Verse > Anthologies > T. R. Smith, ed. > Poetica Erotica: A Collection of Rare and Curious Amatory Verse
T. R. Smith, comp.  Poetica Erotica: Rare and Curious Amatory Verse.  1921–22.
Cruel Compassion
By Aristaenetus (fl. 5th or 6th Century A.D.)
(Love Epistles, XXI; translated by Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Nathaniel Brassey Halhed)


THE GOD of the love-darting bow,
  Whose bliss is man’s heart to destroy,
Oft contrives to embitter our woe
  By a specious resemblance of joy.—
Long—long had Architeles sigh’d        5
  The fair Telesippe to gain:
She coolly his passion denied,
  Yet seem’d somewhat moved at his pain.
At length she consented to hear;
  But ’twas done with a view to beguile:        10
For her terms were most harsh and severe,
  And a frown was as good as her smile.
“You may freely,” says she, “touch my breast,
  And kiss, while a kiss has its charms;
And (provided I am not undrest)        15
  Encircle me round in your arms.
“In short, my favour you please,
  But expect not, nor think of the last:
Lest enraged I revoke my decrees,
  And your sentence of exile be cast.”—        20
“Be it so,” cried the youth, with delight,
  “Thy pleasure, my fair one, is mine:
Since I’m blest as a prince at your sight,
  Sure to touch thee, will make me divine.
“But why keep one favour alone,        25
  And grant such a number beside?”—
“Because the men value the boon
  But only so long as denied.
“They seek it with labour and pain;
  When gain’d, throw it quickly away:        30
For youth is unsettled and vain,
  And its choice scarce persists for a day.”
—Thus pines the poor victim away,
  Forced to nibble and starve on a kiss;
Served worse than e’en eunuchs—for they        35
  Can never feel torture like this.

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