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If you receiv'd me from Jocasta's womb,
And 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 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,
Spoild of his kingdom, and depriv'd of eyes ;
Guideless I wander, unregarded mourn,
While these exalt their sceptres 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 children's 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 :
Couldstthou somegreat proportion'd mischief frame,
They'd prove the father from whose loins they came.”
The fury heard, while on Cocytus' brink
Her snakes, untied, 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' crowds of airy shades she wing'd her Aight,
And dark dominions of the silent night;
Swift as she pass'd the flitting ghosts withdrew,
And the pale spectres trembled at her view :
To the iron gates of Tenarus she flies,
There spreads her dusky pinions to the skies.
The day beheld, and, sickening at the sight,
Veil'd her fair glories in the shades of night.
Affrighted Atlas on the distant shore
Trembled, 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 eyeballs dreadful meteors glow :
Such rays from Phoebe's bloody circle flow,
When labouring 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
Blue steaming poisons, and a length of flame.
From every blast of her contagious breath
Famine anddrought proceed,and plagues and death.
A robe obscene was o'er her shoulders thrown,
A dress by fates and furies worn alone.
She toss'd her meagre arms; her better hand
In waving circles whirld a funeral brand :
A serpent from her left was seen to rear
His flaning crest, and lash the yielding air.
But when the fury took her stand on high,
Where vast Cithæron's top salutes the sky,
A hiss from all the snaky tire went round :
The dreadful signal all the rocks rebound,
And through the' Achaian cities send the sound.
te, with high Parnassus, heard the voice ;
Eurotas' banks remurmur'd to the noise ;
Again Leucothea shook at these alarmas,
And press'd Palæmon 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.
Straight with the rage of all their race possest,
Stung to the soul, the brothers start from rest,
And all their 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 scorps the dull reversion of a throne :
Each would the sweets of sovereign rule devour,
While discord waits upon divided powr.
As stubborn steers, by brawny ploughmen broke,
And join'd reluctant to the galling yoke,
Alike disdain with servile necks to bear.
The' unwonted weight, or drag the crooked sharel
But rend the reins, and bound a different 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 restraina,
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 gracid;
No nightly bands in glittering armour wait
Before the sleepless tyrant's guarded gate ;
No charges then were wrought in burnish'd gold,
Nor silver vases took the forming mould;
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 ?
Not all bright Phæbus views in early morn,
Or when his evening beanis the west adorn,
When the south glows with his meridian ray,
And the cold north receives a fainter day;
For crimes like these uot all those realms suffice,
Were all those realms the guilty victor's prize!
But fortune now (the lots of empire thrown)
Decrees to proud Eteocles the crown;
What joys, O tyrant! swell'd thy soul that day,
When all were slaves thou couldst around survey,
Pleas'd to behold uubounded pow'r thy own,
And singly fill a fear'd and envied throne !
But the vile vulgar, ever discontent,
Their growing fears in secret murmurs vent;
Still prone to change, though 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 spite,
With scandal arm'd, the' 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
These now control a wretched people's fate,
These can divide, and these reverse the state :
Ev'n fortune rules no more- servile land,
Where exil'd tyrants still by turns command !
Thou sire of gods and men, imperial Jovel a
Is this the 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, wandering 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 the uprivall’d monarch bears!
How all the tyrant in his face appears!
What sullen fury clouds his scorpful brow!
Gods ! how his eyes with threatening ardour glow |
Can this imperious lord forget to reign,
Qait all his state, descend, and serve again?
Yet who before more popularly bow'd!
Who more propitious to the suppliant crowd?
Patient of rigbt, 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 every reign!
As when two winds with rival force contend,
This way and that the wavering sails they bend,
While freezing Boreas and black Eurus blow,
Now here, now there, the reeling vessel throw;
Thus on each side, alas ! our tottering 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 the almighty father of the gods Convenes a council in the bless'd abodes. Far in the bright recesses of the skies, High o'er the rolling heavens, a mansion lios, Whence, far below, the gods at once survey The realms of rising and declining day, And all the extended space of earth, and air, and sea.