TO HIS MISTRESS, WHOM HE HAS FOUND TO BE FORSWORN.
SHALL I believe any longer that the gods exist? She has broken her sworn oath, and her loveliness is unimpaired. Long was her hair before she took the gods to witness. Now that she has deceived them, it is just as long. The whiteness of her skin was suffused with the hue of the rose, and the rose still blooms on her snowy check. She had a little foot; her foot is still the daintiest thing on earth. Tall was she, and graceful. Tall and graceful is she still. Her eyes shone like stars; many a time with them has she deceived me.
And so the gods themselves allow beautiful women to break their vow, and Beauty herself is a goddess. It was, I remember, only the other day that she swore by her own eyes and by mine; it was mine that felt the smart. Ye gods, if the deceitful little thing has hoodwinked you, how is it you have punished me for her crime? It is true you did not hesitate to decree death to the daughter of Cepheus, in punishment for her mother's pride. If I have found you vain and ineffectual witnesses, if she plumes herself on having fooled us both, have I got to suffer for her perjury, have I to be at once her scapegoat and her dupe?
Either the gods exist in name alone, a mere chimæra
invented to terrify the silly credulous rabble, or, if exist they do, they display gross favouritism towards women, and let them do what they like. It is only against us men that Mars is armed with his death-dealing sword; only against us that Pallas turns her fatal spear. At us Apollo aims his arrows. At us, and us alone, the thunderbolt is sped from sovran Jove's right hand. The gods have not the courage to punish the misdeeds of women, and not being able to terrify them, are themselves in terror of them. And are, we going on burning incense on their altars? No, men ought to have more spirit.
Jupiter demolishes sacred woods and citadels, but he withholds his wrath from perjured women. Out of the whole host of lying jades, only Semele perished by the flames. And that was because she was so willing. If she had evaded the attentions of her lover, the father of Bacchus would never have had to do a mother's duties.
And why do I thus fall out with all the company of heaven? The gods have eyes, as we have, they have hearts like ours. If I were a god myself, I should never quarrel with a woman because she took my name in vain. I should swear that the jade swore truly, and I'd never be known for a crusty god.
But you, my dear, use the gods a little more sparingly; or at all events have a thought for your lover's eyes.
Esse deos, i, crede--fidem iurata fefellit,