Ovid: Tristia 3.7

Go to Perilla, hastily scrawled letter,
trusty caretaker of my words, and greet her.
You’ll find her with her lovely mother, sitting,
or with her books, among the verse she’s writing.
When she sees you, she’ll drop whatever task,
and why you’ve come, and how I am, she’ll ask.
Say I’m alive, but do not wish to be;
time passing hasn’t soothed my misery;
I’m back to couplets, making the words fit,
though verse has never brought me benefit.……………10
Address her: “Are you working in our line,
still singing in your key instead of mine?
Besides good looks and manners, native talents,
you have a rarer dowery—your brilliance.
To keep that fecund freshet sluicing on,
I first led you to drink from Helicon.
I saw it first, when you were young, and tried,
father to daughter, to be your friend, and guide.
So, if you still burn with the same desire,
Sappho alone will show a brighter fire……………………. 20
I fear, though, that our fates may prove aligned,
and my downfall will dull your lively mind.
Time was, I’d read your work, and mine to you,
and weigh your lines, and teach you what I knew.
I’d listen to your drafts in their first flush,
and, when I caught you loafing, make you blush.
Perhaps the harm my writing’s done to me
has made you fear the selfsame penalty?
Courage, Perilla! Only don’t attempt
to teach the art of love; you’ll be exempt.………………..30
……So, put off indolence, sweet prodigy!
Keep practicing your sacred artistry.
Long years will spoil the freshness of your cheeks
and wrinkled age will crease your brow with streaks—
old age, that meets all loveliness with violence,
and steals upon us in a pall of silence.
You’ll hear, “But she was pretty once!” and grieve,
and what your mirror shows, you won’t believe.
Your fortune’s middling (though you merit better),
but let it be immeasurably greater— ……………………. ..40
Luck, at a whim, will still increase or fleece us,
and we’ll be Irus, who were lately Croesus.
No, we have nothing death will not inherit,
except the blessings of the mind and spirit.
Look, I—I’ve lost you, lost my land, my home;
I’m one whom no more can be taken from;
but my mind’s left, my sole delight and friend,
where Caesar’s sovereignty does not extend.
And should death, by a sword’s cruel stroke, arrive,
my fame, though I have perished, will survive.………..50
While Mars’s Rome from seven hills shall spread
her rule the whole world over, I’ll be read.
On you, though, may our art more kindly smile,
and may the pyre spare you for a while!”

Tristia 3.7
Vade salutatum, subito perarata, Perillam,
……littera, sermonis fida ministra mei.
Aut illam inuenies dulci cum matre sedentem,
……aut inter libros Pieridasque suas.
Quicquid aget, cum te scierit uenisse, relinquet,
……nec mora, quid uenias quidue, requiret, agam.
Viuere me dices, sed sic, ut uiuere nolim,
……nec mala tam longa nostra leuata mora:
et tamen ad Musas, quamuis nocuere, reuerti,
……aptaque in alternos cogere uerba pedes.
“Tu quoque” dic “studiis communibus ecquid inhaeres,
……doctaque non patrio carmina more canis?
Nam tibi cum fatis mores natura pudicos
……et raras dotes ingeniumque dedit.
Hoc ego Pegasidas deduxi primus ad undas,
……ne male fecundae uena periret aquae;
primus id aspexi teneris in uirginis annis,
……utque pater natae duxque comesque fui.
Ergo si remanent ignes tibi pectoris idem,
……sola tuum uates Lesbia uincet opus.
Sed uereor, ne te mea nunc fortuna retardet,
……postque meos casus sit tibi pectus iners.
Dum licuit, tua saepe mihi, tibi nostra legebam;
……saepe tui iudex, saepe magister eram:
aut ego praebebam factis modo uersibus aures,
……aut, ubi cessares, causa ruboris eram.
Forsitan exemplo, quia me laesere libelli,
……tu quoque sis poenae fata secuta meae.
Pone, Perilla, metum. Tantummodo femina nulla
……neue uir a scriptis discat amare tuis.
Ergo desidiae remoue, doctissima, causas,
……inque bonas artes et tua sacra redi.
Ista decens facies longis uitiabitur annis,
……rugaque in antiqua fronte senilis erit,
inicietque manum formae damnosa senectus,
……quae strepitus passu non faciente uenit.
Cumque aliquis dicet “fuit haec formosa” dolebis,
……et speculum mendax esse querere tuum.
Sunt tibi opes modicae, cum sis dignissima magnis:
……finge sed inmensis censibus esse pares,
nempe dat id quodcumque libet fortuna rapitque,
……Irus et est subito, qui modo Croesus erat.
Singula ne referam, nil non mortale tenemus
……pectoris exceptis ingeniique bonis.
En ego, cum caream patria uobisque domoque,
……raptaque sint, adimi quae potuere mihi,
ingenio tamen ipse meo comitorque fruorque:
……Caesar in hoc potuit iuris habere nihil.
Quilibet hanc saeuo uitam mihi finiat ense,
……me tamen extincto fama superstes erit,
dumque suis uictrix omnem de montibus orbem
……prospiciet domitum Martia Roma, legar.
Tu quoque, quam studii maneat felicior usus,
……effuge uenturos, qua potes, usque rogos!”

Chris Childers

Chris Childers

Christopher Childers has poems, essays, and translations published or forthcoming at Kenyon Review, Yale Review, Parnassus, and elsewhere. He is at work on a translation of Latin and Greek Lyric Poetry from Archilochus to Martial for Penguin Classics.
Chris Childers

Latest posts by Chris Childers (see all)

Author: Chris Childers

Christopher Childers has poems, essays, and translations published or forthcoming at Kenyon Review, Yale Review, Parnassus, and elsewhere. He is at work on a translation of Latin and Greek Lyric Poetry from Archilochus to Martial for Penguin Classics.