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and question all his cause: of guilt so dire
or such Greek guile we harbored not the thought.
So on he prates, with well-feigned grief and fear,
and from his Iying heart thus told his tale:
“Full oft the Greeks had fain achieved their flight,
and raised the Trojan siege, and sailed away
war-wearied quite. O, would it had been so!
Full oft the wintry tumult of the seas
did wall them round, and many a swollen storm
their embarcation stayed. But chiefly when,
all fitly built of beams of maple fair,
this horse stood forth,— what thunders filled the skies!
With anxious fears we sent Eurypylus
to ask Apollo's word; and from the shrine
he brings the sorrowful commandment home:
‘By flowing blood and by a virgin slain
the wild winds were appeased, when first ye came,
ye sons of Greece, to Ilium's distant shore.
Through blood ye must return. Let some Greek life
your expiation be.’ The popular ear
the saying caught, all spirits were dimmed o'er;
cold doubt and horror through each bosom ran,
asking what fate would do, and on what wretch
Apollo's choice would fall. Ulysses, then,
amid the people's tumult and acclaim,
thrust Calchas forth, some prophecy to tell
to all the throng: he asked him o'er and o'er
what Heaven desired. Already not a few
foretold the murderous plot, and silently
watched the dark doom upon my life impend.
Twice five long days the seer his lips did seal,
and hid himself, refusing to bring forth
His word of guile, and name what wretch should die.
At last, reluctant, and all loudly urged
By false Ulysses, he fulfils their plot,
and, lifting up his voice oracular,
points out myself the victim to be slain.
Nor did one voice oppose. The mortal stroke
horribly hanging o'er each coward head
was changed to one man's ruin, and their hearts
endured it well. Soon rose th' accursed morn;
the bloody ritual was ready; salt
was sprinkled on the sacred loaf; my brows
were bound with fillets for the offering.
But I escaped that death—yes! I deny not!
I cast my fetters off, and darkling lay
concealed all night in lake-side sedge and mire,
awaiting their departure, if perchance
they should in truth set sail. But nevermore
shall my dear, native country greet these eyes.
No more my father or my tender babes
shall I behold. Nay, haply their own lives
are forfeit, when my foemen take revenge
for my escape, and slay those helpless ones,
in expiation of my guilty deed.
O, by yon powers in heaven which witness truth,
by aught in this dark world remaining now
of spotless human faith and innocence,
I do implore thee look with pitying eye
on these long sufferings my heart hath borne.
O, pity! I deserve not what I bear.”
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