A. M. Juster and Robert Maltby (eds), Oxford World's Classics: Tibullus: Elegies
pg 26Editor’s Note5
- 1Asper eram et bene discidium me ferre loquebar,
- 2 at mihi nunc longe gloria fortis abest;
- 3namque agor ut per plana citus sola uerbere turben
- 4 quem celer assueta uersat ab arte puer.
- ure ferum et torque, libeat ne dicere quicquam
- 6 magnificum posthac: horrida uerba doma.
- 7parce tamen per te furtiui foedera lecti
- 8 per Venerem quaeso conpositumque caput.
- 9ille ego, cum tristi morbo defessa iaceres,
- 10 te dicor uotis eripuisse meis.
- 11ipseque te circum lustraui sulpure puro,
- 12 carmine cum magico praecinuisset anus.
- 13ipse procuraui ne possent saeua nocere
- 14 somnia ter sancta deueneranda mola.
- ipse ego, uelatus filo tunicisque solutis,
- 16 uota nouem Triuiae nocte silente dedi.
- 17omnia persolui: fruitur nunc alter amore,
- 18 et precibus felix utitur ille meis.
- 19at mihi felicem uitam, si salua fuisses,
- 20 fingebam demens, sed renuente deo:
- 21'rura colam, frugumque aderit mea Delia custos,
- 22 area dum messes sole calente teret;
- 23aut mihi seruabit plenis in lintribus uuas
- 24 pressaque ueloci candida musta pede.
- consuescet numerare pecus; consuescet amantis
- 26 garrulus in dominae ludere uerna sinu.
- 27illa deo sciet agricolae pro uitibus uuam,
- 28 pro segete spicas, pro grege ferre dapem.
- 29illa regat cunctos, illi sint omnia curae,
- 30 at iuuet in tota me nihil esse domo.
- 31huc ueniet Messalla meus, cui dulcia poma
- 32 Delia selectis detrahat arboribus,
- 33et tantum uenerata uirum, hunc sedula curet,
- 34 huic paret atque epulas ipsa ministra gerat.'
- pg 28haec mihi fingebam quae nunc Eurusque Notusque
- 36 iactat odoratos uota per Armenios.
- 37saepe ego temptaui curas depellere uino
- 38 at dolor in lacrimas uerterat omne merum.
- 39saepe aliam tenui sed iam cum gaudia adirem
- 40 admonuit dominae deseruitque Venus.
- 41tunc me discedens deuotum femina dixit,
- 42 et pudet, et narrat scire nefanda meam.
- 43non facit hoc uerbis: facie tenerisque lacertis
- 44 deuouet et flauis nostra puella comis.
- talis ad Haemonium Nereis Pelea quondam
- 46 uecta est frenato caerula pisce Thetis.
- 47haec nocuere mihi quod adest huic diues amator.
- 48 uenit in exitium callida lena meum.
- 49sanguineas edat illa dapes atque ore cruento
- 50 tristia cum multo pocula felle bibat.
- 51hanc uolitent animae circum sua fata querentes
- 52 semper et e tectis strix uiolenta canat.
- 53ipsa fame stimulante furens herbasque sepulcris
- 54 quaerat et a saeuis ossa relicta lupis;
- currat et inguinibus nudis ululetque per urbem,
- 56 post agat e triuiis aspera turba canum.
- 57eueniet: dat signa deus. sunt numina amanti,
- 58 saeuit et iniusta lege relicta Venus.
- 59at tu quam primum sagae praecepta rapacis
- 60 desere, nam donis uincitur omnis amor.
- 61pauper erit praesto semper tibi, pauper adibit
- 62 primus et in tenero fixus erit latere.
- 63pauper in angusto fidus comes agmine turbae
- 64 subicietque manus efficietque uiam.
- pauper ad occultos furtim deducet amicos
- 66 uinclaque de niueo detrahet ipse pede.
- 67heu canimus frustra nec uerbis uicta patescit
- 68 ianua sed plena est percutienda manu.
- 69at tu qui potior nunc es mea fata timeto:
- 70 uersatur celeri fors leuis orbe rotae.
- 71non frustra quidam iam nunc in limine perstat
- 72 sedulus ac crebro prospicit ac refugit
- pg 3073et simulat transire domum, mox deinde recurrit,
- 74 solus et ante ipsas excreat usque fores.
- nescioquid furtiuus Amor parat. utere, quaeso,
- 76 dum licet: in liquida nat tibi linter aqua.
- 1I claimed I took the break-up well, and I was tough,
- 2 but my persistent pride is now long gone,
- 3since, like a top with string, I move on level ground
- 4 while whirled by talents of a skilful lad.
- Editor’s NoteTorture and brand the beast* so he no longer brags
- 6 of anything else! Tame his savage speech,
- Editor’s Note7but spare me, I request, by secret bedroom bonds,
- 8 by Venus and the head conjoined with mine!*
- 9I'm told I snatched you from disaster with my prayers
- 10 as you were lying worn out by disease
- 11and I myself spread cleansing sulphur close to you
- 12 once some hag had intoned a magic spell.
- 13For your protection I warded nightmares off
- Editor’s Note14 by offering the sacred grain three times.*
- I vowed nine times to Trivia in still of night
- 16 dressed in a loosened tunic and wool cord.
- 17I honoured them all. Now another lucky man
- 18 enjoys my love and profits from my prayers,
- 19yet I would dream (while crazy) of my happy life
- Editor’s Note20 if you recovered, but the god refused.*
- 21I'd plough the farmland while my Delia guards the yields
- 22 that grind on threshing floors in blazing sun,
- 23or she would oversee the grapes in bulging troughs
- 24 and white wine just pressed by speedy feet.
- Editor’s NoteShe'd know a cattle count; a chatty servant boy*
- 26 would frolic on her loving lady's lap.
- Editor’s Note27She'd learn gifts for the god of farmers:* grapes for vines;
- 28 cornstalks for cornfields; feasting for a flock.
- 29She'd manage everyone and care for everything
- 30 while I'd love being nothing in the house.
- Editor’s Note31When my Messalla* visits, Delia would then pick
- 32 for him sweet apples from the choicest trees,
- 33and, honouring such greatness, she would work with zeal,
- 34 and make and serve the meal, with her the servant.
- pg 29This was my dream: vows scattered now by winds from east
- Editor’s Note36 and west across perfumed Armenia.*
- 37I've often tried to banish pains of love with wine,
- 38 but sorrow turned the uncut wine to tears.
- 39I've often held another, but when I near joy,
- 40 Venus evokes my mistress and departs,
- 41then, as she left, the woman said that I was hexed
- 42 (O shame!) and claimed my girlfriend knew black arts.
- 43This isn't done with words because my girl enchants
- 44 with beauty, tender arms and golden hair
- Editor’s Notelike Thetis,* blue-eyed Nereid, whom bridled fish
- 46 once bore to Peleus of Thessaly.
- Editor’s Note47This brings me pain, for with a wealthy suitor near,*
- 48 the sneaky madam comes for my destruction.
- Editor’s Note49May she consume* a feast of blood with bloodstained lips
- 50 and drink a bitter goblet full of gall!
- 51May spirits fly around her, moaning of their fate,
- Editor’s Note52 and may an owl* keep screeching from the roof,
- 53and, hunger-wracked and raging, may she scour graves
- 54 for weeds and bones abandoned by fierce wolves,
- Editor’s Noteand run and shriek through town with crotch exposed as packs
- 56 of angry dogs expel her from the crossroads!*
- Editor’s Note57'So be it,' some god signals.* Lovers have their gods
- 58 and Venus rants when left with unjust law.
- 59But you must spurn the greedy hag's advice right now!
- 60 Must every passion be undone by bribes?
- 61A poor man clings to you. A poor man draws near first
- 62 and will remain along your tender side.
- 63A poor man—the good friend when jammed into a crowd—
- 64 will lift you with his hands and get you through.
- A poor man will escort you to your secret friends
- 66 and take the sandals off your snowy feet.
- Editor’s Note67Alas, I sing in vain; one can't persuade shut doors,*
- 68 but one must beat them down with cash in hand,
- 69though you, who are supreme now, you should fear my fate;
- Editor’s Note70 the fickle wheel of Fortune* quickly turns.
- 71It's not in vain that someone's at her entrance now;
- 72 intense and quick, he checks it out and flees,
- pg 3173and then pretends to pass the house, then soon returns
- 74 alone and keeps on coughing by those doors.
- Sly Love prepares some scheme. I ask you, while you can,
- Editor’s Note76 to revel; your small vessel drifts on current.*
This is the second variant by Tib. on the song of the shut-out lover or paraklausithyron (for which see introductory note to Elegy 1.2), although the setting outside the mistress's door does not become clear until lines 67–8.
Tib. thought he could bear a separation, but now repents of his pride and is tortured by his love (1–4). He is willing to bear his punishment, but asks for forgiveness (5–8). His devotion had saved his mistress when she was ill, but a rival now enjoys her love (9–18). He had imagined an idyllic life for them in the country on her recovery, but now these dreams have been cast to the winds (19–36). He had tried unsuccessfully to find relief through wine and other women (37–40), who had blamed his impotence on Delia's witchcraft; but it was her beauty, not her magic spells, that had bewitched him (41–6). The real cause of his ruin had been an evil madam who had introduced Delia to a rich lover (47–58). Delia should reject the bawd's teaching and appreciate the advantages of a poor lover (59–66). Delia's door remains shut despite his song (67–8). He ends with a warning to Delia's current lover to beware of a rival, for even now a stranger is lurking at her door (67–76).
The elegy repeats a number of themes from 1.2, but these are given a different emphasis, reflecting a deterioration in the affair. The husband of 2.43 has been replaced by a rich lover, 5.47, introduced to Delia by a crafty madam. Tib. is now locked out not by the current lover, as in 1.2, but by Delia herself, who has become more mercenary in her choice of partners. The theme of the rustic idyll, still a possibility in 2.73–6, is expanded with more detail, 5.21–34, only to be shattered completely, 5.35–6. The witch, who had helped Tib. in 2.41–66, is replaced by the evil madam who leads Delia astray, 5.48–58. The threat of nemesis on the unidentified mocker outside her door at 2.89–98 has been replaced by a warning to Delia's current lover (5.69–76).
A reader coming to this poem from 1.4 could be tricked into thinking the separation mentioned in line 1 is between Tibullus and Marathus and the mention of the 'skilful lad' in 4 lends further weight to this mistaken impression. The connection between the end of 1.4 and the beginning of 1.5 is confirmed by a number of verbal echoes: gloria, 'pride' in 1.4.77 and 1.5.2; torque(t), 'torture(s)' in 1.4.81 and 1.5.5; parce quaeso, 'spare me, please (I request)' in 1.4.83 and 1.5.7, and it is not until line 9 that the addressee's gender is revealed in the Latin as feminine. A similar piece of intentional misleading is to be found at the beginning of Elegy 1.8, where the reader is led into thinking the addressee of the beginning of the poem is a girl; not until line 23 is the real gender confirmed as male (see introductory note to 1.8).
5 Torture and brand the beast: Tib. refers to himself as 'the beast' in the third person. The reference is to burning and branding, typical slave punishments. As a slave of love, Tib. demands appropriate punishments for his wild rejection of love described in 1–2.
7–8 but spare me … conjoined with mine!: Tib.'s appeal for forgiveness is based on Hera's oath to Zeus in Homer, Iliad 15.39–40: 'by your own sacred head and the couch of our wedded love'. By 'the head conjoined' Tib. refers to Delia's head placed beside his on the couch in happier days.
20 the god refused: the unspecified god perhaps hints at Amor, the god of love.
25 a chatty servant boy: the Latin for servant boy here is verna, literally 'a house-born slave'. Such slaves born into the house appear to have been treated more kindly and hence were more talkative and confident than slaves bought from outside.
36 perfumed Armenia: a remote province, mountainous and windy (cf. 35). It exported perfumes which could have been the source of Delia's lover's wealth.
45 Thetis: Thetis was a sea-nymph (Nereid), who, by the will of Zeus, married Peleus of Thessaly and bore him a son, Achilles, who was destined to be greater than his father. She is often represented in art as riding on a bridled dolphin. Such mythological comparisons are comparatively rare in Tib. and this one represents a great compliment to Delia. The main point of comparison is their beauty; though in many versions of the story Thetis was an unwilling bride and this underlying idea may hint at Tib.'s current difficulties with Delia.
47 with a wealthy suitor near: the rival of 17–18 is now revealed as a 'rich lover' (dives amator). His presence is explained as a result of the influence on Delia of a 'sneaky madam', or 'cunning procuress' (callida lena). The blood-curdling curse on the procuress that follows (49–56) has the effect of diverting blame from Delia herself, though she is criticized for following her advice.
49–56 May she consume … from the crossroads!: this curse on the bawd occurs first here in Roman elegy and was then taken up by Propertius (4.5.75–8) and Ovid (Amores 1.8.113–14). Tib. is introducing in miniature a type of poem which existed as a full-blown literary form in earlier Hellenistic Greek poetry, the curse poem.
52 an owl: owls were thought to portend death and disaster, particularly if they sang from the roof.
55–6 and run … from the crossroads!: having been forced by hunger to eat bones left over by wolves, the bawd is to become a victim of lycanthropy, wolf-madness, and is to howl through the town pursued by dogs. The dogs are the hounds of Hecate (see note to 1.2.54), goddess of magic who presides over crossroads.
57 some god signals: as often, the name of the god is not given. In this case it is probably again Amor, the god of love (as at 20 above). The god who protects lovers signs his agreement to Tib.'s curse.
67 shut doors: the setting of the poem as a shut-out lover's song is at last revealed.
70 the fickle wheel of Fortune: a Greek idea associated with the goddess Nemesis, reflecting the instability of good fortune. The lover who is in favour now will soon be out of favour and replaced by a rival (see 71–6, and R. Maltby, 'The Wheel of Fortune: Nemesis and the Central Poems of Tibullus I and II', in S. Kyriakidis and Francesco de Martino (eds.), Middles in Latin Poetry (Bari: Levante, 2005), 103–21).
76 your small vessel drifts on current: literally 'your skiff floats on running water'. The image suggests the instability of Delia's current lover's position. The current can sweep him away and he can be ousted. Similar images of the dangers of sailing applied to the vicissitudes of love occur in later elegy: cf. Propertius 2.4.19 and Ovid, Amores 2.4.7–8.