Quintus Smyrnaeus: Mass murder’s tropes: Dread Ares drank his fill of blood
From The Fall of Troy
Translated by Arthur S. Way
Ran red with blood, as slaughtered heroes fell
And horses, mid a tangle of shattered cars,
Some yet with spear-wounds gasping, while on them
Others were falling. Through the air upshrieked
An awful indistinguishable roar;
For on both hosts fell iron-hearted Strife…
Their mad hands clutched all manner of tools of death.
At first the Argives bore the ranks of Troy
Backward a little; and they rallied, charged,
Leapt on the foe, and drenched the field with blood.
Spears plunge into men’s flesh: dread Ares drank
His fill of blood: struck down fell man on man…
So man to man dealt death; and joyed the Fates
And Doom and fell Strife in her maddened glee
Shouted aloud, and Ares terribly
Shouted in answer…
…swift closed the fronts of war.
Loud clashed their arms all around; from either side
War-cries were mingled in one awful roar.
Swift-wined full many a dart and arrow flew
From host to host; loud clanged the smitten shields
‘Neath thrusting spears, neath javelin-point and sword:
Men hewed with battle-axes lightening down;
Crimson the armour ran with blood of men.
…without pause before the wall they fought,
Whole Death exulted o’er them; deadly Strife
Shrieked out a long wild cry from host to host.
With blood of slain men dust became red mire…
“The hand of Heaven is in our sufferings:
Some fate devised our ruin – oh that I
Had not lived to endure it, but had died
In days of wealthy peace! But now I see
Woes upon woes, and ever look to see
Worse things – my children slain, my city sacked
And burned with fire by stony-hearted foes…”
…Strife and deadly Enyo in the midst
Stalked, like the fell Erinyes to behold,
Breathing destruction from their lips like flame.
Beside them raged the ruthless-hearted Fates
Fiercely: here Panic-fear and Ares there
Stirred up the hosts: hard after followed Dread
With slaughter’s gore besprent…
And all around were javelins, spears and darts
Murder athirst from this side, that side, showered
Aye, as they hurled together, armour clashed,
As foe grappled in murderous fight.
…The black Fates joyed to see
Their conflict. Ares Laughed, Enyo yelled
Horrible. Loud their glancing armour clanged:
They stabbed, they hewed down hosts of foes untold
With irresistible hands. The reeling ranks
Fell, as the swath falls in the harvest heat,
When the swift-handed reapers, ranged adown
The field’s long furrows, play the sickle fast;
So fell before their hands ranks numberless:
With corpses earth was heaped, with torrent blood
Was streaming: Strife incarnate o’er the slain
Over the battle-slain the vultures joyed,
Hungry to rend the hearts and flesh of men.
…like fierce ravening beasts the Argive men
Leapt on them, mad with murderous rage of war.
Choked with their slain the river-channels were,
Heaped was the field; in red dust thousands fell,
Horses and men; and chariots overturned
Were strewn there: blood was streaming all around
Like rain, for deadly Doom raged through the fray.
Men stabbed with swords, and men impaled on spears
Lay all confusedly, like scattered beams…
So lay in dust and blood the slaughtered men,
Rapture and pain of fight forgotten now.
A remnant from the pitiless strife escaped
Entered their stronghold. scarce eluding doom.
Children and wives from their limbs blood-besprent
Received their arms bedabbled with foul gore…
“…Honour princely men and wise;
For the true man is still the true man’s friend,
Even as the vile man cleaveth to the knave.
If good thy though be, good shall be thy deeds:
But no man shall attain to Honour’s height,
Except his heart be right within: her stem
Is hard to climb, and high in heaven spread
Her branches: only they whom strength and toil
Attend, strain up to pluck her blissful fruit,
Climbing the Tree of Honour glory-crowned.
Thou therefore follow fame, and let thy soul
By\e not in sorrow afflicted overmuch,
Not in prosperity over-glad. To friends,
To comrades, child and wife, be kindly of heart,
Remembering still that near to all men stand
The gates of doom, the mansions of the dead:
For humankind are like the flowers of grass,
The blossom of spring; these fade the while those bloom:
Therefore be ever kindly with thy kind.