The Art of Love (Book I) by Ovid

In Cupid’s school, whoe’er would take degree
Must learn his rudiments by reading me,
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 god; but yet the god’s a child:
Easy to govern in his tender age,
Like fierce Achilles in his pupilage:
That hero, born for conquest, 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;
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.
The bull reclaim’d and yolk’d, the burden draws:
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,
Nor Clio, nor her sisters, have I seen,
As Hesiod saw them on the shady green:
Experience makes my work a truth so tried,
You may believe; and Venus be my guide.

Far hence ye vestals be, who bind your hair;
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;
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.


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