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Online Introduction


The Silvae of Statius

Translated by D. A. Slater

Statius was known as a Latin poet of the Silver Age. The Golden Age had passed, represented by Virgil and Catallus, epecially. Whether the judgement is fair or not, depends on your opinion of reviewers generally. Be that as it may, the Silvae, short occasional poems, are interesting because they are descriptive of first century Roman life and customs. Statius also clearly shows that the feelings, dreams, delights and agonies of those ancient Romans were the same as our own.

The power of the poetry, even in the prose translation can be felt — although not regularly. The translator, D. A. Slater has a strong tendency to be florid, more so even than Statius — according to Bill Thayer (although Bill is pretty durn hard to please when it comes to non-fiction). The turbid, turgid flood of verbiage muddies the poetic stream alright. [It's only okay when I get to do it.] This prolixity was due both to the time Statius wrote and to the time when Slater was translating. When decadent Romana and cluttered Victoriana raged, poetic tastes were equally over-the-top.

Slater's introduction is very well done and his sincerity is evident. When he disagrees with others he is not ugly about it either, always a good trait in an acadamecian and far too rare. He is definitely right in that the Silvae of Statius deserved to be translated into English, and if nobody else had done it in 1900 years, he would. I'm grateful, too.

Lovers of mythology, like myself, will be astounded at the extent of the allusions to Greek and Roman mythology which are out of the realm of normal fans of that stuff. I have started putting in cool little text-box links with definitions on these obscure points, and included further links from them, in some cases, to more information besides the brief comments added. Us, fans, can never get enough of those old legends. That was fun to do, especially because those little boxes are such a great idea, better than footnotes. Thanks to Eric Bosrup for inventing and freely sharing the script, and to Bill Thayer for helping me get it to work.

There is a plan in the works for Bill to link the Latin of Statius with the English some day. When that happens, this will be a pretty useful online book. He will, hopefully, be unable to resist the urge to link to all the non-mythological matter and add his own apropos comments in little boxes, too, and share some of his wonderful pictures!

If he does decide to play along, I can be assured that he will correct all my faulty amateur translations, so he won't be embarrassed by being associated with them so nearly.

By the end of the letters, and after exploring all those arcane mythological references, I ended up liking the guys: Statius and Slater. Some of the letters were quite, quite touching. Worth learning more Latin to undo some of the Slateresque phrasing that hampers the emotional impact. Some day, some day. . .

In case you might wonder, my favorites are THIS ONE, the most consoling and THE LAST ONE, the most powerfully moving.

In the online version, the End Notes and the four changes from the Additions and Corrections page at the end of the Book have been incorporated into the particular letter that they apply to. One of the advantages of online texts is avoiding the flipping from the end of the book back to the main text to read additional notes. It also enables incorporating the changes that the author wished immediately but didn't catch until after the book was printed. When that happened, the publishers had to attach a page at the beginning or end of the book, usually called Addenda et Corrigenda [Additions and Corrections].

Enough jabber. Get started HERE, or go straight to the first letter HERE.


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