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Albius Tibullus
(54 - 18 BC) Rome


Elegiac poet


Tibullus, born in Pedum, near Praeneste, probably was of the equestrian order. He was a friend of Messala, whom he accompanied on campaign. A master of the Latin love elegy, Tibullus wrote two books of verse (concerned, respectively, with "Delia" and "Nemesis" - names symbolic of his loves) that were published during his lifetime; some doubtfully attributed posthumous pieces plus works by other poets constitute a third book. Hes lover was Marathus.


Tibullus, Elegies, Book I , 4 (The Art of Boy's Conquest)

Sic umbrosa tibi contingant tecta, Priape,
Ne capiti soles, ne noceantque nives:
Quae tua formosos cepit sollertia? certe
Non tibi barba nitet, non tibi culta coma est,
Nudus et hibernae producis frigora brumae, 5
Nudus et aestivi tempora sicca Canis.'
Sic ego; tum Bacchi respondit rustica proles
Armatus curva sic mihi falce deus:
"So the protective shadows might be yours,
and your head not be harmed by sun or snow,
Priapus, what skill of yours captivates lovely lads?
For sure, you've no shining beard, or well-groomed hair:
naked you fulfil your role in the cold of cloudy winter,
naked too in the dry time of the Dog-Star's heat."
So I: then the rustic child of Bacchus answered me, so,
the god who's armed with the curving hook.

'O fuge te tenerae puerorum credere turbae,
Nam causam iusti semper amoris habent.10
Hic placet, angustis quod equom conpescit habenis,
Hic placidam niveo pectore pellit aquam,
Hic, quia fortis adest audacia, cepit; at illi
Virgineus teneras stat pudor ante genas.
"Oh beware of trusting the crowd of tender boys:
since they always offer a true cause for love.
This one pleases, that keeps a tight rein on his horse:
that one breaks the still waters with his snowy breast:
this one for his audacious bravery: while that one's
virgin modesty mantles his tender cheeks.

Sed ne te capiant, primo si forte negabit, 15
Taedia: paulatim sub iuga colla dabit.
Longa dies homini docuit parere leones,
Longa dies molli saxa peredit aqua;
Annus in apricis maturat collibus uvas,
Annus agit certa lucida signa vice. 20
Nec iurare time: Veneris periuria venti
Inrita per terras et freta summa ferunt.
But don't let boredom seize you, if at first he denies you
fiercely: gradually his neck will yield to the yoke.
Length of time has taught lions to comply with man,
with length of time soft water wears away rock:
time ripens the grapes on the sunny slopes,
time drives the bright constellations on their sure course.
Don't be afraid to swear: the winds bear vain oaths of love
over the lands and over the surface of the sea.

Gratia magna Iovi: vetuit pater ipse valere,
Iurasset cupide quicquid ineptus amor,
Perque suas inpune sinit Dictynna sagittas 25
Ad firmes crines perque Minerva suos.
Huge thanks to Jove: the Father himself denied their power,
so that foolish Love might swear anything in passion:
and Diana lets you swear by her arrows with impunity
and Minerva lets you swear by her hair.

At si tardus eris, errabis: transiet aetas.
Quam cito non segnis stat remeatque dies,
Quam cito purpureos deperdit terra colores,
Quam cito formosas populus alta comas! 30
Quam iacet, infirmae venere ubi fata senectae,
Qui prior Eleo est carcere missus equos!
Vidi iam iuvenem, premeret cum serior aetas,
Maerentem stultos praeteriisse dies.
But if you linger you're lost: how swift time flies!
The day does not stand idle or return.
How quickly the earth loses its rich purple hues,
how quickly the high poplar its lovely leaves.
How the horse is despised when weak old age's fate
arrives, he who once shot from the starting gate at Elis.
I've seen a young man on whom later years now pressed
mourning his foolishness in days gone by.

Crudeles divi! serpens novus exuit annos, 35
Formae non ullam fata dedere moram.
Solis aeterna est Baccho Phoeboque iuventas,
Nam decet intonsus crinis utrumque deum.
Cruel gods! The snake renewed sheds his years:
but fate grants no delays to beauty.
Only for Bacchus and Phoebus is youth eternal:
and unshorn hair is fitting for both those gods.

Tu, puero quodcumque tuo temptare libebit,
Cedas: obsequio plurima vincet amor. 40
Neu comes ire neges, quamvis via longa paretur
Et Canis arenti torreat arva siti,
Quamvis praetexens picta ferrugine caelum
Venturam anticipet imbrifer arcus aquam.
Vel si caeruleas puppi volet ire per undas, 45
Ipse levem remo per freta pelle ratem.
You'll yield to your boy in whatever he wants to try:
love always wins the most by deference.
You'll not refuse to go, though he intends long journeys,
and the Dog-Star bakes the earth with parching drought,
though the brimming rainbow, threatens coming storm,
painting the heavens with its purple hues.
If he wants to sail the blue waves in a boat, with the oar
drive the light vessel through the waves yourself.

Nec te paeniteat duros subiisse labores
Aut opera insuetas adteruisse manus,
Nec, velit insidiis altas si claudere valles,
Dum placeas, umeri retia ferre negent. 50
Don't complain at submitting yourself to hard labour
or roughening your hands unused to work:
while you still please, if he wants to trap deep valleys,
don't let your shoulders refuse to bear the hunting nets.

Si volet arma, levi temptabis ludere dextra:
Saepe dabis nudum, vincat ut ille, latus.
Tum tibi mitis erit, rapias tum cara licebit
Oscula: pugnabit, sed tamen apta dabit.
Rapta dabit primo, post adferet ipse roganti, 55
Post etiam collo se inplicuisse velit.
Heu male nunc artes miseras haec saecula tractant:
Iam tener adsuevit munera velle puer.
I he wants to fight, try to play at it with a light hand:
often leave your flank exposed so he can win.
Then he'll be gentle with you, then you may snatch
that precious kiss: he'll struggle but let you take it.
At first he'll let you snatch it, later he'll bring it himself
when asked, and then even want to hang about your neck.
Sadly alas these times now produce wretched arts:
now tender boys are accustomed to wanting gifts.

At tu, qui venerem docuisti vendere primus,
Quisquis es, infelix urgeat ossa lapis. 60
Pieridas, pueri, doctos et amate poetas,
Aurea nec superent munera Pieridas.
You, whoever you are, who first taught the sale of love
may a fateful stone press down on your bones.
Boys, love the Muses and the learned poets,
let no golden gifts outweigh the Muses.

Carmine purpurea est Nisi coma: carmina ni sint,
Ex umero Pelopis non nituisset ebur.
Quem referent Musae, vivet, dum robora tellus, 65
Dum caelum stellas, dum vehet amnis aquas.
At qui non audit Musas, qui vendit amorem,
Idaeae currus ille sequatur Opis
Et tercentenas erroribus expleat urbes
Et secet ad Phrygios vilia membra modos. 70
Through poetry Nisus's lock of hair's still purple,
without verse no ivory gleams on Pelop's shoulder.
He the Muses name, shall live, while earth bears oaks,
while heaven bears stars, while rivers carry water.
But he who cannot hear the Muses, he who sells love,
let him follow the chariot of Idaean Ops, and traverse
three hundred cities with his wanderings,
and cut at his worthless limbs, in the Phrygian way.

Blanditiis volt esse locum Venus ipsa: querelis
Supplicibus, miseris fletibus illa favet.'
Haec mihi, quae canerem Titio, deus edidit ore,
Sed Titium coniunx haec meminisse vetat.
Venus wants room for blandishments: she favours
complaining suppliants and wretched weeping."
These things the god's mouth told me, to sing to Titius:
but Titius's wife forbids him to remember them.

Pareat ille suae; vos me celebrate magistrum, 75
Quos male habet multa callidus arte puer.
Gloria cuique sua est: me, qui spernentur, amantes
Consultent: cunctis ianua nostra patet.
Tempus erit, cum me Veneris praecepta ferentem
Deducat iuvenum sedula turba senem. 80
Let him listen to her: but you praise me as master,
you whom sadly a wily boy possesses, by wicked art.
Each has his own glory: let despised lovers consult me:
my doors are open wide to everyone.
A time will come when a loyal crowd of young men
shall lead my aged self along, carrying the laws of Venus.

Heu heu quam Marathus lento me torquet amore!
Deficiunt artes, deficiuntque doli.
Parce, puer, quaeso, ne turpis fabula fiam,
Cum mea ridebunt vana magisteria.
Alas! Alas how Marathus torments me with love's delay!
My art is useless, and useless all my guile.
Spare me boy, I beg you, lest I become an unworthy tale,
and they all laugh at my idle teaching.


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