The Art of Love (Book III) by Ovid

Sirens, tho’ monsters of the stormy main,
Can ships, when under sail, with songs detain:
Scarce could Ulysses by his friends be bound,
When first he listen’d to the charming sound,
Singing insinuates, learn all ye maids;
Oft when a face forbids, a voice persuades.
Whether on theatres loud strains we hear,
Or in Ruelles some soft Egyptian air.
Well shall she sing, of whom I make my choice,
And with her lute accompany her voice.
The rocks were stirr’d, the beasts to listen staid
When on his lyre melodious Orpheus play’d,
Even Cerberus and hell that sound obey’d,
And stones officious were thy walls to raise.
0, Thebes, attracted by Amphion’s lays.
The dolphin, dumb itself, thy voice admir’d,
And was, Arion, by thy songs inspir’d.
Of sweet Callimachus the works rehearse,
And real Philetas and Anacreon’s verse,
Terentian plays may much the mind improve;
But softest Sappho best instructs to love.
Propertius, Gallus, and Tibullus read,
And let Varronian verse to these succeed.
Then mighty Maro’s work with care peruse;
Of all the Latians boards the noblest muse,
Even I, ’tis possible, in after-days,
May ‘scape oblivion, and be nam’d with these.

My labour’d lines, some readers may approve,
Since I’ve instructed either sex in love.
Whatever book you read of this soft art,
Read with a lover’s voice and lover’s heart.

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Art of love (book II) by Ovid

Andromache was tall,yet some report
Her Hector was so blind he thought her short.
At first what’s nauseous lessens by degrees;
Young loves are nice, and difficult to please.
The infant plant that bears a tender rind,
Reels to and fro with ev’ry breath of wind;
But shooting upward to a tree at last,
It stems the storm, and braves the strongest blast
Time will defects and blemishes endear,
And make them lovely to your eyes appear:
Unusual scents at first may give offence;
Time reconciles them to the vanquish’d sense.
Her vices soften with some kinder phrase;

—-
Nor ask her age, consult no register,
Under whose reign she’s born, or what’s the year!
If fading youth chequers her hair with white,
Experience makes her perfect in delight;
In her embrace sublimer joys are found,
A fruitful soil, and cultivated ground!
The hours enjoy whilst youth and pleasures last,
Age hurries on, and death pursues too fast.
Or plough the seas, or cultivate the land,
Or wield the sword in thy advent’rous hand;
Or much in love thy nervous strength employ,
Embrace the fair, the grateful maid enjoy;
Pleasure and wealth reward thy pleasing pains,
The labour’s great, but greater far the gains.
Add their experience in affairs of love,
For years and practice do alike improve,
Their arts repair the injuries of time,
And still preserve them in their charming prime;
In varied ways they act the pleasure o’er,
Nor pictur’d postures can instruct you more.
They want no courtship to provoke delight,
But meet your warmth with eager appetite;
Give me enjoyment, when the willing dame
Glows with desires, and burns with equal flame.21
I love to hear the soft transporting joys,
The frequent sighs, the tender murm’ring voice;
To see her eyes with varied pleasures move,
And all the nymph confess the pow’r of love.
Nature’s not thus indulgent to the young,
These joys alone to riper years belong;
Who youth enjoys, drinks crude unready wine,
Let age your girl and sprightly juice refine,
Mellow their sweets, and make the taste divide.
To Helen who’d Hermione prefer,
Or Gorge think beyond her mother fair;
But he that covets the experienc’d dame,
Shall crown his joys and triumph in his flame.
One conscious bed receives the happy pair;
Retire, my muse; the door demands thy care.
What charming words, what tender things are said,
What language flows without the useless aid!
There shall the roving hand employment find,
Inspire new flames, and make e’en virgins kind.
Thus Hector did Andromache delight,
Hector in love victorious, as in fight.
When weary from the field Achilles came,
Thus with delays he rais’d Briseis’ flame;
Ah, could those arms, those fatal hands, delight!
Inspire kind thoughts, and raise thy appetite!
Coulds’t thou, fond maid, be charm’d with his embrace,
Stain’d with the blood of half thy royal race.

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.

Magic by Ovid

Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes, and groves,
And ye that on the sands with printless foot
Do chase the ebbing Neptune, and do fly him
When he comes back, you demi-puppets that
By moonshine do the green sour ringlets make,
Whereof the ewe not bites; and you whose pastime
Is to make midnight mushrooms, that rejoice
To hear the solemn curfew; by whose aid,
Weak masters though ye be, I have bedimm’d
The noontide sun, call’d forth the mutinous winds,
And ‘twixt the green sea and the azur’d vault
Set roaring water; to the dread rattling thunder
Have I given fire, and rifted Jove’s stout oak
With hiw own bolt; the strong-bas’d promontory
Have I made shake, and by the spurs pluck’d up
The pine and cedar; graves at my command
Have wak’d their sleepers, op’d, and let ’em forth
By my so potent art.

Translated by William Shakespeare