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Ovid, Amores 1.5

Translation copyright © 2000 John Svarlien; all rights reserved.

        It was hot - the day already more than half gone.
     I lay where I'd dropped on the bed.
It happened a window was half-open. Light filtered in
     like light falling in a forest;
5like the afterglow of twilight or when it's dawn
     but the night hasn't quite faded.
That's the kind of dim light shy girls like - it gives
     their modesty some cover.
The door opens. In comes Corinna, her dress half buttoned,
10     her hair fixed to show off that lovely neck.
She looked as lovely as Semiramis on her wedding night
     or Lais in anyone's bed.
I tore off the dress. To make it more fun she fought
     to keep the flimsy thing half on.
15We struggled; I won! Her protests betrayed
     the truth: she had wanted to lose.
Clothes littered the room. There stood Corinna nude.
     God, what a masterpiece she was!
Looking was not enough; I had to touch those shoulders, those arms;
20     mold my hands round each round breast.
Her belly's subtle curves coaxed my fingers on. Soon I felt
     the supple swell of hips and thighs.
But why catalogue the store of pleasure her body held?
     I held her naked in my arms.
25You can fantasize the rest. We were exhausted and slept.
     May many afternoons be so well spent.

Notes by William W. Batstone

There are only two poems in Augustan love elegy which describe a successful sexual encounter: this poem and Propertius II 15.

9. Corinna: Corinna's first named entry into Ovid's love poetry is like an epiphany. Her name is taken from the name of a beautiful Greek poet whose poetry was celebrated for its complexity. The poet's method in the lines that follow and Corinna's appearance have aptly been described as a tease.

11. Semiramis: An Assyrian queen famous for her beauty and said to be the daughter of a goddess. She was raised by doves and turned into a dove upon her death. In some versions, she was said to have been a courtesan before she became queen.

12. Lais: She is not identified with any certainty, but is one of at least two popular Corinthian courtesans named Lais; see Propertius II 6.1. This reference complicates our view of Ovid and Corinna: does the lover refer only to her beauty or her experience or her mercenary motives?

This translation first appeared in Diane J. Rayor and William W. Batstone (edd.), Latin Lyric and Elegiac Poetry: An Anthology of New Translations. New York: Garland, 1995. It has been republished in Diotima with permission.

Permission is hereby granted to distribute for classroom use, provided that both John Svarlien and Diotima are identified in any such use. Other uses not authorized in writing by the translator or in accord with fair use policy are expressly prohibited.

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