1.6: On the Doorstep
The poet has been at dinner party, and has been drinking. In the approved mode of a Greek or Roman lover, he has gone on to the house of his mistress. [full essay]
1–2: Iānitor: vocative. The doorkeeper is a slave, chained (religāte) to his door, a custom that was apparently common but not universal (Suetonius, a generation later than Ovid, calls the practice "old fashioned," On Grammarians and Rhetors 27). Ovid, as the excluded lover (exclūsus amātor), begins a paraclausithyron, a song sung in front of the locked door of a mistress, a genre with a long tradition among both Greek and Roman writers. The author will plead his case to the stern doorkeeper to win admittance to his mistress’s home. (indignum): a parenthetical accusative of exclamation (AG §397d), "for shame!" forem: one half of a double door; the word is more often found in the plural.
3–4: exiguum: "a tiny thing" (predicate nominative). aditū fac iānua parvō: = fac ut iānua parvō aditū; ut is omitted from the indirect command, as seen several times before (AG §565a). The word order is intentionally difficult (hyperbaton, see on 1.5.24), to emphasize the difficulty of the act in question. iānua, in contrast to foris or forēs, refers to the doorway as a whole. capiat: "receive." semiadaperta > sēmiadapertus, -a,- um "half-open" (rare); the i is treated here as a consonant (i.e. semjadaperta). latus = latus meum.
5–6: tālēs ... in ūsūs: in + acc. can mean "for the purpose of," as in 1.3.19; > ūsus, ūsūs, m. "application, purpose, use." subductō pondere: "since weight has been lost," i.e., "since I have lost weight," ablative absolute (AG §420). dedit: "has made"; dō with a noun and an adjective in the accusative can mean "make X (noun) Y (adj.)."
7–8: ille: = amor (or Amor), now more obviously personified.
9–10: simulācraque vāna: i.e., ghost-like forms that (he now knows) were figments of his imagination. mīrābar: supply illum. tenebrīs: "through the darkness"; the ablative of place where (without a preposition) is used freely in poetry (AG §429.4); another possibility is that the ablative here indicates time when, i.e., when the night is casting shadows. See AG §423. itūrus erat: "was about to go" or "intended to go"; the future active periphrastic, constructed from the future active participle and forms of sum, (AG §194).
11–12: ut audīrem: purpose clause.
13–14: nec mora: "nor (was there) a delay," i.e., without delay, a common idiom. nōn umbrās: understand timeō from the following line. nōn timeō: note the asyndeton (the lack of conjunction) and anaphora (repetition of nōn), which emphasize the speaker’s new-found bravery. strictās ... manūs > stringō, stringere, strinxī, strictum often means "to unsheathe" (a sword, etc.); here that meaning is transferred to very different weapons, the hands. in mea fāta: in + acc. here means "to produce, to obtain"; fātum, -ī, n. can mean "death," here plural for singular. With his newly acquired bravery the narrator is not afraid of being assaulted and possibly killed at night.
15–16: tē ... tibi ... tū: emphatic repetition (anaphora). "You’re the one I fear": gross and comic flattery of the slave. lentum: "immovable"; modifies tē, which is emphatic. quō possīs perdere: potential subjunctive (AG §447.3).
17–18: utī = ut; introduces a purpose clause. ūda sit ut lacrimīs iānua facta meīs = ut iānua facta sit ūda lacrimīs meīs. ut here means "how" and introduces an indirect question. lacrimīs ... meīs: ablative of means or cause.
19–20: stārēs ad verbera: > verber, -eris, n. "whip" or "blows"; stāre ad verbera = "stand at the whipping post." verba ... tulī: "put in a good word for," "advocated for."
21–22: quae valuit ... grātia: the antecedent (grātia), "favor, influence," lies within the relative clause itself (AG §307b); in such cases the antecedent is usually reinforced by a demonstrative pronoun, in this case illa in the next line. prō tē quoque: i.e., the poet had formerly (quondam) had plenty of grātia with his mistress: enough (it is implied) for himself, and for the iānitor as well (quoque). heu facinus!: "what a crime!" parenthetical. The speaker affects to find the doorkeeper’s lack of reciprocity shocking. illa: grātia, the favor that the poet thinks he has with the doorkeeper. parum: "too little, not enough" (adverb).
23–24: redde vicem meritīs: "give me back a return for my services," i.e. return the favor. grātō ... optās: either "you have the chance you want to show your gratitude" (Barsby); or "it is possible for you, (if you are) grateful, to get what you want," namely freedom (McKeown). Either way, tibi is assumed with grātō. The premise here is that the doorkeeper is ungrateful, so the second option seems preferable; and the carrot of freedom is dangled at 25–26. tempora noctis eunt: This line is repeated four more times, at eight-line intervals; the use of a refrain suggests the singing of the kōmos (κῶμος), the song of the party-going lover. seram: the sera was a removable bar that could be fitted into the doorposts from the inside.
25–26: sīc: "thus," but also "on these terms, in this way" (adverb). The word is often used in making requests. A speaker expresses a willingness to pray or hope for something, on condition that his own request is granted, e.g., "If you get me out of this mess, then (sīc) may your praises be sung for ever more." In this case the poet hopes that the iānitor will be free some day, on condition (sīc) that he responds to the word excute: "Open the door (please)! If you do (sīc) then may ...." umquam: "at some time," a very rare sense. Normally this word means "ever." longā ... catēnā: "long-suffered" (Barsby), or simply "long." Ablative of separation (AG §400). relevēre: present subjunctive form = relevēris (AG §184), in an optative sense (AG §441), "may you be released." tibi: dative of agent (AG §375a). perpetuō: "permanently." serva: "of slavery, servile." Image: Roman-era manacle and chain from the British Museum.
27–28: ferreus ōrantem: undestand tū and mē. nēquīquam: "to no avail"; construe with ōrantem. rōboribus durīs: "hard wood" bars > rōbur, -oris n. "oak"; thus anything made out of oak or other hardwood; here = the sera and postēs of line 24. fulta: "bolstered, reinforced by."
29–30: mūnīmina ... prosunt: "are useful as fortifications," i.e., for defense. portae: portae are city gates rather than doorways.
31–32: quid faciēs hostī, quī: "what will you do to an enemy, if ...." For quid faciēs (and the like) + dat. in exasperated questions, see OLD 22b. The antecedent of quī is the doorkeeper.
33–34: mīlitibus ... et armīs = mīlitibus armātīs (hendiadys, for which see on 1.4.53). eram, sī nōn ... adesset: a mixed contrary to fact condition (AG §517b): use of the imperfect indicative instead of the imperfect subjunctive in the apodosis indicates that the action was intended to happen, likely to happen, or already begun.
35–36: hunc: referring to Amor. sī cupiam, nusquam ... possum: a mixed condition: cupiam is probably present subjunctive (as opposed to future indicative), and thus the protasis of a future less vivid condition, with the change to present indicative in the apodosis indicating a shift in the point of view (AG §516b). Sī = etsī with a concessive force; nusquam here means "never." ante: adverb, not preposition, "first," i.e., "sooner." vel: "even," used to introduce what might be thought an extreme or unlikely possibility. dīvidar: potential subjunctive (AG §447.3).
37–38: Ovid lists the lover’s "equipment" and companions—not weapons and fellow hooligans, as would be the case if he were a robber, but Love, a bit of wine, and a garland of flowers askew on his hair, which has been anointed with perfume—indications that he has come from a party. corona: the garland indicates that the speaker has been at a dinner party. circa mea tempora: i.e. the wine has "gone to his head."
39–40: timeat ... eat: potential subjunctive (AG §447.3). obvius: obvius īre (+ dat.) = "go out to meet (in battle)."
41–42: lentus: "unyielding" (see 1.6.15). quī tē male perdat: parenthetical; perdat is optative subjunctive (AG §441). amantis goes with verba in the next line. aure ... tuā: ablative of separation (AG §400).
43–44: tē cēlāre: "to keep (a secret) from you (acc.)," "to elude you." Ovid knows from experience that the doorkeeper does not sleep on the job. in mediae sīdera noctis: in + acc. here means "up until (the appearance of…)."
45–46: quantō: ablative of degree of difference (AG §414).
47–48: dummodo sīc: = dummodo sīc (rēs sē habeat) means "on this condition," ‘provided that this is the case," referring to the situation of line 45, i.e. tēcum tua nunc requiēscit amīca. transīte catēnae: i.e., on this condition (only) Ovid is willing to trade places with the iānitor; note the apostrophe (direct address) to the catēnae (vocative).
49–50: fallimur: 1st plural for 1st singular. ‘Am I deceived?’ ‘Is it just my imagination, or?’ In line 51 the narrator answers his own question with fallimur. dedēre: = dedērunt. Image: diagram of Roman-era door hinge from Egypt in the British Museum, from Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.
51–52: ei: one syllable, an exclamation of misery, esp. common with mihi: "Woe is me." quam: with longē, "how far!" tulit: ferō can mean "to take away, carry off."
53–54: Boreā > Boreās, -ae, m. the god of the North Wind; here in the vocative (for the forms of Greek nouns in the third declension, see AG §81). Ōrīthyiae > Ōrīthyia, -ae f. Orithyia was a daughter of Erechtheus, king of Athens, abducted by Boreas (Ovid tells the story at Metamorphoses 6.675 ff.). The word has four long syllables, with yi as a dipthong (= Greek υι). satis ... memor: "sufficiently mindful of." The poet hopes that Boreas, a former lover himself, will swoop in and help a fellow sufferer. ades: second person singular imperative of adsum, adesse. A fourth-century wine vessel now in the Louvre has a dramatic picture of the winged wind god Boreas swooping down and seizing Orithyia, who raises her arm and looks up in protest.
55–56: silent: "it’s quiet" (impersonal).
57–58: "or else I myself, now quite ready, will attack the arrogant house with sword and fire, which I carry in my torch." Humorously empty bluster, given that he has earlier admitted to being unarmed. "Sword and fire" are the traditional weapons of a rampaging army (Livy 3.68.2). aut picks up on the refrain, i.e. "excute poste seram or else ...." parātior ipse: either we have to understand quam Boreās, or the comparative means simply "rather / quite prepared" (for the use of the comparative as a kind of positive without an object of comparison, see AG §291). petam: petō often means "to attack."
59–60: nihil moderābile suādent: "suggest / urge no restraint" > moderābilis, -e "controllable" (rare); suādeō can take a direct object, i.e., "suggest" a particular course of action. illa: refers back to nox; remember that ille, illa, illud are often used to mean "the former," while hic, haec, hoc can mean "the latter" (AG §297a-b). vacat: "is devoid of," "lacks" + abl. of separation. Līber is the Roman Bacchus; = vīnum by metonymy. The god’s alternate name hints at the "freeing" effect wine has.
61–62: omnia consumpsī: "I have tried everything," i.e., "those are all the arguments I have" (uttered in exasperation); consūmō can mean "to use up" resources, money etc., or even "waste, squander." foribus ... tuīs: ablative of comparison (AG §406). ipse: undestand tū.
63–64: nōn tē ... decuit servāre: "it was not fitting that you protect," i.e., you do not deserve to protect. The past tenses of decuit and erās in the next line are equivalent to presents, but emphasize that Ovid can do nothing about the situation. sollicitō carcere dignus: dignus can be construed with the ablative ("deserving of a thing," AG §418b); sollicitus here means "associated with trouble," i.e. "troubling."
65–66: mōlītur: "is setting in motion." Lūcifer > Lūcifer, -erī, m. Lucifer is the morning star; in myth he was the son of Aurora (Dawn) and Cephalus. axēs: literally "axle," but by metonymy "chariot." inque suum ... opus: in + acc. expressing purpose,"for their work"; the reflexive refers not to the subject (āles), but to an implied quemque, in apposition to miserōs. miserōs: adjective, used as a noun. āles: a rooster.
67–68: at tū: apostrophe; Ovid addresses his garland (corōna) in the vocative case. nōn laetīs: = miserīs (litotes). capillīs: ablative of separation (AG §400). super: governs dūra līmina. tōtā ... nocte = per tōtam noctem; the ablative of time (time within which) can be used to express duration of time (AG §424b).
69–70: dominae: dative of reference / advantage (AG §376) removed from its logical complement (testis eris) and foregrounded for emphasis. māne: (indeclinable neuter) "morning; in the morning."
71–72: qualiscumque valē: "goodbye (doorkeeper), such as you are," i.e., "no matter what your attitude towards me is." sentīque abeuntis honōrem: "and listen to the compliment of a departing man." The disappointed lover grudgingly admits that the doorkeeper has done his job well. Honōrem = "courtesy, compliment" is very rare. lente: "unyielding" (vocative). nec admissō turpis amante: "and not disgraced through granting a lover admission." conservae ... forēs: in apposition to dūra ... ligna, but also to crūdēlēs rigidō cum līmine postēs in the previous line.