Tibullus, 1.2 35-42: On Keeping Control of Wandering Eyes

Tibullus has timeless advice for men who leer and catcall.

“Be sparing with your eyes, whether it is a man or a woman
In your path: Venus prefers her secrets to stay hidden.
Don’t frighten with pounding feet or ask for names
Or bring some shining light close to shine on a face.
If anyone’s gaze has lingered without caution,
May he hide it and deny to the gods what he remembers.
For any man who comes loose of tongue shall find
That Venus is by blood as mutable as the sea in kind.”

Parcite luminibus, seu vir seu femina fiat               35
Obvia: celari volt sua furta Venus.
Neu strepitu terrete pedum neu quaerite nomen
Neu prope fulgenti lumina ferte face.
Siquis et inprudens adspexerit, occulat ille
Perque deos omnes se meminisse neget:               40
Nam fuerit quicumque loquax, is sanguine natam,
Is Venerem e rapido sentiet esse mari.

Last year this time, my confession that I preferred Tibullus to Propertius prompted not dismissal from Palaiphron but what I now read as tacit permissiveness from Quintilian:

“We can challenge the Greeks in Elegy, too. Tibullus seems to me the most neat and elegant author in that genre; but there are those who prefer Propertius. Ovid is raunchier than either one, just as Gallus is more stern.”

elegia quoque Graecos provocamus, cuius mihi tersus atque elegans maxime videtur auctor Tibullus. sunt qui Propertium malint. Ovidius utroque lascivior, sicut durior Gallus.

(Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria 10.1.93)

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