Tibullus (c.55-19 BCE):
Elegies I:4, 8. 9
[Loeb prose translation, 1913, numbers refer to line
numbers of Latin text]
I: IV To Priapus
1. " PRIAPUS, tell me - so may the sheltering shade be thine,
nor thy head be harmed by sun or snows - what cunning of thine
captures the handsome lads ? Sure thou hast no glossy beard nor
well-kept hair. Naked thou art all through the cold of stormy
winter, naked through the parching season of the Dog-star's heats."
7 Thus I; and thus to me replied the country child of Bacchus,
the god armed with the curving billhook:
9 " O beware of trusting thyself to the gentle (turbae)
band of boys; for they furnish always some valid ground for love.
One pleases, for he keeps a tight hand on his horse's rein; another
drives the calm water before a breast of snow. This one has taken
you with his brave assurance, that one by the maiden shame that
guards his young cheeks.
15 " Perchance at first he will refuse thee; but let not
this dishearten thee. Little by little his neck will pass beneath
the yoke. Length of time has taught lions to submit to man- with
length of time weak water has eaten through rock. The year's flight
ripens the grapes on the sunny hillside; the year's flight carries
the radiant signs along their unvarying round.
21 " Be not afraid to swear. Null and void are the perjuries
of love; the winds bear them ineffective over land and the face
of the sea. Great thanks to Jove ! The Sire himself has decreed
no oath should stand that love has taken in the folly of desire.
Dictynna lets thee without harm assever by her arrows, Minerva
by her hair.
27 " But if thou art slow, thou wilt be lost. Youth is gone
how quickly ! Time stands not idle, nor returns. How quickly does
the earth lose its purple hues! how quickly the tall poplar its
beauteous leaves ! How neglected is the horse, when the lot of
weak age overtakes him, that once I shot free from the barriers
of Elis ! I have seen a young man on whom later years were closing
round mourning for his folly in the day that had fled. Cruel gods
! The snake sheds his years, and is young: but the Fates grant
no respite to beauty. Only Bacchus and Phoebus have youth everlasting;
of either god are unshorn tresses the glory.
39 " Do thou yield to thy lad in aught that he is minded
to attempt: love wins most by compliance. Nor refuse to go with
him, though far be his purposed journey and the Dog-star bake
the land with parching drought, though, threatening the coming
storm, the rain-charged bow fringes the sky with hues of purple.
Should he wish to fly over the blue waves in a boat, take the
oar thyself and drive the light bark through the sea. Nor grieve
to undergo rough labour or if thy hands are chafed by tasks to
which they are strange. If round the deep glen he would place
the ambush, then, so thou canst pleasure him, let thy shoulders
not refuse to bear the hunting nets. If he would fence, thou wilt
try thy light hand at the sport, and often leave thy side unguarded,
that he may win.
53 " Then will he be gentle with thee; then thou mayst snatch
the precious kiss: he will struggle, but let thee snatch it. He
will let thee snatch at first; but later will he bring it for
the asking, and presently even he will be fain to hang upon thy
57 " But now, alas ! our perverse age plies wretched crafts.
Now gentle lads have learned to look for gifts. Whoever thou art
that first didst teach the sale of love, may an unhallowed stone
weigh heavy on thy bones.
61 " Love the Pierid maidens, lads, and gifted oets; to no
golden presents let the Pierian maids succumb. Verse keeps the
lock of Nisus purple. Were verses not, no ivory would have shone
on Pelops' shoulder. He whom the Muses tell of shall live, while
earth bears oaks, sky stars, and rivers water. But he who has
no ear for the Muses, who sells his love-let him follow the car
of Ops of Ida and traverse, a vagabond, three hundred towns and
slash the parts he slights to Phrygian measures. Venus herself
allows love's blandishments their play. She sides with piteous
weeping and suppliant complaints."
73 These things did the god's voice utter for me to sing to Titius;
but them doth Titius' wife forbid him to remember. So let him
listen to his dear; but do ye throng to my school whom some crafty
lad with many wiles treats ill. Each of us has his proper glory.
Let slighted lovers seek advice from me; to all my doors are open.
A time shall come when round the master of the lore of Venus shall
crowd the attentive young and take the old man home.
81 Alas! what lingering torture is this love for Marathus: helpless
is my skill, and helpless all my cunning. Spare me, I pray thee,
boy, lest I become a byword, when folk shall laugh at my useless
I: VIII To Pholoe on Marathus
1. No one can hide from me the meaning of a lover's nod, nor the
message of gentle tones and whispered words. Yet no lots help
me, no liver with heaven's will acquainted, nor do birds' notes
tell me of the things to come. 'Twas Venus' self that tied my
arms with magic knots and taught me all with many stripes.
7 Have done with concealments. God has fiercer fires for those
that he sees have fallen to him against their will.
9 What advantage hast thou now in dressing the soft hair or shifting
continually the arrangement of the tresses, what in beautifying
cheeks with lustrous pigment, in having the nails pared by an
artist's cunning hand ? In vain thy gowns, thy shawls are changed,
and the tight loop squeezes the feet together. 'Tis the other
charms, though she come with face untended and has spent no lingering
skill on dressing her sheeny hair.
17 Has some hag bewitched thee with her spells, or with blanching
herbs, in the silent night hours? Incantation draws the crops
from the neighbour's field; incantation checks the course of the
angry snake; incantation seeks to draw the moon down from her
car, and would do it but for the blows on the echoing bronze.
23 Why do I complain, alas ! that spells or herbs have worked
me woe? Beauty needs no aid from sorcery. 'Tis touching the body
does the harm, giving the long kiss, resting thigh by thigh. Yet
do thou for thy part see thou art not uncompliant to the lad;
Venus visits harsh deeds with punishment.
29 Ask for no presents: these should a hoary lover give, that
soft arms may warm his chilly limbs. Gold is less precious than
a lad whose face is bright and smooth, with no rough beard to
rasp caresses. Under his shoulder place thy radiant arms, and
thus look down on all the treasures of a king. Venus will find
a way for stealthy commerce with the lad while he quivers, and
would draw your tender bosoms ever closer, for giving wet kisses
with quickened breath and struggling tongue and printing the teeth's
marks on the neck. No stone or pearls will give her joy who sleeps
alone and chill, and to no man is desirable.
41. Ah, too late we call back love and youth when hoary eld has
bleached the aged head. Then looks are studied. The hair is stained
to disguise our years with dye from the nut's green husk. Then
we task ourselves to pluck up the white hairs by the root and
to carry home a face transformed, with the old skin gone. But
do thou while thy life is still in its flowering springtide see
that thou use it. Not slow are its feet as it glides away.
49 Nor torture Marathus. What glory is there in discomfiting a
boy ? Be hard, my lass, to the effete old. Spare the tender shoot,
I pray. Naught ails him gravely; 'tis from excess of passion comes
the yellow stain upon his skin. See again, poor wretch, how often
he heaps his piteous reproaches on the absent and all around is
flooded with his tears.
55 " Why dost thou slight me? " he complains. "
The watch might have been baffled. Heaven itself gives the lovesick
skill to cozen. I know the secret ways of love, how the breath
may be taken gently, and how kisses may be snatched and make no
sound. I can steal up e'en in the dead of night, and unseen unbar
the door without a sound. But what do arts avail if the girl spurn
the hapless swain and, cruel, fly from the very couch of love
? Then again when she promises and suddenly plays false, I must
wake through a night of many woes. While I fondly think that she
will come to me, in every stir I hear her footfall sounding."
67 Shed tears no more, lad. Her heart is stone, and thy eyes are
already worn and swelled with weeping. The gods, I warn thee,
Phobe, abhor disdain. 'Twill be vain to offer incense to their
holy fires. This is the Marathus that once made mock of wretched
lovers, unwitting that behind him stood the god of vengeance.
Often, too, we have heard, he laughed at the tears of anguish
and kept a lover waiting with pretences for delay. Now he abhors
all coyness; now he hates every door that is bolted fast against
him. But for thee, girl, unless thou cease to be proud, there
is punishment in store. Then how wilt thou long that prayers might
bring thee back to-day !
I: IX To Marathus
WIIY, if thou wast to wrong my helpless love, didst thou pledge
thy faith to me before the gods but to break it privily ? Unhappy
! even if at first we hide the perjury, yet in the end comes Punishment
on noiseless feet. Still spare him, powers above. 'Tis not unjust
if for one sin against your godhead beauty should pay no forfeit.
7 'Tis in quest of gain the countryman yokes his bulls to his
good plough and plies his hard work on the land; it is gain that
the swaying ships pursue when the sure stars guide them through
seas that the winds control. And by gifts has my lad been captured.
But may God turn them to ashes and running water.
13 Ere long he will make me full amends; his comeliness will be
lost amid the dust and the winds that roughen his hair; his face,
his curls will be burned by the sun, and long travel will disable
his tender feet.
17 How many times have I warned him: " Let not gold sully
beauty; under gold there often lurks a multitude of ills. Whosoever
has let wealth tempt him to outrage love, with him is Venus fierce
and obdurate. Rather burn my head with fire, stab my body with
steel, and cut my back with the twisted scourge. And have no hope
of concealment when thou art planning wrong. God knows of it,
and lets no treachery stay hid. God himself has set [wine] within
the reach of a tongue-tied servant, that with much strong drink
his speech might flow free. Heaven itself has bidden the lips
that slumber had sealed to open and to speak unwillingly of deeds
that should have lain in the dark."
29 So used I to say to thee. Now I am ashamed that I wept as I
spoke, that I fell at thy tender feet. Then thou wouldst swear
to me that for no weight of precious gold or for pearls wouldst
thou sell thy faith, nay, not if Campania's land were given thee
as the price, or Falernum's fields that Bacchus tends. Such words
could have robbed me of my certainty that stars shine in skies
and that rivers run downward. Nay, more, thou wouldst weep; but
I unversed in deceit would ever fondly wipe the water from thy
39 What should I have done hadst thou not thyself been in love
with a maid? May she be fickle-fickle, I pray, taking pattern
by thee. Oh, how oft in the late night, that none should be privy
to thy wooing, did I myself attend thee with the light in my hand
! Often, when thou didst not hope for her, she came through my
good of ices, and stood hid, a veiled figure, behind the fast
shut door. Then, poor wretch, was my undoing; I fondly trusted
to Love: I might have been warier of thy snares. Nay, in my craze
of mind I made verses in thy honour; but now I am ashamed for
myself and the Muses. May the Fire-god shrivel those verses with
devouring flame, or the river wash them out in its running waters.
Go thou far hence whose aim is to sell thy beauty and to return
with a great wage filling thy hand.
63 And thou who durst corrupt the boy with thy gifts, may thy
wife unpunished make a constant jest of thee by her intrigues;
and when the gallant is spent with her furtive dalliance, let
her lie by thee lax with the coverlet between. Let there be always
stranger tracks upon thy bed, and thy house be always free and
open to the amorous. Nor let it be said that her wanton sister
can drain more cups or exhaust more gallants. She, folk say, often
prolongs her wine-bibbing revels till the wheels of the Light-bringer
rise to summon forth the day. Than she could none 'Way out the
night hours better, or arrange the different modes of love.
65 But thy spouse has learned it all, and yet thou, poor fool,
dost notice naught when she moves her limbs with an unaccustomed
art. Dost thou think that it is for thee that she arranges her
hair and through her fine tresses passes the close-toothed comb?
Is it thy beauty prompts her to clasp gold on her alms and come
forth arrayed in Tyrian drapery? Not thee, but a certain youth
would she have find her charming. For him she would consign to
ruin thee and all thy house. Nor does she this out of depravity;
but the dainty girl shrinks from limbs that gout disfigures and
an old man's arms.
75 Yet by him has my own lad lain. I would believe that he would
mate with a savage beast. Didst thou dare, mad youth, to sell
caresses that belonged to me and to take to others the kisses
that were mine ? Thou wilt weep, then, when another lad has made
me his captive and shall proudly reign in thy realm.
81 In that hour of thy punishment I shall rejoice, and a golden
palm-branch shall be put up to Venus for her goodness, with this
record of my fortunes:
TIBULLUS WHOM FROM TREACHEROlJS LOVE, GODDESS,
THOU DIDST UNBIND
OFFERS THEE THIS AND BEGS THEE BEEP FOR HIM A THANKFUL
HTML. Paul Halsall