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

On the Pleasures of a Country Life

By Tibullus (c. 55–19 B.C.)

Translation of James Cranstoun

THEIR piles of golden ore let others heap,

And hold their countless roods of cultured soil,

Whom neighboring foes in constant terror keep,—

The weary victims of unceasing toil.

Let clang of drums and trumpet’s blast dispel

The balmy sleep their hearts in vain desire:

At home in poverty and ease I’d dwell,

My hearth aye gleaming with a cheerful fire.

In season due I’d plant the pliant vine,

With skillful hand my swelling apples rear;

Nor fail, blest Hope! but still to me consign

Rich fruits, and vats abrim with rosy cheer.

For the lone stump afield I still revere,

Or ancient stone, whence flowery garlands nod,

In cross-roads set: the first-fruits of the year

I duly offer to the peasant’s god.

O fair-haired Ceres! let the spiky crown,

Culled from my field, adorn thy shrine-door aye;

Amid my orchards red Priapus frown,

And with his threatening bill the birds dismay.

Guards of a wealthy once, now poor domain,

Ye Lares! still my gift your wardship cheers:

A fatted calf did then your altars stain,

To purify innumerable steers.

A lambkin now,—a meagre offering,—

From the few fields that still I reckon mine,

Shall fall for you, while rustic voices sing,

“Oh, grant the harvests, grant the generous wine!”

Now I can live content on scanty fare,

Nor for long travels do I bear the will:

’Neath some tree’s shade I’d shun the Dog’s fierce glare,

Beside the waters of a running rill.

Nor let me blush the while to wield the rake,

Or with the lash the laggard oxen ply;

The struggling lamb within my bosom take,

Or kid, by heedless dam left lone to die.

Spare my small flock, ye thieves and wolves! Away

Where wealthier cotes an ampler beauty hold:

I for my swain lustrations yearly pay,

And soothe with milk the goddess of the fold.

Then smile, ye gods! nor view with high disdain

The frugal gifts clean earthen bowls convey:

Such earthen vessels erst the ancient swain

Molded and fashioned from the plastic clay.

The wealth and harvest stores my sires possessed

I covet not: few sheaves will yield me bread;

Enough, reclining on my couch to rest,

And stretch my limbs upon the wonted bed.

How sweet to lie and hear the wild winds roar,

While to our breast the lovèd one we strain;

Or when the cold South’s sleety torrents pour,

To sleep secure, lulled by the plashing rain!

This lot be mine: let him be rich, ’tis fair,

Who braves the wrathful sea and tempests drear;

Oh, rather perish gold and gems than e’er

One fair one for my absence shed a tear.

Dauntless, Messala, scour the earth and main,

To deck thy home with warfare’s spoils; ’tis well

Me here a lovely maiden’s bonds enchain,

At her hard door a sleepless sentinel.

Delia, I court not praise, if mine thou be;

Let men cry lout and clown, I’ll bear the brand;

In my last moments let me gaze on thee,

And dying, clasp thee with my faltering hand.

Thou’lt weep to see me laid upon the bier,

That will too soon the flames’ mad fury feel;

Thou’lt mingle kisses with the bitter tear,

For thine no heart of stone, no breast of steel.

Nor only thou wilt weep; no youth, no maid,

With tearless eye will from my tomb repair:

But, Delia, vex not thou thy lover’s shade;

Thy tender cheeks, thy streaming tresses spare!

Love’s joys be ours while still the Fates allow:

Soon death will come with darkly mantled head;

Dull age creeps on, and love-cup or love-vow

Becomes no forehead when its snows are shed.

Then let us worship Venus while we may;

With brow unblushing, burst the bolted door

And join with rapture in the midnight fray,

Your leader I—Love’s soldier proved of yore.

Hence, flags and trumpets! Me ye’ll never lure;

Bear wounds and wealth to warriors bent on gain:

I, in my humble competence secure,

Shall wealth and poverty alike disdain.