Now as the Dawn flung out
her golden robe across the earth
Zeus who loves the lightning summoned all the gods
to assembly on the topmost peak of ridged Olympus.
He harangued the immortals hanging on his words:
"Hear me, all you gods and all goddesses too,
as I proclaim what the heart inside me urges.
Let no lovely goddess—and no god either—
try to fight against my strict decree.
All submit to it now, so all the more quickly
I can bring this violent business to an end.
And any god I catch, breaking ranks with us,
eager to go and help the Trojans or Achaeans—
back he comes to Olympus, whipped by the lightning,
eternally disgraced. Or I will snatch and hurl him
down to the murk of Tartarus half the world away,
the deepest gulf that yawns beneath the ground,
there where the iron gates and brazen threshold loom,
as far below the House of Death as the sky rides over earth—
then he will know how far my power tops all other gods'
Come, try me, immortals, so all of you can learn.
Hang a great golden cable down from the heavens,
lay hold of it, all you gods, all goddesses too:
you can never drag me down from sky to earth,
not Zeus, the highest, mightiest king of kings,
not even if you worked yourselves to death.
But whenever I'd set my mind to drag you up,
in deadly earnest, I'd hoist you all with ease,
you and the earth, you and the sea, all together,
then loop that golden cable round a horn of Olympus,
bind it fast and leave the whole world dangling in mid-air—
that is how far I tower over the gods, I tower over men."
A stunned silence
seized them all, struck dumb—
Zeus's ringing pronouncements overwhelmed them so.
But finally clear-eyed Athena rose and spoke:
"Our Father, son of Cronus, high and mighty,
we already know your power, far too well . . .
who can stand against you?
Even so, we pity these Argive spearmen
living out their grim fates, dying in blood.
Yes, we'll keep clear of the war as you command.
We'll simply offer the Argives tactics that may save them—
so they won't all fall beneath your blazing wrath."
Zeus who drives the
storm clouds smiled and answered,
"Courage, Athena, third-born of the gods, dear child.
Nothing I said was meant in earnest—trust me,
I mean you all the good will in the world."
he harnessed his bronze-hoofed horses onto his battle-car,
his pair that raced the wind with their golden manes
streaming on behind them, and strapping golden armor
around his body, Zeus himself took up his whip
that coils lithe and gold and climbed aboard.
A crack of the lash—the team plunged to a run
and on the stallions flew, holding nothing back
as they winged between the earth and starry skies
and gaining the slopes of Ida with all her springs,
the mother of wild beasts, they reached Gargaron peak
where the grove of Zeus and Zeus's smoking altar stand.
There the father of men and gods reined in his team,
set them free and around them poured a dense mist.
And Zeus assumed his throne on the mountaintop,
exulting in all his glory, gazing out over
the city walls of Troy and the warships of Achaea.
long-haired Achaeans took their meal
throughout the shelters, then they armed at once.
And on their side the Trojans put on harness too,
mustering throughout the city, a smaller force
but nerved to engage in combat even so--
necessity pressed them to fight for sons and wives.
All the gates flung wide and the Trojan mass surged out,
horses, chariots, men on foot—a tremendous roar went up.
And now as the
armies clashed at one strategic point
they slammed their shields together, pike scraped pike
with the grappling strength of fighters armed in bronze
and their round shields' bosses pounded hide-to-hide
and the thunder of struggle roared and rocked the earth.
Screams of men and cries of triumph breaking in one breath,
fighters killing, fighters killed, and the ground streamed blood.
As long as morning
rose and the blessed day grew stronger,
the weapons hurtled side-to-side and men kept falling.
But once the sun stood striding at high noon,
then Father Zeus held out his sacred golden scales:
in them he placed two fates of death that lays men low—
one for the Trojan horsemen, one for Argives armed in bronze—
and gripping the beam mid-haft the Father raised it high
and down went Achaea's day of doom, Achaea's fate
settling down on the earth that feeds us all
as the fate of Troy went lifting toward the sky.
And Zeus let loose a huge crash of thunder from Ida,
hurling his bolts in a flash against Achaea's armies.
The men looked on in horror. White terror seized them all.
nor Agamemnon dared stand his ground,
nor did the Great and Little Ajax, old campaigners,
Nestor alone held out,
the noble horseman, Achaea's watch and ward,
but not of his own will. One horse was finished,
hit by a shaft that fair-haired Helen's lord,
magnificent Paris winged at its brow's high peak
where the forelock crowns the skull—most fatal spot.
It reared in agony, arrow piercing its brain and flung
the team in panic, writhing round the brazen point
as the old horseman hewed the trace-horse clear,
hacked away the straps—sudden strokes of his sword.
But on came Hector's team in the rush-and-buck of battle,
sweeping their driver Hector on in fighting-fury
and then and there old Nestor would have died
if Diomedes had not marked him fast—
the lord of the war cry gave a harrowing shout,
trying to rouse Odysseus: "Where are you running,
the royal son of Laertes, cool tactician?
Turning your back in battle like some coward!
Cutting and running so-take care that no one
spears you in the back! Hold firm with me—
we'll fight this wild maniac off the old man here!"
Odysseus never heard him—
down he dashed to the hollow Argive ships.
So all on his own Diomedes charged the front,
lurched to a halt before old Nestor's team
and winged a flight of orders at the horseman:
"Old soldier, these young fighters wear you down—
your strength goes slack and old age dogs your steps,
your driver's worthless, your horses drag their weight.
Come, up with you now, climb aboard my chariot!
So you can see the breed of Tros's team, their flair
for their own terrain as they gallop back and forth,
one moment in flight, the next in hot pursuit—
I took them both from Aeneas, driving terrors.
Your own good team? Our aides will handle them—
we'll steer these racers straight at the Trojans now,
the great breakers of horses. We'll let Hector see
if the spear in my hand is mad for bloodshed too!"
And the old
charioteer rose to the challenge.
Aides caught his team, Sthenelus, loyal Eurymedon,
as the two commanders boarded Diomedes' car.
Nestor grasped the glistening reins in both fists,
lashed the team and they charged straight at Hector
charging straight at them as Tydides hurled a spear
and missed his man but he picked the driver off,
Eniopeus son of proud Thebaeus gripping the reins—
he slashed him beside the nipple, stabbed his chest
and off the car he pitched, his horses balking, rearing.
There on the spot the man's strength and life collapsed
and blinding grief for his driver overpowered Hector,
stunned for his friend but he left him lying there,
dead, and swept on, out for another hardy driver.
Nor did his team go long without a master,
Hector found one quickly—Iphitus' daring son,
Archeptolemus—mounted him up behind his racers,
thrust the reins in the fighting driver's hands.
Now there would have
been havoc, irreversible chaos,
the Trojans penned in the walls of Troy like sheep,
but the father of men and gods was quick to the mark.
A crash of thunder! Zeus let loose a terrific bolt
and blazing white at the hoofs of Diomedes' team
it split the earth, a blinding smoking flash—
molten sulphur exploding into the air,
stallions shying, cringing against the car—
and the shining reins flew free of Nestor's grip
His heart quaking, he cried to Diomedes, "Quick, Tydides,
swing these stallions round and fly! Can't you see?
Victory comes from Zeus but not for you.
He hands the glory to Hector, today at least—
tomorrow it's ours, if he wants to give us glory.
There's not a man alive who can fight the will of Zeus,
even a man of iron—Zeus is so much stronger!"
But Diomedes lord of
the war cry answered,
"Right, old soldier—all you say is true.
But here's the grief that cuts me to the quick:
one day this Hector will vaunt among his Trojans,
'Diomedes ran for his ships—I drove him back!'
So he'll boast, I know—
let the great earth gape and take me down that day!"
But the noble
horseman Nestor shouted back,
"Nonsense, steady Tydeus' son—such loose talkl
Let Hector call you a coward, scorn your courage--
the Trojan and Dardan troops will never believe him,
nor will the wives of the lusty Trojan shieldsmen, never—
you flung their lords in the dust, laid them low in their prime!"
And with that he
swung their racers round, mid-flight,
back again to the rout-Trojans and Hector after them,
shouting their savage cries and pelting both men now
with spears and painful ar ows. Helmet flashing,
rangy Hector hurled a resounding yell: "Diomedes—
once the Danaan riders prized you first of men
with pride of place, choice meats and brimming cups.
Now they will disgrace you, a woman after all.
Away with you, girl, glittering little puppet!
I'll never yield, you'll never mount our towers,
never drag our women back to your ships of war—
I'll pack you off to the god of darkness first!"
and Diomedes was tom two ways-he'd half a mind
to turn the team and take him face-to-face . . .
Three times Tydides was tempted, heart and soul,
three times from the crags of Ida Zeus let loose his thunder,
the Master Strategist handing down a sign to the Trojans—
victory thunder turning the tide of war their way.
And Hector called to his men in a ringing voice,
"Trojans! Lycians! Dardan fighters hand-to-hand—
now be men, my friends, call up your battle-fury!
The Father nods his head in assent, I see, at last
he grants me glory, triumph—the Argives, bloody death.
Fools, erecting their rampart! Flimsy and futile,
not worth a second thought.
They'll never hold me back in my onslaught now,
with a bound my team will leap that trench they dug.
But soon as I reach their hollow ships, torches—
don't forget now, one of you bring me lethal firel
I'll bum their ships, I'll slaughter all their men,
Argive heroes panicked in smoke along their hulls!"
And with that threat
he called out to his horses,
"Golden and Whitefoot, Blaze and Silver Flash!
Now repay me for all the loving care Andromache,
generous Eetion's daughter, showered on you aplenty.
First of the teams she gave you honey-hearted wheat,
she even mixed it with wine for you to drink
when the spirit moved her—before she'd serve me,
though I'm proud to say I am her loving husband.
After them, fast, full gallop! So we can seize
the shield of Nestor—its fame hits the skies,
solid gold, the handgrips and the shield itself—
and strip from the stallion-breaking Diomedes' back
the burnished armor Hephaestus forged with all his skill.
If only we lay our hands on these, I'm filled with hope
they'll take to their racing ships this very night!"
So he gloried but
Queen Hera stirred in outrage,
she shook on her throne and Mount Olympus quaked
as she cried in the face of the rugged god Poseidon,
"You ruthless-the Earth-shaker with all your power—
not even a twinge of pity deep inside your heart
for all these Argives dying! The same fighters
who pile your gifts at Aegae port and Helice,
gifts by the shipload, hoards to warm your heart.
And you used to plan their victory! If only we,
we gods who defend the Argives had the will to hurl
the Trojans back and hold off thundering Zeus—
there he would sit and smolder,
throned in desolate splendor up on Ida."
Deeply shaken, the
god who rocks the earth replied,
"Hera, what wild words! What are you saying?
I for one have no desire to battle Zeus,
not you and I and the rest of the gods together.
The King is far too strong—he'll crush us all."
So they harangued
each other to a standstill.
But as for Achaea's forces, all the ground
that the broad trench enclosed from ships to wall
was crammed with chariots, teams and men in armor
packed into close quarters, yes, and the one man
who packed them there, a match for rushing Ares,
Hector the son of Priam, now Zeus gave Hector glory.
And now he might have gutted the ships with fire,
blazing fire—but Queen Hera impelled Agamemnon,
out on the run already, to go and rouse his men.
He made his way through Achaea's ships and shelters,
flaring his great crimson cape with a strong hand
and stopped at Odysseus' huge black-bellied hull,
moored mid-line so a shout could reach both wings,
upshore to Telamonian Ajax' camp or down to Achilles'—
trusting so to their arms' power and battle-strength
they'd hauled their trim ships up on either flank.
Agamemnon's cry went piercing through the army:
"Shame! Disgrace! You Argives, you degraded—
splendid in battle dress, pure sham!
Where have the fighting taunts all gone? That time
you vaunted you were the finest force on earth--
all that empty bluster you let fly at Lemnos,
gorging yourselves on longhorn cattle meat
and drunk to the full on brimming bowls of wine,
bragging how each man could stand up to a hundred,
no, two hundred Trojan fighters in pitched battle.
Now our whole army is no match for one, for Hector--
he'll gut our ships with blazing fire at any moment!
Father Zeus, when did you ever strike a mighty king
with such mad blindness—then tear away his glory?
I swear, did I pass some handsome shrine of yours,
sailing my oar-swept ship on our fatal voyage here,
but on each I burned the fat and thighs of oxen,
longing to raze Troy's sturdy walls to the roots.
So, Father, at least fulfill this prayer for me:
let the men escape with their lives if nothing else—
don't let these Trojans mow us down in droves!"
So he prayed
and the Father filled with pity, seeing Atrides weep.
The god bent his head that the armies must be saved,
not die in blood. That instant he launched an eagle
truest of Zeus's signs that fly the skies-a fawn
clutched in its talons, sprung of a running doe,
but he dropped it free beside the handsome shrine
where Achaean soldiers always sacrificed to Zeus
whose voice rings clear with omens. Seeing the eagle
sent their way from Zeus, they roused their war-lust,
flung themselves on the Trojans with a vengeance.
massed in formation as they were, not a single man
could claim he outstripped Diomedes, Tydeus' son
lashing his high-strung team across the trench
to reach the front and battle hand-to-hand--
the first by far to kill a Trojan captain,
Agelaus the son of Phradmon. He'd just turned
his chariot round in flight and once he'd swerved
Diomedes' spear went punching through his back,
gouging his shoulder blade and driving through his chest—
he spilled from the chariot, armor clanging against him.
Diomedes plowed on
and after him came the Atridae,
Agamemnon and Menelaus, following in their wake
the Great and Little Ajax armed in fury,
Idomeneus after them and Idomeneus' good aide,
Meriones, a match for the butcher god of war,
Eurypylus after them, Euaemon's gallant son,
and Teucer came up ninth, tensing his reflex bow
and lurking under the wall of giant Ajax' shield.
As Ajax raised the rim, the archer would mark a target,
shoot through the lines—the man he hit dropped dead
on the spot—and quick as a youngster ducking under
his mother's skirts he'd duck under Ajax' shield
and the gleaming shield would hide him head to toe.
Who was the first
Trojan the marksman Teucer hit?
Orsilochus first, then Ormenus, Ophelestes,
Daetor and Chromius, princely Lycophontes,
Polyaemon's son Amopaon and Melanippus too—
corpse on corpse he dropped to the earth that rears us all.
And King Agamemnon, thrilled at the sight of Teucer
whipping arrows off his bow, reaping the Trojan ranks,
strode up and sang his praises: "Teucer, lovely soldier,
Telamon's son, pride of the armies—now you're shooting!
You'll bring a ray of hope to your men, your father too.
He raised you when you were little, a bastard boy,
no matter—Telamon tended you in his own house.
Far off as he is, you'll set him up in glory.
I tell you this, so help me it's the truth:
if Zeus with his storm-shield and Queen Athena
ever let me plunder the strong walls of Troy,
you are the first, the first after myself—
I'll place some gift of honor in your hands,
a tripod, or purebred team with their own car
or a fine woman to mount and share your bed."
And Teucer gave his
captain a faultless answer:
"Great field marshal, why bother to spur me on?
I go all-out as it is.
With all the power in me I've never quit,
not from the time we rolled them back to Troy.
I've stalked with my bow and picked them off in packs.
Eight arrows I've let fly, with long sharp barbs,
and all stuck in the flesh of soldiers quick to fight—
but I still can't bring this mad dog Hector down!"
The archer loosed a
fresh shaft from the bowstring
straight for Hector, his spirit longing to hit him—
but he missed and cut Gorgythion down instead,
a well-bred son of Priam, a handsome prince,
and the arrow pierced his chest, Gorgythion
whom Priam's bride from Aesyme bore one day,
lovely Castianira lithe as a deathless goddess . . .
As a garden poppy, burst into red bloom, bends,
drooping its head to one side, weighed down
by its full seeds and a sudden spring shower,
so Gorgythion's head fell limp over one shoulder,
weighed down by his helmet.
Quick with another
the archer let fly from his bowstring straight for Hector,
his spirit straining to hit him—shot and missed again
as Apollo skewed his shaft—
but he leveled Archeptolemus, Hector's daring driver
charging headlong, caught him square in the chest
beside the nipple and off his car he pitched
as his horses balked, rearing, pawing the air.
There on the spot his strength and life collapsed
and blinding grief for the driver overpowered Hector,
stunned for his friend but he left him lying there
and cried out to his brother Cebriones close by,
"Take the reins!" Cebriones rushed to obey—
but Hector leapt down from the burnished car,
he hit the earth with a yell, seized a rock
and went for Teucer, mad to strike the archer
just plucking a bitter arrow from his quiver,
notching it on the string and drawing back the bow
to his right shoulder, when Hector, helmet flashing,
caught him where the collarbone bridges neck and chest,
the deadliest spot of all. There Hector struck,
hurling the jagged rock at Teucer drawing in fury—
snapped the string and his hand went numb at the wrist,
he dropped to a knee, dazed . . . the bow slipped from his grip.
But giant Ajax would never fail his fallen brother—
he ran to straddle and hide him with his shield
as a brace of comrades shouldered up the fighter:
Echius' son Mecisteus helping good Alastor
bore him back to the hollow warships, groaning hard.
And again the
Olympian Father fired up the Trojans
ramming Argives back against their own deep trench.
Hector far in the lead, bristling in all his force
like a hound that harries a wild boar or lion—
hot pursuit, snapping quick at his heels,
hindquarters and flanks but still on alert
for him to wheel and fight—so Hector harried
the long-haired Argives, killing the last stragglers,
man after lagging man and they, they fled in panic.
Back through stakes and across the trench they fled,
and hordes were cut down at the Trojans' hands-the rest,
only after they reached the shipways, stood fast
and shouting out to each other, flung their arms
to all the immortals, each man crying out a prayer.
But Hector swerved his horses round at the trench's edge,
wheeling back and forth, tossing their gorgeous manes,
with Hector's eyes glaring bright as a Gorgon's eyes
or Ares', man-destroying Ares'.
A total rout—
and white-armed Hera saw it, and filled with pity
the goddess' words went winging toward Athena:
"Look, daughter of Zeus whose shield is thunder—
don't we care for them any longer? All our Argives
dying there in droves! This is our last chance.
They're filling out their fates to the last gasp,
hacked to pieces under a single man's assault.
This maniac, Hector—I cannot bear him any longer.
Look at the savage slaughter he has made!"
Athena answered, "Let him die a thousand deaths!—
Hector's life and his battle-frenzy blotted out
by the Argives here on Hector's native soil.
But Father rages now, that hard black heart,
always the old outrage, dashing all my plans!
Not a thought for the many times I saved his son
Heracles, worked to death by the labors of Eurystheus.
How he would whine to the high skies-till Father Zeus
would rush me down from the clouds to save his life.
If only I'd foreseen all this, I and my cunning—
that day Eurystheus sent him down to Death,
to the lord who guards the gates, to drag up
from the dark world the hound of grisly Death—
he would never have fled the steep cascading Styx.
But Zeus hates me now. He fulfills the plans of Thetis
who cupped his chin in her hand and kissed his knees,
begging Zeus to exalt Achilles scourge of cities.
But the day will come when Father, well I know,
calls me his darling gray-eyed girl again.
So now you harness the racing team for us
while I go into the halls of storming Zeus
and buckle on my gear and arm for combat.
Now I'll see if Hector, for all his flashing helmet,
leaps for joy when the two of us come blazing forth
on the passageways of battle—or one of his Trojans too
will glut the dogs and birds with his fat and flesh,
brought down in blood against the Argive ships!"
goddess Hera could not resist.
Hera queen of the gods, daughter of giant Cronus
launched the work, harnessed the golden-bridled team
while Athena, child of Zeus whose shield is thunder,
letting fall her supple robe at the Father's threshold—
rich brocade, stitched with her own hands' labor—
donned the battle-shirt of the lord of lightning,
buckled her breastplate geared for wrenching war.
Then onto the flaming chariot Pallas set her feet
and seized her spear—weighted, heavy, the massive shaft
she wields to break the battle lines of heroes
the mighty Father's daughter storms against.
A crack of the
the goddess Hera lashed the team, and all on their own force
the gates of heaven thundered open, kept by the Seasons,
guards of the vaulting sky and Olympus heights empowered
to spread the massing clouds or close them round once more,
and straight through the great gates she drove the team.
But as Father Zeus
caught sight of them from Ida
the god broke into a sudden rage and summoned iris
to run a message on with a rush of golden wings:
"Quick on your way now, Iris, shear the wind!
Turn them back, don't let them engage me here.
What an indignity for us to clash in arms.
I tell you this and I will fulfill it too:
I'll maim their racers for them,
right beneath their yokes, and those two goddesses,
I'll hurl them from their chariot, smash their car,
and not once in the course of ten slow wheeling years
will they heal the wounds my lightning bolt rips open.
So that gray-eyed girl of mine may learn what it means
to fight against her Father. But with Hera, though,
I am not so outraged, so irate—it's always her way
to thwart my will, whatever I command."
and Iris ran his message, racing with gale force
away from the peaks of Ida up to steep Olympus
cleft and craggy. There at the outer gates
she met them face-to-face and blocked their path,
sounding Zeus's orders: "Where are you rushing now?
What is this madness blazing in your hearts?
Zeus forbids you to fight for Achaea's armies!
Here is Father's threat—he will fulfill it too:
he'll maim your racers for you,
right beneath their yokes, and you two goddesses,
he'll hurl you from your chariot, smash your car,
and not once in the course of ten slow wheeling years
will you heal the wounds his lightning bolt rips open!
So you, his gray-eyed girl, may learn what it means
to fight against your Father. But with Hera, though,
he is not so outraged, so irate-it's always your way
to thwart his will, whatever Zeus commands. You,
you insolent brazen bitch—you really dare
to shake that monstrous spear in Father's face?"
And Iris racing the
wind went veering past
and Hera turned to Pallas, calling off the conflict:
"Enough. Daughter of Zeus whose shield is thunder,
I cannot let us battle the Father any longer,
not for mortal men . . .
Men—let one of them die, another live,
however their luck may run. Let Zeus decide
the fates of the men of Troy and men of Argos both,
to his deathless heart's content—that is only right."
So she complied and
turned their racers back.
The Seasons loosed the purebred sleek-maned team,
tethered them to their stalls, piled on ambrosia
and leaned the chariot up against the polished walls
that shimmered in the sun. The goddesses themselves
sat down on golden settles, mixing with the immortals,
Athena and Hera's hearts within them dashed.
At the same
Zeus the Father whipped his team and hurtling chariot
straight from Ida to Mount Olympus, soon to reach
the sessions of the gods. Quick at Zeus's side
the famous lord of earthquakes freed the team,
canted the battle-chariot firmly on its base
and wrapped it well with a heavy canvas shroud.
Thundering Zeus himself assumed his golden throne
as the massive range of Olympus shook beneath his feet.
Those two alone, Athena and Hera, sat apart from Zeus—
not a word would they send his way, not a question.
But the Father knew their feelings deep within his heart
and mocked them harshly: "Why so crushed, Athena, Hera?
Not overly tired, I trust, from all your efforts
there in glorious battle, slaughtering Trojans,
the men you break with all your deathless rage.
But I with my courage, my hands, never conquered--
for all their force not all the gods on Olympus heights
could ever turn me back. Ah but the two of you—
long ago the trembling shook your glistening limbs
before you could glimpse the horrid works of war.
I tell you this, and it would have come to pass:
once my lightning had blasted you in your chariot,
you could never have returned to Mount Olympus
where the immortals make their home."
So he mocked
as Athena and Queen Hera muttered between themselves,
huddled together, plotting Troy's destruction.
True, Athena held her peace and said nothing . . .
smoldering at the Father, seized with wild resentment.
But Hera could hold the anger in her breast no longer,
suddenly bursting out, "Dread majesty, son of Cronus,
what are you saying? We already know your power,
far too well . . . who can stand against you?
Even so, we pity these Argive spearmen
living out their grim fates, dying in blood.
Yes, we'll keep clear of the war as you command.
We'll simply offer the Argives tactics that may save them--
so they won't all fall beneath your blazing wrath."
And Zeus who
marshals the thunderheads replied,
"Tomorrow at dawn's your chance, my ox-eyed queen.
Look down then, if you have the taste for it, Hera,
and you will see the towering son of Cronus killing
still more hordes, whole armies of Argive soldiers.
This powerful Hector will never quit the fighting,
not till swift Achilles rises beside the ships
that day they battle against the high stems,
pinned in the fatal straits
and grappling for the body of Patroclus.
So runs the doom of Zeus.
You and your anger—
rage away! I care nothing for that. Not even
if you go plunging down to the pit of earth and sea
where Cronus and Iapetus make their beds of pain,
where not a ray of the Sun can warm their hearts,
not a breeze, the depths of Tartarus wall them round.
Not if you ventured down as far as the black abyss Itself—
I care nothing for you, you and your snarling anger,
none in the world a meaner bitch than you."
So he erupted
but the white-armed goddess Hera answered not a word . . .
Now down in the Ocean sank the fiery light of day,
drawing the dark night across the grain-giving earth.
For the men of Troy the day went down against their will
but not the Argives—what a blessing, how they prayed
for the nightfall coming on across their lines.
But again, still
bent on glory, Hector mustered
his Trojan cohorts, pulled them back from the ships
toward the river rapids, to wide open ground
where they found a sector free and clear of corpses.
They swung down from their chariots onto earth
to hear what Hector dear to Zeus commanded now.
He clutched a thrusting-lance eleven forearms long;
the bronze tip of the weapon shone before him,
ringed with a golden hoop to grip the shaft.
Leaning on this, the prince addressed his men:
"Hear me, Trojans, Dardans, all our loyal allies!
I had hoped by now, once we destroyed them all—
all the Achaeans and all their hollow ships—
we might turn home to the windy heights of Troy.
But night came on too soon. That's what saved them,
that alone, they and their ships along the churning surf.
Very well then, let us give way to the dark night,
set out our supper, unyoke our full-maned teams
and pile the fodder down before their hoofs.
Drive cattle out of the city, fat sheep too,
quickly, bring on rations of honeyed, mellow wine
and bread from the halls, and heap the firewood high.
Then all night long till the breaking light of day
we keep the watch fires blazing, hundreds of fires
and the rising glare can leap and hit the skies,
so the long-haired Achaeans stand no chance tonight
to cut and run on the sea's broad back. Never,
not without a struggle, not at their royal ease
are they going to board those ships! No, no,
let every last man of them lick his wounds—
a memento at home—pierced by arrow or spear
as he vaults aboard his decks. So the next fool
will cringe at the thought of mounting hateful war
against our stallion-breaking Trojans.
dear to Zeus cry out through the streets of Troy
that boys in their prime and old gray-headed men
must take up posts on the towers built by the gods,
in bivouac round the city. And as for our wives,
each in her own hall must set big fires burning.
The night watch too, it must be kept unbroken,
so no night raiders can slip inside the walls
with our armies camped afield.
That's our battle-order,
my iron-hearted Trojans, just as I command.
Let the order I issue now stand firm and clear
and the stirring call to arms I sound tomorrow morning,
my stallion-breaking Trojans!
My hopes are rising now—
I pray to Zeus and the great array of deathless gods
that we will whip the Achaeans howling out of Troy
and drive them off to death, those dogs of war
the deadly fates drove here in their black ships!
So now, for the night, we guard our own positions,
but tomorrow at daybreak, armed to the hilt for battle,
waken slashing war against their hollow hulls.
I'll soon see if the mighty Diomedes rams me
back from the ships and back against our walls
or I kill him with bronze and strip his bloody armor!
Tomorrow Tydeus' son will learn his own strength--
if he has the spine to stand the onrush of my spear.
In the front ranks he'll sprawl, I think, torn open,
a rout of his comrades down around their captain
just as the sun goes rising into dawn. If only
I were as sure of immortality, ageless all my days—
and I were prized as they prize Athena and Apollo—
as surely as this day will bring the Argives death!"
So Hector urged his
armies. The Trojans roared assent.
The fighters loosed their sweating teams from the yokes,
tethered them by the reins, each at his own chariot.
They herded' cattle out of the city, fat sheep too,
quickly, brought on rations of honeyed, mellow wine
and bread from the halls, heaped the firewood high
and up from the plain the winds swept the smoke,
the sweetness and the savor swirling up the skies.
And so their spirits
as they took positions down the passageways of battle
all night long, and the watchfires blazed among them.
Hundreds strong, as stars in the night sky glittering
round the moon's brilliance blaze in all their glory
when the air falls to a sudden, windless calm . . .
all the lookout peaks stand out and the jutting cliffs
and the steep ravines and down from the high heavens bursts
the boundless, bright air and all the stars shine clear
and the shepherd's heart exults—so many fires burned
between the ships and the Xanthus' whirling rapids
set by the men of Troy, bright against their walls.
A thousand fires were burning there on the plain
and beside each fire sat fifty fighting men
poised in the leaping blaze, and champing oats
and glistening barley, stationed by their chariots,
stallions waited for Dawn to mount her glowing throne.