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Tristia ('Sorrows') is a work of poetry, in five books, written by the Roman poet Ovid at some time after he was banished from Rome in AD 8. It uses the elegiac couplet, a meter suitable for lamenting the misery of exile on the bleak edge of the Euxine, and holds out the poet's hopes for alleviation of his punishment.
- Parue -- nec inuideo -- sine me, liber, ibis in urbem:
- ei mihi, quod domino non licet ire tuo!
- You will go, my little book, without me to the city, but I don't envy you.
- Go on - go to the city forbidden to me - forbidden to your master.
The first volume was written, by its own account, during Ovid's journey into exile. It addresses his grieving wife, his friends—both the faithful and the false—,and his past works, especially the Metamorphoses. It describes his arduous travel to the furthest edge of the empire, giving him a chance to draw the obligatory parallels with the exiles of Æneas and Odysseus and excuse his work's failings. The introduction and dedication, which caution the departing volume against the dangers of its destination, were probably written last.
The second volume takes the form of a plea to Augustus to end the unhappy exile brought about by the famous carmen et error—the nature of the mistake is never made clear. He defends his work and his life with equal vigor, appealing to the many poets who had written on the same themes as he—among them Anacreon, Sappho, Catullus, even Homer. He goes perhaps too far when he compares his works to those of Augustus's favorite, Vergil (2.532–536).
The plea—if plea it was, rather than justification to posterity—proved unsuccessful; Ovid would live out the remainder of his years in exile among the barbaric Getae. The last three books of the Tristia grow increasingly grim as their author grows old, knowing that he will never return to his home. At one point he sends his epitaph:
- hic ego qui iaceo tenerorum lusor amorum
- ingenio perii Naso poeta meo;
- at tibi qui transis ne sit graue quisquis amasti
- dicere "Nasonis molliter ossa cubent"
- I that lie here, the bard of playful love,
- The poet Ovid, perished for my play.
- Oh passing lover, scorn not thou to pray
- That no ill chance my restful bones may move.
The last part of the book addresses Ovid's wife, praising her loyalty throughout his years of exile and wishing that she be remembered for as long as his books are read.
NotesTranslation by Rand, p. 100.
- Ovid and His Influence; Rand, Edward Kennard (Boston, Marshall Jones Company, 1925)
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