Then must I always bear your endless accusations?
They all prove false, but still I have to fight them.
If I happen to glance at the marble theater’s topmost row,
you pick some girl in the crowd to moan about;
or if a beautiful woman looks at me wordlessly,
you charge she’s using lovers’ wordless signs.
If I compliment a girl, you try to tear out my hair;
if I criticize one, you think I’ve got something to hide.
If I look well, I love no one – not even you;
if I’m pale, you say that I’m pining for someone else.
I wish I really had committed some such sin:
punishment hurts less when you deserve it;
but as it is, your wild indictments at every turn
themselves forbid your wrath to have much weight.
Think of the little long-eared donkey’s wretched lot:
continual beatings only make him stubborn.
Now look, here’s another charge: Cypassis, your coiffeuse,
is cast at me for defiling her mistress’s bed!
The gods forbid that I, even if I yearned to sin,
should find delight in a slave-girl’s lowly lot!
What man, being free, would want a servile liaison,
or wish to embrace a body the whip has scarred?
And furthermore, the girl’s your personal beautician,
and valued by you because of her skillful hands.
Is it likely that I’d approach such a trusted serving-maid?
What would I get, but rejection and exposure?
By Venus and by the bow of her swift boy I swear,
you’ll never find me guilty of that crime.
Cypassis, expert at dressing the hair in a thousand ways
(but you ought to arrange the tresses of goddesses only)
you that I’ve found quite polished in stolen ecstasy,
fit for your mistress’s service, but fitter for mine,
whoever was it that told of our bodies joining together?
Where did Corinna learn of our affair?
Could I have blushed? Or slipped by a single word to give
some sign that has betrayed our furtive joys?
And what of it, if I argued that nobody could transgress
with a servant, except for a man who was out of his mind
The Thessalian burned with passion for lovely Briseis, a servant;
the Mycenean leader loved Apollo’s slave.
I’m no greater man than Achilles, or the scion of Tantalus.
How can what’s fine for kings be foul for me?
And yet, when your mistress turned her glowering eyes on you,
I saw a deep blush spread all over your face.
But how much more possessed I was, if you recall,
I swore my faith by Venus’s great godhead!
(You, goddess, bid, I pray, the warm Southwind to blow
those innocent lies across the Carpathian sea.)
Now give me a sweet return for the favor I did you then,
by bedding with me, you dusky Cypassis, today.
Don’t shake your head, you ingrate, pretending you’re still afraid:
you can please one of your masters, and that’s enough.
If you’re silly enough to refuse, I’ll confess all that we’ve done,
making myself the betrayer of my own crime,
and I’ll tell your mistress how often we met, Cypassis, and where,
and how many times we did it, and how many ways!