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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Decimus Magnus Ausonius (c.310–c. 395): Idyl of the Roses

By Roman Poets of the Later Empire

Translation of Harriet Waters Preston

SPRING morning! and in all the saffron air,

The tingling freshness of a day to be!

The breeze that runs before the sun-steeds, ere

They kindle fire, appeared to summon me;

And I went forth by the prim garden beds

To taste that early freshness, and behold

The bending blades dew-frosted, and the heads

Of the tall plants impearled, and heavy-rolled

O’er spreading leaves, the sky-drops crystalline.

Here too were roses, as in Pæstum gay;

Dim through the morning mist I saw them shine,

Save where at intervals a blinding ray

Flashed from a gem that Sol would soon devour!

Verily, one knew not if the rosy Dawn

Borrowed her blushes from the rosy flower,

Or this from her; for that the two had on

The same warm color, the same dewy veil.

Yea, and why not? For flower alike and star

Live under Lady Venus, and exhale,

Mayhap, the self-same fragrance. But afar

The planet’s breath is wafted and is spent,

The blossom sheds its fragrance at our side;

Yet still they wear the one habiliment

The Paphian goddess lent them, murex-dyed!

A moment more and the young buds were seen

Bursting their star-like sheathings. One was there

Who sported yet a fairy helm of green;

And one a crimson coronal did wear;

And one was like a stately pyramid

Tipped at the apex with a purple spire;

And one the foldings of her veil undid

From her fair head, as moved by the desire

To number her own petals. Quick, ’tis done!

The smiling casket opens, and we see

The crocus therein hidden from the sun

Dense-seeded. But another flower, ah me!

With flame-like hair afloat upon the breeze

Paled suddenly, of all her glory shorn.

“Alas for the untimely fate of these,

Who age the very hour wherein they’re born,”

I cried. And even so, the chevelure

Of yon poor blossom dropped upon the mold,

Clothing it far and wide with color pure!

How can the same sunrising see unfold

And fade so many shapes of loveliness?

Ah cruel Nature, with thy boon of flowers

Too quick withdrawn! Ah youth, grim age doth press!

Ah life of roses, told in one day’s hours!

The morning star beholds a birth divine

Whereof the evening star shall find no trace.

Think then upon the rose’s endless line,

Since the one rose revisiteth her place

Never again! And gather, sweetest maid,

Gather young roses in the early dew

Of thine own years, remembering how they fade,

And how for thee the end is hastening too!