Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso)tr. Harold Isbell
Quam nisi tu dederis, caritura est ipsa, salutem
mittit Amazonio Cressa puella viro.
perlege, quodcumque est - quid epistula lecta nocebit?
te quoque in hac aliquid quod iuvet esse potest;
his arcana notis terra pelagoque feruntur.
inspicit acceptas hostis ab hoste notas.
Ter tecum conata loqui ter inutiles haesit
lingua, ter in primo restitit ore sonus.
qua licet et sequitur, pudor est miscendus amori,
dicere quae puduit, scriere iussit amor.
quidquid Amor iussit, non est contemnere tutum;
regnat et in dominos ius habet ille deos.
ille mihi primo dubitanti scribere dixit:
'scribe! dabit victas ferreus ille manus.'
adsit et, ut nostras avido fovet igne medullas,
figat sic animos in mea vota tuos!
Non ego nequitia socialia foedera rumpam;
fama - velim quaeras - crimine nostra vacat.
venit amor gravius, quo serius - urimur intus;
urimur, et caecum pectora vulnus habent.
scilicet ut teneros laedunt iuga prima iuvencos,
frenaque vix patitur de grege captus equus,
sic male vixque subit primos rude pectus amores,
sarcinaque haec animo non sedet apta meo.
ars fit, ubi a teneris crimen condiscitur annis;
cui venit exacto tempore, peius amat.
tu nova servatae capies libamina famae,
et pariter nostrum fiet uterque nocens.
est aliquid, plenis pomaria carpere ramis,
et tenui primam delegere ungue rosam.
si tamen ille prior, quo me sine crimine gessi,
candor ab insolita labe notandus erat,
at bene successit, digno quod adurimur igni;
peius adulterio turpis adulter obest.
si mihi concedat luno fratremque virumque,
Hippolytum videor praepositura Iovi!
Iam quoque - vix credes - ignotas mittor in artes;
est mihi per saevas impetus ire feras.
iam mihi prima dea est arcu praesignis adunco
Delia; iudicium subsequor ipsa tuum.
A girl from Crete sends her greeting to a man
who is the son of an Amazon.
This maiden wishes for him the good fortune
she lacks unless he gives it to her.
Whatever words are here, read on to the end.
How could reading this letter hurt you?
Indeed, my words might even give you pleasure.
These letters carry my secret thoughts
over land and sea; even enemies read
letters another enemy sends.
Three times have I tried to speak with you, three times
my tongue has stuck in my mouth, three times
the sound of my voice has been stopped at my lips.
If Love is joined with modesty then
love should never be deprived of modesty.
Modesty is shy but Love is bold;
it is Love that commands me to write to you
because modesty made me silent.
Whatever Love commands must not be ignored.
The gods, the lords of all, are themselves
subject to Love's command. Could I disobey?
When I was so confused Love said, 'Write.
Though made of iron, he will surely give his hand.'
Love will aid me: while warming my bones
with fire may he turn your heart to heed my prayers.
You may inquire, but I tell you now:
I will not basely forsake my marriage vows;
my name is free from all infamy.
Because it has come late, love has come deeper.
I am on fire with love within me;
my breast is burned by an invisible wound.
As a young steer is chafed by the yoke
and a colt barely endures the first bridle,
so has my heart rebelled against love.
This heavy load does not test well on my soul.
When the art is learned in youth, a first
love is simple; but love that comes after youth
always burns with a harsher passion.
I offer you a purity long preserved;
let us both be equal in our guilt.
Fruit picked from a heavy branch is good, the first
rose pinched by a slender nail is best.
But even if the innocent purity
in which I have always lived my life
were to be stained by this unaccustomed sin,
I would regard this fortune that burns
me with such flames a kindly fortune. Base love
is worse than love merely forbidden.
If Juno gave me her brother and husband,
Jove, I would prefer Hippolytus.
Now, incredibly, I turn to strange pastimes:
I want to be among the wild beasts.
Delia, who is known to all for her bow,
is mine; like you, I have chosen her.

Trans. Copyright © Harold Isbell, 1990 - publ. Penguin Classics this book
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