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From The Silvae of Statius translated with Introduction and Notes, by D. A. Slater; Oxford: The Clarendon Press; 1908; pp. 165-167.



VIII    Pande foris superum

Statius congratulates Menecrates on the birth of a third child.

FLING wide the gates of the gods, Parthenope, festoon the temples, and fill them with fumes of frankincense and smoke from the throbbing entrails of the sacrifice; for, behold, a third scion swells the progeny of famed Menecrates. The goodly host of thy magnates is increasing to solace thee for the havoc wrought by the fury of Vesuvius. And let not Naples alone besiege the festal altars in gratitude for this relief: the kindred haven also, and the land beloved of gentle Dicarcheus must twine chaplets for their shrines, aye, and the Surrentine shore dear to the god of the flowing bowl, the shore of the child’s mother’s sire, around whom his little grandsons throng: see, they are vying who shall copy his features in their own. Joy, too, to that mother’s brother in the glory of his Libyan lance, and to Polla who counts these babes her own and gathers them to her gracious bosom! Blessings on thee, Menecrates, who givest so many bright hopes to thy country for her service to thee. Thrilled with the sweet turmoil is thy home in which the cry of joy has 166 sounded so many heirs. Away with sullen Envy! let her begone far hence and turn elsewhere her jealous thoughts! Unto these little ones a white Fate has promised old age and a glory of longlived worth; and Apollo, their father’s friend, his bays.

So the omen is fulfilled! Thou hadst by gift from the most honoured ruler of Ausonian Rome those glad privileges he grants to the fathers of three children; and now, behold, Lucina hath come thrice, and to thy loyal house returned anew. Even so, I pray, may thy house endure, — a fruitful tree and never changing since the consecration of the gift. Joy to thee, that more than once thy stock has been blessed with a man-child: but to a young father a daughter too must bring bliss, — fitter unto sons are valorous deeds, but sooner of the daughter will grandsons be born to thee, — and such a daughter as that Helen who planted baby steps between her Spartan brothers; — so fair a child and worthy even then of the lists in her mother’s land; fair as the bright sky, when on a clear night two stars approach their beams and the moon shines between them.

And yet, rare friend, bitterly must I cry out upon thee; wroth too am I, as wroth as a man may be with those he loves. Was it right that only from common rumour the news of thy great joy should reach me? And when for the third time a newborn babe was wailing in thy home, came there not in haste forthwith a herald scroll to bid me heap festival-fires upon the altars, and wreathe the lyre and deck the lintel; 167 to bid draw forth a jar of old smoke-begrimed Alban and mark the day with song? But if, a laggard and a delayer, I chant my vows only now, thine is the guilt and thine the shame. But further press my plaint I cannot. For see, how joyously thy children cluster round about thee and shelter their sire. With such an array whom wouldst thou not vanquish? Gods of our land, whom under high omens the fleet of Abas bore over the sea to the Ausonian shore, and thou, Apollo, leader of that far-exiled folk, upon whose dove, still perched on her left shoulder, Eumelis gazes with loving worship: and thou, Ceres, our Lady of Eleusis, to whom we, thy votaries, in headlong course silently without ceasing brandish the torch: and ye, Tyndaridae, whom neither awe-inspiring Taygetus, Lycurgus’ hill, nor wooded Therapnae, have worshipped more fervently; guard ye for our country this family and home. Stricken with years and divers agonies is our city: let there still be champions to help her with voice and with store, to keep her name green and to guard her. Let them learn gentleness from their gentle father, and from their grandsire splendour and bounty: — from both the love of radiant Virtue. For surely such lineage and such store vouch that the maid, when first the marriage torch is kindled, shall come a bride to a princely home, and that these boys — if but unvanquished Caesar’s godhead be partial to true worth — shall tread, ere their boyhood is past, the threshold of the senate of Romulus.

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