Tibullus Elegy I.8 on Marathus’ Love of Pholoe

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But Venus has found the way to lie stealthily with a boy,

   who’s fearful yet keeps clasping tender caresses,

and to give him, panting breathlessly in the tussle of tongues,

   moist kisses and to score his neck with bites.

No stones or gems can give her joy, who sleeps in cold

   solitude never desired by any man.

Too late alas is love summoned back and too late youth

   when gray old age has dyed your withered head.

Then it’s the study of beauty; then hair is changed, tinted

   with the green rind of nuts to hide the years;

then it’s your care to pluck out white hairs by the root

   and launch a new face scoured of blemishes.

But you, while your life is still flowering in its springtime,

   use it: that time glides off on running feet.

And don’t torture Marathus. What glory in crushing a boy? 

   Be hard to veterans, girl, of long experience.

Spare, I beg you, the tender boy.  His illness is far from grave,

   but too much love has tinged his skin with pallor.

Look how often the wretch hurls piteous reproaches on you      

   in absence, drowning all his world in tears.

“Why do you scorn me?” he asks. “The guard could be overcome;

   The god himself gives lovers skill to cheat.

I know the ways of stealthy Venus, how the breath is drawn 

   softly and even stolen kisses leave no sound.

I know how to creep about even in the middle of the night

   and slyly unlock doors without a creak.

But what use are arts, if she scorns the wretched lover

   and flees, that cruel girl, from love’s own bed,

or, after promising to meet, she faithlessly breaks her word

   and I must lie awake in nightlong agony, 

imaging that she’ll come to me, and whatever stirs, 

   I think at once her footsteps made the sound?”

Will you stop that weeping. She’s not to be broken down,

   and your tired eyes are now swollen with tears. 

The gods hate, Pholoe, let me warn you, they hate haughtiness,

   and incense offered in sacred fires won’t help.

This same Marathus once made sport of wretched lovers,

   blind to the vengeful god behind his back.

He even used to laugh, they say, at their tears of anguish

   and made a lover linger with false delays.

Now he hates all disdain, now he’s quite displeased

   at any door that’s bolted shut against him.   

But punishment awaits you, if you don’t abandon pride.

   You’ll long to summon back today with prayer!   

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2 Responses to Tibullus Elegy I.8 on Marathus’ Love of Pholoe

  1. Deap says:

    Side note: National Archeological Museum in Naples, Italy is a stunner. Personal feeling is Naples is a vastly under-rated must see, if not just for this museum alone. Its charms slowly unfold; its treasures dazzle; but its well-known grit must be carefully worked around – which a tourist can readily do sticking to its historic core and lovely suburbs.

    Rick Steves has a good walking tour of Naples, along with high praise for this city in his Mediterranean Cruise Travel book, but only for a single day port stop. It needs a at least a weeks to begin cover all the highlights of this city. Two weeks to explore the surrounding area. Dining in Naples is equal to its vast arts, history and cultural appeal.

  2. akaPatience says:

    My favorite poem posted by Mr. Willett (so far) has been Giacomo Leopardi’s La Sera del dì di festa. It appeared a few days after I lost my beloved brother, profoundly disabled by Cerebral Palsy, who lived with me for many years until the end. This line of the poem was so very apt at the time:

    “And it wrings my heart with such ferocity
    To think how all in this world passes away,
    And barely leaves a trace.”

    As a collector of prints by a Japanese artist whose work I was shocked, shocked to discover is considered erotic, I guess it’s no wonder I’ve enjoyed this elegy and a couple of others posted here – of all places! Thank you colonel, and Mr. Willett, for treating us.

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