Aestus erat mediamque dies exegerat horam;
apposui medio membra leuanda toro.
pars adaperta fuit, pars altera clausa fenestrae,
quale fere siluae lumen habere solent,
qualia sublucent fugiente crepuscula Phoebo
aut ubi nox abiit nec tamen orta dies.
illa uerecundis lux est praebenda puellis,
qua timidus latebras speret habere pudor.
ecce, Corinna uenit tunica uelata recincta,
candida diuidua colla tegente coma,
qualiter in thalamos formosa Semiramis isse
dicitur et multis Lais amata uiris.
deripui tunicam; nec multum rara nocebat
pugnabat tunica sed tamen illa tegi,
cumque ita pugnaret tamquam quae uincere nollet,
uicta est non aegre proditione sua.
ut stetit ante oculos posito uelamine nostros,
in toto nusquam corpore menda fuit.
quos umeros, quales uidi tetigique lacertos!
forma papillarum quam fuit apta premi!
quam castigato planus sub pectore uenter!
quantum et quale latus! quam iuuenale femur!
singula quid referam? nil non laudabile uidi,
et nudam pressi corpus ad usque meum.
cetera quis nescit? Iassi requieuimus ambo.
proueniant medii sic mihi saepe dies!
–Publius Ovidius Naso
It was warm, and the day had passed the middle hour;
I lay my limbs on the middle of the couch to rest them.
The window was partly open, partly closed,
giving the quality of light they are accustomed to have in a wood,
the kind of twilight that glimmers when Phoebus takes flight
or where night has left yet day has not stirred.
That is the light to tender to ashamed girls,
to have which hiding-places their timid modesty hopes.
Behold Corinna comes, her tunic wrapped loose,
parted hair covering her white throat;
just as the famous Semiranis went into her inner chambers,
it is said, and Lais, loved by many men.
I tore away the tunic- the light material hurt little,
but still she was fighting to be covered with the tunic,
and yet did not fight like as one who wished to win;
she lost not reluctantly, her own betrayer.
Where she stood before our eyes, her robe cast aside,
upon her whole body there was nowhere a blemish.
What shoulders, what arms I saw, I touched!
The form of her breasts, which were perfect to squeeze!
How smooth her belly beneath her taut breast!
How long and soft her side! How youthful her thigh!
Why question everything? I saw nothing not at all praiseworthy,
and pressed her nude body closely against mine.
Who doesn’t know the rest? Together we rested, exhausted.
May such middays often come for me!
Ovid is one of the great poets of Classical Latin literature. I have never had the pleasure of studying him formally, as my Latin studies have focused on prose (Tacitus and Caesar) with the limited poetry I have glanced at being mostly by Catullus. Amores was Ovid’s first completed book (15 BCE), written in elegaic couplets. The bits I have read certainly strike me as subversive, turning the genre upon itself. But what do I know? I’m a medievalist, not a classicist.
I have messed with the formatting for ease of reading. In the manuscripts, of course, there was neither punctuation nor line breaks, but modern readers look at a wall of poetry like that and run screaming. Speaking of manuscripts, Ovid was rather popular throughout the high and later middle ages; his writing was a major influence on courtly romance.
There are some interesting difficulties I found in the translation. Line 22 quantum et quale latus must be translated particularly freely. For ad usque meum I have chosen ‘closely against mine’, although usque could be rendered in several different ways. Do any of yon readers have alternate suggestions? I would welcome them.