Homage To Sextus Propertius - V
Now if ever it is time to cleanse Helicon;
to lead Emathian horses afield,
And to name over the census of my chiefs in the Roman camp.
If I have not the faculty, 'The bare attempt would be praise-worthy.'
'In the things of similar magnitude
the mere will to act is sufficient.'
The primitive ages sang Venus,
the last sings of a tumult,
And I also will sing war when this matter of a girl is exhausted.
I with my beak hauled ashore would proceed in a more stately manner,
My Muse is eager to instruct me in a new gamut, or gambetto,
Up, up my soul, from your lowly cantilation,
put on a timely vigour.
Oh august Pierides! Now for a large-mouthed product.
'The Euphrates denies its protection to the Parthian and
apologizes for Crassus,'
And 'It is, I think, India which now gives necks to your triumph,'
And so forth, Augustus. 'Virgin Arabia shakes in her inmost dwelling.'
If any land shrink into a distant seacoast,
it is a mere postponement of your domination.
And I shall follow the camp, I shall be duly celebrated
for singing the affairs of your cavalry.
May the fates watch over my day.
Yet you ask on what account I write so many love-lyrics
And whence this soft book comes into my mouth.
Neither Calliope nor Apollo sung these things into my ear,
My genius is no more than a girl.
If she with ivory fingers drive a tune through the lyre,
We look at the process.
How easy the moving fingers; if hair is mussed on her forehead,
If she goes in a gleam of Cos, in a slither of dyed stuff,
There is a volume in the matter; if her eyelids sink into sleep,
There are new jobs for the author;
And if she plays with me with her shirt off,
We shall construct many Iliads.
And whatever she does or says
We shall spin long yarns out of nothing.
Thus much the fates have allotted me, and if, Maecenas,
I were able to lead heroes into armour, I would not,
Neither would I warble of Titans, nor of Ossa
spiked onto Olympus,
Nor of causeways over Pelion,
Nor of Thebes in its ancient respectability,
nor of Homer's reputation in Pergamus,
Nor of Xerxes' two-barreled kingdom, nor of Remus and his royal family,
Nor of dignified Carthaginian characters,
Nor of Welsh mines and the profit Marus had out of them,
I should remember Caesar's affairs . . .
for a background,
Although Callimachus did without them,
and without Theseus,
Without an inferno, without Achilles attended of gods,
Without Ixion, and without the sons of Menoetius and
the Argo and without Jove's grave and the Titans.
And my ventricles do not palpitate to Caesarial ore rotundas,
Nor to the tune of the Phrygian fathers.
Sailor, of winds; a plowman, concerning his oxen;
Soldier, the enumeration of wounds; the sheep-feeder, of ewes;
We, in our narrow bed, turning aside from battles:
Each man where he can, wearing out the day in his manner.
It is noble to die of love, and honourable to remain
uncuckolded for a season.
And she speaks ill of light women,
and will not praise Homer
Because Helen's conduct is 'unsuitable'.
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(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
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