Ancient Pro-Lifers

Ancient Pro-Lifers

So it's exam break and I was finishing off a math assignment, looking for a good definition for a proper face in the geometrical sense, when I caught sight of this link which I strangely followed:­_a_unborn_baby­_without­_getting­_a_proper_abortion_i_need­_to_know_please.­_i_cant_get_a_proper_abortion_and­_need_to­_know_a_safe_way_that_i_­can_get_rid_of­_it_without­_getting_a_­proper_one&src=ansTT

 In studying a different subject I came across Ovid's Amores II xiv:

 Why should girls be exempt from war-service

     and refuse to follow the Amazons

if they carry lethal weapons in peace-time

     and suffer self inflicted wounds?

 The first woman to tear an embryo from the womb

     should have died of that assault herself.

 How can you fight this duel on the sands of death

     simply to save your stomach a few wrinkles?

If the mothers of old had followed your vicious example

     mankind would be extinct—

we should need a second Deucalion

     to renew our stony stock.

Who would have broken the power of Priam

     had Thetis cut short her pregnancy?

Had Ilia mudered her unborn twins

     who would have founded the queen of cities?

The world could wait in vain for Caesar

     if Venus miscarried with Aeneas.

You yourself would have died unbeautiful

     had your own mother been as callous as you.

And is it not better for me to die of love

     than be murdered by my mother?

Why rob the vine when the grapes are growing?

     Why strip the tree of the bitter fruit?

Let it ripen, ready to fall. Let first beginnings be.

     New life is worth a little patience.

Why jab the needle in your own flesh

     and poison the unborn?

We condemn Medea and Philomela

     for murdering their children—

Both were inhuman mothers: but both had bitter cause

     to punish their men by such blood-sacrifice.

Is there a Jason or is there a Tereus driving you

     to mutilate your own body?

No tigress in wild Armenia does that—

     no lioness destroys her own cubs.

But tender-hearted girls do—and  pay the penalty:

     for the murderess often dies herself,

dies and is carried out in a shroud of hair to the burning,

     and the people who see it shout Serve her right !

 May my words vanish on the wind

     and bring us no bad luck.

May the gods be gracious, overlook a first offence

     and give her a second chance.



The translation is by Guy Lee and is very good. I'm a big fan of not so much modernizing translations but freeing them from literalization; something Latin is especially prone to. Perhaps I know the language well enough now to forget that a literal translation might be helpful in learning that language; but I'd argue that a translation which really gets at the heart of what is being said is more useful in all areas than one which twists english into uncomfortable latinized constructions.

That said, the Löeb translation of the Aeneid was useful for research, since they always codify certain constructions; like vocatives; the same way; usually by supplying "you" and always separating from the rest of the text with commas.

But the original is always best: and I wish I'd had the opportunity to study some more Ovid (and Horace; a similar case). Some other eternal topics touched on in the Amores are the follies of make-up and hair-treatment (I xiv), castration (II iii), and Mormonism (II x; well, kinda).