This from too frequent converse with bad men
The impetuous Xerxes learn’d; these caught his ear
With thy great deeds, as winning for thy sons
Vast riches with thy conquering spear, while he
Tim’rous and slothful, never, save in sport,
Lifted his lance, nor added to the wealth
Won by his noble fathers. This reproach
Oft by bad men repeated, urged his soul
To attempt this war, and lead his troops to Greece.
Great deeds have they achieved, and memorable
For ages: never hath this wasted state
Suffer’d such ruin, since heaven’s awful king
Gave to one lord Asia’s extended plains
White with innumerous flocks, and to his hands
Consign’d the imperial sceptre. Her brave hosts
A Mede first led; the virtues of his son
Fix’d firm the empire, for his temperate soul
Breathed prudence. Cyrus next, by fortune graced,
Adorn’d the throne, and bless’d his grateful friends
With peace: he to his mighty monarchy
Join’d Lydia, and the Phrygians; to his power
Ionia bent reluctant; but the gods
His son then wore the regal diadem.
With victory his gentle virtues crown’d
His son then wore the regal diadem.
Next to disgrace his country, and to stain
The splendid glories of this ancient throne,
Rose Mardus: him, with righteous vengeance fired
Artaphernes, and his confederate chiefs
Crush’d in his palace: Maraphis assumed
The sceptre: after him Artaphernes.
Me next to this exalted eminence,
Crowning my great ambition, Fortune raised.
In many a glorious field my glittering spear
Flamed in the van of Persia’s numerous hosts;
But never wrought such ruin to the state.
Xerxes, my son, in all the pride of youth
Listens to youthful counsels, my commands
No more remember’d; hence, my hoary friends,
Not the whole line of Persia’s sceptred lords,
You know it well, so wasted her brave sons.
What may thy words import? How fight for them?
With famine it destroys your cumbrous train.
Choice levies, prompt for action, will we send,
Of all their numbers few, if aught avails
The faith of heaven-sent oracles to him
That weighs the past, in their accomplishment
Not partial: hence he left, in faithless hope
Confiding, his selected train of heroes.
These have their station where Asopus flows
Wat’ring the plain, whose grateful currents roll
Diffusing plenty through Boeotia’s fields.
There misery waits to crush them with the load
Of heaviest ills, in vengeance for their proud
And impious daring; for where’er they held
Through Greece their march, they fear’d not to profane
The statues of the gods; their hallow’d shrines
Emblazed, o’erturn’d their altars, and in ruins,
Rent from their firm foundations, to the ground
Levell’d their temples; such their frantic deeds,
Nor less their suff’rings; greater still await them;
For Vengeance hath not wasted all her stores;
The heap yet swells; for in Plataea’s plains
Beneath the Doric spear the clotted mas
Of carnage shall arise, that the high mounds,
Piled o’er the dead, to late posterity
Shall give this silent record to men’s eyes,
That proud aspiring thoughts but ill beseem
Weak mortals: for oppression, when it springs,
Puts forth the blade of vengeance, and its fruit
Yields a ripe harvest of repentant wo.
Behold this vengeance, and remember Greece,
Remember Athens: henceforth let not pride,
Her present state disdaining, strive to grasp
Another’s, and her treasured happiness
Shed on the ground: such insolent attempts
Awake the vengeance of offended Jove.
But you, whose age demands more temperate thoughts,
With words of well-placed counsel teach his youth
To curb that pride, which from the gods calls down
Destruction on his head.
And thou, whose age
The miseries of thy Xerxes sink with sorrow,
Go to thy house, thence choose the richest robe,
And meet thy son; for through the rage of grief
His gorgeous vestments from his royal limbs
Are foully rent. With gentlest courtesy
Soothe his affliction; for is duteous ear,
I know, will listen to thy voice alone.
Now to the realms of darkness I descend.
My ancient friends, farewell, and mid these ills
Each day in pleasures battle your drooping spirits,
For treasured riches naught avail the dead.
Unhappy fortune, what a tide of ills
Bursts o’er me! Chief this foul disgrace, which shows
My son divested of his rich attire,
His royal robes all rent, distracts my thoughts.
But I will go, choose the most gorgeous vest,
And liaste to meet my son. Ne’er in his woes
Will I forsake whom my soul holds most dear.
Ye powers that rule the skies,
Memory recalls our great, our happy fate,
Our well-appointed state,
The scenes of glory opening to our eyes,
When this vast empire o’er
The good Darius, with each virtue bless’d
That forms a monarch’s breast,
Shielding his subjects with a father’s care
Invincible in war,
Extended like a god his awful power,
Then spread our arms their glory wide,
Guarding to peace her golden reign:
Each tower’d city saw with pride
Safe from the toils of war her homeward-marching train.
Nor Haly’s shallow strand
He pass’d, nor from his palace moved his state;
He spoke; his word was Fate.
What strong-based cities could his might withstand?
Not those that lift their heads
Where to the sea the floods of Strymon pass,
Leaving the huts of Thrace;
Nor those, that far the extended ocean o’er
Stand girt with many a tower;
Nor where the Hellespont his broad wave spreads;
Nor the firm bastions’ rampired might,
Whose foot the deep Propontis laves;
Nor those, that glorying in their height
Frown o’er the Pontic sea, and shade his darken’d waves.
Each sea-girt isle around
Bow’d to this monarch: humbled Lesbos bow’d;
Paros, of its marble proud;
Naxos with vines, with olives Samos crown’d:
Him Myconos adored;
Chios, the seat of beauty; Andros steep,
That stretches o’er the deep
To meet the wat’ry Tenos; him each bay
Bound by the Icarian sea,
Him Melos, Gnidus, Rhodes confess’d their lord;
O’er Cyprus stretch’d his sceptred hand:
Paphos and Solos own’d his power,
And Salamis, whose hostile strand,
The cause of all our wo, is red with Persian gore.
Ev’n the proud towns, that rear’d
Sublime along the lonian coast their towers,
Where wealth her treasures pours,
Peopled from Greece, his prudent reign revered.
With such unconquer’d might
His hardy warriors shook the embattled fields,
Heroes that Persia yields,
And those from distant realms that took their way,
And wedged in close array
Beneath his glitt’ring banners claim’d the fight.
But now these glories are no more:
Farewell the big war’s plumed pride:
The gods have crush’d this trophied power;
Sunk are our vanquish’d arms beneath the indignant tide.
Ah me, how sudden have the storms of Fate,
Beyond all thought, all apprehension, burst
On my devoted head! O Fortune, Fortune!
With what relentless fury hath thy hand
Hurl’d desolation on the Persian race!
Wo unsupportable! The torturing thought
Of our lost youth comes rushing on my mind,
And sinks me to the ground. O Jove, that
Had died with those brave men that died in fight I
O thou afflicted monarch, once the lord
Of marshall’d armies, of the lustre beam’d
From glory’s ray o’er Persia, of her sons
The pride, the grace, whom ruin now hath sunk
In blood! The unpeopled land laments her youth
By Xerxes led to slaughter, till the realms
Of death are gorged with Persians; for the flower
Of all the realm, thousands, whose dreadful bows
With arrowy shower annoy’d the foe, are fall’n.
Your fall, heroic youths, distracts my soul.