Thebaid: Book II
Meanwhile, the son of Maia wades
And shoves with wings o'er frigid shades,
Returning now from nether lands
And bearing mighty Jove's commands.
Thick clouds are cluttering everywhere
And round him runs the turbid air.
No Zephyrs there propelled his pace
But dirty mists and dinless space.
The river Styx stirs from one side
Whose currents round nine regions glide,
And from another blasts a blaze
Whose fiery waves enclose the ways.
Old Laius' shade behind him fares
Slow with the wound his form yet bears,
That impious blow, whence blood was spilt,
Driven more deeply than the hilt.
His kinsman's meech had made its path
And bore the firsts of Furies wrath.
Howe'er he held the medic rod
And trimmed his steps and further trod.
Then, sterile woods are stupified
And holden fields where phantoms hide
And irongrayish groves, anon,
And Earth herself is awebegone
To yawn and open unawares
With bonds unlocked from bottom lairs.
Livid in each unliving wight,
Even the newly lorn of light,
The ooze of envy up and under
Is wanting not at such a wonder.
One there stood forth before the rest
With illwill ever in his breast,
That oft at gods his hoker hurled,
Hence his grave wayfare from the world,
And sickened seeing happy folk
"Hie then, O happy one" he spoke,
"On whate'er purpose thou art prest
Whether by heighty Jove's behest
Or some grim Fury, led away,
To wend toward the light of day,
Or witmad witch of Thessaly
From hidden burial bidding thee,
Alas, about to look at skies,
The sun forsaken by thine eyes,
The lush green lands, the streams pure springs,
Only again to leave those things
And sadder than in soul before
Glide back unto this gloomy floor"
O'er the dark threshold, as he lay,
Cerebus sensed them on their way,
And all his heads gaped up in air,
Harsh e'en to people entering there.
As his black neck allthreatening thound,
Then had their bones been strewn aground,
If nad the god with craft enow
O'ercome him with a Lethian bough,
With such a lulling to consume
His ferrous eyes with threefold sloom.
There stands a stead and found in fame
That known as Taenarus by name,
Called thus among th' Inachian theeds,
Where Malea's headland upward leads
And foaming much admits no sight
To gain by gaze its highmost height.
Sublime the apex overtowers
And fain despects the winds and showers,
And lends at length a lodging place
Where weary stars may rest their rays.
'Tis there the wind from work opprest
May settle down and seek some rest,
And there the lane of lightnings' flight.
Midway among the mountain's height
The hollow clouds environ cling
Nor is there plause of soaring wing
Nor pulse of thunder e'er so high
To reach its summits in the sky.
But when the day is setting prone
Immense the shadow from it thrown
That hoves midsea and outward draws
Stretching long edges o'er the waws.
Curving its frangent shore away
Taenarus forms an inner bay,
Not seen so daring as to brave
And clamber on the outer wave.
There Neptune to their haven leads
From th' Aegean streams, his weary steeds,
Their fronts, with hooves touch on terrain,
Their ends, still fish forms in the main.
As famed, a privy path conveys
The pallid ghosts upon their ways
To swarty Jove, as wealth midst walls,
And decks with death his roomy halls.
If true th' Arcadian tillers tell
A stridor straught is heard from hell
And groaning of the damned and dead,
And a dark throng thrings o'er the stead.
The Furies' voice and grips they say
Oft din until the middle day.
And Death's doorkeeper threeformed sounds
Fright'ning the farmers from their grounds.
Here, shrouded o'er in shadowheaps
The wingswift god uplandwards leaps
And shakes Hell's welkins off his face
Serened with living airs and rays.
Hence faring through Arcturus' lands
Where yet midmoonly silence stands
O'er field and folk with no delay
So goes the god and wields his way.
Along his path, aloft in flight,
There Sleep asteering steeds of night,
Stirred up to hail the god on high
Strayed from his rightway in the sky.
Beneath the god the shadow goes,
And stolen constellations knows,
His ginning and his kenningstow,
Despecting Cyrrah's heights below.
O'er Phocis too his downlook pours
Which land was sullied with his corse.
At Thebes, his son's own threshold nigh,
Now Laius made much moan and sigh,
Cunctating midway in the road
To go into the couth abode.
But when he found unto his eye
His yoke hung up on columns high
And saw his chariot as it stood
E'en now infected with his blood,
He almost flew away in fright.
Nor might that of the thunderlight
Loftiest Jove's unleast command,
Nor weilding of th' Arcadian wand,
Restrain his speed, so had it sped,
If Laius in his fear had fled.
That was thilk day by hap from heaven
The Thunderer marked with his levin,
When broken birth brought forth a son,
'Twas thou O Euhius, tender one,
Prerupted forth and after fire,
Taken in careships by thy sire.
Therefore the cause and reason came
That Tyrian tillers took to game
In rivalry and rich delight
Passing away the winkless night.
Through wones, through wongs, disperst about
With wreaths and winebowls drained to drought,
Beneath the light and far and broad
They yet breathed out the breathless god.
Then was the boxwood pipe well played
And plauses of the bronzes made,
Cymbals whose clangors overcome
The pulses of a taurine drum.
Cithaeron also mid delight
Made sober matrons rage outright,
Driven with better drunkenhoods
To wander through the wayless woods.
So as Bistonians bear with songs
Their revelry in rabid throngs
Throughfaring Rhodope or else
Thringing in middle Ossa's dells.
For them one of the flock is feast
Halflive from lions' jaws released,
For them a luxury to tame
With freshnew milk their furor's flame.
But if and when the cruel smell
Of Ogygian Iacchus swell
Then stones and cups from hands are fair
To throw and scatter here and there
And with spilt blood of blameless friends
The day and feasts again commence!
In silent airs of such a night
The swift Cyllenian glode in flight
To th' Echionian monarch's lair,
Where lay the king immensely there,
Outstraught his limbs, piled up complete
With many rich Assyrian sheet.
Alas for ignorance so great
Of mortal hearts blind to their fate!
He held a feast, he fell asleep.
Then, senior Laius would upkeep
And do that he was bidden do
And that he seem not but a hue
And false imaginance of the night
He donned the shady face and sight,
The voice and wonted woolen bands,
And as the seer Tiresias stands.
His own true locks and chinly beard,
His grey and pallor yet appeared,
But the false bands about his hair,
With olive bound stood out full fair.
Here seen, he holds an olive bough
With which to touch his bosom now,
And willing further not to wait
To utter forth these sounds of fate:
"This is no time for slumber, thou!
O careless of thy brother now,
That liest here in covers' height
Beneath the dusky depth of night.
Long have great deeds been calling thee
Thou slothful one, and more shall be.
So as upon th' Ionian main
Upstirred with southern wind and rain,
The captain heedlessly should lie
Beneath the blackness of the sky
Forgetful of his looms and laws
And rudder's turning of the waws,
Alas, thou tarriest here e'en so
Ignoring dangers thou shouldst know.
For now thy brother, fame acknows,
With newmade marriage moodstrong grows
And yares together might and main
By which to overtake the reign
Usurp indeed thy part from all
And meet his oldhood in thine hall.
And Argive dowers therebeside
Fill him with animus and pride
Nor not in lifelong fellowhood
Tydeus, stained by his brother's blood,
Augments the gladness of his heart
And gives much succour to his part.
Hence shows his pride upswollen strong,
And thou a promised exile long.
The father of the gods above
Himself in feeling ruth thereof
Hither from heights and unto thee
To send this saying hastened me:
Hold on to Thebes! And hard offthrust
Thy brother blind with kingdomlust,
That further yearning in his thought
That his own brother's death be brought
Let not in courses further run
With confidence in frauds begun
Or Mycenean queens bring in
To mix among Cadmean kin."
Thus quoth, and for the steeds of Light
Now put the pallid stars to flight,
He would away, but as he went
His bough and woolen bands offhent.
Revealed thus as his grandsire true,
O'er his dire grandson's covers drew,
And from his throat, with cut so deep,
With waves of woundblood drowns his sleep.
Rest is thus rent, and full of dread
He lifts his limbs and leaps from bed,
And weening that he were bebled
Shakes off the shadowshower of red.
Agrisen at his grandsire sore,
He seeks his sibling more and more.
As when with hunters' murmurs heard,
Fearing their nets, from sleep upstirred,
Lusty for war a tigress draws
Loos'ning her wangs and showing claws.
Anon has she the throng atsprung
And homeward bears to bloodyearn young
For aliment and end of drouth
A man halfbreathing in her mouth:
So wroth the rex desires none other
But war upon his absent brother.