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Addressed to Ponticus, an epic poet

1 While you tell of Thebes and Cadmus, Ponticus,
and the tragedy of fraternal warfare,
and, if I may say, you contend with Homer himself
(may the fates just go easy on your songs),
I pursue my loves, as is my wont,
and look for something against my hard mistress.

I am a slave not so much to genius as to suffering,
complaining the hard times of my youth.
This is how my life's used up, this my fame,
this is what I want my poetry known for.
Let them praise me, Ponticus, for being the only one to have pleased that
sophisticated girl, and for having often borne her unjust threats.
May the neglected lover of the future read me carefully,
that knowledge of my ills may give him foresight.

If The Boy should also stike you with his deadeye bow,
(though I wouldn't wish my gods to violate you),
then you'll cry that your camps, your seven squadrons,
he far, far away, silent in eternal inactivity
In vain you'll try to compose a subtle verse,
and laggard Love will throw down no songs to you.

Then you will not marvel so often at this “insignificant” poet.
Then I may be preferred to the other Roman talents.
Youths won't be able to keep silent at my tomb:
“There you lie, great poet of our ardor.”
So beware when you trash my poems with contempt:
Lazy Love often charges a huge interest.

1 This poem is a warning that epic poetry will be of no use should Ponticus fall in love. Poem 9 forms a pair with this one, showing just that fall coming to pass.

  • i.e., Eteocles and Polynices.
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