At last! At dawn, a voice from the statue
that put every ear of our party to awe
and made even the most jaded among them
stand agape at the wonder of the gods of this land.
A smile has not come to his face
since Antinous’ drowning until now.
Julia composes her verses for inscription
on the leg of one of the statues of Memnon,
but my own pen falters–what will I write?
Words spill from her lips as easy as kisses
with a tongue more golden and more sweet
than that of Sappho of old; but myself?
Verse is not my native language,
no matter in Latin or Greek.
My prose is not much better.
Favorinus of Arles, the eunuch orator
once told me that words spoken with conviction–
no matter how rude nor unpolished–
are more effective than words of silver.
Such simple words may not need a heavy hammer
against the chisel to cut deeply into stone
nor the human eyes and hearts that read them.
Perhaps this, then: Sabina Augusta,
wife of the Emperor Caesar Hadrian,
in the course of the first hour,
having heard Memnon twice, has tasted
the sweetness of the Isles of the Blessed–
and commends Memnon for his cries this morning,
first in honor of the Emperor Hadrian,
and second in honor of the God Antinous.
May the gods favor us all!
Perhaps these words will last as long
as the fame of he whose image they are carved upon;
perhaps the fame of my husband will last as long,
and myself as well, as the light strikes them first each day.
The gods endure, even if they are newly born,
but mortals are not so certain in their persistence.
May future emperors uphold the gods
just as the gods uphold them, and more so–
for while the gods do not need us to survive,
the works of great men bring the gods to mind upon the earth.
How else will the gods be known to future generations
without great men to sing their praises?