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I MAKE no pretence of justifying the laxity of my morals; I never resort to untruthful pretexts to excuse my wanderings from the path of virtue. I freely confess my faults, if such avowals can serve any useful purpose. Now I have acknowledged my guilt in general terms, I mean to make a clean breast of all my follies. I curse my failings, yet I cannot help finding

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pleasure in the very faults that I deplore. How burdensome is the yoke that one would fain cast off. I have not the strength nor the will-power to govern my passions; they bear me along with them, even as the swift tide hurries away the slender bark.

It is not any particular type of beauty that sets my heart on fire. A hundred motives compel me to be always in love. Here is a girl that drops her gaze demurely. That is enough, my heart catches fire and her modesty is the lure that ensnares me. And here is one that is out for booty. To her I fall a willing victim because she is no novice and because she bids fair to be keen and enterprising on a downy couch. And then, if I see one with an expression that recalls to me the Sabine dames, I forthwith tell myself that she has longings but knows how to conceal them. Are you a learned lady? I fall in love with your rare accomplishments. Unlearned? Your naïveté enthralls me. This one finds Callimachus a sorry poet compared with me. I please her, and lo, straightway she pleases me. This one finds fault with my verses and tells me I am no poet. Despite her strictures I fain would have her in my arms. This one walks languorously. Her gait enchants me. This one is prim. Peradventure, if she had a lover 'twould soften her. This one sings delightfully, and breathes from her soft throat the most melodious strains. I long to steal a kiss from her parted lips. Another lightly fingers the trembling chords of her lyre; where is he who could help adoring such skilful fingers? Here is one that wins me with her dancing. I feast my eyes on her seductive poses, on the rhythmic movements of her arms, on the swaying of her whole body as she moves in time to the music. But never mind me, whom anyone can set on fire. Let Hippolytus see her; even he would become a Priapus. You, my tall beauty, recall the heroines of olden days and the bed is not a whit too long for you. And you, my dainty little treasure; I love you, too, just as much.

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[paragraph continues] Both are enchanting. Tall and short, I love them both. Here is one that wears no finery; I muse how jewels would enhance her beauty. Here is one tricked out with gems; how dazzling are her charms. Of fair and dark I am alike the slave; white-skinned or sunburnt, I adore them all. Black tresses flutter on a snowy neck? Leda's loveliness lay in her raven hair. Is she fair, the girl I see yonder? Why, ’twas to her golden hair Aurora owed her beauty. Everywhere history helps me to justify my love. A young woman delights me, an older one enthralls me. The one has the beauty of her body, the other experience and richness of mind, to recommend her. In a word, of all the beauties they rave about in Rome, there's none whose lover I am not fain to be.


Non ego mendosos ausim defendere mores
    falsaque pro vitiis arma movere meis.
confiteor--siquid prodest delicta fateri;
    in mea nunc demens crimina fassus eo.
odi, nec possum, cupiens, non esse quod odi;
    heu, quam quae studeas ponere ferre grave est!
Nam desunt vires ad me mihi iusque regendum;
    auferor ut rapida concita puppis aqua.
non est certa meos quae forma invitet amores--
    centum sunt causae, cur ego semper amem.
sive aliqua est oculos in humum deiecta modestos,
    uror, et insidiae sunt pudor ille meae;
sive procax aliqua est, capior, quia rustica non est,
    spemque dat in molli mobilis esse toro.
aspera si visa est rigidasque imitata Sabinas,
    velle, sed ex alto dissimulare puto.
sive es docta, places raras dotata per artes;
    sive rudis, placita es simplicitate tua.
est, quae Callimachi prae nostris rustica dicat
    carmina--cui placeo, protinus ipsa placet.
est etiam, quae me vatem et mea carmina culpet--
    culpantis cupiam sustinuisse femur.
molliter incedit--motu capit; altera dura est--
    at poterit tacto mollior esse viro.
haec quia dulce canit flectitque facillima vocem,
    oscula cantanti rapta dedisse velim;
haec querulas habili percurrit pollice chordas--
    tam doctas quis non possit amare manus?
illa placet gestu numerosaque bracchia ducit
    et tenerum molli torquet ab arte latus--
ut taceam de me, qui causa tangor ab omni,
    illic Hippolytum pone, Priapus erit!
tu, quia tam longa es, veteres heroidas aequas
    et potes in toto multa iacere toro.
haec habilis brevitate sua est. corrumpor utraque;
    conveniunt voto longa brevisque meo.
non est culta--subit, quid cultae accedere possit;
    ornata est--dotes exhibet ipsa suas.
candida me capiet, capiet me flava puella,
    est etiam in fusco grata colore Venus.
seu pendent nivea pulli cervice capilli,
    Leda fuit nigra conspicienda coma;
seu flavent, placuit croceis Aurora capillis.
    omnibus historiis se meus aptat amor.
me nova sollicitat, me tangit serior aetas;
    haec melior, specie corporis illa placet.
Denique quas tota quisquam probet urbe puellas,
    noster in has omnis ambitiosus amor.

Next: Elegy V: He Upbraids His Mistress Whom He His Detected Acting Falsely Towards Him.