That Sickness Which Has No Cure

Propertius, Elegies 2.1.57–66

“Medicine may help all human pains—
Love alone responds to no doctor in its sickness.
Machaon healed Philoktetes’ twisted limbs;
Chiron the son of Phillyra saved Phoenix’ eyes
And the Epidaurian god with herbs from Crete
Returned dead Androgeon to his father’s home.
Even the Mysian who felt the wound from the Haemonian spear
Also found restoration from the same blade.
Anyone who is able to relieve me of this
Will be the only person to place fruit in Tantalus’ hand.”

omnis humanos sanat medicina dolores:
solus amor morbi non amat artificem.
tarda Philoctetae sanavit crura Machaon,
Phoenicis Chiron lumina Phillyrides,
et deus exstinctum Cressis Epidaurius herbis
restituit patriis Androgeona focis,
Mysus et Haemonia iuvenis qua cuspide vulnus
senserat, hac ipsa cuspide sensit opem.
hoc si quis vitium poterit mihi demere, solus
Tantaleae poterit tradere poma manu

Image result for medieval manuscript love
1st quarter of the 14th century, Royal MS 19 C 1, f. 33r

 

Happy Birthday, Ovid: It’s All About Love

Tristia II: 361-376

 

“I am not the only one who has written tender love tales.
But I am the only one punished for love’s composition.
What, except for the liberal mixing of Venus with wine,
Did the lyric muse of the Tean* bard teach?
What other than loving did Lesbian Sappho teach the girls?
But Sappho was safe and Anacreon was safe.
It didn’t hurt you, Battiades*, that you often confessed
To your reader your dirty desires in your poems.
No story of playful Menander lacks love;
And he is usually read by boys and maidens!
What is the Iliad itself about other than an adultress
On whose behalf husband and lover quarrel?
What happens in the poem before the fire over Briseis
Makes the leaders enraged over a stolen girl?
Or what is the Odyssey about other than a woman sought for love
By many men when her husband is away?”

Denique composui teneros non solus amores:
composito poenas solus amore dedi.
Quid, nisi cum multo Venerem confundere uino,
praecepit lyrici Teia Musa senis?
Lesbia quid docuit Sappho, nisi amare, puellas?
Tuta tamen Sappho, tutus et ille fuit.
Nec tibi, Battiade, nocuit, quod saepe legenti
delicias uersu fassus es ipse tuas.
Fabula iucundi nulla est sine amore Menandri,
et solet hic pueris uirginibusque legi.
Ilias ipsa quid est aliud, nisi adultera, de qua
inter amatorem pugna uirunique fuit?
Quid prius est illi flamma Briseidos, utque
fecerit iratos rapta puella duces?
Aut quid Odyssea est, nisi femina propter amorem,
dum uir abest, multis una petita procis?

*Tean: Anacreaon
*Battiades: Callimachus

Ovid, Amores XIV, 1-8: Advice (to an undergraduate?) On Social Media Use

“I don’t beg you not to mess around because you’re pretty,
But to spare miserable me the need of knowing about it.
I am not some censor who orders you to be a prude,
But only someone who asks you to try to be discreet.
Whoever can deny her mistakes, hasn’t messed up at all.
Only the admitted fault brings dishonor.
What madness it is to confess in light things done at night?
And to report openly deeds performed in secret?”

Non ego, ne pecces, cum sis formosa, recuso,
sed ne sit misero scire necesse mihi;
nec te nostra iubet fieri censura pudicam,
sed tamen, ut temptes dissimulare, rogat.
non peccat, quaecumque potest peccasse negare,
solaque famosam culpa professa facit.
quis furor est, quae nocte latent, in luce fateri,
et quae clam facias facta referre palam?

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)

Who Hasn’t Written About Love? Ovid, Tristia II: 361-376

“I am not the only one who has written tender love tales.
But I am the only one punished for love’s composition.
What, except for the liberal mixing of Venus with wine,
Did the lyric muse of the Tean* bard teach?
What other than loving did Lesbian Sappho teach the girls?
But Sappho was safe and Anacreon was safe.
It didn’t hurt you, Battiades*, that you often confessed
To your reader your dirty desires in your poems.
No story of playful Menander lacks love;
And he is usually read by boys and maidens!
What is the Iliad itself about other than an adultress
On whose behalf husband and lover quarrel?
What happens in the poem before the fire over Briseis
Makes the leaders enraged over a stolen girl?
Or what is the Odyssey about other than a woman sought for love
By many men when her husband is away?”

Denique composui teneros non solus amores:
composito poenas solus amore dedi.
Quid, nisi cum multo Venerem confundere uino,
praecepit lyrici Teia Musa senis?
Lesbia quid docuit Sappho, nisi amare, puellas?
Tuta tamen Sappho, tutus et ille fuit.
Nec tibi, Battiade, nocuit, quod saepe legenti
delicias uersu fassus es ipse tuas.
Fabula iucundi nulla est sine amore Menandri,
et solet hic pueris uirginibusque legi.
Ilias ipsa quid est aliud, nisi adultera, de qua
inter amatorem pugna uirunique fuit?
Quid prius est illi flamma Briseidos, utque
fecerit iratos rapta puella duces?
Aut quid Odyssea est, nisi femina propter amorem,
dum uir abest, multis una petita procis?

*Tean: Anacreaon
*Battiades: Callimachus

Tibullus, I.2 1-6: Knock, Knock, Knocking on [Delia’s] Door

“Fill up my drink: suppress new pains with wine
So that sleep may take eyes held by exhaustion;
May no one interrupt a man concussed by great Bacchus,
But let a barren love rest.
A savage guard has been set for my girl:
She is locked inside and the doors are bolted closed.”

Adde merum vinoque novos conpesce dolores,
Occupet ut fessi lumina victa sopor,
Neu quisquam multo percussum tempora baccho
Excitet, infelix dum requiescit amor.
Nam posita est nostrae custodia saeva puellae, 5
Clauditur et dura ianua firma sera.

This poem had me until the locked door…This is an example of a motif of a lover sitting outside a locked door, called paraklausithyron. (I can only imagine that a depressed graduate student made the Wikipedia entry). When I first learned about this, the name and the phenomenon’s specificity disturbed me. But, I guess I understand the motif’s attraction–we’re all on the side of some door or another, right?

Sing it Bob…

Well, that didn’t do it. Ok, sing it Axl…

Ovid, Heroides 5.5-9: Oenone to Paris

“What god has put his power against my prayers?
What crime stops me from remaining yours?
We must bear lightly whatever suffering we’ve earned.
We must mourn the punishment that comes undeserved.”

Quis deus opposuit nostris sua numina votis?
ne tua permaneam, quod mihi crimen obest?
leniter, e merito quicquid patiare, ferendum est;
quae venit indignae poena dolenda venit.

Ovid, Heroides 16 (Paris to Helen): You Don’t Have to Dig for This Fire

(Most of the Heroides are from mythical women to men…go here for the full Latin texts.)

“I, Priam’s son, remit to Leda’s daughter, this prayer for health,

A happiness I could have only if you wish me the same.

Shall I describe it, or is there no need for publishing a fire well-known

Now that my love stands out even more than I wished?

Certainly, I would have preferred it stayed hidden until the time

when fear did not cohabitate with joy.

But I pretend poorly: who can hide away a fire

That always betrays itself by its own brilliance?

If you still wait for me to give a voice to these affairs:

I burn: and you possess these words as the declaration of my soul.”

Hanc tibi Priamides mitto, Ledaea, salutem,
quae tribui sola te mihi dante potest.
eloquar, an flammae non est opus indice notae,
et plus quam vellem, iam meus extat amor?
ille quidem lateat malim, dum tempora dentur
laetitiae mixtos non habitura metus.
sed male dissimulo; quis enim celaverit ignem,
lumine qui semper proditur ipse suo?
si tamen expectas, vocem quoque rebus ut addam:
uror—habes animi nuntia verba mei.

And for the title to this post?  Apologies to the Pixies: