Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, DE HISTRICE. EX CLAUDIANO, by CLAUDIAN

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

DE HISTRICE. EX CLAUDIANO, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Fam'd stymphal, I have heard, thy birds in flight
Last Line: Taught by this bird their skilful archery.
Alternate Author Name(s): Claudius Claudianus
Subject(s): Arcadians; Birds; Arcadia

FAM'D Stymphal, I have heard, thy birds in flight
Shoot showers of arrows forth all levied right,
And long the fable of those quills of steel
Did seem to me a tale incredible.
Now have I faith; the porcupine, I see,
And then th' Herculean birds no wonders be.
Her longer head like a swine's snout doth show;
Bristles, like horns, upon her forehead grow,
A fiery heat glows from her flaming eye,
Under her shaggy back the shape doth lie
As 'twere a whelp: nature all art hath tried
In this small beast so strangely fortified.
A threat'ning wood o'er all her body stands,
And stiff with pikes the speckled stalks in bands
Grow to the war; while under those doth rise
Another troop, girt with alternate dyes
Of several hue, which while a black doth fill
The inward space ends in a solid quill.
That lessening by degrees, doth in a while
Take a quick point, and sharpens to a pile.
Nor doth her squadrons like the hedgehog's stand
Fix'd, but she darts them forth, and at command
Far off her members aims, shot through the sky
From her shak'd side the native engines fly.
Sometimes retiring, Parthian-like, she'll wound
Her following foe; sometimes entrenching round,
In battle-form marshalling all her flanks,
She'll clash her javelins to affright the ranks
Of her poor enemies: lining every side
With spears to which she is herself allied,
Each part of her's a soldier: from her back
But stirr'd, a horse and horrid noise doth crack,
That one would think the trumpets did incite
Two adverse armies to begin to fight,
So great a noise from one so small did rise.
Then to her skill in arms she is so wise
As to add policy, and a thrifty fear
Of her own safety; she a wrath doth bear
Not prodigal of weapons, but content
With wary threat'ning, and hath seldom sent
An arrow forth caus'd by an idle strife,
But spends 'em only to secure her life.
And then her diligent stroke so certain is,
Without all error, she will seldom miss.
No distance cosens her; the dumb skin aims right,
And rules the levy of the skilful fight,
What human labour, though we boast it such,
With all her reason can perform so much?
They from the Cretan goats their horns must take,
And after, those with fire must softer make.
Bulls' guts must bend their bows, and, ere they fight,
Steel arms their darts, and feathers wing their flight.
When, lo! a little beast we armed see
With nothing but her own artillery:
Who seeks no foreign aid: with her all go:
She to herself is quiver, darts, and bow,
One creature all the arts of warfare knows.
If from examples, then, the practice flows
Of human life, hence did th' invention grow
At distance to encounter with our foe.
Hence the Sidonians instructed are
Their stratagems and manner of their war.
Hence did the Parthians learn to fight and fly,
Taught by this bird their skilful archery.

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