The Amores, Ovid
The Amores
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Amores is Ovid's first completed book of poetry, written in elegiac couplets. It was first published in 16 BC in five books, but Ovid, by his own account, later edited it down into the three-book edition that survives today. The book follows the popular model of the erotic elegy, as made famous by figures such as Tibullus or Propertius, but is often subversive and humorous with these tropes, exaggerating common motifs and devices to the point of absurdity. The Amores is a poetic first person account of the poetic persona's love affair with an unattainable higher class girl, Corinna. It is not always clear if the author is writing about Corinna or a generic puella. Ovid does not assume a single woman as a subject of a chronical obsession of the persona of lover. The plot is linear, with a few artistic digressions such as an elegy on the death of Tibullus.

The Amores;

Or, Amours


Literally Translated into English Prose, with Copious Notes,
Henry T. Riley


Book the First

An Epigram on the Amours

We who of late were five books of Naso, are now but three: this work our author has preferred to the former one. Though it should now be no pleasure to thee to read us; still, the labour will be less, the two being removed.

Elegy I.

He says that he is compelled by Cupid to write of love instead of battles and that the Divinity insists on making each second Hexameter line into a Pentameter.

I was preparing to write of arms and impetuous warfare in serious numbers, the subject-matter being suited to the measure. The second verse was of equal measure with the first; but Cupid is said to have smiled, and to have abstracted one foot. “Who, cruel boy, has given thee this right over my lines? We poets are the choir of the Muses, the Pierian maids, not thine. What if Venus were to seize the arms of the yellow-haired Minerva, and if the yellow-haired Minerva were to wave the lighted torches of Love? Who would approve of Ceres holding her reign in the woods on the mountain ridges, or of the fields being tilled under the control of the quivered Virgin? Who would arm Phoebus, graceful with his locks, with the sharp spear, while Mars is striking the Aonian lyre? Thy sway, O youth, is great, and far too potent; why, in thy ambition, dost thou attempt a new task? Is that which is everywhere, thine? Is Heliconian Tempe thine? Is even his own lyre hardly safe now for Phoebus? When the new page has made a good beginning in the first line, at that moment does he diminish my energies. I have no subject fitted for these lighter numbers, whether youth, or girl with her flowing locks arranged.”

Thus was I complaining; when, at once, his quiver loosened, he selected the arrows made for my destruction; and he stoutly bent upon his knee the curving bow, and said, “Poet, receive a subject on which to sing.” Ah wretched me! unerring arrows did that youth possess. I burn; and in my heart, hitherto disengaged, does Love hold sway. Henceforth, in six feet let my work commence; in five let it close. Farewell, ye ruthless wars, together with your numbers. My Muse, to eleven feet destined to be attuned, bind with the myrtle of the sea shore thy temples encircled with their yellow locks.

Elegy II.

He says, that being taken captive by Love, he allows Cupid to lead him away in triumph.

Why shall I say it is, that my bed appears thus hard to me, and that my clothes rest not upon the couch? The night, too, long as it is, have I passed without sleep; and why do the weary bones of my restless body ache? But were I assailed by any flame, I think I should be sensible of it. Or does Love come unawares and cunningly attack in silent ambush? ‘Tis so; his little arrows have pierced my heart; and cruel Love is tormenting the breast he has seized.

Am I to yield? Or by struggling against it, am I to increase this sudden flame? I must yield; the burden becomes light which is borne contentedly. I have seen the flames increase when agitated by waving the torch; and when no one shook it, I have seen them die away. The galled bulls suffer more blows while at first they refuse the yoke, than those whom experience of the plough avails. The horse which is unbroken bruises his mouth with the hard curb; the one that is acquainted with arms is less sensible of the bit. Love goads more sharply and much more cruelly those who struggle, than those who agree to endure his servitude. Lo! I confess it; I am thy new-made prey, O Cupid; I am extending my conquered hands for thy commands. No war between us is needed; I entreat for peace and for pardon; and no credit shall I be to thee, unarmed, conquered by thy arms. Bind thy locks with myrtle; yoke thy mother’s doves; thy stepfather himself will give a chariot which becomes thee. And in the chariot so given thee, thou shalt stand, and with thy skill shalt guide the birds so yoked, while the people shout “Io triumphe” aloud. The captured youths and the captive fair shall be led in triumph; this procession shall be a splendid triumph for thee. I myself, a recent capture, shall bear my wound so lately made; and with the feelings of a captive shall I endure thy recent chains. Soundness of Understanding shall-be led along with hands bound behind his back, Shame as well, and whatever beside is an enemy to the camp of Love. All things shall stand in awe of thee: towards thee the throng, stretching forth its hands, shall sing “Io triumphe” with loud voice. Caresses shall be thy attendants, Error too, and Madness, a troop that ever follows on thy side. With these for thy soldiers, thou dost overcome both men and Gods; take away from thee these advantages, and thou wilt be helpless. From highest Olympus thy joyous mother will applaud thee in thy triumph, and will sprinkle her roses falling on thy face. While gems bedeck thy wings, and gems thy hair; in thy golden chariot shalt thou go, resplendent thyself with gold.

Then too, (if well I know thee) wilt thou influence not a few; then too, as thou passest by, wilt thou inflict many a wound. Thy arrows (even shouldst thou thyself desire it) cannot be at rest. A glowing flame ever injures by the propinquity of its heat. Just such was Bacchus when the Gangetic land was subdued; thou art the burden of the birds; he was that of the tigers. Therefore, since I may be some portion of thy hallowed triumph, forbear, Conqueror, to expend thy strength on me. Look at the prospering arms of thy kinsman Cæsar; with the same hand with which he conquers does he shield the conquered.

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