Acontius (sometimes Akontius) was a beautiful youth of the island of Ceos. On one occasion he came to Delos to celebrate the annual festival of Artemis (or Diana), and fell in love with Cydippe, the daughter of a noble Athenian.
When he saw her sitting in the temple attending to the sacrifice she was offering, he threw before her an apple upon which he had written the words “I swear by the sanctuary of Artemis to marry Acontius.” The nurse took up the apple and handed it to Cydippe, who read aloud what was written upon it, and then threw the apple away. But the goddess had heard her vow, as Acontius had wished.
After the festival was over, he went home, distracted by his love, but he waited for the result of what had happened and took no further steps. After some time, when Cydippe’s father was about to give her in marriage to another man, she was taken ill just before the nuptial solemnities were to begin, and this accident was repeated three times.
Acontius, informed of the occurrence, hastened to Athens, and the Delphic oracle, which was consulted by the maiden’s father, declared that Artemis by the repeated illness meant to punish Cydippe for her perjury. The maiden then explained the whole affair to her mother, and the father was at last induced to give his daughter to Acontius.
This story is related by Ovid (Ov. Ep. 20, 21; comp. Trist. 3.10. 73) and Aristaenetus (Epist. 10.10), and is also alluded to in several fragments of ancient poets, especially of Callimachus, who wrote a poem with the title Cydippe. The same story with some modifications is related by Antoninus Liberalis (Metam. 1) of an Athenian Hermocrates and Ctesylla. (Comp. CTESYLLA and Buttmann, Mytholog. ii. p. 115.)
Acontius letter to Cydippe
Source: Ovid, Heroides and Amores, XX
BANISH all fear: you shall not here again swear in favor of your lover; it is enough that you have once solemnly vowed yourself to me. Read: so may that painful illness which spreads over all your joints, and racks my soul with a
thousand fears, leave every affected part. Why does the blush kindle in your check? For I fancy I see your color change, as in the temple of Diana. I demand nothing criminal; I only ask that affinity and allegiance which you promised in the temple of Diana; I love you as a lawful husband, not an infamous adulterer. Ah! only repeat to yourself those binding words, which the unthinking fruit thrown by my hands presented to your chaste eyes. There you will find yourself to be bound by that vow, which I could wish you had rather remembered than the Goddess. But now I tremble even for that, while this hope has already gathered strength, and my flame increases every moment. For that love, which was always violent, is now increased by tedious delays, and by the hope you have cherished in my breast. You gave me hope; my love rested upon this foundation; nor can you deny a thing that was done in the presence of the Goddess. She was present, and overheard your vow; and her statue was seen to give a nod of approbation. I allow you to accuse me of having deceived you by an artful management, if, at the same time, you own it was love that prompted me to the ingenious deceit. What did all my artifice aim at, but to be joined to you alone?
What you complain of, should render me rahter doubly dear to you. My ingenuity came neither from nature, nor from long practice; it is only you, dear girl, that can make me thus inventive. Love, fertile in expedients, turnished the form of words by which I bound you so close to myself; it indeed I really bound you. I inscribed a marriage-contract in words dictated by him; it was by following his suggestions, that I became so expert in the law. Let this stratagem then bear the name of fraud; let me be called cunning and deceitful, if it can be called a fraud to aim at the possession of what we love. See! I write a second time, and send you my prayers and entreaties. This too, no doubt, is a fraud; you have in this also a ground of complaint.
If it is a crime to love, I own it, and must still be guilty without end. I must still pursue you, should even you yourself avoid my cager hopes. Others have carried away by force the virgin whom they loved; and can it be a crime in me to write a few words with artifice? How earnestly do I wish I could bind you by a thousand other ties, that no liberty might remain to plight your faith to another! A thousand stratagems are still left: I struggle hard to mount the difficult steep; nor will my ardent flame leave any expedient unessayed. It is uncertain, perhaps, whether you can be gained; but assuredly you shall. True; the event belongs to Heaven; still you shall be mine. Should you escape some, it will be impossible to elude all my snares; Love has spread more than you are well aware of. If artifice be unsuccessful, recourse must be had to violence, and you shall be borne by force into the arms of your eager admirer. I am none of those who blame the brave attempt of Paris, or of any who have shewn themselves men of steadiness and courage.
Were death to be the punishment of the daring rape, yet that is still less than to be deprived of you. Were you moderately fair, you would be pursued with a moderate impatience; but a form so enchanting, makes us rash and resolute. You and your deluding eyes do ail this; those eyes that eclipse the sparkling stars, and have raised the flame that rages in my breast. Why lay you not the blame upon your golden locks and ivory neck, and those fair hands, which, Oh how happy, were they fondly circled round my neck? Why not upon your comely looks, and that enchanting face, where modesty shines without rusticity; your feet, which I can scarcely imagine are equaled by those of Thetis? Where I able to commend the rest also, I should be much happier; nor do I question that the whole frame is uniformly beautiful.
What wonder then, if, overruled by so many powerful charms, I was anxious to have your promise, as a pledge of your love? Let it be so then; provided you are forced to own that you are deceived. I shall grant likewise that you were deceived by my address.
Let me bear the envy; but let not the sufferer go without his reward. Why do I not reap the harvest of so great a crime? Telamon forced away Hesione, and Achilles Briseis: each captive followed her conqueror. Blame me as much as you will; I allow you even to be angry with me, if, though angry, I may be yet permitted to call you mine. I, who have raised this storm, will do all in my power to appease it; let me only have some opportunity of softening and quieting your resentment. Let me stand before you drowned in tears, and second my tears with the language they will naturally dictate; and, as is usual with slaves when they are afraid of the whip, let me clasp my suppliant hands round your knees. You seem not to know the right you have over me; summon me before you: why am I accused in my absence? Command me to appear in the right of one that has been long my mistress. Though full of resentment you tear my hair, and disfigure my face with your nails, I will patiently suffer all. I may indeed perhaps be apprehensive that those fair hands may be hurt in taking revenge. It will be needless to secure me with chains and fetters: love is a bond that will retain me beyond the power of an escape. When your resentment is fully satiated, you will be forced to sax, How patiently he loves! When you observe me submissively endure all, surely you cannot avoid saying, Who serves so well, let him continue to serve. Now I am accused in my absence; and my cause, though highly just, is lost for want of an advocate. But if it be allowed that the words I wrote, induced by love, are an injury, you have cause of complaint only against me.
Does Diana also deserve to be deceived? If you will not perform the promise made to me, perform your promise to the Goddess. She was present, and saw your blushes on finding yourself deceived; she treasured up your words with a recollective car. May all the omens vanish in air: yet it is certain that no one takes a severer revenge, when (which Heaven forbid should be your case) she thinks the homage due to her neglected. As an instance of this, the Calydonian boar may be mentioned; for we know that a mother was found more barbarous towards her son, than even the savage beast. Other examples may be found in Actæon, who appeared a savage to those very dogs, with which he had formerly hunted down savages; and in that haughty mother turned into a stone, who now stands disconsolate in the Mygdonian plains. Alas! Cydippe, I am afraid to speak the truth, lest you should think I admonish you falsely for my own sake.
Yet I must speak: it is on this account (believe me) that you are so often seized with sickness, when preparing to wed. Diana herself wishes you guiltless, and strives to hinder you from running into perjury; she desires, that, with faith unstained, you may avoid giving offence. Hence, as often as you are in danger of being perfidious, the Goddess prevents the fatal crime. Cease then to provoke the deadly bow of the implacable Goddess; she may yet be softened, if you will not obstinately persist. Forbear, amiable nymph, to enfecble your tender limbs by preying fevers; preserve that blooming face for the sake of Acontius; preserve those enchanting looks formed to raise a flame in my breast, and the lively bloom that varies your snow-white face. If any enemy interpose to obstruct my happiness, may he feel the same torments under which I languish, when sickness threatens you.
I am equally upon the rack whether I hear of your intended marriage or illness; nor is it easy to determine which apprehension gives most anxiety. Sometimes I am distracted to think that I should be the unhappy cause of your grief, and fear that my innocent artifice may have fatal effects. Grant, Heaven, that Cydippe’s perjurics may be upon the head of her lover, and that the punishment may be transferred to me alone. Yet always restless till I know how it is with you, I creep silently to your gate full of anxiety. There whispering privately to some one of the slaves, I enquire whether you have been relieved by gentle slumbers, or refreshing food.
O were I blest, as the physician, to reach out the cordial draughts, press your soft hand or lean gently upon the bed! But how hard, and yet more than wretched is my fate; to be thus banished from your presence, while he whom most I fear sits perhaps close by you. Hated alike by the Gods and me, he is yet allowed gently to squeeze your hand, and lean over your fading cheeks. Fond of every pretence to feed the beating vein, he slides his daring hand along your snowy arm, hides it in your bosom, and snatches the fragrant kisses, a roward too great for his officious care. What right have you to reap the harvest of my bliss? Or how are you empowered to encroach upon another’s bounds? I hat bosom is mine; you basely rob na or my kisses. Take off your hand from a body promised to me. Traitor, take off your hands; you touch a bosom that will soon be mine; in doing this hereafter, you will become an intamous adulterer Choose from among others, where no prior right is claimed; for know, that another lore commands that breast: nor trust to my testimony; read the form by which she engaged herself; and, to prevent a possibility of deceit, make even Cydippe repeat the binding vow. Again then I say, Depart from another’s bed. What brings you here? He gone; this bed is already possessed: for, even if it be allowed that you also have a promise of the beauteous prize, yet the justice of your claim comes-far short of mine.
I rely upon a promise made by herself you claim the promise of a father. Surely she is to herself in a degree nearer than that of father. Her father barely promised; she hath vowed herself to her lover: he called men to witness, but she bound herself in the presence of a Geddess. He fears a breach of promise, she dreads the guilt of perjury: can you doubt, after this, which has the juster ground of concern? In fine, that you may be the better able to compare the danger on both sides, reflect only upon the events that threaten each; he enjoys perfect health, she lies in hazard of her life. We also enter the lists unequally matched; neither our hopes nor our fears are alike. You unconcernedly solicit the fair; to me a repulse is more insupportable than death. I am at present deeply enamored of what you perhaps may love some time hence. If you have any regard to right and justice, you ought frankly to yield to my superior flame. And now, when he inhumanly contends in an unrighteous cause, be attentive, Cydippe, to the counsel my epistle gives you. It is he that brings on your present iliness, and makes you suspected by Diana; forbid him therefore, it you are wise, any more to appreach your gate. It is your compliance in this case, that subjects you to these painful calamities of life. Why is not he who occasions all these disasters punished in your stead? Banish him only from you, nor show an affection to one disapproved by the Goddess; you will instantly recover your health, and restore me to myself and happiness. Banish therefore fear, amiable maid; you shall enjoy an established health; only neglect not the temple, conscious to your sacred vow. The heavenly powers are not appeased by slaughtered beasts; truth only, and a faithful regard to our vows, can avert their anger.
Let others to recover health run through fire and sword: let them hope for relief from bitter draughts. You have no need of these: avoid only the guilt of perjury, perform the promised vow, and preserve both yourself and me. The not knowing that you were in fault, will excuse what is past; the form by which you bound yourself may have slipped out of your mind. But now you are fully admonished, both by my words, and those fetters, which, as often as you endeavour to break from them, bind you the faster. But could you get happily clear of even these, still remember that you must invoke her aid in the pressing hours of child-bed.
She will attend; and, calling to mind the promise you made, enquire to what husband the birth belongs. If then you make a vow for your recovery, the Goddess will disregard it, knowing you to be false; if you confirm it by an oath, she still knows you can forget your engagements to the Gods themselves. I am not so much concerned for my own fate: a still greater care burthens my mind, and fills me with fear and anxiety for your life. Why do your trembling parents mourn your doubtful fate, while you keep them in ignorance of your daring crime? And why are they kept in ignorance? It is proper that you disclose all to your mother. There is nothing, Cydippe, of which you need be ashamed. Repeat all to her in order; say that I first saw you as you were engaged in the solemnities of the buskined Goddess. Tell her that, as soon as I saw you, (if perhaps you gave any attention to what I then did,) my eyes were immoveably fixed upon every limb and feature; that, while I was thus lost in admiration, (the sure sign of a growing love,) my cloak insensibly dropped from my shoulders; and that afterwards you perceived an apple, uncertain whence, come rolling towards you, but cunningly marked with ensnaring words; which, as they were read in the sacred presence of Diana, made the Goddess a witness that your faith is tied down to me.
But that she may not be ignorant of what was contained in the writing, repeat to her the words you at that time read in the temple. Marry without hesitation, will she say, the youth to whom the gracious Gods have joined you: let him only be my son-in-law, whom you have solemnly sworn to accept in that character. Whoever he may be, as he has already made himself agreeable to Diana, he is agreeable also to me. Such will be your mother’s behaviour, if she really acts the part of a mother to you. Yet you may admonish her to enquire who and what I am; nor will she find the Goddess to have been wholly regardless of your happiness. An isle, by name Ceos, formerly ennobled by the Corycian nymphs, is surrounded by the Ægean sea. This is my native country: and, if you are pleased with illustrious names, my ancestors will not fall below your hopes. I have also riches; my morals are without reproach; and, if no other recommendations existed, love makes you mine by the justest claim. You might even be pleased with such a husband, had no vow passed your lips; such an one might be acceptable, did no prior engagement intervene. These words the illustrious huntress dictated to me in my sleep; these too wakeful love commanded me boldly to write. I am already deeply wounded by Cupid’s darts; it is yours, fair nymph, to beware of being pierced by the arrows of Diana. Our welfare is inseparable; have compassion both on me and yourself. Why do you delay the only cure that remains for both? If I should accomplish this object, I will, when the sacred solemnity begins, and Delos is sprinkled with votive blood, consecrate a golden image of the happy apple, and upon it inscribe our fates in the following distich:
“Acontius proclaims, by the consecrated image of this apple, that the inscription engraven upon it, was fulfilled to his desire.”
But not to fatigue you, already too much exhausted by a long epistle, and to end all in the usual terms of concluding, Farewell.
Cydippe’s reply to Acontius
Source: Ovid, Heroides and Amores, XXI
I READ over your letter in silent fear, nor suffered so much as a murmur to escape me, lest my tongue might rashly swear by some of the gods. I even think you would have ensnared me again, but that, as you own yourself, you knew it was enough I was once promised to you. Nor would I have read it over, but from a fear that my obstinacy might have encreased the anger of the too cruel goddess. Although I forget nothing to appease her, and adore her with the smoke of pious incense, yet the partial Goddess still remains your friend; and, according to your own wish, leaves no room to doubt, that the injury with which you are threatened is the cause of her resentment. Scarcely was she so favorable to her own Hippolytus.
It is surely more proper for a virgin, not to shorten a virgin’s years: I am afraid she has only allotted a few to fulfil my fate. For the wasting illness remains; the cause lies hidden; and I languish without hope of relief from the physician. You can scarcely conceive how thin and feeble I am, when I write you this, or with what difficulty I support my wasted limbs in the bed. I am also full of apprehensions, that some beside my faithful nurse may know of our thus conversing with each other. She always sits by the door, and, that I may write to you with the greater security, tells every one who enquires after me, that I am asleep. But when sleep, the best pretence in the world for long privacy, ceases to be a plausible excuse for the tedious retirement, and when she observes persons coming, to whom she can hardly with a good countenance deny admittance, she coughs, and warns me of the danger by some known sign.
Intent as I am, I leave the half-written words, and slip the well-dissembled epistle into my beating bosom. I take it out thence when alone; and it again fatigues my moving fingers. Judge only yourself what pain and anxiety it costs me. And yet (to be honest) let me die if you deserve it; but I am kind beyond what is due, or even what you could in reason expect. Have I then, on your account, so often hazarded my life? Have I suffered, and do I still suffer the punishment of your too successful artifice? Is this the fruit I reap from a beauty that made you an admirer? And must I pay so dearly for appearing agreeable to you? Had it been my good fortune to seam ugly, how happily might I have escaped this train of disasters! Now, because I am admired, I groan in anguish; now I am undone by your rival contentious, and perish by the wounds I receive from my own beauty. For while you refuse to yield, and he imagines himself in no respect your inferior, each stands an invincible obstacle to the other’s desires. I, in the mean time, am tossed like an uncertain ship, driven by a strong North-wind to the open sea, but forcibly kept back by the tide and waves. When now the nuptial day, so earnestly wished by my dear parents, is at hand, a burning fever spreads over all my joints; and, at the very time appointed for the threatening solemnity, stern Proserpine knocks hideous at the palace gate. I blush; and, though conscious of no crime, dread that I may be thought to have in some respect merited the wrath of Heaven.
Some imagine that my illness is merely from chance; others pretend that the present nuptials are not favored by the Gods. Nor think that you have wholly escaped censure on this occasion; for many believe it brought on by your dark contrivances. The cause is unknown: my sufferings appear to all. You, banishing peace, are engaged in restless opposition: I bear the punishment of all. It is now indeed my desire that you continue to deceive me in the manner usual to you: for what will you do in your hatred, if, where you love, you create so much mischief? If you thus bring misery upon every thing you love, it will be wise in you to love your enemy. Pray make it your wish that I may be undone; for this only, I find, can save me. Either you have lost all regard for the girl you so much loved and coveted, in thus cruelly suffering her to perish by an undeserved fate: or, if you in vain supplicate the unrelenting Goddess in my behalf, why do you boast of her concern for you? It is evident that you have no farther power with her. Choose which you will. If you are not inclined to mitigate the Goddess, this is being forgetful of me; if you cannot, she has then abandoned you. Oh! I could wish that Delos, surrounded by the Ægean sea, had remained ever unknown to me, or at least had not been visited by me at that time. The ship that carried me, sailed through an inauspicious sea; and in an unhappy hour I entered upon the intended voyage. With what foot did I first set out? With what step did I leave the gate of my father’s house, or touch the painted texture of the nimble bark? Twice our sails drove us back, swelled by adverse winds. Adverse did I say? far from it: that indeed was the favorable gale. That, I say, was the favorable gale, which retarded my unhappy steps, and struggled to prevent an ill fated voyage. How I wish that it had continued obstinately to oppose the spreading sails! But it is ridiculous to complain of the inconstancy of the wind. Attracted by the fame of the place, I was eager to come within sight of Delos, and seemed to traverse the deep with languid pace. How often did I chide the oars, as slow in bearing us along? How often complain that our sails were not stretched by the stinted blasts? And now I had passed Mycone, Tenos, and Andros, and bright Delos was within view; which I no sooner saw, that I cried out, Why does the island seem to fly me? Do you, as in time past, fluctuate in the vast ocean? Nor reached I land till towards the close of day, when Phœbus was preparing to unharness his purple horses. When these had been recalled to their accustomed way, my mother gave orders to dress my flowing locks. She
adorned my fingers with gems, and my tresses with braids of gold, and threw over my shoulders the embroidered robe. We then walked towards the temple, and offered frankincense and wine to the guardian deities of the island. While my mother was engaged in sprinkling the altars with votive blood, and throwing the sacred entrails upon the smoking fuel, my officious nurse led me through the several courts of the temple, and we traversed the sacred place with wandering steps. Sometimes I walked under magnificent porticoes, sometimes admired the rich gifts of kings, and the finished statues that adorned every part. I admired too the famous altar made of innumerable horns wonderfully derfully joined together, and the tree that supported the pregnant Goddess; with whatever other curiosities (for I cannot now recollect them, nor am I inclined to mention all I then saw) Delos boasts.
While I was thus busy in viewing every thing, you, Acontius, by chance espied me; and my simplicity made me seem fit to be ensnared. I returned to the temple of Diana, placed high on rising steps. What place should yield a surer defence from harm than this?
The apple, with the insidious lines, is thrown at my feet. Ah me! I had almost sworn to you a second time. My nurse first took it up; and wondering what it might be, desired me to read it. I read, too successful poet, your ensnaring words. At the name of wedlock, overwhelmed with shame, I felt a blush spread over all my face: my eyes remained fixed upon my bosom, those eyes which had been so subservient to your deceitful aims. Traitor, why do you triumph? What glory will this add to your name? Or where can be the praise, to have deluded an unsuspecting maid? I did not stand fenced with a buckler, and armed with an Amazonian axe, like Penthesilea when she traversed the Ilian plains. No girdle adorned with studs of gold, as that gained from Hippolyte, remains the prize of your victory. What cause of boasting that I was deceived by your well-framed words, or that an unthinking imprudent girl should fall into the cunning snare? Cydippe was deceived by an apple; it was an apple that deceived also Atalanta. You are now be-
come a second Hippomenes. Doubtless it had been better (if urged by the little boy, who, you say, wounds with I know not what dangerous arrows), according to the rule inviolable with men of honor, not to debase your hope by fraud. I ought to have been openly solicited, not artfully circumvented. Why did you not think of asking me in marriage, and urging those considerations that might have made you appear worthy of being solicited by me? Why did you prefer deceit to persuasion, if the knowlege of your rank was sufficient to have gained me? What advantage can you expect from the form of the oath you tendered, or my tongue’s invoking the present Goddess? It is the mind that swears; but no oath binds me there. It is that only can give authority to what we say. Design, and a soul conscious of its own views, can alone give validity to an oath; nor can any chains bind us, but those of the judgment. If my consent accompanied the promise I made to be joined to you in wedlock, you are at liberty to insist upon the rights of a nuptial bed: but if all amounted only to a few sounds, without will or meaning, it is in vain to depend upon words destitute of validity. I took no oath, I barely read a form; nor was that a
decent way of choosing a husband. Endeavour by the same artifice to deceive others; let the apple be followed by an epistle; if a promise thus made binds, make over to yourself the large possessions of the rich. Make kings swear that they will resign to you their dominions, and artfully secure whatever on earth is to your liking. Believe me, this would make you more considerable than even Diana herself, if every letter you write commands the care of so powerful a Goddess.
And yet, after all I have said, after this peremptory refusal to be yours, and fully weighing the case of my extorted promise, I must own that I still dread the wrath of avenging Diana, and suspect that the present calamity comes from her hand. For why, as oft as the nuptial rites are to be solemnised, do the languid joints of the bride sink under a load of sickness? Thrice glad Hymen approaching the sacred altars fled: thrice he turned away frighted from my chamber-door. The lamps too, thrice filled up by the wearied hand, are with difficulty lighted; scarcely are they to be lighted up by the flaming torch. Ointments often distil upon his hair crowned with garlands; and his mantle, of bright saffron dye, sweeps the ground. But no sooner did he reach our gates, than nought was to be seen but tears, a dread of my approaching fate, and every thing the reverse of his joyful rites. Instantly he tears the crown from
his mournful forehead, and wipes the rich essence from his flowing tresses. He is ashamed to appear joyful in so disconsolate a crowd; and the red that was in his mantle, mounts into his face. But my limbs are wasted by the raging heat of a fever, and the coverings seem to press upon me with double weight. I see my parents weeping over me with earnest looks; and, instead of the nuptial, am threatened with the funeral torch. Compassionate my sufferings, O Goddess that delightest in the painted bow; and grant me relief by the healthrestoring aid of your brother. It is a reproach upon you, that he should ward off the causes of death, while you bear the blame of my untimely fate. Did I ever, as you bathed in a shady fountain, impertinently gaze at you in your retirement? Did I neglect to offer sacrifice to you alone of all the heavenly powers? Or did my mother ever treat Latona with contempt? I have offended in nothing but reading what led me into an unwilling perjury, and understanding too well the force of those ensnaring lines. But do you also, Acontius, if
the love you pretend is not mere dissimulation, offer incense for me; and let the hands that have done me so much hurt, be now employed for my relief. Why does the Goddess, so much incensed that the maid promised to your embrace brace has not yet fulfilled her vow, herself obstruct the execution of that promise? Every thing is to be hoped from the living. Why does the cruel Goddess threaten to take away my life, and blast all your promising hopes? Nor would I have you imagine that he to whom I am destined for a wife, is suffered to cherish my sickly limbs with his gentle hand. He sits indeed at my bed-side, for that is allowed him; but he at the same time remembers that mine is the bed of a virgin. Besides, he seems to be sensible of my coldness; for tears often fall from him, without any apparent cause. He caresses me with less boldness, and seldom snatches kisses: when he calls me his dear, it is with a faltering tongue.
Nor do I wonder that he perceives my repugnance to his addresses, when I myself have betrayed it by manifest sings. If he approaches the bed, I turn upon my other side. I refuse to speak, and close my eyes, as if inclined to sleep; or, if he offers to touch me with his hand, reject it with some warmth. He groans and sighs within himself; and, though far from deserving such usage, observes me cold and averse to him. Ah me, how you rejoice! what pleasure this confession gives you! How silly to own thus frankly my
thoughts of him! If I were to speak like myself, you, who contrived these snares for me, were far more deserving of my disdain. You write for leave to visit me in my present illness. You are far from me; and yet, distant as you are, you wound deeply. I wondered with myself how you came to be named Acontius; but find now that you can dart wounds from far. It is certain that I have not yet recovered from this wound, pierced from far by your letter, as by a javelin. But to what end should you come here? To see my feeble body, the double trophy of your ingenuity? I am wasted to a skeleton, my color is become pale, such as I remember to have observed in the apple you threw at me. My fair cheeks are no more adorned with a becoming red, but have rather the appearance of newly-polished marble; or silver at a feast, when deadened by the chillness of water. Were you to see me now, you would deny me to be the same with her you first saw, nor think me worthy to be sought by so
many artifices. You would gladly release me from the promise I made of being joined to you for ever, and wish that the Goddess herself might also cease to exact the performance. Perhaps too you might endeavour to make me swear the contrary of my former oath, and throw at me another form of words, to be in like manner read over. Yet I could wish that according to your request you might see me, and learn the feeble condition of one whom you wish for your bride. Had you a heart, Acontius, more hard than steel, yet you could not forbear addressing the Gods in my behalf. But not to keep you ignorant of the only means left to restore me to my health, recourse has been had to the God who predicts futurity at Delphi. He also, as fame reports, complains of broken vows. This a God, this a poet, this even my own lines proclaim. But nothing of that kind is wanting to give force to your wishes. Whence all this favor to you? unless perhaps you have found the secret to bind the Gods themselves by a new form of words. If you thus find the Gods propitious, it is fit that I submit to their will, and, as they have made you their choice, make you also mine. I have already acquainted my mother with the vow into which you artfully betrayed me; keeping my eyes, full of shame, fixed all the time upon the ground. The rest must be left to your care: it is even more than becomes a virgin, that I have thus ventured to make known my sentiments to you by a letter. My feeble fingers are now sufficiently tired by the pen, and my sickly hand is unable to bear longer fatigue. What remains for me to write, but that it is now my wish to be for ever thine? Farewell.
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