I’d give bowls, generously, and pleasing bronzes,
to all of my comrades, my dear Censorinus,
I’d give tripods, the prizes that mighty Greeks gave,
and you wouldn’t be seeing the least of my gifts,
if I were, appropriately, rich in the works
Scopas produced, or Parrhasius created,
the latter in marble, the former in painting,
now expert in showing heroes, and now, a god.
But I’ve no such powers, and your spirit and state
don’t ask for any such kinds of amusement.
You delight in poetry, poetry we can
deliver, and establish the worth of the gift.
It’s not marble, carved out with public inscriptions,
and by which, after death, life and spirit return
to great generals, it’s not Hannibal’s rapid
retreat, once repulsed, with his threats turned against him,
nor is it the burning of impious Carthage,
that more gloriously declares all the praises
of him who winning a name from his African
conquest, came home, than the Calabrian Muses:
and you wouldn’t receive the reward for your deeds
if the books were silent. What would the child of Mars
and of Ilia be today, if mute envy
stood in the way of Romulus’s just merits?
The virtue, and favour, and speech of powerful
poets snatches Aeacus from Stygian streams,
immortalising him, in the Isles of the Blessed.
It’s the Muse who prevents the hero worth praising
from dying. The Muse gladdens heaven. So, tireless
Heracles shares the table of Jove he hoped for,
so the bright stars of the Twins, Tyndareus’ sons,
snatch storm-tossed ships out of the depths of the waters,
and Bacchus, his brow wreathed, in the green sprays of vine,
brings all of our prayers to a fortunate outcome.