19 Jul Your mistress may deem you colder than ice
If my precepts are of any avail, if, by my voice, Apollo teaches aught that may be of use to mortal men, when your despairing heart is consumed with a passion fiercer than the fires of Aetna, act in such a manner that your mistress may deem you colder than ice. Pretend that you are cured, and if your heart still bleeds, never let her suspect it. Let laughter be upon your lips, though tears be in your heart. I do not bid you break with her in the very height of your passion. I lay upon you no mandate so severe as that. But learn to dissemble. Assume a calmness, if you have it not, and soon you’ll really be as calm as now you feign to be. Often, so that I might drink no more, I’ve feigned to be asleep, and, in the midst of feigning, I’ve fallen asleep indeed. It’s made me laugh sometimes to see how a man, acting the passionate lover, has, like an unskilled hunter, fallen into his own net.
Love steals into our hearts, as it where, by habit; by habit also we can school ourselves to forget it. If you can pretend you’re cured, cured you will be indeed. Your mistress, say, has promised you to lie with her a certain night. Go to her house. When you get there, you find the door barred and bolted against you. No matter. Be patient. Neither beg nor pray; but lie not down beside the cruel door. Next morning, never utter a reproach; and on your countenance wear no sign of grief. Seeing your cool indifference, she’ll lay aside her arrogant disdain. That is some good, and for it you will have my art to thank. But try, and stint not, to deceive yourself, until you have forgot the way to love. A steed will oft refuse the bit that’s offered him. Hide, even from yourself, the reason of your tactics, and, all unconsciously, You’ll reach your goal. The bird is scared by the net when it is too plainly visible. So that your mistress; may not push her pride to the point of disdain, be round with her, and her arrogance will melt before your own. If you find her door open, as though by chance, and if she summons you by name again and again, pass by and take no heed. If she offers you an assignation for a given night, look doubtful and say, “I’m very much afraid I shall be unable to come.” A man should easily be able to lay this discipline upon himself, if he’s endowed with reason. Besides, you can always go and find immediate consolation in the arms of some woman of the town.
It could hardly be said that my treatment was too severe, seeing that I make it my object to reconcile pleasure and good sense. But as people and dispositions are infinitely varied, so must our treatment be varied too. A thousand ills require a thousand cures. There are some illnesses which demand an operation; others which the juice of a herb will heal.