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Elegy VIII: He complains that his mistress did not give him a favourable reception.

What coxcomb will in future times think fit
To build in love his fortune on his wit ?
Wealth now is worth, whatever 'twas of old,
And merit valu'd by its weight in gold.
With male and female, this is now the rule,
And he that's poor, of course must be a fool.
The dame to read my am'rous verse delights,
My writings likes, but scorns the man that writes;
They freely on her privacy presume,
And find admittance where I must not come;
Me when she does her haunted house exclude,
To them she's civil, as to me she's rude.
Me she exposes to a thousand harms,
To walk the streets, while they are in her arms.
For whom does she my passion disregard ?
And who has intercepted my reward ?
Why is the beau with so much joy embrac'd ?
His pockets full, it seems, his coat is lac'd:
He won her with his military air
Which cheats as often as it charms the fair.
Could she her longing eyes forbear to fix
On his fine feather, and his coach and six!
Enrich'd by plunder, he could never miss
The favour, who would buy the venal bliss.
No matter how he got his wealth, by war,
And blood: she cares not, if she has her share.
The upstart forward was, 'tis said, in fight,
And in the field of battle made a knight:
But had his honour come without his gold,
His, sure, had been like my reception, cold.
To men of merit how could she be coy,
Yet to a murd'rer prostitute the joy?
That head which lolls upon your panting breast,
Was lately cover'd with a plumy crest.
Can you the bully to your bed admit ?
Are his hard limbs for ladies' dalliance fit ?
His hands in your embrace you'll find embru'd
With clotted, and perhaps with guiltless blood;
How awkward must it be for you to feel,
Near yours, his thigh that late was cas'd with steel
That ring, the token of his pride and state,
Was with a heavy gauntlet hid of late:
Canst thou have commerce with a thing so foul!
Where's now the boasted niceness of thy soul?
What pleasure canst thou in his roughness find?
Thou that wert once the softest of thy kind!
Behold what marks of brutal rage he bears,
And how he's mangled with dishonest scars.
Yet to these scars, dishonest as they are,
His wealth he owes, his fortunes with the fair.
No doubt, he makes a merit of his guilt,
And brags what blood he has in battle spilt.
Fine courtship this, to win a gentle dame;
Thou shar'st his money, and must share his shame.
Me, not the meanest of Apollo's train,
She hates, and I repeat my verse in vain;
I sing before her gate; her gate I find
Is less obdurate than her harden'd mind.
Forbear your songs, Apollo's sons, forbear,
And bend your future thoughts to arms and war.
Instead of inspirations, get commands;
To murder, and to rapine use your hands,
And you with ease reduce the female bands.
Had Homer in the Grecian army serv'd,
We ne'er had heard that he had begg'd, or starv'd.
Of gold the thund'rer show'd the mighty pow'r,
Descending softly thro' the brazen tow'r,
And clasping Danae in a golden show'r.
A thousand bars the virgin fair did hold,
But what are iron bars to bribes of gold?
Against this foe her father could not guard;
Watchmen, and women kept a fruitless ward.
The damsel, who herself before was coy,
Melts at the sight, and meets the dazzling joy.
When peaceful Saturn did heav'n's sceptre sway,
Deep in earth's womb the fatal metal lay;
None then their teeming mother's bowels tore,
In quest of hidden wealth, in various ore;
Fed with the fruits which bounteous nature yields,
In painted gardens, and in golden fields,
From her rich soil are reap'd spontaneous crops,
And from the forest oak sweet honey drops.
No hinds as yet did toil their time away,
Nor with keen clusters wound the parent clay:
As yet no landmark was by lab'rers set,
And none had learned to plough the sea as yet
None as yet knew the use of sails and oars,
Nor ventur'd voyages beyond their shores.
The wit of men the race of men destroys,
And all its pow'rs against itself employs.
How subtle's human nature to contrive
Its proper ruin, and itself deceive!
Why didst thou cities with high walls surround,
Why arms invent thy jarring sons to wound ?
What quarrel hast thou with the sea, and why
Didst thou at first the pathless ocean try ?
Cannot the land content thy restless pride ?
Didst thou with Saturn's sons the whole divide,
Thou wouldst not with three worlds be satisfied.
'Tis strange thy vast ambition did not fly
O'er earth, and sea, and air, and scale the sky;
That man did not aspire to be a god,
And tread the paths by Indian Bacchus trod,
To give his name to some distinguish'd star,
And be what Hercules and Caesar are.
Instead of yellow harvests, now we seek
For solid gold, and thro' earth's entrails break;
The wealth we thus acquire's the soldier's prey,
And dearly for the blood he spills we pay.
The courts deny admittance to the poor,
In vain the needy clients crowd the door;
The judges to the rich decree the cause,
And money only gives their force to laws.
'Tis money makes the judge with looks severe
Insult the poor, and give the rich his ear;
'Tis money buys the title, makes the knight,
And dignifies with quality the cit:
Let money do all this, and more; the bar
Let money govern, and direct the war.
Let peace, as money sets the terms, be made,
But let it not the rights of love invade.
Let us enjoy this privilege at least,
That if we must be poor, we may with love be bless'd:
For now-a-days there's not a dame in town
So coy, but if you've money she's your own.
What tho' her keeper may an Argus be ?
Blind him with money, and he'll nothing see.
What though her husband should by chance be by?
He'll leave the house, let you your money fly.
If there's a god above, to whom belongs
The cause of love, and slighted lovers wrongs,
Revenge the false one's mercenary scorn,
And let ill-gotten pelf to dirt return.

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load focus Latin (R. Ehwald, 1907)
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hide References (3 total)
  • Commentary references to this page (2):
    • John Conington, Commentary on Vergil's Aeneid, Volume 1, 1.48
    • John Conington, Commentary on Vergil's Aeneid, Volume 2, 10.682
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