III Kal. Nov.
The Emperor is still weeping after an entire day.
The Empress stopped weeping at the noon hour.
The Egyptian priest has not stopped his intonations
since the moment the boy’s body was spotted.
I was the last to see him alive;
I was the first to see him dead.
The Emperor’s eyes have not fallen upon me.
The dancing dwarf god and the Golden Goddess
will soon have a companion among them in their shrines,
for I hear that this will be a city for the boy,
he will be its founding hero, a colony for the best of the Greeks.
But the Egyptians already call him a god.
His face was still serene when we found him, as if asleep,
not marred by crocodile’s depredations or fish’s bites,
and every limb upon him as whole as it ever was,
but all color gone from him, as if he was an unpainted marble statue
washed up on the sandy shore from the Isles of the Blest.
The tears will not come for me, for I am not sad;
I have had my fill of sadness for the last three days,
knowing what I have seen, and what has been lost.
They do not know how to do death in this land, I fear.
We are bereaved at the loss, true, but he is at peace—
if the Mysteries in Athens were true to their word,
and if the Egyptian priest’s pronouncement is accurate,
then his is not only a blessed state in the afterlife,
he has become a very god, anew in the firmament,
a blazing entrant into the celestial realms,
an unexpected guest who will be treated well in the gods’ halls.
Why lower his spirits by lamenting him too long?
If he is a god, let us sing to him and pray for his blessings!
They will carry on his funeral games in many ways
for years after this day, perhaps even in far-off lands.
But my people have their own ways.
Tonight, we will make his ship ready for the Land of Youth:
the Thracian woman cook will make the bare-breasted bow,
that Nubian horse groom will be the nude dark ship’s mast,
and ten naked men will be the left oars
and ten the right, and I shall be the rudder at the rear.
I do not remember all the words of the song,
nor is the tune fresh in my head,
but I can embellish it with boat-songs these slaves know,
the sail-setting hymns of Orpheus upon the Argo,
the oar-pulling tunes that Achilleus’ Myrmidons sung,
the chants of Odysseus’ sailors trying to drown out the Sirens’ songs,
mingled with the keens of my people in Hibernia.
We will see him off to his blessed existence—
for if he be a god already, and if he is yet a hero bold,
still he was a human, and deserves what all humans deserve
for the sending off of the flesh to sweeter climes.