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From The Silvae of Statius translated with Introduction and Notes, by D. A. Slater; Oxford: The Clarendon Press; 1908; pp. 131-136.



IV    Ite, comae, facilemque

The dedication of the lock to Aesculapius 1

SPEED, tresses, speed: and smooth be your passage over the sea, as softly ye lie on the garlanded gold. Speed! for gentle Cytherea shall grant 132 you fair voyaging. She shall still the winds and haply take you from the fearful bark and waft you overseas in her own shell.

Honoured are these tresses, the gift of Caesar’s favourite. Take them, son of Phoebus, take them with joy and show them to thy father ever-young. Let him match with Bacchus their bright lustre and long account them his brother’s locks. Perchance of his grace he will cut off one of his own immortal tresses and set it for thee in another coffer of gold.

More blessed by far art thou, Pergamus, than pine-clad Ida, though Ida exult in the cloud wherein Jove’s favourite was snatched away.2 Why, Ida gave to the gods him on whom Juno never looks but with a frown, and shrinks from his hand and refuses the nectar; thou art beloved of heaven and renowned for thy fosterling. Thou hast sent to Latium a cupbearer on whom our Roman Jove and Roman Juno both look with kindly brows and both approve.

Not without the will of the gods above was such joy granted to the mighty lord of earth. They say that as golden Venus drawn by her gentle swans was journeying from the peaks of Eryx to the woods of 133 Idaly, she entered the hills of Pergamus, where the staunch helper of the sick, he who stays the swift-ebbing fates, the kindly god, broods over his health-giving snake. There, even in front of the god’s altars she marked a child at play, fair as a star, with wondrous comeliness. She was duped for a moment by the form that flashed upon her and thought him one of her own Cupids; but he had no bow, nor any shadowy wings upon his shining shoulders. In wonder at his boyish beauty she gazed upon his curly brow and said: ‘Shalt thou go to towered Rome? Shall Venus slight thee and let thee bear with a mean dwelling and the yoke of common slavery? Not so. I, even I, will find for thy beauty the master it deserves. Come now with me, come, child, and in my swift car I will bear thee through the sky to be a glorious gift to a king. No mean thraldom shall await thee. Thou art destined to be the favourite of the palace. Never,, never, in all the world have I beheld or bred so fair a child. Endymion and Atys, unchallenged, will yield to thee, and he who died for fruitless love of a fountain-shadow. The Nymph of the blue waters had chosen thee before Hylas, and more resolutely seized thine urn and drawn thee to her. Child, thou dost surpass all: only he, to whom I will give thee, is comelier.

So spoke Venus — and raising him with her own hands through the buxom air, bade him sit in her swan-drawn car. Forthwith they came to the hills of Latium, and to the home of old-world Evander, which renowned Germanicus, lord of the world, now 134 adorns with new palaces and makes fair as the stars on high. Then ’twas the goddess’s first thought to see, what tiring best became his locks, what raiment was fittest to make the roses burn on his cheeks, what golden ornaments were worthy of his hands and of his neck. She knew our Master’s piercing eye. She had herself with bounteous hand bestowed on him his bride and knitted the bond. So cunningly she decked those locks, so shrewdly unfolded that Tyrian purple, and gave him the radiance of her own light; — the troops of slaves and the favourites of other days gave way forthwith. He it is who now pours out the first cup of our great ruler, and in hands fairer than the crystal bears goblets of crystal and of ponderous fluor spar: so that the wine tastes sweeter.

Boy, thou art beloved of heaven, in that thou art chosen to sip first of the Emperor’s nectar and to touch so often the strong right hand that Getae and Persians, Armenians and Indians are fain to kiss; born under a gracious star art thou and abundantly blessed by the grace of the gods. Once, that the first down might not mar the bloom upon thy cheeks, or that fair face be darkened, the god of thy native land came from lofty Pergamus over the seas. None other was suffered to take away thy manhood, but only the son of Phoebus, he of the gentle hand and quiet skill, with never a wound and without a pain unsexed thee. Yet, even so, care-stricken and affrighted was Cytherea, fearing pain for her favourite. that was before the splendid mercy of our ruler set to preserve all men 135 whole from their birth. To-day it is forbidden to change and unman our youth. Nature rejoices now to see only the sex she saw at birth, and no slave-mother any longer fears, by reason of that baleful law, to bear a man child.

Thou too, hadst thou been born in a later year, wert now a man; with bearded cheeks and more virile prime thou hadst sent other gifts to the temple of Phoebus. Now to the shores of thy country the bark must bear this lock alone: our Lady of Paphos has steeped it in rich essences, and the three Graces have combed it with their young hands. To this the purple lock of mangled Nisus, and the tress that proud Achilles cherished for Spercheius will yield. When first it was resolved to rob that snow-white brow and forcefully despoil those shining shoulders, unbidden the winged boy-Loves with their mother, the Paphian queen, flew to thee, and undid thy tresses and about thee cast a robe of silk. Then with linked arrows they severed the lock and set it in the jewelled gold. Their mother herself, Cytherea, caught it as it fell and once and again anointed it with her mysterious perfumes. Anon one of the thronging Loves, who, as it befell, had brought in upturned hands a fair mirror framed in jewelled gold, cried aloud: ‘Let us give this too — what gift more welcome? — to the shrines of his land, a treasure more precious than gold. Only do thou gaze upon it and leave a look for ever within.’. He ceased, and caught the boyish presentment and shut the glass.


Then the fair boy lifted up his hands to heaven and said: ‘Gentle guardian of mankind, do thou (if such is my desert) vouchsafe for this gift to make our Master young again with never-passing youth and keep him safe for the world. Not I alone, but the land and sea and stars beseech thee. Grant him, I pray, as many years as the man of Ilium and he of Pylos lived. Let him see the shrine of his house and the Tarpeian temple grow old along with him, and rejoice!’ He ceased, and Pergamus marvelled that her altars rocked.


1  Line 1.  ‘Le plus grand mérite de cette silve est le style. Encore y trouverait-on beaucoup á redire. J’y cherche en vain la propriété d’expression, le tour naturel des poëtes du siècle d’Auguste, même de ceux chez qui ce tour est mêlé d’un peu de manière,’ &c. — Nisard.

2  Line 13.  Stephens finds in the phrase an echo of Thebaid, i. 551 ‘Amisso enim domino — “canes umbramque petunt et nubila latrant”.’

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