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PROPERTIUS, Sextus

The Homecoming

Qualis Thesea iacuit cedente carina
    languida desertis Cnosia litoribus;
qualis et accubuit primo Cepheia somno
    libera iam duris cotibus Andromede;
nec minus assiduis Edonis fessa choreis                 
    qualis in herboso concidit Apidano:
talis visa mihi mollem spirare quietem
    Cynthia consertis nixa caput manibus,
ebria cum multo traherem vestigia Baccho,
    et quaterent sera nocte facem pueri.               
hanc ego, nondum etiam sensus deperditus omnis,
    molliter impresso conor adire toro;
et quamvis duplici correptum ardore iuberent
    hac Amor hac Liber, durus uterque deus,
subiecto leviter positam temptare lacerto                 
    osculaque admota sumere tarda manu,
non tamen ausus eram dominae turbare quietem,
    expertae metuens iurgia saevitiae;
sed sic intentis haerebam fixus ocellis,
    Argus ut ignotis cornibus Inachidos.                
et modo solvebam nostra de fronte corollas
    ponebamque tuis, Cynthia, temporibus;
et modo gaudebam lapsos formare capillos;
    nunc furtiva cavis poma dabam manibus:
...
et quotiens raro duxti suspiria motu,
    obstupui vano credulus auspicio,
ne qua tibi insolitos portarent visa timores,
    neve quis invitam cogeret esse suam:                 
donec diversas praecurrens luna fenestras,
    luna moraturis sedula luminibus,
compositos levibus radiis patefecit ocellos.
    sic ait in molli fixa toro cubitum:
'tandem te nostro referens iniuria lecto 
    alterius clausis expulit e foribus?
namque ubi longa meae consumpsti tempora noctis,
    languidus exactis, ei mihi, sideribus?
o utinam talis perducas, improbe, noctes,
    me miseram qualis semper habere iubes!
 nam modo purpureo fallebam stamine somnum,
    rursus et Orpheae carmine, fessa, lyrae;
interdum leviter mecum deserta querebar
    externo longas saepe in amore moras:
dum me iucundis lassam Sopor impulit alis.      
  illa fuit lacrimis ultima cura meis.'

Just as Ariadne lay on that empty shore,
while that Knossan keel slowly fell away;
Just as Cepheus’ Andromeda dozed on the
ground, at last free from that comfortless rock;
As anyone would collapse onto a lush bank,
no less spent from those long Thracian dances:
Like this Cynthia seemed, peaceful with soft breathing,
her tired head resting on her entwined hands,
As I dragged my drunken steps, steeped in wine, in the
dead of night, while the boys brandished torches.
Sensation not yet wholly lost, I tried to ap-
-proach gently, using the bed as support;
And though gripped by the fire of a dual passion, lust
and fervour, both harsh masters, bidding me
to try to slide my arm under her and to raise
her up and to steal feverish kisses,
I still did not dare to disturb my bed mate’s rest,
fearing those quarrels of proven rancour;
Instead, I held on there, stuck, with my eyes affixed
like Argus’ on Io’s peculiar horns.
And then I untied the garlands on my forehead
And put them ’round your temples, Cynthia;
And then I was playing gaily with your loose curls,
now I put cautious gifts in your cupped hands;

And each time a breath was drawn with abrupt motion,
I was shocked into believing false signs,
That some vision brought you unusual terror
or someone forced you, averse, to be his:
Until the moon glided through each of those windows,
a restless moon with a lingering light,
It opened her closed eyes with its gentle lustre.
This she said, her elbow in the soft bed:
‘Has someone’s insults ousted you out of closed doors,
and, at last, brought you back here to our bed?
And where did you spend these long hours of our night,
you now worn out, lord, the stars now dimming ?
Oh, if only you could have one night, bastard, like
the ones you have often forced me to have!
For, just now, I resisted sleep with my weaving,
and, then, tired, with the music of a lyre.
I would sometimes softly lament my solitude,
the long stretches of my lover’s absence
as sleep brushed me, exhausted, with its fair wings.
That was my very last fear as I wept.’


t ranslation : Henry EDWARDS