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Ovid, Heroides XIII

Introduction and Synopsis

Laodamia to Protesilaus

Haemonian Laodamia sends wishes for the welfare of her Haemonian husband,
And desires that they go where they are sent.
Rumor is that you are delayed at Aulis, held back by the wind.
But when you fled from me, where was this wind?
Then the seas should have opposed your oars;
That was the fitting time for fierce seas.
I would have given my husband more kisses, and more commissions;
And there are many things that I wished to say to you.
But you were rushed off quickly, and that which summoned your sails
Was a wind which the sailors wished for, not I.
It was a wind suitable for sailors, not suitable for a lover.
I was loosened from your embrace, Protesilaus,
And my tongue left its commissions in incomplete words;
I was hardly able to say that sad "farewell"!




Boreas pressed down and stretched out the stolen sails,
And soon my Protesilaus was far away.
As long as I could gaze upon my husband, I delighted to gaze,
And I followed your eyes continuously with my own.
When I could not see you, I could see your sails,
And for a long time your the sails held my gaze.
But after I saw neither you nor your fleeing sails,
And what I saw was nothing but sea,
The light also went away with you, and with shadows rising around me,
I am said to have fallen, lifeless, with failing knee.
Hardly could my father-in-law Iphiclus, hardly my own aged Acastus,
Hardly could my grieving mother restore me with icy water.
They did their affectionate duty, but it was useless for me.
I resent that I, wretched, was not allowed to die!




When my spirit returned, pain returned as well.
My lawful love gnawed at my chaste heart.
I no longer care to offer my hair to be combed,
Nor is it pleasing to be dressed in golden robes.
Like those touched by the vine-decked spear of the two-horned one
Are believed to do, I go here and there, as madness drives me.
The Phylaceian matrons come together and cry out to me:
"Put on your royal garments, Laodamia!"
No doubt I should wear cloth soaked in purple dye,
While he wages war beneath the walls of Troy?
Should I comb my hair, while his head is pressed by a helmet?
Should I wear new clothes, while my husband bears harsh arms?
In that which I can, I shall be said to imitate your labors in my roughness,
And go through these times of war in sadness.




Paris, son of Priam, beautiful to the injury of your own people,
May you be as idle an enemy, as you were a bad guest!
I wish that either you had found fault with the appearance of the Taenarian wife,
Or that yours had displeased her!
You, who strive too much for the abducted one, Menelaus,
Ah me!  you will be the punisher of many who are wept over!
Gods, I pray, take away from us the unfavorable omen,
And let my husband give his arms to the Jove of Returns!
But I am afraid, as often as I think of the wretched war;
My tears flow like snow melting beneath the sun.
Ilium and Tenedos and Simois and Xanthus and Ida
Are names to be feared almost from their very sound.
The guest would not have dared the abduction, if he were not able to defend himself;
He knew his strength.
He came, as rumor has it, notable in much gold,
And bearing the wealth of Phrygia on his body,
Powerful with ships and men, with which fierce wars are waged--
And how great a part of his realm accompanied him?
By these you were conquered, daughter of Leda, sister of the twins,
I suspect; these things, I think, can harm the Danaeans.






...Against Hector, whoever he is, if you have care for me, be on guard;
Have this name inscribed in your mindful heart!
When you have avoided him, remember to avoid others
And think that there are many Hectors there;
And make sure that you say, as often as you prepare to fight:
"Laodamia commanded me to spare herself."
If it is allowed that Troy should fall beneath the Argolian troops,
It will fall without your having any wound.
Let Menelaus fight, and let him take his course against the enemies;
...The husband should seek his wife amidst the enemy.
Your case is different; you fight only to live,
And to be able to return to the breast of your faithful mistress.



Spare, sons of Dardanus, I pray, one from so many enemies,
Lest my blood issue forth from that body!
He is not one for whom it is fitting to engage with naked steel,
And bear a savage breast against opposing men.
He is able to love with far greater strength than he fights.
Let others wage war; let Protesilaus love!



Now I confess--I wished to call you back, and my spirit carried it onward;
My tongue was still from fear of evil omen.
When you wished to go forth to Troy from the doors of your father,
Your foot, striking the threshold, gave a sign.
As I saw this, I groaned, and in my silent heart I said:
"May this, I pray, be a sign of my husband's return!"
I tell you this now, lest you be too full of courage in arms;
See to it that this fear of mine go entirely to the winds!



There is also a prophecy that marks out someone for an unfavorable fate--
The first of the Danaeans to touch the earth of Troy.
Unhappy, she who first mourns for her husband taken away!
The gods grant that you are not determined to be too active!
Among a thousand craft, let yours be the thousandth ship,
And the last to ply the already wearied waters.
This also I warn:  leave the ship last;
It is not your native land that you hurry to.
When you come back, stir your ship with oar and sail,
And stop your swift step on your own shore!




Whether Phoebus is concealed or shows himself high above the earth,
Come swift in the day, come swift to me in the night,
Yet more by night than by day--night is pleasing to girls
Whose necks are supported by an arm's embrace.
I seek lying dreams in an unmarried bed;
While I lack true ones, false joys delight me.


But why does your likeness, turned pale, come to me?
Why do many complaints come from your lips?
I am shaken from sleep, and call upon the images of night;
No Thessalian altar lacks my smoke;
I give incense, and tears on top of it, and with this sprinkling it blazes up,
As flames are accustomed to rise up with poured wine.
When shall I, with you, returned, embraced in my eager arms,
Be released from myself in my languid joy?
When will it be that, while you are joined closely with me on a single bed,
You will recount to me the distinguished deeds of your military service?
And while you tell them to me, however pleasing it is to listen,
You will nevertheless take many kisses, and give many.
A suitably told tale always halts for these;
The tongue is more ready when restored by sweet delay.




But when Troy comes into my thoughts, wind and sea come;
Good hope falls, vanquished by disturbing fear.
This also moves me, that the wind forbids your ships to go out--
You prepare to go against the will of the winds..
Who would wish to return to their homeland with the winds forbidding?
Yet you make sail away from your homeland with the sea denying you.
Neptune himself will not offer a road to you against his city.
Where do you rush off to?  Everyone return to your homes!
Where do you rush off to, Danaeans?  Listen to the winds that deny you!
Not by sudden accident, but from the gods is that delay.
What do you seek in such a great war but a foul adulteress?
While you can, turn your sails, Inachian ships!
But what do I do?  Do I call you back?  Be away from me, omen of recall,
And may a caressing breeze assist the settled waters!



I envy the Trojan women.  Even if they see the tearful funerals
Of their own people, and the enemy is not far away,
Still the new bride herself will place with her own hands the helmet
On her brave husband, and will give him the Dardanian arms.
She will give him the arms, and while she gives him the arms, at the same time she will take kisses--
This will be a sort of duty sweet to both--
And she will bring her husband out, and give him commands to return
And say:  "Make sure that you bring back those arms to Jove!"
He, bearing with him the recent commands of his mistress,
Will fight with care and will think back on his home.
When he has returned, she will draw off his shield and unbind his helmet.
And she will welcome his weary body to her lap.




But we are uncertain; anxious fear drives us
To believe all things that could happen.
Nevertheless, while you bear arms as a soldier in a remote place,
I have a waxen image which brings your features back to me;
To it I speak the fond phrases, to it the words that are owed to you;
It receives my embrace.
Believe me, the image is more than it seems to be;
Add sound to the wax, and it will be Protesilaus.
I look at this and hold it to my breast in place of my true husband,
And I complain, as if it could give words back.




By your return and by your body, my god, I swear,
And equally by the torches of our spirits and our marriage,
...I will come to you as your companion, wherever you call me,
Whether that which, alas, I fear should happen, or whether you shall still live.
The last of my letter will conclude with a small command:
If you have care for me, have care for yourself!




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Last updated 06/23/2013