Why must there always come the day on which you black birds caw sad omens to a lover? What star shall I blame for my fate, against which gods shall I rail for waging war against me?
She who was mine and whom but I loved at the beginning, I fear I must now share with many. Am I mistaken or was it my own verses which brought her fame? But so it is: my genius allows her to sell herself.
I deserve this punishment! Why did I proclaim the excellence of her body? It’s my fault that my girl has become a hot commodity!
I’m the madam who displays her, I’m the pimp who guides lovers to her. I’m the one who opened her gate to the world.
I don’t know if poetry can aid a lover, but mine has certainly hurt me. My verses have roused envy of my good fortune. Instead of Thebes or Troy,instead of Caesar’s glory, I took Corinna as my sole theme. Would that the Muses had turned their backs on my verse, would that Apollo had deserted my labors!
But even so, people don’t usually believe what poets say. I wish they hadn’t given weight to my words.
I’ve told how Scylla’s thighs and groin sprouted raging dogs because she stole the hair that was her father’s strength. I have wings to Hermes’ feet, I gave snakes to Medusa’s hair. I told of conquering Bellerophon borne on a winged horse. I stretched fallen Tityos over many acres and formed the three heads of snake-born Cerberus. I made Enceladus wave a thousand arms in battle and described the men transformed by Circe. I bound the Aeolian winds in bladders for Odysseus.
I make treacherous Tantalus thirst in the middle of a river. I turned Niobe into rock and Callisto into a she-bear. Through me the owl hoots at Odryssian Itys hoots, and my Jupiter transforms himself into birds or gold or swims through the sea as a bull with a maiden on his back.
I tell of Proteus and the sowing of the dragon’s teeth at Thebes. Mine were the bulls who breathed flame, mine were those sisters of Phaeton who wept tears of amber, and mine were those ships which now are sea-nymphs. I recounted the black day of the cannibal feast of Atreus and how hard rock was shattered by the note of a lyre.
The fancy of poets is unbounded and should prevent belief in anything they say. My praises of my girlfriend should have seemed false. Instead, your belief has ruined me!