Sextus Propertiustrans. W.G.Shepherd
Dic mihi de nostra quae sensti vera puella:
sic tibi sint dominae, Lygdame, dempta iuga.
omnis enim debet sine vano nuntius esse,
maioremque metu servus habere fidem.
nunc mihi, si qua tenes, ab origine dicere prima
incipe: suspensis auribus ista bibam.
num me laetitia tumefactum fallis inani,
haec referens, quae me credere velle putas?

sicin eram incomptis vidisti flere capillis?
illius ex oculis multa cadebat aqua?
nec speculum in strato vidisti, Lygdame, lecto,
scriniaque ad lecti clausa iacere pedes,
ac maestam teneris vestem pendere lacertis?
ornabat niveas nullane gemma manus?
tristis erat domus, et tristes sua pensa ministrae
carpebant, medio nebat et ipsa loco,
umidaque impressa siccabat lumina lana,
rettulit et querulo iurgia nostra sono?

'haec te teste mihi promissast, Lygdame, merces?
est poena et servo rumpere teste fidem.
ille potest nullo miseram me linquere facto,
et qualem nolo dicere habere domi?
gaudet me vacuo solam tabescere lecto?
si placet, insultet, Lygdame, morte mea.
non me moribus illa, sed herbis improba vicit
staminea rhombi ducitur ille rota.
illum turgentis sanie portenta rubetae
et lecta exsuctis anguibus ossa trahunt,
et strigis inventae per busta iacentia plumae,
cinctaque funesto lanea vitta toro.
si non vana canunt mea somnia, Lygdame, testor,
poena erit ante meos sera sed ampla pedes;
putris et in vacuo texetur aranea lecto:
noctibus illorum dormiet ipsa Venus.

quae tibi si veris animis est questa puella,
hac eadem rursus, Lygdame, curre via,
et mea cum multis lacrimis mandata reporta,
iram, non fraudes esse in amore meo,
me quoque consimili impositum torquerier igni:
iurabo bis sex integer esse dies.
quod mihi si e tanto felix concordia bello
exstiterit, per me, Lygdame, liber eris.
As you hope your mistress' yoke may be withdrawn,
Lygdamus, tell me truly what you judge of my girl.
I hope you don't cheat me, swelled with hollow joy,
Reporting things you suppose I want to believe?
Every messenger ought to be without deceit,
And the slave keep greater faith because of his fear.
Whatever you remember, now start to speak from the first
Beginning. Iíll drink it in with ears in suspense.

So you saw your lady weeping, her hair
Unbound? Was much water shed from her eyes?
Did you see no mirror, Lygdamus, upon her quilt?
And did no gem adorn her snowy hands?
And a mourning-robe hang from her tender arms,
Her caskets stay locked at the foot of her bed?
The house was sad, and sad the maids as they carded
Their portions, and she herself span in the midst,
And dried her eyes by dabbing the moisture with wool,
And replied in plaintive terms to my abuse?

ĎIs this the quittance whose promise you witnessed,
Lygdamus? The man who breaks faith,
A slave as witness, deserves to be sentenced.
Can he leave me wretched, though Iíve done nothing,
And keep at home a person I would not speak of?
He's glad that I pine away alone in my bed,
If he likes, Lygdamus, he may dance on my grave!
Not by her ways but herbs that slut has won:
Heís led by the threaded disc of her magic wheel.
Monstrous charms from a bloated bramble-toad
And bones picked out from dissected snakes draw him,
Screech-owl feathers found among ruined tombs,
A woollen head-band stained on a funeral pyre.
If my dreams do not ring hollow, Lygdamus,
I testify retribution shall be at my feet, late but ample.
Rotten webs shall be spun in his empty bed.
Venus herself shall sleep on their nights together!í

If my girl complained to you from an honest heart,
Then hurry back by the way you came, Lygdamus,
And carry back with many tears my charge:
Anger, but no deception is in my love -
I too am forced to writhe in her selfsame fire.
Iíll swear I've stayed untainted twice six days.
- And then, if happy accord survives so great
A war, as far as I'm concerned, Lygdamus, youíre free.

Trans. Copyright © W.G.Shepherd 1985 - publ. Penguin Books this book
translator's next