The Invasion of Troy*
But Priam mourned for Aesacus, not knowing
He lived, a wingèd creature. To the tomb
That bore his name Hector brought sacrifice,
So did the other brothers, all but Paris,
Who, not long after, brought upon his country
Long warfare over the woman he had stolen.
A thousand ships were launched, and all the Greeks,
Banded together, followed, and they would have
Taken their vengeance sooner, but the storms
Made the sea pathless, and Boeotia held them,
Impatient, at the little port of Aulis.
When here,* as always, they had gotten ready
Their sacrifice for Jove, just as the altar
Glowed with the lighted fires, they saw a serpent,
Blue-green in color, creeping up a plane-tree
Above them, toward a nest, high up, which held
Eight fledglings. These, together with the mother,
Flying too close to her doomed brood, the serpent
Seized and devoured. Amazement seized the people,
But the augur Calchas saw the meaning clearly:
“Rejoice, O Greeks: we shall win the war, and Troy
Go down before us, but our task will be
Of long duration: the nine birds mean nine years.”
Meanwhile the serpent, coiled around the branches,
Was changed to stone, and the stone kept the form
Of the twining serpent.
Boisterous over the waves;* he would not carry
The war across the sea, and there were people
Who thought that Neptune, who had built the walls
Of Troy, was therefore bound to spare the city.
Calchas knew better, and said so: virgin blood
Must satisfy the virgin goddess’ anger.
The common cause was stronger than affection,
The king subdued the father; Agamemnon
Led Iphigenia to the solemn altar,
And while she stood there, ready for the offering
Of her chaste blood, and even the priests were weeping,
Diana yielded, veiled their eyes with cloud,
And even while the rites went on, confused
With darkness and the cries of people praying,
Iphigenia was taken, and a deer
Left in her place as victim,* so the goddess
Was satisfied; her anger and the ocean’s
Subsided, and the thousand ships responded
To the fresh winds astern and, with much trouble,
Came to the Phrygian shores.
There is a place*
At the world’s center, triple boundary
Of land and sky and sea. From here all things,
No matter what, are visible; every word
Comes to these hollow ears. Here Rumor dwells,
Her palace high upon the mountain-summit,
With countless entrances, thousands on thousands,
And never a door to close them. Day and night
The halls stand open, and the bronze re-echoes,
Repeats all words, redoubles every murmur.
There is no quiet, no silence anywhere,
No uproar either, only the subdued
Murmur of little voices, like the murmur
Of sea-waves heard far-off, or the last rumble
Of thunder dying in the cloud. The halls
Are filled with presences that shift and wander,
Rumors in thousands, lies and truth together,
Confused, confusing. Some fill idle ears
With stories, others go far-off to tell
What they have heard, and every story grows,
And each new teller adds to what he hears.
Here is Credulity, and reckless Error,
Vain Joy, and panic Fear, sudden Sedition,
Whispers that none can trace, and she, their goddess,
Sees all that happens in heaven, on land, on ocean,
Searching the world for news.
She spread the tidings
That the Greek fleet was coming, and brave armies,
And so the Trojans, dressed in readiness,
Received them at their shores. Protesilaus* ...