“I will not be so bold as to defend my lying ways
or to lift false weapons for the sake of my sins.
I admit it—if there’s any advantage to confessing;
Insane now I confront the crimes I’ve confessed:
I hate, and though I want to, I can’t stop being what I hate.
Alas, how it hurts to carry something you long to drop!”
Non ego mendosos ausim defendere mores
falsaque pro vitiis arma movere meis.
confiteor—siquid prodest delicta fateri;
in mea nunc demens crimina fassus eo.
odi, nec possum, cupiens, non esse quod odi;
heu, quam quae studeas ponere ferre grave est!
I cannot read this poem without thinking of this one (Carm. 85):
“I hate and I love: you might ask why I do this–
I don’t know, but I see it happen and it’s killing me.
Odi et amo. quare id faciam, fortasse requiris.
nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.
“Lesbia talks a lot of shit about me when her husband is around
This brings the greatest pleasure to that fool.
Ass, do you know nothing? She would be sound
If she forgot us in silence—but she rants and she squawks.
She not only remembers me but—a thing sharper to touch,
She’s enraged: it’s like this, she’s burning and talks.”
Lesbia mi praesente viro mala plurima dicit:
haec illi fatuo maxima laetitia est.
mule, nihil sentis? si nostri oblita taceret,
sana esset: nunc quod gannit et obloquitur,
non solum meminit, sed, quae multo acrior est res,
irata est. hoc est, uritur et loquitur.
“But Venus lightly breaks the penalties suffered during love
And comforting pleasure is mixed in to temper the bites.
And there is hope in this: it is possible to extinguish the flame
In that same body, the place where the fire arises.
But nature prevents this from happening in every way.
This is the only matter: whatever we have more of,
The more our heart burns for it with dread desire.
For food and drink are absorbed into our bodies
And since they are able to be separated into clear parts,
It is easy to get our fill of bread and water.
But from a person’s appearance and pretty complexion
The body gains nothing except fleeting images
To enjoy: a pitiful hope often snatched away by the wind.
Just as when a thirsty man tries to drink in dreams
and can get no water to satisfy the fire in his limbs,
but he reaches for water’s image and exhausts himself
and stays parched even as he tries to drink a raging river;
In the same way Venus uses mere images to toy with lovers.
They can never satisfy their bodies just by looking,
Nor can they wipe any bit of it away by wearing down
Their tender limbs wandering lost over the whole body.”
Sed leviter poenas frangit Venus inter amorem,
blandaque refrenat morsus admixta voluptas;
namque in eo spes est, unde est ardoris origo,
restingui quoque posse ab eodem corpore flammam.
quod fieri contra totum natura repugnat:
unaque res haec est, cuius quam plurima habemus,
tam magis ardescit dira cuppedine pectus.
nam cibus atque umor membris adsumitur intus;
quae quoniam certas possunt obsidere partis,
hoc facile expletur laticum frugumque cupido.
ex hominis vero facie pulchroque colore
nil datur in corpus praeter simulacra fruendum
tenvia; quae vento spes raptast saepe misella.
ut bibere in somnis sitiens quom quaerit, et umor
non datur, ardorem qui membris stinguere possit,
sed laticum simulacra petit frustraque laborat
in medioque sitit torrenti flumine potans,
sic in amore Venus simulacris ludit amantis,
nec satiare queunt spectando corpora coram,
nec manibus quicquam teneris abradere membris
possunt errantes incerti corpore toto.
“Finally, what great and vile desire for life compels us
To quake so much amidst doubts and dangers?
Mortals have an absolute end to our lives:
Death cannot be evaded—we must leave.
Nevertheless, we move again and still persist—
No new pleasure is procured by living;
But while what we desire is absent, that seems to overcome
All other things; but later, when we have gained it, we want something else—
An endless thirst for life grips us as we gasp for it.
It remains unclear what fortune life will offer,
What chance may bring us and what end awaits.
But by extending life we do not subtract a moment
Of time from death nor can we shorten it
So that we may somehow have less time after our ends.
Therefore, you may continue as living as many generations as you want,
But that everlasting death will wait for you still,
And he will be there for no less a long time, the man who
Has found the end of life with today’s light, than the man who died
Many months and many years before.”
Denique tanto opere in dubiis trepidare periclis
quae mala nos subigit vitai tanta cupido?
certe equidem finis vitae mortalibus adstat
nec devitari letum pote, quin obeamus.
praeterea versamur ibidem atque insumus usque
nec nova vivendo procuditur ulla voluptas;
sed dum abest quod avemus, id exsuperare videtur
cetera; post aliud, cum contigit illud, avemus
et sitis aequa tenet vitai semper hiantis.
posteraque in dubiost fortunam quam vehat aetas,
quidve ferat nobis casus quive exitus instet.
nec prorsum vitam ducendo demimus hilum
tempore de mortis nec delibare valemus,
quo minus esse diu possimus forte perempti.
proinde licet quod vis vivendo condere saecla,
mors aeterna tamen nihilo minus illa manebit,
nec minus ille diu iam non erit, ex hodierno
lumine qui finem vitai fecit, et ille,
mensibus atque annis qui multis occidit ante.
“These people attack the poem and deny
That it is proper to ruin stories in this way.
But aren’t they showing that they understand nothing in being so clever?
When they criticize me, they accuse Naevius, Plautus and Ennius,
Those authorities I hold as my my own,
Since it is better to take their negligence as a model
Than to copy the pedantic diligence of those fools.
I warn them to be quiet from now on and stop
Talking shit unless they want to own up to their own failings.”
id isti vituperant factum atque in eo disputant
contaminari non decere fabulas.
faciuntne intellegendo ut nil intellegant?
qui quom hunc accusant, Naevium, Plautum, Ennium
accusant, quos hic noster auctores habet,
quorum aemulari exoptat neglegentiam
potius quam istorum obscuram diligentiam.
dehinc ut quiescant porro moneo et desinant
maledicere, malefacta ne noscant sua.