Amores I:6

Doorkeeper, though it’s embarrassing to ask this, loose your hard chain and swing the surly outer door inward a trifle on its hinges. I ask but a little thing: that you make enough room on the threshold for me to lie there at an angle. Long service of love has hardened my body to such uses and trained my limbs to scrunch up under my body. The same experience has shown me how to creep quietly by the posts of the night watch, and it directs my feet so they don’t make a sound. 

Once upon a time I was afraid of the night and all sorts of vain phantasms; I marveled to hear that anybody would walk through the gloom. I heard Cupid with his tender mother laugh and say cheerfully, “You too will become brave.”

And at once love came: I don’t fear shadows flying at night nor the hands of lurking assassins. I fear only your indifference, doorkeeper. I pray to you alone: you hold the thunderbolt which can destroy me.

Behold (and so that you may look, pull back the heavy bar) how wet the door is with my tears. Remember how I spoke up for you when you stood trembling before your mistress with your tunic pulled down for a beating. Think of what a shame it would be if the tongue that saved you then didn’t avail me now! Pay me back for my kindness: it’s all right to do as you wish out of gratitude.

The time of night is passing; slide the bolt back from its socket.

Slide it back, and then also loosen the long chain. If you do, then you won’t always have to drink water as a slave.

Ah, doorman, you are made of iron to hear me praying unmoved. The thick, oak-braced door remains firm.

Cities under siege need the protection of closed gates, but what arms do you fear here in the midst of peace? Why, doors who were built against an enemy, do you now exclude a lover?

The time of night is passing; slide the bolt back from its socket.

I don’t come with troops and arms; I’d be alone, were not savage Love my companion. I couldn’t dismiss him even if I tried; it’d be easier to lop off my limbs.

So here I am with only Love, a little wine, and a wreath around my temples which lies askew on my perfumed hair. Are these arms for you to fear? Who’d be afraid to face them?

The time of night is passing; slide the bolt back from its socket.

Don’t you care, or is it sleep–may you dream of Hell!–which repels the words of a lover from your ears and gives them to the wind? But I remember that in the beginning when I wanted to hide from you, you were wakeful till the constellations of the middle of the night arose.

Perhaps even now your girlfriend is cuddling with you? Alas, how much luckier you are than I, so long as these harsh chains pass before me.

The time of night is passing; slide the bolt back from its socket.

Am I deceived or do I hear hinges squeal and the thunder of a slammed door? No, I was deceived: that was just the wind blowing a door shut.

Woe is me, that a mere breeze should raise my hopes so high. If you remember snatching off Orithyia, Boreas, you will rush here and blast these silent gates with your lightning!

The whole city is sleeping and the time has come when the night drips with glassy dew. Slide back the bolt from its socket or I will come again with sword and flame! I’ll wave my torch high, I’ll attack this haughty dwelling! Night and Love and wine are not counsellors of moderation; night takes away shame, while wine and love rob me of fear.

I’ve tried everything. Neither prayers nor threats have moved you, doorman harder than the doors themselves. It’s not fitting that one like you watch the threshold of a lovely girl. Your sort might better guard a prison.

Already Lucifer strains to turn the frozen axle of his chariot and rouse the roosters to end our hopes. But you, wreath that I pull from my no longer festive temples, lie on this doorstep which has been hard all night. When in the morning my mistress sees you flung here, you will bear witness of the time I spent so ill.

Farewell to this duty from which I depart like one retiring for age; farewell wretched man who ignored the lover whom he refused to admit.

And to you also: cruel doorposts, unyielding threshold, and doors braced with hard wood–farewell!

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