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ELEGY XIV

TO HIS MISTRESS, WHO, CONTRARY TO HIS COUNSEL, DYED HER HAIR WITH NOXIOUS COMPOSITIONS, AND HAS NEARLY BECOME BALD.

DID I not say to thee, "Cease to dye thy hair?" And now thou hast no longer any hair to dye. Nevertheless, hadst thou not been stubborn, where was there anything more beautiful than thy hair? It came down to thy knees, so fine thou wast afraid to comb it. No finer is the tissue with which the dark-skinned Seres clothe themselves; no finer is the thread which, with her dainty legs, the spider, swaying from her lonely beam, draws out to weave her airy web. Howbeit its colour was not black as ebony, nor was it golden. ’Twas a mixture of the two. Such is the colour of the tall cedar in the cool valleys of Mount Ida, when its bark is stripped away.

So soft, so tractable it was that thou couldst bind it in countless different ways, without the smallest trouble. Never did the comb's tooth tear thy tresses; thy tire-woman was never fearful of a slapping. Many a time have I been present at my mistress's toilet and never did she seize the bodkin to prick her woman's arms. Sometimes of a morning, her hair still in disorder, she would

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lie, half turned over, on the purple bed. And even then, in her careless abandon, she was lovely, lovely with the loveliness of an o’er-wearied Bacchanal who has cast herself, heedless of her posture, on the green grass.

Then her tresses were soft as down. How often, alas, have I seen them put to the torture, compelled patiently to endure both iron and fire, to make them stay in little rounded curls. "’Tis a crime," I cried, "a crime to scorch that hair of thine; it falls beautifully of its own accord. Cruel one, have mercy on thine own head. Away with such violent treatment. This is not the sort of hair to scorch. Thy hair itself instructs the bodkin where to go."

Gone are those lovely tresses which Apollo, which Bacchus, might have envied; such tresses as Dione, coming naked from the foam, upheld with her dripping hands.

Why, since they pleased thee not, dost thou lament the ruin of thy tresses? Wherefore, stupid one, dost thou thrust aside so mournfully thy mirror? No longer doth it please thee, remembering what thou wast, to gaze therein.

Howbeit ’tis not to magic herbs culled by a jealous rival, nor to water drawn by some treacherous witch from Hæmonian springs, that their fall is due. ’Tis not the effect of some dire malady (the gods keep thee from that), no, nor a rival's jealous tongue, envious of their beauty. No, thine is the crime, and thine own the hand that wrought the loss thou mournest; thine own the hand that poured the poison on thy head. Now Germany will send you some slave-girl's hair; a vanquished nation shall furnish thy adornments. Alas, how oft, when thou shalt hear men praise the beauty of thy hair, wilt thou tell thyself with a blush, "’Tis purchased merchandise that makes me comely in their sight to-day; of some unknown Sygambrian girl my friends the praises sing. Yet I remember the day when that glory was my own."

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Heavens, what have I said? See, she can scarce restrain her tears. She buries her face in her hands, and look how she is blushing. She steals a glance at one of her fallen tresses lying in her lap, a treasure, alas I not fitted for that place. Nay, come then, soothe thy heart and clear thy brow. The loss is not irreparable. Ere long with thine own hair, thou wilt be beauteous as of yore.