OVID, HIS MISTRESS AND HER HUSBAND ARE ALL BIDDEN TO THE SAME SUPPER. HE GIVES HIS MISTRESS, A CODE BY WHICH THEY CAN TESTIFY THEIR LOVE FOR EACH OTHER, BENEATH HER HUSBAND'S VERY EYES.
YOUR husband will be at our supper. May that supper be his last. So I shall only be looking on my beloved as any other of the guests might look on her. The right to caress her belongs to another. Voluptuously lying at another's feet, his is the bosom thou wilt warm. And when he will, he may pat and stroke thy neck. Marvel no more that, her bridal banquet over, the fair Hippodamia excites the monstrous race of the Centaurs to the combat. I dwell not, as do they, in the forests, nor, as they, am I half-man, half-horse; yet it would, I trow, be full hard for me to restrain my ardour and my jealousy. Now learn what it will behove thee to do and suffer not the winds, neither Eurus nor the warm-breathing Notus, to whirl away my words.
See to it that thou comest before thy husband. I do not surely foresee what, if thou dost so, may befall; yet be there before him. When he shall have lain him down beside the table, go thou, with mien demure, and lay thee at his side, but forget not, as thou passest, to rub my foot, but, secretly, so that he shall not see. Never take thine eyes off me; take heed of all my movements and note the discourse of my eyes. Secretly receive, and secretly send forth, these signals of our love. Though they utter no word, my eyebrows shall speak to thee; my fingers, aye, and the very wine itself shall have their language. When thou bethinkest thee of the delights we taste together, thou and I, pass thy dainty hand o’er the roses of thy cheeks, If there is aught wherewith thou wouldst secretly reproach me, softly, with thy fingers, touch the tip of thine ear. When the signs I make, or
the words I speak, delight thee, then be sure, my starry one, to twist thy ring about thy finger.
Touch the table as the priest toucheth the altar, when thou wouldst call down well-merited evils on thy husband. When he shall pour out wine for thee, bid him quaff it himself; then whisper softly to the slave and bid him bring thee the wine thou dost prefer. The cup which thou givest him back, I will drink therefrom, and the place thy lips have touched, there shall my lips touch also. If, peradventure, he offer thee a dish whereof he hath already tasted, put it from, thee. Suffer him not to shower upon thee his unworthy caresses. Lean not thy dainity head upon his uncouth breast; let not his roving fingers touch thy lovely breast; and above all, see that there be no kissing. If thou but give him a single one, I will proclaim myself thy lover; I will say, "These kisses are mine," and I'll clap a heavy hand upon him.
These caresses at least I shall behold with mine eyes, but the fondlings that the table-cover shall conceal from my sight, they are the hidden things that will put my soul to the rack. Put not thy thighs nor thy legs nigh to thy husband, nor touch with thy dainty toes his hard and clumsy foot.
Ah, hapless me; countless are the things of this kind that I dread, for countless are the times I have myself indulged in them. All that I myself have experienced with thee, comes back to-day to torture me. Often times my mistress and I, feeling with our hands beneath our sheltering raiment, have forestalled the sweet moment of delight. Thus thou shalt not do, but so thou mayest free me from the merest shadow of misgiving, lay bare thy shoulders from the mantle that enshrouds them. Cease not to bid thy husband drink; but add no kisses to thy prayers; and so long as he shall be able to swallow, stint not secretly to fill his cup with strong wine. When he is overcome by sleep and liquor, we ourselves will do what the place and the circumstances permit.
When thou risest up to return home, all the company will rise with thee; remember then to place thyself in the midst of the throng. There shalt thou find me, or I thee, and then whatsoever part of me thou canst touch, lay thy hand upon it.
Ay me! These my behests can serve but for an hour or two. The imperious night is at hand that severs me from my mistress. Her husband will have her in keep and hold till the day cometh, and I, weeping sad tears, can but follow her to that cruel door. He will taste her lips, and anon far more than her lips. What thou grantest me in secret, he will demand as his right. But this, at least, give him with reluctance, thus much thou canst do, and as one yielding to superior force. Silent be thy caresses and let Venus be niggard with him. If thou fulfillest my behests, he will taste no delight, and thou at least will feel none in his arms. Howbeit, whatsoever may betide to-night, assure me on the morrow that he hath had no joy of thee.