Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Written in Sickness at Corcyra
By Tibullus (c. 55–19 B.C.)
Translation of James Cranstoun

THOU’LT cross the Ægean waves, but not with me,
  Messala; yet by thee and all thy band
I pray that I may still remembered be,
  Lingering on lone Phæacia’s foreign strand.
Spare me, fell Death! no mother have I here        5
  My charrèd bones in sorrow’s lap to lay:
Oh, spare! for here I have no sister dear
  To shower Assyrian odors o’er my clay,
Or to my tomb with locks disheveled come,
  And pour the tear of tender piety;        10
Nor Delia, who, ere yet I quitted Rome,
  ’Tis said consulted all the gods on high.
Thrice from the boy the sacred lots she drew,
  Thrice from the streets he brought her omens sure.
All smiled: but tears would still her cheeks bedew;        15
  Naught could her thoughts from that sad journey lure.
I blent sweet comfort with my parting words,
  Yet anxiously I yearned for more delay.
Dire omens now, now inauspicious birds,
  Detained me, now old Saturn’s baleful day.        20
How oft I said, ere yet I left the town,
  My awkward feet had stumbled at the door!
Enough: if lover heed not Cupid’s frown,
  His headstrong ways he’ll bitterly deplore.
Where is thine Isis? What avail thee now        25
  Her brazen sistra clashed so oft by thee?
What, while thou didst before her altars bow,
  Thy pure lavations and thy chastity?
Great Isis, help! for in thy fanes displayed
  Full many a tablet proves thy power to heal;        30
So Delia shall, in linen robes arrayed,
  Her vows before thy holy threshold seal.
And morn and eve, loose-tressed, thy praise to pour,
  ’Mid Pharian crowds conspicuous she’ll return;
But let me still my father’s gods adore,        35
  And to the old Lar his monthly incense burn.
How blest men lived when good old Saturn reigned,
  Ere roads had intersected hill and dale!
No pine had then the azure wave disdained,
  Or spread the swelling canvas to the gale.        40
No roving mariner, on wealth intent,
  From foreign climes a cargo homeward bore;
No sturdy steer beneath the yoke had bent,
  No galling bit the conquered courser wore.
No house had doors, no pillar on the wold        45
  Was reared to mark the limits of the plain;
The oaks ran honey, and all uncontrolled
  The fleecy ewes brought milk to glad the swain.
Rage, broils, the curse of war, were all unknown;
  The cruel smith had never forged the spear:        50
Now Jove is King,—the seeds of bale are sown,
  Scars, wounds, and shipwrecks, thousand deaths loom near.
Spare me, great Jove! No perjuries, I ween,
  Distract my heart with agonizing woe;
No impious words by me have uttered been,        55
  Against the gods above or gods below.
But if my thread of life be wholly run,
  Upon my stone these lines engraven be:—
But me, the facile child of tender Love,
  Will Venus waft to blest Elysium’s plains,
Where dance and song resound, and every grove
  Rings with clear-throated warblers’ dulcet strains.
Here lands untilled their richest treasures yield;        65
  Here sweetest cassia all untended grows;
With lavish lap the earth, in every field,
  Outpours the blossom of the fragrant rose.
Here bands of youths and tender maidens chime
  In love’s sweet lures, and pay the untiring vow;        70
Here reigns the lover, slain in youthhood’s prime,
  With myrtle garland round his honored brow.
But wrapt in ebon gloom, the torture-hell
  Low lies, and pitchy rivers round it roar;
There serpent-haired Tisiphone doth yell,        75
  And lash the damnéd crew from shore to shore.
Mark in the gate the snake-tongued sable hound,
  Whose hideous howls the brazen portals close;
There lewd Ixion, Juno’s tempter, bound,
  Spins round his wheel in endless unrepose.        80
O’er nine broad acres stretched base Tityos lies,
  On whose black entrails vultures ever prey;
And Tantalus is there, ’mid waves that rise
  To mock his misery, and rush away.
The Danaïds, who soiled Love’s lovely shrine,        85
  Fill on, and bear their piercèd pails in vain—
There writhe the wretch who’s wronged a love of mine,
  And wished me absent on a long campaign!
Be chaste, my love: and let thine old nurse e’er,
  To shield thy maiden fame, around thee tread,        90
Tell thee sweet tales, and by the lamp’s bright glare
  From the full distaff draw the lengthening thread.
And when thy maidens, spinning round thy knee,
  Sleep-worn, by slow degrees their work lay by,
Oh, let me speed unheralded to thee,        95
  Like an immortal rushing down the sky!
Then all undrest, with ruffled locks astream,
  And feet unsandaled, meet me on my way!
Aurora, goddess of the morning beam,
  Bear, on thy rosy steeds, that happy day!        100

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