The Alphabet of Lucius Marius Vitalis
A is for Allecto, the Fury of might,
B is for Bacchus, the reveler at night,
and C is for Castor, great brother of Pollux divine;
D is for Diana, goddess of woods,
E is for Egeria, nymph of great goods,
and F is for Faunus, who lies at noontide supine;
G is for Genius–Augustal is best–
H is for Hercules, who traveled the west,
and I is for Ianus, the two-faced god of the doors;
L is for Lares, found in all homes,
M is for Mercury, striding across domes,
and N is for Neptune, whose realm is cut by oars;
[But, sometimes I say:
L is for Luna, in the night’s black,
M is for Mars, in the battle’s track,
and N is for Nerio, his wife, who over Legions soars.]
O is for Orbona, children protecting,
P is for Pales, wolves deflecting,
and Q is for Quirinus, of the Capitoline Triad;
R is for Roma, great goddess of Rome,
S is for Sabazius, who calls Thrace home,
and T is for Tiberinus, whose drowning was not bad;
[But sometimes I say:
R is for Robigo, the grain’s defender,
S is for Silvanus, the game beasts’ ender,
and T is for Tellus, hymned amongst Naiads.]
and, V is for Venus, goddess for lovers,
X is for wood that god-images covers,
and Z for Zalmoxis, the death of Thracian lads.
For Lucius Marius Vitalis
I cannot write you a monument of stone,
so a few words on papyrus, papers forgotten,
are all I can offer you on your death.
You were not with us in Eleusis, my friend,
and thus you have not known the Mysteries
revealed at the hearth of the Two Goddesses.
But these lines into the holy fire
at Athena’s temple on the Acropolis
can perhaps be a balm to you in the afterlife.
You will not sail onwards with us
to view the Nile’s wonders in Egypt,
nor see your mother, Maria Malchis, again.
But the same goddess, Artemis,
who in Rome you called Diana,
shines over us this night in life or death.
I pray that she may grant you grace,
for you favored her service in your life,
as you never erred as Actaeon did.
You hunted with hounds as fierce as Hermes’
in your search for words and books–
the scribes of Egypt would have envied you!
Perhaps one day, when I am no longer living,
we shall see each other again,
and I pray that we will recognize each other.
I, Antinous, ask this of Athena and Hephaistos,
of Artemis and her good brother Apollon,
and of Eleusis’ Two Goddesses–may he be blessed!