Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso) trans. A. S. Kline
Arma dedi Danais in Amazonas; arma supersunt,
Quae tibi dem et turmae, Penthesilea, tuae.
Ite in bella pares; vincant, quibus alma Dione
Faverit et toto qui volat orbe puer.
Non erat armatis aequum concurrere nudas;
Sic etiam vobis vincere turpe, viri.
Dixerit e multis aliquis 'quid virus in angues
Adicis, et rabidae tradis ovile lupae?'
Parcite paucarum diffundere crimen in omnes;
Spectetur meritis quaeque puella suis.
Si minor Atrides Helenen, Helenesque sororem
Quo premat Atrides crimine maior habet,
Si scelere Oeclides Talaioniae Eriphylae
Vivus et in vivis ad Styga venit equis,
Est pia Penelope lustris errante duobus
Et totidem lustris bella gerente viro.
Respice Phylaciden et quae comes isse marito
Fertur et ante annos occubuisse suos.
Fata Pheretiadae coniunx Pagasaea redemit:
Proque viro est uxor funere lata viri.
'Accipe me, Capaneu! cineres miscebimus' inquit
Iphias, in medios desiluitque rogos.
Ipsa quoque et cultu est et nomine femina Virtus:
Non mirum, populo si placet illa suo.
Nec tamen hae mentes nostra poscuntur ab arte:
Conveniunt cumbae vela minora meae.
Nil nisi lascivi per me discuntur amores;
Femina praecipiam quo sit amanda modo.
Femina nec flammas nec saevos excutit arcus;
Parcius haec video tela nocere viris.
saepe uiri fallunt: tenerae non saepe puellae,
paucaque, si quaeras, crimina fraudis habent.
Phasida iam matrem fallax dimisit Iaso;
uenit in Aesonios altera nupta sinus.
quantum in te, Theseu, uolucres Ariadna marinas
pauit in ignoto sola relicta loco.
quaere, Nouem cur una Viae dicatur, et audi
depositis siluas Phyllida flesse comis.
et famam pietatis habet, tamen hospes et ensem
praebuit et causam mortis, Elissa, tuae.
quid uos perdiderit, dicam: nescistis amare;
defuit ars uobis; arte perennat amor.
nunc quoque nescirent: sed me Cytherea docere
iussit, et ante oculos constitit ipsa meos.
tum mihi 'quid miserae' dixit 'meruere puellae?
traditur armatis uulgus inerme uiris.
illos artifices gemini fecere libelli;
haec quoque pars monitis erudienda tuis.
probra Therapnaeae qui dixerat ante maritae,
mox cecinit laudes prosperiore lyra.
si bene te noui, cultas ne laede puellas:
gratia, dum uiues, ista petenda tibi est.'
dixit, et e myrto (myrto nam uincta capillos
constiterat) folium granaque pauca dedit;
sensimus acceptis numen quoque: purior aether
fulsit, et e toto pectore cessit onus.
dum facit ingenium, petite hinc praecepta, puellae,
quas pudor et leges et sua iura sinunt.
uenturae memores iam nunc estote senectae:
sic nullum uobis tempus abibit iners.
dum licet, et uernos etiam nunc editis annos,
ludite: eunt anni more fluentis aquae;
nec, quae praeteriit, iterum reuocabitur unda,
nec, quae praeteriit, hora redire potest.
utendum est aetate: cito pede labitur aetas,
nec bona tam sequitur, quam bona prima fuit.
hos ego, qui canent, frutices uiolaria uidi;
hac mihi de spina grata corona data est.
tempus erit, quo tu, quae nunc excludis amantes,
frigida deserta nocte iacebis anus,
nec tua frangetur nocturna ianua rixa,
sparsa nec inuenies limina mane rosa.
quam cito (me miserum!) laxantur corpora rugis,
et perit in nitido qui fuit ore color.
quasque fuisse tibi canas a uirgine iuras,
sparguntur subito per caput omne comae.


I've given the Greeks arms, against Amazons: arms remain,
to give to you Penthesilea, and your Amazon troop.
Go equal to the fight: let them win, those who are favoured
by Venus, and her Boy, who flies through all the world.
It's not fair for armed men to battle with naked girls:
that would be shameful, men, even if you win.
Someone will say: ‘Why add venom to the snake,
and betray the sheepfold to the rabid she-wolf?'
Beware of loading the crime of the many onto the few:
let the merits of each separate girl be seen.
Though Menelaus has Helen, and Agamemnon
has Clytemnestra, her sister, to charge with crime,
though Amphiarus, and his horses too, came living to the Styx,
through the wickedness of Eriphyle,
Penelope was faithful to her husband for all ten years
of his waging war, and his ten years wandering.
Think of Protesilaus, and Laodameia who they say
followed her marriage partner, died before her time.
Alcestis, his wife, redeemed Admetus's life with her own:
the wife, for the man, was borne to the husband's funeral.
‘Capaneus, receive me! Let us mingle our ashes,'
Evadne cried, and leapt into the flames.
Virtue herself is named and worshipped as a woman too:
it's no wonder that she delights her followers.
Yet their aims are not required for my art,
smaller sails are suited to my boat,
Only playful passions will be learnt from me:
I'll teach girls the ways of being loved.
Women don't brandish flames or cruel bows:
I rarely see men harmed by their weapons.
Men often cheat: it's seldom tender girls,
and, if you check, they're rarely accused of fraud.
Falsely, Jason left Medea, already a mother:
he took another bride to himself.
As far as you knew, Theseus, the sea birds fed on Ariadne,
left all by herself on an unknown island!
Ask why one road's called Nine-Times and hear
how the woods, weeping, shed their leaves for Phyllis.
Though he might be famed for piety, Aeneas, your guest,
supplied the sword, Dido, and the reason for your death.
What destroyed you all, I ask? Not knowing how to love:
your art was lacking: love lasts long through art.
You still might lack it now: but, before my eyes,
stood Venus herself, and ordered me to teach you.
She said to me. then: ‘What have the poor girls done,
an unarmed crowd betrayed to well-armed men?
Two books of their tricks have been composed:
let this lot too be instructed by your warnings.
Stesichorus who spoke against Helen's un-chastity,
soon sang her praises in a happier key.

If I know you well (don't harm the cultured girls now!)
this favour will always be asked of you while you live.'
She spoke, and she gave me a leaf, and a few myrtle
berries (since her hair was crowned with myrtle):
I felt received power too: purer air
glowed, and a whole weight lifted from my spirit.
While wit works, seek your orders here girls,
those that modesty, principles and your rules allow.
Be mindful first that old age will come to you:
so don't be timid and waste any of your time.
Have fun while it's allowed, while your years are in their prime:
the years go by like flowing waters:
The wave that's past can't be recalled again,
the hour that's past never can return.
Life's to be used: life slips by on swift feet,
what was good at first, nothing as good will follow.
Those stalks that wither I saw as violets:
from that thorn-bush to me a dear garland was given.
There'll be a time when you, who now shut out your lover,
will lie alone, and aged, in the cold of night,
nor find your entrance damaged by some nocturnal quarrel,
nor your threshold sprinkled with roses at dawn.
How quickly (ah me!) the sagging flesh wrinkles,
and the colour, there, is lost from the bright cheek.
And hairs that you'll swear were grey from your girlhood.


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Trans. Copyright © A. S. Kline 2003

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