Francis Cairns Publications

Latin and Greek Texts ISSN 0951-7391

Tibullus: Elegies.
Introduction, Text, Translation and Notes

Guy Lee

3rd edition, in collaboration with Robert Maltby.

LGT 6. ISBN 978-0-905205-82-3. Paper, xxii+168pp. Publ. 1990.  

Tibullus's two books of elegies belong to the early part of the reign of Augustus (31-19 B.C.). His themes were love, the countryside and Rome, its gods and traditions. His patron was the great general and orator M. Valerius Messalla Corvinus. One of the four canonical Latin elegiac poets (Gallus, of whom almost nothing survives, Propertius and Ovid being the others), Tibullus has a distinctive voice and an individual approach to the conventional subject matter, bland on the surface but turbulent and passionate on deeper examination. His easy stylistic mastery cloaks vivid intellectual activity and turbulent emotion.

This edition, revised in collaboration with Robert Maltby, includes for the first time the third book of the Corpus Tibullianum, a collection of poems by others within Messalla's circle, including the female elegist Sulpicia.

Guy Lee's acclaimed verse translation, rhythmically subtle and lively in verbal texture, can be read with delight on its own and enhances our enjoyment and appreciation of Tibullus's Latin. Robert Maltby has provided for the third edition an extensive new commentary, illuminating many aspects of Tibullus' art and literary background.


Greece and Rome (1982) (of 2nd edition) : "Lee's text of Tibullus is probably the best available and his translation is a positive pleasure to read in its own right and constantly illuminates the nuances of the original."

Macer joins the army. What will tender Love do now?

 Go with him as comrade, shouldering a pack,

bearing arms beside a mortal on the endless road

 leading over land and never-resting sea?

No, Cupid: brand the ruffian who has left your life of leisure,

 recalling the deserter to the flag of love.

But if you're lenient to soldiers, I will soldier too,

 carrying the ration of water in my casque.

I'm off to camp and bid goodbye to Venus and the girls.

 I too can take the trumpet; I too can be tough.

Brave words, but when I've said them with magnificent bravado

 the slamming of a door sends every brave word flying.

I've sworn so often nevermore to set foot on her doorstep,

 but after all the swearing my feet still take me there.

O cruel Love, if it be lawful, let me see your weapons,

 the arrows and the torches, broken and burnt out.

You torture my unhappiness. You make me curse myself

 and with a mind unbalanced utter blasphemy.

Death would have ended my distress but Hope's credulity

 nurses life and says 'Tomorrow will be better.'

Castra Macer sequitur: tenero quid fiet Amori?

 sit comes et collo fortiter arma gerat?

et seu longa uirum terrae via seu uaga ducent

 aequora, cum telis ad latus ire nolet?

ure, puer, quaeso, tua qui ferus otia liquit,

 atque iterum errorem sub tua signa uoca.

quod si militibus parces, erit hic quoque miles,

 ipse leuem galea qui sibi portet aquam.

castra peto, ualeatque Venus ualeantque puellae:

 et mihi sunt uires, et mihi facta tuba est.

Magna loquor, sed magnifice mihi magna locuto

 excutiunt clausae fortia uerba fores.

iuraui quotiens rediturum ad limina numquam!

 cum bene iuraui, pes tamen ipse redit.

acer Amor, fractas utinam tua tela sagittas,

 si licet, extinctas aspiciamque faces!

tu miserum torques, tu me mihi dira precari

 cogis et insana mente nefanda loqui.

Tam mala finissem leto, sed credula uitam

 Spes fouet et fore cras semper ait melius.

Extract: opening of elegy II.6