Friday, August 11, 2017

Make sure you cultivate the liberal arts

From Ovid's 'Ars Amatoria'
translated by James Michie

. . . Now is the time to contrive
A good mind to add to your looks: that alone will endure
To the pyre at the end. Make sure
You cultivate the liberal arts, and learn to speak
Not only perfect Latin but good Greek.
Ulysses wasn't handsome, but he had
Such eloquence that two sea-goddesses were mad
For his love. Calypso wept in his haste to be going
And swore the water was too rough for rowing!
Again and again she asked about Troy, and he told her the tale
In so many ways it was never stale.
There on the shore, the lovely goddess begged, 'Friend
Tell me about King Rhesus' bloody end.'
And he with a stick he happened to have in his hand
Drew diagrams on the firm sand.
'Here's Troy' he'd say; and with the damp
Sand built a wall. 'Here's Simois. Our camp
Imagine over there. There's the plain' - He smoothed a plain -
Where we butchered the spy Dolon on the look-out to gain
Achilles steeds. Rhesus camped there; that night I rode
Back on the captured horses. He would have showed
Calypso more
But a wave raced up the shore
And washed Troy, Rhesus, and his camp away.
At which the goddess exclaimed, 'What did I say?
How can you trust this sea when one wave effaces
All those famous names and places?'
And so, since looks may let you down unkindly,
Don't rely on them blindly.
Reader, whoever you are, you must
Have something safer than physique to trust.

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