Ovid wrote the poetry of “Ars Amatoria” in the 1st century BCE. He presented a captivating portrayal of the hedonistic and refined life of aristocracy in Roman culture in three books of “The Art of Love.” He guided Roman men and women from the upper class in their love affairs. He advised in his verses how to find, seduce, and keep a lover.
His astute love advice has become a classic in the art of love. His love poetry was passed down over centuries across generations and cultures. The early English translation of Ovid’s books, published in 1885, included a literal prose translation rather than the original poetry (Riley, 1885/2014). Their most recent translation and publication, in 2001, made available their poetic translation (Kline, 2001).
Modern men and women live in different cultural epochs than the Romans. Nevertheless, it is meaningful and beneficial to learn the art of love from the old wisdom of the past. Many of Ovid’s suggestions from long ago are still valid for modern love affairs. So, I believe even now, these books are still fascinating and interesting to read.
Because of this, I decided to post several wise quotes from Anthony Kline’s amazing translations of Ovid’s books in the articles on this love blog (Kline, 2001).
Men can learn a lot from the wonderful cantos of Book 1 that teach them “How to Find Her” (Part 2), “How to Win Her” (Part 9), “How to Make Promises of Love to Her” (Part 12), “How to Entice and Seduce a Woman” (Parts 13 and 14), “How to Make Promises and Deceive” (Part 16), “How Tears and Kisses Help in Love Affairs” (Part 17), “Psychology Love Tricks in the Art of Love” (Parts 18-19), and others.
The poems of Book II present other pieces of love advice to men. Parts V, VI, and VII explain men how beneficial in love (a) not to be faint-hearted, (b) win over the servants, and (c) give her little tasteful gifts.
In Book II, Ovid also explains how to Be Gentle and Good-Tempered in Love Relations (Part III), Let Her Miss You, but Not For Long (Part X), when men should Stir Her Jealousy in Their Art of Love (Part XIII).
Here is Part XIV of Ovid’s Book II, advising men to be wise and suffer in love. The art of love should be wise, yet love relationships can still cause suffering.
Be Wise and Suffer in Love, Part XIV of Book II:
“While I was writing this, Apollo suddenly appeared
plucking the strings of his lyre with his thumb.
Laurel was in his hand, laurel wreathing his hair:
he appears to poets looking like that.
‘Professor of Wanton Love,’ he said to me,
‘go lead your disciples to my temple,
it’s where the famous words, celebrated throughout the world,
command everyone to “Know Yourself”.
He alone will be wise, who’s well-known to himself,
and carries out each work that suits his powers.
Whom nature’s given beauty, let it be seen by her:
whose skin is lustrous, lie there often with bare shoulders:
who delights by talking, avoid taciturn silence:
who sings with art, then sing: who drinks with art, then drink.
but the eloquent should never declaim mid-speech
nor the crazy poet ever read his poems!’
So Phoebus warned: take note of Phoebus’s warning:
truth’s surely on the sacred lips of that god.
To bring us back to earth: who loves wisely wins,
and by my skill will bring off what he seeks.
It’s not often the furrow repays the loan with interest,
not often the winds aid the boat in trouble:
What delights a lover is little, what pains him more:
many sufferings declare themselves to his heart.
As many as hares on Athos, the bees that graze on Hybla,
as many as the olives the grey-green branches carry,
or the sea-shells on the shore, are the pains of love:
the thorns we suffer from are drenched in gall.
They’ll say she’s gone out: very likely she’s to be seen inside:
think that she has gone out, and your vision lied.
The door will be shut the night she promised you:
endure it, lay your body on the dusty ground.
And perhaps the lying maid with scornful face,
will say: ‘Why’s he hanging round our door?’
Still, a suppliant, coax the doorposts, and your harsh mistress,
and hang the roses, from your head, outside.
Come if she wishes: when she shuns you, go:
it’s unbecoming to a noble man to bore her.
Why let your lover say: ‘There’s no escaping him’?
Her feelings won’t always be against you.
Don’t think it a disgrace to suffer curses or blows from the girl, or plant kisses on her tender feet.”
Kline, A. S. (2001). Translation of Ovid’s Ars Amatoria: The Art of Love.