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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 restrain,
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 grac'd;
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 Phoebus views in early morn,
Or when his evening beams the west adorn,
When the south glows with his meridian ray,
And the cold north receives a fainter day—
For crimes like these not 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 could'st around survey, Pleas'd to behold unbounded power 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
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, th' ignoble mind's delight)
Exclaim'd-"O Thebes! for thee what fates
What woes attend this unauspicious 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:
E'en fortune rules no more-O servile land,
Where exil'd tyrants still by turns command!
Thou sire of gods and men, imperial Jove!
Is this th' 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 th' unrivall❜d monarch bears!
How all the tyrant in his face appears!
What sullen fury clouds his scornful brow!
Gods! how his eyes with threatening ardour glow!
Can this imperious lord forget to reign,
Quit all his state, descend, and serve again?
Yet who before more popularly bow'd?
Who more propitious to the suppliant crowd?
Patient of right, 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 th' 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 lies,
Whence, far below, the gods at once survey
The realms of rising and declining day,
And all th' extended space of earth, and air, and
Full in the midst, and on a starry throne,
The majesty of heaven superior shone:
Serene he look'd, and gave an awful nod,
And all the trembling spheres confess'd the god.
At Jove's assent the deities around
In solemn state the consistory crown'd.
Next a long order of inferior powers
Ascend from hills, and plains, and shady bowers ;
Those from whose urns the rolling rivers flow,
And those that give the wandering winds to blow:
Here all their rage and e'en their murmurs cease,
And sacred silence reigns, and universal peace.
A shining synod of majestic gods
Gilds with new lustre the divine abodes:
Heaven seems improv'd with a superior ray,
And the bright arch reflects a double day.
The monarch then his solemn silence broke,
The still creation listen'd while he spoke ;
Each sacred accent bears eternal weight,
And each irrevocable word is fate.
"How long shall man the wrath of Heaven defy,
And force unwilling vengeance from the sky?
O race confederate into crimes, that prove
Triumphant o'er th' eluded rage of Jove!
This wearied arm can scarce the bolt sustain,
And unregarded thunder rolls in vain:
Th' o'erlabour'd Cyclop from his task retires,
Th' Eolian forge exhausted of its fires.
For this I suffer'd Phœbus' steeds to stray,
And the mad ruler to misguide the day,
When the wide earth to heaps of ashes turn'd,
And Heaven itself the wandering chariot burn'd:
For this my brother of the watery reign
Releas'd th' impetuous sluices of the main;
But flames consum'd, and billows rag'd in vain.
Two races now, allied to Jove, offend;
To punish these, see Jove himself descend.
The Theban kings their line from Cadmus trace,
From godlike Perseus those of Argive race.
Unhappy Cadmus' fate who does not know,
And the long series of succeeding woe?
How oft the furies from the deeps of night
Arose, and mix'd with men in mortal fight;
Th' exulting mother stain'd with filial blood,
The savage hunter and the haunted wood?
The direful banquet why should I proclaim,
And crimes that grieve the trembling gods to name?
Ere I recount the sins of these profane,
The sun would sink into the western main,
And, rising, gild the radiant east again.
Have we not seen (the blood of Laius shed)
The murdering son ascend his parent's bed,
Through violated nature force his way,
And stain the sacred womb where once he lay?
Yet now in darkness and despair he groans,
And for the crimes of guilty fate atones;
His sons with scorn their eyeless father view,
Insult his wounds, and make them bleed anew.
Thy curse, O Edipus! just Heaven alarms,
And sets th' avenging thunderer in arms.