The Hollow Ships: The Fall of Patroklus

(c) 2014 Drew Nicholson

Achaeans all ran too and fro among the hollow ships
Sheltering near bow and stern, as tall as towering cliffs
But Trojans surged upon them, swiftly as the rising tide
And we fell back into the camp to build a shield-wall wide

Strong Nestor sought to rally Myrmidons to battle’s might:
“Be men, my friends, be strong and proud so we may keep the night
“Remember wives, remember sons, remember fathers dear
“And strive to keep your heads and do not now give in to fear!”

As if Athena, goddess wise, cleared clouds from fore our sight,
Down the lines of Troy and Greece I saw from left to right,
Across the gap I spied a lord, t’was Hektor and his rank
he bade at beck and call the Trojans to o’ercome our flank

But Ajax, oh, tall Ajax with his great and heavy pike
A seaboard weapon, long and sharp, he wielded to strike
As leaping now from ship to ship, he swung it and he called
Acheans to defend the shelters and the ships so tall.

But Hektor, there before his men, he would not hold them back
A wolf among the hounds of hell, greek stags he would attack
With mighty Zeus, the king of Gods, Prince Hektor stood unbowed
And as he urged his Trojans on, his battlesong grew loud.

“Bring your swords and two-edged spears, and black-thonged blades of war
“Bring fire and bring armor, beat Acheans off our shores
“Too long has Agamemnon kept our Trojan ways in check
“Now is the time to lay our sharpened blades upon his neck!”

“For Zeus’ lightning blinds their eyes as he did ours before
“As Troy’s old city elders begged to battle on no more
“So long I strove to take these ships and burn them to the ground
“And now a Trojan champion, Zeus, the King of Gods has found!”

And as he sang the Trojans strove e’en harder at our wall
They broke through here and there as Danaans fought and died and fell
And even Ajax, with flashing pike was forced to back away
From warriors of Troy who seemed forgone to take the day.

But in response to Hektor’s song did Ajax sing aloud
“Men at arms to Ares, fight against this Trojan crowd!
“There’s no one past our lines to come and save us from this fight
“No citadel, no armies in reserve to lend their might”

“We crossed the sea to Troy and now it’s all of Troy we face
“Don’t let this plain along the shore become your burial place!
“So fight, you mighty Myrmidons, you strong Achean bands
“For safe return to mighty Greece lies only in our hands!”

We Danaans, seeking Ajax’s pride, redoubled in our strife
As Ajax thrust his sharpened pike, taking countless Trojan lives
The torches that they carried fell to quench their flame in blood
Of Trojan warriors that lay around where Ajax stood.

But even though a dozen and a dozen more lay there
E’en Ajax of the Danaans could not face Prince Hektor fair
As driven back by countless blows upon his shining helm
And pounding on his shield, he was close to overwhelmed

So now comes Hektor, Ajax’s pike against his mighty sword
With hacking blows behind the point the pike-head off was shorn
Ajax knew with sinking heart this was King Zeus’ deed
He fought for breath, as aching arms moved with slowing speed.

No choice did Ajax have and with his men we did retreat
No longer with an equal might could we the Trojans meet
And through the cries and screams of Myrmidons in mortal pain
Came crackling and hissing of Achean ships enflamed.

T’was after battle’s end when we were told Patroklus’ plea
unto Lord Achillies besides his ship beside the sea
As Ajax and Acheans brave withstood Prince Hektor’s thrust
Patroklus begged Achillies’ aid and sweet Achillies’ trust

For though Achillies angered still at Agammemnon’s theft
He was a man of war, he knew of battle’s warp and weft
And as the Myrmidons of Greece fought on within the fray
He gave to Patroklus a stronger plan to win the day.

Peleus’ son, he would not fight till flame had reached his ships
but realized he must, the loss of Brisies, come to grips
So handing over armor bright to Patroklus’ hand
Achillies made his bid to rally brave Acheans, stand

“Throw yourself at Troy,” he bade Patroklus standing tall,
“Stop all Hektor’s army, let Acheans heed the call,
“In armor of Achillies you will turn the Trojans back,
“But only save the ships, no more! or glory will I lack!”

“No march to Troy without me can your Myrmidons advance,
“Just drive the Trojan fire from hollow ships before your lance,
“For when Apollo’s sun upon the ruin’d Troy has shone,
“T’will be the day we brought her down, you and I alone!”

“My rage at Agammemnon, he who took my rightful prize,
“I won her with my mighty spear, but Agammemnon’s lies
“took her away, my Brisies sweet, as if I were a child
“He kept her for his own and now my prize has been defiled.”

“But even though I’ll let it go, forgive the trickster king
“I swore to gods I would not fight, no war cry would I sing
“Till flames of Trojan warriors approached my hollow ships
“So wear my armor bright and loose my war song from your lips!”

“They’ll see my helmet’s beetled brow before them on the field
“And thus will Trojan soldiers flee the battle, or they’ll yield!
“If only Atreus’ Kingly son had given me such trust
“As Patroklus before me, eager now for battle’s dust.”

“I hear the men of Troy outside, they’re stooping on our camp
“And even Diomedes cannot rise, with wrappings damp
“Nor Agammemnon challenging the Trojans at the wall
“The only thing that I can hear is princeling Hektor’s call!”

“So go, my friend Patroklus, wear my armor, be my shade,
“And stride into the battlefield with wordfame that I made
“Drive the Trojans back into the night, that we may live
“And make my glory greater, so the Argive King will give

“My Brisies back to me, along with gold and silver more
“You do this in my armor, save our ships along the shore,
“But then return, Patroklus, for your battle-lust burns bright
“only when you have me there to bring it all to light.”

“I warn you, do not drive to Troy, to bring an end to war
“Do not tempt the ire of Gods on Mount Olympus far
“For if Apollo’d loose his bow, the Trojans he’ll defend
“Without me there to take the lead, he’ll bring you to your end.”

From where they sat, Patroklus and Achillies saw the fire
of tall Achean war ships, burning like a funeral pyre
“To arms, Patroklus, arm yourself,” stern Prince Achillies cried
“Before your ships are cinders, and dead on Trojan soil we lie!”

“Here, take my greaves and breastplate, blazoned stars upon the chest
“My shield and my helmet with its two dark horsehair crests
“My sword with silvered hilt, and my two battle spears you’ll take
“And with the blood of Trojan men my blades’ thirst you will slake.”

And then the war-team, horses fine, yoked together as a team
All in bronze as well were they, all polished to a sheen
Achillies rallied Myrmidons, wolves, hungry for the fight
They swarmed around Patroklus, ready to bring down their might.

The men of fifty ships all stood, five Captains in command
Menesthius, and Phoenix, Pisander of Maemalus’ land.
Alcimedon and Eudorus also held Achillies’ trust
And like a mighty spear, there into battle, they he thrust

“My comrades, brothers Myrmidon, you’ve waited through days long
“To make true spoken threats giv’n past, to right Prince Paris’ wrong
“And as we’ve waited, battle nigh, our anger has but grown
“So now’s the chance to change the tide and strike the Trojans down!”

A singing cry burst forth from every Myrmidon’s full lips
No more would Trojan warriors be free to fire our ships!
The ranks pulled closer, closer still, tight as a good stone wall
Advancing on the battle front between Greek ships so tall.

And as Patroklus rode before them, vanguard, far in front
Achillies went back to his tent, where he did voice his want
“Oh, Zeus, I hold my well wrought cup with wine to please you, King
“Oh as I sacrifice to you, this prayer to you I sing!”

“Pelasgian, Dodona’s lord, of whom the Selli speak
“I beg you now, bring to me conclusion that I seek
“I send the Myrmidons to fight proud Troy along the shore
“Please give Patroklus victory to drive them off, no more”

“Just that, King Zeus, to save our ships, and bring him safe to me
“As I stay here among the ships here beached next to the sea
“He must return, with armor mine, from driving Trojans off
“I’ll sacrifice five bulls and give you sheep with wool so soft!”

And then Achillies poured the wine to fall on Trojan sand
And Zeus did hear and vow to give Patroklus victory grand
But safe return was not ordained, for friend or armor bright
Of this Achillies did not know, he simply watched the fight.

Now on did proud Patroklus lead, with men arrayed behind
The fire of burning hollow ships on helms and spears points shined
For Zeus, the King of Gods had made half truth of Achillies’ prayer
Patroklus would have victory, but too would he die there.

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