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three pairs of lovers with space





Translated from the French by J C Rawnsley[1]

One of the greatest and most entertaining treatises ever written on Greek love, and certainly the most important early modern one,
L'Alcibiade fanciullo a scola was written about 1630 and first published in its original Italian in 1651, but it did not appear in English until 2000, when the Entimos Press published the following translation with footnotes by the late Oxford Professor J. C. Rawnsley. This now very rare book is presented here with the kind permission of his literary executor. A short note about the Professor by one of his students is given at the end.

An alternate English translation by Michael Hone, with a more modern, American flavour, has since been published.  Like Rawnsley’s edition, it was made from the French translation of 1891, but the reader should be warned that, unlike his, it was not checked against the original Italian of the oldest surviving, Venetian edition.

Elsewhere on this website will be found a thorough introduction published as an “Afterword” to this edition, and a review. Four odes by an otherwise unknown “M.V.”, appended to the original edition and likewise translated by Professor Rawnsley, are also presented separately under Humour. Reactions to the republication of the book in France in 1861, albeit still in Italian, may be gathered from Rawnsley's rendering into English of the Preface to the French translation, 1891.


Author’s note

                Alkibiades (ca. 450-404 BC) as a youth

The philosophers of old, when they taught literature, proceeded by inculcating in their pupils all their knowledge through the cleft of their buttocks. They assured them that, by this method, they would become completely learned; that by this means, in due course, they would absorb all the knowledge of their masters.

Would that these vices had spent themselves in Grecian times! But instead, they have reached their climax in the schools of our time.

We have reached the point, indeed, where our schools can be considered a very theatre of infamy and shame, a repository of all the vices; our schoolmasters, alas, have continued with the ancient way of teaching their pupils. And if you have any knowledge of such things, you will often have heard how some schoolmasters, in their fiery haste to infuse knowledge into their pupils, have damaged their anuses.

So your reading of Alcibiades will teach you that, to render schoolboys perfect, we must remove them from these masters from Sodom - and from this happy vice.[2]

                 To Schoolmasters

O schoolmasters evil, I know of your ploys,
And the tricks that you play on the prettiest boys,
Pretending that Latin, and spelling, and sums
Can proceed to their noddles by way of their bums.

It’s only in assholes you venture to fit;
You never take pleasure in cunt, or in tit;
No woman can charm you, or give you delight,
But you fuck little schoolboys with all of your might.

Pederast scoundrels, with misery wail,
For all of your sins are set down in my tale;
Turn from your vices, repent of your tricks;
Put an end to your villainy - cut off your pricks!
So if some naughty urchin his bum should display,
You can only sigh sadly, and pass on your way.


Publisher’s note

This fragment fell by chance into my hands, and I have judged it of sufficient interest, dear reader, that I should bring it to your attention by printing it. You will learn from it to keep the most careful watch over your young sons in order to save them from the pernicious influence of evil schoolmasters, a detestable breed only too common at the present time.

I promise that I shall shortly publish the second part, which will appear under the title The Triumph of Alcibiades, a work which will stimulate even greater interest, since it comes from the pen of one of the wisest men in our country. Expect, then, that this will appear shortly, at which I hope to continue in your good graces.


Alcibiades the Schoolboy

Alcibiades was at that age when Nature teases every beholder - when such a one, seeing his gentle contours, his clear skin, his soft hair, could not tell whether they looked on a boy-child or a girl-child. Here was indeed an elfin Ganymede, ready for Jove to swoop from on high and to carry him from earth to the god’s high eyrie, ready to take his own place as a young god in human form.[3] Yes, Alcibiades was now of an age for all the many thrills of loving and being loved. His face, his lips, his eyes, held the promise of all that could be desired; in the same features were both the lips of a young girl breathing desire, and the eyes of a young boy that were both wise and gentle.

The boy Alcibiades lying in the waggon's path: an illustration of a story from Plutarch's life of him

It was at this age that Alcibiades, as the wisdom of his tutors decreed, first went to school. The happy mortal who was to be his schoolmaster was one Philotimes. Come now to mature years and of venerable bearing, Philotimes had a fine understanding of the balance between mind and body, between sense and intellect. He had enough, and more than enough, of the wisdom and ability he needed to guide him in his profession. And the greatest people of Athens hastened to entrust their children to his care and tutelage; they were certain that these dear images of themselves, these beloved sons, would find in Philotimes a true protector, guide and friend. Indeed, already there was scarcely to be found in all the city a young man of good family who had not in the past profited from his wisdom.

It was to this good man, then, that the care of Alcibiades was entrusted. And it was of this wise tutor’s class that Alcibiades became a member -  a class of the best, brightest and most beautiful in all Athens. But, ah - when the sun rises, the stars must grow pale. And the radiant Diana, in the midst of her nymphs, shone less brilliantly, drew fewer enraptured eyes, than did Alcibiades. The divine Ceres radiated less splendour, less grace, than did that lovely boy on his entry under the roof of his new master. The new pupil, with his lithe, graceful carriage, his easy, fluid movements, could not fail to open all hearts to himself, to become the darling of all who had the good fortune to look upon him. His beautiful locks of hair, springing from his head like miraculous flowers, and tumbling in a thousand ringlets on to his shoulders, put the very splendour of gold to shame; his eyes, shadowed by his long lashes, half-hidden by their lids as a royal pavilion hides their king, shone blue as azure, full of gentleness and grace, and seemed to send arrows, like Cupid’s love-bolts, straight to the heart of anyone they looked on; his forehead was clear and pure as a spring morning.

On his cheeks, set in the perfect oval of his face, roses and lilies mingled deliriously, surpassing even the delights of the gardens of Tempe.[4] His divine lips, also touched with more than their share of roses - O cruel power of love - were such that, pressed to the lips of a marble Galatea, they would surely have brought her springing instantly to life. And white oriental pearls, arranged in perfect order, glittered within his divine mouth where, touched by his delicate tongue, they invited not merely the bees to make their honey therein, but the very gods to come and gather ambrosia for their heavenly banquets, that they might feast the more blissfully around their glorious cloud-girt hearths. Oh, even the stars would blush with shame to be compared with such lustre!

The sweet nose, set exquisitely between those lovely eyes, symbolised other and hidden treasures, yet was wondrous in itself, with the two delicate nostrils disposed with perfect symmetry; even the fine and tender wings shadowing the upper lip astonished the watcher with their supreme beauty. And the neck, of incomparable shapeliness, was no less perfect than any other part of his body - exquisitely rounded, pink, graceful, and neither too long nor too short, it was admirably fitted to serve as the pedestal for the incomparable beauty above.

The hands, as well matched as all the rest, were shapely, slim, nimble, full of I cannot say how much sinuous grace, and the fingers were already as capable of manipulating the weapons of love as skilfully as soldiers handle those of war.

The rest of this Cupid’s body was covered - alas - by the jealous curtains of his clothing which, though forming a barrier to the passage of the eyes, nevertheless invited the imagination to contemplate the most secret sanctuaries, to play on sensuality rather than on vision - thus rendering them no less vivid than those parts which we have already depicted. Furthermore, by a miracle of symmetry, each visible element of the body represented and echoed one that was hidden. Thus his forehead mirrored his chest, his fair cheeks his little buttocks, and even his shapely nose had its counterpart. His slender arms spoke of his thighs, his mouth of his portal of delight, his dimpled chin of his navel, his hands of his feet, his arms of his thighs; the roundness of his face was that of his stomach, and his fair complexion of his cheeks was that of his whole body.

But the inestimable joy of this treasure was the angelic sound of his voice. He spoke in a tone so modulated as to give just the right harmony to each word and, as he spoke, his voice rose and fell so musically that, like an adorable Siren, he filled the hearts of his listeners with an intoxicating sweetness - not to lure them to their death, but to cause them to them to live in torments of love.

Each time he opened his celestial lips, his teachers, astonished, delighted, even ecstatic, fell totally silent the better to hear him speak. His voice had that fabulous quality that could tame wild animals, that could even make the stones listen, as was possessed by the songs of Orpheus and Amphion in the old fables.

Yes, the speech of this angel was one which flew straight to the heart of his hearers, holding them captive in a golden chain of love. And his boy’s toga, embroidered with flowers in a host of  wondrous and brilliant colours, was like the sunbeams that escape from the dull rain-clouds, striking like a new sun on the half-blinded eyes of the dazzled beholders. His laugh, gentle and charming, was a joyous treasure, a faithful messenger of love, a garden of delights. It breathed a peculiar grace, an immortal gift of God scarcely to be expressed in words, but which could speak only to the heart, and which hung all about him, which like a spell possessed both himself and all those all around, and whose gentle magic dispelled all evil and impious sentiments, transfiguring everything that was human or terrestrial by its celestial beauty.

When this second Cupid, this angel of Paradise, was entrusted to the care of his new master, that good man most gently and kindly took him aside and, looking on him with the greatest of affection and warmth, spoke to him thus:

“Your princely features and your divine grace, sweet boy, fill me with unprecedented feelings of adoration and humility - and if my fond wishes, stirred by your dear merits, correspond to your own desires, I do not doubt that the results will be most marvellous and will wondrously reward both of us. I find myself so moved by the gentleness of your nature as to promise that I, more affectionate than any father, more devoted than any other preceptor, will introduce you to such realms of knowledge, such wonders, as are beyond your greatest imaginings. Nor will I will visit upon you the strictness which I am wont to apply to my new pupils, but our first contacts will be full of trust and of warmest friendship. So receive first this kiss, as a token of my affection and of our equality.”

No irises had colours so fresh, no April meadow had flowers so sweet as those which coloured these youthful cheeks under the loving lips of Philotimes. And, just as severity repels the soul of a young boy, so kindness attracts them and renders them open to learning and instruction; thus the inner soul of Alcibiades opened in all naturalness to the guidance of his kind preceptor. Banished were all the fears of a child who enters school for the first time, and in their stead was nothing but eagerness, confidence and affection. The devotion of the master was fully answered by the zeal of the pupil in all his studying and his exercises.

His dedicated master instructed him individually, in a separate classroom. The dear boy entered fully into all the plans, the interests, the enthusiasms of his master. And the fiery brand which had been thrown into the heart of the master by the eager hand of Cupid continued to burn with incomparable violence - until there was nothing left for him but to gain access to the innermost sanctuary of his dear one’s affections, or to die. What punishment did this darling receive for any neglected work? A multitude of kisses. “See, my dear boy,” said Philotimes, “This is how your masters will instruct you! The blows, the beatings, that are the lot of others, are transformed by the power of your beauty into loving caresses. Nothing less is due to one of your gifts, your manner, your bearing. Receive therefore these tokens of affection, my little son, and never sully the nobility which you carry everywhere with you; do not degrade your princely soul with shameful doubts, with lack of affection or ingratitude - but kiss me in turn, O my dear heart!”

And always eager to please, the gentle boy, pursing his lips, bestowed on his good master kisses which…chilled his poor master to the very heart.   

Philotimes said, “These are not the kisses of a dear and loyal friend, but the kisses of enemies and strangers; these kisses enter not the gate of the lips - they are not like old friends, they are not admitted to your house. The language that employs the accents of a loving kiss must be returned from the lips of the receiver to those of the giver. His mouth is their only true home; such kisses are given but to be returned. So make me happy, my dear, reply to me in the true language of love. See - I speak it now - so! - so!”

The boy, at this fresh onslaught, pulled back a little, pale and trembling. The master said reassuringly, “Do not be frightened, my little son; the language of the lips can do no harm, it hurts only when it is bold and impudent. You listen to my teaching with great attention, you give every devotion to your lessons, but the devotion which I would give you in return will avail nothing if you do not speak in my language. Hand must hold hand, spirit must aid spirit, language must echo language. Come to me, my treasure, come to me!”  Thus spoke Philotimes, holding his beloved close to his breast, interspersing all of his words with kisses.

All of his soul was carried on his lips, all of his life was concentrated in each kiss, and, if the burning breath of the child did not penetrate to his heart with its divine smoothness, the spirit of the master would never recover its force and life, it would be all over for him; he would remain cold and lifeless. 

But instead - my dear readers, to depict the animation which took both boy and master, mere language is not enough. My pen, unequal to such a task, leaves to my thoughts alone the task of tracing these delectable mysteries, and my sensuality, lit by contemplation of this scene, stirs in me such transports, twists and turns my imagination, all my senses, so acutely that it awakes in me the same delight that was in the good master then. And yet - the wishes of Philotimes did not stop at kisses; they were the mere messengers and heralds of love, they were the trumpet which called to the yet more glorious adventures which lay at the end of the trail; these kisses, alas, were also to the lover a source of bitterness and of mortal pain. He was like a starving man bidden to a banquet, but who is forbidden to satisfy his hunger, being permitted merely to taste of the choice meats spread before him. And good Philotimes was almost dying of starvation; now he longed to partake of the feast; he cared about nothing else, nothing else mattered. It was of this he spoke to his pupil during the day - though only by allusions and indirect references - and it was this that occupied his thoughts throughout the night. The task seemed so hard; any attempt would be perilous, and its bringing to fulfilment would be fraught with risk and the possibility of scandal and disgrace. Yet these counted for little in comparison to his torment.

Thus the soul of Philotimes, inflamed by the charms and the merry grace of the lovely boy, raged like a demon in the Pit; there was no rest for it if it could not quell the ardour of its innermost hopes, cool the flame of its desires, find calm and emotional healing in the satisfaction of its most fervent longings. The master awaited a favourable moment to carry forward his designs; meanwhile, instead of correcting or punishing Alcibiades for any faults, he heaped upon him the most gracious compliments, the most wonderful presents. The loving boy, happy to be treated thus, was grateful for the attentions of his master, smiled on him. The master seized his advantage; one day, awaiting Alcibiades in the corridor, he embraced him, pressing the boy to his breast; then, more skilled than a falcon, more rapid than a flash of lightning, his hand sped to the most secret parts of the boy’s body, uncovering and caressing them.

The boy looked on him at first with angry scorn; yet it was resistance of the kind which serves only to intensify desire, to spice the appetite ever more powerfully. And, in the end, Alcibiades allowed the master to caress at will all of those exquisite fruits - the velvet-skinned grapes, the smooth sound melons. And the good master, though still unsatisfied, at last knew a foretaste of what it would be satisfy his ultimate desire.

This happy game, this charming interlude, lasted until both had to attend to more tedious matters, but it left the master with a kind of drunkenness, one which confused him to the point where he could think of nothing else, which completely disrupted his work. He therefore took several days’ holiday, and throughout this time he wore the inexpressible serenity of a mortal who has tasted such celestial mysteries as are rarely given to mere man to experience. Yet this was so only in appearance, not in reality. But Philotimes, as we have already said, possessed the art of pleasing others to the highest degree; there had not yet entered into his school a boy so resistant that he had not been conquered by his master’s gentle and courteous manners, who had not thrown himself, defeated, into his good master’s arms, and had given him what he desired, returning his affection with abundant interest. It was this which repaid him for all the vexations of his calling; this was its infallible and its most abundant reward.

But in so far as the beauty of Alcibiades far surpassed that of all the others, in so far would the pleasure that Philotimes hoped to taste with him be so much the greater. It was why the passionate teacher aspired only to one wish, that he might fulfil his overwhelming desire to gather the marvellous flowers which love promised him. The lovely boy’s willingness to please gave him every hope; now love pressed him towards a gentle stratagem. He asked Alcibiades to come to school a little before the usual time on each day, so as to do some additional work which would be valuable to him. Alcibiades, always docile, agreed - but with what impatience and agitation would his master await him!

He would sit at his breakfast table, rising from his seat at each mouthful, striding at every moment to the door, the balcony… “Is there anyone outside? Did someone speak? Who’s there?” he would call out; he would calculate the number of steps that the boy would have to take to get to the school… “He’s late”, he would tell himself, “He’s playing games with me.”  At which he would totally lose his power of speech and sit with his eyes fixed on the ground, his face white as ash, as one who has lost all hope, in whom every dream of happiness has died. Long before the hour of their meeting had sounded, he believed it long past, and believed that never again would the moment come when the boy would once again bring his dreams to life.

The tutors of Alcibiades were happy to see him show such enthusiasm for his work; it seemed to them extraordinary that a boy of this age should even forget to eat because of his schoolwork. They praised his teacher to the skies; as proof of his skill they spoke of the boy’s astonishing progress. There were some pleasant persons, it is true, who attributed the master’s enthusiasm to other motives, but the latter’s excellent reputation closed their mouths and made their suspicions unbelievable. So the boy having arrived early at school - as we have said - Philotimes, waiting as ever at the door and dying with impatience, would take him at once by the hand, conduct him to his room and there, with the utmost joy, cover him with kisses as before, and without meeting the slightest resistance from his pupil.

But it did not stop there; before he had spoken a single word, his trembling hand had already discovered the places where lurked his love, where dwelt the focus of his desires, upon whose altar he would sacrifice his very soul. In so far as these demonstrations could pass for light caresses, the boy showed no repugnance, but when at length he found his master ready to accomplish his grand design, when he found the canon loaded, pointed and ready to breach the fortress, his face and voice altered and, his eyes filled with tears, he cried out:

“I did not think you would go this far; how can you think to do such an ignoble thing? How can you, with the dignity which breathes throughout your entire person, dare to defile the purity of  young boys of good family who have been entrusted to you, who have submitted to your tutelage? What are the wishes of those who have placed us in your hands? That we shall become cultured and educated men, virtuous, honourable, and free of evil vices! Is this how you will teach us? Is this the kind of example you propose to give us? Truly, if a man of your age and in your position has the right to commit such misdeeds, what excesses may not be committed by young and hot-blooded boys who have been encouraged by your actions? Do you do this also to other boys? And what do their parents say of it? And to what dangers do you expose yourself? In short, I will not agree to go any further.”

The boy spoke in a voice filled with resentment, and yet some respect could still be read in it - but this did not prevent his quickly tearing himself away from the embraces of his master. Yet he did go out of the room, and his voice had reverted to its familiar tones, which reawakened some of the near-dead hope in the heart of Philotimes. Quickly, he sought to reassure the boy by replying to him thus:

“Alcibiades, my dear son, pardon the ardour of the master who loves you so much, do not inflict hurt on a soul who worships you. A man who has pressed upon you the most tender kisses, who adores you from the bottom of his heart, does not deserve your rebuffs, does not merit your hatred. Friends and enemies distinguish each other by such signs; while enemies flee, friends exchange kisses, embraces. And when Love pierces the heart, he takes no account of age, of sex, of position. Your divine image, deeply engraved on my soul, has taken living form and reigns there with total sovereignty. This is where it lives, this is where it has assumed command; and in the same way my own soul, driven from its habitation, has found a fresh habitation in you. In its love it mingles your life with mine; it is totally within you, it sports amorously there, and possesses you as you possess it.

“Love, directing towards me his flaming arrows from your beautiful eyes, has, from the first day I saw you, imprinted your image with these shafts of fire on my heart, and they have been returned, quick and fiery, to your own. But your heart is still too cold to feel the fire that burns so strongly in mine; yet, if I cannot extinguish it in the cool springs of your beautiful garden, you will see your poor master reduced to cinders. And you, dear Alcibiades, will have committed homicide - nay parricide! - in causing the death of an unfortunate being who, like a man and a father, loves you with every fibre of his being. Do not blush to have your master as a devoted lover, just because of my reputation for wisdom and the dignity of my position; these are well balanced by the nobility of your own blood. And your divine beauty, before which my humble desires kneel, must show pity in order to show itself divine. Such beauty must condescend to the prayers of mortals, and such grace must respond to their humility. Venus suffered herself to be loved by Achilles, Diana by Endymion, Aurora by Tithonus, and nymphs by shepherds and rustics. I therefore prostrate myself before your princeliness; I await from your lips my sentence of life or death, a sentence I must accept without appeal.”

The boy took him at once by the arm and said comfortingly, “If I resist your desires, it is not that I am unaware of your merits; I am not a beast, I do not have a heart of stone, or an insensitive soul - but what you wish to do offends honour and is contrary to Nature and to law. Temper your ardours, confine them within more narrow limits, make them more discreet, take those permitted pleasures which I allow you with all my heart - the kisses, hugs and caresses of the kind we have enjoyed previously - but do not pass beyond them - ever!”

The utterly wretched master, though convinced at first that the boy’s contempt would prevent any more daring adventures, began to take courage, thinking that perhaps, with approaches which were better directed, with wiser preparations, he might after all succeed - that perhaps, in the battle of love, his desires might indeed triumph, that he might in the end carry off the great and glorious prize. But for now, to satisfy the pressing exigencies of his tense situation, he made offerings to his idol by the judicious use of his hand.

In this painful time, it is true, he tried to relax his spirits, to alter his desires, to turn the course of his thoughts, without such a recourse. But knowing well that he would not be able to find in any other human creature anything like the incomparable beauty of this boy, he relieved himself with industrious fingers, and did not cease to represent to himself, during this ecstasy, the enchanting image towards which his spirit still strove - and nothing else still mattered, nothing else existed, other than the hope that he might render the boy receptive to his desires. One day, then, he took it upon himself to make free on the topic again, speaking much as follows:

“A reasonable person, my dear Alcibiades, fulfils his desires reasonably, or else abstains. If you are such - as all your behaviour bears witness - tell me, I pray you, what drives you to resist the ardours of your lovesick master so obstinately, and with such cruelty in your voice and manner? I remember well how, in our last encounter, you laid against me such vain accusations, such grave charges, that I cannot believe they were the result of mature and considered reflection.

“I now would like to know from you the cause of such a cruel refusal, one which will lead me to my death. Yet, if this is your wish, I shall end my life rather than cause you offence. I will accept without resistance the mortal blow from your beautiful eyes; should you employ them to strike me through as with poignards, I shall die without a murmur.”

The boy replied, “My dear master, it is not my wish that I should be the cause of any suffering to you. If I have been so, then I have been too cruel, too ungrateful, too unfair. Yet there are considerations which are clear, pressing and, in my opinion, invincible, and, in order that you will not think that I speak without due thought, I would wish to remind you of them one by one. First - and this is the opinion of important personages whom I have heard converse on the point with my parents - what you wish to practice is a hideous vice which offends Nature, indeed one which is called the sin against Nature’, and our law forbids it. Pallas, the great goddess of Athens, had a horror of it. It has even been related that the gods visited upon certain cities defiled by this sin a tempest of fire, sulphur and brimstone, and that these same cities were utterly destroyed and buried. And as a reminder of this punishment, it is said, there is nothing on the sites of these cities but sulphurous lands, the fruits of whose trees, though it appears ripe and rosy, contains nothing but ash and cinders - the enduring tokens, dear master, of that divine vengeance.

“And if you consider that the punishment does not stop at worldly griefs, but that the soul itself, when separated from the body, is visited by eternal and inexpressible tortures, do you wonder that I hold this vice in horror, that it fills me with terror and repugnance? And you too, do you not fear these dreadful torments? Do you wish to place yourself in such dire peril? Ah, my dear master, deliver me from these doubts, renounce the execution and indeed the very thought of these designs of yours!”

Said the master, “O adorable boy, were your mind able to grasp such mysteries, I would discuss them earnestly with you, I would explain to you how the wisdom of intellectuals has thrown over certain delights a veil of horror in order to render them inaccessible to the vulgar, so as not to degrade these wonderful treasures. What makes things precious, if it is not their rarity? What makes things holy and venerated, if it is not their mystery? If milk and honey flowed in the rivers, would we not value them less than we do water?”

“These pleasures have been reserved like rare meats, like choice wines, like the most exquisite fruits of their kind. It is my task, now, to open your eyes to these truths, and I will begin by examining your arguments one by one. You say that it is a crime against Nature, but that is a poor argument, one bandied about by men of the State. And the error comes from this: in women the asshole is placed on the opposite side to the cunt; therefore, since most men desire the cunt, it is considered unnatural to use the asshole. It is also said that, because men are born from the cunt, it is more natural that they should wish to return therein. It is from such nonsense that the beliefs of so many are derived. Yet how can desires dictated by Nature herself be called ‘unnatural’? An act is natural when Nature impels one to it, when she desires it. 

“So if it is a natural desire to love beautiful boys, how is that love against Nature? And if Nature does nothing in vain, does nothing useless, if she finishes all that she begins, will she, having created boy-children who excite the hearts of men to love them, to adore them - will she allow these desires to languish unfulfilled? Do these beauties not have their purpose? Are they vain, useless? No, no - these delightful and charming creations are made to satisfy Nature and, as she creates all things for her pleasure, to render her joy incomparable.

“Does not Nature establish loving rapports among creatures who resemble one another? Is there not more resemblance between a man and a boy than between a man and a woman?  And in giving young boys the traits of young girl, is not Nature telling us that one, as well as the other, is created for our enjoyment? 

“Again, among all creations are not those most precious which lend themselves to a number of purposes? If the hand is so precious, if one calls it the queen of organs, is that not because it can provide all manner of services for us? And yet you have just said to me that one must restrict to a single function - that most vile and lowly function of all - a part of the body which, used for other purposes, makes for man’s happiness; a part so noble, so sweet and agreeable, that the heavens, to honour it the more, has given it the form of a most perfect roundness.

“And this blissful portal is to be confined simply to a servile and ignoble use! No, no, Nature has reserved for it an exquisite and wonderful purpose. Consider how, throughout the animal kingdom, that other and equally delectable part is used both for the passage of urine and for the provision of incomparable delights. Yet you say that this pretty flower of love cannot serve in the same manner; is it then a mere latrine?

“Nature, in your opinion, must be singularly lacking in foresight, very uncaring of our welfare, very begrudging of our pleasure! No - on the contrary, she has done simply everything possible for us, both for our pleasure and for her own glorification.

“Not to use her gifts is to insult her; not to apply her inventions is to alienate oneself from her, to be in revolt against her, and to deserve in consequence to be deprived of life itself. If she gives us pleasure, it is because she wishes it, and thus, by enjoying it, we render homage to the dearest, the wisest, the richest, and the kindest of all mothers.

“This was very well understood by the wise men of Sparta, when they expressed in the letter of their law that principle which Nature had expressed in her silent language. They required that every citizen should choose for himself a boy as a lover; as long as the boy remained in the springtime blush of childhood, for so long would the lover remain faithful to him and, the flower fading, the boy would find a tender love-object of his own. It was on this basis that the stability of their republic was founded, a republic which was respected and revered for centuries. It was founded on those most solid blessings of love and friendship. And there, anyone who offended against this law was accounted both an enemy of the state and of his own self.”

“But,” enquired Alcibiades, “For what purpose, then, have women been created? If boys are to replace them in order to give men their delights, as you argue, what will become of these unhappy beings? Must one of them play the part of a man and the other of a woman? Or must it be that, utterly useless in this world, they are eradicated from the number of the living?  Or shall they, like the beasts of the field, become merely our slaves, satisfying our needs but not our pleasures, and leaving to boys the privilege of producing children? Unless there should come another Prometheus who will fashion them from clay, unless they are to be born of dragons’ teeth, as in the tale of Cadmus, or from stones, as in that of Deucalion and Pyrrha.”

“My dear Alcibiades,” his master replied, “You entirely miss the point of my argument. Men are driven by a multitude of instincts, of which the most powerful, the most universal, among all living beings, is the reproduction of others of the same species - the perpetuation, from generation to generation, of the heritage of life of which Nature has measured to each of such a miserly portion. So this instinct alone ensures that women are not forgotten, and that we must pay to them the tribute of love which they deserve.

“But is the desire to reproduce to represent the sole expression of our amorous pleasures? To hope to have as many children as one has orgasms is a notion as contrary to sense as to justice. When we impregnate a woman, she primarily subserves our ends, but, on her part, when she has become the mother of a man, she leaves her humble position and takes on the dignity of her kind.

“There is no shortage of people who have a greater taste for women than for boys; there are two reasons for this: first, that all-seeing Nature, in order to perpetuate the species, has provided the two sexes with a mutual attraction; the other is the vain prejudice against the love of boys which, in the more common souls, awakens sentiments of horror, and is a source of hurt and violence. Finally, with women, love develops, grows stronger, by contact with the loved one. Otherwise, as with boys, their grace and beauty would vanish with their childhood; these last longer where women are concerned - happily for them, because if they did not have this advantage the poor souls would soon have lost all, or nearly all, their lovers.

“It is true that here is the less happy aspect of the pleasure that we enjoy with boys - yet this imperfection sharpens our desires, and forces us to compensate for those too transient pleasures with the frequency and intensity of our emotions. In short, those who glue themselves to women are those who can only love a single object and who, holding stubbornly to this love, seek more in the way of security and of ease than of delectation.”

“But,” said Alcibiades, “If Nature is not opposed to your wishes, how does it come that among the animals, whom she also reigns, and more sternly, we do not see the same tastes?”

“Alcibiades, my love, what a child you are still! Tell me, pray, if you received at your table both a prince and a common man, would you expect of them the same manners? Surely not - and yet you ask that men and mere beasts should sit together at the same table, partake of the same banquet of sexual delights? There is between them and us such an inequality of nature, of feeling, of circumstances, yet you wish that they should perform the same sexual acts! If they were equal to man in this respect, then surely they would be equal in everything - they would have towns, cities, arts, magistrates, laws, juries; you would not have troupes or herds of animals, but republics, parliaments! So how then can Nature, who never errs in ornamenting man with the most noble attributes, refuse him this advantage too? She has decreed that animals must always partake of the same food, while man has need of a rich variety of meats to keep him alive and to sustain him. And the sense of taste is matched by that of touch: the first, reduced to a single form of food, remains incomplete; the other, restricted to a single form of amorous sensation, remains powerless and impoverished. Could you give the titles of courteous and generous to a man who, receiving at his home a noble and powerful guest, gives him nothing to eat but common and coarse meat, even though he possessed other and more exquisite foods in abundance? And what would you think of a mother who only gives to her beloved children such food as is enjoyed by rabbits, or by mere flies?

“I could tell you also, to prove that this form of love is a natural gift rather than a perverse twist of our fantasy, that Nature has thrown, as in sport, the same taste to animals. What do you say to that? It is true, that having less delicate sensibilities than men, animals do not know how to fulfil their desires fully, because they do not have a full appreciation of these sorts of affections. But, without possessing the same ardour as men, they play at it to the extent of their abilities, and none are completely deprived of it.

“The farmyard cock seeks of the other cock his tribute of love; the partridge fights with the males of his kind to achieve the same purpose; an animal that is vanquished must submit to the desires of the victor. They do not employ any of the armoury of love, and taste nothing but sexual desire.

                        Arion Riding a Dolphin by Albrecht Dürer, 1514

“Dogs, which of all animals most closely approach human intelligence, enjoy the same pleasures amongst themselves. The lion, when the lioness is in gestation, frolic with the cubs. The dolphin, not content with his female partner, raises his sights much further and falls in love with human boys. There was one who, enamoured of the beautiful face and charming voice of the sweet singer Arion, and more human than the cruel sailors who had thrown him overboard, went to his rescue and carried him to the shore. Another, by the beautiful coast of Naples, the obedient and loving servant of a beautiful boy, used to carry him over two nautical miles between his home and his school, without his coming to harm of any kind. The same blow cut short their lives, the same grave shelters them, and the same elegy celebrates their existence.  

“A similar story comes from Lerissa, on the island of Rhodes. There lived a dolphin there who had no pleasure rather than in the friendship of a boy whom he loved. The dolphin was a loving brother to the boy; regardless of the waves and the oars of the fishing-boats, despite the vagaries of tide and wind, the boy found him always receptive to his merest wishes. For his part, the boy was always willing to satisfy the desire of the gentle creature, extinguishing his ardour which sometimes seemed like the very waves. To acquire more virtue, to rid themselves of sorrow, it is necessary, too, that men will mount the one upon the other, and it is they who are made in the image of God, it is they who must truly make the most of themselves and be fully self-sufficient.

“He who cannot avail himself in this way is a unhappy and sickly being; if a man cannot find the love of a boy to complement his imperfect existence, a stream to extinguish his ardours, he will lose his liberty, his mind, his activity; he will become the most miserable, the most wretched of creatures.”

“Give up your love for boys, then,” replied Alcibiades, “And in an instant you will have put an end to your torments.”

“It is not within our power, my dear Alcibiades, to decide to love or not to love someone who has captured our heart, who attracts us with an incomprehensible force, whose very soul we endlessly gaze upon. A divine appearance, provoking dreams of the infinite joys of possession, inflames love, ignites desire. And if it cannot become intoxicated at the spring of such a coveted pleasure, if it cannot bathe in it, dive in it, it will burn until it becomes reduced to ashes. And if a coveted liquor invites the lips to bathe in its sweetness, what matter, provided that we drink, whether the drinking-vessel is round or square? When we want to extinguish the flame, can we? When we could, should we? He who wants to do it cannot, and he who can do it does not wish to.

“The laws of certain peoples, in particular those of Athens as you have said, forbade this form of love, but there was no wisdom in this prohibition. Men make laws to conform to their own interests, not always to what is right and just. This law was intended to protect women, to prevent them from falling into error and abandonment. It provided a cloak of convenience for the legislators, so that, under the pretext of helping the weaker sex they formulated this prohibitive law, more to answer the interests of the State than the laws of reason or of Nature. It is on this low motive of the State’s self-interest that the majority of civil and religious laws are founded, and it is the purpose of the State to make so many repugnant laws seem, to the eyes of the stupid and vulgar, pious and sacrosanct.

“The Vanges, who lived south of the equator, held the certain belief that God, the creator and preserver of the entire universe, lived only among them; all the rest of the world was abandoned by Him, left to the caprices of fortune and chance. Outside their land, God himself had neither the will nor the power to govern; beyond their frontier there was no God, no truth. They carried their presumption so far that, though cursed by all other sects, they looked on themselves not just as the chosen ones, but as the very patrons of God - to the extent of believing that the supreme Being had to submit to their desires, had to adopt their tastes and their prejudices. They even had some ridiculous and childish fables, where God appeared as a kind of comic-opera character, by turns laughing, austere, comic, gracious, or clownish.

“The Scythians, who hated the enemies of their faith so much that to slay them was counted an act of piety, believed that the soul, when separated from the body, still had a mouth and sexual organs, and could eat and fuck like animals. And, while civilised peoples, such as the Persians, the Medes, and the most noble cities of Greece, permitted relationships between males, the Tartars considered it permissible to use mother, sister, son, brother, and animals, the last above all.

“The Chaldeans has a poor god, superstitious, fickle, inconstant, cruel, without wisdom. And yet people valued all these laws, and their observation, above honour, riches and life itself. Tell me, Alcibiades, do they seem to you just?

“No,” replied the boy, “They seem foolish and unreasonable.”

“Nevertheless,” said the master, “They were hallowed by long usage, affirmed by the faith that they inspired, held to be true and legitimate and, thanks to the credulity of simple people and the severity of governments, they survive, they stand as the very embodiment of justice.”

       The Abduction of Ganymede by Peter Paul Reubens, 1611

“But let us return to our subject. Let us consider all the gods: in which are we to put our greatest belief?  In Jupiter, the king of both gods and men? But was it not he who took Ganymede? Yet, though men must model themselves upon the gods, it is nevertheless impossible for us to follow them in all their actions; Jupiter was legitimately able to use force because he was a god; his divine will could rule the justice of his actions; but, not having sovereign power, it is necessary that, instead of force, we employ prayers, and that we continue in them ceaselessly so that, in the end, even the deaf will yield to our heartfelt petitions.

“And was it not Apollo who played with Cyparissus and Hyacinth? Was not Hercules happy with Hylas? If Cupid is of our sex, if he is a boy, it is to show that the love of boys is superior to all others. As for the love of women, it is represented by Venus, who only carries the bow and the quiver when her son wills that she should do so.

“So it is boys who carry the sceptre of love; women stand only in the second rank of authority, as those to whom power is delegated. So those who believe that this sovereign desire is an affront to the gods, and that they who taste of it consign themselves to dreadful punishments, are as far divorced from truth and justice as is the man who punishes a slave for following the orders of his master. If you subscribe to this belief, you could equally well believe, like the common people, that, at night, the sun hides himself in a hole in the moon.

“Those who, in their own interests, have believed it convenient to forbid this form of love, know very well that their proscription is, to those of wisdom, contrary to all reason, so they have sought to attribute their pathetic law to the dictates of God. In the same way do deceitful men use the Oath to cover their lies and to introduce their false dogmas, mingling the sacred and the profane.

“Nothing is more capable of perverting our reasoning than the threat of dreadful torments awaiting us. All men have a natural respect of God at the bottom of their heart, because the eternal soul, a man’s very essence, communicating through all aspects of Creation, penetrating his spirit and his substance, awakens in them the deepest sentiments of awe and reverence. This is why, everywhere, God is more or less the object of worship - and of fear - among men. It is on this basis, then, that our rulers frame their delightful laws. In attributing to the will of God what is nothing more than their own self-serving whims, they give them credence and ensure that they are promptly observed. This causes us to reject with horror any act which would violate them. And they have made us take in their beliefs with our milk, our souls have been imbued with them in our cradle, they are part of us.

“It is for this reason, then, that most people would rather give up life itself than these laws. It is by such means, such stratagems, that Numa, Lycurgus, Solon and other great legislators expanded their laws, and thus their empires.

“A particular outcome of having drawn God into their plans has enabled them to subdue, without difficulty, numerous peoples riven by internal warring and revolution. With calculated skill, they attributed natural phenomena to divine miracles and, by making these seem to accord with all of their decrees, they captured the spirits of people who were simple, primitive, and always ready to believe.

“Yet, if God is always as immutable as he is wise in the works of justice and of mercy, how does it come about that He does not punish this pleasure that is treated as a crime? Might the truth perhaps be otherwise? Or, maybe, things have changed round, and it is God who fears us? Poor God, now He can only dream of destroying the world!

“A clock owes its movement to its weights and its wheels; by sounding the hour at the proper time, it fulfils the will of the clockmaker; in the same way, our weights and counterweights are the desires which God has placed within us; to depart from these is to depart from the reasons for which we have been created, to fail to fulfil the will of our great Maker.

“Let us say now a word about the traditions which linger in certain volcanic regions, traditions which, I observe, have not failed to make their impression on you. Once, within the borders of Arabia and Syria, due to the effect of certain combinations of the elements, together with certain unexplained effects of the climate, there existed an immense lake of asphalt, spreading warm exhalations all around it. This brought great benefits to the country, both in respect of health and of  the arts. On one hand, the waters eased a multitude of ailments; on the other, the clay served a large number of purposes, such as the construction of cooking and drinking vessels. However, the viscosity of these waters make them impracticable for navigation, and the temperature was too high; in addition, the waters contained dense sediments and highly inflammable substances.

“In due course the ambient air, as a result of this excessive warmth, dried the earth, burned it, and heated the fruits of the trees to bring them to premature and unnatural ripeness, to the extent that they were more the fruits of the fiery material than the natural fruits of the earth.

“So, when the aforesaid ruler would pass near to these places with his armies, the ignorant people would not neglect to ask him about these marvels, mysterious to them - about the strange properties of the waters, about their colour, their warmth and all the rest. A happy occasion to produce a little fable for this purpose - as a matter of political necessity, of course, not of shameless lying! His army would have many women with it, all of them tired and worn by much travelling, and thus less desirable and more likely to extinguish passion than to kindle it. The soldiers found boys more pleasurable for them, leaving these unhappy creatures abandoned. The wise captain, seeing this, began to fear that his empire would begin to be decimated; it would scarcely pass whole into the hands of his successors if the gaps made by war and famine were not replenished; he therefore forbade any intercourse with boys, taking care to add that this was a direct order of God. He told them that it was to punish such behaviour that the Almighty had turned these places into a lake of sulphur, that as a result of this divine vengeance five cities had been devoured by the fire without leaving a trace behind; thus, pressed by the circumstances that had forced him to invent this fantastic tale, the legislator passed his decree forbidding the delights which were to be enjoyed with boys.

“See what nonsense these laws depend on! The two sexes were not to be equally distributed; the chief would not have stood for it. Yet, following this, their descendants built, alongside their most famous temple, a public building consecrated to pederasty, and placed in it as director the man who was the wisest and most highly regarded in the nation. And does it not seem strange to you, Alcibiades, that among so many of the writers of ancient Greece, all so precise in their accounts, so universally celebrated, none has made mention of these tales of divine vengeance?”

“Perhaps, replied Alcibiades, “It is because, sharing your own tastes, they did not wish to divert men from this interest by frightening them.”

“Your objection is not logical, my son; if such good men had regarded this joy as reprobate and worthy of the vengeance of God, who rules over everything, they would have said so, in order not to fall themselves under the anger of God, not to have their very silence accounted a crime. But even supposing them able to brave celestial wrath, they might, wishing to reserve for themselves these most exquisite fruits, have sought to appear pious by remaining silent about their sweet privileges. Yet they filled not just pages, not just pamphlets, but great volumes with the recitation of these marvels. In this company of sages were many who valued the truth above life itself, yet even they did not write about these lakes of sulphur; this can only be because this tradition did not present any semblance of truth to them.

“The author of this invention, however, seeing clearly the advantages of these terrifying tales in ensuring that men obeyed his laws, was careful not to say that pederasty was the sole cause of the devouring of these five cities, but that this misfortune came as a result of the citizens’ impiety, their avarice, their greed and their violence and, in brief, that their many sins had filled the very angels with shame. Thus, in some degree the effect of these restrictions was to render legitimate that which he sought to abolish, since that which was to be punished was violence, not pleasure - brutality, not embraces.

“And truly, to use violence is to be the executioner of souls - souls who are naturally good, generous and gentle, and to whom liberty is the very breath of life; to counter these natural leanings is to denature them, to diminish them. Look at the women of the streets - the most vile practices are permitted to these unhappy creatures, yet they are forbidden, under penalty of death, to use force or violence. And, where there is general and unanimous agreement that violence is outlawed, in that same place dwells love, peace, the rule of Nature and the love of good. The violent man is an affront to Nature and also to God, who admits to His presence only the most kind and loving of souls. Among the laws of which we have spoken, laws set out by the persons of the nation who were most wise and most inspired by the spirit of prophesy, we find a decree written by one such man, a legislator so remarkable that he was considered a communicator with God, setting out the sins of the people and threatening them with the most severe punishments. But when he came to pederasty, he raised no objection against it; he condemned only those who deserted boys of the nation to attach themselves to foreign boys (et pueris alienis adhoeserunt).”

“If it was a crime to abandon one’s own boys, it was therefore an act of virtue to seek them out; we owe our affection to our own people rather than to strangers; to abandon the first in order to give oneself to the second is to violate the laws of Nature. In forbidding citizens to engage in congress with foreign boys, this wise man was enjoining congress with boys of their own people.

“Yet even if you consider these human laws, fashioned from the mere caprices of men, to be the universal and inviolable laws of Nature, you will nevertheless find that they direct you towards pederasty more than they forbid it, and I shall now prove this to you.

“To proceed in an orderly fashion on such an important matter, we will begin by defining the laws of Nature as those which men, of whatever creed, of whatever nation, discover naturally for themselves from the cradle, and in the light of reason - laws which are sanctioned universally and have the authority of the most wise and the most just. They fall into two main categories: one concerning our duty to God, the other concerning the goodwill which we owe to our neighbour. So these laws are formulated thus:

“Love God above everything, love one’s neighbour as oneself - that is, do not offend either. Yet these two principles are distinct; one must not be confused with nor assimilated in the other, because such confusion or assimilation would take from each its distinct character.

“If it was the same thing not to offend God and not to offend one’s neighbour, the single formula: ‘Do not offend God’ would suffice. Yet these two precepts are separate and discrete one from the other. They do not depend one upon the other, they have no connection with one another. Consider - if your neighbour shows satisfaction with some action of yours, if he is happy with it, grateful, touched - can he be called offended? Have you transgressed the precept: ‘Do not offend your neighbour’?  If he held himself to be offended, would you call this just?”

Alcibiades replied, “Certainly, the requirement of the law is satisfied; the neighbour must hold himself obliged. It seems to me, indeed, that between an obligation and offence there is the same difference as between a present and a theft.”

“Perfectly stated,” returned his master. “But, on this basis, if a boy consents to give himself to the desires of his lover, if he takes pleasure and advantage from it, how then is the neighbour offended? Would it not be a folly for him to consider it so? God has given us the incomparable gift of free will; why should we except from it this sole item? What? You can lend a house, a horse, a dog, but you cannot lend yourself? Is there anywhere a tyrant so cruel that he will grant liberty to a slave, but deny it to himself? Has God made us free in order to enslave us with laws governing our love and its free expression? 

“And how can God, who has created us as weak, blame us for our weaknesses? He would be blaming Himself, His own work. Is it possible that He would look with pain upon our pleasures, view our delights with the eye of envy? No, if our pleasures did not pour some balm on the miseries of our human condition, the world would become the abode of the Evil One. Man would not be the king of all creatures, but the victim and repository of all suffering, of every torment. Come, do not let your princely mind be troubled by such base prejudices, by such absurd beliefs.”

“Why then,” enquired Alcibiades, “Do boys who give pleasure to men suffer the injurious epithet of ‘bum-boys’?  Why are they held in such contempt? Are not such boys considered vile? If all you have said to me is true, how is it that the common language tells a different tale? Relieve me of this doubt, I pray you.”

“The name of bum-boy,” replied the master, “Should neither be given to nor taken by boys who, out of pure affection and courtesy, give themselves graciously to good and honest men who have merited their favour. One does not inflict such epithets upon Love, who comes so kindly to heal suffering hearts. Thus, it right that persons of wisdom have replaced these odious terms with the names of gods and goddesses, for such is the true rank of those who heal human miseries, the comforters of souls that are feeble and afflicted. In other times, many great princes have raised altars and temples to these deities, consecrated by priests, and have offered to them sacrifices and incense; the histories of Greece and Rome are full of the records of such devotions. By contrast, ‘bum-boy’ refers to a mercenary lad who wants nothing but money, who does not give himself but sells himself, who makes love into something base and commercial.

“Between a loving and courteous boy and a ‘bum-boy’ there is the same difference as exists between a venerable priest and a low Simonite.[5] They are both attired as priests, they both administer the same sacraments, but we see in the ministry of one the sterling worth of his character, his joy in ministering to the spiritual needs of his flock, in his fulfilling of the divine laws; the other does only what is useful to him, what is in his interest, what brings him profit.

“Therefore the first is hallowed and respected in his office, while the second is vile and detestable. Things without price must not be treated like merchandise. So what can the most precious, the most worthy of loving boys, O my noble and divine child, give to men, without any thought of his own interests, than the pleasure of the elect? But the boy who sells himself for money is vile and disreputable; instead of being the gardener and the treasurer of the delights of love, he has made himself the ignoble destroyer of his own body.

“Is it not reasonable” replied Alcibiades, “That, for the benefit of another, some payment is made in return? Such a payment as ministers in turn to the needs of one who has solaced the giver? Why must a boy be treated as shameless if he receives some money from him to whom he has given pleasure?”

“No, pretty boy,” replied the master. “It is not a market, it is not an exchange of goods. It is true that no man is so rich and powerful that he never has need of something from one who is smaller than himself, and that he who gives service has a right to be paid. But I would wish that a generous lover would come to the aid of a child who he loved on every occasion, that he would be always kind, generous and courteous towards him, not only when the boy has obliged him.

“Love must be our sole guide in all these matters; it is the sole arbiter of such difficult and delicate questions. It permits free tokens of love and generosity; but sordid venality outrages it. Honourable priests, good men, sacrificed their all on the altar, and so lived better lives, and were greater men, than those who were simoniacal or mercenary. The latter were detested, but the former were revered for their virtues. Playwrights, however admirable their talent, are regarded as abominable historians and as liars because they write for gain. Indeed, the ancient laws of Rome deprived them of honourable burial.”

“Your reasons fully satisfy me,” said Alcibiades, “But tell me, I pray you, whether one receives greater pleasure with boys than with women, and if so why?”

“Pleasure is kind of a harmony created by many different voices; with a single voice it would be incomplete. This applies to all the greatest pleasures, but especially to those of love. If we were to imagine the pinnacle of erotic delight, the supreme satisfaction of the senses, without taking account of all the circumstances, our vision would be incomplete. There are many who say that the greatest delights are to be taken with women; they would say that Nature has given to woman a certain secret part, pleasurably warm, which, assisted by the male member, promotes and eases coition, enlivens bodily pleasure; they would say that that fusion of the bodies, the erotic kiss, the intimate contact of skin to skin, make for supreme bliss. They would add that that the union of two bodies, fused almost into one, as image and symbol of the cords that unite two loving souls, favours the exchange of all bodily delights where, at the contact of the members, the senses also communicate, with exquisite pulsations. This outpouring of two souls, they would add, is the very soul and essence of love, and it is only by this means that love can be fully satisfied, by this losing oneself in the other; it is to arrive at this end that we pass our eager hands, scatter our fiery kisses, over all the body of the loved one, and that we burn to fill her orifices with our tongues, our hands, our pricks.

“In this supreme battle of desire, with tongues enlaced we breathe in the image of the loved one; the two souls reflect one another, breathing turn by turn, the warm air of Paradise into both hearts. The lovers combine all their powers in accomplishing the secret mystery of love; they twine themselves around one another like vines, in near-indissoluble knots; their two bodies have but a single soul; their desire lacks nothing; their delight as is complete as their union. But, according to the same persons, these happy conditions are not found in the love of boys, making it the less desirable. I say first that these persons, schooled by custom, which is our second nature, have replaced reason with blind prejudice.

“I admit, before attacking their arguments, that the warmth which is to be found in the feminine nature serves to arouse those who are not greatly inflamed with love; that the meeting of fluids invites them to penetrate more vigorously into the centre of joy and serves thus as an aid to the more timid traveller. I admit further that all the kisses, the sights, the hot pantings, the embraces, play a great part in the accomplishment of the act. So I too would yield to women -  if I did not find the same delights, and many that are still greater, in boys. Even if the charming nest of love, a unique treasure, the divine privilege of amorous boys, does not have the warmth of that of women, it is nevertheless more temperate, it is a more refreshing stream in which to quench the fires of passion. Gentle coolness avails more to extinguish a fire than does more intense warmth.  

“The meeting of fluids, furthermore, has something disagreeable about it, though I know not what; it is like a persistent rain, a dull drizzle that bores and annoys. The great capacity of the cavern, too, causes a degree of alarm; it is a labyrinth that invites you to lose yourself rather than to enjoy yourself. See by contrast the pretty little round channel that conducts you to the flowery garden of boyhood; does it hide any of its delights? And the contortions of these round cushions, fresh and velvet-smooth, which frolic against your thighs, do they not serve to heighten your pleasure? Isn’t that alone worth all the pleasure, real as well as imaginary, that one can taste with women? Doesn’t it seem to you that Nature, in giving to these delicious buttocks that round, chubby form, that delicate smoothness, wanted to show you that they are designed to fill the concavity of our bodies as we play upon them? With women, the contrary is true. In coition, the convexity of the stomachs as they press together creates a gap between the two parties which prevents them from forming that perfect union that makes for the most supreme pleasure.

“When you play with a boy, one is deprived neither of the sweetness of a kiss, nor the pleasure of breathing the breath that fills the amorous mouths. With a boy, too, union is complete and the intoxication of love is shared, so long as the beloved takes up a position which allows him to turn his face easily towards that of his lover, while the gherkin is either planted in his garden or quivering gently between his hands, according to the caprice of the delightful imp. And even if that position is in any degree uncomfortable -  far from harming pleasure, it sharpens it, the wrigglings - like those of a young eel - stimulate it, sharpen and spice the sensual appetite. To feel this pixie twist, rise, gasp, twitch and quiver in your hands, frolic against you in a thousand ways - does not this delight beckon you, urge you to further attack, multiply the blows born of your burning ardour?’

“But,” asked Alcibiades, “What of the boy’s prick? Is its form of importance for the pleasure of his lovers?’

“Most certainly,” replied the master, “It must be well-proportioned - not too big, not too little. Too little is a sign of green fruit, unripe and without savour, unable to excite desire, unable to bring desire to its conclusion. By contrast, one that is too big, that is flabby and fleshy, shows that the kid has become a goat and, as the younger one is too delicate, this one is dirty and repugnant. Some people do make use of the goat, but in order to reverse roles rather than to taste the joys of the regular position. As for me, I do not want to have the world the wrong way round. I want to see a prick that is straight, graceful, white, smooth, set on two little round balls, ready to bless amorous hands with an exquisite dewdrop.

“The playthings of a boy are like the tender new flowers of spring; we see in them the harbingers of true love - the instruments of joy, capable of giving as much pleasure as they receive. To the eyes of the connoisseur they represent the very pinnacle of perfection - as do yours, O my beloved! They are the peak of sublimity of the most adorable boys.”

While speaking thus, the master passed an arm around the boy’s neck, while his other hand moved to more secret parts, thirsting with desire like a deer for the water, inflamed with passion like a voracious Harpy.

The boy said to him gently, “Before you go any further with me, my good master, please deign to satisfy my curiosity on certain other points.”

“Command me,” replied Philotimes, “My dearest wish is to satisfy your desires.”

“Do not women have round apples like boys? It seems to me that, in amorous congress, he who is the lover must consider himself more happy to fondle these round breasts, rosy as apples, and all the more since they fit the hand more exactly. If we are to enumerate the fruits of love, indeed, women have four apples, while boys have only two. Though the garden of boys has its fruits, that of the women has also its breasts, more precious and more desirable. In that of boys, you have the peach, while women have the fig, the taste of which concedes nothing to the peach or to any other fruit.[6] As to the vast capacity of the cunt, which you compare to a boundless labyrinth, this is too broad a criticism to be true. This fault is only found among those who have indulged too much, who are over-ripe, or have had many children; when you apply it to those who are young, I believe that you malign them.

“You represent boys as possessing pretty goblets which may contain liquor - but if from a boy’s ‘goblet’ you saw emerging, as from a natural spring, an anointment of shit, what would you say then? Would that look like ambrosia to you? Would you, inhaling it, detect the odour of musk? Would this cleft still represent for you the gate of Paradise? Come, are you truly serious, or am I dreaming? What have you to say, my venerable master?”

“Your divine understanding entertains only conceptions that are worthy of you,” said the master, “But your arguments are so constructed that they contain both elements that are well-founded and others that are specious. I will refute them, one by one.

“Between the pleasure of having in your hands the prick of a boy and the breasts of a women there is all the difference that exists between the possession of a living being and of an inanimate object. The breast has no movement or feeling; what the boy has is mobile and has an exuberant grace; the breasts are inert and without soul; the other stirs, rises, falls, beckons with its head, it smiles, it weeps, it applauds, it jousts with you from the beginning of the sport until the end; while the breasts - at least those of a great number of women - are just great bladders bloated with air, empty dangling purses, flaccid pouches, more capable of extinguishing passion that of exciting it.

“Yet does not a young and well-made boy also have breasts, little though they are, but the more precious for that, in the same way as a rosebud can be more delightful than a rose in full bloom? Imagine a garden full of varied fruits, all of different tastes - if you were told that you might eat the most common but were forbidden to taste those that were more delicious, would not the possession of this garden cause you more pain than pleasure?  A woman does not deliver her fruits freely, does not open her garden voluntarily, because her desire is elsewhere, because she awaits the urges of her own nature. Thus the fruit of woman has a bitter taste.  And when she does consent, there is between her and a boy, in my opinion, the difference between salt beef and choice veal. The tastes of men are different; a taste that pleases one is repugnant to the other, and the palate is quick to detect the differences. Give a man some beef, it matters not which cut; he will always know it as a cow; likewise veal will always be veal. The sense of touch, in the pleasures of love, is exactly the same.

“As to the fluids that float in the cunt, as for the vast dimensions of this gulf, bottomless like the ocean, these are common to all women because they are inherent in their nature, and I am convinced that, from the day of their birth until the day when they are brought to childbed in pain and lamentation, it is never possible for man to plumb the bottom of this abyss.

“I come now, O boy a thousand times blessed, to those little taints which you suppose boys to possess. Such foolish fancies, my son, such chimeras, such prejudices! A boy who is well-born, well brought up, far from giving the smallest offence, instead carries nothing but sweet-smelling perfumes, born of his gentle life-giving warmth, surrounding him like a soft and balmy tide. As when, tousle-headed, happy, proud and triumphant in amorous struggles, he rustles with fragrances more sweet than all the perfumes of Arabia. And when even he provides certain odours, some visible product of his garden of delight, there is nothing repellent, nothing disgusting in that, I say! It is a reinforcement of delight, a pepper to desire.

“He who loves a melon does not fear either its taste or its odour. Everything in the world, to be perfect, must have its distinct attributes. Bread and wine have their own tastes and smells, just as the bottom of a pretty boy has its own scent, its own ambrosian fragrance. Once a sage and prudent man, desiring to lick a boy, but perceiving that his beloved had perfumed himself with rose-water, withdrew repelled, abandoning his happy task. What, he exclaimed, have I come to play with a flower filled with natural perfume, only to find a chemist’s shop in your bottom? Among a thousand boys, you will not find one with any defect in respect of odour. However, a judicious pederast must not expect that all boys are the same. Sometimes, instead of sweet apples he will find rank sponges and bladders; instead of a garden of delights he will find an infected latrine. A boy, to be truly worthy of love, must be well-born, well brought-up, clean and unsullied, merry, pleasant and agreeable. Otherwise he is worthless; if he does not fulfil these conditions he is, indeed, a repugnant creature. There is no worse corruption that that of the finest things. And if there are some small natural defects, we must do everything possible to eliminate them, even their smallest traces. Where Nature spreads her impurities, it is man’s task to clean, to purify. We can here compare boys to choice game and to the best fruits. Are they good? At best they are delicacies among foods, but are they thin, green, rotten? There is nothing so detestable and so nauseating.

“Yet in admitting that a young boy, be he perhaps inexperienced or poor, has some fault, these little stains are as nothing besides the horrors of menstruation, and its consequences, in women.”

“Tell me kindly, Sir,” said Alcibiades, “What makes a women attach such great importance to her fig; why is she so vain about it, so shameless?’

Said the master, “That is because she wishes to please a man only in order to impose on him her absolute and despotic rule. She can become, when she wishes, arrogant, cruel and blasphemous. Our money, our goods, our liberty, our life are nothing in her eyes besides herself. She makes her lovers struggle among themselves for her, their spilt blood is her reward, the tokens and trophies of her greatness. Fires, ruined cities, devastated empires are the monuments to her treachery. Let us take, as an example, the lowest of countrywomen, a dirty and heavy cowherd eating polenta, vegetables and water, talking to animals, sleeping on a pallet with them, incapable otherwise of distinguishing man from beast, who falls into the hands of an oaf who, for the sake of variety, eats rabbits and rotten apples.

“Then she will see that she is taken by some gentleman, a citizen, a rich merchant. And then - await the blackmail! Now she will say that she is a virgin, a saint, of good family, of noble stock; and while an unhappy accident has thrown her into the hands of this poor man, she had always been true to him, had never allowed anyone else to lay a finger on her. There is no mention that the creature had opened her dirty cunt to all comers - the butcher, baker, the candlestick-maker and anyone else who felt inclined to mount her.

“And how great must be the pride of girls of good family, if the daughter of a whore has such pretensions? How do women seem to you, Alcibiades? How do you judge these charming baggages? Do you think that a true gentlemen would wish to be hung about with creatures of this species? Are they worthy objects of his love? No, I do not think that you would be a dupe. I could enumerate for you more than a hundred reasons why you should distrust them, but, so as not cause you boredom, I will cut short my arguments. We have men of great genius who have written volumes about women, but all of it is less then the truth, and they will cease to write before women continue to furnish rich material for their censure and ridicule. Perhaps, somewhere, a good one exists? I do not deny it; there are such things as miracles. For my part, I have not yet, in my life, met an honest man who can speak truthfully of having met one.

“By contrast, who complains in the same way about boys? What harm do they do, the dear angels? What ruin, what shame have they ever caused, except by chance or by some accident against their wishes? In as much as it is rare to find a women who is not bent on bringing about ruin and distress, it is equally rare to find a boy from whom such ills can be feared.

“But let us pass to other important points. Such contacts as we have with women cannot for long be kept secret, because of the separation of the sexes and the difficulty of their meeting; one therefore risks losing one’s reputation, of being considered a reprobate, a libertine, a man without morals. And a woman, be she only a mistress, wants the whole man, she is never satisfied. You must lose yourself in her, you must neglect all serious business. She is always on your tracks, she spies upon you everywhere.  She sees you with an old woman? It is your supplier. Your friends? Your procurers. Young women? Your mistresses. Young boys? Your bum-boys! So you are forced to break with the entire universe and cloister yourself with her, you are enclosed in a sack with a mad dog or a serpent, as parricides used to be. The goodwill you felt for her is changed into bitterness, then come the hot and purulent secretions of menstruation, a source of ulcers, suppurations and ills of all sorts, with which whores are always inflicted or inflamed.”

“Then get married,” said the boy, “And you will escape all the ills which you have enumerated, and at the same time you will swim tranquilly in an ocean of sexual delight!”

“Ah, my poor Alcibiades, the same food, with no variety, turns the stomach and finally extinguishes even the appetite of an epicure! And also to lose oneself, to be deprived of the greater part of one’s soul, one’s liberty - that incomparable treasure - and for what?  For a reward so ordinary, a sexual pleasure so common, to sup at a feast where all partake, even flies! Great God! Who in the world is not a married state? Well, so be it - there is the married man, do you think that it will be easy for him from then on, that it will be possible for him to have a good time with his woman whenever he wishes it? No, there are parents, cousins, visits, questions of contract, of dowry, all the trappings of matrimony which must be put in train, four or six times a day, every time that his great prick rises. A great benefit indeed from exchanging his title of man for that of beast of burden! Why do you think that a wedding is scarcely ever celebrated except under the sign of Capricorn - the Crab! And do you think that it will be pleasant to nurture, with your own blood, little mules that one day will dash against you, will maim and destroy you?”

“But,” replied Alcibiades, “If it were truly thus, no man would ever take a woman. Yet what we see is totally to the contrary.”

His master replied, “If Nature had decreed that all our actions were governed by reason, women would be the object of deep distrust; they would be seen in a completely different light. A small number of men only, wise philosophers, have gained a clear view on the matter; not only did they avoid chaining themselves to women, but caused themselves to be conducted to and from their Athenian homes with flaming torches, a striking symbol of the ruin which these furies would bring to the homes that they entered.”

“But,” said Alcibiades, “Cannot you, without having dealings with either women or boys, extinguish the flames of love with your own hands - without expense, without trouble, without submitting to anyone? This is, in my opinion, the palliative most certain to bring to you assistance and relief. Thanks to this means you have in your hands, at the least tickle of lust, a remedy that is both speedy and infallible.”

“Alcibiades, my beloved,” replied the master, “To pump fluids with your own hands, to substitute a vain image for a living reality, is a miserable sham, a poor expedient against the raging desires of love; the man who longs to quench his thirst at the true stream can only substitute the hollow of his hand by a mighty effort of imagination. This sorry recourse inflames desire but cannot fully extinguish it, since passion can only die if it is plunged deep into the water, if it is engulfed. You must believe this, my child. Avoid above all this foul error. Do not use your prick in this way, because these excesses, by depriving us of the substances which are the most pure, the most precious, exhausts us, dries us up, consumes us.

“Often, indeed, it is not just semen which comes out, it is the best of our blood; the brain dissolves itself, our vital spirits evaporate. From which follows a change in personality, a deathly pallor, and often an early death. Nature, being more concerned with preserving the species than an individual, concentrates all her attention on our genetic material and, at each evacuation of semen, she fills the vacuum with another substance, taken from the richest part of our blood, which exhausts our veins and our most important organs.

“When you begin to satisfy yourself with your hands, the practice very soon becomes a habit, by the very ease of its use. This continual and importunate stimulation makes the prick demand ever more, wanting always to be in motion, forcing a man to become his own assassin. The next occasion, however near, is always too far away - so it is always in one’s hand. Some people define this habit as the third degree of perdition for a man - the first degree is a woman, the second, pederasty, the third, what they call ‘self-abuse’. They put the woman in first place because, they say, her heat removes too much of our vital substance and her disorganised movements exhaust our strength. Boys, they add, have a peculiar charm, and activity with them, though producing some of the same effect, is less disastrous; the hands, finally, more moderate in all respects, without violence, without any of these shakings which ravage our senses, attend more gently to our desires. So from this point of view, though without mention of the advantages which you have indicated, these persons would appear in some degree to commend the act of onanism. But for my part, were my advice sought, I would not hesitate to attribute the most evil consequences to this habit; as a cause of ruin I would place it without hesitation in the first rank. The delight aroused in us by the presence of the beloved comforts and calms our spirits so much that, without fatigue, without swooning, we achieve the solacing and satisfaction of all our desires, amply rewarding our exertion, our agitation. Onanism, by contrast, deprives us of the sight of our lover, of contact with him in the flesh, and leaves us drained and exhausted. We must not then give up our boys for this habit, because our moderate enjoyments with them bring us joy and health; indeed, one of our most famous physicians wrote this sentence: Uses et amplexes pueri bene tempetatus, salutaris medicina[7]

“Why do you emphasise the word ‘moderate’?” enquired Alcibiades.

“Because excess is harmful, as I already explained,” replied the master, “Not because of any fault in the beloved, but because of the use one is making of him. On the other hand, deprivation is a cause of illness and suffering. The substance which we call semen is superabundant in us and, if it is not expelled from the body at intervals, it will spread throughout all the body and cause numerous and incurable disorders. That is why, while I ripen the senses and the reason of my dear little angels, they become for me, at the same time, the objects of devoted love and worship; both as pupils and nephews, they are always at my side, I can always make their proper splash upon them; and I can at the same time acquire the benevolence of their parents and cause them every joy in their dear children. So, apart from any other reason, social or political interest suffices to justify this form of love.

“But,” said Alcibiades, “Cannot men, all of the same age, give themselves together to this pastime, especially as they themselves possess all that can be found in boys, and indeed more completely so?”

“The form of amorous pleasures changes with the age of the beloved,” said Philotimes. “The flesh of the young kidlet is delicate, that of the goat is rotten. Those whose tastes run to goats are renegades, corrupt men, mere beasts. The true love of the male is the love of a boy. It is true that, if the child is too young, some savour is lacking. Those most worthy of our love are those pretty young boys of milk and ambrosia, made to draw us to our pleasure, as the others are made to disgust us.”

“But of what age?” asked Alcibiades. “At what ages do you set the limit beyond which one cannot make play with boys, O wise master?”

“From nine to eighteen years; but the limit is a little arbitrary, because some boys keep their juvenile grace for a long time, while with others the flower fades quickly. On the other hand, one sees charming infants, round and rosy, who make one’s heart leap from their very cradle.”

“But,” asked Alcibiades, “How, being of a tender age, are we large enough to satisfy your desires?”

“A complex question. Some are large enough because of the natural elasticity of both parties; others become so, thanks to the kindly discretion of their lovers, who can find means to satisfy themselves fully. So the lover must, above all, be gentle and considerate, must not be like some villains, with savage souls, whom we must at once cross out from the holy and living congregation of boy-lovers.

“Such pigs, coarse and vile, do not know how to play with a beautiful little Adonis, but would instead kill him by the furious bestiality of their assaults. The game calls, instead, for both art and wisdom. One could not attribute wisdom to those who make very martyrs of their beloved little friends and impale them like barbarians, bringing forth blood and tears where there should be nothing but joy and delight. Wise persons know how to give pleasure both to themselves and the child, each to each in turn, and in ways not to cause him any pain. Thus they multiply their delights, and make the boy, also, thrill to the delights of love.”

“So how do you play in this way?” asked Alcibiades.

“First,” said the master, “The boy takes a posture where he displays in all their glory these round and raised globes, which, to the eyes of his lover, reveal as from a vantage point the delectable landscape of his garden. At which the lover’s prick beats itself like a bird against its cage, half inside or half outside, in whichever way meets his erotic pleasure, giving a particular savour to his visual delight, sustaining his ardour, thrilling himself above all other thrills in the joy of love. These combined ecstasies form such a perfect blend, so sweet, so exquisite, that even the Muses or Apollo, with all their art, could not devise a greater.

“And if the pretty little prick of the beloved boy wishes to hammer itself in the hands of the lover, or in those of the boy himself, so much the better. This charming pastime, this agreeable accompaniment, will prevent those repugnant consequences I have spoken of.”

“This then, in my opinion, is the best means by which one can play with all young boys, even those of the most tender age; this is the way in which one can both fulfil and multiply one’s pleasures. The lover does not devour his gentle prey like a hungry wolf, but tenderly strokes him, caresses and licks him.”

Alcibiades interrupted him, saying, “But fathers do not wish schoolmasters to use their sons in this way; masters who allow themselves such a licence have a bad reputation - a clear sign that the activity is illicit and dishonourable!”

“There is some logic in what these fathers say,” said Philotimes, “Since the strictness which one must employ in education does not reconcile itself easily with caresses and voluptuous delights. In addition, many parents consider the laws against pederasty to be inviolable.”

“Yet wise masters know how to reconcile severity and tenderness. They understand that one without the other is useless and dangerous. Severity alone makes the master a barbarian and the boy a slave. But tenderness and indulgence alone render the boy unlearned and insolent, and rob the master of respect and authority. Allied to severity, however, they make miracles. Love does not prevent obedience; delight causes no affront; the boy honoured with the caresses of a respected master will incur neither shame nor ignominy. Far from losing anything by this intimacy, he will become an object of love both for the master and the class. Those who do not profit by such a fine and advantageous association do themselves a wrong, make themselves incapable of persevering in all the exercises and the travails of study.

“The character of boys is indomitable, proud, unreasonable - to the extent that, if the gentle touch of love does not correct them, these evil instincts can become the source of disastrous aberrations. Yet when I see their bad behaviour, their inconsideration, their insolence, their noisy fights, all the faults which would make a marble Colossus fly off his pediment, I feel myself calmed and disarmed by their angelic grace. The sight of their delicious and paradisical bottoms bring back peace to my heart, and establishes in my soul, torn between an excess of love and a just desire for severity, a calm and healthy equipoise.

“One cannot, of course, bestow such love on all scholars, for reasons of age, reputation, social convention, to avoid the reproach of favouritism and injustice, or not to harm any interest; although one gives tokens of goodwill to all, there are degrees and proportions; further, the most dear, the most beloved amongst them must not seem to be better treated than the others; the favours one gives are as secret as the pleasures one tastes from this young Adonis. The result, then, is that all love and respect us equally, each believes himself loved by us, no-one complains or is distressed - therefore the master, that most longsuffering of men, gives happiness both to himself and his pupils.

“And why does he continue in his task? What had the power to imprison Jupiter in the form of a bull, if it was not love? What made Hercules attire himself in the costume and the manners of a woman, if it was not love? And who, in the middle of a band of undisciplined goblins, is chained to his profession by love? The master who does not love these dear goblins secretly is a tethered donkey, his school is a prison, and he is his own jailer.

“And is it not reasonable that he who cultivates the garden can pick the fruits? Shall you place me in a cellar filled with wine so that I might die with thirst therein? Yet, if we see a master putting a hand on our children, a master playing with them, we are rendered indignant by his caresses! True, these delicate fruits must not be the prey of a bandit who will deflower them all. But are they instead to rot in their enclosure, where even the faithful gardener, with all his reserve and discretion, has not the right even to touch them?”

“You plead your cause strongly,” said Alcibiades, “But allow me a further question, and tell me sincerely what pleasure we can hope to taste, we boys, if we are willing to submit to your caprices. I see only that a boy, to endure the fury of your assaults, must adopt the humiliating posture of one who is to be sacrificed, whipped, punished like some unfortunate who is to be drawn and quartered. If you find your pleasures in the humiliation and pain of others, you outrage justice and natural law, which forbid you to do harm to your neighbour, in particular to innocent and defenceless young boys. As for those who submit to such things, I do not quarrel with them, since they have made their choice. Yet who knows that he who submits, even willingly, might not suffer injury?”

“On this important point, dear heart,” said Philotimes, “I will answer you with the facts, which are to words as the body is to the shadow. I have difficulty in believing - if you will pardon the freedom of my words - that you are altogether a novice in this matter, and that your supreme grace and your exquisite gentleness have not already attracted the eyes of a multitude of lovers; seeing a flower so precious, one can only desire to pick it. The bees seek ceaselessly to gather nectar for their honey; it is impossible that, perceiving your incomparable beauty, they would have remained inactive. Has this pretty baby not, even from his cradle, from his nurse’s arms, received the kisses and the caresses of fevered lovers? In the delicate freshness of budding plants cannot one already divine the soft and velvet flesh of the fruits so soon to bud and open? Does not the breeze itself, as it sports with them, seem already to enfold them in its gentle grasp, to play with them, to seek a thousand kisses from them? And how must it then be with a boy like you, as the bud comes into flower?”

“I cannot deny,” said Alcibiades, “That a number of admirers have pursued me, but the anxious solicitude of my parents has put a barrier in the way of their desires. It is true, also, that I have allowed some liberties to certain boys of my own age, but I do not have a very agreeable memory of them, though I am far from equating these encounters with the pleasures that can be enjoyed with men. Without doubt, there is between these childish games and those of which you have spoken the difference between a green fruit and a ripe one. Therefore I am not very far, either, from venturing upon them, and I am listening to you with both my ears.”

“To work then, my son!” said the master, bending towards him. “Experience will teach you more than will lectures and arguments.”

“It is certainly my wish,” said the boy, “But I fear that when you no longer need to convince me, you will become less explicit in your discourse, and your lessons will become less interesting. Therefore continue with your arguments, and wait patiently for the rest.”

“This I will,” his master replied, and continued, “The pleasure which boys taste from men is great, thought it is not the same for all. The general reason for this great pleasure is as follows.

“Each of our senses has its own object, which, well regulated, brings to us its own reward; each communicates to the soul the sensation which Nature has created it to receive, for which the sense is given. Thus a fine painting with a perfect representation of the human form delights our eyes, music charms our ears, fine perfumes our smell, delicate meats our taste - and touch, in its turn, the most perfect and admirable of the senses, finds its supreme delight in the parts of the body which are the most exquisite, the most shapely, the most tender. Thus, during the combats of Venus, the lips rush eagerly to the mouth, where a perfect rose opens in a face white as milk. The agile, impudent hands speed impetuously to the nipples, to the buttocks, because there they will not run against any rude barrier of bones, there they will find the full satisfaction of their desires. But let us press on; you will know that the greatest potency of touch, in the opinion of our most sage philosophers, resides in the nerves of our most sensitive parts; the parts most crammed with erotic sensation are the genitals themselves, which are, largely, a mass of tiny and delicate nerves. These parts experience supreme delight when aroused by certain means, as the bow draws sound from a stringed instrument, and they thrill to the sensations for which they were created. And, to speak plainly, this delight will not be complete other than by the emission of genital fluid, in which is contained all the elements of life, and which, being liquid, is the more easily transmitted through the organs of pleasure and more easily insinuates itself in the most secret places, providing for us the most divine raptures. Young children cannot produce this fluid, so they have little understanding of the raptures of love. Yet they have in them a germ of this principle, its forerunner; in place of semen are certain amorous spirits which, with a kind of erotic tickling, subtly caress the nerves and provoke them to delight. These spirits, being agile and ever-mobile, will stir themselves on the smallest occasion and cause the prick of a young boy to stir in turn, to rise as they seethe within. But incapable of doing it to others, the young boy will concentrate furiously on himself, he will desire to be caressed, and principally in his garden of delight, to be stroked, and ultimately possessed.

“From this comes the eagerness with which almost all will submit themselves to the pleasures of a man. If there are any who show themselves reluctant, its not because their nature has compelled them to resist this pleasure, but because fear and prejudice have persuaded them that the act is dishonourable and blameworthy. But their parts, gently watered by the warm springs of semen which they provoke, will revel in this act of incomparable delectation. Without considering the other pleasures that they will taste in their softer parts, included in this mystery, this is generally the main cause of the pleasure they feel. But the pleasure depends to a large degree on the experience and on the skill of the lover. You can find, everywhere, horrible persons who, far from giving happiness to a beloved child, torture him like an executioner, who take as the reward of their hateful pleasure the cries, tears, and agonised spasms of these tender and innocent lambs.”

“But, asked Alcibiades, “Why do they not give pleasure to the boys? Surely the same means lead to the same effects?”

“Alcibiades, my treasure,” replied the master, “True perfection consists in moderation and harmony; a kiss is agreeable as long as it does not bite. Scratching gives pleasure, but too much scratching irritates. It is only in alms, fastings and prayers that excess is not abuse. So these ruffians are not lovers, they are wolves - they are not beings worthy of tasting the supreme good; they are assassins, enemies of Nature and of the world. 

“It is for these wretches - to reveal to you another mystery - that the laws of certain nations have decreed death by fire, not against gentle and discreet lovers. What then is the purpose of these laws? Not to forbid the act, but to ensure that the act is good. To ensure that, instead of becoming the occasion of hate and disorder, it is imbued with generosity and love. It is not, then, the practice that they condemn but its abuse. That was clearly the object of these wise laws.

 “As to the question why certain boys take more delight than others, this is because the tender plant is united to the garden by more sensitive nerves, enabling more easy passage of the amorous spirits of which we spoke, whereby the erotic quiverings of the plant are accompanied by even greater delight in the garden. Some even receive pleasure by placing themselves astride their lovers, so that they become crazy with desire, that they pray, that they supplicate, that they even force their lovers to act upon them. Such boys are lively and passionate, because of the abundance of the erotic spirits in them; these spirits give agility to their movements and make them more fervent in action; all of their acts, the voluptuous contortions of the hips, the twistings, the rapid to-and-fro movements - all of these are the products of the circulation of these spirits. There are other quiet and tranquil boys who do not show the same desire to ring the bells thus; but the ardour of love is not so feeble is in them that they are disinclined to give themselves to caresses, loving to do it at any day and hour; indeed, there is no boy who can resist these pleasures. I know many indeed who are so avid, so voracious, that they can never relax, can never rest from the service of their prick. They caress it, they pummel it with the salacity of goats, to the extent that I have come to believe that they have not found such pleasure since they experienced it in their mother’s womb.”

“How did that come about?” asked Alcibiades.

“The sexual organ of women, all anatomists say, has the form of a male member reversed, in the interior of which they conceive children. In certain very lascivious women, the child develops in a somewhat curved form with the prick pointed towards the asshole, and it is against this it knocks itself in infancy. The child therefore takes his part in the woman’s conjugal pleasure, he becomes habituated to it to such a point that, later, it is a cruel deprivation for him when he cannot find a similar stimulation.”

“Women exhibit the same thing, because one sees several that such have a similar fury for pleasure that they will play only with boys; it can be said that they, too, have been fucked before birth.

“Again, what heightens the boy’s pleasure and renders it complete are all the spasms, the faintings, the sweats, the cries and moans - his own, not just those of his lover. It is true to say that such activity, such exhaustion, adds to pleasure, that a boy who does not remain inert and passive experiences the greater delight.

“So here is one pleasure which this charming game promises to boys. Yet many delights still remain.”

“Kindly enumerate them for me,” requested Alcibiades.

“With pleasure,” said the master. “God is great, He is infinite, he is incomparable, because He has given us our being, because He preserves us, and because He has provided generously of everything that is beautiful and good, without the stream of His abundance ever drying up.

“So he who, according to his ability, spreads the most excellent benefits, gives the sweetest services, he who breathes life into the most wretched and languishing of creatures, who will transport poor souls in distress from Hell to the gates of Paradise - does he not himself come close to being a god, does he not resemble God, who has given us all these things? And who best fulfils these conditions but a lover? He who, for the delight and good of the beloved has given his devoted care, all he possesses, and his very life?”

“And why do you think that your ancestors, those sage and profound spirits, placed Venus and Cupid in the rank of gods of the first order, regarding them as the son and daughter of the the supreme god, if not because in their time these two personages gave to men the joys of love, freely and with the most admirable generosity?  How many others, like them, have also been named as gods and are now represented in the skies by brilliant stars and constellations - Castor, Pollux, Ganymede, Orion, and so many more that it is impossible to name or count them? Read only the legends of Greece, and you will see the truth of this.”

“You speak truly,” returned Alcibiades, “I have read all these things and have heard them spoken of; but why are Cupid and Venus the greatest gods and the most celebrated among all the other gods whom you have listed?”

“Because they are more beautiful and more kindly than the others,” the master responded.

“Tell me then, my dear master, how one can, by this means - as you have claimed - become more wise and spiritual?”

“Listen well,” replied Philotimes, “The human brain, which is both the abode of the human spirit and the place from which intelligence derives, is, by its nature, excessively damp and cold; if nothing warms it, it will remain sluggish and obtuse, incapable of comprehension, full of foul humours. So one can understand how fluids that are sweet, warm and temperate will serve powerfully to purify it. And nothing fulfils this purpose better than the sperm of a man who is wise and spiritual; this substance has miraculous virtues in this regard. Infused through the little gate of the garden, thanks to its natural warmth, it carries living and subtle spirits to all the farthest regions of the brain - spirits which carry with them the qualities of the giver. A boy who wishes to be the equal of his master has no other way than this. I admit that to be fucked by any man, given that his fluid is warm and temperate, can make the brain of a boy develop wonderfully, but to bear the true fruits, let him be fucked by a man who is noble and distinguished.”

Hearing this, the loving boy smiled delightedly and, wishing to show his great willingness, he disposed himself to satisfy his master, who was by now panting with desire.

“I give myself to your wishes,” said Alcibiades, “It is your desire to instruct me, more than other reason, that decides me. See, I prepare myself for you.”

Alcibiades and his teacher Socrates in Socratic Love by Edouard-Henri Avril, 1906

So saying, he lifted his robe and modestly adopted the posture appropriate to the circumstances. The master, assisting him, soon saw revealed such glorious treasures of love as made heaven and all the stars blush with shame; even the sun, vanquished by more celestial splendours, could only hide his face. Who could ever detail the incredible marvels spread out in profusion in this little Paradise; the two rounded hemispheres like celestial globes, coloured with warm blood, a garden planted with lilies and narcissi. At the slightest touch of the hand there trembled therein a thousand rubies, exploding on a background of milk and amber. All was flowering gardens, white radiance, and twinkling stars. The regular, amorous movements, such as could be expected from this glorious child, would have given an erection to a marble statue. Oh, what a majestic and royally beautiful spectacle was this button-hole with its delicate and tight pleats, like that of a new-born rose, a little flower with a thousand mixed colours, where snow-white and purple vied everywhere together. At the contemplation of such supreme marvels, you would have seen the fortunate master swooning with joy. But suddenly coming back to himself, he fell to his knees. His tongue, though dumb with emotion,  gave to his idol its first avid tribute. Ever-moving, it took its path into the seat of desire. Frantic, it plunged in, and more eager than the child who sucks at his nurse’s breast, it licked, it sucked, it drank, it swallowed the delicious ambrosian liquor. Very soon, overflowing with immense joy and getting ready for a higher enterprise, the master broke into a hymn of joy:

“If wise men name as Paradise the place where we enjoy celestial happiness, you would be the Paradise of Athens, you in whom living men find their happiness, and, since man is a creation more complete than the soul alone, you would be a paradise far more glorious because in one only the soul is happy, while in you the body is also happy. Since you are the seat of happiness where the true god of love resides, and gives true happiness, I consecrate myself to you with total devotion, and, if there are any other paradises, I renounce them all for yours. What is the glory of heaven in comparison to such a prize?     

“Heaven frightens men with its storms, but you welcome them, you draw them to you with your sweet promises. Heaven’s storms reduce everything to ashes, yours give life and fecundity. Your actions are fruitful and health-giving, while Heaven, with its tempests, wearies and withers. Your comings and goings, sometimes slow and sometimes rapid, are full of a calm joy and a supreme sensuality. A sluggish intellect presides over heavenly movements, whereas on yours legions of loving spirits watch, and never tire of directing your courses; you perpetually draw new force and vigour from them. Heaven esteems itself incorruptible and eternal. You, by the erection of so many glorious monuments, by the abundance of offerings, by so many tears shed on your altar, so many prayers, so many ardent sighs, perpetuate your glory in the memory of men.

“From now on you will be the centre of my thoughts, the principle of their directions, the infallible rule of my actions, the goal and the end of my pleasure and my happiness. It is to you as to my god that I consecrate my heart.”

While thus speaking, the passionate master, multiplying his sweet caresses, continued to play with the adorable child. Which he did with such skill that, from then onwards, Alcibiades knew no greater pleasure than to have his master’s prick in his asshole, nor did he believe it possible to attain perfection by any other path. Happy preceptor who knew how, by making himself the slave of such beauty, to satisfy his desires to their uttermost limit! How they continued their encounters and their loving caresses is what we will tell you in a second part, even more lascivious.

This second part never appeared.


       The End


About the translator:

AE writes: I remember Rawnsley well. He was, of course, my tutor at Magdalen back in the 60s. I can see him still, labouring over some obscure text or another in his accustomed corner of the library, his hair awry, his wire-framed spectacles askew, his pipe smouldering, the remains of last night’s supper still visible on his waistcoat, inclined to be crusty if interrupted. Yet he had a kind heart, and he was a renowned scholar, even though there were some who whispered that even such a great man had his weaknesses. One was manifest, for example, in a certain fondness for the common-room port, the other in his custom of inviting the college choristers back for tea after Evensong. It was clear, however, that he did not wish to see Alcibiades published during his lifetime, perhaps having in mind his position as lay chaplain (he never took Orders) to the choristers. The translation was discovered among his papers following his demise in late 1999, when my old tutor, pedantic and punctilious as ever, departed with the Century. Let this, the first English translation of a minor classic, stand as his memorial. R.I.P.


[1] Initially translated from the French version of 1891, and subsequently checked against the Venetian original of 1652.

[2] JCR: Given the context, presumably a misguided attempt at irony.

[3] JCR: One of the oddities of Alcibiade is that, while the narrative is set in Classical Greece, the mythology is predominantly Roman. The hero is presumably the same Alcibiades who was later loved by Socrates. (Plato, Symposium, Protagorus, Aeschines of Spettos, Alcibiades I).  

[4] JCR: A wooded valley in Thessaly at the foot of Mount Olympus, much frequented by the gods, and described by the poets as the most beautiful spot on earth (e.g. Ovid, Metamorphoses i, vii).

[5] JCR: A priest who has bought his office and/or who sells ecclesiastical favours such as indulgences. Another surprising reference, since the term is of New Testament origin (Acts 8: 9-24).

[6] JCR: The peach and the fig here refer to the penis and the vagina.

[7] JCR: ‘The embrace of a boy, when enjoyed in moderation, is a health-giving medicine.’




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