Tuesday, 14 December 2010

On the Beauty of Hair (Apuleius)

This is my version of Apuleius’ eulogy on hair (~170 AD). For the original extract, see my review of The Golden Ass, the picaresque novel from which this is taken.

On the Beauty of Hair

I love a woman’s head and hair.
When first a girl catches my eye,
There’s little else for I would care!
Her flowing locks, I foremost spy.

So when time comes for me to leave,
I have a picture in my head
And need not stolen pleasures grieve
When I retire myself to bed.

My habit’s based on reason sound:
That hair is always on display
A bright adornment all year round
Like spring’s bright clothing worn in May.

But hair is even prouder still,
For as every young lady knows,
Her body without wrap or frill
In nakedness her beauty shows.

Even the brightest thread of gold
Has less charm than her naked flesh,
Which delicate she would unfold
To stir the loins of passion’s thresh.

And may none try what will be said,
Excusing me this reckless thought,
But should a beauty shave her head,
Her splendid face would come to nought.

Should she even float from heaven,
Or like Venus, be born from foam,
Smelling fragrant as cinnamon,
Graces and Cupids on the roam,

Even dripping in rich balsam,
Love’s girdle clasped around her waist,
Still, in baldness, she’d have no charm,
Not even to her husband’s taste.

This natural framing for the face,
What joy it is to see its hue,
Caught directly in sunlight’s brace
Or dancing every moment new.

Shade and shine changing with the light,
First gold, then honey sparkling through,
Or raven black and dark as night,
Then glorious tints of dove-neck blue.

Apply a lotion from the East
That gives the hair a glossy shine
And like a mirror at a feast,
On beauty doubled love can dine.

Bunched up in a luxurious bun,
Or flowing rippling down her spine,
A woman’s hair, however done,
Surpasses every jewel fine.


  1. Quite an obsession with locks! :-)))))

  2. Lol, indeed! The original wasn't even poetry, yet it's such a poetic passage!