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UPON THE DEATH OF TIBULLUS

Ovid's  Amours -- Book 3 - Elegy 9
 

Translation by
George Stepney


NOTE:   George Stepney ( 1663 - 1707 ) was a poet and English diplomat, serving in Germany. He translated a few of Ovid's poems, along with other famous persons of his era.

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If Memmon's fate, bewail'd with constant dew,

Does, with the day, his mother's grief renew;

If her son's death mov'd tender Thetis' mind

To swell with tears the waves, with sighs the wind;

If mighty gods can mortals' sorrow know.

And be the humble partners of our woe;

Now loose your tresses, pensive Elegy,

( Too well your office and your name agree. )

Tibullus, once the joy and pride of fame,

Lives now, rich fuel on the trembling flame.

Sad Cupid now despairs of conquering hearts,

Throws by his empty quiver, breaks his darts:

Eases his useless bows from idle strings,

Nor flies, but humbly creeps with flagging wings.

He wants, of which he robb'd fond lovers, rest,

And wounds with furious hands his pensive breast.

Those graceful curls which wantonly did flow,

The whiter rivals of the falling snow,

Forget their beauty, and in discord lie,

Drunk with the fountain from his melting eye.

Not more Aeneas' loss the boy did move

Like passions for them both prove equal love.

Tibulllus' death grieves the fair goddess more,

More swells her eyes, than when the savage boar

Her beautiful, her lov'd Adonis tore.
 

Poets' large souls heaven's noblest stamps do bear

( Poets the watchful angels' darling care )

Yet Death ( blind archer ) that no difference knows,

Without respect his roving arrows throws.

Nor Phoebus nor the Muses' queen could give

Their son, their own prerogative, to live.

Orpheus, the heir of both his parents' skill,

Tam'd wondering beasts, not Death's more cruel will.

Linus' sad strings on the dumb lute do lie,

In silence forc'd to let their master die.

Homer ( the spring, to whom we poets owe

Our little all, does in sweet numbers flow )

Remains immortal only in his fame,

His works alone survive the envious flame.
 

In vain to gods ( if gods there are ) we pray,

And needless victims prodigally pay.

Worship their sleeping deities:  yet Death

Scorns votaries and stops the praying breath.

To hallow'd shrines intruding Fate will come,

And drag you from the altar to the tomb.
 

Go, frantic poet, with delusions fed,

Think laurels guard your consecrated head,

Now the sweet master fo your art is dead.

What can we hope, since that a narrow span

Can measure the remains of thee, great man?

The bold, rash flame that durst approach so nigh,

And see Tibullus, and not trembling die,

Durst seize on temples, and their gods defy.

Fair Venus ( fair e'en in such sorrows ) stands,

Closing her heavy eyes with trembling hands.

Anon, in vain, officiously she tries

To quench the flame with rivers from her eyes.
 

His mother weeping doth his eyelids close,

And on his urn tears, her last gift, bestows.

His sister too with hair dishevell'd, bears

Part of her mother's nature, and her tears.
 

With those two fair, two mournful rivals come,

And add a greater triumph to his tomb:

Both hug his urn, both his lov'd ashes kiss,

And both contend which reap'd the greater bliss.

Thus Delia spoke, ( when sighs no more could last )

Renewing by rembrance pleasures past:

When youth with vigour did for joy combine,

I was Tibullus' life, Tibullus mine;

I enterain'd his hot, his first desire,

And kept alive, till age, his active fire.

To her then Nemesis ( when groans gave leave ):

As I alone was lov'd , alone I'll grieve;

Spare your vain tears, Tibullus' heart was mine,

About my neck his dying arms did twine;

I snatch'd his soul, which true to me did prove;

Age ended yours, Death only stopp'd my love.
 

If any poor remains survive the flames,

Except thin shadows and more empty names,

Free in Elysium shall Tibullus rove,

Nor fear a second death should cross his love.

There shall Catullus, crown'd with bays, impart

To him far dearer friend his open heart.

There Gallus ( if Fame's hundred tongues all lie )

Shall free from censure, no more rashly die.

Such shall our poet's bless'd companions be,

And in their deaths, as in their lived, agree.

But thou, rich urn, obey my strict commands,

Guard thy great charge from sacrilegious hands.

Thou, Earth, Tibullus' ashes gently use,

And be as soft and easy as his Muse.
 

&/\&/\&
 

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