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A Plea To Delia

A Plea To Delia

5 mins

More wine: and let new pain be lessened

By the grape, so that sleep might quell my weary eyes:

And let no one stir my mind numbed with drink

While wretched love is fast asleep.

For a savage guard’s been set upon my girl

And the harsh door shut fast with a solid bolt.

Door, of a surly master, may the rain beat on you,

And lightning hurled on jupiter’s orders find you out.

Door, open now, conquered by my complaints alone,

And no sound as you open, turned on a stealthy hinge.

And if my mad passion has ever spoken ill of you

Forgive: I pray it might fall on my own head.

It’s fitting you should remember what I said many times,

As a suppliant, setting flowery garlands on your posts.

You too, delia, don’t be shy at deceiving the guard.

Be daring: venus herself assists the brave.

She favours the youth who tries out a new threshold

Or the girl who unfastens the door, with the piercing prong:

She teaches how one creeps secretly from a soft bed,

She teaches how to place a foot without a sound,

She assigns speaking gestures in a husband’s presence,

And hides words of flattery in unassuming signs.

Not teaching all, but those whom no idleness delays

And whom no fear inhibits from rising at dead of night.

Look, as I wander anxiously through the city in the dark,

Venus ensures my safety in the darkness,

She lets no one attack me who might wound my body,

With his blade, or try and make a prize of my clothes.

Whoever’s possessed by love goes safe and holy

Wherever he will: he should fear no ambush at all.

The numbing cold of a winter’s night brings me no harm

Nor the rain showering its vast waters on me.

This labour won’t hurt me, if only delia unlocks the door

And calls me silently with the sound of her tapping.

Hide your eyes, man or woman whom we meet with:

Venus wants her thefts to be concealed.

Don’t startle us with clattering feet or ask our names,

Nor bring the light of glowing torches near us.

If anyone has seen us unawares, let him hide it,

And deny by all the gods that he remembers.

Since if any turns informer, he’ll find venus

Is the child of blood and angry seas.

Still, your husband won’t believe them, the truthful witch

Promised me that, with her magic rites.

I’ve seen her drawing stars down from the sky:

Her chant turns back the course of the flowing river.

Her spells split the ground, conjure ghosts from the tomb

And summon dead bones from the glowing funeral pyre:

Now she holds the infernal crew with magic hissing,

Now sprinkling milk orders them to retreat.

As she wishes, she dispels the cloud from the sombre sky:

As she wishes, calls up snows to a summer world.

They say she alone possesses medea’s fatal herbs,

Only she has fully tamed the savage hounds of hecate.

She composed a spell for me, that you can deceive with:

Chant it three times, spit three times when you’ve done.

Then he’ll not be able to believe anyone about us,

Not even himself if he saw us in your soft bed.

Still you must keep away from others: since he’ll see

All the rest: it’s only me he’ll see nothing of!

What? Do i believe? Surely she’s the same who said

She could dissolve my love with herbs or charms,

And purified me with torches, and in the calm of night

A mournful sacrifice fell to the gods of sorcery.

I didn’t pray that my love should wholly vanish, but that

It might be shared, I’d not wish to be without you if I could.

That man was iron, who when he could have had you,

Stupidly preferred to chase after war and prizes.

Let him drive cilicia’s conquered crew before him,

And pitch his camp of war on captured soil,

Let him sit his swift horse, to be gazed at,

Covered all in silver, covered all in gold:

If only i might yoke the oxen with you delia,

And feed the flocks on the usual mount,

And while i may hold you in my tender arms,

Let soft sleep indeed be mine on the harsh earth.

What use to lie on a tyrian bed, without love’s favours,

If night comes with wakefulness and weeping?

Since then no feather pillows, no embroidered covers,

No sound of soothing waters brings repose.

Have I wronged the divinity of mighty venus with words,

And does my impious tongue now pay the penalty?

Can they say now I’ve sinfully entered the divine sanctuary

And snatched the garland from the holy altar?

I won’t hesitate, if I’m guilty, to kneel in her temple,

And grant her kisses on her sacred threshold,

To crawl on my knees, a suppliant, over the ground

And beat my wretched head against the sacred door.

But you, who laugh indifferent to my suffering, must soon

Take care yourself: gods do not rage at one alone, forever.

I have seen one who ridiculed the miseries of young love

Bow his aged neck later in venus’s harness,

And compose blandishments himself in a quavering voice,

And seek to dress his white hair with his own hands:

And not be ashamed to stand before his dear girl’s door,

And stop her maid in the middle of the forum.

Around him young men and boys crowded closely,

And each one spat in his own tender breast.

But spare me, venus: my devoted heart always serves you:

Why in your bitterness burn your own harvest?

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