Roman Poetry II - Ovid

Amores Book I Elegy XV: His Immortality (16BC)
Publius Ovidius Naso (43BC-18AD)

Gnawing Envy, why reproach me with an indolent life:
and call the work of my genius idle song?
Is it that I don’t follow the custom of the country,
seek the dusty reward of army life while I’m young?
That I don’t study wordy laws,
or prostitute my voice in the forum?
The work you seek is mortal. I seek eternal fame,
to be sung throughout the whole world forever.
Homer will live, while Ida and Tenedos stand,
while Simois still runs swiftly to the sea:
Hesiod, as well, while the vintage ripens,
while the crops fall to the curving blade.
Callimachus will always be sung throughout the world:
not because of his imagination, but his art.
The tragedies of Sophocles will never be lost:
nor Aratus as long as there’s a sun and moon:
While devious slaves, stern fathers, cruel pimps,
and enticing whores live, so will Menander:
Artless Ennius, and brave-voiced Accius
have names that no time will erase.
What age will not know Varro’s tale of the first ship,
and Jason leading the quest for the Golden Fleece?
Then, the works of sublime Lucretius will endure,
while there’s a day left till the world’s ruin.
Virgil’s pastorals, and the Aeneid will be read,
while Rome triumphs over the world:
While Cupid’s weapons are still the torch and arrows,
they’ll speak your measures, elegant Tibullus:
Gallus will be renowned in the west, Gallus in the east,
and Lycoris will be famous with her Gallus.
So, while granite, while the unyielding ploughshare
perish with the years, poetry will not die.
Leaders and countries yield to the triumphs of song,
and the lavish waters of gold-bearing Tagus yield!
Let the masses gaze at trash: let golden-haired Apollo
offer me a brimming cup of Castalian waters,
and I’ll wear a wreathe of myrtle, that hates the cold,
and be read by many an anxious lover!
Envy feeds on the living: it’s quiet after death,
while everyone who’s dead gets their due honours.
So even when I’m given to the final flames,
I’ll live, and the better part of me will survive.

-Ovid. Am. I.15

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