Coming school year (it starts on Monday) I will read parts of the Metamorphoses with a pupil as this is the exam literature for 2014. It is always a pleasure to read Ovid for his playful and light-hearted poetry. Of course the Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto are different – unless Ovid has deceived us all with his exile to the Black Sea. The Amores is Ovid’s first published poetry and is address to an upper-class married woman, Corinna, who was well above Ovid’s own background. Ovid was in his early twenties when he wrote the Amores and Corinna – not her real name – might even have been in her late teens. Saying this I don’t imply that Ovid had a real affair: it is very possible that Corinna only existed within the framework of the Amores.
In poem 3 of book one Ovid praises his character, chaste behaviour and fides `loyalty’. Ovid hopes that Corinna will answer his love and so be a source of inspiration for his poems. He ends with three mythological examples of women whose names are immortalized in poetry: Io, Leda and Europa. But wait a moment: all three were hunted after by Zeus, the great adulter! So what fides?
Ovid, Amores 1.3
Iusta precor: quae me nuper praedata puella est,
aut amet aut faciat, cur ego semper amem!
a, nimium volui—tantum patiatur amari;
audierit nostras tot Cytherea preces!
Accipe, per longos tibi qui deserviat annos; 5
accipe, qui pura norit amare fide!
si me non veterum commendant magna parentum
nomina, si nostri sanguinis auctor eques,
nec meus innumeris renovatur campus aratris,
temperat et sumptus parcus uterque parens— 10
at Phoebus comitesque novem vitisque repertor
hac faciunt, et me qui tibi donat, Amor,
et nulli cessura fides, sine crimine mores
nudaque simplicitas purpureusque pudor.
non mihi mille placent, non sum desultor amoris: 15
tu mihi, siqua fides, cura perennis eris.
tecum, quos dederint annos mihi fila sororum,
vivere contingat teque dolente mori!
te mihi materiem felicem in carmina praebe:
provenient causa carmina digna sua. 20
carmine nomen habent exterrita cornibus Io
et quam fluminea lusit adulter ave,
quaeque super pontum simulato vecta iuvenco
virginea tenuit cornua vara manu.
nos quoque per totum pariter cantabimur orbem, 25
iunctaque semper erunt nomina nostra tuis.
iusta precor: I pray for justice
praedor praedatus sum: to make booty
nimium: too much
audierit: probably subjunctive and not fut. ex.
Cytherea = Venus
deservio: to serve
norit = noverit (from nosco)
nostri sanguinis auctor: the founder of our family
temperat et sumptus parcus uterque parens: and both my thrifty parents restrained their expenses
comitesque novem: the nine companions are the Muses
vitisque repertor: the discoverer of vine is Bacchus
hac faciunt = hac ex parte mea faciunt: act on this, my side
cedo cessi cessum: give way to
fides, mores, simplicitas and pudor: all to be understood with my (really, Ovid?)
desultor: a desultor was a circus-rider who jumped from one horse to another, so a desultor amoris is someone who has one affair after the other. Living in a city full of students my guess is that Groningen must be full of desultores amoris…
siqua fides (sit): if any loyalty exists
fila sororum: the Parces, the three old sisters who are spinning the threads (fila) of everyone’s life
contingat: may it happen
teque dolente: abl. abs. This is pathetic!
materiem felicem: `happy material’ apposition to te.
praebeo: to show
provenio: come forth
causa sua: abl!
habent: subjects are Io, (ea) quam and quaeque
Io: Io was an Argive princess, who fled for Zeus and was changed by him into a cow. She got frightened (exterrita) when she noticed that horns started to grow on her head. Zeus changed himself into a bull and continued chasing her.
fluminea ave: in (the form of) a river bird i.e. a swan. This refers to Leda and Zeus in the form of a swan. From this union Castor and Pollux were born.
super pontum simulato vecta iuvenco: carried on a supposed bull over the sea. Zeus led Europa away in the form of a tame bull and when Europa was riding on him for fun, Zeus swam with her to Crete. Undoubtedly this tale is inspired by the cult of the bull at Crete during Minoan times and of which frescos are preserved at Cnossos.
pariter: in the same way
Here is a translation by Christopher Marlow:
I aske but right: let hir that cought me late,
Either love, or cause that I may never hate:
I aske too much, would she but let me love hir,
Love knowes with such like praiers, I dayly move hir:
Accept him that will serve thee all his youth,
Accept him that will love with spotlesse truth:
If loftie titles cannot make me thine,
That am descended but of knightly line,
Soone may you plow the little lands I have,
I gladly graunt my parents given to save,
Apollo, Bacchus, and the Muses may,
And Cupide who hath markt me for thy pray,
My spotlesse life, which but to Gods gives place,
Naked simplicitie, and modest grace.
I love but one, and hir I love change never,
If men have Faith, lie live with thee for ever.
The yeares that fatall destenie shall give,
lie live with thee, and die, or thou shalt grieve.
Be thou the happie subject of my Bookes,
That I may write things worthy thy faire lookes:
By verses horned Jo got hir name,
And she to whom in shape of Swanne Jove came.
And she that on a faind Bull swamme to land,
Griping his false hornes with hir virgin hand:
So likewise we will through the world be rung,
And with my name shall thine be alwaies sung.