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From The Silvae of Statius translated with Introduction and Notes, by D. A. Slater; Oxford: The Clarendon Press; 1908; pp. 136-141.



V    Quid mihi maesta die

Statius has resolved to leave Rome and settle in his native city. He rallies his wife Claudia on her apparent reluctance to go with him.1

WHY are you so downcast, my wife, in the day and in the nights of our companionship? Why do you sorrow and sigh as though your trouble knew no rest? I have no fear that you have broken your 137 troth or that another love harbours in your breast. No shaft can pierce you. No, though Nemesis may frown to hear my words, that cannot be. Had I been torn from my country, and after twenty years of war and voyaging were still a wanderer, you too, a stainless Penelope, would drive from your doors a thousand suitors, and not by plotting to weave a second time a torn web, but openly and without guile, sword in hand, you would refuse to wed anther. But tell me, why are your brows bent? Why that cloud upon your countenance? Is it that for weariness I am purposing to return to my Campanian home, and rest these aged limbs there upon my native soil? Why sadden at the thought? Assuredly there is no wantonness in your heart: the jousts in the entrancing Circus bewitch you not: the turmoil of the noisy theatre touches not your soul. Innocence, and sheltering peace and pure joys are yours. What are these stormy seas over which I would bear you to be my companion? Nay, for that matter even though I were journeying to set up my rest in the frozen North, or beyond the gloomy waters of Thule in the West, or the wayless sources of sevenfold Nile, you would have sped me on my path. For you, you, whom Venus of her gracious bounty wedded to me in the heyday of youth and guards for mine into old age, you, who at the first, when I was yet virgin, did with a first love fix my roving fancy, — you it is whose guidance I have welcomed with cheerful obedience: even as a steed that will know no change but keep 138 ever true to the master whose control he has once acknowledged. When my brow was bright with the Alban wreath and Caesar’s golden chaplet was on my head, it was you who clasped me to your heart and showered breathless kisses on my laurels: it was you, when the Capitol disdained my lays, you who shared my defeat and fretted with me at the ingratitude and cruelty of Jove. You with wakeful ears snatch the first essays of my melodies and those nights of whispering: you who alone share the secret of my long, long, toil, and with the years of your love my Thebaid has grown to full stature. What sorrow I read in your eyes but now, when I was wellnigh swept to Stygian darkness, when the waters of Lethe sounded in my ears hard at hand, and I saw, and seeing kept my eyes from sinking in death. Be sure it was but for pity of you that Lachesis renewed my skein outworn; the high gods feared your reproaches.2 And, after that, do you hesitate to bear me company for a brief journey and to that desirable bay? Alas, where then is your loyalty, in many a service tried and tested, wherein you come up to the Heroines of Greece, and bygone daughters of Latium? What can hold love back? Penelope had gone rejoicing to the towers of Ilium, had not Ulysses forbidden. And sad was Aegiale and sad was Meliboea to be left behind.3 139 Sad too was she whose bitter sorrow stung her to a Maenad’s frenzy. Yet great are you as these wives of old to recognize allegiance and to lay down your life. Assuredly it is with loyalty such as theirs that you yearn still over those ashes and that vanished shade. So you embrace the relics of your minstrel lord and make your bosom resound with blow on blow of sorrow even now that you are mine. Nor less is your loyal care for your daughter. As a mother, you love as warmly: your daughter is never far from your thoughts: night and day her image lies in your inmost heart. Alcyone of Trachis cherishes not her fledglings so tenderly: nor Philomela, that in spring hovers yearningly about her nest and breathes her own warm life into her young. And yet in that now she sits4 alone and unmated in her bower, she is letting the spring of her bright youth pass fruitlessly away. But the day will come: the torches of consummation will be kindled: the bridal will dawn. Assuredly a face so fair, a heart so sweet, deserve true lover. Whether she clasps and strikes the lute, or whether with the voice her father loved she wakes 140 strains worthy for the Muses to rehearse and shapes my songs, or whether in swift movement her snow-white arms part and sway: her innocence is sweeter than her art, her maidenly reserve outdoes her cunning skill. Surely the lithe Loves and Cytherea will blush that such beauty should be mateless. But it is not Rome alone that is rich in gift of marriage rites and in kindling the nuptial torch. In my country too will suitors be found. The Vesuvian peak, the tempest of fire from that ominous height, have not so utterly cowed and drained our cities of men. They still stand strong in their sons. Westward the halls of Dicarcheus that arose at Phoebus’ ordinance, the haven and the shore that welcomes all the world: northward the towers that rival the expanse of imperial Rome, the towers that Capys filled with his Teucrian pilgrims. And there too is our own Parthenope, that can scarce shelter her own people, and has scant room for settlers. Parthenope who came over the sea, and Apollo himself sent the Dionaean dove to guide her to a rich soil.

This is the home to which I would have you pass. — Not savage Thrace nor Libya gave me birth: — mild is the winter and cool the summer that rule the land: and soft the seas that with sluggish waves wash our shores. Peace with never a care is in our coasts, the calm of an untroubled life, unruffled ease, and sleep unbroken. No turmoil in our courts, no laws, sword-like, unsheathed to strike: our statutes spring from the heart of our people; Right rules alone without 141 rods or axes. And need I now praise the gorgeous scenes and decorations of that country; the temples, the squares disposed in endless porticoes; the twin massy theatres, this roofed, that open to the sky; or the quinquennial contests that rival the Capitoline festival; the shore, the freedom of Menander, in which the staidness of Rome mingles with the recklessness of Greece? All phases of life yield their delights on every hand, whether it be your pleasure to repair to steaming Baiae’s alluring beach, or to the haunted shrine of the inspired Sibyl. The cape that bears upon it for monument the Trojans’ oar: or the flowing vineyards of Bacchus-haunted Gaurus and the homes of the Teleboae, where the Pharus, to guide anxious mariner, uplifts a bacon bright as the nomad Queen of night; or to those Surrentine ridges, dear to sturdy Lyaeus, that Pollius, my friend, honours above all with his dwelling place; to the healing waters of Inarime5 or to Stabiae reborn. Must I rehearse to you the thousand charms of my country? No, it is enough, my wife, enough to say: ‘This is the land that bore me for thee, and bound me to thee for many a year. Surely it is worthy, then, to be mother and foster-mother to us both?’ But it were ingratitude to add reason to reason, and to doubt your heart. Dearest, you will come with me, aye, or e’en go before. Without me Tiber, king of Rivers, and the halls of armed Quirinus will have no charms for you.


1  Line 1.  ‘Claudia résiste, parce qu’elle est femme, parce qu’elle aime la grande ville, le bruit des applaudissements, les couronnes aux jeux Pythiens, parce qu’elle jouit d’autant plus vivement de la gloire de son mari, qu’on dit dans le monde qu’elle n’y est pas étrangére.’ — Nisard.

2  Line 42.  Or does he mean by invidiam . . . tuam, ‘feared your frown’?

3  Line 49.   ‘questa et quam.’* The allusion is plainly to Laodamia, whose passionate grief at the departure of her husband to the wars suggests the comparison to a Maenad; so in the twenty-second book of the Iliad, when Andromache is beside herself for fear for Hector’s safety —

ως φαμένη μεγάροιο διέσσυτο μαινάδι ιση,
παλλοένη κραδίην. — ll. 460-1.

Ariadne’s case was very different, and a reference to her in this context would be infelicitous.

4  Line 60.  ‘et nunc illa sedet.’*

5  Line 104.  ‘Inarimesque’ (Unger).

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