What you say, Olympicus, said Soclarus interposing, befits wrestlers indeed; it smells, methinks, of their cottabus, and their meals of flesh and casks of wine, but is not suitable to the present company, for there are some young married men here,
Whose duty 'tis to follow Venus' sports.Nay, we ourselves seem to have some relation to Venus still, when in our hymns to the Gods we pray thus to her,
Fair Venus, keep off feeble age.But waving this, let us enquire (if you think fit) whether Epicurus does well, when contrary to all right and equity he separates Venus and the Night, though Menander, a man well skilled in love matters, says that she likes her company better than that of any of the Gods. For, in my opinion, night is a very convenient veil, spread over those that give themselves to that kind of pleasure; for it is not fit that day should be the time, lest modesty should be banished from our eyes, effeminacy grow bold, and such vigorous impressions on our memories be left, as might still possess us with the same fancies and raise new inclinations. For the sight (according to Plato) receives a more vigorous impression than any other bodily organ, and joining with imagination, that lies near it, works presently upon the soul, and ever raises a new and fresh desire by those images of pleasure which it brings. But the night, hiding many and the most furious of the actions, quiets and lulls nature, and doth not suffer it to be carried to intemperance by the eye. But besides this, how absurd is it, that a man returning from an entertainment, merry perhaps and jocund, crowned and perfumed, should cover himself up, [p. 278] turn his back to his wife, and go to sleep; and then at day-time, in the midst of his business, send for her out of her apartment to come to him for such a matter; or in the morning, as a cock treads his hens. No, sir, the evening is the end of our labor, and the morning the beginning. Bacchus the Loosener and Terpsichore and Thalia preside over the former; and the latter raiseth us up betimes to attend on Minerva the Work-mistress, and Mercury the merchandiser. And therefore songs, dances, and epithalamiums, merry-meetings, with balls and feasts, and sounds of pipes and flutes, are the entertainment of the one; but in the other, nothing but the noise of hammers and anvils, the scratching of saws, the morning cries of noisy tax-gatherers, citations to court or to attend this or that prince and magistrate, are heard.
Then all the sports of pleasure disappear,Besides, Homer makes not one of the heroes lie with his wife or mistress in the daytime, but only Paris, who, having shamefully fled from the battle, sneaked into the embraces of his wife; intimating that such lasciviousness by day did not befit the sober temper of a man, but the mad lust of an adulterer. But, moreover, the body will not (as Epicurus fancies) be injured more after supper than at any other time, unless a man be drunk or overcharged,—for in those cases, no doubt, it is very dangerous and hurtful. But if a man is only raised and cheered, not overpowered by liquor, if his body is pliable, his mind agreeing, if he interposes some reasonable time between, and then he sports, he need not fear any disturbance from the load he has within him; he need not fear catching cold, or too great a transportation of atoms, which Epicurus makes the cause of all the ensuing harm. For if he lies quiet he will quickly fill again, and new spirits will supply the vessels [p. 279] that are emptied. But this is especially to be taken care of, that, the body being then in a ferment and disturbed, no cares of the soul, no business about necessary affairs, no labor, should distract and seize it, lest they should corrupt and sour its humors, Nature not having time enough for settling what has been disturbed. For, sir, all men have not the command of that happy ease and tranquillity which Epicurus's philosophy procured him; for many great incumbrances seize almost upon every one every day, or at least some disquiets; and it is not safe to trust the body with any of these, when it is in such a condition and disturbance, presently after the fury and heat of the embrace is over. Let, according to his opinion, the happy and immortal Deity sit at ease and never mind us; but if we regard the laws of our country, we must not dare to enter into the temple and offer sacrifice, if but a little before we have done any such thing. It is fit therefore to let night and sleep intervene, and after there is a sufficient space of time past between, to rise as it were pure and new, and (as Democritus was wont to say) ‘with new thoughts upon the new day.’
Then Venus, then gay youth removes;
No Thyrsus then which Bacchus loves;
But all is clouded and o'erspread with care.