From The Silvae of Statius translated with Introduction and Notes, by D. A. Slater; Oxford: The Clarendon Press; 1908; pp. 46-57.
WHY did the hills of Rome ring with that solemn music? For whom, Paean, dost thou take up the plectrum anew and hang among the tresses on thy shoulders the sounding ivory? Hark, from afar, from murmurous Helicon the Muses are journeying. From their nine torches they shake the ritual flame for the joining of the bridal; and pour forth a wave of song from the Pierian springs. Amongst them pert-faced Elegy draws near, prouder than her wont, and courts and counsels the Nine, her limping foot stealthily hidden, and fain would be thought a tenth Muse and goes undetected in their midst. The mother of Aeneas with her own hand leads the bride, — whose eyes are downcast and a winsome blush of shame upon her cheek; — with her own hand she prepares bridal rite and bridal bed, with Latin girdle1 dissembles her godhead, and makes her countenance and brow and hair less lovely, rejoicing to give way before the bride.47
Ah, now I know what day this is, and what the occasion of this solemnity. It is of thee, Stella, of thee that these gods sing in chorus. Fling wide thy doors. It is for thee that Phoebus and Euhan and the winged lord of Tegea bring chaplets from bowery Maenalus, while the fond Loves and Graces cease not to pelt thee with countless flowers and to sprinkle thee with a cloud of fragrance as thou claspest thy longed-for lady snowy-white. And now roses, and now lilies and violets shower on thy brow, as thou shelterest that fair face.
And so the day was there for which the Fates had set up a snow-white skein, — the day whereon the nuptials of Stella and Violentilla must be noised abroad before all. Away with Care and Fear! Truce to sly shafts of sidelong satire! Let Rumour hold her peace. The old unbridled love has yielded to law and taken the bit in his mouth. The whispers of the people are at an end, and now Rome has seen the caresses it had talked about so long. But thou, Stella, art spellbound still, although the promise of such happiness is thine! Still at thy sighs and vows! Still afraid of the bliss kind heaven has granted! Truce, sweet minstrel, truce to thy sighing! Is she not thine? Her bower stands wide, and with steps unchecked thou mayest go to and fro. No warder forbids, no law, no shame. At length have thy fill of the embrace thou hast sought, — ’tis thine, — and dream with her of the loveless nights of old.
Nay, for that matter, the prize was worth the quest, 48 though Juno had enjoined on thee the labours of Hercules, and the Fates constrained thee to battle with monsters of Hell; yea, though thou hadst been swept through the Cyanean surf. For her it had been meet ordeal to run the race at Pisa, quaking all the while to think of the terms and to hear Oenomaus thundering behind. Though thou hadst been the presumptuous shepherd who sat on Dardan Ida, or though thou hadst been he whom the kindly Dawn caught up and bore off in her car, yet thou hadst not had so fair a prize.
But now, while the crowd surges round the gates, while hall and threshold ring with the beat of many a wand, let the merry Muse even here tell what has bestowed on the bard, beyond his hope, the joy of this bridal. Time is ours to hold due debate, and the poet’s home is skilled to listen.
It happened on a day, in the milk-white region of the cloudless sky, that gentle Venus was resting in her bower. The night had just fled. Her Thracian lord had released her from his rugged embrace. About the pillars of the bed thronged the boy Loves, asking what torches she bade them bear, what hearts transfix. Would she have them riot on land or sea, or embroil the Olympians, or still keep torturing the Lord of the thunder? With heart and will still unresolved, weary on her couch she lay, where the witnesses of guilt, the Lemnian’s toils, stole upon and surprised that lawless passion of old; when out of the crown of winged Cupids one, on whose mouth the fire burned fiercest, 49 in whose hands was a never-erring shaft, gently murmured with boyish lips, while his quivered brothers kept still silence: ‘Mother,’ he said, ‘thou knowest how my hand has never failed in the fray. Kindled to love is every god or man whom thou hast given up to me. Yet suffer thyself at last to be moved, mother, by tears and praying hands, yea and by the vows and entreaties of men: for we are not fashioned of unyielding adamant: thy children are we. A lover there is, of Latin blood, and scion of a lordly stock, whom Nobility recognized with joy as her own son, and gave him at his birth a name borrowed from our empyrean, in prescience of his starlike beauty. Relentlessly of old with every arrow from my quiver I pierced him, — such was thy pleasure, — and, as he staggered I drove shaft upon shaft through him. Eagerly Ausonian mothers sought him for their daughters, yet I tamed and overcame him, and made him bear a great lady’s yoke, and for long years sue on in hope. But her, as thou badest, I lightly touched, sparing to strike, with the tip of my torch, and grazed her with a strengthless shaft. From that day (I am the amazed witness of it), how fierce the fire that broods in his lovesick heart, what force of my onset he sustains night and day! Never, mother, have I beset another so fiercely, and again and again driven my arrows home. I saw Hippomenes in those merciless lists run his eager course; yet even at the goal he paled not so. I saw Leander swimming the strait. Sturdy were his arms as oars, and I praised his strength and often lighted him upon his way; yet his fire, that warmed even the heartless sea, 50 was not so fierce as thine, young lover, who hast surpassed all passion of old days. I myself have marvelled that thou hast outlasted such a fever of love, and have strengthened thy heart and dried with my soft wings thy streaming tears. How often has Apollo chid me that his bard should go thus sorrowful! Mother, grant him at last the bride he loves. He is our comrade and loyally bears our standard. He might have sung the travail of war, doughty deeds of heroes and blood-drenched battlefields. But he vowed his first lyre to thee and chose rather to be the poet of love and to twine our myrtle leaves among his bays. His song is of young lovers’ slips and his own wound that is not of yesterday: oh, what devotion to the < a NAME = "paphos" href="../MurrayMyth/Venus.html#paphos" target="_blank" onmouseover="return overlib('Venus [Aphrodite], goddess of love, had the most splendid temple devoted to her in the city of Paphos in Cyprus, where she was born. For the reference in Murray click on the word');" onmouseout="return nd();">Paphian power is his, mother! It is he that mourned the fate of our dove.’
He ended and clung caressingly about his mother’s soft neck; his nestling feathers warmed her breast. She answered and frowned not on his gaze of entreaty: ‘It is a great reward, and seldom vouchsafed even to the heroes of my choice, that this poet-lover seeks. Marvelling at the glory of her beauty (and the renown of her forefathers and the fame of her house rivalled her loveliness) I myself took her in my arms at her birth and cherished her in my bosom: my hands were never weary of smoothing brow and neck, and with rich ointments shaping her tresses. Now she has sprung up into a lovely reflection of me. See even from afar the building of her tresses, the beauty of her queenly brow. Consider how much taller she is than the mothers of Latium: even as Latonia towers above her nymphs, and I among the 51 Nereids. She is worthy to have been born like me from the blue waters, and to sit in my car of pearl; aye, and had she been suffered to ascend to the starry sky and enter these bowers, even ye Loves had been perplexed. Though I have lavished on her rich revenues, yet her mind is greater than her wealth. I am sad that the Seres are niggardly, and the groves they despoil too scanty: that the pearls of Clymene are failing and the tears of the poplar sisters suffice us not: that too few are the fleeces that blush with Sidonian purple, and rare the crystals that freeze out of the immemorial snows. For her I have bidden Hermes and Tagus pour down their golden ooze (such store is not enough to array her worthily), for her Glaucus and Proteus and every Nereid to bring the necklets of the Indies. Hadst thou seen her, Phoebus, in the fields of Thessaly, Daphne had roamed secure: if on Naxos beach she had stood by Theseus’ couch, Euhan too had left Ariadne forlorn and fled to her. And had not Juno with endless plaints softened my heart, for her the Lord of heaven had even now disguised him as winged bird or horned bull, or else in2 very gold come down to woo her. Yet she shall be given, my son and prime dignitary, to him for whom thou seekest her, though often sadly she cries that for no second lord will she bear the yoke. Of herself at last, I know it, she is yielding and in turn has melted to her lover.’
So Venus said and rose, fair as a star, and crossed her proud threshold, and called to her yoke her Amyclaean swans. Love harnessed 52 them and sat him on the jewelled pole, and drove his mother rejoicing through the clouds. Full soon they descried the Trojan towers of Tiber. A lordly mansion opened its glistening halls, and gladly the swans perched clapping on the gleaming threshold.
The home was worthy of a goddess, fair as the stars they had left. Marble of Libya and of Phrygia was there and the hard green stone of Laconia; there was patterned onyx3 and blocks that matched the deep sea, and porphyry that often moves envy in Oebalian purple and in masters of the vats of Tyre. The architraves hung poised on many a column, the woodwork glistened with the abundance of Dalmatian metal. The cool shade streaming from immemorial trees banished the sun’s rays, and little springs ran crystal-clear in channels of marble. Nature keeps not here her changing seasons: Midsummer is cool and Winter warm; the mansion turns and controls the year at its own will.
Glad was gentle Venus to see the palace of her great fosterling, and rejoiced as if from the deep sea she were come to Paphos, to bower in Idalium or shrine at Eryx. Then to her daughter, as she rested, alone, upon her couch, she spoke: ‘Why so shamefaced and unmated? What limit shall there be, lady, my delight among the daughters of 53 Latium, what limit to thy fealty and thy faith? Wilt thou never bow thee to a husband’s yoke? Years less bright will soon be upon thee. Let not thy beauty be idle: enjoy these fleeting gifts. Not for this did I give thee all that loveliness, that proud brow and my own spirit, that thou shouldst pass through the years unmated, as though I loved thee not. It is enough and more than enough that thou hast flouted the lovers of old. Why, here indeed is one whose whole heart is thine: comely he is and noble, and he worships and he loves thee above all: what man is there in Rome, what maid that knows not this scholar-poet’s songs? Soon, too, thou shalt see him uplift the twelve rods (so may the grace of our Lord of Ausonia still be with him!), and that before his day. Assuredly even now he has opened the gates of Cybele,4 and it is his to read the strains of the Sibyl of Cyme. Soon the Father of Latium, whose thoughts it is granted me to foreknow, will give him, young though he be, the purple robe and the ivory seat, and suffer him to celebrate (no common honours these!) the plundering of Dacia and his laurels newly-won. Come then, be thou his bride: let not thy youth languish. All nations and all hearts with nuptial torch I couple. Birds and flocks and tribes of savage beasts disown me not. The sky itself melts at my will to wed with earth, as the clouds break into showers. Thus it is that the life of the world and all things after their kind are renewed. Whence had Troy’s 54 renown been born again; whence he who snatched the gods from the fire, had I not wedded a Phrygian lord? Aye, whence had Tuscan Tiber revived the stock of my own Iuli? Who had founded the towers of sevenfold Rome, the crown of Latium sway, had I not suffered the Dardan priestess, unforbidden, to steal the war-god’s love?’
With these words Venus charmed her, and in the secrecy of her heart breathed a thought of the glory of wedlock. His gifts and his entreaties, his tears and his sleepless sighs at her gates — these now came back to her: and how the minstrel’s Asteris had been proverbed throughout Rome; at morning and at evening and before the feast always the name of Asteris sounded louder than once the hue and cry for Hylas. At last she began to unbend her hard heart to kindness, and at last to account herself cruel.
Blessings on thy bridal, gentlest of all the bards of Latium! for thou hast traversed the hard path and finished thy troublous task and made the haven. Even so the River, that with heart on fire fled from the midst5 of Pisa to win an alien bride, draws through his channel underseas a stainless flood, at last to struggle forth and drink with panting lips of the Sicilian spring: the Nymph marvels at the sweet kisses and dreams not that her love has come to her under the sea.55
How bright a day then dawned, Stella, to cheer thee by the bright grace of Heaven! With what joy thy heart throbbed when thy lady’s brow softened and she granted thee the bliss of her love! Thou didst seem to tread on air and roam through the bright sky. A colder rapture had the shepherd on the Spartan shore when Helen came to the Trojan barque; Thessalian Tempe saw not such a light on Peleus’ brow, when Chiron reared his horse-part erect and marked Thetis drawing near to the Haemonian strand. How long seemed the stars to tarry! How slow Aurora to appease the yearnings of the bridegroom!
But when from afar Leto’s son, lord of all minstrels, and Semeleian Euhan knew that Stella’s bridal was at hand, from Ortygia and from Nysa they hurried with their eager companions. The Lycian hills, the bowers of cool Thymbra and Parnassus rang again as Phoebus came: and at Euhan’s coming Pangaea and Ismarus and the shores of Naxos, that saw his wooing, echoed the song. Then they passed the doors they loved and gave to their comrade bard, the one a lyre, the other the tawny skin of a spotted deer, the one his wands, the other the quill to strike the lyre: and one bound the poet’s brow with bays and one with Ariadne’s crown.
Scarce was the day abroad, when already auguries of bliss were vouchsafed and both homes were astir with a festal company. The gates were green with leafage, and the crossways bright with fire, and all that is noblest in great Rome kept festival. Every great office 56 was there and all the retinues thronged the threshold: and gay robes hedged about with the folk in mean attire; on this side knights, and on this, mingling and struggling with the youthful throng,6 the long-robed matrons. There are blessings for both, but in the crowd more envy the bridegroom. Hymen has been standing long since in the gateway, seeking to greet their espousals with a new song, to bewitch the minstrel’ heart. And Juno honours the knot that binds them, and Concord with twofold flambeau hallows their union. Such was that day: of the night let Stella sing. But shamefast methinks was the bride as Ilia, the bride of Mars, when overcome by treacherous sleep she lay down on the river bank. Lavinia was not so coy when beneath the gaze of Turnus the scarlet flamed on her snow-white cheeks; nor Claudia so stainless when, proved a maiden by the movement of the barque, she gazed upon the people.
Now must the comrades of the Nine, the slaves of the tripod, vie with one another in divers strains. Come, bards inspired, with garlands and ivy on your brows according as each is of power to make the rapturous lyre obey him. But, above all, come ye who filch away the last beats from the great Hexameter; sing ye a song worthy of this merry bridal. This day Philetas himself would have sought the privilege of singing, and Cos approved his choice; old Callimachus, too, and Propertius in his Umbrian grotto; Ovid defying e’en the gloom of Tomi, and 57 Tibullus, whose only wealth was the fire that twinkled upon his hearth.
Assuredly it is not a love for poetry alone, or a single motive that gives birth to my lay. My Muse, Stella, is like unto and close knit to thine. Kindred spirits, we revel oftentimes at like altars, and at the fountains of song slake a common thirst. And as for thee, lady, at thy birth my own Parthenope took thee to her embrace: a tottering child thou wast already the delight and glory of our land. So let that Euboic city be exalted to the glowing skies and Sebethos exult in his fair fosterling. Let them not be outdone by the pride of the Lucrine Naiads in their teeming grottos, or of the calm retreat of Pompeian Sarnus.
Soon let a noble offspring be born of ye to Latium, to govern camp and courts and make merry songs. Let Cynthia be kind and bless the tenth month with early fruit. Only may the birth-goddess be merciful and the pledge wound not the parent tree! Spare, child, that delicate frame, those swelling breasts; and when Nature has moulded thy brow in secret, may’st thou be born much like thy father, like thy mother more. But for thee, fairest of all the daughters of Italy, at last thou hast a worthy master and lord: cherish the bond he sought so long to knit; so may thy beauty never diminish; so may thy young brows keep the bloom of youth for many7 a year, and that loveliness be slow to fade into decay.
1 Line 13. ‘cinctu’ (Barth).
2 Line 136. The epithet vero is obscure, and may conceivably be a corruption of vestro or nostro; cf. line 102.
3 Line 149. Professor Boulton identifies the onyx in question as a species of agate. ‘In the ordinary onyx,’ he writes, ‘the bands are parallel and flat; but the text doubtless refers to a species of agate in which the bands are undulating or zigzag, suggesting to the author that the onyx itself has been bent or flexed.’
4 Line 176. This is Krohn’s rendering, as given by Vollmer. The meaning is, he has been made a member of the priestly college of the XV, whose privilege it was to carry out Cybele’s worship.
5 Line 203. ‘mediae sic.’* Klotz, Praef., p. liv., reports the reading of M as mtiade, and the scribe of M confuses the letters e and t, e.g. at IV. iii. 81.
6 Line 235. ‘hinc equs, hinc iuvenum coetu stola’ (edd. vett.).
7 Line 276. ‘longae’ (edd. vett.). Cf. III. iv. 101, IV. i. 46, and V. i. 182. Statius uses ‘longum, not longe‘, of time in the Silvae, as e. g. at I. iii. 13, II. iii. 72, and III. ii. 58.