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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.


By Propertius (c. 50–c. 16 B.C.)

Translation of James Cranstoun

O PAULUS! vex my grave with tears no more:

No prayers unlock the portals of the tomb;

When once the dead have trod the infernal floor,

Barred stand the adamantine doors of doom.

Though the dark hall’s dread king would hear thy prayer,

’Twere vain: dead shores will drink thy tears the while.

Prayers move high heaven; but pay the boatman’s fare,

The drear gate closes on the shadowy pile….

I doffed the maiden’s dress;—I was a bride;

The matron’s coif confined my braided hair:

Too soon, O Paulus! doomed to leave thy side;

I was but thine, my tombstone shall declare….

Years changed me not; a blameless life I spent,

From wedlock to its close our fame secure:

Nature my blood with inborn virtue blent;

No fears could make my guileless heart more pure….

My meed—a mother’s tears; the city’s woe;

Even Cæsar’s sorrow consecrates my bier:

Rome saw the mighty god a-weeping go,

And mourn his daughter’s worthy sister-peer.

Though young, the matron’s honored robe I wore;

Death from no barren dwelling bore his prize:

My boys! my solace when I live no more,

Ye held me in your hands and closed my eyes.

Twice had my brother filled the curule chair,

A consul ere his sister’s days were run.

Thy censor-sire in mind, sweet daughter, bear:

Uphold his honor; wed, like me, but one;

With offspring prop our line.—The bark’s afloat:

I gladly go, so many mourn my doom;

A wife’s last triumph, and of fairest note,

Is fame’s sweet incense rising o’er her tomb.

Paulus, our pledges I commend to thee;

Burnt in my bones still breathes a mother’s care.

Discharge a mother’s duties, then, for me;

For now thy shoulders all their load must bear.

Kiss them, and kiss them for their mother; dry

Their childish tears: thine all the burden now.

Ne’er let them see thee weep or hear thee sigh,

But with a smile thy sorrow disavow.

Enough that thou the weary nights shouldst moan,

And woo my semblance back in visions vain;

Yet whisper to my portrait when alone,

As if the lips could answer thee again.

If e’er these halls should own another queen,

And a new mother fill your mother’s bed,—

My children, ne’er let frowning look be seen,

But honor her your father chose to wed.

So shall your manners win her tender grace,

And surely she will love for love return;

Nor praise too much your mother to her face,

For fear her breast with jealous feelings burn.

But should my image still his thoughts engage,

And Paulus dower my dust with love so rare,

Oh, learn to watch your father’s failing age,

And shield his weary widowed heart from care!

Heaven add to yours the years I hoped in store,

And may your lives my aged Paulus cheer!

’Tis well: I ne’er the robes of mourning wore,

And all my children gathered round my bier.

My cause is plead. Each weeping witness, rise,

Since death’s rewards life’s losses well repay.

Heaven waits the pure in heart: be mine the prize

To soar triumphant to the realms of day.