What good is it that girls need never go to war
Or wear a shield or march in columns or
Bow down to Mars, if they take out a bloody knife
And blind the womb that bears a fated life?
The first who ever tried to cut away her child
Deserved to die for what she had defiled.
How could it be that stretch marks make for such disgust
That you become like killers palled in dust?
Had mankind’s mothers been so selfish, mean, and base,
There never would have been a human race,
And we’d have needed, one more time, some pair to throw
Pebbles behind them, so mankind might grow.
Who would have ruined Priam if the mother of
Achilles hadn’t borne her child with love?
If Ilia hadn’t given Romulus his birth,
How could eternal Rome have ruled the earth?
Had Venus ripped Aeneas from her, such a deed
Would orphan us of Caesars in our need.
You, too, Corinna, born so pretty: you’d have died
If your mother had done what you just tried.
And me! (Though I’ll die from romantic love’s excess.)
My mother gave me life by saying yes.
Why strip the vine of grapes just as it starts to climb,
Not even drinking wine before its time?
Ripe fruit drops on its own; better a life that’s late
Than death! So great a prize, so brief a wait!
And yet your weapons go on gouging out the wombs
That poisons make your children’s early tombs.
We hate Medea for the blood she’s splattered with”
Her babes’”and grieve for Itys in the myth.
Child killers that they were, at least they had some cause,
Ruining their men by blood that broke all laws.
Where is your Tereus? Where’s the Jason who demands
You pierce your innards with a mother’s hands?
Armenian tigresses won’t do what women will;
No lioness will see her cub and kill,
Though girls of nineteen do”but not without a price
(Abortion doubles human sacrifice).
Then she is borne away to burn, her hair undone,
To cries of serves her right! from everyone.
But let my words dissolve, and heaven blow away
The awful burden of these things I say.
Dear gods, allow her”once”to sin and still survive;
Two sins, and she need not be kept alive.
Ovid’s Amores 2.14
translated by Len Krisak