Sextus Propertiustrans. Alan Marshfield
Sunt aliquid Manes: letum non omnia finit,
luridaque euictos effugit umbra rogos.
Cynthia namque meo uisa est incumbere fulcro,
murmur ad extremae nuper humata uiae,
cum mihi somnus ab exsequiis penderet amoris,
et quererer lecti frigida regna mei.
eosdem habuit secum quibus est elata capillos,
eosdem oculos; lateri uestis adusta fuit,
et solitum digito beryllon adederat ignis,
summaque Lethaeus triuerat ora liquor.
spirantisque animos et uocem misit: at illi
pollicibus fragiles increpuere manus:
"perfide nec cuiquam melior sperande puellae,
in te iam uires somnus habere potest?
iamne tibi exciderant uigilacis furta Suburae
et mea nocturnis trita fenestra dolis?
per quam demisso quotiens tibi fune pependi,
alterna ueniens in tua colla manu!
saepe Venus triuio commissa est, pectore mixto
fecerunt tepidas pallia nostra uias.
foederis heu taciti, cuius fallacia uerba
non audituri diripuere Noti.
at mihi non oculos quisquam inclamauit euntis:
unum impetrassem te reuocante diem:
nec crepuit fissa me propter harundine custos,
laesit et obiectum tegula curta caput.
denique quis nostro curuum te funere uidit,
atram quis lacrimis incaluisse togam?
si piguit portas ultra procedere, at illuc
iussisses lectum lentius ire meum.
cur uentos non ipse rogis, ingrate, petisti?
cur nardo flammae non oluere meae?
hoc etiam graue erat, nulla mercede hyacinthos
inicere et fracto busta piare cado.
Lygdamus uratur: candescat lamina uernae -
sensi ego, cum insidiis pallida uina bibi:
at Nomas, arcanas tollat uersuta saliuas;
dicet damnatas ignea testa manus.
quae modo per uilis inspecta est publica noctes,
haec nunc aurata cyclade signat humum;
et grauiora rependit iniquis pensa quasillis,
garrula de facie si qua locuta mea est;
nostraque quod Petale tulit ad monumenta coronas,
codicis immundi uincula sentit anus;
caeditur et Lalage tortis suspensa capillis,
per nomen quoniam est ausa rogare meum.
te patiente meae conflauit imaginis aurum,
ardente e nostro dotem habitura rogo.
non tamen insector, quamuis mereare, Properti:
longa mea in libris regna fuere tuis.
iuro ego Fatorum nulli reuolubile carmen,
tergeminusque canis sic mihi molle sonet,
me seruasse fidem. si fallo, uipera nostris
sibilet in tumulis et super ossa cubet.
nam gemina est sedes turpem sortita per amnem,
turbaque diuersa remigat omnis aqua.
unda Clytaemestrae stuprum uehit altera, Cressae
portat mentitae lignea monstra bouis.
ecce coronato pars altera rapta phaselo,
mulcet ubi Elysias aura beata rosas,
qua numerosa fides, quaque aera rotunda Cybebes
mitratisque sonant Lydia plectra choris.
Andromedeque et Hypermestre sine fraude maritae
narrant historiae tempora nota suae:
haec sua maternis queritur liuere catenis
bracchia nec meritas frigida saxa manus;
narrat Hypermestre magnum ausas esse sorores,
in scelus hoc animum non ualuisse suum.
sic mortis lacrimis uitae sancimus amores:
celo ego perfidiae crimina multa tuae.
sed tibi nunc mandata damus, si forte moueris,
si te non totum Chloridos herba tenet:
nutrix in tremulis ne quid desideret annis
Parthenie: potuit, nec tibi auara fuit.
deliciaeque meae Latris, cui nomen ab usu est,
ne speculum dominae porrigat illa nouae.
et quoscumque meo fecisti nomine uersus,
ure mihi: laudes desine habere meas.
pelle hederam tumulo, mihi quae praegnante corymbo
mollia contortis alligat ossa comis.
ramosis Anio qua pomifer incubat aruis,
et numquam Herculeo numine pallet ebur,
hic carmen media dignum me scribe columna,
sed breue, quod currens uector ab urbe legat:
"hic Tiburtina iacet aurea Cynthia terra:
accessit ripae laus, Aniene, tuae."
nec tu sperne piis uenientia somnia portis:
cum pia uenerunt somnia, pondus habent.
nocte uagae ferimur, nox clausas liberat umbras,
errat et abiecta Cerberus ipse sera.
luce iubent leges Lethaea ad stagna reuerti:
nos uehimur, uectum nauta recenset onus.
nunc te possideant aliae: mox sola tenebo:
mecum eris, et mixtis ossibus ossa teram."
haec postquam querula mecum sub lite peregit,
inter complexus excidit umbra meos.
The Spirits do exist. Death’s never the end of us.
The fires of cremation baffled, the pale ghost escapes.
For Cynthia came, a vision, inclining across my pillow -
lately interred in the brouhaha of the roadside -
to see the poor insomniac, lately from love’s wake come,
racked that the sheets that were once his estate were cold.
It was still the same, her hair, as it was at her funeral;
her eyes the same; and the cloth at her side was charred.
The fire had eaten the beryl ring that was on her finger,
and her lips were chapped with the surface waters of Lethe.
Both were alive: the voice coming from her, the understanding;
but on her hand a splintery thumb-bone rattled.
"You bastard, though one couldn’t have hoped for a better man ...
Can sleep get to work so soon, when I’m hardly cold?
Our sleepless intrigues in the Subura erased so early?
And the sill our nocturnal tactics had worn away,
which I threw a rope from so often, dangling from it for your sake,
coming to enlace your neck, down hand over hand?
Our souls would blend as we made love on the forked highroad,
our mantles giving the cobbles a little heat.
So much for the unspoken contract whose fraudulent wording
the boisterous unhearing rain-wind has swept away!
As my eyes were going out did no one call after me?
If you had recalled me I’d have had one more day.
No watchman in my poor honour gave a rap with his cloven cane,
and my head, exposed, was gashed with a broken tile.
And did a single soul see you stooped at my grave in grief
or see your black toga grow hot with a stifled tear?
If you jibbed at going farther than up to my gate, at least
you might have seen the bier with less haste sent round.
Why did you, you, not petition the winds, thankless, for my tinder?
Why did my flames not emit aromatic spikenard?
Was this too much, to fling hyacinths, not exorbitant,
or propitiate my barrow from a spilt wine-jar?
And my serf Lygdamus: whiten the iron for him, cauterise him!
I knew from the wine when my blood went racing from it ...
And let Nomas, sly as she is, hide her vials of arcane salivas!
The scorching pit she used then will point to her:
only lately in public eyed up and down through her cut-price nights,
and now marks the ground with a gold-inlaid modish hem;
who loads her bolshie maid with lumpier knitting baskets
if the jabberer has excessively praised my beauty.
And Petale - because she took a wreath to the cemetery,
the old thing gets fettered to a disgusting log.
Strung up by her writhing hair, Lalage’s cut to pieces
because she dared mention rue when she asked a favour;
and you gave her that gold statuette of me to be melted down,
and so she acquires a dowry from my cremation.
Yet I won’t hound you, though you deserve it, Propertius, of me;
my despotic sovereignty in your verse was long.
I swear by the irreversible spell of the Fates, and may
the triple dog, for this, gentle its yelp around me,
I was always faithful to you. If I am lying then may
vipers hiss on my mound, make my bones their bed.
There are two haunts distributed by the ugly river
and all the riot dead must row either water;
one conveys the polluted Clytaemnestra, another carries
the freak timbers of the counterfeit Cretan cow.
But look, a garlanded sloop sweeps away yet another lot
where holy breezes caress the Elysian rose;
melodious strings and Cybele’s circular cymbals bang
to the strum of the Lydian orchestra dressed in turbans.
Andromeda and Hypermestra, those stainless wives,
relate the events, notable souls, they suffered.
One moans of the maternal chains that have bruised her arms
and the glacial rocks her hands had not merited.
Hypermestra tells of her sisters’ enormous daring
and how she had not the courage for such a crime.
And so with the tears of death we heal the desires of life;
I myself conceal your betrayals’ atrocities.
But now I am giving you orders - if by chance you can be affected,
if the herbs of Chloris have not yet seduced you wholly:
don’t let my nurse, Parthene, go short when she’s old and shaking;
she put up with you, you never have found her greedy.
And don’t let my darling Latris - her name’s from latreuein -‘serve’-
extend the looking-glass for a new employer.
And all those poems you have written around my name,
burn them for me, stop winning praise through me.
Push the ivy off of my mound, which amasses and struggles with
its hairy twists bandaging my small bones apart.
And where fruit-bearing Anio communes with its branchy regions
and Hercules sees that the ivory never yellows,
these lines, I am worthy of them, write square on a pillar, but
make them, so the hurried commuter may read them, brief:
And do not reject apparitions coming through holy porches,
when holy the apparition comes, it has weight.
By night we veer abroad, night loosens the pent-up ghost;
even Cerberus goes vagrant, the bolts dismantled.
At dawn we make for the swamps, compelled by Lethean law;
we sail; the ferryman catalogues his freight.
For now give yourself to others, soon I alone will have you,
and mixed in the grave I’ll grind you, bone on bone."
When in this way she’d ended her querulous dispute with me,
her spirit disappeared, my embrace was empty.

Trans. Copyright © Alan Marshfield 2001

translator's next
VB2 next
VB2 index