Sad Ovid’s Sad Poem is Really Sad


SENTENTIAE ANTIQUAE

Ovid, Tristia 3, 1-20

“I come to this city fearfully, sent as an exile’s book.
Reader, my friend, give a calming hand to the weary
and don’t worry that I might shame you in some way.
No line in this manuscript teaches about love.

My master’s fate is such that the miserable man
should not hide it in any jokes
That work which amused him once in his green age
He now condemns—alas, too late—and hates.
Look what I carry: you will find nothing but sorrow here,
a song which matches its own days.

If the lame song breaks off in alternating lines,
then it comes from the meter’s form or the journey’s length.
If I am not bright with cedar nor smooth from pumice,
it is because I turned red at looking better than my master.
If the letters are shapeless, if they are marred by erasure,
it is…

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