Publius Papinius Statius
Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2012 All Rights Reserved
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- BkIII: Prologue – Statius to his friend Pollius: Greetings!
- BkIII:1 – Pollius Felix’s Hercules at Sorrento
- BkIII:2 – Wishing Maecius Celer a Safe Voyage
- BkIII:3 – Consolation for Claudius Etruscus
- BkIII:4 – Flavius Earinus’ Locks of Hair
- BkIII:5 – To his wife Claudia
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