Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso)tr. Harold Isbell
Quam mihi misisti verbis, Leandre, salutem
ut possim missam rebus habere, veni!
longa mora est nobis omnis, quae gaudia differt.
da veniam fassae; non patienter amo.
urimur igne pari, sed sum tibi viribus impar:
fortius ingenium suspicor esse viris.
ut corpus, teneris ita mens infirma puellis;
deficiam, parvi temporis adde moram.
vos modo venando, modo rus geniale colendo
ponitis in varia tempora longa mora.
aut fora vos retinent aut unctae dona palaestrae
flectitis aut freno colla sequacis equi;
nunc volucrem laqueo, nunc piscem ducitis hamo,
diluitur posito serior hora mero.
his mihi summotae, vel si minus acriter urar,
quod faciam, superest praeter amare nihil.
quod superest facio, teque, o mea sola voluptas,
plus quoque, quam reddi quod mihi possit, amo.
aut ego cum cana de te nutrice susurro,
quaeque tuum, miror, causa moretur iter;
aut mare prospiciens odioso concita vento
corripio verbis aequora paene tuis;
aut ubi saevitiae paulum gravis unda remisit,
posse quidem, sed te nolle venire, queror;
dumque queror lacrimae per amantia lumina manant,
pollice quas tremulo conscia siccat manus.
saepe tui specto si sint in litore passus,
impositas tamquam servet harena notas;
utque rogem de te et scribam tibi, siquis Abydo
venent aut, quaero, siquis Abydon eat.
quid referam, quotiens dem vestibus oscula, quas tu
Hellespontiaca ponis iturus aqua?
sic ubi lux acta est et noctis amicior hora
exhibuit pulso sidera clara die,
protinus in summa vigilantia lumina turre
ponimus, adsuetae signa notamque viae,
tortaque versato ducentes stamina fuso
feminea tardas fallimus arte moras.
quid loquar interea tam longo tempore, quaeris:
nil nisi Leandri nomen in ore meo est.
Come Leander, that I might enjoy in fact
the greeting your letter has brought me.
All delays of joy are too long; forgive me,
I cannot wait patiently for love.
We burn with the same blaze but I am weaker
than you, for men have a greater strength.
Like our bodies, women's spirits too are frail;
any more delay and I will die.
Men like you are now caught up in the chase or
now caring for a pleasant acreage,
you spend long hours in your many affairs.
Either the market holds your interest,
or the contests of the wrestling mat, or you
turn the neck of a fine, well-trained horse.
You snare a bird or hook a fish and relax
at day's end with a cup of fine wine.
For me, denied these pastimes, even if I
were not so enflamed, I could but love.
What remains, I do: I love you, my one joy,
with more love than you give back to me.
I whisper about you to my old nurse, as
I wonder why you have stayed away
or I look out over the sea and I scold
the waves turned up by a hostile wind,
using words so much like the words you have used.
And when the sea's mood is a little
less fierce, I fret that you should come but will not.
In my complaint, tears begin to flow
from the eyes that love only you, and the old
woman who knows my secret gently
wipes them away from my face with her frail hand.
I search the shoreline for your footprints
as if wet sand could keep an old impression.
Asking every man if anyone
has come from Abydos, or if anyone
will soon leave for Abydos, I try
to learn more that I may bettcr write to you.
I should not tell how often I kiss
the garments you left by the water's edge as
you prepared to swim the Hellespont.
Thus, when day's light is gone and night's more friendly
hour hangs out the glimmering stars and
overcomes the daylight, I hurry to set
on the roofline of our house the lamps
that will watch for you, the beacons that will guide
you along the way you came before.
Then we two, women, twist our spindles and turn
wool to yarn through the long hours of night.
And what do I say during such a long wait?
My lips form only Leander's name.

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