On The Death of Hadrian
Felix and Festus are both dead,
and the Emperor that we saw enter the city
twenty-one years and two days ago
has now left this world on eagle’s wings
to fly to the realm of the gods.
Lightning struck this statue of Jupiter,
though, nine years ago, and that image
has been crumbling slowly since,
falling in a matter of months upon months
rather than in but one single moment.
We have had peace with his rule,
no Persians or Parthians to attack,
no painted barbarians of Britannia
or fur-clad ruffians from Germania
have dared to cross our borders.
He was not like his father Traianus,
striking out at every nation
that ever raised a shield from its rest;
he only struck those who struck him first,
and those who attacked paid dearly.
Death plagued him, though, like no other
who held the principate before him:
his wife, his mother, his mother-in-law,
his sister, and his first adopted son,
and his lover, the Hyacinthus to his Apollo.
At the news of his death, the gods themselves
mourn for him and cloak Olympus in black:
Minerva weeps as she weaves at her loom,
Venus makes a pool of her shedding tears,
and Juno wrings her hands at the loss.
One face of Ianus weeps with the others,
but the other face is joyous
as he looks upon the new Emperor,
Antoninus, who will be a tribute
to his father’s legacy.
Like the temple he made to all the gods,
round like the orb of the world,
the circle of the horizon itself,
so too is his tomb upon the Tiber,
with the bridge bearing his name crossing it.
No one since Divus Iulius himself
has held the office of Pontifex Maximus
as appropriately as Hadrianus,
who loved the gods of every land
as much as he loved Roma herself.
I am an old man now, wracked with pain
in every joint, bent double with coughing,
my eyes are cloudy, and my ears ring
as if Vulcan’s forge is clanging within–
I, and the world, will never see another like Hadrianus.