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From The Silvae of Statius translated with Introduction and Notes, by D. A. Slater; Oxford: The Clarendon Press; 1908; pp. 98-99.



V    Quid tibi deposita

On Melior’s tame Lion killed in the Amphitheatre

WHAT has it profited thee now to put off1 thine anger and forget thy fierceness: to unlearn thy savage instinct and desire not man’s blood; to endure bondage and to obey a puny master: to come at a word from thy cage and to thy cage return again: to yield up of thine own will the prey thou hadst seized: to relax thy jaws and release the hand they had held? For all thy skill to slay mighty beasts thou thyself art slain; not compassed about by the Massylian host, not caught within winding toils, not with dread spring over-leaping the spears, or duped by masked yawning pit, but conquered by a beast in flight. With gaping ages open stands the ill-omened cage. Around, behind close-locked doors, thy trembling kin, thy brother lions chafed that so foul a wrong was suffered. Anon their manes drooped: they were ashamed one and all to look upon thy body brought back, and gathered all their foreheads into a frown.

But not at one blow did this strange dishonour crush and destroy thee. Thy courage was undaunted at thy fall; thy spirit returned to thee even from the jaws of death. Nor did all they menaces flee away at 99 once. Even as a soldier, that knows he hath his death-wound, yet ere he die fronts and defies the foe, with hand upraised and menace of failing sword; so did yon lion with fainting steps, stripped of his wonted pride, yet opening his jaws and hardening his eyes, pant for breath and for the foe. Still, though in a moment mastered and slain, rich recompense shalt thou bear hence with thee. For as though thou wert a gladiator of renown stretched there on the bloody sand, the people and the senate mourned and sighed to see thee die. And amid so many beasts from Scythia and Libya, from banks of Rhine and herds of Pharos, whose death is unregarded, thy loss alone it was, lion, that dimmed our great Ruler’s eye.


1  Line 1.  ‘deposita’ (A. C. Clark). Mr. Clark considers that monstrata Is an interpolation from iv. 31 just above, and that some word such as deposita has been ousted. I had thought of ‘Quid tibi monstra tua’, &c.: but this would not be altogether satisfactory.

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