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The Graces


TresCharitesVeneri assistunt, dominamque sequuntur,
Hincque voluptates, atque alimenta parant.
Laetitiam Euphrosyne, speciosum Aglaia nitorem,
Suadela est Pithus, blandus & ore lepos.[1]
Cur nudae? Mentis quoniam candore venustas
Constat, & eximia simplicitate placet.
An quia nil referunt ingrati, atque arcula inanis[2]
Est Charitum? qui dat munera, nudus eget.
Addita cur nuper pedibus talaria? Bis dat,
Qui citÚ dat:[3] minimi gratia tarda preti [=pretii] est.
Implicitis ulnis cur vertitur altera? Gratus
Foenerat: huic remanent una abeunte duae.[4]
Iuppiter iis genitor, coeli de semine divas
Omnibus acceptas edidit Eurynome.

The three Graces are attendant on Venus and follow their mistress. So they provide pleasures and pleasure’s nourishment. Euphrosyne brings gladness, Aglaia bright beauty; persuasion belongs to Peitho with winsome charm in speech. Why are they naked? Because loveliness consists in innocence of mind and commends itself by great simplicity. Or is it because the ungrateful make no return and the Graces’ treasure-chest is empty? He who gives gifts is stripped and needy. Why are there wings newly fastened to their feet? He gives twice who gives quickly. A favour granted late is of little value. Why does the second one link arms but turn her back to us? The man who shows gratitude gets more than he lays out; as one goes, two remain for him. Jupiter was their begetter; and Eurynome bore them, the divine offspring of the heavenly seed, goddesses loved by all mankind.


1.The Latin words laetitia (gladness), nitor (beauty) and suadela (persuasion) are translations of the Greek names of the Graces, Euphrosyne, Aglaia and Peitho.

2.arcula inanis, ‘treasure-chest is empty’. See Erasmus, Adagia, 1812 (Simonidis cantilenae).

3.bis dat / Qui cito dat ‘He gives twice who gives quickly’. See Erasmus, Adagia, 791 (Bis dat qui cito dat).

4.Lines 9-12 express common sentiments, found e.g. in Seneca, De Beneficiis, passim. For the Graces especially, see Ibid., 1.3-4. See also Erasmus, Adagia, 1650 (Nudae Gratiae), where Erasmus associates the Graces with both friendship and ingratitude.

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