Verse > Anthologies > T. R. Smith, ed. > Poetica Erotica: A Collection of Rare and Curious Amatory Verse
T. R. Smith, comp.  Poetica Erotica: Rare and Curious Amatory Verse.  1921–22.
An Elegy: ‘Why did you swear by all the powers above’
By Tibullus (c.55–19 B.C.)
(From Elegy X; translated by James Grainger)

WHY did you swear by all the powers above,
Yet never meant to crown my longing love?
Wretch, though at first the perjured deed you hide,
Wrath comes with certain, though with tardy stride;
Yet, yet, offended gods, my charmer spare!        5
Yet pardon the first fault of one so fair!
  For gold the careful farmer ploughs the plain,
And joins his oxen to the cumbrous wain;
For gold, through seas that stormy winds obey,
By stars, the sailor steers his watery way.        10
Yet, gracious gods, this gold from man remove,
That wicked metal bribed the fair I love.
  Soon shall you suffer greatly for your crime,
A weary wanderer in a foreign clime;
Your hair shall change, and boasted bloom decay,        15
By wintry tempests and the solar ray.
  “Beware of gold,” how oft did I advise!
“From tempting gold what mighty mischiefs rise!
Love’s generous power,” I said, “with ten-fold pain,
The wretch will rack, who sells her charms for gain.        20
Let torture all her cruelties exert,
Torture is pastime to a venal heart.
  “Nor idly dream your gallantries to hide,
The gods are ever on the sufferer’s side.
With sleep or wine o’ercome, so fate ordains,        25
You’ll blab the secret of your impious gains.”
  Thus oft I warn’d you; this augments my shame;
My sighs, tears, homage, henceforth I disclaim.
  “No wealth shall bribe my constancy,” you swore;
“Be mine the bard,” you sighed, “I crave no more:        30
Not all Campania shall my heart entice,
For thee Campania’s autumns I despise.
Let Bacchus in Falernian vineyards stray,
Not Bacchus’ vineyards shall my faith betray.”
  Such strong professions, in so soft a strain,        35
Might well deceive a captivated swain;
Such strong professions might aversion charm,
Slow doubt determine, and indifference warm.
Nay more, you wept, unpractised to betray,
I kiss’d your cheeks, and wiped the tears away.        40
  But if I tempting gold unjustly blame,
And you have left me for another flame,
May he, like you, seem kind, like you, deceive,
And oh may you, like cheated me, believe.
  Oft I by night the torch myself would bear,        45
That none our tender converse might o’erhear;
When least expected, oft some youth I led,
A youth all beauty, to the genial bed,
And tutor’d him your conquest to complete,
By soft enticements, and a fond deceit        50
  By these I foolish hoped to gain your love!
Who than Tibullus could more cautious prove?
Fired with uncommon powers, I swept the lyre,
And sent you melting strains of soft desire.
The thought o’erspreads my face with conscious shame,        55
Doom, doom them victims to the seas or flame.
No verse be theirs, who Love’s soft fires profane,
And sell inestimable joys for gain.
  But you who first the lovely maid decoy’d,
By each adulterer be your wife enjoy’d.        60
And when each youth has rifled all her charms,
May bed-gowns guard her from your loathed arms!
May she, oh may she like your sister prove,
As famed for drinking, far more famed for love!
’Tis true, the bottle is her chief delight,        65
She knows no better way to pass the night;
Your wife more knowing can the night improve,
To joys of Bacchus joins the joys of love.
  Think’st thou for thee the toilette is her care?
For thee, that fillets bind her well-dress’d hair?        70
For thee, that Tyrian robes her charms enfold?
For thee, her arms are deck’d with burnish’d gold?
By these, some youth the wanton would entice,
For him she dresses, and for him she sighs;
To him she prostitutes, unawed by shame,        75
Your house, your pocket, and your injured fame:
Nor blame her conduct, say, ye young, what charms
Can beauty taste in gout and age’s arms?
  Less nice my fair one, she for money can
Caress a gouty, impotent old man;        80
O thou by generous Love too justly blamed!
All, all that Love could give, my passion claim’d.
Yet since thou couldst so mercenary prove,
The more deserving shall engross my love:
Then thou wilt weep when these adored you see;        85
Weep on, thy tears will transport give to me.
To Venus I’ll suspend a golden shield,
With this inscription graved upon the field:
  “Tibullus, freed at last from amorous woes,
This offering, Queen of Bliss, on thee bestows:        90
And humbly begs, that henceforth thou wilt guard
From such a passion thy devoted bard.”

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