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[89] "But I see your whole attention is riveted on that picture, which represents the fall of Troy. Well, I will try and explain the situation in verse:

"'It was now the tenth harvest of the siege of the Trojans, who were worn with anxious fear, and the honour of Calchas the prophet stood wavering in dark dread, when at Apollo's bidding the wooded peaks of Ida were felled and dragged down, and the sawn[p. 177] planks fitted to a shape that resembled a war-horse. Within it a great hollow was opened, and a hidden cave that could shelter a host. In this the warriors who chafed at a war ten years long were packed away; the baleful Greeks fill every corner, and lie waiting in their own votive offering. Ah! my country! we thought the thousand ships were beaten off, and the land released from strife. The inscription carved on the horse, and Sinon's crafty bearing, and his mind ever powerful for evil, all strengthened our hope.

Now a crowd hurries from the gate to worship, careless and free of the war. Their cheeks are wet with tears, and the joy of their trembling souls brings to their eyes tears that terror had banished. Laocoon, priest of Neptune, with hair unbound, stirs the whole assembly to cry aloud. He drew back his spear arid the belly of the horse, but fate stayed his hand, spear leaped back, and won us to trust the fraud. But he nerved his feeble hand a second time, and sounded the deep sides of the horse with an axe. The young soldiers shut within breathed loud, and while the sound lasted the wooden mass gasped with a terror that was not its own. The prisoned warriors went forward to make Troy prisoner, and waged all the war by a new subtlety.

"'There followed further portents; where the steep ridge of Tenedos breaks the sea, the billows rise and swell, and the shattered wave leaps back hollowing the calm, sounding like the noise of oars borne far through the silent night, when ships bear down the ocean, and the calm is stirred and splashes under the burden of the keel. We look back: the tide carries two coiling snakes towards the rocks, their swollen breasts[p. 179] like tall ships throwing the foam from their sides. Their tails crash through the sea, their crests move free over the open water, fierce as their eyes; a brilliant beam kindles the waves, and the waters resound with their hissing. Our heartbeats stopped. The priests stood wreathed for sacrifice with the two sons of Laocoon in Phrygian raiment. Suddenly the gleaming snakes twine their bodies round them. The boys throw up their little hands to their faces, neither helping himself, but each his brother: such was the exchange of love, and death himself slew both poor children by their unselfish fear. Then before our eyes the father, a feeble helper, laid his own body down upon his children's. The snakes, now gorged with death, attacked the man and dragged his limbsto the ground. The priest lies a victim before his altars and beats the earth. Thus the doomed city of Troy first lost her gods by profaning their worship.

“'Now Phoebe at the full lifted up her white beam, and led forth the smaller stars with her glowing torch, and the Greeks unbarred the horse, and poured out their warriors among Priam's sons drowned in darkness and wine. The leaders try their strength in arms, as a steed untied from the Thessalian yoke will toss his head and lofty mane as he rushes forth. They draw their swords, brandish their shields, and begin the fight. One slays Trojans heavy with drink, and prolongs their sleep to death that endeth all, another lights torches from the altars, and calls on the holy places of Troy to fight against the Trojans.'” . . .

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load focus Introduction (Michael Heseltine, 1913)
load focus Latin (Michael Heseltine, 1913)
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