peleus vengeful hands,
Exeept the noblest of Aehaea's sons
Had thronged around him, and besought him sore,
And held him back therefrom. With Peleus' son
Also they pleaded; else those mighty twain,
The mightiest of all Argives, were at point
To close with clash of swords, so stung were they
With bitter wrath; yet hearkened they at last
To prayers of comrades, and were reconciled.
Then of their pity did the Atreid kings --
For these too at the imperial loveliness
Of Penthesileia marvelled -- render up
Her body to the men of Troy, to bear
Unto the burg of Ilus far-renowned
With all her armour. For a herald came
Asking this boon for Priam; for the king
Longed with deep yearning of the heart to lay
That battle-eager maiden, with her arms,
And with her war-horse, in the great earth-mound
Of old Laomedon. And so he heaped
A high broad pyre without the city wall:
Upon the height thereof that warrior-queen
They laid, and costly treasures did they heap
Around her, all that well beseems to burn
Around a mighty queen in battle slain.
And so the Fire-god's swift-upleaping might,
The ravening flame, consumed her. All around
The people stood on every hand, and quenched
The pyre with odorous wine. Then gathered they
The bones, and poured sweet ointment over them,
And laid them in a casket: over all
Shed they the rich fat of a heifer, chief
Among the herds that grazed on Ida's slope.
And, as for a beloved daughter, rang
All round the Trojan men's heart-stricken wail,
As by the stately wall they buried her
On an outstanding tower, beside the bones
Of old Laomedon, a queen beside
A king. This honour for the War-god's sake
They rendered, and for Penthesileia's own.
And in the plain beside her buried they
The Amazons, even all that followed her
To battle, and by Argive spears were slain.
For Atreus' sons begrudged not these the boon
Of tear-besprinkled graves, but let their friends,
The warrior Trojans, draw their corpses forth,
Yea, and their own slain also, from amidst
The swath of darts o'er that grim harvest-field.
Wrath strikes not at the dead: pitied are foes
When life has fled, and left them foes no more.
Far off across the plain the while uprose
Smoke from the pyres whereon the Argives laid
The many heroes overthrown and slain
By Trojan hands what time the sword devoured;
And multitudinous lamentation wailed
Over the perished. But above the rest
Mourned they o'er brave Podarces, who in fight
Was no less mighty than his hero-brother
Protesilaus, he who long ago
Fell, slain of Hector: so Podarces now,
Struck down by Penthesileia's spear, hath cast
Over all Argive hearts the pall of grief.
Wherefore apart from him they laid in clay
The common throng of slain; but over him
Toiling they heaped an earth-mound far-descried
In memory of a warrior aweless-souled.
And in a several pit withal they thrust
The niddering Thersites' wretched corse.
Then to the ships, acclaiming Aeacus' son,
Returned they all. But when the radiant day
Had plunged beneath the Ocean-stream, and night,
The holy, overspread the face of earth,
Then in the rich king Agamemnon's tent
Feasted the might of Peleus' son, and there
Sat at the feast those other mighty ones
All through the dark, till rose the dawn divine.