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EDIPUS King of Thebes having by mistake slain his father Laius, and married his mother Jocasta, put out his own eyes, and resigned his realm to his sons, Eteocles and Polynices. Being neglected by them, he makes his prayer to the Fury Tisiphone, to sow debate betwixt the brothers. They agree at last to reign singly, each a year by turns, and the first lot is obtained by Eteocles. Jupiter, in a council of the Gods, declares his resolution of punishing the Thebans, and Argives also, by means of a marriage betwixt Polynices and one of the daughters of Adrastus king of Argos. Juno opposes, but to no effect; and Mercury is sent on a message to the Shades, to the ghost of Laius, who is to appear to Eteocles, and provoke him to break the agreément. Polynices in the mean time departs from Thebes by night, is overtaken by a storm, and arrives at Argos; where he meets with Tydeus, who had fled from Calydon, having killed his brother. Adrastus entertains them, having received an oracle from Apollo that his daughters should be married to a Boar and a Lion, which he understands to be meant of these strangers, by whom the hides of those beasts were worn, and who arrived at the time when he kept an annual feast in honour of that God. The rise of this solemnity he relates to his guests, the loves of Phœbus and Psamathe, and the story of Chorobus. He inquires, and is made acquainted with their descent and quality : The sacrifice is renewed, and the book concludes with a Hymn to Apollo.
The Translator 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 few years afterward. P.
He was but fourteen years old.
P. STATII THEBAIDOS.
FRATERNAS acies, alternaque regna profanis
Legis Agenoreæ ? scrutantemque æquora Cadmum?
Atque adeo jam nunc gemitus, et prospera Cadmi
Ver. 19. But wave whate'er] It is plain that Pope was not blind to the faults of Statius; many of which he points out with judgment and truth, in a letter to Mr. Cromwell, written 1708, vol. vii. p. 81.
The first attempt of Mr. Gray in English verse was a translation from Statius, sent to Mr. West 1736.
Juvenal was banished for commending the Agave of Statius. Both the exordium and the conclusion of the Thebais are too
THE FIRST BOOK OF
FRATERNAL rage the guilty Thebes alarms,
And Cadmus searching round the spacious sea?
Or how from joining stones the city sprung,
violent and pompous, particularly the latter, in which he promises himself immortality from this poem.
Statius was a favourite writer with the poets of the middle
Edipodæ confusa domus: quando Itala nondum
Aut defensa prius vix pubescentibus annis
Facta canam nunc tendo chelyn, satis arma referre
ages. His bloated magnificence of description, gigantic images, and pompous diction, suited their taste, and were somewhat of a piece with the romances they so much admired. They neglected the gentler and genuine graces of Virgil, which they could not relish. His pictures were too correctly and chastely drawn to take their fancies; and truth of design, elegance of expression, and the arts of composition, were not their object.
At Edipus-from his disasters trace
Twice taught the Rhine beneath his laws to roll,
Oh! bless thy Rome with an eternal reign,
Nor let desiring worlds entreat in vain.
What tho' the stars contract their heav'nly space,
And crowd their shining ranks to yield thee place;
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:
Ver. 47. The time] Justus Lipsius had a bad taste. The Thebaid of Statius, he says, "Eximie pulcra est, et quoties lego,