Nothing Is New

I thought I would share a page from one of my favorite literary works of all time: The Art of Love by Publius Ovidius Naso, whom we call Ovid. I have the wonderfully salacious translation by James Michie, published by The Folio Society. Ars Amorae is a book-length poem that was a runaway best-seller during the time of Christ. In this particular passage Ovid speaks about the wisdom of using the maid as access to the mistress:

She'll pick a time, just as a doctor would
When her mistress is in the right mood - Relaxed, seducible, full of the joy of giving,
Exuberant like wheat in a rich soil giving
Promise of harvest: for when hearts are gay
And unshuttered by grief, Venus will find a way...

...Prime the maid
To assist the sails by putting her oar in,
By sighing half to herself, 'Would it really be a sin...?'

...Will it help your cause, you may ask, to seduce the maid?
Playing such games is a dangerous trade;
They act as brakes as frequently as spurs;
Will she view you as her mistress' prize, or hers?

...If, as she ferries notes to and fro, her beauty
As well as her zeal in doing her duty
Happens to please you, then take
The mistress first, and make
The maid your afters...

And on and of course, on. It is hilarious, pornographic, true-to-life, and shows as well as anything that some things never change. And by golly, it shows us how we need to laugh at ourselves.


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