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the centaur Phaeocomes with his log.
He wore six lion skins well wrapped around
his body, and with fixed connecting knots
they covered him, both horse and man. He hurled
a trunk two yokes of oxen scarce could move
and struck the hapless son of Olenus
a crushing blow upon the head. The broad
round dome was shattered, and his dying brains
oozed out through hollow nostrils, mouth, and ears,
as curdled milk seeps down through oaken twigs;
or other liquors, crushed out under weights,
flow through a well-pierced sieve and, thick,
squeeze out through numerous holes.
As he began
to spoil his victim—and your father can
affirm the truth of this—I thrust my sword
deep in the wretch's groin. Chthonius, too,
and Teleboas fell there by my sword.
The former had a two-pronged stick as his
sole weapon, and the other had a spear,
with which the wounded me. You see the scar.
The old scar still is surely visible!
“Those were my days of youth and strength, and then
I ought to have warred against the citadel
of Pergama. I could have checked, or even
vanquished, the arms of Hector: but, alas,
Hector had not been born, or was perhaps
a boy. Old age has dulled my youthful strength.
What use is it, to speak of Periphas,
who overcame Pyretus, double-formed?
Why tell of Ampyx, who with pointless shaft,
victorious thrust Echeclus through the face?
Macareus, hurling a heavy crowbar pierced
Erigdupus and laid him low.
A hunting spear that Nessus strongly hurled,
was buried in the groin of Cymelus.
Do not believe that Mopsus, son of Ampycus,
was merely a prophet of events to come,
he slew a daring two-formed monster there.
Hodites tried in vain to speak, before
his death, but could not, for his tongue was nailed
against his chin, his chin against his throat.
“Five of the centaurs Caeneus put to death:
Styphelus, Bromus, and Antimachus,
Elymus, and Pyracmos with his axe.
I have forgot their wounds but noted well
their names and number. Latreus, huge of limb,
had killed and stripped Emathian Halesus.
Now in his armor he came rushing out,
in years he was between old age and youth;
but he retained the vigor of his youth;
his temples showed his hair was mixed with grey.
Conspicuous for his Macedonian lance
and sword and shield, facing both sides—each way,
he insolently clashed his arms; and while
he rode poured out these words in empty air.
“ ‘Shall I put up with one like you, O Caeneus?
For you are still a woman in my sight.
Have you forgot your birth or that disgrace
by which you won reward—at what a price
you got the false resemblance to a man?!
Consider both your birth, and what you have
submitted to! Take up a distaff, and
wool basket! Twist your threads with practiced thumb!
Leave warfare to your men!’
“While puffed-up pride
was vaunting out such nonsense, Caeneus hurled
a spear and pierced the stretched out running side,
just where the man was joined upon the horse.
“The Centaur, Latreus, raved with pain and struck
with his great pike, the face of Caeneus.
His pike rebounded as the hail that slants
up from the roof; or as a pebble might
rebound from hollow drum. Then coming near,
he tried to drive a sword into the hard side
of Caeneus, but it could not make a wound.
‘Aha!’ he cried, ‘this will not get you off.
The good edge of my sword will take your life,
although the point is blunt!’ He turned the edge
against the flank of Caeneus and swung round
the hero's loins with his long, curving arm.
The flesh resounded like a marble block,
the keen blade shattered on the unyielding skin.
“And, after Caeneus had exposed his limbs
unhurt to Latreus, who stood there amazed,
‘Come now,’ he said, ‘and let us try my steel
against your body!’ And, clear to the hilt,
down through the monster's shoulder-blade he plunged
his deadly sword and, turning it again,
deep in the Centaur's entrails, made new wounds
within his wound.
“Then, quite beside themselves,
the double-natured monsters rushed against
that single-handed youth with huge uproar,
and thrust and hurled their weapons all at him.
Their blunted weapons fell and he remained
unharmed and without even a mark.”
“That strange sight left them speechless. ‘Oh what shame!’
at length cried Monychus, ‘Our mighty host,—
a nation of us, are defeated and defied
by one who hardly is a man. Although
indeed, he is a man, and we have proved,
by our weak actions, we are certainly
what he was! Shame on us! Oh, what if we
have twofold strength, of what avail our huge
and mighty limbs, doubly united in
the strongest, hugest bodies in this world?
And how can I believe that we were born
of any goddess? It is surely vain
to claim descent of great Ixion, who
high-souled, sought Juno for his mighty mate;
imagine it, while we are conquered by
an enemy, who is but half a man!
Wake up! and let us heap tree-trunks and stones
and mountains on him! Crush his stubborn life!
Let forests smother him to death! Their weight
will be as deadly as a hundred wounds!’
“While he was raving, by some chance he found
a tree thrown down there by the boisterous wind:
example to the rest, he threw that tree
against the powerful foe; and in short time
Othrys was bare of trees, and Pelion had no shade.
Buried under that mountainous forest heap,
Caeneus heaved up against the weight of oaks
upon his brawny shoulders piled. But, as
the load increased above his face and head,
he could not draw a breath. Gasping for life,
he strove to lift his head into the air,
and sometimes he convulsed the towering mass,
as if great Ida, now before our eyes,
should tremble with some heaving of the earth.
“What happened to him could not well be known.
Some thought his body was borne down by weight
into the vast expanse of Tartarus.
The son of Ampycus did not agree,
for from the middle of the pile we saw
a bird with golden wings mount high in air.
Before or since, I never saw the like.
“When Mopsus was aware of that bird's flight—
it circled round the camp on rustling wings—
with eyes and mind he followed it and shouted aloud:
‘Hail, glory of the Lapithaean race,
their greatest hero, now a bird unique!’
and we believed the verdict of the seer.
“Our grief increased resentment, and we bore
it with disgust that one was overwhelmed
by such a multitude. Then in revenge
we plied our swords, till half our foes were dead,
and only flight and darkness saved the rest.”
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