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EDIPUS 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 last 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 alfo, 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 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 folemnity he relates to his guests, the loves of Phoebus and Psamathe, and the story of Choroebus. 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 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 fome correction a few years afterwards.
He was but fourteen
P. STATII THEBAIDOS.
LIBER PRIM U S.
RATERNAS acies, alternaque regna profanis Decertata odiis, fontefque evolvere Thebas, Pierius menti calor incidit. Unde jubetis Ire, Deae? gentifne canam primordia dirae? Sidonios raptus, et inexorabile pactum Legis Agenoreae? fcrutantemque aequora Cadmum? Longa retro feries, trepidum fi Martis operti Agricolam infandis condentem praelia fulcis Expediam, penitufque fequar quo carmine muris Jufferit Amphion Tyrios accedere montes: Unde graves irae cognata in moenia Baccho, Quod faevae Junonis opus; cui fumpferit arcum Infelix Athamas, cur non expaverit ingens Ionium, focio cafura Palaemone mater.
THE FIRST BOOK OF
RATERNAL rage the guilty Thebes alarms, Th' alternate reign destroy'd by impious arms, Demand our fong; a facred Fury fires
My ravish'd breast, and all the Muse inspires.
Atque adeo jam nunc gemitus, et profpera Cadmi
Aut defenfa prius vix pubefcentibus annis
Bella Jovis. Tuque o Latiae decus addite famae,
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 judgement and truth, in a letter to Mr. Cromwell, written 1708, vol. vii. p. 81.
The first attempt of Mr. Gray in English verfe was a translation from Statius, fent to Mr. Weft 1736.
Juvenal was banished for commending the Agave of Statius.
Both the exordium and the conclufion of the Thebais are too violent and pompous, particularly the latter, in which he promifes himfelf immortality from this poem.
Statius was a favourite writer with the poets of the middle ages. His bloated magnificence of defcription, gigantic images, and pompous diction, fuited their taste, and were fomewhat of a piece with the romances they fo much admired. They neglected the
But wave whate'er to Cadmus may belong, And fix, O Mufe! the barrier of thy song At Oedipus-from his disasters trace The long confufions of his guilty race: Nor yet attempt to stretch thy bolder wing, And mighty Caesar's conqu❜ring eagles fing; How twice he tam'd proud Ifter's rapid flood, 25 While Dacian mountains ftream'd with barb'rous
Twice taught the Rhine beneath his laws to roll,
Oh! bless thy Rome with an eternal reign,
gentler and genuine graces of Virgil, which they could not relish. His pictures were too correctly and chately drawn to take their fancies; and truth of defign, elegance of expreffion, and the arts of compofition, were not their object.