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which swept around those walls; where trampling steeds,
with horny hoofs, and multitudinous wheels,
had beaten a wide track. And on the field
the older sons of Niobe on steeds
emblazoned with bright dyes and harness rich
with studded gold were circling.—One of these,
Ismenus, first-born of his mother, while
controlling his fleet courser's foaming mouth,
cried out, “Ah wretched me!” A shaft had pierced
the middle of his breast; and as the reins
dropped slowly on the rapid courser's neck,
his drooping form fell forward to the ground.
Not far from him, his brother, Sipylus,
could hear the whistling of a fatal shaft,
and in his fright urged on the plunging steed:
as when the watchful pilot, sensible
of storms approaching, crowds on sail,
hoping to catch a momentary breeze,
so fled he, urging an impetuous flight;
but, while he fled the shaft, unerring, flew;
transfixed him with its quivering death; struck where
the neck supports the head and the sharp point
protruded from his throat. In his swift flight,
as he was leaning forward, he was struck;
and, rolling over the wild horse's neck
pitched to the ground, and stained it with his blood.
Unhappy Phaedimus, and Tantalus,
(So named from his maternal grandsire) now
had finished coursing on the track, and smooth.
Shining with oil, were wrestling in the field;
and while those brothers struggled—breast to breast—
another arrow, hurtling from the sky,
pierced them together, just as they were clinched.
The mingled sound that issued from two throats
was like a single groan. Convulsed with pain,
the wrestlers fell together on the ground,
where, stricken with a double agony,
rolling their eyeballs, they sobbed out their lives.
Alphenor saw them die—beating his breast
in agony—ran to lift in his arms
their lifeless bodies cold—while doing this
he fell upon them. Phoebus struck him so,
piercing his midriff in a vital part,
with fatal shot, which, when he pulled it forth,
dragged with its barb a torn clot of his lung—
his blood and life poured out upon the air.
The youthful Damasicthon next was struck,
not only once; an arrow pierced his leg
just where the sinews of the thigh begin,
and as he turned and stooped to pluck it out,
another keen shaft shot into his neck,
up to the fletching.—The blood drove it out,
and spouted after it in crimson jets.
Then, Ilioneus, last of seven sons,
lifted his unavailing arms in prayer,
and cried, “O Universal Deities,
gods of eternal heaven, spare my life!”—
Besought too late, Apollo of the Bow,
could not prevail against the deadly shaft,
already on its way: and yet his will,
compellant, acted to retard its flight,
so that it cut no deeper than his heart.
The rumors of an awful tragedy,—
the wailings of sad Niobe's loved friends,—
the terror of her grieving relatives,—
all gave some knowledge of her sudden loss:
but so bewildered and enraged her mind,
that she could hardly realize the Gods
had privilege to dare against her might.
Nor would she, till her lord, Amphion, thrust
his sword deep in his breast, by which his life
and anguish both were ended in dark night.
Alas, proud Niobe, once haughty queen!
Proud Niobe who but so lately drove
her people from Latona's altars, while,
moving majestic through the midst, she hears
their plaudits, now so bitterly debased,
her meanest enemy may pity her!—
She fell upon the bodies of her sons,
and in a frenzy of maternal grief,
kissed their unfeeling lips. Then unto Heaven
with arms accusing, railed upon her foe:
“Glut your revenge! Latona, glut your rage!
Yea, let my lamentations be your joy!
Go—satiate your flinty heart with death!
Are not my seven sons all dead? Am I
not waiting to be carried to my grave?—
exult and triumph, my victorious foe!
Victorious? Nay!—Much more remains to me
in all my utmost sorrow, than to you,
you gloater upon vengeance—Undismayed,
I stand victorious in my Field of Woe!”
no sooner had she spoken, than the cord
twanged from the ever-ready bow; and all
who heard the fatal sound, again were filled
with fear,—save Niobe, in misery bold,—
defiant in misfortune.—Clothed in black,
the sisters of the stricken brothers stood,
with hair disheveled, by the funeral biers.
And one while plucking from her brother's heart
a shaft, swooned unto death, fell on her face—
on her dear brother's corpse. Another girl,
while she consoled her mother, suddenly,
was stricken with an unseen, deadly wound;
and doubled in convulsions, closed her lips,
tight held them, till both breath and life were lost.
Another, vainly rushed away from death—
she met it, and pitched head-first to the ground;
and still another died upon her corse,
another vainly sought a secret death,
and, then another slipped beyond's life's edge.
So, altogether, six of seven died—
each victim, strickened in a different way.
One child remained. Then in a frenzy-fear
the mother, as she covered her with all
her garments and her body, wailed—“Oh, leave
me this one child! the youngest of them all!
My darling daughter—only leave me one!”
But even while she was entreating for its life—
the life was taken from her only child.
Childless— she crouched beside her slaughtered sons,
her lifeless daughters, and her husband's corpse.
The breeze not even moved her fallen hair,
a chill of marble spread upon her flesh,
beneath her pale, set brows, her eyes moved not,
her bitter tongue turned stiff in her hard jaws,
her lovely veins congealed, and her stiff neck
and rigid hands could neither bend nor move.—
her limbs and body, all were changed to stone.
Yet ever would she weep: and as her tears
were falling she was carried from the place,
enveloped in a storm and mighty wind,
far, to her native land, where fixed upon
a mountain summit she dissolves in tears,—
and to this day the marble drips with tears.
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