IF there be anyone among you who is ignorant of the art of loving, let him read this poem and, having read it and acquired the knowledge it contains, let him address himself to Love.
By art the swift ships are propelled with sail and oar; there is art in driving the fleet chariots, and Love should by art be guided. Automedon was a skilled charioteer and knew how to handle the flowing reins; Tiphys was the pilot of the good ship Argo. I have been appointed by Venus as tutor to tender Love. I shall be known as the Tiphys and Automedon of Love. Love is somewhat recalcitrant and ofttimes refuses to do my bidding; but ’tis a boy, and boys are easily moulded. Chiron brought up the boy Achilles to the music of the lyre, and by that peaceful art softened his wild nature; he, before whom his enemies were destined so oft to tremble, who many a time struck terror even into his own companions was, so ’tis said, timid and submissive in the presence of a feeble old man, obedient to his master’s voice, and held out to him for chastisement those hands whereof Hector was one day destined to feel the weight. Chiron was tutor to Achilles; I am tutor to Love; both of them formidable youngsters, both of them goddess-born. But the fiery bull has to submit to the yoke; the mettled steed vainly champs at the curb that masters him. I, too, will bring Love to heel, even though his arrows pierce my breast and he brandish over my head his flaming torch. The keener his arrows, the fiercer his fires, the more they stir me to avenge my wounds.
I shall not try, O Apollo, to convey the notion that it was from thee I learned the art which I impart; no birds came and sang it in my ear. Clio and her sisters appeared not to me, grazing my herds, O Ascra, in thy vales. Experience is my guide; give ear to the adept; true are the things I sing. Mother of Love, smile on my undertaking.
Hence, ye narrow frontlets, insignia of chastity, and ye trailing robes that half conceal the feet. I sing of love where danger is not; I sing permitted pilferings; free of all offence my verses are.
You, who for the first time are taking up arms beneath the standard of Venus, find out, in the first place, the woman you are fain to love. Your next task will be to bend her to your will; your third to safeguard that your love shall endure. This is my plan, my syllabus. This is the course my chariot will pursue; such is the goal that it will endeavour to attain.
Now, that you still are fancy-free, now is the time for you to choose a woman and say to her: “You are the only woman that I care for.” She’s not going to be wafted down to you from heaven on the wings of the wind. You must use your own-eyes to discover the girl that suits you. The hunter knows where to spread his nets in order to snare the stag; he knows the valley where the wild boar has his lair. The birdcatcher knows where he should spread his lime; and the fisherman, what waters most abound in fish. And thou who seekest out the object of a lasting love, learn to know the places which the fair ones most do haunt. You won’t have to put to sea in order to do that, or to undertake any distant journeys. Perseus may bring home his Andromeda from sun-scorched India, and the Phrygian swain may go to Greece to bear away his bride; Rome alone will give you a choice of such lovely women, and so many of them, that you will be forced to confess that she
gathers within her own bosom all the treasures that the world can show. As numerous as the ears of corn on Gargarus, grapes in Methymna, fish in the ocean, birds in the thickets, stars in the heavens, so numerous are the beautiful girls you’ll find in Rome: Venus has made her seat of empire the city of her beloved Æneas.
If your. tastes incline to a young beauty, in the very flower of girlhood, a really inexperienced girl will offer herself to your gaze; if you prefer one rather more mature, there are hundreds of young women who will take your fancy: ’twill be a veritable embarras de richesses. But perhaps you would rather have someone still older, still more experienced. In that case you’ve got a yet larger number to choose from. When the sun begins to enter the sign of the Lion, you’ve only got to take a stroll beneath the cool shade of Pompey’s portico, or near that building adorned with foreign marbles erected by a loving mother who united her offerings to those of a dutiful son. Omit not to visit that portico which, adorned with ancient pictures, is called the portico of Livia, after its foundress. There you will see the Danaides plotting the death of their unhappy kinswomen, and their fell sire grasping in his hand a naked sword. And do not miss the festival of Adonis, mourned of Venus, and the rites celebrated every seventh day by the Syrian Jews.
Shun not the Temple of the Cow of Memphis, who persuades so many women to play the part she played to Jupiter. Even the Forum, strange though it sound, is propitious to love-making. Lawyers are by no means proof against the fiery shafts of Love. Hard by the marble temple sacred to Venus, where play the waters of the Appian fount, many an advocate has fallen a victim to the snares of Love; for the man who defends his client cannot always defend himself. In such a pass, words sometimes fail even the most learned orator. The tables are turned and he finds himself obliged to plead his own
cause. From her temple close at hand, Venus laughs to see him in such a quandary. A patron but a little while ago, he would now rejoice to be a client.
But it is especially at the theatre you should lay your snares; that is where you may hope to have your desires fulfilled. Here you will find women to your taste: one for a moment’s dalliance, another to fondle and caress, another to have all for your own. Even as the ants that come and go in long battalions with their stores of food, or as the bees, when they have found plants to plunder of their honey, hover hither and thither among the thyme and the flowers, so, and no less numerous, you may see crowds of lovely women, gaily dressed, hastening away to the theatre. I have often found it difficult to choose from such a galaxy. They come to see and, more important still, to be seen! The theatre’s the place where modesty acts a fall.
It was you, Romulus, who first mingled the cares of love with public games, that far-off day when the rape of the Sabine women gave wives to your warriors who had waited for them so long. No curtains then hung in the marble theatre, nor was the stage made red with liquid saffron. In those days branches from the woods of the Palatine were the only adornment of our simple stage. The people sat on seats of turf, their heads canopied with boughs.
As soon as he had sat him down, each Roman looked about, marking the woman whom he most desired, giving free play to the thoughts that surged within him. Whilst to the sound of a rustic pipe an actor strikes his foot three times upon the levelled earth, amid the unforced applause of the expectant throng (for in those days applause was neither bought nor sold), Romulus signed to his men to seize upon their prey. In a trice, with shouts that made their object clear, they laid their eager hands upon the cowering women. Even as the weak and timid doves flee
before an eagle, even as a young lamb quails at the sight of a wolf, so shuddered the Sabine women when they beheld these fierce warriors making towards them. Every one turned pale, terror spread throughout the throng, but it showed itself in different ways. Some tore their hair; some swooned away; some wept in silence; some called vainly for their mothers; some sobbed aloud; others seemed stupefied with fear; some stood transfixed; others tried to flee. Nevertheless, the Romans carry off the women, sweet booty for their beds, and to many of them, terror lends an added charm.
If one shows herself too rebellious and refuses to follow her ravisher, he picks her up and, pressing her lovingly to his bosom, exclaims, “Why with tears do you thus dim the lovely radiance of your eyes? What your father is to your mother, that will I be to you.” O Romulus, you are the only one who has ever known how to reward his soldiers; for such pay, I would willingly enrol myself beneath your banners. Ever since those days, the theatres, faithful to this ancient custom, have always been a dangerous lure to loveliness.
Forget not the arena where mettled steeds strive for the palm of Victory. This circus, where an immense concourse of people is gathered, is very favourable to Love. There, if you would express the secret promptings of your heart, there is no need for you to talk upon your fingers, or to watch for signs to tell you what is in your fair one’s mind. Sit close beside her, as close as you are able; there’s nothing to prevent. The narrowness of the space compels you to press against her and, fortunately for you, compels her to acquiesce. Then, of course, you must think of some means of starting the conversation. Begin by saying the sort of thing people generally do say on such occasions. Some horses are seen entering the stadium; ask her the name of their owner; and whoever she favours, you should follow suit. And when the solemn procession of the country’s gods and goddesses
passes along, be sure and give a rousing cheer for Venus, your protectress. If, as not infrequently befalls, a speck of dust lights on your fair one’s breast, flick it off with an airy finger; and if there’s nothing there, flick it off just the same; anything is good enough to serve as a pretext for paying her attention. Is her dress dragging on the ground? Gather it up, and take special care that nothing soils it. Perchance, to reward you for your kindness, she’ll grant you the favour of letting you see her leg. And then again, you must keep an eye on the people seated in the row behind and see that no one thrusts his knee into her soft shoulders. The merest trifle is enough to win these butterfly ladies. Why, hosts of men have succeeded with a woman merely by the attentive manner in which they have arranged a cushion for her, or fanned her with a fan, or put a stool beneath her dainty feet. Both the circus and the forum afford opportunities for a love-affair. Love often delights to try his strength there, and many a man, who came to see another wounded, finds that he has been pinked himself. While he is talking and stroking her hand, asking for the race-card and, having put his money on, is inquiring what has won, an arrow pierces him before he knows where he is; he heaves a sigh and, instead of being a mere spectator of the combat, he finds himself a victim.
Did we not see this happen quite recently, when Caesar offered us the spectacle of a sea-fight showing the Persian and the Athenian ships in action. Then indeed, from both seas, youths and maidens flocked to see the show and the whole world was gathered within the City. Which of us, in that vast throng, found not a woman worthy of his love; and, alas, how many were tortured by a foreign flame.
But lo, Caesar makes ready to complete the conquest of the world! Ye far-off countries of the East, to our laws shall ye submit; and you, ye arrogant Parthians, shall be punished as ye deserve. Rejoice, shades of Crassus, and
you, ye Roman Eagles, ashamed at your long sojourn in barbarian hands, be of good cheer, your avenger is at hand. Scarce has he essayed to wield his arms, and yet he proves himself a skilful leader. Though he himself is but a boy, he wages a war unsuited to his boyish years. O, ye of little faith, vex not your souls about the age of the gods! Courage in a Caesar does not wait upon the years. Genius divine outpaces time and brooks not the tedium of tardy growth. Hercules was still no more than a child when he ‘crushed the serpents in his baby hands. Even in the cradle he proved himself a worthy son of Jove. And you, Bacchus, still glowing with youthful radiance, how mighty wast thou when India trembled at thy conquering Thyrsi! With the auspices and with the courage of thy sire shalt thou wield thine arms, young Caesar; with the courage and with the auspices of thy sire shalt thou overthrow thine enemies. Such a beginning becomes the name thou bearest. To-day thou art Prince of the Youths; one day thou shalt be Prince of the Elders. Since thou hast brothers, avenge thy slaughtered brethren; and since thou hast a sire, defend thy father’s rights. It is thy father, thy country’s father, who hath armed thee, what time the foe is violently wrestling the sceptre from a parent’s struggling hand. Thy sacred cause shall triumph o’er the perjured foe; justice and piety shall march beneath thy standards. The righteousness of our cause shall overcome the Parthians; arms shall drive the victory home, and so to Latium’s riches, the wealth of the Orient shall my young hero add. Mars, his sire, and thou Caesar, his sire too, a god the one, the other soon a god to be, watch over him and keep him from all harm. I can read the hidden secrets of the future. Aye, thou wilt conquer. I will sing thy glory in verses consecrate to thee; with a loud voice I will sound thy praise. Standing erect will I depict thee, and urging thy warriors to the combat. Grant that my song be not unworthy of the prowess that it celebrates! I
will sing of the Parthian turning to flee, and of the Roman facing the arrows aimed at him by the flying foe. What, Parthian, dost thou leave to the conquered, who seekest victory in flight? Henceforth, for thee Mars forebodeth nought but ill.
That day shall dawn, O fairest of mankind, when, resplendent with gold, by four white horses drawn, thou shalt pass within the City walls. Before thee, laden with chains, shall walk the conquered leaders; nor shall they then, as erst they did, seek safety in flight. Young men and maidens shall with joy behold the sight, and with gladness shall all hearts be filled. Then if some fair one shall ask of thee the name of this or that defeated monarch, what all these emblems mean, what country this, what mountain that, or what that river yonder represents, answer at once, anticipate her questions, speak up with confidence, and even when your mind’s a blank, speak up as if you had the knowledge pat. ” Here’s the Euphrates, with his sedgy crown; and that old fellow there, with sky-blue hair, why, he’s the Tigris; and those? . . hum! . . . well, they’re Armenians. That woman yonder? She is Persia, where the son of Danaë was born. That town till lately rose up amid the vales of Achæmenes. That prisoner there, or that other one yonder? Oh., they are captured generals.” And if you know them, give their names. If you don’t, invent them.
Dinners and banquets offer easy access to women’s favour, and the pleasures of the grape are not the only entertainment you may find there; Love, with rosy cheeks, often presses in her frail hands the amphora of Bacchus. As soon as his wings are drenched with wine, Cupid grows drowsy and stirs not from his place. But anon he’ll be up and shaking the moisture from his wings, and woe betide the man or woman who receives a sprinkling of this burning dew. Wine fills the heart with thoughts of love and makes it prompt to catch on fire. All troubles vanish, put to flight by copious draughts.
[paragraph continues] Then is the time for laughter, the poor man plucks up courage and imagines he’s a millionaire. To the deuce with worries and troubles! Brows unpucker and hearts expand; every tongue’s inspired by frankness, and calls a spade a spade. We’ve often lost our heart to a pretty girl at dinner. Bringing love and wine together is adding fuel to fire indeed. Don’t judge a woman by candle-light, it’s deceptive. If you really want to know what she’s like, look at her by daylight, and when you’re sober. It was broad daylight, and under the open sky, that Paris looked upon the three goddesses and said to Venus, “You are lovelier than your two rivals.” Night covers a multitude of blemishes and imperfections. At night there is no such thing as an ugly woman! If you want to look at precious stones, or coloured cloth, you take them out into the light of day; and it’s by daylight you should judge a woman’s face and figure.
But if I’m to mention all the places favourable to woman-hunting, I might as well attempt to number the sands of the seashore. Of course, there’s Baiæ, with white sails gleaming out in the bay, and its hot sulphur spring. Many a bather, who has gone there for his health, comes away saying, “Those precious baths are not such healthy things as people make out.” Not far from the gates of Rome, behold the temple of Diana shaded by trees, the scene of many a hard-fought contest for the prize of Love. Because she’s a virgin and hates the darts of Love, Diana has inflicted many a wound there, and will inflict many more.
Thus far my Muse, borne in her chariot with wheels of different height, has, told you, would-be lover, where to seek your prey, and how to lay your snares. Now I’ll teach you how to captivate and hold the woman of your choice. This is the most important part of all my lessons. Lovers of every land, lend an attentive ear to my discourse; let goodwill warm your hearts, for I am going to fulfil the promises I made you.
First of all, be quite sure that there isn’t a woman who cannot be won, and make up your mind that you will win her. Only you must prepare the ground. Sooner would the birds cease their song in the springtime, or the grasshopper be silent in the summer, or the hare turn and give chase to a hound of Mænalus, than a woman resist the tender wooing of a youthful lover. Perhaps you think she doesn’t want to yield. You’re wrong. She wants to. in her heart of hearts. Stolen love is just as sweet to women as it is to us. Man is a poor dissembler; woman is much more skilful in concealing her desire. If all the men agreed that they would never more make the first advance, the women would soon be fawning at our feet. Out in the springy meadow the heifer lows with longing for the bull; the mare neighs at the approach of the stallion. With men and women love is more restrained, and passion is less fierce. They keep within bounds. Need I mention Byblis, who burned for her brother with an incestuous flame, and hanged herself to expiate her crime? Or Myrrha, who loved her father, but not as a father should be loved, and now her shame is hidden by the bark of the tree that covered her. O sweetly scented tree, the tears which she distils, to us give perfume and recall the ill-fated maid’s unhappy name.
One day in wood-crowned Ida’s shady vale, a white bull went wandering by. The pride of all the herd was he. Between his horns was just a single spot of black; save for that mark, his body was as white as milk; and all the heifers of Gnossus and of Cydonia sighed for the joy of his caress. Pasiphaë conceived a passion for him and viewed with jealous eye the loveliest among the heifers. There’s no gainsaying it, Crete with her hundred cities, Crete, liar though she be, cannot deny it. ’Tis said that Pasiphaë, with hands unused to undertake such toil, tore from the trees their tenderest shoots, culled from the meadows bunches of sweet grass and hastened to offer them to her beloved bull. Whithersoever he went, she followed him;
nothing would stay her. She recked not of her spouse; the bull had conquered Minos. “What avails it, Pasiphaë, to deck yourself in costly raiment? How can your lover of such riches judge? Wherefore, mirror in hand, dost thou follow the wandering herd up to the mountain top? Wherefore dost thou for ever range thy hair? Look in thy mirror: ’twill tell thee thou art no meet mistress for a bull. Ah, what wouldst thou not have given if Nature had but armed thy brow with horns! If Minos still doth hold a corner in thy heart, cease this adulterous love; or if thou must deceive thy spouse, at least deceive him with a man.” She hearkens not, but, fleeing from his royal couch, she ranges ever on and on, through forest after forest, like to a Bacchante full of the spirit that unceasingly torments her. How often, looking with jealous anger on a heifer, did she exclaim) “How then can she find favour in his sight? See how she prances before him on the green. Fool, she doubtless deems that thus she is lovelier in his eyes.” Then, at her command, the hapless beast is taken from the herd and sent to bow her head beneath the yoke; or else, pretending to offer sacrifice to the gods, she orders her to be slain; at the altar; and then with joy fingers o’er the entrails of her rival. How often, under the guise of one who offers sacrifice, hath she appeased the alleged displeasure of the gods, and waving the bleeding trophies in her hand exclaimed, “Go, get thee to my lover, please him now!” Now she would be Europa; now she would be lo; the one because she was a heifer, the other because a bull bore her on his back. Howbeit, deceived by the image of a cow of maple wood, the king of the herd performed with her the act of love, and by the offspring was the sire betrayed.
Had that other Cretan girl been able to forego her passion for Thyestes (but how hard it is for a woman to love one man alone), Phœbus would not have been compelled to stay his steeds in mid-career, and to have
driven his chariot back again towards the Dawn. The daughter of Nisus, because she had stolen from the father’s head the fatal lock of hair, is evermore beset by ravening dogs. The son of Atreus, though he escaped the perils of the battlefield and the ocean, died beneath the dagger of his cruel spouse. Who has listened to the love story of Creusa? Who has not hated the mad fury of Medea, a mother stained with her children’s blood? Phœnix, the son of Amyntor, wept with his sightless orbs. You, ye steeds, in your terror, tore Hippolytus in pieces. Wherefore, Phineus, didst thou put out the eyes of thy innocent sons? Upon thine own head will that punishment return.
Such are the consequences of woman’s unbridled passion. Fiercer it is than ours, with more of frenzy in it.
Be, then, of good cheer, and never doubt that you will conquer. Not one woman in a thousand will seriously resist. Whether a pretty woman grants or withholds her favours, she always likes to be asked for them. Even if you are repulsed, you don’t run any danger. But why should a woman refuse? People don’t resist the temptation of new delights. We always deem that other people are more fortunate than ourselves. The crop is always better in our neighbour’s field; his cows more rich in milk.
Now the first thing you have to do is to get on good terms with the fair one’s maid. She can make things easy for you. Find out whether she is fully in her mistress’s confidence, and if she knows all about her secret dissipations. Leave no stone unturned to win her over. Once you have her on your side, the rest is easy. Let her watch for a favourable time (that’s a precaution that doctors do not neglect); let her take advantage of the moment when her mistress may more easily be persuaded, when she is more likely to surrender to a lover’s solicitations. At such times, the whole world seems couleur de rose to her; gaiety dances in her eyes as
the golden wheat-ears dance in a fertile field. When the heart is glad, when it is not gripped by sorrow, it opens and expands. Then it is that Love slips gently into its inmost folds. So long as Ilion was plunged in mourning, her warriors kept the Greeks at bay; it was when she was rejoicing and making merry that she received within her walls the fatal horse with its armèd freight. Choose, too, the moment when your charmer is smarting from the insult of a rival; make her see in you a means of wiping off the score. When, in the morning, she is doing her mistress’s hair, let the maid foment her anger, let her press on with sail and oar and, sighing, murmur, “Why not, Madam, pay him out in his own coin?” Then let her talk of you; let her adroitly sing your praises and swear that you, poor fellow, are wildly in love with her. But don’t lose any time, for fear the wind should drop and the sails hang limp. Fragile as ice, a woman’s anger is a transient thing.
“What about the maid herself?” you ask. “Is it well to win her favours first?” Now that’s a ticklish business. Sometimes it stimulates their zeal; sometimes the opposite’s the case. One girl will do her utmost for her mistress, another will want to keep you for herself. The only thing is just to try, and see how it turns out. On the whole, my advice to you is “Don’t.” I shouldn’t risk these steep and dangerous by-ways myself. If you keep with me, you’ll be on the right road. If, however, you are taken with the servant’s charms, if you find her as pretty as she’s zealous, win the mistress first, and afterwards turn your attention to the maid; but don’t begin with her. Only I warn you, if you have any faith in my teaching, if my words are not dispersed by the winds over the seas, don’t make the attempt at all unless you carry it right through. Once she herself is well involved, she won’t give you away. The bird, with its wings well limed, won’t fly far; the boar can’t escape from the nets; once a fish is on the hook, he can’t get away. So my
advice to you is, push your attack well home, and don’t be in a hurry to withdraw your forces when the victory’s won. Thus she’ll be your companion in crime, and she’ll never betray you; she’ll tell you everything you want to know about her mistress. The great thing is to be careful. If you keep your goings-on with the maid quite dark, you’ll hear about everything her mistress does.
Some people think that time and the seasons only concern farmers and seafaring men. They’re wrong. just as there’s a time to sow, and a time to sail, so there’s a time to begin on a pretty girl. Success often depends on your seizing the right moment to open the attack. Keep clear of her birthday, for example, and shun the Kalends of March. Don’t begin when there’s a big show on at the circus. That would prove the winter of your discontent, when the stormy winds would blow, and you’d do well to hold off. If you launch the ship then, you’ll be lucky if you’re washed ashore clinging to a spar. If you want a really good opportunity, wait for the anniversary of the fatal day when Roman blood incarnadined the waters of the Allia, or for that one day out of the seven on which the Syrian Jew will do no manner of work. Above all, don’t go near her on her birthday; or indeed on any day when you’re expected to give a present. However much you try to wriggle out of it, she’ll make you buy her something. A woman always knows how to exploit an ardent lover. Some pedlar fellow will be sure to turn up, and since buying’s a mania with them all, she’ll be sure to find the very things she wants. She’ll ask you to look at ’em; then she’ll kiss you, and say, ” Oh, do buy me that. It’ll last for years; it’s just the very thing I want, and you couldn’t buy me anything I should like more.” It’s no good saying you haven’t got the money on you; she’ll ask you to draw a cheque, and then you’ll curse the day you learned to write. And how many times you’ll have to give her something for her birthday! Every time she wants anything very special, she’ll have a
birthday. And then she’ll come grieving some pretended loss; she’ll come to you with eyes all red with weeping and tell you she’s lost one of her precious ear-rings. That’s the little game they play. Then they’ll keep on asking you to lend them money; and once they’ve got it, I wouldn’t give much for your chances of getting it back. You can look on that as gone, and they won’t give you so much as a “thank you.” Why, if I’d got ten mouths and ten tongues, I couldn’t tell you all the tricks our ladies of the demi-monde get up to.
In the first place, it’s best to send her a letter, just to pave the way. In it you should tell her how you dote on her; pay her pretty compliments and say all the nice things lovers always say. Achilles gave way to Priam’s supplications. Even the gods are moved by the voice of entreaty. And promise, promise, promise. Promises will cost you nothing. Everyone’s a millionaire where promises are concerned. Hope, if only she is duly fostered, holds out a long time. She’s a deceitful goddess, but a very useful one. If you give your mistress something, she may give you your congé. She will have had her quid pro quo. Always make her think you’re just about to give, but never really do so. Thus your farmer will keep on manuring a barren field, hoping it will produce a crop some day. Your gambler will keep throwing good money after bad, in hopes of redeeming all his losses; and thus his greed falls a victim to his hope of gain. The really great problem, the problem that takes all a man’s skill to solve, is to win a woman’s favours without making her a present. If you succeed in that, she will go on giving, so as not to lose the guerdon of the favours she has already bestowed. So send off your letter and couch it in the sweetest terms; it should be a sort of preliminary reconnaissance and pave the way to her heart. A few characters written on an apple led the young Cydippe astray and, when she had read them, the rash girl found she was ensnared by her own words.
Take my advice, my youthful fellow-citizens, and study the fine arts, not only that you may champion the cause of some trembling dependent. The common herd, the austere judge, and those superior people, the senators, are not the only people who are moved by eloquence. But don’t show your hand, and don’t be in too much of a hurry to display your powers of speech. And don’t put on the professorial style. Who but an idiot would write to his mistress as though he were addressing a meeting. A show-off letter will often turn a woman against you. Be quite natural, quite simple, but engaging. In a word, say just what you would say if you were speaking to her. If she refuses your letter and sends it back unread, don’t give up; hope for the best and try again. The unruly bull bows to the yoke in time, and, in time, the most obstreperous colt gets broken in. You can wear through an iron ring by continuous friction; the ploughshare wears away every day against the soil it cleaves. What could you have harder than a rock, or less hard than water? Nevertheless, water will wear away the hardest rock. So keep pegging away, and, given time, you’ll get your way with Penelope herself. Troy held out a long time, but it fell at last. Suppose she reads your letter but doesn’t answer. So be it. Only keep her busy reading. Since she has condescended to read, she’ll answer some fine day. Everything comes gradually and at its appointed hour. Peradventure she’ll write in a huff and tell you to cease annoying her. If she does, she’s trembling lest you take her at her word. She wants you to go on, although she tells you not to. So go on, and soon you’ll have your heart’s desire.
If you see your mistress being borne along on her litter, go up to her as if by accident, and say what you’ve got to say in vague ambiguous language, for fear some busybody should be listening. If you see her hanging about under some portico, as if she didn’t know what to do with herself, go and walk there too. Sometimes get
in front of her, and sometimes drop behind. Don’t be bashful about getting clear of the crowd and crossing over to her side. Don’t, on any account, let her go to the theatre, looking her loveliest, without your being there to see. Her bare shoulders will give you something charming to contemplate. And you can look at her and admire her at your leisure; and speak to her with eyes and gestures. Applaud the actor that plays the girl’s part; applaud still more the man that plays the lover. If she stands up, stand up too; and while she is sitting, keep your seat; don’t worry about the time, squander it as your mistress may require.
And don’t, for heaven’s sake, have your hair waved, or use powder on your skin. Leave such foppishness as that to the effeminate priests who wail their Phrygian chants in honour of Cybele. Simplicity in dress is what best befits a man. Theseus conquered Ariadne without troubling about the way his hair was done. Phædra fell in love with Hippolytus, who certainly was not a dandy. Adonis, a simple woodlander, was the idol of a goddess. Study to be clean, let your skin be tanned in the open air, wear well-cut clothes, and see there are no spots on them. Have a clean tongue, and let your teeth be free from tartar; and don’t slop about in boots that are two or three sizes too big for you.
Don’t let your hair stick up in tufts on your head; see that your hair and your beard are decently trimmed. See also that your nails are clean and nicely filed; don’t have any hair growing out of your nostrils; take care that your breath is sweet, and don’t go about reeking like a billy-goat. All other toilet refinements leave to the women or to perverts.
But lo, Bacchus is summoning his bard; propitious to lovers, he fosters the fires with which he is consumed himself. Ariadne was wandering distraught along the lonely wave-beaten shores of Naxos. Scarce had sleep departed from her eyes, and she wore but an airy shift;
her feet were bare and her fair tresses were blowing about her shoulders. To the heedless billows she was crying wildly for her Theseus, and tears flowed in torrents down her cheeks. She cried aloud and wept at the same time. But both enhanced her beauty. “Oh, the faithless one,” she cried, beating her tender bosom again and again, “he has abandoned me. Oh, what will become of me! What will be my fate!” She spake. And on a sudden, drums and cymbals beaten and tossed by frenzied hands resounded along the shore. Stricken with terror, she fell gasping out a few broken words, and the blood faded from her lifeless corpse. But lo, the Mænads, with their hair floating wildly out behind them, and the light-footed Satyrs, the rout that leads the procession of Apollo, came upon the scene. Behold, old Silenus, reeling-ripe as usual, who can scarce keep his seat on the ass that staggers beneath the heavy burden. He pursues the Mænads, who flee from him and mock him as they flee, and as he belabours his long-eared beast with his staff, the unskilful cavalier tumbles head-foremost from his steed. And all the Satyrs shout, “Up with you, old man Silenus, up with you again!”
Meanwhile from his lofty chariot with vine branches all bedecked, the god, handling the golden reins, drives on his team of tigers. The girl, in losing Theseus, had lost her colour and her voice. Thrice she attempted flight, thrice did fear paralyse her steps; she shuddered, she trembled like the tapering stem or the slender reed that sways at the slightest breath. “Banish all thy fears,” cried the god. “In me thou findest a tenderer, more faithful lover than Theseus. Daughter of Minos, thou shalt be the bride of Bacchus. Thy guerdon shall be a dwelling in the sky; thou shalt be a new star and thy bright diadem shall be a guide to the pilot uncertain of his course.” So saying he leapt from his chariot lest his tigers should affright her. The sand yielded beneath his feet. Clasping to his breast the swooning, unresisting
girl, he bore her away. For a god may do as he wills, and who shall say him nay. Then some sang Hymenæe! and some Evion Evoë! and to these strains the god and his bride consummated their spousals on the sacred couch.
When, then, you find yourself at a feast where the wine is flowing freely, and where a woman shares the same couch with you, pray to that god whose mysteries are celebrated during the night, that the wine may not overcloud thy brain. ’Tis then thou mayest easily hold converse with thy mistress in hidden words whereof she will easily divine the meaning. A drop of wine will enable you to draw sweet emblems on the table wherein she will read the proof of the love you have for her. Fix well thine eyes on her and so confirm the message of thy love. Ofttimes, without a word being spoken, the eyes can tell a wondrous tale. When she has drunk, be thou the first to seize the cup, and where her lips have touched, there press thine own and drink. Choose thou the dainties that her fingers have lightly touched, and as thou reachest for them, let thy hand softly encounter hers.
Be courteous to her husband too. Nothing could better serve your plans than to be in his good graces. If, when the dice are thrown, chance crowns thee king of the feast, yield him the honour; take off thy wreath and place it on his brow. Whether he be thy equal or inferior matters not. Let him be served the first, and flatter him in everything you say. The surest and most common means to success is to deceive him under the cloak of friendship. But though ’tis sure and common, ’tis none the less a crime. Sometimes in love the ambassador goes too far and doth exceed the terms of his mandate.
Now I will lay down the limits thou shouldst observe in drinking: never drink enough to cloud your brain or make your gait unsteady; avoid the quarrels that are born of wine and be not prompt to take offence. Follow
not the example of Eurytion, who, like a fool, gave up the ghost because he had drunk too much. The food and the wine should inspire a gentle gaiety. If you have a voice, sing; and if your limbs are supple, dance; in short, do everything you can to make a good impression. Downright drunkenness is a loathsome thing; simulated inebriety may serve a useful purpose. Let your tongue falter with a cunning stammer; pretend it’s difficult for you to pronounce your words, so that whatever you do or say a little on the risky side may be put down to the fact that you’ve had too much liquor. Drink to your mistress, and do it openly, and drink to the man that shares her bed-and, under your breath, curse her lawful spouse. When the guests rise up to go, you’ll have a good chance to get very close to your lady. Mingle in the crowd, contrive to get near her, press her side with your fingers and rub your foot against hers.
And now, we’ll say, you’ve got her to yourself. Now you can talk to her. Avaunt then, rustic modesty! Fortune and Venus favour the brave. Don’t ask me to tell you what to say. just take and begin, the words will come fast enough without your having to search for them. You must play the lover for all you’re worth. Tell her how you are pining for her; do everything you know to win her over. She will believe you fast enough. Every woman thinks herself attractive; even the plainest is satisfied with the charms she deems that she possesses. And, then, how often it has happened that the man who begins by feigning love ends by falling in love in real earnest. Ali, my fair ones, look with indulgent eye on those that give themselves a lover’s airs; the love, now feigned, will soon be love indeed.
By subtle flatteries you may be able to steal into her heart, even as the river insensibly o’erflows the banks which fringe it. Never cease to sing the praises of her face, her hair, her taper fingers and her dainty foot. The coldest beauty is moved by praises of her charms, and
even the innocent and greenest girl takes pride and pleasure in the care of her good looks. If it were not so, wherefore should Juno and Minerva blush even now to have failed to carry off the prize for loveliness, in the woods of Ida? See that peacock there; if you belaud his plumage, he’ll spread his tail with pride; but if in silence you look at him, he’ll never show his treasures. The courser, in the chariot race, is proud of the admiration bestowed on his well-groomed mane and his proudly arched neck. Be not backward in your promises; women are drawn on by promises; and swear by all the gods that you’ll be as good as your word. Jove, from his high abode, looks down and laughs on lovers’ perfidies, and gives them to Æolus for the winds to sport with. Often he swore to Juno by the Styx that he’d be faithful, and he broke his vows. His example should lend us courage.
’Tis well that the gods should exist and well that we should believe in them. Let us bring offerings of wine and frankincense to their immemorial altars. They are not sunk in indolent repose and slothful ease. Live then in innocence, for the gods are omnipresent. Fulfil the trust that has been reposed in you; observe the precepts of religion; have nought to do with fraud; stain not your hands with blood. If you are wise, practise deceit on women alone, for that you may do with impunity; but in all other matters let your word be your bond. Deceive them that are deceivers; women for the most part are a perfidious race; let them fall into the snares which they themselves have prepared. Egypt, so they tell, being deprived of the rains which fertilise its soil, had suffered nine years of continuous drought when Thrasius came to Busiris and announced that Jove could be propitiated by the shedding of a stranger’s blood. “Then,” said Busiris, “thou shalt be the first victim offered to the god; thou shalt be that stranger-guest to whom Egypt shall owe the rain from heaven.” Phalaris, too, caused the ferocious
[paragraph continues] Perillus to be burnt within the brazen bull which he had fashioned, and the ill-fated craftsman was the first to put his handiwork to the proof Both penalties were just; and indeed there is no law more righteous than that the contrivens of death should perish by their own inventions. Wherefore, since a lie should pay for a lie, let woman be deceived and let her blame no one but herself for the treachery whereof she set the example.
Tears, too, are a mighty useful resource in the matter of love. They would melt a diamond. Make a point, therefore, of letting your mistress see your face all wet with tears. Howbeit, if you cannot manage to squeeze out any tears–and they won’t always flow just when you want them to–put your finger in your eyes. What lover of experience does not know how greatly kisses add. cogency to tender speeches? If she refuse to be kissed, kiss her all the same. She may struggle to begin with. “Horrid man!” she’ll say; but if she fights, ’twill be a losing battle. Nevertheless, don’t be too rough with her and hurt her dainty mouth. Don’t give her cause to say that you’re a brute. And if, after you’ve kissed her, you fail to take the rest, you don’t deserve even what you’ve won. What more did you want to come to the fulfilment of your desires? Oh, shame on you! It was not your modesty, it was your stupid clownishness. You would have hurt her in the struggle, you say? But women like being hurt. What they like to give, they love to be robbed of. Every woman taken by force in a hurricane of passion is transported with delight; nothing you could give her pleases her like that. But when she comes forth scathless from a combat in which she might have been taken by assault, however pleased she may try to look, she is sorry in her heart. Phœbe was raped, and so, too, was her sister Elaira; and yet they loved their ravishers not a whit the less.
A well-known story, but one that may well be told again, is that of Achilles and the maid of Scyros. Venus
had rewarded Paris for the homage he had paid to her beauty when at the foot of Mount Ida she triumphed over her two rivals. From a far-off country a new daughter-in-law has come to Priam, and within the walls of Ilion there dwells an Argive bride. The Greeks swore to avenge the outraged husband; for an affront to one was an affront to all. Howbeit, Achilles (shame on him if he had not yielded to a mother’s prayers) had disguised his manhood beneath the garments of a girl. “What dost thou there, descendant of Æacus? Dost thou busy thyself with carding wool? Is that a task for a man? It is by other arts of Pallas that thou shouldst seek for fame. What hast thou to do with work-baskets? Thine arm is made to bear the shield. How comes this distaff in the hand that should lay Hector low? Cast from thee these spindles, and let thy doughty hand brandish a spear from Pelion.” Once chance brought Achilles and the royal maiden together in the same bedchamber, and then the onslaught she underwent swiftly revealed to her the sex of her companion. Doubtless she yielded only to superior force; so we must of course believe; but at least she was not angry that force gained the day. “Stay yet awhile,” she said entreatingly, when Achilles, eager to be gone, had laid aside the distaff to seize his valiant arms. What then has become of this alleged violence? Wherefore, Deidamia, wilt thou retain with pleading tones the author of thy downfall?
True, if modesty does not permit a woman to make the first advance, it nevertheless delights her to yield when her lover takes the initiative. In truth a lover reposes too much confidence in his good looks if he thinks that a woman will be the first to ask. ’Tis for him to begin, for him to entreat her; and to his supplications she will incline her ear. Ask and thou shalt receive; she only waits to be implored. Tell her the cause and origin of your desire. Jove bent the knee to the heroines of old times, and for all his greatness, none ever came of her
own accord to entreat him. If, however, you only get disdain for all your pains, draw back and press your suit no farther. Many women long for what eludes them, and like not what is offered them. Cool off; don’t let her think you too importunate. Do not betray the hope of too swift a victory; let Love steal in disguised as Friendship. I’ve often seen a woman thus disarmed, and friendship ripen into love.
A pale complexion ill becomes a sailor. The rays of the sun and the salt spray should have tanned his features; nor does it suit the husbandman who, with plough or heavy rakes, is for ever turning up the soil in the open air; and ye who strive for the athlete’s crown of olive, it would ill beseem you to have too white a skin. But every lover should be pale; pallor is the symptom of Love, it is the hue appropriate to Love. So, deceived by your paleness, let your mistress be tenderly solicitous for your health. Orion was pale with love when he wandered after Lyrice in the woods of Dirce. Pale, too, was Daphnis for the Naiad that disdained him. Thinness, too, is an index to the feelings; and be not ashamed to veil your shining hair beneath the hood. Sleepless nights make thin a young man’s body. So that thou mayest come to the fruition of your desires, shrink not from exciting pity, that all who behold you may exclaim, “Why, poor wretch, you are in love!” Shall I complain aloud or only whisper it, how virtue is on every side confounded with vice? Friendship and constancy are both but empty names. You cannot with safety tell your friend all the charms of the woman you adore; if he believed what you said of her, he would straightway become your rival. But, you will argue, the grandson of Actor stained not the couch of Achilles; Phædra erred not, at least, not in favour of Pirithoüs; Pylades loved Hermione with a love as chaste as that which Phœbus bore for Pallas, or as the love of Castor and Pollux for their sister Helen. But if you count on miracles like that, you
might as well expect to cull apples from the tamarisk, or to gather honey in the middle of a river. Vice is so inviting, and each man seeks but to gratify his own pleasure. And pleasure is sweetest when ’tis paid for by another’s pain. Shun those men you think you can rely on, and you’ll be safe. Beware alike of kinsman, brother, and dear friend. They are the people who generally make the trouble.
I was on the point of ending here; but let me add that women are things of many moods. You must adapt your treatment to the special case. The same soil is not equally good for everything. This land is good for the vine, and this for olives; and here’s the place for corn. You’ll find as many dispositions in the world as you meet with different figures and faces. A clever man will know how to adapt himself to this diversity of temper and disposition, and suit his conversation to the needs of the hour, even as Proteus, who is now a graceful wave, now a lion, now a tree, and now a boar with bristling hide. It’s the same with fish; some you spear, others you take with the line, and others again in the encircling net. Different methods suit different people. You must vary them according to the age of your mistresses. An old hind will descry your machinations from afar. If you display too much skill to the novice, and too much enterprise to the bashful, you’ll frighten her and put her on her guard. Thus it sometimes happens that a woman, who has feared to yield to the caresses of a man of breeding, will fall into the arms of a worthless knave.
A part of my enterprise is now achieved, though more remains behind. Here then let us heave the anchor and give ourselves a little rest.