Ovid - The Love Poems


Book One

1

I'd meant in solemn metre to rehearse
A tale of arms and war and violence,
Matching the weighty matter with my verse,
All lines alike in length --- no difference;
But Cupid laughed (they say)
And filched one foot away.

Cruel boy, who made you judge of poetry?
We're not your rabble, we're the muses choir.
Shall Venus snatch blonde Pallas' weaponry,
And who'd approve if Ceres stood
Queen of every upland wood?

Or shall the warrior virgin rule the byre,
Long haired Apollo learn to use the lance,
While Mars on Helicon strikes up the lyre?
Great is you reign, too strong your dominance.
Why, greedy child should you
Go for this work that's new?

Is all the world then yours? The muses' shrine
Yours too? Even Phoebus' lyre not now secure?
On the new page arose my proud first line,
Then came the next, unstringing me for sure,
And there's no theme of mine
Can suit that slighter line.

No boy, no girl with long and lovely hair-
I'd made my protest. He drew instantly
An arrow from his quiver, chosen with care
To lay me low, and braced against his knee
His crescent bow. "Here poet, take
This for the verses you next make.

Poor me! That boy's sure arrows never stray.
I'm burning. In my vacant breast love reigns.
So in six beats my verse must rise today,
And settle back in five. Farewell you strains
Of steely war! Farewell to you,
And to your epic metre too!

Muse wreathe your golden tresses
With Myrtle of the sea,
And in eleven stresses
Compose your poetry.


Translation by A.D. Melville




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