This craving 'tis that's Venus unto us: From this, engender all the lures of love, From this, O first hath into human hearts Trickled that drop of joyance which ere long Is by chill care succeeded. Since, indeed, Though she thou lovest now be far away, Yet idol-images of her are near And the sweet name is floating in thy ear. But it behooves to flee those images; And scare afar whatever feeds thy love; And turn elsewhere thy mind; and vent the sperm, Within thee gathered, into sundry bodies, Nor, with thy thoughts still busied with one love, Keep it for one delight, and so store up Care for thyself and pain inevitable. For, lo, the ulcer just by nourishing Grows to more life with deep inveteracy, And day by day the fury swells aflame, And the woe waxes heavier day by day— Unless thou dost destroy even by new blows The former wounds of love, and curest them While yet they're fresh, by wandering freely round After the freely-wandering Venus, or Canst lead elsewhere the tumults of thy mind. Nor doth that man who keeps away from love Yet lack the fruits of Venus; rather takes Those pleasures which are free of penalties. For the delights of Venus, verily, Are more unmixed for mortals sane-of-soul Than for those sick-at-heart with love-pining. Yea, in the very moment of possessing, Surges the heat of lovers to and fro, Restive, uncertain; and they cannot fix On what to first enjoy with eyes and hands. The parts they sought for, those they squeeze so tight, And pain the creature's body, close their teeth Often against her lips, and smite with kiss Mouth into mouth,—because this same delight Is not unmixed; and underneath are stings Which goad a man to hurt the very thing, Whate'er it be, from whence arise for him Those germs of madness. But with gentle touch Venus subdues the pangs in midst of love, And the admixture of a fondling joy Doth curb the bites of passion. For they hope That by the very body whence they caught The heats of love their flames can be put out. But nature protests 'tis all quite otherwise; For this same love it is the one sole thing Of which, the more we have, the fiercer burns The breast with fell desire. For food and drink Are taken within our members; and, since they Can stop up certain parts, thus, easily Desire of water is glutted and of bread. But, lo, from human face and lovely bloom Naught penetrates our frame to be enjoyed Save flimsy idol-images and vain— A sorry hope which oft the winds disperse. As when the thirsty man in slumber seeks To drink, and water ne'er is granted him Wherewith to quench the heat within his members, But after idols of the liquids strives And toils in vain, and thirsts even whilst he gulps In middle of the torrent, thus in love Venus deludes with idol-images The lovers. Nor they cannot sate their lust By merely gazing on the bodies, nor They cannot with their palms and fingers rub Aught from each tender limb, the while they stray Uncertain over all the body. Then, At last, with members intertwined, when they Enjoy the flower of their age, when now Their bodies have sweet presage of keen joys, And Venus is about to sow the fields Of woman, greedily their frames they lock, And mingle the slaver of their mouths, and breathe Into each other, pressing teeth on mouths— Yet to no purpose, since they're powerless To rub off aught, or penetrate and pass With body entire into body—for oft They seem to strive and struggle thus to do; So eagerly they cling in Venus' bonds, Whilst melt away their members, overcome By violence of delight. But when at last Lust, gathered in the thews, hath spent itself, There come a brief pause in the raging heat— But then a madness just the same returns And that old fury visits them again, When once again they seek and crave to reach They know not what, all powerless to find The artifice to subjugate the bane. In such uncertain state they waste away With unseen wound. To which be added too, They squander powers and with the travail wane; Be added too, they spend their futile years Under another's beck and call; their duties Neglected languish and their honest name Reeleth sick, sick; and meantime their estates Are lost in Babylonian tapestries; And unguents and dainty Sicyonian shoes Laugh on her feet; and (as ye may be sure) Big emeralds of green light are set in gold; And rich sea-purple dress by constant wear Grows shabby and all soaked with Venus' sweat; And the well-earned ancestral property Becometh head-bands, coifs, and many a time The cloaks, or garments Alidensian Or of the Cean isle. And banquets, set With rarest cloth and viands, are prepared— And games of chance, and many a drinking cup, And unguents, crowns and garlands. All in vain, Since from amid the well-spring of delights Bubbles some drop of bitter to torment Among the very flowers—when haply mind Gnaws into self, now stricken with remorse For slothful years and ruin in baudels, Or else because she's left him all in doubt By launching some sly word, which still like fire Lives wildly, cleaving to his eager heart; Or else because he thinks she darts her eyes Too much about and gazes at another,— And in her face sees traces of a laugh. These ills are found in prospering love and true; But in crossed love and helpless there be such As through shut eyelids thou canst still take in— Uncounted ills; so that 'tis better far To watch beforehand, in the way I've shown, And guard against enticements. For to shun A fall into the hunting-snares of love Is not so hard, as to get out again, When tangled in the very nets, and burst The stoutly-knotted cords of Aphrodite. Yet even when there enmeshed with tangled feet, Still canst thou scape the danger-lest indeed Thou standest in the way of thine own good, And overlookest first all blemishes Of mind and body of thy much preferred, Desirable dame. For so men do, Eyeless with passion, and assign to them Graces not theirs in fact. And thus we see Creatures in many a wise crooked and ugly The prosperous sweethearts in a high esteem; And lovers gird each other and advise To placate Venus, since their friends are smit With a base passion—miserable dupes Who seldom mark their own worst bane of all. The black-skinned girl is "tawny like the honey"; The filthy and the fetid's "negligee"; The cat-eyed she's "a little Pallas," she; The sinewy and wizened's "a gazelle"; The pudgy and the pigmy is "piquant, One of the Graces sure"; the big and bulky O she's "an Admiration, imposante"; The stuttering and tongue-tied "sweetly lisps"; The mute girl's "modest"; and the garrulous, The spiteful spit-fire, is "a sparkling wit"; And she who scarcely lives for scrawniness Becomes "a slender darling"; "delicate" Is she who's nearly dead of coughing-fit; The pursy female with protuberant breasts She is "like Ceres when the goddess gave Young Bacchus suck"; the pug-nosed lady-love "A Satyress, a feminine Silenus"; The blubber-lipped is "all one luscious kiss"— A weary while it were to tell the whole. But let her face possess what charm ye will, Let Venus' glory rise from all her limbs,— Forsooth there still are others; and forsooth We lived before without her; and forsooth She does the same things—and we know she does— All, as the ugly creature, and she scents, Yes she, her wretched self with vile perfumes; Whom even her handmaids flee and giggle at Behind her back. But he, the lover, in tears Because shut out, covers her threshold o'er Often with flowers and garlands, and anoints Her haughty door-posts with the marjoram, And prints, poor fellow, kisses on the doors— Admitted at last, if haply but one whiff Got to him on approaching, he would seek Decent excuses to go out forthwith; And his lament, long pondered, then would fall Down at his heels; and there he'd damn himself For his fatuity, observing how He had assigned to that same lady more— Than it is proper to concede to mortals. And these our Venuses are 'ware of this. Wherefore the more are they at pains to hide All the-behind-the-scenes of life from those Whom they desire to keep in bonds of love— In vain, since ne'ertheless thou canst by thought Drag all the matter forth into the light And well search out the cause of all these smiles; And if of graceful mind she be and kind, Do thou, in thy turn, overlook the same, And thus allow for poor mortality. Nor sighs the woman always with feigned love, Who links her body round man's body locked And holds him fast, making his kisses wet With lips sucked into lips; for oft she acts Even from desire, and, seeking mutual joys, Incites him there to run love's race-course through. Nor otherwise can cattle, birds, wild beasts, And sheep and mares submit unto the males, Except that their own nature is in heat, And burns abounding and with gladness takes Once more the Venus of the mounting males. And seest thou not how those whom mutual pleasure Hath bound are tortured in their common bonds? How often in the cross-roads dogs that pant To get apart strain eagerly asunder With utmost might?—When all the while they're fast In the stout links of Venus. But they'd ne'er So pull, except they knew those mutual joys— So powerful to cast them unto snares And hold them bound. Wherefore again, again, Even as I say, there is a joint delight. And when perchance, in mingling seed with his, The female hath o'erpowered the force of male And by a sudden fling hath seized it fast, Then are the offspring, more from mothers' seed, More like their mothers; as, from fathers' seed, They're like to fathers. But whom seest to be Partakers of each shape, one equal blend Of parents' features, these are generate From fathers' body and from mothers' blood, When mutual and harmonious heat hath dashed Together seeds, aroused along their frames By Venus' goads, and neither of the twain Mastereth or is mastered. Happens too That sometimes offspring can to being come In likeness of their grandsires, and bring back Often the shapes of grandsires' sires, because Their parents in their bodies oft retain Concealed many primal germs, commixed In many modes, which, starting with the stock, Sire handeth down to son, himself a sire; Whence Venus by a variable chance Engenders shapes, and diversely brings back Ancestral features, voices too, and hair. A female generation rises forth From seed paternal, and from mother's body Exist created males: since sex proceeds No more from singleness of seed than faces Or bodies or limbs of ours: for every birth Is from a twofold seed; and what's created Hath, of that parent which it is more like, More than its equal share; as thou canst mark,— Whether the breed be male or female stock. Nor do the powers divine grudge any man The fruits of his seed-sowing, so that never He be called "father" by sweet children his, And end his days in sterile love forever. What many men suppose; and gloomily They sprinkle the altars with abundant blood, And make the high platforms odorous with burnt gifts, To render big by plenteous seed their wives— And plague in vain godheads and sacred lots. For sterile are these men by seed too thick, Or else by far too watery and thin. Because the thin is powerless to cleave Fast to the proper places, straightaway It trickles from them, and, returned again, Retires abortively. And then since seed More gross and solid than will suit is spent By some men, either it flies not forth amain With spurt prolonged enough, or else it fails To enter suitably the proper places, Or, having entered, the seed is weakly mixed With seed of the woman: harmonies of Venus Are seen to matter vastly here; and some Impregnate some more readily, and from some Some women conceive more readily and become Pregnant. And many women, sterile before In several marriage-beds, have yet thereafter Obtained the mates from whom they could conceive The baby-boys, and with sweet progeny Grow rich. And even for husbands (whose own wives, Although of fertile wombs, have borne for them No babies in the house) are also found Concordant natures so that they at last Can bulwark their old age with goodly sons. A matter of great moment 'tis in truth, That seeds may mingle readily with seeds Suited for procreation, and that thick Should mix with fluid seeds, with thick the fluid. And in this business 'tis of some import Upon what diet life is nourished: For some foods thicken seeds within our members, And others thin them out and waste away. And in what modes the fond delight itself Is carried on—this too importeth vastly. For commonly 'tis thought that wives conceive More readily in manner of wild-beasts, After the custom of the four-foot breeds, Because so postured, with the breasts beneath And buttocks then upreared, the seeds can take Their proper places. Nor is need the least For wives to use the motions of blandishment; For thus the woman hinders and resists Her own conception, if too joyously Herself she treats the Venus of the man With haunches heaving, and with all her bosom Now yielding like the billows of the sea— Aye, from the ploughshare's even course and track She throws the furrow, and from proper places Deflects the spurt of seed. And courtesans Are thuswise wont to move for their own ends, To keep from pregnancy and lying in, And all the while to render Venus more A pleasure for the men—the which meseems Our wives have never need of. Sometimes too It happens—and through no divinity Nor arrows of Venus—that a sorry chit Of scanty grace will be beloved by man; For sometimes she herself by very deeds, By her complying ways, and tidy habits, Will easily accustom thee to pass With her thy life-time—and, moreover, lo, Long habitude can gender human love, Even as an object smitten o'er and o'er By blows, however lightly, yet at last Is overcome and wavers. Seest thou not, Besides, how drops of water falling down Against the stones at last bore through the stones?