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The Fall of Troy (book 7 - 14)   



Then, overawed by the brother of his sire,
And fearing for Troy's fate and for her folk,
To heaven went back Apollo, to the sea
Poseidon. But the sons of men fought on,
And slew; and Strife incarnate gloating watched.

At last by Calchas' counsel Achaea's sons
Drew back to the ships, and put from them the thought
Of battle, seeing it was not foreordained
That Ilium should fall until the might
Of war-wise Philoctetes came to aid
The Achaean host. This had the prophet learnt.
From birds of prosperous omen, or had read
In hearts of victims. Wise in prophecy-lore
Was he, and like a God knew things to be.

Trusting in him, the sons of Atreus stayed
Awhile the war, and unto Lemnos, land
Of stately mansions, sent they Tydeus' son
And battle-staunch Odysseus oversea.
Fast by the Fire-god's city sped they on
Over the broad flood of the Aegean Sea
To vine-clad Lemnos, where in far-off days
The wives wreaked murderous vengeance on their lords,
In fierce wrath that they gave them not their due,
But couched beside the handmaid-thralls of Thrace,
The captives of their spears when they laid waste
The land of warrior Thracians. Then these wives,
Their hearts with fiery jealousy's fever filled,
Murdered in every home with merciless hands
Their husbands: no compassion would they show
To their own wedded lords -- such madness shakes
The heart of man or woman, when it burns
With jealousy's fever, stung by torturing pangs.
So with souls filled with desperate hardihood
In one night did they slaughter all their lords;
And on a widowed nation rose the sun.

To hallowed Lemnos came those heroes twain;
They marked the rocky cave where lay the son
Of princely Poeas. Horror came on them
When they beheld the hero of their quest
Groaning with bitter pangs, on the hard earth
Lying, with many feathers round him strewn,
And others round his body, rudely sewn
Into a cloak, a screen from winter's cold.
For, oft as famine stung him, would he shoot
The shaft that missed no fowl his aim had doomed.
Their flesh he ate, their feathers vestured him.
And there lay herbs and healing leaves, the which,
Spread on his deadly wound, assuaged its pangs.
Wild tangled elf-locks hung about his head.
He seemed a wild beast, that hath set its foot,
Prowling by night, upon a hidden trap,
And so hath been constrained in agony
To bite with fierce teeth through the prisoned limb
Ere it could win back to its cave, and there
In hunger and torturing pains it languisheth.
So in that wide cave suffering crushed the man;
And all his frame was wasted: naught but skin
Covered his bones. Unwashen there he crouched
With famine-haggard cheeks, with sunken eyes
Glaring his misery 'neath cavernous brows.

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