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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Protesilaos
By Johan Sebastian Cammermeyer Welhaven (1807–1873)
 
Translation of William Morton Payne

AMONG the Greeks for Troy their anchors weighing,
  No other met such bitter fate as he
  Who fell the first of all, that men might see
Fulfillment of the oracle’s dark saying,—
 
The ominous words that still their memory followed,        5
  From Delphian caves, and lingered on their lips:
  “That hero who the first shall leave the ships
Shall first of all by Erebus be swallowed.”
 
“Protesilaos!” every tongue was saying,
  “Thy name concerns this oracle so dark.”        10
  But cheerfully he put to sea his bark,
And sailed from home, relentless fate obeying.
 
No craven fear his courage high displaces:
  Farewell he’s said to Tempe’s lovely dale;
  And to restrain him were of no avail        15
Laodamia’s eager fond embraces.
 
But when the winds and waves at last were bringing
  The hollow ships to the Dardanian shore,
  The faltering warriors dared not to the fore,
Where Hector fierce his heavy lance was swinging.        20
 
He chosen by the gods the hearts to quicken
  Of all who stood in the Achæan host,—
  Protesilaos,—on that fatal coast
Was first to land, to fall in death down-stricken.
 
While weapons flashed, and men to war-cries hearkened,        25
  Low in the dust the noble hero lay;
  No booty to his tent might find its way,
And as the war dragged on, his fame grew darkened.
 
But afterwards men grateful learned to cherish
  His mighty deed: in hymns his name was praised;        30
  And pilgrims sought the temple to him raised
That memories of his valor might not perish.
 
And from the heroic age a voice deep-weighted
  With earnest accent echoes on the ear:
  “Who leads the way in strife, and knows no fear,        35
To conquer not, to fight and die is fated.”
 
 
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