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Book I

In Cupid's school1, whoe'er would take degree
Must learn his rudiments by reading me,2
Seamen with sailing art their vessels move;
Art guides the chariot: art instructs to love.
Of ships and chariots others know the rule;
But I am master in Love's mighty school.
Cupid indeed is obstinate and wild,
A stubborn god3; but yet the god's a child:
Easy to govern in his tender age,
Like fierce Achilles in his pupilage:
That hero, born for conquest4, trembling stood
Before the centaur, and receiv'd the rod.
As Chiron mollified his cruel mind
With art; and taught his warlike hands to wind
The silver strings of his melodious lyre;5
So love's fair goddess does my soul inspire
To teach her softer arts; to sooth the mind,
And smooth the rugged breasts of human kind.
Yet Cupid and Achilles, each with scorn
And rage were fill'd; and both were goddess-born.6
The bull reclaim'd and yolk'd, the burden draws:7
The horse receives the bit within his jaws.
And stubborn love shall bend beneath my sway,
Tho' struggling oft he tries to disobey.
He shakes his torch, he wounds me with his darts;
But vain his force, and vainer are his arts.
The more he burns my soul, or wounds my sight,
The more he teaches to revenge the spite.
I boast no aid the Delphian god affords,
Nor auspice from the flight of chattering birds,8
Nor Clio, nor her sisters, have I seen,
As Hesiod saw them on the shady green:9
Experience makes my work a truth so tried,
You may believe; and Venus be my guide.10
Far hence ye vestals be, who bind your hair;11
And wives, who gowns below your ancles wear.
I sing the brothels loose and unconfin'd,
Th' unpunishable pleasures of the kind;
Which all alike for love or money find.
You, who in Cupid's roll inscribe your name,
First seek an object worthy of your flame;12
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,13
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;14
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.15
Nor shun the Jewish walk, where the foul drove
On sabbaths rest from everything but love.16
Nor Isis' temple; for that sacred whore
Makes others, what to Jove she was before;17
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,18
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,19
Returning clients when they patrons came.
But above all, the Playhouse is the place;20
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.
From Romulus the rise of plays began,
To his new subjects a commodious man;
Who, his unmarried soldiers to supply,
Took care the commonwealth should multiply;
Providing Sabine women for his braves,
Like a true king, to get a race of slaves.
His playhouse, not of Parian marble made,
Nor was it spread with purple sails for shade;
The stage with rushes or with leaves they strew'd;21
No scenes in prospect, no machining god.
On rows of homely turf they sat to see,
Crown'd with the wreaths of ev'ry common tree.
There, while they sit in rustic majesty,
Each lover had his mistress in his eye;
And whom he saw most suiting to his mind,
For joys of matrimonial rape design'd.
Scarce could they wait the plaudit in their haste;
But ere the dances and the song were past,
The monarch gave the signal from his throne,22
And rising, bade his merry men fall on.
The martial crew, like soldiers, ready press'd,
Just at the word (the word too was the best),
With joyful cries each other animate;
Some choose, and some at hazard seize their mate.
As doves from eagles, or from wolves the lambs,
So from their lawless lovers fly the dames.
Their fear was one, but not one face of fear:
Some rend the lovely tresses of the hair:
Some shriek, and some are struck with dumb despair.
Her absent mother one invokes in vain;
One stands amaz'd, not daring to complain;
The nimbler trust their feet, the slow remain.
But nought availing, all are captives led,
Trembling and blushing, to the genial bed.
She who too long resisted or denied,
The lusty lover made by force a bride,
And with superior strength compell'd her to his side,
Then sooth'd her thus! "My soul's far better part,
Cease weeping, nor afflict thy tender heart;
For what thy father to thy mother was,
That faith to thee, that solemn vow I pass !
Thus Romulus became so popular;
This was the way to thrive in peace and war;
To pay his army, and fresh whores to bring:
Who wouldn't fight for such a gracious king!
Thus love in theatres did first improve,
And theatres are still the scene of love.
Nor shun the chariots and the courser's race;
The circus is no inconvenient place.
No need is there of talking on the hands;
Nor nods, nor signs, which lovers understand.23
But boldly next the fair your seat provide,24
Close as ye can to hers-and side by side.
Pleas'd or unpleas'd, no matter, crowding sit;
For so the laws of public shows permit.
Then find occasion to begin discourse;
Enquire whose chariot this, and whose that horse?
To whatsoever side she is inclin'd,
Suit all her inclinations to her mind;
Like what she likes, from thence your court begin.
And whom she favours, wish that he may win.
But when the statues of the deities
In chariots roll'd, appear before the prize;
When Venus comes, with deep devotion rise.
If dust be on her lap, or grains of sand,
Brush both away with your officious hand.
If none there be, yet brush that nothing thence,
And still to touch her lap make some pretence.
Touch any thing of hers, and if her train
Sweep on the ground, let it not sweep in vain;
But gently take it up and wipe it clean;
And while you wipe it, with observing eyes,
Who knows but you may see her naked thighs!
Observe who sits behind her, and beware,
Lest his encroaching knees should press the fair
Light service takes light minds, for some can tell
Of favours won by laying cushions well;
By fanning faces some their fortunes meet,
And some by laying footstools for their feet.
These overtures of love the circus gives,
Nor at the sword play less the lover thrives;
For there the son of Venus fights his prize,
And deepest wounds are oft receiv'd from eyes.
One, while the crowd their acclamations make,
Or while he bets and puts his ring to stake,
Is struck from far and feels the flying dart,
And of the spectacle is made a part.
Caesar would represent a naval fight,25
For his own honour and for Rome's delight.
From either sea the youths and maidens come,
And all the world was then contain'd in Rome!
In this vast concourse, in this choice of game,
What Roman heart but felt a foreign flame!
Once more our prince prepares to make us glad,
And the remaining east to Rome will add.26
Rejoice, ye Roman soldiers, in your urns,
Your ensigns from the Parthians shall return,
And the slain Crassi shall no longer mourn.
A youth is sent those trophies to demand,
Ard bears his father's thunders in his hand;
Doubt not th' imperial boy in wars unseen,
In childhood all of Caesar's race are men.
Celestial seeds shoot out before their day,
Prevent their years, and brook no dull delay.
Thus infant Hercules the snakes did press,
And in his cradle did his sire confess.
Bacchus a boy, yet like a hero fought,
And early spoils from conquer'd India brought.
Thus you your father's troops shall lead to fight,
And thus shall vanquish in your father's right.
These rudiments you to your lineage owe;
Born to increase your titles as you grow.
Brethren you had, revenge your brethren slain;
You have a father, and his rights maintain.
Arm'd by your country's parent and your own,
Redeem your country and restore his throne.
Your enemies assert an impious cause;
You fight both for divine and human laws.
Already in their cause they are o'ercome;
Subject them too, by force of arms, to Rome.
Great father Mars with greater Caesar join,
To give a prosperous omen to your line;
One of you is, and one shall be divine.
I prophesy you shall, you shall o'ercome;
My verse shall bring you back in triumph home:
Speak in my verse, exhort to loud alarms;
0, were my numbers equal to your arms,
Then would I sing the Parthians' overthrow;
Their shot averse sent from a flying bow
The Parthians, who already flying fight,
Already give an omen of their flight.
0, when will come the day, by heaven designed,
When thou, the best and fairest of mankind,
Drawn by white horses, shalt in triumph ride,27
With conquer'd slaves attending on thy side;
Slaves that no longer can be safe in flight:
O glorious object, O surprising sight,
O day of public joy, too good to end in night!
On such a day, if thou, and next to thee,
Some beauty sits the spectacle to see;
If she enquires the names of conquer'd kings,
Of mountains, rivers, and of hidden springs,
Answer to all thou know'st; and if need be,
Of things unknown seem to speak knowingly:
This is Euphrates, crown'd with reeds; and there
Flows the swift Tigris, with his sea-green hair.
Invent new names of things unknown before:
Call this Armenia, that the Caspian shore;
Call this a Mede, and that a Parthian youth;
Talk probably,-no matter for the truth.
In feasts, as at our shows, new means abound;
More pleasure there, than that of wine, is found.
The Paphian goddess there her ambush lays;
And love, betwixt the horns of Bacchus plays:
Desires increase at ev'ry swilling draught;
Brisk vapour add new vigour to the thought.
There Cupid's purple wings no flight afford,
But wet with wine, he flutters on the board.
He shakes his pinions, but he cannot move;
Fix'd he remains, and turns a maudlin love.
Wine warms the blood, and makes the spirits flow;
Care flies, and wrinkles from the forehead go;
Exalts the poor, invigorates the weak,
Gives mirth and laughter, and a rosy cheek.
Bold truth it speaks; and spoken, dare maintain;
And brings our old simplicity again.
Love sparkles in the cup and fills it higher;
Wine feeds the flames, and fuel adds to fire.
But choose no mistress in thy drunken fit;
Wine gilds too much their beauties and their wit.
Nor trust thy judgment when the tapers dance;28
But sober, and by day thy suit advance.
By daylight Paris judg'd the beauteous three;29
And for the fairest did the prize decree.
Night is a cheat, and all deformities
Are hid, or lessen'd, in her dark disguise.
The sun's fair light each error will confess,
In face, in shape, in jewels, and in dress.
Why name I ev'ry place where youths abound?
'Tis loss of time; and a true fruitful ground.
The Baian baths, where ships at anchor ride,
And wholesome streams from sulphur fountains glide;
Where wounded youths are by experience taught,
The waters are less healthful than they thought,
Or Dian's fane, which near the suburb lies;30
Where priests, for their promotion, fight a prize.31
That maiden goddess is love's mortal foe,
And much from her his subjects undergo.
Thus far the sportful muse, with myrtle bound,
Has sung where lovely lasses may be found,
Now let me sing, how she who wounds your mind,
With art, may be to cure your wounds inclined.32
Young nobles, to my laws attention lend,
And all you vulgar of my school attend.
First then believe, all women may be won;
Attempt with confidence, the work is done.
The grasshopper shall first forbear to sing
In summer season, or the birds in spring;
Than women can resist your flatt'ring skill;
E'en she will yield who swears she never will.
To secret pleasures both the sexes move;
But women most, who most dissemble, love;
'Twere best for us, if they would first declare;
Avow their passion, and submit to prayer.
The cow by looing tells the bull her flame;
The neighing mare invites her stallion to the game.
Man is more temp'rate in his lust than they;
And more than woman can his passion sway.
Biblis, we know, did first her love declare,
And had recourse to death in her despair.
Her brother she, her father Myrrha sought;33
And lov'd; but lov'd not as a daughter ought.
Now from a tree she stills her od'rous tears;
Which yet the name of her who shed 'em bear.
In Ida's shady vale a bull appeared,34
White as the snow, the fairest of the herd;
A beauty spot of black there only rose,
Betwixt his equal horns and ample brows;
The love and wish of all the Cretan cows.
The queen beheld him as his head he rear'd;
And envied ev'ry leap he gave the herd.
A secret fire she nourished in her breast;
And hated ev'ry heifer he caress'd.
A story known, and known for true, I tell;
Nor Crete, though lying, can the truth conceal.
She cut him grass (so much can love command)
She strok'd, she fed him with her royal hand;
Was pleas'd in pastures with the herd to roam,
And Minos by the bull was overcome.
Cease, Queen, with gems t'adorn thy beauteous brows,
The monarch of thy heart no jewel knows.
Nor in thy glass compose thy looks and eyes;
Secure from all thy charms thy lover lies:
Yet trust thy mirror, when it tells thee true,
Thou art no heifer to allure his view.
Soon wouldst thou quit thy royal diadem
To thy fair rivals; to be horned like them.
If Minos please, no lover seek to find;
If not, at least seek one of human kind.
The wretched queen the Cretan court forsakes;
In woods and wilds her habitation makes;
She curses ev'ry beauteous cow she sees;
"Ah, why dost thou my lord and master please!
And think'st, ungrateful creature as thou art,
With frisking awkardly to gain his heart."
She said; and straight commands with frowning look,
To put her, undeserving, to the yoke.
Or feigns some holy rites of sacrifice,
And sees her rival's death with joyful eyes;
Then when the bloody priest has done his part,
Pleas'd, in her hand she holds the beating heart;
Nor from a scornful taunt can scarce refrain,
Go, fool, and strive to please my love again"
Now she would be Europa.-- Io now;35
(One bare a bull. and one was made a cow.)
Yet she at last her brutal bliss obtain'd,
And in a wooden cow the bull sustained;
Fill'd with his seed, accomplish'd her desire,
Till, by his form, the son betray'd the sire.
If Atreus' wife to incest had not run,36
(But ah, how hard it is to love but one!)
His coursers Phoebus had not driv'n away,
To shun that sight, and interrupt the day.
Thy daughter, Nissus, pull'd thy purple hair;37
And barking sea-dogs yet her bowels tear.
At sea and land Atrides sav'd his life;
Yet fell a prey to his adult'rous wife.38
Who knows not what revenge Medea sought,
When the slain offspring bore the father's fault!
Thus Phoenix did a woman's love bewail;39
And thus Hippolytus by Phaedra fell.40
These crimes revengeful matrons did commit!
Hotter their lust, and sharper is their wit.
Doubt not from them an easy victory;
Scarce of a thousand dames will one deny.
All women are content that men should woo;
She who complains, and she who will not do.
Rest then secure, whate'er thy luck may prove,
Not to be hated for declaring love:
And yet how canst thou miss, since womankind
Is frail and vain; and still to change inclin'd?
Old husbands, and stale gallants, they despise;
And more another's than their own they prize.
A larger crop adorns our neighbour's field,
More milk his kine from swelling udders yield.
First gain the maid; by her thou shalt be sure
A free access, and easy to procure;
Who knows what to her office does belong,
Is in the secret, and can hold her tongue,
Bribe her with gifts, with promises, and pray'rs;
For her good word goes far in love affairs.
The time and fit occasion leave to her,
When she most amply can thy suit prefer.
The time for maids to fire their lady's blood
Is when they find her in a merry mood.
When all things at her wish and pleasure move;
Her heart is open then, and free to love.
Then mirth and wantonness to lust betray,
And smooth the passage to the lover's way.
Troy stood the siege, when fill'd with anxious care
One merry fit concluded all the war.
If some fair rival vex her jealous mind,
Offer thy service to revenge in kind.
Instruct the damsel, while she combs her hair,
To raise the choler of that injur'd fair;
And sighing, make her mistress understand
She has the means of vengeance in her hand.
Then, naming thee, thy humble suit prefer;
And swear thou languishest and diest for her.
Then let her lose no time, but push at all;
For women soon are rais'd, and soon they fall.
Give their first fury leisure to relent,
They melt like ice, and suddenly repent.
T' enjoy the maid, will that thy suit advance?
'Tis a hard question, and a doubtful chance.
One maid corrupted, bawds the better for't;
Another for herself would keep the sport.
Thy bus'ness may be furthered or delay'd,
But by my counsel, let alone the maid
E'en tho' she should consent to do the feat;
The profit's little, and the danger great.
I will not lead thee through a rugged road,
But where the way lies open, safe and broad,
Yet if thou find'st her very much thy friend,
And her good face her diligence commend,
Let the fair mistress have the first embrace,
And let the maid come after in her place.
But this I will advise, and mark my words,
For 'tis the best advice my skill affords;
If needs thou with the damsel wilt begin,
Before th' attempt is made, make sure to win;
For then the secret better will be kept,
And she can tell no tales when once she's dipt.
'Tis for the fowler's int'rest to beware,
The bird intangled, should not 'scape the snare.
The fish once prick'd avoids the bearded hook,
And spoils the sport of all the neighb'ring brook.
But if the wench be thine, she makes thy way,
And for thy sake, her mistress will betray;
Tell all she knows, and all she hears her say
Keep well the counsel of thy faithful spy;
So shalt thou learn whene'er she treads awry.
All things the stations of their seasons keep;
And certain times there are to sow and reap.
Ploughmen and sailors for the season stay,
One to plough land, and one to plough the sea;
So should the lover wait the lucky day.
Then stop thy suit, it hurts not thy design;
But think another hour she may be thine.
And when she celebrates her birth at home,
Or when she views the public shows of Rome;
Know all thy visits then are troublesome.
Defer thy work, and put not then to sea,
For that's a boding and a stormy day.
Else take thy time, and when thou canst, begin;
To break a Jewish sabbath, think no sin;
Nor e'en on superstitious days abstain;
Nor when the Romans were at Allia slain.41
Ill omens in her frowns are understood;
When she's in humour, ev'ry day is good.
But than her birthday seldom comes a worse,
When bribes and presents must be sent of course;42
And that's a bloody day that costs thy purse.
Be stanch; yet parsimony will be vain:
The craving sex will still the lover drain.
No skill can shift them off, nor art remove;
They will be begging when they know we love.
The merchant comes upon th' appointed day,
Who shall before thy face his wares display.
To choose for her she craves thy kind advice,
Then begs again to bargain for the price;
But when she has her purchase in her eye,
She hugs thee close, and kisses thee to buy;
"'Tis what I want, and 'tis a pen'orth too;
In many years I will not trouble you."
If you complain you have no ready coin,-
No matter, 'tis but writing of a line;
A little bill, not to be paid at sight:
(Now curse the time when thou wert taught to write.)
She keeps her birthday; you must send the cheer:
And she'll be born a hundred times a year.
With daily lies she dribs thee into cost;
That ear-ring dropt a stone, that ring is lost.
They often borrow what they never pay;43
What e'er you lend her, think it thrown away.
Had I ten mouths and tongues to tell each art,
All would be wearied ere I told a part.
By letters, not by words, thy love begin;
And ford the dangerous passage with thy pen;
If to her heart thou aim'st to find the way,
Extremely flatter and extremely pray.
Priam by pray'rs did Hector's body gain;
Nor is an angry god invok'd in vain.
With promis'd gifts her early mind bewitch,
For e'en the poor in promise may be rich.
Vain hopes awhile her appetite will stay;
'Tis a deceitful, but commodious way.
Who gives is mad ; but make her still believe
'Twill come, and that's the cheapest way to give.
E'en barren lands fair promises afford,
But the lean harvest cheats the starving lord.
Buy not thy first employment, lest it prove
Of bad example to thy future love ;
But get it gratis, and she'll give thee more,
For fear of losing what she gave before.
The losing gamester shakes the box in vain,
And bleeds, and loses on, in hopes to gain.
Write then, and in thy letter, as I said,
Let her with mighty promises be fed.
Cydyppe by a letter was betray'd,
Writ on an apple to th' unwary maid;
She read herself into a marriage vow,
(And every cheat in love the gods allow.)
Learn eloquence, ye noble youth of Rome,-
It will not only at the bar o'ercome:
Sweet words the people and the senate move;
But the chief end of eloquence is love.
But in thy letter hide thy moving arts,
Affect not to be thought a man of parts;
None but vain fools to simple women preach:
A learned letter oft has made a breach.
In a familiar style your thoughts convey,
And write such things as, present, you would say;
Such words as from the heart may seem to move;
'Tis wit enough to make her think you love.
If seal'd she sends it back, and will not read,
Yet hope, in time, the business may succeed.
In time the steer will to the yoke submit,
In time the restive horse will bear the bit.
E'en the hard ploughshare use will wear away,
And stubborn steel in length of time decay.
Water is soft and marble hard, and yet
We see soft water through hard marble eat.
Though late, yet Troy at length in flames expir'd;
And ten years more, Penelope had tir'd.
Perhaps she writes, and answers with disdain,
And sharply bids you not to write again:
What she requires, she fears you would accord;
The jilt would not be taken at her word.
Meantime, if she be carried in her chair,
Approach, but do not seem to know she's there:
Speak softly, to delude the standers by;
Or, if aloud, then speak ambiguously.
If sauntering in the portico she walk,
Move slowly too, for that's a time for talk;
And sometimes follow, sometimes be her guide,
But when the crowds permit, go side by side.
Nor in the playhouse let her sit alone,
For she's the playhouse and the play in one;
There thou may'st ogle, or by signs advance
Thy hand, and seem to touch her hand by chance.
Admire the dancer who her liking gains,
And pity in the play the lover's pails ;
For her sweet sake the loss of time despise,
Sit while she sits, and when she rises rise.
But dress not like a fop, nor curl your hair,
Nor with a pumice make your body bare;
Leave those effeminate and useless toys
To eunuchs, who can give no solid joys.
Neglect becomes a man-this Theseus found;
Uncurl'd, uncomb'd, the nymphs his wishes crowned.
The rough Hippolytus was Phaedra's care,
And Venus thought the rude Adonis fair.
Be not too finical, but yet be clean,
And wear well fashioned clothes, like other men;
Let not your teeth be yellow or be foul,
Nor in wide shoes your feet too loosely roll.
Of a black muzzle and long beard beware,
And let a skilful barber cut your hair;
Your nails be pick'd from dirt, and even par'd;
Nor let your nasty nostrils bud with beard.
Cure your unsav'ry breath; gargle your throat;
And free your armpits from the ram and goat.44
Dress not, in short, too little or too much;
And be not wholly French nor wholly Dutch.
Now Bacchus calls me to his jolly rites:45
Who would not follow when a god invites?
He helps the poet, and his pen inspires;
Kind and indulgent to his former fires.
Fair Ariadne wander'd on the shore
Forsaken now; and Theseus loves no more;
Loose was her gown, dishevel'd was her hair,
Her bosom naked, and her feet were bare;
Exclaiming, on the water's brink she stood,
Her briny tears augment the briny flood;
She shriek'd and wept, and both became her face,
No posture could that heav'nly form disgrace.
She beat her breast: - "The traitor's gone," said she;
"What shall become of poor forsaken me?
What shall become-" She had not time for more,
The sounding cymbals rattled on the shore.46
She swoons for fear, she falls upon the ground;
No vital heat was in her body found.
The Mimallonian dames about her stood,
And scudding satyrs ran before their god.
Silenus on his ass did next appear,
And held upon the mane (the god was clear).
The drunken sire pursues, the dames retire;
Sometimes the drunken dames pursue the drunken sire.
At last he topples over on the plain;
The satyrs laugh, and bid him rise again.
And now the god of wine came driving on,
High on his chariot by swift tigers drawn.
Her colour, voice, and sense forsook the fair;
Thrice did her trembling limbs for flight prepare,
And thrice affrighted did her flight forbear.
She shook like leaves of corn when tempests blow,
Or slender reeds that in the marshes grow.
To whom the god-" Compose thy fearful mind;
In me a truer husband thou shalt find.
With heav'n I will endow thee, and thy star
Shall with propitious light be seen afar,
And guide on seas the doubtful mariner."
He said; and from his chariot leaping light,
Lest the grim tigers should the nymph affright,
His brawny arms around her waist he threw,
(For gods whate'er they please with ease can do,)
And swiftly bore her thence; th' attending throng
Shout at the sight, and sing the nuptial song.47
Now in full bowls her sorrow she may steep;
The bridegroom's liquor lays the bride asleep.
But thou, when flowing cups in triumph ride,48
And the lov'd nymph is seated by thy side,
Invoke the god and all the mighty powers,
That wine may not defraud thy genial hours.
Then in ambiguous words thy suit prefer,
Which she may know were all address'd to her.
In liquid purple letters write her name,49
Which she may read, and reading find the flame.
Then may your eyes confess your mutual fires,
(For eyes have tongues, and glances tell desires ;)
Whene'er she drinks, be first to take the cup;
And where she laid her lips, the blessing sup.
When she to carving does her hand advance,
Put out thy own, and touch it as by chance.
Thy service e'en the husband must attend;50
(A husband is a most convenient friend.)
Seat the fool cuckold in the highest place,
And with thy garland his dull temples grace'
Whether below or equal in degree,
Let him be lord of all the company,
And what he says be seconded by thee.
Tis common to deceive thro' friendship's name,
But common though it be, 'tis still to blame;
Thus factors frequently their trust betray,
And to themselves their masters' gains convey.
Drink to a certain pitch, and then give o'er;
Thy tongue and feet may stumble, drinking more.
Of drunken quarrels in her sight beware;
Pot valour only serves to fright the fair.
Eurytion justly fell, by wine oppress't,51
For his rude riot at a wedding-feast.
Sing, if you have a voice; and shew your parts
In dancing, if endu'd with dancing arts.
Do anything within your power to please;
Nay, e'en affect a seeming drunkenness;
Clip every word; and if by chance you speak
Too home, or if too broad a jest you break,
In your excuse the company will join,
And lay the fault upon the force of wine.
True drunkenness is subject to offend,
But when 'tis feign'd 'tis oft a lover's friend:
Then safely you may praise her beauteous face,
And call him happy who is in her grace;
Her husband thinks himself the man design'd,
But curse the cuckold in your secret mind.
When all are risen and prepar'd to go,
Mix with the crowd and tread upon her toe;
This is the proper time to make thy court,
For now she's in the vein, and fit for sport.
Lay bashfulness, that rustic virtue, by;52
To manly confidence thy thoughts apply.
On fortune's foretop timely fix thy hold;
Now speak and speed. for Venus loves the bold.
No rules of rhetoric here I need afford;53
Only begin, and trust the following word:
It will be witty of its own accord.
Act well the lover; let thy speech abound
In dying words, that represent thy wound;
Distrust not her belief; she will be mov'd:
All women think they merit to be lov'd.
Sometimes a man begins to love in jest,
And after feels the torment he possess't.
For your own sakes be pitiful, ye fair,
For a feign'd passion may a true prepare.
By flatteries we prevail on womankind,
As hollow banks by streams are undermin'd:
Tell her her face is fair, her eyes are sweet;
Her taper fingers praise, and little feet.
Such praises e'en the chaste are pleas'd to hear;
Both maids and matrons hold their beauty dear.
Once naked Pallas with Jove's queen appear'd,
And still they grieve that Venus was preferr'd.
Praise the proud peacock, and lie spreads his train:
Be silent, and lie pulls it in again.
Pleas'd is the courser in his rapid race;
Applaud his running, and he mends his pace.
But largely promise and devoutly swear,
And, if need be, call ev'ry god to hear.
Jove sits above, forgiving with a smile
The perjuries that easy maids beguile.
He swore to Juno by the Stygian lake;
Forsworn, lie dares not an example make,
Or punish falsehood, for his own dear sake.
'Tis for our interest the gods should be;
Let us believe them; I believe they see,
And both reward and punish equally.
Not that they live above like lazy drones,54
Or kings below, supine upon their thrones;
Lead then your lives as present in their sight;
Be just in dealings, and defend the right;
By fraud betray not, nor oppress by might.
But 'tis a venial sin to cheat the fair;
All men have liberty of conscience there.
On cheating nymphs a cheat is well design'd,
'Tis a profane and a deceitful kind.55
'Tis said that Egypt for nine years was dry,
Nor Nile did floods, nor heav'n did rain supply.
That slaughter'd guests would kindly moisture bring.
The king replied, "On thee the lot shall fall;
Be thou, my guest, the sacrifice for all."
Thus Phalaris Perillus taught to low,
And made him season first the brazen cow.
A rightful doom, the laws of nature cry,
'Tis, the artificers of death should die.
Thus justly women suffer by deceit,
Their practice authorises us to cheat.
Beg her, with tears, thy warm desires to grant;
For tears will pierce a heart of adamant.
If tears will not be squeezed, then rub your eye,
Or 'noint the lids, and seem at least to cry.
Kiss, if you can; resistance if she make,
And will not give you kisses, let her take.
" Fy, fy, you naughty man," are words of course;
She struggles but to be subdu'd by force.
Kiss only soft, I charge you, and beware
With your hard bristles not to brush the fair.
He who has gain'd a kiss, and gains no more,
Deserves to lose the bliss he got before.
If once she kiss, her meaning is exprest;
There wants but little pushing for the rest;
Which if thou dost not gain, by strength or art,
The name of clown then suits with thy desert;
'Tis downright dulness, and a shameful part.
Perhaps she calls it force, but if she 'scape,
She will not thank you for th' omitted rape.
The sex is cunning to conceal their fires;
They would be forc'd e'en to their own desires.
They seem t' accuse you with a down-cast sight,
But in their souls confess you did them right.
Who might be forc'd, and yet untouch'd depart,
Thank with their tongues, but curse you with their heart.
Fair Phoebe and her sister did prefer,
To their dull mates, the noble ravisher.56
What Deidamia did in days of yore,
The tale is old but worth the telling o'er.
When Venus had the golden apple gain'd,
And the just judge fair Helen had obtained;
When she with triumph was at Troy receiv'd,
The Trojans joyful, while the Grecians griev'd:
They vow'd revenge of violated laws,
And Greece was arming in the cuckold's cause;
Achilles, by his mother warn'd from war,
Disguis'd his sex, and lurk'd among the fair.
What means Aeacides to spin and sew ?
With spear and sword in field thy valour show!
And leaving this, the noble Pallas know.57
Why dost thou in that hand the distaff wield,
Which is more worthy to sustain the shield?
Or with that other draw the woolly twine,
The same the fates for lector's thread assign?
Banish thy falchion in thy powerful hand,
Which can alone the pond'rous lance command.
In the same room by chance the royal maid
Was lodg'd, and, by his seeming sex, betrayed,
Close to her side the youthful hero laid.
I know not how his courtship he began;
But, to her cost, she found it was a man.
'Tis thought she struggled, but withal 'tis thought
Her wish was to be conquer'd, when she fought.
For when disclos'd, and hast'ning to the field,
He laid his distaff down and took the shield,
With tears her humble suit she did prefer,
And thought to stay the grateful ravisher.
She sighs, she sobs, she begs him not to part;
And now 'tis nature what before was art.
She strives by force her lover to detain,
And wishes to be ravish'd once again.
This is the sex; they will not first begin,
But when compelled, are pleas'd to suffer sin.
Is there, who thinks that woman first should woo?
Lay by thy self-conceit, thou foolish beau.
Begin, and save their modesty the shame;
'Tis well for thee, if they receive thy flame.
'Tis decent for a man to speak his mind;
They but expect th' occasion to be kind.
Ask, that thou may'st enjoy; she waits for this:
And on thy first advance depends thy bliss.
E'en Jove himself was forc'd to sue for love;
None of the nymphs did first solicit Jove.
But if you find your pray'rs increase her pride,
Strike sail awhile, and wait another tide.
They fly when we pursue; but make delay.
And when they see you shaken, they will stay.
Sometimes it profits to conceal your end;
Name not yourself her lover, but her friend.
How many skittish girls have thus been caught?
He prov'd a lover, who a friend was thought.
Sailors by sun and wind are swarthy made;
A tann'd complexion best becomes their trade.
'Tis a disgrace to ploughmen to be fair;
Bluff cheeks they have, and weather-beaten hair.
Th' ambitious youth who seeks an olive crown,
Is sun-burnt with his daily toil, and brown;
But if the lover hopes to be in grace,
Wall be his looks, and meagre be his face.
That colour from the fair compassion draws;
She thinks you sick, and thinks herself the cause.
Orion wander'd in the woods for love.58
His paleness did the nymphs to pity move;
His gastly visage argu'd hidden love.
Nor fail a night-cap in full health to wear;
Neglect thy dress, and discompose thy hair.
All things are decent, that in love avail.
Read long by night, and study to be pale.
Forsake your food, refuse your needful rest;
Be miserable that you may be blest.
Shall I complain, or shall I warn you most?
Faith, truth, and friendship, in the world are lost;
A little and an empty name they boast.
Trust not thy friend, much less thy mistress praise;
If he believe, thou man'st a rival raise.
'Tis true, Patroclus, by no lust misled,
Sought not to stain his dear companion's bed.59
Nor Pylades Hermione embrac'd;60
Ev'n Phaedra to Pirithous still was chaste.
But hope not thou, in this vile age to find
Those rare examples of a faithful mind.
The sea shall sooner with sweet honey flow;
Or from the furze pears and apples grow.
We sin with gust, we love by fraud to gain,
And find a pleasure in our fellow's pain.
From rival foes you may the fair defend;
But would you ward the blow, beware your friend.
Beware your brother, and your next of kin;
But from your bosom friend your care begin.
Here had I ended, but experience finds,
That sundry women are of sundry minds;
With various crotchets fill'd, and hard to please,
They therefore must be caught by various ways.
All things are not produced in any soil;61
This ground for wine is proper, that for oil.
So 'tis in men, but more in woman-kind;
Diff'rent in face, in manners, and in mind.
But wise men shift their sails with ev'ry wind;
As changeful Proteus varied oft his shape,
And did in sundry forms and figures 'scape.
A running stream, a standing tree became,
A roaring lion, or a bleating lamb.
Some fish with harpoons, some with darts, are struck,62
Some drawn with nets, some hang upon the hook;
So turn thyself; and imitating them,
Try several tricks, and change thy stratagem.
One rule will not for diff'rent ages hold;
The jades grow cunning, as they grow more old.
Then talk not bawdy to the bashful maid;
Broad words will make her innocence afraid.
Nor to an ign'rant girl of learning speak;
She thinks you conjure when you talk in Greek.
And hence 'tis often seen, the simple shun
The learn'd, and into vile embraces run.
Part of my task is done, and part to do:
But here 'tis time to rest myself and you.63

1 The poet here lays down the proposition of the work, which he comprehends in the two first verses: he then invokes the assistance of the gods and begins his narration.

2 One must learn to love, and what to love: for love is so far from being forbidden, that there is nothing so commendable, provided the object is good.

3 He speaks of love who is very seldom guided by reason.

4 This alludes to his killing Hector, as in the 22nd book of Homer's Iliads.

5 Achilles, when he was a lad, was put to this centaur to be educated.

6 Cupid was the son of Venus, and Achilles of Thetis. Both were children alike, and both hard to govern. For, indeed, the passions of love and glory are not easily overcome by reason, which ought always to be mistress.

7 This he says to show us that love may also be tamed by habit. Ovid is full of these sort of similes.

8 From whence the ancients drew their auguries. To which the poet here alludes.

9 Ovid names Clio only, of all the nine, in this place. The fable tells us, she and her sisters were born of Jupiter's caresses of Mnemosyne, that is, memory.

10 It has been before observed, that Ovid invokes the goddess of love to assist his song, as Lucretius does the same divinity for his world of nature, as being the mother of all generations, and all productions.

11 The author forewarns all virgins, and chaste persons, not to follow, in all things, the precepts of his book.

12 The poet here gives his advice as to three things: to seek after an amiable object: to win it by respect and complacency, and not to lose it after once gotten.

13 That is, while you are a freeman, unmarried, and not engaged to any other mistress. The truest meaning that can be given, is, that while you are young, and are not yet troubled with the infirmities of age (for an old man in love is ridiculous) choose where you please.

14 This was a shady walk which Pompey built for the people; and there were several in Rome of the same sort; but the most admirable one of all the porticos, was the Corinthian, near the Flaminian cirque, built by Cneius Octavius.

15 It was the custom among the Romans, to meet in the temples of Venus to mourn Adonis; of which the prophet Ezekiel speaks, (Ezek. viii. 14.); and infamous acts of lewdness were there committed, if we may believe Juvenal in his sixth satire.

16 There were great numbers of the Jews at Rome in Augustus's reign, who were allowed full liberty to exercise their ceremonies, according to the law of Moses. And the Roman ladies went often to see them out of curiosity, which gave occasion for assignations at their synagogues.

17 That is, many women were debauched by Isis's means, as she was by Jupiter under the name of Io.

18 The following verses are a happy paraphrase of Ovid; in whose time we find the long robe dealt as much with the stola, etc., as it does in our own.

19 We see these assemblies were composed of all sorts of persons; upon which our French author remarks thus: " This does not very well agree to the practice in our days; and I cannot comprehend how gallant women could frequent the courts of justice : where it is to be supposed, nobody came but such as had business and suits depending."

20 It must be owned, the theatres, amphitheatres, cirques, hippodromes, and all places where the public feasts and rejoicings were kept, were very fatal to the chastity of the women of old.

21 This idea of the Roman theatres in their infancy, may put us in mind of our own which we read of in the old poets, in Black-friars, the Bull-and-mouth, and Barbican, not much better than the strollers at a country-fair. Yet this must be said for them: that the audience were much better treated; their fare was good, though the house was homely. Which cannot be said of the Roman infant-stage, their wit and their theatres were alike rude; and the Shakspeares and Jonsons of Rome did not appear till the stage was pompous, and the scene magnificent.

22 At which the soldiers were to fall on the women. The poet and his translators make an agreeable description of this rape. Some say there were thirty of these Sabines ravished: others, as Valerius Antius, make the number to be four hundred and twenty-seven: and Jubas, as Plutarch writes in the life of Romulus, swells it to six hundred.

23 It is plain by this, the ancient Romans used to make love by signs on their fingers like the modern Spaniards and Portuguese; and this talking on the fingers is very common among us ever since Dr. Holder and Dr. Wallis taught by Mr. Popham, who was born deaf and dumb, with whom I have, however, myself held a conversation of many hours, and that many hundred times, by the help of our fingers. But the poet says there was no occasion of this dumb language at the cirque; for there was so much noise, that lovers might entertain one another as they pleased, without fear of being overheard.

24 Young men are apt enough to do this of themselves, and need no advice; yet Juvenal, like Ovid, puts them in mind of it.

25 The naval combats were represented in a place dug on purpose on the banks of the Tiber; it was called Naumachia; and when occasion required the river water was let into it. Tacitus, in his twelfth book, makes mention of a representation of the naval battle of Actium.

26 Augustus having put an end to the war in Spain, undertook an expedition into Asia, and began the Parthian war; in which he recovered the ensigns that had been taken from the Romans in the defeat of Crassus, which these verses refer to.

27 He alludes to the triumphs of the Roman conquerors: they were wonderfully magnificent, accompanied with rich spoils and pictures of rivers, mountains, cities, and provinces conquered by them: not to speak of the captive kings and great captains that followed the victor's car in chains: but there is so much insolence in this custom, that, with all its magnificence, we cannot in our own times relish it.

28 The night is an ill time to choose a mistress in. We have a saying in England, "Women and linen look best by candle-light."

29 The Phrygian shepherd, to judge the beauty of these three goddesses demanded to see them naked; and the goddess were so eager to have the question decided by him, that they made no scruple to satisfy his demands.

30 This temple was in the neighbourhood of Rome, in a valley, where there is also a sacred wood. There were abundance of candles used in it, as we read in Ovid de Fastis.

31 The sovereign priest of Diana, Aricina, called himself king, and often got that dignity by gaining the better of his opponent in single combat.

32 The celestial Venus is more charming than the terrestrial, and divine love soon extinguishes carnal, which burns with an obscure fire: whereas the divine enlightens those that it warms with holy desires; it leaves no string behind it and never has an end.

33 Myrrha's love of her father Cinyras is not a fable. At least Pliny relates this adventure as a memorable story, and says Cinyras lived two hundred and ten years, and that his daughter took her mother's place, while she was busied about the sacrifices to Ceres. But that her father discovering her insolence, ran after her a long time with a sword in his hand. The fable adds, she got away by favour of the night, and fled to the Sabeans, where she was changed into a tree, which bears her name. See the 10th book of the Metamorphoses.

34 Pasiphae, daughter of the sun, and wife to Minos king of Crete, is fabled to be enamoured of a bull: and Daedalus, the famous mechanic, assisted her to enjoy her detestable desires, by making a machine like a cow; within which she was caressed by her gallant. From this intrigue the Minotaur was born, half man and half bull, who was enclosed in a labyrinth, and by the assistance of Ariadne killed by Theseus.

35 This known fable is told us thus: Jupiter falling in love with Europa daughter of Agenor, king of Phoenicia, and taking the shape of a bull, ravished her in the Dictaean cave; and begot Minos and Radamanthus. The fable of Io is this; she is said to be the daughter of Inachus debauched by Jupiter and turned into a cow ; which jealous Juno perceiving, she begged the cow; and commanded Argos, who had a hundred eyes, to watch her; but Mercury killed her keeper by Jupiter's orders. Upon which Juno struck Io with madness, and she flung herself into the sea, which from her was called the Ionian, and swimming to Egypt, was there worshipped by the name of Isis, having first resumed her shape, and married king Osiris.

36 Atreus's wife's name was Aeropa. She suffered herself to be debauched by her brother-in-law, Thyestes.

37 Her name was Scylla, and she betrayed her father, in favour of her gallant, Minos.

38 Clytemnestra, and the adulterer Aegistheus, murdered Agamemnon: upon whose death Seneca wrote the tragedy called Agamemnon.

39 Phoenix the son of Amyntor, enjoyed a woman whom his father loved. His father was so enraged at him, that he imprecated all the miseries he could think of to light upon his son: whose children dying, he withdrew to Peleus, father of Achilles, who committed to him the care of his son's education.

40 Hippolytus, the son of Theseus, was pulled to pieces by horses. Our author in his French observations says this fable is admirably well represented in the tragedy of Seneca.

41 That was a very unfortunate day for the people of Rome, their army being cut in pieces by the Gauls near the river Allis, the 15th of the calends of August, in the year of the city 363.

42 On the mistress's birthday: these presents were commonly cakes; but we find the ladies were not satisfied with cakes only, they wanted pendants for the ears; and the way to get them is much the same in the gallant world now as in Ovid's days.

43 There are few coquets who will lose anything for want of asking; they borrow what they never tend to restore; and this jilting humor is so livelily painted here by the poet, that one would think he had lived in another reign than that of Augustus.

44 In this expression, which is Ovid's in the main, the Romans bore with an idea that perhaps the delicacy of the moderns will be offended with. The smell of a ram or goat is very rank, and from those animals the proverb came.

45 Wine is favourable to lovers, inspiring them at once with boldness and vigour.

46 Cymbals. drums, little bells, and pipes, were Bacchus and mother Cybele's consort.

47 It was an ancient custom to sing hymns of joy at weddings; which hymns were called epithalamius, or hymeneans, from a certain Athenian named Hymen, who, as Servins reports, delivered maids from a terrible trouble, or which they used to invoke him when they married, as the god who eased them of the burden of their maidenheads: le liberateur de leur virginité as my French author has it; and whether it is more a slavery or a burden, let the satirists determine.

48 The poet's directions how the lover should behave himself at table, are very considerable in the affair he is speaking of.

49 Spill some wine and write her name. This is not worthy the Roman elegance in all things; and, as a late commentattor observes upon this occasion they could have no tablecloths; for otherwise Ovid's advice is not feasible.

50 This and the verses that follow show that Ovid did not mean very honestly, and the decree of the senate was obtained against him for this crime, as it is pretended, because it was strictly forbidden by the Roman laws to corrupt married women, to prevent the abuses which might happen in succession, and the injuring another man in taking from him what only belongs to himself.

51 Eurythus, or Eurytion, was one of the centaurs at Pirithous's wedding, who got so drunk that he attempted to ravish Hippodamia, the bride; but Theseus knocked him down with a bowl, and made him bring up his wine again with blood.

52 Modesty is a vice, when it hinders us from doing anything that is profitable to us; and the misfortune is, it generally comes upon us most unseasonably, and when it should not. When it should, we commonly miss it; and when we do not want it, it is impertinent.

53 He talks of modesty, and says, if the lover banishes it, he has no occasion for eloquence; for love and fortune favour the bold.

54 Speaking of the gods, according to the stoics' opinion, which, contrary to the Epicureans, asserted that the deities concerned themselves in the affairs of this world.

55 This is a very severe reflection on the sex, and it is hoped, whatever it might be in Ovid's time, the scandal will not stick now.

56 To their dull mates the noble ravisher. Phoebe and Ilara were two daughters of Leucippus, both famous for their beauty. Their father promised them in marriage to Idas and Lynceus, but Castor and Pollux stole them away from him. Idas and Lynceus pursuing the ravishers, Caster fell by the hands of Lynceus, and Lynceus was himself slain by Pollux: Idas running upon the latter to revenge the death of his companion, was struck to the ground thunder at Pollux feet; which Ovid has elegantly described in his de Fastis.

57 Minerva or Pallas was not only the goddess of arms, but of arts and manufactures. The poet means he has learnt of her enough to spin, let him now learn of her the more glorious exercise of arms.

58 Orion fell in love with the nymph Lyrice, some name her Lynce, from a lynx, a wild beast so called, which is Merula's interpretation. But though who this Lyrice was is not very well known, yet it is not likely that Orion should be so passionately enamoured of a wild beast, and it is very probable he might be so charmed with a beautiul damsel.

59 Patroclus, son of Menoeceus, and grandson of Actor, who having killed Clytonymus, son of Amphidamus, was banished his country, and came to Phthia, where he remained with Peleus, Achilles's father, his kinmnan. By these means he contracted a strict friendship with Achilles, and accompanied him to the siege of Troy, where he was killed.

60 Hermione, daughter of Menelaus and Helen, who married her cousin-german, Orestes. Pylades was her husband's friend, and therefore he would not offer to corrupt his wife. This king was the son of Strophius king of Phocis.

61 This is one of Ovid's happy ways of making use of common similes, and this and others are brought in here, to show a lover must comport himself variously, according to the various humors of women.

62 This gives us a various idea, and livelily expresses the author's thoughts, that women are to be caught several ways.

63 To cast anchor, as Ovid says, “Hic teneat nostras anchora iacta rates”, as one arrived at a port, where, though he is not to stay long, he intends to refresh himself.

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  • Commentary references to this page (13):
    • E. T. Merrill, Commentary on Catullus, 16
    • E. T. Merrill, Commentary on Catullus, 61
    • E. T. Merrill, Commentary on Catullus, 63
    • E. T. Merrill, Commentary on Catullus, 64
    • E. T. Merrill, Commentary on Catullus, 7
    • John Conington, Commentary on Vergil's Aeneid, Volume 1, 1.164
    • John Conington, Commentary on Vergil's Aeneid, Volume 2, 10.205, 206
    • John Conington, Commentary on Vergil's Aeneid, Volume 2, 12.118
    • John Conington, Commentary on Vergil's Aeneid, Volume 2, 9.311
    • Commentary on the Heroides of Ovid, HERMIONE ORESTAE
    • George W. Mooney, Commentary on Apollonius: Argonautica, 4.434
    • Charles Simmons, The Metamorphoses of Ovid, Books XIII and XIV, 13.187
    • R. G. Bury, The Symposium of Plato, 183B
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