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ELEGY XV

THE POETS ALONE ARE IMMORTAL.

WHEREFORE dost thou blame me, gnawing Envy, for consuming my days in slothfulness; wherefore callest thou my verses the employment of an idle mind? Why dost thou reproach me for not following in the footsteps of my forefathers, for not seeking, while vigorous youth permits, to crown my brows with the dusty laurels of war, for not studying the jargon of the law, or for not prostituting my words in a dingy court of justice? Mortal are the works whereof thou pratest; my aim is glory that shall not perish, so that in every time and in every place I may be celebrated throughout the world. Mæonides shall live so long as Tenedos and Ida shall endure, so long as Simois shall roll his hurrying waters to the sea. The Ascræan bard, too, shall live while the grape ripens on the vine, while the corn shall fall beneath the sickle's curving blade. The song of Battus shall be sung throughout the world, albeit his art, rather than his genius, is his title deed to fame. The tragic buskin of Sophocles shall never grow old. So long as the sun and the moon shall shine, Aratus will live on. So long as slaves are rogues, as fathers storm, as pimps deceive and strumpets wheedle, Menander will not die. Ennius, for all his artlessness, and Accius, with his lusty speech, possess a name that

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[paragraph continues] Time shall not lay low. When shall there dawn an age that shall know not Varro, or the first ship to sail the seas, or the Golden Fleece brought home by Æson's son? When the world perisheth, then, and not till then, shall the works of the high-souled Lucretius perish too. Tityrus and the garnered crops, Æneas and his doughty deeds, will be read so long as Rome shall wield her sceptre o’er the conquered world. So long as Cupid wields his fires and bends his bow, thy numbers, skilled Tibullus, will remembered be. In the West and in the East the name of Gallus shall be known to fame, and because of Gallus, the name of Lycoris shall live on. What though devouring time wear down the flint, and blunt the share of the enduring plough, yet poetry shall never die. Let kings, then, and all their train of conquests, yield to poetry, to poetry let the happy shores of the golden Tagus give place. Let the vulgar herd set their hearts on dross if they will. For myself, let Apollo bestow on me cups overflowing with the waters of Castaly; let the myrtle that dreads the cold adorn my brow and let my verses ever be scanned by the eager lover. While we live we serve as food for Envy; when we are dead we rest within the aureole of the glory we have earned. So, when the funeral fires have consumed me, I shall live on, and the better part of me will have triumphed over death.