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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII. 1876–79.

Asia Minor: Troy

Picture of Scenes in the Trojan War

By William Shakespeare (1564–1616)

AT last she calls to mind where hangs a piece

Of skilful painting, made for Priam’s Troy;

Before the which is drawn the power of Greece,

For Helen’s rape the city to destroy,

Threatening cloud-kissing Ilion with annoy;

Which the conceited painter drew so proud,

As heaven (it seemed) to kiss the turrets bow’d.

A thousand lamentable objects there,

In scorn of nature, art gave lifeless life:

Many a dry drop seem’d a weeping tear,

Shed for the slaughter’d husband by the wife:

The red blood reek’d, to shew the painter’s strife;

And dying eyes gleam’d forth their ashy lights,

Like dying coals burnt out in tedious nights.

There might you see the labouring pioneer

Begrim’d with sweat, and smeared all with dust;

And from the towers of Troy there would appear

The very eyes of men through loop-holes thrust,

Gazing upon the Greeks with little lust:

Such sweet observance in this work was had,

That one might see those far-off eyes look sad.

In great commanders grace and majesty

You might behold triumphing in their faces;

In youth, quick bearing and dexterity;

And here and there the painter interlaces

Pale cowards, marching on with trembling paces;

Which heartless peasants did so well resemble,

That one would swear he saw them quake and tremble.

In Ajax and Ulysses, O, what art

Of physiognomy might one behold!

The face of either ’cipher’d either’s heart;

Their face their manners most expressly told:

In Ajax’ eyes blunt rage and rigour roll’d;

But the mild glance that sly Ulysses lent

Shewed deep regard and smiling government.

There pleading might you see grave Nestor stand,

As ’t were encouraging the Greeks to fight;

Making such sober action with his hand,

That it beguiled attention, charm’d the sight;

In speech, it seem’d, his beard, all silver white,

Wagg’d up and down, and from his lips did fly

Thin winding breath, which purl’d up to the sky.

About him were a press of gaping faces,

Which seem’d to swallow up his sound advice;

All jointly listening, but with several graces,

As if some mermaid did their ears entice;

Some high, some low; the painter was so nice,

The scalps of many, almost hid behind,

To jump up higher seem’d to mock the mind.

Here one man’s hand lean’d on another’s head,

His nose being shadow’d by his neighbour’s ear;

Here one, being throng’d, bears back, all boll’n and red;

Another, smother’d, seems to pelt and swear;

And in their rage such signs of rage they bear,

As, but for loss of Nestor’s golden words,

It seem’d they would debate with angry swords.

For much imaginary work was there;

Conceit deceitful, so compact, so kind,

That for Achilles’ image stood his spear,

Griped in an armed hand; himself, behind,

Was left unseen, save to the eye of mind:

A hand, a foot, a face, a leg, a head,

Stood for the whole to be imagined.

And from the walls of strong-besieged Troy

When their brave hope, bold Hector, march’d to field,

Stood many Trojan mothers, sharing joy

To see their youthful sons bright weapons wield;

And to their hope they such odd action yield,

That, through their light joy, seemed to appear

(Like bright things stain’d) a kind of heavy fear.

And, from the strond of Dardan where they fought,

To Simois’ reedy banks the red blood ran,

Whose waves to imitate the battle sought

With swelling ridges; and their ranks began

To break upon the galled shore, and then

Retire again, till meeting greater ranks

They join, and shoot their foam at Simois’ banks.