Elegy XII: He complains that the praises he has bestowed on his mistress in his verses, have occasioned him many rivals.Ill-omen'd birds, how luckless was the day,
When o'er my love you did your wings display!
What wayward orb, what inauspicious star
Did then rule heav'n ? what gods against me war?
She who so much my fatal passion wrongs,
Was known and first made famous by my songs.
I lov'd her first, and lov'd her then alone,
But now, I fear, I share her with the town.
Am I deceiv'd or can she be the same,
Who only to my verses owes her fame
My verse a price upon her beauty laid,
And by my praises she her market made;
Whom but myself can I with reason blame?
Without me she had never had a name.
Did I do this, who knew her soul so well?
Dearly to me she did her favours sell;
And when the wares were to the public known,
Why should I think she'd sell to me alone ?
'Twas I proclaim'd to all the town her charms,
And tempted cullies to her venal arms;
I made their way, I show'd them where to come,
And there is hardly now a rake in Rome
But knows her rates, and thanks my babbling muse:
Her house is now as common as the stews;
For this I'm to the muse oblig'd, and more
For all the mischiefs envy has in store.
This comes of gallantry, while some employ
Their talents on the fate of Thebes and Troy,
While others Caesar's godlike acts rehearse,
Corinna is the subject of my verse.
Oh, that I ne'er had known the art to please,
But written without genius and success.
Why did the town so readily believe
My verse, and why to songs such credit give ?
Sure poetry s the same it ever was,
And poets ne'er for oracles did pass.
Why is such stress upon my writings laid?
Why such regard to what by me is said ?
I wish the tales I've of Corinna told,
Had been receiv'd as fables were of old;
Of furious Scylla's horrid shape we read,
And how she scalp'd her hoary father's lead:
Of her fair face, and downward how she takes
The wolf's fierce form, the dog's, or curling snake's;
Serpents for hair, in ancient song we meet,
And man and horse with wings instead of feet.
Huge Tityon from the skies the poets flung,
Encelladus's wars with Jove they sung;
How by her spells, and by her voice, to beasts,
The doubtful virgin chang'd her wretched guests;
How Eolus did for Ulysses keep
The winds in bottles while he plough'd the deep:
How Cerberus, three headed, guarded hell;
And from his car the son of Phoebus fell:
How thirsty Tantalus attempts to sip
The stream in vain, that flies his greedy lip:
How Niobe in marble drops a tear,
And a bright nymph was turn'd into a bear:
How Progne, now a swallow, does bemoan
Her sister nightingale, and pheasant son.
In Leda, Danae, and Europa's rapes,
They sing the king of gods in various shapes;
A swan he lies on ravish'd Leda's breast,
And Danae by a golden show'r compress'd;
A bull does o'er the waves Europa bear,
And Proteus any form he pleases wear.
How oft do we the Theban wonders read,
Of serpent's teeth transform'd to human seed!
Of dancing woods, and moving rocks, that throng
To hear sweet Orpheus, and Amphion's song ?
How oft do the Heliades bemoan,
In tears of gum, the fall of Phaeton!
The sun from Atreus' table frightened flies,
And backward drives his chariot in the skies.
Those now are nymphs that lately were a fleet;
Poetic license ever was so great.
But none did credit to these fictions give,
Or for true history such tales receive,
And though Corinna in my songs is fair,
Let none conclude she's like her picture there.
The fable she with hasty faith receiv'd,
And what, so very well she lik'd, believ'd.
But since so ill she does the poet use,
'Tis time her vanity to disabuse.