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The Art of Love

Overview

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 ...
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The Art of Love

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Every age probably regards itself as unique in its sexual sophistication, and if we take Ovid as a typical spokesman we should have to conclude that the keynote of his age was elegance. . . . Ovid could not possibly have taken himself, nor be taken for, an Ancient.”—Rolfe Humphries
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375761171
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/8/2002
  • Series: Modern Library Classics Series
  • Edition description: MODERN LIB
  • Edition number: 2002
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 772,123
  • Product dimensions: 5.15 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

James Michie studied classics at Trinity College, Oxford. His other translations include Horace’s Odes and Martial’s Epigrams (both available as Modern Library Paperback Classics). His Collected Poems was awarded the Hawthornden Prize.

David Malouf is the author of fourteen books, including An Imaginary Life and the international bestseller The Great World. His work has been awarded the Commonwealth Writers Prize, among other accolades. He lives in Tuscany and Australia.

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Read an Excerpt

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, sothey 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

  mind,

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
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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2004

    A funny, readable and revealing little book.

    I was glad that this book was short but then as I got into it I wanted for Ovid to write more. He talks about different places where people in Rome can go and pick girls up and then he tells the ladies what they can do to see through the guys traps.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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