Mitissime

Guercino, Giove lanciando un fulmine, ca. 1645
Guercino, Giove lanciando un fulmine (ca. 1645)

Forsitan ut quondam Teuthrantia regna tenenti,
sic mihi res eadem vulnus opemque feret,
Musaque, quam movit, motam quoque leniet iram;
exorant magnos carmina saepe deos.
ipse quoque Ausonias Caesar matresque nurusque
carmina turrigerae dicere iussit Opi.
iusserat et Phoebo dici, quo tempore ludos
fecit, quos aetas aspicit una semel.
his precor exemplis tua nunc, mitissime Caesar,
fiat ab ingenio mollior ira meo.
illa quidem iusta est, nec me meruisse negabo—
non adeo nostro fugit ab ore pudor—
sed nisi peccassem, quid tu concedere posses?
materiam veniae sors tibi nostra dedit.
si, quotiens peccant homines, sua fulmina mittat
Iuppiter, exiguo tempore inermis erit;
nunc ubi detonuit strepituque exterruit orbem,
purum discussis aëra reddit aquis.
iure igitur genitorque deum rectorque vocatur,
iure capax mundus nil love maius habet.
tu quoque, cum patriae rector dicare paterque,
utere more dei nomen habentis idem.
(Ovid, Trist. 2.19-40)

Perhaps, like Telephus* who ruled the Teuthrantian land,
the same weapon will both wound and cure me,
and the Muse who stirred the anger also calm it:
song often influences the great gods. Caesar himself
ordered the mothers and daughters of Italy
to chant the hymns to turreted Ops**.
He did the same for Apollo at the Secular Games
those that each age sees only once.
Merciful Caesar, I plead these as my precedents:
let my skill soften your anger.
It’s justified indeed: I don’t deny I deserve it—
shame hasn’t completely fled my cheeks—
But unless I’ve sinned, how can you forgive?
My fate has given you the chance for mercy.
If Jupiter hurled his lightning, every time men sinned,
it wouldn’t be long before he was weapon-less.
When he’s thundered, and scared the world with noise,
he scatters the rain-clouds and clears the air.
So it’s right to call him the father and ruler of the gods,
it’s right the wide world owns nothing greater than Jove.
You also, since you’re called father and ruler of the land,
should follow the ways of the god with the same title.

* King of Teuthrantia in Mysia, son of Hercules and the nymph Auge. He was suckled by a deer on Mount Parthenius. He was wounded and healed by the touch of Achilles’s spear at Troy.
** The goddess of agricultural abundance, goddess of plenty. Identified with Cybele by the Romans, who wore a turreted crown. Ovid may refer to Augustus’s rededication of her temple on the Palatine after it was destroyed by fire and re-built in 3 AD.

(tr. Tony Kline, with some of his notes)

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