Like wild geese and cranes and swans that in long-drawn strings fly tirelessly onward, so poured they forth, while the earth echoed terribly under the tread of men and horses.
As flies that swarm in the spring when the herdsmen’s milk-pails are full, so did the Greeks throng to battle, unnumbered as the leaves and the flowers upon which they trod in the flowery plain by the banks of the river Scamander.
THE FIGHT BETWEEN PARIS AND MENELAUS
To meet the great Greek host came the men of Troy. With loud shouting and clamor they came, noisy as the flocks of cranes that fly to far-off seas before the coming of winter and sudden rain.
But in silence marched the Greeks, shoulder to shoulder, their hearts full of courage.
Like the mist that rolls from the crest of the mountains until no man can see in front of him further than the cast of a stone, so did the dust rise in clouds under the tread of the warriors’ feet as they marched across the plain.
Front to front did the two armies stand at last, and from the Trojan ranks strode forth Paris the godlike, he who robbed Menelaus of her who was to him most dear.
From the shoulders of Paris swung a panther’s skin. He bore a curved bow and sword, and, brandishing two bronze-headed spears, he challenged all the chieftains of the Greek host to fight him, man to man, in mortal fight.
As a hungry lion rejoices to see a great-horned stag coming to be his prey, even so did Menelaus rejoice when he saw Paris, the golden-haired and blue-eyed, stride proudly forth.
Straightway, in his armor, did Menelaus leap from his chariot to the ground.
But when Paris saw him to whom he had done so sore a wrong, his heart was smitten.
As a man who, in a mountain glen, suddenly sees a deadly snake and shrinks away from it with shaking limbs, even so did Paris shrink back among his comrades.
Scornfully did Hector his brother behold him.
“Fair in face thou art!” said Hector, “but shamed I am by thee! I ween these long-haired Greeks make sport of us because we have for champion one whose face and form are beautiful, but in whose heart is neither strength nor courage. Art thou a coward? and yet thou daredst to sail across the sea and steal from her husband the fair woman who hath brought us so much harm. Thou shalt see what sort of warrior is he whose lovely wife thou hast taken. Thy harp and thy golden locks and fair face, and all the graces given to thee by Aphrodite, shall count for little when thou liest in the dust! Cowards must we Trojans be, else thou hadst been stoned to death ere this, for all the evil thou hast wrought.”
Then answered Paris:
“No word hast thou said that I do not deserve, brave Hector. Yet scorn not the gifts of golden Aphrodite, for by his own desire can no man win the love and beauty that the goddess gives. But let me now do battle with Menelaus. Make the Trojans and the men of Greece sit down, while Menelaus and I fight for Helen. Let him who is conqueror have her and all that is hers for his own, and let the others take an oath of friendship so that the Greeks may depart in peace to their own land, and in peace the Trojans dwell in Troy.”