The Bawd Dipsas

Ovid, Amores I.viii


There is a certain -- whoso wishes to know of a bawd, let him hear! -- a certain old dame there is by the name of Dipsas. Her name [meaning "thirsty"] accords with fact -- she has never looked with sober eye upon black Memnon's mother, her of the rosy steeds [Aurora, the dawn]. She knows the ways of magic, and Aeaean incantations, and by her art turns back the liquid waters upon their source; she knows well what the herb can do, what the thread set in motion by the whirling magic wheel, what the poison of the mare in heat. Whenever she has willed, the clouds are rolled together over all the sky; whenever she has willed, the day shines forth in a clear heaven. I have seen, if you can believe me, the stars letting drop down blood; crimson with blood was the face of Luna. I suspect she changes form and flits about in the shadows of night, her aged body covered with plumage. !I suspect, and rumour bears me out. From her eyes, too, double pupils dart their lightnings, with rays that issue from twin orbs. She summons forth from ancient sepulchres the dead of generations far remote, and with long incantations lays open the solid earth. This old dame has set herself to profane a modest union; her tongue is none the less without a banefill eloquence. Chance made me witness to what she said; she was giving these words of counsel -- the double doors concealed me: "Know you, my light, that yesterday you won the favour of a wealthy youth? Caught fast, he could not keep his eyes from your face. And why should you not win favour? Second to none is your beauty. Ah me, apparel worthy of your person is your lack! I could wish you as fortunate as you are most fair -- for with you become rich, I shall not be poor. Mars with contrary star is what has hindered you. Mars is gone; now favouring Venus' star is here. How her rising brings you fortune, lo, behold! A rich lover has desired you; he has interest in your needs. He has a face, too, that may match itself with yours; were he unwilling to buy, he were worthy to be bought." My lady blushed. "BIushes, to be sure, become a pale face, but the blush one feigns is the one that profits; real blushing is wont to be loss. With eyes becomingly cast down you will look into your lap, and regard each lover according to what he brings. It may be that in Tatius' reign the unadorned Sabine fair would not be had to wife by more than one; but how in wars far off Mars tries the souls of men, and 'tis Venus reigns in the city of her Aeneas. The beautiful keep holiday; chaste is she whom no one has asked -- or, be she not too countrified, she herself asks first. Those wrinkles, too, which you carry high on your brow, shake off; from the wrinkles many a naughtiness will fall. Penelope, when she used the bow, was makiag trial of the young men's powers; of horn was the bow that proved their strength. The stream of a lifetime glides smoothly on and is past before we know,iand swift the year glides by with horses at full speed. Bronze grows bright with use; a fair garment asks for the wearing; the abandoned dwelling moulders with age and corrupting neglect -- and beauty, so you open not your doors, takes age from lack of use. Nor, do one or two lovers avail enough; more sure your spoil, and less invidious, if from many. 'Tis from the flock a full prey comes to hoary wolves. "Think, what does your fine poet give you besides fresh verses? You will get many thousands of lover's lines to read. The god of poets himself [Apollo] attracts the gaze by his golden robe, and sweeps the harmonious chords of a Iyre dressed in gold. Let him who will give be greater for you than great Homer; believe me, giving calls for genius. And do not look down on him if he be one redeemed with the price of freedom; the chalk-marked foot is an empty reproach [Slaves offered for sale were thus marked]. Nor let yourself be deluded by ancient masks about the hall. Take thy grandfathers and go, thou lover who art poor! Nay, should he ask your favours without paying because he is fair, let him first demand what he may give from a lover of his own. "Exact more cautiously the price while you spread the net, lest they take flight; once taken, prey upon them on terms of your own. Nor is there harm in pretended love; allow him to think he is loved, and take care lest this love bring you nothing in! Often deny your favours. Feign headache now, nnd now let Isis be what affords you pretext. After a time, receive him, lest he grow used to suffering, and his love grow slack through being oft repulsed. Let your portal be deaf to prayers, but wide to the giver; let the lover you welcome overhear the words of the one you have sped; sometimes, too, when you have injured him, be angry, as if injured first -- charge met by counter-charge will vanish. But never give to anger long range of time; anger that lingers long oft causes breach. Nay, even let your eyes lenrn to drop tears at command, and the one or the other bedew at will your cheeks; nor fear to swear falsely if deceiving anyone -- Venus lends deaf ears to loves deceits. Have slave and handmaid skilled to act their parts, to point out the apt gift to buy for you; and have them ask Iittle gifts for themselves -- if they ask little gifts from many persons, there will by-and-bye grow from straws a mighty heap. And have your sister and your mother, and your nurse, too, keep plucking at your lover; quickly comes the spoil that is sought by many hands. When pretext fails for nsking gifts, have a cake to be sign to him your birthday is come. Take care lest he love without a rival, and feel secure; love lasts not well if you give it naught to fight. Let him see the traces of a lover o'er all your couch, and note about your neck the livid marks of passion. Above all else, have him see the presents another has sent. If no one has sent, you must ask of the Sacred Way [a shopping district]. When you have taken from him many gifts, in case he still give up not all he has, yourself ask him to lend -- what you never will restore! Let your tongue aid you, and cover up your thoughts-wheedle while you despoil; wicked poisons have for hiding-place sweet honey. "If you fulfil these precepts, learned by me from long experience, and wind and breeze carry not my words away, you will often speak me well as long as I live, and often pray my bones lie softly when I am dead." Her words were still running, when my shadow betrayed me. But my hands could scarce restrain themselves from tearing her sparse white hair, and her eyes, all lachrymose from wine, and her wrinkled cheeks. May the gods give you no abode and helpless age, and long winters and everlasting thirst ! Trans. Grant Showerman in Ovid in Six Volumes. Loeb. Cambridge, 1914., vol. I, pp. 347-55 [PA 6510 .H4x]