Pervigilium Veneris

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Ovid and Pushkin, Byron and Ronsard,
Gongora, Goethe, poets past thinking of,
Poets who played Love’s game and played it hard
—They were never out of love—

Age did not daunt them; even the last eclipse
Found them still eager, still adding to the score
Scholars in their chaste dens, pursing their lips
Tally as they deplore.

The romantic, the censorious may condemn
Their greedy, untidy lives. I do not doubt:
Their genius and their gift of love, for them
Were of a piece throughout.

Women flocked to them; their part in the divine
Was bringing their living waters in pitcher or urn,
Knowing the water would be changed to wine,
Sure that they could return,

And, in their household task, the rearing of men
And women, the precious chrism would not be lost.
The poets forgot them; they returned to the pen
And thought themselves star-crossed.

Neither of their divine gifts was denied:
Assured by the rule that holds in love and war,
Apollo their source, Aphrodite their guide,
And Zeus their avatar.

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