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This webpage reproduces one of the
Carmina Minora

of
Claudian

published in the Loeb Classical Library,
1922

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though, please let me know!

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p205 Epithalamium of Palladius and Celerina1

XXV (XXX, XXXI)

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Asked to improvise a song in honour of a marriage I find myself unwilling to refuse the bridegroom and unable to say no to his father-in‑law. The former was my comrade-in‑arms, the latter my general; at court the first is of equal rank with me, the second my superior. Similarity of age and pursuits made me a friend of Palladius; age and dignity set Celerinus far above me. The love I bear the one demands my good offices as a poet, the awe in which I hold the other a soldier's obedience: I must sing.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] It chanced that Venus had one day retired into the bosom of a cave overgrown with vine to woo sleep mid its alluring cool, and had laid her goddess limbs on the thick grass, her head upon a heap of flowers. The vine branches stir gently in the breeze and sway the full-veined grapes. Slumber befits the disorder of her brow, the midday heat will none of coverings, and the leaves show through them the gleam of her bare breast. Round her lie the nymphs of Ida and hard by beneath a lofty oak-tree the three Graces sleep with interlaced arms. Here and there, where'er the shade invites them, repose winged Cupids. Their bows are unstrung and their quivers hang from the branches of neighbouring trees, instinct with latent fire. Some p207wake and play or wander through the thickets in search of birds' nests or take delight in plucking dewy apples as a gift for Venus or hunt the gadding vine for grapes, and, poised on their wings, climb its branches to the very tops of the elm-trees. Others keep guard over the wood and drive off the wanton, curious Dryads, the country gods and the woodland deities, discharging flaming darts at the amorous Fauns who try from a distance to catch a glimpse of Venus' bower. Suddenly there arose cries and shoutings from the neighbouring city; joyous acclamations of youth and the strains of the lyre accompanying dancing in the streets. Through all the hills of Italy the name of Celerina is chanted and every field re-echoes that of her husband Palladius.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] The pleasant sound reached the goddess' ears; aroused by the noise she sat up and with her fair hands rubbed from her eyes the residue of sleep; then, just as she was, she leapt from her soft couch and summoned Hymen from among the unnumbered Loves that formed her bodyguard. (Him, son of the Muse, Cytherea chose out and made the patron god of marriage. Without his sanction is no entry into wedlock nor is it lawful but with his leave to uplift the first wedding-torches.) At last he is found. There he lay stretched beneath a tall plane-tree joining with wax pipes of unequal length, seeking to repeat with his lips Maenalian measures and pastoral tunes, while, as his mouth ran over them, he varied his breathing upon the slender reed.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Seeing Venus he stopped; noiseless to the ground from out the nerveless grasp of his fingers fell the p209pipe. Affection lights up his eyes; a modest blush suffuses those sun-browned cheeks so snowy-white by nature, clothed, too, with the scarce seen down of youth where ceased the ne'er cut hair. Silent he stood and the goddess first addressed him. "Wilt thou, boy, never leave thy beloved song? Wilt thou never have enough of thy mother's gifts, ever devoted to the Muses' task and too eager to rival thy parent?2 What is it thou dost practise all alone in the midday heat? Dost thou now despise the lyre and seekest thou rather the woods of Lycaeus and the herds and Echo resounding from the rocks? Come hither and tell me the reason for this general rejoicing. What marriage is this that is attended with such ceremony and such demonstrations of joy? Who is the newly dowered bride? Of what country, what race are they that are wed? Tell me from what land they spring and what their parentage. Needs must thou know, for no marriage can take place without thee and by covenant with thee are wedlock's joys first tasted."

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] He replied: "Long have I been wondering, goddess, at thy delay, and marvelled that thou didst take no notice of so world-famed an union. They are no common folk that now submit them to thy laws. Two families are united illustrious with consulships, upheld by the highest offices, in whose veins flows the noblest blood of all the world. What island on whose coasts thunder the waves of the Red Sea, what tract of Ethiopia, what land so far withdrawn from human intercourse but has heard the blessings that the affection of his country calls down on the head of Palladius' sire for his clemency, his learning, his wit, his genial age? He has trodden p211every rung of the ladder of honours, has held every place at court, and reached the highest of all offices, directing the deliberations of the senate of the East with a sure authority. Such is the bridegroom's brilliance. The bride first saw the light in the old city of Tomi by the mouth of the Danube. She is descended on her mother's side from noble ancestors famed in war and enriched by war's spoils and derives especial glory from the renown of that stalwart Celerinus who, when appointed to the defence of Meroë and the Nile, and, after the death by lightning of Carus3 in Parthia, offered the throne and dominion of the world by his soldiers, paid no heed to their clamour and preferred repose to an empire. Of his own will he refused when it was offered that which men will use every sort of violence and outrage every sort of right to acquire. For the first time virtue was reckoned above a throne and sovereignty, making offer of herself, met with a refusal. Sadly did Fortune confess herself beaten by a mortal. Great it is to deserve high office, still greater to have despised it.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] "Celerina's father has won every title that a warrior may. Step by step he has reached the highest of all ranks, that of commander-in‑chief; it is he who dispenses titles of honour, settles the garrisons of the provinces, unites the scattered forces of the empire, and checks the disposition of its troops. He decides the defences of Sarmatia and the legions that are to face the wild Getae or keep Saxon and Scot in subjection. He knows how many cohorts fringe the shore of Ocean, how great an army maintains peace along the banks of the Rhine. In the family of Celerina is to be found unspotted p213virtue, unfeigned loyalty, and diligence guided by knowledge. She is Stilicho's choice; to such choice and judgement no praise can be added. It were a shame, Venus, shouldst thou not be present at the marriage of such a maid. Come, bring all thy train. Fain would I shake the withering wreaths, brandish the torches, and devote the night to pleasure. Now even this my pipe gives no dishonoured service answering the choirs' songs."

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Scarce had Hymen spoken and she bathes her in the cool stream, gathers her flowing hair, and renews her charms, taking from out the press the wondrous garments spun by her mother Dione. Her chariot is heaped with flowers and the yoke thereof is fragrant with blossoms. Flowers entwine the reins that fetter her bright doves. From all sides the birds flock together, those that soothe with their song the roar of Athesis, those whom Larius hears, Benacus feeds, or Mincius welcomes with his quiet flood. Quiet are those waters now that the birds' plaintive notes resound there no more. The swans have flown away and left the banks of Eridanus and the sounding marshes of Padusa. Right glad are the wanton Loves; they catch and harness the birds and ride them through the clouds before the eyes of Venus. There they join in noisy battle, lean forward to strike one another, and fall but suffer no hurt. Fallen they overtake their steeds with flight swifter than theirs, for the charioteer is fleeter than the chariot.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Soon as they reached the doors of the marriage-chamber they empty baskets full of red spring flowers, pouring forth showers of roses and scattering from their laden quivers violets gathered in Venus' meadow, violets untouched e'en by the heat of the p215Dog-star who had tempered for their frail beauty his accustomed fires. Others throughout the palace poured forth from jewelled caskets unguents gathered by the banks of the Nile from trees whose bark, when wounded by the cruel finger-nail, oozed with rich gum. Cytherea approaches the bride, and, despite her tears, drew her from her mother's arms. Her swelling breast betokens maidenhood ripe for marriage, her skin is whiter than lilies or than snow, and her golden hair points to the Danube as her birthplace. Then, taking the hand of the bridegroom Venus joins to it that of the bride and with these words blesses their union: "Live as one and fulfill all my rites. Give a thousand kisses, let arm be bruised with enfolding arm, and lips so join that soul may meet soul. And thou, husband, put not thy confidence in rude love-making; thy wife's love cannot be won by threats, but must be gained by entreaty. And do thou yield to thy husband nor seek to show anger; use not thy nails as weapons like the women of Scythia. I beg thee submit to conquest; so shalt thou be indeed a wife, so a mother. Why are there tears in thine eyes? Believe me, thou shalt love him whom now thou fearest."

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] So spake she, and chose from out her winged attendants the two whose bows were strongest and their aim most sure. At once Aethon and Pyrois leaped forward, their bright wings tinged with purple. Dipping their shafts in pure honey the one aims his at the bride, the other his at the bridegroom. They draw their bows; the strings twang and the sure arrows cleave the air with equal speed and implant themselves at equal depths in the hearts of the twain.


The Translator's Notes:

1 This poem and the marriage it celebrates probably belong to the year 399. We know little of P. save that he was the friend and colleague (tribunus et notarius, cf. Introduction, p. xii) of Claudian. His father (l. 61) was probably prefect of Egypt in 382 (Cod. Theod. VIII.5.37). Celerina's grandfather held the same post (l. 73); her father (p205)(ll. 82 et sqq.) — the socer of line 2 of the preface — was primicerius notariorum (so Godefroy on Cod. Theod. vi.2).

2 i.e. Calliope. Venus is in effect saying to him: attend to your own business, play your own instrument (the cithara) and do not seek the haunts, and imitate the pipes, of Pan.

3 Carus was struck by lightning (or murdered) during his Persian campaign, A.D. 283; (cf. Sidon. Apol. c23.91).


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