Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Book Two Elegy 15 - Sextus Propertius

O happy me! O night of radiance, and you,
   sweet bed that's strewn with such delights!
What declarations when the lamp was lit, what fights
   and tussles when the light was doused!
With breasts undone she teased me as we wrestled: then,
   with clothes drawn up, she feigned delay.
Her breath fell on my eyelids thick with sleep: she hissed,
   'Is this the way you finish, sluggard?'
Such length of arms' embraces as we changed positions,
   kisses lengthening on the lips!

No pleasure comes from sightless acts, and you must know
   that eyes go forward in desire,
as Paris found who met the Spartan naked, coming
   from the bed of Menelaus,
as splendidly undone was chaste Diana, where
   Endymion as naked lay.
So do not come to bed still wearing clothes, or my
   delirious hands will rip them off.
Avoid the further angering me, or your bruised arms
   will bear their witness to your mother.
Allow no loosened breasts prevent our playing, look
   for shame to those who've given birth.

Let's feast our eyes with lover's scenes: for days bring on
   the night from which no day returns,
and pray that we ever are like this, bound in chains
   that none at daybreak can undo,
and close as murmuring doves are, that is man and woman,
   one and so completely joined.
Who looks for limit to love's madness finds no end,
   for love will never have enough.
And sooner earth betray the farmer with false crops,
   or jet-black horses draw the sun,
or streams call waters back to source, or deeps dry up
   and leave their fish in cindery earth,
than I should think to loan my love-pains to another:
   hers in life, and in my death.

Grant she give me such a few more times: a year
   with these would serve me for a life.
Grant she give me many of such nights, from each
   I am more godlike than before.
Grant that everyone so run through life, their limbs
   be weighted down as though with wine -
there'd be no blows from daggers, nor from ships of war
   would bones be tossed to Actium's deeps,
nor Rome attacked by its own triumphs, shown forever
   grieving with its hair undone.
Posterity would surely raise their cups to us
   who did not injure any gods.

You give, in glory of our loving, all your kisses,
   yet those kisses are but few.
As petals wither from the garlands, fall in cups
   and drift at loss there listlessly,
so we, who fill ourselves with lovers' breath, may find
   tomorrow fate will shut us in.

Sextus Propertius (c. 45BC - c. 15AD) Italy (ancient Rome)
Translated by Colin Holcombe

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