(43 BCE - 17 CE / Rome / Italy)

Love And War - Poem by Ovid

Lovers all are soldiers, and Cupid has his campaigns:
I tell you, Atticus, lovers all are soldiers.
Youth is fit for war, and also fit for Venus.
Imagine an aged soldier, an elderly lover!
A general looks for spirit in his brave soldiery;
a pretty girl wants spirit in her companions.
Both stay up all night long, and each sleeps on the ground;
one guards his mistress's doorway, one his general's.
The soldier's lot requires far journeys; send his girl,
the zealous lover will follow her anywhere.
He'll cross the glowering mountains, the rivers swollen with storm;
he'll tread a pathway through the heaped-up snows;
and never whine of raging Eurus when he sets sail
or wait for stars propitious for his voyage.
Who but lovers and soldiers endure the chill of night,
and blizzards interspersed with driving rain?
The soldier reconnoiters among the dangerous foe;
the lover spies to learn his rival's plans.
Soldiers besiege strong cities; lovers, a harsh girl's home;
one storms town gates, the other storms house doors.
It's clever strategy to raid a sleeping foe
and slay an unarmed host by force of arms.
(That's how the troops of Thracian Rhesus met their doom,
and you, O captive steeds, forsook your master.)
Well, lovers take advantage of husbands when they sleep,
launching surprise attacks while the enemy snores.
To slip through bands of guards and watchful sentinels
is always the soldier's mission - and the lover's.
Mars wavers; Venus flutters: the conquered rise again,
and those you'd think could never fall, lie low.
So those who like to say that love is indolent
should stop: Love is the soul of enterprise.
Sad Achilles burns for Briseis, his lost darling:
Trojans, smash the Greeks' power while you may!
From Andromache's embrace Hector went to war;
his own wife set the helmet on his head;
and High King Agamemnon, looking on Priam's child,
was stunned (they say) by the Maenad's flowing hair.
And Mars himself was trapped in The Artificer's bonds:
no tale was more notorious in heaven.
I too was once an idler, born for careless ease;
my shady couch had made my spirit soft.
But care for a lovely girl aroused me from my sloth
and bid me to enlist in her campaign.
So now you see me forceful, in combat all night long.
If you want a life of action, fall in love.

- translated from the Latin by Jon Corelis

Comments about Love And War by Ovid

  • (12/4/2018 11:15:00 AM)

    poem huntahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh (Report) Reply

    1 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • (6/25/2018 6:18:00 PM)


  • (5/11/2018 6:50:00 AM)

    I was a soldier and in love and all is true of those perfect passions and their ferocity! Death in battle would be preferable to lost love's honor! (Report) Reply

  • Joshua Adeyemi (2/27/2018 11:11:00 AM)

    If you want a life of action, fall in love.....

    Perhaps, i disagree with this.yet agree firmly. Though on the fence...
    (Report) Reply

  • (6/12/2017 9:07:00 AM)

    dear ovid, my name is joel drown your poem is very powerful its amazing how close together the topics of lave and war an become and how you descrided the numbness that can come from a war and a deep love thank you for your time and your service (Report) Reply

  • Amar Agarwala (3/21/2017 7:39:00 PM)

    A powerful poem on love and war and of a lovers' mirth and passion! (Report) Reply

  • John S (3/21/2017 9:45:00 AM)

    All is fair in love and war
    win the battle, settle the score
    Cupid carries out his clever campaign
    fight with chocolate hearts and aged champagne
    Melodious music, the best poetry I know
    will capture your heart, and vanquish my foe
    without you my love, my life is incomplete
    fighting a beautiful battle, I'll know not defeat
    with armaments, I'll fight tooth and nail
    Over swollen seas, my fleets set sail
    Through torrential rain, blizzards of gale
    for your affectionate heart, my love will prevail!
    (Report) Reply

    John S (3/21/2017 5:40:00 PM)

    Yes, there is nothing more inspiring than other poet's poetic themes...

    (3/21/2017 10:35:00 AM)

    Is this your poem?

  • Savita Tyagi (3/21/2017 9:45:00 AM)

    This is the eternal truth. The tale of love and war told in a captivating poem. Thanks for the translation. (Report) Reply

  • Payal Priya (3/21/2017 5:17:00 AM)

    The intertwining of the images of a lover and a soldier, deftly done to reveal how the two are same in their passion and unswerving loyalty. (Report) Reply

  • (3/21/2017 4:59:00 AM)

    a poem of truths that is just as relevant to day as when it was first written? nothing changes in love and war! (Report) Reply

  • Lantz Pierre (3/21/2017 4:16:00 AM)

    I almost didn't make to the end. Ovid works so hard to make more of romantic love than what is real or true. And yet he's mostly right, even if the analogy gets a little tedious and overly drawn-out for me. The last line here wraps it up so profoundly. There is no reason to act unless one feels a reason to act. The heart is the ultimate motivator for sacrifice and for selflessness. Not to care is equivalent to passivity and ultimately defeat because one does value anything to champion, to fight for, to defend and follow. And adore. Patriotism too is an act of love. (Report) Reply

  • Edward Kofi Louis (3/21/2017 2:01:00 AM)

    Born for careless ease. Thanks for sharing this poem with us. (Report) Reply

  • Rajnish Manga (3/21/2017 1:02:00 AM)

    This classical poem tells us quite beautifully the strategies employed by the soldiers and the lovers to win over their respective territories. Loved reading it. Thanks PH. (Report) Reply

  • Bernard F. Asuncion (3/21/2017 12:54:00 AM)

    Made my spirit soft.... thanks for sharing..... (Report) Reply

  • Mohammed Asim Nehal (12/8/2016 8:50:00 AM)

    Outstanding! ! ! !
    Love is another war and winner is loser and loser is winner, war in love is unfair yet it ends up like that. (Report) Reply

  • (10/5/2015 8:17:00 PM)

    ........wonderful message....love and war has many similarities ★ (Report) Reply

Read all 18 comments »

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Read poems about / on: soldier, girl, war, sad, night, power, house, child, hair, rain, sleep, lost, heaven, home, husband, children, city, river, rose, star

Poem Submitted: Sunday, December 7, 2003

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