Quid mihi vobiscum est, infelix cura, libelli, ingenio perii qui miser ipse meo? cur modo damnatas repeto, mea crimina, Musas? an semel est poenam commeruisse parum? 5carmina fecerunt, ut me cognoscere vellet omine non fausto femina virque meo: carmina fecerunt, ut me moresque notaret iam demi iussa1 Caesar ab Arte mea. deme mihi studium, vitae quoque crimina demes; 10acceptum refero versibus esse nocens. hoc pretium curae vigilatorumque laborum cepimus: ingenio est poena reperta meo. si saperem, doctas odissem iure sorores, numina cultori perniciosa suo. 15at nunc—tanta meo comes est insania morbo— saxa malum refero rursus ad icta pedem: scilicet ut victus repetit gladiator harenam, et redit in tumidas naufraga puppis aquas. forsitan, ut quondam Teuthrantia regna tenenti, 20sic mihi res eadem vulnus opemque feret, Musaque, quam movit, motam quoque leniet iram; exorant magnos carmina saepe deos.
The Poet’s Plea
What have I to do with you, ye books, ill-starred object of my toil,—I, ruined and wretched through my own talent? Why do I return to the Muses I have just denounced, the causes of my guilt? Or is one well-earned penalty not enough? Verse gave men and women a desire to know me, but ’twas no good omen for me; verse caused Caesar to brand me and my ways by commanding that my “Art”1 be forthwith taken away. Take away from me my pursuit and you will take away from my life also the charges against it. I lay the charge of guilt against my verse. This is the reward I have received for my work and my wakeful toil: a penalty has been found for my talent. Were I wise I should justly hate the learned sisters,2 the deities fatal to their own votary. But as it is—such madness accompanies my disease—I am once more returning my luckless foot to the stone it has struck, just as the vanquished gladiator seeks again the arena or the battered ship returns to the surging sea.
19 Perchance, as once for him who ruled the Teuthrantian kingdom,3 the same object will both wound and cure me, and the Muse who aroused the wrath will also soften it; song often prevails