Publius Papinius Statius


Book I

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

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BkI: Prologue – Statius to his friend, Lucius Arruntius Stella, Greetings

I’ve thought long and hard, my Stella, given how knowledgeable and distinguished you are in whatever of our pursuits you follow, as to whether I should gather these things together for publication, works that rose one by one from my heart, flowing in sudden fire and lovely haste from my pen. Why be burdened with a definitive edition, when I’m still worrying over my Thebaid even though it’s out there? Yet we have Virgil’s Culex (The Gnat) and Homer’s Batrachomyomachia (The Battle of the Frogs). There isn’t one of our great poets who hasn’t prefaced his work with something lighter. Anyway, it’s too late to keep them quiet, since you and the rest in whose honour they were composed, possess them already. Still, they’re bound to forfeit the crowd’s indulgence, since the only thing to commend them, is the speed of their composition. None of them took more than a couple of days, and some only one. I’m more than afraid the lines themselves bear witness to this truth!

The first piece constitutes a sacred witness: since I employed the usual formula: ‘to begin with Jove’. I dared to offer these hundred lines, on the Mighty Horse, to our most indulgent of Emperors, only a day after he’d dedicated that same work. ‘Well,’ some fool will say, ‘you could have written the thing long before!’ Tell him, my dear Stella, tell him that epithalamium, that wedding ode you had me write, took no more than forty-eight hours. A bold claim? After all, the entire thing is three hundred hexameters long, and besides you might well tell a lie to help a friend. Well then, here’s Manilius Vopiscus too, a most erudite spirit, who leads the task of saving our almost defunct literature from loss: he boasts on my behalf, without being asked, that what I wrote of his Tiburtine villa was all penned in a day. Next there’s a piece for Rutilius Gallicus, the convalescent. Of that I’ll say nothing, in case it’s thought I’m trying to take advantage, and lying blatantly, since the witness himself is dead! As for Claudius Etruscus, who believe it or not had his Baths from me in the space of a dinner, I’ll forgo his testimony! December’s Kalends are last, at least that’s credible: truly the happiest of nights filled with undreamed-of public pleasures…

BkI:1 – The mighty Equestrian Statue of the Emperor Domitian

What’s that imposing mass dominating the Latian Forum,

the colossus on its back rendering it twice the size?

Did it glide down from the sky, a finished work of art?

Or cast in Sicilian fires, leave Cyclops, Brontes and Steropes,

weary? Or did Pallas mould you for us, a Germanicus

grasping the reins, as the Rhine and the mountain realm

of the astonished Dacians saw you, not long ago?

Now let the fame of the Trojan Horse diminish, wonder

of past ages, for whose creation leafy trees were felled

on Ida and Dindymon’s sacred heights. Troy would not

have held this horse, not though the walls were razed,

not though the throng of boys and virgin girls, led by

Aeneas himself and mighty Hector, tried to drag it within.

That horse besides was cursed, hiding the fierce Achaeans

in its belly; this one’s gentle rider recommends it, his face

is fine to gaze on, with its mingled traces of war and kind

peace. It reveals no more than the truth: its form is equal

to his grace and comeliness. His Thracian steed, glorying

in its mighty burden, bears battle-weary Mars no more

loftily; nor seems to race more flowingly beside the Strymon,

its steaming breath driving that speeding river onward.

The setting equals the work. Here, facing it, Julius Caesar’s

temple stretches away, gift of Augustus his adopted son:

Caesar who showed our divine rulers the path to the skies.

He may learn from your features, your greater clemency,

who show no anger even at foreign savagery, grant quarter

to Cattians and Dacians. If you had borne the standard,

Pompey and Cato would have bowed to Caesar’s orders.

Its broad flanks are overlooked by the Basilica Julia

And by the Basilica Aemilia, twice restored by Paullus,

Your father’s and smiling Concord’s temples overlook the rear.

You shine above the temples, your head high in the pure air,

Seeming to gaze before you: does not a new palace rise

On the Palatine, finer than ever, scorning every flame,

Do not the Virgins guard the secret fire from Troy,

Does Vesta not praise her faithful priestesses again?

Your right hand forbids conflict: Minerva weighs

Lightly in your left, Medusa on her shield extended

As if to urge on your steed; the goddess never chose

A finer place to stand, not even when Jove held her.

Your chest is wide enough to bear the world’s cares,

Temese gave all from her exhausted mines to forge it.

A cloak hangs at your back, a broad sword protects

Your flank, large as that blade with which Orion

Threatens on wintry nights, and terrifies the stars.

While your charger, matching its master’s thoughts

And gaze, lifts its head and threatens a fierce ride,

Mane bristling at its neck, life pulsing through its

Shoulders, its broad flanks readied for the spur.

Instead of a vacuous clod of earth, its bronze hoof

Paws at the flowing tresses of captive Rhine.

Arion, Adrastus’ steed, would have feared him,

While Castor’s Cyllarus trembles, as he gazes

From the nearby shrine. This horse loyal to the bit,

Will know no other rein, serving one star alone.

The earth can scarcely bear the weight, straining

At such a burden; even though an enduring base

Supports it, that might uphold a crowning mountain

Peak, or even withstand Atlas’ knee: neither iron

Nor bronze it is that overbears it, but your genius.

Erecting it took no great time. The god’s living image

Made the effort sweet, the workers bent to their task

Found their strength grow, the high platform rang

To their hammer blows; a constant din echoed from

Mars’ seven hills, drowning the roar of mighty Rome.

The guardian of the place, whom the sacred chasm,

And famous pool bring to mind, Marcus Curtius

Himself, heard the bronze clash, the Forum sound

To innumerable harsh blows, lifted mud-stained hair

Crowned with the oak-wreath, from that sacred deep.

Alarmed, at first, at the vast effigy, the light gleaming

From this mightier horse, his raised head sank fearfully

Three times in the depths; then joyful at the noble sight

He cried: ‘Hail, thou son and father of great gods, deity

Known to me from afar: now my marshy sanctuary is

Blessed and will be revered, for I behold you close by,

And am able to gaze at last on your immortal radiance.

Only once did I find and win the means of salvation

For Romulus’s tribe: while you in extended conflict

Ended the conflict on the Capitol, war on the Rhine,

Rebellion in Germany, and forged the Dacian peace.

Born in our age, you would have sought to plunge

Into the depths I feared, while Rome restrained you.’

Yield, oh steed, that stands in Caesar’s Forum, facing

Latian Dione’s temple, you whom Lysippus, they say,

Made for Alexander (the rider now bearing Caesar’s

Wondrous head): scarce marked by time, you may

Contemplate how great the distance between them.

Who is so ignorant as not to say, on seeing both,

That the horses are as dissimilar as their riders?

This statue fears not winter rain, nor Jove’s triple fires,

The tribe from Aeolus’ windy cave, nor passing years:

It shall endure as long as do earth and heavens,

As long as the Roman era shall. In the silent night

When earthly things please the heavenly, your clan

Will glide from the sky and mingle their close kisses.

Brother, son, sister, and father will enter your arms;

One single breast will offer up a place for every star.

Delight forever in this gift of the Senate and people.

Apelles would have delighted in delineating you;

Old Phidias would have longed to place your image

In a new-built temple of Elean Jove; soft Tarentum

Would have preferred your face, fierce Rhodes those

Eyes like starry fires, than those of scorned Phoebus.

May you love earth faithfully, yourself haunt the shrines

We dedicate to you, delighting not in heavenly palaces,

Happy to see your grandsons endow this gift with incense.

BkI:2 – Epithalamium in honour of Lucius Arruntius Stella and Violentilla

Why are Latium’s hills echoing now with sacred song?

Apollo, for whom do you pluck your plectrum, hang

The sounding ivory among your shoulder tresses?

Behold the distant goddesses descend from singing

Helicon, and with torches nine shed ritual flame,

And choral chant that flows from Pieria’s spring.

Among them Elegy’s impudent face draws close,

Haughtier than of late, exhorting and wooing them,

Hiding her lame foot, wishing to be the tenth Muse,

And mingle barely noticed among those Sisters.

Venus herself, Aeneas’ mother, takes the bride’s hand,

Who chaste and sweet blushes with downcast eyes.

Venus herself oversees the marriage bed and the rites,

Hiding her godhead in Latian attire, veiling hair, face

And eyes, keen not to over-shadow the newly wed.

I discover the reason for the rite this day: it’s for you,

Stella, (fling wide the doors), for you, the choir sings;

For you Phoebus and Bacchus, and winged Mercury

From Maenalus’ shade, bring garlands, while happy Love

And the Graces scatter endless petals in fragrant showers,

As you clasp the snow-white form of your longed-for bride.

Now your forehead welcomes roses, now lilies mingled

With violets, concealing your lady’s shining face.

This then was the day, twined in the Fates’ white thread,

When the marriage of Stella and Violentilla was to be,

Declared and celebrated. Let fears and cares depart,

An end to those deceitful lying sidelong prophecies;

Rumour, be still. That errant love has bowed to rule,

And yielded to the bridle, vulgar gossip ran its course,

And all have seen those kisses so widely talked about.

But you, Stella, are anxious, though the night of nights

Is yours to delight in, fearful of the prayers a kind

Deity has answered. No more sighing, sweet poet,

She is yours. You may go to and fro freely over

The open threshold. No more doorkeepers, rules,

Or modesty. Satiate yourself at last with her long-sought

Embrace (now won) remembering nights of harshness.

Just, your reward, if Juno had granted you Hercules’

Labours, the Fates a meeting with Stygian monsters,

Or swept you like Jason through the clashing rocks.

Worth it for her sake to race, in fear of Pisa’s rules,

Hearing it’s king, Oenomaus, roaring in swift pursuit.

Not even if you had been Paris, rash shepherd, seated

On Trojan Ida, would such a gift have been yours, not

If kind Tithonia had caught you up in her airy chariot.

But what brought about this marriage, and our poet’s

Unlooked-for joys? Here beside me, graceful Erato,

While doors and hallways seethe with the throng,

And thresholds are beaten by many a long staff, tell!

There’s time for fitting talk, the poet’s lair is listening.

It chanced on a night just gone, kindly Venus abed,

And the Milky Way serenely clasping the heavens,

That she rested there from Mars’ rough embrace.

A host of sweet Amors crowded her pillowed couch,

Seeking a sign: where to wave their flames, what hearts

Will she order pierced? Is it land or sea she prefers?

To stir the gods, or go on tormenting the Thunderer?

She herself had no thoughts as yet, no heartfelt purpose.

Weary she lay in the sheets, where once Vulcan’s chains

Surprised her, encircled the bed, revealing her shame.

Then a lad of the winged host, whose torch burned

Brightest, from whose slight hand no arrow had ever

Failed, piped up sweetly, speaking in childish tones

(While all his brothers, their quivers still, were silent):

‘You know, dear mother, my right hand is never slow

To serve. Whoever you yield to me, man or god, is

Set aflame. But this once, mother, let me be moved

By human tears, hands clasped in vows and prayers,

For we are not made of harshest steel, we are your

Children. There’s a fine young man of Latian stock,

Joyful Nobility bore him, from a patrician line,

And straightway granted him a heavenly name,

Stella, a presage of his future handsome form.

I pierced him with my arrows (for your pleasure),

Mercilessly, made him tremble beneath a hail of darts.

Many an Ausonian lady sought him for her daughter,

But I tamed the unbowed, sentenced him to the yoke

Of a powerful mistress, to long years of hopefulness.

As for her I but grazed her lightly (as you ordered),

With a shaft from a slack bow and my torch’s tip.

From that moment on, all astonished, I witnessed

What fires the troubled youth confined within him,

How he suffered from my attentions night and day.

I never pressed any man harder, wound on wound,

Mother. I once saw Hippomenes coursing eagerly

Down the cruel field, even at the end never so pale.

I once saw Leander, outstretched arms rivalling oars,

Praised his efforts, and often lit his path as he swam,

Yet his ardour warmed the savage waves far less.

You, young man, have surpassed the lovers of old.

I was amazed myself at how you endured such fever,

I strengthened your spirit, and wiped your moist eyes

With my caressing plumes. How often Apollo would

Complain to me of his poet’s pain! Now, grant him,

Mother, the marriage he desires. He’s our friend,

He’s our faithful standard-bearer; he might have told

Of warlike efforts, heroic deeds, and fields of blood,

But he dedicated his pen to you, preferred to advance

Gentle poetry, and intertwine the laurel with our myrtle.

He tells of erring youth, his own and others’ wounds.

Mother, how he reveres you, the goddess of Paphos!

He it was who mourned for Violentilla’s black dove.’

So he ended. Hanging fondly at his mother’s soft

Neck, he warmed her breast with trembling wings.

She answered, her gaze not spurning his request:

‘Great is the prize indeed the Pierian youth desires,

One rarely granted to lovers, even those I approve.

Marvelling at her unique beauty, which her ancestral

Glory and race’s fame rivals, I clasped her at birth,

And nursed her in my lap. Nor, my son, has my hand

Been slow to add beauty to her neck and face, or comb

Her hair adding rich unguents, She has grown in my

Sweet likeness. Look there at the nobility of her brow,

Her heaped tresses. See how she surpasses the women

Of Latium: as Diana exceeds her maidens in height,

Or as I myself stand high, far above the Nereids.

She is worthy to have risen with me from cerulean

Waves, and taken her place beside me on my shell,

And if she’d been allowed to ascend the starry skies,

And enter here, you yourselves, my Loves, might stray.

Her soul’s greater than her riches, though I’ve lavished

Great wealth on her. I already moan that miserly China

Despoils too small an acreage for her silks; Clymene’s

Amber fails, her Heliades, those green poplars, weep

Too sparsely; too few fleeces blush with Sidonian dye;

And insufficient crystals freeze out of the enduring ice.

For her I bid Hermus and Tagus flow with silted gold

(There’s too little to adorn her); for her, I commanded

Glaucus, Proteus, all the Nereids, to search out Indian

Pearls for her necklaces. If Phoebus had caught sight

Of her in Thessaly’s fields, Daphne had run no risk.

If she had been seen at Theseus’ side on Naxos’ beach,

Bacchus would have fled and left Ariadne there alone.

And if Juno had not deterred me, with endless complaint,

Heaven’s lord would have assumed wings, or horns,

For her sake, Jupiter’s golden shower fallen on her.

Yet she shall be given to him you favour, my son,

My power supreme; though, grieving, she often spurns

The yoke of a second marriage. Already I feel that she

Herself is yielding, warming in turn to him.’ So saying,

She stretched her starry limbs, and crossed the exalted

Threshold of space, to summon her Amyclaean swans

To the bridle. Amor yoked them, sat astride the jewelled

Shaft, waving on his lovely mother through the clouds.

Here’s Tiber, the Ilian hills: a lofty residence reveals

Its shining gods, the joyful swans swoop to its noble

Entrance. The house is worthy of the goddess, no less

Than the bright stars. Here Phyrgian stone, and Libyan,

Hard green Laconian rock, onyx marble, Carystian too

With its sea-green colours, porphyry whose purple hue

Sparta envies, as does the Tyrian stirrer of the dye-pot.

Gleaming pediments crown countless columns, beams

Bolted together with Dalmatian metals glitter brightly.

Cool shade is cast where ancient trees exclude the sun,

And here translucent fountains tremble amongst marble.

Nature forgets her usual order: here Sirius brings chill;

Winter, warmth: the house’s seasons tempered to please.

Kindly Venus delighted at the sight, her foster-child’s fine

Dwelling, no less than at sight of Paphos from the waves,

Idalium, her Cyprian mountain city, or her shrine at Eryx.

Then she addressed the girl, who lay on her lonely bed:

‘O my favourite among Laurentian girls, how long shall

You sleep alone, embrace the chastity of an empty couch?

When shall this propriety, and loyalty to a memory, end?

Will you not submit to the yoke? Sadder years will come.

Deploy your beauty now, make use of those fleeting gifts.

I did not grant you such grace, such pride in your looks,

And my own care, to have you spend your years a widow,

As if I cared not. More than enough to have scorned those

Earlier suitors! This one, in truth, is deeply devoted to you,

In every way, and loves and admires you above all others,

No way deficient in looks or birth: as for his clever verses,

What youths, what girls of Rome have them not by heart?

Him you will witness (such is the favour shown him by

Ausonia’s ruler) raise the twelve rods of the Quindecimviri

Before due time: even now he crosses Cybele’s threshold,

For sure, and reads the writings of the Euboaean Sybil.

Soon the Father of Latium, whose intentions are clearly

Known to me, will grant the youth purple robes and curule

Ivory, and grant him a role too in celebrating Dacian spoils

And (a still greater glory) in extolling those recent laurels.

So act, make your marriage bed, away with idle youth!

What clans, what hearts has my nuptial torch not joined?

Neither cattle, birds nor packs of wild creatures deny me.

I merge sky and earth in marriage when rain thins the cloud.

So the generations change, and the world’s youth renews.

If I had not taken a Phrygian mate, how would fresh Trojan

Glory have arisen, those gods been saved from the flames?

How would Etruscan Tiber have sustained my Julian line?

How would the walls of seven-hilled Rome, the seat of Latin

Empire, have risen if Ilia, that Dardan priestess, had failed

To captivate Mars in secret play, or if I had so forbidden?’

Such are the words with which she beguiles girls in silence,

Rousing the urge to marry. Now she recalls to mind

The poet’s gifts, prayers, sleepless sighs at the threshold,

His Asteris sung throughout the whole city, his Asteris

Before nourishment, Asteris by night, Asteris at dawn;

Hylas was never so honoured. Now she allows her hard

Heart to relent, freely, now to consider herself too harsh.

Hail to your marriage bed, most pleasing of Latin poets!

The long journey is over, the labours of your venture,

The harbour’s won. Thus, Alpheus, that river in flight

From gleaming Pisa, on fire for a far-off foreign lover,

Sent his pure stream through a deep submerged channel

Until at last he rose panting and open-mouthed to drink

The Sicilian fount, the Naiad amazed at his sweet kisses,

Arethusa, not thinking her lover had sprung from the sea.

What a day that was, my Stella, when you ran to meet so

Glittering a heavenly prize! How your longing heart leapt

When your lover’s assenting face favoured sweet marriage!

You thought it heaven, and yourself straying among bright

Stars. Paris, the shepherd, was less exultant on Laconian

Shores, when Helen came down to meet the Trojan fleet;

Nor did Thessalian Tempe find Peleus any more joyful,

When Chiron the Centaur saw Thetis approach the land

Of Haemonia. How slowly the stars move in their circuit,

How reluctant Aurora to fulfil a bridegroom’s prayer!

When Apollo, father of poets, Leto’s son, and Bacchus

Son of Semele saw from afar these marriage preparations,

They urged their swift followers onward: out of Delos,

The one; Nysa the other. Lycia’s peaks sound for the first,

Shadows of chilly Thymbra, Parnassus: Pangaea, Ismara

Re-echo the other, and Naxos, once witness to marriage.

Then they entered the house they love, gifted their tuneful

Friend a lyre; the one, a yellow dappled skin of a fawn;

The other, the plectrum, the quill; one crowns with laurel

The poet’s brow, the other veils with vine-leaves his hair.

Dawn has scarce broken when signs of the coming union

Are to be seen, both houses seethe with the festive pomp.

The doorposts are green with leaves, the crossroads lit,

And the busiest streets of spreading Rome rejoice.

Every mark of office, every rod, arrives at the threshold,

Every robe of state is tweaked, in the plebeian turmoil:

Here knights swarm, there wives invade the young crowd,

All call the pair happy, but amongst the gathering more

Envy the groom. Hymen who leans on a doorpost waits

To deliver his brand-new wedding-song to charm the poet,

Juno brings on the sacred yellow ribbons, while Concord

Marks out the wedding-hour with her twin torches.

Such is this day: let the bridegroom sing of the night,

As much as it’s right to know. So, Ilia on the riverbank

Sank from Mars’ embrace, conquered by cunning sleep,

Not as Lavinia’s snowy cheek blushed at Turnus’ gaze,

Nor as Claudia gazed once more on the people of Rome

When the keel of the ship, freed, confirmed her chastity.

Now, friends of the Muses and servants of Apollo, now

It’s your task to variously labour. Let our band emerge

Wreathed in ribbons and ivy, each triumph with the lyre.

But you above all who deny noble Epic its final foot,

Grant us songs worthy of the marriage feast: Philetas,

Would have competed to celebrate this day, to Cos’s

Applause; old Callimachus; Propertius in Umbrian cave;

And Ovid too, joyful though exiled in Tomis; Tibullus

As well, counting himself rich in owning a well-lit hearth.

As for me no single love, no single reason draws me on

To sing, my Muse is joined with yours as one, my Stella;

At the same altar we rave endlessly together, and draw

The one water mutually out of the streams of learning.

While you, my lady, Naples cradled your birth, it was

Upon our patch of soil, sweet glory, you first walked.

Let that land lift towards the bright sky, and Sebethos’

Stream overflow with pride in its lovely foster-child;

Let not the Lucrine Naiads take more delight in their

Sulphurous depths or the pools of Pompeii’s Sarnus.

Come then, give splendid sons to Latium, to govern

Law courts and armies, and playfully delight in song.

Let kind Cynthia hasten the tenth month of each birth,

And may Lucina be merciful, I pray. And you, boys,

Spare your mother, don’t spoil her sweet womb,

Her firm breasts; when Nature shapes your visages

In her silent retreat, may you receive good looks

From father, more from mother, and you, loveliest

Of Italy’s daughters, possessed by a worthy spouse,

Cherish the long-sought bond. So may your charms

Not fade, your looks stay fresh, with a lasting flower

Of youth, all this beauty of yours be slow to wane.

BkI:3 – Manilius Vopiscus’ Villa at Tibur (Tivoli)

At one who feels the cool air of eloquent Vopiscus’

Estate at Tibur, and those twin mansions the Anio

Flows between, or chances to know that commerce

Between mutual shores, where those halls compete

To each detain the owner, the burning dog-star fails

To howl, nor leafy Nemea’s lion cub, Leo, to frown.

Winter so clings there, persistent cold so overcomes

The sun, the place never swelters in mid-summer heat.

Pleasure herself, her gentle hand, designed it with you,

Then Venus bestowed Idalian unguents on its roofs,

Laved them with her hair, and embellished them with

Grace, forbidding her winged offspring to forsake it.

O ever memorable day! What joys my mind recalls,

What a host of wonders to weary the dazzled eyes?

How soft the landscape, what beauty of that fair site,

Before art touched it! Nowhere has Nature indulged

Herself so freely. Tall woods overhang swift waters;

There an illusory image echoes the leafiness above,

A selfsame shadow flees with the far-flowing wave.

Anio itself (wonderful to tell!) full of rocks above

And beneath, here calms its swollen rage, its roaring

Foam, as if it were reluctant to disturb Vopiscus’s

Muse-haunted hours, his slumbers filled with song.

Both shores are home, nor does the gentlest stream

Divide them; and fine buildings occupy either bank,

No strangers to one another, not parted by the river:

Let Fame boast of Sestos’ bay, those straits Leander

Crossed, those dolphins that the brave lad out-swam!

Here is eternal calm, her tempests have no power,

No waters seethe. Here sight and sound, and almost

Hands traverse; no tidal flood parts us from Chalcis,

Nor does Rhegium’s Bruttian shore gaze far across

To Sicilian Pelorus, separated from it by the deep.

How shall I start or move my song, how silent end it?

Shall I marvel at the gilded beams above Mauritanian

Citrus-wood doorposts everywhere, or bright veined

Marble, nymphean waters flowing in every bedroom?

Eyes draw me this way, and mind that. Shall I speak

Of the venerable age of the trees? Or of the courtyard

That gazes on the river down below, or another court

That views the other side, towards the silent woods,

Where all is quiet for you, and the untroubled night,

Is calm or mere murmurs invite to undisturbed sleep?

Or of the steaming baths approached by a grassy ledge,

Where flames exert themselves against the chill shore,

And the river united with a vaporous furnace mocks

Those nymphs panting hard, despite the nearby waters.

I saw works of art, antiques, metals variously crafted.

It would be wearisome to list the gold statues, ivories,

The gems fit for adorning fingers, all that the hands

Of artists ever created, firstly in miniature, in silver

Or bronze, and then in conceiving enormous colossi.

As I wandered, looking round, gazing at everything

I stumbled unexpectedly on riches. Brightness fallen

From above over mosaic tiles sending back their glow

Displayed the shining ground, whose floor delighted

In pictorial art, new forms beyond those of Pergamum.

I trod fearfully. Why wonder now at mingled roofs

Or those separated by many levels? Or at that tree left

Mid-hall, rising through doors and ceilings to emerge

Above, doomed to suffer the axe under another master?

Though for now some fleeting Naiad or Hamadryad

Unknown may have you to thank for unbroken years.

Why tell of tables opposite each other on twin shores,

Of cold pools, and the springs in the water’s depths,

Or the Marcian pipeline crossing beneath the river,

In its bold leaded channel, traversing the depths,

Lest Alpheus, that stream of Elis, alone be led beneath

The waters, on sweet Ionian course to Sicilian haven.

Here Anio himself, leaving his cave and spring deep

In the night, discarding his grey-green cloak, moves

The fragile weed, spread across his chest, to and fro;

Or plunges his mass in the stream, and as he swims

Splashes up glassy water. In this shade Tiburnus lies,

Here Albula would wish to lave her sulphurous hair.

This place might lure Egeria from her Arician grove,

Deprive chill Taygetus of his choirs of dryads, might

Summon Pan from the forests of Lycaeus. The sisters

Of Praeneste might transfer here, should the temple

Of Tyrinthian Hercules cease to grant its own oracles.

Why laud the twice-fruiting orchards of King Alcinous,

Those boughs that stretched ever-burdened to the sky?

Let Telegonian Tusculum’s and Turnus’s Laurentian

Acres yield; those Lucrine villas, and blood-stained

Antiphates’ Baiaean shore; and the treacherous ridge

Of glassy Circeii, where Ulysses’ wolf-crew howled;

Terracina’s proud citadel, Caieta that Aeneas’s nurse

Owes to her Trojan charge; or even Antium’s shore

That calls to you when the light thins in rainy winter.

Surely this life allows weighty matters be considered,

Here fecund quiet’s concealed, grave virtue with brow

Serene, sane elegance and pleasure free of indulgence,

So much so that old Epicurus would have preferred it,

And, leaving Athens, have wished his Garden farewell.

It would have been worth enduring Aegean tempests

To reach here, braving Capella and the rainy Hyades,

Even though his vessel would have had to pass Malea,

And Messina’s straits. Why do we scorn delight nearby?

Here your lyre pleasures Tibur’s fauns, Hercules himself,

And Catillus, Tibur’s founder, whom a greater poet sang,

Whether you decide to contest with Pindar’s plectrum,

Or raise your instrument to the mighty deeds of heroes,

Or brandish it darkly, livid with the black salt of satire,

Or with no less care bestow splendour on your letters.

Worthy of the all the wealth of Midas, Croesus, Persia,

Hail to your mind’s riches! Should not the golden flow

Of Hermus traverse your flooded fields, and the Tagus

With its gleaming sands. May you so cultivate learned

Leisure, I pray; every cloud on your heart so disperse,

That you pass beyond the limits set to Nestor’s old age.

BkI:4 – To Rutilius Gallicus on his recovery from illness

You gods above exist, hurrah, and Clotho’s spinning’s

Not inexorable! Kindly Astraea witnesses piety, returns

To Jove’s side reconciled, and Gallicus again can view

The uncertain stars. Heaven loves you, Domitian (who

Can deny it?) Fortune demurred at robbing your state

Of such a minister. The head beside you rises free of

An immeasurable weight, unwinds itself from age’s

Ruinous web, and renews, invigorated for fresh years.

Let your Urban Cohorts, prompt to salute the standard,

The lawyers who often flock to you to protest at courts

In turmoil, and citizens who don the toga in far cities,

Whose cries implore your justice everywhere, compete

In joy; let the seven hills of Rome, follow each other,

In ringing celebration, and let dark rumour fall silent.

He is preserved to us, and reviving shall long remain,

In whose power rests kind watch over tranquil Rome.

Our new age need not charge the Fates with any crime,

Nor the freshly-restored altar of Tarentus be found guilty.

As for me, I’ll not call on Phoebus, though without him

My lyre is mute; nor the Aonian Muses of whom Pallas

Is the tenth; Tegea’s god Mercury; nor Dirce’s Bacchus;

Come to me in person, you whom I sing, and grant me

New strength and spirit; for it was no lack of eloquence

With which you won wide distinction in Ausonia’s robes,

And gave wise advice to the Centumviri. Though Pieria’s

Sources of inspiration fail to quench my thirst, Pirene’s

Aid be denied me, deeper draughts flow to me from your

Fount, whether you write plain prose in free measure,

Or whether your sweet flood of words is constrained by

Art, and what you compose conforms to rules and laws.

To work! Should we not return Ceres her own gifts, and

Bacchus his own wine? If Diana rich in spoils accepts

Ours at every shrine, and the God of War our captured

Spears, don’t spurn (though your voice be mightier,

Gallicus, its speech overflowing with sublime riches)

The tribute of my humbler lyre. The wandering moon

Is ringed with stars; even the lesser streams reach the sea.

What gift of affection did anxious Rome not show you in

Reward! What fine Senators and Knights did I not note,

And common folk not prone to mourn the powerful!

The Senate feared no less for Numa when he sickened,

Nor the nobles for Pompey, nor the women for Brutus.

Here’s why: to hear the clank of sad chains unwillingly;

To spare the lash, nor go where the heights of power

Command, but to renounce much of one’s own strength

Of arms, acknowledge humble prayers and hear petitions,

Show justice in the Forum, yet not push the magistrates

Aside, or let the toga blunt the force of arms; that’s the way

To move men’s hearts, so does reverence depend on love.

The very harshness of overwhelming Fate terrified us all,

And that sudden onset of incipient danger as the illness

Knew no pause. It was scarcely the result of age (in years

He has barely counted beyond twelve lustres, a ripe sixty)

But rather the stress of work, the effect of a powerful mind

On the body, vigilant service to his Caesar, labours of love.

So an insidious fatigue penetrated deep into weary limbs,

And a slow and numbing indifference to life’s demands.

Then the god who, beneath the summits of the Alpine

Ridge, bestows his sacred name on Apollonian groves,

Turned his gaze, too long neglectful of such a favourite,

Towards him, and forestalling delay cried: ‘Come now,

Gladly, with me Aesculapius, my son, there’s a chance

(To be grasped) to save a great man. Let us go seize

The distaff from which fate’s thread is drawn: fear no

Dire lightning bolt. Jove unsought will praise our skill.

It’s no ordinary life, unblessed by the gods, we’ll save.

In brief, as I’ll explain when we’re beneath his roof,

He himself grants his family nobility, retrospectively;

Though his origins are not obscure, they’re eclipsed

By after brilliance, and gladly yield to later greatness.

Like them, robed in the gown, he first showed talent:

Famous and mighty in eloquence; then sworn to duty

Served in innumerable camps, in every region to east

And west, never able to relinquish the sword, and find

Relaxation from all his endeavours in tranquil leisure.

Galatia’s lusty Gauls dared to make war against him

(As once against me!); for nine harvests Pamphylia

Feared him, bold Pannonians and Armenians, skilled

With the bow, and Araxes now with its Roman bridge.

What of his praetorship, and his governorship, twice,

Of Asia, that itself would have wished a third, a fourth,

Had he not been recalled by the Fasti and a Consulship,

Repeatedly promised? What of the wondrous obedience

Libya’s tribute showed, triumph in the midst of peace,

And such riches as not even he who commissioned you

Dared expect? The Alps and Trasimene and the ghosts

Of Cannae rejoiced, and Regulus appeared, he joyful

Above all, and first to take note of the brilliant tribute.

Time’s too short to tell of armies in the north, of rebel

Rhine, Veleda’s prayers, and greatest and most recent

Of glories, Rome placed in Gallicus’s care as Dacians

Died, he being chosen, no stranger to good Fortune,

To take the City’s reins from our great leader’s hands.

So, my son, if I speak fitly, we must snatch him from

Pluto’s grasp. Rome’s illustrious father demands it,

And deserves it; not for nothing at the Secular Games

Did those boys, in patrician purple, chant their hymns

In my honour. Whatever medicines exist in Chiron’s

Cave of remedies; whatever Trojan Pergamum keeps

For you, in your temple; whatever happy Epidaurus

Grows in her healing sands; that power of flowering

Dittany Crete bears beneath Ida’s foliage; your snake’s

Copious foam – I’ll gather in my hands, with every

Benign extract the knowledgeable shepherd gains

From Arabia’s fragrant fields or from Amphrysus’ herbs.’

So he spoke. Now, they found those limbs were bathed

In languor; breath was short; both girded themselves in

Paonian fashion, willingly both took and gave advice,

Till they dispelled with sundry remedies the baneful

And most sinister vapours of unwholesome slumber.

Gallicus himself helped the gods; stronger than all that

Sickness, he anticipated aid. Telephus was not cured

More swiftly by Haemonian skill, nor fearsome Atrides’

Cruel wounds healed more rapidly by Machaon’s balm.

What space for my anxious prayers among the crowds

Of senators and others? Yet I summon the stars on high

And you, Apollo, father of poets, to bear witness to how

I spent day and night in terror, and clung to the doorpost,

Now with eye, now with ear straining to note everything,

Like a little boat astern of some great ship, when the storm

Blows furiously and on its own small account receives

The raging waves and tosses high in the same westerly.

Now Fates, spin your shining thread joyfully, spin now,

Sisters, let no one measure the span of life gone by;

Let this be his life’s rebirth. Worthy are you to outlive

Those aged Trojans, exceed the Sibyl’s heap of dust,

Nestor’s decay. Poor as I am, where shall I find a tribute

Fit to give as an offering for you? Not though Mevania

Emptied its valleys, Clitumnus supplied its snow-white

Bulls, would that suffice me. Yet often a clod of soil,

Grain, a little salt, regardless of the rest, delight the gods.

BkI:5 – The Baths of Claudius Etruscus

My lyre, inspired, shall not beat at Helicon’s gates

With weighty plectrum, nor will I call on the Muses

I’ve often wearied: I dismiss Phoebus and Bacchus

From the choir; you too winged Mercury hide your

Tortoise-shell, be silent. My song summons others.

It’s enough to elicit the Naiads, the watery powers,

And Vulcan, the king of fire, all hot and exhausted

From his Sicilian anvil. I’ll lay Thebes’ noxious arms

Aside for a while; I wish only to amuse a dear friend.

Pour cups without count, lad, string the tardy lyre:

Be done with Toil and Care, while I sing of the baths

Bejewelled with shining marble, and my Muse, Clio,

Dancing in purple ribbons and ivy, spurning the chaste

Laurel or Apollo’s white ribbons, entertains Etruscus.

Come, green goddesses, show us your streaming faces,

Bind up your glassy hair with tender reeds, free of all

Garments, as when you emerge from the depths of your

Springs, and torment your Satyr lovers with the sight.

Though I’d not summon those of you whose crimes

Trouble the fair waters. Let Salmacis stay far from here,

And her treacherous fountain; and Oenone’s stream, she

Deserted, arid with grief; and her who stole Hylas away.

You nymphs of Latium and the Seven Hills, whose fresh

Waters swell the Tiber; and you that swift Anio delights;

Aqua Virgo that welcomes swimmers; and Aqua Marcia

Bringer of Marsian snows and coolness; you whose flow

Cascades along airy channels, raised on countless arches;

Yours the work I attempt, yours the mansion my gentle

Song reveals. Nowhere have you haunted richer in style.

Venus herself guided her husband Vulcan’s hands, she

Made them skilful; and not merely common flames fired

The furnace, she used the torches of her winged Amors.

Here’s no marble of Thasos or Carystos, alabaster sulks

Far off, serpentine mutters in exile, here all the stone

That gleams is from Numidia’s golden quarries, except

For a porphyry to grieve the purples of Sidon and Tyre,

Or that marble with blood-red flecks that Attis stained

With his own blood in Synnas’s hollow Phrygian cave.

There’s barely room for Eurotas whose long green veins

Set off Synnas’s variations. The doorways are not remiss,

The ceilings gleam, the beams glitter, glow with figures

In glassy variety. The fires are amazed at all the wealth

That they reveal around them, and temper their flames.

Daylight is everywhere, as the rebellious sun penetrates

The roof, with all its rays, warmed by different flames.

There’s nothing vulgar here. No Temesean copper you

Note. The pleasant flow is through silver channels, then

Into silver it falls once more, lapping the shining brim,

Wondering at its own charms, and reluctant to depart.

Outside a blue-green river sparkles between gleaming

Banks, clear throughout from its surface to its depths;

Whom would it not tempt to throw off heavy clothes,

And take a plunge? Venus would rather have sprung

From these deeps, Narcissus here you’d have seen

Yourself more truly, here swift Diana would have

Loved to bathe, even if she risked being discovered.

Why tell of the planking laid out across the ground

So the ball-games may be heard, where languid flames

Surround, and the hypocausts release a mild warmth?

Were some new guest to arrive from Baiae’s shores

He’d not despise it (if it’s right to compare the great

And small) nor would a bather fresh from Nero’s Baths

Refuse to sweat it out here once more. Hail, lad, to your

Shining ingenuity and care! Let all here age, gently, along

With you, and your fortunes revive, happier than before!

BkI:6 – The December Kalends

Mighty Apollo, and stern Pallas

And you Muses, away and play!

We’ll recall you on Janus’ Kalends.

Let unchained Saturn join with me,

And December soaked with wine,

Smiling Humour and wanton Jest,

While of happy Caesar’s joyous

Day I tell, and of tipsy feasting.

Scarce had Aurora brought the dawn,

And already good things rained down:

These the dews the easterly sprinkled:

Whichever are best of Pontic nuts,

And dates from Idume’s fertile hills,

And plums pious Damascus grows,

And figs Ebusos and Caunos ripen,

Freely the lavish spoils descend.

And pastries and ‘little Gaiuses’

Ameria’s un-dried apples and pears,

Spiced cakes and ripened dates,

Shower from an unseen palm.

Not stormy Hyas drenches Earth

Nor the Pleiades with such showers

As rattled down on the Latian theatre

Like bursts of hail from a clear sky.

Let Jupiter cloud the whole world

Threaten to deluge the open fields,

So long as our Jove brings such rain.

Look, along the aisles comes another

Crowd, handsome and finely dressed,

No less in number than those seated!

These bring bread-baskets and white

Napkins, and elegant delicacies to eat,

Those pour out mellow wine freely:

So many cupbearers down from Ida.

The fourteen rows, now virtuous, sober,

Are fed, with the people wearing gowns;

And since you nourish so many, Lord,

Annona, the price of corn’s, outweighed.

Ages, compare now, if it’s your wish,

Old Saturn’s centuries, golden days:

Never flowed wine so, even then,

Nor did harvest anticipate new year.

Every order eats here at the one table:

Women, children, knights, plebs, Senate:

Freedom has set aside reverence.

Why you yourself (which of the gods

Issues and accepts his own invitation?)

Have come to the feast along with us.

Now all, now whoever, rich or poor

Can boast of dining with our leader.

Amid the din, and rich novelties,

The pleasant spectacle flickers by.

The unskilled sex, unused to swords,

Take position in warlike combat.

They seem like troops of Amazons

In heat, by Tanais or wild Phasis.

Here’s a line of audacious midgets,

Whom Nature suddenly left off making,

And tied forever in spherical knots.

They deal wounds and ply their fists

And threaten each other with death!

Mars and blood-stained Courage laugh

While cranes swoop at their errant prey

Wondering at their pigmy pugnacity.

Now as the shades of night gather,

A scattering of riches provokes tumult!

The girls enter, now readily bought,

Here’s whatever delights the stalls,

Pleasing forms, or established skill.

Here, the fat Lydian ladies applaud,

There are cymbals, jingling Spaniards,

And there, the troops of noisy Syrians.

Here’s the theatre-mob, and those who

Barter common sulphur for broken glass.

Meanwhile vast flocks of birds suddenly

Swoop like clouds from among the stars,

Flamingos, pheasants and guinea fowl,

That Nile, Phasis and Numidia capture.

Too many to seize; the folds of gowns

Are happily filled with new-won prizes.

Countless voices, that rise to the stars,

Proclaim the Emperor’s Saturnalia,

Acclaim him leader with fond applause.

Here’s the only licence Caesar banned:

Barely had darkness cloaked the world,

When a fiery ball from the arena’s midst

Shone as it rose through the dense gloom,

Exceeding the light of the Cretan crown.

The sky was bright with flame, permitting

No licence at all to night’s dark shadows.

At the sight of it, idle Silence and Sleep

Must take themselves off to other cities.

Who could sing the free jests, the shows,

The banquets, the home-grown foodstuffs,

Those lavishly flowing rivers of wine?

Now my strength ebbs, and your liquor

Drags me tipsily towards needful slumber.

To what distant ages shall this day travel?

Sacred, undiminished, through the years.

Whilst Latium’s hills, by Father Tiber,

And Rome, still stand, and its Capitol,

That you restore to Earth: it shall remain.

End of Book I