Padraic Colum > The Adventures of Odysseus and the Tale of Troy > Part I > Chapter XIII
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Padraic Colum (1881–1972).  The Adventures of Odysseus and the Tale of Troy.  1918.

Part I
 
Chapter XIII
 
WHEN dawn came the King arrayed himself for the battle, putting on his great breastplate and his helmet that had a high plume of horse-hair; fastening about his legs greaves fitted with ankle-clasps of silver; and hanging round his shoulders a great sword that shone with studs of gold—a sword that had a silver scabbard fitted with golden chains. Over his shoulders he cast a great lion’s skin, and he took upon his arm a shield that covered the whole of a man. Next he took in his hands two strong spears of bronze, and so arrayed and so armed he was ready to take the foremost place in the battle.’   1
  ‘He cried aloud and bade the Greeks arm themselves, and straightway they did so and poured from behind the wall that guarded their ships into the Trojan plain. Then the chiefs mounted their chariots, and their charioteers turned the horses towards the place of battle.’   2
  ‘Now on the high ground before them the Trojans had gathered in their battalions and the figure of great Hector was plain to Agamemnon and his men. Like a star that now and then was hidden by a cloud, so he appeared as he went through the battalions, all covered with shining bronze. Spears and arrows fell upon both sides. Footmen kept slaying footmen and horsemen kept slaying horsemen with the sword, and the dust of the plain rose up, stirred by the thundering hooves of the horses. From dawn till morning and from morning till noon the battle raged, but at mid-day the Greeks broke through the Trojan lines. Then Agamemnon in his chariot rushed through a gap in the line. Two men did he instantly slay, and dashing onward he slew two warriors who were sons of King Priam. Like fire falling upon a wood and burning up the underwood went King Agamemnon through the Trojan ranks, and when he passed many strong-necked horses rattled empty chariots, leaving on the earth the slain warriors that had been in them. And through the press of men and up to the high walls of Troy did Agamemnon go, slaying Trojan warriors with his spear. Hector did not go nigh him, for the gods had warned Hector not to lead any onslaught until Agamemnon had turned back from battle.’   3
  ‘But a Trojan warrior smote King Agamemnon on the midarm, below the elbow, and the point of his spear went clean through. Still he went through the ranks of the Trojans, slaying with spear and sword. And then the blood dried upon his wound and a sharp pain came upon him and he cried out, “O friends and captains! It is not possible for me to war for ever against the Trojans, but do you fight on to keep the battle from our ships.” His charioteer turned his horses, and they, all covered with foam and grimed with dust, dashed back across the plain bearing the wounded King from that day’s battle.’   4
  ‘Then Hector sprang to the onslaught. Leaping into his chariot he led the Trojans on. Nine captains of the Greeks he slew in the first onset. Now their ranks would have been broken, and the Greeks would have fled back to their ships if Odysseus had not been on that wing of the battle with Diomedes, the great horseman. Odysseus cried out, “Come hither, Diomedes, or verily Hector will sweep us across the plain and bring the battle down to our ships.”’   5
  ‘Then these two forced themselves through the press of battle and held back the onset of Hector till the Greeks had their chance to rally. Hector spied them and swept in his chariot towards them. Diomedes lifted his great spear and flung it full at Hector. The bronze of the spear struck the bronze of his helmet, and bronze by bronze was turned. The blow told upon Hector. But he, springing from his chariot, stayed amongst the press of warriors, resting himself on his hands and knees. Darkness was before his eyes for a while, but he got breath again, and leaping back into his chariot drove away from that dangerous place.’   6
  ‘Then Diomedes himself received a bitterer wound, for Paris, sheltering himself behind a pillar on the plain, let fly an arrow at him. It went clean through his right foot. Odysseus put his shield before his friend and comrade, and Diomedes was able to draw the arrow from his flesh. But Diomedes was fain to get back into his chariot and to command his charioteer to drive from the battle.’   7
  ‘Now Odysseus was the only one of the captains who stayed on that side of the battle, and the ranks of the Trojans came on and hemmed him round. One warrior struck at the centre of his shield and through the shield the strong Trojan spear passed and wounded the flesh of Odysseus. He slew the warrior who had wounded him and he drew the spear from his flesh, but he had to give ground. But loudly as any man ever cried, Odysseus cried out to the other captains. And strong Aias heard him and drew near, bearing his famous shield that was like a tower. The Trojan warriors that were round him drew back at the coming of Aias and Odysseus went from the press of battle, and mounting his chariot drove away.’   8
  ‘Where Aias fought the Trojans gave way, and on that side of the battle they were being driven back towards the City. But suddenly upon Aias there fell an unaccountable dread. He cast behind him his great shield, and he stood in a maze, like a wild bull, turning this way and that, and slowly retreating before those who pressed towards him. But now and again his valour would come back and he would stand steadily and, with his great shield, hold at bay the Trojans who were pressing towards the ships. Arrows fell thick upon his shield, confusing his mind. And Aias might have perished beneath the arrows if his comrades had not drawn him to where they stood with shields sloping for a shelter, and so saved him.’   9
  ‘All this time Hector was fighting on the left wing of the battle against the Greeks, who were led by Nestor and Idomeneus. And on this side Paris let fly an arrow that brought trouble to the enemies of his father’s City. He struck Machaon who was the most skilled healer of wounds in the whole of the host. And those who were around Machaon were fearful that the Trojans would seize the stricken man and bear him away. Then said Idomeneus, “Nestor, arise. Get Machaon into your chariot and drive swiftly from the press of battle. A healer such as he is worth the lives of many men. Save him alive so that we may still have him to draw the arrows from our flesh and put medicaments into our wounds.” Then did Nestor lift the healer into his chariot, and the charioteer turned the horses and they too drove from the press of battle and towards the hollow ships.’   10

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