Utilitatis

Quid potius faciam? non sum, qui segnia ducam
otia: mors nobis tempus habetur iners.
nec iuvat in lucem nimio marcescere vino
nec tenet incertas alea blanda manus.
cum dedimus somno quas corpus postulat horas,
quo ponam vigilans tempora longa modo?
moris an oblitus patrii contendere discam
Sarmaticos arcus, et trahar arte loci?
hoc quoque me studium prohibent adsumere vires
mensque magis gracili corpore nostra valet.
cum bene quaesieris quid agam, magis utile nil est
artibus his, quae nil utilitatis habent.
(Ovid, Ep. ex Ponto 1.5.43-54)

What else should I do? I’m not one to lead a life
of idleness: wasted time’s like death to me.
I don’t enjoy lying drugged with excess drink, till dawn,
and the lure of the dice doesn’t grip my luckless hands.
When I’ve granted the time my body needs for sleep
how should I spend the long hours of wakefulness?
Shall I forget the ways of my country and, drawn
to the skills here, learn to bend the Sarmatian bow?
My powers prevent me taking up that pastime, too,
since my mind is stronger than my slight body.
When you’ve thought deeply about what I should do,
you’ll find nothing more useful than this useless art.
(tr. A.S. Kline)

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