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Addressed to Ponticus

1 I told you how love would be, and you laughed.
Now your words no longer come free.
Look how you lie, a suppliant, when you come to her call.
The girl once bought rules over you in every sphere.
Chaonian doves can't beat me at love predictions:
I know which youths each girl will dominate.
Suffering and tears have earned me my expertise.
If only I had never touched Love and could be called ignorant!

What good is it now, in your misery, to speak your solemn poem,
to mourn the walls of Amphion and his lyre?
Mimnermos' poetry is worth more in love than Homer's:
mild Love seeks soft songs.
Please, go bury those sad books
and sing anything the girl wants to hear!
What if this abundance were not so easily yours?
Now, like a madman, you are standing in the middle of a river asking for water.

And you're not even pale yet. You haven't really felt the fire.
This is but the first spark of the suffering to come.
Then you'd rather face Armenian tigers
and know the bondage of hell's wheel
than to feel so often the boy's bow in your marrow
and be powerless to deny your angry girl a single thing.

Love doesn't give his wings so easily
that he does not repress with the other hand.
Don't think that winning her was enough.
She cuts even sharper, Ponticus, if she is yours,
since your eyes are not allowed to wander freely,
nor does Love let you spend the night with someone else.
He remains invisible until his hand strikes you to the bone.

Whoever you are, fly from the constant flirtations!
Flint and oak might be able to suffer the consequences.
You hardly, who are just light spirit.
If there is some shame at first to admit the extent of your errors,
still, to say where you lost in love often eases it.

1 See poem 7.

  • district on coast of North Epirus. Oracle of Zeus at Dodona, called Chaonian Zeus; priestesses called doves.
  • by the music of his harp, made stones rise and form the walls of Thebes.
  • elegiac poet from Kolophon, around 630 B.C.
  • Ixion, king of the Lapiths, was given Dia in marriage for a certain sum, payable to her father. Ixion having got Dia, refuses to pay; father harrasses Ixion; Ixion kills father. Brought in judgement before Jupiter, Ixion pleads so well he has convinced Jupiter, when Jupiter notices him making love to Juno and binds him to a revolving wheel of fire in Tartaros.
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      • E. T. Merrill, Commentary on Catullus, 66
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