The Art of Love: Book Two


...Short partings do best, though: time wears out affections,
The absent love fades, a new one takes its place.
With Menelaus away, Helen's disinclination for sleeping
Alone led her into her guest's
Warm bed at night. Were you crazy, Menelaus?
Why go off leaving your wife
With a stranger in the house? Do you trust doves to falcons,
Full sheepfolds to mountain wolves?
Here Helen's not at fault, the adulterer's blameless -
He did no more than you, or any man else,
Would do yourself. By providing place and occasion
You precipitated the act. What else did she do
But act on your clear advice? Husband gone; this stylish stranger
Here on the spot; too scared to sleep alone -
Oh, Helen wins my acquittal, the blame's her husband's:
All she did was take advantage of a man's
Human complaisance. And yet, more savage than the tawny
Boar in his rage, as he tosses the maddened dogs
On lightening tusks, or a lioness suckling her unweaned
Cubs, or the tiny adder crushed
By some careless foot, is a woman's wrath, when some rival
Is caught in the bed she shares. Her feelings show
On her face. Decorum's flung to the wind, a maenadic
Frenzy grips her, she rushes headlong off
After fire and steel... .

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