Primitias egomet lacrimarum et caedis acerbae,
ante tubas ferrumque, tuli, dum deside cura
credo sinus fidos altricis et ubera mando.
quidni ego? narrabat servatum fraude parentem
insontesque manus. en quam ferale putemus
abiurasse sacrum et Lemni gentilibus unam
immunem furiis! haec illa (et creditis) ausa,
haec pietate potens solis abiecit in arvis,
non regem dominumque, alienos impia partus,
hoc tantum, silvaeque infamis tramite liquit,
quem non anguis atrox (quid enim hac opus, ei mihi, leti
mole fuit?), tantum caeli violentior aura
impulsaeque noto frondes cassusque valeret
exanimare timor.
(Statius, Theb. 6.146-159)

I bore the first fruit of tears and untimely death before trumpet and sword, as caring but lazily I believed in a nurse’s trusty bosom and handed over my suckling. But why not? She told me how she had saved her father by cunning and kept her hands innocent. Look at her, this woman who we are to think abjured the deadly covenant, alone immune from the madness of her fellow Lemnians; this woman who thus dared (and you believe her), this woman, so strong in her devotion, undutifully cast off in a lonely field – I say not king or master but another’s child, just that, and left him on a track in an ill-famed wood. No frightful snake – what need, alas, for such a mass of death? – but merely a breeze blowing strong or leaves shaken by the wind or idle terror might have been enough to cause his end. (tr. David Roy Shackleton Bailey)


William Blake - Capaneus the Blasphemer
William Blake, Capaneus the Blasphemer

Non tamen haec turbant pacem Iovis. ecce quierant
iurgia, cum mediis Capaneus auditus in astris:
‘Nullane pro trepidis,’ clamabat, ‘numina Thebis
statis? ubi infandae segnes telluris alumni,
Bacchus et Alcides? piget instigare minores:
tu potius venias (quis enim concurrere nobis
dignior?); en cineres Semelaeaque busta tenentur!
nunc age, nunc totis in me conitere flammis,
Iuppiter! an pavidas tonitru turbare puellas
fortior et soceri turres exscindere Cadmi?’
(Statius, Theb. 10.897-906)

Yet all this does not disturb Jove’s peace. Behold, the wrangling had subsided, when Capaneus is heard in mid heaven: ‘Do none of you deities,’ he roars, ‘take stand for trembling Thebes? Where are the sluggish nurslings of the accursed land, Bacchus and Alcides? It irks me to urge inferiors; come you rather, for who is worthier to meet me? See, Semele’s ashes and tomb are mine. Come now, strive against me with all your flames, Jupiter! Or are you braver at alarming timid girls with your thunder and razing the towers of your bride’s father Cadmus?’ (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey)