Verse > Anthologies > T. R. Smith, ed. > Poetica Erotica: A Collection of Rare and Curious Amatory Verse
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T. R. Smith, comp.  Poetica Erotica: Rare and Curious Amatory Verse.  1921–22.
 
From Elegies: Book III. Elegia IV.
By Ovid (43 B.C.–18 A.D.)
 
(Translated by Christopher Marlowe)

Ad virum servantem conjugem.

RUDE man, ’tis vain thy damsel to commend
To keeper’s trust: their wits should them defend.
Who, without fear, is chaste, is chaste in sooth:
Who, because means want, doeth not, she doth.
Though thou her body guard, her mind is stained;        5
Nor, ’less she will, can any be restrained.
Nor can’st by watching keep her mind from sin,
All being shut out, the adulterer is within.
Who may offend, sins least; power to do ill
The fainting seeds of naughtiness doth kill.        10
Forbear to kindle vice by prohibition;
Sooner shall kindness gain thy will’s fruition.
I saw a horse against the bit stiff-necked,
Like lightning go, his struggling mouth being checked:
When he perceived the reins let slack, he stayed,        15
And on his loose mane the loose bridle laid.
How to attain what is denied we think,
Even as the sick desire forbidden drink.
Argus had either way an hundred eyes,
Yet by deceit Love did them all surprise,        20
In stone and iron walls Danäe shut,
Came forth a mother, though a maid there put.
Penelope, though no watch looked unto her,
Was not defiled by any gallant wooer.
What’s kept, we cover more: the care makes theft,        25
Few love what others have unguarded left.
Nor doth her face please, but her husband’s love:
I know not what men think should thee so move.
She is not chaste that’s kept, but a dear whore:
Thy fear is than her body valued more.        30
Although thou chafe, stolen pleasure is sweet play;
She pleaseth best, “I fear,” if any say.
A free-born wench, no right ’tis up to lock,
So use we women of strange nations’ stock.
Because the keeper may come say, “I did it,”        35
She must be honest to thy servant’s credit.
He is too clownish whom a lewd wife grieves,
And this town’s well-known custom not believes;
Where Mars his sons not without fault did breed,
Remus and Romulus, Ilia’s twin-born seed.        40
Cannot a fair one, if not chaste, please thee?
Never can these by any means agree.
Kindly thy mistress use, if thou be wise;
Look gently, and rough husbands’ laws despise.
Honour what friends thy wife gives, she’ll give many,        45
Least labour so shall win great grace of any.
So shalt thou go with youths to feasts together,
And see at home much that thou ne’er brought’st thither.
 
 
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