Thebais - Book One - part II
- by Pablius Papinius Statius 54A robe obscene was o'er her shoulders thrown,
A dress by fates and furies worn alone. us
She tossed her meagre arms; her better hand'
In waving circles whirled a fun'ral brand:
A serpent from her left was seen to rear
His flaming crest, and lash the yielding air.
But when the fury took her stand on high, too
Where vast Oitheron's top salutes the sky,
A hiss from all the snaky tire went round:
The dreadful signal all the rocks rebound,
And through th' Aobaian cities send the sound.
?te, with high Parnassus, heard the voice;
Eurotas' banks remurmured to the noise;.
Again Leucothea shook at these alarms,
And pressed Pal?mon closer in her arms.
Headlong from thence the glowing fury springs,
And o'er the Theban palace spreads her wings,
Once more invades the guilty dome, and shrouds
Its bright pavilions in a veil of clouds.
Straight with the rage of all their race possessed
Stung to the soul, the brothers start from rest,
And all their furies wake within their breast.
Their tortured minds repining envy tears,
And hate, engendered by suspicious fears;
And sacred thirst of sway; and all the ties
Of nature broke; and royal perjuries;
And impotent desire to reign alone,
That scorns the dull reversion of a throne;
Each would the sweets of sov'reign rule devour,
While discord waits upon divided power.
As stubborn steers by brawny plowmen broke,
And joined reluctant to the galling yoke,
Alike disdain with servile necks to bear
Th' unwonted weight, or drag the crooked share,
But rend the reins, and bound a diff'rent way,
And all the furrows in confusion lay:
Such was the discord of the royal pair,
Whom fury drove precipitate to war.
In vain the chiefs contrived a specious way,
To govern Thebes by their alternate sway:
Unjust decree ! while this enjoys the state,
That mourns in exile his unequal fate,
And the short monarch of a hasty year
Foresees with anguish his returning heir.
Thus did the league their impious arms restrain,
But scarce subsisted to the second reign.
Yet then, no proud aspiring piles were raised,
No fretted roofs with polished metals blazed;
No laboured columns in long order placed,
No Grecian stone the pompous arches graced;
No nightly bands in glitt'ring armour wait
Before the sleepless tyrant's guarded gate;
No chargers then were wrought in burnished gold,
Nor silver vases took the forming mold;
Nor gems on bowls embossed were seen to shine,
Blaze on the brims, and sparkle in the wine.
Say, wretched rivals ! what provokes your rage?
Say, to what end your impious arms engage?
Not all bright Ph?bus views in early morn,
Or when his ev'ning beams the west adorn,
When the south glows with his meridian ray,
And the cold north receives a fainter day;
For crimes like these, not all those realms suffice,
Were all those realms the guilty victor's prize !
But fortune now (the lots of empire thrown)
Decrees to proud Eteocles the crown:
What joys, oh tyrant ! swelled thy soul that day,
When all were slaves thou couldst around survey,
Pleased to behold unbounded power thy own,
And singly fill a feared and envied throne !
But the vile vulgar, ever discontent,
Their growing fears in secret murmurs vent;
Still prone to change, though still the slaves of state,
And sure the monarch whom they have, to hate;
New lords they madly make, then tamely bear,
And softly curse tile tyrants whom they fear.
And one of those who groan beneath the sway
Of kings imposed, and grudgingly obey,
(Whom envy to the great, and vulgar spite
With scandal armed, th' ignoble mind's delight,)
Exclaimed-“ O Thebes ! for thee what fates remain,
What woes attend this inauspicious reign?
Must we, alas ! our doubtful necks prepare,
Each haughty master's yoke by turns to bear,
And still to change whom changed we still must fear?
These now control a wretched people's fate,
These can divide, and these reverse the state:
Ev'n fortune rules no more !-O servile land,
Where exiled tyrants still by turns command.
Thou sire of gods and men, imperial Jove !
Is this th' eternal doom decreed above?
On thy own offspring hast thou fixed this fate,
From the first birth of our unhappy state;
When banished Cadmus, wand'ring o'er the main,
For lost Europa searched the world in vain,
And fated in B?otian fields to found
A rising empire on a foreign ground,
First raised our walls on that ill-omened plain,
Where earth-born brothers were by brothers slain?
What lofty looks th' unrivalled monarch bears !
How all the tyrant in his face appears !
What sullen fury clouds his scornful brow !
Gods ! how his eyes with threat'ning ardour glow !
Can this imperious lord forget to reign,
Quit all his state, descend, and serve again?
Yet, who, before, mere popularly bowed?
Who more propitious to the suppliant crowd?
Patient of right, familiar in the throne?
What wonder then? he was not then alone.
O wretched we, a vile, submissive train,
Fortune's tame fools, and slaves in ev'ry reign !
As when two winds with rival force contend,
This way and that, the wav'ring sails they bend,
While freezing Boreas, and black Eurus blow,
Now here, now there, tho reeling vessel throw:
Thus on each side, alas ! our tott'ring state
Feels all the fury of resistless fate,
And doubtful still, and still distracted stands,
While that prince threatens, and while this commands.”
And now th' almighty father of the gods
Convenes a council in the blest abodes:
Far in the bright recesses of the skies,
high o'er the rolling heav'ns, a mansion lies,
Whence, far below, the gods at once survey
The realms of rising and declining day,
And all lii' extended space of earth, and air, and sea.
Full in the midst, and on a starry throne,
The majesty of heav'n superior shone;
Serene he looked, and gave an awful nod,
And all the trembling spheres confessed the god.
At Jove's assent the deities around
In solemn state the consistory crowned.
Next a long order of inferior pow'rs
Ascend from hills, and plains, and shady bow'rs;
Those from whose urns the rolling rivers flow;
And those that give the wand'ring winds to blow:
Here all their rage, and ev'n their murmurs cease,
And sacred silence reigns, and universal peace.
A shining synod of majestic gods
Gilds with new lustre the divine abodes;
Heav'n seems improved with a superior ray,
And the bright arch reflects a double day.
The monarch then his solemn silence broke,
The still creation listened while he spoke,
Each sacred accent bears eternal weight,
And each irrevocable word is fate.
“How long shall man the wrath of heav'n defy,
And force unwilling vengeance from the sky!
Thebais - Book Two
- by Pablius Papinius Statius 41Now Jove's Command fulfill'd, the Son of May
Quits the black Shades and slowly mounts to Day.
For lazy Clouds in gloomy Barriers rise,
Obstruct the God, and intercept the Skies;
No Zephyrs here their airy pinions move,
To spread his progress to the Realms above.
Scarce can he steer his dark laborious Flight,
Lost and encumber'd in the Damps of Night:
There roaring Tides of Fire his Course withstood,
Here Styx in nine wide Circles roll'd his Flood.
Behind old Laius trod th' infernal Ground,
Trembling with Age, and tardy from his Wound;
(For all his Force his furious Son apply'd,
And plung'd the guilty Faulchion in his Side.)
Propt and supported by the healing Rod,
The Shade pursued the Footsteps of the God.
The Groves that never bloom; the Stygian Coasts,
The House of Woe; the Mansions of Ghosts,
Earth too admires to see the Ground give way,
And gild Hell's Horrors with the Gleams of Day.
But not with Life repining Envy fled,
She still reigns there, and lives among the Dead.
One from this Crowd exclaim'd, (whose lawless Will
Inur'd to Crimes, and exercis'd in Ill,
Taught his prepost'rous Joys from Pains to flow,
And never triumph'd, but in Scenes of Woe)
Go to thy Province in the Realms above,
Call'd by the Furies or the Will of Jove:
Or drawn by Magick Force or Mystick Spell,
Rise, and purge off the sooty Gloom of Hell.
Go, see the Sun, and whiten in his Beams,
Or haunt the flow'ry Fields and limpid Streams,
With Woes redoubled to return again,
When thy past pleasures shall enhance thy Pain.
Now by the Stygian Dog they bent their Way;
Stretch'd in his Den the dreadful Monster lay;
But lay not long, for startling at the Sound,
Head above Head he rises from the Ground.
from their close Folds his startling Serpents break,
And curlin horrid Circles round his Neck.
This saw the God, and stretching forth his Hand,
Lull'd the grim Monster with his potent Want
Thro' his vast Bulk the gliding Slumbers creep,
And sent down all his glaring Eyes in Sleep.
There lies a Place in Greece well known to Fame,
Thro' all her Realms, and T?narus the Name,
Where from the Sea the Tops of Malea rise,
Beyond the Ken of Mortals, to the Skies:
Proud in his Height he calmly hears below
The distant Winds in hollow Murmurs blow.
Here sleep the Storms when weary'd and opprest,
And on his Head the drowsy Planets rest:
There in blue Mists his rocky Sides he shrouds,
Ane here the tow'ring Mountain props the Clouds.
Above his awfu Brow no Bird can fly,
And far beneath the mutt'rung Thunders die.
When down the Steep of Heav'n the Day descends,
The Sun so wide his floating Bound extends,
That o'er the Deeps the Mountain hangs display'd
And covers half the Ocean with his Shade:
Where the T?narian Shores oppose the Sea,
The Land retreats, and winds into a Bay.
Here for Repose Inperian Neptune leads,
Tir'd from th' ?gean Floods, his smoaking Steeds;
With their broad Hoofs they scoop the Beach away,
Their finny Train rolls back, and floats along the Sea.
Here Fame reports th' unbody'd Shades to go
Thro' this wide Passage to the Realms below.
From hence the peasants, (As th' Arcadians tell,)
Hear all the Cries, and Groans, and Din of Hell.
Oft, as her Scourge of Snakes and Fury plies,
The piercing Echoes mount the distant Skies;
Scar'd at the Porter's triple Roar, the Swains
Have fled astonish'd, and forsook the Plains.
From hence emergent in a mantling Cloud
Sprung to his native Skies the winged God.
Swift from his Face before th' Ethereal Ray,
Flew all the black Tartarean Strains away,
And the dark Stygian Gloom refin'd to Day.
O'er the Towns and Realms he held his Progress on,
Now wing'd the Skies where bright Arcturus shone,
And now the silent Empire of the Moon.
The Pow'r of Sleep, who met his radiant Flight,
And drove the solemn Chariot of the Night,
Rode with respect and from th' empyreal Road
Turned his pale Steeds, in reverence to the God.
The Shade beneath pursues his Course, and spies
The well-known Planets, and congenial Skies.
His Eyes from far, tall Cyrrha's Heights explore,
And Phocian Fields polluted with his Gore.
At length to Thebes he came, and with a Groan
Survey'd the guilty Palace on his own;
With awful Silence stalk'd before the Gate,
But when he saw the Trophies of his fate,
High on a Column rais'd against the Door,
And his rich Chariot still deform'd with Gore,
He starts with horror back; ev'n Jove's Command
could scarce controul him, nor the vital Wand.
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