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and spared his life. King Priam bade unbind
the fettered hands and loose those heavy chains
that pressed him sore; then with benignant mien
addressed him thus: “ Whate'er thy place or name,
forget the people thou hast Iost, and be
henceforth our countryman. But tell me true!
What means the monstrous fabric of this horse?
Who made it? Why? What offering to Heaven,
or engin'ry of conquest may it be?”
He spake; and in reply, with skilful guile,
Greek that he was! the other lifted up
his hands, now freed and chainless, to the skies:
“O ever-burning and inviolate fires,
witness my word! O altars and sharp steel,
whose curse I fled, O fillets of the gods,
which bound a victim's helpless forehead, hear!
'T is lawful now to break the oath that gave
my troth to Greece. To execrate her kings
is now my solemn duty. Their whole plot
I publish to the world. No fatherland
and no allegiance binds me any more.
O Troy, whom I have saved, I bid thee keep
the pledge of safety by good Priam given,
for my true tale shall my rich ransom be.
The Greeks' one hope, since first they opened war,
was Pallas, grace and power. But from the day
when Diomed, bold scorner of the gods,
and false Ulysses, author of all guile,
rose up and violently bore away
Palladium, her holy shrine, hewed down
the sentinels of her acropolis,
and with polluted, gory hands dared touch
the goddess, virgin fillets, white and pure,—
thenceforth, I say, the courage of the Greeks
ebbed utterly away; their strength was Iost,
and favoring Pallas all her grace withdrew.
No dubious sign she gave. Scarce had they set
her statue in our camp, when glittering flame
flashed from the staring eyes; from all its limbs
salt sweat ran forth; three times (O wondrous tale!)
it gave a sudden skyward leap, and made
prodigious trembling of her lance and shield.
The prophet Calchas bade us straightway take
swift flight across the sea; for fate had willed
the Trojan citadel should never fall
by Grecian arm, till once more they obtain
new oracles at Argos, and restore
that god the round ships hurried o'er the sea.
Now in Mycenae, whither they are fled,
new help of heaven they find, and forge anew
the means of war. Back hither o'er the waves
they suddenly will come. So Calchas gave
the meaning of the god. Warned thus, they reared
in place of Pallas, desecrated shrine
yon image of the horse, to expiate
the woeful sacrilege. Calchas ordained
that they should build a thing of monstrous size
of jointed beams, and rear it heavenward,
so might it never pass your gates, nor come
inside your walls, nor anywise restore
unto the Trojans their lost help divine.
For had your hands Minerva's gift profaned,
a ruin horrible—O, may the gods
bring it on Calchas rather!—would have come
on Priam's throne and all the Phrygian power.
But if your hands should lift the holy thing
to your own citadel, then Asia's host
would hurl aggression upon Pelops' land,
and all that curse on our own nation fall.”
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