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Wednesday, 8 February 2012

The Theme of Love

Mosaic depicting Cupid astride a Dolphin - Fishbourne
Just now, I was preparing to start with heavy fighting
and violent war, with a measure to fit the matter.
Good enough for lesser verse – laughed Cupid
so they say, and stole a foot away.
‘Cruel boy, who gave you power over this song?
Poets are the Muses’, we’re not in your crowd.

What if Venus snatched golden Minerva’s weapons,
while golden Minerva fanned the flaming fires?
Who’d approve of Ceres ruling the wooded hills,
with the Virgin’s quiver to cultivate the fields?
Who’d grant long-haired Phoebus a sharp spear,
while Mars played the Aonian lyre?

You’ve a mighty kingdom, boy, and too much power,
ambitious one, why aspire to fresh works?
Or is everything yours? Are Helicon’s metres yours?
Is even Phoebus’s lyre now barely his at all?
I’ve risen to it well, in the first line, on a clean page,
the next one’s weakened my strength:
and I’ve no theme fitting for lighter verses,
no boy or elegant long-haired girl.’

I was singing, while he quickly selected an arrow
from his open quiver, to engineer my ruin,
and vigorously bent the sinuous bow against his knee.
and said, ‘Poet take this effort for your song!’
Woe is me! That boy has true shafts.
I burn, and Love rules my vacant heart.
My work rises in six beats, sinks in five:
farewell hard fighting with your measure!
Muse, garland your golden brow with Venus’s myrtle
culled from the shore, and sing on with eleven feet!

Translated from Ovid - Amores, Book I, Elegy I.

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