Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THEBAID: BOOK 1, by PUBLIUS PAPINIUS STATIUS



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THEBAID: BOOK 1, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Fraternal rage the guilty thebes alarms
Last Line: Who grasps the strugling heifer's lunar horns.
Alternate Author Name(s): Statius
Subject(s): Mythology - Classical


Fraternal Rage, the guilty Thebes Alarms,
Th' Alternate Reign destroy'd by Impious Arms,
Demand our Song; a sacred Fury fires
My ravish'd Breast, and All the Muse inspires.
O Goddess, say, shall I deduce my Rhimes
From the dire Nation in its early Times,
Europa's Rape, Agenor's stern Decree,
And Cadmus searching round the spacious Sea?
How with the Serpent's Teeth he sow'd the Soil,
And reap'd an Iron Harvest of his Toil;
Or how from joyning Stones the City sprung,
While to his Harp Divine Amphion sung?
Or shall I funo's Hate to Thebes resound,
Whose fatal Rage th'unhappy Monarch found;
The Sire against the Son his Arrows drew,
O'er the wide Fields the furious Mother flew,
And while her Arms her Second Hope contain,
Sprung from the Rocks, and plung'd into the Main.
But wave whate'er to Cadmus may belong,
And fix, O Muse! the Barrier of thy Song,
At Oedipus -- from his Disasters trace
The long Confusions of his guilty Race.
Nor yet attempt to stretch thy bolder Wing,
And mighty Coesar's conqu'ring Eagles sing;
How twice he tam'd proud Ister's rapid Flood,
While Dacian Mountains stream'd with barb'rous Blood;
Twice taught the Rhine beneath his Laws to roll,
And stretch'd his Empire to the frozen Pole;
Or long before, with early Valour strove
In youthful Arms t'assert the Cause of Jove.
And Thou, great Heir of all thy Father's Fame,
Encrease of Glory to the Latian Name;
Oh bless thy Rome with an Eternal Reign,
Nor let desiring Worlds intreat in vain!
What tho' the Stars contract their Heav'nly Space,
And crowd their shining Ranks to yield thee place;
Tho' all the Skies, ambitious of thy Sway,
Conspire to court thee from our World away;
Tho' Phoebus longs to mix his Rays with thine,
And in thy Glories more serenely shine;
Tho' Jove himself no less content wou'd be,
To part his Throne and share his Heav'n with thee;
Yet stay, great Coesar! and vouchsafe to reign
O'er the wide Earth, and o'er the watry Main,
Resign to Jove his Empire of the Skies,
And People Heav'n with Roman Deities.
The Time will come, when a diviner Flame
Shall warm my Breast to sing of Coesar's Fame:
Mean while permit that my preluding Muse
In Theban Wars an humbler Theme may chuse:
Of furious Hate surviving Death, she sings,
A fatal Throne to two contending Kings,
And Fun'ral Flames, that parting wide in Air,
Express the Discord of the Souls they bear:
Of Towns dispeopled, and the wandring Ghosts
Of Kings unbury'd, on the wasted Coasts;
When Dirce's Fountain blush'd with Grecian Blood,
And Thetis, near Ismenos' swelling Flood,
With Dread beheld the rolling Surges sweep
In Heaps his slaughter'd Sons into the Deep.
What Hero, Clio! wilt thou first relate?
The Rage of Tydeus, or the Prophet's Fate?
Or how with Hills of slain on ev'ry side,
Hippomedon repell'd the hostile Tyde?
Or how the Youth with ev'ry Grace adorn'd,
Untimely fell, to be for ever mourn'd?
Then to fierce Capaneus thy Verse extend,
And sing, with Horror, his prodigious End.
Now wretched Oedipus, depriv'd of Sight,
Led a long Death in everlasting Night;
But while he dwells where not a chearful Ray
Can pierce the Darkness, and abhors the Day;
The clear, reflecting Mind, presents his Sin
In frightful Views, and makes it Day within;
Returning Thoughts in endless Circles roll,
And thousand Furies haunt his guilty Soul.
The Wretch then lifted to th'unpitying Skies
Those empty Orbs, from whence he tore his Eyes,
Whose Wounds yet fresh, with bloody Hands he strook,
While from his Breast these dreadful Accents broke.
Ye Gods that o'er the gloomy Regions reign
Where guilty Spirits feel Eternal Pain;
Thou, sable Styx! whose livid Streams are roll'd
Thro' dreary Coasts which I, tho' Blind, behold:
Tisiphone! that oft hast heard my Pray'r,
Assist, if Oedipus deserve thy Care!
If you receiv'd me from Jocasta's Womb,
And nurst the Hope of Mischiefs yet to come:
If leaving Polybus, I took my Way
To Cyrrha's Temple on that fatal Day,
When by the Son the trembling Father dy'd,
Where the three Roads the Phocian Fields divide:
If I the Sphynxe's Riddles durst explain,
Taught by thy self to win the promis'd Reign:
If wretched I, by baleful Furies led,
With monstrous Mixture stain'd my Mother's Bed,
For Hell and Thee begot an impious Brood,
And with full Lust those horrid Joys renew'd:
Then self-condemn'd to Shades of endless Night,
Forc'd from these Orbs the bleeding Balls of Sight.
Oh hear, and aid the Vengeance I require;
If worthy Thee, and what Thou might'st inspire!
My Sons their old, unhappy Sire despise,
Spoil'd of his Kingdom, and depriv'd of Eyes;
Guideless I wander, unreguarded mourn,
While These exalt their Scepters o'er my Urn;
These Sons, ye Gods! who with flagitious Pride
Insult my Darkness, and my Groans deride.
Art thou a Father, unregarding Jove!
And sleeps thy Thunder in the Realms above?
Thou Fury, then, some lasting Curse entail,
Which o'er their Childrens Children shall prevail:
Place on their Heads that Crown distain'd with Gore,
Which these dire Hands from my slain Father tore;
Go, and a Parent's heavy Curses bear;
Break all the Bonds of Nature, and prepare
Their kindred Souls to mutual Hate and War.
Give them to dare, what I might wish to see,
Blind as I am, some glorious Villany!
Soon shalt thou find, if thou but arm their Hands,
Their ready Guilt preventing thy Commands:
Cou'dst thou some great, proportion'd Mischief frame,
They'd prove the Father from whose Loins they came.
The Fury heard, while on Cocytus' Brink
Her Snakes, unty'd, Sulphureous Waters drink;
But at the Summons, roll'd her Eyes around,
And snatch'd the starting Serpents from the Ground.
Not half so swiftly shoots along in Air
The gliding Lightning, or descending Star.
Thro' Crouds of Airy Shades she wing'd her Flight,
And dark Dominions of the silent Night;
Swift as she past, the flitting Ghosts withdrew,
And the pale Spectres trembled at her View:
To th'Iron Gates of Toenarus she flies,
There spreads her dusky Pinions to the Skies.
The Day beheld, and sick'ning at the Sight,
Veil'd her fair Glories in the Shades of Night.
Affrighted Atlas, on the distant Shore,
Trembl'd, and shook the Heav'ns and Gods he bore.
Now from beneath Malea's airy Height
Aloft she sprung, and steer'd to Thebes her Flight;
With eager Speed the well-known Journey took,
Nor here regrets the Hell she late forsook.
A hundred Snakes her gloomy Visage shade,
A hundred Serpents guard her horrid Head,
In her sunk Eye-balls dreadful Meteors glow,
Such Rays from Phoebe's bloody Circle flow,
When lab'ring with strong Charms, she shoots from high
A fiery Gleam, and reddens all the Sky.
Blood stain'd her Cheeks, and from her Mouth there came
Blue steaming Poisons, and a Length of Flame;
From ev'ry Blast of her contagious Breath,
Famine and Drought proceed, and Plagues, and Death:
A Robe obscene was o'er her Shoulders thrown,
A Dress by Fates and Furies worn alone:
She tost her meagre Arms; her better Hand
In waving Circles whirl'd 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,
Where vast Cythoeron's Top salutes the Sky,
A Hiss from all the Snaky Tire went round;
The dreadful Signal all the Rocks rebound,
And thro' th' Achaian Cities send the Sound.
Oete, with high Parnassus, heard the Voice;
Eurota's Banks remurmur'd to the Noise;
Again Leucothoe shook at these Alarms,
And press'd Paloemon 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.
Strait with the Rage of all their Race possest,
Stung to the Soul, the Brothers start from Rest,
And all the Furies wake within their Breast.
Their tortur'd Minds repining Envy tears,
And Hate, engender'd 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 wou'd the sweets of Sovereign Rule devour,
While Discord waits upon divided Pow'r.
As stubborn Steers by brawny Plowmen broke,
And join'd 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 contriv'd 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 rais'd,
No fretted Roofs with polish'd Metals blaz'd,
No labour'd Columns in long Order plac'd,
No Grecian Stone the pompous Arches grac'd;
No nightly Bands in glitt'ring Armour wait
Before the sleepless Tyrant's guarded Gate;
No Chargers then were wrought in burnish'd Gold,
Nor Silver Vases took the forming Mold,
Nor Gems on Bowls emboss'd 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?
Now All bright Phoebus views in early Morn,
Or when his Evening 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 Etheocles the Crown:
What Joys, oh Tyrant! swell'd thy Soul that Day,
When all were Slaves thou cou'dst around survey,
Pleas'd to behold unbounded Pow'r thy own,
And singly fill a fear'd and envy'd Throne!
But the vile Vulgar, ever discontent,
Their growing Fears in secret Murmurs vent,
Still prone to change, tho' 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 the Tyrants whom they fear.
And one of those who groan beneath the Sway
Of Kings impos'd, and grudgingly obey,
(Whom Envy to the Great, and vulgar Spight
With Scandal arm'd, th' Ignoble Mind's Delight,)
Exclaim'd -- 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 chang'd we still must fear?
These now controul a wretched People's Fate,
These can divide, and these reverse the State;
Ev'n Fortune rules no more: -- Oh servile Land,
Where exil'd 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 fix'd this Fate,
From the first Birth of our unhappy State;
When banish'd Cadmus wandring o'er the Main,
For lost Europa search'd the World in vain,
And fated in Boeotian Fields to found
A rising Empire on a foreign Ground,
First rais'd our Walls on that ill-omen'd Plain
Where Earth-born Brothers were by Brothers slain?
What lofty Looks th'unrival'd Monarch bears!
How all the Tyrant in his Face appears!
What sullen Fury clowds his scornful Brow!
Gods! how his Eyes with threatning Ardour glow!
Can this Imperious Lord forget to Reign,
Quit all his State, descend, and serve again?
Yet who, before, more popularly bow'd,
Who more propitious to the suppliant Crowd,
Patient of Right, familiar in the Throne?
What Wonder then? he was not then Alone.
Oh 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, the 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 rowling Heav'ns, a Mansion lyes,
Whence, far below, the Gods at once survey
The Realms of rising and declining Day,
And all th'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 look'd, and gave an awful Nod,
And all the trembling Spheres confess'd the God.
At Jove's Assent, the Deities around
In solemn State the Consistory crown'd:
Next a long Order of Inferior Pow'rs
Ascend from Hills, and Plains, and shady Bow'rs;
Those from whose Urns the rowling Rivers flow,
And those that give the wandring Winds to blow,
Here all their Rage, and ev'n their Murmurs cease,
And sacred Silence reigns, and universal Peace.
A shining Synod of Majestick Gods
Gilds with new Lustre the divine Abodes,
Heav'n seems improv'd with a superior Ray,
And the bright Arch reflects a double Day.
The Monarch then his solemn Silence broke,
The still Creation listen'd 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?
Oh Race confed'rate into Crimes, that prove
Triumphant o'er th'eluded Rage of Jove!
This weary'd Arm can scarce the Bolt sustain,
And unregarded Thunder rolls in vain:
Th' o'erlabour'd Cyclop from his Task retires;
Th' AEolian Forge exhausted of its Fires.
For this, I suffer'd Phoebus' Steeds to stray,
And the mad Ruler to misguide the Day,
When the wide Earth to Heaps of Ashes turn'd,
And Heav'n it self the wandring Chariot burn'd.
For this, my Brother of the watry Reign
Releas'd th'impetuous Sluices of the Main, --
But Flames consum'd, and Billows rag'd in vain.
Two Races now, ally'd to Jove, offend;
To punish these, see Jove himself descend!
The Theban Kings their Line from Cadmus trace,
From God-like Perseus those of Argive Race.
Unhappy Cadmus' Fate who does not know?
And the long Series of succeeding Woe:
How oft the Furies from the deeps of Night
Arose, and mix'd with Men in Mortal Fight:
Th'exulting Mother stain'd with Filial Blood;
The Savage Hunter, and the haunted Wood;
The direful Banquet why shou'd I proclaim,
And Crimes that grieve the trembling Gods to name?
E'er I recount the Sins of these Profane,
The Sun wou'd sink into the Western Main,
And rising gild the radiant East again.
Have we not seen (the Blood of Laius shed)
The murd'ring Son ascend his Parent's Bed,
Thro' violated Nature force his way,
And stain the sacred Womb where once he lay?
Yet now in Darkness and Despair he groans,
And for the Crimes of guilty Fate attones;
His Sons with Scorn their Eyeless Father view,
Insult his Wounds, and make them bleed anew.
Thy Curse, oh Oedipus, just Heav'n alarms,
And sets th'avenging Thunderer in Arms.
I from the Root thy guilty Race will tear,
And give the Nations to the Waste of War.
Adrastus soon, with Gods averse, shall join
In dire Alliance with the Theban Line;
Hence Strife shall rise, and mortal War succeed;
The guilty Realms of Tantalus shall bleed;
Fix'd is their Doom; this all-remembring Breast
Yet Harbours Vengeance for the Tyrant's Feast.
He said; and thus the Queen of Heav'n return'd;
(With sudden Grief her lab'ring Bosom burn'd)
Must I whose Cares Phoroneus' Tow'rs defend,
Must I, oh Jove! in bloody Wars contend?
Thou know'st those Regions my Protection claim,
Glorious in Arms, in Riches, and in Fame:
Tho' there the fair AEgyptian Heifer fed,
And there deluded Argus slept and bled;
Tho' there the Brazen Tow'r was storm'd of old,
When Jove descended in Almighty Gold.
Yet I can pardon those obscurer Rapes,
Those bashful Crimes disguis'd in borrow'd Shapes;
But Thebes, where shining in Coelestial Charms
Thou cam'st Triumphant to a Mortal's Arms,
When all my Glories o'er her Limbs were spread,
And blazing Lightnings danc'd around her Bed;
Curs'd Thebes the Vengeance it deserves, may prove, --
Ah why shou'd Argos feel the Rage of Jove?
Yet since thou wilt thy Sister-Queen controul,
Since still the Lust of Discord fires thy Soul,
Go, rase my Samos, let Mycene fall,
And level with the Dust the Spartan Wall:
No more let Mortals Juno's Pow'r invoke,
Her Fanes no more with Eastern Incense smoke,
Nor Victims sink beneath the Sacred Stroke;
But to your Isis all my Rites transfer,
Let Altars blaze and Temples smoke for her;
For her, thro' AEgypt's fruitful Clime renown'd,
Let weeping Nilus hear the Timbrel sound.
But if thou must reform the stubborn Times,
Avenging on the Sons the Father's Crimes,
And from the long Records of distant Age
Derive Incitements to renew thy Rage;
Say, from what Period then has Jove design'd
To date his Vengeance; to what Bounds confin'd?
Begin from thence, where first Alpheus hides
His wandring Stream, and thro' the briny Tydes,
Unmix'd, to his Sicilian River glides.
Thy own Arcadians there the Thunder claim,
Whose impious Rites disgrace thy mighty Name,
Who raise thy Temples where the Chariot stood
Of fierce Oenomaus, defil'd with Blood;
Where once his Steeds their savage Banquet found,
And Human Bones yet whiten all the Ground.
Say, can those Honours please? and canst thou love
Presumptuous Crete, that boasts the Tomb of Jove?
And shall not Tantalus his Kingdoms share
Thy Wife and Sister's Tutelary Care?
Reverse, O Jove, thy too severe Decree,
Nor doom to War a Race deriv'd from thee;
On Impious Realms, and barb'rous Kings, impose
Thy Plagues, and curse 'em with such Sons as those.
Thus, in Reproach and Pray'r, the Queen exprest
The Rage and Grief contending in her Breast;
Unmov'd remain'd the Ruler of the Sky,
And from his Throne return'd this stern Reply.
'Twas thus I deem'd thy haughty Soul wou'd bear
The dire, tho' just, Revenge which I prepare
Against a Nation thy peculiar Care:
Ne less Dione might for Thebes contend,
Nor Bacchus less his Native Town defend,
Yet these in Silence see the Fates fulfil
Their Work, and rev'rence our Superior Will.
For by the black infernal Styx I swear,
(That dreadful Oath which binds the Thunderer)
'Tis fix'd; th'irrevocable Doom of Jove;
No Force can bend me, no Persuasion move.
Haste then, Cyllenius, thro' the liquid Air,
Go mount the Winds, and to the Shades repair;
Bid Hell's black Monarch my Commands obey,
And give up Laius to the Realms of Day,
Whose Ghost yet shiv'ring on Cocytus' Sand
Expects its Passage to the farther Strand:
Let the pale Sire revisit Thebes, and bear
These pleasing Orders to the Tyrant's Ear;
That, from his exil'd Brother, swell'd with Pride
Of foreign Forces, and his Argive Bride,
Almighty Jove commands him to detain
The promis'd Empire, and Alternate Reign:
Be this the Cause of more than mortal Hate;
The rest, succeeding Times shall ripen into Fate.
The God obeys, and to his Feet applies
Those golden Wings that cut the yielding Skies;
His ample Hat his beamy Locks o'erspread,
And veil'd the Starry Glories of his Head:
He seiz'd the Wand that causes Sleep to fly,
Or in soft Slumbers seals the wakeful Eye;
That drives the Dead to dark Tartarean Coasts,
Or back to Life compells the wondring Ghosts.
Thus, thro' the parting Clouds the Son of May
Wings on the whistling Winds his rapid way,
Now smoothly steers through Air his equal Flight,
Now springs aloft, and tow'rs th'Ethereal Height,
Then wheeling down the Steep of Heav'n he flies,
And draws a radiant Circle o'er the Skies.
Mean time the banish'd Polynices roves
(His Thebes abandon'd) thro' th' Aonian Groves,
While future Realms his wandring Thoughts delight,
His daily Vision, and his Dream by Night;
Forbidden Thebes appears before his Eye,
From whence he sees his absent Brother fly,
With Transport views the airy Rule his own,
And swells on an imaginary Throne.
Fain wou'd he cast a tedious Age away,
And live out all in one triumphant Day.
He chides the lazy Progress of the Sun,
And bids the Year with swifter Motion run.
With anxious Hopes his craving Mind is tost,
And all his Joys in length of Wishes lost.
The Hero then resolves his Course to bend
Where ancient Danaus' fruitful Fields extend,
And fam'd Mycene's lofty Tow'rs ascend,
(Where late the Sun did Atreus' Crimes detest
And disappear'd, in Horrour of the Feast.)
And now by Chance, by Fate, or Furies led,
From Bacchus' consecrated Caves he fled,
Where the shrill Cries of frantick Matrons sound,
And Pentheus' Blood enrich'd the rising Ground,
Then sees Cythoeron towring o'er the Plain,
And thence declining gently to the Main.
Next to the Bounds of Nisus' Realm repairs,
Where treach'rous Scylla cut the Purple Hairs:
The hanging Cliffs of Scyron's Rock explores,
And hears the Murmurs of the diff'rent Shores:
Passes the Strait that parts the foaming Seas,
And stately Corinth's pleasing Site surveys.
'Twas now the Time when Phoebus yields to Night,
And rising Cynthia sheds her silver Light,
Wide o'er the World in solemn Pomp she drew
Her airy Chariot, hung with Pearly Dew;
All Birds and Beasts lye hush'd; Sleep steals away
The wild Desires of Men, and Toils of Day,
And brings, descending thro' the silent Air,
A sweet Forgetfulness of Human Care.
Yet no red Clouds, with golden Borders gay,
Promise the Skies the bright Return of Day;
No faint Reflections of the distant Light
Streak with long Gleams the scatt'ring Shades of Night;
From the damp Earth impervious Vapours rise,
Encrease the Darkness and involve the Skies.
At once the rushing Winds with roaring Sound
Burst from th' AEolian Caves, and rend the Ground,
With equal Rage their airy Quarrel try,
And win by turns the Kingdom of the Sky:
But with a thicker Night black Auster shrouds
The Heav'ns, and drives on heaps the rowling Clouds,
From whose dark Womb a ratling Tempest pours,
Which the cold North congeals to haily Show'rs.
From Pole to Pole the Thunder roars aloud,
And broken Lightnings flash from ev'ry Cloud.
Now Smoaks with Show'rs the misty Mountain-Ground,
And floated Fields lye undistinguish'd round:
Th' Inachian Streams with headlong Fury run,
And Erasinus rowls a Deluge on:
The foaming Lerna swells above its Bounds,
And spreads its ancient Poysons o'er the Grounds:
Where late was Dust, now rapid Torrents play,
Rush thro' the Mounds, and bear the Dams away:
Old Limbs of Trees from crackling Forests torn,
Are whirl'd in Air, and on the Winds are born;
The Storm the dark Lycean Groves display'd,
And first to Light expos'd the Sacred Shade.
Th'intrepid Theban hears the bursting Sky,
Sees yawning Rocks in massy Fragments fly,
And views astonish'd from the Hills afar
The Floods descending and the watry War,
That driv'n by Storms, and pouring o'er the Plain,
Swept Herds, and Hinds, and Houses to the Main.
Thro' the brown Horrors of the Night he fled,
Nor knows, amaz'd, what doubtful Path to tread,
His Brother's Image to his Mind appears,
Inflames his Heart with Rage, and wings his Feet with Fears.
So fares a Sailor on the stormy Main,
When Clouds conceal Bootes' golden Wain,
When not a Star its friendly Lustre keeps,
Nor trembling Cynthia glimmers on the Deeps;
He dreads the Rocks, and Shoals, and Seas, and Skies,
While Thunder roars, and Lightning round him flies.
Thus strove the Chief on ev'ry side distress'd,
Thus still his Courage, with his Toils, encreas'd;
With his broad Shield oppos'd, he forc'd his way
Thro' thickest Woods, and rouz'd the Beasts of Prey.
Till he beheld, where from Larissa's Height
The shelving Walls reflect a glancing Light;
Thither with haste the Theban Hero flies;
On this side Lerna's pois'nous Water lies,
On that, Prosymna's Grove and Temple rise:
He pass'd the Gates which then unguarded lay,
And to the Regal Palace bent his way;
On the cold Marble spent with Toil he lies,
And waits 'till pleasing Slumbers seal his Eyes.
Adrastus here his happy People sways,
Blest with calm Peace in his declining Days,
By both his Parents of Descent divine,
Great Jove and Phoebus grac'd his noble Line;
Heav'n had not crown'd his Wishes with a Son,
But two fair Daughters heir'd his State and Throne.
To him Apollo (wondrous to relate!
But who can pierce into the Depths of Fate?)
Had sung -- 'Expect thy Sons on Argos' Shore,
A Yellow Lyon and a bristly Boar.'
This, long revolv'd in his Paternal Breast,
Sate heavy on his Heart, and broke his Rest;
This, great Amphiaraus, lay hid from thee,
Tho' skill'd in Fate and dark Futurity.
The Father's Care and Prophet's Art were vain,
For thus did the Predicting God ordain.
Lo hapless Tydeus, whose ill-fated Hand
Had slain his Brother, leaves his Native Land,
And seiz'd with Horror, in the Shades of Night,
Thro' the thick Desarts headlong urg'd his Flight:
Now by the Fury of the Tempest driv'n,
He seeks a Shelter from th'inclement Heav'n,
Till led by Fate, the Theban's Steps he treads,
And to fair Argos' open Court succeeds.
When thus the Chiefs from diff'rent Lands resort
T'Adrastus' Realms and Hospitable Court,
The King surveys his Guests with curious Eyes,
And views their Arms and Habit with Surprize.
A Lyon's yellow Skin the Theban wears,
Horrid his Mane, and rough with curling Hairs;
Such once employ'd Alcides' youthful Toils,
E're yet adorn'd with Nemea's dreadful Spoils.
A Boar's stiff Hyde, of Calydonian Breed,
Oenides' manly Shoulders overspread,
Oblique his Tusks, erect his Bristles stood,
Alive, the Pride and Terror of the Wood.
Struck with the Sight, and fix'd in deep Amaze,
The King th'accomplish'd Oracle surveys,
Reveres Apollo's vocal Caves, and owns
The guiding Godhead, and his future Sons.
O'er all his Bosom secret Transports reign,
And a glad Horror shoots through ev'ry Vein:
To Heav'n he lifts his Hands, erects his Sight,
And thus invokes the silent Queen of Night.
Goddess of Shades, beneath whose gloomy Reign
Yon spangled Arch glows with the starry Train,
You who the Cares of Heav'n and Earth allay,
Till Nature quicken'd by th'Inspiring Ray,
Wakes to new Vigor with the rising Day.
Oh thou who freest me from my doubtful State,
Long lost and wilder'd in the Maze of Fate!
Be present still, oh Goddess! in our Aid;
Proceed, and firm those Omens thou hast made!
We to thy Name our Annual Rites will pay,
And on thy altars Sacrifices lay;
The Sable Flock shall fall beneath the Stroke,
And fill thy Temples with a grateful Smoke:
Hail faithful Tripos! Hail ye dark Abodes
Of awful Phoebus: I confess the Gods!
Thus, seiz'd with Sacred Fear, the Monarch pray'd;
Then to his Inner Court the Guests convey'd;
Where yet thin Fumes from dying Sparks arise,
And Dust yet white upon each Altar lies,
The Relicks of a former Sacrifice.
The King once more the solemn Rites requires,
And bids renew the Feasts, and wake the Fires.
His Train obey; while all the Courts around
With noisie Care and various Tumult sound.
Embroider'd Purple cloaths the Golden Beds;
This Slave the Floor, and That the Table spreads;
A Third dispels the Darkness of the Night,
And fills depending Lamps with Beams of Light;
Here Loaves in Canisters are pil'd on high,
And there, in Flames the slaughter'd Victims fry.
Sublime in Regal State, Adrastus shone,
Stretch'd on rich Carpets, on his Iv'ry Throne;
A lofty Couch receives each Princely Guest;
Around, at awful Distance, wait the rest.
And now the King, his Royal Feast to grace,
Acestis calls, the Guardian of his Race,
Who first their Youth in Arts of Virtue train'd,
And their ripe Years in modest Grace maintain'd.
Then softly whisper'd in her faithful Ear,
And bad his Daughters at the Rites appear.
When from the close Apartments of the Night,
The Royal Nymphs approach divinely bright,
Such was Diana's, such Minerva's Face;
Nor shine their Beauties with superior Grace,
But that in these a milder Charm indears,
And less of Terror in their Looks appears.
As on the Heroes first they cast their Eyes,
O'er their fair Cheeks the glowing Blushes rise,
Their down cast looks a decent Shame confest,
Then, on their Father's rev'rend Features rest.
The Banquet done, the Monarch gives the Sign
To fill the Goblet high with sparkling Wine,
Which Danaus us'd in sacred Rites of old,
With Sculpture grac'd, and rough with rising Gold.
Here to the Clouds victorious Perseus flies;
Medusa seems to move her languid Eyes,
And, ev'n in Gold, turns paler as she dies.
There from the Chace Jove's tow'ring Eagle bears
On golden Wings, the Phrygian to the Stars;
Still as he rises in th'AEthereal Height,
His native Mountains lessen to his Sight;
While all his sad Companions upward gaze,
Fix'd on the Glorious Scene in wild Amaze,
And the swift Hounds, affrighted as he flies,
Run to the Shade, and bark against the Skies.
This Golden Bowl with gen'rous Juice was crown'd,
The first Libations sprinkled on the Ground;
By turns on each Celestial Pow'r they call;
With Phoebus' Name resounds the vaulted Hall.
The Courtly Train, the Strangers, and the rest,
Crown'd with chast Laurel, and with Garlands drest,
(While with rich Gums the fuming Altars blaze)
Salute the God in num'rous Hymns of Praise.
Then thus the King: Perhaps, my Noble Guests,
These honour'd Altars, and these annual Feasts,
To bright Apollo's awful Name design'd,
Unknown, with Wonder may perplex your Mind.
Great was the Cause; our old Solemnities
From no blind Zeal or fond Tradition rise;
But sav'd from Death, our Argives yearly pay
These grateful Honours to the God of Day.
When by a thousand Darts the Python slain
With Orbs unroll'd lay covering all the Plain,
(Transfix'd as o'er Castalia's Streams he hung,
And suck'd new Poisons with his triple Tongue)
To Argos' Realms the Victor God resorts,
And enters old Crotopus' humble Courts.
This rural Prince one only Daughter blest,
That all the Charms of blooming Youth possest;
Fair was her Face, and spotless was her Mind,
Where Filial Love with Virgin Sweetness join'd.
Happy! and happy still She might have prov'd,
Were she less beautiful, or less belov'd!
But Phoebus lov'd, and on the Flow'ry Side
Of Nemea's Stream the yielding Fair enjoy'd:
Now, e'er ten Moons their Orb with Light adorn,
Th'illustrious Off-spring of the God was born.
The Nymph, her Father's Anger to evade,
Retires from Argos to the Sylvan Shade,
To Woods and Wilds the pleasing Burden bears,
And trusts her Infant to a Shepherd's Cares.
How mean a Fate, unhappy Child! is thine?
Ah how unworthy those of Race divine?
On flow'ry Herbs in some green Covert laid,
His Bed the Ground, his Canopy the Shade,
He mixes with the bleating Lambs his Cries,
While the rude Swain his rural Musick tries,
To call soft Slumbers on his infant Eyes.
Yet ev'n in those obscure Abodes to live,
Was more, alas! than cruel Fate wou'd give!
For on the grassie Verdure as he lay,
And breath'd the Freshness of the early Day,
Devouring Dogs the helpless Infant tore,
Fed on his trembling Limbs, and lapt the Gore.
Th'astonish'd Mother when the Rumour came,
Forgets her Father, and neglects her Fame,
With loud Complaints she fills the yielding Air,
And beats her Breast, and rends her flowing Hair;
Then wild with Anguish, to her Sire she flies;
Demands the Sentence, and contented dies.
But touch'd with Sorrow for the Dead, too late,
The raging God prepares t'avenge her Fate.
He sends a Monster, horrible and fell,
Begot by Furies in the Depths of Hell;
The Pest a Virgin's Face and Bosom bears;
High on her Crown a rising Snake appears,
Guards her black Front, and hisses in her Hairs:
About the Realm she walks her dreadful Round,
When Night with sable Wings o'erspreads the Ground,
Devours young Babes before their Parents' Eyes,
And feeds and thrives on Publick Miseries.
But gen'rous Rage the bold Choroebus warms,
Choroebus, fam'd for Virtue as for Arms;
Some few like him, inspir'd with Martial flame,
Thought a short Life well lost for endless Fame.
These, where two Ways in equal Parts divide,
The direful Monster from afar descry'd;
Two bleeding Babes depending at her Side;
Whose panting Vitals, warm with Life, she draws,
And in their Hearts embrues her cruel Claws.
The Youth surround her with extended Spears;
But brave Choroebus in the Front appears,
Deep in her Breast he plung'd his shining Sword,
And Hell's dire Monster back to Hell restor'd.
Th'Inachians view the Slain with vast Surprize,
Her twisting Volumes, and her rowling Eyes,
Her spotted Breast, and gaping Womb imbru'd
With livid Poyson and our Children's Blood.
The Crowd in stupid Wonder fix'd appear,
Pale ev'n in Joy, nor yet forget to fear.
Some with vast Beams the squallid Corps engage,
And weary all the wild Efforts of Rage.
The Birds obscene, that nightly flock'd to Tast,
With hollow Screeches fled the dire Repast;
And ravenous Dogs, allur'd by scented Blood,
And starving Wolves, ran howling to the Wood.
But fir'd with Rage, from cleft Parnassus' Brow
Avenging Phoebus bent his deadly Bow,
And hissing flew the feather'd Fates below;
A Night of sultry Clouds involv'd around
The Tow'rs, the Fields, and the devoted Ground:
And now a thousand Lives together fled,
Death with his Scythe cut off the fatal Thread,
And a whole Province in his Triumph led.
But Phoebus, ask'd why noxious Fires appear,
And raging Sirius blasts the sickly Year,
Demands their Lives by whom his Monster fell,
And dooms a dreadful Sacrifice to Hell.
Blest be thy Dust, and let Eternal Fame
Attend thy Manes, and preserve thy Name;
Undaunted Hero! who, divinely brave,
In such a Cause disdain'd thy Life to save;
But view'd the Shrine with a superior Look,
And its upbraided Godhead thus bespoke.
With Piety, the Soul's securest Guard,
And conscious Virtue, still its own Reward,
Willing I come; unknowing how to fear;
Nor shalt thou, Phoebus, find a Suppliant here:
Thy Monster's Death to me was ow'd alone,
And 'tis a Deed too glorious to disown.
Behold him here, for whom, so many Days,
Impervious Clouds conceal'd thy sullen Rays;
For whom, as Man no longer claim'd thy Care,
Such Numbers fell by Pestilential Air!
But if th'abandon'd Race of Human-kind
From Gods above no more Compassion find;
If such Inclemency in Heav'n can dwell;
Yet why must un-offending Argos feel
The Vengeance due to this unlucky Steel?
On me, on me, let all thy Fury fall,
Nor err from me, since I deserve it all:
Unless our Desart Cities please thy Sight,
Our Fun'ral Flames reflect a grateful Light.
Discharge thy Shafts, this ready Bosom rend,
And to the Shades a Ghost Triumphant send;
But for my Country let my Fate attone,
Be mine the Vengeance, as the Crime my own.
Merit distress'd impartial Heav'n relieves;
Unwelcome Life relenting Phoebus gives;
For not the vengeful Pow'r, that glow'd with Rage,
With such amazing Virtue durst engage.
The Clouds dispers'd, Apollo's Wrath expir'd,
And from the wondring God th'unwilling Youth retir'd.
Thence we these Altars in his Temple raise,
And offer Annual Honours, Feasts, and Praise;
These solemn Feasts propitious Phoebus please,
These Honours, still renew'd, his antient Wrath appease.
But say, Illustrious Guest (adjoin'd the King)
What Name you bear, from what high Race you spring?
The noble Tydeus stands confess'd, and known
Our Neighbour Prince, and Heir of Calydon:
Relate your Fortunes, while the friendly Night
And silent Hours to various Talk invite.
The Theban bends on Earth his gloomy Eyes,
Confus'd, and sadly thus at length replies:
Before these Altars how shall I proclaim
(Oh gen'rous Prince) my Nation or my name,
Or thro' what Veins our ancient Blood has roll'd?
Let the sad Tale for ever rest untold!
Yet if propitious to a Wretch unknown,
You seek to share in Sorrows not your own;
Know then, from Cadmus I derive my Race,
Jocasta's Son, and Thebes my Native Place.
To whom the King, (who felt his gen'rous Breast
Touch'd with Concern for his unhappy Guest)
Replies -- Ah why forbears the Son to Name
His wretched Father, known too well by Fame?
Fame, that delights around the World to stray,
Scorns not to take our Argos in her Way.
Ev'n those who dwell where Suns at distance roll,
In Northern Wilds, and freeze beneath the Pole;
And those who tread the burning Lybian Lands,
The faithless Syrtes and the moving Sands;
Who view the Western Sea's extreamest Bounds,
Or drink of Ganges in their Eastern Grounds;
All these the Woes of Oedipus have known,
Your Fates, your Furies, and your haunted Town.
If on the Sons the Parents' Crimes descend,
What Prince from those his Lineage can defend?
Be this thy Comfort, that 'tis thine t'efface
With Virtuous Acts thy Ancestor's Disgrace,
And be thy self the Honour of thy Race.
But see! the Stars begin to steal away,
And shine more faintly at approaching Day;
Now pour the Wine; and in your tuneful Lays,
Once more resound the Great Apollo's Praise.
Oh Father Phoebus! whether Lycia's Coast
And snowy Mountains thy bright Presence boast;
Whether to sweet Castalia thou repair,
And bathe in silver Dews thy yellow Hair;
Or pleas'd to find fair Delos float no more,
Delight in Cynthus and the Shady Shore;
Or chuse thy Seat in Ilion's pround Abodes,
The shining Structures rais'd by lab'ring Gods!
By thee the Bow and mortal Shafts are born,
Eternal Charms thy blooming Youth adorn:
Skill'd in the Laws of Secret Fate above,
And the dark Counsels of Almighty Jove,
'Tis thine the Seeds of future War to know,
The Change of Scepters, and impending Woe;
When direful Meteors spread thro' glowing Air
Long Trails of Light, and shake their blazing Hair.
Thy Rage the Phrygian felt, who durst aspire
T'excel the Musick of thy Heav'nly Lyre;
Thy Shafts aveng'd lewd Tityus' guilty Flame,
Th'Immortal Victim of thy Mother's Fame;
Thy Hand slew Python; and the Dame who lost
Her num'rous Off-spring for a fatal Boast.
In Phlegias' Doom thy just Revenge appears,
Condemn'd to Furies and Eternal Fears;
He views his Food, but dreads, with lifted Eye,
The mouldring Rock that trembles from on high.
Propitious hear our Pray'r, O Pow'r Divine!
And on thy Hospitable Argos shine.
Whether the Style of Titan please thee more,
Whose Purple Rays th' Achoemenes adore;
Or great Osyris, who first taught the Swain
In Pharian Fields to sow the Golden Grain;
Or Mitra, to whose Beams the Persian bows,
And pays in hollow Rocks his awful Vows,
Mitra, whose Head the Blaze of Light adorns,
Who grasps the strugling Heifer's Lunar Horns.





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