[Translation from Statius, Thebaid VI 646-88, 704-24]
1 Then thus the king: 'Whoe'er the quoit can wield,
2 And furthest send its weight athwart the field,
3 Let him stand forth his brawny arm to boast.'
4 Swift at the word, from out the gazing host
5 Young Pterelas with strength unequal drew,
6 Labouring the disc, and to small distance threw.
7 The band around admire the mighty mass,
8 A slippery weight and formed of polished brass.
9 The love of honour bade two youths advance,
10 Achaians born, to try the glorious chance;
11 A third arose, of Acarnania he,
12 Of Pisa one and three from Ephyre.
13 Nor more; for now Nesimachus's son,
14 By acclamations roused, came towering on.
15 Another orb upheaved his strong right hand,
16 Then thus: 'Ye Argive flower, ye warlike band,
17 Who trust your arms shall raze the Tyrian towers,
18 And batter Cadmus' walls with stony showers,
19 Receive a worthier load; yon puny ball
20 Let youngsters toss.'
21 He said, and scornful flung the unheeded weight
22 Aloof: the champions trembling at the sight
23 Prevent disgrace, the palm despaired resign.
24 All but two youths the enormous orb decline:
25 These conscious shame witheld and pride of noble line.
26 As bright and huge the spacious circle lay,
27 With doubled light it beamed against the day:
28 So glittering shows the Thracian godhead's shield,
29 With such a gleam affrights Pangaea's field,
30 When blazing 'gainst the sun it shines from far,
31 And, clashed, rebellows with the din of war.
32 Phlegyas the long-expected play began,
33 Summoned his strength and called forth all the man.
34 All eyes were bent on his experienced hand,
35 For oft in Pisa's sports his native land
36 Admired that arm; oft on Alpheus' shore
37 The ponderous brass in exercise he bore:
38 Where flowed the widest stream he took his stand;
39 Sure flew the disc from his unerring hand,
40 Nor stopped till it had cut the further strand.
41 And now in dust the polished ball he rolled,
42 Then grasped its weight, elusive of his hold;
43 Now fitting to his grip and nervous arm,
44 Suspends the crowd with animation warm,
45 Nor tempts he yet the plain but, hurled upright,
46 Emits the mass, a prelude of his might.
47 Firmly he plants each knee and o'er his head,
48 Collecting all his force, the circle sped.
49 It towers to cut the clouds; now through the skies
50 Sings in its rapid way and strengthens as it flies;
51 Anon with slackened rage comes quivering down,
52 Heavy and huge, and cleaves the solid ground.
53 So from the astonished stars, her nightly train,
54 The sun's pale sister, drawn by magic strain,
55 Deserts precipitant her darkened sphere.
56 In vain the nations with officious fear
57 Their cymbals toss and sounding brass explore:
58 The Æmonian hag enjoys her dreadful hour,
59 And smiles malignant on the labouring power.
60 Third in the labours of the disc came on,
61 With sturdy step and slow, Hippomedon.
62 Artful and strong he poised the well-known weight,
63 By Phlegyas warned and fired by Mnestheus' fate,
64 That to avoid and this to emulate.
65 His vigorous arm he tried before he flung,
66 Braced all his nerves and every sinew strung;
67 Then, with a tempest's whirl and wary eye,
68 Pursued his cast and hurled the orb on high;
69 The orb on high tenacious of its course,
70 True to the mighty arm that gave it force,
71 Far overleaps all bound and joys to see
72 Its ancient lord secure of victory.
73 The theatre's green height and woody wall
74 Tremble ere it precipitates its fall;
75 The ponderous mass sinks in the cleaving ground,
76 While vales and woods and echoing hills rebound.
77 As when from Aetna's smoking summit broke,
78 The eyeless Cyclops heaved the craggy rock:
79 Where ocean frets beneath the dashing oar,
80 And parting surges round the vessel roar,
81 'Twas there he aimed the meditated harm,
82 And scarce Ulysses scaped his giant arm.
83 A tiger's pride the victor bore away,
84 With native spots and artful labour gay:
85 A shining border round the margin rolled,
86 And calmed the terrors of his claws in gold.
About this text
Author: Thomas Gray
Genres: heroic couplet; translation
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Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771. Thomas Gray: English poems. Web. Oxford: Thomas Gray Archive, 2002. http://www.thomasgray.org/texts/poems.shtml
Typography, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation have been cautiously modernized. The source of the text is given and all significant editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. This ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 4.0.0.
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