Love And War by Ovid

Lovers all are soldiers, and Cupid has his campaigns:
I tell you, Atticus, lovers all are soldiers.
Youth is fit for war, and also fit for Venus.
Imagine an aged soldier, an elderly lover!
A general looks for spirit in his brave soldiery;
a pretty girl wants spirit in her companions.
Both stay up all night long, and each sleeps on the ground;
one guards his mistress’s doorway, one his general’s.
The soldier’s lot requires far journeys; send his girl,
the zealous lover will follow her anywhere.
He’ll cross the glowering mountains, the rivers swollen with storm;
he’ll tread a pathway through the heaped-up snows;
and never whine of raging Eurus when he sets sail
or wait for stars propitious for his voyage.
Who but lovers and soldiers endure the chill of night,
and blizzards interspersed with driving rain?
The soldier reconnoiters among the dangerous foe;
the lover spies to learn his rival’s plans.
Soldiers besiege strong cities; lovers, a harsh girl’s home;
one storms town gates, the other storms house doors.
It’s clever strategy to raid a sleeping foe
and slay an unarmed host by force of arms.
(That’s how the troops of Thracian Rhesus met their doom,
and you, O captive steeds, forsook your master.)
Well, lovers take advantage of husbands when they sleep,
launching surprise attacks while the enemy snores.
To slip through bands of guards and watchful sentinels
is always the soldier’s mission – and the lover’s.
Mars wavers; Venus flutters: the conquered rise again,
and those you’d think could never fall, lie low.
So those who like to say that love is indolent
should stop: Love is the soul of enterprise.
Sad Achilles burns for Briseis, his lost darling:
Trojans, smash the Greeks’ power while you may!
From Andromache’s embrace Hector went to war;
his own wife set the helmet on his head;
and High King Agamemnon, looking on Priam’s child,
was stunned (they say) by the Maenad’s flowing hair.
And Mars himself was trapped in The Artificer’s bonds:
no tale was more notorious in heaven.
I too was once an idler, born for careless ease;
my shady couch had made my spirit soft.
But care for a lovely girl aroused me from my sloth
and bid me to enlist in her campaign.
So now you see me forceful, in combat all night long.
If you want a life of action, fall in love.

– translated from the Latin by Jon Corelis
Ovid

On Fidelity by Ovid

I don’t ask you to be faithful – you’re beautiful, after all –
but just that I be spared the pain of knowing.
I make no stringent demands that you should really be chaste,
but only that you try to cover up.
If a girl can claim to be pure, it’s the same as being pure:
it’s only admitted vice that makes for scandal.
What madness, to confess by day what’s wrapped in night,
and what you’ve done in secret, openly tell!
The hooker, about to bed some Roman off the street
still locks her door first, keeping out the crowd:
will you yourself then make your sins notorious,
accusing and prosecuting your own crime?
Be wise, and learn at least to imitate chaste girls,
and let me believe you’re good, though you are not.
Do what you do, but simply deny you ever did:
there’s nothing wrong with public modesty.
There is a proper place for looseness: fill it up
with all voluptuousness, and banish shame;
but when you’re done there, then put off all playfulness
and leave your indiscretions in your bed.
There, don’t be ashamed to lay your gown aside
and press your thigh against a pressing thigh;
there take and give deep kisses with your crimson lips;
let love contrive a thousand ways of passion;
there let delighted words and moans come ceaselessly,
and make the mattress quiver with playful motion.
But put on with your clothes a face that’s all discretion,
and let Shame disavow your shocking deeds.
Trick everyone, trick me: leave me in ignorance;
let me enjoy the life of a happy fool.
Why must I see so often notes received – and sent?
Why must I see two imprints on your bed,
or your hair disarrayed much more than sleep could do?
Why must I notice love bites on your neck?
You all but flaunt your indiscretions in my face.
Think of me, if not of your reputation.
I lose my mind, I die, when you confess you’ve sinned;
I break out in cold sweat from hand to foot;
I love you then, and hate you – in vain, since I must love you;
I wish then I were dead – and you were too!
I won’t investigate or check whatever you try
to hide: I will be thankful to be deceived.
But even if I catch you in the very act
and look on your disgrace with my own eyes,
deny that I have seen what I have clearly seen,
and my eyes will agree with what you claim.
You’ll win an easy prize from a man who wants to lose,
only remember to say, ‘I didn’t do it.’
Since you can gain your victory with one short phrase,
win on account of your judge, if not your case.

– translated from the Latin by Jon Corelis
Ovid

Elegy 5 by Ovid, translated by Christopher Marlowe

Elegy 5
by Ovid
translated by Christopher Marlowe

In summer’s heat, and mid-time of the day,
To rest my limbs upon a bed I lay;
One window shut, the other open stood,
Which gave such light as twinkles in a wood,
Like twilight glimpse at setting of the sun,
Or night being past, and yet not day begun.
Such light to shamefaced maidens must be shown,
Where they may sport, and seem to be unknown.
Then came Corinna in a long loose gown,
Her white neck hid with tresses hanging down,
Resembling fair Semiramis going to bed
Or Lais of a thousand wooers sped.
I snatched her gown: being thin, the harm was small,
Yet strived she to be covered there withal.
And striving thus, as one that would be cast,
Betrayed herself, and yielded at the last.
Stark naked as she stood before mine eye,
Not one wen in her body could I spy.
What arms and shoulders did I touch and see!
How apt her breasts were to be pressed by me!
How smooth a belly under her waist saw I,
How large a leg, and what a lusty thigh!
To leave the rest, all liked me passing well,
I clinged her naked body, down she fell:
Judge you the rest; being tired she bade me kiss;
Jove send me more such afternoons as this!

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