Ovid
Tristia

[ 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 ]

I.1
You will go, my little book, without me to the city, but I don't envy you.
Go on - go to the city forbidden to me - forbidden to your master.
You will go, but go unpolished, as suits the book of an exile:
Unhappy, then, you bear the bearing of these times.
Neither let the hyacinths veil you in purplish pretence -
(That color does not become our sorrow) -
Nor let your title be written in red-lead,
Nor your paper distinguished by the cedar's wood.
No, my little book, nor let yourself bear white spine and black binding.
Let the lucky little books furnish these fine things:
You just remember my fate.
Do not let the brittle pumice finish your pages, front and back -
Avoid it, and so go as bedraggled as dishevelled hair.
Do not be ashamed of your blots: the man who sees them
Will realize they are the stains of my tears.
Now go, my little book, and with written words welcome those welcome places:
At least I will touch them with what foot I may.
If some one of the multitude has forgotten me,
And, by chance, asks after me,
Reply that I live - but deny that I live well;
And this - that I live - I have as a gift of god.
And then you shut up - those seeking more must read more -
And do not - since there is no lack of unfinished reading - say too much
By accident - be careful about this!
Deep into the poem the wary reader will deduce my crimes,
And by word of mouth condemn me from coast to coast.
Be careful, my little book, to brush off their words, however they may hurt you.
Their weak pretext will be more convincing than our defence.
You will meet someone who sighs for me - for this exile,
Who will read through your poems with teary eyes,
And then quiet - and alone - so no malicious man will hear,
He wishes for my punishment to be alleviated by a gentle Caesar:
And I ask that this man, took, whoever he may be, is not himself a miserable man,
Who wishes that gods were placated by misery.
Each thing he wishes - may it be granted, and when Caesar's powerful wrath
Has subdued, let my body decay by my father's own grave.
As you meet my demands, little book, you will be dismissed,
Perhaps valued as unworthy the praise of my ability.
To seek out the time and circumstances of composition is the critic's job -
You will be safe when these things have been looked into.
Poetry is woven out by a mind at rest:
My situation has been clouded over by unexpected evils.
Unwritten poetry wants solitude and leisure:
The wild winter tosses me about, the waves and the winds.
All sorts of fears prevent my writing: one moment I fear
A sword will slit my throat, the next that I am dead.
A fair judge will be amazed by these lines I write,
And read what he sees with a forgiving eye.
Give me Homer, beset the man with such distractions,
And all genius is lost to misfortune.
And so go on, my little book, unworried about fame,
And do not be ashamed to disappoint your reader.
For fortune has not presented such prosperity
That you must prove to her the grounds for praise.
The love of a title did impress me as a safe man,
And I was eager to make a name for myself.
But now, if it weren't for the helpless attachment I feel, which gets in the way,
It would be enough for me to simply hate poetry.
It's true, this exile is the result of my - cleverness.
But go for me - since you may go - and look on Rome!
Were the gods willing, I'd become my book right now!
Do not think that you, though a stranger to the great city,
Will be able to mix as a mystery amongst the people.
Though you have no title, you will be known by your color:
You wish to go unknown, but it is clear that you are mine.
But do go secretly, so that my poems do not harm you:
They are not, as they once were, so full of acclamation.
Should you be held unreadable because you are mine,
And the reader toss you out of his lap,
Then tell him, "Read my title. I'm not the love-teaching book
Which deserved the scorn he brought on."
Maybe you're waiting - waiting for my command to climb the Palatine Hill,
To climb to the home of Caesar?
Oh, that the Augustan empire and the gods', too, would forgive me!
From that immortal height the thunderbolt has fallen on my skull.
Oh yes, I remember - the immortals enthroned there are most gentle -
But I fear those gods who have done me harm.
You, hawk, the slightest swish of wings terrifies a dove,
As though she were ripped by your claws.
Far from the field no lamb dares to wander, for fear
She'd find a new shape in the jaws of a bloodthirsty wolf.
Old Phaethon defied the sky - yes - but if he'd lived on,
Having foolishly tried to guide Apollo's horses,
Then he'd never wish to touch another one.
So it is with me, I admit that I fear - having felt - Jove's power.
I believe when it thunders that I am being attacked by a dangerous fire.
A Greek fleet fled from ship-wrecking Caphereus always
Twists her sails away from the Euboean.
And my own little boat, after she was knocked around by great waves,
Shudders to hear of the sea that has hurt her.
So beware, my little book, and go fearfully courageous, and cautious.
And let it satisfy you to be read by the masses.
For while weak-winged Icarus sought great heights,
He sacrificed his name to the sea.
From here it is still hard to say whether you should use oars or wind.
Both your situation and destination have their say in that.
Be introduced, if you can, when he is at leisure, and you see that all is calm,
And his anger towards the people has subsided.
If someone then reports that you come to him unsure and afraid,
And even says a few words first, then go.
On a good day and luckier than your master
You will arrive there and ease my pain.
For either noone can ease that pain, or - as it was for Achilles -
Only the man who hurt me can do it.
Yes, and do see to it, my little book, to avoid doing harm while you wish to do good!
For my heart is more fearful than hopeful.
Each man rests, so do not stir his anger again to rage -
Then you yourself would be another cause for punishment - be careful!
Nevertheless, after you are received at my house,
And you reach your home, a curving bookcase:
You will see there your brothers, standing in a row,
All of these books awakened by the same persistent devotion.
The others will display their titles clearly,
And bear uncovered his own name on front.
You will see there of them, hiding far off in a dark corner;
And these teach how to love, though everyone knows that -
These you will either desert, or, if you have the voice for it,
You should call them Oedipus and Telegonus.
And of these three, if you care for your father, do not love any,
Though it may itself teach of love.
There are also fifteen books of metamorphoses there -
Fifteen books of poems, stolen not long ago from my ashes.
Please say that among those altered bodies
The face of my fortune may now be included.
How quickly my luck has changed - how unlike what it was,
Now so gloomy which was so bright.
If you'd ask I will demand even more from you,
But I'm afraid to be the cause of further delay,
And if you bear all these assignments, my little book,
Then greatly burdened your bearing will be.
The road is long, so hurry! The far reaches
Of the globe will have us, a land far away from the land that is now my own.

I.2
Oh please! Please, please, you gods of sea and sky (for what do I have left but these wishes?) -
Cease to wrench apart the planks of my little raft!
I beg you, do not encourage the great wrath of Caesar!
I beg you, for sometimes when one god assails, another brings aid.
Vulcan once sided against Troy while Apollo stood beside it:
Venus favored the Trojans, while Minerva was against them.
Juno hated Aeneas more than she did King Turnus:
And yet that man was protected by the power of Venus.
As many times as an unbridled Neptune sought out the guarded Ulysses;
So often Minerva rescued him, as though she were his uncle.
And so is there one for me? Whatever difference may be between us,
Who will shield me against the will of an angry god?
But I am a wretched thing! I waste these helpless words in vain,
These burdened lips spray themselves with rivers of language,
The violent wind rattles my words, my prayers carried to gods imperturbable.
And those very same winds (to ensure that I am not ruined in only one way)
Carry my sails as well as my hopes, to where I do not know.
Wretched, wretched! Such mountains of water twisting all around.
Look now and you'd think the stars within reach,
Such valleys dropped into the divided sea!
Look again and you'd say dark Tartarus is at hand, for I see only sea and sky,
Here a swell of waves, there the daunting clouds.
And between these howl and hum the gusting winds.
A wave of the sea knows no master.
For as the East wind chases men from the blushing dawn,
So the West wind rushes from the evening's dusk,
The North wind rages, cold and dry from the night,
As the swirling South wind beats upon us.
The steersman stands uncertainly at the helm -
He can't decide wether to turn or press on?
His skill undone by disasters threatening.
So now we die, no hope of safety remains,
And even as I speak, the waves wash over.
My spirit is burdened by the billow,
And in vain my mouth cries out to beg, drinking the drowning waters.
But my devoted wife cries over nothing other than my exile:
Which is all she knows of me - her only grievable grief.
She doesn't know my body is tossed about on the boundless sea,
Driven by the winds - on the brink of violent death.
It's just as well I did not allow her to embark with me,
And so there are not two deaths for my poor soul to suffer!
But now, as I die, since my wife is free from danger,
I know that half of me lives on.
Gods help me! The clouds flicker faster than fire!
What a crash resounds from the high heavens!
The ship's planks are beat with no less force than
The laden load of a missle crashing a city wall.
That wave bearing down - it towers over all of us;
Following after the ninth and before the eleventh waves
I do not fear death; but this sort of a death is a wretched thing.
So bury this shipwreck - go on - my death would be your gift.
It really is something, in dying, be it destined or self-inflicted,
To lay a fallen body in solid ground.
It is something, and to somehow give over to your own people,
And hope for a proper burial.
And it is something - really something - to avoid becoming fish food.
But suppose I deserve such a violent death, still,
I'd not go down alone. Why carry my punishment to the undeserving?
For the gods of the sky and of the lush land, to whom the sea is dear,
Both of you now stop threatening me:
Whatever life the most gentle wrath of Caesar has given,
Allow one luckless man passage to the savage land commanded.
If you wish to ruin me by such punishment as I deserve,
Then my fault wants something less than death.
Had Caesar wished to send me amongst the shadows by the River Styx,
He wouldn't have needed your power to do it.
My blood - my spilled blood - it isn't what he wants.
Whatever he's given, he'll take away at will.
I'd say with confidence that I have in no way offended you gods by my crime,
So be satisfied already, I beg you, be satisfied with my misfortune!
Do not, however, wish to save my wretched,
My lost soul - by now my life is beyond your salvation.
Though the sea subsides and I sail by the rushing winds,
And though you spare my life, no less an exile will I be!
I do not plough this wide sea as one driven by
An endless greed, nor to trade with merchants:
Nor do I seek that place for which I once hungered, Athens,
Nor the towns of Asia, nor any of the places I've seen before.
Nor that I - carried off to that reknowned city -
May look upon the charms of Alexandria, nor the merry Nile;
I want easy winds - whoever can believe it? -
Easy winds I want, for the Sarmatian place my sails are seeking.
I am under obligation to reach the savage shores of unlucky Pontus;
Oh gods, and my flight of exile is so slow!
I don't know where I should find Tomitans settled in this world,
I'm an exile by my own making.
Gods, whether you love me (subdue those great waves!)
And your divine will favors my raft;
Or hate me; whatever you feel, turn my ship to land commanded:
Part of my punishment is the place of exile itself.
Carry my body away - what am I to do just here? - you swift winds, carry me!
Why do my sails long for Italian shores?
Such is not the wish of Caesar.
What do you want with me? What are you holding onto which Caesar has chased away?
May the Black Sea show herself to me.
What Caesar commands I have deserved. I don't pretend to have been sentenced
For crimes defensible by divine power or piety.
If, however, no mortal deed has ever deceived the gods,
You know this crime is not my fault.
No - no - I am mistaken - for if the mistake were not mine,
If this foolish mind were not mine, then this foolish mind would not be so riddled with guilt.
For, granting this very little, I have succeeded if I have pleased that man,
If the slander on my name satisfies Augustus:
If, during his rule, I sang of happy times, and for the sake of
Caesar and his dear family have burned incense:
If in this I was spirited, then - please gods - spare my life!
If less, then may my failing breath drown beneath the rushing water on high!
Am I deceived, or are the thick clouds overhead breaking?
And the sea subdued by some sort of change?
It cannot be by chance! But you - you gods - invoked by my misfortune,
You who cannot be deceived - yes, you - it is you who have brought me this aid.

I.3
When the forbidding echo of that night advances,
Of my final minutes in Rome,
When I recollect that night, leaving so many dear ones behind,
Even now a tear-drop falls from my eyes.
Dawn was near, and Caesar ordered me
To depart from the tip of Southern Italy.
I did not have enough time! And I didn't have the heart to go!
My mind had become numb during the long delay.
I had no thought of what slaves, what companions to take,
Nor what clothes or resources are appropriate for an exile.
I'd been struck dumb – as one beaten by Jove's thunder
Who lives on, unaware of his own life.
Still, the painful numbing did lift my heart's cloud,
And at last I recovered my senses,
And – soon to depart – I spoke for the last time to each of my sad friends –
My friends, who had to that day been so many.
My loving wife had kept back the bitter tears,
But the rain of sadness finally fell away from here eyes – eyes deserving so much more.
If she had been born far away – far off, in some remote place, by Libyan shores –
Still she would be as certain of my fate.
Look where you will! The grief, the groaning sounds return,
And from inside me the figure of a corpse is revealed.
So I and my wife, and our sons, too, did grieve there at my funeral,
Every corner of our home drenched in tears.
If you will allow me to compare that – that insignificance – to grand examples,
My departure had the aspect of Troy the day it was taken.
For a long time the domestic voices of people, of dogs –
For a long time they were at peace,
And Diana guided her chariot of the night.
Yes, yes, I can see her now – the moon, I see her, looking up at the sky, and by her light I see how different is this place from the Capitoline Hill in Rome.
Rome – I had mistaken it for my home!
"Oh you gods, you sitting side by side on your thrones," I cry,
"My eyes must never look upon your temples again, and so
I must abandon you – you whom lofty Rome claims for herself.
Oh, but I worship you in every moment!
But this is all too late for me, too late! For here I am,
Wielding my Roman shield only after exacting these wounds.
Please gods, please do not hate this exile – this deserving man whose mistake will follow and cheat him,
Speak up! Speak up for a man who maintains that the crime accused is not his doing!
All you gods know – Caesar himself, the executioner of this punishment, knows
That I could never seem to worthless to an unangry god."
With such prayer did I invoke the almighty gods,
Though my sobbing (oh my wife, my wife of so many years!) broke through every uttered word.
My wife, even before she reached our old home – her hair all dishevelled – to lay in bed, upon my extinguished funeral pyre; there, in a trembling voice,
My wife did rail against the household gods, the Penates,
For the sake of her lost man – all to no avail.
For the rushing night denied any delay,
As the Big Bear, turned by its own chariot, took over the northern sky.
What should I do now? I feel myself held back by some –
Some temptation to love my fatherland:
But that night, that last night, was the night of a condemned exile.
Ah! How often have I said, hurrying off somewhere, "What are you pressing upon?
You are either hurrying off to someplace or hurrying back – look at yourself!"
How many times I've lied – kept a fixed hour in mind to suit my intentions.
Three times I reached the door – three times I was called back again, and so my lingering
Foot indulged my heart, and delayed my departure.
Though I said goodbye many times, I kept turning back to say more,
And then, as if I were dying, I gave one final kiss.
I kept repeating the same orders to the household, and then I even deceived myself,
Turning my eyes back to search for pledges of love.
Finally I said, "Why am I hurrying on? To become a nomad – a Scythian – to the place I have been sent.
As Rome must be forsaken, so these delays are just!
My wife forever denied her living husband,
And oh! My faithful family – its every beloved member.
I have loved each one as a brother.
If only my feelings were united in the flitting faith of Theseus!
And yet, were it allowed, I would embrace each and every one.
Perhaps I will never be granted more than this; I have only that which a single hour provides."
I could not simply and suddenly abandon my unfinished words,
Though each person circled round me, and attached himself to my very soul.
While I spoke, while we wept, the most brilliant light did shine above in the high heavens,
For the oppressive star had come to us – it was Lucifer, the morning star.
I was divided, cleft into two parts, exactly as though I had lost a limb,
And a part of me seemed to be severed from my own body.
Such pain did Mettus once suffer, when his avengers
Turned their horses away in treason.
Then, indeed, a great cry of sorrow rose up, as did my own grieving soul,
And all the forces of dejection struck dead my naked heart.
Even my wife, clinging to my shoulders,
Confounded my tears with these sad parting words:
"You cannot be torn away from me. You cannot leave me – we will both go," she cried,
"I will follow you, and as the wife of an exile I shall be an exile myself.
I know the way – the far reaches of the earth call to me:
I will come to you, I will come bearing the small luggage of a determined exile.
As Caesar's wrath demands that you leave your fatherland,
So my devotion guides me: for devotion shall be my Caesar."
She tried this way, as she had tried before,
And scarcely gained an advantage.
Roughly, I turned to leave her (is this tale without a funeral after all?),
Her hair falling loose at the prickly sight.
The woman went mad, I am told, and in all her sorrow she
Collapsed inside our home, rising up now and again, half-dead.
And when she awoke, her hair defiled by the foul
Dirt, she lifted her cold limbs from the ground,
By herself, only to lament, violently and loudly, all the household gods who had deserted her.
Again and again she cried out the name of the man who had crept away,
Groaning, sighing, moaning no less than if she had seen our daughter's body piled with my own – piled on a funeral pyre,
And she wished to die, to forsake all her senses and die,
And yet she did not die, and it was out of respect for me.
Oh, let her live! The gods commanded this distance between us,
So let her live, and please, every day, relieve the woman of her troubles as though with my very own assistance.

I.4
The ocean, the far-reaching ocean dampens the Erymanthian attendant of Ursa,
And with the constellation itself she hurls the wide water headlong into chaos.
Though we cut willingly through this Ionian water,
It is courage collected by fear.
What a miserable thing I am! The sea swells about me, and with such winds!
From the lowest channels seethes the turning sand!
A wave leaps, leaps high as a mountain, into the curved bow, into the curved stern,
And thrashes there the painted gods.
The pine-wood resounds with the blows, the halyards creak,
And the keel itself groans for our misfortune.
The sailor, his chilling fear betrayed by his pallor,
Obeys only the wind now, his master! – he guides the vessel with skill no longer.
Just as a powerless driver, gaining no ground,
May relax the reins from his horse's rigid neck,
So it is not to where the helmsman wishes, but to where the violence of waves is snatching us,
That I watch him set sail.
And now, should Aeolus dispatch no different wind,
I will be carried to those places which will not come to me.
For Illyria has been left far behind,
And there is Italy – forbidden Italy! – I can see her shores.
Desist, you winds – I beg you, desist! Cease to stretch for the forbidden land,
And yield with me to almighty god.
Even as I speak, both fearing and longing to be driven back,
A wave has rattled the ship's flanks - rattled them so forcefully!
Spare me! Please, please spare me the might of the deep sea,
And let the aggression of Jove suffice.
Steal away this weary soul, I beg you! -steal me away, away from this cruel death-
That is, if a man already dead can die at all.

I.5
You – you I must mention before all others,
you, a man who saw his fate in my own.
Oh yes, I remember, I remember the words you spoke,
Most beloved man, and it was you who dared – before all others – to support me when I was terrified – terrified senseless,
And you who gently counselled me to live on,
Though a death wish was lodged in my wretched heart,
Yes you! You know well to whom I am speaking – these signals stand in place of your name,
My friend, and your devotion has not led me astray.
In my deepest heart all this will remain, always,
And for this life I shall be in your everlasting debt.
My breath – this breath of life – will fade, thin, into the empty air,
Fade away and leave these bones on a warm funeral pyre
Before the memory of your merits could ever pass from my soul –
Or your steadfast devotion escape a single day.
May the gods favor you – may they present to you a life wanting nothing – a fate unlike my own.
Nevertheless, if it were a well-wishing wind tapping this ship along,
Then perhaps I would neglect you, ignore your faithfulness.
For Pirithous would not have felt – have known Theseus to be such a friend,
Had he not travelled to hell’s waterways, alive;
You Furies, you tormented sad Orestes
To make Pylades a model of true love;
Had Euryalus not fallen into the Rutulian’s hostile hands,
There would be no glory for Nisus-
Yes, it’s true: as tawny gold is examined under the flames of fire,
So must faithfulness be examined during hard times.
While Chance herself gratifies – smiles serenely,
Then all resources, all means, all power follow her – undiminished.
But away they fly – away at once when it has thundered – and he is known to no one
Who had just then been surrounded by throngs of friendly faces.
And these things – once borrowed from examples past –
I now know as truths – recognisable truths, told by my misfortune.
Scarcely two – at best, three friends remain to me;
The others have not been my friends, but the friends of Fortune.
And so all the more, you few who remain! All the more, please hurry and help me with these setbacks, these injuries,
And guide this shipwreck, this ruin to safe shores!
Oh, frightened people, please! Do not fear with false apprehensions,
For your faithfulness could displease no god!
Even in those arms raised against him Caesar has often praised faith – faith itself –
Something he loves in his own people – and approves of in his enemies.
My own excuse is better, as I have fostered no hostility – no arms –
Though I deserved this exile for my guilelessness.
I beg you, therefore, please! -pray for my misfortunes,
If ever divine anger can be diminished.
Should anyone want to know – actually know, all of those misfortunes,
Then he seeks to know more than could possibly to be done.
I have endured as many disasters as there are stars shining above,
As many atoms of dry dust hold minuscule bodies:
And I have endured much that is beyond belief, though true;
Though such has befallen me, no faith could grasp it.
Some of these things should die with me, of course,
And I wish I could conceal them, disguise them.
Had I an unbreakable voice, a brazen will,
And so many mouths and tongues – had I these things,
Still, for all of it I could not gather all the words;
It is an ability exceeding my own powers.
You! You poets – you learned, learned men, instead of that – that Ulysses – write you now of my misfortune:
For I have suffered more than that – that man.
That man – he wandered for many years, wandered the short space between his Dulichian and Trojan homes:
By every star I trust the distance to carry me away, to carry me to the Getic gulf.
That man had a trust band of men, faithful friends:
In exile I left all friends behind.
That man sought his own homeland out with the joy of a victor:
Vanquished, I flee my country, exiled.
No home awaits me in Dulichium, in Ithaca, in Samos,
From which grand places it is no real punishment to leave,
But from the seven hills of Rome one sees the entire world,
Rome! -the seat of sovereignty, the seat of gods.
That man’s body had been hard – had been capable of enduring great labor:
My own powers are but feeble, delicate.
That man had been engaged – had been driven about, continuously, in cruel battle:
I have been immersed in these soft studies.
Yes, and god crushes me down, crushes me! and no god mitigates my misfortune:
Though the warrior goddess, Pallas, used her power to help that other man.
And though the swollen waves’ commander, Neptune, did fiercely pursue that other man,
Yet Neptune is less than Jove, whose wrath hunts me down, persecutes me.
Add to this, that the great majority of that – that man’s – labors, were only fictions,
While no myth – no drama – colors my own misfortune.
Finally, that man, despite all, did reach the home he set out for – despite everything, he stepped again in his own land:
But my country – my homeland, my fatherland – is lost to me – lost forever,
Forever lost – that is, unless the wrath of a god offended can somehow be altered.

I.6
Lyde, the Clarian poet's prize, was not so esteemed,
Nor Bittis so passionately loved by her Coan
As you, my wife – you, joined, clinging to my heart,
Deserving a happier man than I – not a better man, no – not a man more honest, more upstanding – but a man less miserable, pitiable,
For you have held me up – you have shored my ruin as a support beam:
If I am anyone now, anyone at all – then it is a favor, a gift from you.
You ensure that I am not robbed – that I am not deprived by men who Would raven even the planks of this little shipwreck.
For, just as a bloodthirsty wolf – driven by hunger – pounces upon an unguarded egg,
Or as a voracious vulture waits, watching for a body unburied,
So I am unaware of anyone – anyone mistakenly trusted through this dark affair,
Who – if you allowed him – would come upon my property.
Your virtue drives him off – your courage repels him, as do my steadfast friends,
People to whom I can never return proper thanks.
So you see, you have proven yourself, my beloved wife, to real onlookers as well as your wretched husband,
If only this testimony carried any weight.
Ah, but no wife of Hector precedes your propriety,
Nor Laodamia, destroyed at her husband's side.
Had you obtained Homer as your poet,
Then Penelope's fame would follow your own.
Ah, with Homer as your poet you would have secured spot amongst heroines hallowed – demigoddesses,
Yes, seen first and foremost for the basic good in your spirit:
Whether you owe yourself for this – for this godliness untaught,
For this moral character, bestowed upon you the moment you came to light,
Whether you owe yourself, or owe that First Lady – that cultured woman who, through all the years, has taught you how to be a model wife, and-
If a great thing be compared to some small ones-
Inundated you with her customs,
But come on! Come now! -these lines I write are powerless, and your very deservedness does tie up my tongue,
And if an energy, a vitality, once resided in me,
Then it has all been ruined, destroyed by my tedious, drawn misfortune!
Oh now, oh my wife, oh god, however great this poetry – however great
these lines of poetry – these published lines may be,
You, my dear, you will live forever within them.

I.7
If you – if any one of you, owns a likeness of me – a portrait, a statue –
Then kindly lift the ivy – the festive garland of Bacchus – from my hair.
Save your auspiciousness for the fortunate poets it's meant for:
That crown does not suit my circumstance.
Keep this a secret, but know – and know well that I am speaking to you,
You who carries me back and forth by your finger,
You looking upon my effigy,
You – who can cast in tawny gold this dear, beloved face.
As you look upon it, it may come to mind to remark,
“How far, far away our friend Ovid is!”
I welcome your devotion – your compassion. I do, and yet the more accurate likeness
Is made in my poetry – and I ask that you read one, such as it is,
A poem that tells of the changed forms of men,
A work that the sudden exile of its master interrupted.
As I departed –all dejected – I tossed this poem of mine, as I succeeded in tossing many,
Into a fire – burned it by my own hand.
Just as Althaea is said to have burned her own son by the brand (a better sister than a mother),
So did I place the blameless little books,
My children, to be destroyed at my side on the fierce funeral pile:
Either because I hated the Muses, those goddesses of literature, those objects of my reproach,
Or because the poetry was just coming along, rough and unpolished -
Yet, since poetry is not suffered within its author’s body, but exists on its own in the world,
I suppose that several copies of the written work survive,
And I ask now that they live on, that their
Reading delight in idle hours of leisure,
And that they remind nobody of me.
Nevertheless, they will be unreadable – unendurable
To anyone unaware that the essential finishing touches are missing.
It is a work that was laid aside, abandoned midway on the anvil,
Lacking final revisions.
And so I seek forgiveness rather than praise (I have been praised plenty already),
And I want you, my reader, to refrain from loathing me.
Take these six lines, please, and if you value
Them so, place them at the beginning of Book One:
“Whoever finds this orphaned book,
At least give it a place in your city – let it stay in Rome!
All the more you would be helping then:
These lines have not been published by myself,
But were rescued, as it were, from their master's funeral.
And so whatever imperfections the unpolished poetry will have,
I myself would have corrected – had it been allowed.”

I.8
From the sea below the streams will flow back into their
Sources, just as Apollo – the sun god – will hasten back his chariot,
As the earth will draw out the stars, and the plough divide the sky,
As the wave will form a flame, and fire form a wave,
All things are inverted, by Nature's law,
And nothing in the world will keep its course,
Everything now happening I will deny could happen at all,
And there is nothing to hold onto except by faith.
I go on about these things because I myself have been deceived – fooled by a certain man,
Whose influence I once believed would bear – would pity my wretched self.
Yes, you! Could you have been so false, so entirely deceitful, so treacherous as to forget me entirely,
And could you be so afraid to approach a man who has been shattered
That you neither consider nor console him, though he be despised,
That you refuse to join his own funeral march?
And is the name of friendship – sacred, venerable name! –
Is it also despicable to you, like some vile scum you would step on?
What, then? What happened that you refuse to call upon a friend – a friend ruined by enormous troubles,
To lift him up a little with words of encouragement,
Shed a tear for his misfortune,
Or even to suffer a few words of feigned anguish,
(And to suffer so only because the masses do – the common, ignoble masses,
-To fall in with the cry of the people, the public word),
In short, to go and find, while it is allowed, on the final day,
To go and search out for the face of a man dejected – a man never to be seen again?
To render and receive what must be spoken once more –
And once only: ‘goodbye.’
For others did so – others, with whom I shared no special ties,
Whose sorrowful tears betrayed their hearts.
What happened? What? Had I not been as one with you, enjoined for strong reasons
To your constant company, bearing my long-standing affection?
What happened? Were you unaware that we shared good times, you and I, unaware of my earnestness,
Or was I unaware of those good times – unaware of your own?
Was I unknown to you in Rome? – and not only Rome,
But in so many other places, both of us foreigners?
Is it all in vain, vanished into the air of the sea,
Borne away and buried beneath the rivers of forgetfulness, the Lethe?
No, no. I do not think you were born there in the gentle city of Romulus-
Not in that place forever denied to me.
No, you were born on the cruel rocks of the sea! Yes, on rocks whose coastline encloses Pontus – a perverse place!
Yes, and you were born on the rough mountain heights of Scythia and Samaratia,
For rock-hard veins wrap themselves round your breast,
And your hard heart holds the seeds of iron,
And you – you once drew to your infant lips
The swollen teats of your nurse – your foster mother – and she was a tigress!
Otherwise you would not so estrange yourself from my misfortune, as you do now,
Or treat me with such contempt.
But, since it only adds to my loss – my fated loss –
That our first years together were free from all of this treachery,
You had best make sure, now, make absolutely certain, that I have no memory of your sins, and
May even sing – yes, and sing in no sorrowful tone, the praises of your devotion to me.

FORUM ROMANUM