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Shrine of Stars
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Paul J. McAuley
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Book Shrine Of Stars: The Third Book Of Confluence
If any man wants to outdo the fame of ancient paintings, let him take my lady as the model for his art: If he shows her to the East , if he shows her to the West , he will inflame the West, he will inflame the East. At least let me keep within her bounds! Or if it should be that another love comes to me, let it be fiercer and let me die. Just as the ox at first rejects the plough, but later accepts the yoke and goes quietly to the fields, so spirited youth frets at first, in love, but takes the rough with the smooth, later, when tamed.
And often chew your innocent fingernails in your teeth, and tap the ground nervously with your foot, in anger! My hair was drenched with scent: no use: nor my departing feet, delaying, with measured step. He walks about — and suddenly his funeral startles his friends. What deceitful fortune-teller have I not been victim of, what old woman has not pondered my dreams ten times? If anyone wants to be my enemy, let him desire girls: and delight in boys if he wants to be my friend.
You go down the tranquil stream in a boat in safety: how can such tiny waves from the bank hurt you? Often his mood alters with a single word: she will scarcely be satisfied with your blood. Is it true all Rome talks about you, Cynthia , and you live in unveiled wantonness? Did I expect to deserve this? While you can take your neck from the unjust yoke. But, by the gentle laws of our lady Juno , mea vita , stop hurting yourself on purpose. Let some ignoramus look for quarrels as shabby as these, a man whose head no ivy ever encircled. Nor for Phryne , rich from so many lovers, she might have rebuilt the ruined walls of Thebes.
The faces of young men in your paintings, and their names, annoy me, even the tender voiceless boy in the cradle. The same craziness made the Centaurs smash cups violently fighting Pirithous. Why seek Greek examples? The hand that first painted obscene pictures, and set up disgraceful things to view in innocent homes, corrupted the unknowing eyes of young girls, and denied them ignorance of sin itself. Oh, let him groan who sent abroad, through art, the trouble latent in silent pleasures! Not without cause cobwebs wreathe the shrines, and rank weeds clothe neglected gods. What guards shall I set for you, then, what lintel that no hostile foot shall ever cross?
For a sad imprisonment will achieve nothing against your will. No wife or mistress will ever seduce me: you will always be my mistress, and my wife. Cynthia was delighted, of course, when that law was repealed: we wept for ages in case it might divide us.
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Ah, what sleep my flute would sing you to then, a flute sadder than a funeral trumpet! It was in fact through this that my glory gained such a name, glorious as far as the wintry Dneiper. Often, great leaders, great tyrants have fallen: and Thebes stood once, and there was noble Troy. So, cruel girl, through all of the years now, have I, who supported you and your household, have I ever seemed a free man to you? So, will you die, like this, Propertius , you who are still a young man?
Then die: let her rejoice at your death! Let her disturb my ghost, and harass my shade, insult my pyre, and trample my bones! But you, also, man, will not escape: you should die with me: both our blood will trickle from this same blade.
However much my coming death is shameful to me, shameful though it be indeed, you will still die it. The Theban princes fell in no less dire a struggle for a kingdom, their mother torn between them, than if we fought, with my girl between us, I, not fleeing my own death if I could achieve yours. Even Achilles , left abandoned, his mistress snatched away, allowed his arms to lie there in his tent.
Grief rages, so deeply, when love is torn away. Then when his captive girl was returned later in retribution, he dragged that same brave Hector behind his Thessalian horses. No wonder that Amor triumphs over me, since I am so much the lesser by birth or arms. Penelope was able to live un-touched for twenty years, a woman worthy of so many suitors. Briseis , too, clutching dead Achilles , beat at her own bright face with frenzied hands, and, a weeping slave, bathed her bloodstained lord, as he lay by the yellow waters of Simois , and besmirched her hair, and lifted the mighty bones and flesh of great Achilles with her weak hands.
Peleus was not with you Achilles, nor your sea-goddess mother, nor Scyrian Deidamia , bereaved in her bed. So it was that Greece , then, was happy in its true daughters: then honour was respected even among the camps. Why, you both drank from the cup, laughing away: and perhaps there were wicked words about me. You even chase after him, who left you once before. The gods grant that you may enjoy being slave to that man! Were they for this the vows I undertook for your health, when the waters of Styx had all but gone over your head, and we friends stood, weeping, round your bed?
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Where was he, by the gods, faithless girl, what was he then to you? What if I was a soldier, detained in far-off India , or my ship was stationed on the Ocean? Now, since this wilfulness pleases you, I concede. I beg you, Boys , bring out your sharper arrows, compete at shooting me, and free my life from me!
My blood will be a great honour to you. Now, I want to set off with a more serious aspect: now my Muse teaches me, on a different lute. Surge, mind: vigour now, away from these low songs, Muses : now this work will be large-voiced, so:. Let other men write about you, or yourself be all unknown. Let the man who sows his seed in barren soil praise you. He was the first to see that lovers live without sense, and that great good is lost in trivial cares. What joy is it for you, Amor, to inhabit my thirsting heart? If you know shame, transfer your war elsewhere: better to try those innocent of your poison.
If you destroy me, who will there be to sing like this? This slender Muse of mine, is your great glory. Who will sing the face, the hands, or the dark eyes of my girl, or how sweetly her footsteps are accustomed to fall. Erythra is not armed with as many Persian shafts, as the arrows Love has fixed in my chest. When I sample that, goodbye to the muddled talk of the people: since I will be secure with my lady as my judge. When death closes my eyes at last, then, listen what will serve as my funeral.
Related Shrine of Stars (Confluence, Book 3)
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