Publius Ovidius Naso [Ovid]
43 BC-17 AD
Latin (Golden Age of Literature/Imperial Era)
P. OVIDI NASONIS EPISTVLAE HEROIDVM
III. Briseis Achilli
Quam legis, a rapta Briseide littera venit,
[The letter you read comes from Briseis, the kidnapped girl]
vix bene barbarica Graeca notata manu.
[barely written legibly in Greek by an uncivilized hand.]
quascumque adspicies, lacrimae fecere lituras;
[for each and every one of which you see, my tears formed the letters;]
sed tamen et lacrimae pondera vocis habent.
[but still even teardrops carry the weight of my voice.]
Si mihi pauca queri de te dominoque viroque 5
[If it is allowed by the gods for me to make a few complaints about you, who are both my master and husband]
de domino pauca viroque querar.
[let me make these slight complaints about my master and husband.]
non, ego poscenti quod sum cito tradita regi,
culpa tua est
[it is not your fault, that I, for my sake was quickly surrendered over to a king when he demanded so,]
—quamvis haec quoque culpa tua est;
[no matter how much this too was your fault;]
nam simul Eurybates me Talthybiusque vocarunt,
[you see, at the same time do Eurybates and Talthybios call upon me]
Eurybati data sum Talthybioque comes. 10
[and I am give as a companion to both Eurybates and Talthybios.]
alter in alterius iactantes lumina vultum
quaerebant taciti, noster ubi esset amor.
[One against the others do they toss their glances, and silently do they watch my face to see where my love should lie.]
[I could stand to be passed over;]
poenae mora grata fuisset.
[a delay to my punishment would have pleased me.]
ei mihi! discedens oscula nulla dedi;
[woe is me! I give you no kisses as I was leaving;]
at lacrimas sine fine dedi rupique capillos— 15
[instead I gave you tears without end, and I tore out my hair--]
infelix iterum sum mihi visa capi!
[once again do I find myself captive and unlucky!]
Saepe ego decepto volui custode reverti,
[Often it was I who wanted to be returned to my guardian, who was then deceived]
sed, me qui timidam prenderet, hostis erat.
[but, he was the enemy, that is, the man who kidnapped me, a frightened girl.]
si progressa forem, caperer ne, nocte, timebam,
[Even if I could have gone forth, I was afraid I'd be captured at night,]
quamlibet ad Priami munus itura nurum. 20
[no matter if I had disguised myself as a nurse going to Priam's gate.]
Sed data sim, quia danda fui—
[But let me be something already given, since I was assigned to be given--]
tot noctibus absum
[I've been missing for some many nights, and I not sought after;]
cessas, iraque lenta tua est.
[you've gone, and that wrath of yours moves slowly.]
ipse Menoetiades tum, cum tradebar, in aurem
'quid fles? hic parvo tempore,' dixit, 'eris.'
[The son of Menoetias himself, once, when I was being handed over, whispered into my ear, "Why are you crying? You will be here in only a bit of time.']
Nec repetisse parum;
[nor is it too little a thing to have looked back;]
pugnas ne reddar, Achille! 25
[you fight with the intention that I will not be given back, Achilles!]
i nunc et cupidi nomen amantis habe!
[go now, and hold on to the name of a desirous lover!]
venerunt ad te Telamone et Amyntore nati—
[Your sons, Telamon and Amyntor, come to you--]
ille gradu propior sanguinis, ille comes—
[the first resembles your demeanor, the second has your hair--]
Laertaque satus, per quos comitata redirem
[and the sons of Laerta, through whom I could return in accompaniment]
(auxerunt blandas grandia dona preces) 30
[they augment their grand gifts with charming appeals]
viginti fulvos operoso ex aere lebetas,
[they offer twenty tawny cauldrons, from crafted bronze,]
et tripodas septem pondere et arte pares;
[and seven tripods, all of like weight and craft;]
addita sunt illis auri bis quinque talenta,
[To these things, 10 talents of gold were added,]
bis sex adsueti vincere semper equi,
[12 horses, trained always to prevail in the fight,]
quodque supervacuum est,
[and something which is beyond useless]
forma praestante puellae 35
[with the prestigious beauty of a maiden from Lesbos]
eversa corpora capta domo,
[bodies captured and turned out of their home,]
cumque tot his—sed non opus est tibi coniuge—coniunx
ex Agamemnoniis una puella tribus.
[and with so many of these--but you need no spouse- a girl, given from the Agamemnon's property.]
si tibi ab Atride pretio redimenda fuissem,
[if I had been ransomed at a price from the son of Atreus]
quae dare debueras, accipere illa negas! 40
[whatever things you ought to have given beforehand, are the very things you now refuse to receive!]
qua merui culpa fieri tibi vilis, Achille?
[What crime made me worthy to become of no value to you, Achilles?]
quo levis a nobis tam cito fugit amor?
[For what reason does our brief love now run away from us, and so quickly?]
An miseros tristis fortuna tenaciter urget,
[Or does a gloomy fortune so tenaciously press upon miserable folk,]
nec venit inceptis mollior hora malis?
[that the hour does not grew gentler even after one has taken evils upon himself?]
diruta Marte tuo Lyrnesia moenia vidi— 45
[I saw the walls of my Lyrnesian city destroyed by your Martian warfare]
et fueram patriae pars ego magna meae;
[and I had become a great stake of my own nation;]
vidi consortes pariter generisque necisque
[I saw three of my friends and family, fall dead to the ground,]
quibus, quae mihi, mater erat;
[among whom, was my own mother;]
vidi, quantus erat, fusum tellure cruenta
pectora iactantem sanguinolenta virum. 50
[I saw the extent to which my husband, poured along the dirt, lying up his bleeding chest, now spewing up blood and gore.]
tot tamen amissis te conpensavimus unum;
[and still, I thought of you among the so many people I've lost;]
tu dominus, tu vir, tu mihi frater eras.
[You were my lord, you, my husband, you, my brother.]
tu mihi, iuratus per numina matris aquosae,
utile dicebas ipse fuisse capi—
[it was you who, after swearing upon the divine powers of your watery mother, used to say that you would be make use of my capture, yourself--]
scilicet ut, quamvis veniam dotata, repellas 55
[Now it's clear that, no matter how I shall arrive, in accompaniment with a dowry, you will reject me]
et mecum fugias quae tibi dantur opes!
[and even at my side, you will flee things that will bestow riches upon you!]
quin etiam fama est,
[Indeed, there is even a rumor,]
cum crastina fulserit Eos,
[when the Dawn of yesterday shined out,]
te dare nubiferis lintea velle Notis.
[that you wished to point the sails of your ship towards the stormy south winds.]
Quod scelus ut pavidas miserae mihi contigit aures,
[What a wicked deed, that could reach the fearful ears of me, a miserable girl,]
sanguinis atque animi pectus inane fuit. 60
[and your heart was empty of both blood, and a mind.]
ibis et—o miseram!—cui me, violente, relinquis?
[will you leave, and--ah, poor me--you violent fiend, to which man do you leave me?]
quis mihi desertae mite levamen erit?
[Who will be the soothing consolation to me, the deserted girl?]
devorer ante, precor, subito telluris hiatu
[I pray that I be devoured suddenly by a cavern of the earth before that moment]
aut rutilo missi fulminis igne cremer,
[or that I be incinerated by a shining bolt of lightning that has been released,]
quam sine me Pthiis canescant aequora remis, 65
[than that the seas glow hot from the oars of Phytian ships without me]
et videam puppes ire relicta tuas!
[and that I watch your galleys leave as I am left behind!]
si tibi iam reditusque placent patriique Penates,
[If already thoughts of returning, and the gods of your native country please you]
non ego sum classi sarcina magna tuae.
[for my part, I am not the great prize of your own fleet.]
victorem captiva sequar, non nupta maritum;
[let me follow the victor as a captive, not the bride of husbands;]
est mihi, quae lanas molliat, apta manus. 70
[my hand is skilled, and it knows how to make wool soft.]
inter Achaeiadas longe pulcherrima matres
in thalamos coniunx ibit eatque tuos,
[among the matrons of Greek men, the most beautiful wife by far will go and enter your chambers,]
digna nurus socero, Iovis Aeginaeque nepote,
[worthy to be the daughter in law to father - in -law and grandson of Jove and Aegina,]
cuique senex Nereus prosocer esse velit.
[and to whom old Nereus even wishes to be a grandfather in law.]
nos humiles famulaeque tuae data pensa trahemus, 75
[I, alongside your lowly housemaids, will take on the chores assigned to us,]
et minuent plenas stamina nostra colos.
[and our woofs will thread down entire cloths.]
exagitet ne me tantum tua, deprecor, uxor—
[I pray now, don't let your own wife wear me down so much--]
quae mihi nescio quo non erit aequa modo—
[she will not be, in any way I can imagine, fair-minded to me now--]
neve meos coram scindi patiare capillos
et leviter dicas:
[nor allow me to suffer in your presence to have my hair cut, and then you say in jest:]
'haec quoque nostra fuit.' 80
["This girl is mine too."]
vel patiare licet, dum ne contempta relinquar—
[or let me suffer, so long as I am not abandoned, as a figure of your scorn--]
hic mihi vae!
[O what a wicked place this is to me!]
miserae concutit ossa metus.
[Fear now shatters the bones of a miserable girl.]
Quid tamen expectas?
[And yet, what do you expect?]
Agamemnona paenitet irae,
[You made Agamemnon pay for the wrath you felt,]
et iacet ante tuos Graecia maesta pedes.
[and sorrowful Greece now lies before your feet.]
vince animos iramque tuam, qui cetera vincis! 85
[Lock your passions and that wrath of yours up: you have now conquered everything else!]
quid lacerat Danaas inpiger Hector opes?
[Why had rowdy Hector offended the wealth of the Greeks?]
arma cape, Aeacide,
[Take arms, son of Aeacus]
sed me tamen ante recepta,
[but nevertheless, even before I was received,]
et preme turbatos Marte favente viros!
[also stamp out whole throngs of men, because Mars so favors it!]
propter me mota est, propter me desinat ira,
[On my account was your anger stirred, so let it cease for my sake too]
simque ego tristitiae causa modusque tuae. 90
[and for my part, let me be the cause of your grief and redemption.]
nec tibi turpe puta precibus succumbere nostris;
[don't think it worthless to be soothed by my entreaties;]
coniugis Oenides versus in arma prece est.
[the poetry of Oenos' wife was prayer to arms.]
res audita mihi, nota est tibi.
[I hear of the affair, and you know it.]
devovit nati spemque caputque parens.
[A women, bereft of her brothers, now curses, while she obeys the hope and intention of a son.]
[There was a war;]
ille ferox positis secessit ab armis 95
[That fierce fellow departed from the clash of arms, once it settled down, ]
et patriae rigida mente negavit opem.
[and he refused the fortune of his country, because of his unyielding mind.]
sola virum coniunx flexit.
[Only his wife wept for the man.]
at mea pro nullo pondere verba cadunt.
[But my words now fall for no importance at all.]
nec tamen indignor nec me pro coniuge gessi
saepius in domini serva vocata torum.
[and yet, neither am I undeserving, nor, more often than not, have I acted like a wife, when the 'slave girl' is beckoned to her master's bedroom.]
me quaedam, memini, dominam captiva vocabat.
[I remember how a certain woman called me "mistress."]
'servitio,' dixi, 'nominis addis onus.'
[I responded her, "You are adding the burden of a title to my servitude."]
Per tamen ossa viri subito male tecta sepulcro,
[And yet, alongside the bones of a husband, will I be buried right away by an evil tomb, ]
semper iudiciis ossa verenda meis;
[and ever will these bones be worshipped in accordance to my decrees;]
perque trium fortes animas, mea numina, fratrum, 105
[and for the three brave spirits of my brothers, my guardian spirits,]
qui bene pro patria cum patriaque iacent;
[those who lie in peace in the service of their nation, and alongside their nation;]
perque tuum nostrumque caput,
[and along your head, and my own,]
quae iunximus una,
[things which I bound together,]
perque tuos enses, cognita tela meis—
[and beside your swords, and spears they've come to known--]
nulla Mycenaeum sociasse cubilia mecum
[I swear that no man from Mycene had ever mingled in the bedroom at my side;]
fallentem deseruisse velis! 110
[you wish that you had deserted a lying girl!]
si tibi nunc dicam, fortissime:
[If now I could speak to you, who are the strongest man of all, I'd say:]
'tu quoque iura
nulla tibi sine me gaudia capta!' neges.
["It is you too who should swear that that you took no joys without me!". But you will refuse this.]
at Danai maerere putant—
[But the Greeks think it right to grieve--]
tibi plectra moventur,
[and the harps are stirred for you,]
te tenet in tepido mollis amica sinu!
[and your gentle lady holds you in your frightened lap!]
et quisquam quaerit, quare pugnare recuses? 115
[And some one might ask, "Why do you refuse to fight?"]
[Fighting pains him,]
citharae voxque Venusque iuvant.
[and harps, and single, and Love please him.]
tutius est iacuisse toro, tenuisse puellam,
[It is safer for him to have laid down in his bed, and held his girl tight,]
Threiciam digitis increpuisse lyram,
[and to have strummed his Thracian harp with his fingers,]
quam manibus clipeos et acutae cuspidis hastam,
et galeam pressa sustinuisse coma. 120
[than to have taken up his shields and a spear of sharp point in his hands, and a helmet upon his pressed-down hair.]
Sed tibi pro tutis insignia facta placebant,
[But the tokens made for the sake of safe men pleased you,]
partaque bellando gloria dulcis erat.
[and glory in battle then became a sweet thing to you.]
an tantum dum me caperes,
[Or rather, only so long as you had me in your custody,]
fera bella probabas,
[did you used to think fierce battles to be good,]
cumque mea patria laus tua victa iacet?
[and does your reputation now lie defeated, alongside my own nation?]
[ye gods, all the better!]
validoque, precor, vibrata lacerto 125
transeat Hectoreum Pelias hasta latus!
[I pray, wide Pelias, brandishing with his sturdy shoulder, comes across Hector's way, with a spear!]
mittite me, Danai!
[Send me away, Greeks!]
dominum legata rogabo
[I will ask my master to send messengers]
multaque mandatis oscula mixta feram.
[and I will bear the many kisses that have been mixed with messages.]
plus ego quam Phoenix, plus quam facundus Ulixes,
plus ego quam Teucri, credite, frater agam.
[Believe me, really, I'm worth more than Phoenix, more than clever Ulysses, more than Teucer, my brother.]
est aliquid collum solitis tetigisse lacertis,
[It must have been something for me to have wrapped your neck around with my familiar arms,]
praesentisque oculos admonuisse sui.
[and to have given attention to the eyes of her man standing before her.]
sis licet inmitis matrisque ferocior undis,
ut taceam, lacrimis conminuere meis.
[If not then, then stay a savage, and be fiercer than your mother's waves, so that I can be silent, and you can be diminished by these tears of mine.]
Nunc quoque—sic omnes Peleus pater inpleat annos, 135
[Even now--let father Peleus thusly complete all the years of his life,]
sic eat auspiciis Pyrrhus ad arma tuis!—
[and let Pyrrhus thusly strive for arms by your own auspices!--]
respice sollicitam Briseida, fortis Achille,
[look back, mighty Achilles, at your worried woman, Briseis,
nec miseram lenta ferreus ure mora!
[and don't continue to torch your miserable girl with sluggish dallying, as if made of iron!]
aut, si versus amor tuus est in taedia nostri,
[or, if your love was done to cause my troubles,]
quam sine te cogis vivere, coge mori! 140
[just as you force me to live without you, force your own delay!]
utque facis, coges.
[As you are accustomed to do, you will force it.]
abiit corpusque colorque;
[Your figure, and its beautiful tone fade away;]
sustinet hoc animae spes tamen una tui.
[and yet, a single hope replaces this, you heart.]
qua si destituor,
[And if I'm truly bereaved,]
repetam fratresque virumque—
[let me search again for my brothers, and my husband--]
nec tibi magnificum femina iussa mori.
[and don't delay
cur autem iubeas?
[And yet, why do you order it?]
stricto pete corpora ferro; 145
[Seek corpses for your drawn sword;]
est mihi qui fosso pectore sanguis eat.
[Let the blood that flows in my empty chest flow.]
me petat ille tuus,
[Let that man of yours seek me out,]
qui, si dea passa fuisset,
[he who, if the goddess could manage to endure it,]
ensis in Atridae pectus iturus erat!
[a sword could have been plunged through the heart of Atreus' son!]
A, potius serves nostram, tua munera, vitam!
[A, if only you could save my life, and your prize!]
quod dederas hosti victor, amica rogo. 150
[Whatever you had given to your foe, as the victor, I ask, as your girlfriend.]
perdere quos melius possis, Neptunia praebent
[the very men that you might manage to lay waste to, let Neptune in Pergama provide;]
materiam caedis ab hoste pete.
[seek out things you can slaughter from your foe.]
me modo, sive paras inpellere remige classem,
sive manes, domini iure venire iube!
[only, order me to come, in the role of my master, whether you plan to set your fleet going upon your oar, or as a ghost!]