Monday, October 24, 2011

OVID: Cures for Love


Part VI: Now About Sex


Now I’ll speak openly, about what I should offer, regarding
your sexual practice: love must be wholly driven away.
There’s much of this in fact that it’s shameful for me to say:
but with wit you’ll understand more than my words.
For lately there’s been a sort of slandering of my books,
of which the criticism is my Muse is insolent.
While I please in my way, while I’m sung throughout the world,
those few can attack my work as much as they like.
Envy disparages the genius of mighty Homer:
because of it Zoilus the critic (who was he?) has a name. 
And sacrilegious tongues have savaged your poem, Virgil,
you who led the conquered gods here, carried from Troy.
Envy seeks the summits: wind blows across the heights:
the lightning seeks the summits, flung from Jove’s right hand.
But you, whoever you are, whom my licence offends,
if you’re wise, consider everything in context.
Manly warfare rejoices to be told in Homeric measure:
what place can there be in that for our delights?
Tragedians sound sublimely: rage suits the tragic heights:
from public life comedy’s realised.
The frank iambic is unsheathed against our enemies,
either as swift-paced trimeter, or dragging its last foot.
Let smooth-tongued Elegy sing Cupids with their quivers,
and play the gentle mistress, as she decides.
Achilles is not spoken of in Callimachus’s rhythms,
sweet Cydippe’s not for your mouth Homer.
Who could stand Andromache’s part performed by Thais?
Whoever acted Andromache in Thais’s role would err.
Thais is in my art: liberated playfulness is mine:
I’ve nothing to do with wives: it’s Thais in my art.
If my Muse corresponds to light-hearted matters, I’ve won,
and the case against the defendant’s a false charge.
Gluttonous Envy, burst: my name’s well known already:
it will be more so, if only my feet travel the road they’ve started.
But you’re in too much of a hurry: if I live you’ll be more than sorry:
many poems, in fact, are forming in my mind.
Now I’m happy, and my enthusiasm for fame grows with my esteem:
my stallion’s panting for the start of the climb.
It’s acknowledged the elegy owes as much to me,
as the epic owes to famous Virgil.
So far I’ve answered Envy: tighten the reins
more resolutely, and ride your course out, poet.
So when you’re headed for bed and youthful labour,
and the time of night she promised you is near,
lest your girl’s charms, if you spend you whole self on her,
captivate you, I’d like you to do it as much as you want to first.
Take as much as you want, where your initial pleasure can end:
after the first the next will be much more sluggish.
Sex postponed is most welcome: sunlight’s delighted
by the cold, shade by sun, water’s welcome in a drought.
I speak but I’m ashamed: make love too in a position
that you think makes love least likely, and becoming.
It’s not hard to do: few truthful girls confess even to themselves
that there’s nothing they think unbecoming to them.
Then too order all the windows to be opened,
and note her worst features in broad daylight.
As soon as pleasure’s reached the finishing post,
and the spirit lies there exhausted, and the whole body,
while you’re repenting, and you’d rather never have touched
a girl, and you don’t think you’re going to touch one for years,
then impress your mind with whatever’s wrong with her body,
and keep your eyes fixed all the time on those faults.
Perhaps someone might call these things trivial (as they are too),
but what has no benefit on its own, is useful in numbers.
And a little viper may kill a vast bull with its bite:
the boar is often gripped by a not very large hound.
You should only fight in strength, and assemble
all my rules together: from many one large heap will be made.
There are so many methods, so many positions
there’s no need to give them, all in my opinion.
The action that won’t offend your feelings,
to another’s judgement will seem a crime.
One man who saw the sexual organs on a naked body,
brought his lovemaking, that was in progress, to a halt:
one, on his girl’s rising from Love’s affairs,
considered those shameful tokens, in the stained bed.
O, you’re just playing at it, if those things bother you:
your heart is being breathed on by tepid flames.
Let that Boy draw the straining bow more strongly:
you’ll look for greater help for a mass of wounds.
What about the man who hid secretly to observe a girl,
and saw indecent things that custom forbids us seeing?
The gods forbid that I advise anyone to do such things!

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