Pablius Papinius Statius
Thebais - Book Two
Poem by Pablius Papinius Statius
Now Jove’s Command fulfill’d, the Son of May
Quits the black Shades and slowly mounts to Day.
For lazy Clouds in gloomy Barriers rise,
Obstruct the God, and intercept the Skies;
No Zephyrs here their airy pinions move,
To spread his progress to the Realms above.
Scarce can he steer his dark laborious Flight,
Lost and encumber’d in the Damps of Night:
There roaring Tides of Fire his Course withstood,
Here Styx in nine wide Circles roll’d his Flood.
Behind old Laius trod th’ infernal Ground,
Trembling with Age, and tardy from his Wound;
(For all his Force his furious Son apply’d,
And plung’d the guilty Faulchion in his Side.)
Propt and supported by the healing Rod,
The Shade pursued the Footsteps of the God.
The Groves that never bloom; the Stygian Coasts,
The House of Woe; the Mansions of Ghosts,
Earth too admires to see the Ground give way,
And gild Hell’s Horrors with the Gleams of Day.
But not with Life repining Envy fled,
She still reigns there, and lives among the Dead.
One from this Crowd exclaim’d, (whose lawless Will
Inur’d to Crimes, and exercis’d in Ill,
Taught his prepost’rous Joys from Pains to flow,
And never triumph’d, but in Scenes of Woe)
Go to thy Province in the Realms above,
Call’d by the Furies or the Will of Jove:
Or drawn by Magick Force or Mystick Spell,
Rise, and purge off the sooty Gloom of Hell.
Go, see the Sun, and whiten in his Beams,
Or haunt the flow’ry Fields and limpid Streams,
With Woes redoubled to return again,
When thy past pleasures shall enhance thy Pain.
Now by the Stygian Dog they bent their Way;
Stretch’d in his Den the dreadful Monster lay;
But lay not long, for startling at the Sound,
Head above Head he rises from the Ground.
from their close Folds his startling Serpents break,
And curlin horrid Circles round his Neck.
This saw the God, and stretching forth his Hand,
Lull’d the grim Monster with his potent Want
Thro’ his vast Bulk the gliding Slumbers creep,
And sent down all his glaring Eyes in Sleep.
There lies a Place in Greece well known to Fame,
Thro’ all her Realms, and Tænarus the Name,
Where from the Sea the Tops of Malea rise,
Beyond the Ken of Mortals, to the Skies:
Proud in his Height he calmly hears below
The distant Winds in hollow Murmurs blow.
Here sleep the Storms when weary’d and opprest,
And on his Head the drowsy Planets rest:
There in blue Mists his rocky Sides he shrouds,
Ane here the tow’ring Mountain props the Clouds.
Above his awfu Brow no Bird can fly,
And far beneath the mutt’rung Thunders die.
When down the Steep of Heav’n the Day descends,
The Sun so wide his floating Bound extends,
That o’er the Deeps the Mountain hangs display’d
And covers half the Ocean with his Shade:
Where the Tænarian Shores oppose the Sea,
The Land retreats, and winds into a Bay.
Here for Repose Inperian Neptune leads,
Tir’d from th’ Ægean Floods, his smoaking Steeds;
With their broad Hoofs they scoop the Beach away,
Their finny Train rolls back, and floats along the Sea.
Here Fame reports th’ unbody’d Shades to go
Thro’ this wide Passage to the Realms below.
From hence the peasants, (As th’ Arcadians tell,)
Hear all the Cries, and Groans, and Din of Hell.
Oft, as her Scourge of Snakes and Fury plies,
The piercing Echoes mount the distant Skies;
Scar’d at the Porter’s triple Roar, the Swains
Have fled astonish’d, and forsook the Plains.
From hence emergent in a mantling Cloud
Sprung to his native Skies the winged God.
Swift from his Face before th’ Ethereal Ray,
Flew all the black Tartarean Strains away,
And the dark Stygian Gloom refin’d to Day.
O’er the Towns and Realms he held his Progress on,
Now wing’d the Skies where bright Arcturus shone,
And now the silent Empire of the Moon.
The Pow’r of Sleep, who met his radiant Flight,
And drove the solemn Chariot of the Night,
Rode with respect and from th’ empyreal Road
Turned his pale Steeds, in reverence to the God.
The Shade beneath pursues his Course, and spies
The well-known Planets, and congenial Skies.
His Eyes from far, tall Cyrrha’s Heights explore,
And Phocian Fields polluted with his Gore.
At length to Thebes he came, and with a Groan
Survey’d the guilty Palace on his own;
With awful Silence stalk’d before the Gate,
But when he saw the Trophies of his fate,
High on a Column rais’d against the Door,
And his rich Chariot still deform’d with Gore,
He starts with horror back; ev’n Jove’s Command
could scarce controul him, nor the vital Wand.
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