Elegia prima ad Carolum Diodatum

Tandem, chare, tuæ mihi pervenere tabellæ,
Pertulit & voces nuntia charta tuas,
Pertulit occiduâ Devæ Cestrensis ab orâ
Vergivium prono quà petit amne salum.

Multùm crede juvat terras aluisse remotas [ 5 ]
Pectus amans nostri, tamque fidele caput,
Quòdque mihi lepidum tellus longinqua sodalem
Debet, at unde brevi reddere jussa velit.

Me tenet urbs refluâ quam Thamesis alluit undâ,
Meque nec invitum patria dulcis habet. [ 10 ]
Jam nec arundiferum mihi cura revisere Camum,
Nec dudum vetiti me laris angit amor.

Nuda nec arva placent, umbrasque negantia molles,
Quàm male Phœbicolis convenit ille locus!
Nec duri libet usque minas perferre magistri [ 15 ]
Cæteraque ingenio non subeunda meo,

Si sit hoc exilium patrios adiisse penates,
Et vacuum curis otia grata sequi,
Non ego vel profugi nomen, sortemve recuso,
Lætus & exilii conditione fruor. [ 20 ]

O utinam vates nunquam graviora tulisset
Ille Tomitano flebilis exul agro;
Non tunc Jonio quicquam cessisset Homero
Neve foret victo laus tibi prima Maro.

Tempora nam licet hîc placidis dare libera Musis, [ 25 ]
Et totum rapiunt me mea vita libri.
Excipit hinc fessum sinuosi pompa theatri,
Et vocat ad plausus garrula scena suos.

Seu catus auditur senior, seu prodigus hæres,
Seu procus, aut positâ casside miles adest, [ 30 ]
Sive decennali fœcundus lite patronus
Detonat inculto barbara verba foro,

Sæpe vafer gnato succurrit servus amanti,
Et nasum rigidi fallit ubique Patris;
Sæpe novos illic virgo mirata calores [ 35 ]
Quid sit amor nescit, dum quoque nescit, amat.

Sive cruentatum furiosa Tragœdia sceptrum
Quassat, & effusis crinibus ora rotat,
Et dolet, & specto, juvat & spectasse dolendo,
Interdum & lacrymis dulcis amaror inest: [ 40 ]

Seu puer infelix indelibata reliquit
Gaudia, & abrupto flendus amore cadit,
Seu ferus e tenebris iterat Styga criminis ultor
Conscia funereo pectora torre movens,

Seu mæret Pelopeia domus, seu nobilis Ili, [ 45 ]
Aut luit incestos aula Creontis avos.
Sed neque sub tecto semper nec in urbe latemus,
Irrita nec nobis tempora veris eunt.

Nos quoque lucus habet vicinâ consitus ulmo
Atque suburbani nobilis umbra loci. [ 50 ]
Sæpius hic blandas spirantia sydera flammas
Virgineos videas præteriisse choros.

Ah quoties dignæ stupui miracula formæ
Quæ posset senium vel reparare Iovis;
Ah quoties vidi superantia lumina gemmas, [ 55 ]
Atque faces quotquot volvit uterque polus;

Collaque bis vivi Pelopis quæ brachia vincant,
Quæque fluit puro nectare tincta via,
Et decus eximium frontis, tremulosque capillos,
Aurea quæ fallax retia tendit Amor. [ 60 ]

Pellacesque genas, ad quas hyacinthina sordet
Purpura, & ipse tui floris, Adoni, rubor.
Cedite laudatæ toties Heroides olim,
Et quæcunque vagum cepit amica Jovem.

Cedite Achæmeniæ turritâ fronte puellæ, [ 65 ]
Et quot Susa colunt, Memnoniamque Ninon.
Vos etiam Danæ fasces submittite Nymphæ,
Et vos Iliacæ, Romuleæque nurus.

Nec Pompeianas Tarpëia Musa columnas
Jactet, & Ausoniis plena theatra stolis. [ 70 ]
Gloria Virginibus debetur prima Britannis,
Extera sat tibi sit foemina posse sequi.

Tuque urbs Dardaniis Londinum structa colonis
Turrigerum latè conspicienda caput,
Tu nimium felix intra tua mœnia claudis [ 75 ]
Quicquid formosi pendulus orbis habet.

Non tibi tot cælo scintillant astra sereno
Endymioneæ turba ministra deæ,
Quot tibi conspicuæ formáque auróque puellæ
Per medias radiant turba videnda vias. [ 80 ]

Creditur huc geminis venisse invecta columbis
Alma pharetrigero milite cincta Venus,
Huic Cnidon, & riguas Simoentis flumine valles,
Huic Paphon, & roseam posthabitura Cypron.

Ast ego, dum pueri sinit indulgentia cæci, [ 85 ]
Moenia quàm subitò linquere fausta paro;
Et vitare procul malefidæ infamia Circes
Atria, divini Molyos usus ope.

Stat quoque juncosas Cami remeare paludes,
Atque iterum raucæ murmur adire Scholæ. [ 90 ]
Interea sidi parvum cape munus amici,
Paucaque in alternos verba coacta modos.

The First Elegy to Charles Diodati

Finally, my friend, your letter has come to me. It brought your voice and messages from the western estuary of Dee near Chester where, with downward current, it seeks the Irish Sea. It brings delight, believe me, that distant lands have fostered a heart that loves me and a head so faithful to me. And the distant country holds a fit companion who is willing to return soon to me at my request.

The city washed by the receding Thames, my sweet homeland, holds me, not without my consent. Now I care not to revisit the reed-bearing Cam, nor am I homesick for my forbidden room. Those naked fields, denying soft shade, do not please. How badly that place agrees with Phoebus's sons! Nor does it please to endure the perpetual threats of a harsh tutor and all the rest to which it is not necessary to subject my spirit.

But if this is exile, to have returned to my father's house, and to be free to enjoy welcome leisure, then I flee neither the name nor the lot of the exile. Happy, I enjoy the condition of exile. Oh, if only that pitiful poet exiled in the fields of Tomis had never borne anything more serious. Then he had yielded nothing to Ionian Homer, and you, Maro, having been surpassed would not be given first honors. Now I am permitted to give my free hours to the quiet Muses, and my books, which are my whole life, carry me away.

Here when I am weary, the pomp of the serpentine theater diverts me, and its garrulous stage calls me to applaud, no matter what is heard — a shrewd old man, a prodigal heir, a suitor, or a soldier with his metal helmet set aside. Or perhaps a lawyer rich from a ten-year suit, thunders his barbarisms at the unlearned court. Often the cunning slave rescues the son in love, and is everywhere at once prevaricating right under the rigid father's nose. Often a maiden who knew nothing of love, is surprised by love and then loves the novel heat. Sometimes furious tragedy with rolling eyes and streaming hair brandishes her blood-stained scepter. It hurts, and yet I watch, and there is a benefit to have watched and suffered. There is a bitterness in sweet tears. Sometimes an unhappy boy leaves joys untasted and falls having been taken from his love. It may be when the fierce avenger returns through shadow across the river Styx and frightens guilty hearts with his terrible fire brand; or when the Pelopeian house, or the noble house of Ilus laments, or when the palace of Creon atones for ancient incest.

But we do not always hide indoors or in the city; the hours of spring are not without value for us. A grove planted thick with elms hosts us in the shade of that splendid place outside the city. Here, like stars breathing out soft flames you may see maidenly choirs dance by. Ah, how many times I have been struck dumb by the miraculous beauty of a form which might be able to arouse even old Jupiter. Ah, how often I have seen eyes more extraordinary than gems or the many stars that turn about each heavenly axis; and necks whiter than the arms of lively Pelops the twice living which surpass the heavenly way. And how often I have seen exceptional beauty of the forehead and waving locks of hair, golden nets which deceitful Love throws out. And how often I have seen seductive cheeks that make the purple of the hyacinth and the blush of your flower, Adonis, appear dirty. Give up you Heroides, so often praised in the past, and every lad or lass who at any time captured inconstant Jupiter! Give up you Achaemenian girls with turrets on your foreheads, and you who live in Susa, or in Memnonian Nineveh. Also you nymphs of Greece, give up your claims, and you women of Troy and young brides of Rome, submit. Do not let the Tarpeian Muse boast of Pompey's colonnade, or of the theaters full of Arsanian gowns. The prime honor belongs to the virgins of Britain. Foreign women, be content to follow.

And you, London, the city constructed by colonists from Troy, people far and wide look toward your turreted crown. You have too much happiness because whatever beauty this hanging orb possesses lies within your walls. The stars, hosts in the sky obedient to Endymion's goddess, are fewer than the radiant host of girls seen sparkling in your streets. Nurturing Venus is believed to have come here behind twin doves, escorted by her quiver-bearing army. She will think Cnidus and the valleys constantly irrigated by the river of Simois, and Paphos, and even rosy Cyprus are less important than this city.

But I, whilst the indulgence of the blind boy permits, prepare to leave as soon as possible these auspicious walls to live, thanks to divine moly, at some distance from the infamous halls of that sorceress Circe. It is also determined that I shall return to the reedy marshes of the Cam and go back once again to the hubbub of the raucous school. In the meanwhile, enjoy this small gift of a loyal friend, and these few words forced into alternating measures.


Translation by Glenn Buchberger and Thomas H. Luxon