3.8k
Morning
Ovid 

Already over the sea from her old spouse she comes,
the blonde goddess whose frosty wheels bring day.
Why do you hurry, Aurora? Hold off, so may the birds
shed ritual blood each year for Memnon's shade.
Now it's good to lie in my mistress's tender arms;
if ever, now it's good to feel her near.
Now drowsiness is richest, the morning air is cool,
and birds sing shrilly from their tender throats.
Why do you hurry, dreaded by men and dreaded by girls?
Draw back your dewy reins with your crimson hand.
The sailor marks the stars more clearly before you rise,
not raoming aimlessly across the sea;
the traveller, though weary, arises when you come,
and the soldier sets his savage hand to arms;
you're first to see the farmers wield their heavy hoes
and to call slow oxen under the curving yoke;
you rob boys of their sleep and give them over to schools,
where tender hands must bear the savage switch;
and you send reckless fools to pledge themselves in court,
where they take ruinous losses through one word;
the lawyer and the pleader take no delight in you,
for each must rise and wrangle with new torts;
and you ensure that women's chores are never done,
calling the spinner's hands back to her wool.
All this I'd bear; but who would bear that girls must rise
at dawn, unless himself he has no girl?
How many times I've wished Night would not yield to you,
the stars not fade and flee before your face!
How many times I've wished the wind would smash your wheels,
your steeds would stumble on a cloud and fall!
Jealous, why do you hurry? If your son is black,
it's since his mother's heart is that same color.
How I wish Tithonus could still tell tales of you:
no goddess would be more disgraced in heaven.
Since he is endless eons old, you rise and flee
at dawn to the chariot the old man hates,
but if some Cephalus were lying in your arms,
you'd cry out, 'O run slowly, steeds of night! '
Why should this lover pay, if your husband withers with age?
Was I the matchmaker who brought him to you?
Remember how much sleep was given to her loved youth
by Luna - and she's beautiful as you.
The father of gods himself, to see you all the less,
joined two nights into one for his desires.
I'd finished my complaint. You could tell she'd heard: she blushed;
and yet the day rose at its usual time.

Ovid 

But oh, I suppose she was ugly; she wasn't elegant;
I hadn't yearned for her often in my prayers.
Yet holding her I was limp, and nothing happened at all:
I just lay there, a disgraceful load for her bed.
I wanted it, she did too; and yet no pleasure came
from the part of my sluggish loins that should bring joy.
The girl entwined her ivory arms around my neck
(her arms were whiter than the Sithonian snows) ,
and gave me greedy kisses, thrusting her fluttering tongue,
and laid her eager thigh against my thigh,
and whispering fond words, called me the lord of her heart
and everything else that lovers murmur in joy.
And yet, as if chill hemlock were smeared upon my body,
my numb limbs would not act out my desire.
I lay there like a log, a fraud, a worthless weight;
my body might as well have been a shadow.
What will my age be like, if old age ever comes,
when even my youth cannot fulfill its role?
Ah, I'm ashamed of my years. I'm young and a man: so what?
I was neither young nor a man in my girlfriend's eyes.
She rose like the sacred priestess who tends the undying flame,
or a sister who's chastely lain at a dear brother's side.
But not long ago blonde Chlide twice, fair Pitho three times,
and Libas three times I enjoyed without a pause.
Corinna, as I recall, required my services
nine times in one short night - and I obliged!
Has some Thessalian potion made my body limp,
injuring me with noxious spells and herbs?
Did some witch hex my name scratched on crimson wax
and stab right through the liver with slender pins?
By spells the grain is blighted and withers to worthless weeds;
by blighting spells the founts run out of water.
Enchantment strips the oaks of acorns, vines of grapes,
and makes fruit fall to earth from unstirred boughs.
Such magic arts could also sap my virile powers.
Perhaps they brought this weakness on my thighs,
and shame at what happened, too; shame made it all the worse:
that was the second reason for my collapse.
Yet what a girl I looked at and touched - but nothing more!
I clung to her as closely as her gown.
Her touch could make the Pylian sage feel young again,
and make Tithonus friskier than his years.
This girl fell to my lot, but no man fell to hers.
What will I ask for now in future prayers?
I believe the mighty gods must rue the gift they gave,
since I have treated it so shabbily.
Surely, I wanted entry: well, she let me in.
Kisses: I got them. To lie at her side: There I was.
What good was such great luck - to gain a powerless throne?
What did I have, except a miser's gold?
I was like the teller of secrets, thirsty at the stream,
looking at fruits forever beyond his grasp.
Whoever rose at dawn from the bed of a tender girl
in a state fit to approach the sacred gods?
I suppose she wasn't willing, she didn't waste her best
caresses on me, try everything to excite me!
That girl could have aroused tough oak and hardest steel
and lifeless boulders with her blandishments.
She surely was a girl to rouse all living men,
but then I was not alive, no longer a man.
What pleasure could a deaf man take in Phemius' song
or painted pictures bring poor Thamyras?
But what joys I envisioned in my private mind,
what ways did I position and portray!
And yet my body lay as if untimely dead,
a shameful sight, limper than yesterday's rose.
Now, look! When it's not needed, it's vigorous and strong;
now it asks for action and for battle.
Lie down, there - shame on you! - most wretched part of me.
These promises of yours took me before.
You trick your master, you made me be caught unarmed,
so that I suffered a great and sorry loss.
Yet this same part my girl did not disdain to take
in hand, fondling it with a gentle motion.
But when she saw no skill she had could make it rise
and that it lay without a sign of life,
'You're mocking me, ' she said. 'You're crazy! Who asked you
to lie down in my bed if you don't want to?
You've come here cursed with woolen threads by some Aeaean
witch, or worn out by some other love.'
And straightway she jumped up, clad in a flowing gown
(beautiful, as she rushed barefoot off) ,
and, lest her maids should know that she had not been touched,
began to wash, concealing the disgrace.

Ovid 

It was very hot. The day had gone just past its noon.
I'd stretched out on a couch to take a nap.
One of the window-shutters was open, one was closed.
The light was like you'd see deep in the woods,
or like the glow of dusk when Phoebus leaves the sky,
or when night pales, and day has not yet dawned,
- a perfect light for girls with too much modesty,
where anxious Shame can hope to hide away.
When, look! here comes Corinna in a loose ungirded gown,
her parted hair framing her gleaming throat,
like lovely Semiramis entering her boudoir,
or fabled Lais, loved by many men.
I tore her gown off - not that it mattered, being so sheer,
and yet she fought to keep that sheer gown on;
but since she fought with no great wish for victory,
she lost, betraying herself to the enemy.
And as she stood before me, her garment all thrown off,
I saw a body perfect in every inch:
What shoulders, what fine arms I looked on - and embraced!
What lovely breasts, begging to be caressed!
How smooth and flat a belly under a compact waist!
And the side view - what a long and youthful thigh!
But why go into details? Each point deserved its praise.
I clasped her naked body close to mine.
You can fill in the rest. We both lay there, worn out.
May all my afternoons turn out this well.

Translated by Jon Corelis
Ovid 

Lovers all are soldiers, and Cupid has his campaigns:
I tell you, Atticus, lovers all are soldiers.
Youth is fit for war, and also fit for Venus.
Imagine an aged soldier, an elderly lover!
A general looks for spirit in his brave soldiery;
a pretty girl wants spirit in her companions.
Both stay up all night long, and each sleeps on the ground;
one guards his mistress's doorway, one his general's.
The soldier's lot requires far journeys; send his girl,
the zealous lover will follow her anywhere.
He'll cross the glowering mountains, the rivers swollen with storm;
he'll tread a pathway through the heaped-up snows;
and never whine of raging Eurus when he sets sail
or wait for stars propitious for his voyage.
Who but lovers and soldiers endure the chill of night,
and blizzards interspersed with driving rain?
The soldier reconnoiters among the dangerous foe;
the lover spies to learn his rival's plans.
Soldiers besiege strong cities; lovers, a harsh girl's home;
one storms town gates, the other storms house doors.
It's clever strategy to raid a sleeping foe
and slay an unarmed host by force of arms.
(That's how the troops of Thracian Rhesus met their doom,
and you, O captive steeds, forsook your master.)
Well, lovers take advantage of husbands when they sleep,
launching surprise attacks while the enemy snores.
To slip through bands of guards and watchful sentinels
is always the soldier's mission - and the lover's.
Mars wavers; Venus flutters: the conquered rise again,
and those you'd think could never fall, lie low.
So those who like to say that love is indolent
should stop: Love is the soul of enterprise.
Sad Achilles burns for Briseis, his lost darling:
Trojans, smash the Greeks' power while you may!
From Andromache's embrace Hector went to war;
his own wife set the helmet on his head;
and High King Agamemnon, looking on Priam's child,
was stunned (they say) by the Maenad's flowing hair.
And Mars himself was trapped in The Artificer's bonds:
no tale was more notorious in heaven.
I too was once an idler, born for careless ease;
my shady couch had made my spirit soft.
But care for a lovely girl aroused me from my sloth
and bid me to enlist in her campaign.
So now you see me forceful, in combat all night long.
If you want a life of action, fall in love.

1.7k
Duplicity
Ovid 

i

Then must I always bear your endless accusations?
They all prove false, but still I have to fight them.
If I happen to glance at the marble theater's topmost row,
you pick some girl in the crowd to moan about;
or if a beautiful woman looks at me wordlessly,
you charge she's using lovers' wordless signs.
If I compliment a girl, you try to tear out my hair;
if I criticize one, you think I've got something to hide.
If I look well, I love no one - not even you;
if I'm pale, you say that I'm pining for someone else.
I wish I really had committed some such sin:
punishment hurts less when you deserve it;
but as it is, your wild indictments at every turn
themselves forbid your wrath to have much weight.
Think of the little long-eared donkey's wretched lot:
continual beatings only make him stubborn.
Now look, here's another charge: Cypassis, your coiffeuse,
is cast at me for defiling her mistress's bed!
The gods forbid that I, even if I yearned to sin,
should find delight in a slave-girl's lowly lot!
What man, being free, would want a servile liaison,
or wish to embrace a body the whip has scarred?
And furthermore, the girl's your personal beautician,
and valued by you because of her skillful hands.
Is it likely that I'd approach such a trusted serving-maid?
What would I get, but rejection and exposure?
By Venus and by the bow of her swift boy I swear,
you'll never find me guilty of that crime.

ii

Cypassis, expert at dressing the hair in a thousand ways
(but you ought to arrange the tresses of goddesses only)
you that I've found quite polished in stolen ecstasy,
fit for your mistress's service, but fitter for mine,
whoever was it that told of our bodies joining together?
Where did Corinna learn of our affair?
Could I have blushed? Or slipped by a single word to give
some sign that has betrayed our furtive joys?
And what of it, if I argued that nobody could transgress
with a servant, except for a man who was out of his mind
The Thessalian burned with passion for lovely Briseis, a servant;
the Mycenean leader loved Apollo's slave.
I'm no greater man than Achilles, or the scion of Tantalus.
How can what's fine for kings be foul for me?
And yet, when your mistress turned her glowering eyes on you,
I saw a deep blush spread all over your face.
But how much more possessed I was, if you recall,
I swore my faith by Venus's great godhead!
(You, goddess, bid, I pray, the warm Southwind to blow
those innocent lies across the Carpathian sea.)
Now give me a sweet return for the favor I did you then,
by bedding with me, you dusky Cypassis, today.
Don't shake your head, you ingrate, pretending you're still afraid:
you can please one of your masters, and that's enough.
If you're silly enough to refuse, I'll confess all that we've done,
making myself the betrayer of my own crime,
and I'll tell your mistress how often we met, Cypassis, and where,
and how many times we did it, and how many ways!

Ovid 

I don't ask you to be faithful - you're beautiful, after all -
but just that I be spared the pain of knowing.
I make no stringent demands that you should really be chaste,
but only that you try to cover up.
If a girl can claim to be pure, it's the same as being pure:
it's only admitted vice that makes for scandal.
What madness, to confess by day what's wrapped in night,
and what you've done in secret, openly tell!
The hooker, about to bed some Roman off the street
still locks her door first, keeping out the crowd:
will you yourself then make your sins notorious,
accusing and prosecuting your own crime?
Be wise, and learn at least to imitate chaste girls,
and let me believe you're good, though you are not.
Do what you do, but simply deny you ever did:
there's nothing wrong with public modesty.
There is a proper place for looseness: fill it up
with all voluptuousness, and banish shame;
but when you're done there, then put off all playfulness
and leave your indiscretions in your bed.
There, don't be ashamed to lay your gown aside
and press your thigh against a pressing thigh;
there take and give deep kisses with your crimson lips;
let love contrive a thousand ways of passion;
there let delighted words and moans come ceaselessly,
and make the mattress quiver with playful motion.
But put on with your clothes a face that's all discretion,
and let Shame disavow your shocking deeds.
Trick everyone, trick me: leave me in ignorance;
let me enjoy the life of a happy fool.
Why must I see so often notes received - and sent?
Why must I see two imprints on your bed,
or your hair disarrayed much more than sleep could do?
Why must I notice love bites on your neck?
You all but flaunt your indiscretions in my face.
Think of me, if not of your reputation.
I lose my mind, I die, when you confess you've sinned;
I break out in cold sweat from hand to foot;
I love you then, and hate you - in vain, since I must love you;
I wish then I were dead - and you were too!
I won't investigate or check whatever you try
to hide: I will be thankful to be deceived.
But even if I catch you in the very act
and look on your disgrace with my own eyes,
deny that I have seen what I have clearly seen,
and my eyes will agree with what you claim.
You'll win an easy prize from a man who wants to lose,
only remember to say, 'I didn't do it.'
Since you can gain your victory with one short phrase,
win on account of your judge, if not your case.

Translated by Jon Corelis
Ovid 

...Short partings do best, though: time wears out affections,
The absent love fades, a new one takes its place.
With Menelaus away, Helen's disinclination for sleeping
Alone led her into her guest's
Warm bed at night. Were you crazy, Menelaus?
Why go off leaving your wife
With a stranger in the house? Do you trust doves to falcons,
Full sheepfolds to mountain wolves?
Here Helen's not at fault, the adulterer's blameless -
He did no more than you, or any man else,
Would do yourself. By providing place and occasion
You precipitated the act. What else did she do
But act on your clear advice? Husband gone; this stylish stranger
Here on the spot; too scared to sleep alone -
Oh, Helen wins my acquittal, the blame's her husband's:
All she did was take advantage of a man's
Human complaisance. And yet, more savage than the tawny
Boar in his rage, as he tosses the maddened dogs
On lightening tusks, or a lioness suckling her unweaned
Cubs, or the tiny adder crushed
By some careless foot, is a woman's wrath, when some rival
Is caught in the bed she shares. Her feelings show
On her face. Decorum's flung to the wind, a maenadic
Frenzy grips her, she rushes headlong off
After fire and steel... .

1.6k
Elegy V
Ovid 

In summer's heat and mid-time of the day
To rest my limbs upon a bed I lay,
One window shut, the other open stood,
Which gave such light, as twinkles in a wood,
Like twilight glimpse at setting of the sun,
Or night being past, and yet not day begun.
Such light to shamefast maidens must be shown,
Where they must sport, and seem to be unknown.
Then came Corinna in a long loose gown,
Her white neck hid with tresses hanging down:
Resembling fair Semiramis going to bed
Or Layis of a thousand wooers sped.
I snatched her gown, being thin, the harm was small,
Yet strived she to be covered there withal.
And striving thus as one that would be chaste,
Betrayed herself, and yeilded at the last.
Stark naked as she stood before mine eye,
Not one wen in her body could I spy.
What arms and shoulders did I touch and see,
How apt her breasts were to be pressed by me.
How smooth a belly under her waist saw I?
How large a leg, and what a lusty thigh?
To leave the rest, all liked me passing well,
I clinged her naked body, down she fell,
Judge you the rest, being tired she bade me kiss,
Jove sent me more such afternoons as this.

Ovid 

If Memnon's mother mourned, Achilles's mother mourned,
and our sad fates can touch great goddesses,
then weep, and loose your hair in grief you never earned,
Elegy, now ah! too much like your name.
That bard whose work was yours, who gave you fame, Tibullus,
burns on the mounded pyre, a lifeless corpse.
See Venus's boy, bearing his quiver upside down;
his bow is broken and his torch is quenched;
look how he goes dejected: his wings trail on the ground;
he smites his naked breast with violent hand;
his tears dampen the curls that fall around his neck,
and heaving sobs keep breaking on his lips.
(Just so he went out, fair Iulus, from your house,
they say, at his brother Aeneas's funeral.)
No less was Venus stunned by her Tibullus's death
than when the fierce boar smote her lover's thigh.
They say we bards are sacred, favorites of the gods,
and even that there's something holy in us,
but that churl Death defiles every sacred thing:
his shadowy hand appropriates us all.
Was Orpheus saved by his father and mother, who were gods,
or by his songs that tamed the astonished beasts?
They say that that same father sang 'Linos! Ai, Linos! '
deep in the woods on his reluctant lyre.
And Homer, too, from whom, as from an endless fount,
bards' lips are moistened with the Muses' waters,
one last day pulled him under Avernus's murky wave:
his songs alone escaped the greedy pyre.
The work of bards endures: Troy's famous sufferings,
and the endless shroud, undone by nightly fraud.
So Nemesis and Delia: both their names will live,
the one his first, the one his latest love.
But what use now your rites? What use the Egyptian rattle?
What use, to have slept alone in an empty bed?
When harsh fate steals away the good (forgive my words!)
I almost want to believe there are no gods.
Live virtuous: you will die. Respect the gods: grim Death
will drag you from their altars to your grave.
Write glorious verse, and see! here Tibullus lies:
one small urn holds the dust of what he was.
Is it you the blazing pyre bears off, O sacred bard,
not dreading to be fed upon your breast?
Flames that dare so great a blasphemy would burn
the golden temples of the blessed gods!
She turned aside her gaze who rules Mt. Eryx's heights,
and some say she could not restrain her tears.
And yet it's better thus than if Phaeacia's land
had strewn mere dirt on your neglected grave.
Here, as you fled life, your mother closed your streaming
eyes, and brought her last gifts to your ashes.
Here your sister joined your mother in her grief
and came with loosened hair all disarrayed.
And with their kisses Nemesis and your first love
joined theirs, and did not leave your pyre forsaken,
and Delia, as she left, said, 'Happier far your love
for me: you lived, while I was still your flame.'
'Why, ' Nemesis replied, 'do you grieve for my loss?
Dying, he clutched me with his failing hand.'
If anything remains of us but name and shade,
Elysium's vale will be Tibullus's home,
and you will greet him, learned Catullus, ivy bound
on your young brow, with Calvus at your side,
and you (if it is false that you betrayed your friend)
Gallus, careless of your blood and soul.
These shades will be your comrades, if any shades there are:
you have joined the blessed, elegant Tibullus.
May your bones find repose within their sheltering urn,
and may earth not lie heavy on your ashes.

— The End —

Metamorphoses by Ovid