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From The Silvae of Statius translated with Introduction and Notes, by D. A. Slater; Oxford: The Clarendon Press; 1908; pp. 168-169.



IX    Est sane iocus iste

Statius rallies his friend Grypus for sending him a book as a Christmas-box, and offers some suggestions for inexpensive presents.

A BOOK for a book! Why, Grypus, this is indeed a jest. But the jest will have a better flavour if now you make me some return. For a joke, friend Grypus, ceases to be a joke, if you carry it too far. Look you, we can sum the reckoning. My volume was as gay as purple and new parchment and a pair of bosses could make it: — it cost me a pretty penny besides my pains! Yours to me is all mouldy and moth-eaten; such dry pages as are sometimes moistened with Libyan olives, or else are charged with pepper or with incense from the Nile, or reek of anchovies from Byzantium! Even the contents are not your own wit: not the thunderous eloquence you hurled at the three courts in your prime; not your speeches to the Hundred, before Germanicus set you to direct and guide our corn ships, and to control the post on all our roads; no, but the drowsy musings of old Brutus, that you’ve picked up for a song, — for a clipped coin or two of his mad Majesty Caligula, — out of some poor devil of a bookseller’s pack.1 Call this a gift? Couldn’t you possibly muster 169 a cap stitched together from the snippings of tunics? or towels, or unbleached napkins? A paper-book, or dates from Thebes, or figs from Caria? Never a roll of plums or of bullaces in a revolving case? Nor dried-up lamp-wicks? Nor leeks with their jackets off? Nor even eggs? Fine flour? Coarse meal? Never a slimy snail-shell that had been far over the Cinyphian plains? Rank lard or scraggy ham? Nor sausages? Nor stinking Wurst? Nor cheese? Nor salt? Nor fish-pickle? Nor cakes of green salt-petre? Nor raisin-wine with the grapes left in it? Or must, with the sweet lees boiled and thickened? How ungenerous to refuse me noisome tapers, a knife, a starveling notebook? Could you not send me some tinned raisins? Or a few dishes turned in the potteries of Cumae? Or just one set — truce to your fears! — one set of spotless pans and pots? But no, with your nicely calculating scales, like a fair dealer, you risk no change, but give me the same weight you got. But tell me: when I’ve brought you a dyspeptic greeting at peep of day, are you to give me greeting at my house in turn? Or when you’ve feasted me on the fat of the land, are you to expect as good a dinner back? Grypus, you have raised my choler: but farewell! only do not with your usual wit send me back again to-day2 a gibe for a gibe.


1  Line 21.  The word capsa suggests a pedlar’s pack.

2  Line 55.  By ‘hendecasyllables’ Statius appears to mean not merely verses but mocking verses such as Pollio is warned to expect in Catullus (xii. 10).

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