Spare Us, Earth!

Statius, Thebaid 8. 303-328

O eternal creator of humans and gods, who give birth to the rivers and forests and the seeds of everything in the world and the Promethean hands and Pyrrha’s rocks, who first gave and transformed nourishment for men, who circle and carry the sea: under your power lie the gentle flocks and the repose of birds; firm and immovable strength of the eternal world, the swift machine of the sky and both nocturnal and diurnal chariots circle you hanging in the empty air, o you center of things undivided by the great brothers! You have nourished so many races, so many lofty cities and great people, you who alone are enough both below and above, you who with no effort carry star-sustaining Atlas striving to bear the celestial realm – do you refuse to carry only us? Are we alone oppressive to you? What crime are we ignorant wretches paying for? Is it because we, a foreign people, came here from the shores of Inachus? Every soil is native to all people, nor is it right for you to distinguish your people with such a savage, grounded boundary all around. May you remain common to all, and bear your arms from here and there. May it be granted, I beg, in the order of war to puff up our pugnacious spirits and return them to the heavens. Don’t snatch away breathing bodies from such sudden pyres – don’t hurry! We will come, at that point at which all arrive, on that road which we all go down. Having been implored thus, please set a light field for the Pelasgians, and don’t rush the swift Fates.

‘o hominum diuumque aeterna creatrix,

quae fluuios siluasque animarum et semina mundo

cuncta Prometheasque manus Pyrrhaeaque saxa                305

gignis, et impastis quae prima alimenta dedisti

mutastique uiris, quae pontum ambisque uehisque:

te penes et pecudum gens mitis et ira ferarum

et uolucrum requies; firmum atque inmobile mundi

robur inoccidui, te uelox machina caeli                310

aere pendentem uacuo, te currus uterque

circumit, o rerum media indiuisaque magnis

fratribus! ergo simul tot gentibus alma, tot altis

urbibus ac populis, subterque ac desuper una

sufficis, astriferumque domos Atlanta supernas                315

ferre laborantem nullo uehis ipsa labore:

nos tantum portare negas? nos, diua, grauaris?

quod, precor, ignari luimus scelus? an quia plebes

externa Inachiis huc aduentamus ab oris?

omne homini natale solum, nec te, optima, saeuo                320

tamque humili populos deceat distinguere fine

undique ubique tuos; maneas communis et arma

hinc atque inde feras; liceat, precor, ordine belli

pugnaces efflare animas et reddere caelo.

ne rape tam subitis spirantia corpora bustis,                325

ne propera: ueniemus enim, quo limite cuncti,

qua licet ire uia; tantum exorata Pelasgis

siste leuem campum, celeres neu praecipe Parcas.

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