Wednesday, 11 July 2018

The Pleasing Constraint - Aristaenetus

In a snug little court as I stood t’ other day,
And caroll’d the loitering minutes away;
Came a brace of fair nymphs, with such beautiful faces,
That they yielded in number alone to the Graces:
Disputing they were, and that earnestly too,
When thus they address’d me as nearer they drew:
“So sweet is your voice, and your numbers so sweet,
Such sentiment join’d with such harmony meet;
Each note which you raise finds its way to our hearts,
Where Cupid engraves it wi’ the point of his darts:
But oh! by these strains, which so deeply can pierce,
Inform us for whom you intended your verse:
’Tis for her, she affirms—I maintain ’tis for me—
And we often pull caps in asserting our plea.”

  “Why, ladies,” cried I, “you’re both handsome, ’tis true,
But cease your dispute, I love neither of you;
My life on another dear creature depends;
Her I hasten to visit:—so kiss and be friends.”
“Oh ho!” said they, “now you convince us quite clear,
For no pretty woman lives anywhere here—
That’s plainly a sham. Now, to humour us both,
You shall swear you love neither; so come, take your oath.”

  I laughingly replied, “’Tis tyrannical dealing
To make a man swear, when ’tis plain he’s not willing.”

  “Why, friend, we’ve long sought thy fair person to seize;
And think you we’ll take such excuses as these?
No, ’twas chance brought you hither, and here you shall stay;—
Help, Phædra! to hold, or he’ll sure get away.”
Thus spoken, to keep me between ’em they tried;
’Twas a pleasing constraint, and I gladly complied.
If I struggled, ’twas to make ’em imprison me more,
And strove—but for shackles more tight than before;
But think not I’ll tell how the minutes were spent;
You may think what you please—but they both were content.

Aristaenetus (6th Century A.D.) Greece
Translated by Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Nathaniel Brassey Halhed
Source: The Love Epistles of Aristaenetus: Translated From the Greek Into English Metre by Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Nathaniel Brassey Halhed, J. Wilkie, 1771

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