from The Halieutica

Oppian of Corycus
183 – c. 200


O cruel Love, crafty of counsel,
of all gods fairest to behold with the eyes,
of all most grievous when thou dost vex the heart
with unforeseen assault, entering the soul
like a storm-wind and breathing the bitter menace of fire,
with hurricane of anguish and untempered pain.
The shedding of tears is for thee a sweet delight
and to hear the deep-wrung groan;
to inflame a burning redness in the heart
and to blight and wither the bloom upon the cheek,
to make the eyes hollow and to wrest all the mind to madness.
Many thou dost even roll to doom,
even those whom thou meetest in wild and wintry sort,
fraught with frenzy; for in such festivals is thy delight.
Whether then thou art the eldest-born among blessed gods
and from unsmiling Chaos didst arise with fierce and flaming torch
and didst first establish the ordinances of wedded love
and order the rites of the marriage-bed;
or whether Aphrodite of many counsels, queen of Paphos,
bare thee a winged god on soaring pinions,
be thou gracious and to us come gentle and with fair weather
and in tempered measure; for none refuses the work of Love.
Everywhere thou bearest sway and everywhere thou art desired
at once and greatly feared;
and happy is he who cherishes and guards in his breast a temperate Love.
Nor doth the race of Heaven suffice thee nor the breed of men;
thou rejectest not the wild beasts nor all the brood of the barren air;
under the coverts of the nether deep dost thou descend
and even among the finny tribes thou dost array thy darkling shafts;
that naught may be left ignorant of thy compelling power,
not even the fish that swims beneath the waters.

Translation by A.W. Mair