A word momentous calmly hast thou spoken.
Him nam’st thou ancestor whom all the world
Knows as a sometime favorite of the gods?
Is it that Tantalus, whom Jove himself
Drew to his council and his social board?
On whose experienc’d words, with wisdom fraught,
As on the language of an oracle,
E’en gods delighted hung?
’Tis even he;
But the immortal gods with mortal men
Should not, on equal terms, hold intercourse;
For all too feeble is the human race,
Not to grow dizzy on unwonted heights.
Ignoble was he not, and no betrayer;
To be the Thunderer’s slave, he was too great;
To be his friend and comrade,—but a man.
His crime was human, and their doom severe;
For poets sing, that treachery and pride
Did from Jove’s table hurl him headlong down
To grovel in the depths of Tartarus.
Alas, and his whole race must bear their hate.
Bear they their own guilt, or their ancestor’s?
The Titan’s mighty breast and nervous frame
Was his descendants’ certain heritage;
But round their brow Jove forg’d a band of brass.
Wisdom and patience, prudence and restraint,
He from their gloomy, fearful eye conceal’d;
In them each passion grew to savage rage,
And headlong rush’d with violence uncheck’d.
Already Pelops, Tantalus’ loved son,
Mighty of will, obtained his beauteous bride,
Hippodamia, child of Oenomaus,
Through treachery and murder; she ere long,
To glad her consort’s heart, bare him two sons,
Thyest and Atreus. They with envy marked
The ever-growing love their father bare
To his first-born, sprung from another union.
Hate leagued the pair, and secretly they wrought,
In fratricide, the first dread crime. The sire
Hippodamia held as murderess,
With savage rage he claim’d from her his son,
And she in terror did destroy herself—
Thou’rt silent? Pause not in thy narrative;
Repent not of thy confidence—say on!
How blest is he who his progenitors
With pride remembers, to the listener tells
The story of their greatness, of their deeds,
And, silently rejoicing, sees himself
The latest link of this illustrious chain!
For seldom does the selfsame stock produce
The monster and the demigod: a line
Of good or evil ushers in, at last,
The glory or the terror of the world.—
After the death of Pelops, his two sons
Rul’d o’er the city with divided sway.
But such an union could not long endure.
His brother’s honor first Thyestes wounds.
In vengeance Atreus drove him from the realm.