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From The Silvae of Statius translated with Introduction and Notes, by D. A. Slater; Oxford: The Clarendon Press; 1908; pp. 92-96.



III     Stat qua perspicuas

The legend of the Plane-tree in Melior’s grounds.
A birthday poem.

EMBOSOMING yonder waters there stands a tree where best it may shelter lordly Melior’s crystal lake. No sooner has it sprung from the lowest roots than it stoops over the flood; anon with straight stem towers high, as though in the mid-waters it found fresh birth; as though its secret roots lodged beneath the glassy wave. Why ask Phoebus to unfold so slight a history! Ye fountain-fairies and easy 93 Fauns! your help suffices; you shall rehearse the legend.

The silly nymphs were flying in a bevy before Pan. Headlong he followed, as he would seize them all; yet to Pholoe alone he sought. She fled through brake and stream; and now it was the goat-limbs, and now the wanton horns of her pursuer that affrighted her. Past the battle-haunted grove of Janus, past the grim lair of Cacus and the fields of Quirinus, on tiptoe of terror she fled, till she came to the shelter of the Coelian woods.1 There at last, outworn with the chase and overcome by fear, — just where to-day stands wide the trusty home of tranquil Melior, — closer around her she gathered her saffron robe, and on the verge of the springing bank she hid.2 Swift followed the shepherd-god, thinking that the prize was his. And now his fevered breast was shaken with sighs; and now he hovered lightly over his prey. When lo, as Diana ranged the seven hills, hunting the trail of a deer on Aventine, she came hot-foot thither. Angered was the goddess at the sigh, and turning to her true companions cried: — ‘What, shall I never keep this wanton horde of foul Satyrs from their lustful raids? Must the number of my chaste votaries ever grow less?’ She said, and drew a short shaft from her quiver: but the bow bent not nor twanged with wonted 94 music; for she was content to toss it with one hand alone, and touched (so runs the tale) but the left hand of the drowsy nymph with the arrow feathers. Up started Pholoe, and saw at once the day and her wanton foe; and seeing, lest she should bare her snow-white limbs, just as she was, in all her raiment, plunged into the mere. There, deep under the waters, she hid in the weeds that paved the pool, thinking that Pan was after her. Baffled in a moment, what could the marauder do? Trust him to the deep waters he durst not, for he knew his limbs were hairy and from his earliest years no skill had he to swim. Unstintingly he made lament, and cried out upon the heartless Fair, the wayless mere, and the jealous dart.3 Then he espied a young plane-tree: the stem was long, and countless the boughs; a crest aspiring to the skies. This he set hard by and heaped about it the quickening sand, and sprinkled it with the longed-for waters and charged it, saying: ‘Live long, O tree, to be renowned as token of my vow. Thou at least, if I may not, must stoop and cherish the winding bower of this heartless nymph. Wrap thy leaves about her flood. Suffer her not, cruel though she be, to be parched by the heat of the sun or lashed by the pitiless hail. Only forget not to strew and stain her pool with thy leaves. Long then will I remember thee and the Queen of this kindly haunt and foster both to a prosperous old age. Henceforth with Joves oak, Apollos bays, and the 95 silver poplar shade, let my pines be amazed at they branches. He ended, and the plane, quickening with life, hung athwart the brimming waters with arching stem, and brooded over Pan’s losT love. With fostering shadows it searched the wave and sought its embrace; but the pride of the water put it away and shrank from touch. At last struggling upwards, and balanced on the trunk,4 once more it cunningly poised upright a crest with never a knot, as though with another root it sank into the depths of the pool. Now even Phoebe’s votary hates it not, but woos the branches she banished from her waters.

Such birthday gift Melior I bring to thee, a little offering, and yet destined, it may be, to live long. For thee, — in whose calm soul dwell honour and courtesy, and virtue grave yet gay, — for thee, the scorner of sluggish ease, of tyrannous power and unconscionable ambition; whose is the mean traced betwixt duty and pleasure; whose faith is stainless, whose heart a stranger to turmoil; aloof, even before the world, seeing that in order due thy life is planned; for thee who art quick to spurn gold, aye, and skilled to order thy wealth aright and bring to the light thy store. Long mayst thou flourish, young as now in heart and in character. Go on to vie with the years of Priam and Tithonus, and to outpass the age which thy father and thy mother bore with tHem to Persephone. 96 Such boon have they own for thee from the stern Sisters, — they and the high renown of noble Blaesus, that shall flourish once more, destined by thy witness to escape the silence of decay.


1  Line 14.  ‘Coelica tesca’ (Markland). Cf. Tacitus, Ann. iv. 65 ’Haud fuerit absurdum tradere montem eum antiquitus Querquetulanum cognometo fuisse, quod talis silvae frequEns fecundusque erat’.

2  Line 17.  ‘artius et vivae.’*

3  Line 37-8.

                                                        ‘omnia questus,
Inmitem dominam, stagna invia et invida tela.’*

4  Line 58.  There appears to be no authority for this meaning of ‘fundus’. Yet the sense of the passage demands it here unless the word is a corruption of, e. g., ‘trunco’.

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