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p. 92



NAY, seeing how very beautiful you are, I won't deny you a few frailties. But what I don't want, and can't stand, is to know about them. No, I'm not going to take high moral ground; I'm not going to insist on your being a paragon of virtue and all that; but I want you to appear as if you were. A woman isn't guilty if she can deny the imputed delinquency. It's only confession that puts her out of court. How idiotic it is to prate every morning about what you did the night before, to proclaim in daylight what you did in the darkness.

Why, even a strumpet, before she attends to her customers, takes care to see that the street door is securely fastened. But you go blabbing about your misdeeds all over the place and seem to take a pride in putting yourself in the pillory. In future, if you can't be good, at least be cautious--assume a virtue if you have it not. Let me think you're running straight, even if you're not. You went off the lines yesterday--go off 'em again to-day, only don't go and cackle about it, and don't blush to talk like a decent woman. The time and place invite, we'll say; and you really feel as if you must. Well then, let yourself go completely; do everything you can think of; fling modesty to the winds; but only while you're there. When you come away, no more naughtiness. Let your doings be buried under the bedclothes. But while you are there, slip off your chemise without a blush and let him get his thigh well over yours. And let him thrust his tongue as far as it will go into your coral mouth and let passion prompt you to all manner of pretty devices. Talk lovingly. Say all sorts of naughty things, and let the bed creak and groan as you writhe with pleasure. But as soon as you have got your things on again, look the nice demure little lady you ought to be, and let your modesty belie your wantonness. Bamboozle society,

p. 93

bamboozle me; but don't let me know it, that's all; and let me go on living in my fool's paradise.

Why are you for ever sending and receiving letters under my very nose? Why is your bed creased and crumpled in every direction? How is it your hair is in such a tousled state? You don't get it like, that in your sleep; and that mark. on your neck there, as though someone had had his teeth in it, what's that? Very soon you'll be at it under my very eyes. If you don't care what people say and think about you, be a little thoughtful about me. I feel like crumpling up altogether every time you come and tell me these things. I feel as if my blood had all turned to ice. Then how I love! And how I try to hate what I can't help loving; then I wish I was dead but with you dead beside me.

I shan't do any spying; I shan't keep on at you, when I see you ready to deny my charge. Your disavowal shall be your innocence. And even if I catch you in the act, even if I see you with my very eyes, just tell me it wasn't so and your words shall be more convincing than my eyes. It will be easy enough for you to vanquish a foe who only asks to be vanquished. But don't, oh don't, forget to let your tongue say "not guilty." When you can win so easily with those two words, well--just win, if not by the merits of your cause, at all events by the softness of your judge.


Non ego, ne pecces, cum sis formosa, recuso,
    sed ne sit misero scire necesse mihi;
nec te nostra iubet fieri censura pudicam,
    sed tamen, ut temptes dissimulare, rogat.
non peccat, quaecumque potest peccasse negare,
    solaque famosam culpa professa facit.
quis furor est, quae nocte latent, in luce fateri,
    et quae clam facias facta referre palam?
ignoto meretrix corpus iunctura Quiriti
    opposita populum summovet ante sera;
tu tua prostitues famae peccata sinistrae
    commissi perages indiciumque tui?
sit tibi mens melior, saltemve imitare pudicas,
    teque probam, quamvis non eris, esse putem.
quae facis, haec facito; tantum fecisse negato,
    nec pudeat coram verba modesta loqui!
Est qui nequitiam locus exigat; omnibus illum
    deliciis inple, stet procul inde pudor!
hinc simul exieris, lascivia protinus omnis
    absit, et in lecto crimina pone tuo.
illic nec tunicam tibi sit posuisse pudori
    nec femori inpositum sustinuisse femur;
illic purpureis condatur lingua labellis,
    inque modos Venerem mille figuret amor;
illic nec voces nec verba iuvantia cessent,
    spondaque lasciva mobilitate tremat!
indue cum tunicis metuentem crimina vultum,
    et pudor obscenum diffiteatur opus;
da populo, da verba mihi; sine nescius errem,
    et liceat stulta credulitate frui!
Cur totiens video mitti recipique tabellas?
    cur pressus prior est interiorque torus?
cur plus quam somno turbatos esse capillos
    collaque conspicio dentis habere notam?
tantum non oculos crimen deducis ad ipsos;
    si dubitas famae parcere, parce mihi!
mens abit et morior quotiens peccasse fateris,
    perque meos artus frigida gutta fluit.
tunc amo, tunc odi frustra quod amare necesse est;
    tunc ego, sed tecum, mortuus esse velim!
Nil equidem inquiram, nec quae celare parabis
    insequar, et falli muneris instar erit.
si tamen in media deprensa tenebere culpa,
    et fuerint oculis probra videnda meis,
quae bene visa mihi fuerint, bene visa negato--
    concedent verbis lumina nostra tuis.
prona tibi vinci cupientem vincere palma est,
    sit modo 'non feci!' dicere lingua memor.
cum tibi contingat verbis superare duobus,
    etsi non causa, iudice vince tuo!

Next: Elegy XV: He Bids Farewell To His Wanton Muse, To Court One, More Austere.