Statius, Silvae 1.6 lines 1-50

translation by Will Wasta-Werner

THE KALENDS OF DECEMBER

Both Father Phoebus1   Apollo and severe Pallas2    Athena

And the Muses on holiday: begone!

We’ll call you back on the Kalends of January.

Saturn, with his shackles loosened,

[5] And December, pregnant with much unmixed wine,

And laughing Joke and shameless Wit–

May you all be present here instead, while I recall the beautiful and

Drunk day of our joyous Caesar!

Dawn was scarcely moving new sunrises,

[10] When desserts came raining down from the canopy3   The feast is taking place in the Colosseum, where an awning would partially cover the seats.:

The coming East Wind poured out this light misty rain.

Whatever remarkable treat from Pontic4    Pontus was a densely wooded area in the northeast of modern Turkey near the Black Sea nut-bearing woods

Or from the fertile hills of Idumea5    Ancient kingdom near modern Palestine falls;

The dates which dutiful Damascus sprouts forth from its branches,

[15] And which Caunos6     City on the southwest coast of modern Turkey ripens,

They freely fall amid bountiful booties;

Soft little Gaiuses7  Pastries or cookies in the shape of a man and little pastries

And Amerian8  Ameria was a town in central Italy desserts with dough-balls not overcooked

And must-cakes too and finally as if from some unseen palm tree

[20] Caryotid dates9     Special type of nut-shaped date especially common on Saturnalia swollen with juice –they all were raining down.

Not with such great clouds could stormy Hyas10     Constellation associated with abundant rain

Blanket the earth, nor could unrestrained Plias,11     Constellation of Atlas’ seven daughters

As this winter storm all throughout the Latin wedges 12     Refers to the wedge shape of the seating blocks in the Colosseum

Pounds the people with a calm hail.

[25] Let Jupiter lead the clouds through the world

And let him threaten downpours over the wide fields

While our Jove carries these here showers to us!

Look here! How it goes through all the wedges,

And how noteworthy in display and adorned in refinements it is,

[35] It’s another crowd, no fewer in number than those already sitting!

These people–baskets and white napkins

And rather fancy dishes they carry;

Meanwhile some others generously distribute withered wine:

You’d actually think just as many of them were Idaean cupbearers!13     The reference is to Ganymede, the young cupbearer for Zeus on Olympus, since he was from Troy, near Mount Ida

[35] That section, wherein a man is bettered and more stern,

And the toga-clad classes–you feed them both;

And since you feed so many people, Blessed One,

Haughty Annona knows not this day.

Go on, Antiquity, compare the present age

[40] With the golden era of ancient Jove:

Not so freely did wines flow then

Nor did the harvest take up the slow year.

Yet now every class is fed at the same table–

The small, women, plebeians, equites, senators:

[45] Freedom leaves behind any deference.

And you–which of the gods could be called upon for this,

Which ones could promise such a delight–

Even you entered the shared feasts with all of us!

So now he, whomever he may be, rich or poor,

[50] Can boast of being a guest of the Emperor.

Notes   [ + ]

1.    Apollo
2.     Athena
3.    The feast is taking place in the Colosseum, where an awning would partially cover the seats.
4.     Pontus was a densely wooded area in the northeast of modern Turkey near the Black Sea
5.    Ancient kingdom near modern Palestine
6.     City on the southwest coast of modern Turkey
7.   Pastries or cookies in the shape of a man
8.   Ameria was a town in central Italy
9.      Special type of nut-shaped date especially common on Saturnalia
10.     Constellation associated with abundant rain
11.      Constellation of Atlas’ seven daughters
12.      Refers to the wedge shape of the seating blocks in the Colosseum
13.      The reference is to Ganymede, the young cupbearer for Zeus on Olympus, since he was from Troy, near Mount Ida