Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VII. Descriptive: Narrative
Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VII. Descriptive: Narrative.  1904.
Narrative Poems: I. Greece
The Fall of Troy
Virgil (70–19 B.C.)
From the Latin by Sir Charles Bowen

From The “Æneid”

ÆNEAS, speaking to Dido, Queen of Carthage

FORWARD we fare,
Called to the palace of Priam by war-shouts rending the air.
Here of a truth raged battle, as though no combats beside
Reigned elsewhere, no thousands about all Ilion died.
Here we beheld in his fury the war-god; foemen the roof        5
Scaling, the threshold blocked with a penthouse, javelin-proof.
Ladders rest on the walls, armed warriors climb by the door
Stair upon stair, left hands, to the arrows round them that pour,
Holding a buckler, the battlement ridge in the right held fast.
Trojans in turn wrench loose from the palace turret and tower;        10
Ready with these, when the end seems visible,—death’s dark hour
Closing around them now,—to defend their lives to the last.
Gilded rafters, the glory of Trojan kings of the past,
Roll on the enemy. Others, with javelins flashing fire,
    Form at the inner doors, and around them close in a ring.        15
    Hearts grow bolder within us to succor the palace, to bring
Aid to the soldier, and valor in vanquished hearts to inspire.
There was a gate with a secret door, that a passage adjoined
Thridding the inner palace—a postern planted behind.
Here Andromache, ill-starred queen, oft entered alone,        20
Visiting Hector’s parents, when yet they sate on the throne;
Oft to his grandsire with her the boy Astyanax led.
Passing the covered way to the roof I mount overhead,
Where Troy’s children were hurling an idle javelin shower.
    From it a turret rose, on the topmost battlement height        25
    Raised to the stars, whence Troy and the Danaan ships and the white
Dorian tents were wont to be seen in a happier hour.
With bright steel we assailed it, and where high flooring of tower
Offered a joint that yielded, we wrenched it loose, and below
Sent it a-drifting. It fell with a thunderous crash on the foe,        30
Carrying ruin afar. But the ranks close round us again,
Stones and the myriad weapons of war unceasingly rain.
Facing the porch, on the threshold itself, stands Pyrrhus in bright
Triumph, with glittering weapons, a flashing mirror of light.
As to the light some viper, on grasses poisonous fed,        35
Swollen and buried long by the winter’s frost in his bed,
Shedding his weeds, uprises in shining beauty and strength,
Lifts, new-born, his bosom, and wreathes his slippery length,
High to the sunlight darting a three-forked flickering tongue,—
Periphas huge strides near, and the brave Automedon, long        40
    Charioteer to Achilles, an armor-bearer to-day.
All of the flower of Scyros beside him, warriors young,
    Crowd to the palace too, while flames on the battlement play.
Pyrrhus in front of the host, with a two-edged axe in his hand,
Breaches the stubborn doors, from the hinges rends with his brand        45
Brass-clamped timbers, a panel cleaves, to the heart of the oak
Strikes, and a yawning chasm for the sunlight gapes at his stroke.
Bare to the eye is the palace within: long vistas of hall
Open; the inmost dwelling of Priam is seen of them all:
Bare the inviolate chambers of kings of an earlier day,        50
And they descry on the threshold the armed men standing at bay.
Groaning and wild uproar through the inner palace begin;
Women’s wailings are heard from the vaulted cloisters within.
Shrieks to the golden stars are rolled. Scared mothers in fear
Over the vast courts wander, embracing the thresholds dear,        55
Clasping and kissing the doors. On strides, as his father in might,
Pyrrhus: no gate can stay him, nor guard withstand him to-night;
Portals yield at the thunder of strokes plied ever and aye;
Down from the hinges the gates are flung on their faces to lie.
Entry is broken; the enemy’s hosts stream inwards and kill        60
All in the van, each space with a countless soldiery fill.
Not so rages the river, that o’er its barriers flows
White with foam, overturning the earth-built mounds that oppose,
When on the fields as a mountain it rolls, by meadow and wold,
Sweeping to ruin the herd and the stall. These eyes did behold        65
Pyrrhus maddened with slaughter; and marked on the sill of the gate
Both the Atridæ brethren. I saw where Hecuba sate,
Round her a hundred brides of her sons,—saw Priam with blood
Staining the altar-fires he had hallowed himself to his god.
Fifty his bridal chambers within,—each seeming a sweet        70
Promise of children’s children,—in dust all lie at his feet!
Doors emblazoned with spoils, and with proud barbarian gold,
Lie in the dust! Where flames yield passage, Danaans hold!

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