When spring begins and the ice-locked streams begin To flow down from the snowy hills above And the clods begin to crumble in the breeze, The time has come for my groaning ox to drag My heavy plow across the fields, so that The plow blade shines as the furrow rubs against it. Not till the earth has been twice plowed, so twice Exposed to sun and twice to coolness will It yield what the farmer prays for; then will the barn Be full to bursting with the gathered grain, And yet if the field's unknown and new to us, Before our plow breaks open the soil at all, It's necessary to study the ways of the winds And the changing ways of the skies, and also to know The history of the planting in that ground, What crops will prosper there and what will not. In one place grain grows best, in another, vines; Another's good for the cultivation of trees; In still another the grain turns green unbidden.
From The Georgics of Virgil, translated by David Ferry. Copyright © 2005 by David Ferry. Reprinted with permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
"So, you traitor, you really believed you'd keep this a secret, this great outrage? Steal away in silence from my shores? Can nothing hold you back? Not our love? Not the pledge once sealed with our right hands? Not even the thought of Dido doomed to a cruel death? Why labor to rig your fleet when the winter's raw, to risk the deep when the Northwind's closing in? You cruel, heartless—Even if you were not pursuing alien fields and unknown homes, even if ancient Troy were standing, still, who'd sail for Troy across such heaving seas? You're running away—from me? Oh, I pray you by these tears, by the faith in your right hand— what else have I left myself in all my pain?— by our wedding vows, the marriage we began, if I deserve some decency from you now, if anything mine has ever won your heart, pity a great house about to fall I pray you, if prayers have any place—reject this scheme of yours! Thanks to you, the African tribes, Numidian warlords hate me, even my own Tyrians rise against me. Thanks to you, my sense of honor is gone, my one and only pathway to the stars, the renown I once held dear. In whose hands, my guest, do you leave me here to meet my death? 'Guest'—that's all that remains of 'husband' now. But why do I linger on? Until my brother Pygmalion batters down my walls? Or Iarbas drags me off, his slave? If only you'd left a baby in my arms—our child— before you deserted me! Some little Aeneas playing about our halls, whose features at least would bring you back to me in spite of all, I would not feel so totally devastated, so destroyed." The queen stopped but he, warned by Jupiter now, his gaze held steady, fought to master the torment in his heart. At last he ventured a few words: "I. . . you have done me so many kindnesses, and you could count them all. I shall never deny what you deserve, my queen, never regret my memories of Dido, not while I can recall myself and draw the breath of life. I'll state my case in a few words. I never dreamed I'd keep my flight a secret. Don't imagine that. Nor did I once extend a bridegroom's torch or enter into a marriage pact with you. If the Fates had left me free to live my life, to arrange my own affairs of my own free will, Troy is the city, first of all, that I'd safeguard, Troy and all that's left of my people whom I cherish. The grand palace of Priam would stand once more, with my own hands I would fortify a second Troy to house my Trojans in defeat. But not now. Grynean Apollo's oracle says that I must seize on Italy's noble land, his Lycian lots say 'Italy!' There lies my love, there lies my homeland now. If you, a Phoenician, fix your eyes on Carthage, a Libyan stronghold, tell me, why do you grudge the Trojans their new homes on Italian soil? What is the crime if we seek far-off kingdoms too? "My father, Anchises, whenever the darkness shrouds the earth in its dank shadows, whenever the stars go flaming up the sky, my father's anxious ghost warns me in dreams and fills my heart with fear. My son Ascanius . . . I feel the wrong I do to one so dear, robbing him of his kingdom, lands in the West, his fields decreed by Fate. And now the messenger of the gods—I swear it, by your life and mine—dispatched by Jove himself has brought me firm commands through the racing winds. With my own eyes I saw him, clear, in broad daylight, moving through your gates. With my own ears I drank his message in. Come, stop inflaming us both with your appeals. I set sail for Italy— all against my will." Even from the start of his declaration, she has glared at him askance, her eyes roving over him, head to foot, with a look of stony silence. . . till abruptly she cries out in a blaze of fury: "No goddess was your mother! No Dardanus sired your line, you traitor, liar, no, Mount Caucasus fathered you on its flinty, rugged flanks and the tigers of Hyrcania gave you their dugs to suck! Why hide it? Why hold back? To suffer greater blows? Did he groan when I wept? Even look at me? Never! Surrender a tear? Pity the one who loves him? What can I say first? So much to say. Now— neither mighty Juno nor Saturn's son, the Father, gazes down on this with just, impartial eyes. There's no faith left on earth! He was washed up on my shores, helpless, and I, I took him in, like a maniac let him share my kingdom, salvaged his lost fleet, plucked his crews from death. Oh I am swept by the Furies, gales of fire! Now it's Apollo the Prophet, Apollo's Lycian oracles: they're his masters now, and now, to top it off. the messenger of the gods, dispatched by Jove himself. comes rushing down the winds with his grim-set commands. Really! What work for the gods who live on high, what a concern to ruffle their repose! I won't hold you, I won't even refute you—go!— strike out for Italy on the winds, your realm across the sea. I hope, I pray, if the just gods still have any power, wrecked on the rocks mid-sea you'll drink your bowl of pain to the dregs, crying out the name of Dido over and over, and worlds away I'll hound you then with pitch-black flames, and when icy death has severed my body from its breath, then my ghost will stalk you through the world! You'll pay, you shameless, ruthless— and I will hear of it, yes, the report will reach me even among the deepest shades of Death!"
Lines 379-486 from "Book Four: The Tragic Queen of Carthage," from Virgil: The Aeneid by Virgil, translated by Robert Fagles, copyright © 2006 by Robert Fagles. Used by permission of Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Anger be now your song, immortal one, Akhilleus' anger, doomed and ruinous, that caused the Akhaians loss on bitter loss and crowded brave souls into the undergloom, leaving so many dead men--carrion for dogs and birds; and the will of Zeus was done. Begin it when the two men first contending broke with one another-- the Lord Marshal Agamémnon, Atreus' son, and Prince Akhilleus. Among the gods, who brought this quarrel on? The son of Zeus by Lêto. Agamémnon angered him, so he made a burning wind of plague rise in the army: rank and file sickened and died for the ill their chief had done in despising a man of prayer.
From Iliad, by Homer, translated by Robert Fitzgerald and published by Anchor Books © 1975. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
In summer's heat, and mid-time of the day, To rest my limbs upon a bed I lay; One window shut, the other open stood, Which gave such light as twinkles in a wood, Like twilight glimpse at setting of the sun, Or night being past, and yet not day begun. Such light to shamefaced maidens must be shown, Where they may sport, and seem to be unknown. Then came Corinna in a long loose gown, Her white neck hid with tresses hanging down, Resembling fair Semiramis going to bed Or Lais of a thousand wooers sped. I snatched her gown: being thin, the harm was small, Yet strived she to be covered there withal. And striving thus, as one that would be cast, Betrayed herself, and yielded at the last. Stark naked as she stood before mine eye, Not one wen in her body could I spy. What arms and shoulders did I touch and see! How apt her breasts were to be pressed by me! How smooth a belly under her waist saw I, How large a leg, and what a lusty thigh! To leave the rest, all liked me passing well, I clinged her naked body, down she fell: Judge you the rest; being tired she bade me kiss; Jove send me more such afternoons as this!
Translation by Christopher Marlowe. This poem is in the public domain.
"Intermissa, Venus, diu." Venus, again thou mov'st a war Long intermitted, pray thee, pray thee spare! I am not such, as in the reign Of the good Cynara I was; refrain Sour mother of sweet Loves, forbear To bend a man, now at his fiftieth year Too stubborn for commands so slack: Go where youth's soft entreaties call thee back. More timely hie thee to the house (With thy bright swans) of Paulus Maximus: There jest and feast, make him thine host If a fit liver thou dost seek to toast. For he's both noble, lovely, young, And for the troubled client fills his tongue: Child of a hundred arts, and far Will he display the ensigns of thy war. And when he, smiling, finds his grace With thee 'bove all his rivals' gifts take place, He'll thee a marble statue make, Beneath a sweet-wood roof, near Alba lake; There shall thy dainty nostril take In many a gum, and for thy soft ear's sake Shall verse be set to harp and lute, And Phrygian hau'boy, not without the flute. There twice a day in sacred lays, The youths and tender maids shall sing thy praise! And in the Salian manner meet Thrice 'bout thy altar, with their ivory feet. Me now, nor girl, nor wanton boy Delights, nor credulous hope of mutual joy; Nor care I now healths to propound Or with fresh flowers to girt my temples round. But why, oh why, my Ligurine, Flow my thin tears down these pale cheeks of mine? Or why my well-graced words among, With an uncomely silence, fails my tongue? Hard-hearted, I dream every night I hold thee fast! but fled hence with the light, Whether in Mars his field thou be, Or Tiber's winding streams, I follow thee.
This poem is in the public domain.
In my eyes he matches the gods, that man who sits there facing you--any man whatever-- listening from closeby to the sweetness of your voice as you talk, the sweetness of your laughter: yes, that--I swear it-- sets the heart to shaking inside my breast, since once I look at you for a moment, I can't speak any longer, but my tongue breaks down, and then all at once a subtle fire races inside my skin, my eyes can't see a thing and a whirring whistle thrums at my hearing, cold sweat covers me and a trembling takes ahold of me all over: I'm greener than the grass is and appear to myself to be little short of dying. But all must be endured, since even a poor [
From The Poetry of Sappho (Oxford University Press 2007), translated by Jim Powell. Copyright © 2007 by Jim Powell. Reprinted by permission of the author.
Like the very gods in my sight is he who sits where he can look in your eyes, who listens close to you, to hear the soft voice, its sweetness murmur in love and laughter, all for him. But it breaks my spirit; underneath my breast all the heart is shaken. Let me only glance where you are, the voice dies, I can say nothing, but my lips are stricken to silence, under- neath my skin the tenuous flame suffuses; nothing shows in front of my eyes, my ears are muted in thunder. And the sweat breaks running upon me, fever Shakes my body, paler I turn than grass is; I can feel that I have been changed, I feel that death has come near me.
Reprinted from Greek Lyrics, edited by Richmond Lattimore, published by the University of Chicago Press, copyright © 1949, 1960 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.
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