Page images



Translated in the Year 1703.


Edipus king of Thebes, having by mistake slain his

father Laïus, and married his mother Jocasta, put out his own eyes, and resigned the realm to his sons, Eteocles and Polynices. Being neglected by them, he makes his prayer to the fury Tisi. phone, to sow debate betwixt the brothers. They agree at last to reign singly, each a year by turns, and the first lot is obtained by Eteocles. Jupiter, in a council of the gods, declares his resolution of punishing the Thebans, and Argives also, by means of a marriage betwixt Polynices and one of the daughters of Adrastus, king of Argos. Juno opposes, but to no effect; and Mercury is sent on a message to the Shades, to the ghost of Laïus, who is to appear to Eteocles, and provoke him to break the agreement. Polynices in the mean time departs from Thebes by night, is overtaken by a storm, and arrives at Argos; where he meets with Tydeus, who had fled froin Calydon, having killed his brother. Adrastus entertains them, having received an oracle from Apollo, that his daughter should be married to a boar and a lion,

which he understands to be meant of these strangers, by whom the hides of those beasts were worn, and who arrived at the time when he kept an annual feast in honour of that god. The rise of this solemnity he relates to his guests, the loves of Phæbus and Psamathe, and the story of Chore. bus. He inquires, and is made acquainted with their deseent and quality. The sacrifice is renewed, and the book concludes with a hymn to

Apollo. The translator hopeshe needs not apologise for his

choice of this piece, which was made almost in his childhood; but, finding the version better than he expected, he gave it some correction a few years afterwards.

STATIUS HIS THEBAIS. FRATERNAL rage, the guilty Thebes alarms,

The 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 rhymes 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 joining stones the city sprung, While to his harp divine Amphion sung? Or shall I Juno's hate to Thebes resound, Whose fatal rage th' unhappy monarch found ? The sire against the son his arrows drew, Q'er the wide fields the furious mother few, And while her arms a 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 Edipus-from his disasters trace The long confusions of his guilty race: Nor yet attempt to stretch thy bolder wing, And mighty Cæsar's conquering eagles sing; How twice he tam'd proud Ister's rapid food, While Dacian mountains stream'd with barbarous

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,
Increase of glory to the Latiav name!
O bless thy Rome with an eternal reign,
Nor let desiring worlds entreat in vain.
What though the stars contract their heavenly space,
And crowd their shining ranks to yield thee place;
Though all the skies, ambitious of thy sway,
Conspire to court thee from our world away;
Though Phæbus longs to mix his rays with thine,
And in thg glories more serenely shine;
Though Jove himself no less content would be
To part his throne, and share his heaven with thee;
Yet stay, great Cæsar! and vouchsafe to reign
O'er the wide earth, and o'er the wat'ry main;
Resign to Jove his empire of the skies,
And people Heaven with Roman deities.

The time will come, when a diviner fiame
Shall warm my breast to sing of Cæsar's fame:
Meanwhile 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 funeral flames, that parting wide in air
Express the discord of the souls they bear:
Of towns dispeopled, and the wandering ghosts
Of kings unbury'd in 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 every side,
Hippomedon repell’d the hostile tide?
Or how the youth, with every 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 (Edipus, depriv'd of sight,
Led a long death in everlasting night;
but, while he dwells where not a cheerful 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 rolld Through dreary coasts, which I, though blind, beTisiphone, that oft has heard my prayer, [hold: Assist, if dipus deserve thy care! If you receiv'd me from Jocasta's womb, Aud nurs'd 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 died, Where the three roads the Phocian fields divide; If I the Sphynx's riddles durst explain, Taught by thyself to win the promis'd reiga:

[ocr errors][merged small]

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:
O hear, and aid the vengeance I require,
If worthy thee, and what thou mightst inspire !
My sons their old unhappy sire despise,
Spoil'd of his kingdom, and depriv'd of eyes;
Guideless I wander, unregarded mourn,
While these exalt their sceptres o'er iny urn;
These sons, ye gods! wło, with fiagitious pride,
Insult my darkness, and iny 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 children's children shall precail:
Place on their heads that crown distain'd with

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 arnı their hards,
Their ready guilt preventing thy commands:
Couldst thou some great, proportion'd mischief

(came.' They'd prove the father from whose loins they

The Fury heard, while on Cocytus' brink Her snakes, untied, sulphureous waters drink; But at the summons rolld 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. Through crowds of airy shades she wing'd her

flight, And dark dominions of the silent night;


« PreviousContinue »