THE BATTLE OF SALAMIS (from "The Persians")

by: Aeschylus

      HE night was passing, and the Grecian host
      By no means sought to issue forth unseen.
      But when indeed the day with her white steeds
      Held all the earth, resplendent to behold,
      First from the Greeks the loud-resounding din
      Of song triumphant came; and shrill at once
      Echo responded from the island rock.
      Then upon all barbarians terror fell,
      Thus disappointed; for not as for flight
      The Hellenes sang the holy pæan then,
      But setting forth to battle valiantly.
      The bugle with its note inflamed them all;
      And straightway with the dip of plashing oars
      They smote the deep sea water at command,
      And quickly all were plainly to be seen.
      Their right wing first in orderly array
      Led on, and second all the armament
      Followed them forth; and meanwhile there was heard
      A mighty shout: "Come, O ye sons of Greeks,
      Make free your country, make your children free,
      Your wives, and fanes of your ancestral gods,
      And your sires' tombs! For all we now contend!"
      And from our side the rush of Persian speech
      Replied. No longer might the crisis wait.
      At once ship smote on ship with brazen beak;
      A vessel of the Greeks began the attack,
      Crushing the stem of a Phoenician ship.
      Each on a different vessel turned its prow.
      At first the current of the Persian host
      Withstood; but when within the strait the throng
      Of ships was gathered, and they could not aid
      Each other, but by their own brazen bows
      Were struck, they shattered all our naval host.
      The Grecian vessels not unskillfully
      Were smiting round about; the hulls of ships
      Were overset; the sea was hid from sight,
      Covered with wreckage and the death of men;
      The reefs and headlands were with corpses filled,
      And in disordered flight each ship was rowed,
      As many as were of the Persian host.
      But they, like tunnies or some shoal of fish,
      With broken oars and fragments of the wrecks
      Struck us and clove us; and at once a cry
      Of lamentation filled the briny sea,
      Till the black darkness' eye did rescue us.
      The number of our griefs, not though ten days
      I talked together, could I fully tell;
      But this know well, that never in one day
      Perished so great a multitude of men.

This English translation, by William Cranston Lawton, of 'The Battle of Salamis' is reprinted from Greek Poets in English Verse. Ed. William Hyde Appleton. Cambridge: The Riverside Press, 1893.




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