Every lover’s in arms, and Cupid holds the fort
Atticus, believe me, every lover’s in arms.
The age that’s good for war, is also right for love.
An old soldier’s a disgrace, and an old lover.
That spirit a commander looks for in a brave army,
a lovely girl looks for in a love partner.
Both keep watch: both sleep on the ground,
one serves at his lady’s entrance, the other his general’s.
A long road’s a soldier’s task: but send the girl off,
and a restless lover will follow her to the end.
He’ll go against mountains and bend into stormy rivers,
he’ll push his way through swollen snowdrifts,
he’ll not rely on excuses, like angry northerlies,
or waiting for suitable stars to take to the waves.
Who but a soldier or lover could endure
cold nights or dense snow mixed with rain?
One’s sent out to spy on attacking forces:
the other keeps eye on his rival, his enemy.
This one lays siege to strong cities, that one his harsh friend’s entrance:
one breaks down gates, the other doors.
Often it helps to attack a sleeping enemy,
and strike the unarmed mass with armed hand.
That’s how Rhesus and his fierce Thracians were killed
and forfeited the leader’s captured mares.
Lovers, for sure, will make use of a husband’s sleep
and employ their arms while the enemy slumbers.
Getting past watchman’s hands, and enemy sentinels
is work for soldiers and wretched lovers.
Mars is chancy, Venus uncertain: the fallen can rise again,
while those you think could never be thrown are beaten.
So if you’ve called all lovers idlers, forget it.
Love is all experience and ability.
Great Achilles burns for stolen Briseis –
while you can Trojans, smash the Argive wall!
Hector went into battle from Andromache’s arms,
it was the wife who placed the helmet on his head.
The great lord Atrides, they say, seeing Cassandra
that Trojan Maenad, was enraptured by her flowing hair.
Mars too, surprised, felt the blacksmith’s chain mesh:
there was never a greater scandal in heaven.
I myself was lazy and born to idle leisure:
bed and shade both softened my mind.
Love for a lovely girl soon drove the idler
and ordered him off to earn his pay in camp.
Now see me, active and fighting nocturnal wars.
If you don’t want to be idle, fall in love!

from The Amores by Publius Ovidius

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