Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Ovid, Ars Amatoria: always flatter a girl.

I don’t care about clothing and I hate fashion shops: whatever the local Aldi has sometimes on offer is good enough for me. I share this character trait with other men – hipsters and some others excluded. I also can’t tell what a woman was wearing the last time I saw her, even when on the same day she has changed clothes. This, I understand from Ovid, is a carelessness and negligence unforgivable in the beginning of a relationship: if you want to keep a girl, praise whatever she is wearing and flatter her!

Ovid, Ars Amatoria, book 2, 295 – 314

Sed te, cuicumque est retinendae cura puellae,               295
     attonitum forma fac putet esse sua.
Sive erit in Tyriis, Tyrios laudabis amictus:
     sive erit in Cois, Coa decere puta.
Aurata est? ipso tibi sit pretiosior auro;
     gausapa si sumpsit, gausapa sumpta proba.               300
Astiterit tunicata, 'moves incendia' clama,
     sed timida, caveat frigora, voce roga.
Conpositum discrimen erit, discrimina lauda:
     torserit igne comam, torte capille, place.
Brachia saltantis, vocem mirare canentis,               305
     et, quod desierit, verba querentis habe.
Ipsos concubitus, ipsum venerere licebit
     quod iuvat, et quae dat gaudia voce notes.
Ut fuerit torva violentior illa Medusa,
     fiet amatori lenis et aequa suo.               310
Tantum, ne pateas verbis simulator in illis,
     effice, nec vultu destrue dicta tuo.
Si latet, ars prodest: adfert deprensa pudorem,
     Atque adimit merito tempus in omne fidem.

retinendae puellae (gen.):  for the girl to be kept
attonitus : astonished
forma sua abl.
Tyriis (amictibus)
Tyrius: purple (The city of Tyrus was famous for its purple
amictus – us (m.): dress, garment
Coa (n. plur.): purple garments from Cos
tibi: dative of interest: in your opinion, she is  etc.
gausapa -orum: a shaggy woollen cloth (mostly f., but here n, pl.)
sumo sumpsi sumptum: ro take, use
asto: to stand erect
tunicatum: dressed in a tunic (i.e. underware, leaving little room for phantasy,  Of course this is at home, not in public.)
moveo incendia: set on fire
timida voce abl.
caveat frigora: whether she will beware of the cold
conpositum discrimen:  a combed hair parting
torqueo torsi torsum: to twist, curl
igne: that is with the calamistrum, (curling-iron) heated in fire
brachium: arm
salto: to dance (like in Indian dancing, the movement of the arms played an important role)
desino desii: to cease, stop
verba querentis habe: unusual construction `have words of one complaining’ = `complain that she stops’
Ipsos concubitus, ipsum venerere licebit  quod iuvat:  venerere goes also with ipsos concibutus `It will be allowedvenerate the very acts of making love and that what you like in particular’
et quae dat gaudia voce notes: a locus desperatus. The reading of the manuscripts is et quaedam gaudia noctis habe. This reading has been rejected as it doesn’t fit the context, namely praising the girl. I wonder if this is a valid argument, as the Latin is clear enough, but I am not a specialist in textual criticism. The emendation of the text above made by Goold in 1965 and found on internet is now questioned and the alternative proposed in 1892 by Ellis: et quae clam gaudia noctis habes (or habet when it refers to the girl) is considered more satisfying. Gould’s emendation takes puella is subject of dat: `and which joys she gives, you shall express with your voice ‘. Ellis: and which joys of the night, you shall have it secretly.’
torvus: wild, fierce (abl. with Medusa)
violentior: i.e. not under control yet
tantum effice: act in such a way
ne pateas simulator: that don’t you manifest yourself  as a feigner
destruo destruxi destructum:  destroy
prosum (prodesse): to be useful
deprendo deprendi deprensum: to take away, find out (subject: ars)
pudorem: i.e. she will not sleep with you anymore
adimo ademi ademptum: to take away (subject: ars deprensa)
merito: rightly
tempus in omne (= in omne tempus): forever

Rather free translation by Julian May (1930)

If you want to keep your mistress's love, you must make her think you're dazzled with her charms. If she wears a dress of Tyrian purple, tell her there's nothing like Tyrian purple. If she's wearing a gown of Coan stuff, tell her that there's nothing becomes her so enchantingly. If she's ablaze with gold, tell her that you think gold's less brilliant than her charms. If she's clad in winter furs, tell her they're lovely; if she appears in a flimsy tunic, tell her she sets you on fire, and say you hope she won't catch cold. If she wears her hair parted on her forehead, say you like that style. If she has it frizzed and fuzzy, say, "How I love it frizzed!" Praise her arms when she dances, her voice when she sings, and when she ceases, say how sorry you are it came to an end so soon. If she admits you to her bed, adore the seat of all your bliss, and in tones trembling with delight tell her what a heaven she makes for you. Why, even if she were grimmer than the terrible Medusa, she would grow soft and docile for her love. Be a good dissembler and never let your face belie your words. Artifice is a fine thing when it's not perceived; once it's discovered, discomfiture follows. Confidence is gone for ever.

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