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THOU, Bagoas, who art entrusted with the task of guarding thy mistress, lend me thine ear. I have but a couple of words to say to you, but they are weighty ones. Yesterday I saw a lady walking in the portico beneath the temple of Apollo. At once I fell in love with her and importuned her in writing. In answer, with a trembling hand, she wrote: "Impossible." And why is it impossible? I asked. And she replied that you keep too strict a watch on her.

p. 35

Now listen to me, my over-watchful friend; if you are wise you will give up getting yourself hated. If people fear you, they will long for you to die. Her husband, too, is a fool, for why be at such pains to guard a thing whereof, even if you watch it not, no part is lost? Still, if he is madman enough, let him indulge his passion to the full, and believe her chaste who gives her charms to all. But for thee, vouchsafe her, in secret, a modicum of freedom. What you give her in that direction she will repay. Just let her take you into her confidence a little, and the mistress will do what the slave shall bid. Afraid of conniving a little? Why, you've only got to shut your eyes. Is she reading a letter in secret? Well, take it that it's from her mother. A stranger comes to call? Take him for some old acquaintance. She goes to see a sick friend who isn't sick at all? Why, pretend she is sick. Is she a long time coming? Let your head droop on your breast, and snore away to your heart's content. Don't go worrying your head about what they're doing in the temple of Isis, or what's going on in the theatres.

A discreet accomplice wins a deal of glory, and after all, what is simpler than to hold your tongue? Such a man is liked, he rules the household and never gets a beating. He is a man of power; the others, scurvy fellows, merely slaves. In order to keep the husband sweet, he stuffs him with fairy tales and, masters both, they both approve of what delights the woman. A husband may frown and furrow his brow with wrinkles, a wheedling woman always gets her way. Still, every now and then she must seem to have a grudge against you, pretend to cry and say you are a brute. Your cue is then to accuse her of some fault that she can readily disprove. In taxing her with what is false, you blind her husband to the real truth. This if you do, honours and money will be showered upon you. Act as I bid you, and you'll soon be a slave no more.

You see informers laden with heavy chains, you see

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false-hearted knaves shut up in gloomy dungeons. Tantalus is thirsty, with water all about him; surrounded by fruit, of fruit he cannot taste. That's all because he was a blabber. Because he gave too strict effect to Juno's bidding, Io's guard died ere his prime, and Io is a goddess.

I have seen a fellow loaded with chains that were making his legs black and blue, because he had insisted on telling a husband of his wife's amours. He merited a weightier doom; his prating tongue had killed the happiness of two. He filled the husband's heart with grief and slew his wife's good rime.

Mark what I say; there never was a husband yet that liked such charges brought against his spouse. Hear them he may, but he'll never hear them with pleasure. If he be indifferent, all your precious tale is wasted; if he love her, then ’tis you who kill his peace of mind. Nay, howsoever clear a woman's fault may be, it takes a deal of proving. The judge's sympathies are all for her. Even if he had seen the whole thing with his own eyes, he would still believe her, if she denied it. He would say his eyes deceived him; that he himself had been at fault. Let her but fall a-weeping, he'll mingle his tears with hers and say, "This babbling ass shall get it hot for this." You see, the odds are nearly all against you, and if you lose, you get a thrashing, while she's being dandled on the judge's knee.

It is no crime we meditate. It is not to mix a poisoned draught that we desire to meet. No naked dagger flashes in our hand. All we ask is that, by your good offices, we may love in safety; and what request could be more innocent than that?


Quem penes est dominam servandi cura, Bagoa,
    dum perago tecum pauca, sed apta, vaca.
hesterna vidi spatiantem luce puellam
    illa, quae Danai porticus agmen habet.
protinus, ut placuit, misi scriptoque rogavi.
    rescripsit trepida 'non licet!' illa manu;
et, cur non liceat, quaerenti reddita causa est,
    quod nimium dominae cura molesta tua est.
Si sapis, o custos, odium, mihi crede, mereri
    desine; quem metuit quisque, perisse cupit.
vir quoque non sapiens; quid enim servare laboret,
    unde nihil, quamvis non tueare, perit?
sed gerat ille suo morem furiosus amori
    et castum, multis quod placet, esse putet;
huic furtiva tuo libertas munere detur,
    quam dederis illi, reddat ut illa tibi.
conscius esse velis--domina est obnoxia servo;
    conscius esse times--dissimulare licet.
scripta leget secum--matrem misisse putato!
    venerit ignotus--postmodo notus erit.
ibit ad adfectam, quae non languebit, amicam:
    visat! iudiciis aegra sit illa tuis.
si faciet tarde, ne te mora longa fatiget,
    inposita gremio stertere fronte potes.
nec tu, linigeram fieri quid possit ad Isim,
    quaesieris nec tu curva theatra time!
conscius adsiduos commissi tollet honores--
    quis minor est autem quam tacuisse labor?
ille placet versatque domum neque verbera sentit;
    ille potens--alii, sordida turba, iacent.
huic, verae ut lateant causae, finguntur inanes;
    atque ambo domini, quod probat una, probant.
cum bene vir traxit vultum rugasque coegit,
    quod voluit fieri blanda puella, facit.
Sed tamen interdum tecum quoque iurgia nectat,
    et simulet lacrimas carnificemque vocet.
tu contra obiciens, quae tuto diluat illa,
    et veris falso crimine deme fidem.
sic tibi semper honos, sic alta peculia crescent.
    haec fac, in exiguo tempore liber eris.
Adspicis indicibus nexas per colla catenas?
    squalidus orba fide pectora carcer habet.
quaerit aquas in aquis et poma fugacia captat
    Tantalus--hoc illi garrula lingua dedit.
dum nimium servat custos Iunonius Io,
    ante suos annos occidit; illa dea est!
vidi ego conpedibus liventia crura gerentem,
    unde vir incestum scire coactus erat.
poena minor merito. nocuit mala lingua duobus;
    vir doluit, famae damna puella tulit.
crede mihi, nulli sunt crimina grata marito,
    nec quemquam, quamvis audiat, illa iuvant.
seu tepet, indicium securas prodis ad aures;
    sive amat, officio fit miser ille tuo.
Culpa nec ex facili quamvis manifesta probatur;
    iudicis illa sui tuta favore venit.
viderit ipse licet, credet tamen ille neganti
    damnabitque oculos et sibi verba dabit.
adspiciat dominae lacrimas, plorabit et ipse,
    et dicet: 'poenas garrulus iste dabit!'
quid dispar certamen inis? tibi verbera victo
    adsunt, in gremio iudicis illa sedet.
Non scelus adgredimur, non ad miscenda coimus
    toxica, non stricto fulminat ense manus.
quaerimus, ut tuto per te possimus amare.
    quid precibus nostris mollius esse potest?

Next: Elegy III: He Appeals Once More To Bagoas, Who Had Proved Inflexible.