Cuckoldry and Cuckolds

(Cuckoldry and Cuckolds playlist) **Art: Paolo and Francesca by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, 1819; based on a historical incident memorialized by Dante in The Divine Comedy (source)

“My Friend the Cuckold” by Morris Gilbert Bishop (1893-1973; Canada / New York, US; scholar, historian, biographer, reference book author, humorist)
– from The Oxford Book of Comic Verse

I KNEW a cuckold once. I grieve for him.
When his wife’s sin was told him by some tattler,
The news made all existence bleak and grim
And wrecked his home, which was, in fact, the Statler.
“A horsewhip!” he kept shouting. “Yes, I swear
I’ll horsewhip that seducer so abhorred!”
He could not buy a horsewhip anywhere,
Not from Sears Roebuck nor Montgomery Ward.
For farm and stock whips, drovers’ whips, and quirts
Alone are catalogued. “It is my ruin!”
He cried. “The horsewhip heals our honor’s hurts.
Who ever heard of quirting a Don Juan?”
He sought relief in drink, which made him ill.
“Je suis cocu!” he would complain, demanding
One’s sympathy. ” I use the French, for still
In France the cuckold has a certain standing.
“But here the general public does not know —”
And somewhat horribly he gasped and chuckled —
“Even the right pronunciation. Oh,
It is not gay, my friend, to be a cuckold!”

“Carmen 5” by Gaius Valerius Catullus (84-54 BC; Verona, Italy; neoteric poetry style) [showing translations by Rudy Negenborn and Thomas Campion]
– from The Broadview Anthology of Poetry

Vivamus mea Lesbia, atque amemus,
rumoresque senum severiorum
omnes unius aestimemus assis!
soles occidere et redire possunt:
nobis cum semel occidit brevis lux,
nox est perpetua una dormienda.
da mi basia mille, deinde centum,
dein mille altera, dein secunda centum,
deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum.
dein, cum milia multa fecerimus,
conturbabimus illa, ne sciamus,
aut ne quis malus inuidere possit,
cum tantum sciat esse basiorum.

Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love,
and let us judge all the rumors of the old men
to be worth just one penny!
The suns are able to fall and rise:
When that brief light has fallen for us,
we must sleep a never ending night.
Give me a thousand kisses, then another hundred,
then another thousand, then a second hundred,
then yet another thousand more, then another hundred.
Then, when we have made many thousands,
we will mix them all up so that we don’t know,
and so that no one can be jealous of us when he finds out
how many kisses we have shared.

My sweetest Lesbia, let us live and love,
And though the sager sort our deeds reprove,
Let us not weigh them. Heaven’s great lamps do dive
Into their west, and straight again revive,
But soon as once set is our little light,
Then must we sleep one ever-during night.
If all would lead their lives in love like me,
Then bloody swords and armor should not be;
No drum nor trumpet peaceful sleeps should move,
Unless alarm came from the camp of love.
But fools do live, and waste their little light,
And seek with pain their ever-during night.
When timely death my life and fortune ends,
Let not my hearse be vexed with mourning friends,
But let all lovers, rich in triumph, come
And with sweet pastimes grace my happy tomb;
And Lesbia, close up thou my little light,
And crown with love my ever-during night.

“Epitaph: Here lies John Hughes and Sarah Drew” by Mary Wortley Montagu, Lady (1689-1762; Covent Garden, London, UK; aristocrat, letter and travel writer)
– from The Columbia Anthology of British Poetry

Here lies John Hughes and Sarah Drew;
Perhaps you’ll say, what’s that to you?
Believe me, friend, much may be said
On this poor couple that are dead.
On Sunday next they should have married;
But see how oddly things are carried!
On Thursday last it rain’d and lighten’d;
These tender lovers, sadly frighten’d,
Shelter’d beneath the cocking hay,

In hopes to pass the storm away;
But the bold thunder found them out
(Commissioned for that end, no doubt),
And, seizing on their trembling breath,
Consign’d them to the shades of death.
Who knows if ’twas not kindly done?
For had they seen the next year’s sun,
A beaten wife and cuckold swain
Had jointly curs’d the marriage chain;
Now they are happy in their doom,
For P. has wrote upon their tomb.

“Spring” from Love’s Labour’s Lost by William Shakespeare (1564-1616; Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, UK; playwright, actor)
– from The Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1918

 When daisies pied, and violets blue,
And lady-smocks all silver-white,
And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue
Do paint the meadows with delight,
The cuckoo then, on every tree,
Mocks married men, for thus sings he:
Cuckoo, cuckoo!’ O word of fear,
Unpleasing to a married ear.

    When shepherds pipe on oaten straws,
And merry larks are ploughmen’s clocks,
When turtles tread, and rooks, and daws,
And maidens bleach their summer smocks,
The cuckoo then, on every tree,
Mocks married men, for thus sings he:
Cuckoo, cuckoo!’ O word of fear,
Unpleasing to a married ear.

“Oh, how the lilacs are this May! Bulging-large bunches fell” by Sergey Gandlevsky
“Open a crack in the wall and kiss me on the mouth” by Unknown


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