SULMO MIHI PATRIA EST ... OVID'S CHILDHOOD
Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso) tr. Arthur McHugh


Sulmo mihi patria est, gelidis uberrimus undis,
milia qui novies distat ab urbe decem.
Editus hic ego sum, nec non ut tempora noris,
cum cecidit fato consul uterque pari.
Nec stirps prima fui; genito sum fratre creatus,
qui tribus ante quater mensibus ortus erat.
Lucifer amborum natalibus adfuit idem:
una celebrata est per duo liba dies.
Protinus excolimur teneri curaque parentis
imus ad insignes urbis ab arte viros.
Frater ad eloquium viridi tendebat ab aevo,
fortia verbosi natus ad arma fori.
At mihi iam puero caelestia sacra placebant,
inque suum furtim musa trahebat opus.
Saepe pater dixit: "Studium quid inutile temptas?
Maeonides nullas ipse reliquit opes."
Motus eram dictis, totoque helicone relicto
scribere temptabam verba soluta modis.
Sponte sua carmen numeros veniebat ad aptos,
et quod temptabam dicere versus erat.


I grew up ninety miles from Rome, in SuImo,
a place which abounds in ice-cold streams.
In fact I was bore there, at the time when both Consuls
met similar fates:. that will date my birth for you.
I was not the first child; I was born after my brother,
who came into the world twelve months before me.
The same morning star shone on his birthday as on mine:
that day was always celebrated with two cakes.
From the beginning, our education went on without a break,
and thanks to our father we went to the ablest men in the capital.
From early youth my brother had a taste for oratory:
he was gifted with the powerful weapons needed for public debate.
But even as a boy, I was charmed by celestial rites,
and the Muse drew me by stealth to her work.
My father often said: "Why bother with a pointless pursuit?
Even Homer died poor."
Impressed by what he said, I gave up poetry altogether
and did my best to write prose,
But verse came of its own accord in appropriate rhythms,
and what I was trying to write was poetry.

Trans. Copyright © Arthur McHugh 2008


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