Poem About Phaethon

That particular phrase caught my eye this week as a search term to get to my blog. I suspect they found my post on translating some of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The weird thing is, when I locked eyes with that search term, I had recently finished writing my own poem about Phaethon, semi-divine son of the Roman god Sol, in English, taking the story I had translated from the Latin and being liberal with it.

After all, I’m no epic writer; my poems can be long, but they are never that long.

So, here is my poem, Phaethon’s Horses (eques Phaethoni):

No prescience could halter his desire blazing bright

To grasp the slippery reins and bring smileless sunlight into night:

Poor Phaethon clutched at his prize, just as at his father’s name –

He cast a hot ambition redder than the roaring day.

It is a curse to be a god, to bear the world of men,

To drive a chariot across the sky, to stop, begin again,

But Sol’s son grew as half a god; he shut himself from fate,

Only natural was it, then: the warning came too late.

Too enchanted he became with manes all flowing with light,

Pyrois, Eous and Aethon – the fourth was Phlegon’s might,

pedibusque repagula pulsant, et pugnabant:

Running feet snatched those chains from the standing hand.

Four horses and a naïve boy, Shining but still a thief,

He stole the chance to fly up high – yet who was stolen? It was he:

Swept amongst the forceful breeze, the eyes of stars retained

Their glory piercing, shining brighter than the godchild’s name,

Fictitious teeth, simple to bear, they gnashed at the passenger;

His breath was frantic mists beneath the scorched air.

Seeing all, those ancient eyes watched the pouring sun glaze Earth,

With its steeds striving free, his peril from their mirth;

Poor Phaethon’s reign had slipped away, his day was drawing closed;

By no fall of tears will his roaming heat be doused.

Our setting sun fell North to South amidst the stellar disarray,

No heavenly quest could catch the chariot in its crooked sway.

Ethereal beasts have lashed at him their tongues dipped ice-bright,

And no more now has Phaethon’s eyes Phaethon’s light.

For his fate brought down the world and cursed cracked rivers dry,

The name of sun will shine no more when Hades’ pit’s raised high –

And what of horses, beating rough their wilderness in sky?

To bring the sun, to take the son, to lift the boy to die.



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