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THE

FIRST BOOK

OF

STATIUS's THEBAIS.

TRANSLATED IN THE YEAR MDCCIII

VOL. II.

IT

T was in his childhood only that he could make choice of fo injudicious a writer as Statius to tranflate. It were to be wished that no youth of genius were fuffered ever to look into Statius, Lucan, Claudian, or Seneca the tragedian; authors who, by their forced conceits, by their violent metaphors, by their fwelling epithets, by their want of a juft decorum, have a ftrong tendency to dazzle, and to mislead inexperienced minds, and tastes unformed, from the true relish of poffibility, propriety, fimplicity, and nature. Statius had undoubtedly invention, ability, and spirit; but his images are gigantic and outrageous, and his fentiments tortured and hyperbolical. It can hardly, I think, be doubted, but that Juvenal intended a fevere fatire on him in these wellknown lines, which have been commonly interpreted as a panegyric:

"Curritur ad vocem jucundam et carmen amicæ
Thebaidos, lætam fecit cum Statius urbem,
Promifitque diem; tanta dulcedine captos
Afficit ille animos, tantaque libidine vulgi
Auditur: fed, cum fregit fubfellia verfu,
Efurit."

In these verses are many expreffions, here marked with Italics, which feem to hint obliquely that Statius was the favourite poet of the vulgar, who were eafily captivated with a wild and inartificial tale, and with an empty magnificence of numbers; the noisy roughness of which may be particularly alluded to in the expreffion, fregit fubfellia verfu. One cannot forbear reflecting on the short duration of a true taste in poetry among the Romans. From the time of Lucretius to that of Statius was no more than about one hundred and forty-feven years; and if I might venture to pronounce fo rigorous a fentence, I would fay, that the Romans can boast of but eight poets who are unexceptionably excellent ; namely, Terence, Lucretius, Catullus, Virgil, Horace, Tibullus, Propertius, Phædrus. These only can be called legitimate models of juft thinking and writing. Succeeding authors, as it happens in all countries, refolving to be original and new, and to avoid the im

N 2

putation

putation of copying, become distorted and unnatural: by endeavouring to open an unbeaten path, they defert fimplicity and truth; weary of common and obvious beauties, they must needs hunt for remote and artificial decorations. Thus was it that the age of Demetrius Phalereus fucceeded that of Demofthenes, and the falfe relish of Tiberius's court the chafte one of Auguftus.

WARTON.

ARGUMENT.

OEDIPUS King of Thebes having by mistake flain his

father Laius, and married his mother Jocafta, put out his own eyes, and refigned his realm to his fons, Eteocles and Polynices. Being neglected by them, he makes his prayer to the Fury Tifiphone, to fow debate betwixt the brothers. They agree at laft to reign fingly, each a year by turns, and the first lot is obtained by Eteocles. Jupiter, in a council of the Gods, declares his refolution of punishing the Thebans, and Argives also, by means of a marriage betwixt Polynices and one of the daughters of Adraftus king of Argos. Juno opposes, but to no effect; and Mercury is fent on a message to the Shades, to the ghost of Laius, 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 ftorm, and arrives at Argos; where he meets with Tydeus, who had fled from Calydon, having killed his brother. Adraftus entertains them, having received an oracle from Apollo that his daughters fhould be married to a Boar and a Lion, which he understands to be meant of these ftrangers, by whom the hides of those beafts were worn, and who arrived at the time when he kept an annual feast in honour of that God. The rife of this folemnity he relates to his guefts, the loves of Phoebus and Pfamathe, and the story of Chorobus. He enquires, and is made acquainted with their descent and quality: The facrifice is renewed, and the book concludes with a Hymn to Apollo.

The Tranflator hopes he need not apologize 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 afterwards.

few years

He was but fourteen

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РОРЕ. WARTON.

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