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From The Silvae of Statius translated with Introduction and Notes, by D. A. Slater; Oxford: The Clarendon Press; 1908; pp. 63-69.



IV  Line 1.   Estis, io, superi

Statius celebrates the restoration to health of Rutilius Gallicus, Prefect of Rome

YES, ye are real, ye gods; Clotho the spinner is not deaf to prayer; gentle Astraea does look upon the good; she has come back reconciled to Jove, and Gallicus discerns the full radiance of the stars he wellnigh despaired of. Indeed and indeed our Lord God1 Germanicus is, beyond gainsaying, dear to high heaven! Fortune was abashed to rob his rule of so great a viceroy. Erect once more are the shoulders that, next to his, bear that Atlantean load. Gallicus has shaken off the deadly toils of decay: and for a fresh term of years puts on a more vigorous prime. Therefore right eagerly let the companies that worship the city standard, the laws, that oftentimes fly to thy bosom, sir, to protest against the confusion of the courts, — and the cities of our dominion in all the world, that invoke thy verdict upon their distant plaints, vie with one another in gladness. In its turn let the hill we live on2 shout for joy. Let every murmur of sadder news be hushed. He lives and long shall live, 64 — his youth renewed, — in whose hands is placed the kindly sway of an untroubled Rome, nor shall Fate cause the fresh Aeon to put on so black a reproach, nor the altar of Tarentus — once more upreared — thus offend.

But for me, — not upon Phoebus, — though save for him my lyre were dumb, — nor upon the Aonian Nine, with Pallas added to their number, nor upon kindly fosterling of Tegea or of Dirce will I call. Be thou my aid as thou art my theme. Give me fresh strength, fresh courage. Not without inspiration from heaven art thou so great, and hast given such glory to our gown, such wisdom and shrewd counsel to our courts. Though inspired Pimplea slake not my minstrel thirst and no draught from conspiring Pirene be vouchsafed to me; rather let me drink deep of the wells of thy music, whether in melodious prose thy tale is told, or whether the sweet stream of thy eloquence is broken in to discipline and obeys our3 canons. Come then, since to Ceres we yield gifts of her own bestowing, and to Bacchus his own unwatered wine; and since Diana, though rich in booty, yet in all her temples welcomes the spoil, and the Lord of war the captured sword; do not thou, Gallicus, though they eloquence is greater, though mighty thou art and rich in flowing speech, scorn to be hymned by a lowlier lyre. The nomad moon is surrounded by stars, and humble fountains pay their tribute to the ocean.

What rich reward for thy worth a nation’s anxious love doth pay thee! What sorrow I read that day in 65 the eyes of knight and senator, and commoners not wont to mourn the great! Such fear came not upon the prosperous Senate at the passing of Numa, nor on the noble knights when Pompey fell, nor on women at Brutus’ death. This is the secret of that sorrow: Thou wast loath to hear the dismal clank of fetters; and fain to spare the rod, to shun the path prescribed by high dignity, to abate much of the power of the sword, to deign to regard the entreaties of the lowly and the prayers of the suppliant, to restore justice to the Courts, to maintain the magistrates in their seats, to temper might with right. This is the path to nobility of soul. Thus it comes that awe of the ruler is mingled with love till awe trusts love.

In itself, too, the relentless harshness of Fate startled all men; — the cavalier suddenness of the peril, the very rapidity of the disease. Not with old age was the blame (for scarce was thy sixtieth year past), but the strain of toil and the sway of the strong mind over the body, and sleepless cares, — thy task beloved, — for the Cæsar of their worship. Thus came the treacherous lethargy to steal over thy weary limbs and with it a deadening indifference to life.

Then the god4 who, nigh unto the heights of the Alpine ridge, with his holy name of Apollo hallows the sacred groves, too long, alas, careless of his great foster-son, had regard unto him, and forestalling5 delay cried aloud: — ‘My son, lord of Epidaurus, up now, 66 and hasten blithely with me. Tis ours (seize we the chance) to heal a man of renown. Grasp we and hold the spindles that are straining his thread to the breaking-point. Fear not the blackening thunderbolt. Jupiter, ere we entreat him, will praise our skill. Tis no low-born life I seek to save, but a favourite of heaven. In few words, while we approach his home, I will tell you the story.

He is himself the pedigree of his family, and sheds a lustre back upon his forefathers. Not that his lineage is hidden; but the parent light is outshone by the radiance that follows after, and rejoices to yield to so great a descendant. His first excellence in peace was that eloquence,6 for which he was renowned and honoured. Anon in countless camps was he disciplined. East and West,7 over broad expanse of sea and land in every clime, he fought in sworn fealty to Cæsar, never suffered to unbend in tranquil peace and to unbelt his sword. Great Galatia dared to provoke him — aye, and me too, — to war, and for nine harvest-tides fear was upon Pamphylia and bold Pannonia, upon dread Armenias crafty archers and upon the Araxes that at last had brooked a Roman bridge. What need to recount how twice he ruled and held sway over Asia? Trice and four times she would fain have him for Master, but the Records and high Magistracy of Rome, oft promised to him, called him back. What need to rehearse the wonder of Africas tribute and allegiance? Why praise the triumph-spoils 67 sent to Rome in years of peace, so rich an offering as even he who had assigned the task durst not expect? There is joy at Trasymene and on the Alps, and among the souls of them that fell at Cannae. And first the shade of mangled Regulus himself claims without disguise a special meed. Time would fail me to tell of thy battles in the North; of insurgent Rhine, of captured Veleda’s entreaties and, latest and greatest triumph, Rome placed in thy hands (to govern) while the destruction of the Dacians was going on, when Gallicus, the chosen, took up the leadership of our great chief, and Fortune marvelled not.

This is the man, if these reasons have weight enough, whom we, my son, from the harsh Ruler of the underworld,8 will rescue now. The renowned lord of Latium sues for his life, yes, and has earned the boon. Not in vain did the children of Rome the other day, clad in the purple, sing their lay to my praise . . . If there be any simples in the health-giving cave of Chiron the Centaur; if any store of thine be hidden in that domed temple on Trojan Pergamus; if aught of power spring from the healing sands of bountiful Epidaurus, or alm of blooming dittany flourish under the shade of Cretan Ida, or froth and foam of snake; — and I will add my own cunning to thine and lavish every drug that I learned in Arabias fragrant plains or gathered,9 a shepherd, on Amphrysian lawns.

He ended, and they came to Gallicus. Listlessly they found his limbs outstretched, and laboured his 68 breath: when each girded himself like a true leech and eagerly did guide and readily obey, until with divers drugs they overcame the destroying sickness and scattered the deadly cloud, the treacherous lethargy. He himself helped his divine helpers and, too strong for plague to master, clutched at deliverance. Not so swift was the healing of Telephus by the Thessalian’s skill, or of the grisly wounds of shrinking Atrides by Machaon’s simples.

What place can there be for thought or vow of mine amid this gathering of the senate and the nation? Yet I call the stars on high and the Lord of Thymbra, father of poetry, to witness, what fear was mine each day, each night, as ceaselessly I haunted the gate, with ear and eye alert to catch every sign. Even as in a furious tempest the little boat fast-bound to some great ship bears its part of the raging billows and tosses in the same gale.

Twine now, ye sisters, gaily twine a snow-white skein. Let none tell the tale of his past years. This day shall be his birthday. Worthy art thou, Gallicus, to outlive the patriarchs of Troy, to number more years than the dust of the Sibyl, to outlast Nestor’s mouldering antiquity. Poor as I am, how can censer of mine make intercession for thee? It were not enough that Mevania should empty her valleys or the meadows of Clitumnus furnish me with their snow-white bulls. Yet, time and again, amid such lordly offerings has a single turf, a handful of meal, with scant salt besprinkled, won grace from the gods.


1  4.  Line 1.   This use of ‘divus’ is said to be unparalleled. Applied to Domitian by Statius it may conceivably be sound. I have sometimes wondered whether the ‘et’ of M might not be kept, and ‘cives’ read for ‘div’es’, i.e. Your citizens are dear to the gods in heaven as well as to you (for the use of ‘cives’ cf. I. ii. 30), but this would perhaps convey a sense less flattering to the Emperor

2  4.  13.  ‘noster collis’ is justified by Ovid, F. vi. 374 ‘Monte suo clausos barbara turba premit’: or does Statius mean ‘Alba’?

3  30.  ‘nostras,’ i.e. of us poets.

4  58 sqq.  See note on p. 209.


[End Note, p. 209.]

I. iv. 58 sqq.  ‘ Stace mêle des dieux à tout; il n’ y a pas d’ action si insignfiante, pas de personnage si petit, qui ne puisse faire sortir un dieu de l’ Olympe, et deux à besoin . . . Voici maintenant Gallicus, préfet de Rome, grand ami de Domitien, qui est pris de léthargie. Vite, Stace fait descendre Apollon du sommet des Alpes, où il a un temple; il le transporte à Épidaure, chez Esculape, son fils. Apollon implore les secours du divin médecin pour ce Gallicus, qui n’ est pas poëte et n’ a rien à prétendre d’ Apollon. Les deux dieux arrivent à Rome, la robe relevée à la manière de Pœon, et Gallicus sort de son sommeitl, au risque d’ y retomber, s’ il lit les félicitations mythologiques de son ami Stace ! ’ — Nisard, pp. 273-4.

5  61.  ‘praecidensque’ (Housman).

6  72.  ‘eloquium’ (Phillimore).

7  73.  After line 73 Prof. Housman conjectures that a line has been lost to this effect — ‘Effusos pelagi tractus terrasque patentes’ (C. R. vol. xx, p. 38).

8  94.  Line 1.   So Professor Hardie, who compares Aeschylus, Supplices, 231 Zεὺς ἄλλος ἐν χαμοῦσιν.

9  Line 105.   ‘carpsi’ (Domitius).

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