Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES: NEWS OF WAR, by AESCHYLUS

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES: NEWS OF WAR, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: King of this people, good lord eteocles
Last Line: Do get most honour, which most prospereth.
Subject(s): War


King of this people, good lord Eteocles,
Lo, I bear back to thee the very shape
Of things wrought yonder in the host: mine eyes
Have seen them and my lips shall utter them.
Seven men there were, chief-captains, fiery-proud,
These same did slay a bull: the bason was
A shield, black-bounden: and each man his hand
Dipp'd in the dark stream of hot bestial life,
And sware, crying dread names, the Lord of War,
The Battle-Maiden and blood-ravening Fear,
That either he would sack by strength of hand
The town Cadmean and unbuild her towers,
Or, slain, make bloody clay of this land's dust.
And each did bind the chariot of the king
Adrastus with such token as might keep
His memory in far days with those at home
Who bare him, not without some fall of tears,
But, for their mouth, nought weak was found therein:
Those hearts were iron-proof: there burn'd the clear
Spirit of war unquenchable: they seem'd
Lions, whose eyes are even as gleaming swords.
And look, no lag-foot post is this I bring;
Even as I went from them, they cast the lot,
How each must launch his battle at the gates.
Wherefore let chosen men, the city's best,
Be set by thy ordainment presently
To keep the issuing of the gates: for near --
The Argive host, full-harness'd, draweth near,
With trampling and with whirl of dust: the fields
Be fleck's with flying white from the hot breath
Of horses. But do thou, O king, this ship's
Good rudderman, make strong her civic wall
Or ever lighten on us the hurricane
Immense of war, the roaring of the sea
That is of men, not waters. Nay, dispose
As shall be swiftest in the act, and I
Shall do my daylight office with as true
Curious an eye, that thou by clear report
May'st look beyond the doors and take no harm.


O Zeus and Earth and gods that dwell with us,
O dark and strong Destroyer, my father's Curse,
I cry to you, break not us utterly!
Make not this city as a tree pluck'd up
By the roots, abolish'd, broken of battles, one
That speaketh the sweet speech of Hellas, homes
Where the old fire burneth; this free land, this town
Of Cadmus, bind it never in bonds of shame.
Be strong to save. Surely ye too are grieved
In all our grieving, for that city's gods
Do get most honour, which most prospereth.

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