Monday, August 30, 2010

"Like honey is his voice"

Cypris was raising the hue and cry for Love, her child, - ‘Who, where the three ways meet, has seen Love wandering? He is my runaway, whosoever has aught to tell of him shall win his reward. His prize is the kiss of Cypris, but if thou bringest him, not the bare kiss, O stranger, but yet more shalt thou win. The child is most notable, thou couldst tell him among twenty together, his skin is not white, but flame coloured, his eyes are keen and burning, an evil heart and a sweet tongue has he, for his speech and his mind are at variance. 

Like honey is his voice, but his heart of gall, all tameless is he, and deceitful, the truth is not in him, a wily brat, and cruel in his pastime. The locks of his hair are lovely, but his brow is impudent, and tiny are his little hands, yet far he shoots his arrows, shoots even to Acheron, and to the King of Hades.

‘The body of Love is naked, but well is his spirit hidden, and winged like a bird he flits and descends, now here, now there, upon men and women, and nestles in their inmost hearts. He hath a little bow, and an arrow always on the string, tiny is the shaft, but it carries as high as heaven. A golden quiver on his back he bears, and within it his bitter arrows, wherewith full many a time he wounds even me.

‘Cruel are all these instruments of his, but more cruel by far the little torch, his very own, wherewith he lights up the sun himself.

‘And if thou catch Love, bind him, and bring him, and have no pity, and if thou see him weeping, take heed lest he give thee the slip; and if he laugh, hale him along.

‘Yea, and if he wish to kiss thee, beware, for evil is his kiss, and his lips enchanted.

‘And should he say, “Take these, I give thee in free gift all my armoury,” touch not at all his treacherous gifts, for they all are dipped in fire.’

Idyl I: Love the Runaway, Moschus, c.150 BCE, trans. by Andrew Lang, 1889. Text at Project Gutenberg

L’Amour endormi sur un crâne, Pieter Moninckx (1605-72)

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