Pablius Papinius Statius

Here you will find the Long Poem Thebais - Book One - part I of poet Pablius Papinius Statius

Thebais - Book One - part I

Fraternal rage, the guilty Thebes? alarms, 
Th? alternate reign destroyed by impious arms, 
Demand our song; a sacred fury fires 
My ravished 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 sowed the soil, 
And reaped 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,
O?er the wide fields the furious mother flew, 
And while her arms a second hope contain, 
Sprung from the rocks and plunged into the main. 
But waive whate?er to Cadmus may belong, 
And fix, O muse ! the barrier of thy song 
At ?dipus: from his disasters trace 
The long confusions of his guilty race: 
Nor yet attempt to stretch thy bolder wing, 
And mighty Cæsar?s conqu?ring eagles sing; 
How twice he tamed proud Ister?s rapid flood, 
While Dacian mountains streamed with barb?rous blood; 
Twice taught the Rhine beneath his laws to roll, 
And stretched 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 Latian name, 
Oh ! bless thy Rome with an eternal reign, 
Nor let desiring worlds entreat in vain. 
What though the stars contract their heav?nly 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 Ph?bus longs to mix his rays with thine, 
And in thy 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 heav?n with Roman deities. 
The time will come, when a diviner flame 
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 fun?ral flames that, parting wide in air, 
Express the discord of the souls they bear : 
Of towns dispeopled, and the wand?ring ghosts 
Of kings unburied in the wasted coasts; 
When Dirce?s fountain blushed with Grecian blood, 
And Thetis, near Ismenos? swelling flood, 
With dread beheld the rolling surges sweep, 
In heaps, his slaughtered sons into the deep. 
What hero, Clie ! wilt thou first relate? 
The rage of Tydeus, or the prophet?s fate? 
Or how, with hills of slain on ev?ry side, 
Hippomedon repelled the hostile tide 
Or how the youth with ev?ry grace adorned 
Untimely fell, to be for ever mourned? 
Then to fierce Capaneus thy verse extend, 
And sing with horror his prodigious end. 
Now wretched ?dipus, deprived 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 rolled 
Through dreary coasts, which I though blind behold: 
Tisiphone, that oft hast heard my pray?r, 
Assist, if ?dipus deserve thy care ! 
If you received me from Jocasta?s womb, 
And nursed the hope of mischiefs yet to come: 
If leaving Polybus, I took my way, 
To Cirrha?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 Sphinx?s riddles durst explain, 
Taught by thyself to win the promised reign: 
If wretched I, by baleful furies led,
With monstrous mixture stained my mother?s bed, 
For hell and thee begot an impious brood, 
And with full lust those horrid joys renewed; 
Then se1f-condemned to shades of endless night, 
Forced from these orbs the bleeding balls of sight: 
If worthy thee, and what thou mightst inspire. 
Oh hear ! and aid the vengeance I require, 
My sons their old, unhappy sire despise, 
Spoiled of his kingdom, and deprived of eyes; 
Guideless I wander, u