from BOOK 2, SECTION 17TO PREVARICATE ABOUT THE NIGHT ...
Sextus Propertiustrans. W.G.Shepherd
Mentiri noctem, promissis ducere amantem,
hoc erit infectas sanguine habere manus!
horum ego sum vates, quotiens desertus amaras
explevi noctes, fractus utroque toro.


vel tu Tantalea moveare ad flumina sorte,
ut liquor arenti fallat ab ore sitim;
vel tu Sisyphios licet admirere labores,
difficile ut toto monte volutet onus;
durius in terris nihil est quod vivat amante,
nec, modo si sapias, quod minus esse velis.


quem modo felicem invidia admirante ferebant,
nunc decimo admittor vix ego quoque die.
nunc iacere e duro corpus iuvat, impia, saxo,
sumere et in nostras trita venena manus;
nec licet in triviis sicca requiescere luna,
aut per rimosas mittere verba fores.


quod quamvis ita sit, dominam mutare cavebo:
tum flebit, cum in me senserit esse fidem.

To prevaricate about the night,
To lead a lover on with promises,
Is to have hands that are stained with blood.
Of these things I'm the bard whenever, deserted,
My bed one rack, I fill out bitter nights.

Whether you're moved by Tantalus' lot at the stream,
As the liquid deceives his parching-thirsty mouth:
Or whether you may wonder at Sisyphus' effort
As he rolls his intractable burden up to the summit:
Nothing in the world is harsher than the loverís life,
Nor, if you have any sense at all,
Is there anything you would wish for less.

I, whom jealous wonder lately called blest,
Now am scarcely admitted one day in ten.
In a rainless moon I may not rest in the streets,
Or fling my words through your gate's chinks.
Unnatural girl, it would be a pleasure now
To hurl my body from some rugged crag,
Or to take crushed poison into my hands.

But though these things are so,
I will beware of reforming my mistress:
She will weep, when she has felt the faith in me.

Trans. Copyright © W.G.Shepherd 1985 - publ. Penguin Books


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