For Venus

Love that was born from Chaos at the first,
By whom the most often men are accursed,
Was beautiful but like poison despoils;
In wars and intrigues, it snags and embroils.
The child of Venus, when he fires his bow,
Takes heed not at all who his arrows bring low;
This is no surprise – he’s given to vice –
We know this because he spends time at dice.
If Venus, his mother, gives him a toy
He’ll let loose a dart and some wretch destroy.
One must be dumb, if not downright stupid,
If one does not fear Venus and Cupid.
Though Troy was a city wealthy and renowned,
Venusian charms saw it burned to the ground;
Its people were either killed or enslaved,
With the exceptions of those Venus saved;
For long after Priam and Hecuba,
Astyanax, Andromache, and Cassandra,
Were dead or carried away to be slaves,
When Patroclus and Achilles in graves
Had been laid, when Locrian Ajax was drowned,
When Telamonian Ajax had found
The end of his grief at the point of his sword,
When Paris at last had his just reward,
Long after Hector was dragged round the wall,
When Penelope sought the suitors to stall,
When Odysseus still wandered the main,
Then Helen was queen in Sparta again.
What did Venus do when Troy’s blood was spilt?
She went on her way – she never feels guilt.
Aeneas also, who was Venus’ child,
Whose fine hair was curled and carefully styled,
In order to save him from Hera’s wrath
(She jealous for marriage went on a warpath;
She sought in her fury the downfall of Troy,
And Aeneas the Trojan, Venus’ boy),
Sent Cupid her son to strike with his dart
Phoenician Dido to grow in her heart
A love for Aeneas, which he returned;
A passionate fire between them both burned:
Though when at the bidding of Mercury,
He determined again to take to the sea
(For Mercury as the servant of Zeus
Was always quick to be at the king’s use),
The curse of Cupid drove Dido insane;
Contrived she a plan in her fevered brain:
She ordered a pyre be built that she might
Burn Aeneas’ things to curse him for his flight:
But Dido deceived; she was quick to decide
That she desired to commit suicide.
The pyre was constructed, the flames were lit,
And Dido went up upon it to sit;
And thus the founder of Carthage expired:
But Venus in peace from Phoenicia retired.
And Deianira, though she loved Heracles,
Condemned him to death by painful disease;
From this the great man sought for the release
From his torment and pain by his decease.
He was poisoned because his wife believed
The blood of the centaur would cure: but deceived
She was by the same who sought to repay
The wound that he’d gotten and Heracles slay;
He told her before he perished that should
His blood be applied to her husband he would
Be excited with love only for her;
Into a trap did he cunningly lure
Deianira and so she unaware
Gave to Heracles the garment to wear.
The blood of the centaur in death had been mixed,
And into the seams of the garment been fixed,
With blood of the hydra that coated the points
Of Heracles’ arrows, that pierced the joints,
Of Nessus the centaur: thus did he die,
And to Tartarus swift did his soul fly.
When Heracles’ skin touched this blood, then he fell
To the ground in a fit, wholly unwell.
He writhed and he screamed and foamed in his pain,
And begged that in mercy he should be slain:
So he that had felled the Lernaean hydra
Fell to a woman, to Deanira.
He thought he’d taken himself a new wife,
Instead his first spouse took from him his life;
And the men of the land rightly said thus:
This was the work of Cyprian Venus.
The point of this poem, I’m trying to say,
Is that if you’re wise, stay out of the way
Of Cupid’s darts; for more blood has been spilled
By his contrivings than ever Mars killed.
Good looks, the gift of Venus, are a prize
That win more than talent often can devise;
The claims of the ugly that looks don’t matter
Are nothing but their envious chatter.

Blind, Blind

What fierce misfortune! What a fall from grace!
What dread horrors, pains, men are forced to face!
Since Oedipus loved his parents he fled,
For a prophecy had pronounced that dead
His father would fall, slain by his own hand;
To escape this doom, he sought another land:
But on the road he met a man whose pride
Demanded Oedipus should step aside:
The Theban king made a fatal error,
To his dismay and unexpected terror;
Because he was king, he presumed that all
Would bow and scrape, and be to him in thrall;
For this misjudgment he met a sudden end,
From Oedipus’ staff he could not defend
Himself, but stricken, from his chariot fell:
But the end of sorrows did not this tell.
Though later Oedipus ruled Thebes as king,
A grievous plague on them the gods did bring.
The Sphinx’s riddle had Oedipus solved,
But from this his crime he was not absolved;
Though he loved the Thebans and ruled them well,
His pollution the gods sought to expel.
The cause of the sickness which vexed the city
In his heart evoked sorrow and pity,
And he sought the cause, if by chance, relief
Could be procured from their illness and grief;
But when inquiry had revealed, at last,
The reason, then his grief couldn’t be surpassed.
The prophet he scorned was shown to be right,
When the deeds of the king were brought to light;
Oedipus’ mother to a shepherd gave
Her son to his life deliver and save;
The shepherd passed him on to another,
Hobbled by pity just like his mother;
The other delivered the child to he
Who ruled Corinth. But word of the prophecy
Reached Oedipus when to Delphi he went;
And his sorrow and fear did Oedipus vent:
So Oedipus fled, determined that no
Blood of his father’s by his hand would flow:
But still he fulfilled the curse of the god,
When his father, unknown, he smote with his rod.
For Laius was he, that he struck on the road,
Then made his native Thebes his place of abode.
He sired his children by his mother, the queen:
By her his brothers and sons both were weaned.
And when, by inquiry, all this was known,
How poor Oedipus in spirit did groan!
His mother went in to her chamber and hung
Herself; from the rafters her dead body swung.
Insane into the room Oedipus burst,
Aggrieved, afflicted, agonized and accursed.
Pinned to the dress that the poor woman wore
Were two brooches that he from the garment tore;
The ornaments’ pins he stabbed in his eyes;
Blood rushed down his cheeks, then echoed his cries:
“Blind, blind in the darkness! Blind shall you be!
No more the pain of your deeds shall you see!
No more shall your eyes torment by the sight
The horror of all accursed by this blight!
In darkness shall I have relief from the pain,
Though blood from my eyes shall fall down like rain!
My sorrow, my grief, I’ll keep in my heart,
But dwell alone, in exile and apart.
The ruin of Thebes I’ll never perceive
By my eyes, though I’ll cease never to grieve;
The curse of the gods in darkness I’ll bear;
Into the blackness of Chaos I’ll stare.
Too long did I look on the curse of my house,
Polluted sons by my polluted spouse.
May the darkness one day cover my mind:
Then in all things, at last, I shall be blind!”

The Right of Might

The king of heaven, Zeus, sent Might, his guard,
To chain Prometheus and put him in ward;
And Violence sent he too to lend his hand,
Lest the judgment fail and the guilty stand
Unpunished for the crimes that he committed;
Though Vulcan begged the felon be acquitted:
But Zeus would not be swayed to turn from Right,
And so he gave command and sent forth Might.
These led Prometheus to the mountain top,
And found a place for him on a rocky crop;
And Might commanded Vulcan take a chain
And bind Prometheus, who cried in vain;
And Vulcan sought in earnest to assuage
The punishment that Zeus meted in his rage:
But Might reminded Vulcan he was charged
To do the will of Zeus who was enlarged
In all his power, holding sovereign sway;
And yet did Vulcan seek to wile by delay.
But Might was quick to threaten, so Vulcan did
As Might commanded what by Zeus was bid.
He bound the Titan thief that stole the fire
And thought that men therewith he could inspire:
By lies and theft the malefactor thought
He could subdue the king with whom he fought:
But cunning trickery only finds a way
When rulers cease to make might and right their way;
And so the thief was bound where his tongue could not
Spread through heaven’s ranks its deceit and rot.
Once he was tightly bound, Vulcan gave a sigh
And said “This is a sight that hurts the eye;
This plight pains the spirit when it observes.”
But Might said “I see he got what he deserves.”
So they left Prometheus where his words
Would be heard by none but wild beasts and birds;
Though he speak a thousand years he’d not succeed
In men or gods to rank rebellion breed.

For Hera

The Argive Hera, wife of Zeus, became
The Queen of heaven in both deed and name;
She it was that bore Ares, god of war,
Whose rage in battle echoes with a roar;
And Liberty she also brought to birth,
Whom the brave esteem of unequalled worth;
And Hebe goddess of the golden age
Of youth, whose fruits life’s troubles do assuage:
For strength and vigour and beauty most of all,
These bring their joy until old age spreads its pall.
These Hera bore to Zeus the reigning king,
Who is the source from which all good things spring.
But without Zeus she also bore a child:
The ugly thing was not in beauty styled;
A cripple was this son Hephaistos born,
Hence from her breast this wanting son was torn:
She hurled him from Olympus, and below
He worked a forge and did a bellows blow.
There fashioned he whatever Zeus required,
Achilles’ armour too in his forge he fired.
And Hera safe in Heaven stayed with Zeus,
Though oftentimes he played on her a ruse;
Yet next to him enthroned she did appear;
Of all that lived she only did he fear.

Lycurgus Drives Out Bacchus

Lycurgus, king of Thrace, son of Oak,
From peaceful sleep to frantic cries awoke,
And straight inquired the meaning of the uproar.
“Sire, Bacchus’ ship has landed on our shore.
To him have all the women resorted,
And without license has he exhorted
That they abandon home and run about
And in the woods and mountains statutes flout;
To drink till they are drunken from the wine,
Which they have seasoned with extract of pine:
But they have not diluted it with snow;
With unmixed wine their giant cups o’erflow.
These drunken revels overthrow their sense:
Thus Bacchus’ has his rites at our expense.”
Lycurgus swelled with rage and was aghast:
“I’ll seize th’ invader and he’ll feel the blast
Of fury and of rage and martial skill;
He’ll flee or on the ground his blood I’ll spill.”
He seized an ox-goad then and hunted down
The rebel who with wine had tried to drown
All sense and reason for to overthrow
The kingdom, which by riot is brought low.
He found the Maenad followers and drove
Them into prison, cursing them by Jove:
But Bacchus to the border did he hound
And thought his tearful cries a joyful sound;
Though Bacchus claimed himself to be a god,
Yet flew he thence before Lycurgus’ rod.