Mice, if you have come for bread, go to some other corner (my hut is ill-supplied), where ye shall nibble fat cheese and dried figs, and get a plentiful dinner from the scraps. But if ye sharpen your teeth again on my books ye shall suffer for it and find that ye come to no pleasant banquet. (tr. William Roger Paton)
I hate these cyclic poets* who say “natheless eftsoon,” filchers of the verses of others, and so I pay more attention to elegies, for there is nothing I want to steal from Callimachus or Parthenius. Let me become like an “eared beast”** if ever I write “from the rivers sallow celandine.”*** But these epic poets strip Homer so shamelessly that they already write “Sing, O Goddess, the wrath.”****
* Contemporary writers of epic poems.
** So Callimachus calls a donkey.
*** Probably a quotation from Parthenius. He like Callimachus, wrote elegies.
**** i.e. the very first words of his poem.
Nothing is sweeter than love; all good things come second: even honey I spat from my mouth. Nossis says this, and whomever Cypris has not kissed does not know what roses her flowers are. (tr. William Roger Paton, revised by Michael A. Tueller)
Wilt grant a favour if I name it? – Name it.
I love, but doubt if she’s not shy. – Not shy.
Then I’ve the right if I could claim it. – Claim it.
Then tell her for her love sigh I. – Ay, ay.
I have a little gift to make her. – Make her.
Then all that’s left to do’s to take her. – Take her. (tr. John Maxwell Edmonds)
Fly for me, mosquito: be my swift messenger. Alight on the rim of Zenophila’s ear and whisper this: “He is awake, and waits for you; but you forget those who love you, and sleep.” Up, fly! Yes, musical one, fly! But speak quietly, so you don’t wake the man who is sleeping with her and arouse in him pangs of jealousy against me. If you bring the girl, I will hood you with a lion’s pelt, mosquito, and give you a club to carry in your hand*.
* The mosquito would thus be attired like Heracles. While other instances of mosquitoes imitating Heracles are (not surprisingly) unknown, Love was sometimes depicted wearing a lion skin.
(tr. William Roger Paton, revised by Michael A. Tueller, with the latter’s note)
Shrill-voiced mosquitoes, shameless suckers of men’s blood, night’s winged predators, I beg you, let Zenophila sleep a little in peace. Here: gorge yourselves on my limbs! But why am I wasting my words? Pitiless beasts also love to be warmed by her tender flesh. But I now forewarn you, evil creatures: do not defy me, or you will feel the strength of my jealous hands. (tr. William Roger Paton, revised by Michael A. Tueller)
Poor partridge, fugitive from the cliffs! No longer, I suppose, does your woven home hold you in its slender withes, nor do you flutter your wing-tips under the gleam of warm-eyed Dawn the early-riser to keep them warm. A cat cut off your head—but I snatched away all the rest; it did not glut its greedy jaws. Now may the dust not hide you lightly, but heavily, lest she drag off what’s left of you. (tr. Michael A. Tueller)