Pyrrhus next advanced against the city. It was resolved to
send the women into Crete, but they remonstrated against it ;
and the queen, Archidamia, being appointed to speak for the rest,
went into the council-hall with a sword in her hand, and said
that they did their wives great wrong if they thought them so
faint-hearted as to live after Sparta was destroyed.’
The chiefs were met in the council-hall ;1
Their words were sad and few ;2
They were ready to fight, and ready to fall,3
As the sons. of heroes do.4
And, moored in the harbour of Gythium, lay5
The last of the Spartan fleet,6
That should bear the Spartan women away7
To the sunny shores of Crete.8
Their hearts went back to the days of old ;9
They thought of the world-wide shock,10
When the Persian host like an ocean rolled11
To the foot of the Grecian rock ;12
And they turned their faces, eager and pale,13
To the rising roar in the street,14
As if the clank of the Spartan mail15
Were the tramp of the conqueror’s feet.16
It was Archidamia, Spartan queen,17
Brave as her father’s steel ;18
She stood, like the silence that comes between19
The flash and the thunder-peal.20
She looked in the eyes of the startled crowd ;21
Calmly-she gazed around ;22
Her voice was neither low nor loud,23
But it rang like her sword on the ground.24
Spartans !’ she said—and her woman’s face25
Flushed out both pride and shame26
I ask, by the memory of your race,27
Are ye worthy of the name ?28
Ye have bidden us seek new hearths and graves,29
Beyond the reach of the foe ;30
And now, by the dash of the blue sea-waves,31
We swear, that we will not go !32
Is the name of Pyrrhus to blanch your cheeks ?33
Shall he burn, and kill, and destroy ?34
Are ye not sons of the deathless Greeks35
Who fired the gates of Troy ?36
What though his feet have scathless stood37
In the rush of the Punic foam ?38
Through his sword be red to its hilt with the blood39
That has beat at the heart of Rome ?40
Brothers and sons ! we have reared you men,41
Our walls are the ocean swell ;42
Our winds blow keen down the rocky glen43
Where the stanch Three Hundred fell.44
Our hearts are drenched in the wild sea-flow,45
In the light of the hills and the sky ;46
And the Spartan women, if need be so,47
Will teach the men to die.48
We are brave men’s mothers, and brave men’s wives ;49
We are ready to do and dare50
We are ready to man your walls with our lives,51
And string your bows with our hair.52
Let the young and brave lie down to-night,53
And dream of the brave old dead,54
Their broad shields bright, for the morrow’s fight,55
Their swords beneath their head.56
Our breasts are better than bolts and bars ;57
We neither wail nor weep ;58
We will light our torches at the stars,59
And work while our warriors sleep.60
We hold not the iron in our blood61
Viler than strangers’ gold ;62
The memory of our motherhood63
Is not to be bought and sold.64
Shame to the traitor-heart that springs65
To the faint soft arms of peace,66
If the Roman eagle shook his wings67
At the very gates of Greece !68
Ask not the mothers who gave you birth69
To bid you turn and flee ;70
When Sparta is trampled from, the, earth,71
Her women can die, and be free.’72