Publius Papinius Statius

Silvae

Book III

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2012 All Rights Reserved

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Contents


BkIII: Prologue – Statius to his friend Pollius: Greetings!

I need not justify to you at least, dearest Pollius, so deserving of the quiet to which you cling so faithfully, the temerity of these little pieces, since you know that many of them were suddenly born at your side, and you were frequently troubled by my pen’s audaciousness, when you led me into your eloquence’s sanctuary, and I entered into literature more fully, drawn by you into every corner of learning. Hence I send you this third book of my Silvae without anxiety. You were a witness to the second but the sponsor of this. It opens with Hercules of Surrento; I paid him homage in these lines, as soon as I saw him consecrated on your shores. Next is a work addressed to Marcus Celer, a young man of vast distinction in whose friendship I take the greatest of pleasure. He was sent by our most sacred Emperor to join a legion in Syria, and since I could not go with him, I sent the poem by way of a companion. Then my friend Claudius Etruscus, filled with filial devotion, as he mourned his father with true tears in a manner unusual nowadays, deserved my solace. And Earinus, the freedman of our Germanicus, knows how promptly I answered his request, when he asked me for a few dedicatory lines for the locks of hair he was sending to Pergamene Asclepius along with a jewelled casket and mirror. Last is a brief poem in which I urge my Claudia to retire with me to Naples. This, in truth, is a conversation piece, an intimate conversation with my wife, aimed at persuading rather than pleasing. You will favour this work in particular, knowing as you do that in deciding on a place of retreat I had you especially in mind, and that I was retiring not so much to my native place, as to your company.

BkIII:1 – Pollius Felix’s Hercules at Sorrento

Lord of Tiryns, Pollius renews your interrupted worship

And gives his reason for your neglect last year, that you

Are housed under a larger dome, no pauper on a naked

Beach in a shelter for stray sailors to use, but beneath

A roof held up by Greek marble, with bright doorposts,

As though again risen to the skies from Oeta’s pyre,

Purified once more by tongues of flame honouring you.

Eyes and thought can scarce believe it. Are you then

That humble guardian of a door-less sill, a little altar?

Where did rustic Alcides find this new-made house, this

Unexpected splendour? Gods have their fates, places too.

O speedy piety! Not long ago all this was barren sand,

Wave-drenched slopes, their rocks coated with earth

And scrub, scarce open to being trodden by human feet.

What riches have but now enfolded these bare cliffs?

Were these walls built by Amphion’s or Orpheus’s lyre?

Time is amazed at this, but twelve-month, labour, marvels

At a work to last forever. The god, brought and erected

His own stronghold, strained to shift awkward boulders,

Pushed back the mountain slope with his mighty breast;

One might think inexorable Juno had commanded this.

Come, bring your guardian spirit to your new shrine,

Whether, free of her orders, you are in your homeland,

Argos, and trample on Eurystheus, buried in the grave,

Or beside your father Jupiter’s throne, among the stars

Your virtues won, while Hebe, with girded tunic, offers

You a blissful drink of nectar: better she than Ganymede.

It is not noxious Lerna that invites you; nor Molorchus

And his poor fields, and the fearful territory of Nemea;

Nor Diomodes’ Thracian caverns; nor the Pharian King

Busiris’ tainted altar; but a happy and an innocent house,

Ignorant of evil guile, a place worthy of a heavenly guest.

Set aside your cruel bow, your quiver’s merciless arrows,

Set aside your club deep-drenched in the blood of kings;

Doff the Nemean lion’s skin from your aching shoulders.

Here are cushions for you, piled high, and embroidered

With Sidonian acanthus, a rugged seat with ivory figures.

Come in kindness and peace, not lost in a storm of anger,

Nor to serve fearfully, but as Maenalian Auge saw you,

Wearied by the revels, and your brother Bacchus’ wine,

Or as Thespius, amazed, found himself, after your roving

Each night, again newly your father-in-law. Here’s your

Festive arena, where un-gloved youths in harmless rage

Perform annual contests in your rituals of purification.

In your temple the priest appointed, to his grandfather’s

Delight, is a child as you were when you first strangled

Your stepmother’s huge serpents, mourned their death.

But come, revered Calliope, say how this shrine suddenly

Appeared. And Hercules will sound the accompaniment,

Making music of a sort with his sonorous bow-string.

It was the season when the heavenly vault most broods

Above the torrid earth, and the cruel dog-days, struck

By Hyperion’s fierce rays, scorch the breathless fields.

The time was at hand when smoke fills Diana’s grove,

Her sanctuary at Nemi, for a runaway slave made king,

Hippolytus’ hidden lake glowing. Diana herself crowns

Her ancient hounds, polishes up her arrows, and allows

The wild creatures to pass in safety: all the land of Italy

Celebrating the Ides of Hecate, and every hearth purified.

For myself, though I had my own estate beneath Dardan

Alba’s hills, with a running stream, by grace of our great

Leader, sufficient to ease my care at home and alleviate

The heat, I was staying with eloquent Pollius, at his house

At Sorrento, by the cliffs, said to be named from the Siren;

No stranger, studying his peaceful way of life assiduously,

Working away at virgin songs, new flowers of the Muses.

It chanced as we were spending Diana’s day by the shore,

Escaping the narrow walls, and the customary life indoors,

Warding off the sun beneath the leaves of a spreading tree,

The sky was hidden, bright day gave way to sudden cloud,

As the faint breath from the west gave way to a strong wet

Sirocco, a downpour such as Juno once brought to Libya,

When wealthy Dido was wed to her Trojan bridegroom,

And the Nymphs who witnessed it cried from the wilds.

We scattered, while the servants collected all the festive fare

And the wreathed wine-jars. Our picnic was now homeless,

Though a host of buildings overlooked the glowing fields,

And hill-slopes gleamed richly with many a damp rooftop,

Yet the intensity of the shower, and confidence in the sun’s

Imminent return, persuaded us to seek the nearest shelter.

A little hut stood there, it’s name that of a sacred temple,

A narrow, humble home that contained mighty Hercules,

With barely room enough to hold sea-going mariners,

And adventurers on the deep. Here, our party gathered.

Here crowded the servants with the food, rich couches,

And elegant Polla’s company of favoured attendants.

The cramped shrine was full, the doors nigh on bursting.

The god, ashamed, smiled and entered his dear Pollius’

Heart, and clasping him tightly in his loving arms, said:

‘Are you the generous donor who, when young, filled

All the buildings of Puteoli and Naples with your gifts,

Who planted so many green groves on our hill-slopes,

Built turrets, erected statues in bronze and stone, all

Those lifelike wax images with their varied colours?

What was this site, this dwelling-place, before it had

You for owner? You ran a length of road over bare

Rock, and where there was only a kind of track before

Your tall colonnade stands, its line of pillars granting

Their elegance to the route. At the edge of the bay,

You enclosed the warm waters beneath twin vaults.

I can barely list it all. Is Pollius beggared on account

Of me? Yet I enter even this poor sanctuary happily,

And love the shore you spread before me. But Juno

Looks down from nearby, and ridicules me, silently.

Grant me an altar and a temple worthy of your work,

One that ships on a fair wind would hesitate to leave,

One which my celestial father might visit, a place

To which a host of gods might be invited to dine,

My sister, Minerva, from her high shrine, my guest.

Fear not that a solid mass of hostile mountain-slope,

Vast tracts of time have not eroded, blocks the way.

I shall be there myself to aid so great an enterprise,

Carving through savage depths of reluctant earth.

Begin, and trusting to Hercules’ exhortation, dare!

Not even Amphion’s Thebes will have risen so fast,

Nor Troy’s walls.’ He left, his command remained.

The plan was sketched in draft form straight away.

Innumerable hands were set to work: some fell trees,

Plane beams, as others sink foundations in the soil.

Wet clay is baked to protect from storm, shut out

The frost, crushed limestone melted in the furnace.

But the greatest task is to cut sections by hand,

Through the rock, opposing cliffs resistant to steel.

Then, Tyrinthian Hercules, the patron of the site,

Lays his weapons aside, and sweats at the work,

Breaking the uneven ground with a stout pick,

As the lowering sky is veiled by shades of night.

Capri’s rich isle and the green slopes of Taurubulae

Resound, and a mighty echo runs from sea to land.

Not even Etna reverberates so, when anvils shudder

To Steropes’ and Brontes’ blows, no louder the din

From Lemnos’ caves when fiery Mulciber shapes

The aegis, his chaste gift, an adornment for Pallas.

The cliffs are lowered, and the workmen returning

At first light, are amazed at the progress. Bring on

Next year’s heat, and Hercules enriched looks down

From his great tower towards the sea, rivalling Juno’s

Neighbouring edifice, inviting Pallas to a fine temple.

Now the trumpets sound, in times of peace, and now

Trials of strength stir the hot sand. Jupiter at Olympus

Would not disdain such rites, nor would Delphi’s god.

Nothing is sad here: let the sorrowful Isthmus yield,

And cruel Nemea: a happy grandchild makes offering.

The sea-green Nereids soar, freely, from their pumice

Caves, cling to the wet cliffs, and gaze unashamedly,

From their various hiding places, at naked wrestlers.

The slopes of Gaurus, covered with Icarian vines,

Gaze too, and the woods that wreathe sea-girt Nisida;

With peaceful Limon and Euploea, the sailor’s friend,

And Lucrine Venus, and Misenus, on your Phrygian

Heights, you too hear the sound of Greek trumpets,

While kindly Naples smiles to see the people’s rites,

The naked contests, a smaller echo of her gatherings.

Come now, and with your invincible hand, deign to

Honour the acts of rivalry, gladly: whether to split

The clouds with a discus is your delight, or outrun

The swift breeze with a javelin, or wrestle as you

Once did in Libya: grace our rites: if you possess

The Hesperidean apples still, set them in venerable

Polla’s lap, she’ll retain, not demean such honours.

Were she to resume her sweet charms of yesteryear,

(By your favour) she might seem a second Omphale.

A happy Bacchant I bring these offerings to the new

Altars. Now I see Hercules himself at the threshold,

Opening his lips, speaking these words, as follows:

‘Hail to your generous spirit, imitator of my labours,

Tamer of rugged cliffs and Nature’s wildernesses,

Shameful and infertile, that you now render useful,

The haunt of wild creatures, tempting shy divinities

From their hiding-places! What reward shall I grant

Your merits, what thanks shall I dispense? I’ll seize

The threads of Fate, and extend the Sisters’ distaffs

(I know how to conquer cruel Death), avert grief,

Forbid sad bereavement, revitalise you, in a hale

And green old age, let you watch your grandchildren

Grow to maturity; he ripe for a bride, she a husband,

And a fresh generation rise in turn from their stock,

A bold brood clinging to their grandfather’s shoulders,

Or rushing as one in benign rivalry to Polla’s embrace.

No limit shall be set to the shrine’s existence, as long

As the canopy of glittering sky shall bear my being.

Nor shall I frequent Nemea more, or ancient Argos,

My temple at Tivoli, or at Cadiz, where the sun sets.’

So he spoke, and touching the flame rising from his

Altar, bowing a head wreathed in white poplar leaves,

Swore it by Styx, and his heavenly father’s thunderbolts.

BkIII:2 – Wishing Maecius Celer a Safe Voyage

You gods, whose delight it is to preserve bold ships

And quell the dangers of the stormy seas, now pacify

The waves and, applying your benign counsel to my

Prayers, let the waves grow quiet and calm as I pray:

Neptune, the charge I deliver to your deeps, is great

And rare. Young Maecius is committed to the fickle

Waters, readies himself to transport the greater part

Of my soul across the ocean. Reveal your kindly fires

You Oebalian Twins, there on the twin tips of the yards.

Illuminate the sea and sky, I beg, quench your sister’s

Stormy nimbus, banish all Helen’s flame from the air.

You, Nereids, also, Phorcus’ cerulean tribe, to whom

Is given the honour and fortune of the second realm

Whom it’s right for me to call stars of the vast ocean,

Rise in foam from Doris’ glassy caverns, and swim

In peaceful rivalry through Baiae’s bay, by shores

Flowing with warm springs, seeking the tall ship

That Celer, Ausonia’s noble ward, delights to board,

Nor seek her long; for she was recently the first ship

To bring her cargo of Alexandrian corn to Puteoli,

The first to greet Capri, and sprinkle Mareotic wine

To starboard, as her libation to Tyrrhene Minerva.

Circle both her sides in a gentle arc, and allocate

Your tasks: these brace the mast’s rigging ropes,

Those raise the topsail high to the upper mainmast,

Some spread the canvas to the winds, while others

Set the thwarts, and drop the curved ship’s rudder.

Some need to plumb the shallows, and then secure

The boat that’s destined to trail astern, some dive

Into the depths to loose and raise the fluked anchor.

One must control the tide, send the waves eastward.

Let not one of the sea-green sisters lack her duties.

Let Proteus of the many shapes swim on there ahead

Bi-formed Triton here, and Glaucus, he who became

A sea-god, half-fish, still striking Anthedon’s beach

With his fair tail, when he glides by his native shore.

You, above all, Palaemon and your mother, Leucothea,

Show me your favour, if it should be my desire to sing

Of Thebes and, with no failing lyre, Apollo’s Amphion.

And may Aeolus who contains the winds in his cave,

Whom the many breezes, every breath on all the seas,

The storms, the rain-filled clouds, obey, prison more

Narrowly in his cliffs, winds of the north, south, east.

Let Zephyrus, the southerly, haunt the heavens, alone,

Drive on the ships, and skim the surface of the waves,

Cleaving to the deeps till, they waft your sails, now safe

From tempests, to Paraetonium, on the Egyptian shore.

My prayer is heard. Zephyrus himself sounds on board,

To chide the tardy crew. Ah, my heart is cold with fear,

And, however ominous it may seem, cannot forgo a tear.

Now a sailor slips the cable, the ship casts off from land,

As a narrow gangplank is lowered into the shallow water.

The heartless captain at the stern calls out long and loud

Dividing last embraces, putting an end to faithful kisses,

Denying a lingering clasp of arms around a beloved neck.

Yet I shall be the last of all to go ashore, nor will I leave

Until the vessel’s under way, and takes to its long course.

Who, bold of spirit, made the tall uncharted waves a path

For wretched living creatures, and drove the faithful sons

Of solid land into the depths, thrown to the ocean’s jaws?

No more audacious the courage that piled snowy Pelion

On Ossa, crushed breathless Olympus beneath twin peaks.

Surely it had sufficed to cross stagnant swamps and pools,

And throw bridges over narrow rivers? Why must we go

Into the depths of the abyss, fleeing the land on every

Side, confined to a tiny boat, and naked to the elements,

Exposed to raging winds, and the tempest’s indignation,

To the storm’s roar, and the Thunderer’s fierce lightning?

Before there were ships, the sea slumbered in torpid calm,

Thetis refrained from foaming, no billows wet the clouds.

At first sight of them, the waves towered, the storms rose

To challenge men, Then the Pleiades, and the she-goat,

Olenian Capella were veiled, and Orion more hostile

Than ever. My complaint is just. See now the ship flies,

Dwindling in size gradually, driven over the errant waves,

Defeating the gaze that clings to her from afar, holding

So many hopes and fears clasped to her frail timbers.

Carrying you, above all, Celer, pledged with my love.

What heart have I for rest, or enjoyment of the days?

Who will bring me, prey to every fear, word of you?

Have Lucania’s angry shores granted you fair passage?

Does Charybdis whirl, virgin Scylla’s devouring jaws

Threaten? How does the dangerous Adriatic treat your

Voyaging? Is the Carpathian Sea calm? What winds

Carry you over the waters that smiled on Jupiter’s

Dalliance with Europa? My complaint’s well-merited.

Why am I not active as your companion, even to go

And war in unknown India, or in Cimmerian wilds?

I’d stand by my patron’s martial standard, as you

Grasped reins or weapons, gave orders to your men,

As an admirer even, were I not present as a soldier.

If Phoenix, whom the great Achilles revered, once

Went with him to Troy and Thymbraean Pergama,

Though no warrior, nor sworn to serve Agamemnon,

Why do I hold back? But I’ll never be far from you

In my heart’s love, following your far sail in prayer.

Isis, Io, you who had your stall in Phoroneus’ cave,

Now queen of Pharos, goddess of the airless Orient,

Welcome the Mareotic boat, to your sistrum’s rattle,

Lead the peerless youth to whom Latium’s leader

Grants the eastern standards, Palestine’s cohorts,

Lead him yourself, with kindly hand, through festive

Gates to your sacred harbour, to Alexandria’s city.

With you to protect him, let him learn, how Nile

Is at liberty to flood, form fertile marshes; how

The shallows recede; how the banks where swallows

Nest, in the covering clay, then constrain the waters;

That Memphis is jealous; and Therapnaean Canopus

Loose-living; that Cerberus, Lethe’s guardian, keeps

The Pharian altars, as Anubis; how common creatures

Represent the mighty gods; how the eternal phoenix

Builds her own pyre; what fields Apis treasures, where

He bathes in Nile’s waters, among fearful worshippers.

Lead him to the Macedonian tomb, where Alexander,

Warring founder of the city, sleeps drenched in honey

From Hybla; and the snake-haunted halls of Cleopatra,

Who after Actium, died of their gentle venom, fleeing

Roman chains. Then escort him to Syria, and his camp,

And hand him over, goddess, to the care of Latian Mars.

He’s no new guest; he sweated in that field a mere boy,

Known only for his tunic’s broad gleaming purple stripe,

But already strong enough to outdo cavalry squadrons

In agile wheeling, shame enemy arrows with his spear.

Thus the day will dawn when Caesar commands you

To leave the service, and destines you for greater things.

Then I, standing once more on this shore, watching huge

Waves break, will ask for other favourable winds to blow.

How proud I’ll feel, how powerfully I’ll pluck the votive

Lyre! You’ll raise me to your shoulders, my arms about

Your sturdy neck, mine will be the first breast on which

You, fresh from travel, shall fall. You’ll tell me all those

Things you’ve stored, we’ll talk of the intervening years!

You’ll tell of swift Euphrates, royal Bactra, the sacred

Treasures of ancient Babylon and Zeugma, the highways

Of the Pax Romana; the location of flowering Edom’s

Date-palms; what extracts produce Tyre’s costly blushes,

And those purples twice-dipped in Sidon’s vats; or where

Fertile branches first sweat bright balsam from the bud:

While the tombs I’ve made for conquered Greeks shall

Be my tale, and the page that closes my Theban labours.

BkIII:3 – Consolation for Claudius Etruscus

Greatest of goddesses, Piety, whose divinity, beloved

Of Heaven, rarely looks down on desecrated Earth,

Come, gleaming in snow-white robes, with sacred

Ribbons in your hair, as when once, not yet driven

From here by wretched sin, you cherished simple

People, a golden age. Come to the funeral of a gentle

Man; praise sad Etruscus’ pious tears; wipe his eyes.

Who sees him, his heart breaking with endless lament,

Embrace the pyre, bow above the ashes, might think

He mourned some young wife, or that the flames ate

The face of his maturing son? He weeps for a father.

Attend the rites, gods and men. Far from here, sinners,

Who commit a silent crime perhaps in the heart, think

A weary father’s years too long, fear a mother’s head

Now bowed, shall host avenging snakes, and fear

Stern Aeacus’s urn of judgement in the underworld.

I summon the pure and innocent. See how he holds

The aged head in his arms, sprinkling sacred tears

Over his white hair, cherishing the last cold breath.

The son thinks his father’s life too brief (wonderful

But true), that the dark Sisters acted prematurely!

Let gentle ghosts exult by Lethe’s stream; rejoice

You Elysian fields, and set garlands on the altars,

Let festive offerings gladden the darkened groves.

The shade that comes is happy, more than happy,

Being mourned by his son. Far the Furies’ hissing,

Three-headed Cerberus; the long descent lies open

To illustrious spirits. Let him approach the fearful

Throne of the silent god. Let him bring last thanks,

For length of years, ask them anxiously for his son.

Hail now to your pious groans! I bring consolation

Etruscus, for worthy lament, and freely consecrate

Aonian offerings to your aged father. Do you, throw

Eastern spices on the pyre, proud harvests of Arabia,

Cilicia; let the flames own your inheritance, treasures

Be heaped in a tall pile: send pious clouds to the wide

Heavens: I shall bring gifts impervious to fire, your

Lament, that I portray, will endure through centuries.

For I too know what it is to mourn a father: like you

I too have lain face down, groaning before the pyre.

Memory of that day prompts me to ease your loss

With song: I too have borne what I confer on you.

Gentlest of fathers, yours was no shining lineage,

No pedigree bestowed by ancestors; great fortune,

Filled the place of family, concealing your parents’

Obscurity. You served indeed no common masters,

East, west were subject equally to their command.

No shame to you; for everything in heaven and

Earth obeys some rule. All things reign and serve

In their turn. All earth is under its own sovereign;

Happy Rome imposes its power on crowned kings;

Rome is governed by its leaders; over them rises

The empire of the gods; and even deities submit

To rule. The swift choir of stars, pay service and

The wandering moon, nor does the sun return so

Regularly in its course, except by rule and order.

And (if it is permitted to compare high and low)

Hercules bore the harsh strictures of a cruel king,

Apollo’s flute was not ashamed to be mastered.

But nor were you brought to Latium from some

Barbarian shore, your native place was Smyrna,

You drank from the Meles’ holy springs, from

Hermus’ waters, where Lydian Bacchus bathes,

Re-gilding his horns with its fine aureate sands.

Then fortune on fortune, your rank increasing

With successive posts, always privileged to go

At Caesar’s side, privy to the secrets of the gods.

First, when maturity had hardly begun to clothe

Your cheeks, Tiberius’ palace lay open to you.

(There, gifted beyond your years, you achieved

Your freedom) Nor did the next heir, Caligula,

Cruel though he was and haunted by the Furies,

Send you away, you even travelled with him as

His companion to icy Germany, enduring him,

A tyrant terrible in word and glance, a savage

To his own, like one who tames the fierceness

Of wild beasts, who when they’ve tasted blood

Orders them to draw back and leave their prey.

But Claudius, it was, in his old age, not yet sent

To the starry heavens, who raised you to highest

Office as you deserved, and after long service,

Left you to his ‘grandson’ Nero. What god-fearing

Man ever served to equal effect so many temples

And so many altars? Winged Mercury is Jupiter’s

Messenger on high; Juno is mistress to rain-bearing

Isis; Triton stands ready to obey Neptune’s orders.

You bore in turn the yoke of successive leaders,

Stayed whole; your barque fortunate on every sea.

Now a light from the heights shone on the loyal

House, and mighty Fortune entered at full pace.

One man was trusted with the sacred treasury, riches

Gathered from every nation, a whole world’s tribute.

All the gold Iberia mines, all that gleams in the peaks

Of Dalmatia; all the produce of the African harvests,

Whatever comes from sultry Nile’s threshing floors;

Whatever the diver finds in the depths of Eastern seas;

Wool from the sheepfolds of Lacedaemonian Galaesus,

Translucent crystal, Massylian citrus-wood, fine Indian

Ivory; all that the northerlies, all that the fierce easterlies,

And cloudy southerlies bring, entrusted to one minister,

Obeys his order: sooner count winter rains or the leaves

Of the forest. He was shrewd and careful of his charge;

Calculating swiftly: how much to spend on Roman arms

In every sphere; how much on the corn quota, or shrines;

How much for aqueducts; for breakwaters against the sea;

For the far-flung network of roads; for the gold that gleams

From our leader’s lofty ceilings; how much gold to form

The gods’ faces, or clink, stamped, from Ausonia’s mint.

Thus you rarely rested, pleasure was far from your thoughts,

Your diet meagre, your cares not dulled by drinking deep;

Rather you found the claims of marriage pleasant, willing

To fetter your spirit with nuptial ties, be joined in festive

Wedlock, and produce loyal servants for your master.

Who knows not of noble Etrusca’s high birth and beauty?

Though I never had sight of her myself, her portrait, equal

To her fame, renders her peerless loveliness, so her charm

Is displayed in the likeness to her of her children’s faces.

Her family were noble: her brother bore the rods and held

The highest curule chair, faithful in command of Roman

Arms and standards, when madness first seized the fierce

Dacians, doomed their race to follow a triumphant chariot.

Thus, however the father’s lineage fell short, the mother’s

Compensated, and the house, rejoicing in their marriage,

Saw the dark branch brighten. Nor were children lacking:

Lucina twice brought fruitful delivery, and herself eased

The labour pains. Happy you might have been if long life,

A just fate, had let you see your children’s young faces!

But, your own youth was broken off midway, your joys

Ended: Atropos’ shears severed your flowering years,

Like lilies drooping on their pallid stems, like roses dead

With the first sirocco, or hyacinths fading in spring fields.

You Loves with your arrows fluttered above the pyre,

And anointed the ashes with your mother’s perfumes.

You tore hair and feathers, spared no amount of them

To scatter on the flames, piling your quivers on the fire.

What offerings would you have made, what tears shed,

Beside your mother, then, my Etruscus, you who deem

Your father’s death untimely, piously regret lost years!

Our Emperor who governs the powers above with a nod,

And divides earth and stars between his famed offspring,

Granted your father honours at the Idumaean triumph,

Judging him worthy of a place in the victory parade,

Not denying it because of the fact of his humble descent.

He promoted him to a seat among the knights, as well,

Raised his house, removing the iron ring from his hand,

Elevating him to the same high station as his own sons.

For eighty years the days of his prosperity flowed by,

The tenor of life unclouded. How ready he was to use

His wealth on his sons’ behalf, forgo an entire fortune,

Is witnessed by Etruscus’ customary lavish elegance;

Your affection made the manner of his life less frugal,

For you held him in a never-relinquished embrace,

A father respected not merely for his authority; even

His own brother gave precedence, championed his rise.

Greatest of Emperors, what thanks do devoted youths

Return to you, what pious vows discharge for a father

Pardoned? Since you were content to admonish him,

With thunder and a brief storm, while he, dumbfounded,

Trembled at the coming lightning, an old man in error,

Slowed by age, exhausted by work, or from whom

Fortune, so long indulgent, chose it seems to withdraw.

While his partner in office crossed rough seas, leaving

Italy’s fields far behind, he was merely told to retire,

To Campania’s gentle coast, Apulia, Diomedes’ Arpi,

And as a guest, not exiled. Then, after no long period

Of time, Germanicus, you unbarred the gates of Rome

To him once more, and reinstated the fallen house: no

Surprise, most merciful of rulers, since yours is that

Clemency that grants merciful terms to the conquered

Catti, and allows the Dacians their mountain territories,

And after the recent harsh battles did not inflict a Latin

Triumph on the Marcomani, or the nomadic Sarmatians.

Now his day has ended and the inexorable thread is cut.

Here grieving Etruscus’ piety asks of me a finer song

Than the Sirens sang on Sicilian cliffs, or the swan

Sure of its fate, or the nightingale cruel Tereus’ mate.

With what fierce blows do I see him wearying his arms

In grief, or bowing his face to rain kisses from above!

Friends and servants can barely restrain him, the rising

Pyre deter. So Theseus mourned Aegeus on Sunium’s

Shore, deceived by the colour of the approaching sails.

Then with a heart-rending cry and ashen countenance,

He speaks to the warm embers: ‘Why have you left us,

Most loyal father, just as Fortune returns? Our divine

Leader and the gods’ brief anger have been appeased,

To no profit, robbed of all benefit from this, you flee

Ungrateful to the shades. We cannot move the Fates,

Nor can we placate the harsh deities of baneful Lethe.

Happy, was he who bore Anchises on his shoulders,

As the Greek flames in holy awe gave him passage;

Happy, young Scipio saving his father from the cruel

Carthaginians; happy, was Lausus in his brave piety.

Did Alcestis not weigh her husband’s life against hers,

And Orpheus, in supplication, overcome pitiless Styx?

How much finer such an attempt for one’s own father!

But you shall not be wholly taken, nor shall I forsake

Your ashes. Here your shade will rest, under this roof.

You will be guard and master of the hearth, all here

Shall obey you; rightly the lesser, always secondary,

I’ll offer food and drink to your sacred spirit, worship

Your effigies; now gleaming stone, skilfully carved

Wax, will conjure up your image, red gold and ivory

Will imitate your look. And I’ll seek advice from them,

A long life’s wisdom, pious thoughts, prophetic dreams.’

Such are his words, and sweet they seem to his happy

Father who, sinking slowly to the unrelenting shadows,

Shall go to recount them there to his beloved Etrusca.

For the last time, gentlest of aged fathers, hail, in a last

Farewell! While your son lives, you will never suffer

The sad ruin and mournfulness of a neglected tomb.

The altar will always breathe of flowery perfumes,

And your happy urn will drink Assyrian fragrance,

And the greater tribute, tears. Here he will sacrifice

To your shade, raise a tumulus of your own earth.

This, my song, his actions earned, he also dedicates

To you, happy to grant this sepulchre to your ashes.

BkIII:4 – Flavius Earinus’ Locks of Hair

Go, locks of hair, go swiftly over favourable seas,

Go now, I pray, softly couched in encircling gold;

Kind Venus, granting you safe voyage, will calm

The southerlies, bear you perhaps from the perilous

Vessel, and lead you in her shell through the waves.

Aesculapius, Apollo’s son, take the renowned tresses,

Caesar’s lad offers you, accept them, and show them

Gladly to your unshorn father. Let him consider them

Closely and conclude they are from his brother Lyaeus.

Perhaps then he will trim the glory of his own immortal

Locks, and set their trimmings in gold for you as well.

Pergamus, be happier by far than pine-clad Mount Ida,

Though Ida prides itself on sacred rape among the clouds,

(since it gave Ganymede to the gods, the sight of whom

Troubles Juno, who recoils at his touch, refusing nectar),

For you are favoured by heaven, distinguished by your

Handsome ward, the servant whom you sent to Latium,

Whom the Ausonian Jupiter, Domitian, and his Roman

Juno, both view with friendly gaze; not without the will

Of the gods could the lord of the earth be so well pleased.

They say that golden Venus, once, carried by her downy

Swans, on her way from Eryx’ heights to Idalian groves,

Reached the temple in Pergamus where the gentle god

There to help the ill, their greatest recourse, holds back

The imminent Fates, broods by his health-giving snake.

She saw a lad, himself a bright star of unmatched beauty,

Playing before the altar of the god himself, and deceived

At first by this unexpected apparition, for a while thought

He must be one of her many sons, though he had no bow,

Nor shadowy wings springing from radiant shoulders.

She admired his boyish grace, gazed at his face and hair,

Saying: ‘Must you go then to walled Rome, neglected

By Venus? Must you endure a humble roof, and bear

The common yoke of servitude? Not so! I shall grant

Your beauty the master it merits. Come with me, lad,

Come. I shall carry you to the Leader, a gift of gifts,

In my winged chariot, no plebeian fate awaits you;

You are destined to serve the honour of the Palatine.

I confess I’ve neither seen in all the world, nor given

Birth to, anyone as sweet. Endymion and Attis shall

Freely yield to you, and Narcissus consumed in vain

By his image in the pool, a barren love. The nymphs

Preferring you to Hylas, would have seized your urn.

You, lad, exceed them all; only more handsome is he

To whom you shall be given.’ So saying, she swept

Him up through the air, in her swan-drawn chariot.

Swiftly they reach the Latian Hills, and the Palatine

Once Evander’s home, newly adorned by Domitian

Father of the globe, level now with the highest stars.

Then the goddess took close care how best to dress

His hair, what clothes might now highlight his looks,

What gold was fittest to circle his neck and fingers.

She knew the Leader’s celestial gaze, she had linked

The wedding torches, openly handed him his bride.

Thus she combs those locks, drapes the lad in Tyrian

Garments, grants him rays of her own fire. Former

Favourites, a crowd of servants, draw back; and he

With fairer hand, bears first cups to the Leader, solid

Fluorspar and crystal; fresh grace improves the wine.

Lad, dear to the gods, chosen as taster of the sacred

Nectar, selected to touch that mighty hand, and often;

As the Getae, Persians, Indians, Armenians seek to do.

Born under a lucky star, oh, how the gods favoured you.

Once too, Asclepius himself, god of your land, left

Lofty Pergamus to cross the sea, before the first down

Marred your bright cheeks, dimmed your beauty’s glory.

No other power was credited with transforming the boy:

With silent art, Apollo’s son gently suppressed his sex,

No wound apparent. For Venus had been anxious lest

The lad suffer; the noble Leader had not yet ordered

Male children left intact; now it is illegal to castrate,

And mutilate manhood; Nature rejoices, seeing only

What she creates. No longer are female slaves fearful

Of bearing sons to endure the effects of an evil ruling.

Had you been born later, you too, of greater strength,

Would have known darkened cheeks, and fuller limbs.

You’d have rejoiced to send beard as well as shavings

To Apollo’s shrine; now let those locks alone sail on

To your father’s shore. Venus drenched them in copious

Perfumes, a kindly Grace would comb them threefold.

Purpled Nisus’s severed lock will yield it precedence,

And that which proud Achilles vowed to Sperchius.

When your snow-white brow was first ordered to be

Cropped, and your gleaming shoulders to be unveiled,

The tender winged boys, with their mother Venus, flew

To place the silk bib round your neck, and prepare your

Tresses. Then they joined their arrows to cut the locks,

And set them with gold and gems. Venus caught them

As they fell, and bathed them again in secret essences.

Then from the crowd of boys, one lad who happened

To be bearing a splendid golden gemmed mirror in his

Raised hands cried: Let’s send this too, nothing could be

More pleasing to your home temple; only fix your gaze

Within, more potent than the gold, leave your image there.’

So saying he enclosed the captured likeness in the mirror.

But the peerless lad himself, stretched his arms to the stars,

Saying: ‘Gentlest guardian of mankind, in return for these,

If I have merited it, and you so will, renew our master’s

Youth and preserve him to the world. The stars request it,

The sea and earth, and I. May he exceed, I pray Nestor’s

Years and Priam’s, glad to grow old beside the sanctuary

Of his household gods, and beside the Tarpeian temple.

So he spoke, and Pergamus marvelled as its altars shook.

BkIII:5 – To his wife Claudia

Why do you grieve by day, wife, and, in the nights

We share, breathe sleepless sighs of anxious care?

Not that I fear a broken vow, or that another love

Is in your heart; no arrow is licensed to pierce you

(Though Nemesis with frowning face should hear),

No, indeed. Were I separated from my native land,

Wandering, after twenty years spent at war, at sea;

You’d make, still chaste, the thousand suitors flee,

Not feigning to re-weave that uncompleted web,

But openly, truly, blade in hand, refusing marriage.

Then, why is your face altered, your brow clouded?

Because, weary, I propose we return to my Euboean

Homeland, and settle in old age in my native land?

Why should that sadden you? Surely you’ve no love

For pleasure, no mad contest in the Circus charms you,

Nor entering those noisy theatres amongst the crowd;

Rather virtue, and shaded quiet, and joys uncommon.

What then of those waves I’d have you travel with me?

As though I were urging a voyage, so we might go live

In the Arctic or beyond Hesperian Thule’s misty waters,

Or to the impenetrable source of the seven-mouthed Nile.

Surely it’s you whom Venus joined to me, by a kind fate,

In the springtime of my life, and keeps by me in old age;

You that pierced me, untouched by marriage, with a first

Wound, I but an errant youth; yours the bridle welcomed

In glad obedience, the bit still pressed by my mouth, one

I’ll never change. As I bore the Alban wreath in my bright

Hair, wore the olive leaves made of Caesar’s sacred gold,

It was you who clasped me to your heart and kissed my

Garlands furiously. When at the Capitoline my lyre was

Rejected you too mourned with me Jupiter’s ingratitude,

And cruelty; and you it was whose vigilant ear caught,

Whole nights long, my first notes of overflowing song;

Only you knew my long labour; my Thebaid aged along

With you. How I gazed at you when lately I was almost

Swept to the Stygian shades, when I heard Lethe’s waters

At my feet, and focused again eyes near closed in death!

Surely Lachesis granted hours to my weary life, in pity

For you; it was your reproach the powers above feared.

Now, after all this, do you balk at the one brief journey,

Do you refuse to accompany me to that delightful bay?

Alas where is your constant loyalty, proven in a host of

Ways, that of the ancient heroines of Greece and Rome?

If Ulysses had allowed, Penelope would have gone gladly

To Troy (what deters a lover?), Aegiale, Diomedes’ wife

Grieved to be left behind, as did Ajax’s mother Meliboea,

And that Laodamia whom savage lamentation maddened.

No less than her you know how to be loyal, and give your

Life for your husband. Thus, you still sought out his ashes,

And his shade; embraced the obsequies, of your tuneful

Spouse, once more raining blows on your breast, though

You were mine. Nor is your love and care for your girl

Any less; such is your maternal affection, your daughter

Is never absent from your heart; day and night, you hold

Her fast in the deepest recess of your spirit. Not even thus

Does Alcyone flutter round her nest, Philomela round her

Vernal home, cradling, giving her life’s breath to her young.

Does she clasp you now, because alone in her widow’s bed

She spends a youthfulness, so fair to see, in barren idleness?

Yet it will come, marriage; come, with all its burning torches,

As surely as all her gifts, both of mind and body, deserve it,

Whether shown when she clasps the quivering lute, or makes

Music worthy of the Muse, with a voice fine as her father’s,

Sings my verse, spreads white arms with supple movement,

Her goodness even exceeding her talent, her modesty her art.

Are you and your lightsome lads, Venus, not ashamed such

Charm is wasted? Not only Rome is fertile in match-making;

Lighting the wedding torch, my land may grant a son-in-law.

Vesuvius’ crater and that fatal mountain’s flow of fire has not

Wholly depleted its towns of terrified citizens. Cities stand,

Alive with people. There is Puteoli, founded under Apollo’s

Auspices, its shoreline and harbour welcoming all the world,

There Capua’s walls, that Capys filled with Teucrian settlers,

Imitating the expansiveness of mighty Rome, and there too

Our Naples, lacking neither native folk or colonists, city

Of Parthenope; the Siren, borne there by the sea, guided

To a gentle land, by Venus’ dove, sent by Apollo himself.

Such is the place (for I was not born in barbarous Thrace,

Or Libya) I say, to which I would conduct you, tempered

As it is by the mildest of winters, the coolest of summers,

Washed by the indolent waves of a most un-bellicose sea.

Peace there is guaranteed, and the noiseless life of leisure,

A quiet undisturbed by storms, sleep that runs its course.

No madness of the Forum, no laws made against brawling:

Men ruled by morality, and rights that need no magistrates.

What need to praise its magnificent sights and adornments,

The temples, the squares marked out by countless columns,

The dual complement of theatres there, open and roofed,

The quinquennial contests ranking next to the Capitoline’s?

What need to praise the plays, the freedom and laughter,

The mixture of Roman dignity there, and Greek licence?

Nor is there any lack of entertainment nearby; for variety,

You can visit the seductive shores of vaporiferous Baiae;

Or Cumae, and the prophetic Sibyl’s numinous dwelling;

Or Misenum, memorable for the oar-topped Trojan tomb;

Or shall it be the flowing vineyards of Bacchic Gaurus,

And Capri, isle of the Teleboae, sweet to fearful sailors,

Where the Pharos lifts its light, a night-wandering moon,

And the Surrentine hills, dear to Lyaeus, their sour wine,

Hills my Pollius, above all, enhances by his living there;

Or the medicinal pools of Venae and renascent Stabiae?

Shall I relate my country’s thousand attractions for you?

Suffice it to say, wife, suffice it to say; she created me for

You, and bound me to you as husband for many a year.

Is she not worthy of being called mother and nurse to both?

But I am ungrateful, running on like this, doubting your

Character. You will come with me, dear wife, you will

Even go on ahead. Without me what worth would Tiber

Have, prince among rivers, or the roofs of martial Rome?


End of Book III