Propertius


An early summons


The middle of night, and a letter has come from my mistress to me,
commanding my presence at Tibur without delay,
where the gleaming hills display their double towers on high,
and Anio's Naiad dives to the spreading pools.
What should I do? Entrust myself to the shrouding night,
dreading that lawless hands may attack my body?
Yet if I disobey her orders out of fear,
her tears will hurt me more than a night assault.
Once, for a single crime, she spurned me one whole year:
she does not govern me with a gentle hand.
Yet no one would hurt a lover: lovers are sacrosanct,
though they travel down the middle of Sciron's road.
Whoever is in love could stroll on Scythia's shores,
and no one would be so uncouth as to do him harm.
The moon is his guide, the stars point out the ruts in his path
and Love himself waves his torch in the lead,
and mad dogs turn their fierce and gaping jaws away:
for the tribe of lovers, all roads are always safe.
For who would be bestial enough to shed the weakling blood
of a lover? Venus herself befriends love scorned.
Yet even if these risks should lead to certain death,
such an end as this would be worth paying for.
She will bring me scented oils, and honor my sepulcher
with garlands, and faithfully watch over my grave.
Great gods, may she not lay my bones in some thronged place,
where the crowd's continual traffic makes its way!
That is how lovers' tombs are derided after death.
May I be sheltered by some secluded grove,
or buried under a nameless patch of mounded sand:
I want no fame among the passing crowd.

Submitted: Saturday, December 06, 2003
Edited: Tuesday, March 18, 2014

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Translated by JON CORELiS

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