You may be wondering why this old man is being ridden like a horse.
It’s a long story.
The lady is a hindoo girl, some call her Phyllis. The man is Aristotle, the wise Greek philosopher.
The hindoo girl, or Phyllis, is a good friend of Alexander, the great warlord of the Ancient Greeks.
Alexander has just conquered India, and at the time he is resting in shameful sloth. The hindoo girl is his love slave.
Aristotle, master of all wisdom, reproved his former pupil for this neglect of grave matters. The Hindoo girl, perceiving Alexander’s unhappy dispostion, discovered what had produced it. She hatched a plan of revenge on the crabbed old scholar. Before noon of the next day, she said to herself, “I will make him forget grammar and logic.”
She invited Alexander to watch from a window opening on the garden the next morning. In the early morn, while the dew was on the grass and the birds were just beginning to sing, she tripped out into the garden, her corsage loosely fastened, her golden hair waving wildly down her neck; picking her way among the flowers. Her petticoat was daintily lifted as she sang sweet little songs of love.
Master Aristotle, at his books, heard the singer, and “such a sweet memory she stirred in his heart that he shut his book.” “Alas,” he said, “what is the matter with my heart? Here am I, old and bald, pale and thin, and a philosopher more sour than any yet known or heard of.”
The damsel gathered flowers and wove a garland for herself, singing the while so sweetly, so enticingly, that the sour philosopher gave way, opened his window, and talked to her, even came out to her and courted her like a real lover, offering to risk for her sake body and soul.
She asked not so much by way of proof of his devotion. “It is merely a little whim of mine,” she said, “if you will gratify me in that, I might love you. If you let me ride about the garden on your back. And you must have a saddle on because then I shall go more gracefully.”
Love won the day, and there was the foremost scholar in the world prancing about on all fours like a colt, with a saucy girl on his back.
Then Alexander appeared at the window. The pedagogue was not dismayed; with the saddle and bridle upon him, he looked up at the king: “Sire, tell me if I was not right to fear love for you, in all the ardor of youth, since love has harnessed me thus, I who am old and withered! I have combined precept and example: it is for you to profit by them.”
Thus ends the story of Alexander, his love slave Phyllis and the great philosopher Aristotle.
The above text was adapted from Women of Mediaeval France.
So why do you see Socrates on the plate accompanying the picture? The artist’s license. Julio Ruelas chose to depict Socrates instead of Aristotle in what is now known as “Sókrates” (depiction of variant of Aristotle and Phyllis legend).
See the Lai d’Aristote, the actual name of the story you have been reading.