Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
To my Wife: An Invitation to a Journey
By Statius (c. 45–c. 96 A.D.)
From the ‘Silvæ’: Translation of Harriet Waters Preston

WHY, what then ails my sweetest wife,
  To sigh all night, and mope all day?
I know thee true to me, my life!
  No wanton shaft hath found its way
To that pure heart, and shall not so;        5
  I scorn thee. Nemesis, while I say’t!
To war, to sea, had I to go,
  For twenty years my love would wait,
And send a thousand suitors hence.
  She ne’er would stoop her web to ravel,        10
But shut her doors without pretense,
  And calmly bid the rascals travel!
Why then this grieved and lofty look,
  Because the impulse cometh to me
To seek our childhood’s pious nook        15
  And lay my bones in ancient Cumæ?
Take heart! Thou ne’er wert one of those
  Possessed by Circe, or a madness
For those accursed theatric shows;
  But honor, peace, and sober gladness        20
Content thee well. And do but think
  How light the voyage we take! Though truly
Thine is a soul which would not shrink
  From the dark shores of western Thule,
The horrors of the icy North,        25
  Or seven-mouthed Nile’s mysterious sources,
If once the fiat had gone forth
  That doomed me to such distant courses.
Venus be praised, my early love
  Is mine as well, in life’s decline!        30
The chains I wear, nor would remove,
  But gladly sport, are thine, dear—thine!
Thine, when I won the Alban crown,
  And Cæsar’s blessèd gold was earning,
The wreathèd arms about me thrown,        35
  The panting kiss, my own returning;
And thine, on Capitolian mount,—
  Worsted with me, in contest fateful,—
Wrath on my slighted lyre’s account
  And keen reproach to Jove ungrateful;        40
The nights that wakeful thou hast lain
  No stammering note of mine to miss;
And all the years of cheerful pain
  Thou livedst with me, my Thebaïs!
Who else, when late the darksome grave        45
  Had all but claimed me, and the roar
Was in my ears of Lethe’s wave,
  My foot upon the utmost shore,
Had stood, like thee, with eyes so sad
  The imminent doom confronting? Lo,        50
Thy grief it was the end forbade:
  The great gods dared not face thy woe.
And wilt thou then, who once with me
  Such way hast trod, decline to share
A brief sail on a smiling sea?        55
  Why! where’s thy far-famed courage? Where
Thy likeness to the dames of Greece
  And Latium in heroic ages?
Love’s reckless. Had it chanced to please
  The most astute of married sages        60
To set up housekeeping in Troy,
  Penelope had gone there gayly!
Sure as desertion slew the joy
  Of Melibœa, Ægiale….
Come then to fair Parthenope!        65
  For when that nymph,—Apollo guiding,—
With Venus’s team traversed the sea,
  She found a place of sweet abiding.
And I, who after all, am not
  Either a Lydian or a Thracian,        70
Will choose for thee some happy spot,
  Some soft sea-lapped and sheltered station,
In summer cool, in winter mild;
  Where days go by in easeful quiet,
And nights in slumber sweet beguiled.        75
  No echo of the Forum’s riot
Shall enter there, nor dismal strife
  Of wrangling courts; but he’s the victor
Who lives, unforced, the noblest life,
  And keeps the peace without a lictor!        80
Who cares, I say, for all the splendor
  That glads the eye in golden Rome?
Vistas of columns without end, or
  Park, temple, portico and dome?
Seats in the theatre’s shady half,        85
  Or five-year Capitolian contest?
Menander’s blend of Grecian chaff
  With Roman feeling, fair and honest?
Nor need we lack diversions here:
  There’s Baiæ, by her summer ocean;        90
The Sibyl’s mystic mount is near,
  Predestined goal of pious Trojan;
The slopes of Gaurus gush with wine,
  While yonder, rival of the moon,
A Pharos flings across the brine,        95
  For sailor’s cheer, its radiant boon;
Long on Sorrento’s lovely hills
  Hath Pollius grown a vintage brave;
Dear are Ænaria’s healing rills,
  And Stabiæ risen from its grave.        100
But why our common country’s charms
  Retell? Enough, dear wife, to say
She bore me for thy tender arms,
  To be thy comrade many a day.
And shall the mother of us both        105
  Be slighted thus? A truce to teasing!
Thou comest, love, and nothing loth;
  I see thee so thy speed increasing,
Mayhap thou’lt e’en arrive before me!
  Nay, without me, I almost deem        110
The stately Roman homes would bore thee,
  And even Tiber’s lordly stream!

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