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Semiramis by Guercino

< Amores Book III, No XIV

I don't say “be good”, you're too good looking for that,
But do I, poor man, have to know about everything you do?
Nor do I tell you to obey the rules of morality,
But you could conceal or at least disguise what you do. 

It's not a sin, so long as it can be denied,
It's only confession that constitutes a crime.
What madness to bring to light what's hidden by night,
And freely disclose to the world your secret deeds!

The prostitute, when she couples with her client,
Does it behind closed doors, not out in the street.
But you, my dear, openly advertise sin,
Putting together the case against yourself.

Incline your mind to imitate the chaste;
Even if you're not, be seeming so.
Do what you do, but simply deny that you did it,
And don't be ashamed to speak of modesty.

If a situation arises, do what comes natural,
Keep modesty and chastity away.
And likewise, when you've done, leave that wanton
Desire and lechery tucked up in your bed.

Don't keep yourself behind some prudish veil,
Nor stop the subtle joys of a lovers' thighs
Pressed between your own, nor needlessly
Resist the tongue that parts your ruby lips.

And don't restrain your words of love and sounds
Of happy satisfaction as your couch
Trembles and shakes to the thousand naughty things
A lover devises to satisfy desire.

After, put on your dress, your modest face,
And let your looks disown indecent acts.
Make a fool of the world, make a blessèd fool of me,
And let us enjoy believing and trusting in you.

Why do I see your notes going back and forth,
And, on your bed, signs of your restless games?
Your hair is dishevelled from more than just innocent sleep,
And, on your neck, I see the marks of teeth!

What I see can almost speak for itself.
Even if you won't think of your own reputation.
Think of me! My mind grows dim, I die,
My blood runs cold when I think about your confession.

I love, I hate. In vain! I must love, and then
I desire for a double death, both yours and mine.
Truly, I will not seek to know the things
That you should hide. I can live quite happily deceived.

Even if you are caught in the guilty act,
And I see your horrible disgrace with my own two eyes, 
What possible good will it do to me? Deny it,
And I will believe what you say, not my own two eyes.

It's no great victory really to defeat someone
Who wants to lose: just remember to say “I didn't”,
And your case is made, though in fact it's no case at all.
I submit, defeated by you and those two little words.

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