No. 6


Translated from the Latin by Steven J. Willett 


Stop these efforts to learn—knowing is banned—what will be my, 
     and your,
final god-given end, Leuconoe, cease Babylonian
divination by stars. Better by far: all that will come, endure!
Whether Jupiter grants many a long winter, or this our last,
which now tires, against pumice-strewn shores lying below us, that
vast Tyrrhenian Sea. Learn to be wise, strain out the wine, and prune
lavish hopes to the quick. While we converse, envious time will have
vanished: harvest Today, placing the least credence on what’s to come.


O daughter fairer far than your mother fair,
appoint whatever end you desire to all
   my scurrilous verses, whether flames may
     please you or waves of the Adriatic.

Not Cybele on Dindymus’ heights, not that
indwelling god of Delphi so shakes the priests,
   not Bacchus, not the Corybantes
      suddenly clashing their strident cymbals,

as grim-faced anger, which neither Noric sword
deters nor ship-annihilating ocean storms,
   nor savage fire nor Jove himself with
      terrifying din as he plunges earthward.

Prometheus, it’s said, was constrained to fill
our primal clay with particles cut from all
   the animals and put inside our
      stomach the violence of raging lions.

Wrath brought Thyestes low to a heavy doom
and is decreed the ultimate cause why all 
   proud cities finally fall to utter
      ruin and arrogant armies furrow

exultantly through walls with their hostile plow.
Restrain your moods: a furious passion once
   attacked me also during youth’s sweet
      springtime, and drove me in white-hot madness

to reckless verses; now I desire to change
those bitter words for gentle, if you will be
   a friend again and offer back (my
      slander recanted in song) your heart’s love.


In frequent flight swift Faunus exchanges his
Lycaeus for my lovely Lucretilis,
   and always guards my herds of goats from
      fiery summer and rain-filled windstorms.

Securely through the safeguarded groves they go
in search of thyme or hidden arbutus fruit,
  those roaming wives of stinking consorts,
     nor can the sinister green of vipers

or Mars’ own wolf packs frighten the tender kids,
when once the Panpipes, Tyndaris, sweetly fill
  the vales and smooth-worn stones of sloping
     Ustica full of resounding echoes.

The gods watch over me, both my piety
and Muse delight them. Here will abundance flow
  profusely from a bounteous horn that’s
     lavish with glories of rural harvest.

Secluded here in valley retreat you will escape
the Dog Star’s heat, and with Teian lyre
   tell all Penelope and darkly
     glimmering Circe endured for one man.

You’ll drink the easy vintage of Lesbos here
beneath the shade, and neither will Semele’s
  son Bacchus join with Mars to stir up
     violent disputes, nor will you — now under

suspicion — fear the hot-headed Cyrus, fear
his unchecked hands on you, so mismatched with him,
  to rend the garland bound about your
     hair and your all unoffending garments.


More infrequent come the repeated volleys
Riotous young men rattle off bolted shutters,
they no longer rob you of sleep, and that door
     keeps to its threshold,

which delighted once in the swing of ready
hinges.  Less and less are you hearing lately:
“While I languish long through the darkness, are you,
    Lydia, sleeping?”

Your turn’s coming soon as a withered hag who’ll
weep at lovers’ sneers in some barren alley,
Thracian northwinds grown to bacchantic fury
    under dim moonlight,

when the searing flame of your love and longing,
which incites the mares with tormenting madness,
rages ceaselessly round an ulcered liver,
   not without anguish,

that the swaggering youths find their verdant ivy
more enticing pleasure than dusky myrtle,
but consign all shriveled up leaves to winter’s
   crony the eastwind.


To drinking now, now all to the nimble foot
that beats the earth, now friends, now at last it’s time
   to heap the festive couches deep with
      Salian feasts for the gods’ enjoyment.

Before this day, to break out the Caecuban from
our ancestral cellars had been a crime,
   while that demented queen was working
     havoc to Capitol, death to Empire

with her polluted mob of retainers whom
disease alone made men—unrestrained in all
   her impotence of fancied power and
      drunk on sweet fortune.   But seeing scarcely

a single ship come out of the flames intact
subdued her rage, and Caesar impelled a mind
  distraught on Mareotic wine to
     tangible terrors, pursuing closely

by oar her flight from Italy, even as
the hawk a gentle dove or the hunter,  swift
  in chase, a hare across the plains of
     snow-mantled Thessaly, keen to put chains

around a monster laden with doom: one who,
intent to die more nobly, had nothing of
  a woman’s fear before the sword nor
       fled by swift fleet to a secret border,

audacious still to gaze on her humbled court
with tranquil face, and valiant enough to take
   the scaly asps in hand, that she might 
      drink with her body their deadly venom,

ferocious all the more in her studied death;
she was indeed—disdaining to let the fierce
   Liburnian ships lead her dethroned to
      arrogant triumph—no humble woman.


There’s no guilt, believe me, in loving such a 
handmaid, Phocian Xanthias: long before you 
proud Achilles fell to his slave Briseis’ 
    snowdrift complexion. 

Fair Tecmessa once with a captive’s beauty 
shook her mighty lord Telemonian Ajax;
Agamemnon burned for a captured maiden 
   during his triumph, 

after savage hosts had collapsed beneath that
fierce Thessalian’s rout, and the loss of Hector
handed Pergamos to exhausted Greeks for
   easier destruction. 

Fair-haired Phyllis could be the child of wealthy
parents who’ll adorn you, their son, in splendor;
surely ancient kings and unjust Penates
   call her to mourning. 

Rest assured, the girl of your steadfast worship
never did belong to the filthy rabble; 
none so loyal, none so averse to greed could
   spring from base mother.

Arms and countenance and those lissome ankles
coolly uninvolved I commend; suspect not
one whose rushing life has already drawn its
   fortieth year shut.


If some punishment for your perjured oaths had 
ever, Barina, done the slightest damage, 
had you ever grown by a blackened tooth or 
    single nail uglier,

I’d believe. But you, in the very act of
binding vows about your perfidious head, blaze
forth more beautiful and emerge the young men’s
   public enchantment.

How expedient, to deceive a mother’s
buried ashes, stars in their silent nighttime
course with heaven’s vault and the gods whom chilly
    Death cannot trouble.

Venus laughs, I say, in delight at this; her
guileless Nymphs laugh too and that savage Cupid
always honing sharp on his bloody whetstone
    fiery arrows.

Every boy, moreover, is ripening just for
you, new-growing slaves, nor will prior lovers
ever quit the house of their impious mistress, 
    much as they threaten.

Mothers dread you, dread for their callow bullocks,
you the skinflint sires and despondent, freshly
married virgins, you, lest your radiance draw their
    husbands to linger.


Why, Asteria, sob tearfully after him 
whom, in earliest spring, brightening Zephyrs will 
        bring back rich with Bithynian 
            revenues, the all-faithful young

Gyges?  Driven by storms southward to Oricum
after autumn’s insane Goatstar arose, he now
       lingers long through the frigid
          nights unsleeping with many tears.

Yet the maid his aroused hostess dispatches now,
telling over the sighs Chloe suspires and her
       burning love for your lover, 
          tempts him shrewdly by countless arts:

How a treacherous wife drove overcredulous
Proetus, trusting in false charges, to bring on too
         chaste Bellerophon sudden
           brutal death she relates to him,

mentions Peleus almost destined to Tartarus
while, unsullied, he shunned Magnes Hippolyta;
       and, deceitfully, slides in 
          stories teaching the way to sin.

Useless: deafer than all Icarus’ crags he hears
pleading voices with heart wholly intact.   But you,
       take care neighbor Enipeus
          doesn’t charm you excessively—

though, admittedly, we’ve never seen anyone
match him reining a horse over the Fields of Mars, 
       never any to match him
          swimming swiftly down Tiber’s course. 

Lock up house as the night falls, don’t crane out to peer
down the streets at his flute’s quavering music, and, 
        though he often complain you’re
           cruel, coldheartedly stay unmoved.




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