"A service for which no public reward could be too great." —W. H. Auden on Rolfe Humphries' translation of Virgil's Aeineid
The Art of Loveby Ovid, James Michie, David Malouf
In the first century a.d., Ovid, author of the groundbreaking epic poem Metamorphoses, came under severe criticism for The Art of Love, which playfully instructed women in the art of seduction and men in the skills essential for mastering the art of romantic conquest. In this remarkable translation, James Michie breathes new life into the notorious/b>/b>… See more details below
In the first century a.d., Ovid, author of the groundbreaking epic poem Metamorphoses, came under severe criticism for The Art of Love, which playfully instructed women in the art of seduction and men in the skills essential for mastering the art of romantic conquest. In this remarkable translation, James Michie breathes new life into the notorious Roman’s mock-didactic elegy. In lyrical, irreverent English, he reveals love’s timeless dilemmas and Ovid’s enduring brilliance as both poet and cultural critic.
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The Art of Love
Liber Primus Siquis in hoc artem populo non novit amandi,
Hoc legat et lecto carmine doctus amet.
Arte citae veloque rates remoque moventur,
Arte leves currus: arte regendus amor.
Curribus Automedon lentisque erat aptus habenis,5
Tiphys in Haemonia puppe magister erat:
Me Venus artificem tenero praefecit Amori;
Tiphys et Automedon dicar Amoris ego.
Ille quidem ferus est et qui mihi saepe repugnet:
Sed puer est, aetas mollis et apta regi.10
Phillyrides puerum cithara perfecit Achillem,
Atque animos placida contudit arte feros.
Qui totiens socios, totiens exterruit hostes,
Creditur annosum pertimuisse senem.
Quas Hector sensurus erat, poscente magistro15
Verberibus iussas praebuit ille manus.
Book One If any Roman knows nothing about love-making, please
Read this poem and graduate in expertise.
Ships and chariots with sails, oars, wheels, reins,
Speed through technique and control, and the same obtains
For love. As Automedon was Achilles' charioteer
And Tiphys earned the right to steer
The Argo on Jason's expedition,
So I am appointed by Venus as the technician
Of her art-my name will live on
As Love's Tiphys, Love's Automedon.
Love often fights against me, for he's wild,
Yet he's also controllable, for he's still a child.
Chiron made Achilles expert with the lyre,
His cool tuition quenched youth's primitive fire,
So that the boy who later became
A terror to friends and foes alike stood tame
In front of his aged teacher, so they say,
And the hand that Hector would feel one day
Was held out meekly to be rapped
Aeacidae Chiron, ego sum praeceptor Amoris:
Saevus uterque puer, natus uterque dea.
Sed tamen et tauri cervix oneratur aratro,
Frenaque magnanimi dente teruntur equi;20
Et mihi cedet Amor, quamvis mea vulneret arcu
Pectora, iactatas excutiatque faces.
Quo me fixit Amor, quo me violentius ussit,
Hoc melior facti vulneris ultor ero:
Non ego, Phoebe, datas a te mihi mentiar artes,25
Nec nos aëriae voce monemur avis,
Nec mihi sunt visae Clio Cliusque sorores
Servanti pecudes vallibus, Ascra, tuis:
Usus opus movet hoc: vati parete perito;
Vera canam: coeptis, mater Amoris, ades!30
Este procul, vittae tenues, insigne pudoris,
Quaeque tegis medios, instita longa, pedes.
Nos venerem tutam concessaque furta canemus,
Inque meo nullum carmine crimen erit.
Principio, quod amare velis, reperire labora,35
Qui nova nunc primum miles in arma venis.
Proximus huic labor est placitam exorare puellam:
Tertius, ut longo tempore duret amor.
Hic modus, haec nostro signabitur area curru:
Haec erit admissa meta terenda rota.40
Dum licet, et loris passim potes ire solutis,
Elige cui dicas "tu mihi sola places."
Haec tibi non tenues veniet delapsa per auras:
Quaerenda est oculis apta puella tuis.
Scit bene venator, cervis ubi retia tendat,45
Scit bene, qua frendens valle moretur aper;
Aucupibus noti frutices; qui sustinet hamos,
Novit quae multo pisce natentur aquae:
At his schoolmaster's bidding. Achilles was the apt
Pupil of Chiron, Love is mine-
Wild boys both, and both born of divine
Mothers; yet the heavy plough will make
Even the bull's neck docile, and the friskiest colt will take
The bit in his teeth. Love shall be tamed under my hand,
Though his arrows riddle me, though his flaming brand
Is waved in my face. The worse the wounds, the fiercer the burn,
The prompter I'll be to punish him in return.
I won't pretend that I'm inspired by you, Apollo:
The hoot of an owl, the flight of a swallow,
Have taught me nothing; awake or asleep,
I never had a vision of the Muses tending sheep
In pastoral valleys. This poem springs
From experience. Listen, your poet sings
Of what he knows, he tells no lies.
Venus, mother of Love, assist my enterprise!
But you with headbands and ankle-length robes, staid matrons,
Stay well clear-you are not my patrons.
My theme is safe and licit love, stolen joys which women'll
Condone; I'll mention nothing criminal.
Your first job, then, love's volunteer recruit,
Is to find the object of your pursuit;
Next comes the work of wooing and winning; and, last, ensuring
That the love you've won is enduring.
These are the limits of the ground my wheeled
Chariot will rapidly cover, my chosen field.
While you're still unharnessed and can wander fancy-free,
Pick a girl and tell her, "You're the only girl for me."
A mistress, though, doesn't float down from the sky:
You have to seek out the one who's caught your eye.
A hunter has to work,
Know where to spread his stag-nets, in which glens boars lurk,
A fowler's familiar with copses, fishermen learn
Which streams are the most rewarding, and you, if you yearn
Tu quoque, materiam longo qui quaeris amori,
Ante frequens quo sit disce puella loco.50
Non ego quaerentem vento dare vela iubebo,
Nec tibi, ut invenias, longa terenda via est.
Andromedan Perseus nigris portarit ab Indis,
Raptaque sit Phrygio Graia puella viro,
Tot tibi tamque dabit formosas Roma puellas,55
"Haec habet" ut dicas "quicquid in orbe fuit."
Gargara quot segetes, quot habet Methymna racemos,
Aequore quot pisces, fronde teguntur aves,
Quot caelum stellas, tot habet tua Roma puellas:
Mater in Aeneae constitit urbe sui.60
Seu caperis primis et adhuc crescentibus annis,
Ante oculos veniet vera puella tuos:
Sive cupis iuvenem, iuvenes tibi mille placebunt.
Cogeris voti nescius esse tui:
Seu te forte iuvat sera et sapientior aetas,65
Hoc quoque, crede mihi, plenius agmen erit.
Tu modo Pompeia lentus spatiare sub umbra,
Cum sol Herculei terga leonis adit:
Aut ubi muneribus nati sua munera mater
Addidit, externo marmore dives opus.70
Nec tibi vitetur quae, priscis sparsa tabellis,
Porticus auctoris Livia nomen habet:
Quaque parare necem miseris patruelibus ausae
Belides et stricto stat ferus ense pater.
Nec te praetereat Veneri ploratus Adonis,75
Cultaque Iudaeo septima sacra Syro.
For a long-term affair, won't have one till you've found
The places where girls are thick on the ground.
Though Perseus brought back Andromeda from the Syrian coast
And Paris stole Helen from his foreign host,
You can achieve your ambition
More easily. I'm not recommending an expedition
Overseas or a gruelling march; look nearer home
And you'll say, "The prettiest girls in the world are in Rome"-
They're thicker than wheatsheaves on Gargara, grapes in Lesbos, birds in the trees,
Stars in the sky, fish in the seas,
For Venus is a strong presence
In the city her son founded. If you fancy adolescents,
One stunner out of plenty
Will emerge and dazzle you; if you like them over twenty,
The range of available talent is so rich
That your only problem will be which;
And if you prefer mature, experienced women,
Believe me, they're as common
As blackberries. When the sun's on the back of Hercules'
Lion, in high summer, just stroll at your ease
Down Pompey's shady colonnade,
Or Octavia's (which she made
More beautiful, when her son died,
With rich marblework on the outside),
Or the one that's named
After its founder, Livia, famed
For its antique paintings. Don't forget to go
To the Danaids' portico
Where the fifty sculptured virgins meditate
Their luckless cousins' fate-
The multiple murder planned
By their fierce father Belus (here shown sword in hand).
And don't miss the shrine where Venus weeps
For Adonis, the synagogue where Syrian Jewry keeps
Nec fuge linigerae Memphitica templa iuvencae:
Multas illa facit, quod fuit ipsa Iovi.
Et fora conveniunt (quis credere possit?) amori:
Flammaque in arguto saepe reperta foro:80
Subdita qua Veneris facto de marmore templo
Appias expressis aëra pulsat aquis,
Illo saepe loco capitur consultus Amori,
Quique aliis cavit, non cavet ipse sibi:
Illo saepe loco desunt sua verba diserto,85
Resque novae veniunt, causaque agenda sua est.
Hunc Venus e templis, quae sunt confinia, ridet:
Qui modo patronus, nunc cupit esse cliens.
Sed tu praecipue curvis venare theatris:
Haec loca sunt voto fertiliora tuo.90
Illic invenies quod ames, quod ludere possis,
Quodque semel tangas, quodque tenere velis.
Ut redit itque frequens longum formica per agmen,
Granifero solitum cum vehit ore cibum,
Aut ut apes saltusque suos et olentia nactae95
Pascua per flores et thyma summa volant,
Sic ruit ad celebres cultissima femina ludos:
Copia iudicium saepe morata meum est.
Spectatum veniunt, veniunt spectentur ut ipsae:
Ille locus casti damna pudoris habet.100
Primus sollicitos fecisti, Romule, ludos,
Cum iuvit viduos rapta Sabina viros.
Tunc neque marmoreo pendebant vela theatro,
Nec fuerant liquido pulpita rubra croco;
Illic quas tulerant nemorosa Palatia, frondes105
The sabbath sacred, or the Memphian temple
Of the linen-clad heifer Io, whose example
Has taught many a courtesan
To offer her body to a man
As she did hers to Jove.
The law-courts, too, are fertile grounds for love,
Believe it or not-yes, desire
From dry forensic tinder can catch fire.
There where the Appian nymph tosses her water-jets
High from beneath the marble shrine, Venus's nets
Trap even lawyers. The man who knows how to lend
His eloquence to defend others can't defend
Himself, words fail him, he has to look after
A new case now-his own. Meanwhile the goddess's laughter
Tinkles from her nearby temple at the sight
Of the advocate turned client overnight.
Above all, comb the curved theatre-that's the place
Richest in spoils of the sexual chase.
There you'll find someone to love, or a playmate, there
You can opt for one night or a solid affair.
As ants in column bustle up and down their lanes,
Jaws clutching their wheat-grains,
As bees in their fragrant glades and pastures hover
Above flowers and thyme and clover,
Our smart women swarm to the games in such numbers my vision
And judgment blur-often I lose my powers of decision.
They come to see and be seen;
Modesty, chastity mean
Nothing there. Romulus, it was all your fault,
It was your games that first featured rape and assault-
Those Sabine women and sex-hungry men.
The theatre had no marble seats or awnings then,
Nor was the stage red-dyed
With sweet-smelling saffron; the Palatine woods supplied
A backdrop of greenery,
Simpliciter positae, scena sine arte fuit;
In gradibus sedit populus de caespite factis,
Qualibet hirsutas fronde tegente comas.
Respiciunt, oculisque notant sibi quisque puellam
Quam velit, et tacito pectore multa movent.110
Dumque, rudem praebente modum tibicine Tusco,
Ludius aequatam ter pede pulsat humum,
In medio plausu (plausus tunc arte carebant)
Rex populo praedae signa petita dedit.
Protinus exiliunt, animum clamore fatentes,115
Virginibus cupidas iniciuntque manus.
Ut fugiunt aquilas, timidissima turba, columbae,
Ut fugit invisos agna novella lupos:
Sic illae timuere viros sine more ruentes;
Constitit in nulla qui fuit ante color.120
Nam timor unus erat, facies non una timoris:
Pars laniat crines, pars sine mente sedet;
Altera maesta silet, frustra vocat altera matrem:
Haec queritur, stupet haec; haec manet, illa fugit;
Ducuntur raptae, genialis praeda, puellae,125
Et potuit multas ipse decere timor.
Siqua repugnarat nimium comitemque negabat,
Sublatam cupido vir tulit ipse sinu,
Atque ita "quid teneros lacrimis corrumpis ocellos?
Quod matri pater est, hoc tibi" dixit "ero."130
Romule, militibus scisti dare commoda solus.
Haec mihi si dederis commoda, miles ero.
Scilicet ex illo sollemnia more theatra
Nunc quoque formosis insidiosa manent.
Nec te nobilium fugiat certamen equorum;135
Multa capax populi commoda Circus habet.
And nature without artifice the scenery;
Shaggy-headed, the spectators sat
On tiered turf seats, any old leaves as a hat
To shade the sun. Alert, each man
Brooded silently and formed his plan,
Having marked with a glance his selected girl.
Then, to the skirl
Of Etruscan flutes, the dancers' feet
Stamped the smooth floor in the triple beat
Until amid loud hoorays
(Applause was pretty crude in the old days)
The king gave the sign they were waiting for
And the Rape began. Up they sprang with a lustful roar
And grabbed the virgins. As eagles scatter a flock
Of timid doves or wolves scare lambs, so the shock
Of this wild male charge spread panic. Colour drained
From every girl's face; a common terror reigned,
Though its features varied. Some sat there numb
With fear, some tore their hair; one girl, struck dumb,
Simply wept, another
Called ineffectually for her mother;
They shrieked or stared, they froze or fled.
And so, as plunder of the marriage-bed,
They were carried away, and I dare say their alarm
Gave some of them a piquant extra charm.
A girl who struggled and wouldn't co-operate
Was hoisted up and hauled off by her new mate
With "Why spoil those tender eyes with tears? Never mind,
I'll be as kind to you as your father was kind
To your mother." Romulus, you found the right reward
For soldiers-for that I'll enlist myself, with a sword!
Since then time-honoured custom has made our Roman
Theatres danger spots for pretty women.
And don't miss the chariot races: the big Circus
Offers lots of chances for smart workers.
Nil opus est digitis, per quos arcana loquaris,
Nec tibi per nutus accipienda nota est:
Proximus a domina, nullo prohibente, sedeto,
Iunge tuum lateri qua potes usque latus;140
Et bene, quod cogit, si nolis, linea iungi,
Quod tibi tangenda est lege puella loci.
Hic tibi quaeratur socii sermonis origo,
Et moveant primos publica verba sonos.
Cuius equi veniant, facito, studiose, requiras:145
Nec mora, quisquis erit, cui favet illa, fave.
At cum pompa frequens caelestibus ibit eburnis,
Tu Veneri dominae plaude favente manu;
Utque fit, in gremium pulvis si forte puellae
Deciderit, digitis excutiendus erit:150
Etsi nullus erit pulvis, tamen excute nullum:
Quaelibet officio causa sit apta tuo.
Pallia si terra nimium demissa iacebunt,
Collige, et inmunda sedulus effer humo;
Protinus, officii pretium, patiente puella155
Contingent oculis crura videnda tuis.
Respice praeterea, post vos quicumque sedebit,
Ne premat opposito mollia terga genu.
Parva leves capiunt animos: fuit utile multis
Pulvinum facili composuisse manu.160
Profuit et tenui ventos movisse tabella,
Et cava sub tenerum scamna dedisse pedem.
Hos aditus Circusque novo praebebit amori,
Sparsaque sollicito tristis harena foro.
Illa saepe puer Veneris pugnavit harena,165
Et qui spectavit vulnera, vulnus habet.
Dum loquitur tangitque manum poscitque libellum
Et quaerit posito pignore, vincat uter,
No need of finger-language here, no need to guess
That a nod of the head means yes:
You can sit as close to a girl as you please,
So make the most of touching thighs and knees
(The seating arrangements almost force
Physical intimacy as a matter of course).
At this point casually volunteer
An opening remark for anyone to hear.
Ask with keen interest, "Whose team's that going by?"
And "Who are you backing?" Given a reply,
Add instantly, "So am I!"
When the gods' ivory statues pass in the grand
Procession, give Venus a big hand,
And if a speck of dust, as it well may,
Falls in her lap, brush it away-
Brush it away even if there's no dust:
Any gallant excuse in the service of lust.
If her cloak trails on the ground, make a great scene
Of lifting it up to keep it clean,
And if you've played it right
You're rewarded at once-with her permission, the sight
Of her ankles. (Watch out for the man behind-
His knee may be giving the small of her back a grind.)
A frivolous mind
Is won by small attentions. Many a man
Has scored by arranging a cushion or plying a fan
Or slipping a little stool
Under the dainty feet of a sweet fool.
Such openings the Circus offers for the study
Of the art of the pick-up; so does the grim Forum with its bloody
Arena of sand. Here Cupid has his killing-ground,
And the man who came to see blood himself gets a wound-
In the heart. While he's touching her hand, bending her ear,
Borrowing her programme, asking if the charioteer
He's backed will win, he feels
Saucius ingemuit telumque volatile sensit,
Et pars spectati muneris ipse fuit.170
Quid, modo cum belli navalis imagine Caesar
Persidas induxit Cecropiasque rates?
Nempe ab utroque mari iuvenes, ab utroque puellae
Venere, atque ingens orbis in Urbe fuit.
Quis non invenit turba, quod amaret, in illa?175
Eheu, quam multos advena torsit amor!
Ecce, parat Caesar domito quod defuit orbi
Addere: nunc, oriens ultime, noster eris.
Parthe, dabis poenas: Crassi gaudete sepulti,
Signaque barbaricas non bene passa manus.180
Ultor adest, primisque ducem profitetur in annis,
Bellaque non puero tractat agenda puer.
Parcite natales timidi numerare deorum:
Caesaribus virtus contigit ante diem.
Ingenium caeleste suis velocius annis185
Surgit, et ignavae fert male damna morae.
Parvus erat, manibusque duos Tirynthius angues
Pressit, et in cunis iam Iove dignus erat.
Nunc quoque qui puer es, quantus tum, Bacche, fuisti,
Cum timuit thyrsos India victa tuos?190
Auspiciis annisque patris, puer, arma movebis,
Et vinces annis auspiciisque patris:
Tale rudimentum tanto sub nomine debes,
The shock of the arrow, the steel's
Struck home, he groans-and the spectator
Joins in the show, a dying gladiator.
When Caesar staged that naval mock-battle between
Athenians and Persians, what a scene!
From east and west young women and men
Converged, the whole known world was in Rome then.
In such a crowd, in such a push-and-shove,
Who could fail to find someone to love?
That day hundreds of men learnt
How hot a foreign flame is, and got burnt.
Now Caesar's planning to extend his powers
To the rest of the untamed world. You shall be ours,
O farthest East. Parthians, you shall be paid
In full. Exult, standards that they laid
Shaming barbarian hands on! Rejoice, the shade
Of buried Crassus! Now your avenger appears,
A boy who despite his years
Proclaims his generalship
And has strong hands to grip
The reins of a war that no one of that age
But he would dare or be allowed to wage.
Why timidly rely on arithmetic
When it comes to the age of a god? Valour is quick
To show in Caesars. Divine genius tolerates
No hanging back, accelerates
Achievement, and makes nonsense of mere dates.
The infant Hercules strangled two snakes, even
In the cradle earning the applause of heaven.
And you, Bacchus, still a young god,
How old were you when India kissed your rod?
With your father's authority, under his lucky star,
Boy, you shall fight and win this war.
Your great name calls for a youthful victory:
Today prince of the young, one day you shall be
Nunc iuvenum princeps, deinde future senum;
Cum tibi sint fratres, fratres ulciscere laesos:195
Cumque pater tibi sit, iura tuere patris.
Induit arma tibi genitor patriaeque tuusque:
Hostis ab invito regna parente rapit;
Tu pia tela feres, sceleratas ille sagittas:
Stabit pro signis iusque piumque tuis.200
Vincuntur causa Parthi: vincantur et armis;
Eoas Latio dux meus addat opes.
Marsque pater Caesarque pater, date numen eunti:
Nam deus e vobis alter es, alter eris.
Auguror, en, vinces; votivaque carmina reddam,205
Et magno nobis ore sonandus eris.
Consistes, aciemque meis hortabere verbis;
O desint animis ne mea verba tuis!
Tergaque Parthorum Romanaque pectora dicam,
Telaque, ab averso quae iacit hostis equo.210
Qui fugis ut vincas, quid victo, Parthe, relinquis?
Parthe, malum iam nunc Mars tuus omen habet.
Ergo erit illa dies, qua tu, pulcherrime rerum,
Quattuor in niveis aureus ibis equis.
Ibunt ante duces onerati colla catenis,215
Ne possint tuti, qua prius, esse fuga.
Spectabunt laeti iuvenes mixtaeque puellae,
Diffundetque animos omnibus ista dies.
Atque aliqua ex illis cum regum nomina quaeret,
Quae loca, qui montes, quaeve ferantur aquae,220
Omnia responde, nec tantum siqua rogabit;
Prince of the old. You're a brother, a son-then requite
The wrongs of brothers, uphold a father's right.
Your country's father, indeed your own,
Has armed you against a foe who seized his throne
By force from a father. Javelin versus bow,
Good against evil, justice and right shall go
Ahead of your standards. Parthia's doom is sealed
By her own guilt; may every battlefield
Reflect that truth, and may my prince come home
Bringing the riches of the East to Rome!
O Mars, O Caesar, both fathers, one divine,
One god-to-be, let your numinous powers shine
On his setting forth. Lo, I predict a
Great triumph, and vow to you, the victor,
A celebratory poem to trumpet your name
Resoundingly. Using the same
Words I wrote, you'll stand and exhort
Your battle-line-and I pray they'll not fall short
Of your valour's reach. I'll describe head-on attacks
By Romans, cowardly Parthian backs,
And arrows in the sky
Shot by their swivelling horsemen as they fly.
(You Parthians, if, pursuing victory, you retreat,
What meaning's left for the word "defeat"?
Your war-will's sapped, it's an ill omen.)
And so the day will come when you, our Roman
Hero, an adored, resplendent sight,
Will ride in gold, drawn by four snow-white
Horses, behind their chiefs-neck-fettered now for fear
They save their skins by a second flight. A cheer
Will rise from every watching girl and boy
On that day of heart-felt joy.
When some girl asks the names of the kings and foreign parts-
Towns, mountains, rivers etcetera-on the pageant carts,
Answer all her questions. No, don't wait
Et quae nescieris, ut bene nota refer.
Hic est Euphrates, praecinctus harundine frontem:
Cui coma dependet caerula, Tigris erit.
Hos facito Armenios; haec est Danaëia Persis:225
Urbs in Achaemeniis vallibus ista fuit.
Ille vel ille, duces; et erunt quae nomina dicas,
Si poteris, vere, si minus, apta tamen.
Dant etiam positis aditum convivia mensis:
Est aliquid praeter vina, quod inde petas.230
Saepe illic positi teneris adducta lacertis
Purpureus Bacchi cornua pressit Amor:
Vinaque cum bibulas sparsere Cupidinis alas,
Permanet et capto stat gravis ille loco.
Ille quidem pennas velociter excutit udas:235
Sed tamen et spargi pectus amore nocet.
Vina parant animos faciuntque caloribus aptos:
Cura fugit multo diluiturque mero.
Tunc veniunt risus, tum pauper cornua sumit,
Tum dolor et curae rugaque frontis abit.240
Tunc aperit mentes aevo rarissima nostro
Simplicitas, artes excutiente deo.
Illic saepe animos iuvenum rapuere puellae,
Et Venus in vinis ignis in igne fuit.
Hic tu fallaci nimium ne crede lucernae:245
Iudicio formae noxque merumque nocent.
Luce deas caeloque Paris spectavit aperto,
Cum dixit Veneri "vincis utramque, Venus."
Nocte latent mendae, vitioque ignoscitur omni,
Horaque formosam quamlibet illa facit.250
Consule de gemmis, de tincta murice lana,
Consule de facie corporibusque diem.
Quid tibi femineos coetus venatibus aptos
Enumerem? numero cedet harena meo.
To be asked, volunteer (though you're guessing) with a straight
Face, "Here's Euphrates, his forehead fringed with reeds,
And that's Tigris with the long blue hair. There are the Medes,
And, look, the Armenians, I'm positive. There goes
Some Achaemenid valley town. And those
Must be two generals . . ." Give them each a name-
Right, if you can; if you can't, give them one just the same.
Banquets give openings, too: when the tables are spread,
There's more than wine to turn your head.
There Love, with soft arms and flushed face,
Has often given the horns of Bacchus an embrace,
And when wine has soaked his thirsty plumage, Love
Stands rooted, torpid, can't perform or move.
He takes no time to shake his wings dry again,
But for us a few drops of love are intense pain.
Wine rouses the heart, wine makes all men
Lovers, wine undiluted dilutes worry. Then
Laughter arrives, even the poor
Feel as brave as bulls, wrinkles relax, out of the door
Go care and sorrow, into all hearts
Flies truth (rare bird these days), for the god expels the arts
Of the hypocrite. Then girls bewitch men with desire,
And Venus in the wine is a fire within a fire.
On these occasions don't trust the lamps-they can lie:
Darkness and drink blur the judging eye.
It was in broad daylight, not after dinner,
That Paris made his choice: "You, Venus, are the winner."
Blemishes are lost in the half-light,
Faults overlooked. Night
Turns any woman into a goddess.
When it comes to judging faces, bodies,
Jewels or clothes, I always say,
Consult the light of day.
But why count grains of sand? How can I list all the places
Where girls go and you can hunt pretty faces?
Quid referam Baias, praetextaque litora velis,255
Et quae de calido sulpure fumat aqua?
Hinc aliquis vulnus referens in pectore dixit
"Non haec, ut fama est, unda salubris erat."
Ecce suburbanae templum nemorale Dianae
Partaque per gladios regna nocente manu:260
Illa, quod est virgo, quod tela Cupidinis odit,
Multa dedit populo vulnera, multa dabit.
Hactenus, unde legas quod ames, ubi retia ponas,
Praecipit imparibus vecta Thalea rotis.
Nunc tibi, quae placuit, quas sit capienda per artes,265
Dicere praecipuae molior artis opus.
Quisquis ubique, viri, dociles advertite mentes,
Pollicitisque favens, vulgus, adeste meis.
Prima tuae menti veniat fiducia, cunctas
Posse capi; capies, tu modo tende plagas.270
Vere prius volucres taceant, aestate cicadae,
Maenalius lepori det sua terga canis,
Femina quam iuveni blande temptata repugnet:
Haec quoque, quam poteris credere nolle, volet.
Utque viro furtiva venus, sic grata puellae:275
Vir male dissimulat: tectius illa cupit.
Conveniat maribus, ne quam nos ante rogemus,
Femina iam partes victa rogantis agat.
Mollibus in pratis admugit femina tauro:
Femina cornipedi semper adhinnit equo.280
Parcior in nobis nec tam furiosa libido:
Legitimum finem flamma virilis habet.
Byblida quid referam, vetito quae fratris amore
Arsit et est laqueo fortiter ulta nefas?
Take Baiae, its shores fringed with pleasure craft,
Its springs smoking with sulphur-Cupid's shaft
Does heart damage there. One man came back with the report:
"That's no health resort!"
The same goes for Diana's shrine by the lake
In the woods near Rome, where the slave-priests take
Office in turn by murder-she,
Being a virgin, spitefully,
Out of hatred of Love's darts
Wounds, and will go on wounding, human hearts.
Having carried you this far
In my Muse's bumpy, elegiac car
And taught you hunters in which coverts to find
And how to spread nets for the bird you have in mind,
Now for the trickiest, subtlest part: how to get
Your darling well entangled in the net.
Men everywhere, you have something to learn, so attend!
And you, the common people, kindly lend
My enterprise your favour till the end.
First and foremost, feel confidence that all
Girls can be caught; just spread your nets, they'll fall.
Hounds will run from a hare, birds in spring sit dumb,
Cicadas in summer keep mum,
Sooner than a girl, wooed charmingly, will resist:
Even one you think doesn't want it wants to be kissed.
Women, like men, adore secret affairs,
But our skill in dissembling is less than theirs.
If we males unanimously agreed
Not to move first, females, crushed, would take the lead.
In lush fields the heifer moos to the bull, the mare
Whinnies at stallions in the open air;
Men's sex-urge is less primitive, less raw,
Our lust is bound by the limits of the law.
But as for women . . . Byblis was mad for her brother
And bravely atoned for her sin with a suicide's noose. Another
Myrrha patrem, sed non qua filia debet, amavit,285
Et nunc obducto cortice pressa latet:
Illius lacrimis, quas arbore fundit odora,
Unguimur, et dominae nomina gutta tenet.
Forte sub umbrosis nemorosae vallibus Idae
Candidus, armenti gloria, taurus erat,290
Signatus tenui media inter cornua nigro:
Una fuit labes, cetera lactis erant.
Illum Cnosiadesque Cydoneaeque iuvencae
Optarunt tergo sustinuisse suo.
Pasiphaë fieri gaudebat adultera tauri;295
Invida formosas oderat illa boves.
Nota cano: non hoc, centum quae sustinet urbes,
Quamvis sit mendax, Creta negare potest.
Ipsa novas frondes et prata tenerrima tauro
Fertur inadsueta subsecuisse manu.300
It comes armentis, nec ituram cura moratur
Coniugis, et Minos a bove victus erat.
Quo tibi, Pasiphaë, pretiosas sumere vestes?
Ille tuus nullas sentit adulter opes.
Quid tibi cum speculo, montana armenta petenti?305
Quid totiens positas fingis, inepta, comas?
Crede tamen speculo, quod te negat esse iuvencam.
Quam cuperes fronti cornua nata tuae!
Sive placet Minos, nullus quaeratur adulter:
Sive virum mavis fallere, falle viro!310
In nemus et saltus thalamo regina relicto
Fertur, ut Aonio concita Baccha deo.
A, quotiens vaccam vultu spectavit iniquo,
Et dixit "domino cur placet ista meo?
Was Myrrha, whose love was most undaughterly
And who is now imprisoned in the tree
Whose bark still weeps the tears named after her
Which we use for perfume and call myrrh.
Once in the shady valleys of wooded Ida
There was a white bull, the herd's pride, a
Single splash of black above the eyes
Marring perfection, milk-white otherwise.
The handsome Cretan heifers longed to bear his weight,
But Pasiphaë eyed them all with envious hate,
For to play the role of adulterous mate
Of the bull inflamed her fancy. (I only repeat
A well-known fact which hundred-citied Crete,
Proverbial home of liars, can't rebut.)
With her own high-born hands, they say, she cut
Fresh, tender leaves and grass for him and, undeterred
By the thought of her husband, joined the herd.
So King Minos was humbled by a bull!
Queen, why bother with silks and expensive wool?
They won't impress your lover in the least.
If you want to live like a mountain beast,
Why the mirror, the pointless fussing with your hair?
You can trust the glass, though, for one thing-there
You're no heifer. But goodness, how
You wish you could be a plump, horned cow!
If you like Minos, then stay at home,
Don't look elsewhere; if you prefer to roam
And betray your husband, why then, woman,
At least betray him with a fellow human.
But, leaving her palace and bower behind,
Off she goes to the woods and glens, like a maenad out of her
God-intoxicated. Every time she spies
A cow, she looks daggers and cries,
"What can my darling see in her? There, she's gambolling
Aspice, ut ante ipsum teneris exultet in herbis:315
Nec dubito, quin se stulta decere putet."
Dixit, et ingenti iamdudum de grege duci
Iussit et inmeritam sub iuga curva trahi,
Aut cadere ante aras commentaque sacra coegit,
Et tenuit laeta paelicis exta manu.320
Paelicibus quotiens placavit numina caesis,
Atque ait, exta tenens "ite, placete meo!"
Et modo se Europen fieri, modo postulat Io,
Altera quod bos est, altera vecta bove.
Hanc tamen implevit, vacca deceptus acerna,325
Dux gregis, et partu proditus auctor erat.
Cressa Thyesteo si se abstinuisset amore
(Et quantum est uno posse carere viro?),
Non medium rupisset iter, curruque retorto
Auroram versis Phoebus adisset equis.330
Filia purpureos Niso furata capillos
Pube premit rabidos inguinibusque canes.
Qui Martem terra, Neptunum effugit in undis,
Coniugis Atrides victima dira fuit.
Cui non defleta est Ephyraeae flamma Creüsae,335
Et nece natorum sanguinolenta parens?
Flevit Amyntorides per inania lumina Phoenix:
Hippolytum pavidi diripuistis equi.
Quid fodis inmeritis, Phineu, sua lumina natis?
Poena reversura est in caput ista tuum.340
Omnia feminea sunt ista libidine mota;
Acrior est nostra, plusque furoris habet.
Ergo age, ne dubita cunctas sperare puellas;
Vix erit e multis, quae neget, una, tibi.
In front of him on the grass-does the stupid thing
Think she's attractive?" And she'd give the word
For the innocent to be culled from the great herd
To be yoked t
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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