Every lover is a soldier and guards the camp of Cupid; believe me, Atticus, every lover is a soldier.
The age that’s suitable for war is equally fitted for Venus. An aged soldier is a sad thing, just as an old man’s love is sad. The range of years that generals look for in a brave soldier are the same years that a pretty girl looks for in a companion. Soldier and lover both will have to keep long watches and either will have to sleep on the ground: the lover guards the doorstep of his mistress, the soldier that of his general.
Long journeys are the duty of a soldier. Likewise if his girl goes on a trip, the worthy lover follows no matter how far she goes. Lover and soldier alike will march into stark mountains and cross rivers doubled by rainfall; either will chop a path through piled snow, nor will he make the excuse that he can’t press on because violent east winds lash the shore and force him to wait for sailing season before he puts to sea. Who but a soldier or a lover would bear the chill of night or snow mixed with heavy rain?
One is sent as a scout against hostile enemies; the other keeps his eyes on a rival as though an enemy. One besieges mighty cities, the other the doorstep of his sweetheart. One smashes a city gate, the other a bedroom door.
Often a soldier is able to attack when his enemies are sleeping, slaughtering the unarmed mob with the weapon in his hand. Thus the heroes of the Iliad butchered the wild Thracians whom Rhesus led so that his captured horses left their dead master behind. Lovers of course use the dreams of husbands and move their weapons while their enemies sleep.
Mars is doubtful, nor is Venus certain: the defeated rise up again, and those whom you’d swear will never manage it again are back on the job. Those who think love is only desire should think again: Love is a matter of skill and experience.
Achilles was miserable, burning with love when Briseis was taken away from him. (While he grieves, use your chance to break the Argive lines, Trojans.) Hector left the embraces of Andromache to arm himself–and she, his wife, was the one who set the helmet on his head. The greatest of the leaders, Agamemnon son of Atreus, stood lovestruck at the sight of Priam’s daughter Cassandra with her hair flying like a Maenad of Bacchus. Even Mars when caught by love was caught in Vulcan’s net as well; no story made the rounds more often in heaven.
I was born with a sluggish disposition meant for quiet leisure; when shadows fell, sleep was all I cared for. Love of a pretty girl spurred me from my lethargy and drove me to earn my wage in Cupid’s camp. Now you see me a brisk man waging nocturnal wars. If a man wants to avoid laziness, let him love.