Amores I:13

Already the blond dawn-maiden rises above the ocean from the side of her elderly husband and sets the day to turning on its frozen axis. Why do you hasten, Aurora? Hold for a time:the flock of birds that every year memorializes the shades of your son Memnon spends an entire day battling to the death. 

Now I’m relaxing in the soft arms of my mistress. Now as always when her thigh touches mine, I’m at peace. At this moment my dreams are comforting and the air is cool; a bird trills liquidly through its slender throat.

Why do you hasten, Aurora, when your presence is unwanted by men and girls alike? Draw back on the dew-bright reins with your rosy hand. Before you rise the sailor can guide his course by the constellations and needn’t wander lost in the waste of water. At your coming the traveller has to get up though he’s still exhausted, and the soldier reaches for his weapons with brutal hands.

You’re the first to see stooping farmers cultivating their crops with hoes; you first call the slow-moving oxen beneath the broad yoke. You snatch boys from their dreams and hand them over to schoolmasters who will savagely beat their tender hands.

You send many to court over a badly phrased document so that great losses result from a single word. Neither the legal expert nor the barrister is pleased by your arrival, for you make both get up to tire themselves in new litigation. You call the wool spinner’s hand back to her weights after she’s put aside her womanly labors.

I’ve willingly borne all sorts of things for myself, but who except a man who doesn’t have a girl could be cruel enough to make girls rise at dawn? How often have I wished that Night refuse to cede to you and that the wheeling stars not flee your visage! How often have I wished that the winds would break the axle of your chariot or that your horse would stumble, wrapped in thick clouds!

Envious woman, whither do you hasten? Black was the skin of your son; black also is the heart of his mother! Would that I could complain of you to your husband Tithonous: there would be no woman in heaven more disdained.

You flee your husband because he’s bent with extreme age; you leave the old man in the morning to mount your chariot which brings discontent. But if it were Cephalus whom you held in your arms, you would cry, “Hasten slowly, horses of the night!”

You’re not getting any at home because your husband is old, but why should I, a lover, be tortured? Am I responsible for you marrying an old man?

Look at how many dreams the Moon gives to a youth in love, and she’s just as attractive as you are. The Father of the Gods himself used his power to double the length of the night lest he see you too soon.

I’ll end my complaints. You can tell that dawn has heard, for she’s blushing–but nevertheless the day rises at the same time as usual.


Translator’s note: This lyric is one of the clearer examples of the fact that that Ovid was trained for the courts, not for literature. I would say it was of little intrinsic merit were it not for the phrase, “Lente currite, noctis equi,” which I find lovely and beyond my capacity to do justice to in translation.

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