Amores I:15

Why do you complain, carping Envy, that I’m wasting my life? Do you call poetry a lazy man’s work? Do you say that I should be like the ancient Romans who so long as health permitted pursued the rewards of military service on the dusty field, or that I should study wordy laws and prostitute my talents by speaking in the uncaring law courts? 

Homer of Maeonia will live so long as stand Tenedos and Mount Ida, so long as the Simois hurls its swift waters down to the sea. Ascraean Hesiod will live so long as the grape swells with juice, so long as grain falls to the stroke of the incurved sickle. Callimachus the son of Battus too will be recited forever in all lands: what he lacked in genius, he made up for with craftsmanship.

Oblivion will never come for the dramas of Sophocles, and Aratus will live as long as the sun and the moon he wrote about. So long as there’s a tricky slave, a stern father, a shameless bawd and a whore with a heart of gold, Menander will remain.

Artless Ennius and proud-tongued Accius have names which will never be lost. And what age will forget Varro and Argo, the first ship, and the golden fleece which Aeson’s son Jason sought?

The verses of heavenly Lucretius will not die till death claims the world itself. The shepherd Tityrus, the Georgics, and the arms of Aeneas will be read so long as Rome rules a conquered world. So long as Cupid bears his arms, his bow and his torches, your songs will be studied, cultured Tibullus. Gallus is known to the Western Isles and Gallus is known to the dawn-winds, and Lycoris is known with her Gallus.

Therefore though the rocks and the hardworn plowshare will eventually vanish, poetry will not die. Kings and the triumphs of kings must give way to poetry, and the kindly banks of the gold-bearing Tagus must give way.

Let the mob marvel at mortal things! To me blond Apollo offers cups filled with the Muses’ Castalian waters. I will bind back my hair with a wreath of frost-fearing laurel, NS I will be widely read by anxious lovers.

Envy can only gnaw at the living: she leaves the dead alone to be judged on their individual merits. Therefore when the funeral fire has devoured me I will live, and a great part of me will be immortal.

Comments are closed.