“Missus in hanc venio timide liber exulis urbem: da placidam fesso, lector amice, manum; neve reformida, ne sim tibi forte pudori: nullus in hac charta versus amare docet. 5haec domini fortuna mei est, ut debeat illam infelix nullis dissimulare iocis. id quoque, quod viridi quondam male lusit in aevo, heu nimium sero damnat et odit opus! inspice quid portem: nihil hic nisi triste videbis, 10carmine temporibus conveniente suis. clauda quod alterno subsidunt carmina versu, vel pedis hoc ratio, vel via longa facit; quod neque sum cedro flavus1 nec pumice levis, erubui domino cultior esse meo; 15littera suffusas quod habet maculosa lituras, laesit opus lacrimis ipse poeta suum. siqua videbuntur casu non dicta Latine, in qua scribebat, barbara terra fuit. dicite, lectores, si non grave, qua sit eundum, 20quasque petam sedes hospes in urbe liber.”
- 2The elegiac couplet is often spoken of as “lame” because of the unequal length of the verses.
“Though sent to this city I come in fear, an exile’s book. Stretch forth a kindly hand to me in my weariness, friendly reader, and fear not that I may perchance bring shame upon you; not a line on this paper teaches love. Such is my master’s fate that the wretched man ought not to conceal it with any jests. Even that work1 which once was his ill-starred amusement in the green of youth, too late, alas! he condemns and hates. Examine what I bring: you will see nothing here except sadness, and the verse befits its own state. If the lame couplets halt in alternate verses, ’tis due to the metre’s nature2 or to the length of the journey; if I am not golden with oil of cedar nor smoothed with the pumice, ’tis because I blushed to be better dressed than my master; if the letters are spotted and blurred with erasures, ’tis because the poet with tears has injured his own work. If any expressions perchance shall seem not Latin, the land wherein he wrote was a barbarian land. Tell me, readers, if it is not a trouble, whither I ought to go, what abode I, a book from foreign lands, should seek in the city.”
- 1The Ars amatoria.