I don’t ask you to be faithful – you’re beautiful, after all –
but just that I be spared the pain of knowing.
I make no stringent demands that you should really be chaste,
but only that you try to cover up.
If a girl can claim to be pure, it’s the same as being pure:
it’s only admitted vice that makes for scandal.
What madness, to confess by day what’s wrapped in night,
and what you’ve done in secret, openly tell!
The hooker, about to bed some Roman off the street
still locks her door first, keeping out the crowd:
will you yourself then make your sins notorious,
accusing and prosecuting your own crime?
Be wise, and learn at least to imitate chaste girls,
and let me believe you’re good, though you are not.
Do what you do, but simply deny you ever did:
there’s nothing wrong with public modesty.
There is a proper place for looseness: fill it up
with all voluptuousness, and banish shame;
but when you’re done there, then put off all playfulness
and leave your indiscretions in your bed.
There, don’t be ashamed to lay your gown aside
and press your thigh against a pressing thigh;
there take and give deep kisses with your crimson lips;
let love contrive a thousand ways of passion;
there let delighted words and moans come ceaselessly,
and make the mattress quiver with playful motion.
But put on with your clothes a face that’s all discretion,
and let Shame disavow your shocking deeds.
Trick everyone, trick me: leave me in ignorance;
let me enjoy the life of a happy fool.
Why must I see so often notes received – and sent?
Why must I see two imprints on your bed,
or your hair disarrayed much more than sleep could do?
Why must I notice love bites on your neck?
You all but flaunt your indiscretions in my face.
Think of me, if not of your reputation.
I lose my mind, I die, when you confess you’ve sinned;
I break out in cold sweat from hand to foot;
I love you then, and hate you – in vain, since I must love you;
I wish then I were dead – and you were too!
I won’t investigate or check whatever you try
to hide: I will be thankful to be deceived.
But even if I catch you in the very act
and look on your disgrace with my own eyes,
deny that I have seen what I have clearly seen,
and my eyes will agree with what you claim.
You’ll win an easy prize from a man who wants to lose,
only remember to say, ‘I didn’t do it.’
Since you can gain your victory with one short phrase,
win on account of your judge, if not your case.
-Ovid (43 B.C – 17 A.D)
Transl. by John Corelis
More on Roman poetry: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1-C5mbV9Lk