Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
A Royal Banquet
By Statius (c. 45–c. 96 A.D.)
(See full text.)
  [A brief passage from Statius’s ‘Thebaid’ will suffice to illustrate the rather purposeless splendor and richness of color lavished upon the descriptions. The lover of Virgil will recognize the master’s frequent influence. The English rendering is of course somewhat free at times; but both in scholarship and in metrical skill is still a surprising performance for a boy just entering his teens,—even though that boy be Alexander Pope.]

THE KING once more the solemn rites requires,
And bids renew the feasts, and wake the fires.
His train obey, while all the courts around
With noisy care and various tumult sound.
Embroidered purple clothes the golden beds;        5
This slave the floor, and that the table spreads;
A third dispels the darkness of the night,
And fills depending lamps with beams of light.
Here loaves in canisters are piled on high,
And there in flames the slaughtered victims fly.        10
Sublime in regal state Adrastus shone,
Stretched on rich carpets on his ivory throne;
A lofty couch receives each princely guest;
Around, at awful distance, wait the rest.
And now the King, his royal feast to grace,        15
Acestis calls, the guardian of his race,
Who first their youth in arts of virtue trained,
And their ripe years in modest grace maintained;
Then softly whispered in her faithful ear,
And bade his daughters at the rites appear:        20
When from the close apartments of the night,
The royal nymphs approach divinely bright;
Such was Diana’s, such Minerva’s face,—
Nor shine their beauties with superior grace,
But that in these a milder charm endears,        25
And less of terror in their looks appears.
As on the heroes first they cast their eyes,
O’er their fair cheeks the glowing blushes rise;
Their downcast looks a decent shame confessed,
Then on their father’s rev’rend features rest.        30
The banquet done, the monarch gives the sign
To fill the goblet high with sparkling wine
Which Danaüs used in sacred rites of old,
With sculpture graced, and rough with rising gold;
Here to the clouds victorious Perseus flies,        35
Medusa seems to move her languid eyes,
And, even in gold, turns paler as she dies.
There from the chase Jove’s towering eagle bears,
On golden wings, the Phrygian to the stars:
Still as he rises in th’ ethereal height,        40
His native mountains lessen to his sight;
While all his sad companions upward gaze,
Fixed on the glorious scene in wild amaze;
And the swift hounds, affrighted as he flies,
Run to the shade, and bark against the skies.        45
This golden bowl with generous juice was crowned,
The first libations sprinkled on the ground.
By turns on each celestial power they call;
With Phœbus’s name resounds the vaulted hall.
The courtly train, the strangers, and the rest,        50
Crowned with chaste laurel, and with garlands dressed,
While with rich gums the fuming altars blaze,
Salute the god in numerous hymns of praise.

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