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ELEGY XI

HE ASKS NAPE TO DELIVER A LOVE-LETTER TO HER MISTRESS.

O THOU who with such happy art dost bind and range thy mistress's hair, thou whom 'twere unjust to place in the ranks of ordinary servants, Nape, as skilful in contriving nocturnal assignations as in conveying missives to my beloved, thou hast often persuaded the hesitating Corinna to come to my arms; thou whose loyalty hath ofttimes saved me in

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a crisis, take these tablets and deliver them this very morning to my mistress. May thine ingenuity prove triumphant over eve obstacle. Thy breast is not made of adamant or steel; nor dost thou carry simplicity to excess. Thou too, methinks hath felt boy Cupid's darts. Fight then and defend the flag 'neath which we both do march. If she ask thee how I fare, tell her the hopes of spending a night with her keep me alive. For the rest, my passionate hand hath writ it on this waxen tablet.

Even as I speak, time fleeteth way. Go and choose a moment when she's free and give her these; but see to it that she read them straightway. Note her eves, her brow while she doth read. Her mute expression will inform thee of my fate As soon as she hath read my words, ask her to indite a long reply. I hate to see blank spaces on the wax. Let her lines be close together, let her writing fill up the margins, so I may feast my eyes upon her letters. Yet wherefore should she weary herself with writing? Let me read but a single word, Come, and swiftly I will deck my tablets with the laurels of victory, hang them as a votive offering in Venus' temple, and inscribe them thus: Unto Venus doth Ovid consecrate you, faithful ministers of his love which, but a while ago, were but a fragment of worthless maple."