Sometimes You Might be Too Pretty to Be Loved (Sappho to Phaon; Ovid Heroides, 15.31-40)

“If unfair nature denied beauty to me,
Take in exchange for appearance my wit.
I am short, but my name stretches across all lands:
I am the measure of my fame not my height.
If I am not pale enough, well, Cepheian Andromeda,
Dark with the color of her country, pleased Perseus!
White doves often mate with different colors:
The dark turtle-dove has a love dressed in green.
If no one who cannot be worthy of you in beauty alone
will be yours, then no one will ever be yours.”

si mihi difficilis formam natura negavit,
ingenio formae damna repende meae.
sum brevis. at nomen, quod terras impleat omnes,
est mihi: mensuram nominis ipsa fero.
candida si non sum, placuit Cepheia Perseo
Andromede patriae fusca colore suae.
et variis albae iunguntur saepe columbae
et niger a viridi turtur amatur ave.
si nisi quae facie poterit te digna videri,
nulla futura tua est, nulla futura tua est!

Sappho writes this letter, according to Ovid, to Phaon.

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