Albius Tibullus tr. Humphrey Clucas
Ibitis Aegaeas sine me, Messalla, per undas,
O utinam memores ipse cohorsque mei.
Me tenet ignotis aegrum Phaeacia terris,
Abstineas avidas, Mors, modo, nigra, manus.
Abstineas, Mors atra, precor: non hic mihi mater
Quae legat in maestos ossa perusta sinus,
Non soror, Assyrios cineri quae dedat odores
Et fleat effusis ante sepulcra comis,
Delia non usquam; quae me cum mitteret urbe,
Dicitur ante omnes consuluisse deos.
Illa sacras pueri sortes ter sustulit: illi
Rettulit e trinis omina certa puer.
Cuncta dabant reditus: tamen est deterrita numquam,
Quin fleret nostras respiceretque vias.

Ipse ego solator, cum iam mandata dedissem,
Quaerebam tardas anxius usque moras.
Aut ego sum causatus aves aut omina dira,
Saturni sacram me tenuisse diem.
O quotiens ingressus iter mihi tristia dixi
Offensum in porta signa dedisse pedem!
Audeat invito ne quis discedere Amore,
Aut sciat egressum se prohibente deo.

Quid tua nunc Isis mihi, Delia, quid mihi prosunt
Illa tua totiens aera repulsa manu,
Quidve, pie dum sacra colis, pureque lavari
Te - memini - et puro secubuisse toro?

Nunc, dea, nunc succurre mihi - nam posse mederi
Picta docet templis multa tabella tuis - ,
Ut mea votivas persolvens Delia voces
Ante sacras lino tecta fores sedeat
Bisque die resoluta comas tibi dicere laudes
Insignis turba debeat in Pharia.
At mihi contingat patrios celebrare Penates
Reddereque antiquo menstrua tura Lari.

Quam bene Saturno vivebant rege, priusquam
Tellus in longas est patefacta vias!
Nondum caeruleas pinus contempserat undas,
Effusum ventis praebueratque sinum,
Nec vagus ignotis repetens conpendia terris
Presserat externa navita merce ratem.
Illo non validus subiit iuga tempore taurus,
Non domito frenos ore momordit equus,
Non domus ulla fores habuit, non fixus in agris,
Qui regeret certis finibus arva, lapis.
Ipsae mella dabant quercus, ultroque ferebant
Obvia securis ubera lactis oves.
Non acies, non ira fuit, non bella, nec ensem
Inmiti saevus duxerat arte faber.
Nunc Iove sub domino caedes et vulnera semper,
Nunc mare, nunc leti mille repente viae.
Parce, pater. timidum non me periuria terrent,
Non dicta in sanctos inpia verba deos.
Quodsi fatales iam nunc explevimus annos,
Fac lapis inscriptis stet super ossa notis:


Sed me, quod facilis tenero sum semper Amori,
Ipsa Venus campos ducet in Elysios.
Hic choreae cantusque vigent, passimque vagantes
Dulce sonant tenui gutture carmen aves,
Fert casiam non culta seges, totosque per agros
Floret odoratis terra benigna rosis;
Ac iuvenum series teneris inmixta puellis
Ludit, et adsidue proelia miscet Amor.
Illic est, cuicumque rapax mors venit amanti,
Et gerit insigni myrtea serta coma.

At scelerata iacet sedes in nocte profunda
Abdita, quam circum flumina nigra sonant:
Tisiphoneque inpexa feros pro crinibus angues
Saevit, et huc illuc inpia turba fugit.
Tum niger in porta serpentum Cerberus ore
Stridet et aeratas excubat ante fores.
Illic Iunonem temptare Ixionis ausi
Versantur celeri noxia membra rota,
Porrectusque novem Tityos per iugera terrae
Adsiduas atro viscere pascit aves.
Tantalus est illic, et circum stagna, sed acrem
Iam iam poturi deserit unda sitim,
Et Danai proles, Veneris quod numina laesit,
In cava Lethaeas dolia portat aquas.
Illic sit, quicumque meos violavit amores,
Optavit lentas et mihi militias
At tu casta precor maneas, sanctique pudoris
Adsideat custos sedula semper anus.
Haec tibi fabellas referat positaque lucerna
Deducat plena stamina longa colu,
At circa gravibus pensis adfixa puella
Paulatim somno fessa remittat opus.
Tum veniam subito, nec quisquam nuntiet ante,
Sed videar caelo missus adesse tibi.
Tunc mihi, qualis eris, longos turbata capillos,
Obvia nudato, Delia, curre pede.
Hoc precor, hunc illum nobis Aurora nitentem
Luciferum roseis candida portet equis.
Cross the Aegean without me, then, Messalla -
But think of me, you and your staff. I'm stuck here
In Phaecia, sick, in a foreign land. Death,
Keep your grasping, black hands to yourself
And let me be. I've no mother here
To clutch my charred bones to a sad heart,
Nor sister to spread perfume over my ashes
Or weep with streaming hair beside my grave.
And no Delia, either - who, they say,
Consulted the whole tribe of gods before
Letting me leave the city; three times
She took the sacred lots from the acolyte,
And each time he told her, "All will be well."

Promises of return - none of which stopped her
Weeping, terrified, over my journey.
And I, her comforter, after all the farewells
Still found reasons to delay and linger.
Words of ill omen; the flights of birds;
Days of unlucky Saturn. With my foot
Poised on the high road, I claimed my stumbling
Warned of disaster! Let no man leave home
When Love forbids him. Let him look to the gods.

What use to me was your Isis, Delia,
Or the bronze cymbals you clashed so often?
What of your careful rituals - those baths
In clean water, all that chastity?

Help me, goddess, you whose healing powers
Are shown in so many temples. Let my Delia
Watch nightly at your threshold, swathed
In a linen veil; let her sing praises
Twice a day, with her long hair streaming,
So that the whole Egyptian crowd hears her.
And let me worship the gods of hearth and home,
Offering incense as the months go by.

Better to have lived in the old days
When Saturn ruled, before the world was made
So free for travel. Pines had not learnt
To mock the ocean then, or hang sails
For the winds to billow, nor did mariners
Fill their holds with foreign goods. Oxen
Had not been yoked, and horses went untamed.
Houses had no doors, and no man set
Stones to mark his boundaries. Even the oaks
Gave honey, and the ewes came to be milked
With bursting udders. Armies did not exist;
Wars were unheard of; no one forged weapons.
But Jupiter rules now: wounds, killings,
Deaths by water - thousands of ways to go.

Spare my life, Lord. I told you no lies;
I spoke no blasphemies. But if I'm done for,
Let them carve this memorial:


Because I have served Venus, she herself
Will take my hand to the Elysian fields.
There's singing and dancing there. The birds flit,
Music in all their throats. Cassia grows
With no tilling, and the friendly earth
Spreads its roses over the whole land.
Girls and young men collect in troops
To contest Love's sport, which lasts for ever.
All whom Death took because of their love
Are gathered here, and myrtle binds their brows.

But there's a place of evil, too, buried
In night's chasm. Rivers rage around it.
Tisiphone storms with wild snakes in her hair
As the godless scurry around her. Wild snakes
Hiss from the open mouth of black Cerberus
As he guards the bronze doors. Ixion's there,
Who tried to assault Juno - guilty limbs
Whirling upon a wheel. And there is Tityus
Covering nine acres; vultures tirelessly
Rip his black liver. Tantalus, too,
Waters lapping around him. His thirst rages.
And there Danaus' daughters, who mocked Venus,
Dip their leaking jars in Lethe's stream.
You who would violate my love, or wish me
Long campaigning - this is the place for you.

Be chaste, Delia. Keep your old nurse
Always beside you. Let her guard your honour.
She'll tell rambling tales when the lamps are lit,
Spinning her yarn, while all around you maidens
Droop over their tasks till sleep comes
And the work's forgotten. Let me be there then,
With no warning; let me be like a man
That's dropped from heaven. Then, just as you are,
With long, disordered hair and no sandals,
Run to my arms. I've prayed for this, Delia.
Now let the bright morning star, who rides
On pink horses, quicken that glad day.

Transl. Copyright © Humphrey Clucas 2004

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