But the mounting cries
of war could not escape old Nestor,
pausing over his wine. He turned to Asclepius' son
with an urgent, winged word:
"Think, noble Machaon, what shall we do now?
The cries are fiercer-fighters beside the ships!
You sit here, keep drinking the shining wine now,
till well-kempt Hecamede draws you a warm bath,
steaming hot, and washes away that clotted blood.
But I am off to a lookout point to learn the truth."
With that he
seized the well-wrought shield of his son,
Thrasymedes breaker of horses—it lay in a comer,
all glowing bronze, while the boy used his father's.
Gripping a sturdy spear, bronze-edged and sharp,
he no sooner left his tent than stopped at once—
what a grim, degrading piece of work he saw.
Friends routed, enemies harrying friends in panic,
the Trojans riding high—the Argive wall in ruins.
Nestor stood there, stunned.
As a huge ground swell boils up on the open seas,
soundless, foreboding a hurricane's howling onslaught,
rearing but never rolling back or forth . . . all adrift
till one steady, decisive blast comes down from Zeus—
so the old man thrashed things out, tom two ways,
to join his Argives fast with chariot-teams
or go and find Agamemnon lord of armies.
His mind in turmoil, this way seemed the best:
he'd head for Atreus' son. But other soldiers
kept on flailing, cutting each other to pieces,
the tough bronze casing their bodies clanging out,
fighters stabbing with swords, flinging two-edged spears.
And now the royal
kings fell in with Nestor.
Back they came, trailing along the shipways,
all who had taken wounds from the sharp bronze,
Diomedes, Odysseus, and Atreus' son Agamemnon.
Their ships were drawn up far away from the fighting,
moored in a group along the gray churning surf—
first ships ashore they'd hauled up on the plain
then built a defense to landward off their stems.
Not even the stretch of beach, broad as it was,
could offer berths to all that massed armada,
troops were crammed in a narrow strip of coast.
So they had hauled their vessels inland, row on row,
while the whole shoreline filled and the bay's gaping mouth
enclosed by the jaws of the two jutting headlands.
Now up they came for a better view of the battle,
a slow file of kings, leaning on their spears,
hearts in their chests weighed down with anguish—
and the sight of the old horseman coming toward them
struck them all with a sharper, sense of dread.
The king of men Agamemnon hailed him quickly:
"Nestor, son of Neleus, great pride of Achaea,
why turn your back on the lines where men are dying?
Why come back here to shore? I'm filled with fear
that breakneck Hector will bring his word to pass—
the threat he hurled against me once in a Trojan muster
that he would never leave our ships and return to Troy
till he'd torched our hulls and slaughtered all our men.
That was the prince's threat . . .
and now, look, by god, it all comes to pass!
How shameful—and now the rest of our men-at-arms
must harbor anger against me deep inside their hearts,
just like Achilles. And they have no stomach left
to fight to the end against the warships' stems."
The noble old
horseman could only bear him out:
"True, too true. A disaster's right upon us.
Not even thundering Zeus himself could turn the tide.
The rampart's down, there, the great wall we trusted,
our impregnable shield for the ships and men themselves.
The enemy storms down on the rolling hulls nonstop,
desperate, life or death. Hard as you scan the lines,
there's no more telling from which side we're harried—
carnage left and right. Death-cries hit the skies!
Put heads together—what shall we do now?—
if strategy's any use. Struggle's clearly not.
The last thing I'd urge is to throw ourselves into battle.
How on earth can a wounded man make war?"
So the lord of
men Agamemnon staged the action:
"Since they are fighting against the stems, old friend,
and the wall we built is useless, the trench a waste
where our Argive forces took such heavy losses .
always hoping against hope it was indestructible,
our impregnable shield for ships and men themselves—
so it must please the Father's overweening heart
to kill the Achaeans here, our memory blotted out
a world away from Argos! I knew it then,
even when Zeus defended us with all his might,
and I know it now, when he glorifies these Trojans—
He lifts them high as the blessed deathless gods
but ties our hands and lames our fighting spirit.
So come, follow my orders. All obey me now.
All vessels beached on the front along the shore—
haul them- down and row them out on the bright sea,
ride them over the anchor-stones in the offshore swell
till the bracing godsent night comes down and then,
if the Trojans will. refrain from war at night,
we haul down all the rest. No shame in running,
fleeing disaster, even in pitch darkness.
Better to flee from death than feel its grip."
With a dark
glance the shrewd tactician. Odysseus
wheeled on his commander: "What's this, Atrides,
this talk that slips from your clenched teeth?
You are the disaster.
Would to god you commanded another army,
a ragtag crew of cowards, instead of ruling us,
the men whom Zeus decrees, from youth to old age,
must wind down our brutal wars to the bitter end
until we drop and die, down to the last man.
So this is how you'd bid farewell to Troy,
yearning to kiss her broad streets good-bye—
Troy that cost our comrades so much grief?
What if one of the men gets wind of your brave plan?
No one should ever let such nonsense pass his lips,
no one with any skill in fit and proper speech—
and least of all yourself, a sceptered king.
Full battalions hang on your words, Agamemnon—
look at the countless loyal fighters you command!
Now where's your sense? You fill me with contempt—
what are you saying? With the forces poised to clash
you tell us to haul our oar-swept vessels out to sea?
Just so one more glory can crown these Trojans—
god help us, they have beaten us already—
and the scales of headlong death can drag us down.
Achaean troops will never hold the line, I tell you,
not while the long ships are being hauled to sea.
They'll look left and right-where can they run?—
and fling their lust for battle to the winds. Then,
commander of armies, your plan will kill us all!"
At that the king
of men Agamemnon backed down:
"A painful charge, Odysseus, straight to the heart.
I am hardly the man to order men, against their will,
to haul the oar-swept vessels out to sea. So now,
whoever can find a better plan, let him speak up,
young soldier or old. I would be pleased to hear him."
lord of the war cry stepped forward,
"Here is your man. Right here, not far to seek.
If you'll only hear me out and take my lead,
not glare at me in resentment, each of you,
since I am the youngest-born in all our ranks.
I too have a noble birth to boast-my father,
Tydeus, mounded over now by the earth of Thebes.
Three brave sons were bom of the loins of Portheus:
they made their homes in Pleuron and craggy Calydon,
Agrius first, then Melas, the horseman Oeneus third,
my father's father, the bravest of them all.
There Oeneus stayed, on his own native soil,
but father wandered far, driven to live in Argos . . .
by the will of Zeus, I suppose, and other deathless gods.
He married one of Adrastus' daughters, settled down
in a fine wealthy house, with plenty of grainland
ringed with row on row of blooming orchards
and pastures full of sheep, his own herds.
And he excelled all Argives with his spear—
you must have heard the story, know it's true.
So you cannot challenge my birth as low, cowardly,
or spurn the advice I give, if the plan is really sound.
I say go back to the fighting, wounded as we are—
we must, we have no choice. But once at the front,
hold off from the spear-play, out of range ourselves
since who of us wants to double wounds on wounds?
But we can spur the rest of them into battle,
all who had nursed some private grudge before,
kept to the rear and shunned the grueling forays."
listened closely and fell in line,
moving out, and marshal Agamemnon led them on.
But the famous
god of earthquakes was not blind.
No, Poseidon kept his watch and down he came
to the file of kings like an old veteran now,
he tugged at the right hand of Atreus' son
and sent his message flying: "Agamemnon—
now, by heaven, Achilles' murderous spirit
must be leaping in his chest, filled with joy
to behold his comrades slain and routed in their blood.
That man has got no heart in him, not a pulsebeat.
So let him die, outright—let a god wipe him out!
But with you the blessed gods are not enraged,
not through and through, Agamemnon . . .
A day will come when the Trojan lords and captains
send an immense dust storm swirling down the plain—
with your own eyes you'll see them break for Troy,
leaving -your ships and shelters free and clear!"
cry, and he surged across the plain,
thundering loud as nine, ten thousand combat soldiers
shriek with Ares' fury when massive armies clash-so huge
that voice the god of the earthquake let loose from his lungs,
planting enormous martial power in each Achaean's heart
to urge the battle on, to fight and never flinch.
Now Hera poised
on her golden throne looked down,
stationed high at her post aloft Olympus' peak.
At once she saw the sea lord blustering strong
in the war where men win glory, her own brother
and husband's brother too, and her heart raced with joy.
But then she saw great Zeus at rest on the ridge
and the craggy heights of Ida gushing cold springs
and her heart filled with loathing. What could she do?—
Queen Hera wondered, her eyes glowing wide . . .
how could she outmaneuver Zeus the mastermind,
this Zeus with his battle-shield of storm and thunder?
At last one strategy struck her mind as best:
she would dress in all her glory and go to Ida—
perhaps the old desire would overwhelm the king
to lie by her naked body and make immortal love
and she might drift an oblivious, soft warm sleep
across his eyes and numb that seething brain.
So off she went to her room,
the chamber her loving son Hephaestus built her,
hanging the doors from doorposts snug and tight,
locked with a secret bolt no other god could draw.
She slipped in, closing the polished doors behind her.
The ambrosia first..Hera cleansed her enticing body
of any blemish, then she applied a deep olive rub,
the breath-taking, redolent oil she kept beside her . . .
one stir of the scent in the bronze-floored halls of Zeus
and a perfumed cloud would drift from heaven down to earth.
Kneading her skin with this to a soft glow and combing her hair,
she twisted her braids with expert hands, and sleek, luxurious,
shining down from her deathless head they fell, cascading.
Then round her shoulders she swirled the wondrous robes
that Athena wove her, brushed out to a high gloss
and worked into the weft an elegant rose brocade.
She pinned them across her breasts with a golden brooch
then sashed her waist with a waistband
floating a hundred tassels, and into her earlobes,
neatly pierced, she quickly looped her earrings,
ripe mulberry-clusters dangling in triple drops
and the silver glints they cast could catch the heart.
Then back over her brow she draped her headdress,
fine fresh veils for Hera the queen of gods,
their pale, glimmering sheen like a rising sun,
and under her smooth feet she fastened supple sandals.
Now, dazzling in all her rich regalia, head to foot,
out of her rooms she strode and beckoned Aphrodite
away from the other gods and whispered, "Dear child,
would you do me a favor . . . whatever I might ask?
Or would you refuse me, always fuming against me
because I defend the Argives, you the Trojans?"
daughter of Zeus replied at once,
"Hera, queen of the skies, daughter of mighty Cronus,
tell me what's on your mind. I am eager to do it—
whatever I can do . . . whatever can be done."
treachery noble Hera answered,
"Give me Love, give me Longing now, the powers
you use to overwhelm all gods and mortal men!
I am off to the ends of the fruitful, teeming earth
to visit Ocean, fountainhead of the gods, and Mother Tethys
who nourished me in their halls and reared me well.
They received me from Rhea, when thundering Zeus
drove Cronus under the earth and the barren salt sea.
I go to visit them and dissolve their endless feud—
how long they have held back from each other now,
from making love, since anger struck their hearts.
But if words of mine could lure them back to love,
back to bed, to lock in each other's arms once more . . .
they would call me their honored, loving friend forever."
smiling her everlasting smile, replied,
"Impossible—worse, it's wrong to deny your warm request,
since you are the one who lies in the arms of mighty Zeus."
With that she
loosed from her breasts the breastband,
pierced and alluring, with every kind of enchantment
woven through it . . . There is the heat of Love,
the pulsing rush of Longing, the lover's whisper,
irresistible—magic to make the sanest man go mad.
And thrusting it into Hera's outstretched hands
she breathed her name in a throbbing, rising voice:
"Here now, take this band, put it between your breasts—
ravishing openwork, and the world lies in its weaving!
You won't return, I know, your mission unfulfilled,
whatever your eager heart desires to do."
Hera broke into
smiles now, her eyes wide—
with a smile she tucked the band between her breasts.
And Aphrodite the
daughter of Zeus went home
but Hera sped in a flash from Mount Olympus' peak
and crossing Pieria's coast and lovely Emathia
rushed on, over the Thracian riders' snowy ridges,
sweeping the highest summits, feet never touching the earth
and east of Athos skimmed the billowing, foaming sea
and touched down on Lemnos, imperial Thoas' city.
There she fell in with Sleep, twin brother of Death,
clung to his hand and urged him, called his name:
"Sleep, master of all gods and all mortal men,
if you ever listened to me in the old days,
do what I ask you now—
and you shall have my everlasting thanks.
Put Zeus to sleep for me! Seal his shining eyes
as soon as I've gone to bed with, him, locked in love,
and I will give you gifts-a magnificent throne,
never tarnished, always glittering, solid gold.
My own son Hephaestus, the burly crippled Smith
will forge it finely and under it slide a stool
where you can prop your glistening feet and rest,
stretching out at feasts."
And the voice of Sleep
the soft and soothing drifted back . . . "Hera, Hera,
queen of the gods and daughter of mighty Cronus—
any other immortal god who lives forever,
believe me, I would put to sleep in a wink,
even the rolling tides of the great Ocean River,
the fountainhead that brought them all to birth.
But Zeus? Not I—I would not get too close
to the son of Cronus, much less put him under,
not unless the Father gave the command himself.
A commission of yours taught me my lesson once,
the day that Heracles, the insolent son of Zeus
sailed out from Troy, having razed her to the ground.
And then I put the brain of thundering Zeus to sleep,
pouring myself in a soft, soothing slumber round him.
But you and your anger! You were bent on.trouble,
whipping a howling killer-squall across the sea,
bearing Heracles off to the crowded town of Cos,
far from all his friends. But Zeus woke up,
furious, flinging immortal gods about his house
to hunt for me—I was the culprit, the worst of all—
and out of the skies he would have sunk me in the sea,
wiped me from sight, if the Night had failed to save me,
old Night that can overpower all gods and mortal men.
I reached her in flight and Father called it quits
despite his towering anger. True, Zeus shrank
from doing a thing to outrage rushing Night.
But now you are back, Hera—
you ask me to do the impossible once again."
noble Hera coaxed him further:
"So troubled, Sleep, why torture yourself with that?
You think that thundering Zeus, shielding the men of Troy,
will rage as he raged for great Heracles, his own son?
Come now, I will give you one of the younger Graces—
Wed her at once and she'll be called your wife."
it!"—Sleep cried, thrilled by the offer—
"Swear to me by the incorruptible tides of Styx,
one hand grasping the earth that feeds mankind,
the other the bright sea, that all may be our witness,
all gods under earth that gather round King Cronus!
Swear you will give me one of the younger Graces,
Pasithea, she's the one—
all my days I've tossed and turned for her!"
The white-armed goddess Hera complied at once.
She swore as he urged and sounded out the names
of all the gods in the Tartarean Pit we call the Titans.
As soon as she'd sworn and sealed her binding oath,
away they launched from Imbros' walls and Lemnos,
swathed in a thick mist and nimbly made their way
until they reached Mount Ida with all her springs,
the mother of wild beasts, and making Lectos headland,
left the sea for the first time and swept over dry land
as the treetops swayed and shook beneath their feet.
There Sleep came to a halt—
before the eyes of the Father could detect him—
and climbed up softly into a towering pine tree.
The tallest trunk there was on the heights of Ida,
it pierced the low-hung mist and shot up through the sky.
There he nestled,, hidden deep in the needling boughs,
for all the world like the bird with a shrill cry,
the mountain bird the immortals call Bronze Throat
and mortals call the Nighthawk.
But not Hera—
quick on her feet she scaled Gargaron peak,
the highest crest of Ida. And Zeus spotted her now,
Zeus who gathers the breasting clouds. And at one glance
the lust came swirling over him, making his heart race,
fast as the first time—all unknown to their parents—
they rolled in bed, they locked and surged in love.
He rose before her now, he savored her name:
"Hera—where are you rushing?
What wild desire brings you here from Olympus?
Where are the team and car you always ride?"
And filled with
guile the noble Hera answered,
"I am off to the ends of the fruitful, teeming earth
to visit Ocean, fountainhead of the gods, and Mother Tethys
who nourished me in their halls and reared me well . . .
I go to visit them and dissolve their endless feud—
how long they have held back from each other now,
from making love, since anger struck their hearts.
My team stands at the foot of Ida with all her springs,
they wait to bear me over the good dry land and sea.
But now it is you, you I have come to visit, Zeus—
speeding here from the heights of Mount Olympus,
afraid you'll flare in anger against me later
if I should go in secret toward the halls
of the deep, flowing Ocean."
"Why hurry, Hera?"—
Zeus who gathers the breasting clouds replied,
"that is a journey you can make tomorrow. Now—
come, let's go to bed, let's lose ourselves in love!
Never has such a lust for goddess or mortal woman
flooded my pounding heart and overwhelmed me so.
Not even then, when I made love to Ixion's wife
who bore me Pirithous, rival to all the gods in wisdom . . .
not when I loved Acrisius' daughter Danae—marvelous ankles—
and Perseus sprang to life and excelled all men alive . . .
not when I stormed Europa, far-famed Phoenix' daughter
who bore me Minos and Rhadamanthys grand as gods . . .
not even Semele, not even Alcmena queen of Thebes
who bore me a son, that lionheart, that Heracles,
and Semele bore Dionysus, ecstasy, joy to mankind—
not when I loved Demeter, queen of the lustrous braids—
not when I bedded Leto ripe for glory—
Not even you!
That was nothing to how I hunger for you now—
irresistible longing lays me low!"
treachery noble Hera led him on:
"Dread majesty, son of Cronus, what are you saying?
You are eager for bed now, burning to make love,
here on Ida's heights for all the world to see?
What if one of the deathless gods observes us,
sleeping together, yes—
and runs off to the rest and points us out to all?
I have no desire to rise from a bed like that
and steal back home to your own high halls—
think of the shocking scandal there would be!
But if you're on fire, overflowing with passion,
there's always your own bedroom. Hephaestus built it,
your own dear son, and the doors fit snug and tight . . .
There we can go to bed at once—since love is now your pleasure!"
And Zeus who
gathers the breasting clouds assured her,
"Hera—nothing to fear, no god or man will see us—
I will wrap us round in a golden cloud so dense
not even the Sun's rays, the sharpest eyes in the world,
will pierce the mist and glimpse us making love!"
With that the
son of Cronus caught his wife in his arms
and under them now the holy earth burst with fresh green grass,
crocus and hyacinth, clover soaked with dew, so thick and soft
it lifted their bodies off the hard, packed ground . . .
Folded deep in that bed they lay and round them wrapped
a marvelous cloud of gold, and glistening showers of dew
rained down around them both.
And, so, deep
the Father slept on Gargaron peak, conquered by Sleep
and strong assaults of Love, his wife locked in his arms.
Soothing Sleep went rushing off to the ships at once,
running a message to Poseidon. Approaching the god
who shakes the earth, Sleep sent a winged urging:
"Fight for the Argives now with all your might!
Now give them glory, if only a moment's glory—
long as Zeus still slumbers. I've covered him over,
sent him into a deep, soothing sleep as soon as Hera
seduced great Zeus to lose himself in love."
Sleep went drifting off to the famous tribes of men,
stirring Poseidon even more to defend the Argives.
He suddenly sprang forward, into the front ranks,
the god's voice rippling strong: "Again, you Argives?
You're handing victory over to Hector, Priam's son,
so he can seize the ships and reap the glory?
That's his hope, his prayer, thanks to Achilles,
ironbound by the ships and filled with anger still.
But Achilles won't be missed so sorely, not a bit,
if the rest of us can rouse and defend each other.
So come, follow my orders. All obey me now.
Gear up with the best and biggest shields in camp
and encase our heads in helmets, burnished, fire-bright
and take in hand the longest javelins we can find—
then in for attack! And I, I will lead the way
and the son of Priam won't stand up against us,
not for long, I tell you, not for all his fury.
Let any rugged fighter who shoulders a small buckler
pass it on to a weaker man—put on the bigger shield.
The men hung on his words and they obeyed at once.
And the kings themselves, overcoming their wounds,
arrayed them all in proper battle-order.
Diomedes, Odysseus, Atreus' son Agamemnon
ranged the ranks, made them exchange their armor.
The best men donned the best, the worst the worst
and soon as they strapped the bronze around their bodies,
out they moved and the god of earthquakes led them on,
grasping his terrible long sword in his massive hand,
the grip of power, the blade like a lightning flash.
There is no way in the world a man can meet its edge
and still survive the slashing—fear holds all men back.
But over against them glorious Hector ranged his Trojans . . .
and now they stretched the line of battle strangling tight,
the blue-haired god of the sea and Hector fired in arms,
he driving the Trojans, the god driving the Argives—
and a wild surf pounded the ships and shelters,
squadrons clashed with shattering war cries rising.
Not so loud the breakers bellowing out against the shore,
driven in from open sea by the North Wind's brutal blast,
not so loud the roar of fire whipped to a crackling blaze
rampaging into a mountain gorge, raging up through timber,
not so loud the gale that howls in the leafy crowns of oaks
when it hits its pitch of fury tearing branches down—
Nothing so loud as cries of Trojans, cries of Achaeans,
terrible war cries, armies storming against each other.
And shining Hector was first to hurl his spear—
at the giant Ajax veering into him, full face—
a direct hit! where two straps crossed his chest,
one for the shield, one for the silver-studded sword
but both flexed taut to guard his glistening skin.
Hector seethed in anger—his hurtling spear
and his whole arm's power poured in a wasted shot
and back in his massing ranks he shrank, dodging death.
But as Hector backed away Great Ajax seized a rock—
countless holding-stones for the fast trim ships
were rolling round among the fighters' feet—
he hoisted one and heaved it at Hector's chest
and struck him over the shield-rim, close to his throat
and the blow sent Hector whirling off like a whipping-top,
reeling round and round. As a huge oak goes down
at a stroke from Father Zeus, ripped up by the roots
and a grim reek of sulphur bursts forth from the trunk
and a passerby too close, looking on, loses courage—
the bolt of mighty Zeus is hell on earth—so in a flash,
for all his fighting power, Hector plunged in the dust,
his spear dropped from his fist, shield and helmet '
crushing in on him, bronze gear clashing round him.
And shouting squads of Achaeans raced in for the kill,
hoping to drag him off and hurling showers of spears
but none could stab or strike the lord of armies now.
Too fast for them, here was a ring of Trojan chiefs:
Aeneas, Polydamas and the royal prince Agenor,
Sarpedon the Lycians' captain, valiant Glaucus=
and all their troops spared nothing, pitching in,
bracing their thick bulging shields to cover Hector.
Comrades heaved him up and swept him clear of the fighting,
far downfield till they gained his team of racers
standing behind the rear lines and rush of battle,
their driver and blazoned chariot held in tow . . .
Then back to Troy they bore him, groaning hard.
But once they
reached the ford where the river runs clear,
the strong, whirling Xanthus sprung of immortal Zeus,
they lifted him off his car and laid him down
on the level bank, splashing water over him.
Hector caught his breath and his eyes cleared,
he crouched down on his knees to vomit dark clots
then slumped back down, stretched on the ground again
and the world went black as night across his eyes.
The force of the blow still overwhelmed his senses.
units, spotting Hector in full retreat,
charged the Trojans harder, their lust for battle rising.
And first by far was Oileus' son, quick Little Ajax—
he lunged out and his spearhead skewered Satnius,
Enops' son the lithe nymph of the ford once bore
to Enops tending his flocks by Satniois' banks . . .
Now the renowned spearman Ajax rushed against him,
slashing him down the flank, knocking him backward—
Trojans and Argives swarming over him, out for blood.
Shaking a spear Polydamas moved in fast to the rescue,
Panthous' son lancing the right shoulder of Prothoenor,
Arielycus' son, and the heavy shaft impaled his upper arm—
he pitched in the dust, clawing the earth with both hands
and Polydamas shouted over him, wild with glory now:
"Here is another spear that leaps from my strong arm,
from Panthous' brave son, and hits its mark, by god!
It's found its home in an Argive's waiting flesh—
a crutch in his grip, I'd say,
as he trudges down now to the House of Death!"
The Argives rose in
horror to hear that boast,
veteran Ajax most of all, the anger leapt inside him—
Prothoenor had dropped at the feet of Telamon's son.
Ajax suddenly spun a glinting spear at Polydamas,
fast, but the Trojan dodged black fate himself
with a quick spring to the side—
but Antenor's son Archelochus caught the shaft
for the gods had doomed that fighting man to death.
Ajax struck him right where the head and neckbone join,
the last link in the spine, he cut both tendons through
so the mouth and brow and nostrils hit the ground
before the shins and knees as the man dropped dead.
And now it was Ajax' turn to shout at brave Polydamas,
"Think it over, Polydamas, tell the truth, my friend—
a decent bargain, no? This man's body for Prothoenor'sl
No coward, to judge by his looks, no coward's stock,
no doubt some brother of stallion-breaking Antenor,
that or his own son—the blood-likeness is striking!"
So Ajax vaunted,
knowing his victim full well,
and a raw revulsion seized the Trojans' hearts.
Straddling his brother, Acamas thrust and speared
Boeotian Promachus, trying to drag the corpse by the feet,
and Acamas loosed his cry of exultation, "Argives—
glorious braggarts, you, insatiate with your threats!
Don't think struggle and pain will be ours alone—
your day will come to die in blood like him.
Think how Promachus sleeps at your feet now,
beaten down by my spear—with no long wait
to pay the price for my brother dead and gone.
That's why a fighter prays for kin in his halls,
blood kin to survive and avenge his death in battle!"
But the Argives
rose in grief to avenge that boast
skilled Peneleos most of all, anger blazed inside him.
He charged Acamas—Acamas could not stand the attack,
he ran—and Peneleos stabbed at Ilioneus instead,
a son of the herdsman Phorbas rich in flocks,
Hermes' favorite Trojan: Hermes gave him wealth
but Ilioneus' mother gave him just one son . . .
the one Peneleos lanced beneath the brows,
down to the eyes' roots and scooped an eyeball out—
the spear cut clean through the socket, out behind the nape
and backward down he sat, both hands stretched wide
as Peneleos, quickly drawing his whetted sword,
hacked him square in the neck and lopped his head
and down on the ground it tumbled, helmet and all.
But the big spear's point still stuck in the eye socket—
hoisting the head high like a poppy-head on the shaft
he flourished it in the eyes of all the Trojans now,
yelling out his boast: "Go tell them from me,
you Trojans, tell the loving father and mother
of lofty Ilioneus to start the dirges in the halls!
The wife of Promachus, Alegenor's son, will never thrill
to her dear husband striding home from the wars
that day the sons of Achaea sail from Troy!"
And the knees of
every Trojan shook with fear,
each veteran frantic, glancing left and fight—
how to escape his sudden, plunging death?
Sing to me now, you Muses who hold the halls of Olympus,
who was the first Achaean to drag off bloody spoils
as the famous god of earthquakes turned the tide?
Telamonian Ajax first, Ajax brought down Hyrtius,
Gyrtius' son, a lord of the ironhearted Mysians.
Next Antilochus slaughtered Phalces, Mermerus—
Meriones killed off Morys, killed Hippotion,
Teucer cut down Periphetes and Prothoon.
Menelaus took the hardened captain Hyperenor,
gouged his flank and the bronze ripped him open,
spurting his entrails out—and his life, gushing forth
through the raw, yawning wound, went pulsing fast
and the dark came swirling down across his eyes.
But Oileus' son, quick Ajax killed the most—
no one alive could run men down in flight like him
once Zeus whipped enemy ranks in blinding, panic rout.