Elegy IV: Sadly, Your Husband Will Be There
From Amores, by Ovid
Your husband will be at the party—I hope it’s his last!
Am I expected to look at my precious girl
As though she’s just any guest, while he
Puts his hands anywhere he wants? Will you,
His by law, snuggle close, relishing his touch?
If he wishes, can he slide his arm over your shoulders?
Now I see why the Centaurs threw down their wine,
And seized Hippodamia, driven to frenzy by her beauty.
I don’t live in the woods, and I’m not half horse
But when I see you I can scarcely keep my hands off you.
Still, I know duty’s demands—how you must behave.
And don’t go scattering my words to the winds!
Arrive before your husband—not that we can do anything
If you arrive first, but arrive first anyway.
When he reclines on the couch, lie next to him.
Be the very picture of modesty—but secretly touch my foot!
Watch for my nods: my face will tell you what to do.
Observe and reply to the secret messages I send
I’ll speak eloquently, voicelessly, with my eyebrows
I’ll write notes to you on the table in wine
When you think of the sexy games we’ve played
Touch your blushing cheek with a delicate thumb…
If you want to file a silent complaint against me
Give your earlobe a squeeze…
My light, if something I do has pleased you,
Twist your ring around your finger…
Press the table, like praying men press the ground,
When you wish well-deserved evils on your husband.
When he mixes you a cup of wine, bid him drink it
And ask the wine-boy to go easy on your drink—
Take my cup—press your lips to the same spot I did
And if your husband offers you a morsel of food
Refuse anything that’s been near his mouth.
Don’t let him drape an arm around your shoulders
And don’t lay your head sweetly against his hard chest,
And for god’s sake, under your clothes,
Don’t make your nipples available to his foraging fingers.
Most of all, avoid giving him kisses!
If you kiss him, I’ll tell him that I’m your lover
“Those lips are mine!” I’ll shout, and shove him away.
These are all things that are out in the open
But I’m frightened of what transpires under your cloak.
Don’t touch your thigh to his thigh! Or your shin!
Don’t let your tender foot brush his gnarled one.
I’m driven to madness because I’ve done that with you
It tortures me to imagine you two doing the same—
We’ve often enjoyed sweet pleasures beneath your cloak.
You won’t do this with him—but just to ease my mind
Take off the cloak that might conceal his hand!
Encourage your husband to drink (but don’t use kisses!)
And if you can, furtively add stronger wine to his cup.
If he passes out, you and I will know how to use the time!
Leave only when the rest of the party leaves
And stay in the throng of departing guests
I’ll find you there, or you find me: touch me if you can.
Alas! I only have a few hours with my mistress
And then night demands that we lie in separate beds!
Your husband locks you up at night. I can only stand outside,
Bereft, negotiating with your pitiless gate. That’s as far as I am allowed.
Now he demands your kisses… now more than kisses.
What you give to me in secret, he takes by legal right.
But please, give in grudgingly, as though coerced.
Withhold your blandishments; let Venus be stingy.
If my prayers have value, I wish no pleasure for either of you.
If that’s not possible, no pleasure for you.
If that’s not possible, please, when I see you tomorrow—deny it!
Original Latin Text
Vir tuus est epulas nobis aditurus easdem—
ultima coena tuo sit, precor, illa viro!
ergo ego dilectam tantum conviva puellam
adspiciam? tangi quem iuvet, alter erit,
alteriusque sinus apte subiecta fovebis?
iniciet collo, cum volet, ille manum?
desino mirari, posito quod candida vino
Atracis ambiguos traxit in arma viros.
nec mihi silva domus, nec equo mea membra cohaerent—
vix a te videor posse tenere manus!
Quae tibi sint facienda tamen cognosce, nec Euris
da mea nec tepidis verba ferenda Notis!
ante veni, quam vir—nec quid, si veneris ante,
possit agi video; sed tamen ante veni.
cum premet ille torum, vultu comes ipsa modesto
ibis, ut accumbas—clam mihi tange pedem!
me specta nutusque meos vultumque loquacem;
excipe furtivas et refer ipsa notas.
verba superciliis sine voce loquentia dicam;
verba leges digitis, verba notata mero.
cum tibi succurret Veneris lascivia nostrae,
purpureas tenero pollice tange genas.
siquid erit, de me tacita quod mente queraris,
pendeat extrema mollis ab aure manus.
cum tibi, quae faciam, mea lux, dicamve, placebunt,
versetur digitis anulus usque tuis.
tange manu mensam, tangunt quo more precantes,
optabis merito cum mala multa viro.
Quod tibi miscuerit, sapias, bibat ipse, iubeto;
tu puerum leviter posce, quod ipsa voles.
quae tu reddideris ego primus pocula sumam,
et, qua tu biberis, hac ego parte bibam.
si tibi forte dabit, quod praegustaverit ipse,
reice libatos illius ore cibos.
nec premat inpositis sinito tua colla lacertis,
mite nec in rigido pectore pone caput;
nec sinus admittat digitos habilesve papillae;
oscula praecipue nulla dedisse velis!
oscula si dederis, fiam manifestus amator
et dicam 'mea sunt!' iniciamque manum.
Haec tamen adspiciam, sed quae bene pallia celant,
illa mihi caeci causa timoris erunt.
nec femori committe femur nec crure cohaere
nec tenerum duro cum pede iunge pedem.
multa miser timeo, quia feci multa proterve,
exemplique metu torqueor, ecce, mei.
saepe mihi dominaeque meae properata voluptas
veste sub iniecta dulce peregit opus.
hoc tu non facies; sed, ne fecisse puteris,
conscia de tergo pallia deme tuo.
vir bibat usque roga—precibus tamen oscula desint!—
dumque bibit, furtim si potes, adde merum.
si bene conpositus somno vinoque iacebit,
consilium nobis resque locusque dabunt.
cum surges abitura domum, surgemus et omnes,
in medium turbae fac memor agmen eas.
agmine me invenies aut invenieris in illo:
quidquid ibi poteris tangere, tange, mei.
Me miserum! monui, paucas quod prosit in horas;
separor a domina nocte iubente mea.
nocte vir includet, lacrimis ego maestus obortis,
qua licet, ad saevas prosequar usque fores.
oscula iam sumet, iam non tantum oscula sumet:
quod mihi das furtim, iure coacta dabis.
verum invita dato—potes hoc—similisque coactae;
blanditiae taceant, sitque maligna Venus.
si mea vota valent, illum quoque ne iuvet, opto;
si minus, at certe te iuvet inde nihil.
sed quaecumque tamen noctem fortuna sequetur,
cras mihi constanti voce dedisse nega!