Sextus Propertius: The Love Elegies
TRANSLATED BY A.S.Kline
©Copyright 2001 A.S.Kline, All Rights Reserved
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LIBER PUBLICATIONS 2001
Cynthia was the first, to my cost, to trap me with her eyes: I was untouched by love before then. It was Amor lowered my gaze of endless disdain, and, feet planted, bowed my head, till he taught me, recklessly, to scorn pure girls and live without sense, and now this madness has not left me for one whole year, though I do attract divine hostility.
Milanion, did not shirk hard labour, Tullus, my friend, to crush fierce Atalanta, Iasusís daughter. Then he strayed lovesick in Partheniumís caves, and faced wild beasts there: thrashed, what is more, by the club of Hylaeus, the Centaur, he moaned, wounded, among Arcadiaís stones. So he was able to overcome the swift-footed girl: such is the value of entreaty and effort in love. Dulled Amor, in me, has lost his wits, and forgets the familiar paths he travelled before.
But you whose trickeries draw down the moon, whose task it is to seek revenge, by sacrifice on magic fires, go change my mistressís mind, and make her cheeks grow paler than my own! Then I will believe you have power to lead rivers and stars wherever you wish, with Colchian charms.
Or you, my friends who, too late, would draw me back from error, search out the cure for a sick heart. I will suffer the heat and the knife bravely, if only freedom can speak as indignation wishes. Lift me through furthest nations and seas, where never a woman can follow my track. You, to whom gods grant an easy hearing, who live forever secure in mutual love, stay behind. Venus, our mistress, turns nights of bitterness against me, and Amor never fails to be found wanting. Avoid this evil I beg you: let each cling to his own love, and never alter the places of familiar desire. But if one hears my warning too late, O with what agony he will remember my words!
What need is there, mea vita, to come with your hair adorned, and slither about in a thin silk dress from Cos? Why drench your tresses in myrrh of Orontes, and betray yourself with gifts from strangers; ruin natureís beauty with traded refinements; not allow your limbs to gleam to true advantage? Believe me, nothing could enhance your shape: naked Amor never loves lying forms. Look at the colours that lovely earth throws out: but better the wild ivy that springs up of itself; loveliest the strawberry tree that grows in deserted hollows; and the water knows how to run in untaught ways. The shores convince us dressed with natural pebbles, and birds sing much sweeter without art.
Phoebe did not set Castor on fire this way, she Leucippusís daughter; nor Hilaira, her sister, Pollux, with trinkets. Not like this Marpessa, Evenusís daughter, whom Idas and passionate Phoebus fought for by her fatherís shore. Hippodamia did not attract Pelops, her Phrygian husband, with false brightness, to be whirled off on alien chariot-wheels. They did not slavishly add jewels to faces of a lustre seen in Apellesís paintings. Collecting lovers everywhere was never their inclination: to be chaste was great enough beauty for them.
Might I not be afraid now, that I might be worth less than these? If she pleases one man a girl has enough refinement: and Phoebus grants, to you above all, his gifts of song, and Calliope, gladly, her Aonian lyre, and your happy words never lack unique grace, all that Minerva and Venus approve of. If only those wretched luxuries wearied you, you would always be dearest to my life for these.
Just as Ariadne, the girl of Cnossus, lay on the naked shore, fainting, while Theseusís ship vanished; or as Andromeda, Cepheusís child, lay recumbent in her first sleep free now of the harsh rock; or like one fallen on the grass by Apidanus, exhausted by the endless Thracian dance; Cynthia seemed like that to me, breathing the tender silence, her head resting on unquiet hands, when I came, deep in wine, dragging my drunken feet, and the boys were shaking the late night torches.
My senses not totally dazed yet, I tried to approach her, pressing gently against the bed: and though seized by a twin passion, here Amor and there Bacchus, both cruel gods, urging me on, to attempt to slip my arm under her as she lay there, and lifting my hand snatch eager kisses, I was still not brave enough to trouble my mistressís rest, fearing her proven fierceness in quarreling, but, frozen there, clung to her, gazing intently, like Argus on Ioís newly horned brow.
Now I freed the garlands from my forehead, and set them on your temples: now I delighted in playing with your loose hair, furtively slipping apples into your open hands, bestowing every gift on your ungrateful sleep, repeated gifts breathed from my bowed body. And whenever you, stirring, gave an infrequent sigh, I was transfixed, believing false omens, some vision bringing you strange fears, or another forced you to be his, against your will.
At last the moon, gliding by distant windows, the busy moon with lingering light, opened her closed eyes, with its tender rays. Raised on one elbow on the soft bed, she cried: ĎHas anotherís severity driven you out, closing her doors, bringing you back to my bed at last? Alas for me, where have you spent the long hours of this night, that was mine, you, worn out now, as the stars are put away? O you, cruel to me in my misery, I wish you the same long-drawn out nights as those you endlessly offer to me. Till a moment ago, I staved off sleep, weaving the purple threads, and again, wearied, with the sound of Orpheusís lyre. Until Sleep impelled me to sink down under his delightful wing I was moaning gently to myself, alone, all the while, for you, delayed so long, so often, by a strangerís love. That was my last care, amongst my tears.í
Why do you urge me to alter, and leave my mistress, Bassus, praising so many lovely girls to me? Why not allow me to spend the rest of my life in increasingly familiar slavery? You can praise Antiopeís beauty, the daughter of Nycteus, and Hermione of Sparta, all those the ages of beauty saw: Cynthia denies them a name. Still less would she be slighted, or thought less, by severe critics, if she were compared with inferior forms. Her beauty is the least part of what inflames me: there are greater things I take joy in dying for, Bassus: Natureís complexion, and the grace of many an art, and pleasures it is best to speak of under the silent sheets.
The more you try to weaken our love, the more both disappoint with acknowledged loyalty. You will not escape with impunity: the furious girl will know of it, and will be an enemy to you with no unquiet voice. Cynthia will no longer look for you after this, nor entrust me to you. She will remember such crimes, and angrily denounce you amongst all the other girls: alas, you will be loved on never a threshold. She will slight no altar of her tears, no stone, wherever it may be, and however sacred.
No loss hurts Cynthia so deeply as when the god is absent, love snatched away from her: above all mine. Let her always be so, I pray, and let me never discover cause in her for lament.
Envious man, quiet your irksome cries at last, and let us travel the path we are on, as one! What do you wish for, madman: to feel my passions? Unhappy man, you are hastening to know the deepest hurt, and set your footsteps on hidden fires, and drink all the poisons of Thessaly. She is not like the fickle girls you collect: she is not used to being angered mildly. Even if, by chance, she does not reject your prayers, how many thousand cares she will bring you! She will not let you sleep, now, or loose your eyes: she is the one to bind the mindís uncivilised forces. Ah, how often, scorned, you will run to my door, your brave words turning to sobbing, a trembling ague of bitter tears descending, fear tracing its hideous lines on your face, and whatever words you wish to say, lost in your moaning, you, you wretch, no longer able to know who or where you are.
Then youíll be forced to know my mistressís harsh service, and what it is to return home excluded. Youíll not marvel at my pallor any longer, or at why I am thin all over. Your high birth will do you no good in love. Love does not yield to ancient faces. But if you show the smallest sign of guilt, how quickly your good name will be hearsay! Iíll not be able to bring you relief when you ask, while there is no cure for my malady: rather, companions together in love and sorrow, we will be forced to weep on each otherís offered breast.
Iím not afraid to discover the Adriatic
with you, Tullus, or set
my sail, now, on the briny Aegean:
I could climb Scythian
heights, or go beyond the
Iíll not live an hour among such complaints: O let him perish who can make love, with them, at his ease! What use is it for me to discover wise Athens, or see the ancient treasures of Asia, only for Cynthia to cry out against me when the shipís launched, and mark her face with passionate hands, and declare she owes kisses to the opposing winds, that nothing is worse than a faithless lover?
You can try and surpass your uncleís well-deserved power, and re-establish our alliesí ancient rights, since your youth has never had room for love, and youíve always loved fighting for your country. Let that Boy never burden you with my labours, and all the marks of my tears! Let me, whom Fate always wished to level, give up this life to utter worthlessness. Many have been lost, willingly, in wearisome love: earth buries me also among that number. Iím not born fitted for weapons or glory: this is the war the Fates wish to subject me to.
But whether you go where gentle Ionia extends, or where Pactolusís waters gild the Lydian fields, your feet on the earth, or striking the sea with your oars, youíll be part of the accepted order: then, if an hour comes when Iím not forgotten, youíll know I live under cruel stars.
While you write of Cadmusís Thebes, and the bitter struggle of that war of brothers, and, bless me, contest Homerís primacy (if the Fates are kind to your song) I, Ponticus, as usual, follow my passions, and search for a means to endure my lady. Iím forced more to serve sadness than wit, and moan at youthís hard times.
This the way of life I suffer, this is my fame. Let my only praise be that I pleased a learned maid, Ponticus, and often bore with her unjust threats. Let scorned lovers, after me, read my words with care, and benefit from knowing my ills. You, as well, if the Boy strikes home, with his sure shaft (that I wish the gods didnít allow) will cry out in pain for that ancient citadel, the lost armies of the seven, thrown down in eternally silent neglect, and helplessly long to compose sweet verses. Love come late will not fill your song.
Then youíll often admire me, not as a humble poet: then youíll prefer me to the intellects of Rome: and the young men will not keep silent around my tomb, crying: ĎYou lie there, the great singer of our ardors.í Take care not to condemn my work in your pride. Love that comes late often charges a high rate.
Are you mad, then, that my anxiety does not stop you? Am I less to you than chilly Illyria? Does he seem so great to you, whoever he is, that youíll go anywhere the wind takes your sails, without me? Can you hear the roar of the furious seas unmoved, and lie down on hard planks; tread the hoarfrost under your tender feet? Cynthia, can you bear unaccustomed snow? Oh, I wish that the days till the winter solstice were doubled, and the Pleiades delayed, the sailors sitting idle, the ropes be never loosed from the Tyrrhenian shore, and the hostile breezes not blow my prayers away! Yet may I never see such winds drop when your boat puts off, and the waves carry it onwards, leaving me rooted to the desolate strand, repeatedly crying out your cruelty with clenched fist.
Yet whatever you deserve from me, you who renounce me, may Sicilian Galatea not frown on your
journey: pass with happy oars
She is here! She stays, she promised! Discontent, vanish, Iíve won: she could not endure my endless entreaties. Let eager Envy relinquish its illusory joy. My Cynthia has ceased to travel strange roads. Iím dear to her, and because of me she says Rome is best, and rejects a kingdom without me. Sheíd rather stay in bed, though narrow, with me, and be mine, whatever its size, than have the ancient region that was Hippodamiaís dowry, and the riches that the horses of Elis won. She did not rush from my breast, in avarice, though he gave a lot, and heíd give her more.
I could not dissuade her from it with gold or Indian pearls, but by the service of flattering song. I rely, like this, on the Muses in love, nor is Apollo slow to help lovers. Cynthia, the rare, is mine! Now my feet tread the highest stars: night and day come, sheís mine! No rival steals my certain love from me: this glory will crown my old age.
O sweet dream, when I saw your first love: witness, there, to your tears! O what sweet pleasure for me to remember that night, O the one so often summoned by my longing, when I saw you dying, Gallus, in your girlís arms, uttering words with long pauses! Though sleep pressed on my weary lids, and the Moon blushed, drawn through mid-heaven, I still could not draw back from your play, there was so much ardour in your exchanges.
But, since you were not afraid to let me, accept your reward for the joy of trust. Iíve not only learnt to be silent about your pain, there is something greater in me, my friend, than loyalty. I can join parted lovers again, and open a mistressís reluctant door. I can heal someoneís fresh wounds: the power of my words is not slight. Cynthia repeatedly taught me what one should look for or beware of: Loveís not been idle.
Beware of picking a fight with your girl when sheís angry, donít speak in pride, donít stay silent for long: and if she requests something, donít say no with a frown on your face, and donít let kind words shower on you in vain. Sheíll come in a temper when sheís ignored, and wounded she wonít remember to drop her justified threats. But the more you are humble, and subject to love, the more youíll enjoy a fine performance. Heíll be able to endure one girl gladly, who is never found wanting, or free of feeling.
While you idle at Baiaeís heart, Cynthia, where Herculesís causeway hangs by the shore, now gazing at waves that washed Thesprotusís kingdom, now at the waters by noted Misenum, does any thought enter, oh, that brings you nights mindful of me? Is there a place where the least of love remains? Has some unknown rival, with false pretences of passion, drawn Cynthia away from my songs?
I would much rather some little craft, relying on paltry oar, entertained you on Napleís Lucrine Lake, or the waters easily parting, hand after hand, held you enclosed in the shallow waves of Teuthras, than free to hear anotherís flattering whispers, settled voluptuously on some private shore! Away from watching eyes a girl slips into faithlessness, not remembering the gods we share. Not because your reputation is not well known to me, but that in that place every desire is to be feared.
So, forgive me if my writings have brought you annoyance: my fears are to blame. I do not watch over my mother now with greater care, nor without you have I any care for my life.
You are my only home, my only parents, Cynthia: you, every moment of my happiness. If I am joyful or sad with the friends I meet, however I am, I say: ĎCynthia is the reason.í Only leave corrupt Baiae as soon as you may: that coast will bring discord to many, a coast fatal to chaste girls: O let the waters of Baiae vanish, an offence to love!
Why donít you stop inventing charges of apathy, Rome, the Ďknowingí, saying it hinders me? Sheís separated from my bed by as many miles as Russiaís rivers from Veniceís River Po. Cynthia doesnít nurture familiar love in her arms, nor make sweet sounds in my ears. I pleased once: at that time there was no one to touch us who could compare for loyalty in love. We were envied. Surely a god overwhelmed me, or some herb picked from Promethean mountains shattered our bond?
I am not who I was: distant journeys alter girls. How quickly love flies! Now I am forced to endure long nights alone, for the first time, and be oppressive to myself. Heís happy who is able to weep where his girl is: Love takes no small joy in a sprinkling of tears. Or he who, rejected, can change his desire: there is joy in a new slavery as well. But is it impossible for me ever to love another, or part from her. Cynthia was loveís beginning: Cynthia will be its end.
Youíll laugh at my downfall, as you often do, Gallus, because Iím alone and free, love lifted away. But Iíll never imitate your words, faithless man. May no girl ever let you down, Gallus. Even now with your growing reputation for deceiving them, never seeking to linger long in any passion, you begin to pale with desperation in belated love, and fall back, tripped, at the first step. Sheíll be your torment for despising their sorrows: one girl will take revenge for the pain of many. Sheíll put a stop to your roving desires, and sheíll not always be fond of your search for the new.
No wicked rumour, or augury, told me this: I saw it: can you deny me, as a
witness, I pray? I saw you, languishing, arms wound round your neck, and
weeping for ages, in her hands, Gallus, and yearning to breathe your life out
in words of longing: and lastly, my friend, what shame tells me to hide: I
couldnít part your clinging, such was the wild passion between you. That god Neptune disguised as the
Iím not surprised, since she rivals Leda, is worthy of Jupiter, and alone lovelier than Ledaís three children by him. Sheís more charm than the demi-goddesses of Greece: her words would make Jupiter love her. Since you are sure to die of love once and for all: no other threshold was worthy. May she be kind to you, since new madness strikes, and, whatever you wish for, may she be the one for you.
Though, you drink Lesbosís wine, from Mentorís cups, abandoned, in luxury, by Tiberís waves, and now are amazed at how quickly the boats slip by, and now at how slowly the barges are towed along: and the wood spreads its line of trees all over the summits, thick as Caucasusís many trees: still these things have no power to rival my love. Love is unable to bow down to great wealth.
If She spins out sleep with me as desired, or draws out the whole day in easy loving, then the waters of Pactolus come under my roof, and the Red Seaís coral buds are gathered from under the waves, then my delights say that I am greater than kings: and may they endure, till Fate wants me to vanish. For who can enjoy wealth if Love is against him? No riches for me if Venus is sullen!
She can exhaust the strong powers of heroes: she can even be pain to the toughest of minds: sheís not apprehensive at crossing Arabian thresholds, nor afraid to climb on to the purple couch, Tullus, and toss the miserable young man all over his bed. What comfort is dyed silken fabric? When sheís reconciled, and near me, Iíll not fear to despise whole kingdoms, or Alcinousís gifts.
Cynthia Iíve often feared great pain from your fickleness, yet I still did not expect treachery. See with what trials Fortune drags me down! Yet you still respond slowly to my anxiety, and can lift your hands to last nightís tresses, and examine your looks in endless idleness, and go on decking out your breast with Eastern jewels, like a beautiful woman preparing to meet a new lover.
Calypso didnít feel like that when Odysseus, the Ithacan, left her, when she wept long ago to the empty waves: she sat mourning for many days with unkempt hair, pouring out speech to the cruel brine, and though she would never see him again, she still grieved, thinking of their long happiness. Hypsipyle, troubled, didnít stand like that in the empty bedroom when the winds snatched Jason away: Hypsipyle never felt pleasure again after that, melting, once and for all, for her Haemonian stranger. Alphesiboea was revenged on her own brothers for her husband Alcmaeon, and passion broke the bonds of loving blood. Evadne, famous for Argive chastity, died in the pitiful flames, raised high on her husbandís pyre.
Yet none of these alters your existence, that you might also be known in story. Cynthia, stop now revoking your words by lying, and refrain from provoking forgotten gods. O reckless girl, thereíll be more than enough grief at my misfortune if it chances that anything dark happens to you! Long before the love for you changes in my heart, rivers will flow out of the vast ocean, and the year reverse its seasons: be whatever you wish, except anotherís.
Donít let those eyes appear so worthless to you through which your treachery was so often believed by me! You swore by them, if youíd been false in anything, theyíd vanish away when your fingers touched them. And can you raise them to the vast sun, and not tremble, aware of your guilty sins? Who forced your pallor of shifting complexion, and drew tears from unwilling eyes? Those are the eyes I now die for, to warn lovers like me: ĎNo charms can ever be safely trusted!í
Now Iím bruised in night quarrels with drunkards, moaning often, struck by shameful hands, I, who used to open to great triumphs, Tarpeiaís entrance, honoured for chastity, whose threshold was crowded with golden teams, wet with the suppliant tears of captives. Disgraceful garlands arenít lacking, hung on me, and always the torches lie there, symbols of the excluded.
Nor can I save my lady from infamous nights, honour surrendered in obscene singing. Nor does she repent as yet, to cease her notoriety: stop living more sinfully than this dissolute age. And complaining, Iím forced to shed worse tears, made sadder by the length of some suppliantsí vigil. He never allows my columns to rest, renewing his sly insinuating song:
ĎEntrance, crueller than my mistressís depths, why are your solid doors closed now, and mute, for me? Why do you never unfasten and admit my desire, unable to feel or tell her my secret prayers? Will there be no end assigned to my sadness, and sleep lie, unsightly, on your cool threshold? , the stars sinking to rest, and the icy winds of chill dawn, grieve for me. You alone never pity manís grief, replying with mutually silent hinges.
O I wish that my soft voice might cross through some hollow cleft, and enter my ladyís startled ears! Then she would never be able to check herself, and a sigh would surface amongst reluctant tears, though she were more unyielding than flint or Sicilian stones, harder than iron or steel.
Now she lies resting in another manís fortunate arms, and my words fall on nocturnal breezes. But to me, threshold, you are the one, great cause of my grief, never conquered by gifts. No petulant tongue of mine has ever offended you, used to calling out angry drunken jests, that you should make me hoarse with endless complaining, guarding the crossroads in anxious waiting. Yet I have often elicited new lines of verse for you, and printed deep kisses on your steps. How often before now have I turned from your columns, treacherous one, and with hidden hands produced the required offering.í
So with this and whatever you helpless lovers invent, he drowns out the dawn chorus. So Iím condemned to eternal infamy, for my mistressís failings now, for her loversí tears forever.
Since I managed to flee the girl, now itís right that I speak to the lonely halcyons: Cassiopeís harbour hasnít had its accustomed sight of my boat, and all my prayers fall on a heartless shore. Yes, even in your absence, Cynthia, the winds promote your cause: hear what savage threats the sky sounds. Will good fortune ever come to calm the storms? Will that little beach hold my ashes?
Change your fierce complaints to something kinder, and let night and the hostile shoals be my punishment. Would you, dry-eyed, require my death, and never clasp my bones to your breast? O, perish the man, who-ever he was, who first made ships and rigging and journeyed over the reluctant deep! Easier to change my mistressís moods (however hard, though, sheís still a rare girl) than to gaze at shores ringed with unknown forests, and search in the sky for the long-lost Twins.
If the Fates had buried my grief at home, and an upright stone stood there to my last love, she would have given dear strands of hair to the fire, and laid my bones gently on soft rose-petals: she would have cried out my name over the final embers, and asked for earth to lie lightly on me.
But you, the sea-born daughters of lovely Doris, happy choir, loosen our white sails: if ever love glided down and touched your waves, spare a friend, for gentler shores.
Truly this is a silent, lonely place for grieving, and the breath of the West Wind owns the empty wood. Here I can speak my secret sorrows freely, if only these solitary cliffs could be trusted.
What cause shall I attribute your disdain to, my Cynthia? Cynthia, what reason for my grief did you give me? I who but now was numbered among the joyous lovers, now am forced to look for signs of your love. Why do I merit all this? What spell turns you away from me? Is some new girl the root of your anger? You can give yourself to me again, fickle girl, since no other has ever set lovely foot on my threshold. Though my sorrowís indebted to you for much grief, my anger will not be so fierce with you that rage would ever be justified in you, or your weeping eyes be disfigured with falling tears.
Is it because I show few signs of altered complexion, and my faith does not shout aloud in my face? Beech-tree and pine, beloved of the Arcadian god, you will be witnesses, if trees know these passions. Oh, how often my words echo under gentle shadows, and Cynthia is carved in your bark!
Oh! How often has your injustice caused me pains that only your silent threshold knows? I am used to suffering your tyrannous orders with diffidence, without moaning about it in noisy complaints. For this I receive sacred springs, cold rocks, and rough sleep by a wilderness track: and whatever my complaining can tell of, must be uttered alone to melodious birds.
Yet whatever you are, let the woods echo ĎCynthiaí to me, and let not the wild cliffs be free of your name.
I do not fear the sad shadows, now, my Cynthia, or care about death, destined for the final fires: but this fear is harder to bear than my funeral procession, that perhaps my corpse would lack your love. Cupid has not so lightly clung to my eyelids, that my dust can be void, love forgotten.
The hero, Protesilaus, could not forget his sweet wife even in the dark region: the Thessalian came as a shade to his former home, longing with ghostly hands to touch his delight. Whatever I am there, I will always be known as your shadow: a great love crosses the shore of death.
Let the choir of lovely women of old, come to greet me there, those whom the spoils of Troy yielded to Argive men, none of whose beauty shall mean more to me than yours, Cynthia, and (O allow this, Earth, and be just) though a destined old age keeps you back, your bones will still be dear to my sad eyes. May you, living, feel this when I am dust: then no place of death will be bitter to me. How I fear lest you ignore my tomb, Cynthia, and some inimical passion draws you away from my ashes, and forces you, unwillingly, to dry the tears that fall!
Constant threats will persuade a loyal girl. So, while we can, let there be joy between lovers: no length of timeís enough for lasting love.
You have a lover, like Hylas, Theodamasís son, no less handsome, not unequal in birth. Take care if you walk by the sacred rivers in Umbrian forests, or waters of Anio touch your feet, or if you wander the edge of the Phlegrean plain, or wherever a river gives wandering welcome, always defend your loving prey from the Nymphs (the Ausonian Dryadsí desire is no less) lest rough hills and cold rocks are yours, Gallus, and you enter eternally untried waters. The wretched wanderer Hercules suffered this misery, and wept by the wild River Ascanius, on an unknown shore.
They say that the Argo sailed long ago from Pagasaís shipyard, and set out on the long voyage to Phasis, and, once the Hellespontís waves slid past, tied her hull to Mysiaís cliffs. Here the band of heroes landed on the quiet shore, and covered the ground with a soft layer of leaves. But the young unconquered heroís companion strayed far, searching for the scarce waters of distant springs.
The two brothers, Zetes and Calais, the sons of the North Wind, chased him, pursued him, both above, with hovering grasp, to snatch kisses, and alternately fleeing with a kiss from his upturned face. But he hangs concealed beneath the edge of a wing, and wards of their tricks in flight, with a branch. At last the sons of Orithyia, Pandionís daughter, cease: ah! Sadly, off goes Hylas, going to the Hamadryads.
There lay the well of Pege, by the peak of Mount Arganthus, the watery haunt dear to Thyniaís Nymphs, over which moistened apples hung from wild fruit-trees free from cultivation, and round about in the water-meadows grew white lilies mixed with scarlet poppies, that he now picked with delicate fingers, childishly preferring the flowers to his chosen task, and now bent innocently down to the lovely waves, prolonging his wandering with flattering reflections.
At last with outstretched palms he prepared to drink from the spring, propped on his right shoulder, lifting full hands. Inflamed by his whiteness, the Dryad girls left their usual throng to marvel, easily pulling him headlong into the yielding waters. Then, as they seized his body, Hylas cried out: to that Hercules replied, again and again, from the distance, but the wind blew the name back, from the far waters.
O Gallus, warned by this, guard your affairs, in entrusting handsome Hylas to Nymphs.
ĎYou who rush to escape the common fate, stricken soldier from the Etruscan ramparts, why turn your angry eyes towards my groaning? Iím one of your closest comrades in arms. Save yourself then, so your parents can be glad, and donít let my sister know of these things by your tears: how Gallus broke out through the midst of Caesarís swordsmen, but couldnít escape some unknown hand: and whatever bones she finds scattered over the Etruscan hills, let her not know them as mine.í
You ask, always in friendship, Tullus, what are my household gods, and of what people am I. If our countryís graves, at Perusia, are known to you, Italyís graveyard in darkest times, when Romeís citizens dealt in war (as, to my special sorrow, Etruscan dust, you have allowed my kinsmanís limbs to be scattered, you cover his wretched bones with no scrap of soil), know that Umbria rich in fertile ground bore me, where it touches there on the plain below.
If you want her to go in a gleam of Cos, this whole book will be Coan silk: if Iíve seen straying hair cloud her forehead, she joys to walk, pride in her worshipped tresses: or if ivory fingers brought songs from the lyre, I marvel what fingering sweeps the strings: or when she closes eyelids, calling on sleep, I come to a thousand reasons for verse: or if naked she wrestles me, free of our clothes, then in truth we make whole Iliads: whatever she does or says, a great taleís born out of nothing.
Even if, Maecenas, the Fates had given me strength to lead crowds of heroes to war, I would not sing Titans; Ossa on Olympus, with Pelion a road to Heaven; or ancient Thebes; or Troy that made Homerís name; or split seas meeting at Xerxesís order; Remusís first kingdom, or the spirit of proud Carthage, or the German threat and Mariusís service. I would remember the wars of your Caesar, his doings, and you, under mighty Caesar, would be my next concern.
As often as I sang Mutina; Philippi, the citizens graveyard; the sea-fights in that Sicilian rout; the ruined Etruscan fires of the former race; Ptolemyís Pharos, its captive shore; or sang of Egypt and Nile, when crippled, in mourning, he ran to the city, with seven imprisoned streams; or the necks of kings hung round with golden chains; or Actiumís prows on the Sacred Way; my Muse would always weave you into those wars, mind loyal at making or breaking peace.
Achilles gave witness of a friendís love to the gods, Theseus to the shades, one of Patroclus, son of Menoetius, the other of Pirithous, Ixionís son. But Callimachusís frail chest could not thunder out Jupiterís tumult with the giant Enceladus, over the Phlegrean Plain, nor have I the strength of mind to carve Caesarís line, back to Phrygian forebears, in hard enough verse.
The sailor talks of breezes: the ploughman, of oxen: the soldier counts wounds, the shepherd counts sheep: I in my turn count sinuous flailings in narrowest beds: let every man spend the day where he can, in his art. Glorious to die in love: a further glory, if itís given, to us, to love only once: O may I enjoy my love alone!
If I am right, she finds fault with dubious women, and disapproves the whole Iliad because of Helen.
Though it be for me to taste Phaedraís chalice, from which Hippolytus had no harm; or for me to die of Circeís herbs; or for Medea to heat the Colchian cauldron over Iolcusís fire; since only one woman has stolen my senses, it is from her house that my funeral cortege shall go.
Medicine cures all human sorrows: only love loves no doctor for its disease. Machaon healed Philoctetes limping feet; Chiron, Phillyraís son, the eyes of Phoenix; Asclepius, the Epidaurian god, gave dead Androgeon back to his fatherís hearth, using Cretan herbs, and Telephus, the Mysian warrior, from Achillesís Haemonian spear by which he knew his wound, by that spear itself knew relief.
If any one can take away my illness, he alone can put apples in Tantalusís hand: he will fill urns from the virgin Danaidsí jars, lest their tender necks grow heavy with unloosed water; he will free Prometheusís arms from Caucasian cliffs, and drive the vulture from his heart.
So whenever the Fates demand my life, and I become a brief name in slight marble, Maecenas, the hope and envy of our youth, true glory of my death or life, if by chance your road take you by my tomb, halt your chariot from Britain, with its engraved yoke, and as you weep, lay these words on the silent dust: ĎA hard mistress was this wretchís fate.í
I was free, and thought to enjoy an empty bed: but though I arranged my peace, Amor betrayed me. Why does such human beauty linger on Earth? Jupiter I forgive you your rapes of old. Yellow is her hair, and slender are her hands, her whole figure is sublime, and her walk as noble as Jupiterís sister, or Pallas Athene, going to Dulichian altars, her breasts covered by the Gorgonís snaky locks.
She is lovely as Ischomache, the Lapithís demi-goddess, sweet plunder for the Centaurs amidst the marriage feast, or Hecate by the sacred waters of Boebeis, lying down, a virgin goddess, it is said, by Mercuryís side. And you Goddesses, yield, whom shepherd Paris saw once, laying your clothes aside for him, on the slopes of Idaís mountain! I wish that the years might never touch that beauty, yet that she might live the ages of the Sibyl of Cumae.
You who said that nothing could touch you now, youíre caught: that pride of yours has fallen! You can hardly find rest for a single month, poor thing, and now thereíll be another disgraceful book about you.
I tried whether a fish could live on dry sand it has never known before, or a savage wild boar live in the sea, or whether I could keep stern studiesí watch by night: love is deferred but never destroyed.
It was not her face, bright as it is, that won me (lilies are not more white than my lady; as if Maeotic snows contend with the reds of Spain, or rose-petals swim in purest milk) nor her hair, ordered, flowing down her smooth neck, nor her eyes, twin fires, that are my starlight, nor a girl shining in Arabian silk (I am no lover flattering for nothing): but how beautifully she dances when the wine is set aside, like Ariadne taking the lead among the ecstatic cries of the Maenads, and how when she sets herself to sing in the Sapphic style, she plays with the skill of Aganippeís lyre, and joins her verse to that of ancient Corinna, and thinks Erinnaís songs unequal to her own.
When you were born, mea vita, did Love, dressed in white, not sneeze a clear omen for you, in your first hours of daylight? The gods granted these heavenly gifts to you: in case you think your mother gave them to you: such gifts beyond the human are not inborn: these graces were not a nine-month creation. You are born to be the unique glory among Roman girls: you will be the first Roman girl to sleep with Jove, and never visit mortal beds amongst us. The beauty of Helen returns, to Earth, a second time.
Why should I marvel now that our youths are on fire because of this? It would
have been more glorious for you, Troy,
to have perished because of this. I used to wonder that a girl could have
caused so mighty a war, Asia
versus Europe at Pergama. But Paris, and Menelaus, you were both
wise, Menelaus demanding her return,
At least let me keep within her bounds! Or if it should be that another love comes to me, let it be fiercer and let me die. Just as the ox at first rejects the plough, but later accepts the yoke and goes quietly to the fields, so spirited youth frets at first, in love, but takes the rough with the smooth, later, when tamed. Melampus the prophet, accepted shame in chains, convicted of stealing Iphiclusís cattle, but Peroís great beauty drove him, not profit, she his bride to be in Amythaonsí house.
First you must grieve, many times, at your mistressís wrongs towards you, often requesting something, often being rejected. And often chew your innocent fingernails in your teeth, and tap the ground nervously with your foot, in anger!
My hair was drenched with scent: no use: nor my departing feet, delaying, with measured step. Magic plants are worth nothing here, nor a Colchian witch of night, nor herbs distilled by Perimedeís hand, since we see no cause or visible blow from anywhere: still, itís a dark path so many evils come by.
The patient doesnít need a doctor, or a soft bed: itís not the wind or weather hurts him. He walks about Ė and suddenly his funeral startles his friends. Whatever love is itís unforeseen like this. What deceitful fortune-teller have I not been victim of, what old woman has not pondered my dreams ten times?
If anyone wants to be my enemy, let him desire girls: and delight in boys if he wants to be my friend. You go down the tranquil stream in a boat in safety: how can such tiny waves from the bank hurt you? Often his mood alters with a single word: she will scarcely be satisfied with your blood.
Is it true all
Now my angerís fresh: nowís the time to go: if pain returns, believe me, love will be back. The Carpathian waves donít change in the northerlies as fast, or the black storm cloud, in a shifting southwest gale, as loversí anger alters at a word. While you can take your neck from the unjust yoke. Then you wonít grieve at all, except for the very first night: all loveís evils are slight, if you are patient.
But, by the gentle laws of our lady Juno, mea vita, stop hurting yourself on purpose. Itís not just the bull that hits out with a curving horn at its aggressor, even a sheep, itís true, opposes an enemy. I wonít rip the clothes off your lying flesh, or break open your shut doors, or tear at your plaited hair in anger, or dare to bruise you with my hard fists. Let some ignoramus look for quarrels as shabby as these, a man whose head no ivy ever encircled. Iíll go write: what your lifetime wonít rub out: ĎCynthia, strong in beauty: Cynthia light of word.í Trust me, though you defy scandalís murmur, this verse, Cynthia, will make you pale.
There was never so much crowding round Laisís house in Corinth, at whose doors all of Greece lay down. Never such a swarm for Menanderís Thais, once, whom the populace of Athens amused themselves with. Nor for Phryne, rich from so many lovers, she might have rebuilt the ruined walls of Thebes.
Why, you even invent false relatives, and donít lack for those who have the right to kiss you. The faces of young men in your paintings, and their names, annoy me, even the tender voiceless boy in the cradle. Iíll be wounded if your mother smothers you in kisses, your sister, or the girlfriend you sleep with. Everything hurts me: Iím afraid: (forgive my fear) and, wretched, suspect a man under every shift.
Once, so the tale is, wars occurred for jealousies like these: see there the
origins of Troyís
destruction. The same craziness made the Centaurs smash cups violently fighting Pirithous. Why seek Greek examples? You were
the author of that crime, Romulus,
reared on a she-wolfís savage milk: you taught them to rape Sabine virgins and go unpunished: through you Love dares what he pleases
Admetusís wife, Alcestis, was blessed, and Ulyssesís bedmate, Penelope, and every woman who loves her husbandís home! What use is it girls building temples in honour of Chastity, if every brideís allowed to do what she wants?
The hand that first painted obscene pictures, and set up disgraceful things to view in innocent homes, corrupted the unknowing eyes of young girls, and denied them ignorance of sin itself. Oh, let him groan who sent abroad, through art, the trouble latent in silent pleasures! Once they didnít deck out their houses with those images, then the walls werenít painted with sin. Not without cause cobwebs wreathe the shrines, and rank weeds clothe neglected gods.
What guards shall I set for you, then, what lintel that no hostile foot shall ever cross? For a sad imprisonment will achieve nothing against your will. Sheís only safe, Cynthia, who is ashamed to sin. No wife or mistress will ever seduce me: you will always be my mistress, and my wife.
Cynthia was delighted, of course, when that law was repealed: we wept for ages in case it might divide us. Though Jupiter himself canít separate two lovers against their will. ĎBut Caesar is mighty.í But Caesarís might is in armies: conquered people are worth nothing in love.
Iíd sooner suffer my head being parted from my body than quench this fire to humour a bride, or as a husband pass by your sealed threshold, and, having betrayed it, look back with streaming eyes. Ah, what sleep my flute would sing you to then, a flute sadder than a funeral trumpet!
Is it for me to supply sons for our countryís triumphs? Thereíll be no soldiers from my line. But if I followed the true camp of my mistress, Castorís horse would not be grand enough for me. It was in fact through this that my glory gained such a name, glorious as far as the wintry Dneiper. You are the only one who pleases me: let me please you, Cynthia, alone: and this love will be more to me than being called Ďfatherí.
Sheís being torn away from me, the girl Iíve loved so long, and, friend, do you stop me from shedding tears? No enmities are bitter but those of love: cut my throat indeed and Iíll be a milder enemy. Can I watch her leaning on anotherís arm, she, no longer called mine, who was called mine a moment ago?
All things may be overturned: surely, loveís affairs may be overturned: you win or you lose: this is the wheel of love. Often, great leaders, great tyrants have fallen: and Thebes stood once, and there was noble Troy. Many as the gifts I gave, or many as the songs I made: yet she, the cruel one, never said: ĎI love.í
So, cruel girl, through all of the years now, have I, who supported you and your household, have I ever seemed a free man to you? Perhaps youíll always hurl scornful words at my head?
So, will you die, like this, Propertius,
you who are still a young man? Then die: let her rejoice at your death! Let her
disturb my ghost, and harass my shade, insult my pyre, and trample my bones!
Why! Didnít Haemon of Boeotia, his side wounded
by his own sword, fall by Antigoneís
tomb, and mingle his bones with those of the luckless girl, not wishing to
return to the
Even Achilles, left abandoned, his mistress snatched away, allowed his arms to lie there in his tent. He saw the fleeing Achaeans mangled on the beach, and the Dorian camp ablaze with Hectorís torch: he saw Patroclus hideous with sand, lying dead, blood in his outspread hair: and he suffered all that because of lovely Briseis. Grief rages, so deeply, when love is torn away. Then when his captive girl was returned later in retribution, he dragged that same brave Hector behind his Thessalian horses.
No wonder that Amor triumphs over me, since I am so much the lesser by birth or arms.
That which he is, I was, often: but perhaps one day heíll be thrown out, and another one will be dearer to you.
Penelope was able to live un-touched for twenty years, a woman worthy of so many suitors. She was able to evade marriage by cunning weaving, cleverly unravelling the dayís weft by night: and though she never hoped to see Ulysses again, she stayed, growing old, waiting for his return. Briseis, too, clutching dead Achilles, beat at her own bright face with frenzied hands, and, a weeping slave, bathed her bloodstained lord, as he lay by the yellow waters of Simois, and besmirched her hair, and lifted the mighty bones and flesh of great Achilles with her weak hands. Peleus was not with you Achilles, nor your sea-goddess mother, nor Scyrian Deidamia, bereaved in her bed.
So it was that Greece, then, was happy in its true daughters: then honour was respected even among the camps. But you, you, impious girl, couldnít be free a single night, or remain alone a single day! Why, you both drank from the cup, laughing away: and perhaps there were wicked words about me. You even chase after him, who left you once before. The gods grant that you may enjoy being slave to that man!
Were they for this the vows I undertook for your health, when the waters of Styx had all but gone over your head, and we friends stood, weeping, round your bed? Where was he, by the gods, faithless girl, what was he then to you?
What if I was a soldier, detained in far-off India, or my ship was stationed on the Ocean? But itís easy for you to compose lies and deceits: that is one art that women have always learned. The Syrtesís shoals donít change as quickly in the shifting storms: the leaves donít tremble as quickly in the wintry South-west gale, as a womanís given word fails in her anger, whether the cause is weighty, or whether the cause is slight.
Now, since this wilfulness pleases you, I concede. I beg you, Boys, bring out your sharper arrows, compete at shooting me, and free my life from me! My blood will be a great honour to you.
The stars are witnesses, girl, and the frost at dawn, and the doors that opened secretly for unhappy me, that nothing in my life was ever as dear as you: and you will be, from now on, also, though youíre so unkind to me. No woman will leave a trace in my bed: Iíll be alone, since I canít be yours. And I wish, if Iíve lead a pious life, maybe, for that man, in the midst of love, to become a stone!
Now itís time to circle Helicon with other metres; time to give the Thessalian horse its run of the field. Now I want to talk about squadrons brave in fight, and mention my leaderís Roman camp. But if I lack the power, surely my courage will be praised: itís enough to have willed great things.
Let first youth sing of Love, the end of life of tumult: I sing war, now my girlís written about. Now, I want to set off with a more serious aspect: now my Muse teaches me, on a different lute. Surge, mind: vigour now, away from these low songs, Muses: now this work will be large-voiced, so:
ĎNow Euphrates rejects the Parthianís cavalry protection, and mourns that he reduced Crassusís presence. Even India, Augustus, bows its neck to your triumph, and Arabiaís virgin house trembles for you; and if any country removes itself to the furthest ends of the earth, let it feel your hand afterwards, when itís captive.í
Iím a follower of camps like this: Iíll be a great poet singing of your camp: let the fates guard that day!
Just as when we canít reach the head of some tall statue, the garland is set before its lowly feet, so now, helpless to embark on a song of praise, I offer cheap incense from a poor manís rites. My verses as yet donít know Hesiodís founts of Ascra, Love has only washed them in Permessus, Apolloís stream.
Let other men write about you, or yourself be all unknown. Let the man who sows his seed in barren soil praise you. All your gifts, believe me, the dark funeral day will bear away with you, on that one bed: and heíll despise your dust, the man who passes by: heíll not say: ĎThese ashes were once a learned maid.í
Whoever he was who first depicted Amor as a boy, donít you think he possessed a wonderful touch? He was the first to see that lovers live without sense, and that great good is lost in trivial cares. Also, with meaning, he added the wings of the wind, and made the god hover in the human heart: true, since weíre thrown about on shifting winds, and the breeze never lingers in a single place.
And itís right that his hand should grip barbed arrows, and the Cretan quiverís hung across his shoulders, since he hits us before we can safely see the enemy, and no one escapes unwounded from his hurt.
His darts remain in me, and his form, of a boy, remains, but surely heís lost his wings, since he never flies anywhere else but in my heart, and, oh, he wages war endlessly in my blood.
What joy is it for you, Amor, to inhabit my thirsting heart? If you know shame, transfer your war elsewhere: better to try those innocent of your poison. Itís not me you hit: itís only my tenuous shadow.
If you destroy me, who will there be to sing like this? (This slender Muse of mine, is your great glory.) Who will sing the face, the hands, or the dark eyes of my girl, or how sweetly her footsteps are accustomed to fall.
Erythra is not armed
with as many Persian
shafts, as the arrows Love
has fixed in my chest. He ordered me not to despise the lesser Muses, and told me to live like this in Ascraís grove. Not so
that the oaks of
Iím not merely an admirer of beauty and virtue, or the fact that a woman mentions that her ancestors are famous. Itís my joy to have read in the arms of a learned girl, and to have my writing approved by her discerning ear. When I sample that, goodbye to the muddled talk of the people: since I will be secure with my lady as my judge.
If, perhaps, she might turn her mind to peace with kindness, I can then withstand Jupiterís enmity.
When death closes my eyes at last, then, listen what will serve as my funeral. No long spread-out procession of images for me, then: no empty trumpeting wailing my end. Donít smooth out a bed, there, on ivory posts for me, no corpse on a couch, pressing down mounds of Attalic cloth of gold. Leave out the line of perfumed dishes for me: put in the limited offerings of a plebeian rite.
Enough for me, and more than enough: if three little books form my procession that I take as my greatest gift to Persephone.
And surely youíll follow: scratches on your bare breasts; never wearying of calling my name; and place the last kiss on my frozen lips, when the onyx jar with its Syrian nard is granted me. Then when the fire beneath turns me to ashes, let the little jar receive my shade, and over my poor tomb add in a laurel, to cast a shade on the place where my flame went out, and let there be this couplet:
HE WHO LIES HERE, NOW, BUT COARSE DUST,
ONCE SERVED ONE LOVE, AND ONE ALONE.
So the fame of my tomb will be no less than that of the grave of blood, of Achilles the hero. And when you too come near your end, remember: come, grey-haired, this way, to the stones of memory. For the rest, beware of being unkind to my tomb: earth is aware and is not wholly ignorant of the truth.
How I wish that any one of the Three Sisters had ordered me to give up my breath at the first, in my cradle. Why is the spirit preserved, still, for an unknown hour? Nestorís pyre was seen after three past generations: yet, if some Phrygian soldier, from the walls of Troy, had cut short his fated old age, he would have never have seen his son, Antilochus, interred, or cried out: ĎO Death, why do you come so slowly to me?í
Yet you, when a friend is lost, will sometimes weep: itís a law of the gods, to care for past men. Witness the fierce wild boar that once struck down white Adonis, hunting the ridge of Ida; there in the marsh, they say, his beauty lay, and you, Venus, ran there with out-spread hair. But you will call back my voiceless shade in vain, Cynthia: what power will my poor bones have to speak?
Agamemnon didnít joy like this over his triumph at Troy, when Laomedonís great wealth went down to ruin: Ulysses wasnít as happy, when, wanderings done, he touched the shore of beloved Ithaca: nor Electra, finding Orestes safe, when sheíd cried, as a sister, clasping his supposed ashes: nor Ariadne, daughter of Minos, seeing Theseus return unharmed, with her guiding thread, out of Daedalusís maze: as I with the joys I gathered last night. Iíll be immortal if thereís another like that. Yet when I used to go, with a suppliantís hanging head, she spoke of me as worth less than a dried up pond.
She doesnít try to oppose me now with unjustified disdain, and she canít sit indifferent to my moans. I wish her peace terms had not been made known to me so late! Now the medicineís wasted on the ashes. The path was under my feet and I was blind: no one of course can see when crazed with love.
This attitude I have found the best: lovers, show disdain! She comes today, who said no, yesterday.
Others, frustrated, knocked, and called my ladyís name: the girl, at ease, kept her head by mine. This victoryís more than conquering Parthia to me: she is my spoil: my chariot: my riches. Iíll add rich gifts to your sanctuaryís columns Cynthia, and this will be the verse below my name:
GODDESS, PROPERTIUS SETS THESE SPOILS BEFORE YOUR
Now, mea lux, shall my ship preserved come to your shores, or sink, fully laden, in the shallows? Because if you change towards me, perhaps through some fault of mine, may I lie down dying at your threshold!
O happy me! O night shining for me! And O you bed made blessed by my delights! How many words thrashed out when the lights were near us, what striving together when light was taken away! Now with naked breasts she struggled against me, now, tunic gathered, demanding delay. She, with her lips, opening my eyelids weary with sleep, and saying: ĎIs this how you lie here, laggard?í
Our arms were varied in how many changing embraces! How long my kisses lingered on your lips!
No joy in corrupting Venus to a blind motion: know, if you do not, the eyes are the guides of Love. They say, Paris himself was ruined by the Spartan, Helen, as she rose naked from the bed of Menelaus. And Endymion, they say, was naked, when he aroused Diana, and lay with the naked goddess.
But if you insist from pride in lying down dressed, youíll feel my hands in your ripped-up clothing: whatís more if anger provokes me further, youíll show bruised arms to your mother. Sagging breasts donít stop you from playing yet: let her think of that whom childbirthís already shamed.
While the fates allow it, weíll sate our eyes with love: the long night comes upon you, the day does not return. And I wish you might tie us like this, clinging together, in chains that no day might ever unloose! Let doves, coupled together in love, be your image, male and female wholly joined. He is wrong who looks for an end to loveís madness: true love has no knowledge of limits. Earth will sooner taunt farmers with false spring; Sol the sun-god drive with black horses; streams start calling waters back to their fountains; the fish be stranded, the deep dry land; sooner than I can transfer my pangs to another: hers am I living, hers will I be in death.
But if she will grant me such nights with her as this, one year will be as long as a lifetime. If she gives me many, Iíll be immortalised in them: even one night might make any man a god. If all men longed to pass their lives like this, and lie there, with bodies held down by draughts of wine, there would be no vicious swords, or ships of war, nor would our bones be tossed in Actiumís deep, nor would Rome so often racked by its rounds of private victories, be weary, grieving with loosened hair. This at least those that come after us can justly praise: our cups of wine offended none of the gods.
You while the light lasts then, donít leave off lifeís joys! Though you give all your kisses, theyíll be all too few.
Just as the leaves fall from dried garlands: you see them scatter in cups and float there: so we, now, the lovers, who hope for great things: perhaps fate, tomorrow, will end our day.
A praetor came just now from the
Now banquets are given, the tables burdened, without me: now the doorís open all night, but without me. Well, if youíre wise, donít neglect the harvest on offer: strip the stupid animal of his whole fleece; then, when heís left a pauper, his gifts all spent, tell him to sail to new Illyrias!
Can anyone then buy her love with gifts? The shameful girl is undone by money. Sheís always sending me to sea to look for jewels, and orders gifts from Tyre itself. And I wish that no one in Rome was wealthy, and our Leader himself would live in a thatched cottage. Mistresses wouldnít be saleable for a gift, and a girl would grow grey-haired in the one house. You would never lie seven nights apart, your gleaming arms around so vile a man, and not because I have sinned (you are the witness) but because everywhere lightness was always the friend of beauty. A barbarian, excluded by birth, stamps his foot, and now, suddenly blessed, he holds my kingdom!
See what bitterness Eriphyla found in gifts, and with what misfortunes Creusa burned as a bride. Is there no insult sufficient to quench my tears? Surely this grief will never be far behind your sins? So many days have gone by since desire for the theatre or the arena stirred me, and food gives me no joy. I should be ashamed, oh, ashamed! But perhaps as they say sinful love is always deaf.
See Antony, that general, who a moment ago, filled Actiumís waves with the vain cries of condemned soldiers: infamous love commanded him to recall his ships, turn his back, and run to the furthest corner of the globe. This is Caesarís power and this is his glory: he who conquered sheathed his sword.
But, that man, whatever clothes he gave you, whatever emeralds, or yellow-glowing topazes, Iíd like to see swift-moving hurricanes whirl them into the void: I wish they were earth or water to you.
Jupiter doesnít always smile at loversí faithlessness or turn deaf ears to their prayers. Youíve heard the thunderclap rumble through the sky, and the lightning bolt leap down from its airy home. Neither the Pleiades nor rainy Orion does these things: itís not for nothing the angry lightning falls. Itís then the god chooses to punish deceitful girls, since he himself wept once when he was deceived.
So donít let clothes from Sidon count for so much, so that youíre frightened whenever the South wind bears a cloud.
To lie about the night, to lead a lover on with promises, thatís to have hands dyed with his blood! Iím the poet of these things, so often whiling away bitter nights, alone, tossing from side to side in bed.
Whether youíre moved by Tantalusís fate by the water, parched as the liquid retreats from his thirsty mouth, or whether you admire Sisyphusís labour, rolling his awkward burden up the whole mountain side: nothing in the world lives more harshly than a lover, nor, if you are at all wise, is it what youíd less wish to be.
I whom envious admiration once considered happy, I too am hardly allowed in, now, one day out of ten. Now Iíd enjoy hurling my body from a hard rock, impious girl, or take powdered drugs in my fingers. I canít even sleep at the crossroads under a clear moon, or send my words through the crack in the door.
But though itís a fact, Iíll take care not to change my mistress: then she will cry, when she senses the loyalty, in me.
Continual complaints cause dislike in many: a woman is often moved by a silent man. If youíve seen something, always deny youíve seen! Or if anything happens to pain you, deny the pain!
What if my youth were white with ageís white hair, and sagging wrinkles
furrowed my brow? At least Aurora
didnít reject Tithonus,
old, didnít allow him to lie there lonely in the House of Dawn. She often fondled him, descending into her
waters, before she bathed her yoked horses with care. She, when she rested in
his arms, by neighbouring
Climbing into her chariot she spoke of the godsí injustice, and offered her services, unwillingly, to the world. Her joy was greater that old Tithonus was alive, than her grief was heavy at the loss of Memnon. A girl like that was not ashamed to sleep with an old man, or press so many kisses on his white hair.
But you even hate my youth, unfaithful girl, though you yourself will be a bowed old woman on a day not so far away. Still, I let care fade, since Cupid is often inclined to be harsh on the man, to whom he was once kind.
Now do you even imitate the Britons, stained with woad, you crazy girl, and play games, with foreign glitter painting your cheeks? Everythingís proper form is as Nature made it: Belgian colour looks foul on Roman cheeks. May there be many an evil for that girl, in the underworld, who, false and foolish, dyes her hair! Get rid of it: Iíll still see you as beautiful, truly: your beautyís sufficient for me, if only you come often. If some girl stains her forehead dark blue, does that mean dark blue beautyís fine?
Since you have no brother with you and no son, Iíll be brother and Iíll be son in one for you. Let your couch itself always keep watch over you: and donít desire to sit with your face over-painted.
Iíll believe what rumour tells me: so refuse to do it: bad news leaps across land and sea.
Even though youíre leaving Rome against my wish, Cynthia, Iím glad, since youíre without me, youíre staying in the country, off the beaten track. Thereíll be no young seducer in those chaste fields, one whose flatteries wonít let you be true; no fights will start up under your window; and your sleep wonít be troubled by being called.
Youíll be alone, and youíll gaze, alone, Cynthia, at mountains, herds, and the soil of poverty-stricken farmers. No games will have the power to corrupt you there, no sanctuary temples giving the most frequent chances for your sins. There youíll watch the oxen continually ploughing: and the vines losing their leaves to the pruning-hookís skill: and youíll carry a meagre offering of incense to a crude shrine, where a kid will fall in front of the rustic altar: and youíll constantly copy their choral dance bare-legged: but only if everythingís safe from alien men.
Iíll go hunting: now I take pleasure, at once, in accepting the rites of Diana, and dropping my vows to Venus. Iíll start catching wild creatures, and fasten horns to fir trees, and control the audacious dogs myself. Still, Iíll not try great lions, or hurry to meet the wild boar face to face. Itís daring enough if I take the gentle hare, or pierce a bird with a neat rod, where Clitumnus covers the beautiful stream with his own woods, and his wave bathes the snow-white heifers.
You, mea vita, whenever you venture anything, remember Iíll be coming for you, in a few days time. So solitary woods and vagrant streams in mossy hills canít stop me from trying your name on my tireless tongue: everyone wishes to hurt those who are absent.
Why cry more than Briseis when she was led away? Why weep more sadly than Andromache, the anxious prisoner? Why do you weary the gods, crazy girl, with tales of my deceit? Why complain my faithfulness has fallen away? Atticaís night-owl doesnít cry that loud in funereal mourning in Athenian trees: nor does Niobe, with a dozen monuments to her pride, pour as many tears down sorrowing Sipylusís slopes.
Though my arms were fastened with bronze links: though my members were enclosed by Danaeís tower: I would break chains of bronze for you, mea vita, and leap over Danaeís iron tower. My ears are deaf to whatever they say of you: only donít doubt my seriousness. I swear by my motherís bones and the bones of my father (if I deceive, oh may the ashes of either weigh heavy on me!) that Iíll be yours, mea vita, into the final shadows: one day, one faith will carry both away.
But if your name or your beauty did not hold me, the gentleness of your demands might hold me. Now the orbitís traced of the seventh full moon, since never a street cornerís been silent about us, while your threshold has frequently been kind to me, and Iíve frequently had access to your bed. But Iíve not bought a single night with expensive presents: whatever Iíve been, itís through the great grace of your spirit.
Many men sought to be yours, you have sought me only: can I fail to remember your qualities? If I do let the tragic Furies torment me, or Aeacus damn me with infernal justice, and I be spread out amongst Tityusís vultures, and myself bear rocks with Sisyphusís labour.
But donít let me be entreated with pleading letters: my faithfulness at the last will be such as it was at the start. This is the whole of my law: that alone among lovers, I donít give up in a hurry, and I donít begin without thought.
As many times as Panthus has written a letter to you,
So many nights wasted? Arenít you ashamed? See, heís free, he sings: you, far too credulous, lie alone. And now youíre a conversation piece between them: He says arrogantly you were often at his house against his will. Let me be ruined, if he seeks anything else but glory from you: he, the husband gains praise from this.
So Jason, the stranger, once deceived Medea of Colchis: she was thrown out of the house (and next Creusa had it). So Calypso was foiled by Ulysses, the Ithacan warrior: she saw her lover spread his sails. O girls too ready to lend an ear to lovers, having been dropped, learn not to be thoughtlessly kind!
Youíve long been looking for someone else whoíll stay: the lesson you had at first, foolish girl, should teach you to be careful. I, whatever the place, Iím yours, in every moment, whether I am in sickness or in health.
You know that before today many girls pleased me equally: you know, Demophoon, many troubles come to me. No crossroadís traversed by my feet in vain. O, the theatre was made to be my constant downfall. Whether some girl spreads her white arms in a tender gesture, or whether she sings in various modes! Meanwhile our eyes search out their own wound, if some beauty sits there, her breast not hidden, or if drifting hair strays over a chaste forehead, hair that an Indian jewel clasps at the crown: so that, if she says no to me, perhaps with a stern look, cold sweat falls from my brow.
Demophoon, do you ask why Iím so soft on them all? Love has no answer to your question: ĎWhy?í
Why do some men slash their arms with sacred knives, and are cut to pieces to frenzied Phrygian rhythms? Nature at birth gave every man his fault: fate granted me always to love someone. Even though the fate of Thamyris the bard came upon me, Iíd never be blind to beauty, my jealous friend.
But youíre wrong if I seem small to you, thin bodied: worshipping Venus has never been an effort. Itís all right to ask: often a girl has found my attentions effective the whole night through. Jupiter, for Alcmene, halted both the Bears, and the heavens went two nights without their king: yet, as a result, he still didnít come wearily to the lightning. What about when Achilles left Briseisís arms? Did the Trojans run from the Greek javelins less? When fierce Hector rose from Andromacheís bed, did the Mycenaean fleet not fear the battle? One or the other could destroy ships or walls: in this I am Achilles, in this I am fierce Hector.
See how now the sun, and now the moon serve in the sky: well one girlís still not enough for me. Let another girl hold and fondle me in passionís embrace: yes, another, if she will not grant me space: or if by chance sheís made angry by my attentions to her, let her know thereís some other who wishes to be mine!
For two cables protect a ship at anchor better, and an anxious motherís safer rearing twins.
Either say no if youíre cruel: or if youíre not cruel, come! Why take pleasure in dealing out pointless words? This one pain, above all others, is sharpest for a lover, if she suddenly refuses to come as he hoped.
What great sighs hurl him round his whole bed, as he kills some unknown man, who has been admitted! And wearies the boy by asking about what heís already heard, and orders him to ask about the fate he fears to know.
I who was persuaded to keep away from the public roads, now water fetched from the lake tastes sweet to me. Should any freeborn man give bribes to another manís slave to bring him the message that his mistress promised? And ask so many times: ĎWhat colonnade shades her now?í or ĎWhich way does she direct her feet, on the Plain of Mars?í
Then when youíve carried through the Labours, that story tells of, for her to write ĎHave you anything for me?í so that you can face a surly guard, or often, imprisoned, lurk in some vile hole. What it costs us, that night that comes just once in a whole year! Let them perish, those who take pleasure in closed doors!
In contrast, isnít she pleasing, the girl who goes with her cloak thrown back, not fenced in by a threatening guard, who often wears out the Sacred Way in dirty slippers, and letís there be no delay if anyone wants to approach her: she never puts you off, nor chatters at you, demanding what your stingy father often complains at having given you, and she wonít say: ĎIím scared, get up quickly, I beg you, unlucky man: my husbandís coming to day, to me, from the country.í Let the girls that Iraq and Syria have sent to me delight me: I donít like shamefaced robbery in bed. Now that no freedomís left to any lover, he whoíd be free, let him wish for no more love.
ĎYou would say that, now that youíre common talk because of that notorious book, and your Cynthiaís scanned by the whole Forum?í Who wouldnít bead with sweat at those words in the circumstances, whether from honest shame, or from keeping quiet about his affairs? But if my Cynthia breathed on me as good-naturedly, I wouldnít be called the source of evil: I wouldnít be paraded, infamous, through the whole city, and, though I wasnít on fire with goodness, Iíd deceive.
So let it be no surprise to you, my seeking common girls: they bring me into less disrepute: surely not a trivial reason?
And just now she wanted a proud peacockís tail as a fan, and to hold a crystal ball in her cold hand, and, angering me, longs to ask for ivory dice, whatever glitters on the Sacred Way. O, perish the thought that the expense bothers me, but Iím ashamed to be a laughing-stock for my deceitful lady, now.
Is this what at first you ordered me to take delight in? Arenít you ashamed, being beautiful, to be so wayward? Weíve hardly spent one night or more of passion, and now you tell me Iím a burden in your bed. A moment ago you praised me, and read my poetry: does your love so rapidly avert his wings?
Let that man contend with me in ingenuity, contend in art, let him be taught how to love in one house first. If itís a pleasure to you, let him fight with Lernean Hydras, and bring you apples from the dragon in the Hesperides: let him gladly drink foul poisons, or shipwrecked, drink the waters, and never decline to be miserable because of you (I wish, mea vita, youíd try me with labours like these!).
Then this insolent man will be one of the cowards for you, who now comes, officiously, swollen with honour: next year thereíll be discord between you.
But the Sibylís whole lifetime will not alter me: nor Herculesís labours: nor deathís dark day. Youíll gather them and say: ĎThese are your ashes, Propertius: alas, you were true to me, you indeed were true, though your ancestorsí blood wasnít noble, and you werenít as rich as others.í Thereís nothing I wonít suffer, injuries wonít change me: I donít consider it a pain to bear a lovely girl.
I believe that not a few have been undone by your figure, but I believe that many men have not been true. Theseus took delight for a brief space in Ariadne, Demophoon in Phyllis: both unwelcome guests. Now Medea is seen, by you, on Jasonís boat, and in a moment left alone by the man she saved.
The woman who acts out simulated love for many men is hard: she, whoever she is, whoís able to prepare herself for more than one man. Donít seek to compare me with the noble, or the rich: theyíll hardly come gathering your ashes on your final day. Iíll do it for you: but I beg rather that, with unbound hair, youíll beat your naked breasts for me.
Unique woman, born to beauty, you, the object of my pain, since my fate excludes me from your saying: ĎCome, oftení: your form will be made most famous by my books: by your permission, Calvus: and Catullus, peace to you, by yours.
The aged soldier sleeps by his grounded weapons; ancient oxen refuse to pull the plough; the rotting ship rests on empty sands; and the warriorís ancient shield hangs idle on the temple wall. But no old age would draw me away from loving you, not even if I were Nestor, or I were Tithonus.
Wouldnít it be better to serve a cruel tyrant, and groan inside your brazen bull, savage Perillus? Wouldnít it be better to harden at the Gorgonís gaze, or even suffer those Caucasian vultures? But I will still endure.
The iron blade is eaten by rust, and the flint by drops of water: but that love is not worn down by any mistressís threshold which remains and suffers to hear threats that are undeserved. More: the lover pleads, when despised: and when wronged confesses sins: and himself returns with reluctant step.
You as well, credulous man, waxing proud when loveís at the full: no woman stays firm for long. Does anyone perform his vows in mid-storm, when often a ship drifts shattered in the harbour? Or demand his prize before the race is run, and the wheel has touched the post seven times? The favourable breeze plays us false in love: when it comes late, great is the ruin that comes.
You, meanwhile, though she still delights in you, contain imprisoned joy in your silent heart. For I donít know why, but in his love pact, it is always his boastful words that seem to harm the lover. Though she often calls for you, remember, go only once: that which is envied often fails to last.
But were there to be ages like those that pleased the girls of old, I would be what you are now: Iím conquered by time. But this age should still not change my habits: let each man be allowed to go his own way.
But you, that recall service to many loves, if so, what pain afflicts your eyes! You see a tender girl of pure white, you see a dark: either colouring commands you. You see a form that expresses the Greek, or you see our beauties, either aspect seizes you. Whether sheís in common dress or scarlet, the one or the otherís a single road to a cruel wound. Since one girl can lead your eyes to sufficient sleeplessness, one woman, whoeverís she is, is plenty of trouble.
I saw you, in my dreams, mea vita, shipwrecked, striking out with weary hands, at the Ionian waters, confessing whatever ways you lied to me, unable to raise your head, hair heavy with brine, like Helle, whom once the golden ram carried on his soft back, driven through the dark waves.
How frightened I was, that perhaps the sea would bear your name, and the sailor would weep for you, slipping through your waters! What gifts I entertained for Neptune, then, for Castor and his brother, what gifts for you Leucothoe, now a goddess! At least, like one about to die, you called my name, often, barely lifting your fingertips above the deep.
Yet if Glaucus had seen your eyes, by chance, youíd have become a mermaid among Ionian waters, and the Nereids would have chided you, from envy, white Nesaee and sea-green Cymothoe. But I saw a dolphin leap to help you, who once before, I think, bore Arionís lyre. And already I was trying to hurl myself from a high rock, when fear woke me from such visions.
Let them admire the fact, now, that so lovely a girl serves me, and that they talk of my power throughout the city! Though Cambyses and the rivers of Croesus should return, she will not say: ĎRise up, poet, from the bed.í While she reads to me, she says she hates rich men: no girl cherishes poetry with such reverence. Loyalty is great in love: constancy greatly serves it: he, who can give many gifts, can have his many lovers.
If my girl thinks of travelling over the wide sea, Iíll follow her, and one breeze will blow the faithful pair onward. One shore will calm us, and one tree overspread us, and we will often drink at a single spring. And one plank will do for two lovers, whether the prowís my bed or the stern.
Iíll patiently endure it all: though the savage East Wind blows; or the chill South drives our sails into uncertainty; and whatever winds vexed unhappy Ulysses, and the thousand ships of Greece by Euboeaís shore; and the one that separated two coasts, when a dove led a ship, the Argo, into an unknown sea.
Let Jupiter himself set our boat on fire, so long as she is never absent from my eyes. Surely weíll both be hurled on the same shore, naked, together: the wave can carry me off, so long as earth protects you.
Yet Neptuneís not so cruel to great love: Neptune equals his brother Jove in loving. Amymoneís a witness, taken in the fields, bringing forth water, Lernaís marshes struck by the trident. The god redeemed his pledge for that embrace, and the golden urn poured out a celestial stream. And Orithyia, though raped, denied that Boreas was cruel: this god tames the earth and deep oceans.
Believe me Scylla will be gentle to us, and huge Charybdis who never ceases from her changing flow: no shadows will hide the stars themselves, Orion will show clear, and the Kids. What does it matter if my life is laid down upon your body? It will not be a dishonourable death.
You mortals, then, enquire for the uncertain funeral hour, and by what road death will come to you: and you enquire of the cloudless sky, by Phoenician art, which stars are good for man, and which are evil!
Whether we chase the Parthians on foot, or the Britons at sea, the dangers of earthís and oceanís paths are hidden. You weep again that your head is threatened by war, when Mars joins the wavering ranks on either side: and by your burning house, by your house in ruins: and no cup of darkness to lift to your lips. Only the lover knows when he will perish and by what death, and doesnít fear weapons or blasts from the North Wind.
Though he sits at the oar among the Stygian reeds, and sees the mournful sails of the boat of Hell, if only the breath of his mistressís voice recalls him, heíll return by a road acknowledged by no known law.
Jupiter, be merciful, at last, to the unfortunate girl: such a beautyís death would be your crime. That time has come when the scorching air burns, and Earth starts to blaze under the torrid Dog-star. But itís not the heat thatís guilty, or heaven to blame, itís her, so often holding the gods less sacred. This undoes girls, this has undone them before: what they promise, the winds and the waves carry away.
Was Venus annoyed that you were compared to her? Sheís jealous of all those who vie with her in beauty. Or did you slight Pelasgian Junoís temple, or dare to deny that Atheneís eyes were fair? You beauties have never learned to be sparing with words. Your tongue was harmful to you in this: your beauty gave it to you. But vexed, as you have been, by so many of lifeís dangers, comes the gentler hour of an ultimate day,
Io lowed in her first years with altered forehead: sheís a goddess now, who drank Nile water as a heifer. Ino strayed as a girl over the earth: she the wretched sailors call on, as Leucothoe. Andromeda was given to the sea-monster: even she was the honoured wife of Perseus. Callisto, a she-bear, wandered Arcadian pastures: now she rules sails of night with her star.
But if the Fates by chance hurry their silence on you, the Fates, blessed, of your tomb, you can tell Semele about the dangers of beauty, and sheíll believe you, a girl taught by her ills: and youíll be first among all of Homerís heroines, without question. Now, as best as you can, comply, stricken, with fate: the god and the harsh day itself may both change. Juno, the wife, might even forgive you: even Juno is moved if a young girl dies.
The chanting of magic, the whirling bullroarers cease, and the laurel lies scorched in the quenched fires. Now the Moon refuses as often to climb down from heaven, and the dismal night bird sounds its funeral note. One raft of fate carries both our loves, setting dark-blue sails to the lake of Hell. But take pity on both of us, not just on one! Iíll live, if she does: if she dies, so will I.
I bind myself with a sacred verse against this wish: I write: ĎBy Jupiter, the Mighty, the girl is savedí: before your feet, having taken pains, she herself can sit, and, sitting there, tell you all her troubles.
Persephone, let your mercy endure: Dis, donít set out to be more cruel than her. There are so many thousands of lovely girls among the dead: if itís allowed, leave one beautiful one up here! Down there with you is Iope; with you shining Tyro; with you is Europa, and wicked Pasiphae; and whatever beauty old Troy and Achaia bore, the bankrupt kingdoms of ancient Priam and of Apollo; and whoever among that number was a Roman girl, perished: every one of them the greedy fire possesses. No one has endless fortune, or eternal beauty: later or sooner death awaits us all.
Since you have escaped, mea lux, out of great danger pay Diana the gift of the song and dance you owe her, and keep vigil as well for that heifer, now a goddess; and, for my sake, give her the ten nights you vowed.
While I wandered last night, mea lux, in drink, and with never a servantís hand to guide me, a crowd of I donít know how many tiny boys came against me (it was fear stopped me counting them); some held little torches, and some held arrows, and some of them seemed ready to chain me. But all were naked. One more lascivious than the rest, said: ĎTake him, you know him well, already: this is the one, the woman, angered, has given us.í
Saying this, in a moment, a rope was round my neck. Another one ordered me thrust in their midst, and a third cried: ĎLet him die, if he doesnít think we are gods! Sheís waited up all hours for you, unworthy man, while youíve been looking for who knows what door: you fool. When sheís loosed the windings of her Sidonian turban, and flickered her heavy eyelids, it wonít be Arabian perfumes will breathe on you, but the ones Love made himself with his own fingers.
Stop, now, brothers, now he promises true love, and look, now, we have come to the house as ordered.í And so they led me back under my loverís roof, saying: ĎGo on, now, and learn how to stay home of nights.í
It was dawn, and I wanted to see if she slept alone: and alone she was, in her bed. I was stunned: sheíd never looked more beautiful for me, not even when, in her purple shift, she went off and told her dreams to virginal Vesta, in case they might threaten harm to her or me. So she looked to me, shedding recent sleep. Oh, how great is the power of beauty in itself! ĎWhy,í she said: Ďyouíre an early spy on your mistress, do you think my morals are yours? Iím not so easy: itís enough for me to know one man, either you, or someone whoíll be truer. There are no traces deep in the bed, signs of wallowing about, or of mutual slumber. Look, no breath panting from my whole body, confessing adultery.í Speaking, she pushed my kiss away with her hand, and leapt up, loosened sandals on her feet. So I withdrew from spying on such chaste love: since then Iíve had not one happy night.
Now, you get ready to go to Phrygia, cruel one, now, over the waves, and seek by ship the shore of Hyrcanian seas. Where are you going, O, mad one? Thereís no escape: though you head out to Tanais, Love will follow you there. Not even if carried through the air on Pegasusís back, not if the wings of Perseus moved your feet. Even if winds, divided, snatch you on winged sandals, the highways of Mercury will do you no good. Love always pursues overhead, pursues lovers, and himself sits heavy on the neck that was free. Heís the shrewd spy who watches, and heíll never let you raise captive eyes from the ground. But then if you sin, heís a sympathetic god, if only prompt prayer is seen to be there.
Let hard old men denounce the revels: mea vita, let us wear out the path we chose. Their ears are filled with ancient rules: this is the place where the skilled pipe should play, that which floated on Maeanderís shallows, hurled there unjustly, swelling Minervaís cheeks, making her ugly.
Should I be ashamed to live serving one mistress? If itís a crime, itís a crime of Love. Donít reproach me with it. Cynthia, be pleased to lie with me, in caves of dew, in mossy hills. There you will see the Muses clinging to cliffs, and singing Joveís sweet thefts in ancient times, how he burned for Semele, and was ruined for Io, and finally flew, a bird, to the roofs of Troy. (Though if no one exists who withstood the Winged Oneís power, why am I the only one charged with the common crime?) Nor will you trouble the Virginsí decorous faces: their choir is not unknowing of what Love is, given a certain one did lie entwined on the rocks of Bistonia, clasped by the form of Oeagrus.
Then, when they put you in the front rank of the circling dance, Bacchus there in the middle with his cunning wand, then I will let the sacred ivy berries hang from my head: since without you my genius has no power.
You ask why I come to you late? Today Phoebusís gold colonnade was opened by mighty Caesar; such a great sight, laid out with columns from Carthage, and between them the crowd of old Danausís daughters. Then in the midst, the temple reared up in bright marble, dearer to Phoebus than his Ortygian land. Right on the top were two chariots of the Sun, and the doors of Libyan ivory, beautifully done. One mourned the Gauls thrown off Parnassusís peak, and the other the death, of Niobe, Tantalusís daughter. Next the Pythian god himself was singing, in flowing robes, between his sister and mother. He who seemed to me, more beautiful than the true Phoebus, lips parted in marble song to a silent lyre. And, round the altar, stood four of Myronís cattle, carved statues of oxen, true to life.
He who sees you sins: so he who canít see you will not long for you: the eyes commit the crime. O Cynthia, why else do you search out dubious oracles at Praeneste, or the walls of Aeaean Telegonus? Why do chariots take you to Herculean Tibur? Why the Appian Way, so often, to Lanuvium? Cynthia, I wish youíd walk here when you were free! But the crowd tell me not to trust you, when it sees you rush faithfully, carrying a torch, on fire, to the sacred grove, and bear light to the goddess Trivia.
No wonder Pompeyís Portico with its shady colonnade, famed for its canopy of cloth of gold, seems worthless, its rising rows of evenly planted plane-trees, the waters that fall from slumbering Maro, lightly bubbling liquid throughout the city, till Triton buries the stream again in his mouth.
You betray yourself: these trips of yours show some furtive passion: mad girl, itís our eyes you flee, and not the city. It wonít do, you plot inane schemes against me: you spread familiar nets for me without skill. But Iím the least of it: losing your good name will bring you as much pain as you deserve. Lately a rumour spoke evil in my ear, and nothing good was said about you in the city.
But you shouldnít give credence to hostile tongues: the stories have always punished beauties. Your name hasnít been tarnished, by being caught with drugs: Apollo bears witness that your hands are clean. If a night or two has been spent in lengthy play, petty crimes donít move me. Helen abandoned her country for a foreign lover, and was brought home again alive without being judged. They say that Venus herself was corrupted by libidinous Mars, but was always honoured, nevertheless, in heaven. Though Idaís mountain tells how a nymph loved shepherd Paris, and slept with him among the flocks, the crowd of Hamadryad sisters saw it, and Silenus, head of the ancient troop of Satyrs, with whom, in the hollows of Ida, Naiad, you gathered falling apples, catching them underneath in your hands.
Contemplating such debaucheries, surely no one asks: ĎWhy is she so well off? Who gave it? Where did his gifts come from?í O great is your happiness Rome, these days, if a single girl swims against the stream. Lesbia did all these things before, with impunity: anyone who follows her is surely less to blame. Heís only lately set foot in this city if he asks for the ancient Tatii or the strict Sabine. Youíll sooner have power to dry up the waves of the sea, or gather the stars in a human hand, than make it so that our girls donít want to sin: that was the custom held to in Saturnís age, and when Deucalionís waters flooded the globe: but after Deucalionís ancient waters, who could ever keep a chaste bed, what goddess could live alone with a single god?
The snow-white shape of a savage bull once corrupted great Minosís wife, they say, and Danae enclosed in a tower of bronze, was no less unable, in chastity, to deny mighty Jove. So if you imitate Greek and Roman women, I sentence you to be free for life!
The wretched rites are back again: Cynthiaís been occupied these ten nights. And I wish theyíd end, these sacraments Inachusís daughter sent from tepid Nile to Italyís women! This goddess, whoever she was, who so often separates lovers, was always ill-natured. Surely Io you learnt from hidden couplings with Jove, what it is to go many ways, when Juno ordered you, a girl, to wear horns, and lose your speech to the harsh sound cows make.
Oh, how often you galled your mouth on oak-leaves, and chewed, in your stall, on once-eaten strawberry leaves! Surely, itís not because Jupiter removed the wild aspect from your face, youíve for that reason been made a proud goddess? Surely youíve enough swarthy acolytes in Egypt? Why take such a long journey to Rome? What good is it to you that the girls sleep alone? Believe me, your horns will be back again, or weíll chase you, savage one, from our city: there was never friendship between Tiber and Nile.
But you, for whom my sorrows are far too calming, letís do the journey three times, in those nights when weíre free.
You donít listen, and you let my words rattle around, though Icariusís oxen now draw their slow stars downward. You drink, indifferent: are you not wrecked by midnight, and is your hand not weary throwing the dice? Perish the man who discovered neat wine, and first corrupted good water with nectar! Icarius you were rightly killed by Cecropian farmers, you have found how bitter the scent is of the vine. You, Eurytion the Centaur, also died from wine, and Polyphemus, you by Ismarian neat. Wine kills our beauty, and corrupts our youth: often through wine a lover doesnít know her man.
Alas for me, much wine doesnít alter you! Drink then: youíre lovely: wine does you no harm, though your garland droops down, and dips into your glass, and you read my verse in a slow voice. Let your table be drenched with more jets of Falernian, and foam higher in your golden cup.
No girl ever willingly goes to bed alone: something there is that desire forces us all to search for. Passion is often greater in absent lovers: endless presence is lowering for the man whoís always around.
Why should any man trust his girlís beauty to Amor, now? Mine was nearly stolen away like that. I speak as an expert, no oneís to be trusted in love: itís rare that anyone doesnít aim to make beauty his own. That god corrupts families, separates friends, and makes sad calls to arms to those in happy agreement. The stranger who came in friendship to Menelaus was an adulterer, and didnít the Colchian woman go off with an unknown man?
Lynceus, you traitor, then, how could you lay hands on my darling? Didnít your hands let you down? What if she hadnít been so constant and true? Could you have lived with the shame? Kill me with daggers or poison: just take yourself off, away from my mistress. You can be a companion in life and body: I will make you the lord of my fortune, my friend, itís merely the bed, the one bed, I beg you to shun. I canít accept Jove as a rival. Iím jealous of my shadow alone, a thing of nothing, a fool who often trembles with fear. Still thereís one excuse for which Iíd forgive such a crime, that your words were in error from too much wine. But the frown of strict morality will never fool me: everyone knows by now how good it is to love.
My Lynceus, himself, insane at last with love! Iím only glad youíve joined our gods. What use now the wisdom of Socratic works, or being able to talk of the nature of things? What use to you are songs on Aeschylusís lyre? Old men are no help with a great love. Youíd do better to imitate Coan Philetus, and the dreams of diffident Callimachus.
Now though you tell again how Aetolian Achelousís water flowed, weak with vast love; and how Maeanderís deceptive flood wanders the Phrygian plain, confusing its course; and how Arion, Adrastusís victorious stallion, was vocal in grief at Archemorusís funeral: the fate of Amphiarusís four-horse chariotís no use to you, or Capaneusís downfall, pleasing to mighty Jove. Stop composing tragic Aeschylean verse, stop and let your limbs go, in soft choric dancing. Begin to turn your verse on a tighter lathe, and come to your own flames, hardened poet. You shall not go more safely than Homer, or than Antimachus: a virtuous girl even looks down on the gods.
However the bullís not yoked to the heavy plough until his horns are caught in a strong noose. Nor will you be able to suffer harsh love on your own. First, your truculence must be quelled by me.
Of all these girls none will ask the origin of the universe, or why the Moon eclipses her brotherís course, or if thereís really a judge beyond the Stygian waters, or if the lightning crashes down on purpose. Look at me, with hardly any wealth left to my family, with no ancestral triumphs long ago, but here I rule the fun, among the crowd of girls, by the intellect you disparage!
Let me, whom the god has surely struck to the marrow, languish set among last nightís wreaths. Virgil can sing Actiumís shores that Phoebus watches over, and Caesarís brave ships: he, who now brings to life the battles of Aeneas of Troy, and the walls he built on Laviniumís coast. Give way you Roman authors! Give way you Greeks! Something more than the Iliadís being born.
Under the pine-trees of shadowed Galaesus, you sing, of Thyrsis and Daphnis, with the practised flute, and how the gift of ten apples, or an un-weaned kid, can corrupt a girl. Happy who buys their love cheaply with apples! Tityrus herself, the unkind, might sing for that. Happy that Corydon who tries to snatch virgin Alexis, delight of his master, the farmer! Though he rests, exhausted, from playing his pipe, heís praised by the loose Hamadryads. And you sing the precepts of old Hesiod, the poet, what plains crops grow well on, what hills should grow vines. You make such music as Apollo mingles, fingers plucking his cunning lyre.
Still, these songs will not be unwelcome to one who can sing them, whether heís expert in love or a total novice. The swan dies, melodious, with no less spirit, though with less effrontery than the ignorant song of the goose.
So, Varro amused himself, when heíd done with Jason: Varro, Leucadiaís hottest lover; So sing the writings of lustful Catullus, whose Lesbiaís known more widely than Helen. So, even the pages of learned Calvus confess, when he sang of wretched Quintiliaís death. And but now, in the waters of Hell, dead Gallus washed multiple wounds, from lovely Lycoris!
Ghosts of Callimachus, and shrines of Coan Philetas, I pray you, allow me to walk in your grove. I am the first to enter, a priest of the pure fountain, to celebrate Italian mysteries in the rhythms of Greece. Tell me in what valley did you both spin out your song? On what feet did you enter? Which waters did you drink?
Away with the man who keeps Phoebus stuck in battle! Let verse be finished, polished with pumice Ė because of it Fame lifts me high above Earth, and, born of me, a Muse goes, in triumph, with flower-hung horses, and young Loves ride with me in a chariot, and a crowd of writers hangs at my wheels. Why struggle, vainly, against me, with slack reins? Itís not given to us to reach the Muses by a broad road.
Rome, many will add praises to your story, singing that Persia will be a boundary of Empire: but my art carries its text down from the Sisterís mountain, so you can read it in peace, by a way thatís undefiled.
Muses grant your poet gentle garlands: a hard crown would never suit my head. But what the envious crowd have stolen from me in life, Honour will pay me, once Iím dead, with double interest. The future ages render all things greater once theyíre dead: names come dearer to the lips after the funeral. Otherwise who would know of the citadel breached by a Horse of fir; or of how the rivers fought with Achilles the hero, Idaean Simois, and Scamander, Jupiterís child; or of how the chariot wheels three times stained the ground with Hectorís blood.
Their own soil would scarcely know Deiphobus, Helenus, Pulydamas, or Paris embracing any kind of arms. Yes, thereíd be little talk of Ilium, of Troy twice captured by Hercules, god of Oeta. Nor would Homer, himself, who wrote your fall, not feel his work made greater by posterity. And Rome will praise me among later generations: I foresee that day myself, after the fire. Apollo, Lyciaís god, accepts my prayers, and ordains the grave shall not be scorned whose stone will mark my bones.
Let me return, meanwhile, to the world of my poetry: let my girl take delight, moved by familiar tones. They say that Orpheus, with his Thracian lyre, tamed wild creatures, held back flowing rivers: Cithaeronís stones were whisked to Thebes by magic, and joined, of their own will, to form a piece of wall. Even, Galatea, itís true, below wild Etna, wheeled her brine-wet horses, Polyphemus, to your songs.
No wonder if, befriended by Bacchus and Phoebus, a crowd of girls cherish my words? Though my house isnít propped on Taenarian columns, or ivory-roofed with gilded beams, though my orchards arenít Phaeaciaís woods, nor does Marcian water moisten elaborate grottoes; the Muses are my companions, and my songs are dear to the reader, and Calliope never tires of my music.
Happy the girl, if sheís famed in my book! My poems are so many records of your beauty. The Pyramids reared to the stars, at such expense; Jupiterís shrine at Elis that imitates heaven; the precious wealth of the tomb of Mausolus; not one can escape the final state of death. Their beautyís taken, by fire, by rain, by the thud of the years: ruined: their weight overthrown. But the name Iíve earned, with my mind, will not be razed by time: Mind stands firm, a deathless ornament.
I dreamt I lay in Heliconís soft shade, where the fountain of Pegasus flows, owning the power, Alba, to speak of your kings, and speak of the actions of your kings, a mighty task. Iíd already put my lips to those lofty streams, from which Ennius, thirsting father, once drank, and sang of the Curiatii, the brothers, and the Horatii, their spears; and the royal tokens carried by Aemiliusís boat; Fabiusís victorious delaying, the cock-up at Cannae, the gods moved by prayer; the Lares driving Hannibal out of their home in Rome, and Jupiter saved by the voice of geese.
Then Phoebus, spotting me, from his Castalian grove, leant on his golden lyre, by a cave, saying: ĎWhatís your business with that stream, you madman? Who asked you to meddle with epic song? There isnít a hope of fame for you from this, Propertius: soft are the meadows where your little wheels should roll, your little book often thrown on the bench, read by a girl waiting alone for a lover. Why is your page wrenched from its destined track? Your mindís little boatís not to be freighted. Scrape an oar through the water, the other through sand: youíll be safe: the biggest stormís out at sea.í
He said it, and showed me a place with his ivory plectrum, where a new path had been made in mossy ground. Here was an emerald cavern lined with pebbles, and timbrels hung from its pumice stone; orgiastic emblems of the Muses; a statue of father Silenus made of clay; and your reed-pipes, Pan of Tegea; and birds, my crowd of the doves of my mistress Venus, dipped their red beaks into the Gorgonís pool; while nine assorted girls busied soft hands in the place given to each of them by fate. This one chose ivy for a wand, that one tuned the strings for a song, and another planted roses with either hand.
And one of this crowd of goddesses touched me (it was Calliope, I think, by her face), saying:
ĎYouíll always be happy pulled by snow-white swans: the sound of the war-horse wonít lead you to fight. Itís not for you to blow war cries from blaring trumpets, staining Boeotiaís grove with Mars; or care in what fields the conflictís set under Mariusís standard, how Rome repels German power, how barbaric Rhine, steeped with Swabian blood, sweeps mangled corpses down through its sorrowing waves.
Youíll sing wreathed lovers at another threshold, and the drunken signals of nocturnal flight, so that he who wishes, with skill, to plunder irksome husbands, through you knows how to spirit off captive girls.í
So Calliope said, and, drawing up liquid from her fountain, sprinkled my lips with the waters of Philetas.
Caesar, our god, plots war against rich India, cutting the straits, in his fleet, over the pearl-bearing ocean. Men, the rewards are big: far lands prepare triumphs: Tiber, and Euphrates will flow to your tune. Too late, but that province will come, under Ausoniaís wands, Parthiaís trophies will get to know Latin Jupiter. Go, get going, prows expert in battle: set sail: and armoured horses do your usual duty! I sing you auspicious omens. And avenge that disaster of Crassus! Go and take care of Roman history!
Father Mars, and fatal lights of sacred Vesta, I pray that the day will come before I die, when Iíll see Caesarís axles burdened with booty, and his horses stopping often for vulgar cheers, and then Iíll begin to look, pressing my dear girlís breast, and scan the titles of captured cities, the shafts from fleeing horsemen, the bows of trousered soldiers, and the captive leaders sitting beneath their weapons!
May Venus herself protect your children: let it be eternal, this head, that survives from Aeneasís line. Let the prize go to those who earned it by their efforts: itís enough for me I can cheer them on their Sacred Way.
Amorís the god of peace: itís peace we lovers worship: the hard fight I have with my ladyís enough for me. My heartís not so taken with hateful gold; nor does my thirst drink out of cut gems; nor is rich Campania ploughed for me by a thousand yokes; nor do I buy bronzes from your ruins, unlucky Corinth.
O primal earth shaped badly by Prometheus! He set to work on the heart without enough care. He laid the body out with art, but forgot the mind: the right road for the spirit should have been first.
Now weíre hurled by the wind over such seas, and look for enemies, weaving new wars on wars. But youíll take no wealth to the waters of Acheron: carried, naked fool, on the boat of Hell. Conquered and conqueror mingled, as one, in the shadows: Captive Jugurtha, you sit by Marius the Consul: Croesus of Lydia not far from Dulichian Irus: that deathís best that comes on the day our part is done.
It pleases me to have lived on Helicon when I was young, and entangled my hands in the Musesís dance. It pleases me too to cloud my mind with much wine, and always have spring roses round my head. And when the weight of years obstructs Venus, and age flecks dark hair with white, then let me discover the laws of nature, what god controls this bit of the world by his skill; how the moon rises and how it wanes, and how each month it returns, horns merged, to the full; where the winds come from to conquer the sea; where the East Wind gets to with his gales; where the unfailing water comes from in the clouds; whether some future day will burrow under the citadels of the world; why the rainbow drinks the rain; why the peaks of Perrhaebian Pindus trembled, and the sunís orb mourned, his horses black; why Bootes is late to turn his oxen and wain; why the dance of the Pleaides is joined in a crowd of fires; why the deep sea never leaves its bounds, and the whole year has four seasons; whether, below ground, gods rule, Giants are tortured; if Tisiphoneís hair is plagued with black snakes, Alcmaeon by Furies, Phineus by hunger; and if thereís a wheel, and a rock to roll, and thirst beside the water; and Cerberus, triple-throated, guarding the cave of Hell, and Tityosís scant nine acres; or whether an idle tale has come down to wretched mortals, and fear canít be found beyond the fire.
This is the end of life that waits for me: you, to whom warís more pleasing, you bring Crassusís standards home.
If you want our mistressís yoke to be taken from your neck, Lygdamus, tell me truly how you judge the girl. Surely you wouldnít trick me into swelling with empty joy, telling me things you think Iíd like to believe. Every messenger should be without deceit: a fearful servant should be even truer. Now, start to tell it from the first inception, if you can: Iíll drink it in through thirsty ears.
So, did you see her weep with dishevelled hair, vast waters pouring from her eyes? Did you see no mirror, Lygdamus, on the covers, on the bed? No rings on her snow-white fingers? And a mourning-robe hanging from her soft arms, and her letter-case closed lying by the foot of the bed. Was the house sad, and her servants sad, carding thread, and she, herself spinning among them, and pressing the wool to her eyes, drying their moisture, and going over our quarrel in querulous tones?
ĎIs this what he promised me, Lygdamus, youíre a witness? Thereís punishment for breaking faith, with a slave as witness. How can he leave me here so wretched, having done nothing, and have in his house someone I wouldnít speak of! Heís glad that I melt away, alone, in an empty bed. If that pleases him, let him mock at my death, Lygdamus. She didnít win by her morals, but by magic herbs, the bitch: heís led by the bullroarer whirling on its string. Heís drawn to her by omens, from swollen frogs and toads, and the bones of dried snakes sheís fished out, and the feathers of screech owls found among fallen tombs, and a woollen fillet bound to a murdered man. If my dreams tell no lies, youíre a witness Lygdamus, heíll be punished, in full, if late, at my feet. The spider will weave corruption in his empty bed, and Venus will sleep, herself, on their nights together.í
If my girl moaned to you with truth in her heart, run back, Lygdamus, the same way again, and carry my message back with lots of tears, that thereís anger but no deceit in my love, that Iím afflicted with torture in the selfsame fires: Iíll swear to be virtuous for twelve days. Then if sweet peace exists, after such a war, Lygdamus youíll be free through me.
So money youíre the cause of a troubled life! Itís because of you we go deathís path prematurely: you offer human vices cruel nourishment: from your source the seeds of unhappiness spring. Three or four times with wild seas you overwhelmed Paetus, as he was setting sail towards Pharosís harbour.
While he was chasing you, the poor man was cut down in his prime, and floats an alien food for far-off fish. And his mother canít give due burial to his pious dust, or bury him among his kinsfolkís ashes.
Paetus, the seabirds hover over your bones, and you have the whole Carpathian Sea now for a tomb. Cruel North-Wind, whom ravished Orithyia feared, how great are the spoils to be won from him? Why do you find joy in shipwreck, Neptune? That ship carried righteous men.
Paetus, why number your years: why as you swim is your dear motherís name on your lips? The waves have no gods. Though your cables were fastened to rocks, the storms in the night fell on them: frayed them all: tore them away. Return his body to earth: his spirit is lost in the deep. Worthless sands, of your own will, cover Paetus. And the sailor, as often as he sails past Paetusís tomb, let him say: ĎYou can make even brave men fear.í
Go, and shape curving keels, and weave the causes of death: these deaths come from the actions of human hands. Earth was too small for fate, we have added the oceans: by our arts we have added to the luckless paths of fortune. Can the anchor hold you, whom the household gods could not? What would you say heís earned, whose Countryís too small for him?
Whatever you build is the windsí: no keel ever grows old: the harbour itself belies your faith. Nature lying in wait has paved the watery paths of greed: and it can scarcely be that you can, even once, succeed. There are shores that testify to Agamemnonís pain, where Argynnusís punishment makes Mimasís waters famous: Atrides would not let the fleet sail, for the loss of this boy, and Iphigenia was sacrificed through this delay. The cliffs of Caphareus shattered a triumphant fleet, when the Greeks were shipwrecked drawn down by the salt mass. Ulysses wept for his comrades hurled down one by one: his wiliness was worth nothing confronting the sea.
Yet if Paetus had been content to plough the fields with his fatherís oxen, had he accepted the weight of my advice, he would still be alive, a gentle guest, before his household gods: a poor man, but on dry land crying only for wealth. Paetus couldnít bear to hear the shrieking storm, or wound his soft hands with hard ropes: but rested his head on multi-coloured down, among Chian marble, on Orician terebinth wood. From him, still living, the surge tore away his nails, and unwillingly, poor man, his throat swallowed the waters: then the wild night saw him carried on a piece of plank: so many evils gathered for Paetus to perish.
Still he gave this command, weeping, with his last moans, as the dark wave closed over his dying breath: ĎGods of Aegean seas, with power over the waters, you winds and every wave that bow down my head, where are you carrying away the sad years of my first manhood? Are these guilty hands I bring to your seas? Alas for me, the sharp cliffs of the halycon will tear me! The dark-green god has struck me with his trident. At least let the tide hurl me on Italian shores: what is left of me will suffice if it only reaches my mother.í At these words, the flood pulled him down into its whirling vortex.
O you hundred sea-nymphs, Nereusís daughters, and you Thetis, whom a motherís indignation once drew from the sea, you should have placed your arms beneath his weary head: he was no heavy weight for your hands. But you, fierce Northern Wind, will never see my sails: I would rather lie indolent before my ladyís portals.
Our quarrel by lamplight last night was sweet to me, and all those insults from your furious tongue, when frenzied with drinking you pushed the table back, and threw full glasses over me, with an angry hand. Truly bold, attack my hair, you, and mark my face with your lovely nails, threaten to scorch my eyes with a flame beneath them, rip my clothes and bare my chest!
You give me certain signs of love: no woman is in pain unless out of deep passion. That woman who hurls abuse with raving mouth, she rolls around before mighty Venusís feet, she packs guards round her in a crowd, or follows in the middle of the road like a stricken Maenad, or demented dreams keep terrifying the frightened girl, or a girl pictured in a painting moves her to misery.
Iím a true augur of the soulís torments: Iíve learnt these are always the signs of certain love. There is no constant faithfulness that wonít turn to quarrelling: let cold women fall to my enemies. Let my friends see the wounds in my bitten neck: let the bruises show my girl has been with me.
I want to suffer with love, or hear about suffering: Iíd rather see your tears or else my own, whenever your eyebrows send me hidden messages, or you write with your fingers words that canít be spoken. I hate those sighs that never shatter sleep: I would always wish to turn pale for an angry girl.
The passion was dearer to Paris when he could cut his way through Greek ranks to bring pleasure to his daughter of Tyndareus. While the Danaans conquered, while savage Hector held them, he fought a nobler war in Helenís lap. Iíll always be fighting with you, or with a rival for you: you at peace will never please me.
Be glad, that no one equals your beauty: youíd be sorry if there were: but as of now youíve a right to your pride.
As for you, a Vulcan, who wove a net for our bed, may your father-in-law be immortal, and your house never lack her mother! You who were granted the wealth of one stolen night, it was her anger against me, not love of you that gave it.
Itís shameful to carry on your head a weight it canít bear, and soon sag at the knee, and turn to depart. All things are not equally suited to all: the palmís not won by dragging at the selfsame yoke.
Lysippusís glory is to carve with the stamp of life: Calamisís, I consider is in his perfect horses. Apelles claims highest place for paintings of Venus: Parrhasius deserves his for art in miniature. Mentorís theme is rather in sculpted groups: through Mys acanthus winds its brief way. For Phidias Jupiter clothes himself in an ivory statue: the marble of Cnidos, Triopís city, praises Praxiteles. Some race their four-horse chariots for the palms of Elis, glory is born in othersí fleet of foot: this manís made for peace, that one for camps and war: every man pursues the seeds of his nature.
But Iíve accepted your rule of life Maecenas, and Iím forced to counter you with your own example. Though an officer of the Roman state, allowed to set up the axes of law, and judge in the midst of the Forum; though you pass through the fierce spears of the Medes, and burden your house with weapons on nails; though Caesar grants you power to achieve things, and easy money slithers in all the time; you hold back, and, humbly, crouch in the lowly shadows: and draw in your bellying sails yourself.
Trust me such judgement will equate you with great Camillus, and you will also be on menís lips, and your steps will be bound to Caesarís glory: Maecenasís loyalty will be his true memorial.
I donít plough the swollen sea in a sailing boat: my whole dalliance is close to a little stream. I wonít weep for Cadmusís city sunk in its native embers, nor of the seven equally fateful battles: I wonít tell of the Scaean Gate, Pergama, Apolloís stronghold, or how the Danaan fleet came back at the tenth Spring, and the Wooden Horse, by Atheneís art, was victor, driving the walls that Neptune built under the Greek plough. Enough to have given satisfaction, amongst Callimachusís slim volumes: and to have sung, Philetas, Dorian poet, in your style. Let these poems inflame our youths, and our girls: let them celebrate me as a god, and bring me sacrifice!
Lead me on, and Iíll sing of Jupiterís weapons, and Coeus threatening Heaven, and Eurymedon on Phlegraís hills: and Iíll bring on the pair of kings from a she-wolfís teat, the strong walls built at Remusís death, and the high Palatine Hill cropped by the Roman bulls, and my ingenuity will rise at your command!
Iíll honour your chariotís minor triumphs from either wing, the shafts of the Parthianís cunning flight once theyíre taken, the camp of Pelusium demolished by the Roman sword, and Antonyís hands heavy with his fate.
Gentle patron seize the reins of my fresh undertakings, and give the sign with your right hand when my wheels are let loose. Concede this praise to me Maecenas, and of you theyíll say, that I was of your party.
I wondered what the Muses had sent me, at dawn, standing by my bed in the reddening sunlight. They sent a sign it was my girlís birthday, and clapped their hands three times for luck. Let this day pass without a cloud, the winds still in the air, and threatening waves fall gently on dry land. Let me see no one sad today: let Niobeís rock itself suppress its tears. Let the halcyonsí cries be silent, leaving off their sighing, and Itysís mother not cry out his loss.
And oh, you, my dearest girl, born to happy auguries, rise, and pray to the gods who require their dues. First wash sleep away with pure water, and dress your shining hair with deft fingers. Then wear those clothes that first charmed Propertiusís eyes, and do not let your brow be free of flowers.
And ask that the beauty that is your power may always be yours, and that your command over my person might last forever. Then when youíve worshipped with incense at wreathed altars, and their happy flames have lit the whole house, think of a feast, and let the night fly by with wine, and let the perfumed onyx anoint my nostril with oil of saffron. Submit the strident flute to nocturnal dancing, and let your wantonness be free with words, and let sweet banqueting stave off unwelcome sleep, and the common breeze of the neighbouring street be full of the sound.
And let fate reveal to us, in the falling dice, those whom the Boy strikes with his heavy wings. When the hours have gone with many a glass, and Venus appoints the sacred rites that wait on night, letís fulfil the yearís solemnities in our room, and so complete the journey of your natal day.
Why do you wonder if a woman entwines my life and brings a man enslaved under her rule? Why fabricate charges of cowardice against my person, because I canít break my yoke and snap the chains? The sailor can best foretell his future fate, the soldier is taught by his wounds to nurture fear. I once boasted like you when I was young: now let my example teach you to be afraid.
The witch of Colchis drove the fiery bulls in a yoke of steel, and sowed civil war in the warrior-bearing soil, and closed the serpent guardís fierce jaws, so that the Golden Fleece would reach Aesonís halls. Amazon Penthesilea once dared to attack the Danaan fleet with arrows fired from horseback: she whose bright beauty conquered the conquering hero, when the golden helmet laid bare her forehead.
Omphale the Lydian girl bathing in Gygesís lake gained such a name for beauty that Hercules who had established his pillars in a world at peace, drew out soft spinnerís tasks with hardened hands. Semiramis built Babylon, the Persian city, so that it rose a solid mass with ramparts of baked brick, and two chariots might set out on the walls, in opposite directions, without their axles touching and sides scraping: she diverted the River Euphrates through the centre of the city she founded, and commanded Bactra to bow its head to her rule.
Why should I seize on heroes, why gods who stand accused? Jupiter shames himself and his house. Why Cleopatra, who heaped insults on our army, a woman worn out by her own attendants, who demanded the walls of Rome and the Senate bound to her rule, as a reward from her obscene husband? Noxious Alexandria, place so skilled in deceit, and Memphis so often bloody with our grief, where the sand robbed Pompey of his three triumphs. Rome, no day will ever wipe away the stain. Better for you Pompey, ill at Naples, if your funeral procession had crossed the Phlegraean Plain, or that you had bowed your neck to Caesar, your father-in-law.
Truly that whore, queen of incestuous Canopus, a brand burned by the blood of Philip, dared to oppose our Jupiter with yapping Anubis, and forced Tiber to suffer the threats of Nile, and banished the Roman trumpet with the rattle of the sistrum, and chased the Liburnian prow with a poled barge, and spread her foul mosquito nets over the Tarpeian Rock, and gave judgements among Mariusís weapons and statues.
The city, high on its seven hills, that directs the whole Earth, was terrified of a womanís power and fearful of her threats. Whatís it worth now to have shattered Tarquinís axes, whose life branded him with the name of ĎProudí, if we have to endure a woman? Celebrate a triumph Rome, and saved by Augustus beg long life for him! You fled then to the wandering mouths of frightened Nile: your hands received Romulusís chains. I saw your arms bitten by the sacred asps, and your limbs draw sleep in by a secret path. And your tongue spoke overpowered by endless wine: ĎThis was not as much to be feared, Rome, as your fellow-citizen!í
Curtius closing the Forumís chasm, created his monument, and Deciusís cavalry charge shattered the battle-line, Horatiusís Way attests to the holding of the bridge, and thereís one to whom the raven, Corvus, has given a name. The gods founded them, may the gods protect these walls: with Caesar alive, Rome need scarcely fear Jove.
Where are Scipioís ships now, where are Camillusís standards, or Bosphorus lately captured by Pompeyís might, or Hannibalís spoils, or conquered Syphaxís Libyan trophies, or Pyrrhusís glory trampled under our feet?
Apollo of Actium will speak of how the line was turned: one day of battle carried off so vast a host. But you, sailor, whether leaving or making for harbour, be mindful of Caesar through all the Ionian Sea.
Postumus, how could you leave Galla crying, to follow Augustusís brave standards, as a soldier? Was the glory of Parthiaís spoils worth so much to you, with Galla repeatedly begging you not to do it? If itís allowed may all you greedy ones perish equally, and whoever prefers his weapon to a faithful bride!
You, you madman, wrapped in your cloak for a covering, weary, will drink Araxesís water from your helmet. She in the meantime will pine away at each idle rumour, for fear your courage will cost you dear, or the arrows of Medes enjoy your death, or the armoured knight on a golden horse, or some bit of you be brought back in an urn to be wept over. Thatís how they come back, those who fall in those places. O Postumus you are three or four times blessed by Gallaís chastity! Your morals deserve a different wife! What shall a girl do with no fear to guard her, with Rome to instruct her in its voluptuousness? But rest secure: gifts will not win Galla, and she will not recall how hard you were.
On whatever day fate sends you safely home, modest Galla will hang about your neck. Postumus will be another Ulysses with a wife to wonder at: such long delay did him no harm: ten years of war; the Ciconesí Mount Ismara; Calpe; then the burning of your eye-socket Polyphemus; Circeís beguilements; the lotus and its binding spell; Scylla and Charybdis, separated by alternate tides; Lampetieís oxen bellowing on Ithacan spits (Lampetie his daughter grazed them for Phoebus); and fleeing the bed of Calypso, Aeaeaís weeping girl, swimming for so many nights and wintry days; entering the black halls of the silent spirits; and approaching the Sirensí waters with deafened sailors; and renewing his ancient bow at the death of the suitors; and so making an end of his wanderings.
Not in vain, since his wife had stayed chaste at home. Aelia Galla will outdo Penelopeís loyalty.
You ask why a night with eager women is expensive, and why our exhausted powers bemoan Venusís losses. The reason for such ruin is clear and certain: the path to voluptuousness has been made too easy.
The Indian ants bring gold dust from the vaulted mine, and Venusís conch, the nautilus, comes from the Red Sea, and Cadmusís Tyre sends purple dyes, and the Arabian shepherd strong scented cinammon. These weapons take sheltered modesty by storm: even those who show disdain like yours Penelope. Wives go out dressed in a spendthriftís fortune, and drag the results of their disgrace in front of our faces. Thereís no respect shown in asking or supplying, or if there is, money dispels any reluctance.
Happy that singular custom at the funerals of Eastern husbands that the reddening dawn colours with her chariot! Since when the last brand is thrown on the dead manís bier, his dutiful crowd of wives stand round with spreading hair, and compete in a fatal contest, as to who shall follow the husband while alive: it is shame for them not to be allowed to die. The winners are inflamed and offer their breasts to the fire and rest their scorched faces on their husband. Here the race of brides is treacherous: here no girl has Evadneís loyalty or Penelopeís sense of duty.
Happy were the young country folk, once, peaceable: whose wealth was in orchards and harvests. Their gifts were Cydonian apples shaken from the branches, and they gave punnets full of blackberries, now took violets in their hands, now brought back shining lilies mingled together in the virginsí baskets, and carried grapes wrapped in their own leaves, or some multi-coloured bird of various hue.
With such blandishments as these the kisses of girls were won, given to sylvan youths in secret hollows. The skin of a roe deer was wholly sufficient to cover lovers, and the tall grass grew as natureís bed. The pine leaned over them and threw its rich shadows round them: and it was not a sin to see the goddesses naked. The horned ram, head of the flock, led back his sated ewes himself to the empty fold of Pan the shepherd god. All the gods and goddesses by whom the landís protected offered kindly words to our hearths: ĎStranger, whoever you are who comes, you may hunt the hare on my paths, or the bird if perhaps you seek it: and whether you hunt your quarry with dogs or with a limed stick, call upon me, from the crag, for Pan to be your companion.í
But now the shrines decay in deserted groves: all worship money now piety is vanquished. Money drives out loyalty, justice is bought for money, money rules the law, and, without the law, then shame.
Scorched thresholds testify to Brennusís sacrilege, attacking the Pythian kingdom of Apollo, the unshorn god: and then Parnassus shook its laurel-crowned summit, and scattered fearful snow over the army of Gaul. For money, vile Polymestor of Thrace, reared you, Polydorus, in impious hospitality. Amphiaraus is lost, and his horses swallowed up, so that you Eriphyla can cover your shoulders with gold.
I will speak: - and I wish that I might be my countryís true prophet! Ė Proud Rome is being destroyed by wealth. I speak truth, but no one will believe. Since, neither was Cassandra, the Trojan Maenad, believed to be truthful in the ruin of Pergama: only she cried out that Paris was forging Phrygiaís doom, only she that the deceitful horse was entering her house. Her frenzies were fitting for her father and her house: in vain her tongue experienced the true gods.
I admire many of the rules of your training, Sparta, but most of all at the great blessings derived from the girlsí gymnasia, where a girl can exercise her body, naked, without blame, among wrestling men, when the swift-thrown ball eludes the grasp, and the curved rod sounds against the ring, and the woman is left panting at the furthest goal, and suffers bruises in the hard wrestling.
Now she fastens near the glove the thongs that her wrists delight in, now whirls the discusís flying weight in a circle, and now her hair sprinkled with hoar frost, she follows her fatherís dogs over the long ridges of Taygetus, beats the ring with her horses, binds the sword to her white flank, and shields the virgin head with hollow bronze, like the crowd of warlike Amazons who bathe bare-breasted in Thermodonís stream; or as Helen, on the sands of Eurotas, between Castor and Pollux, one to be victor in boxing, the other with horses: with naked breasts she carried weapons, they say, and did not blush with her divine brothers there.
So Spartaís law forbids lovers to keep apart, and lets each man walk by her side in the crossways, and there is no fear for her, no guardians for captive girls, no dread of bitter punishment from a stern husband. You yourself can speak about things without a go-between: no long waiting rebuffs you. No Tyrian garments beguile roving eyes, no affected toying with perfumed hair.
But my love goes surrounded by a great crowd, without the slimmest chance of getting an oar in: and you canít come upon how to act, or what words to ask with: the lover is in a blind alley.
So let me know, now, no more storms in my love, and let the night not come to me when I lie awake without you! When the modesty of my boyhoodís purple-bordered toga was hidden from me, and I was given freedom to know the ways of love, she, Lycinna, was my confederate: oh not one to be taken with gifts, she first initiated my inexperienced spirit on its first nights.
While three years have passed (it is not much less) I can barely remember ten words between us. Your love has buried everything, no woman, since you, has thrown a sweet chain about my neck.
Dirce is evidence, made jealous by a true reproach that Antiope had slept with her Lycus. Ah, how often the queen tore at Antiopeís lovely hair, and pierced her tender cheeks with ungentle fingernails! How often she loaded the servant girl with unreasonable tasks, and ordered her to sleep on the hard ground! Often she suffered her to live in filth and darkness, often she refused her foul water for her thirst. Jupiter will you never help Antiopeís deep trouble? Heavy chains scar her wrists. If you are a god, your girlís slaveryís a shame on you: whom but Jupiter should Antiope cry to when fettered?
Yet on her own, with whatever strength was in her body, she broke the royal manacles with both hands. Then with frightened step she ran to Cithaeronís heights. It was night and her sad couch was scattered with frost. Often troubled by the echoing sound of the rushing Asopus, she thought that her mistressís steps were behind her. Driven from her house their mother tested her hard-hearted son Zethus and her son Amphion easily moved to tears.
And as the sea ceases its vast heaving, when the East wind leaves its assault on the South-West, and the coast is quiet, and the sounds of the shore diminish, so the girl sank on her bended knees. Still piety came though late: her sons knew their error. Worthy old shepherd who reared Jupiterís sons, you restored the mother to her boys, and they fastened Dirce, to be dragged to death beneath the savage bullís horns. Antiope, know Jupiterís power: Dirce is your glory dragged along to meet death in many places. Zethusís fields are bloodied, and Amphion sings the Paeans from your cliffs, Aracynthus.
But be careful of tormenting Lycinna who does not deserve it: your headlong anger knows no retreat. May no story about us strike your ears: you alone I will love, though burned by the funeral pyre.
Midnight, and a letter came to me from my lady ordering me, without delay, to Tibur, where the white summits show their twin towers, and Anioís water falls in spreading pools. What to do? Commit myself to covering darkness, and fear audacious hands on my members? Yet if I were to ignore her message from fear, her weeping would be worse than an enemy in the night. I sinned once, and suffered a yearís repulsion: her hands on me show no mercy.
Yet no one would hurt a sacred lover: he could go like this down the middle of Scironís road. Whoeverís a lover, might walk on Scythiaís shore, with no one there so barbarous as to harm him. The Moon helps him on his way; the stars light the ruts; Love shakes the blazing torch up ahead; raging wild dogs avert their gaping jaws. The roadís safe at any time for such as him. Whoís so cruel as to scatter the impoverished blood of a lover, and one whom Venus herself befriends?
But if I knew my certain death followed the event, perhaps such a fate would be worth more to me. Sheíll bring perfumes and deck my tomb with garlands, and sit by my bust and guard it. Gods donít let her stick my bones in a crowded place, where the vulgar make a busy track of the highway! Loversí tombs are dishonoured by that after death. Let a leafy tree hide me in quiet ground, or bury me entrenched in unknown sands: it wonít give me joy to have my name on the street.
Now, O Bacchus, I prostrate myself humbly in front of your altars: father, give me tranquillity: prosper my passage. You can restrain the disdain of angry Venus, and thereís a medicine for sorrows in your wine. Lovers are joined by you, by you set free. Bacchus wash this trouble from my soul. That you also are not innocent of love, Ariadne bears witness, drawn through the sky, by lynxes of yours, to the stars.
This disease that has kept the flame in my bones from of old, the funeral pyre or your wine will heal. A sober night is always a torment for lonely lovers, and hope and fear strain their spirits this way and that.
But if your gifts by heating my brain summon sleep to my bones, then Iíll sow vines and plant the hills in rows, watching myself that no wild creatures harm them. If only I can crown my vats with purple unfermented wine, and the new grape stain my trampling feet, then whatís left of my life Iíll live by you and your horns, and Bacchus, theyíll say Iím the poet of your worth.
Iíll tell how your mother gave birth from Etnaís lightning bolt; of the Indian warriors routed by Nysaís dancers; of Lycurgus raging vainly at the new-found vine; of Pentheusís death pleasing to the three-fold Maenads; and the Tuscan sailors in the curbed bodies of dolphins sliding into the depths from the vine-tangled ship; and sweet-smelling streams for you through the midst of Dia, from which the Naxian people drank your wine.
Your white neck burdened with trailing clusters of ivy-berries, Bassareus, a Lydian turban crowns your hair. Your smooth throat will glisten with scented olive oil, and the flowing robe will brush your naked feet. Dircean Thebes will beat the soft drums, and goat-footed Pans will play on unstopped reeds. Nearby the Great Goddess, Cybele, with turreted crown will clash harsh cymbals in the Idaean dance. The mixing bowl will stand in front of your temple doors, for wine to be poured over your sacrifice from the golden ladle.
These Iíll tell of not humbly, but in an elevated style, in such a breath as sounded from Pindarís lips. Only do you set me free from this despotic servitude, and conquer this anxious mind with sleep.
Where the sea barred from shadowy Lake Avernus plays by Baiaeís steamy pools of warm water; where Misenus, trumpeter of Troy, lies in the sand, and the road built by Herculesís efforts resounds; there, where the cymbals clashed for the Theban god when he sought to favour the cities of men - but now Baiae hateful with this great crime, what hostile god exists in your waters? Ė there, burdened, Marcellus sank his head under the Stygian waves, and his spirit haunts your lake.
What profit did he get from birth or courage or the best of mothers, or being embraced at Caesarís hearth? Or a moment ago the waving awnings in the crowded theatre, and everything fondled by his motherís hands? He is dead, and his twentieth year is left ruined: such a bright day confined in such a small circle.
Go now, indulge your imagination, and dream of your triumphs, enjoy the whole theatreís standing ovation, outdo Attalusís cloths of gold, and let the great games be all a glitter: youíll yield them to the flames. All must still go there, of high or low station: though evil, this road is frequented by all: the triple-headed baying hound, Cerberus, must be entreated, the grim old boatman Charonís common ferry be boarded. Though a cautious man sheathe himself in iron or bronze, death will still drag out his hidden head.
No beauty saved Nireus, or courage Achilles, or wealth Croesus, produced from Pactolusís streams. This was the sadness that unknowingly ravaged the Achaeans, when Agamemnonís new passion cost them dearly.
Let them carry this body void of its soul, to you, Boatman, who ferries across the dutiful shades: where Marcus Claudius conqueror of Sicilyís land, and Julius Caesar, are, he has left humankind, on the path to the stars.
You often taunt me with my passion: believe me, it commands you more. You, when youíve snapped the reins of the modesty you despise, can set no limits to your mind ensnared. The fire in burning corn will sooner be stamped out, the rivers return to the founts where they were born, the Syrtes offer quiet harbour, and savage Cape Malea offer the sailor kind welcome on its shore, than any man be able to restrain your course, or curb the spurs of your impetuous wantonness.
Witness Pasiphae who suffered the disdain of the Cretan bull, and wore the deceptive horns of the wooden cow. Witness Tyro, Salmoneusís daughter, burning for Thessalian Enipeus, longing to yield completely to the river-god. Myrrha too is a reproach, on fire for her aged father, buried in the foliage of a new-created tree. Why need I mention Medea, who, in her time as a mother, satisfied her fury by the murder of her children? Or Clytemnestra through whom the whole House of Mycenean Pelops remains infamous for her adultery?
And you Scylla, oh, sold on Minosís beauty, shore off your fatherís kingdom with his purple lock of hair. That was the dowry the virgin pledged to his enemy! Nisus, treacherous love opened your city gates. And you, unmarried ones, burn torches of happier omen: the girl clutches the Cretan ship and is dragged away.
Still Minos does not sit as a judge in Hell without reason: though he conquered, he was merciful to his foe.
Do you think the man youíve seen set sail from your couch can remember your beauty now? Cruel the man who could exchange his girl for wealth! Was all Africa worth as much as those tears? But you, foolish girl, think idle words are gods. Perhaps he wears out his heart on another passion.
Beauty is your power, the chaste arts that are Minervaís, and brilliant glory reflects on you from your grandfatherís learning. Your house is fortunate, if only your lover is true. Iíll be true: run, girl, to my bed!
First the terms must be laid out, and the pledges sealed, and the contract written for my new love. Amor with his own seal binds these tokens: the witness, the whirling crown of Ariadne the starry goddess.
How many hours must give way to my discourse, before Venus urges sweet battles on us! For, if the bedís not bound round with certain terms, nights without sleep have no gods to avenge them, and passion soon loosens the chains it imposed. Let the first omens keep us loyal.
So then, who breaks the pledges sworn on the altars, and dishonours the nuptial rites on a strange bed, let him know all the miseries love is used to: may he offer his person to sly gossip, and may his mistressís window not open to his weeping at night: may he love forever, and forever lack loveís fruition.
Iím compelled to set out on the long route to learned Athens, so that the journeyís distance might free me of loveís burden. For love for my girl grows with constant gazing: love offers itself as its greatest nourishment.
Iíve tried every way, by which love can be put to flight: but the god himself presses me on every side. Still sheíll barely ever admit me, and often denies me: or if she comes sleeps fully clothed at the edge of the bed. Thereís only one solution: changing countries, love will travel as far from my mind, as Cynthia is from my eyes.
Letís go then, my friends, launch our ship on the sea, and draw lots in pairs for your turn at the oars. Hoist happy sails to the top of the mast: now the wind favours the sailorís watery path. Towers of Rome, and you, my friends, farewell, and farewell you too, girl, whatever you meant to me!
So now Iíll be carried off, the Adriaticís untried guest, and now be forced to approach with prayers the gods of the sounding wave. Then when my boat has crossed the Ionian Sea, and dropped its sails in Lechaeumís placid waters, hurry, feet, to endure the task thatís left, where the fields of the Isthmus keep back either sea. Then where the shores of Piraeusís harbour greet me, Iíll climb the long reaches of Theseusís road.
There Iíll begin to mend my soul in Platoís School, or in your Gardens, learned Epicurus; or pursue Demosthenesís weapon, the study of oratory; the salty wit of your books, learned Menander; or ornate pictures will captivate my eyes; or what hands have finished in ivory or more frequently bronze.
Either the passage of years, or the long spaces of the deep will heal the wounds in my silent breast: or if I die, fate will crush me, not shameful love: and that day of death will be an honour to me.
Tullus, has cool Cyzicus pleased you for so many years, where the isthmus flows with Propontusís waters? And Cybele of Dindymus fashioned from carved tusks; and the path taken by the horses of Dis the rapist? Though the cities of Helle, daughter of Athamas, delight you, perhaps, Tullus, still be moved by my longing.
Though you gaze at Atlas holding up the whole sky; or the head of Medusa severed by Perseusís hand; the stables of Geryon; or the marks, in the dust, of Hercules and Antaeus, or the Hesperidesís dances: though your oarsmen drive back the Colchian River Phasis, and follow the whole route of those timbers cut on Pelion, a rough pine tree forced to the form of a new prow, sailed through the rocks led by Argosís dove: though Ortygia is to be seen and the shores of Cayster, and where the Nile water governs seven channels: all these miracles give way to Roman lands: here nature has placed all that has ever been. Itís a land better fitted for defence than for attack: Fame is not ashamed of your history Rome. Since our power is established by loyalty as much as weapons: our wrath restrains victorious hands.
Here flows Tiburís Anio; Clitumnus from Umbrian tracks; and Marciusís works with eternal water; Albaís lake and Nemi thick with leaves, and the healing spring Polluxís horse drank. But no horned snakes slithering on scaly bellies, Italian waters are not seething with strange monsters. Here Andromedaís chains do not clink for her motherís sin; no Phoebus flees Ausonian banquets in terror; no distant fires have burned anyone in person, as Althaea brought about her son Meleagerís ruin. No savage Bacchantes hunt Pentheus through the trees, nor are Greek ships set free by the substitution of a doe. Juno has no power to curve horns from her rivalís brow, or disfigure her beauty with a cowís ugliness. No torturing trees of Sinis, nor rocks that gave no welcome to the Greeks, nor beams curved to oneís fate.
This place gave you birth, Tullus, this is your sweetest home, here is honour to seek, worthy of your people. Here are citizens for your oratory: here is ample hope of offspring, and the fitting love of a future wife.
So, my clever writing-tablets are lost, then, and so many good texts too! They were worn away by my hands former usage, and they required good faith by not being sealed. Moreover without me they knew how to pacify my girls, and how to speak eloquent words without me. It wasnít gold fittings made them precious: they were dingy wax on ordinary boxwood. Such as they were they stayed faithful always to me, and always produced a good effect.
Perhaps the tablets were entrusted with these words: ĎI am angry because you were late yesterday, you laggard. Or did someone else seem lovelier to you? Or did you spread some unkind slander about me?í Or she said: ĎCome today, weíll rest together: all night, Love has been preparing a welcome.í And whatever else a willing and talkative girl invents when she sets a time, with flattering wiles.
Oh well, now some miser writes his accounts on them, and places them with his dire ledgers! Whoever gives me them back can have gold: who would keep pieces of wood and not have money? Go boy, and quickly stick these words on some column, and write that your master lives on the Esquiline.
Woman the faith you place in your beautyís mistaken: for a while now my eyes have made you far too proud. My love has paid such tributes to you, Cynthia, it shames me that youíre honoured by my verse.
I often praised the many beauties combined in you, because love thought you were what you are not. Your aspect was often compared with rosy Dawn, though the beauty of your face was all applied by hand: my fatherís friends couldnít divert me from this, nor any Thessalian witch, with the wide sea, wash it away. This I confessed, in truth, not compelled by knife or flame, wrecked on Aegean waters. I was seized and seethed in Venusís cruel cauldron: I was bound, my hands twisted behind my back.
Behold, my wreathed boats reach harbour, the Syrtes are past, and I cast anchor. I come to my senses now at last, weary of the wild surge, and my wounds are closed and healed.
I was laughed at among the guests seated for the banquet, and whoever wished was able to gossip about me. I managed to serve you faithfully for five years: youíll often grieve for my loyalty with bitten nails.
Tears have no effect on me: I was ensnared by those wiles: Cynthia you only every wept with guile. I will weep, departing, but insult overcomes tears: you do not allow the yoke to move in harmony.
Now goodbye to the threshold weeping at my words: to the entrance never hurt by my hand in anger. But let ageís weight burden you with hidden years and luckless wrinkles come to your features! May you long then to tear out white hairs by their roots, ah, when the mirror rebukes you with your wrinkles, and may you in turn, rejected, suffer proud arrogance, and, changed to an old woman, regret what you have done!
These are the dread events my pages prophesy for you: learn to fear the fate of your beauty!
Here, whatever you see, stranger, which is mighty Rome, before Trojan Aeneas was hills and grass: and Evanderís fugitive herd lay where the Palatine stands, sacred to Apollo of Ships. These golden temples sprang from earthly gods: there was no disgrace in houses made without art: Tarpeian Jupiter thundered from a bare cliff, and Tiber was foreign to our cattle.
Where Remusís house raises itself from that stairway, a single hearth was a whole kingdom to the brothers. The Curia that shines up there robed with the purple hem of the Senate, held the Fathers, dressed in animal skins, to its rustic heart. A shepherdís horn called the citizens to speak in ancient times: often the Senate was a hundred of them in a field.
No billowing awnings hung over the theatreís space: the stage didnít smell of its customary saffron. No man cared to seek out alien gods: while the awed people trembled at their fatherís rites. But, they celebrated the Parilia, annually, with bonfires of straw, and such purification as we repeat now with the docked horseís blood.
Vesta, poor, delighted in garlanded donkeys, and skinny cattle pulled cheap emblems. At the Compitalia the narrow crossroads were purified with the blood of fatted pigs, and the shepherd offered sheepís guts to the sound of reed pipes. The ploughman, dressed in skins, flourished his hairy scourge, from which lawless Fabius Lupercus took the Lupercaliaís sacred rite.
Their raw soldiers did not gleam with threatening armour: they joined in battle naked, with fire-hardened pikes. Lycmon, the countryman, pitched the first generalís tent, and the greater part of Tatiusís wealth was in sheep. So were the Titienses, heroic Ramnes, and the Luceres of Solonium, so Romulus drove four white triumphal horses.
For certain Bovillae was hardly a suburb of the tiny city, and Gabii was greatly crowded, that now is nothing. And Alba stood, powerful, founded through the omen of a white sow, when it was a long journey from there to Fidenae. The Roman child has nothing of his fathers save the name, nor reflects that a she-wolf was his raceís foster-mother.
Here, Troy, for the best, you sent your exiled household gods. Here, at such auguries, the Trojan vessel sailed! Even then the omens were good, since the open womb of the Wooden Horse did not fatally wound her, when the trembling father clung to his sonís back, and the flames were afraid to scorch those pious shoulders.
Then came the spirited Decii,
and the consulship of Brutus,
and Venus herself carried
Caesarís arms here,
bore the victorious arms of a resurgent
Wolf of Mars, the best of
nurses to our State, what towers have sprung from your milk! Now to try and set
out those towers in patriotic verse, ah me, how puny the sound that rises from
my mouth! But however thin the streams that flow from my chest, it is all in
the service of my country. Let Ennius
crown his verse with a shaggy garland: Bacchus, hold out to me leaves of your ivy, so
that my books might make Umbria
swell with pride,
ĎWhere are you rushing to, Propertius, straying rashly, speaking about Fate? The threads you spin are not from a true distaff. Singing, you summon tears: Apolloís averted: you demand words youíll regret from an unwilling lyre. Iíll speak the truth from true sources, or prove myself a seer who does not know how to move the stars on their bronze sphere. Orops of Babylon, child of Archytas, fathered me, Horos, and my house is descended from Conon as ancestor. The gods are my witnesses, that Iíve not disgraced my family. Now men make profit out of the gods (Jupiter is tricked by gold) and from the stars return on the slanting zodiacís circle, Jupiterís fortunate planet, rapacious Mars, and heavy Saturn a weight on every head: what Pisces determines, and Leoís fierce sign, and Capricorn washed in the western sea.
When Arria was in labour with her twin sons (forbidden to by a god, she gave her sons weapons), I foretold they would be unable to bring back their spears to their fatherís household gods: and now in truth two graves confirm my word. Since Lupercus, protecting his horseís wounded head, failed to defend himself when the horse fell: while Gallus guarding the standards entrusted to him in camp, died for the eagleís beak, bathing it in his blood. Ill-fated boys, both killed by a motherís greed! My prophecy touched on truth, though unwillingly.
I, too, cried out, when Lucina
labour pains, and her wombís tardy burden delayed: ďMake Juno a vow she must hear!Ē She gave birth: my
books won the prize! These things are not expounded in the desert
Calchas was a profound
example: since he freed at Aulis
the ships clinging rightly to god-fearing cliffs: the same who bloodied a sword
on the neck of Agamemnonís girl,
and granted the Atrides
bloodstained sails. Yet the Greeks
did not return: quench your tears, razed Troy, and consider Euboeaís bay! Nauplius raises his fires by night in vengeance,
and Greece sails
weighed down by her spoils. Victorious
So much for history: now I turn to your stars: prepare yourself impartially to witness new grief. Ancient Umbria gave birth to you, at a noble hearth: am I lying? Or has my mouth revealed your country? Where misty Mevania wets the open plain, and the summer waters of the Umbrian lake steam, and the wall towers from the summit of climbing Assisi, that wall made more famous by your genius?
Not of an age to gather them, you gathered your fatherís bones, and yourself were forced to find a meaner home. Since though many bullocks ploughed your fields, the merciless measuring-rod stole your wealth of land. Soon the bulla of gold was banished from your untried neck, and the toga of a free man assumed in front of your motherís gods, then Apollo taught you a little of his singing, and told you not to thunder out your words in the frantic Forum.
But you create elegies, deceptive art: Ė this is your battlefield Ė that the rest of the crowd might write by your example. You will suffer the charming struggles of Venusís arms, and will be an enemy fit for Venusís boys. Since whatever victories your labour wins you, one girl will escape your grasp: and though you shake the deeply fixed hook from your mouth, it will do no good: the fishing-spear will spike your jaw.
Youíll gaze at night or day at her whim: unless she commands it the tear wonít fall from your eye. A thousand sentries wonít help you, or a thousand seals on her threshold: a crack is enough once sheís decided to cheat you.
Now whether your ship is tossed about in mid-ocean, or you go unarmed among armed men, or the trembling earth yawns in a gaping chasm: fear the avaricious back of the Crab, eight-footed Cancer.í
ĎWhy marvel at my many shapes in one body? Learn the native tokens of the god Vertumnus. I am a Tuscan born of Tuscans, and do not regret that I have abandoned Volsiniiís hearths in battle. This crowd of mine delights me, I enjoy no ivory temple: itís enough that I see the Roman Forum.
Tiber once took its course there, and they say the sound of oars was heard over the beaten waters: but once he had given so much ground to his adopted children, I was named the god Vertumnus from the riverís winding (verso) or because I receive the first fruits from the returning (vertentis) spring, you believe them to be a Ďreturní for the sacrifice to Vertumnus.
The first grape changes hue, for me, in darkening bunches, and hairy ears of corn swell with milky grains. Here you see sweet cherries, autumn plums, and mulberries redden through summer days. Here the grafter pays his vows with apple garlands, when the unwilling pear stock has borne fruit.
Be silent empty rumour: thereís another pointer to my name: but believe the god who speaks about himself. My nature is adaptable to every form: turn me (verte) into whatever you wish: Iíll be noble. Clothe me in Coan silk, Iíll be no bad girl: and when I wear the toga whoíll say I am no man? Give me a scythe and tie twists of hay on my forehead: you can swear the grass was cut by my hand. Once I carried weapons, I remember, and was praised for it: yet I was a reaper when burdened by the basketís weight.
Iím sober for the law: but when the garlandís there, youíll cry out that the wineís gone to my head. Circle my head with a turban Iíll impersonate Bacchusís form: if youíll give me his lyre Iíll impersonate Apollo. Loaded down with nets I hunt: but with limed reed Iím the patron god of wildfowling.
Vertumnus has also a charioteerís likeness, and of him who lightly leaps from horse to horse. Supply me with rod and Iíll catch fish, or go as a neat pedlar with trailing tunic. I can bend like a shepherd over his crook, or carry baskets of roses through the dust. Why should I add, what is my greatest fame, that the gardenís choice gifts are given into my hands? Dark-green cucumbers, gourds with swollen bellies, and the cabbages tied with light rushes mark me out: no flower of the field grows that is not placed on my brow, and fittingly droops before me. Because the single shape became (vertebar) all, my native tongue from that gave me my name.
Six lines are to be added: you, who hurry to answer bail, I will not delay you: this is the last mark on the way.
I was a maple stock, cut by a swift sickle: before Numa, I was a humble god in a grateful city. But, Mamurius, creator of my statue in bronze, may the rough earth never spoil your skilful hands, that were able to cast me for such peaceful use. The work is alone, but the honour the work is given is not.í
ĎArethusa sends this message to her Lycotas: if you can be mine, when you are so often absent. Still, if any part you wish to read is smeared, that blot will have been made by my tears: or if any letter puzzles you by its wavering outline, it will be the sign of my now fading hand.
A moment ago Bactra saw you in the east again, now the Neuric enemy with armoured horses, the wintry Getae and Britain with its painted chariots, and the dark-skinned Indians pounded by the eastern waves.
Was this the marriage oath and the night sealed with kisses, when, an innocent, I yielded to the urgency of your conquering arms? The ill-omened torch, carried before me by those who led, drew its dark light from a ruined pyre: and I was sprinkled with Stygian waters, and the headband was not set right among my hair: the god of marriage was not my friend.
Oh, my harmful vows hang from every gate: and this is the fourth cloak I weave for your camp. Let him perish who tore a stake from an innocent tree, and made mournful trumpets from shrill horns, he is more worthy than Ocnus to lean on, and twist the rope, and feed your hunger, mule, to eternity!
Tell me, does the breastplate cut your tender shoulders? Does the heavy spear chafe your unwarlike hands? May they sooner hurt you than some girlís teeth cause me tears, by marking your neck! They say your face is lean and drawn: but I pray that pallor is from desire for me. While I, when evening leads on the bitter night, kiss the weapons you have left behind. Then I moan by starlight that your cloak is not over all the bed, and that the birds that bring the dawn donít sing.
On winter nights I labour to spin for your campaigns, and cut Tyrian cloth for the sword: and I learn where the Araxes flows you must conquer, and how many miles a Parthian horse can go without water: Iím driven to study the world depicted on a map, and learn what kind of position the god set up there, which countries are sluggish with frost, which crumble with heat, which kindly wind will bring your sail to Italy.
One caring sister sits here, and my pale nurse swears that the winterís a time of delay. Fortunate Hippolyte! With naked breasts she carried weapons, and barbarously hid her soft hair under a helmet. If only the Roman camps were open to women! I would have been a loyal burden for your campaign. Scythian hills would not hinder me when the mighty god turns the waters to ice with deeper cold. Every love is powerful, but greater in an acknowledged partner: this fire Venus herself fans into life.
Why then should robes of Phoenician purple gleam for me now, or clear crystals decorate my fingers? Everythingís mute and silent, and the Laresís closed shrine is barely opened by one girl, through custom, on the infrequent Calends. The whimpering of the little puppy Craugis is dear to me: she is the only one to claim your share of the bed.
I roof over the shrines with flowers, cover the crossroads with sacred branches, and the Sabine herb crackles on ancient altars. If the owl hoots perched on a neighbouring beam, or the flickering lamp merits a drop of wine, that day proclaims the slaughter of this yearís lambs, and the priests readied, burn for fresh profits.
I beg you not to set so much glory in scaling Bactraís walls, or the plunder of fine linen
torn from a perfumed chieftain, when the lead shot scatters from the twisted
sling, and the cunning bow twangs from the wheeling horse! But (and when the
A GRATEFUL WOMANíS THANKS FOR HER HUSBANDíS SAFETY.í
Iíll tell of the Tarpeian Grove, and Tarpeiaís shameful tomb, and the capture of Jupiterís ancient threshold. Tatius encircled this hill with a maple-wood palisade, and ringed his camp securely with mounds of earth. What was Rome then, when Curesí trumpeter made Jupiterís neighbouring cliffs shiver with a long peal, and Sabine javelins were piled in the Roman Forum, where now laws are issued to a subject world? The hills were walls: where the Curia is hedged in, the war-horse drank from the self-same spring.
There was a pleasant grove hidden in an ivied hollow and many a tree filled the native streams with rustling. It was Silvanusís branched house, where sweet pipings called the sheep out of the heat to drink. Here Tarpeia drew water for the Goddess: and the jar of earthenware burdened her head.
And could one death be sufficient for that wicked girl, who wanted to betray your flames, Vesta? She saw Tatius practising manoeuvres on the sandy plain, and lifting his ornate spear among the yellow crests. She was stunned by the kingís face, and the royal armour, and the urn slipped through her careless hands. She often feigned that the innocent moon was ominous, and said she must wash her hair in the stream. She often took silver lilies to the lovely nymphs, so that Romulusís spear might not hurt Tatiusís face: and when she climbed the Capitol clouded with the first fires, she brought back arms torn by hairy brambles. And sitting on that Tarpeian Hill of hers, she sobbed out, from there, her wound that nearby Jupiter would not forgive:
ĎCampfires and royal tent of Tatiusís host, and Sabine weapons lovely to my
eyes, O if only I might sit as a prisoner before your household gods, as a
prisoner contemplating my Tatiusís face! Hills of
No wonder Scylla was fierce with her fatherís hair, and her white waist was transformed to fierce dogs? No wonder the horns of a monstrous brother were betrayed, when the winding path was clear from Ariadneís rewound thread. What a reproach I will become to Ausoniaís girls, a traitress chosen as servant to the virgin flame! If anyone wonders at Pallasís quenched fires, let them forgive: the altar is drenched with my tears.
So rumour says, tomorrow, there will be a purging of the whole city: you must seize the dew-wet spine of the thorny hill. The whole track is slippery and treacherous: since it always hides silent water on its deceptive path. O if only I knew the incantations of the magical Muse! Then my tongue would have brought help to my lovely man. The ornate robe is worthy of you, not him without honour of a mother, nourished by the harsh teats of a brutal she-wolf.
Stranger, as your queen, shall I give birth so in your palace!
Now the fourth bugle-call sings out the coming of day, and the stars themselves fall slipping into the Ocean. I will try to sleep, I will search out dreams of you: let your kind shadow come before my eyes.í
She spoke, and let her arms fall in uneasy sleep, not knowing alas that she had lain down among fresh frenzies. For Vesta, the blessed guardian of Troyís embers, fuelled her sin, and buried more burning torches in her bones. She ran, like a Thracian by swift Thermodon, tearing at her clothes, with naked breasts.
It was a festival in the city (the city-fathers called it the Parilia) on the first such day the walls were
started, the annual shepherdsí feast, holiday in the city, when rural plates
are dripping with luxuries, while the drunken crowd leaps with dusty feet over
scattered piles of burning straw.
The hill was difficult to climb, but unguarded due to the feast: suddenly he struck down with his sword the dogs that were liable to bark. All displayed sleep: but Jupiter alone resolved to keep watch to your ruin. She had betrayed the gateís trust and her sleeping country, and sought to marry that day as she wished. But Tatius (since even the enemy gave no rewards to wickedness) said: ĎMarry, and climb my royal bed!í He spoke, and had her buried under his comradesí heaped up shields. This was your dowry, virgin, fitting for your services.
The hill took its name from the enemyís guide, Tarpeia. O, watcher, unjustly you win a reward from fate.
Earth cover your grave with thorns, Procuress, and let your shadow feel what you do not wish for, thirst: and may your ghost not rest among your ashes, and vengeful Cerberus terrorise your shameful bones with famished howling!
Clever at winning even adamant Hippolytus to love, and always darkest omen to a peaceful bed, she could even force Penelope to be indifferent to rumours of her husband, and wed with lascivious Antinous. If she wishes it, the magnet will be unable to attract iron, and the bird will play the stepmother to her nestlings.
And indeed, if she brought herbs from the Colline field to the trench, whatís firm would be dissolved to flowing water. She dared to set rules for the spellbound moon, and disguise her shape as a nocturnal wolf, so that by art she could blind watching husbands, and tear out the innocent eyes of crows with her nails, and considered with owls concerning my blood, and for me collected the fluids produced by a pregnant mare.
She practised her role, alas, with flattering words, and just as the diligent mole drills out his stone-filled track: ĎIf, at dawn, the golden shores of the Dorozantes delight you, or the shell thatís proud beneath the Tyrian waters, or King Eurypylusís weave of the silk of Cos pleases you, or limp figures cut from beds of cloth of gold, or the goods they send from palmy Thebes, or murra cups baked in Parthian fires, then forget your loyalty, overturn the gods, let lies conquer, and shatter the harmful laws of chastity! Pretending to have a husband raises the price: employ excuses! Love returns mightier for a nightís delay.
If by chance he roughs up your hair, his angerís useful: after it press him into buying peace. Then when heís purchased your embraces and youíve promised love, pretend that these are the pure days of Isis. Let Iole flag up April Kalends to you, Amycle hammer home that your birthdayís in May. He sits in supplication Ė take your chair and write anything at all: if he trembles at these wiles, youíve got him! Always have fresh bite-marks on your neck, that he might think were given in the to and fro of love-quarrels. But donít be taken with Medeaís clinging reproaches (surely she endured scorn for daring to ask first), but rather that costly Thais of witty Menander, when the adultress in his comedy cheats the shrewd Scythians.
Alter your style for the man: if he boasts of his singing, go along with him, and join in with your tipsy words. Let your doorman look out for the bringers of gifts: if they knock empty-handed, let him sleep on, with the bolt slid home. Donít be displeased at the soldier not fashioned for love, or the sailor if he carries gold in his rough hand, or one from whose barbarous neck a price-tag hung when he danced with whitened feet in the market-place. Consider the gold, and not the hand that offers the gold!
Though you listen to poems what will you get but words? ďWhat need is there, mea vita, to come with your hair adorned, and slither about in a thin silk dress from Cos?Ē The one who brings poems but no gifts of silken gowns, let his penniless lyre be dumb for you. While itís springtime in the blood, while your yearís free of wrinkles, make use of your face today lest it pleases no one tomorrow! I have seen the budding roses of fragrant Paestum left scorched at dawn by the South Wind.í
While Acanthis troubled my mistressís mind like this my bones could be counted under my paper-thin skin. But, Venus O Queen, accept a ring-dove as an offering, its neck cut before your altars. I saw the cough congeal in her wrinkled throat, and the bloodstained phlegm issue from her hollow teeth, and she breathed out her decaying spirit on her fatherís mat: the unfinished hut shivered by a cold hearth. For the funeral there were stolen bindings for her scant hair, and a turban faded from lying in the dirt, and a dog, ever wakeful to my distress, when I was to slip the bolt with secretive fingers. Let the procuressís tomb be an ancient wine-jar with a broken neck: and wild fig-tree push down with force upon it. Whoever loves strike at this grave with rough stones, and mingled with the stones add your curses!
The priest makes the sacrifice: let silence aid the sacrifice, and let the heifer fall, struck down before my altars. Let Romeís wreath compete with Philetasís ivy-clusters, and let the urn provide the waters of Cyrene. Give me soft costmary, and offerings of lovely incense, and let the loop of wool go three times round the fire. Sprinkle me with water, and by the new altars let the ivory flute sing of Phrygian jars. Fraud go far from here, and Injury to other skies: purifying laurel makes smooth the priestís fresh path.
Muse, we will speak of the
The enemy fleet, was doomed by Trojan Quirinus, and the shameful javelins fit for a womanís hand: there was Augustusís ship, sails filled by Jupiterís favour, standards now skilful in victory for their country. Now Nereus bent the formations in a twin arc, and the water trembled painted by the glitter of weapons, when Phoebus, quitting Delos, anchored under his protection (since, uniquely floating, it suffered the South Windís anger), stood over Augustusís stern, and a strange flame shone, three times, snaking down in oblique fire.
Phoebus did not come with his hair streaming around his neck, or with the mild song of the tortoise-shell lyre, but with that aspect that gazed on Agamemnon, Pelopís son, and came out of the Dorian camp to the greedy fires, or as he destroyed the Python, writhing in its coils, the serpent that the peaceful Muses feared.
Then he spoke: ĎO Augustus, world-deliverer, sprung from Alba Longa, acknowledged as greater than your Trojan ancestors, conquer
by sea: the land is already yours: my bow is on your side, and every arrow
burdening my quiver favours you. Free your country from fear, that relying on
you as its protector, weights your prow with the Stateís prayers. Unless you
defend her, Romulus
misread the birds flying from the Palatine,
he the augur of the foundation of
He spoke, and lent the contents of his quiver to the bow: after his bowshot,
Caesarís javelin was next.
Triton honoured it with music, and all the goddesses of the sea applauded, as they circled the standards of freedom. The woman trusting vainly in her swift vessel headed for the Nile, commanding one thing only, not to die at anotherís order. The best thing, by all the gods! What sort of a triumph would one woman make in the streets where Jugurtha was once led!
So Apollo of Actium gained his temple, each of whose arrows destroyed ten ships.
I have sung of war enough: Apollo the victor now demands my lyre, and sheds his weapons for the dance of peace. Now let guests in white robes enter the gentle grove: and let lovely roses flow round my neck. Let wine, from Falernian wine presses, be poured, and Cilician saffron three times bathe my hair. Let the Muse fire the mind of drunken poets: Bacchus you are used to being an inspiration to your Apollo.
Let one tell of the slavery of the Sycambri of the marshes, another sing the dark-skinned kingdoms of Cephean Meroe, another record how the Parthians lately acknowledged defeat with a truce. ĎLet him return the Roman standards, he will soon give up his own: or if Augustus spares the Eastern quivers for a while, let him leave those trophies for his grandsons to win. Crassus, be glad, if you know of it, among the dark dunes: we can cross the Euphrates to your grave.í
So I will pass the night with drinking, so with song, until daylight shines its rays into my wine.
There are Spirits, of a kind: death does not end it all, and the pale ghost escapes the ruined pyre. For Cynthia, lately buried, beside the roadwayís murmur, seemed to lean over my couch, when sleep was withheld from me, after loveís interment, and I grieved at the cold kingdom of my bed. The same hair she had, that was borne to the grave, the same eyes: her garment was charred against her side, and the fire had eaten the beryl ring from her finger, and Letheís waters had worn away her lips. She sighed living breath, and speech, but her brittle hands rattled their finger-bones.
ĎFaithless man, from whom no girl can hope for better, can sleep already have power over you? Are the tricks of sleepless Subura now forgotten, and my windowsill, worn by nocturnal guile? From which I so often hung on a rope let down to you, and came to your shoulders, hand over hand. Often we made love at the crossroads, and, breast to breast, our cloaks made the roadways warm. Alas for the silent pact whose false words the uncaring South-West Wind has swept away!
No one cried out at the dying light of my eyes: I would have won another day if youíd recalled me. No watchman shook his split reeds for me: and, jostled, a broken tile cut my face. Who, at the end, saw you, bowed at my graveside, who saw your funeral robe hot with tears? If you disliked to go beyond the gate, you could have ordered that my bier travelled there more slowly. Ungrateful man, why didnít you pray for a wind to fan my pyre? Why werenít my flames redolent of nard? Was it indeed such an effort to scatter cheap hyacinths, or honour my tomb with a shattered jar?
Let Lygdamus be branded, let the iron be white-hot for the slave of the house: I knew him when I drank the pale and doctored wine. And crafty Nomas, let her destroy her secret poisons: the burning potsherd will reveal her guilty hands. She who was open to the common gaze, through worthless nights, now leaves the track of a golden hem on the ground: and, if a talkative girl speaks of my beauty unjustly, repays it with heavier spinning tasks. Old Petale is chained to a foul block of wood, for carrying garlands to my tomb: Lalage is whipped, hung by her entwined hair, since she dared to make a request in my name.
You allowed the woman to melt down my golden image, so she might have her dowry from my blazing pyre. Still, though you deserve it, Iíll not criticise you, Propertius, my reign was a long one in your books. I swear by the incantation of the Fates, that no one may revoke, so may three-headed Cerberus bark gently for me, that I have been faithful. If I am lying, may vipers hiss on my mound, and lie coiled above my bones.
There are two places assigned beyond the foul stream, and the whole crowd of the dead row on opposing waters. One carries Clytemnestraís unfaithfulness, another the monstrous framework of the lying Cretan cow: see, others are swept onwards in a garlanded boat, where sweet airs caress Elysian roses, where tuneful lutes, where Cybeleís cymbals sound, and turbaned choirs to the Lydian lyre.
Andromeda and Hypermestre, blameless wives, tell their story, with accustomed feeling: the first complains her arms are bruised, with the chains of her motherís pride, and that her hands were un-deserving of the icy rock. Hypermestre tells how her sisters were so daring, her mind incapable of committing such a crime. So with the tears of death we heal the desires of life: I conceal the many crimes of your unfaithfulness.
But now I give this command to you, if perhaps you are moved, if Chlorisís magic herbs do not wholly entrance you: donít let Parthenie, my nurse, lack anything in her years of weakness: she was known to you, was never greedy with you. And donít let my lovely Latris, who was named for her role, hold the mirror for some fresh mistress.
And burn whatever verses you made about my name: cease to sing my praises.
Drive the ivy from my mound that, with grasping clusters, and with tangled leaves, binds my fragile bones; where fruitful Anio broods over fields of apple-branches, and ivory never fades, because of Herculesís power.
Write, on a columnís midst, this verse, worthy of me but brief, so that the traveller, hurrying, from the city, might read:
HERE IN TIBURíS EARTH LIES CYNTHIA THE GOLDEN:
ANIO FRESH PRAISE IS ADDED TO YOUR SHORES.
Donít deny the dreams that come through sacred gateways: when sacred dreams come, they carry weight. By night we suffer wandering, night frees the imprisoned spirits, and, his cage abandoned, Cerberus himself strays. At dawn the laws demand return to the pools of Lethe: we are carried across, the ferryman counts the load heís carried.
Now, let others have you: soon I alone will hold you: youíll be with me and Iíll wear away bone joined with bone.í
After she had ended, in complaint, her quarrel with me, her shadow slipped from my embrace.
Hear about what caused headlong flight, through the watery Esquiline, tonight, when a crowd of residents rushed through the New Fields, and a shameful brawl broke out in a secret bar: though I wasnít there, my name was not unstained.
Lanuvium, from of old, is guarded by an ancient serpent: the hour you spend on such a marvellous visit wonít be wasted; where the sacred way is dragged down through a dark abyss, where the hungry snakeís tribute penetrates (virgin, be wary of all such paths!), when he demands the annual offering of food, and twines, hissing, from the centre of the earth. Girls grow pale, sent down to such rites as these, when their hand is rashly entrusted to the serpentís mouth. He seizes the tit-bits the virgins offer: the basket itself trembles in their hands. If theyíve remained chaste they return to their parentsí arms, and the farmers shout: ĎIt will be a fertile year.í
My Cynthia was carried there, by clipped horses. Juno was the pretext, but Venus was more likely. Appian Way, tell, I beg you, of how she drove in triumph, with you as witness, her wheels shooting past over your stones. She was a sight, sitting there, hanging over the end of the shaft, daring to loose the reins over foul places. For I say nothing of the silk-panelled coach of that plucked spendthrift, and his hounds with jewelled collars on their Molassian necks, whoíll offer himself for sale, fated for filthy stuffing, while a shameful beard will cover those smoothly shaven cheeks.
Since harm so often befell our couch, I decided to change my bed by moving camp. There is a certain Phyllis, living near Aventine Diana. When sheís sober nothing pleases: when sheís drunk everything goes. Teia is another, among the groves of Tarpeia, lovely, but full of wine, one man is not enough. I decided to call on them to lighten the night-time, and refresh my amours with untried intrigue.
There was a couch for three on a private lawn. Do you want to know how we lay? I was between the two. Lygdamus was cup-bearer, and there was a set of summer glassware, and Greek wine that tasted Methymnian. Nile, the flute-player was yours, Phyllis was castanet dancer, and artless elegant roses were appropriately scattered. Magnus the dwarf himself, tiny in limb, waved his stunted hands around to the boxwood flute. The lamps flames flickered though the lamps were full, and the table sloped sideways on its legs. And I looked to throw Venus on the lucky dice, but the wretched Dogs always leapt out at me. They sang, I was deaf: bared their breasts, I was blind. Alas, I was off alone by Lanuviumís gates.
When suddenly the doors creaked aloud on their hinges, and a low murmur sounded from the entrance by the Lares. Immediately Cynthia flung back the folding screens, with hair undone, but furiously fine. I dropped the glass from between loosened fingers, and my lips paled though they were slack with wine. Her eyes flashed lightning, and how the woman raged, a sight no less terrible than the sacking of a city.
She thrust her angry nails at Phyllis: Teia cried out in terror to the neighbouring waters. The raised torches disturbed the sleeping citizens, and the whole street echoed with madness. The first tavern in a dark street swallowed the girls, with loose dresses and dishevelled hair.
Cynthia exulted in the spoils, and ran back victorious to strike my face with perverse hands, put her mark on my neck, drew blood with her mouth, and most of all struck my eyes that deserved it. And then when her arms were tired with plaguing me, she rooted out Lygdamus lying sheltered by the left-hand couch, and, dragged forward, he begged my spirit to protect him. Lygdamus, I couldnít do a thing: I was a prisoner like you.
With outstretched hands, and only then, it came to a treaty, while she would barely allow me to touch her feet, and she said: ĎIf youíd have me pardon the sins you confess, accept what the shape of my laws will be. Youíre not to walk about, all dressed up, in the shade of Pompeyís colonnade, or when they strew the sand in the licentious Forum. Take care you donít bend your neck up to the back of the theatre, or give yourself over to your loitering by some open carriage. Most of all let Lygdamus be sold, heís my main cause for complaint, and let his feet drag around double links of chain.í
She spelt out her laws: I replied ĎIíll obey the law.í She smiled, with pride in the power I had granted. Then with fire she purified wherever the alien girls had touched, and washed the threshold with pure water. She ordered me to change all my clothes again, and touched my head three times with burning sulphur, and so I responded by changing the bed, every single sheet, and on the familiar couch we resolved our quarrel.
In those days when Hercules, Amphitryonís son drove the oxen, O Erythea, from your stalls, he reached the untamed, cattle-rich Palatine, and, weary himself, halted his weary herd, where the Velabrum dammed its flow, where the boatman sailed over urban waters. But they were still not safe there, Cacus proving a treacherous host: he dishonoured Jupiter by thieving. Cacus live there robbing from his dreaded cavern, he who gave out separate sound from triple mouths. So there would be no obvious sign of the certain theft, he dragged the cattle backwards to his cave. Not without the god witnessing it: the bulls roared their fury, fury and rage broke down the savage doors.
Struck three times on the forehead by the Maenalian club, Cacus fell, and Alcides spoke as follows: ĎCattle, cattle of Hercules, go, my cudgelís last labour, twice sought after by me, twice my prize, cattle, sanctify the Cattle-Market, with your deep lowing: your pastures will become the famous Roman Forum.í he spoke, and thirst tormented his parched throat, while fertile earth supplied no water.
But far away he heard the laughter of cloistered girls, where a Sacred Grove formed a shaded circle, the secret site of the Goddess, and the womenís holy fountains, and the rites never revealed to men without punishment. Wreaths of purple veiled its solitary threshold, and a ruined hut was lit by perfumed fires. A poplar with spreading foliage adorned the shrine, and its dense shadows hid singing birds.
He rushed there, his un-moistened beard thick with dust, and uttered less than god-like words before the doors: ĎO you who linger in the groveís sacred hollows, open your welcoming temple to a tired man. I stray, in need of a spring, the sound of waters round me, and a handful caught up from the stream would be enough.
Have you not heard of one who carried the globe on his back? I am he: the world I accepted calls me Alcides. Who has not heard of the mighty doings of Herculesís club, and those shafts that were never used in vain against harmful creatures, and of how for me, the only mortal, the Stygian shadows shone? Accept me here: weary, this land is scarcely open to me.
Even if you sacrificed to Juno, bitter against me, she herself would not have shut her waters from me. But if any of you are afraid of my face or the lionís pelt, or my hair bleached by the Libyan sun, I am the same who has carried out the slaveís tasks, in a cloak of Sidon, and spun the dayís tally on a Lydian distaff. My shaggy chest was caught in a soft breast-band, and I was fit to be a hard-handed girl.í
So Hercules spoke: but the kindly priestess replied, her white hair tied with a purple ribbon: ĎAvert your eyes, stranger, and go from this sacred grove, go then, and, by leaving its threshold, flee in safety. The altar that is guarded in this secluded hut is prohibited to men, and avenged by fearsome law. Tiresias the seer gazed at Pallas to his cost, while she was bathing her strong limbs, laying aside her Gorgon breastplate. Let the gods grant you other fountains: this water flows only for women wandering its secret channel.í So the aged priestess spoke: he burst the concealing doorway with his shoulders, and the closed gate could not bar his raging thirst.
But after he had quenched the burning and drained the river, his lips scarcely dry, he gave out this harsh decree: ĎThis corner of the world has accepted me, as I drag out my fate: weary, this land is scarcely open to me. The great Altar,í he said Ďdedicated to the recovery of my herd, this greatest of altars made by my hands, will never be open to womenís worship, so that for eternity Herculesís thirst will not go un-avenged.í
Hail, Sacred Father, on whom austere Juno now smiles. Sacred one, sit favourably in my book. So the Sabine Cures enshrined this hero as the Sacred one, since he had cleansed the world, purified at his hands.
Now I will begin to reveal the origins of Feretrian Jupiter and the triple trophies won from three chieftains. I climb a steep path, but the glory of it gives me strength: I donít enjoy wreathes plucked on easy slopes.
Romulus, you set the
pattern first for this prize, and returned burdened with enemy spoils,
victorious at the time when Caeninian
Acron was attempting the
So he was accustomed to conquer, the Father of
The next example was Cossus
with the killing of Tolumnius
of Veii, when to conquer
Claudius also threw
the enemy back from the Rhine
they had crossed, at that time when the Belgic shield of the giant chieftain Virdomarus was brought
here. He boasted he was born of the
Now triple spoils are stored in the temple: hence Feretrian, since with sure omen chief struck (ferit) chief with the sword: or because they carried (ferebant) the arms of the defeated on their shoulders, and from this the proud altar of Feretrian Jupiter is named.
Paullus, no longer burden my grave with tears: the black gate opens to no prayer. When once the dead obey the laws of the infernal places, the gate remains like adamant, unmoved by plea. Though the god of the dark courts may hear your request, surely the shores of deafness will drink your tears. Entreaty moves the living: when the ferryman has received his coin, the ghastly doorway closes on a world of shadows. The mournful trumpets sang it, when the unkindly torch was placed below my bier, and flames dragged down my head.
What use was my marriage to Paullus, or the triumphal chariot of my ancestors, or such dear children, my glory? Cornelia found the Fates no less cruel: and I am now such a burden as five fingers might gather. Wretched night, and you, shallow sluggish marshes, and whatever waters surround my feet, I come here before my time, yet I am not guilty: Father grant sweet judgement to my soul.
Or if some Aeacus sits as judge, by his urn, let him protect my bones when the lot is drawn. Let the two brothers sit by him, and near to Minosís seat, let the stern band of Furies stand, in the hushed court. Sisyphus, be free of your rock: Ixionís wheel be still: deceptive water let Tantalusís mouth trap you: today let cruel Cerberus not attack the shades, and let his chain hang slack from the silent bar. I plead for myself: if I lie, may the sistersí punishment, the unhappy urn, weigh down my shoulders.
If fame ever accrued to anyone from ancestral trophies, our statues tell of Numantian ancestry, equalled by the crowd of Libones on my motherís side, and our house is strong in honour on both counts. Then, when the purple hemmed dress was laid aside for the marriage torches, and a different ribbon caught and tied my hair, I was united to your bed, Paullus, only to leave it so: read it on this stone, she was wedded to one alone. I call as witness the ashes of my forebears, revered by you, Rome, beneath whose honours trampled Africa lies, and Perses, his heart stirred by having Achilles for ancestor, and Hercules, that shattered your house Avernus: and that the censorís law was never softened for me: and that my hearth never blushed for any sin of mine. Cornelia never harmed such magnificent war-trophies: she was more a pattern to be followed in that great house.
My life never altered: wholly without reproach: we lived in honour from the wedding to the funeral torch. My birth gave me laws to follow from my blood, nor could I be rendered more in fear of judgement. Let the urn deal out whatever harsh measures to me, no woman shall be ashamed to sit by me: not you, Claudia, rare servant of the turret-crowned Goddess, who hauled on the cable of Cybeleís laggard image, or you Aemilia, whose white robe revealed the living flame, when Vesta asked for signs of the fire you swore to cherish. Nor have I wronged you, Scribonia, mother, my sweet origin: what do you wish to change in me, except my fate? My motherís tears and the cityís grief exalt me, and my bones are protected by Caesarís moans. He laments that living I was worthy sister to his daughter, and we saw a godís tears fall.
Moreover I earned the robe of honour through child-bearing: it was not a childless house that I was snatched away from. You Lepidus and Paullus, are my comfort in death: my eyes closed in your embrace. And I saw my brother twice installed in the magistrateís chair: at the time of celebration of his consulship his sister was taken. Daughter, you who are born to be a mirror of your fatherís judgements, imitating me, make sure you have only one husband. And strengthen the race in turn: willingly I cross the ferry with so many of my own as my champions: this is the final reward, a womanís triumph, that free tongues should praise her deserving ashes.
Now I commend our children to you, Paullus, our mutual pledges: this anxiety still stirs, stamped in my ashes. The father must perform the motherís duties: your shoulders must bear all my crowd of children. When you kiss their tears away, do so for their mother: now the whole household begins to be your burden. And if you must weep, do it without their seeing! When they come to you, deceive their kisses with dry cheeks!
Let those nights be enough, Paullus, that you wear away for me, and the dreams where you often think it is my image: and when you speak secretly to my phantom, speak every word as though to one who answers.
But if the bed that faces the doorway should be altered, and a careful stepmother occupy my place, boys, praise and accept your fatherís wife: captivated, she will applaud your good manners. Donít praise your mother too much: thoughtless speech that compares her with the first wife will become offences against her. Or if he remembers me, content that my shade suffices, and considers my ashes so worthy, learn now to feel how old age advances, and leave no path open for a widowerís cares. What was taken from me let it increase your years: so my children may delight the aged Paullus. And it is good: that I never dressed in motherís mourning: all my flock came to my funeral.
My defence is complete. Rise, witnesses, who mourn me, while kindly Earth repays the reward for my life. Heaven also is open to virtue: let me be worthy of honour, whose ashes are carried to lie among distinguished ancestors.
Book IV.5:1-78. A procuress, probably an invented character.
Book II.28A:47-62. Its beautiful women.
Book II.13:1-16. Persian, from the Achaemenian Dynasty
A river and river god, whose waters separated
Book II.34:1-94. His waters shattered by love.
A river of the underworld, the underworld itself. The god of the river, father of Ascalaphus by the nymph Orphne. It is in the deepest pit of the infernal regions.
Book III.5:1-48. The depths of the underworld.
Book II.9:1-52. His dead body cared for by Briseis.
Book II.22:1-42. Lovemaking did not affect his strength.
Book III.18:1-34. Not saved from daeth by his courage.
Book II.1:1-78. The
Book II.15:1-54. The evils of Civil War.
The son of Pheres, king of Pherae in
Book II.6:1-42. Her loyalty.
The son of Myrrha by her father Cinyras, born after her transformation into a myrrh-tree. (As such he is a vegetation god born from the heart of the wood.) Venus fell in love with him. She warned him to avoid savage creatures, but he ignored her warning and was killed by a wild boar that gashed his thigh. His blood became the windflower, the anemone. See Ovidís Metamorphoses Book X 503-739.
Book II.13A:1-58. Wept over by Venus.
A king of
Book II.34:1-94. His horse Arion.
The wood-nymphs. They inhabit the oak trees in Ceres sacred grove and dance at her festivals
The country in
Book II.1:1-78. Conquered by the Romans.
Aemilius Paullus defeated Demetrius of Pherae in 219BC.
Book III.3:1-52. A subject of epic.
prince, the son of Venus
and Anchises, and the hero of Virgilís
Aeneid. (See Turnerís etching and painting, The Golden Bough- British
Museum and Tate Gallery.) He leaves ruined
He visits the Sibyl, who conducts him to the Underworld,
having plucked the golden bough. He sees his fatherís shade in the fields of
Elysium. (See Virgil, The Aeneid VI). He returns from the Underworld, and sails
Book IV.1:1-70. The ancestor of the Romans.
Book II.3:1-54. The
The Greek Tragedian (525-c456BC), author of the Oresteian Trilogy.
Book II.34:1-94. His style not suitable for love poetry.
Jason, the son of Aeson, leader of the Argonauts, and hero of the adventure of the Golden Fleece. The fleece is represented in the sky by the constellation and zodiacal sign of Aries, the Ram. In ancient times it contained the point of the vernal equinox (The First Point of Aries) that has since moved by precession into Pisces.
A volcanic mountain in Sicily.
Book III.20:1-30. The African continent and its potential wealth.
The fountain of the Muses on
Book III.3:1-52. The
early kings of
Book IV.1:1-70. Founded there because of a favourable omen.
The mythical King of the Phaeacians (Phaeacia is
perhaps identified with
Book I.14:1-24. A source of gifts.
The son of Amphiaraus and Eriphyle. He led the Epigoni in the War of the Seven against Thebes. He killed his mother who had betrayed her husband to his death through vanity, and was pursued by the Furies.
Book I.15:1-42. He is alluded to.
Book III.5:1-48. Pursued by the Furies.
The daughter of Electryon king of
Book II.22:1-42. Loved by Jupiter.
The city of
A faithless shepherd-boy in Virgil.
The wife of Alcmaeon who killed him, after he had deserted
her for Callirhoe. She killed her own brothers to cancel the blood-debt. This
is part of a complicated series of myths centreing on the magic necklace and
robe of Harmonia. See
Book I.15:1-42. Her loyalty.
The mother of Meleager, and wife of Oeneus, king of
Book III.22:1-42. The burning brand.
One of the Amazons, a race of warlike women living by
the River Thermodon, probably based on the Scythian warrior princesses of the
Book I.3:1-46. The god of Love and Sexual Desire, equated to Cupid.
Book I.1:1-38. He is cruel in subduing lovers.
Book I.2:1-32. He dislikes artifice.
Book I.7:1-26. The god of love.
Book I.14:1-24. Wealth is irrelevant to him.
Book II.2:1-16. He ignores the desire for peace.
Book II.6:1-42. God of free love.
Book II.8A:1-40. A powerful god.
Book II.12:1-24. Depicted as a boy armed with bow and barbed arrows, who wounds lovers.
Book II.13:1-16. The archer god of love.
Book II.29:1-22. The God of love, making sexual perfumes.
Book II.30:1-40. No escape from him.
Book II.34:1-94. Not to be trusted with beautiful girls.
Book III.1:1-38. Multiple servants.
Book III.5:1-48. A peace-loving god.
Book III.16:1-30. He carries a blazing torch for lovers.
Book III.20:1-30. He seals loversí contracts.
A Greek seer, one of the heroes, the Oeclides, at the Calydonian Boar Hunt. The son of Oecleus, father of Alcmaeon, and husband of Eriphyle. He foresaw his death, but was persuaded to join the war of the Seven Against Thebes by his wife, Eriphyle. Jupiter saved him by opening up a chasm where he fell, and he and his chariot and horses were swallowed up. He had a famous oracular shrine at the spot at Oropus in Boeotia.
Book II.34:1-94. Not a fit subject for love.
Book III.13:1-66. Destroyed by his wifeís greed. She was tempted by the necklace of Harmonia to persuade him to go to the war.
The husband of Niobe, and son of Jupiter and Antiope. The King of Thebes. His magical use of the lyre, given him
by Mercury, enabled him
to build the walls of
Book I.9:1-34. He is mentioned.
Book III.15:1-46. Avenged his mother.
A daughter of Danaus. Searching for water in time of drought,
she was saved from a satyr by
The father of Melampus.
Book II.3:1-54. He is mentioned.
Book II.20:1-36. A weeping prisoner.
Book II.22:1-42. Wife of Hector.
The daughter of Cepheus and Cassiope (Iope) who was chained to a rock and exposed to a sea-monster Cetus because of her motherís sin. She is represented by the constellation Andromeda which contains the Andromeda galaxy M31 a spiral like our own, the most distant object visible to the naked eye. Cetus is represented by the constellation of Cetus, the Whale, between Pisces and Eridanus which contains the variable star, Mira. Perseus offered to rescue her. (See Burne-Jonesís oil paintings and gouaches in the Perseus series, particularly The Rock of Doom). He killed the sea serpent and claims her as his bride.
Book I.3:1-46. She is mentioned.
Book II.28:1-46. Changes of fortune.
A river near
Book I:20:1-52. A country pleasure area.
The daughter of Oedipus, King of Thebes, by Jocasta. She broke the city laws to bury her brother Polynices, and committed suicide. See Sophoclesís Antigone.
Book II.8A:1-40. She is mentioned.
The son of Nestor.
The poet of
Book II.34:1-94. His love for Lyde.
The daughter of Nycteus of
Book I.4:1-28. Her beauty recognised.
Book III.15:1-46. Dirceís jealousy.
The Greek painter, of
Book I.2:1-32. Famous for his skill in portraying colour, light and surfaces.
A river in Thessaly.
Book I.3:1-46. Maenads.
Book IV.1A:71-150. God of song.
The North Wind, see Boreas.
The countries bordering the eastern side of the
Book I.14:1-24. Referred to.
Book II.3:1-54. A source of traded silk.
Book II.29:1-22. A source of perfumes.
Book III.13:1-66. A source of cinammon.
The River in
A region in the centre of the
Book II.28:1-46. Callistoís home.
The son of Eurydice and Lycurgus king of
Possibly the mathematician and philosopher of the
The twin constellations of the Great and Little Bear, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, individually or together.
Book II.22:1-42. The constellations halted in the sky.
It is not known whether Arethusa is a pseudonym or a fictional name.
A mountain in Mysia.
Book II.26A:21-58. The Argo navigated the Symplegades, the clashing rocks at the entrance to the Bosphorus by releasing a dove: when the doveís tail feathers were clipped by the rocks the Argonauts rowed through, swiftly, following.
Book I.19:1-26. Greek.
Book II.25:1-48. Greek beauty.
Book I.3:1-46. He is mentioned.
A youth apparently loved by Agamemnon who was punished for some sin by drowning.
Book III.7:1-72. Mourned by Agamemnon.
She fled to Dia
with Theseus and was abandoned there, but rescued by Bacchus, and her crown is set among the stars as
the Corona Borealis. (See Titianís painting Ė Bacchus and Ariadne Ė National
Book I.3:1-46. She is mentioned.
Book II.3:1-54. Leads the Bacchic dancers.
Book III.17:1-42. Set among the stars by Bacchus.
Book III.20:1-30. Her starry crown in the sky.
Book II.34:1-94. Not a fit subject for love poetry.
Arion was a late seventh century BC Greek poet, who invented the dithyramb, a wild choric hymn, or Bacchanalian song, as a literary form. He was thrown from a ship during a sea voyage, by the crew, but a dolphin rescued him, and carried him to Corinth.
The country situated between the
Book I.9:1-34. Tiger country.
Book IV.1A:71-150. She fated her sons to die in war.
A river in Mysia,
Book II.34:1-94. Hesiod.
The regions of
Book I.6:1-36. Noted for their riches.
A river in Boeotia.
Book I.1:1-38. She is mentioned.
Book IV.6:1-86. The
Athamanes were a people of
The daughter of Athamas and Nephele, sister of Phrixus. Escaping from Ino on the golden ram, she fell into the sea and was drowned, giving her name to the Hellespont, the straits that link the Propontis with the Aegean Sea, close to the site of Troy.
Book III.22:1-42. Helle as the daughter of Athamas.
The Greek city, sacred to Minerva-Athene.
who rules the Moon with Phoebe the Titaness. Leader of the Titans in their war
with the gods. The son of Iapetus by the nymph Clymene. His brothers were Prometheus, Epimetheus
and Menoetius. Represented as
The king of Mycenae, son of Atreus, hence called Atrides, brother of MenelaŁs, husband of Clytaemnestra, father of Orestes, Iphigenia, and Electra. The leader of the Greek army in the Trojan War. See Homerís Iliad, and Aeschylusís Oresteian tragedies.
Book III.18:1-34. Perhaps a reference to Argynnas.
Book IV.1A:71-150. Doomed by the sacrifice of Iphigenia.
Attalus III of
Julius Caesarís grand-nephew, whom he adopted and declared as his
heir, Octavius Caesar (Octavian). (The honorary title Augustus was bestowed by
the Senate 16th Jan 27BC). His wife was Livia. Jupiter prophesies his future
glory: his defeat of Antony,
who had seized the inheritance, at Mutina:
his defeat of the conspirators Cassius and Brutus at the twin battles of Philippi: his (Agrippaís)
Book II.7:1-20. His power questioned in private matters.
Book II.31:1-16. Opens the new Colonnade.
His expedition to
Book IV.1A:71-150. The harbour from which the Greeks set out.
Goddess of the Morning, and wife of Tithonus, daughter of the Titan Pallas, hence called Pallantias or Pallantis, who fathered Zelus (zeal), Cratus (strength), Bia (force) and NicŽ (victory) on the River Styx. Longs to renew the youth of her mortal husband Tithonus. She had gained eternal life for him but not eternal youth. She sees her son Memnon killed by Achilles, and begs Jupiter to grant him honours. He creates the Memnonides, a flight of warring birds from the ashes.
Book II.18A:5-22. Not ashamed to love an older man.
Book III.13:1-66. The dawn.
A country in lower
Book III.22:1-42. A mythological reference to an Ausonian banquet.
Book II.26A:21-58. A stormwind.
One of the
A name for the Underworld. A lake there. Identified
with a lake near Cumae north
Book IV.1:1-70. The Sybilís haunt.
The Mesopotamian city. Faced with glazed brick.
Book IV.1A:71-150. Noted for its priestly atronomers.
The god Dionysus, the Ďtwice-borní, the god of the vine. The son of Jupiter and Semele. His worship was
celebrated with orgiastic rites borrowed from Phrygia. His female followers are the Maenades. He carries the thyrsus,
a wand tipped with a pine-cone, the Maenads and Satyrs following him carrying
ivy-twined fir branches as thyrsi. (See Caravaggioís painting ĖBacchus Ė
Snatched from his mother Semeleís womb when she was
destroyed by Jupiterís fire, he was sewn into Jupiterís thigh, reared by Ino and hidden by the nymphs
He is Dionysus Sabazius, the barley-god of Thrace and Phrygia, Ďformosissimus alto conspiceris caeloí the morning and evening star, the star-son, identified by the Jews with Adonis, consort of the Great Goddess Venus Aphrodite or Astarte, and therefore manifested with her in the planet Venus. Later he is the horned Lucifer, Ďson of the morningí.
Wine at the marriage feast or banquet is his gift.
(See VelŠzquezís painting Ė The Drinkers, or the Triumph of Bacchus Ė
Book II.30:1-40. The Maenadsí dance.
Book III.17:1-42. A hymn to Bacchus.
Book IV.1:1-70. Wreathed with ivy.
Book IV.2:1-64. He wore an Indian turban.
A town in
The modern Baia, opposite
A satiric poet, writer of iambi, and friend to Propertius whose work is now lost.
Book I.4:1-28. Encourages disloyalty.
The Celtic tribes of
Book II.18B:23-38. Painted their faces.
Pegasus the winged horse of Bellerophon, a blow from
whose hoof created the Hippocrene spring on
Book III.3:1-52. The fountain Hippocrene.
A people of
A country in mid-Greece containing Thebes.
The constellation of the Waggoner, or Herdsman, or Bear Herd. The nearby constellation of Ursa Major is the Waggon, or Plough, or Great Bear. He holds the leash of the constellation of the hunting dogs, Canes Venatici. He is sometimes identified with Arcas son of Jupiter and Callisto. Arcas may alternatively be the Little Bear.
He is alternatively identified with Icarius the father of Erigone. Led to his grave by his dog Maera, she committed suicide by hanging, and was set in the sky as the constellation Virgo.
Book III.5:1-48. A winter constellation in northern latitudes.
The North Wind. Eurus is the East Wind,Zephyrus is the WestWind, and Auster is the South Wind. He is identified with Thrace and the north. He
daughter of Erectheus
Book I:20:1-52. His
Book II.26A:21-58. Not cruel in his abduction of Orithyia.
The Borysthenes, the modern River Dneiper.
Book II.7:1-20. Mentioned as a distant region.
The gateway to the
Mithridates King of
Book IV.9:1-74. The
A small town near Rome.
Book IV.1:1-70. Later a suburb.
The leader of the Gauls
Book III.13:1-66. He committed sacrilege.
The daughter of the Titans Perses and Asterie, Latonaís sister. A Thracian goddess of witches, her name is a feminine form of Apolloís title Ďthe far-darterí. She was a lunar goddess, with shining Titans for parents. In Hades she was Prytania of the dead, or the Invincible Queen. She gave riches, wisdom, and victory, and presided over flocks and navigation. She had three bodies and three heads, those of a lioness, a bitch, and a mare. Her ancient power was to give to or withhold from mortals any gift. She was sometimes merged with the lunar aspect of Diana-Artemis, and presided over purifications and expiations. She was the goddess of enchantments and magic charms, and sent demons to earth to torture mortals. At night she appeared with her retinue of infernal dogs, haunting crossroads (as Trivia), tombs and the scenes of crimes. At crossroads her columns or statues had three faces Ė the Triple Hecates Ė and offerings were made at the full moon to propitiate her.
Book II.2:1-16. Propertius refers to
Hecate as Brimo, a name for Demeter at
Book II.8A:1-40. Achilles is angered at her loss.
Book II.9:1-52. She cared for his corpse.
Book II.20:1-36. Wept on being led away from Achillesís tent.
Book II.22:1-42. Lover of Achilles.
Book II.18B:23-38. The British painted themselves with blue woad. (The dried, powdered and fermented leaves of the biennial wildflower Isatis tinctoria)
Book II.27:1-16. The enemy in the West.
Lucius Junius Brutus drove out the king Tarquinius Superbus in
510BC and became one of
Book IV.1:1-70. His consulship.
Caenina was a small town in
Julius Caesarís grand-nephew, whom he adopted and declared as his
heir, Octavius Caesar (Octavian). (The honorary title Augustus was bestowed by
the Senate 16th Jan 27BC). His wife was Livia. He defeated Antony, who had seized the inheritance, at
Mutina: the conspirators Cassius and Brutus at the twin battles of
Book I.21:1-10. As Octavian he committed atrocities at Perusia in 41BC.
The Roman general and Tribune.
Book III.9:1-60. Famous for horses.
A seer and priest, the son of Thestor, who accompanied the Greeks to Troy. He foresaw the long duration of the war and the ultimate Greek victory, and that the sacrifice of Iphigenia to Diana at Aulis would bring the Greeks favourable winds.
Book IV.1A:71-150. Set loose the fate of the Greeks and Trojans.
The Hellenistic poet of
Book II.1:1-78. A lyric voice.
Book II.34:1-94. A poet to imitate when in love.
Book III.1:1-38. An invocation to his spirit.
Book III.9:1-60. The poetís slim volumes.
Book I.2:1-32. She is a supreme artist on the lyre and grants inspiration in song.
A nymph of Nonacris in Arcadia, a favourite of Phoebe-Diana. The daughter of Lycaon. Jupiter raped her. Pregnant by Jupiter she was expelled from the band of Dianaís virgin followers by Diana as Cynthia, in her Moon goddess mode. Gave birth to a son Arcas. She was turned into a bear by Juno, and ultimately into the constellation of the Great Bear, Ursa Major. Arcas became Ursa Minor.
Book II.28:1-46. Changes of fortune.
Book II.25:1-48. A fellow poet.
Book II.34:1-94. Wrote of Quintiliaís death.
The daughter of Atlas, living on Ogygia a remote island, where she held Odysseus as her lover for seven years, until Jupiter (Zeus) ordered her to send him on his way home to Ithaca, and his wife Penelope.
Book I.15:1-42. Mourned his loss faithfully.
Cambyses II, son of Cyrus II, and King of Persia
(529-522BC). He married the daughter of the king of Medes. He conquered Egypt, was aflicted with
madness, killed his brother, Bardiya, and sister, and tried to kill Croesus king of Lydia. The Magi revolted
against his rule, and he was accidentally wounded to death at Agbatana in
Book II.26A:21-58. A symbol of wealth.
Marcus Furius Camillus pursued and defeated the Gauls who sacked
Book III.11:1-72. A Roman hero.
The Italian coastal and inland region south-east of
Book III.5:1-48. Rich farming country.
The constellation of the Crab, and the zodiacal sun sign. It represents the crab that attacked Hercules while he was fighting the multi-headed Hydra and was crushed underfoot but subsequently raised to the stars. The sun in ancient times was in this constellation when furthest north of the equator at the summer solstice (June 21st). Hence the latitude where the sun appeared overhead at on that day was called the Tropic of Cancer (23.5 degrees north).
Book IV.1A:71-150. Associated with greed and avariciousness.
Sirius (=searing, or scorching), the Dog-star, alpha Canis Majoris, in the constellation Canis Major, the brightest star in the sky. The ancient Egyptians based their calendar on its motion, and the hottest part of July and August was the Dog-days, variously dated by the heliacal and cosmical rising of Sirius.
Book II.28:1-46. The dry parched days.
The Roman army was destroyed at
Book III.3:1-52. An ironic subject for epic poetry.
He was a synonym for pride in the Middle Ages.
Book II.34:1-94. Not a fit subject for poetry.
A headland of Euboea on which Nauplius lit a false beacon causing the Greek fleet returning from Troy to be wrecked. He did this to avenge the death of his son Palamedes, falsely done to death by the Greeks.
Book III.7:1-72. The Greek fleet destroyed.
The south-west summit of the Capitoline Hill.
The Zodiacal constellation of the Goat. Depicted with a fishís tail it represents the goat-Pan his lower half transformed to a fish when he jumped into a river to escape the monster Typhon. The winter solstice was formerly in Capricorn and the latitude where the Sun appeared overhead at on that day (23.5 deg south on December 22nd) became known as the Tropic of Capricorn.
Book IV.1A:71-150. The Zodiacal sign of the Goat.
Book II.5:1-30. Subject to storms.
The Phoenician city in
Book II.1:1-78. It is mentioned.
Book II.31:1-16. A source of Punic marble, giallo antico, yellow marble stained with red.
The daughter of Priam and Hecuba, gifted with prophecy by Apollo, but cursed to tell
the truth and not be believed. Taken back to
Her prophecy not believed. There may be a double entendre here, an
Book IV.1:1-70. She
prophesied the rebirth of
A port in the north of
Phoebe, a priestess of Athene-Minerva, and Hilaira a priestess of Diana-Artemis, daughters of Leucippus, the Messenian co-king were abducted
and raped by Castor and Pollux (Polydeuces) known
as the Dioscuri, the sons of Jupiter
by Leda. The two sisters
had been betrothed to Lynceus and Idas
the sons of Aphareus king in
Book I.2:1-32. He is mentioned.
Book II.7:1-20. The Dioscuri were famous horsemen.
Book II.26:1-20. Gods to whom sailors prayed for safety at sea, since the Twins, Gemini, were stars to navigate by, and their visibility in autumn signified calm weather.
Book III.14:1-34. Castor was famous for his boxing.
Book II.25:1-48. A fellow poet.
Book II.34:1-94. Lustful (lascivus) Catullus, writing of Lesbia.
Book I.14:1-24. Thickly wooded.
Book II.1:1-78. Prometheus is mentioned.
Book II.25:1-48. The
A river famous for its swans in Lydia in
The mythical founder of Athens. He was a son of mother Earth like Erechthonius (who
some think was his father). He was part man and part serpent. His three daughters
were Aglauros, Herse and Pandrosus who were goddesses of the Acropolis in
Book IV.6:1-86. Decorative rams on vessels?
The king of
Book I.3:1-46. He is mentioned.
A long promontory on the coast of
Book I.8:1-26. Dangerous waters.
The three-headed watchdog of the Underworld
Book I.9:1-34. Divination mentioned.
The whirlpool between Italy and Sicily in the Messenian straits. Charybdis was the voracious daughter of Mother Earth and Neptune, hurled into the sea, and thrice, daily, drawing in and spewing out a huge volume of water.
Book II.26A:21-58. A danger to ships.
One of the Centaurs, half-man and half-horse. He was the
son of Philyra and Saturn. Phoebus Apollo took his new born son Aesculapius to his cave
for protection. He is represented in the sky by the constellation Centaurus,
which contains the nearest star to the sun, Alpha Centauri. Father of OcyroŽ,
by Chariclo the water-nymph. Begot by Saturn disguised as a horse. His home is
Book III.7:1-72. Famous for its marble.
Book III.12:1-38. An adventure of Ulysses.
Book IV.6:1-86. Of
A Germanic tribe defeated by Gaius Marius in 101BC.
Book II.1:1-78. They are mentioned.
An unknown mother.
Book IV.1A:71-150. In labour.
The sea-nymph, daughter of Sol and Perse, and the
granddaughter of Oceanus.
(Kirke or Circe means a small falcon)She was famed for her beauty and magic
arts and lived on the Ďislandí of Aeaea, which is the promontory of Circeii.
(Cape Circeo between Anzio and Gaeta, on the west coast of Italy, now part of
the magnificent Parco Nazionale del Circeo extending to Capo Portiere in
the north, and providing a reminder of the ancient Pontine Marshes before they
were drained, rich in wildfowl and varied tree species.)
(See John Melhuish Strudwickís painting Ė Circe and
She transforms Ulyssesís men into beasts. Mercury gives him the plant moly to enable him to approach her. He marries her and frees his men, staying for a year on her island. (Moly has been variously identified as Ďwild rueí, wild cyclamen, and a sort of garlic, allium moly. John Gerardís Herbal of 1633 Ch.100 gives seven plants under this heading, of which the third, Moly Homericum, is he suggests the Moly of Theophrastus, Pliny and Homer Ė Odyssey XX- and he describes it as a wild garlic.) See Ovidís Metamorphoses Book XIV 223.
Book II.1:1-78. Famed for her magic herbs.
Book III.12:1-38. Bewitched Ulyssesís men.
Book III.15:1-46. Antiope took refuge there.
Book III.18:1-34. Deified.
Book IV.10:1-48. His killing of Virdomarus.
Queen of Egypt,
mistress of Julius Caesar
and Antony. She fell
from power and committed suicide when she and
Book IV.6:1-86. Her
fleet fought alongside
An Umbrian river.
The wife of Agamemnon, and daughter of Tyndareus. She murdered Agamemnon and married her lover Aegisthus, his cousin. She was killed in revenge by her son Orestes, spurred on by his sister Electra. See Aeschylus The Agamemnon.
Book III.9:1-60. A reference to their war with the Gods.
The festival of the Lares Compitalia, the Lares of the crossroads, took place at the end of December.
Book IV.1:1-70. Sacrifices made and the crossroads sprinkled.
A Greek astrologer of
Book IV.10:1-48. An
ancient town of the Volsii, south-east of
The city north of Mycenae, on the Isthmus between
Book III.5:1-48. The Romans Ďminedí the ruins for the famed Corinthian bronzes.
A shepherd in love with the faithless shepherd-boy Alexis in Virgil.
Marcus Linius Crassus (c112-53BC) was the third member
of the First Triumvirate with Julius
Caesar and Pompey.
He and his son invaded
Book II.10:1-26. He is mentioned.
Book III.5:1-48. Propertius again taunting.
Book IV.6:1-86. His
grave accessible following the truce with
The island in the
Book II.1:1-78. Famous for healing herbs.
Book IV.7:1-96. The Cretan bull.
Book II.16:1-56. The danger of gifts.
Book II.21:1-20. Replaced Medea in Jasonís palace.
Book II.26A:21-58. A symbol of great wealth.
Book III.5:1-48. In the underworld.
Book III.18:1-34. Not saved from death by his wealth.
She guided Aeneas through the underworld and shows him the golden bough that he must pluck from the tree. She told him how she was offered immortality by Phoebus, but forgot to ask also for lasting youth, dooming her to wither away until she was merely a voice. See Ovidís Metamorphoses Book XIV 104.
The god of love, son of Venus (Aphrodite). He is portrayed as a blind winged child armed with a bow and arrows, and he carries a flaming torch. His arrows bring loveís wounds.
Book I.6:1-36. He brings loveís pain, as well as joy.
Book I.7:1-26. He can strike at any time.
Book I.9:1-34. He helps love and hinders it. His arrows bring pain.
Book I.19:1-26. He is associated with loveís blindness.
Book II.9:1-52. He is served by young Cupids.
Book II.18A:5-22. Often is cruel to those he once was kind to.
Book III.10:1-32. He strikes lovers with his wings.
The ancient capital of the Sabines.
Book IV.4:1-94. Of the Sabines.
Book IV.9:1-74. The Sabines.
The Senate House, and Senate, the meeting place of a curia, the earliest division of the Roman people.
Book III.3:1-52. A subject for epic.
A myth was invented to explain the presence of a deep
pit in the Forum. A chasm
opened which could only be closed by the sacrifice of
Book III.11:1-72. Roman hero.
The Phrygian great goddess, personifying the earth in its savage state, worshipped in caves and on mountaintops. Merged with Rhea, the mother of the gods. Her consort was Attis, slain by a wild boar like Adonis. His festival was celebrated by the followers of Cybele, the Galli, or Corybantes, who were noted for convulsive dances to the music of flutes, drums and cymbals, and self-mutilation in an orgiastic fury.
Worshipped at Dindymus,
a mountain on the shore of the
Cydonia, the modern Canea in Crete.
Book III.13:1-66. Famous for its quinces.
Propertiusís unknown mistress: probably a courtesan, possibly a Ďliberatedí married woman. Apuleius in his Apology (ch 10) suggests that she was named Hostia, and III.20:8 suggests that Propertius is connecting her with Hostius a minor epic poet of the second century BC.
Book I.1:1-38. She captured his heart.
Book I.3:1-46. She berates him for his absences.
Book I.4:1-28. She prizes loyalty.
Book I.5:1-32. Loving her brings pain.
Book I.6:1-36. She demands his presence continually.
Book I.8:1-26. She intends a sea voyage.
Book I.8A:27-46. She abandons the journey and the bribe.
Book I.10:1-30. His Ďteacherí in matters of love.
Book I.12:1-20. She is hundreds of miles distant.
Book I.15:1-42. Her infidelity.
Book I.17:1-28. He has travelled away from her.
Book I.18:1-32. He suffers her disdain.
Book I.19:1-26. He fears she will not mourn him.
Book II.5:1-30. Her flagrant wantonness.
Book II.7:1-20. Her delight at repeal of the law compelling bachelors to marry.
Book II.13:1-16. He wishes her appreciation of his verse.
Book II.13A:1-58. He addresses her concerning his funeral.
Book II.14:1-32. He is reconciled to her.
Book II.16:1-56. She is mercenary.
Book II.24:1-16. Notorious because of his book.
Book II.30:1-40. The forerunner of Marloweís ĎCome live with me and be my loveí.
Book II.32:1-62. Her loose behaviour.
Book III.21:1-34. She is making his life miserable.
Book III.24:1-20. He is weary of this love.
Book IV.7:1-96. Cynthia from beyond the grave.
Book I.1:1-38. A source of magic charms and incantations.
Book II.4:1-22. The country of witchcraft.
(See Michael Ayrtonís extended series of sculptures, bronzes, and artefacts celebrating Daedalus, Icarus and the Minotaur.)
He made wings of beeís-wax and feathers to escape from
Book II.14:1-32. Architect of the Labyrinth.
The daughter of Acrisius, king of
Book II.20:1-36. The tower.
Book II.32:1-62. Seduced rather than raped by Jupiter?
The fifty daughters of DanaŁs, granddaughters of
Belus, king of
Book II.26A:21-58. Book III.8:1-34. Book III.9:1-60. Book III.22:1-42. Book IV.1:1-70. Book IV.1A:71-150. The Danaans=the Greeks at Troy. Book III.22 mentions the killing of Iphigenia and her substitution by a roe sent by Diana.
Book II.31:1-16. Statues in the new Colonnade.
A Virgilian shepherd. (A Sicilian shepherd in other poetry, said to have invented the pastoral genre)
Book II.34:1-94. See Virgilís Eclogues V and VII.
An epithet applied to the descendants of Dardanus, the
son of Jupiter and the
Pleiad Electra, who came from
Decius Mus, the hero of the Samnite Wars of the fourth century BC dreamed that one army would have to sacrifice its leader, the other its entire power, so he charged the enemy alone and was killed in order to guarantee the victory.
Book III.11:1-72. A Roman hero.
Book IV.1:1-70. Three Decii, Roman generals, gave their lives for their country, father, son and grandson in 336, 296 and 279 BC.
Book II.9:1-52. Bereaved at his death.
The Greek island in the
A pseudonym for a friend of Propertius.
Book II.22:1-42. His friend.
Book II.24A:17-52. A son of Theseus
who loved Phyllis,
daughter of Sithon king of Thrace.
he deserted her. She killed herself but was turned into an almond tree, which
flowered when he returned, remorsefully, to find her. (See Burne-Jonesís
marvellous painting: The Tree of Forgiveness,
The Greek orator and Athenian Statesman of the fourth century BC who attacked the growing power of Macedon under Philip II, seeing it as a threat to the Greek world.
Book III.21:1-34. A master of oratory.
King of Phthia.
He and his wife Pyrrha, his cousin, and daughter of Epimetheus, were survivors
of the flood. He was he son of Prometheus.
(See Michelangeloís scenes from the Great Flood, Sistine Chapel,
Book II.32:1-62. Ancient times.
An old name for Naxos.
The goddess Diana, Phoebe, or Artemis the daughter of Jupiter and Latona (hence
her epithet Latonia) and twin sister of Phoebus-Apollo. She was born on the
Book II.19:1-32. The recipient of vows of chastity, and prayers for luck in hunting.
Book II.28A:47-62. The recipient of vows from women in time of illness.
Antiope was the daughter of Nycteus of
Book III.15:1-46. Her jealousy of Antiope.
A name for Pluto, king of the Underworld, brother of Neptune and Jupiter. His kingdom in the Underworld described. At Venusís instigation Cupid struck him with an arrow to make him fall in love with Persephone.He raped and abducted her, re-entering Hades through the pool of Cyane. Jupiter decreeed that she could only spend half the year with him and must spend the other half with Ceres.
Book II.28A:47-62. Husband of Persephone.
The town in Epirus in north western Greece, site of the Oracle of Jupiter-Zeus, whose responses were delivered by the rustling of the oak trees in the sacred grove. (After 1200BC the goddess Naia, worshipped there, who continued to be honoured as Dione, was joined by Zeus Naios. The sanctuary was destroyed in 391AD.)
Book II.21:1-20. Regarded as unreliable?
Book I.17:1-28. The Nereids are mentioned as her daughters.
Book IV.5:1-78. A fictitious or otherwise unknown people.
Book I:20:1-52. The wood nymphs.
An island off the west coast of
Book I.3:1-46. Maenads.
Book II.14:1-32. Her joy at Orestes return,
A city and country in the western
Site of the quinquennial games at
Book III.9:1-60. The
palms awarded at the Olympic Games at
Book IV.7:1-96. A region of the underworld for spirits in bliss, rewarding virtue in life.
One of the Giants who fought with the Gods.
Book II.1:1-78. The fight is mentioned.
Book I.13:1-36. The disguise mentioned.
Book III.19:1-28. Tyro desired him.
Quintus Ennius (239-169BC), the Ďfather of Roman poetryí .He wrote an epic on Roman history, Annals, of which part survives.
Book IV.1:1-70. An epic poet.
From the Eastern countries. Eastern. The Dawn.
Book I.15:1-42. Eastern.
Book I.16:1-48. The Dawn.
Book II.3:1-54. The East.
Book II.18A:5-22. Dawn from the East.
Book III.13:1-66. The Eastern custom of suttee.
Book III.24:1-20. Rosy faced.
Book II.6:1-42. Ephyra
was an ancient name for
The Greek Philosopher (341-271BC) and founder of the
Book III.21:1-34. A source of knowledge.
Asclepius (Aesculapius) was the son of Coronis and Apollo. He was saved by Apollo from his motherís body and given to Chiron the Centaur to rear. He is represented in the sky by the constellation Ophiucus near Scorpius, depicting a man entwined in the coils of a serpent, consisting of the split constellation, Serpens Cauda and Serpens Caput, which contains Barnardís star, having the greatest proper motion of any star and being the second nearest to the sun.