It is no fixed beauty that calls my passion forth; there are a hundred causes to keep me always in love. If it is some fair one with modest eyes downcast upon her lap, I am aflame, and her innocence is my ensnaring; if it is some saucy jade, I am smitten because she is not rustic simple, and gives me hope of enjoying her supple embrace on the soft couch. If she seems austere, and affects the rigid Sabine dame, I judge she would yield, but is deep in her conceit. If you are versed in books you win me by your rare accomplishments…. One treads softly, and I fall in love with her step; another is hard, but can be softened by the touch of love. Because this one sings sweetly… I would snatch kisses as she sings; this other runs with nimble fingers over the complaining strings- who could but fall in love with such cunning hands? Another takes me by her movement, swaying her arms in rhythm and curving her tender side with supple art- to say naught of myself, who take fire from every cause; put Hippolytus in my place, and he will be Priapus!… Tall and short are after the wish of my heart; I am undone by both…. My love is candidate for the favors of them all.

Ovid apologizes for not chanting the glory of war; Cupid came and stole a foot from his verse and left it lame. He wrote a lost play, Medea, which was well received, but for the most part he preferred “the slothful shade of Venus,” and was content to be called “the well-known singer of his worthless ways.” Here are the lays of the troubadours a thousand years beforetime, addressed like them to married ladies, and making flirtation the main business of life. Ovid instructs Corinna how to communicate with him by signs as she lies on her husband’s couch. He assures her of his eternal fidelity, his strictly monogamous adultery: “I am no fickle philanderer, not one of those who love a hundred women at a time.” At last, he wins her and intones a paean of victory. He commends her for having denied him so long, and advises her to deny him again, now and then, so that he may love her forever. He quarrels with her, strikes her, repents, laments, and loves her more madly than before. Romeo-like he begs the dawn to delay, and hopes some blessed wind will break the axle of Aurora’s car. Corinna deceives him in his turn, and he is furious on finding that she holds her favors insufficiently rewarded by the homage of his verse. She kisses him into forgiveness, but he cannot pardon the new skill of her loving; some other master has been teaching her. A few pages later he is “in love with two maids at once, each beautiful, each tasteful in dress and accomplishment.” Soon, he fears, his simultaneous duties will undo him; but he will be happy to die on the field of love.