The Art of Love
So, whoever you are who come to me for your healing,
Have no faith in spells, let the enchantments alone.
If some powerful cause is keeping you here in the city,
Take the prescription I give all who must stay in the town:
He can free himself best who has broken the shackles that bind him,
Shaken the hurt from his heart, forever and ever, amen.
I would be greatly surprised to find a man of such will power;
If I did, I would say, "He does not need my advice!"
Come to me if you love and want to be rid of your loving,
Want to, and yet cannot; scholar, be taught in my school!
Try to remember her deeds, her wicked, wanton behavior,
Itemize, if you can, all she has cost you to date.
"She has this, she has that, she is never content with her booty,
Even my household gods have to be mortgaged or sold!
She has sworn me true, and played me false in the swearing.
How many times I have spent nights on the stone at her door!
Others she loves, but me -? She is much too nice to be bothered.
Any old peddler can have nights she refuses to me."
Let such memories ret your feelings in gall and in wormwood,
Never forget to sow seeds of contempt in your mind.
What you need to acquire is eloquence, denunciation,
Vigorous, passionate: well-suffer enough, you will learn.
Not long ago a girl, or should I say an obsession,
Troubled my peace of mind-what an appalling affair!
Doctor Ovid was sick, and applying his own medication,
I was the doctor, and sick, really a desperate case.
One thing did me some good, a most repetitious insistence
On every one of her faults; that brought effective relief.
I would say, "Look at her legs; did you ever see any that ugly?"
(That was a lie; her legs really weren't ugly at all.)
"What a runt!" (She was tall.) "How much she demands of a lover!"
(That had a trace of the truth; that, mostly, helped me to hate.)
Virtue and vice, evil and good, are siblings, or next-door neighbors,
Easy to make mistakes, hard to tell them apart.
When you possibly can, fool yourself, ever so little,
Call those attractions of hers defects, or possibly worse.
If she has full round breasts, call her fat as a pig; if she's slender,
Thin as a rail; if she's dark, black as the ace of spades.
If she has city ways, label her stuck-up and bitchy;
If she is simple and good, call her a hick from the farm.
Whatever talent she lacks, coax and cajole her to use it:
If she hasn't a voice, try to persuade her to sing;
If she trips over her feet, make her dance; if her accent's atrocious,
Get her to talk; all thumbs? call for the zither or lyre.
If she waddles or limps, be sure to take her out walking;
If she has bulging breasts, don't let her wear a brassiere.
If her teeth aren't too straight, tell her a comical story;
Make it a sorrowful tale if she has watery eyes.
Sometimes it works very well to surprise her early some morning,
Hardly expecting a call, when she's not fixed for the day.
All of us let ourselves be fooled by a woman's adornments,
Jewels and gold; we see more than there is to the girl.
Sometimes I wonder where, in the midst of all this abundance,
Lies the essence of love, under the shield and disguise.
So, come unforeseen: safe, you will catch her defenseless,
Sorry to see and be seen, victim and failure and fraud.
(Still, it is not too safe to trust this prescription too blindly;
Beauty, artless, naive, often has power to deceive.)
Go take a look some time when she's smearing her face with cosmetics
Don't let a little thing like decency stand in your way
You will find boxes and things, a thousand different colors,
Also lotions and such, dripping all over her chest.
Drugs like these smell worse than the tables the Harpies polluted,
Giving me, more than once, more than an impulse to retch.