Thou wilt go, my friend Maecenas, with Liburian galleys among the towering forts of ships, ready at thine own [hazard] to undergo any of Caesar’s dangers. What shall I do? To whom life may be agreeable, if you survive; but, if otherwise, burdensome. Whether shall I, at your command, pursue my ease, which can not be pleasing unless in your company? Or shall I endure this toil with such a courage, as becomes effeminate men to bear? I will bear it? and with an intrepid soul follow you, either through the summits of the Alps, and the inhospitable Caucus, or to the furthest western bay. You may ask how I, unwarlike and infirm, can assist your labors by mine? While I am your companion, I shall be in less anxiety, which takes possession of the absent in a greater measure. As the bird, that has unfledged young, is in a greater dread of serpents’ approaches, when they are left; — not that, if she should be present when they came, she could render more help. Not only this, but every other war, shall be cheerfully embraced by me for the hope of your favor; [and this,] not that my plows should labor, yoked to a greater number of mine own oxen; or that my cattle before the scorching dog-star should change the Calabrian for the Lucanian pastures: neither that my white country-box should equal the Circaean walls of lofty Tusculum. Your generosity has enriched me enough, and more than enough: I shall never wish to amass, what either, like the miser Chremes, I may bury in the earth, or luxuriously squander, like a prodigal.
Happy the man, who, remote from business, after the manner of the ancient race of mortals, cultivates his paternal lands with his own oxen, disengaged from every kind of usury; he is neither alarmed by the horrible trump, as a soldier, nor dreads he the angry sea; he shuns both the bar and the proud portals of citizens in power. Wherefore he either weds the lofty poplars to the mature branches of the vine; and, lopping off the useless boughs with his pruning-knife, he ingrafts more fruitful ones: or he takes a prospect of the herds of his lowing cattle, wandering about in a lonely vale; or stores his honey, pressed [from the combs], in clean vessels; or shears his tender sheep. Or, when autumn has lifted up in the fields his head adorned with mellow fruits, how does he rejoice, while he gathers the grafted pears, and the grape that vies with the purple, with which he may recompense thee, O Priapus, and thee, father Sylvanus, guardian of his boundaries! Sometimes he delights to lie under an aged holm, sometimes on the matted grass: meanwhile the waters glide along in their deep channels; the birds warble in the woods; and the fountains murmur with their purling streams, which invites gentle slumbers. But when the wintery season of the tempestuous air prepares rains and snows, he either drives the fierce boars, with many a dog, into the intercepting toils; or spreads his thin nets with the smooth pole, as a snare for the voracious thrushes; or catches in his gin the timorous hare, or that stranger the crane, pleasing rewards [for his labor]. Among such joys as these, who does not forget those mischievous anxieties, which are the property of love. But if a chaste wife, assisting on her part [in the management] of the house, and beloved children (such as is the Sabine, or the sun-burned spouse of the industrious Apulian), piles up the sacred hearth with old wood, just at the approach of her weary husband; and, shutting up the fruitful cattle in the woven hurdles, milks dry their distended udders: and, drawing this year’s wine out of a well-seasoned cask, prepares the unbought collation: not the Lucrine oysters could delight me more, nor the turbot, nor the scar, should the tempestuous winter drive any from the eastern floods to this sea: not the turkey, nor the Asiatic wild-fowl, can come into my stomach more agreeably, than the olive gathered from the richest branches from the trees, or the sorrel that loves the meadows, or mallows salubrious for a sickly body, or a lamb slain at the feast of Terminus, or a kid rescued from the wolf. Amid these dainties, how it pleases one to see the well-fed sheep hastening home! to see the weary oxen, with drooping neck, dragging the inverted ploughshare! and slaves, the test of a rich family, ranged about the smiling household gods! When Alfius, the usurer, now on the point of turning countryman, had said this, he collected in all his money on the Ides; and endeavors to put it out again at the Calends.
If any person at any time with an impious hand has broken his aged father’s neck, let him eat garlic, more baneful than hemlock. Oh! the hardy bowels of the mowers! What poison is this that rages in my entrails? Has viper’s blood, infused in these herbs, deceived me? Or has Canidia dressed this baleful food? When Medea, beyond all the [other] argonauts, admired their handsome leader, she anointed Jason with this, as he was going to tie the untried yoke on the bulls: and having revenged herself on [Jason’s] mistress, by making her presents besmeared with this, she flew away on her winged dragon. Never did the steaming influence of any constellation so raging as this rest upon the thirsty Appulia: neither did the gift [of Dejanira] burn hotter upon the shoulders of laborious Hercules. But if ever, facetious Maecenas, you should have a desire for any such stuff again, I wish that your girl may oppose her hand to your kiss, and lie at the furthest part of the bed.
As great an enmity as is allotted by nature to wolves and lambs, [so great a one] have I to you, you that are galled at your back with Spanish cords, and on your legs with the hard fetter. Though, purse-proud with your riches, you strut along, yet fortune does not alter your birth. Do you not observe while you are stalking along the sacred way with a robe twice three ells long, how the most open indignation of those that pass and repass turns their looks on thee? This fellow, [say they,] cut with the triumvir’s whips, even till the beadle was sick of his office, plows a thousand acres of Falernian land, and wears out the Appian road with his nags; and, in despite of Otho, sits in the first rows [of the circus] as a knight of distinction. To what purpose is it, that so many brazen-beaked ships of immense bulk should be led out against pirates and a band of slaves, while this fellow, this is a military tribune?
But oh, by all the gods in heaven, who rule the earth and human race, what means this tumult? And what the hideous looks of all these [hags, fixed] upon me alone? I conjure thee by thy children (if invoked Lucina was ever present at any real birth of thine), I [conjure] thee by this empty honor of my purple, by Jupiter, who must disapprove these proceedings, why dost thou look at me as a step-mother, or as a wild beast stricken with a dart? While the boy made these complaints with a faltering voice, he stood with his bandages of distinction taken from him, a tender frame, such as might soften the impious breasts of the cruel Thracians; Canidia, having interwoven her hair and uncombed head with little vipers, orders wild fig-trees torn up from graves, orders funeral cypresses and eggs besmeared with the gore of a loathsome toad, and feathers of the nocturnal screech-owl, and those herbs, which lolchos, and Spain, fruitful in poisons, transmits, and bones snatched from the mouth of a hungry bitch, to be burned in Colchian flames. But Sagana, tucked up for expedition, sprinkling the waters of Avernus all over the house, bristles up with her rough hair like a sea-urchin, or a boar in the chase. Veia, deterred by no remorse of conscience, groaning with the toil, dug up the ground with the sharp spade; where the boy, fixed in, might long be tormented to death at the sight of food varied two or three times in a day: while he stood out with his face, just as much at bodies suspended by the chin [in swimming] project from the water, that his parched marrow and dried liver might be a charm for love; when once the pupils of his eyes had wasted away, fixed on the forbidden food. Both the idle Naples, and every neighboring town believed, that Folia of Ariminum, [a witch] of masculine lust, was not absent: she, who with her Thessalian incantations forces the charmed stars and the moon from heaven. Here the fell Canidia, gnawing her unpaired thumb with her livid teeth, what said she? or what did she not say? O ye faithful witnesses to my proceedings, Night and Diana, who presidest over silence, when the secret rites are celebrated: now, now be present, now turn your anger and power against the houses of our enemies, while the savage wild beasts lie hid in the woods, dissolved in sweet repose; let the dogs of Suburra (which may be matter of ridicule for every body) bark at the aged profligate, bedaubed with ointment, such as my hands never made any more exquisite. What is the matter? Why are these compositions less efficacious than those of the barbarian Medea? by means of which she made her escape, after having revenged herself on [Jason’s] haughty mistress, the daughter of the mighty Creon; when the garment, a gift that was injected with venom, took off his new bride by its inflammatory power. And yet no herb, nor root hidden in inaccessible places, ever escaped my notice. [Nevertheless,] he sleeps in the perfumed bed of every harlot, from his forgetfulness [of me]. Ah! ah! he walks free [from my power] by the charms of some more knowing witch. Varus, (oh you that will shortly have much to lament!) you shall come back to me by means of unusual spells; nor shall you return to yourself by all the power of Marsian enchantments, I will prepare a stronger philter: I will pour in a stronger philter for you, disdainful as you are; and the heaven shall subside below the sea, with the earth extended over it, sooner than you shall not burn with love for me, in the same manner as this pitch [burns] in the sooty flames. At these words, the boy no longer [attempted], as before, to move the impious hags by soothing expressions; but, doubtful in what manner he should break silence, uttered Thyestean imprecations. Potions [said he] have a great efficacy in confounding right and wrong, but are not able to invert the condition of human nature; I will persecute you with curses; and execrating detestation is not to be expiated by any victim. Moreover, when doomed to death I shall have expired, I will attend you as a nocturnal fury; and, a ghost, I will attack your faces with my hooked talons (for such is the power of those divinities, the Manes), and, brooding upon your restless breasts, I will deprive you of repose by terror. The mob, from village to village, assaulting you on every side with stones, shall demolish you filthy hags. Finally, the wolves and Esquiline vultures shall scatter abroad your unburied limbs. Nor shall this spectacle escape the observation of my parents, who, alas! must survive me.
O cur, thou coward against wolves, why dost thou persecute innocent strangers? Why do you not, if you can, turn your empty yelpings hither, and attack me, who will bite again? For, like a Molossian, or tawny Laconian dog, that is a friendly assistant to shepherds, I will drive with erected ears through the deep snows every brute that shall go before me. You, when you have filled the grove with your fearful barking, you smell at the food that is thrown to you. Have a care, have a care; for, very bitter against bad men, I exert my ready horns uplift; like him that was rejected as a son-inlaw by the perfidious Lycambes, or the sharp enemy of Bupalus. What, if any cur attack me with malignant tooth, shall I, without revenge, blubber like a boy?
Whither, whither, impious men are you rushing? Or why are the swords drawn, that were [so lately] sheathed? Is there too little of Roman blood spilled upon land and sea? [And this,] not that the Romans might burn the proud towers of envious Carthage, or that the Britons, hitherto unassailed, might go down the sacred way bound in chains: but that, agreeably to the wishes of the Parthians, this city may fall by its own might. This custom [of warfare] never obtained even among either wolves or savage lions, unless against a different species. Does blind phrenzy, or your superior valor, or some crime, hurry you on at this rate? Give answer. They are silent: and wan paleness infects their countenances, and their stricken souls are stupefied. This is the case: a cruel fatality and the crime of fratricide have disquieted the Romans, from that time when the blood of the innocent Remus, to be expiated by his descendants, was spilled upon the earth.
Can you, grown rank with lengthened age, ask what unnerves my vigor? When your teeth are black, and old age withers your brow with wrinkles: and your back sinks between your staring hip-bones, like that of an unhealthy cow. But, forsooth! your breast and your fallen chest, full well resembling a broken-backed horse, provoke me; and a body flabby, and feeble knees supported by swollen legs. May you be happy: and may triumphal statues adorn your funeral procession; and may no matron appear in public abounding with richer pearls. What follows, because the Stoic treatises sometimes love to be on silken pillows? Are unlearned constitutions the less robust? Or are their limbs less stout? But for you to raise an appetite, in a stomach that is nice, it is necessary that you exert every art of language.
When, O happy Maecenas, shall I, overjoyed at Caesar’s being victorious, drink with you under the stately dome (for so it pleases Jove) the Caecuban reserved for festal entertainments, while the lyre plays a tune, accompanied with flutes, that in the Doric, these in the Phrygian measure? As lately, when the Neptunian admiral, driven from the sea, and his navy burned, fled, after having menaced those chains to Rome, which, like a friend, he had taken off from perfidious slaves. The Roman soldiers (alas! ye, our posterity, will deny the fact), enslaved to a woman, carry palisadoes and arms, and can be subservient to haggard eunuchs; and among the military standards, oh shame! the sun beholds an [Egyptian] canopy. Indignant at this the Gauls turned two thousand of their cavalry, proclaiming Caesar; and the ships of the hostile navy, going off to the left, lie by in port. Hail, god of triumph! Dost thou delay the golden chariots and untouched heifers? Hail, god of triumph! You neither brought back a general equal [to Caesar] from the Jugurthine war; nor from the African [war, him], whose valor raised him a monument over Carthage. Our enemy, overthrown both by land and sea, has changed his purple vestments for mourning. He either seeks Crete, famous for her hundred cities, ready to sail with unfavorable winds; or the Syrtes, harassed by the south; or else is driven by the uncertain sea. Bring hither, boy, larger bowls, and the Chian or Lesbian wine; or, what may correct this rising qualm of mine, fill me out the Caecuban. It is my pleasure to dissipate care and anxiety for Caesar’s danger with delicious wine.
The vessel that carries the loathsome Maevius, makes her departure under an unlucky omen. Be mindful, O south wind, that you buffet it about with horrible billows. May the gloomy east, turning up the sea, disperse its cables and broken oars. Let the north arise as mighty as when be rives the quivering oaks on the lofty mountains; nor let a friendly star appear through the murky night, in which the baleful Orion sets: nor let him be conveyed in a calmer sea, than was the Grecian band of conquerors, when Pallas turned her rage from burned Troy to the ship of impious Ajax. Oh what a sweat is coming upon your sailors, and what a sallow paleness upon you, and that effeminate wailing, and those prayers to unregarding Jupiter; when the Ionian bay, roaring with the tempestuous south-west, shall break your keel. But if, extended along the winding shore, you shall delight the cormorants as a dainty prey, a lascivious he-goat and an ewe-lamb shall be sacrificed to the Tempests.
It by no means, O Pectius, delights me as heretofore to write Lyric verses, being smitten with cruel love: with love, who takes pleasure to inflame me beyond others, either youths or maidens. This is the third December that has shaken the [leafy] honors from the woods, since I ceased to be mad for Inachia. Ah me! (for I am ashamed of so great a misfortune) what a subject of talk was I throughout the city! I repent too of the entertainments, at which both a languishing and silence and sighs, heaved from the bottom of my breast, discovered the lover. As soon as the indelicate god [Bacchus] by the glowing wine had removed, as I grew warm, the secrets of [my heart] from their repository, I made my complaints, lamenting to you, “Has the fairest genius of a poor man no weight against wealthy lucre? Wherefore, if a generous indignation boil in my breast, insomuch as to disperse to the winds these disagreeable applications, that give no ease to the desperate wound; the shame [of being overcome] ending, shall cease to contest with rivals of such a sort.” When I, with great gravity, had applauded these resolutions in your presence, being ordered to go home, I was carried with a wandering foot to posts, alas! to me not friendly, and alas! obdurate gates, against which I bruised my loins and side. Now my affections for the delicate Lyciscus engross all my time; from them neither the unreserved admonitions, nor the serious reprehensions of other friends can recall me [to my former taste for poetry]; but, perhaps, either a new flame for some fair damsel, or for some graceful youth who binds his long hair in a knot, [may do so].
What would you be at, you woman fitter for the swarthy monsters? Why do you send tokens, why billet-doux to me, and not to some vigorous youth, and of a taste not nice? For I am one who discerns a polypus, or fetid ramminess, however concealed, more quickly than the keenest dog the covert of the boar. What sweatiness, and how rank an odor every where rises from her withered limbs! when she strives to lay her furious rage with impossibilities; now she has no longer the advantage of moist cosmetics, and her color appears as if stained with crocodile’s ordure; and now, in wild impetuosity, she tears her bed, bedding, and all she has. She attacks even my loathings in the most angry terms:—“You are always less dull with Inachia than me: in her company you are threefold complaisance; but you are ever unprepared to oblige me in a single instance. Lesbia, who first recommended you — so unfit a help in time of need — may she come to an ill end! when Coan Amyntas paid me his addresses; who is ever as constant in his fair one’s service, as the young tree to the hill it grows on. For whom were labored the fleeces of the richest Tyrian dye? For you? Even so that there was not one in company, among gentlemen of your own rank, whom his own wife admired preferably to you: oh, unhappy me, whom you fly, as the lamb dreads the fierce wolves, or the she-goats the lions!”
A horrible tempest has condensed the sky, and showers and snows bring down the atmosphere: now the sea, now the woods bellow with the Thracian North wind. Let us, my friends, take occasion from the day; and while our knees are vigorous, and it becomes us, let old age with his contracted forehead become smooth. Do you produce the wine, that was pressed in the consulship of my Torquatus. Forbear to talk of any other matters. The deity, perhaps, will reduce these [present evils], to your former [happy] state by a propitious change. Now it is fitting both to be bedewed with Persian perfume, and to relieve our breasts of dire vexations by the lyre, sacred to Mercury. Like as the noble Centaur, [Chiron,] sung to his mighty pupil: “Invincible mortal, son of the goddess Thetis, the land of Assaracus awaits you, which the cold currents of little Scamander and swift-gliding Simois divide: whence the fatal sisters have broken off your return, by a thread that cannot be altered: nor shall your azure mother convey you back to your home. There [then] by wine and music, sweet consolations, drive away every symptom of hideous melancholy.”
You kill me, my courteous Maecenas, by frequently inquiring, why a soothing indolence has diffused as great a degree of forgetfulness on my inmost senses, as if I had imbibed with a thirsty throat the cups that bring on Lethean slumbers. For the god, the god prohibits me from bringing to a conclusion the verses I promised [you, namely those] iambics which I had begun. In the same manner they report that Anacreon of Teios burned for the Samian Bathyllus; who often lamented his love to an inaccurate measure on a hollow lyre. You are violently in love yourself; but if a fairer flame did not burn besieged Troy, rejoice in your lot. Phryne, a freed-woman, and not content with a single admirer, consumes me.
It was night, and the moon shone in a serene sky among the lesser stars; when you, about to violate the divinity of the great gods, swore [to be true] to my requests, embracing me with your pliant arms more closely than the lofty oak is clasped by the ivy; that while the wolf should remain an enemy to the flock, and Orion, unpropitious to the sailors, should trouble the wintery sea, and while the air should fan the unshorn locks of Apollo, [so long you vowed] that this love should be mutual. O Neaera, who shall one day greatly grieve on account of my merit: for, if there is any thing of manhood in Horace, he will not endure that you should dedicate your nights continually to another, whom you prefer; and exasperated, he will look out for one who will return his love; and though an unfeigned sorrow should take possession of you, yet my firmness shall not give way to that beauty which has once given me disgust. But as for you, whoever you be who are more successful [than me], and now strut proud of my misfortune; though you be rich in flocks and abundance of land, and Pactolus flow for you, nor the mysteries of Pythagoras, born again, escape you, and you excel Nireus in beauty; alas! you shall [hereafter] bewail her love transferred elsewhere; but I shall laugh in my turn.
Now is another age worn away by civil wars, and Rome herself falls by her own strength. Whom neither the bordering Marsi could destroy, nor the Etrurian band of the menacing Porsena, nor the rival valor of Capua, nor the bold Spartacus, and the Gauls perfideous with their innovations; nor did the fierce Germany subdue with its blue-eyed youth, nor Annibal, detested by parents; but we, an impious race, whose blood is devoted to perdition, shall destroy her: and this land shall again be possessed by wild beasts. The victorious barbarian, alas! shall trample upon the ashes of the city, and the horsemen shall smite it with the sounding hoofs; and (horrible to see!) he shall insultingly disperse the bones of Romulus, which [as yet] are free from the injuries of wind and sun. Perhaps you all in general, or the better part of you, are inquisitive to know, what may be expedient, in order to escape [such] dreadful evils. There can be no determination better than this; namely, to go wherever our feet will carry us, wherever the south or boisterous south-west shall summon us through the waves; in the same manner as the state of the Phocaeans fled, after having uttered execrations [against such as should return], and left their fields and proper dwellings and temples to be inhabited by boars and ravenous wolves. Is this agreeable? has any one a better scheme to advise? Why do we delay to go on ship-board under an auspicious omen? But first let us swear to these conditions — the stones shall swim upward, lifted from the bottom of the sea, as soon as it shall not be impious to return; nor let it grieve us to direct our sails homeward, when the Po shall wash the tops of the Matinian summits; or the lofty Apennine shall remove into the sea, or a miraculous appetite shall unite monsters by a strange kind of lust; Insomuch that tigers may delight to couple with hinds, and the dove be polluted with the kite; nor the simple herds may dread the brindled lions, and the he-goat, grown smooth, may love the briny main. After having sworn to these things, and whatever else may cut off the pleasing: hope of returning, let us go, the whole city of us, or at least that part which is superior to the illiterate mob: let the idle and despairing part remain upon these inauspicious habitations. Ye, that have bravery, away with effeminate grief, and fly beyond the Tuscan shore. The ocean encircling the land awaits us; let us seek the happy plains and prospering Islands, where the untilled land yearly produces corn, and the unpruned vineyard punctually flourishes; and where the branch of the never-failing olive blossoms forth, and the purple fig adorns its native tree: honey distills from the hollow oaks; the light water bounds down from the high mountains with a murmuring pace. There the she-goats come to the milk-pails of their own accord, and the friendly flock return with their udders distended; nor does the bear at evening growl about the sheepfold, nor does the rising ground swell with vipers; and many more things shall we, happy [Romans], view with admiration: how neither the rainy east lays waste the corn-fields with profuse showers, nor is the fertile seed burned by a dry glebe; the king of gods moderating both [extremes]. The pine rowed by the Argonauts never attempted to come hither; nor did the lascivious [Medea] of Colchis set her foot [in this place]: hither the Sidonian mariners never turned their sail-yards, nor the toiling crew of Ulysses. No contagious distempers hurt the flocks; nor does the fiery violence of any constellation scorch the herd. Jupiter set apart these shores for a pious people, when he debased the golden age with brass: with brass, then with iron he hardened the ages; from which there shall be a happy escape for the good, according to my predictions.
Now, now I yield to powerful science; and suppliant beseech thee by the dominions of Proserpine, and by the inflexible divinity of Diana, and by the books of incantations able to call down the stars displaced from the firmament; O Canidia, at length desist from thine imprecations, and quickly turn, turn back thy magical machine. Telephus moved [with compassion] the grandson of Nereus, against whom he arrogantly had put his troops of Mysians in battle-array, and against whom he had darted his sharp javelins. The Trojan matrons embalmed the body of the man-slaying Hector, which had been condemned to birds of prey, and dogs, after king [Priam], having left the walls of the city, prostrated himself, alas! at the feet of the obstinate Achilles. The mariners of the indefatigable Ulysses, put off their limbs, bristled with the hard skins [of swine], at the will of Circe: then their reason and voice were restored, and their former comeliness to their countenances. I have suffered punishment enough, and more than enough, on thy account, O thou so dearly beloved by the sailors and factors. My vigor is gone away, and my ruddy complexion has left me; my bones are covered with a ghastly skin; my hair with your preparations is grown hoary. No ease respites me from my sufferings: night presses upon day, and day upon night: nor is it in my power to relieve my lungs, which are strained with gasping. Wherefore, wretch that I am, I am compelled to credit (what was denied, by me) that the charms of the Samnites discompose the breast, and the head splits in sunder at the Marsian incantations. What wouldst thou have more? O sea! O earth! I burn in such a degree as neither Hercules did, besmeared with the black gore of Nessus, nor the fervid flame burning In the Sicilian Aetna. Yet you, a laboratory of Colchian poisons, remain on fire, till I [reduced to] a dry ember, shall be wafted away by the injurious winds. What event, or what penalty awaits me? Speak out: I will with honor pay the demanded mulct; ready to make an expiation, whether you should require a hundred steers, or chose to be celebrated on a lying lyre. You, a woman of modesty, you, a woman of probity, shall traverse the stars, as a golden constellation. Castor and the brother of the great Castor, offended at the infamy brought on [their sister] Helen, yet overcome by entreaty, restored to the poet his eyes that were taken away from him. And do you (for it is in your power) extricate me from this frenzy; O you, that are neither defiled by family meanness, nor skillful to disperse the ashes of poor people, after they have been nine days interred. You have an hospitable breast, and unpolluted hands; and Pactumeius is your son, and thee the midwife has tended; and, whenever you bring forth, you spring up with unabated vigor.
Why do you pour forth your entreaties to ears that are closely shut [against them]? The wintery ocean, with its briny tempests, does not lash rocks more deaf to the cries of the naked mariners. What, shall you, without being made an example of, deride the Cotyttian mysteries, sacred to unrestrained love, which were divulged [by you]? And shall you, [assuming the office] of Pontiff [with regard to my] Esquilian incantations, fill the city with my name unpunished? What did it avail me to have enriched the Palignian sorceress [with my charms], and to have prepared poison of greater expedition, if a slower fate awaits you than is agreeable to my wishes? An irksome life shall be protracted by you, wretch as you are, for this purpose, that you may perpetually be able to endure new tortures. Tantalus, the perfidious sire of Pelops, ever craving after the plenteous banquet [which is always before him], wishes for respite; Prometheus, chained to the vulture, wishes [for rest]; Sisyphus wishes to place the stone on the summit of the mountain: but the laws of Jupiter forbid. Thus you shall desire at one time to leap down from a high tower, at another to lay open your breast with the Noric sword; and, grieving with your tedious indisposition, shall tie nooses about your neck in vain. I at that time will ride on your odious shoulders; and the whole earth shall acknowledge my unexampled power. What shall I who can give motion to waxen images (as you yourself, inquisitive as you are, were convinced of) and snatch the moon from heaven by my incantations; I, who can raise the dead after they are burned, and duly prepare the potion of love, shall I bewail the event of my art having no efficacy upon you?
Phoebus, and thou Diana, sovereign of the woods, ye illustrious ornaments of the heavens, oh ever worthy of adoration, and ever adored, bestow what we pray for at this sacred season: at which the Sibylline verses have given directions, that select virgins and chaste youths should sing a hymn to the deities, to whom the seven hills [of Rome] are acceptable. O genial sun, who in your splendid car draw forth and obscure the day, and who arise another and the same, may it never be in your power to behold anything more glorious than the city of Rome! O Ilithyia, of lenient power to produce the timely birth, protect the matrons [in labor]; whether you choose the title of Lucina, or Genitalis. O goddess multiply our offspring; and prosper the decrees of the senate in relation to the joining of women in wedlock, and the matrimonial law about to teem with a new race; that the stated revolution of a hundred and ten years may bring back the hymns and the games, three times by bright daylight restored to in crowds, and as often in the welcome night. And you, ye fatal sisters, infallible in having predicted what is established, and what the settled order of things preserves, add propitious fates to those already past. Let the earth, fertile in fruits and flocks, present Ceres with a sheafy crown; may both salubrious rains and Jove’s air cherish the young blood! Apollo, mild and gentle with your sheathed arrows, hear the suppliant youths: O moon, thou horned queen of stars, hear the virgins. If Rome be your work, and the Trojan troops arrived on the Tuscan shore (the part, commanded [by your oracles] to change their homes and city) by a successful navigation: for whom pious Aeneas, surviving his country, secured a free passage through Troy, burning not by his treachery, about to give them more ample possessions than those that were left behind. O ye deities, grant to the tractable youth probity of manners; to old age, ye deities, grant a pleasing retirement; to the Roman people, wealth, and progeny, and every kind of glory. And may the illustrious issue of Anchises and Venus, who worships you with [offerings of] white bulls, reign superior to the warring enemy, merciful to the prostrate. Now the Parthian, by sea and land, dreads our powerful forces and the Roman axes: now the Scythians beg [to know] our commands, and the Indians but lately so arrogant. Now truth, and peace, and honor, and ancient modesty, and neglected virtue dare to return, and happy plenty appears, with her horn full to the brim. Phoebus, the god of augury, and conspicuous for his shining bow, and dear to the nine muses, who by his salutary art soothes the wearied limbs of the body; if he, propitious, surveys the Palatine altars — may he prolong the Roman affairs, and the happy state of Italy to another lustrum, and to an improving age. And may Diana, who possesses Mount Aventine and Algidus, regard the prayers of the Quindecemvirs, and lend a gracious ear to the supplications of the youths. We, the choir taught to sing the praises of Phoebus and Diana, bear home with us a good and certain hope, that Jupiter, and all the other gods, are sensible of these our supplications.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:51