Ovid

(43 BCE - 17 CE / Rome / Italy)

Love and War


Lovers all are soldiers, and Cupid has his campaigns:
I tell you, Atticus, lovers all are soldiers.
Youth is fit for war, and also fit for Venus.
Imagine an aged soldier, an elderly lover!
A general looks for spirit in his brave soldiery;
a pretty girl wants spirit in her companions.
Both stay up all night long, and each sleeps on the ground;
one guards his mistress's doorway, one his general's.
The soldier's lot requires far journeys; send his girl,
the zealous lover will follow her anywhere.
He'll cross the glowering mountains, the rivers swollen with storm;
he'll tread a pathway through the heaped-up snows;
and never whine of raging Eurus when he sets sail
or wait for stars propitious for his voyage.
Who but lovers and soldiers endure the chill of night,
and blizzards interspersed with driving rain?
The soldier reconnoiters among the dangerous foe;
the lover spies to learn his rival's plans.
Soldiers besiege strong cities; lovers, a harsh girl's home;
one storms town gates, the other storms house doors.
It's clever strategy to raid a sleeping foe
and slay an unarmed host by force of arms.
(That's how the troops of Thracian Rhesus met their doom,
and you, O captive steeds, forsook your master.)
Well, lovers take advantage of husbands when they sleep,
launching surprise attacks while the enemy snores.
To slip through bands of guards and watchful sentinels
is always the soldier's mission - and the lover's.
Mars wavers; Venus flutters: the conquered rise again,
and those you'd think could never fall, lie low.
So those who like to say that love is indolent
should stop: Love is the soul of enterprise.
Sad Achilles burns for Briseis, his lost darling:
Trojans, smash the Greeks' power while you may!
From Andromache's embrace Hector went to war;
his own wife set the helmet on his head;
and High King Agamemnon, looking on Priam's child,
was stunned (they say) by the Maenad's flowing hair.
And Mars himself was trapped in The Artificer's bonds:
no tale was more notorious in heaven.
I too was once an idler, born for careless ease;
my shady couch had made my spirit soft.
But care for a lovely girl aroused me from my sloth
and bid me to enlist in her campaign.
So now you see me forceful, in combat all night long.
If you want a life of action, fall in love.

- translated from the Latin by Jon Corelis

Submitted: Sunday, December 07, 2003

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