Welcome to Episode Sixty-Two of Lucretius Today. I am your host Cassius, and together with my panelists from the EpicureanFriends.com forum, we’ll walk you through the six books of Lucretius’ poem, and discuss how Epicurean philosophy can apply to you today. We encourage you to study Epicurus for yourself, and we suggest the best place to start is the book, “Epicurus and His Philosophy” by Canadian professor Norman DeWitt.
For anyone who is not familiar with our podcast, please check back to Episode One for a discussion of our goals and our ground rules. If you have any question about that, please be sure to contact us at EpicureanFriends.com for more information. In this Episode 62 we will continue our discussion of perils of romantic love. Our text today is Latin Lines -1141-1208 – of Book Four.
These are the misfortunes that attend an amour ever so fortunate and constant; but the miseries of a wretched and disastrous love are innumerable, and obvious to everyone with his eyes open. You had better therefore be upon your guard beforehand, and observe the rules I have laid down to prevent your being caught; for ’tis not so difficult to avoid being drawn into the snares of love as to disengage yourself from the net when you are taken, and to break through the strong knots which Venus ties close upon all her votaries.
And though you are entangled and within the net, you may still avoid much of the evil, unless you willfully set yourself against the remedy. First then, you are to take no notice of any imperfections, either of mind or body, you find in the mistress you admire and fondly love. All lovers, blinded by their passion, observe this, and attribute beauties to the fair to which they have no real pretence; and therefore the ugly and deformed we see have their several charms, and secure a sovereign power over their admirers. The lover that has such a forbidding Dowdy for a mistress is laughed at by his companions, who advise him to appease Venus and render her propitious, while they think nothing of their greater misfortunes in placing their esteem upon others less lovely and less beautiful. The black seems brown; the nasty and rank is negligent, the owl-eyed is a Pallas, the sinewy, with her dry skin, is a little Doe, the dwarf, of the Pygmy Breed, is one of the Graces, wit and spirit all over; the large and gigantic is surprising and full of majesty. If she stammers and cannot speak, then she lisps; she is modest if she is dumb; but the Turbulent, the violent and the talkative is all Fire. If she is worn away with a consumption, she is my Slender Love, you may span her in the waist if she is dying with a cough. The two-handed Virago, with her full Duggs, is Ceres herself, a bedfellow for Bacchus; the flat-nosed is my Silene, a little Satyr; the pouting lip is a very Kiss. It would be endless to say all that might be offered upon this subject.
But allow your mistress all the advantages of beauty in her face, that charms of love arise from every limb, yet there are others as lovely as she, and time was when you lived without her, and we know she plays the same game that homelier women can do as well. And then she perfumes, rank as she is with filthy smells, that her maids cannot come near her, but make a jest of her when they are not seen. But when the lover is shut out, and all in tears crowns the gates with flowers and garlands, and pours ointments upon the stately pillars, and the wretch warms the very doors with his kisses; yet when he is admitted, and one blast from her armpits strikes full upon him as he enters, he presently seeks for a plausible reason to be gone, and all his long-labored speeches of complaint are forgotten, and he condemns himself of folly for raising such ideas of her beauty, which no mortal could lay claim to. This secret is well known to women of the town, and they act cunningly behind the scenes as it were, and conceal their failings from those whose love they would secure fixed and lasting to themselves. But all to no purpose, for you may easily imagine how things are, and discover all, and prevent their utmost endeavors to deceive you. And if your mistress be of an open temper, and not sullen and reserved, she will not so much as hide her defects, but hope you will allow for imperfections that are common to the whole sex.
Nor does the woman always breathe with feigned desire when joined in strict embrace with him she loves, when she holds him close, and on his pressed lips imprints her balmy kisses; for she often does it heartily, and strives to share the common joy, and run the heats with vigor to the goal. Nor for any other reason would birds and herds and wild beasts and cattle and mares bear the weight of the male if they did not burn and rage with equal heat, and so receive with joy the lusty leap. Don’t you observe how those whom mutual pleasure has bound fast are tortured as it were in common bonds? How dogs in the street are striving to untie the knot and pull with all their might a different way, yet they stick fast in the strong ties of love? This they would never do if not engaged in mutual joys, which cheat them with delight and hold them fast. The pleasure then is common to them both.