Selected poems from Hours of Idleness (1807)

"TRANSLATION FROM CATULLUS" [Lugete, Veneres, Cupidinesque, &c.]

Ye Cupids, droop each little head Nor let your wings with joy be spread; My Lesbia's favourite bird is dead, Whom dearer than her eyes she loved: For he was gentle, and so true, Obedient to her call he flew, No fear, no wild alarm he knew, But lightly o'er her bosom moved: And softly fluttering here and there, He never sought to cleave the air, But chirrup'd oft, and, free from care, Tuned to her ear his grateful strain. Now having pass'd the gloomy bourne From whence he never can return, His death and Lesbia's grief I mourn, Who sighs, alas! but sighs in vain. Oh! curst be thou, devouring grave! Whose jaws eternal victims crave, From whom no earthly power can save, For thou hast ta'en the bird away: From thee my Lesbia's eyes o'erflow, Her swollen cheeks with weeping glow; Receptacle of life's decay.


Woman! experience might have told me That all must love thee who behold thee: Surely experience might have taught Thy firmest promises are nought; But, placed in all thy charms before me, All I forget, but to adore thee. Oh memory! though choicest blessing When join'd with hope, when still possessing; But how much cursed by every lover When hope is fled and passion's over. How prompt are striplings to believe her! How throbs the pulse when first we view The eye that rolls in glossy blue, Or sparkles black, or mildly throws A beam from under hazel brows! How quick we credit every oath, And hear her plight the willing troth! Fondly we hope 'twill last for aye, When, lo! she changes in a day. This record will for ever stand, 'Woman, thy vows are traced in sand.'


When fierce conflicting passions urge The breast where love is wont to glow, What mind can stem the stormy surge Which rolls the tide of human woe? The hope of praise, the dread of shame, Can rouse the tortured breast no more, The wild desire, the guilty flame, Absorbs each wish it felt before. But if affection gently thrills The sound by purer dreams possest, The pleasing balm of mortal ills In love can soothe the aching breast: If thus thou comest in disguise, Fair Venus! from thy native heaven, What heart unfeeling would despise The sweetest boon the gods have given? But never from thy golden bow May I beneath the shaft expire! Whose creeping venum, sure and slow, Awakes an all-consuming fire: Ye racking doubts! ye jealous fears! With others wage internal war: Repentance, source of future tears, From me be ever distant far! May no distracting thoughts destroy The holy calm of sacred love! May all the hours be wing'd with joy, Which hover faithful hearts above! Fair Venus! on thy myrtle shrine May I with some fond lover sigh, Whose heart may mingle pure with mine-- With me to live, with me to die! My native soil! beloved before, Now dearer as my peaceful home, Ne'er may I quite thy rocky shore, A hapless banis'd wretch to roam! This very day, this very hour, May I resign this fleeting breath! Nor quit my silent humble bower; A doom to me far worse than death. Have I not heard the exile's sigh, And seen the exile's silent tear, Through distant climes condemn'd to fly, A pensive weary wanderer here? Ah! hapless dame! no sire bewails, No friend thy wretched fate deplores, No kindred voice with rapture hails Thy steps within a stranger's doors. Perish the fiend whose iron heart, To fair affection's truth unknown, Bids her he fondly loved depart, Unpitied, helpless, and alone; Who ne'er unlocks with silver key The milder treasures of his soul,-- May such a friend be far from me, And ocean's storms between us roll!

Click here to return to The Bluestocking Archive