Commoda

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Nam vitare, plagas in amoris ne iaciamur,
non ita difficile est quam captum retibus ipsis
exire et validos Veneris perrumpere nodos.
et tamen implicitus quoque possis inque peditus
effugere infestum, nisi tute tibi obvius obstes
et praetermittas animi vitia omnia primum
aut quae corpori’ sunt eius, quam praepetis ac vis.
nam faciunt homines plerumque cupidine caeci
et tribuunt ea quae non sunt his commoda vere.
multimodis igitur pravas turpisque videmus
esse in deliciis summoque in honore vigere.
atque alios alii inrident Veneremque suadent
ut placent, quoniam foedo adflictentur amore,
nec sua respiciunt miseri mala maxima saepe.
nigra “melichrus” est, inmunda et fetida “acosmos”,
caesia “Palladium”, nervosa et lignea “dorcas”,
parvula pumilio, “chariton mia,” “tota merum sal,”
magna atque inmanis “cataplexis plenaque honoris.”
balba loqui non quit—”traulizi”; muta “pudens” est;
at flagrans odiosa loquacula “lampadium” fit;
“ischnon eromenion” tum fit, cum vivere non quit
prae macie; “rhadine” verost iam mortua tussi;
at tumida et mammosa “Ceres” est “ipsa ab Iaccho,”
simula “Silena ac saturast,” labeosa “philema.”
cetera de genere hoc longum est si dicere coner.
(Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 4.1146-1170)

To keep from falling into the snare of love
is not so hard as to escape the net
once caught, and burst the knotted bonds of Venus.
Yet, even snared and tangled, you can still
get free, unless you block your own way out,
and start by ignoring every fault of mind
or body in her whom you desire and want.
For this men often do when blind with lust,
bestowing virtues where they don’t exist.
Hence we see ugly, shapeless women loved
like precious darlings, loaded with wealth and honors.
And some men mock their fellows, and bid them beg
Venus for mercy, so sick, so foul their love,
and never observe, poor fools, their own worse ills.
Sallow is “honeyed,” unkempt, unwashed, “informal”;
she stares: “a goddess!” all bone and muscle: “a fawn!”
Dumpy? “She’s exquisite! Tiny—but what a mind!”
Huge and clumsy? “Portentous! Pure dignity!”
Hare-lip? Tongue-tied? “No, lisping,” “self-effacing!”
Shameless? A hideous bore? No, “Wisdom’s lamp!”
Stringy and thin? Not long to live? “She’s dainty,
a darling!” Bad cough? One foot in the grave? No, “frail!”
Bulging? Huge-uddered? “A Ceres, suckling Bacchus!”
Pug-nosed? “A saucy nymph!” Thick-lipped? “For kissing!”
And so on and so on: the rest is long to tell.
(tr. Frank O. Copley)

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