Among Ovid’s love poems, there is one that stands out among the rest due to the stark reality of the subject. I believe it must have arisen from Ovid’s own love life. It is a personal, passionate and powerful poem against domestic violence.
Put my hands in manacles (they are deserving of chains), if any friend of mine is present, until all my frenzy has departed. For frenzy has raised my rash arms against my mistress; hurt by my frantic hand, the fair is weeping
Who did not say to me, “You madman!” who did not say to me, “You barbarian!” She herself said not a word; her tongue was restrained by timid apprehensions. But still her silent features pronounced my censure; by her tears and by her silent lips did she convict me.
First could I wish that my arms had fallen from off my shoulders; to better purpose could I have parted with a portion of myself. To my own disadvantage had I the strength of a madman; and for my own punishment did I stoutly exert my strength. What do I want with you, ye ministers of death and criminality? Impious hands, submit to the chains, your due. Should I not have been punished had I struck the humblest Roman of the multitude? And shall I have a greater privilege against my mistress?
Come now, conqueror, prepare your boastful triumphs; bind your locks with laurel, and pay your vows to Jove, and let the multitude, the train, that escorts your chariot, shout aloud, “Io triumphe! by this valiant man has the fair been conquered!” Let the captive, in her sadness, go before with dishevelled locks, pale all over, bruises on her cheeks.
There she stood, amazed, with her features pale and bloodless, just as the marble is cut in the Parian mountains. I saw her fainting limbs, and her palpitating members; just as when the breeze waves the foliage of the poplars; just as the slender reed quivers with the gentle Zephyr; or, as when the surface of the waves is skimmed by the warm South wind. Her tears, too, so long repressed, flowed down her face, just as the water flows from the snow when heaped up.
Then, for the first time, did I begin to be sensible that I was guilty; the tears which she was shedding were as my own blood.
- “Amores” translated by Henry T. Riley (Gutenberg)
- “Remedy of Love” translated by Henry T. Riley (Gutenberg)
- “Love Books of Ovid” translated by J. Lewis May (Internet Sacred Text Archive)