The Epistles of Ovid

The Epistles of Ovid
By P. Ovidius Naso
London J. Nunn, Great-Queen-Street; R. Priestly, 143, High-Holborn; R. Lea, Greek-Street, Soho; and J. Rodwell, New-Bond-Street 1813

Perseus Documents Collection Table of Contents

Penelope to Ulysses

Phyllis to Demophoon

Briseis to Achilles

Phaedra to Hippolytus

Oenone to Paris

Hypsipyle to Jason

Dido to Aeneas

Hermione to Orestes

Deianira to Hercules

Ariadne to Theseus

Canace to Macareus

Medea to Jason

Laodamia to Protesilaus

Hypermnestra to Lynceus

Sappho to Phaon

Paris to Helen

Helen to Paris

Leander to Hero

Hero to Leander

Acontius to Cydippe

Cydippe to Acontius

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It is mine, therefore, to observe the flames that glow within my breast, and follow you, my charming fair, who better deserve a place among the stars. You merit indeed to be translated into heaven: yet leave not these earthly abodes; or teach me in what manner I also may be exalted among the Gods. You are still here, and yet how seldom in the embraces of your wretched lover! The seas and my mind are in equal disorder. What avails it that I am not separated from you by a vast ocean? Does this narrow streight less oppose our coming together? I doubt whether it would not be better, that, divided from you by earth's whole extent, I might be equally removed from hope and

my mistress. The nearer you are, the more violent is the flame that rages within me; and though the object of my hope is often absent, yet hope itself never ceases to haunt me. I almost touch with my hand (so near our abodes) the darling of my soul. But alas! this almost often fills my eyes with sorrowing tears. Wherein loes this differ from catching at the flying apples, or following after the deceitful flood? Shall I then never hold you in my arms, but when the unstable waves permit? Must storms ever be a bar to my happiness? and while nothing is more uncertain than the winds and waves, must my happiness ever depend upon the winds and waves? It is now too the warm season: what am I to expect when the Pleiades, Arctophylax, and the Goat, deform

the sea? Either I mistake in judging of the rash attempts of Love, or even then, thoughtless, he will urge me to plunge into the waves. Nor imagine that I promise this because the time is distant; you shall soon have a proof of the reality of my design. Let the sea continue to rage for a few nights longer: I will again attempt to force my way through the opposing billows. Either, happily daring, I shall safely reach your beloved shore, or a speedy death will put an end to all my anxieties. Yet I could wish to be cast where my Hero lives, and that my shipwrecked limbs might be borne into your ports. You will mourn my fate, and honor my breathless body with a last embrace; then sighing, say, "Alas! I have been the cause of his death." Perhaps you will be offended with this threatening omen of a sudden fate, or alarmed by the suspicions which my letter betrays. But I desist: dispel therefore your fears, and join your prayers with mine, that the rage of the sea may abate. It is requisite that it should be

calm for a time, till I convey myself to yonder shore: when once I have reached the coast of my Hero, let the storm return in all its violence. There, is the fittest asylum for my shattered bark; there, my ship may with the greatest security ride at anchor. Let the North-wind shut me up there, where delay is sweet. Then, if ever, I shall be averse to swimming, and cautiously avoid danger. No reproaches will be thrown out against the unrelenting waves; no complaints made, that the sea forbids a return to my native shore. Let me be alike detained by the winds and your folding arms: let both these causes conspire to prolong the sweet delay. When the storm abates, my arms shall cut the liquid way: only remember always to place in view the guiding torch. Till then, let this epistle supply my place; and heaven grant that I may follow it without delay.

Poem 19

Hero to Leander

COME, my Leander, that I may really enjoy that welfare which you so kindly wish me in your letter. Every delay that stands in the way of our happiness seems doubly tedious. Pardon the confession; but I love not according to the common measure. We glow with an equal flame; but my strength is unequal to yours; for I imagine that men are endued with more steady and resolute souls. In women the mind is weak, as well as the body. Delay a little longer, and I sink under the weight of your absence. You can elude the tedious hours, by differently dividing your time; sometimes intent upon hunting, sometimes employed in cultivating the prolific earth. The forum perhaps may interpose,

or the inviting honors of the palstra: perhaps you are busy in forming the generous steed, and teaching him to obey the rein. Now snares are laid for the feathered tribe; now hooks are baited for the finny prey; and the lingering hours of night are lost in copious goblets of wine. As for me, to whom all these reliefs are denied, what remains, were I even less the slave of a headstrong passion, but to love and endure? It is so: I indulge this sole relief, and love you, O my only happiness, above expression or return. Either I engage with my faithful nurse in silent discourse about you, and wonder what cause can so long delay your coming; or, casting a look upon the sea, I chide, almost in your own words, the waves tossed by spiteful winds: or, when the angry sea remits a little of its rage, I complain that you might, but have no desire to come. Amidst these complaints, the tears flow in streams from my love-sick eyes, and are wiped away by the trembling hand of my aged nurse. I often search if I can find the prints of your feet upon the shore, as if sand could retain the deepening mark. Eager to hear of you, or write to

you, I am always enquiring whether any one has arrived from Abydos, or who thinks of going thither. Why should I mention the many kisses I lavish upon the clothes you put off, when about to plunge into the waters of the Hellespont? But when light vanishes, and the more friendly hour of night, in chasing away the day, exhibits the sparkling stars; forthwith we plant the watchful light upon the tower's top, the known guide and mark of your watery way; and, lengthening by the swiftly-turning spindle the twisted threads, elude the tedious hours in feminine employment. Perhaps you may enquire what I am talking all this while. No name but that of Leander is in your Hero's mouth. "What do you say, my nurse; do you think that my only hope has yet left his father's house? or are all awake, and is he afraid of being observed by his parents? Do you think that he is now pulling the clothes from his shoulders, and anointing his limbs with oil?" She gives a nod of assent; not that she is moved by my embraces, but sleep, gently stealing upon her, shakes her aged head.

Then, after a short delay, I say, "It is certain now that he swims, and tosses his pliant arms amidst the yielding waves." Then, after finishing a few treads, in letting the winding spindle touch the ground, I ask whether you may have yet reached the middle of the streight. Sometimes I look wishfully forward; sometimes I pray with a faltering voice, that propitious gales may give you an easy run. I greedily catch at every sound, and fondly imagine I hear the noise of your approach. When thus the greater part of the eluded night is past, sleep insensibly steals upon my wearied eyes.