Midnight (Propertius III.16)

A quick note on the edition, for those who know and care about such things: I’m using Camps (1985), as that’s what my exam board are using. I know, I know, I don’t like it either as I’d much rather use Heyworth’s edition – but I don’t set the exams. Anyway, if the Latin text looks a bit different, that’s why.

Nox media, et dominae mihi venit epistula nostrae:
Tibure me missa iussit adesse mora,
candida qua geminas ostendunt culmina turres,
et cadit in patulos nympha Aniena lacus.
quid faciam? obductis committam mene tenebris
ut timeam audacis in mea membra manus?
at si distulero haec nostro mandata timore,
nocturno fletus saevior hoste mihi.
peccaram semel, et totum sum pulsus in annum:
in me mansuetas non habet illa manus.
nec tamen est quisquam, sacros qui laedat amantes:
Scironis medias his licet ire vias.
quisquis amator erit, Scythicis licet ambulet oris,
nemo adeo ut feriat barbarus esse volet.
luna ministrat iter, demonstrant astra salebras,
ipse Amor accensas percutit ante faces,
saeva canum rabies morsus avertit hiantis:
huic generi quovis tempore tuta via est.
sanguine tam parvo quis enim spargatur amantis
improbus? exclusis fit comes ipsa Venus.
quod si certa meos sequerentur funera cursus,
talis mors pretio vel sit emenda mihi.
afferet haec unguenta mihi sertisque sepulcrum
ornabit custos ad mea busta sedens.
di faciant, mea ne terra locet ossa frequenti
qua facit assiduo tramite vulgus iter!
post mortem tumuli sic infamantur amantum.
me tegat arborea devia terra coma,
aut humer ignotae cumulus vallatus harenae:
non iuvat in media nomen habere via.
It was the middle of the night, and a letter from my mistress came to me;
she ordered me to come to Tivoli without delay,
where the white hilltops show twin towers,
and Anio’s water falls into wide lakes.
What am I to do? Do I trust myself to covering darkness
to fear a bold hand on my body?
But if I brush aside these orders out of my fear,
her tears will be fiercer for me than enemies by night.
I sinned once, and was kicked out for a whole year:
she lays no merciful hands on me.
But there is no-one who would harm sacred lovers:
they may go freely in the middle of Sciron’s roads.
Whoever shall be a lover may walk on Scythian shores,
no-one would want to be so barbarous as to attack him.
The moon tends to the way, the stars show the rough ground,
Love himself waves flaming torches before him,
the fierce madness of dogs turns aside its gaping fangs:
For them the road is safe at any time.
For what dishonest man is so splashed with the scanty blood
of a lover? Venus herself becomes the companion to those shut out.
But if my course leads to certain burial,
even such a death might be worth buying at that price for me.
She would bring to these perfumes and garlands to my grave;
sitting as guard, she’ll watch over my tomb.
May the gods make sure that she doesn’t place my bones in crowded earth
where the common crowd constantly make their way along the track!
Thus after death are the tombs of lovers defamed.
Let the leaves of a tree cover me in faraway ground,
or let me be buried, surrounded as a mound of unknown sand:
to have my name in the middle of the road brings me no joy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: