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DID I not say to thee, "Cease to dye thy hair?" And now thou hast no longer any hair to dye. Nevertheless, hadst thou not been stubborn, where was there anything more beautiful than thy hair? It came down to thy knees, so fine thou wast afraid to comb it. No finer is the tissue with which the dark-skinned Seres clothe themselves; no finer is the thread which, with her dainty legs, the spider, swaying from her lonely beam, draws out to weave her airy web. Howbeit its colour was not black as ebony, nor was it golden. ’Twas a mixture of the two. Such is the colour of the tall cedar in the cool valleys of Mount Ida, when its bark is stripped away.

So soft, so tractable it was that thou couldst bind it in countless different ways, without the smallest trouble. Never did the comb's tooth tear thy tresses; thy tire-woman was never fearful of a slapping. Many a time have I been present at my mistress's toilet and never did she seize the bodkin to prick her woman's arms. Sometimes of a morning, her hair still in disorder, she would

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lie, half turned over, on the purple bed. And even then, in her careless abandon, she was lovely, lovely with the loveliness of an o’er-wearied Bacchanal who has cast herself, heedless of her posture, on the green grass.

Then her tresses were soft as down. How often, alas, have I seen them put to the torture, compelled patiently to endure both iron and fire, to make them stay in little rounded curls. "’Tis a crime," I cried, "a crime to scorch that hair of thine; it falls beautifully of its own accord. Cruel one, have mercy on thine own head. Away with such violent treatment. This is not the sort of hair to scorch. Thy hair itself instructs the bodkin where to go."

Gone are those lovely tresses which Apollo, which Bacchus, might have envied; such tresses as Dione, coming naked from the foam, upheld with her dripping hands.

Why, since they pleased thee not, dost thou lament the ruin of thy tresses? Wherefore, stupid one, dost thou thrust aside so mournfully thy mirror? No longer doth it please thee, remembering what thou wast, to gaze therein.

Howbeit ’tis not to magic herbs culled by a jealous rival, nor to water drawn by some treacherous witch from Hæmonian springs, that their fall is due. ’Tis not the effect of some dire malady (the gods keep thee from that), no, nor a rival's jealous tongue, envious of their beauty. No, thine is the crime, and thine own the hand that wrought the loss thou mournest; thine own the hand that poured the poison on thy head. Now Germany will send you some slave-girl's hair; a vanquished nation shall furnish thy adornments. Alas, how oft, when thou shalt hear men praise the beauty of thy hair, wilt thou tell thyself with a blush, "’Tis purchased merchandise that makes me comely in their sight to-day; of some unknown Sygambrian girl my friends the praises sing. Yet I remember the day when that glory was my own."

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Heavens, what have I said? See, she can scarce restrain her tears. She buries her face in her hands, and look how she is blushing. She steals a glance at one of her fallen tresses lying in her lap, a treasure, alas I not fitted for that place. Nay, come then, soothe thy heart and clear thy brow. The loss is not irreparable. Ere long with thine own hair, thou wilt be beauteous as of yore.


Dicebam 'medicare tuos desiste capillos!'
    tingere quam possis, iam tibi nulla coma est.
at si passa fores, quid erat spatiosius illis?
    contigerant imum, qua patet usque, latus.
5 quid, quod erant tenues, et quos ornare timeres?
    vela colorati qualia Seres habent,
vel pede quod gracili deducit aranea filum,
    cum leve deserta sub trabe nectit opus.
nec tamen ater erat nec erat tamen aureus ille,
10     sed, quamvis neuter, mixtus uterque color--
qualem clivosae madidis in vallibus Idae
    ardua derepto cortice cedrus habet.
Adde, quod et dociles et centum flexibus apti
    et tibi nullius causa doloris erant.
15 non acus abrupit, non vallum pectinis illos.
    ornatrix tuto corpore semper erat;
ante meos saepe est oculos ornata nec umquam
    bracchia derepta saucia fecit acu.
saepe etiam nondum digestis mane capillis
20     purpureo iacuit semisupina toro.
tum quoque erat neclecta decens, ut Threcia Bacche,
    cum temere in viridi gramine lassa iacet.
Cum graciles essent tamen et lanuginis instar,
    heu, male vexatae quanta tulere comae!
25 quam se praebuerunt ferro patienter et igni,
    ut fieret torto nexilis orbe sinus!
clamabam: 'scelus est istos, scelus urere crines!
    sponte decent; capiti, ferrea, parce tuo!
vim procul hinc remove! non est, qui debeat uri;
30     erudit admotas ipse capillus acus.'
Formosae periere comae--quas vellet Apollo,
    quas vellet capiti Bacchus inesse suo!
illis contulerim, quas quondam nuda Dione
    pingitur umenti sustinuisse manu.
35 quid male dispositos quereris periisse capillos?
    quid speculum maesta ponis, inepta, manu?
non bene consuetis a te spectaris ocellis;
    ut placeas, debes inmemor esse tui.
non te cantatae laeserunt paelicis herbae,
40     non anus Haemonia perfida lavit aqua;
nec tibi vis morbi nocuit--procul omen abesto!--
    nec minuit densas invida lingua comas.
facta manu culpaque tua dispendia sentis;
    ipsa dabas capiti mixta venena tuo.
45 Nunc tibi captivos mittet Germania crines;
    tuta triumphatae munere gentis eris.
o quam saepe comas aliquo mirante rubebis,
    et dices: 'empta nunc ego merce probor,
nescio quam pro me laudat nunc iste Sygambram.
50     fama tamen memini cum fuit ista mea.'
Me miserum! lacrimas male continet oraque dextra
    protegit ingenuas picta rubore genas.
sustinet antiquos gremio spectatque capillos,
    ei mihi, non illo munera digna loco!
55 Collige cum vultu mentem! reparabile damnum est.
    postmodo nativa conspiciere coma.

Next: Elegy XV: The Poets Alone Are Immortal.