Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Greece and Turkey in Europe: Vol. XIX. 1876–79.

Greece: Naxos, the Island


By Catullus (c. 84–c. 54)

(From On the Nuptials of Peleus, and Thetis)
Translated by F. Nott

THERE Ariadne, racked with amorous pains,

On Naxos’ billow-beaten shore complains;

And eyes the rapid bark, that bears away

Her perjured Theseus o’er the distant sea:

Though golden sleep no more her sense deceives,

She scarce the horror of the scene believes;

Scarce thinks herself the wretch which now she stands,

A hapless wretch, forsook in desert lands!

See, sped with oars, the youth regardless goes;

And the wild winds disperse his faithless vows!

While Minos’ daughter views his flight from far,

And bathes the reedy strand with many a tear;

Now like a frantic bacchanal she raves,

And her fond soul is tossed on sorrow’s waves!

No slender fillet binds her yellow head,

No shadowing veil is o’er her bosom spread,

No modest zone confines its tumid pride,

Or longer strives its struggling charms to hide;

But each gay ornament her beauty wore,

Wet with the surge, lies scattered on the shore:

Not then the fillet, which her locks should bind,

Not then her garb, the sport of waves and wind,

Employ her thought,—thou, Theseus, thou alone,

Reign’st the proud tyrant of her bosom’s throne!

Ill-fated fair! whom Venus doomed to prove

The thorny cares, and agonies of love;

What time from his Piræus Theseus fled,

And sought the isle thy cruel father swayed.


Oft, they relate, with burning grief oppressed,

The shriek, loud-sounding, issued from her breast;

Oft to the craggy cliffs enraged she ’d fly,

O’er the wide waste of waters bend her eye;

Then to the shore direct her rapid way,

Cast her bared feet’s soft coverings away;

At length in sweetly plaintive accent cry,

While her moist lips breathed many a chilling sigh:

“Thus dost thou leave me, from my country torn,

Perfidious Theseus, on this coast forlorn?

Thus, in contempt of yon attesting skies,

Bear back with thee thy impious perjuries?

Could no remembrance of our former love

Thy savage purpose, base barbarian, move?

Were no remains of pity left behind,

To soothe the various tortures of my mind?


“Fool that I am! but madness turns my brain,

To senseless winds thus vainly to complain;

Vainly to think that they could hear me mourn,

Or pitying accents to my sighs return!

Ah, how far hence he flies, on ocean tossed!

No human form is seen along this coast;

No wretch like me, my sorrowing tale to hear!

Why, fortune, thus insult my keen despair?

O, had it been imperial Jove’s command,

That Attic ships had ne’er seen Cretan land;

That the famed bark, which bore the prize away

From the fierce bull, had never ploughed the sea;

And that the youth, who smiled such sweet deceit,

Had never entered Minos’ royal gate!”