Aristaenetus: Philochorus to Polyaneus

AS Hippias t’other day and I
Walk’d arm and arm, he said,
“That pretty creature dost thou spy,
Who leans upon her maid?

“She’s tall, and has a comely shape,
And treads well, too, I swear:
Come on—by this good light we’ll scrape
Acquaintance with the fair.”

“Good God!” cried I, “she is not game,
I’m sure, for you or me:
Do nothing rashly—you’re to blame;
She’s modest, you may see.”

But he, who knew all womankind,
Thus answer’d with a sneer:
“You’re quite a novice, friend, I find—
There’s nothing modest here.

“A virtuous dame this hour, no doubt
Would choose to walk the streets;
Especially so dizen’d out,
And smile on all she meets.

“Her rings, her bracelets, her perfumes
Her wanton actions, prove
The character which she assumes,
And that her trade is love.

“See now, she fidgets with her vest—
To settle it, be sure,
And not at all to show her breast,
Nor wishing to allure.

“Her robe tuck’d up with nicest care—
But that’s to show she’s neat;
And though her legs are half-way bare,
She means to hide her feet.

“But see! she turns to look behind,
And laughs, I’ll take my oath:
Come on—I warrant we shall find
The damsel nothing loth.”

So up he march’d, and made his bow—
No sooner off his hat,
But, lover-like, he ‘gan to vow,
And soon grew intimate.

But first premised the ways were rough—
“Madam, for fear of harm,
I beg”—so cleverly enough
He made her take his arm.

Then—”Fairest, for thy beauty’s sake,
Which long has fired my breast,
Permit me to your maid to make
A single short request!

“And yet you know what I’d require,
And wherefore I apply:
Nought unrequited I desire,
But gold the boon shall buy.

“I’ll give, my fairest, what you please—
You’ll not exact, I’m sure:
Then deign, bright charmer, deign to ease
The torments I endure.”

Assent sat smiling in her eyes;
Her lily hand he seized;
Nor feign’d she very great surprise,
Nor look’d so much displeased.

She blush’d a little too, methought,
As though she should refuse—
But women, I’ve been told, are taught
To blush whene’er they choose.

Hippias was now quite hand in glove,
With Miss, and firmly bent
To take her to the bower of Love,
He whisper’d as he went—

“Well, Phil, say now whose judgment’s best?
Was I so very wrong?
You saw, not eagerly I press’d,
Nor did I press her long.

“But you are ignorant, I see,
So follow and improve;
For few, I ween, can teach like me
The mysteries of Love.”

Translation by Richard Brinsley Sheridan.

One thought on “Aristaenetus: Philochorus to Polyaneus

  1. Nothing is known about Aristaenetus. He was long identified with a friend of Symmachus of the same name, who died in an earthquake at Nicomedia in 358, but is now thought to have flourished in the 5th or 6th century. His fifty letters in two books, all about similar topics, did not find much grace in the eyes of modern critics, but were translated several times in the 18th century.

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