Prayers of Tibullus
by: M. Horatius Piscinus
Albius Tibullus (c.50-19 BCE)
Golden-haired Ceres, bless this our farm; a crown of wheat I shall hang before your altar.
Red guardian, Priapus, placed within this fruitful garden, with your fierce scythe frighten off the birds from this crop.
Lares, and you gods also, who earlier made our household fruitful and fortunate, may you guard and bless the little that remains today on our farm. Lares, accept what your kindred present to you. For you a lamb shall be offered when around your altar you'll hear rustic boys shouting, "Io! Give us fine harvests and fruitful vines!"
Venus I.ii.41-2, 56, 99-100
"Venus born of blood and thought to be born of the ocean, too."
Three times sing, (I'm told), and three times spit upon the ground as you say this charm.
"At the very least, Venus, preserve one who in his heart always serves you: what offerings to appease your anger shall I set upon your altar?"
Refrain your greedy hands, O black Death! Wait, Death, I pray: my mother is far away; she cannot gather my burned bones to her grieving breast. I have no sister here neither to sprinkle Assyrian perfumes over my ashes, nor with disheveled hair to weep beside my sepulcher. Neither is my love Delia near, who would not let me leave her until she was assured by the gods of my safe return.
Isis I.iii.27-8, 33-34
Help me now, Isis! Give succor to me beneath your breast. I've seen, drawn on the walls of your temple, the many pictures of your worshippers who have received your aid. Help me, that I may return to stand at my family altars offering each month a gift of incense to our Lar.
Spare me, Father Jove, I need not tremble for promises broken, no vows to the gods with impious words have I spoken.
This I pray: Make our wish come true, O Aurora, shining star of first light, as you drive your rosy horses of Dawn.
May leafy shade shelter you, Priapus, and neither the hot sun nor snowy storms bring you harm. By what ingenuity or skill are beauties seized by you? Certainly not by gleaming beard, nor with stylish hair, as naked you pass through the icy winds of winter, and naked still beneath the Dogstar you remain through the parching sun of summer.
Osiris I.vii 43-54; 63-4
Somber cares and lamentations, Osiris, were never part of your realm, but song and dance and joyfulness you love. Copious flowers and clusters of ivy berries crown our forehead; yellow skirts and robes of Tyrian purple swirl about the tender feet and limbs of those who dance around your vase of sacred objects to the sound of sweet music. Come celebrate in the spirit of these games, in the spirit of these dances, in the joyous spirit of this temple, where many times pure libations are poured in your honor. Allow us to present you with the sweet scents of glistening ointments to drip upon your hair, garlands of flowers to place upon your head and soft neck. Come, Osiris, that we may present you with incense, and cakes sweetened with Grecian honey. Come, gentle Osiris, to this annual celebration of your birth, O ever bright, ever shining spirit, come!
Lares, gods of my fathers, preserve me! While young and still nursing, you guided me when I played at your feet. Let none profane your antique images: rough-hewn wooden statues set upon altars of upturned sod then dwelled among our grandfathers. In those days humble reverence provided you with sweet honey alone, you stayed in meager shrines made of twigs, in tattered robes the gods were pleased with offerings of grapes and wreathes of wheat set upon carved heads. Granted his wish, a man would bring you honey cakes and set his virgin daughters to attend your little shrines. Lares, turn away from us those who scheme against us with their bronze weapons.
Peace, O come to us, holding corn with its tassels, and pour from the breast of your robe a harvest of fruit!
Bacchus and Ceres II.i.3-4; 17-20
Come to us, Bacchus, with clusters of grapes dangling from your horns, and you, too, Ceres, a wreath of newly ripened wheat for your temples, come!
Gods of our fathers, we purify our farmers and our fruitful fields; we ask that you drive away harm from our borders. Let not the now sprouting plants succumb before harvest, let not the timid lambs be outrun by swift wolves.
Amor II.i. 81-2
Holy Amor, come to our festive feast, but lay aside the arrows, and keep far away Your torch; we pray, You do not inflame our land.
To the Genius of a Friend on his Birthday II.ii.1-9
Speak no ill words today, good men and women, as we honor our friend on his birthday. Burn frankincense, burn fragrant herbs from lands at the very ends of the earth, even those sent from Arabia. His own spirit comes to receive his honors, a holy wreath to crown his soft crown of hair. This pure nard distilled for his temples and, sated on wine and honey cakes, he gives his assent. And to you, Cornutus, may everything you wish for be granted.
Apollo II.v.1-4; 122-3
Give your favour, Phoebus, to a new priest who enters your temple. Be gracious, and with songs and lyre, come! When your fingers pluck the chords, and you give voice to song, I pray you may inspire my words into your praises. May your hair be ever flowing, Phoebus; may your sister be forever chaste.
Come, Saturn's daughter, give favor to my prayer! Hear me, Cyprian Venus, who was born along on a conch shell! Rather let my fate be denied, than that my life should now be sorrowfully ended by those sisters who spin the threads of everyone's future, and called down by ghastly Orcus into the desolate swamps and sluggish streams of black waters.
Incubus III.iv.1-2; 3-4; 95-6
O gods, may you bring better dreams than this evil vision that has awakened me from a peaceful sleep; let it not be a prophetic vision. Cast far away from me this vain and false vision, and cease plucking our intestines with your zealous inquiries. Gods, turn this cruel dream to good, as night into day, and bid the warm South wind to carry it away.
Proserpina and Pluto III.v. 5-14; 21-4; 33-4.
Proserpina warns the darkness grows near for me. O Goddess, why take the young and innocent? I have not attempted to learn the secrets of Bona Dea's holy rites, or reveal them. I have not dealt poisons, or pounded abortive herbs to serve in wine. Not by my hand have temples been set aflame; no shameful crimes have I committed. Never has rage or frustration caused me to have an impious tongue
Great Pluto, lord of bleak lands and dark marshes, drawing last when They cast lots for realms, spare me, delay my rafting upon the Cimmerian basin delay the day I shall draw the draft of Lethe, delay the day of my departing to those Blessed Fields of Elysium.
To the lords of death, in that dark place, black sheep I vow to offer, and pure wine mingled in a cup of snow-white milk.
Splendid Liber, draw near to me! With your forever mystical vine, and your ivy bound head, carry off my sorrows, in the same manner as you have so often used wine's healing powers to overcome the pangs of love.
Venus and Amor III.ix.4
May Venus keep him safe for me; may Amor preserve my love.
To Apollo for the Health of a Sick Girl III.x.1-10; 25-6
Draw near, Apollo, and expel the illness from this tender girl, come, draw near. Phoebus of flowing hair unshorn, hear me and hasten. If, Phoebus, you apply your healing hand to her, you will not regret saving her. Allow not that she should waste away emaciated, or that her colour should wane pallor, or that her limbs should lose their strength, and do not wait until her white limbs turn to a hideous colour. Whatsoever this illness may be, whatever sorrow we may fear it will bring, carry it off with the waters of a swift running stream to the seas. Holy one, come! And bring with you all your delicacies, all your songs, and all else that will soothe the sick. Then the gods will raise a pious tumult of your praises and desire they too had your healing arts.
To the Juno of a Girl on her Birthday III.xii.1-4; 19-20
Juno of her birth, a young girl offers you holy incense heaped in a sacrificial bowl that her soft hands hold. Today she is all yours; most joyfully adorned she stands before your altar for all to see. Be gracious, and come shining forth next year, when this same devotion in the ancient tradition she?ll once more lovingly offer.
Mars IV.ii.1 sqq.
Mars, on your kalends, fair Sulpicia see, adorned for you in fine clothes. Come, Venus will not mind. Descend from the heavens, if you are wise, to view her beauty, lead yourself from the skies.
To Apollo for the Health of a Sick Girl IV.iv.1 sqq.
Come, Phoebus, with Your golden hair loosely floating, soothe her torture, restore her fair complexion. Come quickly, we pray, we implore, use Your happy skills, such charms as You never spared before. Grant that her frail fame shall not waste away with consumption, or her eyes grow languid, and her bloom fade. Come now with Your favoring aid.
Genius and Amor IV.v.9 sqq.
Grant, O natal Genius, all my heart?s desires, and expensive incense I shall burn upon your altar.
Do not deny your aid to us, O Amor, nor be more partial to other lovers. Grant that we may both enjoy the pleasures of love making, or else make my passion lessen for him. But my true soul's desire is that we may equally share in hot passion for one another forever.
Juno Lucina IV.vi.1 sqq
Accept, O natal Juno, this offering of incense. Cheerfully, O Lucina, she has come to adorn your shrine of matrons.
Come, most chaste Queen of Heaven, appear in royal robes and nod your assent to the wine that is poured and the cakes piled high to await you. With you bring every herb for ending pain, and soothing songs to sing; across the ocean from distant shores bear such herbs as will cure our most severe ills, or whatever else we most fear. Rack this girl no more with pain, or cruelly delay her birthing.