back

Elegies for Maecenas and Drusus


These poems owe their survival to the fact that they were falsely ascribed to well-known poets of the Augustan period. The Elegies on Maecenas are preserved in the manuscripts of Vergil, and the Consolation to Livia in the manuscripts of Ovid. But it is not known who their real author was; and, although the beginning of the first elegy appears to refer to the Consolation to Livia, modern critics are uncertain whether they were all written by the same person. The poems were probably written early in the 1st century A.D.: Drusus died in 9 B.C., and Maecenas died in 8 B.C.

The translation of the Elegies on Maecenas is by J.W. and A.M. Duff (1934); and the Latin text can be found online in the Biblitheca Augustana.   The translation of the Consolation to Livia is by J.H.Mozley (1929); and the Latin text is also in the Biblitheca Augustana.



Elegy on Maecenas, 1

[1.1] My saddened muse of late had mourned a young man's death {Drusus?}: now to one ripe in years also let songs be duly offered. As youth is mourned, so must we mourn for one so white-souled, so worthy to live beyond the span of an age-laden grandsire. The barque that knows no fastening, the never-wearied keel, goes and returns for ever with its load across the vast pools : it carries off the young in the first bloom of their youth, yet unforgetful claims the old as well. At one time, my Maecenas, I lacked converse with you as a friend: my present task, then, was won for me by Lollius. For between you two was a bond, because of your war-service for Caesar and your equal loyalty to Caesar's service. You were of royal race, O Tuscan-born, you were the right hand of bounteous Caesar, you were the guardian of the Roman city. All-powerful though you were in such favour with so exalted a friend, yet no man ever felt you had the power to hurt.

[1.17] Apollo with learned Minerva had conferred their art on you : you were the ornament and glory of both - even as the beryl surpasses the common sands which the wave tosses about along with it on the shore's edge. That you were luxurious in mind as in dress is the one slander urged against you : it is dispelled by your exceeding plainness of life. So did they live among whom dwelt the golden Maid {Astraea} who soon fled into exile from the bustle of mankind. Back-biter, say what harm his loosened tunic did you, or dress through which the air could play? Was he a whit less guardian of the city, and less a hostage for our absent emperor? Did he make the streets of Rome unsafe for you? Beneath the murk of night who could rob you in an amour, or who in excess of heartlessness drive steel into your side? Greater it was to have had the power, yet not to wish for triumphs : a greater thing it was to refrain from mighty deeds. He chose rather the shady oak, the falling waters, the few sure acres of fruit-bearing soil. Honouring the Muses and Apollo in luxurious gardens, he reclined babbling verse among the tuneful birds. Aonian writings will eclipse marble monuments : genius means life, all else will belong to death. What was he to do? He had filled his part as blameless comrade, as Augustus' warrior, gallant and devoted throughout. The rocks of Pelorus abounding in fish saw him give the enemy's craft for fuel to the flames : Philippi saw his bravery amid Emathian dust : as tender of heart as he is today, so dread a foe was he then. When {Antonius'} Egyptian ships covered the waters wide, Maecenas showed bravery around and bravery in front of his leader, following in the wake of the fugitive Oriental warrior, while he flees panic-stricken to the mouth of the Nile. Peace came : its leisure brought a slackening of those ways : when Mars sits idle, everything beseems the conquerors.

[1.51] The very god of Actium {Apollo} smote the lyre with ivory quill after the bugles of victory were hushed. He was of late a warrior to prevent a woman {Cleopatra} from having Rome as a marriage-gift for her foul lewdness : he sped his arrows after the runaways - so mighty the bow he had bent - far as the furthest steeds of the rising sun. O Bacchus, after we subdued the dark-skinned Orientals, you drank sweet wine with your helmet's aid, and in your care-free hour loose flowed your tunics - that was the time, I fancy, when you wore two of brilliant colour. My memory works, and surely I remember that thus arms whiter than the gleaming snow led the Bacchic wands, and your wand was adorned with gems and gold - the trailing ivy scarce had room thereon ; silver surely were the slippers which bound your feet : this I think, Bacchus, you will not deny. Softer even than usual was much that you said then in converse with me : it was of set design that your words were new to the ear.

[1.69] O Hercules unwearied, after mighty toil performed, it was even so, they relate, that you laid aside your cares, and even so you held joyous sport with a tender damsel, forgetful of Nemea, forgetful now of Erymanthus. Could aught exceed this? - twirling spindles with the thumb, and biting the rough threads smooth with the mouth! Lydian Omphale beat you for leaving too many knots or for breaking the threads with that hard hand. The sportive Lydian often bade you wear loose-flowing robes among her spinning-maids. The knotty club was thrown down along with your lion-skin, and on it the Love-god danced with light-poised toe. That this would happen who was like to believe, in the hour when the active babe strangled monstrous serpents which his hand could hardly grasp? or when he nimbly lopped each Hydra-head as it grew again? or conquered the savage steeds of Diomedes or the body common to three confronting brothers, and the six confronting hands {of Geryon}, which he fought unaided? After the Ruler of Olympus routed the sons of Aloeus, they say he lay asleep till the bright dawn, and sent his eagle in quest of one who could render fitting service to Jove bent on love, until in Ida's vale he found you, fair priest {Ganymedes}, and carried you off in talons softly closed.

[1.93] Such is the world's way : the victor must love, the victor have the mastery in the shade, the victor must sleep on scented rose-leaves : the vanquished must plough, the vanquished must reap : fear must be his lord : never must he learn to rest his limbs on the cushioned ground. The seasons regulate different habits and ways in life : the seasons rule mankind and cattle and birds. If it is day - the bull ploughs : if it is night - the ploughman rests ; he frees the steaming neck of the ox which has done its work. The streams are frozen - then the swallow shelters amid the crags : in spring loud-twittering she skims the thawing lakes.

[1.103] The Emperor was Maecenas' friend: so he was free to live a life of ease when the Emperor was now all he longed to be. He granted indulgence to Maecenas' merits : nor is Maecenas reckless : we have won our victory: it was the judgement of Augustus that counted him deserving. After the Argo had skirted in affright the reefs of Scylla and the peril of the Clashing Rocks, when the barque had now to be moored, the daughter {Medea} of Aeetes, all-skilled in her magic juices, had changed into a lamb the body of the ram she had cut up. It was right, Maecenas, that by such means you should have power to grow young again : would that we had the herb of the Colchian sorceress!

[1.113] Trees reclothed in green have the bloom of their life restored : and to man then does not that which was his before come again ? Is it meet that the timid deer with stiff horns on their wild foreheads should have longer life ? Crows, it is said, live for many a year : why do we men exist on narrow terms ? Tithonus, as Aurora's consort, feeds on nectar, and so, though he be palsied now, no length of age can work him harm. That your life, Maecenas, might last for ever in virtue of a holy drug, I could wish you had found favour with Aurora as husband. Worthy were you to recline on her saffron bed, and, as the morning-dew was just moistening the purple couch, worthy were you to yoke the two steeds to her rosy car, worthy to give the reins for guidance by the bright-hued hand, worthy to stroke the mane of the horse as it looked back (on its nightly course), now that Aurora had turned the reins at the advance of day.

[1.129] In such a way did the bands of his youthful comrades feel the loss of Hesperos, whom Venus attached to herself and released in the midst of his fiery course : you can see him now as Lucifer gleaming in the dark beneath the still night and charioting his steeds on an opposite course. He it is that presents to you the Corycian saffron-flower, he presents the aromatic cinnamon, he too the balsams sent from palm-growing hills.

[1.135] Now you have, Maecenas, the reward of sincerity, now that you are given to the shades : we have forgotten that you died as an old man. His people mourned the King of Pylus, Nestor, hoary after three generations of life ; and yet they said he had not fully reached old age. You would have surpassed the generations of long-lived Nestor, if I had been spinner to assign you the threads of destiny. But as things are, all that I can, I pray : "O Goddess Earth, light be your touch on his bones ; keep your own weight overhanging as in a balance suspended : so shall we ever give you wreaths, and ever fragrances : never shall you feel thirst, but ever be decked with flowers."



Elegy on Maecenas, 2

[2.1] Thus spoke Maecenas at the coming of fate, chill on the very brink of death. "Why," said he, " did I not sink in death, O Jupiter, before young Drusus' narrow day of life? He had shown himself a youth of ripe judgement, a stalwart for his years - the mighty achievement of mighty Caesar's training. Would that before our civil strife . . ." The rest he never spoke : scruples cut short what affection nearly said - yet was he clearly understood : dying, he sought for his beloved wife's embraces, her kisses, words and hands :

[2.11] "Yet after all this is enough," he said, "I have lived and I die in your friendship, Caesar ; and, as I die, it is enough. From your kindly eyes some drop will fall, when you are told the sudden news that I am gone. This be my lot, to lie beneath the impartial earth : nor yet would I have you longer grieve for this. But I would wish for remembrance : there in your talk would I live ; for I shall always exist, if you will always remember me. It is fitting, and I shall surely live for you in affection ever ; your dying friend ceases not to be your own. Myself, whatever I shall be among the ashes and the embers, even then I shall not be able to forget Caesar. It is thanks to you I have lived the luxurious pattern of bliss, thanks to you that I was the one Maecenas of the day. I was my own controller : I willed to be what fell to my lot : I was truly the heart of your own heart.

[2.27] Long may you live, old friend I love so well; late may you pass to heaven : the earth has need of this : this should be your will too. May the youths doubly worthy of Caesar grow up to your support and thenceforward hand on to the future the house of Caesar. Right soon may your Empress Livia be free from anxiety : let a son-in-law {Tiberius} fulfil the broken duties of him who is lost {Agrippa}. When you have taken your place, a god distinguished among a line of deities, let Venus' own hand set you in the paternal bosom."



Consolation to Livia

[3.1] O you who long seemed blest, called but of late "the mother of the Neros," now is the half of that title no longer yours ; now are you reading a sad plaint to Drusus' memory, now you have but one to call you "mother" ; neither does your affection distract you between love for two, nor hearing the word "son" do you ask "which." And does any dare to tell you the conditions of mourning? does any check the tears upon your face? Alas! how easy it is, though this sorrow has touched all, to speak brave words in another's grief! "Lightly, be sure, has the thunderbolt touched you, that by your calamities you may be able to be more stout-hearted." A youth is dead, whose life was a pattern that all might reverence ; great in arms was he, and great in peace. He wrested of late from the foe their Alpine hiding-places, and won renown, sharing with his brother the captaincy of the war ; he crushed the fierce tribe of Suevi and the untamed Sicambri, and turned their barbarous backs to flight, and won for you, O Roman, a triumph before unknown, and extended your sway to new lands.

[3.21] Ignorant of your destinies you were preparing, O mother, to pay your vows to Jove, to pay your vows to the armed goddess, and to heap with gifts our sire Gradivus, and all the gods whom it is right and dutiful to worship ; your mother's mind was brooding on the sacred triumph : perchance you were even thinking on the chariot. A funeral must you lead in place of the sacred triumph, and the pyre awaits Drusus before the citadel of Jove. You pictured him returned, and cherished in your heart the joys he bade you feel, and already he stood victorious before your eyes. "Soon will he come : soon will the throng behold me giving thanks, soon must I bear gifts for my Drusus' safety. I shall go forth to meet him, and through the cities I shall be called fortunate ; his neck will I embrace and kiss his mouth and eyes. Even so will he be, so will he meet me, and so kiss me ; such tale will he tell, thus will I accost him first." Great are the joys you are cherishing; unhappiest of women, put aside false hopes, cease to tell joyful tidings of your Drusus. That achievement of Caesar, the one half of your hopes, has perished : undo, Livia, your undeserving locks.

[3.41] What now avails your character, your whole life chastely lived, your having so pleased so mighty a lord? And what with chastity to have crowned such a sum of dignities that it is the last among your praises? What avails it to have kept your mind upright against your age, and to have lifted your head clear of its vices? To have harmed none, yet to have had the power to harm, and that none feared your might? That your power strayed not to the Campus or the Forum, and that you ordered your house within the bounds permitted you? Verily, over such lives too Fortune's injustice reigns ; here too she rides her shifting wheel ; here too is she felt : lest anything escape her insatiate grasp, she rages, and everywhere makes injustice justice for herself. Forsooth, if Livia alone had been immune from grief, then Fortune's realm had suffered! What if she had not so borne herself in all her ways that her blessings stirred no envy?

[3.59] Think too of Caesar's house, which surely should have been exempt from death and higher than human ills. He, our guardian, set consecrated on the highest citadel, was worthy to regard the affairs of men from a place of safety, nor to be wept for by his own, nor weep for any of his kin, nor to endure himself what we, the common folk, endure ; we have seen him mourning for his sister's offspring {Marcellus} snatched away: that grief, as in Drusus' case, was shared by all ; he buried Agrippa in your sepulchre, Marcellus, and already that place held his two sons-in-law ; scarce was the tomb's door fast closed upon Agrippa's corpse, lo! his sister {Octavia} receives the rites of death. Lo! thrice has the tribute been paid, and Drusus, the latest loss, is the fourth to draw tears from mighty Caesar. Shut now, O Fates, shut the tomb too often unlocked! more already than is right has that house of yours been opened.

[3.75] Drusus, you go ; and fruitlessly is your name called for the last time : let this be the last complaining for your fate. Sorrow for you can fill whole ages, and take rank as a mighty mourning: many men were lost in you, nor were you, so great a multitude of virtues, the only one in whom all excellence was found, nor was any mother more fruitful than yours, who alone by two births brought forth so many virtues. Alas! where is that pair well-matched in every excellence, devotion of heart to heart and love undoubted? We beheld Nero dazed by his brother's death, and weeping pale-faced with dishevelled hair, unlike himself in his grief-proclaiming countenance ; alas, how that grief was shown in every line! Yet you saw your brother in death's last hour, and he saw your tears, and dying he felt your breast pressed close to his, and kept his eyes fixed upon your face, his eyes, all but merged in darksome death, his eyes, soon to be closed by his brother's hand. But your unhappy mother neither imprinted her last kisses nor cherished the cold limbs in her trembling bosom ; she caught not the flying life on open lips set near to yours, nor scattered her shorn tresses over your limbs. In her absence you were torn away, while savage war detained you, more useful to your country, Drusus, than to yourself.

[3.101] She melts away, as melt the soft snows, what time the suns and zephyrs smite them, and the spring is warm ; of you she complains, of your misfortune and her slighted vows, and blames her years as one who has lived too long. Even so in the shady woods the Daunian bird {Philomela}, now gentle at last, laments the Thracian Itys, even such the plaints that over the windy seas the piping Halcyons utter to the unhearing waves ; so, beating plumy bosoms with new wings, did the unexpected birds chant together of Oeneus' son {Meleager}; so Clymene wept, so Clymene's daughters, when the stricken youth {Phaethon} fell from his father's chariot on high. Sometimes she makes her tears congeal and harden, restrains them, and, braver than her eyes, drives them within, just quivering to fall : yet forth they burst, and once more flood her lap and bosom, pouring out from laden and never-failing eyelids. Weeping gains strength from tarrying ; the stream flows fuller, if even a brief delay has held it back.

[3.119] At length, when her tears allowed, thus dolefully she began, though sobbing checked her in mid-utterance : "O son, brief fruit, and half the fortune of a twofold birth, glory of your aged mother, O son, where are you? No more a 'twofold birth,' no more 'one-half its fortune,' yet still the glory of your aged mother, where are you? Ah, late so mighty, where are you? to the flame and to the pyre are you borne. Are these the gifts prepared for your return? Deserved you thus to meet your mother's eyes, deserved I thus to behold you on your return? If Caesar's consort may speak thus, I doubt now whether to think the gods are great. For what sin have I done? what powers, what gods have I failed to win by my devotion? Is this piety's reward? I clasp lifeless limbs, and flame and pyre devour this very womb. Can I bear to see you lying there, cursed that I am? will my hands bring themselves to anoint you, O my son? Now for the last time do I grasp you and behold you, wretched that I am? and stroke your hands and set my lips to yours? Now first are you seen as consul and as victor by your mother? Is it so, is it so you bring me home (woe is me !) these mighty names? The rods that I see for the first time, 1 see when you are dead ; I see them reversed, significant of evil. Who would believe it? can this be the gladdest day that has dawned for your mother, that whereon she sees her son in highest honour? Can I be no longer blest? can the half of the Neros now be taken from me, Drusus renowned for the name of his mother's sire? Can he be mine no more, nor make me any more a parent? Am I no more the mother of Drusus? lives he now no more? No more, when it is told me that victorious Nero is at hand, shall I be able to say, 'Is it the elder or the other that is here ?' I have touched the depths : I hold the rights of a mother from one alone ; of one alone is it the gift that nevertheless I am not called childless. Ah, wretched me! I am afraid, a chill runs through my bones : naught can I surely call any more my own. Lo! he was mine : he bids me fear for his brother ; now fear I all things ; ere now I was braver. At least, O Nero, may I die before you, may you shut my eyes, and may your devoted mouth receive this life. Ah, would that one hand of Drusus and one hand of his brother could set and close my eyelids! This at least is possible - in this tomb shall we be laid together, Drusus, nor buried shall you go to your sires of old {Claudii}; I shall be mingled with you, ashes with ashes, bone with bone : may Fate with swift wheel spin that day!"

[3.165] This and more does she say : tears follow her words, and flow unavailing over the face that late lamented. Nay, too, the corpse, hardly, ay hardly given up to his mother, almost, O Livia, lacked its proper rites. For the whole host was resolved to lay its chief on the pyre to burn in the harness wherein he perished ; but his brother against their will snatched away the sacred body, and gave Drusus (or all that he could give) to his native land. Drusus' funeral train proceeds through the Roman towns (ah, dreadful thought!), through which he was to pass in triumph, through which he had come after crushing Rhaetian arms ; how unlike, alas! was this march to that! The consul enters a mourning city with broken rods : what should the vanquished do when the conqueror enters thus? With mournful wailing resounds the house whereon its master had joyfully vowed to fix the arms his hand had won. The City groans, and puts on one countenance of woe - be such, I pray, the aspect of our foes! In uncertainty they close their houses and tremble throughout the city ; hither and thither they go in fear, openly and in secret they make moan. The Courts are silent, and the laws unchampioned are mute and still ; no purple is seen in all the forum. The gods are hidden in their temples, nor show their faces at this unrighteous death, nor demand the incense needed by the pyre ; they lurk obscure in their shrines, and feel shame to look on the faces of their worshippers, in fear of the hatred they have earned. And a man of the people had devoutly raised to the high stars his timid hand, in his needy son's behalf, and now was about to pray ; "But why," he said, "should I credulously make vain vows to gods who are not? Livia moved them not, even Livia, in behalf of Drusus : shall I be the chiefest care of mighty Jove?" He spoke, and in anger left his vows unuttered, and hardened his soul and abandoned all his prayer.

[3.199] The crowd rush forward, and with tears bedewing their cheeks tell of the consul's death and the public loss. All eyes are the same, there is an equal harmony of weeping ; we knights are all present at the funeral rites : every age is there, young men and old alike lament, Ausonian matrons and Ausonian daughters. Before the sad image of its chief is borne the victorious laurel owed to the temples. High-blooded youths vie in bearing the burden of the bier, and in offering willing necks for the duty. With voice and tears, O Caesar, you did praise your foster-son, though sorrow checked the course of your sad words. You asked a like death for yourself (though the gods averted the omen) did your fates but suffer you to die. But to you heaven is owing ; you the great hall of eager Jove, strong in the thunderbolt, will welcome. What he sought - that his deeds should please you - that he won ; in your praise he wins great recompense for death. Armed cohorts duly pay reverence to the pyre, horsemen and infantry perform the obsequies of their chief. With a shout they call you, and once again, and again the last time of all, but their voices re-echo back from yonder hills.

[3.221] Father Tiber himself shuddered in his yellow waves, and from mid-stream raised his cloudy head. Then with huge hand he lifted from his cerulean face the tresses interwoven with willow and reed and moss, and sent forth streams of tears from brimming eyes ; the deep channel scarce holds the added waters. Already was he resolved to extinguish the flames upon the pyre with the impact of the stream, and take away the corpse unharmed ; he was checking his waters, and staying their course to the sea, that he might flood the pyre with his whole river ; but Mavors in his neighbouring shrine, near dweller to the Campus, spoke thus, his own cheeks also wet : "Though anger becomes rivers, yet, Tiber, keep you still ; not to you, not to any is it given to conquer Fate. He died my votary : among arms and swords he died, a captain in his country's service ; his cause is forgotten in his death. Such tribute as I could pay, I have paid : the victory has been won ; gone is the author of the work, yet the work remains. Once did I assail Clotho and her two sisters, who draw with sure thumb the inexorable threads, that Remus, Ilia's son, and his brother, founder of the City, might by some way escape the depths below. Of the three one said to me : 'Take that part of the gift which is given you; one of the two shall be according to your prayer. He to you is promised, to Venus hereafter Caesars twain : these gods alone are owed by Martian Rome.' Thus sang the goddesses ; so do not, O Tiber, struggle in vain, nor with your river stay the flames, nor spoil the last honours of the dead youth. Go now, glide on your way with unchecked current." He obeys, and lengthwise unfolds his watery mass, and enters his house wrought out of hanging rock.

[3.253] The flame long hesitating to touch the sacred head strayed slowly yet beneath the standing pyre. At length it embraced the timber and gained nourishment, and towered over the foliage and licked the stars of heaven, even as it glowed on the hills of Oeta, of Herculean fame, when the limbs of the god who lay there were consumed. Burning, alas! is the hero's comeliness, his noble beauty, his kindly features ; burning is that vigour, those victorious hands, the chieftain's eloquent mouth, his breast, that great and spacious home of wisdom. In those same flames burn the hopes of many ; that pyre holds his unhappy mother's flesh and blood. The chieftain's deeds will live, and the hard-won glory of his exploits ; this abides, this alone escapes the greedy pyres. It will be a part of history, and will be read in every age, and will be a theme for writers and for poets. And on the rostra shall you stand, glorious with your roll of honours, and we shall be called the cause of your death, O Drusus.

[3.271] But for you Germania, no right of pardon remains; you shall atone hereafter, barbarian, by your death. I shall see the necks of kings livid with chains, and ruthless fetters entwining cruel hands, and faces cowed at last, and the tears falling down unwilling, haughty cheeks. That threatening spirit, exulting in Drusus' death, must be given to the executioner in the gloomy cell. I will stop, and leisurely with glad eyes gaze on naked bodies strewn on the unsightly roads. The day that brings so great a spectacle - let dewy Aurora speed it hither on her saffron car!

[3.283] Add too the Ledaean brothers {Castor and Pollux}, concordant stars, and the temples conspicuous in the Roman Forum. In how short a time did he fulfil the office of a leader, and by his services to his country died an old man! Yet - woe is me! - Drusus will never see his bounty, nor read his name upon the temple's front. Often will Nero weeping humbly say : "Why brotherless, alas! do I approach the brother gods?" You were resolved, O Drusus, never to return save victorious ; times such as these owed you to us ; victorious you were. It is a consul, a leader, a leader already victorious that we have lost ! Lo! in all Rome has mourning found a home. But his comrades are unsightly to behold with hair unkempt, a hapless crowd, but faithful to their Drusus. And one of them, stretching out his arms towards you, cried : "Why do you go without me, why thus companionless?"

[3.299] What shall I say of you {Antonia}, most worthy consort of your Drusus, worthy daughter-in-law of Drusus' mother? A pair well suited : the one a hero among youths, the other that hero's darling, as she was his. Queen among women were you to him, and daughter of Caesar, nor did you seem less than the wife of mighty Jove. You were his freely given, his last and only love, you were his pleasant repose from weary toil. Your absence did he, dying, in his last words bewail, and his tongue, though cold, strove to pronounce your name. Hapless one, you did not receive him whom he himself did promise, not him who was sent forth : that spouse of your returns not, nor can he tell you of the Sicambri's ruin, nor how the Suevi turned their backs to his swordsmen, nor of the rivers and the mountains and the mighty names of places, and of all the wonders that he saw in that new world. Cold he returns to you, a lifeless corpse, and a couch is strewn for him to press without you. Whither did you rush, tearing your hair and like to a mad woman? Whither hasten? Why do you mar your face with frenzied hand? Such a sight was Andromache, when her husband bound all bloody to the axle frightened the galloping steeds ; such was Evadne, when Capaneus offered his fearless countenance to be struck by the flashing brand. Why do you sadly pray for death, and embracing your children hold the only pledges left you in place of Drusus? and now in your dreams are haunted by false visions, and believe you have your Drusus in your arms? and suddenly feel with your hand and hope he is yours once more, and search the desolate couch where once he lay?

[3.329] He in the fields of bliss, if such belief is not vain, will be welcomed by his honoured forefathers, and, high renowned among his mother's ancestors, and no less among his sire's, will ride all golden in a four-horsed chariot, and in royal dress, proud in his ivory car, will have his temples bound with triumphal sprays. They will receive the hero who bears the standards of Germany and the illustrious fame of consular command, and they will rejoice in the well-won surname of their house, which alone he bore in triumph from the conquered foe. Scarce will they believe that so great achievement filled years so few, they will think a hero's mighty deeds demand an ample space. These exploits will exalt him on high, these exploits, best of mothers, should have made your sorrow less. O woman worthy of those men whom the age of gold brought forth, worthy of your princely sons, your princely consort, see what becomes the mother of Drusus and Nero's mother, see from whose couch you rise in the morning! The same behaviour becomes not common folk and our country's lights ; a special duty that house of yours does owe. Fortune placed you high, and bade you guard an honoured station ; bear your burden, Livia, to the end. You draw to you ears and eyes, we mark your doings, nor can the voice a ruler's mouth utters be concealed. Remain exalted and rise above your grief, and keep (you can) a spirit yet unbroken. Can we find better patterns of virtues in you than when you do the work of a Roman queen? Fate awaits all ; all does the greedy ferryman await, and the one bark that scarce holds all the crowd. Hither we all are bound, we hurry to one goal ; black Death summons all beneath its laws. Lo! the prophets sing that destruction threatens sky and earth and sea, and that the triple fabric is doomed to fall : go now, and while so vast a ruin overhangs the world, bring back all eyes to you alone and to your loss! Mightiest was he of youths, his people's hope, while yet he lived, and supreme glory of the house that gave him birth ; but he was mortal, nor were you free from care while your son waged valiant wars. Life is given to be used : it is lent to us without interest, nor to be paid back on any appointed day. Fortune ordains the time at her own unjust will : youths she carries off, the aged she supports ; her onset, when she makes it, is furious, through all the world her lightnings flash, and she triumphs blindly on blind steeds. Offend not with your complaints the sway of the stern goddess, vex not the spirit of that powerful queen.

[3.377] Yet the same power that at this one time has visited you in wrath has often been friendly and shown favour to your fortunes. For that you were born in lofty state, blest with two sons, and indeed made the partner of great Jove, that Caesar ever returned from mastering the world to you, and with invincible might waged prosperous wars, that the Neros fulfilled your hopes and mother's prayers, that under either's captaincy the foe was routed so often - witness the Rhine and Alpine valleys and Isargus, whose waters the dark stain of gore discolours, and rapacious Danube, and the Dacian (?) Apulian in his far-off world (for this foe Pontus is a very short march away), and the Armenian, ready to flee, and the Dalmatian, at last a suppliant, and the Pannonians scattered over their mountain summits, and the German world that Romans but late have known: see how many the merits that outweigh a single fault. Add that he died far away, nor had your eyes to endure the sight of your son's eyes closing in death, and that (most gently thus does sorrow steal into a sick mind) it was with your ears that you were compelled to receive your sorrows ; while amid long perils, the hearing of which kept your mind anxious, fear anticipated your mourning ; not abruptly did sorrow burst into your heart, but by steps that fear had already made gentle. Jupiter before gave the baleful sign of bloody fate, when he assailed three temples with fire-bearing hand ; and on a night grave Juno's shrine and that of fearless Minerva and the sacred palace of all-powerful Caesar were struck. Nay, stars also are said to have fled the sky, and Lucifer to have left his wonted path : Lucifer in all the world was seen of none, and the day came unheralded by any star : this gave warning that a star's destruction threatened the earth, and that a noble light should be sunk in Stygian waters.

[3.411] But you who survive to console your sorrowing mother, live, I pray, that she herself may see your old age. Live long, and pass your brother's and your own allotted years, and let your aged mother live with her aged son. My prayer shall be fulfilled ; heaven, while it would fain excuse the past, will make all else happy after Drusus. Yet you can dare to indulge so violent a grief that you refuse with unwise courage to take food. You were scarce likely to live for even a few hours, when Caesar brought you succour against your will ; he urged you with prayers, and mingled claims of right therein, and pouring water he moistened your parched throat. Nor had your son less care to save his parent : he made persuasive entreaty, and with good right. The merit of your consort and of your son hath reached to all : by the aid of your consort and of your son, O Livia, you did survive. Refrain at last your tears : they will not call him back whom once the ferryman has borne in the ghost-laden skiff.

[3.429] For Hector all his many brothers, all his sisters wept, and his sire and wife and child Astyanax and aged mother : yet was he ransomed but for the pyre, and no ghost swam back across the Stygian pools. This befell Thetis also : Achilles the destroyer rests his charred bones upon the Ilian fields. For him Panope, his mother's sister, loosed her cerulean hair, and swelled the boundless waters with her tears, and a hundred comrades of the goddess, and mighty Ocean's aged spouse, and father Ocean, and Thetis before all ; but not Thetis herself nor all of them could change the stern laws of the greedy god. Why do I tell old stories here ? Octavia wept Marcellus, and each in the sight of the people did Caesar weep. But fixed and inevitable is death's law, unswerving are the threads, not to be checked by any hand.

[3.445] He himself escaping (were it lawful) the misty shore of Acheron, would with brave mouth proclaim these words : "Why do you number years ? I have lived to a riper age than years can show. It is deeds that make old : these must you number : with these was my life fulfilled, not with tardy years ; let a long old age befall my foes. This lesson my grandsires taught, and the Neros who were before them (both chieftains shattered the Punic hosts), this is the lesson of lofty Caesar's house, that is mine through you : such an end, O mother, was mine by right. Nor to those my merits (though by themselves they better please) has honour been wanting : you see my name decked with titles ; as 'consul' do you read of me, as conqueror of Germany, a world unknown, who died, alas! in his country's cause : my victorious temples are wreathed in Apollo's laurel, and I have felt the obsequies of my own funeral, and the familiar solemn march of men, and the gifts of kings, and all the cities read upon their placards ; and with what dutifulness those youths carried me, who stood so nobly born before my pyre. Last, I have earned praise from Caesar's sacred lips, and drew tears from a god. And shall I need anyone's pity? Refrain at last your weeping. This I ask, who am your weeping's cause."

[3.469] This does Drusus feel, if he feels aught in the shadows, nor believe you less of so great a hero. You have, and may you ever have, I pray, a son who is a pattern to many ; may the elder part of your offspring be preserved to you. You have a spouse, the guardian of mankind, and while he lives, it becomes not your house, O Livia, to mourn.


Attalus' home page   |   29.02.16   |   Any comments?