Ovid: Ex Ponto
Ďquid tibi cum Ponto?
what have you to do with Pontus?í
Translated by A. S. Kline © 2003 All Rights Reserved
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Pompey, accept a poem composed by one
whoís indebted to you, Sextus, for his life.
If you donít stop me setting down your name,
that too will add to the sum of your merits:
while, if you frown, Iíll confess Iíve sinned indeed,
though the reason for my offence should win approval.
Truly, my mind could not be held from gratitude.
Please donít let anger bear down on my loyal service.
O, how often I thought myself disloyal in these books
in that your name was nowhere to be read!
O, how often, when I wished to write to others,
my hand, unwittingly, set your name in the wax!
The error of such mistakes itself pleased me,
and my hand was barely willing to make the change.
I said to myself: ĎLet him see it, indeed even if he complains!
Iím ashamed of not having earned his reproach before.í
Give me the waters of Lethe that numb the heart, if
they exist, Iíll still not have the power to forget you.
I beg youíll allow this, and not reject my words
with contempt, nor consider my attentions a crime,
and let this be the inadequate thanks offered for all your help:
if not, Iíll still be grateful, against your will.
Your grace was never slow in my affairs,
your wealth never denied me generous assistance.
Even now your compassion, undeterred by my
swift fate, offers my life, and will offer it, aid.
You might ask from where I derive such confidence
in the future? Everyone cherishes what theyíve made.
wringing her hair wet with the seaís spray:
created in bronze and ivory by Phidiasís hand:
as Calamis wins praise for the horses he fashioned:
as those cattle, true to life, are a masterpiece by Myron:
so Iím not the least of your possessions, Sextus,
and celebrated as a work, a gift of your patronage.
O Severus, mightiest poet of mighty patrons, this you read
comes all the way from the long-haired Getae:
and it shames me, if youíll only allow me to tell the truth,
that my books have been silent as yet about your name.
Yet letters without metre have never ceased
to pass in turn between us, out of friendship.
Itís only verse Iíve not given you, witness to your thoughtful
attentions. Why indeed give you what you yourself compose?
Youíve a fertile mind, and of those who plough
Helicon, no one produces a richer crop.
To send verses to such, would be adding leaves to the woods.
Thatís the reason for my delaying to do so, Severus.
Moreover my skill doesnít respond as before,
I turn the arid shore with a barren blade.
As sure as mud chokes the waves in the canals,
and the troubled water builds in a choked spring,
so my mindís been hurt by muddy misfortune,
and poetry flows in an impoverished vein.
If anyone had set Homer down in this place,
believe me, even heíd have turned into a Getan.
Forgive my confession, Iíve let slip the reins of study,
and my fingers are rarely drawn to letters.
That sacred impulse, that nourishes poetís hearts,
that once used to be mine, has all vanished.
My Muse barely plays her part, when Iíve taken up my tablets,
she barely lays a hand there, almost has to be forced.
Iíve little or no pleasure, to speak of, in writing,
no joy in weaving words into metre,
whether itís the fact Iíve reaped no profit from it,
that makes this thing the source of my misfortunes:
or that writing a poem you canít read to anyone
is exactly like making gestures in the dark.
An audience stirs interest: power grows
with praise, and fame is a continual spur.
Who can I recite my work to here, but yellow-haired
Coralli, and the other tribes of the barbarous Danube?
But what can I do, alone, with what matters should I pass
an ill-starred idleness, and fritter away the days?
Since neither wine nor illusory dice attract me,
those usual ways in which time silently steals by,
and I canít delight in renewing earth by cultivation,
though Iíd like to if the savage wars allowed,
whatís left but the Muses, a chilly consolation,
those goddesses whoíve earned no good of me?
But you, who drink more felicitously of the Aonian spring,
go on loving that study that works advantageously for you,
perform the Musesí rites as they deserve, and send some
product of your recent efforts, here, for me to read.
Shall I complain or be silent? Should I declare the crime nameless,
or should I wish who you are to be known to everyone?
Iíll not utter a name, in case my complaint advantages
you, and you acquire fame through my verse.
As long as my ship rested on a solid keel, you were
first among those who wished to sail with me.
Now that Fortuneís frowned, you slide away,
now that you know your help is really needed.
You dissemble too: donít want to be thought to know me,
ĎWhoís that?í you ask, on hearing the name of Ovid.
Iím the one, though you donít want to hear it, joined to you,
in a long-standing friendship, almost boy with boy:
Iím the one who was the first to know your serious
thoughts, and the first to share in your pleasant jests:
Iím the one, familiar friend of your house, by frequent custom,
Iím the one, the one and only Poet in your opinion.
Iím the one, traitor, you donít know if Iím still alive,
whom youíve taken no care to enquire about.
If I was never dear to you, you show your deceit:
if you werenít inventing it, your fickleness is revealed.
Or come, tell me about some resentment that changed you:
since my reproach is just, unless yours turns out to be.
Whatís the fellow crime that stops you being what you were?
Do you call it a crime that Iíve commenced being unhappy?
If you couldnít bring me help in substance or in action,
you might have managed three words on a sheet of paper?
I scarcely believe it myself, but rumour has it you insult
me in my downfall, without sparing a single word.
Ah, madman, why are you doing this! Why, given Fortune
might fail, do you lessen the tears to be shed at your own wreck?
That goddess shows by her own wavering orb that sheís fickle,
she who always stands on its top beneath her unsteady feet.
Sheís less certain than every leaf, than any breeze:
only yours, perverse one, equals her fickleness.
All things mortal hang by a tenuous thread,
and what was strong is ruined by sudden chance.
Whoís not heard of the power of Croesusís wealth?
Yet didnít he, a captive, have his life spared by his enemy?
barely kept fierce hunger away with his humble art.
Who was greater than Pompey? Yet, fleeing, he asked
for help from a client, and in a submissive voice,
and he, whom all the countries of the world obeyed,
ended by needing the aid of a single man.
under whose consulship Rome was so often victorious,
lay in the mud and the marsh grass, and suffered
may things shameful for so great a man.
Divine power toys with human affairs, and true
faith barely finds a place in present times.
If anyone had said to me: ĎYouíll travel to Euxine shores,
and live in fear of being wounded by Getic arrows,í
Iíd have said: ĎGo and drink a potion that clears the brain,
whateverís in all that stuff Anticyra produces.í
Yet it happened to me: even if I could have guarded against
human weapons, I couldnít do so at all against supreme gods.
You too should be afraid, and consider: what seems
your happiness, can turn to sadness while you speak.
Thereís no day so drenched by the southern
clouds that the rain falls in an endless flood.
Thereís no place so barren it hasnít a useful herb,
lost as a rule among the tough brambles.
A heavy fate makes nothing so miserable
that thereís no joy to lessen the pain a little.
See how I, bereft of home, country, and the sight
of my own, driven like a wreck to Getic waters,
still found a reason there to brighten my glance,
and cease to remember my misfortunes.
As I walked alone along the yellow sands,
there seemed the sound of wings behind me.
Looking back, there was no one to be seen,
but nevertheless these words came to my ears:
ĎLo, I, Rumour, come to you with glad tidings,
having flown down the vast pathways of the air.
Because of Pompeyís consulship, he whoís dearer to you
than any other, the new year will be happy and bright.í
The goddess spoke and, having filled Pontus
with good news, made her way to other nations.
But care slipped from me in the midst of new joys,
and the hostile harshness of this place was banished.
So, two-faced Janus, when youíve opened the long year,
and Decemberís been driven out by your holy month,
Pompey will don purple robes of high honour,
and leave nothing more to be added to his titles.
Now I seem to see halls near bursting with the crowd,
and the people trampled due to lack of space,
and first you go to visit the Tarpeian holy places,
and the gods begin to be receptive to your prayers:
the snowy oxen, that Faleriiís grass has nourished,
in its meadows, offer their throats to the sure axe:
and next, as you wish deeply that all the gods
might favour you, Jupiter and Caesar will do so.
The Curia will receive you, and the senators, summoned
in the usual way, will lend their ears to your words.
When your speech from eloquent lips has pleased them,
and, as customary, the dayís brought words of good-omen,
and youíve given the thanks due to Caesar and the gods,
(heíll give you cause why you should often repeat them)
then youíll return home, escorted by the whole senate,
your house scarcely big enough for everyoneís attentions.
Pity me, because I wonít be there among that crowd,
my eyes wonít have the power to enjoy these things!
Whatís permitted is for me to see you, though absent,
in my mind: and view the features of the dear consul.
May the gods allow my name to come to you sometimes,
when youíll say: ĎAh, whatís that poor wretch doing now?í
If anyone reports words like that to me,
Iíll immediately confess my exileís eased.
Go, slight verses, to the Consulís learned ear,
carry a message for that distinguished man to read.
Itís a long road, and your feet wonít balance,
and the land lies shrouded in winter snow.
in the clouds, and the waters of the Ionian Sea,
in less than ten days, even if you donít hurry
on the journey, youíll reach the imperial city.
Then Pompeyís house should be your first objective:
no otherís nearer to the Forum of Augustus.
If any in the crowd asks who you are, and where
youíre from, speak any name to mislead his ear.
Even though I think itís safe to confess,
surely words of deceit involve less danger.
Even when youíve reached the threshold, you wonít get
the chance to see the Consul without being stopped.
Heíll be laying down words of law to the citizens, seated
on his high, conspicuously carved ivory chair:
or managing public revenues, next to the planted spear,
preventing the cityís wealth being diminished:
or, when the Senateís been called to the Julian Temple,
heíll be debating affairs fitting for so great a Consul:
or heíll be bearing familiar greetings to Augustus and his son,
and consulting about some task not well enough understood.
Germanicus Caesar will claim the time left by all
of this: he reverences him next to the great gods.
But as soon as heís free from this host of tasks,
heíll reach out a kindly hand to you, and ask,
perhaps, how I myself, your author, am.
I want you to reply in words like these:
ĎHeís alive still, and acknowledges he owes his life to you,
which he holds above all to be a gift of Caesarís mercy.
With grateful lips he often says, that, when he was exiled,
you had occasion to make those savage roads safe:
it was owing to your heartfelt care he didnít warm
some Bistonian sword-blade with his blood.
and you added many gifts to help him live,
so that his own resources werenít depleted.
He swears heíll be your servant for all time,
so thanks can be rendered for your services.
Mountains will first be free of shadowy trees,
and the seas be emptied of their sailing ships,
rivers aim their course backward to their springs,
before he ends his thanks for all your kindness.í
When youíve spoken, ask him to protect his gift,
so the purpose of your journey can be fulfilled.
Brutus, the letter youíre reading has come to you
from that land where youíd prefer Ovid not to be.
But what youíd not wish, wretched fate has willed.
Ah me, it has greater power than your prayers.
timeís moving onwards into a second five,
and stubborn fortune is unchanging, and slyly
obstructs my wishes with a limping foot.
Maximus, glory of the Fabii, had decided to speak,
in supplication, to divine Augustus on my behalf.
He died before he made the plea, and I think Iím reason
for his death (though I canít be so important)
Now I fear to trust my salvation to anyone:
that recourse is truly finished with his death.
Augustus was beginning to forgive my mindless error:
he left the world, and my hopes, bereft together.
Yet situated as I am far from your shores, I sent you
such verse as I could write concerning the new god.
May this respectful act aid me, and let there be an end
to my ills, the anger of the sacred house be lessened.
O, I can swear with a clear conscience that you, Brutus,
known to me in no uncertain manner, pray for the same.
Though you always granted me your true love,
still that love has grown in my time of trouble.
Anyone who saw your tears, that equalled mine,
would have thought we were both to be punished.
Nature made you kind to the wretched: she gave
no man a more merciful heart than you, Brutus:
so whoever knew nothing of your worth in court cases,
would hardly think your lips could prosecute criminals.
In fact the same man, though it seems perverse maybe,
can be mild with suppliants, and harsh with the guilty.
When you undertake the vengeance of strict justice,
every wordís as though itís steeped in venom.
May your enemies come to know how fierce you are
in conflict, and suffer the sharp weapons of your tongue,
which you polish with such refined care all would deny
that ability could be present in such a person.
But if you see anyone wounded by fateís injustice,
no womanís more tender-hearted than you.
I felt this most of all when the larger part
of my friends denied all knowledge of me.
Them Iíll forget, you Iíll never forget,
you who ease the anxiety of my ills.
The Danube, all too close, will sooner turn its course
back from the Euxine shore towards its source,
the chariot of the sun be driven to the Eastern sea,
as if the age of Thyestean banquets were returned,
than any of you whoíve grieved at my exile
shall denounce me as ungrateful, un-remembering.
to deliver justice in these places below the pole,
you observe, in person, what country Iím stuck in, and you
will witness Iím not in the habit of complaining idly.
Through you, young offspring of Celtic kings,
the truth of my words will not be ignored.
You yourself can see Pontus truly solid with ice,
you yourself see wine stand frozen by the frost:
you yourself see the fierce Iazygian ox-herd
lead his loaded wagon over the Danubeís floes.
And you observe poison carried by barbed steel,
so the weapon can be a dual cause of death.
Would that this place had only to be administered,
not also known to you yourself through warfare!
Reaching for the highest rank, in the thick of danger,
that well-deserved honour recently fell to you.
Even though the titleís full of reward for you,
your courage is still greater than your role.
Danube wonít deny it whose waters were once
dyed dark red with Getic blood, at your hands.
Aegisos wonít deny it, recaptured at your coming,
gaining no advantage from the nature of its site.
Since itís uncertain whether that city, touching the clouds
on its high ridge, was better defended by arms or position.
The fierce enemy had taken it from its Thracian king
and, victorious, held its treasure captive, till Vitellius,
carried downriver, disembarked his troops,
and advanced his standards against the Getae.
Then the impulse came to you, bravest scion
of noble Donnus, to attack the hostile force.
No delay: conspicuous from afar in shining armour,
ensuring that your brave deeds canít go unnoticed,
with swift strides you charge their position,
its steel, and stones, heavier than winter hail.†
A storm of missiles flung from above donít stop you,
nor those arrow-tips steeped in snakeís venom.
Shafts with painted feathers cling to your helm,
and scarcely any part of your shieldís unscarred.
Unhappily, your body canít escape every blow:
but the pain is less than your sharp desire for glory.
Hectorís brands, in defending the Greek ships.
When you came nearer, fighting hand to hand,
when battle could be joined with cruel swords,
itís difficult to tell of all your warlike actions there,
how many you killed, whom, and how they fell.
You trod in victory over the piles of dead your sword
had made, the Getae heaped wherever your feet stood.
The lower ranks followed their leaderís example,
fought, took many wounds, and delivered many.
But your courage exceeded all others, as Pegasus,
once flew faster than the swiftest horse.
Aegisos was taken, and your deeds, Vestalis,
are born witness to, for ever, in my song.
A letter has arrived here, one perfected Suillius
by your studies: late indeed, but still, it pleases me:
in which you say youíll bring me aid, as far as
loyal friendship can stir the gods by asking.
Even if you offered nothing else, your friendly purpose
makes me your debtor: I call your wish to help true service.
Only let that impulse of yours endure lengths of time,
and your loyalty not grow weary of my troubles.
Our bonds of kinship make some claims on us,
bonds that I pray will always remain strong.
Since she whoís your wife is almost my own daughter,
and one who calls you son-in-law, calls me husband.
It would be sad for me if you frowned reading this verse,
and felt shame at being related to me by marriage!
But youíll find nothing here meriting shame,
except fate: she was blind where I was concerned.
If you look at my family, youíll find we were knights
for endless generations, from our first origins:
or if you want to enquire into my morals,
ignore my one error, alas, and theyíre spotless.
If you hope anything at all can be achieved by praying,
exhort the gods you worship, with a suppliantís voice.
Let your god be young Caesar. Please your divine power,
Germanicus, truly no altarís better known to you than his.
It never allows its priestís prayers to be made in vain:
seek assistance from it, concerning my affairs.
No matter how slight the breeze, so long as it aids me
my foundering barque will rise again from the waves.
Then Iíll offer sacred incense to the swift flames,
and Iíll bear witness to the power of the divinity.
Iíll not build a temple of Parian marble for you,
Germanicus: my ruin stripped me of my wealth.
Prosperous houses and cities will found temples to you:
Ovid will thank you with his only riches, with poetry.
I confess itís a meagre gift indeed for a great service,
if itís words I give in return for my return being granted.
But he who gives all he has gives thanks in abundance,
and piety such as that has achieved its ends.
Incense a poor man offers the gods from his lowly censer
has no less power than that from a great manís dish.
The new-born lamb, struck down in sacrifice, reddens
Thereís still nothing more fitting for the leaders of men
than the tribute rendered by a poetís verse.
Poetry acts everywhere as the herald of your glory,
and ensures that the fame of your actions never dies.
Virtueís kept alive by verse, and, escaping
the tomb, gains fame among later generations.
Ageís decay consumes iron and stone,
and nothing has greater power than time.
Writing survives the years. Through writing you know
of Agamemnon, and all who bore arms for or against him.
Whoíd know of Thebes and the seven generals, without
poetry, or everything that happened before and since?
The gods too, if itís right to say it, take on existence
through poetry, such majesty needs a singing voice.
Itís how we know that Chaos, that mass of early
nature, separated out to acquire its elements:
how the Giants, aspiring to the rule of the Heavens,
were hurled to Styx by the avengerís lightning blast:
how victorious Bacchus won fame by conquering
newly added to the stars, was immortalised in part by poetry.
So, Caesar, if thereís any life left in my skill,
it will be at your service, completely.
As a poet yourself you canít despise a poetís tribute:
it is a thing of value in your judgement.
And if your fame hadnít called you to great affairs,
youíd have been the crowning glory of the Muses.
But itís better to give us all themes than poems:
even if you canít abandon poetry completely.
One moment waging war, the next coercing words,
whatís labour for others, will be play for you.
Just as Apolloís not slow to use the lyre or bow,
and either string will serve his holy hands,
so the arts of prince and scholar never fail you,
and the Muse is bound up with Jupiter in your mind.
And since sheís not banished me from that spring
let it be helpful, and bring aid, that I observe our mutual rite,
and have set my hand to the same studies:
so I might flee these shores, too open to the Coralli,
a tribe clad in skins: escape the savage Getae, at the last,
and if my countryís barred to such a wretch, be set down
in any place not so far as this place is from Rome,
from where I might celebrate your latest glories,
and tell of your great actions with least delay.
Pray for him whoís almost your father-in-law, dear
Suillius, that this request might reach the heavenly powers.
Ovid sends you this greeting, Graecinus, as he can,
but not as he would, from the Black Sea waters:
once sent, may the gods have it find you in the dawn
that first brings you the twelve Ďrods and axesí:
without me, and Iíll not be one of your people,
allow my letter to take its masterís place,
and serve as a friend on the chosen day.
And if Iíd been born to a better fate,
and my wheels had run on a truer axle,
my lips would have performed the greeting
that my hand now acts out in writing,
and Iíd congratulate you with sweet words and kisses,
and your honours would be no less mine than yours.
Iíd be so proud on that day, I confess, thereíd
be scarcely any roof could contain my pride:
and while the crowd of sacred senators surrounded you,
Iíd be commanded, a knight, to go before the consul:
and though Iíd wish always to be near you,
Iíd be glad not to have a mere place at your side.
Iíd not complain if I were crushed, it would be
pleasant to be jostled by people at a time like that.
Iíd delight in gazing at the order of procession,
and how the dense throng filled the lengthy way.
and so youíd know how much little things impress me,
Iíd examine the quality of purple you were wearing,
consider the shapes of the figures on your curule chair,
and the whole of that carved work of Numidian ivory.
Then when youíd been accompanied to the Tarpeian Rock,
when the holy sacrifice was slaughtered at your command,
the great god that sits in the midst of the temple
would have heard me too as I gave my private thanks:
Iíd have offered incense, heart fuller than my salver,
rejoicing more than once at your supreme honour.
There Iíd be counted among the friends around you,
if only a kinder fate granted me entrance to the city,
and the pleasure my mind can only grasp at, now,
would be experienced by my eyes as well.
The gods wonít consider it, and perhaps theyíre right:
how can denying the case for my punishment help me?
Iíll still use my mind: it aloneís not exiled from that place,
to gaze at your robes and Ďrods and axesí.
It will see you one moment dispensing justice to the people,
and fancy itself secretly present at your actions:
then it will think youíre doling out lengthy contracts,
by the spear, settling it all with scrupulous honesty:
next moment youíre speaking eloquently to the Senate,
pursuing what the state interest demands:
then youíre giving thanks on behalf of the divine
Caesars, striking the white necks of fat oxen.
If only, when youíve done praying for greater things,
you could ask the princeís anger to relent, for me!
May a true flame rise from the holy altar, at your voice,
and a bright flare declare its good omen as you pray.
Meanwhile, donít let me complain about everything,
Iíll be as festive as I can here at your consulship, as well.
Thereís another reason for joy, not inferior to the first,
your brother, Flaccus, will succeed you in that great honour.
The office that ends for you as December closes
heíll enter into on the first of January.
Such is your affection youíll experience alternate joys,
you in your brotherís consulship, and he in yours.
And youíll be consul twice, and heíll be twice consul,
and thereíll be a double honour witnessed by your house.
Though the honourís great, and martial Rome perceives
nothing higher than the office of supreme consul,
itís still magnified by the authority of the sponsor,
and the gift acquires the majesty of the giver.
So may it be for you and Flaccus to enjoy
such approval by Augustus for all time.
Still when your concerns are free of more pressing things,
add both your prayers to mine, I beg you,
and, if the breeze will fill a sail, loose the cables,
so my ship can leave the waters of the Styx.
Flaccus commanded here till recently, Graecinus,
and the warring banks of Danube were safe in his care.
He kept the Moesian tribes to their peace treaty,
he cowed the Getic bowmen with the sword.
He re-took Troesmis when captured, swiftly, with courage,
and stained the river waters with savage blood.
Ask him about the features of this place, and the hostile
Scythian climate, and how I fear the enemy nearby:
if the slender arrows arenít tipped with snake venom,
and human beings donít become a hideous offering:
if I lie or Pontus really does freeze with the cold,
and ice covers many acres of sea.
When heís told you, question him as to my standing,
and ask him, too, how I spend this cruel time.
Iím not disliked here, nor indeed do I deserve to be,
and my temperamentís not altered with my fortunes.
That calm reason, you used to praise, that diffidence
there used to be, is still there in my appearance.
So Iíve been throughout, here, where savage enemies
demonstrate that mightís more powerful than right,
and no man, woman or child, in all these years,
has had any reason to complain about me.
Thatís why, in my wretchedness, the Tomitae are kind
and support me, since this land has to play witness for me.
Theyíd prefer me to leave, since they see itís my wish:
but for themselves they want me still to stay here.
Donít take my word for this: there are sealed decrees
extant, praising me and granting me concessions.
Though itís not fitting for the miserable to boast,
the neighbouring towns grant me the same right.
Nor is my piety unknown: this foreign land
sees the shrine to Caesar in my home.
stand beside him, no less a power now heís become a god.
are there, one by his grandmotherís side, one by his fatherís.
I offer incense to them and words of prayer,
every time the sun rises in the East.
All of Pontus, youíre free to ask, would say that Iím
not inventing this, and will witness to my devotion.
Pontus knows I celebrate the birthday of the god,
with what show I can, at this altar.
Nor is my piety less known to such strangers
as far-off Propontis sends to these waters.
Your brother too, who had command of Pontus
on the left, may perhaps have heard of it.
My fortune is unequal to my purpose, but, though poor,
I spend my slight resources freely on such attentions.
So far away from the city, I donít bring it to your notice,
but Iím content, out of a sense of duty, to be silent.
Still, it may sometimes reach a Caesarís ears: from whom
nothing that passes in the whole world is hidden.
Caesar, received among the gods, you know and see it,
for certain, since the earthís now set beneath your gaze.
You, placed there among the vaulted stars,
hear my prayers spoken by anxious lips.
Perhaps the poems Iíve made and sent off, about
you, the new god, may reach you there, too.
And so I foretell your divine power will yield to them:
not without reason you take the gentle name of Father.
This is the sixth summer Iím forced to spend
Dearest Albinovanus, can you compare flint
or iron, in any way, to me, for durability?
Drops of water carve out stone, a ringís thinned by use,
the curved ploughís worn away by the soilís pressure.
So devouring time destroys all other things:
but death delays, conquered by my hardiness.
Ulysses, the example of a spirit suffering to excess,
was tossed about for ten years, on dangerous seas:
yet, he didnít endure the anxiety of fate throughout,
and there were often peaceful interludes.
Was it really a hardship to fondle lovely Calypso
for six years, and share a bed with a sea-goddess?
And Aeolus, Hippotesí son, welcomed him, gifted him
with following winds so the breeze filled his driven sails.
Nor is it any effort to listen to the Sirensí sweet singing:
and the lotus wasnít bitter to him who tasted it.
Iíd buy those juices, that make you forget your homeland,
at the price of half my life, if they were offered.
And you canít compare a city of Laestrygonians,
with the tribes the Danube reveals in its winding course.
and to me theyíre only a small part of the local terrors!
Scylla may yelp, fierce with monsters, from distorted loins,
but the Sarmatian pirates harm sailors more.
Though Charybdis may suck the sea down three times,
and three times spew it out, you canít compare her
with the fierce Achaei, who roam the eastern shore
with more licence, yet wonít leave this shore alone.
Here thereís leafless land, arrows steeped in venom,
here winter makes the sea a pathway for walkers,
so where oars, a moment ago, beat their way through the waves,
the passer-by, despising boats, walks without wetting his feet.
Those who come from Italy say you barely believe all this.
Wretched the man who suffers things too harsh to be believed!
Well believe this: I wonít let you remain in ignorance
of what causes bitter winter to freeze the Sarmatian sea.
The stars of the Wain, Ursa Major, wagon-shaped,
are very close to us, and they possess extreme cold.
Hereís the source of the north wind, Boreas, and this coast
is his home, and he gains power from the location.
But Notus, the south wind, blows warm from the opposite
pole, is far from us, is rarely experienced, and is feeble.
Also the rivers here merge with land-locked Pontus,
and the waves lose their force because of the flow.
all enter, the Halys writhing, full of whirlpools,
sliding on, Tyras, fastest of streams, and you,
and you, Phasis, once sought by the Greek heroes,
silently completing its gentle course. And the Don
that separates two continents, Asia and Europe,
and innumerable others, Danube mightiest of all,
that refuses, Nile, to yield in power even to you.
The spoil of so many waters adulterates the waves
it swells, and stops the sea maintaining its power.
Indeed, like a still pool or a stagnant swamp,
itís colour is diluted, and itís barely blue.
The fresh water overlays the flood, lighter than sea-water,
which gains specific weight from the salt admixture.
If anyone asks why I relate all this to Pedo,
and what the point is of speaking so precisely,
Iíd say: ĎIíve whiled away the time, held off care.
Thatís the fruit the present hour has brought me.
Iíve avoided my usual worries, by writing this,
and no longer feel that Iím among the Getae.í
But Iíve no doubt that you, singing Theseusí praises,
are doing justice to the fame of your subject,
and imitating the hero you describe. Heíd deny
that loyaltyís only the friend of tranquil times.
Though his deeds are great, and heís shown by you
as grandly as a hero should be sung by such lips,
thereís still something of his, that we can copy,
anyone can be a Theseus in faithfulness.
You donít have to master enemies, with sword and club,
those who made the Isthmus scarcely passable:
but you must show love, not difficult for the willing.
What effort is it to not to desecrate true loyalty?
You mustnít think these words spoken by a complaining
tongue, to you who stand by your friend, eternally.
Gallio, it would be a crime barely excusable on
my part, if your name wasnít present in my verse.
Since I remember that you too bathed my wound
with your tears when I was struck by the divine shaft.
I wish that, injured by the snatching away of your
friend, youíd had nothing more to complain of!
The cruel gods were not pleased it should be so,
not owning it wrong to strip you of your pure wife.
Only now has the letter with your mournful news
reached me, and Iíve read of your loss with tears.
But I wouldnít, stupidly, dare to console the wise
repeating the trite words of the learned to you:
I suspect your grieving is already over, if not
through rational thought, by the lapse of time.
While your letter was reaching me, while my reply
crossed so many lands and seas, a year has gone.
The act of consolation belongs to a definite time,
when griefís in train, and the harmed seek help.
After many days have calmed the mindís hurt,
he only renews it, who disturbs it, inappropriately.
And then (and I hope this omen proves true on arrival!)
you may be happy now, in a fresh marriage.
The reason youíre not found in my works, my friend,
is a result of the way your nameís constructed.
Iíd consider no one else worthier of that honour Ė
if my verse happened to confer any honour.
Metric rules, and the nature of your name, prevent
the compliment: thereís no way you can be in my verse.
Iíd be ashamed to split your name across two lines,
ending the first with one bit, starting the next with the rest.
Iíd be equally ashamed if I shortened a syllable
thatís long, and addressed you as Two-tick-a-nus.
Nor can you enter a poem disguised as Tutti-car-nus,
where a short syllableís made of that first long one.
Nor by making the second syllable, thatís over quickly,
long, Two-tea-car-nus, by extending it in time.
If I dared to distort your name by such tricks,
Iíd be laughed at, and rightly said to have no taste.
That was the reason for delaying these attentions,
but my love will perform them with added interest,
and Iíll sing you in some measure, send you a song, you,
known to me, barely a lad, when you were barely a lad,
and, through the ranks of all the many years weíve seen,
no less beloved by me than brother by brother.
When I first controlled the reins, in my weak grasp,
you were kind encouragement, my friend and guide.
I often revised my works with you acting as critic,
I often made changes based on your suggestions,
while the Muses, those Pierian goddesses, taught you
how to compose a Phaeacis worthy of Homerís pages.
This steady path, this harmony begun in green youth,
has extended undiminished to white-haired age.
If that didnít move you, Iíd think youíd a heart
encased in hard iron or unbreakable steel.
But this land will sooner be free of war and cold,
the two things hateful Pontus offers me, sooner
and my fate have the power to be gentler,
than your heart be harsh to your weary friend.
Let that culmination of evils be absent, as it is.
But by the gods, and He is the surest of them
under whose rule esteem for you steadily grows,
see that the winds of hope donít desert my boat,
protect the exile, with your endless devotion.
What do I command, you ask? Iím dying to answer,
if a dead man can be dying, but itís difficult to say:
I canít find anything to try, to desire or not desire,
and I donít exactly know what would benefit me.
Believe me, wisdomís the first thing to flee the wretched,
and sense and judgement vanish with position.
Seek out yourself, please, in what way you can help,
as well: make a road for my prayers through the deep.
Greetings to you, O Carus, counted among my true
friends, you who are truly what youíre named: dear!
The style and form of my verse can act as immediate
witness to the place from which youíre greeted.
Not that my styleís wonderful, but itís not Ďanyoneísí at least:
whatever it may be, thereís no hiding that itís mine.
And I think I could say which works are yours
even if your name were missing from the title page.
However youíre placed among the books youíll
be discovered, recognised by well-known features.
A power we know to be worthy of Hercules
will reveal the author, so suited to the one you sing.
And perhaps my Muse can be detected
in her true colours, by tokens of her failings.
Thersitesí ugliness prevented him from hiding,
as much as Nireusí beauty made him stand out.
And you shouldnít marvel if my artís defective,
since Iíve almost turned into a Getic poet.
Ah! Shameful: Iíve even written a work in Getic,
where savage words are set to Italian metres.
My theme, you ask? Youíd praise me: I speak of Caesar.
My new attempt was helped by a godís power.
I tell how the body of our father, Augustus, was mortal,
but his spirit has passed to the domains of heaven:
and Tiberius is equal to his father in virtue, taking
up the reins of empire, often refused, when asked:
whether worthier of son or husband is unclear:
and two sons, a powerful help to their father,
have given true pledges of their courage.
When I read it aloud, not penned by my native Muse,
and the last page came beneath my fingers,
they nodded their heads and their full quivers,
and there was a long murmur from Getic mouths.
And one said: ĎSince you write all this about Caesar,
you ought to be restored to Caesarís dominions.í
Thatís what he said: but already, my Carus,
the sixth winter sees me exiled under the icy pole.
My poetryís no help. Poetry once harmed me,
and was the prime cause of this wretched exile.
But, by the mutual bonds of our sacred calling, in the name
of friendship, and thatís not something insignificant to you,
(and may Germanicus, with the German enemy
led in chains, provide a subject for your art: and may
his sons, who youíve been given to train, to your
great credit, be well, as the public asks of the gods),
promote my cause, my health, as much as you can,
something Iíll not regain without a change of place.
These words are sent to you, whose name wonít fit
my metres, as I complained to you recently in verse:
and in these lines, except that Iím fairly well,
you wonít hear of anything else that pleases me.
Even health itself is hateful, and my last prayer
is to go anywhere at all away from here.
I donít care where Iím sent to from this land,
anywhere will be better than what I see.
as long as I escape this ground before me.
Styx too, if it exists, would be a nice change from Danube,
or wherever the world holds thatís deeper than Styx.
The ploughed field hates weeds less, the swallow cold,
than Ovid hates this place near the warlike Getae.
The Tomitae are irritated with me for such words,
and public angerís stirred by my verse.
Shall I never stop being harmed by poetry,
and always suffer for my outspoken art?
Shall I hesitate to cut my fingers, so they canít write,
still chase after the weapons madly, that have hurt me?
Am I being driven towards the old reef again,
into the waters where my ship was wrecked?
But Iíve done nothing, not guilty: Tomitae,
I like you, while I hate the place youíre in.
Let anyone examine the products of my labour:
thereís no complaint about you in my letters.
I moan about the cold, the fearful incursions on every
side, the assaults the enemy make on the walls.
The charges Iíve uttered against your land, not its people,
are quite true: you too often criticise your own country.
Hesiod, ancient farmer, dared to sing of how
his Ascra was a place to be constantly avoided:
though the man who wrote it had been born
in that land, still Ascra wasnít angry with its poet.
Who delighted in his homeland more than cunning Ulysses?
Yet he, by his own witness, learned the harshness of the place.
in bitter writing: and Rome itself was accused of guilt:
yet Rome accepted the lying invective equably,
and the authorís wild speech did him no harm.
But a wrong interpretation rouses peopleís anger
against me, accuses my poetry of a fresh crime.
I wish I were as happy as my heart is pure!
No one still alive has been wounded by my lips.
And even if I were blacker in words than Illyrian
pitch, no loyal crowd would be harmed by me.
Tomitae, my situationís gentle reception among you
shows how kind men of Greek extraction are.
could not have been more sympathetic to my troubles.
An honour you donít often grant to one whoís
safe and sound, you recently granted to me.
Iím the only one so far immune from taxes on your
shores, excepting those that have that right by law.
My forehead has been wreathed with the sacred crown,
that popular favour set there, against my will.
her the only place of safety in her wanderings,
so Tomis is dear to me, and remains true and hospitable
to one whoís exiled from his native land.
If only the gods had made it so it might know hope
of sweet peace, and was further from the frozen pole.
If thereís anyone left around whoís still not forgotten
me, and who asks how Ovid the exile is getting on:
let him know I owe my life to the Caesars, and my comfort
to Sextus. After the gods heíll be supreme to me.
If I consider all the days of my unhappy life,
none of them has been devoid of his attentions.
Theyíve been as plentiful as the pomegranate seeds reddening
under their slow-growing husks, in some fertile farmís orchard,
as African grain, as the grape clusters of Lydia,
My confession: you can witness it. Seal it, Citizens!
The power of the lawís not needed: I say it myself.
Set me down, a humble possession, amongst your family
wealth: Iím a part of your estate, however insignificant.
like your house next to the Forum of Augustus,
like your Campanian estate, dear to your eyes,
whatever was left to you, Sextus, or youíve bought:
so I am yours as well, and by this sad gift
you canít say you own nothing in Pontus.
I wish you could, and a pleasanter field be granted you,
so you could own your investment in a better location!
Given that itís up to the gods, try and woo those powers
with prayer, that you worship with a constant devotion,
since itís hard to make out whether you are more
a confirmation of my error, or a remedy for it.
I donít ask because I doubt: but, following the stream,
the flow of the currentís often speeded by using oars.
Iím ashamed and anxious, always making the same request,
in case weariness with me, rightly, fills your mind.
But what can I do? My desireís immoderate.
Kind friend, forgive this fault of mine.
Wanting to write otherwise, I fall to speaking the same:
my letters of their own accord set the theme.
Whether your influence achieves its effect, or whether
harsh fate orders me to die beneath the frozen pole,
Iíll always recall your gifts to me, with a dutiful mind,
and my homeland will hear how I am yours.
It will be known by every place beneath the sky
that youíre the reason for, and guardian of, my well-being,
Iím yours no less than if the bronze and scales weighed me.
Why attack wretched Ovidís poetry, jealous man?
The last day never harms genius, and fame
is greater after weíre turned to ashes. When I
was counted among the living I too had a name:
if that hero wasnít already Junoís son-in-law:
and Montanus, master of equal and unequal couplets,
who has a reputation in both forms of verse:
in his ten year wanderings over the cruel sea,
and Sabinus, abandoning his Troien to swift
death, the incomplete effort of many days:
Largus, known by the name of his own genius,
who guided the aged Antenor to Gallic fields:
the poet of a sea of sails whose verse youíd think
composed by the sea-green gods themselves:
he who spoke of Libyaís armies, Romeís battles:
and Marius, skilled in every form of writing:
and yours Melissus with her little slippers:
while Grattius gave hunters suitable weapons:
Capella locking words in elegiac couplets:
and others, whose names would take too long
to mention, whose songs people possess:
and youths whose workís unpublished
so Iíve no right to speak about them
(but, in all that crowd, Iíd not dare to forget you,
to whom double the nobility was granted, Cottas
on your motherís side, Messallas on your fatherís)
and with them, if itís not wrong to say so, my Museís
bright name, she too being read among all those others.
So, Envy, stop reviling one exiled from his country,
stop scattering my ashes about, you, cruel one.
Iíve lost everything: only my life remains,
to grant me feeling and the stuff of sorrow.
Whereís the joy in stabbing your steel into my dead flesh?
Thereís no place left where I can be dealt fresh wounds.
The End of Ex Ponto Book IV