Amatory Epigrams


Only you two were privy to the oath,
o Lamp and holy Night, sworn by us both:
I promised not to leave; he promised love,
and we called you as witnesses thereof.
But, Lamp, he wrote in water what he said,
and now you shine for others in his bed.

My soul says, “Heliodora’s trouble; go!
Think of the jealous tears...” I know, I know.
I just don’t have the strength. She warns me, too—
whispers, through kisses, “You know I’m bad for you.”

v.136 To the Cup-Bearer

Top off the wine, and toast, and toast again,
“To Heliodora!” Swirl the sweet name in.
That garland—yes, from last night—hand it over,
dripping with perfume, to remind me of her.
The rose, the lover’s friend—look!—sheds a tear
since she is gone, and not in my arms here.


Sweetly you pluck the lyre, Zenophila;
how sweet, by Pan, the music that you play!
Where can I run? The Loves are everywhere,
and leave no room to even breathe the air.
Beauty, the Muse, or Graces fuel this yearning,
or—no, all three at once! I’m burning, burning.


I know. No—shh! No tricks. I’ve found you out.
I know it all. No swearing; there’s no doubt.
The whole time!—oh, you sleep alone, do you?
What shameless lies. “No, no,” she says, “it’s true!”
What about that fop Cleon? Or, instead—
but why rail on? Scram bitch, out of the bed!
No, wait—you want to see him, I can tell.
I’ll make your day, then. Stay—welcome to hell.


Please, Love, respect my Muse; heed her request,
and let my flame for Heliodora rest.
I promise by your bow, which aims at none
but me, and rains its barbs on me alone:
I’ll leave this epitaph, if you kill me:
“Stranger, behold Love’s bloody victory.”

Chris Childers

If you have any comments on these translations, Chris Childers  would be pleased to hear from you.