Ovid In Exile, At Tomis, In Bessarabia, Near The Mouths Of The Danube

(Tristia, Book III. Elegy X.)

Should any one there in Rome remember Ovid the exile,
And, without me, my name still in the city survive;

Tell him that under stars which never set in the ocean
I am existing still, here in a barbarous land.

Fierce Sarmatians encompass me round, and the Bessi and Getae;
Names how unworthy to be sung by a genius like mine!

Yet when the air is warm, intervening Ister defends us:
He, as he flows, repels inroads of war with his waves.

But when the dismal winter reveals its hideous aspect,
When all the earth becomes white with a marble-like frost;

And when Boreas is loosed, and the snow hurled under Arcturus,
Then these nations, in sooth, shudder and shiver with cold.

Deep lies the snow, and neither the sun nor the rain can dissolve
it;
Boreas hardens it still, makes it forever remain.

Hence, ere the first ha-s melted away, another succeeds it,
And two years it is wont, in many places, to lie.

And so great is the power of the Northwind awakened, it levels
Lofty towers with the ground, roofs uplifted bears off.

Wrapped in skins, and with trousers sewed, they contend with the
weather,
And their faces alone of the whole body are seen.

Often their tresses, when shaken, with pendent icicles tinkle,
And their whitened beards shine with the gathering frost.

Wines consolidate stand, preserving the form of the vessels;
No more draughts of wine,--pieces presented they drink.

Why should I tell you how all the rivers are frozen and solid,
And from out of the lake frangible water is dug?

Ister,--no narrower stream than the river that bears the
papyrus,--
Which through its many mouths mingles its waves with the deep;

Ister, with hardening winds, congeals its cerulean waters,
Under a roof of ice, winding its way to the sea.

There where ships have sailed, men go on foot; and the billows,
Solid made by the frost, hoof-beats of horses indent.

Over unwonted bridges, with water gliding beneath them,
The Sarmatian steers drag their barbarian carts.

Scarcely shall I be believed; yet when naught is gained by a
falsehood,
Absolute credence then should to a witness be given.

I have beheld the vast Black Sea of ice all compacted,
And a slippery crust pressing its motionless tides.

'Tis not enough to have seen, I have trodden this indurate
ocean;
Dry shod passed my foot over its uppermost wave.

If thou hadst had of old such a sea as this is, Leander!
Then thy death had not been charged as a crime to the Strait.

Nor can the curved dolphins uplift themselves from the water;
All their struggles to rise merciless winter prevents;

And though Boreas sound with roar of wings in commotion,
In the blockaded gulf never a wave will there be;

And the ships will stand hemmed in by the frost, as in marble,
Nor will the oar have power through the stiff waters to cleave.

Fast-bound in the ice have I seen the fishes adhering,
Yet notwithstanding this some of them still were alive.

Hence, if the savage strength of omnipotent Boreas freezes
Whether the salt-sea wave, whether the refluent stream,--

Straightway,--the Ister made level by arid blasts of the North-wind,--
Comes the barbaric foe borne on his swift-footed steed;

Foe, that powerful made by his steed and his far-flying arrows,
All the neighboring land void of inhabitants makes.

Some take flight, and none being left to defend their possessions,
Unprotected, their goods pillage and plunder become;

Cattle and creaking carts, the little wealth of the country,
And what riches beside indigent peasants possess.

Some as captives are driven along, their hands bound behind them,
Looking backward in vain toward their Lares and lands.

Others, transfixed with barbed arrows, in agony perish,
For the swift arrow-heads all have in poison been dipped.

What they cannot carry or lead away they demolish,
And the hostile flames burn up the innocent cots.

Even when there is peace, the fear of war is impending;
None, with the ploughshare pressed, furrows the soil any more.

Either this region sees, or fears a foe that it sees not,
And the sluggish land slumbers in utter neglect.

No sweet grape lies hidden here in the shade of its vine-leaves,
No fermenting must fills and o'erflows the deep vats.

Apples the region denies; nor would Acontius have found here
Aught upon which to write words for his mistress to read.
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an American poet and educator whose works include "Paul Revere's Ride", The Song of Hiawatha, and Evangeline. more…

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"Ovid In Exile, At Tomis, In Bessarabia, Near The Mouths Of The Danube" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 25 Aug. 2019. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/18701/ovid-in-exile,-at-tomis,-in-bessarabia,-near-the-mouths-of-the-danube>.

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