Publius Papinius Statius


Book X

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2013 All Rights Reserved

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BkX:1-48 The Thebans set a watch on the Argive camp

Dewy Night, impelled by Jove’s command, shrouded Phoebus

At the western gate. Jove took no pity on the Argive camp

Nor on the Theban forces, but it saddened him for so many

Foreign warriors, and the innocent, to be thinned by the sword.

The plain was disfigured by the broad patches of shed blood.

There were corpses robbed of their pyres, abandoned limbs;

There were weapons; and the horses that men had ridden so

Proudly: left behind. Now the inglorious armies with battered

Standards disengaged their failing lines. The gates that proved

Too narrow for warriors going to battle seemed wide to those

Returning. The sorrow was equal on both sides; but that four

Danaan squadrons had lost their great captains gave solace

To Thebes, each one straying, like vessels on a swelling sea,

The steersmen gone, guided by the winds, chance and the gods.

The Tyrians were so bold as to stand their sentries down, but

They kept watch solely for the enemy’s flight, if they, content

To turn for home perhaps, should seek Mycenae. Passwords

Were given, and turns of duty set: the leaders of this nocturnal

Warfare being Lycus at his request, and Meges chosen by lot.

Then, their dispositions agreed, they hoisted their weapons,

Food, and means for fire. The king exhorted them as they left:

‘Conquerors of the Danai (tomorrow’s dawn is near, darkness

That intervened to save the cowards will not last forever), be

Of good cheer; bear hearts that are worthy of heaven’s favour.

Lerna’s glory and her greatest warriors are slain. Tydeus has

Gone to vengeful Tartarus. Death stands amazed at Amphiaraus’

Living shade; Ismenos boasts the spoils of stricken Hippomedon;

We are ashamed to count only Parthenopaeus among our trophies.

Victory is in our hands; the noble leaders of their army, the crests

Displayed by their seven squadrons are fallen. Are we to go in fear

Of aged Adrastus; my brother, with his inexperience; or Capaneus’

Crazed threats? Go now; light watch-fires around the besieged.

There is nothing to fear from the foe. You’ll guard wealth, spoils,

Already yours.’ So he encouraged the fierce scions of Labdacus.

They were ready to repeat their exhausting toil, and turned round,

Without respite; dust, sweat and blood mingled on their bodies;

Scarce taking time for those who would meet and talk with them,

Even shaking off their loved ones’ embraces. Then they divided

The watch of the enemy camp between them, front, rear, curved

Flanks, and surrounded the ramparts with hostile fires. So a great

Pack of ravening wolves with gaping jaws will gather at nightfall,

From the surrounding countryside, starved with hunger, despite

Its attendant daring; now they press against the very sheepfolds,

Their bellies tormented by hope denied, by the quavering bleats,

And odour of rich flesh from the pens. All that is left them is to

Blunt their claws and rasp their chests against the solid posts,

And grind their fangs, un-moistened by blood, at the threshold.

BkX:49-83 Juno resolves to help the Argives

But prostrate in the courts of the far-off Argive temple, before

Their native altars, a host of suppliant Pelopean women begged

Sceptred Juno for aid and for their loved ones’ return, pressing

Their faces against the painted doors and cold stones, showing

Their little children how to lie prone in worship. Their prayers

Had already laid day to rest; now night followed with its cares

The heaped altar fires keeping vigil. They had also brought her

A gift in a basket, a robe whose wondrous fabric no barren or

Divorced woman had handled, adornment for the chaste goddess,

And not to be scorned. The rich purple blazed with gold, with

Various embroidered work. There was the goddess herself

Innocent of marriage, betrothed to great Jupiter, timorously

About to change from sister to wife. With downcast eyes she

Tasted the kisses of young Jove, she as yet un-betrayed,

Not knowing a husband’s deceptions. With this garment

The Argive women veiled the holy ivory and made their

Prayers with tears and pleas: ‘Queen of the starry heavens,

Gaze on the sacrilegious towers of Theban Semele, shatter

The paramour’s tomb, and hurl another lightning bolt (as you

Can) against rebellious Thebes.’ What was Juno to do? She

Knew that the Fates and Jove were against her Argives, yet

She would not have the prayers or the gift offered in vain.

Then Fortune helped, and gave her a vital opportunity for aid.

From on high, she saw the city gates closed, and the Greek

Ramparts surrounded by a vigilant guard. She trembled with

The sting of anger; her hair, stirring, shook the sacred diadem.

She’d burned no more fiercely when, deserted among the stars,

She had waxed indignant against Alcmene who bore the burden

Of Hercules; against Jove’s double infidelity. Now she resolved

To plunge the Thebans in the sweetness of an untimely sleep.

And offer them to Death. She ordered her servant Iris to don

Her usual bands of colour, and assigned her the whole task.

That gleaming goddess obeyed her orders, and left the sky,

Descending to earth along the suspended bridge of her bow.

BkX:84-155 The House of Sleep

Beyond the misty regions of western night, and all their dusky

Peoples, lies a still grove no star can penetrate; below it a massy

Cave with porous rocks pierces a hollow hillside, where sluggish

Nature placed the house of idle Sleep, his untroubled dwelling.

Shadowy Rest and lazy Oblivion and torpid Sloth with never

Wakeful face, guard the threshold. In the hallway Ease and

Silence sit mutely with folded wings, keeping blustering winds

From the ceiling, forbidding branches from straying, depriving

Birds of their song. Here is no roar of waves, though all shores

May sound; nor any from the sky. Close by the cavern, even

The stream flowing among rocks and boulders down the steep

Valley is silent. Every sheep of the black herd around lies on

The ground; the new shoots droop; a breath from the earth bows

The grasses. Within, fiery Mulciber’s carved a thousand images

Of the god. Here wreathed Pleasure clings to his side, there his

Comrade Toil sinks to rest; and elsewhere he shares a couch with

Bacchus or Mar’s child, Love. While further on, in the deepest

Recesses of the dwelling, he lies down with Death, though none

Are saddened by that thought. These: the images. He himself rests

In the damp cave, on sheets strewn with soporific flowers. His

Clothes breathe; the covers are warm from his idle body; above his

Couch, dark vapour is exhaled from his gasping mouth. One hand

Supports the hair tumbling from his left temple, the other has let fall

His forgotten horn. Around him, countless dreams of various kinds

Wander, true mixed with false, ardent with sad, the misty hosts of

Night that cling to the rafters and doorposts, or rest on the ground.

The glow that surrounds the cave is dim and faint, and languid lights

That invite the first moments of slumber expire in flickering flames.

Here Iris, the many-coloured maiden hovered in the dark-blue sky.

The woods were bright, the gloomy valleys smiled on the goddess,

And, struck by her gleaming arch, the house awoke. But Sleep was

Untouched by the goddess’ shining rays and the sound of her voice;

He lay there as before until Thaumas’ daughter shed all her light

Upon him, shining deep into his motionless eyes. Then the golden

Source of rain-showers spoke to him: ‘O Sleep, kindest of the gods,

Juno commands you to capture the Theban generals, the people

Of fierce Cadmus, who now elated by the battle’s outcome watch

The Achaean camp and deny your power. Grant her heartfelt prayer:

Rarely could you earn Juno’s goodwill so easily, without offending

Jupiter.’ So saying, she thumped his idle breast with her hand lest

Her words were wasted, admonishing him again and again. With

The sole look on his face of agreement, he assented to the goddess’

Command. Iris left the damp cave, her bow more heavily charged

And she brightened her darkened rays with rich showers of rain.

Sleep too roused his feet and his winged temples to action, filling

His billowing cloak with the chill air of a sombre sky. Silently

He flew through the upper levels of the air and loomed heavily

Over the Theban fields. His influence brought birds, wild creatures,

Cattle to the ground; wherever he flew the waters dropped languidly

From the cliffs, the woodland trees bowed their crowns, and stars

Fell in greater numbers from the drowsy sky. The god’s presence

Was first felt as a sudden darkening of the plain, and the endless

Noise and cries of the warriors were hushed. But when he hovered

On moist wings, entering the camp in the densest of black shadows,

Their eyes drifted and their heads bowed; words were left unfinished

In mid-speech. Soon they let fall their gleaming shields and cruel

Javelins, and their faces sank wearily on their chests. And now all

Was silent: even their war-horses were powerless to stay standing,

And sudden falls of ash extinguished the watch-fires they had lit.

BkX:156-218 Thiodamas the augur is inspired

But Sleep did not lull the Argives to like slumber; the seductive

Powers of the night-wandering god refrained from loosing his

Mists on the neighbouring camp. The armed Argives stood there,

Indignant at the shameful nocturnal effrontery of the watch-fires.

Behold now a sudden ecstasy, a divine madness, gripped the mind

Of Thiodamas, either at Juno’s prompting or kindly Apollo’s rousing

Of his new priest, commanding him with wild disturbance to reveal

The future. Thiodamas leapt into their midst, dreadful to see

And hear, unable to endure the deity’s power that a frail receptive

Mind cannot contain. Its promptings overflowed; the naked frenzy

Filled his visage; the flow of blood alternately swelling and draining

His quivering cheeks. His gaze wandered here and there; tossing

His head, he flailed the wreath about that was entwined in his hair.

So Cybele, the Great Mother of Mount Ida, drives the blood-stained

Phrygian from her dread shrine, unconscious that steel has pierced

His arms, as he beats the sacred torches against his breast, whirls

His gory tresses, and deadens the fresh wounds by his flight, till

All the fields are in dread, spattered the sacred pine-tree of worship,

And the lions that draw her chariot rise up, in their astonishment.

Thiodamas ran to the inner council chamber, the revered house

Of the standards, where Adrastus made ill by their long series

Of cruel disasters deliberated, in vain, on their desperate state.

About him the newly-appointed generals, seconds-in-command

To the dead, stood in those places left empty by the great kings,

Not joyful at such promotion to the heights, but grieving still.

Likewise when a ship has lost her captain, and wanders about

In mid-course, the officer at the prow, or he who guards her

Flanks, takes command of the straying rudder; but the vessel

Is stalled and her tackle slow to respond while the divinity,

Whose figurehead is at the stern, fails to accept a lesser hand.

Now the augur, inspired, filled the Argives with fresh courage:

‘Generals, I bring mighty commands and dreadful admonitions

From the gods: these words come not from my own mind:

Amphiaraus, he who agreed to your calling me to his service,

And entrusting me with his sacred ribbons, he it is that speaks.

A night rich in action and suited to a noble stratagem, is now

Revealed by divine augury. Valour calls to us directly, and

Fortune demands our efforts. The Theban ranks are stupefied,

Sunk in sleep. Now is the moment to avenge our dead kings,

And a wretched day. Grasp your weapons now, open the gates

Without delay: this action will ensure them their funeral pyres,

And us our own. I foresaw it, during the day’s fighting as our

Army was humbled, and, beaten, we turned our backs. I saw it

(I swear, by the tripods and my lost master’s strange fate) and

Around me birds flapped their wings auspiciously. But now I

Am certain: a moment ago, in the silent night, he himself rose,

Rose from the earth that split once more; just as he once was

(The shadows had only veiled his horses) Amphiaraus came

To me, no phantom of idle slumber, no product of mere sleep.

He cried: ‘Will you leave the Inachians to squander this night

In idleness, you degenerate? (If so, give back my Parnassian

Wreaths; return to me my divine powers!) Did I not teach you

The secrets of the heavens, in the flight of birds? Go, at least

Take vengeance for my sake with the sword!’ He spoke, and

He, in his chariot, with raised spear seemed to push me towards

The threshold. To work, then, and make use of the divine; our

Enemies are not lying here: battle is afoot and savage power.

Who will join me, while the Fates allow, eager to raise himself

To the heights? Behold, again the birds of night prove benign;

Even though my comrades in this army hold back, I’ll obey,

I’ll go alone, for he indeed comes with me, shaking the reins.’

BkX:219-295 He leads an attack on the sleeping Thebans

So he cried, disturbing the night, and the generals were roused

As though the same god were in all their hearts; they burned

To accompany him in the one cause. He himself was prompted

To choose thirty men, the pick of the army. Round him, other

Warriors protested loudly, asking why they must stay in camp

In vain idleness. Some boasted their noble birth, others their

Ancestral deeds or their own, others call for lots to be drawn,

Then on all sides they demand it. Adrastus rejoiced in their

Protests and his spirits rose. Likewise on Pholoe’s high slopes,

The keeper of swift horses is happy, when foals have swelled

The herd in teeming spring, to see some struggling to climb

The heights, others swimming the torrents, others vying with

Their parents; then he ponders in mind which should be broken

Gently to the harness; which will ride well; which are born for

War and the sound of trumpets; which to win the Elean palm.

Thus the aged leader of the Achaean host. Nor is he absent from

Their enterprise: ‘From where does this sudden inspiration come?

Which of you gods has returned to shattered Argos? Is courage

Here, in misfortune, does the blood of our race still flow, do

The seeds of virtue endure in a time of wretchedness? Now

I commend you, noble warriors, and delight in my comrades’

Glorious sedition. Yet guile, and secret warfare is our plan,

Our movements must be hidden: a crowd is no use for dark

Mischief. Keep your spirits high; behold, dawn will visit

Vengeance on our foes. Then the fight shall be in the open,

And we will attack together.’ After these words, soon

The warriors valour was harnessed and controlled. It was

As though Aeolus, the cave of the winds in uproar, were

To place another rock against the door, and imperiously

Block the exit, just as the winds were eager for the waves.

The prophet added Agylleus, son of Hercules, and Actor

To his strength: the latter skilled in persuasion, the former

Boasting a strength equalling his father’s. Each of the three

Led ten men of the thirty, a formidable force even to face

The Thebans. Thiodamas, new to warfare, adopted a martial

Air, laying sacred twigs aside, Apollo’s emblems; handing

His brow’s adornments to the aged king; and donning helm

And mail, a gift of Polynices in thanks. Fierce Capaneus

Weighed Actor down with a great sword; scorning, himself,

To attack an enemy with guile or follow divine command.

Agylleus exchanged weapons with fierce Nomius: what use

Hercules’ bow and arrows in battles in the deceptive dark?

Then they leapt from the steep battlements to the rampart,

Lest the loud creaking of the bronze gate sound too loud.

It was not long before they saw their prey, scattered over

The ground, seeming as though they were already dead,

And slain by the sword. Now with loud voice the priest

Exhorted them: ‘Forward comrades, wherever the lust

For endless slaughter takes you, favourites of the gods,

I pray you do not fail them! See the cohorts defenceless

In vile languor. Shame on them! Are these the men who

Dared to besiege the Argive camp, and keep guard over

Warriors? So saying he drew his gleaming sword, and

Passed swiftly through the dying host. Who could count

The dead or put names to the lifeless throng? Randomly

He struck at back and chest, leaving the helmets to stifle

Their murmurs, their wandering ghosts bathed in blood.

One man was stretched out carelessly on a couch; one

Had sunk at last with sagging steps onto his shield, barely

Gripping his weapons; others lay grouped among wine cups

And armour’ others leant on their shields where the final mist

Of fatal sleep had overcome each drowsy man where he lay.

Divinity was there, since Juno, armed and brandishing

A torch, bright as the moon, with her bared right arm, lit

The Argives’ way, strengthening their courage and pointing

Out the victims. Thiodamas felt the goddess’ presence, but

Hid his joy in silence. Now his hand slowed, his sword

Grew heavier, and his anger waned at such success.

Thus, a Caspian tigress, who has slaughtered huge steers,

Her rage quenched by endless bloodshed, her jaws weary,

The stripes of her coat smeared with thick foul gore, will

Survey the scene and grieve that her hunger is diminished.

So the exhausted seer wandered amongst the Theban dead.

At times he prayed for a hundred hands and arms for battle,

At times he wearied of draining the blood from torpid flesh

Wishing instead that the enemy might rise up against him.

BkX:296-346 The conclusion of the slaughter

Elsewhere, Actor and Agylleus, great Hercules’ scion, were

Wasting the drowsy Thebans, the troops advancing in a swathe

Of blood. The grass was soaked black with gore, and the tents

Were awash with sanguinary streams. The earth smoked; one

Exhalation of death and sleep together rolled across it. None

Of the prostrate men raised their heads, so dense the darkness

With which the winged god hovered over the wretches, their

Eyes opening only in death. Ialmenus, doomed never to see

Another sunrise had spent his last night’s watch in play and

Music: singing a Theban song of victory, overcome by the god,

His head drooped leftward, now he lay slumped over the lyre.

Agylleus drove his spear through the back and chest, striking

The right hand on the tortoiseshell plectrum setting the fingers

Quivering among the strings. Spilt blood upset the wine-cups.

Water mixed with that dire stream, and Bacchus’ wine too

Revisited the depths of the mixing bowls and dishes. Fierce

Actor killed Thamyris in his brother’s embrace; Tagus stabbed

Wreathed Echeclus from behind; Danaus severed Hebrus’ head,

Snatched unaware by the Fates, his spirit flitting to the shades

With no pain, escaping the torments of a cruel death. Stretched

On the cold ground near his chariot and faithful horses, Calpetus

Disturbed them with his heavy breathing as they cropped their

Native turf. His moist mouth overflowed as inflamed with wine

He tossed and turned in sleep. The Inachian seer slit his throat

Where he lay, and a great gush of blood drove out the wine, as

His fragmentary cry was stifled by the gore. Perhaps his rest

Had been prophetic and in his heavy slumber he had dreamed

Of Thiodamas, and of a Thebes blackened and in mourning.

The fourth watch of the drowsy night remained, with drifting

Cloud and many stars obscured, as Bootes fled at the approach

Of the Sun’s mightier carriage. Now the action had ended, and

Actor called to Thiodamas: ‘This unlooked-for success should

Satisfy the Pelasgi. Few of that host, I think, have escaped

Cruel death; only cowards whom a living shame may conceal

In the bloody depths. Halt this, while good fortune attends us.

Fatal Thebes has her deities too; and perhaps those who have

Favoured us are departing.’ Thiodamas agreed, and raised his

Dripping hands to the stars: ‘Apollo, I assign to you these spoils

Of a night you revealed to me, even though my hands are not yet

Cleansed with water, since I, a fierce warrior of the tripods and

A faithful priest, gave this welcome sacrifice to you. If I have

Responded to your urging, not disgraced the charge you gave,

Come again to me; deign to invade this mind of mine again.

Now I bring you only a crude offering, broken weapons and

The blood of soldiers, but if ever, Paean, you grant us to see

Our native country and the shrines we long for, remember

My vow, Lycius, and claim an equal number of rich gifts

For your sacred portals, and as many bulls.’ So he prayed,

And re-called his comrades from their successful action.

BkX:347-383 The Argives try to retrieve their champions’ corpses

Among them, as was fated, were Calydonian Hopleus and Dymas

The Arcadian, both past companions of their leaders, both dear

To them, and both still grieving and indignant at surviving them.

Hopleus the first to speak, challenged Dymas: ‘Noble Dymas,

Have you no thought for your dead king now he is lost? Already

The Theban dogs and carrion birds may have him. What will you

Arcadians take back to your country? Behold his angry mother

Will meet you on your return, asking where his body is. In my

Thoughts, Tydeus, whatever state his body, however un-mourned

His death may be, lacking a grave, rages still. I still wish to go

Search throughout the cruel field, or the very midst of Thebes.’

Dymas replied: ‘I swear by these scattered stars, by the shade of

My leader, a god to me, I am of the same mind. Dejected by grief,

I have waited to find a companion, but now I will lead the way.’

His face turned sadly towards the heavens, he prayed: ‘O Moon,

Mistress of the arcane night, if as they say your divinity appears

In triple form, if you visit the woods with a different face, Diana,

(Gaze upon us now at least) it is your dead companion we seek,

Your own lad, the peerless foster-child of the forests.’ The goddess

Inclining her chariot towards them, brought the arc of her horns

Near, and shed her kindly rays, revealing the bodies. The plain lay

Open to the view, with Thebes and lofty Cithaeron. So, when Jove,

In anger, shatters the night sky with thunder, clouds part, the starry

Flames appear in the lightning flash, the world is suddenly displayed

To sight. Dymas received the rays, and Hopleus, struck by the same

Glow saw Tydeus. They signalled to one another through the dark,

Rejoicing, and each lifted to his shoulders a beloved burden, as

Though restored to life, returned from cruel death. Wordless, not

Daring to weep for long, cruel day being close and the sunrise

Threatening to reveal them, they walked mute through the gloomy

Silence, striding out, grieved to see the dying shadows grow pale.

BkX:384-448 The deaths of Hopleus and Dymas

Fate is hostile to virtue, and Fortune is rarely a friend to great

Actions. Already they could see the camp, and in their minds

Were close and their loads lighter, when a sudden cloud of dust

And noise rose behind them. Brave Amphion led the cavalry,

At his king’s command, to check the guarded camp by night.

He was the first to see something stirring, far off in the plain’s

Pathless regions, unclear to sight (light had not yet dispelled

All the darkness) something indistinct, like bodies in motion.

Suddenly, discerning mischief, he cried out: ‘Halt, whoever

You may be? Clearly they were enemies. The Argives pressed

Ahead: afraid, but not for themselves. Amphion now threatened

The anxious men with death, hurling a spear from some distance,

But aiming high as a warning, pretending to a misdirected throw.

The weapon pierced the ground before Dymas’ eyes, he chancing

To be in front, and checked his step. But great-hearted Aepytus

Had no such thought of losing an opportunity, and transfixed

Hopleus from behind, even grazing the body of Tydeus where

It hung from his shoulders. Hopleus fell, still carrying his noble

Leader, and died still grasping him, happy not to feel the body’s

Subsequent removal, descending unknowing to the cruel shades.

Dymas turned and seeing that the pursuers were close upon him,

Was unsure whether to meet their attack with weapons or prayer.

Anger counselled weapons, Fortune urged him to pray, not fight.

He was uncertain of either course. But anger overcame entreaty.

He set the pitiful corpse at his feet, twisting the huge tiger-skin

That chanced to clothe his back to the left to act as a shield, then

Stood firm, presenting his drawn sword, facing their weapons,

Prepared equally to kill or die. So a lioness with cubs, attacked

In her wild lair by Numidian hunters, standing over her young

Gnashes her teeth in grim and piteous manner, in her confusion;

She could dislodge the men and shatter their weapons in her jaws,

But love for her offspring fills her savage heart and in her fury

She still looks for her cubs. Now Tydeus’ left hand was cut away,

Though Amphion forbade desecration, and Parthenopaeus’ body

Was dragged about by the hair. Only then, too late, Dymas asked

For quarter, and lowering his sword pleaded: ‘By the cradle of

Bacchus born of the lightning, by Ino’s flight, by the tender years

Of your Palaemon, handle him more gently! If any of you delight

In sons at home, if any here is a father, grant the boy his meagre

Handful of dust and a little fire. He asks it, his mute face makes

Request. Give me to the wild beasts; it is more fitting that I am

Food for the carrion crows, since I dared him to fight this war.’

‘Not yet,’ Amphion replied, ‘tell me first, if you are so eager

To bury your king, what battle plan the cowardly Argives make;

What is it, broken and weary as they are, that they intend? Out

With it, and quickly. Then take your leader and your life, go

Freely and inter him.’ The Arcadian shuddered and drove his

Blade, hilt and all, into his breast: ‘That would be all I lacked

To crown my misfortune, that I should turn traitor and dishonour

Argos in her distress! Nothing is worth that price nor would he

Have wished to win burial thus.’ So saying he hurled himself

On the boy’s corpse, bleeding from his deep wound, with these

Last words: ‘Let me grant you this funeral shroud at least!’ So,

A brave and noble pair, Aetolian Hopleus and Arcadian Dymas

That noted warrior, breathed out their mighty spirits embracing

The kings they had loved, and delighting in death. Hallowed,

You too will live in memory throughout the ages, though my

Song rises from a lesser lyre than Maro’s, and perhaps his

Euryalus shall not scorn your company among the shades,

And Phrygian Nisus’ glory shall grant you entrance there.

BkX:449-508 Capaneus leads the attack on Thebes

Now fierce Amphion sent report of the action to the king,

Informing him of the enemy’s guile, restoring the captive

Bodies. He himself went to taunt the besieged Pelasgi,

And flaunt the severed heads of their countrymen. From

Their battlements meanwhile the Argives saw Thiodamas

Returning, and were unable to contain their outburst of joy.

Discerning the shields and drawn swords red with blood

From the recent slaughter, fresh cries rose to the mighty

Heavens, and the warriors leaned from the upper ramparts,

Each man eager to greet his friends. Likewise when a nest

Of fledglings spy their mother in the air flying homewards,

They long to reach her, hang from the rim, gaping, about

To fall, did she not spread her feathers to prevent them,

And rebuke them with her careful wings. While the men

Told their tale of the covert action, and summarised their

Silent killing, their joyous embraces granting satisfaction

To their friends, and awaited Hopleus, and complained

At Dymas’ delay, behold, the leader of the Theban troops,

Amphion, arrived on swift wings. He was not pleased by

His tally of dead for long, seeing the field drenched by

The warm blood of Thebes’ countless host and their army

Expiring in ruin. A trembling seized him, such as grips those

Touched by a fire from heaven and, shuddering, his voice

Sight and strength failed as one. His horse, of its own free

Will, turned about, as he groaned, and the squadron fled

Kicking up dust behind it. They had not yet reached Thebes’

Gates when the Argive cohort, buoyed by the night’s success,

Charged onto the field. Over the limbs and weapons of those

Fallen, over earth fouled by blood, over mounds of the dying,

The horses thundered, while a bloody rain bathed and clogged

The chariot wheels. The warriors relished taking that path, as

Though in their pride they trampled Thebes and Sidonian roofs

In the pools of blood. Capaneus urged them on: ‘Your valour

Has been hidden long enough, Pelasgians. Now, now will

The victory this day shall witness be glorious to me; come,

Openly with me, through dust and clamour, before all eyes.

I too bear prescient omens in the dread fury of my drawn

Sword.’ So he spoke, and King Adrastus and his son-in-law,

Polynices, burned with ardour, and the augur followed now

More sadly. Soon they were near the walls (while Amphion

Was still relaying the new disaster) and would have entered

The unfortunate city there and then, if Megareus, on a high

Watchtower, had not shouted in an instant: ‘Close every gate,

Men, the enemy is approaching, barricade the gates all round.’

Sometimes excess of fear grants strength: swiftly every gate

Was barred; except the Ogygian where Echion was slow to

Close it and the bold Spartan warriors broke through,

Only to fall at the threshold: you Panopeus, who lived on

The slopes of Taygetus; and you Oebalus, a swimmer in

The chill Eurotas; and you O Alcidamas, victor on every

Wrestling ground and lately a winner in the Nemean dust,

Whose first gloves were tied by Pollux, Tyndareus’ son,

Himself, eyes seeking your mentor’s bright constellation;

Though the god himself has set; his star deserting you all.

One the Oebalian forest shall mourn; one the Spartan girl’s

Deceptive shore by that river where Jove played the swan;

One Diana’s Amyclaean Nymphs, that one whose mother,

That taught him the rules and wise precepts of battle, shall

Complain that he learned his lesson only too well. So Mars,

Raged at the vulnerable threshold of Echionian Thebes.

BkX:509-551 The Argives attack the gates and walls

At length Acron, shoving with his shoulders, Ialmenides

Thrusting with the full force of his body, turned the timber

Of the bronze-clad gate on its hinges, both straining like

The groaning bullocks that plough Pangaea’s fallow soil.

Their efforts achieved both gain and loss, enemy soldiers

Trapped inside, but their own comrades shut out. Greek

Ormenus fell within. As Theban Amyntor stretched out

His hands in a flood of entreaties, his neck was severed,

And his head, its tongue still moving, fell to the ground,

His fine necklet, drenched with blood, falling from his

Throat onto the hostile sand. Meanwhile the ramparts

Were breached, the first ranks of the defenders lacking

Courage and retreating. The Argive infantry reached

The walls, but horses balked at leaping the wide moat;

They halted trembling fearing the gap, startled at being

Urged forward: now they make to plunge from the lip,

Now of their own accord they rear against the harness.

Some men tore away defensive lines set in the ground,

Others toppled barriers in front of the gates, or sweated

To remove iron palisades and push stones from their

Base with rams tipped by echoing bronze. Some hurled

Torches at the roofs, exulting when they lodged firmly,

Some mined the foundations, or tested the hollow towers

Blindly from beneath the linked shields of their testudo.

But the Thebans occupied every high point on the walls,

And, as their only course of action, hurled fire-blackened

Stakes against the enemy; bright steel javelins; fire-balls

That ignited as they flew through the air; even the stones

From the walls. The battlements poured out a fierce hail

While the windows, defended, emitted whistling darts.

Like gales that lurk in the clouds above Malea, or high

Ceraunia, and gather over the darkened hills to burst

Against ships’ sails, the Theban weapons overwhelmed

The Argive troops. But the warriors refused to avert their

Faces or chests from the dreadful onslaught, and faced

The walls, oblivious to danger, pre-occupied with their

Weapons alone. Antheus was circling the walls in his

Scythed chariot when the plunging weight of a Theban

Spear struck him from above. The reins were torn from

His hand, and thrown backwards he was caught by his

Greaves encasing dying flesh. A mischance in battle,

Astounding to behold, his shield dragged on the ground,

The dust was ploughed by the smoking wheels, as

His spear traced a third furrow, while the lolling head

Followed making a long trail in the dust, the broad wake

Marked by his backward-streaming hair showing plain.

BkX:552-627 Tiresias prophesies

Now the trumpet’s mournful clangour batters at the city,

Breaking through blocked portals with its piercing bray.

Covering the approaches, at each gateway, stands a fierce

Ensign-bearer, displaying to all their disasters and victories.

Within, the scene is dire. Mars himself scarcely delighted

In the sight. The frenzied city was maddened by terror:

Grief, Madness, Panic and blind Flight encompassed by

Darkness tore it apart in a chaos of discord. You would

Have thought the battle was within. The heights seethed

With movement, the streets were confused with cries,

And in their minds they saw fire and sword on every

Side, and themselves weighed down by cruel chains:

Fear consumes the future. Now they thronged the roofs

And temples, the unyielding altars surrounded by lament.

The same terror gripped all ages. Old men summoned

Death, the young turned red then pale, hallways shook

To the cries of women wailing. Children wept without

Understanding, troubled, and frightened simply by their

Mothers’ tears. Driven by love, the women’s despair

Showed no shame: they handed their husbands’ weapons,

Roused anger and courage in them, exhorted them, ran

Alongside, and never ceased to point, groaning, to their

Houses and their little children. So, when a shepherd has

Disturbed wild bees, while plundering their hive in some

Stony cavern, the savage swarm hum loudly, exciting

Each other with their buzzing, and fly at the enemy’s

Face; then, wings failing, they lament, surrounding

The golden nest with its honeyed cells, pressing their

Bodies against the combs that cost them so much labour.

The crowd’s sentiments were divided, a conflict sowing

The seeds of discord: some called (not quietly, but openly

With loud shouts) for the restoration of Polynices as king,

Losing, in their fear, all respect for Eteocles: ‘Let the exile

Return and reign for his year as agreed: let the unfortunate

Man revisit his Cadmean home and his father’s blindness.

Why should we pay in blood for a deceitful and perjurious

Crime perpetrated by the king?’ Others cried: ‘It is too late

To invoke their pact. Polynices will seek total victory now.’

Others again, a suppliant throng, begged Tiresias, tearfully,

As the sole consolation in time of trouble, to read the future.

He kept the gods’ decrees suppressed, concealed in his heart:

‘Did our leader credit my advice and warnings before when

I opposed this treacherous warfare? Yet, wretched Thebes,

Doomed to perish if I am silent, I shall endure the sound of

Your destruction, feeling the Argive flames warm my empty

Sockets. Piety; let me concede; ready the altars, girl, let us

Make enquiry of the gods.’ Manto obeyed, and her keen

Vision reported to him that the crimson flame of the altar

Fire split in two, yet a bright tip rose clearly in the midst;

Then she described to him how it twisted in a double spiral,

In the phantom image of a snake, wavering with fragmentary

Redness: and thus Manto illuminated her father’s darkness.

Tiresias embraced the wreathed flames a while, breathing

The prophetic vapours, his face filled with passion. His hair

Rose in dread and dismay, wild tresses lifting the trembling

Ribbons. You might have thought his blind orbs had vision,

That the long-exhausted colour had returned to his cheeks.

At length he gave voice to his seething frenzy: ‘Listen,

O guilty scions of Labdacus, to the final sacrifice the gods

Require. Sweet salvation comes, but by a harsh road. Mars’

Serpent demands a cruel offering, and the rites for the dead.

Whoever is the youngest of the people of the snake let him

Die. Only in this way will victory be granted. Happy is

The man who shall leave this life to win so great a prize.’

Creon stood beside the prophetic seer’s cruel altar, saddened

But until now only mourning his country’s and the common

Fate: suddenly he felt Tiresias’ words as an immense lightning

Bolt, stricken, as though a flying javelin had pierced his breast,

Knowing that his son Menoeceus was the one required, for

Deep dread turned the father’s heart to ice, and fear persuaded.

He stood there anguished and in shock, as the Sicilian shore

Receives the waves thrown back by the Libyan surge. Now

He begged in vain for the seer, filled with Apollo’s power

As he was and demanding action, to be silent; now grovelling

At his feet, now clasping his mouth tight shut as he chanted.

Already Rumour grasping the sacred utterance flew with it

In her embrace, and soon all of Thebes proclaimed the oracle.

BkX:628-685 Divine Courage inspires Menoeceus

Clio, come now, since the ages and the annals of antiquity

Are in your keeping, recount the tale that is in your memory:

Tell how the youth was inspired to delight in glorious death

(Since such ardour is not stirred in men except by the gods).

Divine Courage, attendant on Jupiter’s throne, from which

She is only rarely granted to the world so Earth may know her,

(Either when the almighty Father gifts her to us, or she herself

Deigns to enter the mind that can receive her as she did then)

Leapt down rejoicing from the celestial regions – the bright

Stars gave way for her as she fell, the heroic fires she herself

Has placed in the sky; and now she trod the earth, although

Her gaze is never far from the heavens. She thought it well

To alter her looks, and appear as prophetic Manto, so that

Her words might be believed entire; and cunningly shed

Her former aspect. The power and severity left her eyes,

But something of the beauty remained, with softer aspect.

She laid aside her sword, replacing all with a seer’s robe,

Whose folds descend, while a sacred ribbon is bound about

Her formal tresses (replacing victory’s laurels), though her

Austere countenance, and long stride, yet betray her divinity.

So Omphale, Hercules’ Lydian wife, smiled to see him bereft

Of his bristling hides, huge shoulders bursting the Sidonian

Robes as he broke the distaffs and ruined the beaten drums.

Courage found you, Menoeceus, standing near the Dircaean

Gate; not unfit for the sacrifice required; worthy of the deed.

The entrance to the massive gateway was unbarred, and you

And warlike Haemon were laying the Danaans low, though

You took the lead despite both being of one blood, brothers

In all things. The dead were piled around. Every dart found

Its mark, every blow wrought slaughter (even though Divine

Courage had not yet appeared); neither mind nor heart rested.

His eager weapons had no respite, the very Sphinx, guardian

Emblem of his helmet, seemed maddened; her image seemed

Alive, roused by the sight of blood, glittering as the spattered

Bronze gleamed. But the goddess stayed his hand and sword

As he fought: ‘O, great-hearted youth, whom Mars would know,

Above all others, to be of Cadmus’ warlike seed, leave these

Petty skirmishes; not such is the due your courage owes you.

The stars summon you: think more nobly, and you shall raise

Your spirit to the heavens! For this my Tiresias has raved at

The blessed altars; flames and entrails will it; Apollo urges.

They demand an earth-born hero to save our country’s blood.

Rumour chants the prophecy, the people of Cadmus rejoice,

Trusting in you: feel the god’s inspiration: grasp a noble fate.

Go hasten, I beg, before Haemon, behind, takes your place.’

So she spoke and, as he hesitated, stroked his chest, silently

With her great hand and left her influence in his heart. No

More swiftly does a cypress tree blasted by lightning feel

The angry flames from root to tip, than that youth possessed

By divine power; spirit exalted; felt the love of glorious death.

Seeing her walk and bearing as she turned away; how ‘Manto’

Rose from earth to the sky; he cried, wonderingly: ‘Whichever

Deity you are that summons me, I follow; I hasten to obey.’

Even as he went, he stabbed Agreus of Pylos who threatened

The rampart. The armour-bearers relieved him of his burden.

A delighted crowd at his entry hailed him now as their saviour,

A bringer-of-peace, and their god, filling him with noble fire.

BkX:686-737 Cleon seeks to dissuade him

Now, breathlessly, he was making his way to the battlements,

Pleased to have avoided his parents in their distress, when

He met Cleon, his father, and both stood still, eyes downcast,

Neither speaking. Cleon was the first to begin: ‘What event

Brings you from the battle? What do you seek more urgent

Than the war? Tell me, son, I pray you. Why so grim, why

This pallor in your cheeks? Why do your ferocious eyes

Not meet your father’s gaze? You’ve heard the seer’s utterance,

That’s plain. Son, I beg you, by your years and mine, by your

Unhappy Mother’s breast, my son, do not believe the prophet!

Would the gods deign to inspire an impious old man with

Empty sockets in his hollow face, a punishment like that of vile

Oedipus? What if this is treachery, a cunning ruse of the king,

Who in his desperate state fears our nobility, and your courage,

Notable among the generals? Perhaps the words thought to be

The god’s are his; and his, the command. Rein in your hot mood,

Grant time, exercise a brief delay; impulse is ever a bad master.

Grant your father this request, I beg you. Then your brow may

Be marked by old age’s grey hairs, and you yourself become

A parent, and live, brave boy, to fear as I do. Do not leave us

A house bereft. Do other fathers and their children move you?

For shame! First have pity on your own. That is piety, that is

True honour: the rest is only glory, vain honours, reputation

Wrapped in death. I am no coward that seeks to dissuade you.

Go, make war; pierce the Danaan ranks; brave their swords;

Make yourself a target: I will not restrain you. But let me wash

Away your streaming blood with my tears and let me heal your

Quivering wounds, and send you time and again into cruel battle.

Such is what Thebes requires.’ He clasped his son’s neck then

Held his hands, but neither words nor tears moved the young

Man, pledged to the gods. Rather, at their prompting, he chose

To keep his own counsel, and deceive his father, allay his fears:

‘Ah, good father, you are mistaken, you are ignorant of what we

Should truly fear. The commands or utterances of frenzied seers

Trouble me not nor move me with their untruths (let the cunning

Tiresias sing them to himself and his daughter) no not if Apollo

Himself were to ope his shrine and rave in my face. But my dear

Brother’s grievous mischance brings me back to the city of my

Own free will. Haemon groans, between their lines and ours,

Barely out of the dust of battle, Argos almost had him – but I

Delay. Go, comfort him in his uncertain state, tell the bearers

To take care, and carry him gently. I go to find Aetion, skilled

In healing wounds and calling back a life that is ebbing away.’

Cutting short his speech, he hurried onwards; Creon’s mind was

Immersed in a dark fog, his thoughts confused. His duty seemed

Uncertain, his fears in conflict; the Fates urging him to believe.

BkX:738-782 Menoeceus sacrifices himself

Meanwhile warlike Capaneus drove the host emerging from

The open gates over the level field; now cavalry squadrons,

Now infantry, now chariots trampling on their driver’s bodies.

His men batter at the high towers too with a continuous hail

Of rocks, routing the enemy bands, with their blood on fire.

Now Capaneus inflicts fresh wounds with swift whirling lead,

Now spins a javelin high with his outstretched arm. No spear

Reaches the battlements but brings down its man, returning

Wet with slaughter. The Pelopean phalanx no longer believe

Tydeus or Hippomedon, Amphiaraus or Parthenopeus, dead:

Rather that the spirits of his friends have merged together in

The one body, so well does Capaneus fill the void they left.

No man’s age or rank or beauty move him. He rages against

Those who fight and those who plead alike. No one opposes

Him for long or hopes for some perverse eventuality of battle.

Far off men dread the frenzied weapons, the fearful plumes

And visor. But pious Menoeceus now took his chosen stand

On the battlement. Holy his looks, more majestic than his

Usual aspect, as though he had descended suddenly from

The heavens. Doffing his helmet, recognizable to all, he

Gazed down on the ranks of warriors and with a loud cry

Called attention to himself and brought silence to the field.

‘Deities of battle, and you O Phoebus, who grant me so noble

A death, grant Thebes the joy I have pledged and bought with

The gift of my blood. Drive back the enemy, and thrust their

Vile remnants on captive Lerna. Let Father Inachus reject his

Inglorious foster-children as they tend their lacerated backs.

But let the price of my death restore temples, land, homes,

Wives and children to the Thebans. If I am pleasing to you

As sacrifice, if my ears heard the prophet’s utterance without

Dismay, and accepted when Thebes still disbelieved, grant

What is due to Amphion’s walls, in exchange for my life,

And appease, I beg you, the father I deceived.’ So he spoke,

And with glittering blade dealt himself a solitary blow, that

Pierced the flesh and freed a noble spirit that disdained its

Body, and grieved to be confined. Bespattering the tower

And walls with blood so purifying them, he plunged into

The midst of the warriors below, still grasping the sword,

His corpse aimed at the fierce Achaeans. But Valour and

Piety seized his body in their arms and carried it gently

To the earth. For his spirit had long since sped to Jupiter’s

Feet, and claimed for itself a place among the noblest stars.

BkX:783-826 His mother Eurydice mourns him

Now, recovering the body without effort, since the Argives

Withdrew in reverence, of their own accord, the people bore

The hero within the walls, with ritual celebration. Carried

On the shoulders of the Theban warriors, in long procession,

All the folk accorded him grateful honour, calling him their

Guardian spirit, above Amphion and Cadmus their founder.

Some heaped his corpse with garlands, some with scattered

Flowers of the spring. His body placed in the ancestral tomb

And their praises done, they returned to battle, while Creon

Mourned with tears, his anger forgotten: and then the mother,

Eurydice, had her chance to lament: ‘Did I nurture you, noble

Boy, as a sacrifice for fierce Thebes, a pious scapegoat, as

Though I was some worthless creature’s mother? What sin

Have I committed? Which of the gods hates me so? I saw

No son return to me in monstrous union. I bore no grandchild,

Through a fatal marriage with my own child. And yet, see you,

Jocasta has her sons, and beholds them still captains and kings.

Must I make cruel offering in war (was such your pleasure, god

Of the lightning bolt?) so that those brothers, sons of Oedipus,

Might take turns with the crown? Why do I complain though

Of gods and men? It was you, cruel Menoeceus, who, above all,

Hastened to kill your unhappy mother. Why such love of death?

What cursed madness seized your mind? What did I conceive?

What did I bear? A child so unlike myself. Surely it was Mars’

Serpent and the earth flowered with our ancestor’s new-born

Weapons – hence that wretched courage, and all too much of

That war-god’s fire in your heart, nothing of your mother. See,

Destroyed of your own free will, you go to the shades, without

The Fates so wishing. I feared Capaneus’ weapons and the Danai,

But this hand I should have feared, this and the weapon I gave

You in my foolishness. See how deeply the blade entered his

Throat? The Danai themselves could not have struck deeper.’

The unhappy woman would have gone on speaking, filling

The world with her complaint, but her companions led her

Away and her maids, comforting her regardless, kept her to

Her chamber, where she sat, her cheeks scarred by her nails.

She took no note of daylight or words of entreaty nor, bereft

Of mind and voice, turned her distraught gaze from the ground.

So a fierce tigress whose cubs have been taken lies alone in her

Scythian lair, and licks the paw-prints on the still-warm stone;

Her rage gone, the wilderness quiet, her rabid hunger stilled,

Flocks and herds pass unafraid, as she lies there and watches;

Where are those for whom she stored nourishment in her body,

Those to whom she, long awaited, might bring her rich prey?

BkX:827-882 Capaneus again assaults the city

So much for the war of weapons, trumpets, steel and wounds:

Now Capaneus must be brought to battle with the starry sky.

I may no longer sing in that manner poets so often adopt;

I must ask a more exalted inspiration of the Aonian groves.

Goddesses dare all with me! Did a frenzy, out of the depths

Of night grip the warrior? Did the Stygian Sisters take arms

Against Jupiter, following Capaneus’ banner? Or was he

Filled with courage beyond all bounds, a reckless thirst for

Renown, and the fame that a glorious death may bring? Or

Was his previous success the mere harbinger of disaster,

The gods in their anger, enticing mortals to their doom?

Now Capaneus scorned the ground, tiring of that slaughter

On the plain. His and the Argives’ missiles were exhausted

Long since, and his arm was weary. He gazed up at the sky,

Then with a grim look took the measure of the high towers,

And had a long wooden scaling ladder with countless rungs

Brought forward. Terrible from afar he brandished a blazing

Torch of flaring oak, that reddened his arms, reflecting fire

From his shield. ‘This is the gateway to Thebes,’ he cried,

‘This is the way my rising courage commands me to go, here

Where the walls are slippery still with Menoeceus’ blood.

I will test what his sacrifice achieved, and whether Apollo

Deceives.’ So saying he mounted the ladder step by step,

To gain the besieged city. So the giants appeared amongst

The clouds, when impious earth was piled high as though

To overtop the gods, with Jove anxious since Ossa almost

Reached him before vast Pelion had been heaped upon it.

Then the Thebans, truly terrified by this ultimate act of fate,

(Thinking the city faced final ruin and Bellona had arrived

With blood-stained brand to level its towers to the ground)

Vied to launch huge stones and stakes from every rooftop,

And whirl loaded slings – how ineffective javelins proved

And cloud-wandering arrows! – eagerly winding catapults,

And hurling iron masses. The missiles flung, from above

Or behind, failed to bring him down. Balanced in thin air,

As though he were treading firmly on the level ground,

Capaneus climbed upwards despite that mighty avalanche.

Thus a river will batter against a bridge with endless waves,

Piling against the ancient timbers, till gaps appear between

Its stones and beams fall; all the more violently the river,

Sensing success, hammers away and drags at the failing

Mass with its powerful surge until its swift flow loosens

All the bolts, and, victorious, runs smoothly, its course free.

At last Capaneus towered above the long-sought summit,

And standing erect gazed at Thebes fearful below, terrified

By his vast shadow. Now he threw taunts at Amphion’s

Turrets, their defendants cowering in dismay: ‘For shame!

Are these frail things the walls that danced to his lyre’s

Unwarlike song, in that oft-told lying fable of Thebes?

How hard can it be to level walls raised by gentle music?’

With which he attacked the blocks of stone with hands

And feet, demolishing wooden tiers and flooring in his

Path. The bridging planks flew apart, the stone ties of

Roof coverings gave way, the battlements were dismantled.

Re-utilising them, he hurled broken fragments onto houses

And temples below crushing the city with its own defences.

BkX:883-939 The death of Capaneus

But now the gods who favoured Thebes or Argos gathered

Round Jove, shouting their various complaints; the Father,

Trying to be fair to all, witnessing their mighty outbursts

Of temper, knew that only he himself could control them.

Bacchus groaned as his stepmother watched, and looking

Askance at his father, cried: ‘Where is your fierce hand,

And the flames that, sadly, formed my cradle? Where, oh,

Where is the lightning-bolt?’ Apollo, whose oracle helped

Found Thebes, grieved for the city; Hercules, weighing

Lerna against it, stood there irresolute, with strung bow;

Perseus, Danae’s winged son, lamented for his mother’s

Argos. Venus wept for Harmonia’s people, and fearful

Of her husband Vulcan, stood apart from him, gazing

At Mars in silent anger. Bold Minerva rebuked the Aonian

Gods, while Juno stood there, mute, tormented with fury.

Yet none of this troubled Jupiter’s calm. The noise had

Subsided when, behold, Capaneus’ voice was heard in

The heavens: ‘Do none of the gods defend trembling

Thebes? Where are those idle foster-children of this

Accursed land, where are Bacchus and Hercules? I am

Tired of attacking weaklings; come then (for who is

Worthier to face me?) See, I hold Semele’s tomb and

Ashes. Come, battle against me with your fires, Jupiter!

Or are you only brave when terrifying a frightened girl

With your thunder, or razing her father Cadmus’ towers?

The gods, lamenting his words, groaned. Jupiter himself,

Merely laughing at the madman, shook his sacred locks:

‘If the giants’ audacity at Phlegra failed, what can a man

Expect? Must I strike you, too?’ The crowd of deities urge

Their patient leader on, from every side, grinding their

Teeth and demanding militant retaliation, nor does Juno,

Subdued, dare any longer to thwart the Fates. Now even

The heavenly region thundered of its own accord, without

Jove’s signal; clouds gathered without a wind, and the rain

Rushed forth. You might have thought giant Iapetus had

Slipped his Stygian chains, or Ischia and Aetna, overcome,

Had released their prisoners to the sky above. The gods

Were ashamed of such apprehensions, but when they saw

Capaneus stand amidst the whirling globe, wildly demanding

Battle, they silently turned pale, astonished, unsure if Jove

Would launch his lightning-bolt. Over the Ogygian tower’s

Summit, the clouds began to rumble darkly and the heavens

To veil themselves in gloom. Yet Capaneus still clung there,

On the now shrouded heights, crying out as lightning flared

From the heart of the restless storm: ‘These, yes these flames

I should deploy against Thebes now, re-lighting my torch,

Re-kindling its smouldering oak-wood.’ At these very words

The lightning struck him, hurled with Jupiter’s full strength.

First the plumes on his helm were charred and the scorched

Boss of his shield fell away; then all his limbs were aglow.

The ranks fell back, both armies terrified, anticipating his

Plunge from the heights wondering whom his fiery corpse

Might strike. He felt the fire hiss, in his helm and hair, then

Within him, and trying to clutch the chain-mail with his

Hand, touched the glowing remains at his breast. Yet still he

Stood there expelling his last breath towards the stars, his

Smoking frame pressed to the stones he hated. Nor would

He have fallen if his earthly powers had not deserted him,

His spirit freed. Had his body failed him a moment later,

He would even have greeted Jove’s second lighting-bolt.

End of Book X