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The Separation

The Separation

4 mins

I was harsh, and said I could bear separation well:

But now that brave boast’s beyond my reach.

Now I’m driven, as a swift top’s whipped over flat ground

One that an agile boy spins with practised skill.

Scorch the wild beast and torment him, so after this,

He won’t talk so mightily: tame his savage speech.

Yet spare me, by the bond of our secret couch,

By our love, i beg, and the head that lay by mine.

They say it was me, with my prayers, who snatched you

From gloomy sickness, when you were lying there:

I myself cleansed you, with pure sulphur round you,

Once the old woman had chanted her magic spell.

I myself expiated wild nightmares, lest they harm you,

Three times averting them with sacred grain:

I myself in woollen headband and loose tunic

Offered nine vows to trivia in the silent night.

I’ve paid for all: now another enjoys my love,

And, happy man, he benefits from my prayers.

If you were saved, I imagined in my madness

A happy life would be mine, but the gods denied me.

“I’ll live in the country, and while the harvest’s threshed

In the hot sun, my delia, will be there, guarding the crop,

Or she’ll watch over the grapes in the brimming troughs

When agile feet trample the gleaming must.

She’ll be used to counting flocks: she’ll be used to a child

Babbling, a slave’s, lovingly playing in its mistress’s lap.

She’ll know to offer the country god grapes for the vines

Wheat ears for the harvest, food for the flocks.

She’ll rule everyone, all things will be in her care:

And I’ll joy in being nothing in that house.

Here my messalla will come, for whom delia

Will pull down sweetest fruit from chosen trees:

And, in homage to his greatness, show great care,

And, herself his servant, prepare and serve his meals.”

I imagined these things, prayers, that the southerlies

And easterlies now blow through scented armenia.

Often I’ve tried to dispel troubles with wine:

But grief turned all the wine to tears.

Often I've held others: but just as delight was near,

Venus warned me of my love, and left me.

Then the woman, leaving, called me accursed,

Ah, shame, and said my love knew wicked arts.

My girl does it not with words, but beauty and tender arms,

By those she bewitched me, and her golden hair.

So thetis, the sea-green nereid, once was, carried

To thessalian peleus by a bridled dolphin.

These things harmed me. A cunning bawd comes

To ruin me, in that a rich lover’s now appeared.

May she eat blood-soaked food, and with gory lips

Drink from the bitter cup filled with gall:

Let ghosts always flit round her, wailing their fate,

And the loud screech-owl call from her rooftop:

Maddened by hunger’s goad, let her search graves

For grass, and bones left by savage wolves:

And run with bare crotch and howl, through the town.

With a fierce crowd of crossroad-dogs behind her.

It shall be: a god gives the sign: there are divinities

For lovers, and venus, deserted through injustice, rages.

But you, first abandon the teachings of the greedy witch:

Since love is defeated by endless gifts.

The poor man will always be there for you: he

Will come to you first, and be glued to your side.

The poor man’s a faithful friend in the crush of the crowd,

He’ll stir his hands and forge a way for you.

The poor man will lead you stealthily to secret friends,

And himself undo the sandals from your white feet.

Alas, I sing in vain, and her door won’t open

Won by words, a full hand must do the knocking.

But you, who are master now, fear my fate:

Fortune turns lightly on the track of her swift wheel.

Even now, someone stands, purposefully, at the threshold,

Watches closely and often, then runs away,

Pretends to pass the house, then soon runs back again,

Alone, and is always coughing in front of the door.

Furtive love is readying something. Enjoy it while you can

I beg you: the boat’s in the water, sailing towards you.

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