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OVIDIUS, Publius


Liber I


viribus adsumptis expalluit illa citaeque

victa labore fugae spectans Peneidas undas

“fer, pater,” inquit “opem! si flumina numen habetis,

qua nimium placui, mutando perde figuram!

vix prece finita torpor gravis occupat artus,

mollia cinguntur tenui praecordia libro,

in frondem crines, in ramos bracchia crescunt,

pes modo tam velox pigris radicibus haeret,

ora cacumen habet: remanet nitor unus in illa.

Hanc quoque Phoebus amat positaque in stipite dextra

sentit adhuc trepidare novo sub cortice pectus

conplexusque suis ramos ut membra lacertis

oscula dat ligno; refugit tamen oscula lignum.


Her strength devoured, she blanches and, defeated

by the toil of her frantic escape, implores the river,

“Father, help me! If your waters hold any power,

change that which has pleased too well: blot out my body!

Her prayer scarcely finished, a densely oppressive stillness closes in on her,

her soft breasts are encased in a thin bark,

her hair grows into leaves, her arms into branches,

her foot, so recently swift, clings to the ground with slow roots.

The tree has her face: her splendor alone remains.

But Apollo loves even this and, with his hand placed on the trunk,

still feels her heart trembling under its new skin

and embracing the branches with his own arms as though they were limbs,

he kisses the wood; yet even the wood flees his kisses.


Bevrijd me van dit lichaam dat me veel te mooi deed zijn!

Haar klacht weerklinkt nog, als een starre stijfheid haar bevangt:

haar zachte borst wordt door een dunne laag van schors omsloten,

haar armen groeien uit tot takken en haar haar tot loof,

haar voeten, eerst zo snel, zijn nu verstokt tot trage wortels,

haar hoofd wordt kruin. Haar gratie is het enige wat rest.

Nog bemint Apollo haar, zijn vingers langs de boomstam

voelen haar hart nog sidderen onder de nieuwe bast

en met zijn armen om haar takken heen, als om een lichaam,

kust hij het hout, maar zelfs het hout buigt van zijn kussen weg.

Vertaling: M. d'Hane-Scheltema


There is one, a bird, which renews itself, and reproduces from itself. The Assyrians call it the phoenix. It does not live on seeds and herbs, but on drops of incense, and the sap of the cardamom plant. When it has lived for five centuries, it then builds a nest for itself in the topmost branches of a swaying palm tree, using only its beak and talons. As soon as it has lined it with cassia bark, and smooth spikes of nard, cinnamon fragments and yellow myrrh, it settles on top, and ends its life among the perfumes.

In nova fert animus mutatas dicere formascorpora; di, coeptis (nam vos mutastis et illas)adspirate meis primaque ab origine mundiad mea perpetuum deducite tempora carmen! Ante mare et terras et quod tegit omnia caelumunus erat toto naturae vultus in orbe,quem dixere chaos: rudis indigestaque molesnec quicquam nisi pondus iners congestaque eodemnon bene iunctarum discordia semina rerum.Nullus adhuc mundo praebebat lumina Titan,nec nova crescendo reparabat cornua Phoebe,nec circumfuso pendebat in aere tellusponderibus librata suis, nec bracchia longomargine terrarum porrexerat Amphitrite;Utque erat et tellus illic et pontus et aer,sic erat instabilis tellus, innabilis unda,lucis egens aer; nulli sua forma manebat,obstabatque aliis aliud, quia corpore in unofrigida pugnabant calidis, umentia siccis, mollia cum duris, sine pondere, habentia pondus.Hanc deus et melior litem natura diremit.nam caelo terras et terris abscidit undas

My mind is bent to tell of bodies changed into new forms. Ye gods, for you yourselves have wrought the changes, breathe on these my undertakings, and bring down my song in unbroken strains from the world’s very beginning even unto the present time.

Before the sea was, and the lands, and the sky that hangs over all, the face of Nature showed alike in her whole round, which state have men called chaos: a rough, unordered mass of things, nothing at all save lifeless bulk and warring seeds of ill-matched elements heaped in one. No sun as yet shone forth upon the world, nor did the waxing moon renew her slender horns; not yet did the earth hang poised by her own weight in the circumambient air, nor had the ocean stretched her arms along the far reaches of the lands. And, though there was both land and sea and air, no one could tread that land, or swim that sea; and the air was dark. No form of things remained the same; all objects were at odds, for within one body cold things strove with hot, and moist with dry, soft things with hard, things having weight with weightless things.

God—or kindlier Nature—composed this strife; for he rent asunder land from sky, and sea from land,

Bk III: 474-510 Narcissus is changed into a flower
    He spoke, and returned madly to the same reflection, and his tears stirred the water, and the image became obscured in the rippling pool. As he saw it vanishing, he cried out ‘ Where do you fly to?  Stay, cruel one, do not abandon one who loves you! I am allowed to gaze at what I cannot touch, and so provide food for my miserable passion!’ While he weeps, he tears at the top of his clothes: then strikes his naked chest with hands of marble. His chest flushes red when they strike it, as apples are often pale in part, part red, or as grapes in their different bunches are stained with purple when they are not yet ripe.

    As he sees all this reflected in the dissolving waves, he can bear it no longer, but as yellow wax melts in a light flame, as morning frost thaws in the sun, so he is weakened and melted by love, and worn away little by little by the hidden fire. He no longer retains his colour, the white mingled with red, no longer has life and strength, and that form so pleasing to look at, nor has he that body which Echo loved. Still, when she saw this, though angered and remembering, she pitied him, and as often as the poor boy said ‘Alas!’ she repeated with her echoing voice ‘ Alas! ’ and when his hands strike at his shoulders, she returns the same sounds of pain. His last words as he looked into the familiar pool were ‘Alas, in vain, beloved boy!’ and the place echoed every word, and when he said ‘Goodbye!’ Echo also said ‘ Goodbye!

    He laid down his weary head in the green grass, death closing those eyes that had marvelled at their lord’s beauty.

    And even when he had been received into the house of shadows, he gazed into the Stygian waters. His sisters the Naiads lamented, and let down their hair for their brother, and the Dryads lamented. Echo returned their laments. And now they were preparing the funeral pyre, the quivering torches and the bier, but there was no body. They came upon a flower, instead of his body, with white petals surrounding a yellow heart.

Translation A. S. KLINE

Amores / Elegies


Aestus erat, mediamque diēs exēgerat hōram;

apposuī mediō membra levanda torō.

pars adaperta fuit, pars altera clausa fenestrae,

quāle ferē silvae lūmen habēre solent,

quālia sublūcent fugiente crepuscula Phoebō

aut ubi nox abiit nec tamen orta diēs.

illa verēcundīs lūx est praebenda puellīs,

quā timidus latebrās spēret habēre pudor.

ecce, Corinna venit tunicā vēlāta recīnctā,

candida dīviduā colla tegente comā,

quāliter in thalamōs fōrmōsa Samīramis īsse

dīcitur et multīs Lāis amāta virīs.

dēripuī tunicam; nec multum rāra nocēbat,

pugnābat tunicā sed tamen illa tegī;

cumque ita pugnāret tamquam quae vincere nōllet,

victa est nōn aegrē prōditiōne suā.

ut stetit ante oculōs positō vēlāmine nostrōs,

in tōtō nusquam corpore menda fuit:

quōs umerōs, quālēs vīdī tetigīque lacertōs!

fōrma papillārum quam fuit apta premī!

quam castīgātō plānus sub pectore venter!

quantum et quāle latus! quam iuvenāle femur!

singula quid referam? nīl nōn laudābile vīdī,

et nūdam pressī corpus ad usque meum.

cētera quis nescit? lassī requiēvimus ambō.

prōveniant mediī sīc mihi saepe diēs.

It was hot - the day already more than half gone.

I lay where I'd dropped on the bed.

It happened a window was half-open. Light filtered in

like light falling in a forest;

like the afterglow of twilight or when it's dawn

but the night hasn't quite faded.

That's the kind of dim light shy girls like - it gives

their modesty some cover.

The door opens. In comes Corinna, her dress half buttoned,

her hair fixed to show off that lovely neck.

She looked as lovely as Semiramis on her wedding night

or Lais in anyone's bed.

I tore off the dress. To make it more fun she fought

to keep the flimsy thing half on.

We struggled; I won! Her protests betrayed

the truth: she had wanted to lose.

Clothes littered the room. There stood Corinna nude.

God, what a masterpiece she was!

Looking was not enough; I had to touch those shoulders, those arms;

mold my hands round each round breast.

Her belly's subtle curves coaxed my fingers on. Soon I felt

the supple swell of hips and thighs.

But why catalogue the store of pleasure her body held?

I held her naked in my arms.

You can fantasize the rest. We were exhausted and slept.

May many afternoons be so well spent.

t ranslated by John Svarlien and Diane Arnson Svarlien

Hoogzomer was het en het middaguur juist aangebroken.

Ik lag wat uit te rusten languit op mijn bank,

het ene raamluik op een kier, het andere dichtgetrokken,

gefilterd licht, zoals soms wel in bossen hangt

of zoals hoort bij schemertijd, als Phoebus’ zon gaat kwijnen

of nacht al afscheid neemt en dag nog komen moet,

kortom, een licht dat lijkt te schijnen voor bedeesde meisjes,

wanneer hun aarzelende schaamte dekking zoekt.

Plots kwam Corinna binnen in een wolk van lichte kleren,

het haar sloot golvend om haar hals van parelmoer;

de koningin van Babylon, voortschrijdend naar het bruidsbed,

zo mooi. Zo mooi als Laïs, veel aanbeden hoer.

Ik rukte aan haar kleren die toch al niet veel verhulden.

Zij, zich verwerend, snoerde ze juist strakker aan,

maar ‘t was de afweer van een vrouw die niet wil triomferen

en zich met zelfverraad gemakkelijk laat verslaan.

Haar kleren vielen op de grond. Daar stond ze en mijn ogen

zagen haar weelde, de volmaakte lijn ervan;

haar schouders en haar armen, die ik zien mocht, die ik streelde,

haar tepels – wat een willig speelgoed in mijn hand!

Die strakgespannen buik onder haar stijf-omsnoerde borsten,

die heupen, wat een heupen! En haar meisjesbeen!

Maar moet ik alles noemen? Ik zag niets dat niet ontroerde

en trok haar naakt heel dicht tegen mijn naaktheid aan …

Wat volgt weet iedereen. Wij vielen uitgeput in slaap en

nu mag het vaak in ‘t middaguur hoogzomer slaan!

Vertaling: M. d’Hane-Scheltema

Elegy IX: Of Love and War.

Trust me, my Atticus, in love are wars;

And Cupid has his camp, as well as Mars:

The age that's fit for war best suits with love,

The old in both unserviceable prove,

Infirm in war, and impotent in love.

The soldiers which a general does require,

Are such as ladies would in bed desire:

Who but a soldier, and a lover, can

Bear the night's cold, in show'rs of hail and rain?

One in continual watch his station keeps,

Or on the earth in broken slumbers sleeps;

The other takes his still repeated round

By mistress' house — then lodges on the ground.

Soldiers, and lovers, with a careful eye,

Observe the motions of the enemy:

One to the walls makes his approach in form,

Pushes the siege, and takes the town by storm:

The other lays his close to Celia's fort,

Presses his point, and gains the wish'd-for port.

As soldiers, when the foe securely lies

In sleep, and wine dissolv'd, the camp surprise;

So when the jealous to their rest remove,

And all is hush'd, — the other steals to love.

You then, who think that love's an idle fit,

Know, that it is the exercise of wit.

In flames of love the fierce Achilles burns,

And, quitting arms, absent Briseis mourns:

From the embraces of Andromache

Went Hector arm'd for war, and victory.

As Agamemnon saw Cassandra pass

With hair dishevell'd, and disorder'd dress,

H' admir'd the beauties of the prophetess:

The god of war was caught in th' act of love;

A story know to all the court above.

Once did I pass my hours in sloth and ease,

Cool shades and beds of down could only please;

When a commanding beauty rais'd my mind,

I left all little trifling thoughts behind,

And to her service all my heart resign'd:

Since, like an active soldier, have I spent

My time in toils of war, in beauty's tent:

And for so sweet a pay all dangers underwent.

You see, my Atticus, by what I prove,

Who would not live in idleness-must love.

Transl.=: Henry CROMWELL


Where's your self-respect? If you won't keep an eye on your wife

for your own sake, then do it for the sake

of increasing my passion. There's nothing more tiresome than fair game,

or more exciting than the out-of-bounds.

The man who could love a licit woman has a heart made of iron.

Hope thrives on fear, desire on repulse!

What's the point of happiness if it's stable? What's the point

of love, without the risk of injury?

Corinna, in her wisdom, has seen this weakness in me, and understands

how to keep me in captivity.

She's feigned a million headaches, and sent me dragging my heels home

when she was feeling perfectly all right;

she's taken me to task a million times on trumped-up charges

when we both knew that I was innocent.

Then, when she had thus aroused me, prodded my embers into flame,

she once again submitted willingly.

What words of love she whispered! What sweet talk! And, great gods,

what kisses! A profusion of delight!

And as for you, my dear, you who have caught my eye just recently:

avoid entrapment; when you're asked, say "no";

make sure you lock me out and leave me shivering on your doorstep

all night long, when there's a heavy frost.

That's the way to keep my love alive and kicking;

that's the nourishment my spirit craves.

A cozy, plump, too-compliant love simply turns my stomach

like too much cake; let love be lean and hungry!

If Danae had never been confined in a bronze tower, she never

would have been impregnated by Jove.

And Io, transformed and horned, was all the more attractive to Jove

when Juno kept her guarded day and night.

If a man desires what is his for the taking, let him pick leaves from the trees,

gulp river-water by the bucketful!

A woman who wants to stay in power must delude her lovers

(wait! what am I saying? where does this leave me?)

I'll say it again, to hell with the consequences: submissiveness is boring;

I flee when I'm pursued, pursue when fled.

But as for you, absentminded guardian of a gorgeous woman:

take my advice, and lock her door at night.

Pay attention! Ask questions! What was that rustling sound at her window?

What made the dogs begin to bark at midnight?

What are those letters her maid is always carrying back and forth?

Why does she always ask to sleep alone?

If you took the time to think about it, you'd be sick with worry,

and there would be some point to my deceit.

Stealing the wife of an imbecile like you is about as thrilling

as stealing sand from a deserted beach.

I'm warning you now: if you don't start supervising your wife

then I'll start losing interest very soon.

I've put up with so much for so long, persisting in the hope

that you would open your eyes, so I could pull

the wool over them. But you're so docile, enduring the unendurable!

Your apathy is killing my appetite.

Am I supposed to just walk right in, with no one blocking the way?

Sleep all night, untroubled by the fear

of vengeance, never to wake in terror, gasping for breath?

Why won't you make me wish that you were dead?

What good is a husband who's so easygoing he's practically her pimp?

Our pleasure is ruined by this negligence.

Why don't you find yourself another rival, one who can tolerate tolerance;

I won't stay unless I'm asked to leave.

Translation Diane Arnson Svarlien

Ars amatoria
Keep It Secret

Who’d dare reveal to the impious the secret rites of Ceres,

or uncover the high mysteries of Samothrace?

There’s little virtue in keeping silent:

but speaking of what’s kept secret’s a heinous crime.

O it’s good if that babbler Tantalus, clutching at fruit in vain,

thirsts in the very middle of the waters!

Venus, above all, orders you to be silent about her rites:

I warn you, let no idle chatterers come near her.

Though the mysteries of Venus are not buried in a box,

nor echo in the wide air to the clash of cymbals,

but are busily enjoyed so, by us all,

they still wish to be concealed among us.

Venus, herself, when she takes off her clothes,

covers her sex with the half-turned palm of her left hand.

Beasts couple indiscriminately in full view: from this sight

girls of course turn aside their faces, too.

Bedrooms and locked doors suit our intrigues,

and shameful things are hidden under the sheets:

and if not darkness, we seek some veiling shadow,

and something less exposed than the light of day.

Even back then, when roofs kept out neither rain nor sun,

and the oak-tree provided food and shelter,

pleasure was had in woods and caves, not under the heavens:

such care the native peoples had for their modesty.

but now we advertise our nocturnal acts,

and nothing’s bought if it can’t be boasted of!

No doubt you’ll look out every girl, whatever,

to say to whom you please: ‘She too was mine,’

and there’ll be no lack of those you can point out,

so for each that’s mentioned there’s a shameful tale?

Little to cry at: some invent, what they’d deny if true,

and claim there isn’t one they haven’t slept with.

If not their bodies, they touch what they can, their names,

and the reputation’s gone, though the body’s chaste.

  Odious watchman, go close the girl’s door, now,

  too late, locked with a hundred heavy bars!

What’s safe, when adulterers give out her name,

and want what never happened to be believed?

I’m wary even of professing to genuine passions,

and, trust me, my secret affairs are wholly hidden.

Fasti, 419-444

Hinc ubi protulerit formosa ter Hesperos ora,

ter dederint Phoebo sidera victa locum,

ritus erit veteris, nocturna Lemuria, sacri:

inferias tacitis manibus illa dabunt.

annus erat brevior, nec adhuc pia februa norant,

nec tu dux mensum, Iane biformis, eras:

iam tamen exstincto cineri sua dona ferebant,

compositique nepos busta piabat avi.

mensis erat Maius, maiorum nomine dictus,

qui partem prisci nunc quoque moris habet.

nox ubi iam media est somnoque silentia praebet,

et canis et variae conticuistis aves,

ille memor veteris ritus timidusque deorum

surgit (habent gemini vincula nulla pedes),

signaque dat digitis medio cum pollice iunctis,

occurrat tacito ne levis umbra sibi.

cumque manus puras fontana perluit unda,

vertitur et nigras accipit ante fabas,

aversusque iacit; sed dum iacit, 'haec ego mitto,

his' inquit 'redimo meque meosque fabis.'

hoc novies dicit nec respicit: umbra putatur

colligere et nullo terga vidente sequi.

rursus aquam tangit, Temesaeaque concrepat aera,

et rogat ut tectis exeat umbra suis.

cum dixit novies 'manes exite paterni'

respicit, et pure sacra peracta putat.

Wanneer de schone Avondster zich drie maal heeft vertoond

en drie maal sterrenlicht door Phoebus’ zon verdrongen is,

ja, dán wordt ‘s nachts het heilig, oud Lemurenfeest gevierd

dat aan de stille schimmen dodenoffers brengen zal.

Eens waren jaren korter, vierde men geen Februa;

en Janus, niet zat u de maanden vóór -of achterna.

Toch bracht men reeds de juiste gaven aan het dode as,

de kleinzoon bracht al zoenoffers bij vaders vaders graf.

De maand was mei, in naam verwijzend naar ons voorgeslacht,

en die bewaart nog steeds restanten van een oud gebruik

Wanneer de nacht het holst is en met stilte slaap verwekt,

en jullie, hond en bonte vogels, stilaan zijn verstomd,

dan staat de vrome op om aan de roep gehoor te geven

van ’t oud gebruik –zijn beide voeten ongeknecht door leder-

en maakt het vijgenteken: vuist met duim erdoor,

opdat geen ijle schim hem bij zijn stille gang verstoort.

Hij wast zijn handen eerst goed schoon met water uit een bron,

en neemt met reine handen zwarte bonen, draait zich om,

en werpt ze achterover -maar terwijl hij werpt, zegt hij:

‘Ik koop met deze bonen mij en mijn familie vrij’.

Hij zegt dit negen maal en kijkt daarbij niet om: een schim -

zo meent hij- raapt de bonen op en volgt hem ongezien.

Opnieuw beroert hij ’t water, en cimbalen laat hij galmen

en hij verzoekt de geest om uit zijn woning weg te gaan.

‘Gaat heen, voorvaderlijke geest!’ - zo spreekt hij negen maal,

dan kijkt hij om… het ritueel heeft zo te zien gebaat.

Vertaling: Guido KUIJPER