EITHER SHE WAS FOOL ...
by: Ovid (43 BC-17 AD?)
- ITHER she
was fool, or her attire was bad,
- Or she was not the wench I wished to have had.
- Idly I lay with her, as if I loved not,
- And like a burden grieved the bed that moved not.
- Though both of us performed our true intent,
- Yet could I not cast anchor where I meant.
- She on my neck her ivory arms did throw,
- Her arms far whiter than the Scythian snow.
- And eagerly she kissed me with her tongue,
- And under mine her wanton thigh she flung,
- Yes, and she soothed me up, and called me "Sir,"
- And used all speech that might provoke and stir.
- Yet like as if cold hemlock I had drunk,
- It mocked me, hung down the head and sunk.
- Like a dull cipher, or rude block I lay,
- Or shade, or body was I, who can say?
- What will my age do, age I cannot shun,
- When in my prime my force is spent and done?
- I blush, that being youthful, hot, and lusty,
- I prove nor youth nor man, but old and rusty.
- Pure rose she, like a nun to sacrifice,
- Or one that with her tender brother lies.
- Yet boarded I the golden Chie twice,
- And Libas, and the white-cheeked Pitho thrice.
- Corinna craved it in a summer's night,
- And nine sweet bouts we had before daylight.
- What, waste my limbs through some Thessalian charms?
- May spells and drugs do silly souls such harms?
- With virgin wax hath some imbast my joints?
- And pierced my liver with sharp needles' points?
- Charms change corn to grass and make it die:
- By charms are running springs and fountains dry.
- By charms mast drops from oaks, from vines grapes fall,
- And fruit from trees when there's no wind at all.
- Why might not then my sinews be enchanted,
- And I grow faint as with some spirit haunted?
- To this, add shame: shame to perform it quailed me,
- And was the second cause why vigour failed me.
- My idle thoughts delighted her no more,
- Than did the robe or garment which she wore.
- Yet might her touch make youthful Pylius fire.
- And Tithon livelier than his years require.
- Even her I had, and she had me in vain,
- What might I crave more, if I ask again?
- I think the great gods grieved they had bestowed,
- The benefit: which lewdly I foreslowed,
- I wished to be received in, in I get me:
- To kiss, I kissed; to lie with her, she let me.
- Why was I blest? why make king to refuse it?
- Chuff-like had I not gold and could not use it.
- So in a spring thrives he that told so much,
- And looks upon the fruits he cannot touch.
- Hath any rose so from a fresh young maid,
- As she might straight have gone to church and prayed.
- Well I believe, she kissed not as she should,
- Nor used the sleight and cunning which she could.
- Huge oaks, hard adamants might she have moved,
- And with sweet words caused deaf rocks to have loved.
- Worthy she was to move both gods and men,
- But neither was I man nor lived then.
- Can deaf ears take delight when Phaemius sings?
- Or Thamyris in curious painted things?
- What sweet thought is there but I had the same?
- And one gave place still as another came.
- Yet notwithstanding, like one dead it lay,
- Drooping more than a rose pulled yesterday.
- Now, when he should not jet, he bolts upright,
- And craves his task, and seeks to be at fight.
- Lie down with shame, and see thou stir no more,
- Seeing thou would'st deceive me as before.
- Then cozenest me: by thee surprised am I,
- And bide sore loss with endless infamy.
- Nay more, the wench did not disdain a whit
- To take it in her hand, and play with it.
- But when she saw it would by no means stand,
- But still drooped down, regarding not her hand,
- "Why mock'st thou me," she cried, "or being
- Why bade thee lie down here against thy will?
- Either thou art witched with blood of frogs new dead,
- Or jaded cam'st thou from some other's bed."
- With that, her loose gown on, from me she cast her,
- In skipping out her naked feet much graced her.
- And lest her maid should know of this disgrace,
- To cover it, spilt water on the place.
- TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH BY
POEMS BY OVID
"Either She Was Fool..."
is reprinted from Poetica Erotica. Ed. T.R. Smith. New
York: Crown Publishers, 1921.