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WHAT day was that, ye birds of mournful plumage, when ye sang things of evil. presage to my love-affairs? What star shall I suspect is moving counter to my fate, what gods shall I complain are making war against me? The woman who but now confessed herself my own, of whom I was the first the only lover, to-day I fear I share with many rivals.

Am I at fault, or is it my verses that have made her the talk? ’Tis even so. My genius hath made of her a wanton. And I deserve it. For why did I vaunt her beauty? If she sells herself to-day, mine is the fault. I am the power that hath made her please; ’tis I who have brought her lovers; these hands have opened the door to them.

Whether verses are good for aught, I much misdoubt me; they have always wrought me ill. ’Twas they excited envy of my treasure.

Though of Thebes I might sing, and Troy and Cæsar's mighty deeds, Corinna alone could fire my genius. Would to heaven that the Muses had been unfavourable to my songs and that Phœbus had deserted me when my task was but begun. Yet since it is the custom to give ear to what the poets say, I should not have wished my verses to have had no weight.

’Tis we who sang of Scylla stealing from her father's

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head his treasured locks and hiding in her womb the raging dogs. ’Tis we who have given wings to the feet and serpents to the hair, our song gave victory to Abos' child and the wingèd horse. ’Tis we gave Tityos his mighty stature, and to Cerberus gave his triple mouths and his serpent-crownèd head. Enceladus we made hurling the spear with a thousand arms, and through us a youthful sorceress overcame heroes by her magic spells. We imprisoned the winds of Æolus in the wine-skins of the Ithacan king; we made the prying Tantalus go mad with thirst, with water all around him; Niobe we changed into a rock, and a young maiden into a bear. ’Tis thanks to us that the bird of Cecrops sings Odrysian Itys; that Jove transforms himself into a bird, or into gold, or, taking on the semblance of a bull, cleaves the waters with a maiden on his back. Why tell of Proteus and those dragon's teeth whence sprang the Thebans? Shall I tell of the bulls that spewed forth flames, and of the tears of amber that flowed, Orega, from thy sister's cheeks; of ships changed into sea goddesses; of the sun shrinking in horror from the sight of Atreus' dreadful feast and of the rocks that followed the music of the lyre?

Unceasing the genius of the poets pours forth, and recks not of the trammels of historic truth. Thus the praises of my mistress should have been looked upon as false. I have been undone by your credulity.


Quis fuit ille dies, quo tristia semper amanti
    omina non albae concinuistis aves?
quodve putem sidus nostris occurrere fatis,
    quosve deos in me bella movere querar?
quae modo dicta mea est, quam coepi solus amare,
    cum multis vereor ne sit habenda mihi.
Fallimur, an nostris innotuit illa libellis?
    sic erit--ingenio prostitit illa meo.
et merito! quid enim formae praeconia feci?
    vendibilis culpa facta puella mea est.
me lenone placet, duce me perductus amator,
    ianua per nostras est adaperta manus.
An prosint, dubium, nocuerunt carmina semper;
    invidiae nostris illa fuere bonis.
cum Thebae, cum Troia foret, cum Caesaris acta,
    ingenium movit sola Corinna meum.
aversis utinam tetigissem carmina Musis,
    Phoebus et inceptum destituisset opus!
Nec tamen ut testes mos est audire poetas;
    malueram verbis pondus abesse meis.
per nos Scylla patri caros furata capillos
    pube premit rabidos inguinibusque canes;
nos pedibus pinnas dedimus, nos crinibus angues;
    victor Abantiades alite fertur equo.
idem per spatium Tityon porreximus ingens,
    et tria vipereo fecimus ora cani;
fecimus Enceladon iaculantem mille lacertis,
    ambiguae captos virginis ore viros.
Aeolios Ithacis inclusimus utribus Euros;
    proditor in medio Tantalus amne sitit.
de Niobe silicem, de virgine fecimus ursam.
     concinit Odrysium Cecropis ales Ityn;
Iuppiter aut in aves aut se transformat in aurum
    aut secat inposita virgine taurus aquas.
Protea quid referam Thebanaque semina, dentes;
    qui vomerent flammas ore, fuisse boves;
flere genis electra tuas, Auriga, sorores;
    quaeque rates fuerint, nunc maris esse deas;
aversumque diem mensis furialibus Atrei,
    duraque percussam saxa secuta lyram?
Exit in inmensum fecunda licentia vatum,
    obligat historica nec sua verba fide.
et mea debuerat falso laudata videri
    femina; credulitas nunc mihi vestra nocet.

Next: Elegy XIII: The Festival Of Juno At Falisci.