You, who in Cupid's roll inscribe your name,
First seek an object worthy of your flame;1
Then strive, with art, your lady's mind to gain;
And last, provide your love may long remain.
On these three precepts all my work shall move:
These are the rules and principles of love.
Before your youth with marriage is oppress't,2
Make choice of one who suits your humour best
And such a damsel drops not from the sky;
She must be sought for with a curious eye.
The wary angler, in the winding brook,
Knows what the fish, and where to bait his hook.
The fowler and the huntsman know by name
The certain haunts and harbour of their game.
So must the lover beat the likeliest grounds;
Th' Assemblies where his quarries most abound:
Nor shall my novice wander far astray;
These rules shall put him in the ready way.
Thou shalt not fail around the continent,
As far as Perseus or as Paris went:
For Rome alone affords thee such a store,
As all the world can hardly shew thee more.
The face of heav'n with fewer stars is crown'd,
Than beauties in the Roman sphere are found.
Whether thy love is bent on blooming youth,
On dawning sweetness, in unartful truth;
Or courts the juicy joys of riper growth;
Here may'st thou find thy full desires in both:
Or if autumnal beauties please thy sight
(An age that knows to give and take delight;)
Millions of matrons, of the graver sort,
In common prudence, will not balk the sport.
In summer's heats thou need'st but only go
To Pompey's cool and shady portico;3
Or Concord's fane; or that proud edifice
Whose turrets near the bawdy suburbs rise;
Or to that other portico, where stands
The cruel father urging his commands.
And fifty daughters wait the time of rest,
To plunge their poniards in the bridegroom's breast.
Or Venus' temple; where, on annual nights,
They mourn Adonis with Assyrian rites.4
Nor shun the Jewish walk, where the foul drove
On sabbaths rest from everything but love.5
Nor Isis' temple; for that sacred whore
Makes others, what to Jove she was before;6
And if the hall itself be not belied,
E'en there the cause of love is often tried;
Near it at least, or in the palace yard,
From whence the noisy combatants are heard.
The crafty counsellors, in formal gown,7
There gain another's cause, but lose their own.
Their eloquence is nonpluss'd in the suit;
And lawyers, who had words at will, are mute.
Venus from her adjoining temple smiles
To see them caught in their litigious wiles;
Grave senators lead home the youthful dame,8
Returning clients when they patrons came.
But above all, the Playhouse is the place;9
There's choice of quarry in that narrow chace:
There take thy stand, and sharply looking out,
Soon may'st thou find a mistress in the rout,
For length of time or for a single bout.
The Theatres are berries for the fair;
Like ants or mole-hills thither they repair;
Like bees to hives so numerously they throng,
It may be said they to that place belong:
Thither they swarm who have the public voice;
There choose, if plenty not distracts thy choice.
To see, and to be seen, in heaps they run;
Some to undo, and some to be undone.