Go to home page
Browse a list of titles
Browse and
Search texts
Buy books and CD-ROMs
Buy Books and
Get help

The Fall of Troy

By Quintus
Commentary: A few comments have been posted about The Fall of Troy.

Download: A text-only version is available for download.

The Fall of Troy

By Quintus

Translated by A. S. Way

Go to previous     Table of Contents

Book IV
   Go to next

How in the Funeral-Games of Achilles Heroes Contended

Nor did the hapless Trojans leave unwept
The warrior-king Hippolochus' hero-son,
But laid, in front of the Dardanian gate,
Upon the pyre that captain war-renowned.
But him Apollo's self caught swiftly up
Out of the blazing fire, and to the winds
Gave him, to bear away to Lycia-land;
And fast and far they bare him, 'neath the glens
Of high Telandrus, to a lovely glade;
And for a monument above his grave
Upheaved a granite rock. The Nymphs therefrom
Made gush the hallowed water of a stream
For ever flowing, which the tribes of men
Still call fair-fleeting Glaucus. This the gods
Wrought for an honour to the Lycian king.

But for Achilles still the Argives mourned
Beside the swift ships: heart-sick were they all
With dolorous pain and grief. Each yearned for him
As for a son; no eye in that wide host
Was tearless. But the Trojans with great joy
Exulted, seeing their sorrow from afar,
And the great fire that spake their foe consumed.
And thus a vaunting voice amidst them cried:
"Now hath Cronion from his heaven vouchsafed
A joy past hope unto our longing eyes,
To see Achilles fallen before Troy.
Now he is smitten down, the glorious hosts
Of Troy, I trow, shall win a breathing-space
From blood of death and from the murderous fray.
Ever his heart devised the Trojans' bane;
In his hands maddened aye the spear of doom
With gore besprent, and none of us that faced
Him in the fight beheld another dawn.
But now, I wot, Achaea's valorous sons
Shall flee unto their galleys shapely-prowed,
Since slain Achilles lies. Ah that the might
Of Hector still were here, that he might slay
The Argives one and all amidst their tents!"

So in unbridled joy a Trojan cried;
But one more wise and prudent answered him:
"Thou deemest that yon murderous Danaan host
Will straightway get them to the ships, to flee
Over the misty sea. Nay, still their lust
Is hot for fight: us will they nowise fear,
Still are there left strong battle-eager men,
As Aias, as Tydeides, Atreus' sons:
Though dead Achilles be, I still fear these.
Oh that Apollo Silverbow would end them!
Then in that day were given to our prayers
A breathing-space from war and ghastly death."

In heaven was dole among the Immortal Ones,
Even all that helped the stalwart Danaans' cause.
In clouds like mountains piled they veiled their heads
For grief of soul. But glad those others were
Who fain would speed Troy to a happy goal.
Then unto Cronos' Son great Hera spake:
"Zeus, Lightning-father, wherefore helpest thou
Troy, all forgetful of the fair-haired bride
Whom once to Peleus thou didst give to wife
Midst Pelion's glens? Thyself didst bring to pass
Those spousals of a Goddess: on that day
All we Immortals feasted there, and gave
Gifts passing-fair. All this dost thou forget,
And hast devised for Hellas heaviest woe."

So spake she; but Zeus answered not a word;
For pondering there he sat with burdened breast,
Thinking how soon the Argives should destroy
The city of Priam, thinking how himself
Would visit on the victors ruin dread
In war and on the great sea thunder-voiced.
Such thoughts were his, ere long to be fulfilled.

Now sank the sun to Ocean's fathomless flood:
O'er the dim land the infinite darkness stole,
Wherein men gain a little rest from toil.
Then by the ships, despite their sorrow, supped
The Argives, for ye cannot thrust aside
Hunger's importunate craving, when it comes
Upon the breast, but straightway heavy and faint
Lithe limbs become; nor is there remedy
Until one satisfy this clamorous guest
Therefore these ate the meat of eventide
In grief for Achilles' hard necessity
Constrained them all. And, when they had broken bread,
Sweet sleep came on them, loosening from their frames
Care's heavy chain, and quickening strength anew

But when the starry Bears had eastward turned
Their heads, expectant of the uprushing light
Of Helios, and when woke the Queen of Dawn,
Then rose from sleep the stalwart Argive men
Purposing for the Trojans death and doom.
Stirred were they like the roughly-ridging sea
Icarian, or as sudden-rippling corn
In harvest field, what time the rushing wings
Of the cloud-gathering West sweep over it;
So upon Hellespont's strand the folk were stirred.
And to those eager hearts cried Tydeus' son:
"If we be battle-biders, friends, indeed,
More fiercely fight we now the hated foe,
Lest they take heart because Achilles lives
No longer. Come, with armour, car, and steed
Let us beset them. Glory waits our toil?"

But battle-eager Aias answering spake
"Brave be thy words, and nowise idle talk,
Kindling the dauntless Argive men, whose hearts
Before were battle-eager, to the fight
Against the Trojan men, O Tydeus' son.
But we must needs abide amidst the ships
Till Goddess Thetis come forth of the sea;
For that her heart is purposed to set here
Fair athlete-prizes for the funeral-games.
This yesterday she told me, ere she plunged
Into sea-depths, yea, spake to me apart
From other Danaans; and, I trow, by this
Her haste hath brought her nigh. Yon Trojan men,
Though Peleus' son hath died, shall have small heart
For battle, while myself am yet alive,
And thou, and noble Atreus' son, the king."

So spake the mighty son of Telamon,
But knew not that a dark and bitter doom
For him should follow hard upon those games
By Fate's contrivance. Answered Tydeus' son
"O friend, if Thetis comes indeed this day
With goodly gifts for her son's funeral-games,
Then bide we by the ships, and keep we here
All others. Meet it is to do the will
Of the Immortals: yea, to Achilles too,
Though the Immortals willed it not, ourselves
Must render honour grateful to the dead."

So spake the battle-eager Tydeus' son.
And lo, the Bride of Peleus gliding came
Forth of the sea, like the still breath of dawn,
And suddenly was with the Argive throng
Where eager-faced they waited, some, that looked
Soon to contend in that great athlete-strife,
And some, to joy in seeing the mighty strive.
Amidst that gathering Thetis sable-stoled
Set down her prizes, and she summoned forth
Achaea's champions: at her best they came.

But first amidst them all rose Neleus' son,
Not as desiring in the strife of fists
To toil, nor strain of wrestling; for his arms
And all his sinews were with grievous eld
Outworn, but still his heart and brain were strong.
Of all the Achaeans none could match himself
Against him in the folkmote's war of words;
Yea, even Laertes' glorious son to him
Ever gave place when men for speech were met;
Nor he alone, but even the kingliest
Of Argives, Agamemnon, lord of spears.
Now in their midst he sang the gracious Queen
Of Nereids, sang how she in willsomeness
Of beauty was of all the Sea-maids chief.
Well-pleased she hearkened. Yet again he sang,
Singing of Peleus' Bridal of Delight,
Which all the blest Immortals brought to pass
By Pelion's crests; sang of the ambrosial feast
When the swift Hours brought in immortal hands
Meats not of earth, and heaped in golden maunds;
Sang how the silver tables were set forth
In haste by Themis blithely laughing; sang
How breathed Hephaestus purest flame of fire;
Sang how the Nymphs in golden chalices
Mingled ambrosia; sang the ravishing dance
Twined by the Graces' feet; sang of the chant
The Muses raised, and how its spell enthralled
All mountains, rivers, all the forest brood;
How raptured was the infinite firmament,
Cheiron's fair caverns, yea, the very Gods.

Such noble strain did Neleus' son pour out
Into the Argives' eager ears; and they
Hearkened with ravished souls. Then in their midst
He sang once more the imperishable deeds
Of princely Achilles. All the mighty throng
Acclaimed him with delight. From that beginning
With fitly chosen words did he extol
The glorious hero; how he voyaged and smote
Twelve cities; how he marched o'er leagues on leagues
Of land, and spoiled eleven; how he slew
Telephus and Eetion's might renowned
In Thebe; how his spear laid Cyenus low,
Poseidon's son, and godlike Polydorus,
Troilus the goodly, princely Asteropaeus;
And how he dyed with blood the river-streams
Of Xanthus, and with countless corpses choked
His murmuring flow, when from the limbs he tore
Lycaon's life beside the sounding river;
And how he smote down Hector; how he slew
Penthesileia, and the godlike son
Of splendour-throned Dawn; -- all this he sang
To Argives which already knew the tale;
Sang of his giant mould, how no man's strength
In fight could stand against him, nor in games
Where strong men strive for mastery, where the swift
Contend with flying feet or hurrying wheels
Of chariots, nor in combat panoplied;
And how in goodlihead he far outshone
All Danaans, and how his bodily might
Was measureless in the stormy clash of war.
Last, he prayed Heaven that he might see a son
Like that great sire from sea-washed Scyros come.

That noble song acclaiming Argives praised;
Yea, silver-looted Thetis smiled, and gave
The singer fleetfoot horses, given of old
Beside Caicus' mouth by Telephus
To Achilles, when he healed the torturing wound
With that same spear wherewith himself had pierced
Telephus' thigh, and thrust the point clear through.
These Nestor Neleus' son to his comrades gave,
And, glorying in their godlike lord, they led
The steeds unto his ships. Then Thetis set
Amidst the athlete-ring ten kine, to be
Her prizes for the footrace, and by each
Ran a fair suckling calf. These the bold might
Of Peleus' tireless son had driven down
From slopes of Ida, prizes of his spear.

To strive for these rose up two victory-fain,
Teucer the first, the son of Telamon,
And Aias, of the Locrian archers chief.
These twain with swift hands girded them about
With loin-cloths, reverencing the Goddess-bride
Of Peleus, and the Sea-maids, who with her
Came to behold the Argives' athlete-sport.
And Atreus' son, lord of all Argive men,
Showed them the turning-goal of that swift course.
Then these the Queen of Rivalry spurred on,
As from the starting-line like falcons swift
They sped away. Long doubtful was the race:
Now, as the Argives gazed, would Aias' friends
Shout, now rang out the answering cheer from friends
Of Teucer. But when in their eager speed
Close on the end they were, then Teucer's feet
Were trammelled by unearthly powers: some god
Or demon dashed his foot against the stock
Of a deep-rooted tamarisk. Sorely wrenched
Was his left ankle: round the joint upswelled
The veins high-ridged. A great shout rang from all
That watched the contest. Aias darted past
Exultant: ran his Locrian folk to hail
Their lord, with sudden joy in all their souls.
Then to his ships they drave the kine, and cast
Fodder before them. Eager-helpful friends
Led Teucer halting thence. The leeches drew
Blood from his foot: then over it they laid
Soft-shredded linen ointment-smeared, and swathed
With smooth bands round, and charmed away the pain.

Then swiftly rose two mighty-hearted ones
Eager to match their strength in wrestling strain,
The son of Tydeus and the giant Aias.
Into the midst they strode, and marvelling gazed
The Argives on men shapen like to gods.
Then grappled they, like lions famine-stung
Fighting amidst the mountains o'er a stag,
Whose strength is even-balanced; no whit less
Is one than other in their deadly rage;
So these long time in might were even-matched,
Till Aias locked his strong hands round the son
Of Tydeus, straining hard to break his back;
But he, with wrestling-craft and strength combined,
Shifted his hip 'neath Telamon's son, and heaved
The giant up; with a side-twist wrenched free
From Aias' ankle-lock his thigh, and so
With one huge shoulder-heave to earth he threw
That mighty champion, and himself came down
Astride him: then a mighty shout went up.
But battle-stormer Aias, chafed in mind,
Sprang up, hot-eager to essay again
That grim encounter. From his terrible hands
He dashed the dust, and challenged furiously
With a great voice Tydeides: not a whit
That other quailed, but rushed to close with him.
Rolled up the dust in clouds from 'neath their feet:
Hurtling they met like battling mountain-bulls
That clash to prove their dauntless strength, and spurn
The dust, while with their roaring all the hills
Re-echo: in their desperate fury these
Dash their strong heads together, straining long
Against each other with their massive strength,
Hard-panting in the fierce rage of their strife,
While from their mouths drip foam-flakes to the ground;
So strained they twain with grapple of brawny hands.
'Neath that hard grip their backs and sinewy necks
Cracked, even as when in mountain-glades the trees
Dash storm-tormented boughs together. Oft
Tydeides clutched at Aias' brawny thighs,
But could not stir his steadfast-rooted feet.
Oft Aias hurled his whole weight on him, bowed
His shoulders backward, strove to press him down;
And to new grips their hands were shifting aye.
All round the gazing people shouted, some
Cheering on glorious Tydeus' son, and some
The might of Aias. Then the giant swung
The shoulders of his foe to right, to left;
Then gripped him 'neath the waist; with one fierce heave
And giant effort hurled him like a stone
To earth. The floor of Troyland rang again
As fell Tydeides: shouted all the folk.
Yet leapt he up all eager to contend
With giant Aias for the third last fall:
But Nestor rose and spake unto the twain:
"From grapple of wrestling, noble sons, forbear;
For all we know that ye be mightiest
Of Argives since the great Achilles died."

Then these from toil refrained, and from their brows
Wiped with their hands the plenteous-streaming sweat:
They kissed each other, and forgat their strife.
Then Thetis, queen of Goddesses, gave to them
Four handmaids; and those strong and aweless ones
Marvelled beholding them, for these surpassed
All captive-maids in beauty and household-skill,
Save only lovely-tressed Briseis. These
Achilles captive brought from Lesbos' Isle,
And in their service joyed. The first was made
Stewardess of the feast and lady of meats;
The second to the feasters poured the wine;
The third shed water on their hands thereafter;
The fourth bare all away, the banquet done.
These Tydeus' son and giant Aias shared,
And, parted two and two, unto their ships
Sent they those fair and serviceable ones.

Next, for the play of fists Idomeneus rose,
For cunning was he in all athlete-lore;
But none came forth to meet him, yielding all
To him, the elder-born, with reverent awe.
So in their midst gave Thetis unto him
A chariot and fleet steeds, which theretofore
Mighty Patroclus from the ranks of Troy
Drave, when he slew Sarpedon, seed of Zeus,
These to his henchmen gave Idomeneus
To drive unto the ships: himself remained
Still sitting in the glorious athlete-ring.
Then Phoenix to the stalwart Argives cried:
"Now to Idomeneus the Gods have given
A fair prize uncontested, free of toil
Of mighty arms and shoulders, honouring
The elder-born with bloodless victory.
But lo, ye younger men, another prize
Awaiteth the swift play of cunning hands.
Step forth then: gladden great Peleides' soul."

He spake, they heard; but each on other looked,
And, loth to essay the contest, all sat still,
Till Neleus' son rebuked those laggard souls:
"Friends, it were shame that men should shun the play
Of clenched hands, who in that noble sport
Have skill, wherein young men delight, which links
Glory to toil. Ah that my thews were strong
As when we held King Pelias' funeral-feast,
I and Acastus, kinsmen joining hands,
When I with godlike Polydeuces stood
In gauntlet-strife, in even-balanced fray,
And when Ancaeus in the wrestlers' ring
Mightier than all beside, yet feared and shrank
From me, and dared not strive with me that day,
For that ere then amidst the Epeian men --
No battle-blenchers they! -- I had vanquished him,
For all his might, and dashed him to the dust
By dead Amaryncus' tomb, and thousands round
Sat marvelling at my prowess and my strength.
Therefore against me not a second time
Raised he his hands, strong wrestler though he were;
And so I won an uncontested prize.
But now old age is on me, and many griefs.
Therefore I bid you, whom it well beseems,
To win the prize; for glory crowns the youth
Who bears away the meed of athlete-strife."

Stirred by his gallant chiding, a brave man
Rose, son of haughty godlike Panopeus,
The man who framed the Horse, the bane of Troy,
Not long thereafter. None dared meet him now
In play of fists, albeit in deadly craft
Of war, when Ares rusheth through the field,
He was not cunning. But for strife of hands
The fair prize uncontested had been won
By stout Epeius -- yea, he was at point
To bear it thence unto the Achaean ships;
But one strode forth to meet him, Theseus' son,
The spearman Acamas, the mighty of heart,
Bearing already on his swift hands girt
The hard hide-gauntlets, which Evenor's son
Agelaus on his prince's hands had drawn
With courage-kindling words. The comrades then
Of Panopeus' princely son for Epeius raised
A heartening cheer. He like a lion stood
Forth in the midst, his strong hands gauntleted
With bull's hide hard as horn. Loud rang the cheers
From side to side of that great throng, to fire
The courage of the mighty ones to clash
Hands in the gory play. Sooth, little spur
Needed they for their eagerness for fight.
But, ere they closed, they flashed out proving blows
To wot if still, as theretofore, their arms
Were limber and lithe, unclogged by toil of war;
Then faced each other, and upraised their hands
With ever-watching eyes, and short quick steps
A-tiptoe, and with ever-shifting feet,
Each still eluding other's crushing might.
Then with a rush they closed like thunder-clouds
Hurled on each other by the tempest-blast,
Flashing forth lightnings, while the welkin thrills
As clash the clouds and hollow roar the winds;
So 'neath the hard hide-gauntlets clashed their jaws.
Down streamed the blood, and from their brows the sweat
Blood-streaked made on the flushed cheeks crimson bars.
Fierce without pause they fought, and never flagged
Epeius, but threw all his stormy strength
Into his onrush. Yet did Theseus' son
Never lose heart, but baffled the straight blows
Of those strong hands, and by his fighting-craft
Flinging them right and left, leapt in, brought home
A blow to his eyebrow, cutting to the bone.
Even then with counter-stroke Epeius reached
Acamas' temple, and hurled him to the ground.
Swift he sprang up, and on his stalwart foe
Rushed, smote his head: as he rushed in again,
The other, slightly swerving, sent his left
Clean to his brow; his right, with all his might
Behind it, to his nose. Yet Acamas still
Warded and struck with all the manifold shifts
Of fighting-craft. But now the Achaeans all
Bade stop the fight, though eager still were both
To strive for coveted victory. Then came
Their henchmen, and the gory gauntlets loosed
In haste from those strong hands. Now drew they breath
From that great labour, as they bathed their brows
With sponges myriad-pored. Comrades and friends
With pleading words then drew them face to face,
And prayed, "In friendship straight forget your wrath."
So to their comrades' suasion hearkened they;
For wise men ever bear a placable mind.
They kissed each other, and their hearts forgat
That bitter strife. Then Thetis sable-stoled
Gave to their glad hands two great silver bowls
The which Euneus, Jason's warrior son
In sea-washed Lemnos to Achilles gave
To ransom strong Lycaon from his hands.
These had Hephaestus fashioned for his gift
To glorious Dionysus, when he brought
His bride divine to Olympus, Minos' child
Far-famous, whom in sea-washed Dia's isle
Theseus unwitting left. The Wine-god brimmed
With nectar these, and gave them to his son;
And Thoas at his death to Hypsipyle
With great possessions left them. She bequeathed
The bowls to her godlike son, who gave them up
Unto Achilles for Lycaon's life.
The one the son of lordly Theseus took,
And goodly Epeius sent to his ship with joy
The other. Then their bruises and their scars
Did Podaleirius tend with loving care.
First pressed he out black humours, then his hands
Deftly knit up the gashes: salves he laid
Thereover, given him by his sire of old,
Such as had virtue in one day to heal
The deadliest hurts, yea, seeming-cureless wounds.
Straight was the smart assuaged, and healed the scars
Upon their brows and 'neath their clustering hair

Then for the archery-test Oileus' son
Stood forth with Teucer, they which in the race
Erewhile contended. Far away from these
Agamemnon, lord of spears, set up a helm
Crested with plumes, and spake: "The master-shot
Is that which shears the hair-crest clean away."
Then straightway Aias shot his arrow first,
And smote the helm-ridge: sharply rang the brass.
Then Teucer second with most earnest heed
Shot: the swift shaft hath shorn the plume away.
Loud shouted all the people as they gazed,
And praised him without stint, for still his foot
Halted in pain, yet nowise marred his aim
When with his hands he sped the flying shaft.
Then Peleus' bride gave unto him the arms
Of godlike Troilus, the goodliest
Of all fair sons whom Hecuba had borne
In hallowed Troy; yet of his goodlihead
No joy she had; the prowess and the spear
Of fell Achilles reft his life from him.
As when a gardener with new-whetted scythe
Mows down, ere it may seed, a blade of corn
Or poppy, in a garden dewy-fresh
And blossom-flushed, which by a water-course
Crowdeth its blooms -- mows it ere it may reach
Its goal of bringing offspring to the birth,
And with his scythe-sweep makes its life-work vain
And barren of all issue, nevermore
Now to be fostered by the dews of spring;
So did Peleides cut down Priam's son
The god-like beautiful, the beardless yet
And virgin of a bride, almost a child!
Yet the Destroyer Fate had lured him on
To war, upon the threshold of glad youth,
When youth is bold, and the heart feels no void.

Forthwith a bar of iron massy and long
From the swift-speeding hand did many essay
To hurl; but not an Argive could prevail
To cast that ponderous mass. Aias alone
Sped it from his strong hand, as in the time
Of harvest might a reaper fling from him
A dry oak-bough, when all the fields are parched.
And all men marvelled to behold how far
Flew from his hand the bronze which scarce two men
Hard-straining had uplifted from the ground.
Even this Antaeus' might was wont to hurl
Erstwhile, ere the strong hands of Hercules
O'ermastered him. This, with much spoil beside,
Hercules took, and kept it to make sport
For his invincible hand; but afterward
Gave it to valiant Peleus, who with him
Had smitten fair-towered Ilium's burg renowned;
And he to Achilles gave it, whose swift ships
Bare it to Troy, to put him aye in mind
Of his own father, as with eager will
He fought with stalwart Trojans, and to be
A worthy test wherewith to prove his strength.
Even this did Aias from his brawny hand
Fling far. So then the Nereid gave to him
The glorious arms from godlike Memnon stripped.
Marvelling the Argives gazed on them: they were
A giant's war-gear. Laughing a glad laugh
That man renowned received them: he alone
Could wear them on his brawny limbs; they seemed
As they had even been moulded to his frame.
The great bar thence he bore withal, to be
His joy when he was fain of athlete-toil.

Still sped the contests on; and many rose
Now for the leaping. Far beyond the marks
Of all the rest brave Agapenor sprang:
Loud shouted all for that victorious leap;
And Thetis gave him the fair battle-gear
Of mighty Cycnus, who had smitten first
Protesilaus, then had reft the life
From many more, till Peleus' son slew him
First of the chiefs of grief-enshrouded Troy.

Next, in the javelin-cast Euryalus
Hurled far beyond all rivals, while the folk
Shouted aloud: no archer, so they deemed,
Could speed a winged shaft farther than his cast;
Therefore the Aeacid hero's mother gave
To him a deep wide silver oil-flask, ta'en
By Achilles in possession, when his spear
Slew Mynes, and he spoiled Lyrnessus' wealth.

Then fiery-hearted Aias eagerly
Rose, challenging to strife of hands and feet
The mightiest hero there; but marvelling
They marked his mighty thews, and no man dared
Confront him. Chilling dread had palsied all
Their courage: from their hearts they feared him, lest
His hands invincible should all to-break
His adversary's face, and naught but pain
Be that man's meed. But at the last all men
Made signs to battle-bider Euryalus,
For well they knew him skilled in fighting-craft;
But he too feared that giant, and he cried:
"Friends, any other Achaean, whom ye will,
Blithe will I face; but mighty Alas -- no!
Far doth he overmatch me. He will rend
Mine heart, if in the onset anger rise
Within him: from his hands invincible,
I trow, I should not win to the ships alive."

Loud laughed they all: but glowed with triumph-joy
The heart of Aias. Gleaming talents twain
Of silver he from Thetis' hands received,
His uncontested prize. His stately height
Called to her mind her dear son, and she sighed.

They which had skill in chariot-driving then
Rose at the contest's summons eagerly:
Menelaus first, Eurypylus bold in fight,
Eumelus, Thoas, godlike Polypoetes
Harnessed their steeds, and led them to the cars
All panting for the joy of victory.
Then rode they in a glittering chariot rank
Out to one place, to a stretch of sand, and stood
Ranged at the starting-line. The reins they grasped
In strong hands quickly, while the chariot-steeds
Shoulder to shoulder fretted, all afire
To take the lead at starting, pawed the sand,
Pricked ears, and o'er their frontlets flung the foam.
With sudden-stiffened sinews those ear-lords
Lashed with their whips the tempest-looted steeds;
Then swift as Harpies sprang they forth; they strained
Furiously at the harness, onward whirling
The chariots bounding ever from the earth.
Thou couldst not see a wheel-track, no, nor print
Of hoof upon the sand -- they verily flew.
Up from the plain the dust-clouds to the sky
Soared, like the smoke of burning, or a mist
Rolled round the mountain-forelands by the might
Of the dark South-wind or the West, when wakes
A tempest, when the hill-sides stream with rain.
Burst to the front Eumelus' steeds: behind
Close pressed the team of godlike Thoas: shouts
Still answered shouts that cheered each chariot, while
Onward they swept across the wide-wayed plain.


"From hallowed Elis, when he had achieved
A mighty triumph, in that he outstripped
The swift ear of Oenomaus evil-souled,
The ruthless slayer of youths who sought to wed
His daughter Hippodameia passing-wise.
Yet even he, for all his chariot-lore,
Had no such fleetfoot steeds as Atreus' son --
Far slower! -- the wind is in the feet of these."

So spake he, giving glory to the might
Of those good steeds, and to Atreides' self;
And filled with joy was Menelaus' soul.
Straightway his henchmen from the yoke-band loosed
The panting team, and all those chariot-lords,
Who in the race had striven, now unyoked
Their tempest-footed steeds. Podaleirius then
Hasted to spread salves over all the wounds
Of Thoas and Eurypylus, gashes scored
Upon their frames when from the cars they fell
But Menelaus with exceeding joy
Of victory glowed, when Thetis 1ovely-tressed
Gave him a golden cup, the chief possession
Once of Eetion the godlike; ere
Achilles spoiled the far-famed burg of Thebes.

Then horsemen riding upon horses came
Down to the course: they grasped in hand the whip
And bounding from the earth bestrode their steeds,
The while with foaming mouths the coursers champed
The bits, and pawed the ground, and fretted aye
To dash into the course. Forth from the line
Swiftly they darted, eager for the strife,
Wild as the blasts of roaring Boreas
Or shouting Notus, when with hurricane-swoop
He heaves the wide sea high, when in the east
Uprises the disastrous Altar-star
Bringing calamity to seafarers;
So swift they rushed, spurning with flying feet
The deep dust on the plain. The riders cried
Each to his steed, and ever plied the lash
And shook the reins about the clashing bits.
On strained the horses: from the people rose
A shouting like the roaring of a sea.
On, on across the level plain they flew;
And now the flashing-footed Argive steed
By Sthenelus bestridden, had won the race,
But from the course he swerved, and o'er the plain
Once and again rushed wide; nor Capaneus' son,
Good horseman though he were, could turn him back
By rein or whip, because that steed was strange
Still to the race-course; yet of lineage
Noble was he, for in his veins the blood
Of swift Arion ran, the foal begotten
By the loud-piping West-wind on a Harpy,
The fleetest of all earth-born steeds, whose feet
Could race against his father's swiftest blasts.
Him did the Blessed to Adrastus give:
And from him sprang the steed of Sthenelus,
Which Tydeus' son had given unto his friend
In hallowed Troyland. Filled with confidence
In those swift feet his rider led him forth
Unto the contest of the steeds that day,
Looking his horsemanship should surely win
Renown: yet victory gladdened not his heart
In that great struggle for Achilles' prizes;
Nay, swift albeit he was, the King of Men
By skill outraced him. Shouted all the folk,
"Glory to Agamemnon!" Yet they acclaimed
The steed of valiant Sthenelus and his lord,
For that the fiery flying of his feet
Still won him second place, albeit oft
Wide of the course he swerved. Then Thetis gave
To Atreus' son, while laughed his lips for joy,
God-sprung Polydorus' breastplate silver-wrought.
To Sthenelus Asteropaeus' massy helm,
Two lances, and a taslet strong, she gave.
Yea, and to all the riders who that day
Came at Achilles' funeral-feast to strive
She gave gifts. But the son of the old war-lord,
Laertes, inly grieved to be withheld
From contests of the strong, how fain soe'er,
By that sore wound which Alcon dealt to him
In the grim fight around dead Aeacas' son.

Go to previous     Table of Contents    Go to next
Go to home page
Browse a list of titles
Browse and
Search texts
Buy books and CD-ROMs
Buy Books and
Get help

© 1994-2009