Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, CROESUS, by BACCHYLIDES

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

CROESUS, by                    
First Line: Shrines fill with festival and with sacrificing
Last Line: The best gifts of all men to holy pytho.
Alternate Author Name(s): Bakchylides
Subject(s): Croesus, King Of Lydia (d. 546 B.c.)

SHRINES fill with festival and with sacrificing,
And full of carousing and feasts the alleys;
And here with the beautiful work of tripods
High before the temple erected shining

Gold glitters, and the assembled priests of Delphi
By fountain of Castaly praising Phoebus
Proceed through his ground so immense -- to god be
Praise! to god! in praising is best of treasures.

And so with the Lydian monarch
In the land the horseman loves: --
There, when doom of Zeus was due
For Sardis at the time Fate decreed,
Persia stormed the town and laid it desolate;
But for Croesus help was found.

Apollo of the gold sword was found to help him,
When, falling on days never dreamed of, Croesus
In slavery longer to live disdaining
Built a pyre in front of his bronze-walled palace.

And sadly he ascended it, his wife ascended,
And all of his daughters, their long hair flowing.
They cried without ceasing, he held both hands up
To highest heaven, and his voice he lifted:

'O arrogant Deity,' crying,
'Where do gods reward man's grace?
Where is Leto's child, our lord?
For falling are the proud palaces
That Alyattes built: what will Pytho pay me back
For the many gifts I gave?

'My city has been mastered by the Medes, they sack it.
The gold in the swirls of Pactolus river
Is reddened and bloody, the women rudely
Forth from my magnificent palace carried.

'And dear is what I formerly have hated; dying
Is sweetest.' He signed for a footman lighting
The tower of timber; his daughters shrieking
Held their clasped hands high to their mother pleading;

For hardest of deaths to a mortal
Is the death he sees ahead.
But when shining might of fire
Appallingly the pyre darted through,
Zeus put down a cloud of darkness over it,
Orange flame extinguishing.

Incredible is nothing that the care of heaven
Causes, for Apollo of Delos carried
The old man, the lightfooted daughters also,
To the Hyperboreans; home they found there,

Because of piety and because he offered
The best gifts of all men to holy Pytho.

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