OVID: The Art of Love


Ars Amatoria

Book I



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Translated by A. S. Kline © 2001 All Rights Reserved

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Book I Part I: His Task. 3

Book I Part II: How to Find Her4

Book I Part III: Search while youíre out Walking. 4

Book I Part IV: Or at the Theatre. 5

Book I Part V: Or at the Races, or the Circus. 6

Book I Part VI: Triumphs are Good too!7

Book I Part VII: Thereís always the Dinner-Table. 9

Book I Part VIII: And Finally Thereís the Beach. 9

Book I Part IX: How To Win Her10

Book I Part X: First Secure the Maid. 12

Book I Part XI: Donít Forget Her Birthday!13

Book I Part XII: Write and Make Promises. 14

Book I Part XIII: Be Where She Is. 16

Book I Part XIV: Look Presentable. 16

Book I Part XV: At Dinner Be Bold. 17

Book I Part XVI: Promise and Deceive. 19

Book I Part XVII: Tears, Kisses, and Take the Lead. 20

Book I Part XVIII: Be Pale: Be Wary of Your Friends. 22

Book I Part XIX: Be Flexible. 23


††††††† ††††††† ††††††† ††††††† ††† Book I


Book I Part I: His Task


Should anyone here not know the art of love,

read this, and learn by reading how to love.

By art the boatís set gliding, with oar and sail,

by art the chariotís swift: loveís ruled by art.

Automedon was skilled with Achillesís chariot reins,

Tiphys in Thessaly was steersman of the Argo,

Venus appointed me as guide to gentle Love:

Iíll be known as Loveís Tiphys, and Automedon.

Itís true Loveís wild, and one who often flouts me:

but heís a child of tender years, fit to be ruled.

Chiron made the young Achilles perfect at the lyre,

and tempered his wild spirits through peaceful art.

He, who so terrified his enemies and friends,

they say he greatly feared the aged Centaur.

That hand that Hector was destined to know,

was held out, at his masterís orders, to be flogged.

I am Loveís teacher as Chiron was Achillesís,

both wild boys, both children of a goddess.

Yet the bullockís neck is bowed beneath the yoke,

and the spirited horseís teeth worn by the bit.

And Love will yield to me, though with his bow

he wounds my heart, shakes at me his burning torch.

The more he pierces me, the more violently he burns me,

so much the fitter am I to avenge the wounds.

Nor will I falsely say you gave me the art, Apollo,

no voice from a heavenly bird gives me advice,

I never caught sight of Clio or Clioís sisters

while herding the flocks, Ascra, in your valleys:

Experience prompts this work: listen to the expert poet:

I sing true: Venus, help my venture!

Far away from here, you badges of modesty,

the thin headband, the ankle-covering dress.

I sing of safe love, permissible intrigue,

and thereíll be nothing sinful in my song.

Now the first task for you who come as a raw recruit

is to find out who you might wish to love.

The next task is to make sure that she likes you:

the third, to see to it that the love will last.

Thatís my aim, thatís the ground my chariot will cover:

thatís the post my thundering wheels will scrape.



Book I Part II: How to Find Her


While youíre still free, and can roam on a loose rein,

pick one to whom you could say: ĎYou alone please me.í

She wonít come falling for you out of thin air:

the right girl has to be searched for: use your eyes.

The hunter knows where to spread nets for the stag,

he knows what valleys hide the angry boar:

the wild-fowler knows the woods: the fisherman

knows the waters where the most fish spawn:

You too, who search for the essence of lasting love,

must be taught the places that the girls frequent.

I donít demand you set your sails, and search,

or wear out some long road to discover them.

Perseus brought Andromeda from darkest India,

and Trojan Paris snatched his girl from Greece,

Rome will grant you lots of such lovely girls,

youíll say: ĎHereís everything the world has had.í

Your Romeís as many girls as Gargaraís sheaves,

as Methymnaís grapes, as fishes in the sea,

as birds in the hidden branches, stars in the sky:

Venus, Aeneasís mother, haunts his city.

If youíd catch them very young and not yet grown,

real child-brides will come before your eyes:

if itís young girls you want, thousands will please you.

Youíll be forced to be unsure of your desires:

if you delight greatly in older wiser years,

here too, believe me, thereís an even greater crowd.


Book I Part III: Search while youíre out Walking


Just walk slowly under Pompeyís shady colonnade,

when the sunís in Leo, on the back of Herculesís lion:

or where Octavia added to her dead son Marcellusís gifts,

with those rich works of foreign marble.

Donít miss the Portico that takes its name

from Livia its creator, full of old masters:

or where the daring Danaids prepare to murder their poor husbands,

and their fierce father stands, with out-stretched sword.

And donít forget the shrine of Adonis, Venus wept for,

and the sacred Sabbath rites of the Syrian Jews.

Donít skip the Memphite temple of the linen-clad heifer:

she makes many a girl what she herself was to Jove.

And the law-courts (whoíd believe it?) they suit love:

a flame is often found in the noisy courts:

where the Appian waters pulse into the air,

from under Venusís temple, made of marble,

there the lawyerís often caught by love,

and he who guides others, fails to guide himself:

in that place of eloquence often his words desert him,

and a new case starts, his own cause is the brief.

There Venus, from her neighbouring temples, laughs:

he, who was once the counsel, now wants to be the client.


Book I Part IV: Or at the Theatre


But hunt for them, especially, at the tiered theatre:

that place is the most fruitful for your needs.

There youíll find one to love, or one you can play with,

one to be with just once, or one you might wish to keep.

As ants return home often in long processions,

carrying their favourite food in their mouths,

or as the bees buzz through the flowers and thyme,

among their pastures and fragrant chosen meadows,

so our fashionable ladies crowd to the famous shows:

my choice is often constrained by such richness.

They come to see, they come to be seen as well:

the place is fatal to chaste modesty.

These shows were first made troublesome by Romulus,

when the raped Sabines delighted unmarried men.

Then no awnings hung from the marble theatre,

the stage wasnít stained with saffron perfumes:

Then what the shady Palatine provided, leaves

simply placed, was all the artless scene:

The audience sat on tiers made from turf,

and covered their shaggy hair, as best they could, with leaves.

They watched, and each with his eye observed the girl

he wanted, and trembled greatly in his silent heart.

While, to the measure of the homely Etruscan flute,

the dancer, with triple beat, struck the levelled earth,

amongst the applause (applause that was never artful then)

the king gave the watched-for signal for the rape.

They sprang up straightaway, showing their intent by shouting,

and eagerly took possession of the women.

As doves flee the eagle, in a frightened crowd,

as the new-born lamb runs from the hostile wolf:

so they fled in panic from the lawless men,

and not one showed the colour she had before.

Now they all fear as one, but not with one face of fear:

Some tear their hair: some sit there, all will lost:

one mourns silently, another cries for her mother in vain:

one moans, one faints: one stays, while that one runs:

the captive girls were led away, a joyful prize,

and many made even fear itself look fitting.

Whoever showed too much fight, and denied her lover,

he held her clasped high to his loving heart,

and said to her: ĎWhy mar your tender cheeks with tears?

as your father to your mother, Iíll be to you.í

Romulus, alone, knew what was fitting for soldiers:

Iíll be a soldier, if you give me what suits me.

From that I suppose came the theatresí usual customs:

now too they remain a snare for the beautiful.


Book I Part V: Or at the Races, or the Circus


Donít forget the races, those noble stallions:

the Circus holds room for a vast obliging crowd.

No need here for fingers to give secret messages,

nor a nod of the head to tell you she accepts:

You can sit by your lady: nothingís forbidden,

press your thigh to hers, as you can do, all the time:

and itís good the rows force you close, even if you donít like it,

since the girl is touched through the rules of the place.

Now find your reason for friendly conversation,

and first of all engage in casual talk.

Make earnest enquiry whose those horses are:

and rush to back her favourite, whatever it is.

When the crowded procession of ivory gods goes by,

you clap fervently for Lady Venus:

if by chance a speck of dust falls in the girlís lap,

as it may, let it be flicked away by your fingers:

and if thereís nothing, flick away the nothing:

let anything be a reason for you to serve her.

If her skirt is trailing too near the ground,

lift it, and raise it carefully from the dusty earth:

Straightaway, the prize for service, if she allows it,

is that your eyes catch a glimpse of her legs.

Donít forget to look at whoís sitting behind you,

that he doesnít press her sweet back with his knee.

Small things please light minds: itís very helpful

to puff up her cushion with a dextrous touch.

And itís good to raise a breeze with a light fan,

and set a hollow stool beneath her tender feet.

And the Circus brings assistance to new love,

and the scattered sand of the gladiatorís ring.

Venusí boy often fights in that sand,

and who see wounds, themselves receive a wound.

While talking, touching hands, checking the programme,

and asking, having bet, which one will win,

wounded he groans, and feels the winged dart,

and himself becomes a part of the show he sees.

When, lately, Caesar, in mock naval battle,

exhibited the Greek and Persian fleets,

surely young men and girls came from either coast,

and all the peoples of the world were in the City?

Who did not find one he might love in that crowd?

Ah, how many were tortured by an alien love!


Book I Part VI: Triumphs are Good too!


Behold, now Caesarís planning to add to our rule

whatís left of earth: now the far East will be ours.

Parthia, weíll have vengeance: Crassusís bust will cheer,

and those standards wickedly laid low by barbarians.

The avengerís here, the leader, proclaimed, of tender years,

and a boy wages warís un-boy-like agenda.

Cowards, donít count the birthdays of the gods:

a Caesarís courage flowers before its time.

Divine genius grows faster than its years,

and suffers as harmful evils the cowardly delays.

Hercules was a child when he crushed two serpents

in both his hands, already worthy of Jupiter in his cradle.

How old were you, Bacchus, who are still a boy,

when conquered India trembled to your rod?

Your fatherís years and powers arm you, boy,

and with your fatherís powers and years youíll win:

though your first beginnings must be in debt to such a name,

now prince of the young, but one day prince of the old:

Your brothers are with you, avenge your brothersí wounds:

your father is with you, keep your fatherís laws.

Your and your countryís father endowed you with arms:

the enemy stole his kingship from an unwilling parent:

You hold a pious shaft, he a wicked arrow:

Justice and piety stick to your standard.

Let Parthiaís cause be lost: and their armies:

let my leader add Eastern wealth to Latium.

Both your fathers, Mars and Caesar, grant you power:

Through you one is a god, and one will be.

See, I augur your triumph: Iíll reply with a votive song,

and youíll be greatly celebrated on my lips.

Youíll stand and exhort your troops with my words:

O let my words not lack your courage!

Iíll speak of Parthian backs and Roman fronts,

and shafts the enemy hurl from flying horses.

If you flee, to win, Parthia, whatís left for you in defeat?

Mars already has your evil eye.

So the day will be, when you, beautiful one,

golden, will go by, drawn by four snowy horses.

The generals will go before you, necks weighed down with chains,

lest they flee to safety as they did before.

The happy crowd of youths and girls will watch,

that day will gladden every heart.

And if she, among them, asks the name of a king,

what place, what mountains, and what streamís displayed,

you can reply to all, and more if she asks:

and what you donít know, reply as memory prompts.

Thatís Euphrates, his brow crowned with reeds:

thatíll be Tigris with the long green hair.

I make those Armenians, thatís Persiaís Danaan crown:

that was a town in the hills of Achaemenia.

Him and him, theyíre generals: and say what names they have,

if you can, the true ones, if not the most fitting.


Book I Part VII: Thereís always the Dinner-Table


The table laid for a feast also gives you an opening:

Thereís something more than wine you can look for there.

Often rosy Love has clasped Bacchusís horns,

drawing him to his gentle arms, as he lay there.

And when wine has soaked Cupidís drunken wings,

heís stayed, weighed down, a captive of the place.

Itís true he quickly shakes out his damp feathers:

though still the heart thatís sprinkled by love is hurt.

Wine rouses courage and is fit for passion:
care flies, and deep drinking dilutes it.

Then laughter comes, the poor man dons the horns,

then pain and sorrow leave, and wrinkled brows.

Then whatís rarest in our age appears to our minds,

Simplicity: all art dispelled by the god.

Often at that time girls captivated menís wits,

and Venus was in the vine, flame in the fire.

Donít trust the treacherous lamplight overmuch:

night and wine can harm your view of beauty.

Paris saw the goddesses in the light, a cloudless heaven,

when he said to Venus: ĎVenus, you win, over them both.í

Faults are hidden at night: every blemish is forgiven,

and the hour makes whichever girl you like beautiful.

Judge jewellery, and fabric stained with purple,

judge a face, or a figure, in the light.


Book I Part VIII: And Finally Thereís the Beach


Why enumerate every female meeting place fit for the hunter?

The grains of sand give way before the number.

Why speak of Baiae, its shore splendid with sails,

where the waters steam with sulphurous heat?

Here one returning, his heart wounded, said:

ĎThat waterís not as healthy as they claim.í

Behold the suburban woodland temple of Diana,

and the kingdom murder rules with guilty hand.

She, who is virgin, who hates Cupidís darts,

gives people many wounds, has many to give.


Book I Part IX: How To Win Her


So far, riding her unequal wheels, the Muse has taught you

where you might choose your love, where to set your nets.

Now Iíll undertake to tell you what pleases her,

by what arts sheís caught, itself a work of highest art.

Whoever you are, lovers everywhere, attend, with humble minds,

and you, masses, show you support me: use your thumbs.

First let faith enter into your mind: every one of them

can be won: youíll win her, if you only set your snares.

Birds will sooner be silent in the Spring, cicadas in summer,

an Arcadian hound turn his back on a hare,

than a woman refuse a young manís flattering words:

Even she you might think dislikes it, will like it.

Secret loveís just as pleasing to women as men.

Men pretend badly: she hides her desire.

If it was proper for men not to be the first to ask,

womanís role would be to take the part of the asker.

The cow lows to the bull in gentle pastures:

the mare whinnies to the hoofed stallion.

Desire in us is milder and less frantic:

the male fire has its lawful limits.

Remember Byblis, who burned with incestuous love,

for her brother, and bravely punished herself with the noose?

Myrrha loved her father, but not as a daughter should,

and then was hidden by the covering bark:

oozing those tears, that pour from the tree as fragrance,

and whose droplets take their name from the girl.

Once, in the shady valleys of wooded Ida

there was a white bull, glory of the herd,

one small black mark set between his horns:

it the sole blemish, the rest was milky-white.

The heifers of Cnossos and Cydon longed

to have him mount up on their backs.

Pasiphae joyed in adultery with the bull:

she hated the handsome heifers with jealousy.

I sing what is well-known: not even Crete, the hundred-citied,

can deny it, however much Cretans lie.

They say that, with unpractised hands, she plucked

fresh leaves and tenderest grasses for the bull.

She went as one of the herd, unhindered by any care

for that husband of hers: Minos was ousted by a bull.

Why put on your finest clothes, Pasiphae?

Your lover can appreciate none of your wealth.

Why have a mirror with you, when you seek highland cattle?

Why continually smooth your hair, you foolish woman?

But believe the mirror that denies youíre a heifer.

How you wish that brow of yours could bear horns!

If youíd please Minos, donít seek out adulterers:

If you want to cheat your husband, cheat with a man!

The queen left her marriage bed for woods and fields,

like a Maenad roused by the Boeotian god, they say.

Ah, how often, with angry face, she spied a cow,

and said: ĎNow, how can she please my lord?

Look, how she frisks before him in the tender grass:

doubtless the foolish thing thinks that sheís lovely.í

She spoke, and straightaway had her led from the vast herd,

the innocent thing dragged under the arching yoke,

or felled before the altar, forced to be a false sacrifice,

and, delighted, held her rivalís entrails in her hand.

The number of times she killed rivals to please the gods,

and said, holding the entrails: ĎGo, and please him for me!í

Now she claims to be Io, and now Europa,

one whoís a heifer, the other borne by the bull.

Yet he filled her, the king of the herd, deceived

by a wooden cow, and their offspring betrayed its breeding.

If Cretan Aerope had spurned Thyestesís love

(and isnít it hard to forego even one man?),

the Sun would not have veered from his course mid-way,

and turned back his chariot and horses towards Dawn.

The daughter who savaged Nisusís purple lock

presses rabid dogs down with her thighs and groin.

Agamemnon who escaped Mars on land, Neptune at sea,

became the victim of his murderous wife.

Who would not weep at Corinthian Creusaís flames,

and that mother bloodstained by her childrenís murder?

Phoenix, Amyntorís son wept out of sightless eyes:

Hippolytus was torn by his fear-maddened horses.

Phineus, why blind your innocent sons?

That punishment will return on your own head.

All these things were driven by womanís lust:

itís more fierce than ours, and more frenzied.

So, on, and never hesitate in hoping for any woman:

thereís hardly one among them whoíll deny you.

Whether they give or not, theyíre delighted to be asked:

And even if you fail, youíll escape unharmed.

But why fail, when thereís pleasure in new delights

and the more foreign the more they capture the heart?

The seedís often more fertile in foreign fields,

and a neighbourís herd always has richer milk.


Book I Part X: First Secure the Maid


But to get to know your desired-oneís maid

is your first care: sheíll smooth your way.

See if sheís close to her mistressís thoughts,

and has plenty of true knowledge of her secret jests.

Corrupt her with promises, and with prayers:

youíll easily get what you want, if she wishes.

Sheíll tell the time (the doctors would know it too)

when her mistressís mind is receptive, fit for love.

Her mind will be fit for love when she luxuriates

in fertility, like the crop on some rich soil.

When hearts are glad, and nothing sad constrains them,

theyíre open: Venus steals in then with seductive art.

So Troy was defended with sorrowful conflict:

in joy, the Horse, pregnant with soldiers, was received.

Sheís also to be tried when sheís wounded, pained by a rival:

make it your task then to see that sheís avenged.

The maid can rouse her, when she combs her hair in the morning,

and add her oar to the work of your sails,

and, sighing to herself in a low murmur, say:

ĎBut I doubt that youíll be able to make her pay.í

Then she should speak of you, and add persuasive words,

and swear youíre dying, crazed with love.

But hurry, lest the sails fall and the breeze dies:

anger melts away, with time, like fragile ice.

You ask perhaps if one should take the maid herself?

Such a plan brings the greatest risk with it.

In one case, fresh from bed, sheíll get busy, in another be tardy,

in one case youíre a prize for her mistress, in the other herself.

Thereís chance in it: even if it favours the idea,

my advice nevertheless is to abstain.

I donít pick my way over sharp peaks and precipices,

no youth will be caught out being lead by me.

Still, while sheís giving and taking messages,

if her body pleases you as much as her zeal,

make the lady your first priority, her companion the next:

Love should never be begun with a servant.

I warn you of this, if artís skill is to be believed,

and donít let the wind blow my words out to sea:

follow the thing through or donít attempt it:

sheíll endure the whispers once sheís guilty herself.

Itís no help if the bird escapes when its wings are limed:

itís no good if the boar gets free from a loosened net.

Hold fast to the stricken fish youíve caught on the hook:

press home the attempt, donít leave off till youíve won.

Sheíll not give you away, sharing the guilt for the crime,

and youíll know whatever your ladyís done, and said.

But hide it well: if the informerís well hidden,

youíll always secretly know your mistressís mind.


Book I Part XI: Donít Forget Her Birthday!


Itís a mistake to think that only farmers working the fields,

and sailors, need to keep an eye on the season:

Seed canít always be trusted to the furrow,

or a hollow ship to the wine-dark sea,

Itís not always safe to capture tender girls:

often the time itself makes for success.

If her birthdayís here, or the April Kalends,

that delight in joining months, Venusís to Mars,

or if the Circus is decorated, not as before

with clay figurines but with the wealth of kings,

delay the thing: then winterís harsh, the Pleiades are here,

then the tender Kid is merged with the ocean wave:

itís best to hold off then: then he who trusts the deep,

can scarcely save the wreckage of his mangled boat.

Itís fine to start on that day of tears when the Allia

flowed with the blood poured from Roman wounds,

or when the Sabbath day returns, the holy day

of the Syrian Jews, less suitable for buying things.

Let your mistressís birthday be one of great terror to you:

thatís a black day when anything has to be given.

However much you avoid it, sheíll still win: itís

a womanís skill, to strip wealth from an ardent lover.

A loose-robed pedlar comes to your lady: she likes to buy:

and explains his prices while youíre sitting there.

Sheíll ask you to look, because you know what to look for:

then kiss you: then ask you to buy her something there.

She swears that sheíll be happy with it, for years,

but she needs it now, now the price is right.

If you say you havenít the money in the house, sheíll ask

for a note of hand Ė and youíre sorry you learnt to write.

Why - she asks doesnít she for money as if itís her birthday,

just for the cake, and how often it is her birthday, if sheís in need?

Why - she weeps doesnít she, mournfully, for a sham loss,

that imaginary gem that fell from her pierced ear?

They many times ask for gifts, they never give in return:

you lose, and youíll get no thanks for your loss.

And ten mouths with as many tongues wouldnít be enough

for me to describe the wicked tricks of whores.


Book I Part XII: Write and Make Promises


Try wax to pave the way, pour it out on scraped tablets:

let wax be your mindís true confidante.

Bring her your flattering words and play the lover:

and, whoever you are, add a humble prayer.

Achilles was moved by prayer to grant Hectorís body to Priam:

a godís angerís deflected by the voice of prayer.

Make promises: what harm can a promise do?

Anyone can be rich in promises.

Hope lasts, if sheís once believed in,

a useful, though deceptive, goddess.

If youíve given, you can quite reasonably be forgotten:

she carried it off, and now sheís nothing to lose.

But if you donít give, always appear about to:

like barren fields that always cheat the farmer,

like the gambler who goes on losing, lest heís finally lost,

and calls the dice back endlessly into his eager hand.

This is the work, the labour, to have her without giving first:

and sheíll go on giving, lest she lose what sheís freely given.

So go on, and send your letterís flattering words,

try her intention, test the road out first.

Cydippe was deceived by the message the apple brought,

and unaware the girl by her own words was caught.

I warn you, youths of Rome, learn the noble arts,

not just to defend some trembling client:

like the crowd, the grave judge, the elected senate,

a woman will give her hand, won by eloquence.

But let your powers be hidden, donít display your eloquence:

let irksome words vanish from your speech.

Who, but a mindless fool, declaims to his sweet friend?

A strong letter often causes her displeasure.

Let your speech be credible, use ordinary words,

flattering though, speak as if you were present.

If she wonít receive the letter, returns it un-read,

stick to your plan, and hope sheíll read it later.

In time stubborn oxen come to the plough,

in time the horse learns to suffer the bridle:

constant use wears away an iron ring,

the curved ploughís lost to the endless furrow.

Whatís harder than stone, softer than water?

Yet soft water carves the hardest stone.

Once steadfast youíll conquer Penelope herself in time:

youíll see Troy captive, though itís captured late.

She reads and wonít reply? Donít press her:

just let her keep on reading your flattery.

If she wants to read, sheíll want to answer what sheís read:

such things proceed by number and by measure.

Perhaps at first a cool letter comes to you,

asking: would you please not trouble her.

What she asks, she fears: what she doesnít ask, she wants,

that you go on: do it, and youíll soon get what you wish.


Book I Part XIII: Be Where She Is


Meanwhile, if sheís being carried, reclining on her bed,

secretly approach your ladyís litter,

and to avoid offering your words to odious ears,

hide what you can with skill and ambiguous gestures.

If sheís wandering at leisure in the spacious Colonnade,

you join here there also, lingering, as a friend:

now make as if to lead the way, now drop behind,

now go on quickly, and now take it slow:

donít be ashamed to slip amongst the columns,

a while, then move along side by side:

donít let her sit all beautiful in the theatre row without you:

what youíll look at is the way she holds her arms.

Gaze at her, to admire her is fine:

and to speak with gestures and with glances.

And applaud, the man who dances the girlís part:

and favour anyone who plays a lover.

When she rises, rise: while sheís sitting, sit:

pass the time at your ladyís whim.


Book I Part XIV: Look Presentable


Donít delight in curling your hair with tongs,

donít smooth your legs with sharp pumice stone.

Leave that to those who celebrate Cybele the Mother,

howling wildly in the Phrygian manner.

Male beautyís better for neglect: Theseus

carried off Ariadne, without a single pin in his hair.

Phaedra loved Hippolytus: he was unsophisticated:

Adonis was dear to the goddess, and fit for the woods.

Neatness pleases, a body tanned from exercise:

a well fitting and spotless togaís good:

no stiff shoe-thongs, your buckles free of rust,

no sloppy feet for you, swimming in loose hide:

donít mar your neat hair with an evil haircut:

let an expert hand trim your head and beard.

And no long nails, and make sure theyíre dirt-free:

and no hairs please, sprouting from your nostrils.

No bad breath exhaled from unwholesome mouth:

donít offend the nose like a herdsman or his flock.

Leave the rest for impudent women to do,

or whoeverís the sort of man who needs a man.


Book I Part XV: At Dinner Be Bold


Ah, Bacchus calls to his poet: he helps lovers too,

and supports the fire with which he is inflamed.

The frantic Cretan girl wandered the unknown sands,

that the waters of tiny sea-borne Dia showed.

Just as she was, from sleep, veiled by her loose robe,

barefoot, with her yellow hair unbound,

she called, for cruel Theseus, to the unhearing waves,

her gentle cheeks wet with tears of shame.

She called, and wept as well, but both became her,

she was made no less beautiful by her tears.

Now striking her sweet breast with her hands, again and again,

she cried: ĎThat faithless manís gone: what of me, now?

What will happen to me?í she cried: and the whole shore

echoed to the sound of cymbals and frenzied drums.

She fainted in terror, her next words were stifled:

no sign of blood in her almost lifeless body.

Behold! The Bacchantes with loose streaming hair:

Behold! The wanton Satyrs, a crowd before the god:

Behold! Old Silenus, barely astride his swaybacked mule,

clutching tightly to its mane in front.

While he pursues the Bacchae, the Bacchae flee and return,

as the rascal urges the mount on with his staff.

He slips from his long-eared mule and falls headfirst:

the Satyrs cry: ĎRise again, father, rise,í

Now the God in his chariot, wreathed with vines,

curbing his team of tigers, with golden reins:

the girlís voice and colour and Theseus all lost:

three times she tried to run, three times fear held her back.

She shook, like a slender stalk of wheat stirred by the wind,

and trembled like a light reed in a marshy pool.

To whom the god said: ĎSee, I come, more faithful in love:

have no fear: Cretan, youíll be bride to Bacchus.

Take the heavens for dowry: be seen as heavenly stars:

and guide the anxious sailor often to your Cretan Crown.í

He spoke, and leapt from the chariot, lest she feared

his tigers: the sand yielded under his feet:

clasped in his arms (she had no power to struggle),

he carried her away: allís easily possible to a god.

Some sing ĎO Hymenaeusí, some ĎBacchus, euhoe!í

So on the sacred bed the god and his bride meet.

When Bacchusís gifts are set before you then,

and you find a girl sharing your couch,

pray to the father of feasts and nocturnal rites

to command the wine to bring your head no harm.

Itís alright here to speak many secret things,

with hidden words sheíll feel were spoken for her alone:

and write sweet nothings in the film of wine,

so your girl can read them herself on the table:

and gaze in her eyes with eyes confessing fire:

you should often have silent words and speaking face.

Be the first to snatch the cup that touched her lips,

and where she drank from, that is where you drink:

and whatever food her fingers touch, take that,

and as you take it, touch hers with your hand.

Let it be your wish besides to please the girlís husband:

itíll be more useful to you to make friends.

If you cast lots for drinking, give him the better draw:

give him the garland you were crowned with.

Though heís below you or beside you, let him always be served first:

donít hesitate to second whatever he says.

Itís a safe well-trodden path to deceive in a friendís name,

though itís a safe well-trodden path, itís a crime.

That way the procurer procures far too much,

and reckons to see to more than he was charged with.

Youíll be given sure limits for drinking by me:

so pay attention to your mind and feet.

Most of all beware of starting a drunken squabble,

and fists far too ready for a rough fight.

Eurytion the Centaur died, made foolish by the wine:

food and drink are fitter for sweet jests.

If youíve a voice, sing: if your limbs are supple, dance:

and please, with whatever you do thatís pleasing.

And though drunkenness is harmful, itís useful to pretend:

make your sly tongue stammer with lisping sounds,

then, whatever you say or do that seems too forward,

it will be thought excessive wineís to blame.

And speak well of your lady, speak well of the one she sleeps with:

but silently in your thoughts wish the man ill.

Then when the tableís cleared, the guests are free,

the throng will give you access to her and room.

Join the crowd, and softly approach her,

let fingers brush her thigh, and foot touch foot.

Nowís the time to speak to her: boorish modesty

fly far from here: Chance and Venus help the daring.

Not from my rules your eloquence will come:

desire her enough, youíll be fluent yourself.

Yourís to play the lover, imitate wounds with words:

use whatever skill you have to win her belief.

Donít think itís hard: each thinkís herself desired:

the very worst takeís pleasure in her looks.

Yet often the imitator begins to love in truth,

often, what was once imagined comes to be.

O, be kinder to the ones who feign it, girls:

true love will come, out of what was false.

Now secretly surprise her mind with flatteries,

as clear water undermines the hanging bank.

Never weary of praising her face, her hair,

her elegant fingers, and her slender feet.

Even the chaste like their beauty to be commended:

her form to even the virginís pleasing and dear.

Why is losing the contest in the Phrygian woods

a cause of shame to Juno and Pallas still?

Junoís peacock shows his much-praised plumage:

if you watch in silence, heíll hide his wealth again.

Race-horses between races on the testing course,

love it when necks are patted, manes are combed.


Book I Part XVI: Promise and Deceive


Donít be shy of promising: promises entice girls:

add any gods you like as witness to what you swear.

Jupiter on high laughs at loversí perjuries,

and orders Aeolusís winds to carry them into the void.

Jupiter used to swear by the Styx, falsely, to Juno:

now he looks favourably on his own example.

Gods are useful: as theyíre useful, letís think theyíre there:

take wine and incense to the ancient altars:

indifferent calm and itís like, apathy, donít chain them:

live innocently: the divine is close at hand:

pay what you owe, hold dutifully to agreements:

commit no fraud: let your hands be free from blood.

Delude only women, if youíre wise, with impunity:

where truthís more to be guarded against than fraud.

Deceive deceivers: for the most part an impious tribe:

let them fall themselves into the traps theyíve set.

They say in Egypt the life-giving waters failed

in the fields: and there were nine years of drought,

then Thrasius came to Busiris, and said that Jove

might be propitiated by shedding a strangerís blood.

Busiris told him: ĎYou become Joveís first victim,

and you be the stranger to give Egypt water.í

And Phalaris roasted impetuous Perillusís body

in the brazen bull: the unhappy creator was first to fill his work.

Both cases were just: for thereís no fairer law

than that the murderous maker should perish by his art.

As liars by liars are rightfully deceived,

wounded by their own example, let women grieve.


Book I Part XVII: Tears, Kisses, and Take the Lead


And tears help: tears will move a stone:

let her see your damp cheeks if you can.

If tears (they donít always come at the right time)

fail you, touch your eyes with a wet hand.

What wise man doesnít mingle tears with kisses?

Though she might not give, take what isnít given.

Perhaps sheíll struggle, and then say Ďyouíre wickedí:

struggling she still wants, herself, to be conquered.

Only, take care her lips arenít bruised by snatching,

and that she canít complain that you were harsh.

Who takes a kiss, and doesnít take the rest,

deserves to lose all that were granted too.

How much short of your wish are you after that kiss?

Ah me, that was boorishness stopped you not modesty.

Though you call it force: itís force that pleases girls: what delights

is often to have given what they wanted, against their will.

She who is taken in loveís sudden onslaught

is pleased, and finds wickedness is a tribute.

And she who might have been forced, and escapes unscathed,

will be saddened, though her face pretends delight.

Phoebe was taken by force: force was offered her sister:

and both, when raped, were pleased with those who raped them.

Though the taleís known, itís still worth repeating,

how the girl of Scyros mated Achilles the hero.

Now the lovely goddess had given her fatal bribe

to defeat the other two beneath Idaís slopes:

now a daughter-in-law had come to Priam

from an enemy land: a Greek wife in Trojan walls:

all swore the prescribed oath to the injured husband:

now one manís grief became a nationís cause.

Shamefully, though he gave way to a motherís prayer,

Achilles hid his manhood in womenís clothes.

Whatís this, Aeacides? Spinningís not your work:

your search for fameís through Pallasís other arts.

Why the basket? Your armís meant to bear a shield:

why does the hand that will slay Hector hold the yarn?

Throw away the spindle wound laboriously with thread!

The spear from Pelionís to be brandished by this hand.

By chance a royal virgin shared the room:

through her rape she learned he was a man.

That she was truly won by force, we must think:

but she still wanted to be won by force.

She often cried: ĎStop!í afterwards, when Achilles hurried on:

now heíd taken up stronger weapons than the distaff.

Whereís that force now? Why do you restrain

the perpetrator of your rape, Deidamia?

No doubt as thereís a sort of shame in having started first,

so itís pleasant to have what someone else has started.

Ah! The youth has too much faith in his own beauty,

if he waits until she asks him first.

The man must approach first: speak the words of entreaty:

she courteously receives his flattering prayers.

To win her, ask her: she only wants to be asked:

give her the cause and the beginning of your longing.

Jupiter went as a suppliant to the heroines of old:

no woman ever seduced great Jupiter.

If you find she disdains the advent of your prayerful sighs,

leave off what youíve begun, retrace your steps.

What shuns them, they desire the more: they hate whatís there:

remove her loathing by pursuing less.

The hoped-for love should not always be declared:

introduce desire hidden in the name of friendship.

Iíve seen the most severe of women fooled this way:

he who once was a worshipper, became a lover.


Book I Part XVIII: Be Pale: Be Wary of Your Friends


A pale colour would shame a sailor on the ocean wave,

whoís blackened by the rays of the sun:

and shame the farmer who turns the soil with curved plough

and heavy harrow, underneath the heavens.

And you who seek the athleteís crown, you too

would be ashamed if all your body was white.

Let all lovers be pale: itís the colour fitting for love:

it suits, though fools have thought it of no value.

Orion wandered pale, for Side, in the woods,

Daphnis was pale for his reluctant Naiad.

Let your leanness show your heart: donít think it a shame

to slip a cape over your shining hair:

Let youthful limbs be worn away by sleepless nights

and care, and the grief of a great love.

To gain your desire, be miserable,

and those who see you can say ĎYouíre in love.í

Should I lament, warn you perhaps that right and wrong

are confused by all? Friendship and loyalty empty words.

Ah me, itís not safe to praise your love to a friend:

if he believes your praise, heíll steal her himself.

But Patroclus never disgraced Achillesís bed:

and how modest Phaedra was with Pirithous.

Pylades loved Hermione, just as Phoebus Pallas,

or as Castor was twin to you Pollux.

Who hopes for that, hopes for apple-bearing tamarisks,

and looks for honey in the middle of the stream.

All delight in whatís shameful: care only for their pleasures,

and are pleased too when trouble comes to others.

Ah itís a crime! Itís not their rivals that lovers fear:

flee those you think are friends, and youíll be safe.

Beware of brothers, relatives, and dear friends:

that crowd offers you true cause for fear.


Book I Part XIX: Be Flexible


Iíve done, but thereís diversity in womenís

hearts: a thousand minds require a thousand methods.

One soil doesnít bear all crops: vines here

are good, olives there: this teems with healthy wheat.

There are as many manners of heart as kinds of face:

a wise man will adapt to many forms,

and like Proteus now, melt into the smooth waters,

now be a tree, now a lion, now a bristling boar.

These fish are speared, those caught on a hook:

others trawled in billowing nets with straining ropes.

One mode wonít suit you for every age-group:

the older hinds spot a trap from further off.

If the simple find you cunning, and the modest crude,

the poor things will straightaway mistrust themselves.

So it happens that she who fears to trust an honest man,

falls to the embrace of some low rascal.

Part of my task is left: part of the labourís done.

Moor my boat here to the anchor-chains.


End of Book I