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From The Silvae of Statius translated with Introduction and Notes, by D. A. Slater; Oxford: The Clarendon Press; 1908; pp. 144-147.



II    Regia Sidoniae convivia

Statius banquets with his Lord God the Emperor.

THE royal feast of Sidonian Dido is sung by him who brought the great Æneas to the Laurentine fields; the banquet of Alcinous is celebrated in deathless verse by him who sang the return over the broad seas of Ulysses outworn: but I, — to whom Caesar has even now for the first time granted to enjoy the bliss of that holy banquet, and to rise up from an Emperor’s table, — how shall I sound my vows upon the lyre; how avail to pay my thanks? Nay, though my brow be bound and blessed with the fragrant bays of Smyrna and of Mantua, not even so shall my strains be worthy. I seemed to be feasting in the heart of heaven with Jove, taking from the Trojan’s hand immortal wine. Barren are the years of my past. This is the beginning of my days, this the threshold of life. Ruler of the world, great father of the conquered globe, hope of mankind, darling of the gods, can it be that I behold thee as 145 I recline? Is it thou? And dost thou suffer me to see thy face, thy face hard by at the board over the wine, and must I not rise up to do thee homage?

Noble is the hall and spacious, not glorified with a hundred columns, but with so many as might bear up the gods in heaven, were Atlas discharged. The neighbouring palace of the Thunderer is amazed at thine. The gods rejoice that thou hast thy home in as fair as seat as their own. Hasten not to ascend to the great sky. So spacious is the pile; more enlarged than the plain is the career of thy vast hall, clasping and closing within it wide space of sky, unsurpassed save by its lord. He fills the place; and his mighty presence makes its delight. There, as in rivalry, gleams the marble of Libya and of Ilium; resting upon syenite1 are slabs of Chian and blocs of sea-grey stone: and Luna is there, pressed into the service only to support the columns. So high the vault above, the weary sight can scarce strain to the roof: you might think it the ceiling of the golden heavens. Such was the palace wherein Caesar bade the nobles of the stock of Romulus and the knights in their array take their places together at a thousand tables for the feast: and Ceres in person with robes upgirt and Bacchus toiled in their service. Amid such plenty glided of old the wheels of heaven-born Triptolemus: so bountifully did Lyaeus overshadow bare hills and temperate fields with the cluster-laden vine.


But not upon the feast, not upon slabs of Moorish citron-wood set on pillars of ivory, not upon the long array of henchmen, — on him, on him alone had I eyes to gaze. Calm was his countenance; with a quiet majesty he tempered the brightness and gently abated the blazoned pomp of his grandeur: yet the radiance he sought to hide shone out upon his brow. Even the barbarian foeman and nations that knew him not might in such splendour have recognized their monarch. Even so, when he has stabled his steeds, Gradivus reclines in Rhodope’s chill valleys; so Pollux resting from the lists at Therapnae lays down his glistening limbs; so Euhan on the banks of Ganges amid the wild ecstasy of his Indians; so grim Alcides returning from his perilous labours rejoiced to rest his bulk upon the lion-skin. ’Tis not enough: these words, Sire, paint not thy looks. Nay, but when the king of heaven comes to the ends of the Ocean, and feasts with the Ethiopians, with overflowing ooze of hallowed nectar on his countenance, it is in such guise he bids the Muses rehearse their mystic song, and Phoebus acclaim the triumph of Pallene.

Oh, may the gods, that often listen, men say, attentively to the entreaties of the humble, grant thee, I pray, to outlast twice and three time thy aged father’s span of years. Unassailable be the gods you have sent to the skies. Bestow shrines: but inhabit still a home on earth! Often mayst thou open the temple gates to a new year and greet Janus with new lictors: often 147 with garlanded victims renew the quinquennial rites! When thou didst bid me to the bright feast and hallowed joy of thy board, then after many a year such a light shone upon me as long ago beneath the hills of Trojan Alba, when I sang, now of the Dacian fray and now of the battles on the Rhine, and thy hands set upon my head the golden crown of Pallas.


1  Line 27.   ‘nitent; effulta syene.* Cf. Thebaid, i. 145 ‘montibus aut alte Grais effulta nitebant Atria’: and S. IIII. i. 5.

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