HE ENDEAVOURS TO DISSUADE HIS MISTRESS FROM BECOMING A COURTESAN.
SUCH as she who, snatched away from the banks of the Eurotas in the Phrygian ships, was for her two husbands the cause of so long a war; such as was Leda when cunning Jupiter, hidden beneath the deceptive disguise of a white-plumed swan, seduced her and made her his paramour; such as Amymone wandering in the parched fields of Argos, her urn upon her head; such wast thou in my eyes. I feared for thee the divers wiles that Love suggested to almighty Jove, I feared for thee the metamorphosis of the Eagle and the Bull. But now I fear no more. I am cured of my malady, no more mine eyes are blinded by thy loveliness. How came this change, thou askest? Why, ’tis that
thou settest a price upon thy favours. This is the reason why thou pleasest me no more. So long as thou wast art less and free from guile I loved thee body and soul; but now this blemish on thy soul hath robbed thy body of its charms. Love is a child and Love is naked. The years have not corrupted him and he wears no clothes, that he may be without guile, Wherefore dost thou ask the child of Venus to sell his favours at a price? He wears no robe wherein to put the coin. The hard calling of a soldier suits neither Venus nor her son; how befits it, then, that divinities so unused to war should serve for pay?
"A courtesan selleth herself for a given price to the first customer; by yielding her body she gaineth her miserable pay. Yet withal she curseth the tyranny of the greedy whoremaster, and what thou doest for thy pleasure, she doth because she must.
Take, for an example, the beasts devoid of reason. Thou wilt blush to find the brutes possessed of finer feelings than thyself. The mare asks no gift of the stallion, nor the heifer of the bull; the ram payeth not the ewe on whom he wreaks his passion. Woman alone loves to flaunt the spoils she wrests from man. She alone setteth a price upon her favours; she alone offereth herself for hire. She selleth a pleasure that bringeth delight to both, a pleasure which both have longed for, and she maketh him pay for the bliss he giveth her. When love hath equal charms for both, wherefore should one sell it and the other buy? Wherefore should I lose, and thou win at a game wherein we both minister to our mutual bliss?
A witness may not sell his testimony for money; nor must a judge take bribes. It is a disgrace for an advocate to sell his services to a pauper or for a tribunal to grow fat on the proceeds of justice. So, too, it is shameful for a woman to augment her patrimony by bartering her charms and by selling her body to the highest bidder. Gratitude
we owe for a favour freely given, but none for the sordid hiring of a woman and a bed. Once thou hast received thy pay, thy, hire--love and gratitude are at an end.
Ah, dear women, never set a price on the favours ye bestow. Ill-gotten gains will never prosper. Of what value were the bracelets of the Sabines to the young vestal who was crushed beneath the weight of their armour? A son plunged his sword into the loins that bore him; a necklace lured him to his crime.
Not that thou shouldst refrain from asking presents of a rich man. He hath the wherewithal to satisfy thy demands. Pluck the grapes that hang from the loaded vines; gather thy apples in the fruitful orchards of Alcinoüs. And for the poor man, bethink thee of the good he doeth thee, of his zeal and his fidelity. Let every man give what he hath unto his mistress. My wealth consists in celebrating in my verse the women who render themselves worthy of that honour. She who maketh me desire, her my art exalteth. Precious gifts and costly raiment will perish; gems set in gold will one day shattered be, but my verses shall endure for ever. What disgusts and enrages me is not giving, but seeing thee ask for pay. What I refuse thee when thou askest, I will freely give thee when thou askest not.