Published in Latin Translation


Publius Ovidius Naso (Ovid) was born in 43 B.C. to an equestrian family resident in Sulmo in the Apennine Hills, east of Rome. Together with his older contempories Virgil and Horace, he is a member of the triumvirate of great Roman poets who flourished during the rule of Augustus (27 B.C. - 14 A.D.) The "Metamorphoses" or "Transformations", written in fifteen books of dactylic hexameters, is his best known, and most read, work, and highlights about 250 myths in which transformations of various types occur, by which humans are transformed into animals, rocks, trees, flowers, constellations, etc.  Although written in the form of an epic, it is really a spoof, in that it lacks any real moral content; on the contrary it is informed by a sceptical, if not cynical spirit, in which the gods are often made to look powerless in the face of "Amor" (Love). It is, nevertheless, an immensely entertaining work, and a great source of classical mythology. It is written in beautiful verse that roles easily off the tongue when one reads it; in it elisions and ecthlipses are relatively few. For all these reasons, the "Metamorphoses" was extremely popular throughout the rest of antiquity, and during the Middle Ages. It was published in 8 A.D., shortly before Ovid was exiled by Augustus to Tomi (the modern port of Constanta) on the west coast of the Black Sea, where he died in 17-18 A.D. 

In spite of its apparently unbroken chronology, starting from the creation of the world and going down to the death of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C., the following four divisions in the "Metamorphoses" have been identified:

Book I - Book II: The Divine Comedy.
Book III - Book VI l. 400: The Avenging Gods.
Book VI. l. 401 - Book XI: The Pathos of Love.
Book XII- Book XV. Rome and the Deified Ruler. 

Book I, translated below, contains the following contents: i) a short invocation to the gods, setting out the purpose of the work, and asking for the gods' support; ii) the formation of the world; iii) the origins of humankind; iv) the four ages of man; v) the giants; vi) Lycaon is turned into a wolf; vii) the flood, and the story of Deucalion and Pyrrha; viii) Phoebus kills the Python; ix) the rape of Daphne by Apollo and her subsequent transformation into a laurel-tree; x) the rape of Io by Jupiter, and her transformation into a heifer; xi) Juno sends Argus to guard Io; xii) Mercury tells the story of Syrinx; xiii) Io is restored to human form; and xiv) the beginning of the story of the ill-fated Phaëthon, completed in Book II. 

Ll. 1-4.  Invocation.

My soul needs to speak of bodies changed into new forms; (you) gods - for you have altered yourselves and all other (things) too -, favour my undertaking and compose a continuous (thread of) song from the world's first origins to my own times. 
Ll. 5-20.  Primal Chaos.
Before the sea and the land, and the sky, which covers everything, there was one face of nature across the whole world, which (men) have called chaos: (it was) a raw and confused mass, nothing but inert matter, and discordant particles of badly combined things, (which had been) heaped up in the same (place). As yet, no Titan (i.e. the sun) was supplying light to the earth, nor was a waxing Phoebe (i.e. the moon) renewing her horns by coming into being, and the earth was not hovering in the surrounding air, balanced by her own weight, nor was Amphitrite (i.e. the sea) stretching out her arms along the long shores of the earth. And, although (there was) air, land and sea and sky was in that place too. So, the land was unstable, the sea (was) not fit to swim in, (and) the air (was) in need of light; nothing retained its shape, one thing obstructed another, because, in the one body, cold (parts) fought with hot (ones), moist (parts) with dry (ones), soft (parts) with hard (ones), and (things) possessing weight (those) without weight.  
Ll. 21-31.  Separation of the Elements.
A god and a greater (order of) nature put an end to this conflict. For he split off the earth from the sky and the sea from the land, and divided the clear heavens from the dense atmosphere. When he had disentangled these (elements) and freed (them) from the obscure mass, he fixed (them) in places separately in harmonious peace. The fiery and weightless force of vaulted heaven darted forth and made its home on the top of the heights: next came air in its lightness and place: earth, heavier than (either of) these, drew down the largest elements and was compressed by its own weight: the surrounding water took up the last (space) and enclosed the solid world.  
Ll. 32-51.  The earth and sea. The five zones. 

When whichever god it was (who had) so arranged and divided the mass and collected (it) into separate parts, he first formed the earth into the shape of a great ball, so that it it was uniform on all sides. Then, he diffused the seas, and ordered (them) to billow in the rapid winds, and to flow around the coasts of the encircled land. He also added springs and deep pools and lakes, and bound with sloping banks the downward flowing rivers, some of which are swallowed by (the earth) itself, (while) others reach the sea in different places, and, having been received amid the wide expanse of uncontrolled water, they beat against the coastlines instead of riverbanks. Then he ordered the plains to be expanded, the valleys to subside, the woods to be covered over with foliage, and stony mountains to rise up; and, just as zones divide the heavens, two on the right(-hand) side, and the same number on the left, (while) there is a fifth (and) hotter (one) between them, so the care of the god marked out the enclosed matter with the same number, and the same number of zones was imposed upon the earth. Of these, (the one) which is in the middle is not habitable due to the heat; deep snow covers two (of them): (and) he placed the same number between both of them, and gave (them) a temperate climate, mixing heat with cold.

Ll. 52-68.  The Four Winds.

Air overhangs them. It is heavier than fire by as much as the weight of water is lighter than the weight of earth. There he ordered the vapours and the clouds to exist, and thunder and the winds that create flashes of lightning and thunderbolts to disturb minds. Also, the maker of the world did not allow these (winds) to possess the air indiscriminately: as it is, they are scarcely prevented from tearing the world apart, although each directs his blasts on a separate course: so great is the discord between brothers. The Eurus (i.e. the East Wind) withdrew to Aurora (i.e. the East) and the realms of Nabataea (i.e. Arabia), and Persia, and that mountain range lit up by morning sunbeams (i.e. the Caucasus). Evening, and the coasts which are warm in the setting sun, are close to the Zephyrus (i.e. the West Wind): the chilly Boreas (i.e. the North Wind) has taken hold of Scythia (i.e. North-East of the Black Sea) and the seven stars of the Plough: the land opposite is drenched by the Auster (i.e. the South Wind) with its incessant clouds and rain. Over these, he places the clear sky, devoid of weight, and possessing no earthly dross.

Ll. 69-88.  Humankind.

Scarcely had he thus separated out everything within fixed limits, when the constellations, which had been compressed and had lain hidden in that mass, began to blaze out across the whole of the sky.

So that no region might be deprived of its own animate beings, the stars and the forms of the gods occupied the floor of heaven, the seas allowed (themselves) to be inhabited by shining fish, the earth took wild animals, and the light air flying (creatures).

As yet, an animal, more virtuous and more capable of elevated thought than these, and which could be the ruler of the rest, was lacking. (Then) man was born; either that creator of things, the source of a better world, made him from a divine seed, or the new-born earth, just drawn from the high heavens, retained seeds related to the sky, (one of) which, the offspring of Iapetus (i.e. Prometheus), having blended (it) with streams of rain, moulded into an image of the all-controlling gods. While the other animals look downwards at the ground, he gave mankind a lofty aspect, and commanded (them) to look at the sky, and to raise their upright faces to the stars. So, the earth, which had just been raw and without an image, changed and assumed the unknown shapes of human beings.

Ll. 89-112.  The Golden Age.

First born was the Golden Age, that, with no enforcer, spontaneously, (and) without laws, nurtured good faith and rectitude. Punishment and fear were absent, and no threatening words, fixed in bronze, were read, and no crowd of suppliants was afraid of the face of its judge, but they lived safely without a protector. No pine-tree, felled in their mountains, had gone down to the flowing waves in order to visit a foreign land, and human beings knew no shores but their own. No steep ditches were yet encircling towns; there were no straight war-trumpets, no horns of coiled brass, no helmets, no swords: carefree peoples passed their lives amid gentleness and ease, without the custom of military service. The earth, herself, free from, and untouched by, the plough, nor scarred by any mattocks, also produced everything by herself; contented with food without cultivation, they gathered the fruit of the strawberry-tree, and mountain strawberries, and cornelian cherries, and blackberries clinging to tough bramble-bushes, and acorns which had fallen from Jupiter's spreading (oak-)trees. Spring was eternal and gentle westerlies caressed with warm breezes the flowers that grew without seed. Then too, the earth bore its produce untilled, and, without being renewed, the fields whitened with heavy ears of corn; sometimes rivers of milk flowed, (and) at other times rivers of nectar, and golden honey trickled from the green holm-oaks.

Ll. 113-124.  The Silver Age.

When, Saturn having been sent to gloomy Tartarus, the world was first under (the control of) Jupiter, there came the people of the Age of Silver, inferior to gold, (but) more valuable than yellow bronze. Jupiter shortened the duration of the former spring, and made the year into four seasons, by means of winters and summers and changeable autumns and a brief spring. Then, the air glowed white, parched by the dry heat, and the ice hung down, frozen by the winds. Then, houses were first built - (before that) homes had been caves, and dense thickets, and branches fastened with bark. Then, seeds of corn were first buried in long furrows, and bullocks groaned, having been oppressed by the yoke.

Ll. 125-150.  The Bronze and Iron Ages.

After that came the people of the Third, the Bronze, (Age), more savage by nature and more inclined towards dreadful warfare, but not yet impious. Last was the harsh (Age) of Iron. Immediately, every (kind of) wickedness burst into this age of a baser nature: shame, truth and honour vanished; in their place came fraud, deceit and treachery, as well as violence and a wicked passion for possession. The sailor gave his sails to the winds - as yet he had not learned about them very well - ; and the ships' keels, which had long stood on high mountains, (now) leapt about in uncharted waves, and the land, once common (to all), just as the light of the sun and the air (is), a wary surveyor has (now) marked out with a long boundary-line. Not only did they demand the crops and the food that the rich soil owed (them), but they (even) entered the bowels of the earth: and they dig out the wealth, a (very) incitement to evil, which it had concealed and removed into Stygian shadows. And now harmful iron had appeared, and gold, more harmful than iron: (now) comes war, which fights for both of these, and shakes its clattering weapons with blood-stained hands. The live on plunder: guest (is) not safe with host, father-in-law (is) not (safe) with son-in-law; kindness, too, is rare between brothers. A husband longs for the death of his wife, she for her husband's; murderous step-mothers mix deadly aconite; a son inquires into his father's age before his time. Piety lies dead, and the virgin Astraea (i.e. the Goddess of Justice), the last of the immortals, abandoned the blood-soaked earth. 

 Ll. 151-176.  The giants.

And so that the heights of heaven should be no safer than the earth, they say that the Giants tried to take over the heavenly kingdom, and they collected and piled the mountains up to the stars. Then, the Almighty Father dispatched his thunderbolt and fractured Olympus, and cast Pelion down from Ossa below (it). They say that Earth had been flooded and drenched with streams of her sons' blood, when their dreadful bodies lay buried by that mass, and that (she) breathed life into their hot blood, and, lest no trace of her stock should remain, she transformed (it) into the shape of human beings. But, (so that) you may know (they were) born from their blood, that progeny were also contemptuous of the gods, and savage, very eager for slaughter, and violent.

When the son of Saturn, the Father (of the gods), saw these (things) from the top of his citadel, he groans, and, recalling the vile feast at Lycaon's table (i.e. Lycaon was the king of Arcadia, and his sons had offered Jupiter, who was disguised as a traveller, a banquet containing human remains), he conceives in his mind a great anger, and (one) befitting Jupiter, and he calls a council: no impediment held back (the number of those) summoned.

There is a lofty track, (which) can be seen (when) the sky (is) clear: it has the name 'Milky (Way)', (and it is) known for its very brightness. By this (way) the gods have a route to the palace and the royal home of the mighty Thunderer. On its right (side) and on its left, the forecourts of the houses of the noble gods, their doors open, are crowded - inferior (gods) abide in other places: in this area the powerful and renowned gods have made their homes. This is the place, which, if I were allowed to be daring in words, I should not be afraid to have called the Palatine of high heaven.

Ll. 177-198.  Jupiter threatens to destroy mankind. 

So when the gods had taken their seats in the marble hall, he, himself, higher (than anyone else) in the place, and leaning on his ivory sceptre, shook the awful hair on his head three or four times, by which (means) he disturbed the earth, the sea and the stars. Then, he loosened his indignant lips in the following manner: "I was not more troubled (than I am now) about the world's sovereignty at that time when each one of the snake-footed (giants) was preparing to throw his hundred arms around the imprisoned sky. For, although the enemy was a fierce (one), yet their attack came in one body and from one source. Now, I must destroy the human race, wherever Nereus (i.e. a god of the sea) sounds throughout the world: I swear (it) by the infernal streams that glide beneath the earth through the groves of the Styx (i.e. the main river of the Underworld)! Everything (should be) tried first: but the incurable flesh must be cut away by the sword, lest the healthy part is infected. Mine are the demi-gods, and the rustic deities, the nymphs, the fauns, the satyrs, and the mountain-dwelling (spirits) of the woods: since we do not yet think them to be worthy of a place in heaven, let us allow (them) to live safely in the lands which we have given (them). O gods, do you believe they will be sufficiently safe, when Lycaon, known for his savagery, arranges ambushes for me, who both holds the thunderbolt and rules over you?"

Ll. 199-243.  Lycaon is turned into a wolf.

All (the gods) murmured loudly and demand with fiery zeal (punishment of the man who) dared (to commit) such (crimes). (It was) thus, when that impious band burned to extinguish the Roman name in the blood of Caesar, the human race was stunned by such fear of a sudden disaster, and the whole world shuddered with horror. Your people's devotion is no less pleasing to you, Augustus, than theirs was to Jupiter. When he had checked their murmuring by word and by gesture, they all kept silent. When the noise subsided, suppressed by the authority of their ruler, Jupiter again broke the silence with these words: "He, indeed, has paid the penalty - dismiss that fear of yours. But I will tell (you) what his crime (was), (and) what was his punishment. The infamy of the times has reached my ears. Wishing (it were) false, I slip down from high Olympus, and traverse the earth (as) a god in human form. It would take too much time to recount what great wickedness was everywhere to be found: the rumour of evil was less than the truth (of it). I had crossed the (mountains of) Maenala, bristling with the lairs of wild beasts, and Cyllene, and the pine-woods of Lycaeus: then, when the last of the twilight was giving way to night, I enter the inhospitable home and palace of that Arcadian tyrant. I gave the signs that a god had come, and the people began to worship (me): at first Lycaon ridiculed their pious prayers; then he said, "I shall prove, by a straightforward test, (whether) he is a god or a mortal. The truth will not be in doubt." He arranges to destroy me by an unexpected death at night (while I am) deep in sleep: that test of truth is pleasing to him. Nor is he content with this; he cuts open with a knife the throat of a single hostage sent by the tribe of the Molossi, and thus he makes tender some of the still warm limbs in boiling water, (and) he roasted others in a fire placed beneath (them). As soon as he placed this on the table, I brought down by an avenging flash of lightning the roof and the household gods (that were) worthy of such a master. He, himself, flees in terror, and reaching the silence of the countryside, he howls aloud, and tries in vain to speak. His mouth acquires it own foam, and, with a desire for his accustomed slaughter, he turns on the sheep, and now rejoices in their blood too. His clothes turn into hair, his arms into legs: he becomes a wolf, but keeps some vestige of his former shape. There is the same grey hair, the same furious face, his eyes glitter in same way, the  picture of ferocity is the same.

One house falls. But that house was not deserving to perish alone: wherever the earth extends, a wild Fury rules. You would think (men) were sworn to crime. Let them all swiftly pay the penalty which they deserve to suffer - so stands my sentence!"

Ll. 244-273.  Jupiter invokes the floodwaters.

Some approve Jupiter's words by exclamation, and add their encouragement to (fuel) his anger, (while) others show their assent. Yet, the downfall of the human race is (a source) of grief to all (of them), and they ask what would be the future shape of the earth, (if it were) bereft of mortals, who would offer frankincense at the altars, and whether he would arrange to surrender the earth to be ravaged by wild beasts? The king of the gods forbids (them) to be alarmed, (when) asking such (questions) - for the rest would be his concern - , and he promises a very different offspring from the first people, a marvellous creation. 

And now he was ready to hurl his thunderbolts at the whole world; but he feared lest the sacred ether might, by accident, develop flames from the fires below and that the furthest pole might burn. He also recalled that it was stated in the (scroll of) fate that there would come a time when the sea, and the earth, and the untouched courts of the sky would catch fire and the guarded mass of the world would be in trouble. So the weapons forged by the handiwork of the Cyclopes are set aside: he resolves on a different punishment, (that is) to send down rain from the whole sky, and to drown the human race beneath the waves.

At once, he shuts up the North Wind, and those gales which disperse the gathering clouds, in the caves of Aeolus (i.e. the King of the Winds, whose caves are on the islands of Lipari, off the coast of Sicily), and lets loose the South Wind. The South Wind flies with dripping wings, his terrible face hidden in a pitch-black mist: his beard (is) heavy with rain, water flows from his hoary hair; mists settle on his brow, and his wings and the folds of his robes drip with dew. And, when he completely crushes the overhanging clouds in his hands, there is a crash: then, dense rains are unleashed from heaven. Juno's messenger, Iris, dressed in a variety of colours, absorbs the water, and brings (it) to the clouds (as) nourishment. The cornfields are flattened, and the farmer's hopes are despaired of and lie in ruins, and the futile labour of a long year is wasted.  

Ll. 274-292.  The Flood. 

Jupiter's anger is not content with his (rule) of the heavens, but his azure brother (i.e. Neptune) assists him with his helpful waves. He summons the streams. When they entered their ruler's abode, he says, "A long exhortation is now of no use. Exert (all) your strength: that's what is needed! Open up your houses, and, having dredged the sludge, loosen all the reins of your rivers!" (Thus) he commanded; they return and widen their fountain's mouths, and roll in an unbridled course to the sea. He, himself, strikes the ground with his trident: and it trembles, and, by that blow, opens up channels for the water. Overflowing, the rivers rush across the open plains, and, at the same time, carry off orchards with their crops, flocks, men, houses, and holy temples with their sacred (vessels). If any house has stood firm, and has been able to survive the great disaster intact, yet the deeper waves conceal its roof, and its towers are overwhelmed and buried beneath the flood.

And now the sea and the land had no distinction: everything was the sea; the sea, also, was without shores.

Ll. 293-312.  The world is drowned. 

One man takes possession of a hill-top; another (man) sits in his curved boat and pulls his boat at a place where he had lately been ploughing. A man sails over his cornfields or the roof of his drowned farmhouse; another catches a fish on the top of an elm-tree. If chance brings it about, an anchor is embedded in a green meadow or curved keels graze the vineyards that lie beneath (them); and where, a moment ago, skinny goats plucked the grass, now shapeless seals place their bodies. The Nereids are astonished (to see) woods and towns and houses under water, and dolphins occupy the woodlands and invade the higher branches, and thump the oak-trees as they brush against (them). The wolf swims among sheep (and) the waves carry tawny lions and tigers, and, (now) that they have been swept away, the boar has no use for the strength of his charge nor the stag for his speedy legs. And the wandering bird, having searched for land for long time, falls on tired wings into the sea. The boundless freedom of the sea had buried the hills, and fresh waves beat against the mountain tops. Most living things are carried off by the waves; those (things) which the waters spare, a protracted hunger overcomes through a lack of food.

Ll. 313-347.  Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha. 

Phocis, (i.e. a region of central Greece between Boeotia and Aetolia) a fertile country, when it was (still) land, separates Aonia (a part of Boeotia that contains Mount Helicon) from the fields of Oeta (i.e. a mountain range between Aetolia and Thessaly), but at that time (it was) part of the sea and a wise expanse of suddenly (created) water. There a steep mountain, Parnassus (i.e. a mountain in Phocis sacred to Apollo and the Muses) by name, aims for the stars with its two peaks, and its summits overtop the clouds. Here, Deucalion (i.e. King of Phthia and son of Prometheus) and the wife of his bed stuck fast, when they had been conveyed (there) in their small boat - for the waters had drowned everywhere else - , (and) they worship the Corycian nymphs (i.e. nymphs of the Corycian cave on Mount Parnassus) and the mountain deities and the prophetic Themis (i.e. a Titaness and the daughter of Uranus and Gaia), whom the oracle then possessed. There was not any man (who was) better or more fond of justice than him, nor any (woman) more afraid of the gods than her. When Jupiter sees that the world is flooded with clear waters, and that only one man is left of all those many thousands, and that only one (woman) is left of all those many thousands, (and) that both (are) innocent (and) that both (are) worshippers of the gods, he dispersed the clouds and blew away the rain-storms through the North Wind, and shows the earth to the sky and the heavens to the earth. Nor does any of the sea's anger remain,and, putting aside his three-pronged weapon, the ruler of the ocean calms the waters and summons the dark-blue Triton (i.e. a sea and river god, the son of Neptune and Amphitrite, usually depicted as half-man and half-fish), showing from the depths his shoulders covered with floating purple shells, and bids (him) blow into his echoing conch, and (thus) give the signal now to recall the streams and rivers. The hollow horn is brought to him, coiled in broad spirals that rise up from its base, that horn, which had absorbed his breath somewhere in the midst of the ocean, and he fills the shores on both sides of the situation of the sun (i.e. of both east and west) with his sound. Then, also, as it touched the lips of the god (i.e. Triton), made wet by his dripping beard, and was blown and sounded the order to retreat, it was heard by all the waters of the earth and the sea, and it checked all the waters, by which it was heard. Now the sea has shore-lines, the river-bed takes brimming streams, the rivers subside, and the hills appear to spring up, the soil arises, (and) places grow in size, as the waves diminish, and, after a long day, the trees show their naked tops and keep the mud left on their foliage.

Ll. 348-380.  They ask Themis for help.

The world was restored. (But) when Deucalion saw that (it was) empty and that a deep silence attended the desolate lands, he addresses Pyrrha (i.e. wife and cousin of Deucalion, and the daughter of the Titan Epimetheus) thus through welling tears: "O sister, O wife, O sole surviving woman, whom a shared race and family origin, then a marriage-bed, have joined to me, now these very dangers join (us); we are two of a multitude (of people) from whatever lands the setting and the rising (sun) may see; the sea has taken all the rest. Yet still, the security of these lives of ours is not sufficiently sure; even now the storm-clouds terrify my mind. What feelings would you now have, poor (soul), if you had been rescued by the Fates without me? How could you bear your fear alone? Who would console you in you suffering? For, believe me, (dear) wife, if the sea had you, I would follow you too, and the sea would have me also. Oh, would that I could retrieve the people by my father's arts and breathe life into the fashionable clay! Now, the race of mortals depends on the two of us - the gods decreed thus - and we remain the (only) examples of mankind."

He finished speaking, and they wept. They resolves to appeal to the sky god and to seek his help through the sacred oracles. There is no delay: they went together to the springs of Cephisus (i.e. a river in Phocis) (which), although not yet clear, was already flowing through it familiar channels. Then, when they had sprinkled watery libations on their heads and clothing, they turn their footsteps to the sanctuary of the sacred goddess (i.e. at Delphi, where Themis held the oracle) the pediments of which were made pale with disfiguring moss, and the altars (of which) were standing without fires. When they reached the steps, they both fall forward down on the ground the cold rock kisses in a trembling manner, and they spoke thus: "If the divine will, convinced by the prayers of the just, is softened, if the gods' anger can be deflected, tell (us), Themis, by what art the damage to our race may be retrievable, and bring help, (O) most mild (lady), to a world (that has been) drowned."

Ll. 381-415.  The human race is re-created.

The goddess was moved, and made a prophetic statement: "Leave this temple, and veil your heads and loosen the clothes that encompass (you), and (then) throw behind you the bones of your great mother."

For a long time, they stood (there) dumbfounded; then Pyrrha (is) the first (to) break the silence with her speech, and she refuses to obey the goddess's commands, and with trembling lips she asks that she give her her pardon, and she is afraid to offend her mother's shades (i.e. those of Pandora) by scattering her bones. Meanwhile, they reconsider the unclear words of the goddess (which she had) given in her hidden retreat, and ponder (them) in their own (minds) and between themselves. Then, the son of Prometheus comforts the daughter of Epimetheus with quiet words, and says: "Either we have some deceptive ingenuity (here), or the oracles are pious and urge no evil deed (upon us). The earth is our great mother; I think the bones she spoke of (are) stones in the body of the earth; (it is) these we are being told to throw behind us."

Although Titania (i.e. the Titan's daughter, Pyrrha) is encouraged by her husband's interpretation, her hopes are still in doubt: they are both very distrustful of the divine promptings. But what harm can it do to try? They go down, and veil their heads and loosen their tunics, and discharge the required stones behind them as they go. The stones  - who would believe it were it not for the testimony of ancient tradition? - began to lose their hardness and rigidity, and, after a pause, to grow soft, and, having softened, to acquire a (new) form. Then, when they had grown, and a milder nature had affected them, a certain manly shape could be seen, not clear but more like rough statues made of marble, and, at first, not finished enough. Yet, somehow out of these the part, which was wet with moisture and earthy, turned into flesh. What is solid and unable to bend, is changed into bone; what was only veins remained under the same name; and in a short space (of time), through the will of the gods, those stones (which had been) thrown by the hands of a man took on the appearance of men, and a woman was remade from the throw of a woman. Ever since, we exist (as) a tough race, and (one) able to endure (hard) labour, and we give proof of the source from which we are sprung.

Ll. 416-437.  Other species are generated.

Earth spontaneously created other animals in diverse forms; after the former moisture had become warm through the fire of the sun, and the mud and the damp marshland had swelled in the heat and the fertile seeds of things, nourished by life-giving soil, as if in a mother's womb, had grown, and, after some space of time, had taken a certain nature. So, when the seven-streamed Nile abandoned the water-logged fields to their former beds, and the fresh mud burned in the etherial (rays of) the sun. farmers find a multitude of animals as the turn the lumps of earth, and, amongst them, some just spawned in the very moment of being born, some imperfect and lacking a number of their (limbs); and often in the same body one part is alive, (and) another part is raw earth. For in fact, when moisture and heat have assumed the right mixture, they conceive, and from these two (things) everything (else) arises; and, although fire is fond of fighting water, humid vapour creates all things, and a discordant union is suitable for growth. So, when the earth, made muddy by the recent flood, glowed again in the deep heat of the sun, she brought forth countless species, and, in some cases, she renewed old forms, (but), in other cases, she created fresh monsters.

Ll. 438-473.  Phoebus kills the Python and sees Daphne.

Indeed, she would not have wished (to do so), but she then gave birth to you too, (O) mighty Python, (you) unknown serpent, you (who) were a terror to the new people (of the earth): you occupied so much of the space of the mountain. The archer-god (i.e. Phoebus Apollo), with such weapons (that he had) never employed before except on buck- and roe-deer, with a thousand arrows almost emptying his quiver, destroyed this huge (creature), with the venom pouring out of his black wounds. Lest great age should destroy the fame of this deed, he founded the sacred Pythian games, celebrated by contests, called by the name of the serpent (he had) conquered.

Then, those young men who had been the winners in boxing, or on foot, or in chariot (racing) received the award of oak leaves: there was yet no laurel; (so) Phoebus was wont to wreathe his temples and his comely long hair (with the leaves) of whatever tree you like.

Phoebus' first love (was) Daphne, the daughter of Peneus (i.e. a river in Thessaly that flowed from Mount Pindar through the Vale of Tempe), which no unknown chance but Cupid's fierce anger caused. The Delian (god) (i.e. Phoebus), proud of his recent conquest of the serpent, had seen him bending his tightly-strung bow, and had said, "What (are) you (doing), (O you) impudent boy, with a brave (man)'s weapons? Those arms are suited to my shoulders, I who can give certain (wounds) to wild beasts, (and can) give wounds to my enemies, I, who have just laid low with countless arrows the swollen Python that was covering so many acres with its plague-ridden belly. You should be content to stir loves, of which I am unaware, with your burning brand, and not lay claim to my glories."

Venus' son (i.e. Cupid) says to him: "Your bow may hit everything (else), Phoebus, (but) mine (will hit) you. To the extent that all animals are inferior to gods, so your glory is less than mine."

He spoke, and striking the air with beating wings, he landed on the shady peak of (Mount) Parnassus with a flourish, and took two darts with different effects from his arrow-bearing quiver: one repels love, the other excites (it). (The one) that excites (it) is golden and glistens with a sharp point; (the one) that repels (it) is blunt and has lead at the bottom of its shaft. The god drives the second (one) into the nymph Peneis (i.e. Daphne), but with the first he wounded the marrow of Apollo, piercing (him) to the bone.

Ll. 474-503.  Phoebus pursues Daphne.

Straightway, one is in love, (but) the other flees the name of loving, delighting in the shadows of the woods and in the skins of the wild beasts (she had) caught, and emulating the unmarried Phoebe (i.e. Diana). A ribbon controlled her carelessly arranged hair. Many sought her (hand), (but) she, averse from wooing, impatient and free of men, roams the pathless woods, and cares not what Marriage, what Love, (or) what wedlock may involve. Often, her father said (to her), "Daughter, you owe me a son-in-law," often her father said (to her), "Child, you owe me grandsons:" hating the nuptial torch, as if (it were akin to) a crime, her beautiful face is suffused with bashful redness, and, clinging to her father's neck with coaxing arms, she said:" Dearest father, give me give me perpetually the virginity I have enjoyed: Diana's father (i.e. Jupiter) granted it (to her) previously." He, indeed, complies, but that beauty of yours prevents what you wish from happening, (Daphne). Your loveliness opposes your prayer: having seen (her), Phoebus loves (her), and desires marriage with Daphne, and he hopes for what he desires, but his own oracular powers fail him. And, as the light stubble of a harvested cornfield blazes, as a hedge is fired by a torch, which a traveller happens either to have brought too close, or to have left behind at daybreak, so the god went about on fire, so he burns in all of his heart, and feeds his fruitless passion with hope. He observes the disordered hair hanging about her neck, and says, "What, if it were (properly) arranged?" He sees her eyes, sparkling with fire like the stars, he gazes on her lips, yes (those lips) which (it is) not enough (just) to have gazed at; he praises her fingers, and her hands, and her fore-arms, and her upper-arms bare from the elbow. Whatever is hidden, he imagines more beautiful. (But) she flees, swifter than a light breath of air, nor does she stop at these words (of his) as he calls (her) back:

Ll. 504-524.  Phoebus begs Daphne to yield to him.

Wait, nymph Peneis, I beg (you)! I (who) am chasing (you), (am) not your enemy. Wait, nymph! So a sheep (runs from) a wolf, so a deer (runs from) a lion, so doves with their fluttering wings, flee from an eagle, each (flees) their own foe: (but) love is my reason for following (you). (O) wretched me! (I am afraid) lest you fall headlong, or that thorns may mark your legs to be marred undeservedly, and that I am the cause of your grief. These are rough places that you are running through. Run more slowly, I beg (you), and check your flight, and I, myself, will pursue (you) less keenly. At least inquire whom (it is) you are charming. I am no inhabitant of a mountain, nor a shepherd, nor am I, a rough (man), watching herds and flocks in this place. Rash (girl), you do not know, you are not aware, whom you are running from. The land of Delphi is mine, and Claros (i.e. a town in Ionia between Smyrna and Ephesus), and Tenedos (i.e. an island off the Trojan coast), and the palace at Patara (i.e. a town in Lycia) acknowledge (me as their king). Jupiter is my father; through me, what will be, what was and is, lie open; through me songs are in harmony with strings. My (aim) is indeed sure, but one arrow which (is) truer than mine has made a wound in my uncommitted heart. Medicine is my invention, and I am called the bringer of aid throughout the world, and my power (is) subject to herbs; (but) woe (is) me, because love is not curable by any herbs, nor do the arts that benefit everyone (else) benefit their lord."

Ll. 525-551Daphne becomes a laurel bush.

Peneis flees from (him), on her fearful course, as he is about to say more, and when, she, then still a lovely sight, left him, his words (are) unfinished. The winds bared her body, and the opposing breezes caused her clothes to flutter in their path, and a light breath of air made her hair stream behind (her), and her beauty is enhanced by her flight. But actually the young god could not bear to waste any further (time) on flattery, and, as Love, itself, was urging (him) on, he follows (in) her footsteps with full speed. (It is) like when a Gallic hound sees a hare in an empty field, and the former seeks his prey at a run, (while) the latter (seeks) refuge; (it is) like when the former hopes that the latter is about to be caught, and he is just about to get hold (of it), and he grazes its heels with his snout, the latter is uncertain whether it has been caught, and escapes his bites and evades the mouth touching (it): so are the god and the virgin, he driven by hope, she by fear. Still, animated by the wings of Love, he pursues (her); he runs faster, and denies (her) any rest, and grasps at her back as she flies, and breathes on the hair (which is) strewn around her neck. Her strength exhausted, she grew pale, and overcome by the effort of her rapid flight, (and) catching sight of the waters of the Peneus, she cries out, "Help (me), Father, if your streams have divine power. By changing (me), destroy this shape, by which I have pleased too much!" She has scarcely finished her prayer, (when) a heavy numbness seizes hold of her limbs, (and) her soft breast is enclosed by a thin bark, her hair grows into leaves, her arms into branches, her feet, so swift a moment ago, stick fast in slow-growing roots, her face has a canopy; only her shining beauty remains.

Ll. 552-566.  Phoebus honours Daphne.

Even now, Phoebus loves her, and placing his hand on the trunk he feels her heart, still beating under the fresh bark, and, clasping the branches with his arms as if (they were human) limbs, he kisses the wood: yet even the wood shrinks from his kisses.

The god said to her, "Since you cannot be my bride, you will surely be my tree. My hair will always have you, my lyre (will always have) you, my quiver (will always have) you; you will go with the Latin (i.e. Roman) generals, when joyful voices celebrate a triumph, and the Capitol witnesses their long processions; in the same way, (as) a most faithful guardian of Augustus' door-posts, you will stand in front of the gates and keep watch over the (crown of) oak between (them), and, just as my head with its uncropped hair is (always) young, (so) you also will always bear the undying glory of your leaves."

Paean (i.e. the Healer, an epithet of Phoebus Apollo) had finished (speaking): the laurel bowed her newly made branches, and seemed to shake her crown like a head (giving assent).

Ll. 567-586.  The rivers of Thessaly meet: Inachus mourns for Io.

There is a grove in Haemonia (i.e. Thessaly), which steep woodlands enclose on all sides: they call (it) Tempe. Through it the (River) Peneus, pouring forth from the bottom of (Mount) Pindus, rolls along with its foaming waters, and, (while) driving along the misty steam in its violent fall, it gathers clouds, and rains spray on to the tops of the trees, and deafens quite a wide area with its roar. Here (is) the house, here (is) the home, here is the innermost sanctuary of the great river; settling here in a cavern made in the rocks, he gave laws to the waters and to the nymphs who lived in his streams. Here the rivers of his country meet for the first time, unsure (whether) they should congratulate or console the father: Spercheos, rich in poplars, and restless Enipeus, and ancient Apidanus, and gentle Amphrysus and Aeas, and, then shortly afterwards, (all) the other rivers that, however their force carries them, bring down their waters, wearied by their wanderings, to the sea.

Only Inachus is absent, and, hidden at the bottom of a cave, he swells the waters (of his stream) with tears, and, in utter misery, laments his daughter Io as lost. He does not know whether she is enjoying life or is among the shades; but he does not find her anywhere. He imagines that (she) is nowhere, and in his heart he fears worse (things).

Ll. 587-599.  Jupiter's rape of Io. 

Jupiter had seen her returning from her father's stream, and had said (to her), "O virgin, worthy of Jupiter, who will make some (man), I know not whom, happy in your bed, look for the shade in the deep woods" - and he had shown her the woods' shade - "while it is hot and the sun is at the highest (point) in the midst of its orbit. But, if you are afraid to enter the lairs of wild beasts alone, you will go into the remote places of the woods in safety, protected by a god, and not by a lesser god, but by (the one) who holds the sceptre of the heavens in his mighty hand, and who hurls the unrestrained bolts of lightning. Do not fly from me!" - for she was already in flight. She had already left behind the pastures of Lerna (i.e. the marshlands of the Argolis, and the home of the Hydra), and the fields of Lyrcaea (i.e. a region of the Peloponnese between Argolis and Arcadia), sown with trees, when the god (i.e. Jupiter) hid the wide earth within a covering of fog, and checked her flight and carried off her chastity.

Ll. 600-620.  Jupiter transforms Io into a heifer. 

Meanwhile, Juno looked down into the midst of the fields, and (was) surprised that rapid mists had created the appearance of night during the brightness of daytime, (and) she did not feel that these were (vapours) from the river, or that they had been released from the damp earth; and she looked around (to see) where her husband was, as she knew by now the tricks of a spouse so often caught in the act. When she did not find him in the sky, she says, "Either I am wrong, or I am being wronged," and, gliding down from the summit of the heavens, she stood on the earth and ordered the clouds to recede. He (i.e. Jupiter) had a foreboding of his wife's arrival and had changed the appearance of Inachus' daughter into (that of) a gleaming heifer. (But) the ox is still beautiful. Saturnia (i.e. Juno, the daughter of Saturn) approves the look of the cow, although grudgingly, and, moreover, she asks to whom she belongs and from where or from what herd (she comes), as if (she is) unaware of the truth. In order that her originator should cease to be the subject of inquiry, Jupiter says falsely that she comes from the earth. (Then,) Saturnia asks for her (as) a gift. What should he do? (It would be) cruel to sacrifice his love, (but if he) did not give (her), he would be the object of suspicion. Shame it is that urges him to do it, (but it is) love (that) dissuades him from it. Shame would have been conquered by love; but if (so) slight a gift (as) this cow were denied to the companion of his race and bed, she might not appear (to be) a cow.

Ll. 621-640.  Juno claims Io, and then Argus guards her.

Though her rival had been given (to her), the goddess did not put aside all her fears at once, and was wary of Jupiter and was anxious about his trickery, until she handed (her) over to Argus, the son of Arestor, to be guarded.

Argus had a head encompassed with a hundred eyes; they took their rest two at a time in their turn, (while) the rest kept watch and stayed on guard. In whatever way he stood, he was (always) looking at Io: Io (was) before his eyes, even though he had turned his back. He allows (her) to graze in the light; when he sun is below the depths of the earth, he pens (her) and places a rope around her undeserving neck. She grazes on the leaves of trees and on bitter herbs, and for a bed she lies on the ground, not always having any grass, and, poor (thing), she drinks (water from) muddy streams. Even when she wished to stretch out her hands to Argus in supplication, she had no arms which she could stretch out to Argus. Then, trying to complain, a lowing (sound) came out of her mouth, and she was greatly alarmed at the noise, and was terrified by the (sound of) her own voice.

Then, she came to the river banks, the banks of the Inachus, where she often used to play; but, when she saw her new horns in the water, she was greatly alarmed and fled away in fear of herself.

Ll. 641-666.  Inachus finds Io, and grieves for her. 

The Naiads do not know and Inachus himself does not know who she is; but she follows her father and follows her sisters, and allows (herself) to be patted, and offers herself to be admired. Old Inachus pulled up some grasses and held (them) out (to her); she licks her father's hands and kisses his palms, and she cannot hold back her tears, and, id only words would come, she could beg for help and tell her name and (the source of) her distress. Letters, which her hoof drew in the dust instead of words, traced the sad story of her changed body. "Poor me!" exclaims her father Inachus, and, as he hangs on to the horns and neck of the groaning snow-white heifer, he repeats (the words) "Poor me! Are you (really) my daughter, whom I have been searching for across the whole world? Although you have been found again, you were (the object of) less grief when you were lost. You are without speech, nor can you reply to my words with your own in turn; you can only heave deep sighs from your breast, and the one (thing) that you can do is to low in response to my words. Witout your knowledge, I was arranging a marriage and a marriage-bed for you, and I had hopes, first, of a son-in-law, (and) then of grandchildren. Now you (must get) a mate from the herd, now (you) must get a son from the herd. Nor can I bring such sorrow to an end by dying, for it hurts to be a god, and the door of death, being closed (to me), extends my grief to all time."

As she thus mourned, strarry-eyed Argus drives (her) off, and, having plucked his daughter from her father's (arms), he drags (her) away. He occupies a high mountain peak, (and) sitting there he keeps watch, from a distance, in all directions.

Ll. 667-687.  Jupiter sends Mercury to kill Argus. 

The ruler of the gods cannot bear any longer the great sufferings of Phoronis (i.e. Io), and he calls his son (i.e. Mercury) to whom the shining Pleiad (i.e. Maia) gave birth, and orders (him) to put Argus to death. Delay is short: (then, he put) wings on his feet, and took up his sleep-inducing wand in his powerful hand, (and fixed) his cap on his head. When he had arranged these (things), the son of Jupiter springs down to earth from his father's stronghold. Once there, he removed his cap, and put aside his wings, (and) only retained his wand. With this, (disguised) as a shepherd, he drives she-goats, acquired (on the way), through the deserted countryside, and he plays on the strings of his reed-pipe while he goes. Juno's guard (is) captivated by this new sound. "You there, whoever you are," says Argus, "You could sit beside me on this rock, for there is no more abundant grass for your flock in any (other) place, and you can see that the shade (is) fine for shepherds. Atlas' descendant (i.e. his grandson Mercury) sits down, and, passing the day by talking of many (things), he kept (him) occupied in conversation, and, by playing on his reed-pipe, he tries to conquer those watching eyes. He, however, fights to overcome gentle sleep, and, although sleep is admitted in some of his eyes, yet he stays awake in others. He even asks - for the reed-pipe had recently been discovered - by what procedure it had been invented.

Ll. 688-720.  Mercury tells the story of Syrinx.

Then, the god says, "On Arcadia's cold mountains, among the wood-nymphs of (Mount) Nonacris, a single nymph was the most celebrated; the nymphs called (her) Syrinx. She had often eluded both the satyrs and all those gods that inhabit the shadowy woods and the fruitful countryside. But she honoured the Ortygian goddess (i.e. Diana, born on the isle of Ortygia, another name for Delos) in her zeal for virginity. Dressed just like Diana, she deceived (the eye) and could be thought (to be) Latona's daughter, except that her bow was (made) of horn and the other's was of gold. Even so, she was deceptive. Pan sees her as she returns from Mount Lycaeus (i.e. a mountain in Arcadia, sacred to Pan), and with his head wreathed in sharp pine(-shoots) he says these words (to her)" - it was left to relate his words and (how) the nymph, spurning his entreaties, had fled through the wastes until she comes to the calm waters of the sandy Ladon (i.e. an Arcadian river). Here, when the river stopped her flight, she begged her watery sisters (i.e. the naiads) to change her, and Pan, when he thought that he had caught Syrinx, (found that) he was holding reeds from the marsh instead of the nymph's body. And, while he (stands) there sighing, the disturbing wind in the reeds let out a rarefied and plaintiff-like sound. Captivated by this new art, and the sweetness of its sound, the god said, "This way of talking to you is still left to me!" And so, unequal lengths of reed, joined together in a framework of wax, preserved the girl's name.

As he was about to say all these (things), Cyllenius (i.e. an epithet of Mercury, who was born on Mount Cyllene in Arcadia) saw that all his eyes had succumbed, and that his eyelids (were) closed in sleep. At once, he stops speaking and deepens his slumber, (by) caressing his drowsy eyelids with his magic wand. Without delay, he strikes at his nodding head with his sickle-shaped sword, (at the point) where it is adjoining his neck, and casts (it) all bloody down the rocks, and it stains the steep cliff with his blood. Argus, you lie dead, and the light which you possessed amid so many eyes is extinguished, and one night takes possession of a hundred eyes.

Ll. 721-745.  Io is returned to human form.

Saturnia takes them (i.e. Argus' eyes) and places (them) in the feathers of her own bird (i.e a peacock), and fills its tail with star-like jewels.

Straightway, she blazed with anger, nor did she defer the time (for action), and she set a horrifying Fury before the eyes and mind of 'that slut' from Argos, and buried hidden gad-flies in her breast, and terrified (her into being) a fugitive throughout the whole world. (You,) Nile, were left as the limit to her immense suffering. As soon as she reached him, she fell forwards on bended knees, and, with her neck bent back and (looking) upwards, (and) raising her face to the skies, and, amid groans and tears and a mournful lowing, she seemed to be reproaching Jupiter and begging for an end to her woes. Putting his arms around his wife's neck, he (i.e. Jupiter) pleads that there should, finally, be an end to this punishment, and says, "Set aside your fears; in the future, she will never be a cause of pain to you;" and he bids the Stygian pools hear this (n.b. The Styx was the principal river of the Underworld, and the gods invoked its name when swearing binding oaths). As the goddess (i.e. Juno) grows calm, she (i.e. Io) regains her former appearance and becomes what she was previously: the hairs leave her body, the horns disappear, the eye-balls grow smaller, the gaping mouth contracts, her shoulders and hands return, and the hooves disappear and turn into five nails: nothing of the form of an ox remains, except the whiteness. Happy with the functioning of her two feet, she stands erect, but she is afraid to speak, lest she lows like a heifer, and she timidly attempts some (long) neglected words.

Ll. 746-763.  Phaëthon's parentage.

Now she is worshipped (as) a most celebrated goddess by a crowd clad in linen; now, at last, Epaphus is believed to have been born (by her) from the seed of mighty Jupiter, and he holds temples throughout the cities jointly with his mother. Phaëthon, the child of the Sun, was equal to him in courage and in age. The grandson of Inachus (i.e. Epaphus) could not endure (it) when he once boasted proudly, and would not yield to him, that Phoebus was his father, and he says, "You are mad to believe everything your mother (says), and you are puffed up with the image of a false father." Phaëthon reddened, but, through shame, restrained his anger, and took Epaphus' taunts to his mother Clymene; and he says: "Mother, you may grieve all the more that I, that free, that bold (spirit), was silent. I am ashamed that such a reproach could be spoken and could not be refuted. But, if I am, in any way, of divine stock, you must produce proof of my high birth, and lay my claim to the heavens."

(So) he spoke, and threw his arms around his mother's neck, and begged (her), by his own life and and (that) of Merops (i.e. Clymene's husband), and (by) his sisters' marriages, to give him some tokens of his true parentage.

Ll. 764-778.  Phaëthon sets out for the Palace of the Sun. 

Clymene moved, perhaps, by Phaëthon's entreaties, or more by anger at the charge which had been made, stretched out both her arms to the sky, and, looking up at the light of the sun, she says, "By that brightness, marked out by those glittering rays, which both hears us and sees (us), I swear to you, my son, that you (are) the child of the Sun, that (being) which you see, and that (being) who governs the world. If I am telling lies, may he, himself, refuse to appear to me, and may this be the very last light (to reach) our eyes. There is no great difficulty for you to discover your father's home: if only your courage allows (it), go and inquire (about it) from him."

Phaëthon immediately darts forth, delighted after (hearing) these words of his mother, and he imagines the heavens in his mind, and crosses his own Ethiopian (lands) and the Indies, placed beneath the fire of the stars, and he comes, with enthusiasm, (to the lands where) his father rises (i.e. the East).



Published in Latin Translation


For an introduction to Ovid and the work as a whole, the reader is invited to look at the introduction to Sabidius' translation of "Metamorphoses" Book I, published on this blog on 1st February 2018. 

Book II, translated below, contains the following contents: i) Phaëton (continued); ii) Callisto; iii) the raven and the crow; iv) Coronis; v) Phoebus and Aesculapius; vi) Ocyroë; vii) Mercury and Battus; viii) the envy of Aglauros; and ix) Jupiter and Europa. This book concludes the first part of the "Metamorphoses", i.e. the section featuring "The Divine Comedy".

Ll. 1-30.  The Palace of the Sun.

The Palace of the Sun was (towering) high with lofty columns, (and was) bright with glittering gold and with bronze (gleaming) like fire; shining ivory covered the tops of its gables, (and) the leaves of its double-doors shone with the brightness of silver. The (art) work surpassed the substance (of the doors): for on them Mulciber (i.e. Vulcan, the smith who 'softens' metal) had engraved the waters that encompass the earth's centre, the globe of the earth, and the sky which overhangs the world. The sea contains the dark-blue gods, the tuneful Triton (i.e. a sea and river god, the son of Neptune and Amphitrite, usually depicted as half-man and half-fish), the mutable Proteus (i.e. a sea-god who could constantly change his form), and Aegaeon (i.e. another name for the hundred-armed Briareus), crushing the huge backs of whales with his arms, and Doris (i.e. the daughter of Oceanus and Tethys, and the wife of Nereus, the old man of the sea) and her daughters (i.e. the fifty Nereids or sea-nymphs), some of whom are seen swimming, some drying their (sea-)green hair (while) sitting on a rock, (and) others riding on (the backs of) fish: (they do) not all (have) the same appearance, yet they are not (entirely) different, just as it is right for sisters to be. The land shows men and towns, woods and wild animals, rivers and nymphs and the other rural deities. Above them is depicted an image of the glowing sky, and six signs (of the zodiac) on the right(-hand) door and the same number on the left(-hand one).

As soon as Clymene's son had gone up the steep path, and entered the palace of the father (of whom he was) uncertain; at once, he made his way into his father's presence, but stopped some distance away: for he could not bear his light (coming) too close. Dressed in a purple robe, Phoebus was sitting on a throne shining with bright emeralds. To his right and to his left stood the Day, the Month and the Year, the Century and the Hours, situated in equal spaces, and the young Spring stood (there), wreathed in a crown of flowers, and naked Summer wore a garland of wheat-ears, and Autumn stood (there), stained by trampled grapes, and icy Winter, with her white hair bristling.

Ll. 31-48.   Phaëthon and his father.

Then, the Sun, seated in their midst, with eyes with which he catches sight of everything, saw the young man, who was fearful of the strangeness of the arrangements, and he says, "What (is) the reason for your journey? What are you looking for in this stronghold, Phaëthon, a son not to be denied by any father?"

He (i.e. Phaëthon) replies: "O universal light of the vast world, (O) father Phoebus, if you allow me the use of that name, and (if) Clymene is not hiding some fault beneath a false pretence, give (me) proof, father, through which I shall be believed (to be) your true offspring, and take away this uncertainty from my mind."

He finished speaking: and his father removed the sparkling rays (which were) surrounding the whole of his head, and told (him) to come nearer; and, after giving (him) an embrace, he says: "You are worthy to be mine, it is not to be denied, and Clymene has spoken the truth about your birth. So that you may be in less doubt, ask (me) for some favour, so that, after I have bestowed (it), you can exhibit it. May that lake by which the gods are required to swear (i.e. the Styx), although (it is) unknown to my eyes, be present (as) a witness to my promises."

He had scarcely come to a proper end (of his speech), (when) that (boy) asks for his father's chariot, and the right to control his wing-footed horses for a day.

Ll. 49-62.  The Sun's admonitions.

His father regretted that he had sworn that oath. Shaking his distinguished head three times, and (then) a fourth time, he said, "Your words have made mine rash. If only I could not grant my promises! I confess, my son, I would refuse you just this one (thing). Phaëthon, you are asking for (too) great a favour, and (one) which is suited neither to your strength nor to your (O) so boyish years. Your lot is (that of) a mortal, (but) what you ask is not (right for) a mortal. Unknowingly, you aspire to even more than (something) which can happen to the gods. Each (god) may (do whatever) is pleasing to him, but no one has the power to set his foot in the chariot of fire except myself. Even the ruler of great Olympus, who hurls wild thunderbolts from his terrible right(-hand), cannot drive this team of horses: and do we have anyone greater than Jupiter?

Ll. 63-89.  The Sun's further warnings.

"The beginning of the path is steep, and my horses, (although they are) fresh in the morning, can scarcely climb it: it is highest in the middle of the sky, from where to look down on the sea and the earth often causes fear even to me, and my heart is agitated by a trembling dread. The last (part of) the journey is downward, and needs sure management: then even Tethys (i.e. the sister and wife of Oceanus) herself, who receives me in her submissive waves, is accustomed to fear that I may be swept away headlong. Besides, the sky is seized by constant turning, and drags along the remote stars, and whirls them around in coils (i.e. orbits). I push in the opposite (direction), and its momentum does not overcome me, (as it does) everything else, and I ride in a (direction) contrary to its swift orbit. Suppose that the chariot has been given (to you): what will you do? Will you be able to counter the turning poles, so that the swift chariot does not run away with you? Perhaps you conceive in your mind that there are groves there, and cities of the gods, and temples rich in gifts? The journey runs through ambushes and the shapes of wild beasts. And though you should keep to your course and you are carried along without any mistake, you will still have to make your way past the horns of the hostile bull (i.e. the constellation Taurus), and the Haemonian (i.e. Thessalian) bow (i.e. the constellation Sagittarius), and the jaws of the raging lion (i.e. the constellation Leo), and the cruel arms of the scorpion bent through a vast circle (i.e. the constellation Scorpio), and the arms of the crab bent in a different way (i.e. the constellation Cancer). Nor will it be easy for you to control those proud horses with that fire which they have in their chests, (and) which they breathe out through their mouths and their nostrils. They scarcely allow me (to control them), when their eager spirits are hot, and their necks resist the reins. And you, my son, beware, lest I am the source of a gift (which is) fatal to you, and, while time permits, put right your request.

Ll. 90-110.  Phaëthon insists on riding the chariot.

"You seek a sure sign (don't you,) no doubt so that you may believe that you (were) born of my blood? I give that sure sign by my fearing (for you), and I am proved to be a father by my fatherly anxiety. Behold, look at my face! If only you could implant your eyes in my heart and detect a father's concern from within! Finally, look around (you) at whatever riches the world contains, and ask for anything from all those many good (things) in the sky, on the earth, and in the sea: you will suffer no refusal. I deprecate this one (thing), which, under its true name, is a punishment, not an honour. Phaëthon, you are asking for a punishment instead of a gift. Why do you take hold of my neck with those coaxing arms (of yours), you witless (boy)? Have no doubt, you will be granted whatever you ask for; but do choose more wisely!"

The warning had ended: but he (i.e. Phaëthon) resists these words, and presses his plan, and is on fire with his desire (to drive) the chariot. So, as he has the right, his father reluctantly leads the youth to the tall chariot, the work of Vulcan. It had a golden axle, a golden pole, golden rims on the top of its wheels, (and) a circle of silver spokes; along the yoke, topazes and gemstones set in order, reflecting Phoebus, returned the bright light.

Ll. 111-149.  The Sun's instructions.

Then, while the great-hearted Phaëthon gazes in wonder at the workmanship, behold, Aurora (i.e. the Dawn), awake in the glowing East, opens wide her radiant doors and her courtyards full of roses. The stars, at the rear of whose ranks comes Lucifer (i.e. the Morning Star), disappear, and he, last (of all), leaves his station in the sky. When he saw him (i.e. Lucifer) setting, (and) the earth and the universe reddening, just as the horns of the waning moon were fading, Titan (i.e. the Sun) orders the swift Hours to yoke his horses. The goddesses speedily enact his commands, and lead his (team of) horses, spewing forth fire, (and) sated with ambrosial juice, from their tall stables, and attach a ringing bridle (to them). Then, the father rubbed his son's face with a sacred ointment, and made (it) able to bear consuming flames, and placed his rays in his hair, and, presaging grief in the repeated sighs (which came) from his troubled breast, he said:

"If you can at least obey these admonitions of your father, spare the whip, my boy, and employ the reins quite vigorously: they run fast of their own accord; it is a hard task to check their eagerness. Do not decide (to take) a path straight through the five zones of heaven: the track has been laid obliquely in a wide curve, and (has been) stretched along the edge of three zones and avoids the South Pole and the Great Bear, which is harnessed to the North Winds. This is the road: you will clearly see the marks of my wheels. And, so that both heaven and earth receive equal warmth, do not sink the chariot down (too low), nor heave (it) through the upper air. If you proceed too high, you will scorch the roof of heaven, too low, (you will scorch) the earth: (if) you go through the middle, (you will be) safest. Nor should you swerve too far to the right towards the snake (i.e. the constellation Serpens), nor take your wheels too far to the left towards the altar (i.e. the constellation Ara): hold your way between the two of them. I entrust the rest to Fortuna (i.e. the Goddess of Chance), who, I pray, helps (you) and takes better care of you than you (do yourself). While I have been speaking, dewy night has reached her turning-point, (which is) placed on the Hesperian (i.e. Western) shore. Delay is not permitted to us: we are in demand! When the darkness has vanished, the dawn shines out. Take up the reins in your hand, or, if your mind is open to change, make use of my counsel, not my horses, while you can, and you are still standing on solid ground, and, while you are not yet driving the chariot, (which you,) inexperienced (as you are), (have so) unhappily chosen. So that you can watch it in safety, let me give light to the world!"

Ll. 150-177.  The Horses run wild.

He (i.e. Phaëthon) has (now) taken possession of the nimble chariot with his youthful body, and stands (in it) proudly, and takes in his hands the reins (which have been) given (to him), and he rejoices and gives thanks to his unwilling father. Meanwhile, the Sun's swift horses, Pyroïs, and Eoüs, and Aethon, and the fourth (one), Phlegon, fill the air with their fiery whinnying, and kick the bars with their hooves. When Tethys, unaware of her grandson's fate, has pushed back these (barriers), and access to the vast sky is made available (to them), they seize hold of the way, and, moving through the air with their feet, they tear through the clouds, and lifted up by their wings, they overtake the East Winds (which have) risen from the same regions.

But the weight was light, and (this was something) which the Sun's horses could not understand, and their yoke lacked its usual heaviness; and, just as curved-sided boats rock around without their proper weight, and are said (to be) unstable at sea with too much lightness, so the chariot, free of its usual load, gives jumps in the air, and is tossed on high, as though it were empty. As soon as they feel this, the team of four run (wild) and leave the beaten track, and do not run in accordance with any previous arrangement. He, himself, was terrified, nor does he know how to handle the reins (which have been) entrusted (to him), nor where the track was, nor, (even) if he did know, (how) to control those (horses). Then, for the first time, the dull Ploughing Oxen (i.e. the constellation of the Wain) grew warm in the rays (of the sun), and tried in vain to douse themselves in forbidden waters, and the serpent (i.e. properly the constellation Draco), which is situated nearest to the freezing (North) Pole, and previously sluggish with the cold, and not, in any (way) to be feared, (now) glowed with heat and assumed a new rage. They say that you, too, Bootes (i.e. the constellation Herdsman), fled in confusion, although you were (too) slow, and that hay-waggon (i.e. the constellation Ursa Major, or Great Bear) of yours hampered you.

Ll. 178-200.  Phaëthon lets go of the reins.

Now, when the unlucky Phaëthon looked down from the sky at the earth lying far, far beneath, he grew pale and his knees quaked with a sudden fear, and darkness came over his eyes through an excess of light. And now he wishes he had never touched his father's horses, now he regrets that he had discovered his (true) descent, and that he has been able (to do so) by asking (about it), now, wishing (only) to be called the (son) of Merops, he is carried along in the same way as a ship, driven headlong by a northern gale, whose conquered helm her master has let go of, (and) which he has abandoned to the gods and prayer. What can he do? Much of the sky (is) left behind his back, (but) more is before his eyes! He measures both in his mind, and sometimes he takes a look at the West, which he is not fated to reach, (and) sometimes he looks back at the East: and, unaware of what he should do, he is stupefied, and he neither loosens the reins, nor has he the power to hold on to (them), and he does not know the horses' names.

In his alarm, he also sees the marvellous images of vast creatures scattered everywhere amidst the mottled sky. There is a place where Scorpio bends his arms (i.e. his pincers) into twin arcs, and, with his tail and his arms curving on both sides, spreads out his limbs into the space of two (star) signs. When the boy saw this (monster), oozing with the slime of black venom, threatening (to) wound (him) with its arched sting, deprived of his mind by chilling terror, he dropped the reins.

Ll. 201-226.  The mountains burn.

When the horses felt them (i.e. the reins) lying on the top of their backs, they veer off course, and go, without any check, through the air of unexplored regions, and, wherever their momentum takes (them), there they run lawlessly, and collide with the stars (which are) fixed high in the sky, and hurry the chariot along out-of-the-way tracks. Now, they make for the heights, now they rush down precipitous paths on a course (which is) nearer to the earth. The Moon is amazed that her brother's horses are running lower than her own, and the boiling clouds smoke; when all the highest (regions) burst into flames, the earth develops fissures and cracks, and, deprived of moisture, it dries up. The crops are blighted, the trees with their leaves are burned, and the parched corn-fields provide fuel for their own destruction. I am complaining about small (things): great cities perish, together with their walls, and the flames turn whole nations and (all) their peoples to ashes. The forests burn, together with the mountains, (Mount) Athos (i.e. a mountain in Macedonia on a peninsula in the northern Aegean) is aflame, and (so are) the Cilician Taurus, and Tmolus (i.e. a mountain in Lydia) and Oeta (i.e. a mountain range between Thessaly and Aetolia), and Ida (i.e. either the mountain in Crete, which was the birthplace of Jupiter, or the one in Phrygia, near Troy), now dry (but) formerly covered with fountains, and maidenly Helicon (i.e. the mountain in Boeotia, which was the home of the Muses) and Haemus (i.e. a mountain in Thrace), not yet linked to Oeagrus (i.e. a legendary king of Thrace and father of Orpheus); (Mount) Etna (i.e. a volcanic mountain in eastern Sicily) burns over a vast (area) with redoubled flames, as (do) the twin-peaked Parnassus (i.e. a mountain in Phocis, sacred to Apollo and the Muses, at the foot of which is Delphi) and Eryx (i.e. a mountain, sacred to Venus, on the north-west tip of Sicily), and Cynthus (i.e. a mountain on the island of Delos sacred to Apollo and Diana) and Othrys (i.e. a mountain in Thessaly), and Rhodope (i.e. a mountain in Thrace), destined, at last, to lose its snow, and Mimas (i.e. a mountain range in Ionia), and Dindyma (i.e. a mountain in Mysia, sacred to Ceres), and Mycale (i.e. a city and promontory in Ionia, opposite the island of Samos), and Cithaeron, intended for sacred (rites) (i.e. a mountain in Boeotia, and a centre of Bacchic worship). Its cold (climate) does not save Scythia (i.e. the plains to the north-east of the Black Sea): the Caucasus burns, as (do) Ossa, along with Pindus (i.e. both mountains in Thessaly), and Olympus, greater than both (of these), and the lofty Alps and the cloud-capped Appennines.

Ll. 227-271.  The rivers are dried up.

Then, indeed, Phaëthon sees the world on fire from all directions, nor can he bear the violent heat, and he draws the hot breath from his mouth, as if from a deep furnace, and feels his chariot growing white (hot); now he can no longer endure the ash and the sparks (that are) flung out, and he is enveloped on all sides by hot smoke, and, covered, (as he is,) by a pitch-black vapour, he does not know where he is going to, or where he is, and he is swept along by the will of the winged horses. (It was) then they believe that the peoples of Ethiopia acquired their dark hue. Then Libya became dry, her moisture being removed by the heat, then the nymphs, with their hair dishevelled, wept bitterly for their fountains and lakes: Boeotia searches for (the fountains of) Dirce, Argos for (those of) Amymone, (and) Ephyre (i.e. Corinth) for the Pirenian spring (i.e. the spring sacred to the Muses). Nor, assigned to a (particular) spot, did the rivers keep their wide banks safe: the Tanaïs (i.e. the River Don) boiled in the midst of its waters, as (did) old Peneus (i.e. a river in Thessaly that flows from Mount Pindus through the Vale of Tempe), and the Caïcus of Teuthras (i.e. Mysian), and swift-flowing Ismenus (i.e. a river near Thebes in Boeotia), together with the Erymanthus of Phegeus (i.e. Arcadian), and Xanthus (i.e. a river of Phrygia), destined to burn again (i.e. in the Trojan War), and the golden Lycormas (i.e. a river of Aetolia), and Maeander (i.e. a river in Lydia, famous for its wandering or 'meandering' course), who plays in its winding waters. Mygdonian (i.e. Thracian) Melas and Taenarian (i.e. Laconian) Eurotas (as well). The Babylonian Euphrates burned too, the Orontes (i.e. the principal river of Syria) burned, and the swift-flowing Thermodon (i.e. a river of the Black Sea region where the Amazons lived), and the Ganges, and the Phasis (i.e. a river in Colchis, east of the Black Sea) and the Hister (i.e. the Danube). Alpheus (i.e. a river in the west of the Peloponnese, near Olympia) boils, Spercheus' banks (i.e. those of a river in Thessaly) are on fire, and the gold, which Tagus (i.e. a river in Portugal) carries on his stream, melts, and the river-birds (i.e. swans) which honoured the Maeonian (i.e. Lydian) river-banks with their singing, have been scalded in the midst of the Caÿster (i.e. a river in Lydia, near the mouth of which is Ephesus). The Nile fled in terror to the very edge of the world, and covered its head, which still lies hidden (i.e. its source remains unknown): its seven dust-filled mouths are empty, seven channels without a stream. The same fate dries up the Ismarian (i.e. Thracian) rivers, Hebron and Strymon, and the Hesperian (i.e. western) (ones), the Rhine, the Rhone and the Po, and the Tiber, to whom universal power had been promised.

Everywhere the ground breaks up, and the light penetrates the cracks (down) into Tartarus, and terrifies the king of the Underworld (i.e. Pluto) and his wife (i.e. Persephone). Then, the sea contracts, and what was, a moment ago, open sea is an expanse of dry sand: mountains, which the deep sea had covered, (now) emerge, and add to the scattered Cyclades. The fish seek the depths (of the sea), and the crooked dolphins do not dare to rise into the air above the sea, (as they have been) accustomed (to do); the lifeless bodies of seals float face upwards on the surface of the deep. They even say that Nereus, himself, and Doris and their daughters (i.e. the Nereids), skulked below in warm caverns. Three times Neptune ventured to lift his arms, together with his grim face, out of the waters, (but) three times he could not endure the burning air.

Ll. 272-300.  Earth complains.

But kindly Earth, surrounded as she was by the sea, between the waters of the open sea and the springs, which, having shrunk everywhere, had hidden themselves in their dark mother's womb, raised her smothered face, and (being) dry as far as her neck, she put her hand to her forehead, and, shaking everything with her mighty tremors, she sank back a little and was lower than she used to be, and she spoke thus in a hoarse voice: "If this is pleasing (to you), and I have deserved (it), why, O highest of the gods, are your lightning-bolts loitering? If I am destined to die by the power of fire, let (me) perish by your fire, and may the instigator alleviate the agony! Indeed, I can hardly loosen my jaws (enough to put) these very (things) into words" - (for) the heat had overcome her mouth - : "Behold, look at my scorched hair, and the huge amount of ashes (which are) in my eyes, (and) the huge amount (of ashes which are) all over my face. (Are) these the rewards, (is) this the honour (that) you give back to me for my productivity and service, in that I endure the wounds of the curved plough and the mattocks, and I am made to work all year, (and) because I supply leaves and tender nourishment for the flocks, produce for the human race, (and) also incense for you? But yet, suppose that I have deserved this destruction: how (have) the waves, how has your brother (i.e. Neptune) deserved (this)? Why are the waters, which were given to you by lot, shrinking, and receding further from the sky? But if regard, neither for your brother, nor for me, moves you, at least take pity on your own heavens! Look around (you) on both sides: both of the poles are steaming. If the fire should melt them, your own halls will fall. Look, Atlas, himself, is struggling, and can barely sustain the white-hot sky on his shoulders. If the sea, if the land, if the kingdom of heaven (all) perish, we are cast back into ancient chaos. Save whatever still survives from the flames, and have regard for the most important matters.

Ll. 301-328.  Jupiter intervenes and Phaëthon dies.

Earth finished speaking these (words): for she could neither endure the heat, nor say any more. And she withdrew her face into herself and closer into the caverns of the spirits of the dead.

But the almighty father (i.e. Jupiter), calling the gods, and (in particular) the very one who had handed over the chariot (i.e. Phoebus), to witness that, unless he, himself, were to provide help, the whole (world) would suffer a grave fate, climbs high to the loftiest height (in the sky), from where he is accustomed to spread clouds over the wide earth, (and) from where he moves the thunder and hurls his quivering lightning-bolts. But now he had no clouds which he could spread over the earth, nor any rain-showers which he could send down from the sky. He thunders, and dispatched a lightning-bolt, (which he had) balanced in his right(-hand) from (the level of) his ear at the charioteer, and removed (him) from life and from his chariot at the same time, and (so) he suppressed fire with fiercer fires. The horses are thrown into confusion, and making jumps in a different (direction), they tear their necks away from the yoke and abandon their harness. Here lie the reins, there the axle torn from the pole, over there the spokes of the shattered wheels, and the fragments of the wrecked chariot are scattered far and wide.

Then, Phaëthon, with flames ravaging his glowing-red hair, is hurled headlong, and flies through the air in a long trail, as sometimes a star can appear to have fallen from the clear sky, although it has not (in fact) fallen. Far from his own (country and) in a strange (part of) the world, the mighty Eridanus (i.e. the god of the River Po) takes him up and bathes his smoke-blackened face. There the Hesperian (i.e. Italian) water-nymphs consign his body, (still) smoking from that triple-forked flame, to its burial mound, (and) they also mark the rock with this verse: HERE LIES PHAËTHON, THE DRIVER OF HIS FATHER'S CHARIOT: (EVEN) IF HE COULD NOT KEEP HOLD OF IT, YET HE FELL (ONLY) AFTER DARING GREAT (THINGS).

Ll. 329-343.  Phaëthon's mother and sisters grieve for him.

For his pitiable father had hidden his countenance, overcast with sorrowful mourning; and, if only we can believe (it), they say that one day passed without the sun: (but) the fires provided light, and there was (thus) some benefit amid (all) that evil.

But Clymene, after she had said whatever (words) could have been said amid such terrible misfortunes, grief-stricken, and frantic, and tearing her breasts, travelled across the whole world, and, looking at first for his lifeless limbs, she then found his bones - yet his bones (were) buried in the river-bank of a foreign country! - and she fell to the ground and drenched with tears the name which she read on the block of marble and warmed (it) with her bare bosom.

No less do the Heliads (i.e. the seven daughters of the Sun God Phoebus and Clymene, and therefore the sisters of Phaëthon) lament, and offer their tears, a useless tribute to the dead, and they beat their breasts with their hands, (and) call upon Phaëthon night and day, although he will not be able to hear their pitiful sighs, and they prostrate themselves on his tomb.

Ll. 344-366.  The sisters are turned into poplar-trees.

Four times the Moon had made her circle full by joining her (crescent) horns: by their habit - for use had created habit - they (i.e. the Heliads) had devoted (themselves) to mourning. Of these, Phaëthusa (i.e. the Shining One), the oldest of the sisters, when she wished to throw herself to the ground, complained that her feet had stiffened up. When the radiant Lampetia tried to come to her (help), she was held back by an unexpected root. When a third (sister) set about tearing her hair with her hands, she pulled out leaves; one laments that her legs are bound by wood, another that her arms have become long branches. And while they wonder at these (things), bark encompasses their thighs, and gradually goes around their groins and their breasts, their shoulders and hands, and only their mouths, calling for their mother, remain visible. What can their mother do, but go here and there, as the impulse takes her, and join their lips together (i.e. kiss them), while she (still) can? It's not enough! She tries to pull their bodies away from the tree-trunks, and breaks off the delicate branches with her hands; but drops of blood trickle from them as though from a wound. "Stop, mother, I beg (you)!" cries out whichever (one) is wounded, "Stop, I beg (you)! (It is) my body in the tree (that) is being wounded. And now farewell!" - the bark enveloped her last words. From them tears (still) flow, and from their fresh branches amber is distilled and is hardened by the sun, and the bright stream takes it up and sends (it) to be worn by Latin (i.e. Roman) brides.

Ll. 367-380.  Cycnus.

Cycnus, the son of Sthenelus was present at this marvel, (he) who, although joined to you (i.e. Phaëthon) by blood through his mother, was yet closer (to you) in his heart. (Now,) although he had ruled the people and the great cities of the Ligurians, he left his kingdom and filled the green banks of the stream of Eridanus (i.e. the Po), and the woods (which had been) expanded by his sisters (i.e. the Heliads), with plaintive (cries), when his voice is weakened in its virility, and white feathers hide his hair, his long neck stretches out from his chest, and a web unites his reddened fingers, wings cover his sides, (and) a blunt beak takes the place of his mouth. (So), Cycnus becomes a new (kind of) bird (i.e. a swan), but he does not entrust himself to the heavens and to Jupiter, as he remembers the fire unjustly sent by him: he makes for pools and open lakes and rivers, in which, hating fire, he chooses to live as an alternative to the flames.

Ll. 381-400.  The Sun returns to his task. 

Meanwhile, Phaethon's father, in squalid (garb) and destitute of his very brightness, as he is accustomed to be, when he abandons the earth (i.e. when there is an eclipse), hates the light and his very self and the day, and gives his mind over to grief; and he adds anger to his grief, and denies his service to the world. "My lot since the beginning of time," he says, "has been exhausting enough, and I am weary of work without end (and) labour without honour. Anyone you like may drive my light-bearing chariot! If there is no one (to do it), and all the gods acknowledge that they cannot (do so), let he himself (i.e. Jupiter) drive (it), so that, at least, while he tries (to take up) my reins, he must set aside for a time those thunderbolts (which are) destined to make fathers bereft. Then, when (he has) experienced the strength of those fiery-footed horses, he will know that (he) who did not manage them well did not deserve death."

All the gods stand around the Sun, as he says these (things), and they ask (him) in a begging voice not to be determined to envelop everything in darkness: Jupiter, too, seeks to excuse the fires (he has) hurled, and adds threats to his entreaties in a kingly manner. (Then,) Phoebus rounds up his horses (who are) frantic and still trembling with terror, and, in his pain, he lashes out with goad and whip: yes, he (really) lashes out (at them), and reproaches (them) and takes them to task for his son's (death).

Ll. 401-416.  Jupiter sees Callisto.

Now the almighty father goes around the huge walls of heaven, and examines (them), (fearing) that something, shaken by the violence of the fire, may have collapsed. When he sees that they are solid in their strength, he takes a look at the earth and the works of mankind. Yet his (land) of Arcadia is his greatest concern: he restores the fountains and the streams, (which are) not yet daring to flow, he gives grass to the earth (and) leaves to the trees, and bids the scorched forests grow green once more. Often, while he came and went, he would stop short at the sight of a maiden from Nonacris (i.e. a mountain in Arcadia and the home of the nymph Callisto), and the fires (of love) would inflame (him) right into (the very marrow of) his bones. She (i.e Callisto) was not one to make her work easier by spinning wool, nor to change the arrangement of her hair; when a brooch (fastened) her tunic, (and) a white ribbon held back the loose tresses of her hair, and she took up now a spear and then a bow in her smooth hand, she was a companion of Phoebe (i.e. Diana or the Moon): no one (who) roamed the Maenalus (i.e. a mountain range in Arcadia, which was the haunt of Diana and her virgin huntresses) (was) dearer to Trivia (i.e. the Triple-Goddess: Diana on the Earth, Luna in the sky and Hecate in Hades) than her. But no influence lasts for long.

Ll. 417-440.  Jupiter rapes Callisto.

High (in the sky), the sun was holding a position just beyond the middle (of the zenith), when she (i.e. Callisto) entered a grove which no age had touched. Here she took the quiver from her shoulder, and unstrung her pliant bow, and lay down on ground which grass had covered, and placed her relaxed neck on to her painted quiver. When Jupiter saw (her), weary and unprotected, he said, "Surely my wife will not know of this intrigue of mine, or, if she does find out (about it), it is, it is, oh so worthy of a quarrel (to me)!" At once, he assumes the countenance and the dress of Diana, and says: "O virgin, (you who are) one member of my (train of) companions, in which ridge of mountains have you been hunting?" The virgin rises from the turf and said, "Greetings, goddess (who is) greater than Jupiter, with me disclosing (it) even though Jupiter himself may hear." He does hear and laughs, and he rejoices that he is put before himself, and he gives (her) kisses, (which are) neither sufficiently restrained nor such as should be given by a virgin. When she started to tell in which forest she had been hunting, he prevents (her) by an embrace, nor does he proceed without a crime. In truth, she struggles against (him), just as far as any woman could - if only you had seen (her), Saturnia (i.e. Juno), you would have been kinder (to her) - (yes,) indeed, she fights (him): but (what) girl could overcome him, or (could) anyone (overcome) Jupiter? Victorious Jupiter makes for the higher (reaches of) the sky: to her the grove is to be hated and the forest is in the know. Retracing her footsteps from there, she almost forgot to pick up her quiver and its arrows, and the bow which she had hung up (there).

Ll.  441-465.  Diana discovers Callisto's shame.

Behold, Dictynna (i.e. Diana), accompanied by her band (of huntresses), advancing across the heights of Maenalus, and, magnificent in her slaughter of wild beasts, espies her, and, having seen (her), calls out to (her): having been hailed, she fled, and was afraid at first that Jupiter might be within her. But when she saw the (other) nymphs come forward together, she realised there was no trickery, and joined their number. Alas, how difficult it is not to show one's guilt in one's face! She can scarcely lift her eyes from the ground, neither as she used (to be) before, (is she) wedded to her goddess's side, nor is she the first in the whole company; but she is silent, and, by her blushes, shows signs of shame at her injury; and, even if she were not a virgin (herself), Diana could sense her guilt by a thousand indications; (and) they say that (all) the nymphs could feel (it). The moon's (crescent) horns were rising again from their ninth orbit, when the goddess, faint from hunting in her brother's hot sunlight, found a cool grove, from which a stream ran, flowing with a murmur, and wound over fine sand. When she approved the spot, she dipped her foot into the surface of the current: and, praising it also, she says, "Every witness is far away; let us bathe our bodies naked in the flowing waters." The Parrhasian (i.e. Arcadian) (girl) (i.e. Callisto) blushed. They all take their clothes off: one (of them) seeks a delay. After some hesitation, her tunic is removed; when it had been removed, her guilt is revealed by her naked body. (To her), terrified and trying to conceal her (swollen) belly with her hands, Cynthia (i.e. Diana) said, "Go far away from here, and do not pollute our sacred fountains!" and she commanded (her) to withdraw from her band (of followers).

 Ll. 466-495.  Callisto is turned into a bear.

The great Thunderer's wife (i.e. Juno) had known (all) about this for some time, and had differed her severe punishment until a suitable moment (arrived). There is (now) no reason for delay, and now a boy, Arcas, had been born of the concubine - Juno grieved at this very (thing).  As soon as she turned her angry mind and eyes on to him, she cried out, "To be sure, only this was left, (you) adulteress, that you should be fertile, and that the injury (done to me) by this birth should become known, and the crime of my Jupiter should become evident. (But) you will not carry (this) off unpunished: (now you) insolent (girl), I shall take away that figure (of yours), which so pleases you and my husband.

(So) she spoke, and seizing (her) by the hair from the front of her forehead, she pulled (her) down on to the ground. She (i.e. Callisto) stretched out her arms in supplication; (but) those arms began to bristle with black hairs, and her hands (began) to be bent and to turn into curved claws, and to perform the function of feet, and her face, once praised by Jupiter, (began) to become disfigured by wide gaping jaws. And, so that her prayers and words of entreaty may not gain his attention, her power of speech is taken (from her); a growl, angry and menacing, and packed with terror, comes from her hoarse throat. Yet, her former thoughts remained (intact), although she has been turned into a bear, and she showed her sadness by constant groaning, and she raises whatever hands she has left to the sky and the stars, and she feels, although she cannot speak (of it), the thanklessness of Jupiter. Ah, how often, not daring to sleep in the lonely woods, did she wander in front of the house and in the fields (that had) once (been) hers! Ah, how often was she driven all over the rocks by the barking of hounds, (and) did the terrified huntress flee in fear of the hunters! Often she hid at the sight of wild beasts, forgetting what she was, and, (although) a bear (herself), she shuddered at the bears, which she caught sight of on the mountains, and she feared the wolves, even though her father (i.e. Lycaon, whom Jupiter had turned into a wolf) was amongst them.

Ll. 496-507.  Arcas and Callisto become constellations. 

Behold, Arcas, the offspring of Lycaon's daughter, is there, quite unaware of his parent, almost thrice five birthdays having passed (i.e. he was in his fifteenth year): and, while he is pursuing wild animals, (and), while he is choosing suitable glades, and is enveloping the Erymanthian forest (i.e. Erymanthus is a mountain range in Arcadia) with woven nets, he comes upon his mother; seeing Arcas, she stood still, and was like (someone who) knew (him). He shrank back from (her) as she kept her unmoving eyes fixedly on him, not knowing (why) he was (so) afraid, and, while she was longing to come nearer (to him), he was on the verge of piercing her chest with his lethal weapon. The all-powerful (one) (i.e. Jupiter) restrained (him), and, at the same time, removed both them and (the possibility of) such a wrong, and, hurrying (them) through the void on a swift wind he set (them) in the heavens, and made (them) neighbouring constellations (i.e. Callisto becomes Ursa Major or Great Bear, and Arcas Ursa Minor or Little Bear).

Ll. 508-530.  Juno complains to Oceanus and Tethys.

Juno rose up (in anger), when the concubine shone among the stars, and she goes down to the sea (to see) white-haired Tethys and old Oceanus, towards whom reverence often affected the gods, and, when they asked about the reason for her journey, she begins (to speak as follows):

"Do you ask why I, the queen of the gods, am present here, (having left) my home in the heavens? Another occupies the sky in my place. I should be lying, if, when the night has made the world dark, you do not see, (as) my wounds, those newly adorned stars there in the height of heaven, where the remotest and, in space, the shortest orbit circles the uttermost pole. And, in truth, why should anyone wish to avoid hurting Juno and dread (her) becoming angry, (if,) by harming (them), I only benefit them? Oh, what a great (thing) I have done! What enormous power I have! I have stopped (her) being a human being: (now) she has become a goddess. I this way I inflict penalties on the guilty, such is my great power. Let him restore her former beauty, and let him take away her animal appearance, as he did in the case of that Argive (girl), Phoronis (i.e. Io). Why not divorce Juno and marry (her), and install (her) in my bed and take Lycaon (as) a father-in-law? But, if this slighting of your injured foster-child moves (you to pity), shut out the seven stars of the Wain (i.e. Ursa Major, viz.: Dubhe, Merak, Phecda, Megrez, Alioth, Mizar and Alkaid) from your dark-blue depths, and expel the stars, which have been set in the heavens, as the price of your lust, and do not let my rival be dipped in your pure water.

Ll. 531-565.
  The Raven and the Crow. 

The gods of the sea nodded in assent: (then) Saturnia (i.e. Juno) in her nimble chariot drives through the clear air, drawn by her multi-coloured peacocks; her peacocks became multi-coloured as recently as when Argus was killed (n.b. when Argus was killed, Juno set his hundred eyes in the peacock's tail), and at the same time as as your wings, (you) croaking raven, were suddenly turned into black (ones), although they had previously been white. For he was once a silvery-coloured bird with such snow-white wings that he was equal to all those spotless doves, nor was he inferior to the geese destined to save the Capitol with their watchful cries, not to the river-loving swan. His speech was a source of harm (to him); because of his ready speech, (he) whose colour was white is now the opposite to white.

There was none more beautiful in all of Haemonia (i.e. Thessaly) than Coronis of Larissa (i.e. a town in Thessaly): certainly, she pleased you, (O god) of Delphi (i.e. Phoebus), while she was faithful (to you) or not caught out. But that bird of Phoebus (i.e. the raven) discovered her adultery, and, merciless informer (that he was), made a journey to his master to expose her secret guilt. The garrulous crow follows him with his flapping wings in order to find out everything, and, when he heard the reason for the journey, he said: "You are not going on a worthwhile journey: do not scorn my prophetic tongue. See what I was and what I am, and consider (whether it is) just: you will find that good faith was my downfall. For, once upon a time, Pallas (i.e. Minerva) shut up Erichthonius, a child born without a mother, in a basket woven out of osiers from (Mount) Actaeon (i.e. the Athenian Acropolis) and gave (it) to the three virgin daughters of double-natured Cecrops (i.e. the mythical founder of Athens, who was part-man, part-serpent) with an instruction not to pry into its secret. I observed what they were doing from a dense elm-tree, (while) hidden in its light foliage. Two (of them), Pandrosus and Herse, observe this instruction without any deceit; (but) one (of them), Aglauros, calls her sisters cowardly and undoes the knots with her hands, and inside they behold a baby (boy) and a snake stretched out beside (him). I report this action to the goddess. I receive such a reward for this that I am told that Minerva's protection has been withdrawn (from me), and I am ranked below that bird of the night (i.e. the owl). My punishment should warn (all) birds not to take risks by speaking out.

Ll. 566-595.  The Crow's story.

But, thinks I, had she not sought me out of her own accord, although I was not asking for any (favour)? You may inquire about this from Pallas herself: although she is angry, she will not deny it, even in her anger. For the celebrated Coroneus beget me in the land of Phocis  - I am saying (something which is) well-known - and (as) I was a royal virgin, and wealthy, I was sought after by suitors - so do not despise me. (But) my beauty hurt me. For (once,) when I was walking along the shore, with slow steps, on the sand dunes, as I was used (to doing), the sea god (i.e. Neptune) saw (me) and grew hot; and, when he had spent his time vainly by entreating (me) with flattering words, he tries force and follows (me). I flee and leave the solid shore behind, and tire myself in vain in the soft sand. Then, I call upon gods and men; my voice does not reach any mortal: (but) the virgin (goddess) (i.e. Minerva) was moved (to pity) for a virgin, and brought help. I stretched out my arms to the sky: my arms began to darken with light feathers. I strove to throw back the cloak from my shoulders: but it had become feathers and had driven their roots deep into my skin. I tried to beat my naked breasts with my hands, but I now had neither hands nor naked breast. I ran: and (now) the sand was no (longer) clogging my feet, but I was lifted up off the ground. Soon I was carried high through the air, and chosen as an innocent companion of Minerva. Yet, how does it benefit (me), if Nyctimene, who has become a bird (i.e. an owl) through her dreadful crime, has taken my place of honour? Or have you not heard the story which is very well-known throughout all Lesbos, (that is) how Nyctimene desecrated her father's bed? Yes, she is a bird, but, aware of her guilt, she shuns the sight (of men) and the light (of day), and hides her shame in darkness and is driven from the whole sky by all (the other birds). 

Ll. 596-611.  Coronis is betrayed and Phoebus kills her.

The raven replies (to her) as she was saying these (things), "I pray that such memories may be bad (ones) in your case: I spurn empty prophecies." He does not abandon the journey (he had) begun, and he tells his master (i.e. Phoebus) that he has seen Coronis lying with a Haemonian (i.e. Thessalian) youth. When he hears this accusation of (her) making love, the god's expression, (the tone of) his lyre, and his colour (all) change at the same time. And, as his mind boiled with increasing fury, he seizes his usual weapons, and strings his bow, which he bends with his arms, and, with his unerring arrow, pierced that breast which had so often been joined with his own breast. On being struck, she gave a groan, and, when the arrow was drawn out of her body, it drenched her white limbs with purple blood, and she cried out: "I could have paid your penalty, Phoebus, but I could have given birth first: now two of us will die in one (person)." So far (she spoke), and (then) she poured out her life together with her blood. A deathly coldness came over her lifeless body.

Ll. 612-632.  Phoebus repents and saves Aesculapius. 

Alas, too late the lover repents of his cruel punishment, and he hates himself because he listened (to the tale) which had so angered (him); he hates the bird, through whom he had been compelled to know of the fault and the cause of his grief, and he also hates the bow and the hand (that pulled it), and, together with that hand, those hastily-fired weapons, the arrows, and he cradles the fallen (girl in his arms), and strives to overcome fate with his belated (healing) powers, but he employs his medical skills in vain. When (all) these (efforts had been) attempted in vain, and he saw her funeral pyre being prepared and her body about to be consumed by those final fires, then indeed he (i.e. Phoebus) gave forth groans, fetched from the bottom of his heart - for the faces of the heavenly gods cannot be touched by tears - , (groans which are) no different from when, with a bullock watching, the hammer, (which is) poised at the right ear (of the slaughterer), comes crashing down with a loud blow, on the forehead of a suckling calf.

Yet, as he poured the fragrant, (but) thankless, incense on her breast, and gave (her body) embraces, and completed her unjust obsequies, Phoebus could not allow his seed to fall into the same ashes, and he tore his son from the flames and from his mother's womb, and bore (him) to the cave of the double-natured Chiron (i.e. he was a Centaur, half-man, half-horse); but he forbade the raven, (who was) hoping for a reward for his truthful tongue, to live amongst the white birds.

Ll. 633-675.  Chiron and Ocyrhoë's prophecies. 

Meanwhile, that half-beast was delighted with this foster-child of divine stock, and rejoiced at the honour of mingling with his charge. Behold, the Centaur's daughter is come, with her shoulders covered by her red hair, whom the nymph Chariclo had once called Ocyrhoë, having given birth (to her) on the banks of that swift-flowing stream (i.e. the Ocyrhoë). She was not content to have learned her father's arts: she (also) chanted the secrets of the Fates (i.e. the Parcae: Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos).

So, when she felt the prophetic frenzy in her heart, and was on fire with the god whom she had enclosed in her breast, she looked at the baby (boy) and cried out: "Grow in strength, (O you) boy (who will) bring health to all the world: mortals will often owe their lives to you; you will have the right to restore lives (which have been) lost; but, if ever you venture (to do) this against the wishes of the gods, you will be prevented by the flame of your grandfather's (lightning bolts) from being able to do it again, and from a god you will become a bloodless corpse, and (then) a god, who was recently a corpse, and (so) you will twice renew your destiny.

You also, dear father (i.e. Chiron), now immortal and caused by the law of your birth to live on through all the ages, will long to be able to die, from the time when you are tormented by the blood of the terrible serpent (i.e. the Lernaean Hydra) coursing through your wounded limbs; and, with you suffering forever, the gods will bring about your death, and the triple goddesses (i.e. the Fates) will untie your thread." Something remained to be told. She lets out sighs from the bottom of her heart, and tears welled up and trickled down her cheeks, and she cries out thus: "The Fates frustrate me, and I am forbidden to say more, and the use of my voice is precluded. These arts are not worth much, (if) they draw upon me the wrath of the gods; I prefer not to know the future. Now my human shape seems to be being taken away (from me), now grass is pleasing (to me) for food, and I have an impulse to run across the wide fields: I am changing into a mare and the form of my kindred. But why completely? Surely I have a father of two shapes. 

(Even) as she says these (things), the last part of her complaint could scarcely be understood, and her words were muddled. Soon it seemed they were words no longer, nor the sound of a mare, but of (someone) copying a mare, and, in a short time, she gave out neighing (noises) and her arms moved in the grass. Then, her fingers combine, and a thin hoof of continuous horn binds together her five fingernails, and the length of her face and neck increases, and the greatest part of her gown becomes a tail, and the loose hair lay across her neck as a mane hung down over her right (shoulder); and, at the same time as her voice and appearance were altered, these marvellous (happenings) also gave (her) a (new) name.

Ll. 676-707.  Mercury, Battus and the stolen cattle.

The demi-god, and the son of Philyra (i.e. Chiron) wept and asked for your help in vain. For you  (i.e. Phoebus) could not rescind mighty Jupiter's command, and, even if you could have rescinded (it), you were not there at the time: you were living in Elis and the lands of Messenia.

That was the time, during which a shepherd's skin covered you, and you had a wooden staff (as) a burden in your left (hand), (and,) in the other, a pipe with seven reeds of different lengths. While love was your concern, and while your pipe was delighting you, your unguarded cattle strayed, they say, into the fields of Pylos (i.e. a city in Elis in the far west of the Peloponnese). The son of Atlas' daughter Maia (i.e. the god Mercury) sees them, and, by his arts, drives (them) into the woods and hides (them there). Nobody saw this theft but an old man well-known in that (part of) the country; the whole neighbourhood called (him) Battus. (As) a guard, he watched the wooded glades, the grassy pastures, and the herds of pedigree cattle belonging to wealthy Neleus (i.e. the king of Pylos and father of Nestor). He distrusted (him), but led (him) away with a coaxing hand, and he says to him, "Whoever you are, my friend, if anyone happens to ask (you) about these herds, say that you have not seen (them); and, so that your favour does not go unrewarded by a deed, take this shining cow as your prize" - and he handed (it) over. Accepting (it), the fellow replied with these words: "You may go your way in safety; that stone over there would talk about your thefts sooner than (I would)," and he pointed to the stone. Jupiter's son pretends to go away, (but) soon returns, and, having changed his form together with his voice, he said, "Countryman, if you have seen any cattle going this way, give me your help, and give up your silence to disclose a theft: when (you do), this heifer, joined together with its bull, will be given (to you)." And, after the reward was doubled, the old man says, "They will be at the foot of those mountains," and at the foot of those mountains they were. The descendant of Atlas (i.e. Mercury) laughed and says, "Would you betray me to myself, (you) rascal? Would you (really) betray me to myself?" And he turns that deceitful body into a hard stone, which even now is called 'The Spy (of Pylos)', and to this stone the old disgrace clings, (though it is) in no way deserved.

Ll. 708-736.  Mercury sees Herse.

From there, the carrier of the caduceus (i.e. Mercury carrying his herald's staff) soared upwards on his pair of wings, and, as he flew, he looked down on the Munychian (i.e. Athenian, because Munychia was one of the ports of Athens) fields and the land beloved of Minerva, and the groves of the cultured Lyceum (i.e. a gymnasium in Athens frequented by philosophers). On that day it happened that, in accordance with custom, innocent girls were carrying unadorned sacred (offerings) in (flower-)wreathed baskets, placed on their heads, to the citadel of Pallas during a festival. Then, the winged god sees (them) returning, and he does not fly in a straight course, but circles around in the same orbit. Just as a very swift bird of prey, spying out the (sacrificial) entrails, while it is (still) fearful, and the priests are standing around the victim in a crowd, wheels in a circle, and does not venture to go further off, but flies eagerly around its hoped-for (prey) on tilted wings, so the agile Cyllenius (i.e. Mercury, who was born on the mountain of Cyllene in Arcadia) inclines his course over the Actaean (i.e. Athenian, because Actaea was a district of Attica) citadel and flies in circles through the same winds. As Lucifer (i.e. the Morning Star) shines more brightly than the other stars, and golden Phoebe (shines more brightly) than Lucifer, so Herse (i.e. one of the three daughters of Cecrops) was pre-eminent among all the virgins, and was the glory of the train of her companions. The son of Jupiter (i.e. Mercury) was stupefied at her beauty, and, although he hung in the air, he was, nevertheless inflamed, as when a Balearic sling flings a lead (shot): on it flies, and on its journey it becomes red hot and discovers fire in the clouds which it did not have (before). He changes course, and, leaving the sky, he makes for the earth, and he does not disguise himself: he had such faith in his appearance. Although it is so, nevertheless he gives it some attention, and he smooths his hair, and arranges his robe to hang neatly, so that all of its golden hem will show, and he has in his right (hand) his polished wand, by which he induces and wards off sleep, and his winged sandals gleam on his trim feet. The private part of the house had three bed-chambers, decorated with ivory and tortoise-shell: of these, Pandrosus possessed the right (hand one), Aglauros the left (hand one), and Herse (the middle (one). (She) who had the left (hand room) was the first to notice Mercury coming, and she ventured to ask the god's name and the reason for his arrival. The grandson of Atlas and Pleione replied to her thus: "I am (the one) who carries my father's words of instruction through the air: my father is Jupiter himself. Nor shall I fabricate the reason (I am here); only may you wish to be loyal to your sister and (consent) to be called my child's aunt. Herse is the reason for my journey. I beg you to help a lover."

Aglauros looks at him with the same eyes with which she had recently beheld the hidden secrets of golden(-haired) Minerva, and demands a considerable weight of gold for her services: meanwhile, she compels (him) to leave the house.

Ll. 752-786.  Minerva calls on Envy.

The warrior goddess turned the orbs of her piercing eyes towards her, and drew sighs from deep within (her) with such force that she shook her breast and the aegis, which was placed on her valiant breast, at the same time. It came to her mind that this (girl) had revealed her secrets with profane hands at the time when she had viewed, against the instructions she had been given, the child (i.e. Erichthonius) of the god who dwelt on Lemnos (i.e. Vulcan), (who had been) born without a mother, and, now, she would be dear to the god (i.e.  Mercury) and dear to her sister (i.e. Herse), and rich with the gold (which she had) acquired because, in her greed, she had demanded (it). Straightaway, she makes for the house of Envy, filthy with its dark decaying matter. Her home was concealed amid deep valleys, lacking sunlight, not accessible to any winds, a melancholy (spot) and (one) completely filled with a numbing coldness, and which is always without fire (and) always abounding in fog. When the feared goddess of war arrived there, she stood in front of the dwelling - for she does not have the right to enter the house - and strikes the door-posts with the butt of her spear. Having been struck, the doors flew open. Inside she sees Envy eating vipers' meat, (which was) the nourishment of her depravities, and she averted her eyes from the sight. But she (i.e. Envy) arises slowly from the ground and leaves the half-eaten body of the snake, and comes forward with a sluggish step; and, when she saw the goddess in her beauty and adorned in her armour, she groaned and distorted her face in a deep sigh. A pallor settles over her face, and (there is) a leanness over her whole body, her eye-sight is completely skewed, her teeth are black with rust, her breast is green with bile, (and) her tongue is suffused with venom. Laughter is absent (from her), unless grief is seen to move someone. She does not enjoy sleep, roused (as she is) by watchful cares, but she perceives men's successes (as) unwelcome, and pines away at the sight (of them), and she carps at (people), and is carped at at the same time, and this is her own punishment. Although she hated her, yet Tritonia (i.e. Minerva: the epithet comes from Lake Triton in Libya, her original home) addressed her briefly with the following words: "Infect one of Cecrops' daughters with your venom. That is your task. Aglauros is the one." Saying no more, she vanishes, and, with a thrust of her spear, she departs the earth.

Ll. 787-811.  Envy poisons Aglauros' heart.

She, seeing the departing goddess with her slanting eye, gave out low murmurs, and regretted Minerva's future success, and she takes up her staff, the whole of which bands of thorns encircle, and, shrouded in black clouds, wherever she goes, she tramples down fields in full bloom, scorches the grass and rips off the highest tree-tops, and she pollutes peoples, cities and homes with her breath. And, finally, she catches sight of Tritonia's citadel (i.e. Athens), flourishing with its arts, its wealth, and its festive peace, and she can scarcely hold back her tears, because she sees nothing worthy of tears. But when she entered the bed-chamber of Cecrops' daughter, she carries out her instructions, and touches her breast with a hand stained with rust, and fills her heart with jagged thorns, and she blows a noxious venom upon (her face), and spreads a pitch-black poison across her bones and scatters (it) into the midst of her lungs. And so that the cause of her pain might not stray across a wider distance, she places her sister before her eyes, and her sister's fortunate marriage and the beauty of the god in her imagination, and she magnifies everything. Tormented by these (things), Cecrops' daughter is bitten by secret grief, and, troubled at night and troubled by day, she moans, and, in her utter wretchedness, she wastes away in slow decay, like ice melting in a fitful sun. She is inflamed no more gently by the good fortune of the lucky Herse, than when fire is placed under (a pile of) prickly weeds, which give no flames and are consumed by a slow-burning heat.

Ll. 812-832.  Aglauros is turned to stone.

Often she longed to die, so that she did not have to look at any of these (things), often (she wished) to report (them) to her stern father (i.e. Cecrops) as a crime; finally, she sat down in front of (her sister's) threshold in order to keep out the god, when he came. To him, as he threw compliments and entreaties and the gentlest of words (at her), she said: "Stop! I am not going to move myself from here, unless I have driven you away." "Let us keep to that compact of ours," Cyllenius (i.e. Mercury) quickly replies: and he opened the doors with (a touch of) his heavenly wand. But, as she tries to rise, her limbs, those which we bend (when getting up) from a sitting (position), cannot be moved due to a sluggish heaviness. Indeed, she struggles to raise herself so that her body is upright, but her knee joints stiffen, a coldness seeps through her loins, and her veins grow pale through loss of blood.

And as an untreatable cancer is wont to spread its evil slowly (but) widely, and adds unharmed limbs to the infected (ones), so a deadly chill gradually came upon her breast, and blocked her vital passages and windpipes. She did not try to speak, nor, if she had tried, did she have a means of speech: stone already possessed her neck, and her face had hardened, and a bloodless statue was sitting (there). Nor was she a white stone: her mind had stained it.

Ll. 833-875.  Jupiter's abduction of Europa. 

When the descendant of Atlas (i.e. Mercury) had inflicted these punishments (on the girl) for her words and impious thoughts, he quits the lands ruled by Pallas (i.e. Attica) and takes to the heavens on outstretched wings. His father calls him aside. Without confessing that love (is) his reason, he says, "My son, (you) loyal performer of my commands, brook no delay and fly down quickly on your accustomed course, and (there is) a land in eastern parts, which observes your mother's (star) - its inhabitants call (it) Sidon by name - , make for it, and direct the royal herd (of cattle), which you will see some distance away grazing on mountain grass, to the (sea) shore!" 

He spoke, and the bullocks, expelled from the mountain, immediately make for the required shore, where the great king's daughter (i.e. Europa) used to play, accompanied by Tyrian virgins. Royalty and love are not well fitted, nor do they stay long in the same house: that father and ruler of the gods, whose right (hand) is armed with the three-forked lightning, (and) who shakes the world with his nod, setting aside the dignity of his sceptre, assumes the shape of a bull, and lows as he mingles with the bullocks, and, beautiful (to look at), he prowls around in the tender grass. As you might expect, his colour is (that) of snow, which the steps of a rough foot have not trampled on, nor the rain-filled south wind has melted. His neck is conspicuous by its muscles, his dewlaps hang down to his shoulders, (and) his horns are, indeed, small, but you could maintain that they were fashioned by the hand (of man), (as they are) purer and brighter than pearl. (There are) no threats in his forehead, nor (are) his eyes frightening; his expression is peaceful. The daughter of Agenor (i.e. the King of Phoenicia) is amazed that he is so beautiful, (and) that he threatens no violence. But, at first, she feared to touch (him), although (he was so) gentle: soon she goes up to (him) and holds out flowers to his glistening mouth. He rejoices in his love, and, while the expected pleasure is approaching, he kisses her hands; he can scarcely distinguish then from now. At one moment he frolics and runs riot in the green grass, at another he lays down his snow-white flank on the yellow sands; and, when her fear has gradually been removed, he now offers his chest to be patted by the virgin's hands, and then his horns to be entangled with fresh wreaths (of flowers). The royal virgin even dared to settle on the bull's back, unaware of whom she was sitting on, while the god, (first) from dry land, and (then) from the shore-line, gradually slips his deceitful footsteps into the shallow waves: then, he goes further out and carries his prize over the surface of the mid-ocean. She is terrified, and, having been taken away (from it), she looks back at the abandoned shore, and grips a horn in her right (hand), (while) the other is placed on his back; her fluttering garments are blown about in the breeze.



Published in Latin Translation


For an introduction to Ovid and the work as a whole, the reader is invited to look at the introduction to Sabidius' translation of "Metamorphoses" Book I, published on this blog on 1st February 2018.

Book III, translated below, focuses on the mythology of Thebes, and contains the following contents: i) Cadmus and the foundation of Thebes; ii) Diana and Actaeon; iii) Semele and the birth of Bacchus; iv) Tiresias; v) Narcissus and Echo; vi) Pentheus and Bacchus. This book also sees the beginning of the second of four sections of the "Metamorphoses", the section featuring "The Revenge of the Gods".

Ll. 1-49.  Cadmus searches for his sister Europa.
And now the god (i.e. Jupiter), setting aside the image of the pretended bull, confessed (who) he (was), and made for the Dictaean country (i.e. Crete, the epithet being taken from Mount Dicte, on which Jupiter was reared), when her father, unaware (of this), orders Cadmus to search for the stolen (girl), and adds that exile (will be) his punishment if he does not find (her), (showing himself) pious and impious by the same action. 
As he roams the world - for who can detect the thefts of Jupiter? - , the fugitive son of Agenor (i.e. Cadmus) shuns his native-land and his father's wrath, and consults Phoebus' oracle (as) a suppliant, and asks in which land he might settle. Phoebus replies: "A heifer that has never suffered the yoke and is free from the curved plough will come up to you in the deserted fields. Take the path (down which) she leads (you), and, on the grassy (plain) where she finds rest, build walls and (there) may you found (your city), and call that (land) Boeotia." 
Well, Cadmus had scarcely come down from the Castalian cave (i.e. where Apollo's oracle on Mount Parnassus was placed), (when) he sees an unguarded heifer moving slowly and showing no mark of the yoke upon her neck. He follows (her) closely and chooses his steps along the footprints of her course, and silently gives thanks to Phoebus (as) the guide of his journey. 
Now he had passed the fords of Cephisus and the fields of Panope: the heifer stopped, and, lifting her beautiful head with its noble horns to the sky, she stirred the air with her lowing, and then, looking back at her companion (who was) following, she sank her hindquarters and lowered her flanks on to the tender grass. Cadmus gives thanks and presses his lips on to the foreign soil, and salutes the unknown hills and fields. He had intended to offer sacrifices to Jupiter. He bids his attendants go in search of water from a running fountain for a libation. 
An ancient wood was there, not violated by any axe, and (there was) a hollow in its midst, thick with twigs and willow bushes, making a low arch of stones as a framework, (and) rich with copious springs, where a snake, sacred to Mars, and distinguished by its golden crest, was concealed in a cave; its eyes flash with fire, its whole body swells with venom, its three-forked tongue flickers, (and) its teeth are set in a triple row. After (those) of the Tyrian race, who had set out, had reached that grove by an unlucky step and had lowered their pitchers into the waters, the dark-green serpent gave out a sound, (and) thrust its head out of that deep cavern and emitted dreadful hisses. The pitchers fell from their hands, and the blood left their bodies, and a sudden tremor takes possession of their terrified limbs. That (snake) winds its scaly coils in restless writhings, and, with a jump, bends itself into a huge arc, and, raised into thin air beyond its middle rings, it looks down over the whole grove, and its body is as great as (the dragon) which separates the twin (constellations of) the Bears, if you see (it) in its entirety. Without delay, it seizes the Phoenicians, whether they are ready to fight, or for flight, or whether fear, itself, was holding (them) back; some it kills with its bite, others with its deep enfoldings, (and) others still with the deadly putrefaction of its venomous breath.   
Ll. 50-94.  Cadmus kills the dragon. 
Now, the sun at its highest (point) had made the shadows small; the son of Agenor (i.e. Cadmus) wonders what has caused his comrades' delay, and searches for the men. His covering was a skin stripped from a lion; (as) a weapon (he has) a lance and a javelin, (tipped) with glittering steel, and a mind surpassing every weapon. 
When he entered the grove, and saw the dead bodies, (and) over (them) their victorious enemy with its vast body licking their sad wounds with its bloody tongue, he cries out: "(O) most faithful bodies, I shall either be your avenger or your companion in death." He spoke, and lifted up a massive rock in his right (hand) and hurled (it) with a great effort. Steep walls with their lofty turrets would have been shattered by its impact: (but) the serpent remained without a wound, protected by its scales like a breastplate, and the hardness of its swarthy hide repelled the powerful blow on its skin. But that same hardness could not also overcome his javelin: this came to rest, fixed in the midst of a bend in its pliant back, and the whole of its steel (point) sank into its entrails. Maddened with pain, it twisted its head behind its back and saw the wound and bit at the shaft (which was) lodged (there), and, when, through its great exertions, it had loosened its (hold) on all areas, it ripped (it) from its back with difficulty; (but) the steel (point) was still stuck in its bones.  
Then, indeed, when a fresh reason was added to its usual wrath, its veins fill (and) its throat swells, and a white froth bedecks its pestilential jaws, and the earth resounds with the scraping of its scales, and the black breath which issues from its Stygian (i.e. deadly, the Styx being the principal river of the Underworld) mouth infects the corrupted air. At one moment, it is girt by coils making a vast circle, at another it rears up straighter than a tall tree, now it rushes with enormous force, like a river impelled by rain, and knocks down the trees in its way with its breast. The son of Agenor gives way a little, and checks its attacks by means of his lion's skin, and holds back its threatening jaws by thrusting forward the point of his sword. The snake is maddened and gives the hard steel useless bites and fastens its teeth on the sword-point. And now the blood began to drip from its venomous throat and soak the green grass with its spatter: but the wound was slight, because it withdrew itself from the thrust and pulled its wounded neck backwards, and, by accepting the wound, it prevented (the steel) sticking fast, nor did it let (it) sink deeper, until the son of Agenor, pursuing (it) all the time, pressed the embedded steel into its throat, while an oak-tree prevented (it) from going backwards, and its neck and the oak were pinned together. The tree bent under the serpent's weight, and groaned at its trunk being lashed by the end of its tail.

Ll. 95-114.  Cadmus sows the Dragon's teeth. 

While the victor examines the body of his vanquished enemy, a voice is suddenly heard; it was not easy to know from whence (it came), but heard it was: "Why, son of Agenor, do you gaze upon the serpent (you have) killed? You, too, will be gazed upon (as) a serpent."

For a long time, (he stands there) trembling, (and) he lost the colour in his face, and his hair stood on end in cold terror. (Then,) behold, Pallas (i.e. Minerva), the hero's patroness, is here, having come down through the upper air, and she orders (him) to till the earth and sow the dragon's teeth, (as) the springboard of future people. He obeys, and, when, by applying the plough, he has opened up a furrow, he strews the required teeth in the ground as human seed.

Then - (it was) beyond belief - the sods of earth began to be set in motion, and, first, the point of a spear appeared among the furrows, then head coverings (i.e. helmets), nodding their painted cones, then shoulders and chests spring up, and arms weighed down with spears, and the corn-field grows thick with the shields of warriors. Just as at festivals in the theatres, when the curtains are raised (at the end), designs are accustomed to rise, at first revealing faces, (and then) gradually the rest, until, being raised by a steady motion, (the performers) are totally exposed, and put their feet on the bottom of the border arms.

Ll. 115-137Cadmus founds Thebes. 

Alarmed by this new enemy, Cadmus prepared to take up his arms: "Do not take up (your arms)!" exclaims one of the people that the earth had produced, "and do not involve yourself in our civil wars!" And, (saying) this, he strikes one of his earth-born brothers, (who is) close-by, with his sturdy sword; (then) he himself falls to a javelin (sent) from afar. (He) who killed him lives no longer than him even, and he breathes out just the air which he had breathed in; the whole crowd is equally stirred by this example, and, in their warfare, these brothers of a moment fall by mutual wounds. And now these youths, (who had been) allotted such a short span of life, were beating their blood-stained mother (i.e. the earth) with their warm breasts, (and there were) five survivors, one of whom was Echion. He, at Tritonia's (i.e. Minerva's) warning, threw his weapons on the ground, and sought an assurance of peace from his brothers and gave (one in return).

The Sidonian stranger (i.e. Cadmus) had these (men as) companions in his work, when he built the city required by Phoebus' oracle.

Now Thebes was standing: now, Cadmus, you could be seen as happy in your exile. (Now) Mars and Venus are your parents-in-law: add to this the children of so noble a wife (i.e. Harmonia), so many sons and daughters  and beloved young grandsons, some (of whom are) also now young men. But, of course, we should wait for a man's last day, and no man should be called blessed before his death and last funeral rites.

Ll. 138-164.  Actaeon returns from the hunt.

A grandson (i.e. Actaeon) was your first reason for grief, Cadmus, amid so many circumstances (which were) favourable to you, and strange horns were added to his forehead, and you, his hounds, (were) satiated with your master's blood. But, if you look closely, you will find that the fault in that (grief) arises from chance not wickedness: for what wickedness did error possess? There was a mountain stained with the blood of many different creatures; and now midday had shortened the shadows of things, and the sun was equally distant from both of his turning-points (i.e. he was in the middle of the sky), when the young Hyantian (i.e. Boeotian), with a calm expression, addresses his partners in the hunt as they were wandering through the solitary wilds: "Our nets and our spears are drenched with the blood of wild beasts, and the day has been fortunate enough. When Aurora (i.e. Dawn), conveyed in her golden chariot, brings another day, we shall resume the work (we have) planned; now Phoebus (i.e. the Sun) is similarly distant from the earth in both (directions), and splits the fields with his heat. Cease your present work and carry (home) the knotted nets." The men carry out his instructions and interrupt their labour.

There was a valley, Garganie by name, dense with pine-trees and sharp cypresses, sacred to Diana of the (high) girded (tunic). In its depths there is a cave with a wooded recess, not fashioned in any way by art: (but) nature through its ingenuity had imitated art; for she had constructed a natural arch out of live pumice-stone and light tufa. On its right, a spring babbles, shining with clear water, and enclosed a wide aperture with a grassy rim.

Here, the goddess of the woods (i.e. Diana), weary from the chase, used to bathe her virginal limbs in the flowing water.

Ll. 165-205.  Actaeon sees Diana naked, and is turned into a stag.

When she reached there, she gave her javelin, her quiver and her unstrung bow to one of her nymphs, her weapon-bearer; after her robe has been taken off, another (nymph) puts (it) under her arm, and two (more) take off (the sandals which are) fastened to her feet; then, more skilful than these, Ismenian (i.e. Theban) Crocale gathers the hair strewn around her neck into a knot, although her own was (still) loose. Nephale, Hyale, Rhanis, Psecas and Phiale drew water and pour (it) over (their mistress) out of deep jars.

While Titania (i.e. Diana, the granddaughter of the Titan Coeus, through her mother Latona, his daughter) is bathing there in her accustomed pool, behold, Cadmus' grandson (i.e. Actaeon), having been freed from his share of the labour, (and,) wandering with uncertain steps through the wood (which is) unknown (to him), comes to the (sacred) grove: thus destiny required of him. As soon as he entered the cave dampened by the spring, having seen the man, as indeed they had, the naked nymphs beat their breasts and filled the whole wood with their sudden shrieks, and they crowd around Diana to hide (her) with their bodies; but the goddess, herself, is taller than them, and stands head and shoulders above all (the others). The colour, which is commonly in clouds stained by shafts of the opposing sun or by (those) of radiant Aurora, was that of the face of Diana, (when) seen without her clothing.

Although the throng of her companions was packed (around her), she, however, stood on the far side and turned back her face, and, as she wished she had her arrows to hand, so she took up some water, which she did have, and threw (it) in the man's face, and, sprinkling his hair with the avenging drops, she added these words, the harbingers of his coming ruin: "Now you may tell, if (indeed) you can tell, that you have seen me with my clothing set aside." Without any more threats, she gives the horns of a mature stag to the head (she has) sprinkled, she lengthens his neck and makes the tips of his ears pointed and she changes his hands into feet and his arms into long legs, and covers his body with a mottled hide. And (then) fear is added. Autonoë's heroic son (i.e. Actaeon) flees away, and marvels that he (is) so swift in his running. But, when he sees his face and his horns in the water, he was about to say, "Poor me!" but no voice followed. He groaned: that was his voice, and tears flowed across a face (that is) no longer his: only his mind remained unchanged. What can he do? Should he return to his home and the royal palace? Shame prevents the former, (and) fear the latter.

Ll. 206-231.  Actaeon is pursued by his hounds. 

While he hesitates, his hounds catch sight of him. First, Melampus and (then) the keen-scented Ichnobates gave the signal by their barking, Gnossian (i.e. Cretan) Ichnobates (and) Melampus of the Spartan breed. Then the others rush (at him), swifter than the rapid wind, Pamphagus, and Dorceus and Oribasos, all from Arcadia, and powerful Nebrophonos, and savage Theron and Laelape, and (swift-)footed Agre, good with her nostrils, and fierce Hylaeus, recently gored by a boar, and Nape, born of a wolf, and Poemenis, who follows the flocks, and Harpyia, accompanied by her two puppies, and Sicyonian (i.e. Peloponnesian) Ladon, bearing a constricted groin (i.e. very thin). (Then there was) Dromus and Canache, and Sticte, and Tigris, and Alce, and white-haired Leucon, and Asbolus with his tufts of black hair, and the very strong Lacon, and Aello, resolute at running, and Thous, and speedy Lycisce with her brother Cyprius, and Harpalos, distinguished by a white (spot) in the middle of his black forehead. (Next came) Melaneus, and Lachne with her shaggy body, and Labros and Argiodus, born of a Dictaean (i.e. Cretan) sire and a Laconian (i.e. Spartan) dam, and Hylactor with his piercing bark, and others whom it is unnecessary to name. This pack, greedy for their prey, pursue (him) over cliffs and crags, and inaccessible rocks, where the way is hard, and where there is no (path) at all.

He runs over places where he has often chased; alas, he flees from his own attendants. He longed to shout, "I am Actaeon, know your own master!" Words fail his courage: the air resounds with barking.

Ll. 232-252.
  Actaeon is killed by his dogs.

First, Melanchaetes made a wound in his back, then Therodamas (and) Oresitrophus clung to his shoulder: they had set out rather late, but (the length of) their journey was reduced by a shortcut over the mountain. While they hold their master, the rest of the pack gathers and sink their teeth into his body. He groans and makes a noise, though not a human (sound), but still (one) which a stag could not make, and he fills the heights with plaintive cries. And, with his knees on the ground, and begging like a suppliant, he casts his countenance around (from side to side) like (he was stretching forth) his arms.

Now, his companions unknowingly urge on the ravening team (of hounds) with their usual exhortations, and look for Actaeon with their eyes, and they shout for the absent Actaeon as if (they are) in competition - he turns his head at (the sound of) his name - , and they complain that he is absent, and that, (because he is) slow, he cannot catch sight of the spectacle being offered by their prey. Indeed, he might wish to be absent, but (in fact) he is (very much) present; he might wish to see, and not also to feel, the savage deeds of his hounds. They surround (him) on every side, and, sinking their jaws into his flesh, they tear their master to pieces in the shape of the pretended stag.

It is said that quiver-bearing Diana's anger was not appeased until his life (was) ended through a multitude of wounds.

Ll. 253-272.  Juno sets out to punish Semele.

The story is in doubt: to some (the punishment) for seeing the goddess is more violent than just, others approve (it) and call (it) fitting on account of her strict virginity; both sides can find reasons (for their view). Only Jupiter's wife does not say anything at all, either of blame or approval, and she rejoices that the house of Agenor has met with disaster, and transfers the hatred (she has) acquired from the Tyrian concubine (i.e. Europa) to the associates of her family. Behold, a fresh cause (of anger) is added to the former (one), and she grieves that Semele was pregnant with the seed of mighty Jupiter. While she has loosened her tongue for quarrels, she said: "What, in truth, have I gained from such frequent reproaches? If I am rightly called the most powerful Juno, (and) if it is right for me to hold the bejewelled sceptre in my right (hand), I must attack her, (and) if I am called queen, and sister, and wife of Jupiter, sister at least, (then) I must destroy her. But, I think, she is content with her secret, and the injury to our marriage will be brief: (but) she is pregnant; that is damaging! and makes manifest the crime in her swollen belly, and she wishes, (something) which has scarcely happened to me, to be made the mother (of a son) by Jupiter alone: so great is her faith in her beauty. I shall cause her to fall; I am not Saturn's daughter, if she does not plunge into the waters of the Styx, drowned by her Jupiter.

Ll. 273-315.  Semele is consumed by Jupiter's fire. 

At this, she rises from her throne, and, hidden by a dark cloud, she comes to Semele's threshold. She did not remove the cloud, before she had impersonated an old woman and turned her (hair) white to (fit) her age, and ploughed her skin with wrinkles, and moved her legs with a tottering step; she also made her voice (sound) like an old woman's, and she, herself, was Beroë, Semele's Epidaurian nurse (i.e. she came from Epidaurus, a city in the Argolid). So, when, while they were pursuing a conversation and had been talking for some time, they came to Jupiter's name, she sighs, and says: "I hope that it (really) is Jupiter; but I am afraid of all these (things): many (men) have entered the bed-chambers of chaste (women) in the name of the gods. But it is not (good) enough to be Jupiter: he must give a token of his love, if he is being really truthful. Beg (him to be) as great and as glorious as (when) he is being entertained by the noble Juno, and (beg) him to assume his insignia before he gives you his embraces."

In such words Juno shaped (the thinking of) the unsuspecting daughter of Cadmus (i.e. Semele). She asks Jupiter for an unspecified gift. "Choose (it)," the god says to her. "You will suffer no refusal. And so that you may believe (it) more (firmly), let the divine power of the Stygian flood be aware of it: that is the fear and the ruler of the gods." Pleased by her (sense of) mischief, and all too confident, and about to perish through her lover's indulgence, Semele said: "In whatever way Saturn's daughter is accustomed to you embracing her, when you enter into the compact of Venus (i.e. love-making), in this way do you give yourself to me." The god wanted to stop her lips as she spoke, (but) her voice had already gone out hurriedly into the air. He groaned; for she cannot un-wish (it), nor (can) he un-swear (it). So, with the greatest sorrow, he climbed to the heights of the sky, and gathered the following clouds by a look, and he added rain-storms and flashes of lightning, intermixed with winds, and cracks of thunder and the inescapable lightning-bolt. Still, he tries to reduce his strength as far as he can, and does not now arm himself with that lightning by which he had overthrown the hundred-handed Typhoeus: there is too much savagery in it. There is another lighter lightning-dart, to which the Cyclopes' hands have added a less savage flame and less wrath; the gods call (these) his follow-up weapons. He takes these and enters Agenor's house. (But) her mortal body could not endure the ethereal storm, and she is consumed by the fire of her nuptial gift. The infant (i.e. Bacchus), still unformed, is torn from his mother's womb, and weak (as he is) - if (the story) is worthy of belief - , he is sewn into his father's (i.e. Jupiter's) thigh, and completes a mother's full term.

His maternal aunt, Ino, rears him secretly in his infancy: then, after he had been given (to them), the Nysaean nymphs (i.e. the nymphs of Mount Nysa or Helicon, the mountain in Boeotia sacred to Apollo and the Muses) hid (him) in their cave, and gave (him) nourishment through their milk.

Ll. 316-338.  The judgment of Tiresias.

While these (things) are being done on earth because of that fatal oath, and the cradle of twice-born Bacchus remains safe, they say that Jupiter, gladdened by nectar, happened to set aside his onerous duties, and employed his leisure-time in exchanging pleasantries with Juno, and said, "You (females') pleasure (in love-making) is certainly greater than (that) which befalls males." She denies(it). They agreed to ask the learned Tiresias what his opinion was: love-making was known to him from both (points of view). For (once) he had disturbed, with a blow of his stick, the bodies of two serpents (as they were) mating in the green forest; then - marvellous (to relate) - from (being) a man, he was made (into) a woman and had lived (as such) for seven years. In the eighth (year) he saw the same (serpents) again, and said, "If there is such power in you being struck that it changes the sex of the giver (of the blow) to the opposite (one), I shall strike you again now." Having struck the same snakes (again), he regained his former shape, and the form he was born with returned.

So, having been appointed (as) the arbiter of this light-hearted dispute, he supports Jupiter's words. Saturnia (i.e. Juno), it is said, was more deeply upset than (was) just, nor (was it just) in relation to the subject-matter, and she condemned the sight of its judge to everlasting night. But the almighty father (i.e. Jupiter) - for it is not permissible for any god to make null and void the actions of (another) god - gave (him) knowledge of the future in return for his lost sight, and (so) lightened the punishment with honour.

Ll. 339-358.  Echo sees Narcissus.

Most honoured by reputation throughout the cities of Aonia (i.e. the part of Boeotia containing Mount Helicon and Thebes), he (i.e. Tiresias) gave blameless answers to the people asking (him questions). The sea-green (i.e. she was a Naiad or sea-nymph) Liriope was the first to put to the test his considered words. Cephisus (i.e. the god of a river in Phocis) once enfolded her in his winding stream, and took (her) by force (while she was) imprisoned in his waters. This most beautiful (girl) gave birth to a child from a full womb, and called (him) Narcissus, who could be loved by nymphs even then. Being consulted about him, as to whether he would (live) to see a long life to a ripe old age, the prophetic seer replies, "(Only) if he does not discover himself." For a long time the augur's pronouncement seemed empty (words): (in the end) the outcome, and the circumstances and the manner of his death, and the novelty of his passion prove it (to be true). For indeed the son of Cephisus (i.e. Narcissus) had added one year to his thrice five (i.e. he was sixteen), and could appear both boy and young man: many youths (and) many girls desired him. But the pride in his delicate form was so firmly felt (that) no youth (and) no girl touched him. (One day) a babbling nymph catches sight of him driving frightened deer into his nets; (she is) the answering Echo, who has not learned to keep quiet (when someone else is) talking, nor (how) to speak first herself.

Ll. 359-401.  How Juno altered Echo's speech.

Still Echo was a body, not (merely) a voice; and yet the chatterbox had no other use of her mouth than she now has, namely that she could repeat (only) the last words out of the many (words spoken). Juno had made (her) like this, because often when she could have caught nymphs lying with her Jupiter on the mountain (side), she, knowingly, detained the goddess in long conversations, while the nymphs fled. When Saturnia realised (this), she says, "Less power over that tongue, by which I have been deluded, and the briefest usage of speech, will be given to you." And in the event she confirms her threats. She only repeats the sounds at the end of what is spoken and returns the words (she has) heard. 
So, when she saw Narcissus wandering through the remote countryside, she grew hot (with love for him), (and) secretly follows his footsteps, and, the more she follows, the more closely she burns with fire, just as when inflammable sulphur, smeared around the tops of torches, catches (fire from) the flames (which have been) brought close to (it). O how often she yearned to come near (to him) with coaxing words and to employ soft entreaties: her nature prevents (it) and does not allow (her to) begin (speaking). But she is ready (to do) what it does allow, (that is) to wait for sounds to which she can return her own words. The boy, separated by chance from his trusty band of companions, had called out, "Is anyone here?" and Echo had replied, "Here." He is astounded, and as he casts his eyes around in all directions, he cries out, "Come (here)!" in a loud voice.  She calls (like the one who) calls (her). He looks around, and, (seeing) no one coming, says again, "Why are you avoiding me?" and he received (in reply) the same words as he had spoken. He persists, and, deceived by the illusion of an answering voice, says, "Let us meet together here!": and Echo, who would never make a more willing reply to any sound, replies, "Let us meet together," and she is as good as her word, and, coming out of the wood, she went to throw her arms around that neck that she so longed for. He runs (from her), and (while) running, cries, "Take your hands away from these embraces! May I die before you can have your enjoyment of me." She said nothing in reply but: "You can have your enjoyment of me." Spurned, she hides herself in the woods, and, in her shame, she covers her face with leaves, and from that (time onward) lives in lonely caves. But still her love endures, and grows with the pain of rejection. The cares that keep one awake diminish (the size of) her pitiable body, and thinness shrivels her skin, and all her bodily sap dissolves into the air. Only her voice and her bones are left: her voice remains; her bones, they say, took on the appearance of stone. From then onward, she hides in the woods and is no longer seen on the mountain (side); (but) she is heard by everyone: it is sound that lives in her.

Ll. 402-436.  Narcissus falls in love with himself. 

As he had scorned her, so (had) he (scorned) the other nymphs sprung from the rivers and mountains, (and) so (had he scorned) the companies of youths. Then, one of those (who had been) scorned, lifting up his hands to the sky, had said, "So may he love himself, (and) so may he be unable to control what he loves!" Rhamnusia (i.e. an epithet of Nemesis, the Goddess of Retribution, taken from the temple at Rhamnum in Attica, where there was a temple to Nemesis) heard this just entreaty.

There was a crystal fountain with shining silvery water, which neither shepherds nor goats grazing on the hillside, or any other flock had touched, (and) which no bird or wild animal and not even a branch falling from a tree had disturbed. There was grass around (it), which the nearby moisture nourished, and a wood, which prevented the place from being warmed by any sunlight. Here, the boy, tired by his zeal for hunting and the heat, lay down, and (is) attracted by the appearance of the place and the fountain; and, while he desires to quench his thirst, a different thirst was created. While he drinks, (he is) captivated by the image of beauty (which he has) seen, he loves a dream without substance, he thinks (something) which is a reflection to be a body. He is astonished by himself, and he clings to the unchanged countenance, motionless as a statue shaped out of Parian marble; lying on the ground, he looks at his twin stars, his own eyes, and his hair, worthy of Bacchus and worthy of Apollo, and his youthful cheeks and his ivory-coloured neck, and the beauty of his face and its redness mixed with snowy whiteness, and he admires everything by which he is (so) admired himself: unknowingly, he desires himself, and (he) who fancies (himself) is himself fancied, and, while he seeks, he is sought, and he burns and is burnt at the same time. How often he gave futile kisses to the deceiving fountain! How often he plunged his arms into the middle of the water, trying to catch hold of the apparent neck, but he does not catch himself in that (water)! He does not know what he sees: but he burns for that which he sees, and the same illusion which deceives his eyes arouses (them). (You) fool, why are you vainly trying to catch a fleeting image? What you are looking for is nowhere; turn away, (and) you will lose what you love! That which you perceive is the shadow of reflected form. It has nothing of itself; it comes and stays with you; it will leave with you, if you can leave!

Ll. 437-473.  Narcissus laments the pain of unrequited love.

No thought of Ceres (i.e. food) or rest can draw him away from that place, but, stretched on the shady grass, he gazes at that false image with unsatisfied eyes, and by his own eyes he was undone; raising himself up a little and holding out his arms to the surrounding woods, he says, "O (you) woods, has anyone (ever) loved more cruelly (than I)? You must know, as you have been the ideal hiding-place for many (lovers). Since your life has lasted for so many centuries, do you remember anyone in (all) the long ages past who has pined away like this? I am enchanted and I see (my beloved); but yet I cannot reach what I see and what is enchanting (me): so great an illusion takes hold of this lover. And I grieve all the more that no wide sea separates us, nor any road, or any mountain, or any walls with locked gates. We are (only) kept away by a little water. He, himself, desires to be embraced: for as often as I offer my kisses to the clear waters, he presses his mouth upwards towards me. You would think he could be touched: it is such a very small (thing) that prevents our love-making. Whoever you are, come out here! Why do you elude me, (you) extraordinary boy? Where do you go to, when I seek you? Surely it is not my form or my age that you are fleeing from, and the nymphs have also loved me. With your friendly look you offer me some unknown hope, and when I have stretched out my arms to you, you stretch out (yours) in turn: when I have smiled, you smile; I have often noticed your tears too, when I was weeping. You also answer my gestures with a nod, and, as far as I can tell from the movement of your lovely lips, you reply in words that do not reach my ears. I am he: I know (it), and my own reflection does not deceive me. I am burning with love for myself, and I kindle and endure the flames. What shall I do? Shall I be courted or court? Why, then, should I court? What I want is (already) with me: my abundance has made me poor. O would that I could withdraw from my own body! Strange prayer for a lover: I want what I love to be distant (from me)!  - And now my grief deprives (me) of my strength, nor is a long time left for my life, and I am cut off in the prime of my youth. Nor is dying painful to me, who will be setting aside my sadness in death. He, who is loved, I do wish (him) to be longer lasting. (But) now we shall die united, two in one spirit."

Ll. 474-510.  Narcissus is changed into a flower. 

He spoke, and returned, in a mad state of mind, to the same reflection, and he disturbed the water with his tears and the image became dim in the rippling pool. When he saw it disappearing, he cried out, "Where are you fleeing to? Stay, (you) cruel (creature), and do not desert me, who loves (you)! I can gaze at what I cannot touch, and so provide food for my wretched passion." And, while he laments, he tore away his tunic from its upper parts, and (then) struck his naked chest with hands of marble. (When) struck, his chest took on a clear redness, just as apples, which (are) partly pale (and) partly red are accustomed to do, or as grapes in their different clusters often take on a purple colour, when (they are) not yet ripe. And, as soon as he sees (all) this (reflected) once more in the clear water, he cannot bear (it) any longer, but, as yellow wax is wont to melt in a light flame, and (as) frost (is wont to thaw) in the warm sunlight, so, weakened by love, he wastes away, and is gradually consumed by a hidden fire; and he no longer retains his colour, that whiteness mingled with red, nor his energy and strength, and (the things) which, (when) seen recently, were (so) pleasing, nor does that body remain, which Echo had once loved.

Still, when she saw this, though angry and remembering, she felt sorry (for him), and, whenever the poor boy said, "Alas!" she repeated, "Alas!" with her echoing voice; and, when he struck his shoulders with his hands, she also repeated the same sounds of pain. His last words, as (he) looked into the familiar pool, were these: "Alas, boy beloved in vain!" and the place echoes the same number of words, and, when he said, "Farewell," Echo says, "Farewell," too.

He (i.e. Narcissus) laid down his weary head in the green grass, (and) death closed those eyes that had marvelled at their owner's beauty.

Then, even when he had been received into the abode of the Underworld, he gazed at himself in the waters of the Styx. His sisters, the Naiads (i.e. the water-nymphs) wailed and offered their shorn hair to their brother, (and) the Dryads (i.e. the wood-nymphs) wailed (too): Echo returned their lamentations. And now they were preparing the funeral pyre, the quivering torches and the bier. (But) nowhere was there a body; instead of a body they find a yellow flower with white petals surrounding its heart.

Ll. 511-527.  Tiresias prophesies Pentheus' fate.

When it had become known, this event spread the prophet's deserved fame throughout the cities of Achaea (i.e. a name for the Greek mainland derived from that of a region in the northern Peloponnese),and the augur's reputation was high. Yet, Pentheus, (i.e. the King of Thebes), the son of Echion (i.e. one of the five surviving heroes sprung from the dragon's teeth, sown by Cadmus), in scorn of the gods, alone out of all (of them) rejects him, and scoffs at the old man's prophetic words, and taunts (him) with the darkness and disaster arising from his lost teeth. He (i.e. Tiresias), shaking his white temples in anger, says, "How happy you would be, if you also became deprived of this eyesight of yours, so that you could not see the sacred (rites) of Bacchus (i.e. the God of Wine)! For the day, which I predict is not far off, approaches, when the new (god) Liber (i.e. Bacchus), the offspring of Semele, will come hither, and, unless you consider him worthy of honour in your sanctuaries (i.e. you build temples in which to worship him), you will be torn (to pieces) and scattered in a hundred places, and you will stain the woods and your mother (i.e. Agave) and your mother's sisters (i.e. Autonoë and Ino) with your blood. (These things) will come about; for you will not think the god worthy of honour, and you will complain that I, in this darkness of mine, have seen too much." (Even) as he (i.e. Tiresias) speaks these (words), the son of Echion (i.e. Pentheus) pushes (him) away; the truth follows his words, and the oracles of the prophet are enacted.

Ll. 528-571.  Pentheus rejects the worship of Bacchus. 

Liber is here, and the fields resound with festive whoopings; the crowd runs, mothers and brides intermingled with men, commoners and nobles, they (all) rush towards the unknown rites.

Pentheus cries out: "What madness, (you) children of the serpent (i.e. the descendants of the offspring of the dragon's teeth, sown in the ground by Cadmus), (you) race of Mavors (i.e. Mars, the God of War, to whom the serpent was sacred) has stupefied your minds? Can the clash of bronze on bronze, those pipes of curved horn, and those magical tricks be so powerful that feminine shrieks, and the madness induced by wine, and filthy crowds and meaningless drumming can overcome (those) whom no sword of war no (military) trumpet, no ranks of spears drawn closely together can terrify? Should I wonder at you, old men, who, when you sailed across the wide seas, placed Tyre and your household gods here on this site, and now you let them be taken without a fight? Or (at) you, O young men, of keener age and closer to my own, for whom it was fitting to carry arms, not (Bacchic) wands, and (for your heads) to be covered with helmets, not leaves? Be mindful, I beg (you), from what stock you were created, and assume the spirit of that serpent, who, (though) one, killed many! He died for his spring and his pool: but you should conquer for your own reputation! He (i.e. Bacchus) put brave (men) to death: (but) you should drive craven (men) away and maintain your country's honour! If fate forbids Thebes to stand for a long time, I wish that siege-engines and warriors might demolish her walls, and that iron and fire might sound (against her). (Then,) we would be wretched (but) without sin, and we should lament our fate, not try to hide (it), and our tears would be free from shame. But now Thebes will be taken by an unarmed boy, whom neither war, nor weapons, nor the use of horses pleases, but (whom) hair drenched in myrrh, and soft wreaths (of leaves) and the purple and gold interwoven on embroidered robes (do please). But (if) you would only stand aside, I will compel him to confess that his father (has been) adopted, and that his sacred (rites are) invented. (When) Acrisius had courage enough to defy a false god (i.e. Bacchus), and shut the gates of Argos at his coming, should his arrival terrify Pentheus and the whole of Thebes? Go quickly" - thus he orders his attendants - , "go and drag this (great) leader here in chains! Let there be no sluggish delay in (carrying out) my orders."

His grandfather (i.e. Cadmus), and Athamas (i.e. his uncle) and the rest of the troop of his followers reproved him with words, and tried in vain to restrain (him). He is made more determined by their warning, and his fury grows, and their very delaying tactics provoke (him). So I have seen a river flowing calmly and with little noise, where nothing obstructs its passage: but wherever trees and stone obstacles held (it) back, it ran foaming and boiling and more fiercely on account of the obstruction.

Ll. 572-596.  Acoetes is captured and interrogated.

Behold, they return stained with blood, and, when their lord asks where Bacchus is, they deny having seen Bacchus; but they did say, "We have taken this companion of his and an attendant of his sacred (rites);" and they hand over (a man) of Tyrrhenian stock, (and) a one-time follower of the god's sacred (rites), with his hands tied behind his back.

Pentheus stares at him with eyes which anger has made terrible, and, although he can scarcely defer the moment of punishment, he says: "O (you) who are about to die, and, by your death, teach the others a lesson, tell (me) your name, and the name of your parents, and (what is) your country, and why you are following the rites of this new way of living."

He replied without fear, "My name (is) Acoetes, my country is Maeonia (i.e. Lydia in Asia Minor), and my parents (come) from humble stock. My father did not leave me any fields which sturdy oxen could till, or any flocks or any herds (of cattle). He, himself, was poor too, and used to catch fish with a net, and hooks, and a rod to snare them as they leapt. His skill was his wealth. When he had handed over this skill (to me), he said, 'Take what possessions I have, (as) the successor and heir to my work.' When he died, he left me nothing except water. This (is) the only (thing) I can call my inheritance.

"Then, so that I should not stick for ever to the same rocks, I learned (how) to direct the steering of boats with a guiding hand, and I observed with my eyes, the rainy constellation of the Olenian Goat, and Taygete (i.e. one of the Pleiads), and the Hyades, and the Bear, and the houses of the winds and the harbours fit for boats.

Ll. 597-637.  Acoetes' story- the beautiful boy. 

"(While) making for Delos, I come, by chance, close to the shore of the island of Chios, and I am brought ashore, by skilful (use of the) oars, and I give a gentle jump and land on the wet sand. When night is passed - as soon as the dawn began to redden - I arise, and suggest the collection of fresh water, and show the path which leads to the spring. I, myself, watch from a high hill for what the wind is promising me, and call my companions, and go back to the boat. 'See, we are here!' says Opheltes, the foremost of my friends, and he leads a boy with the beauty of a virgin along the shore, a prize, or so he thinks, (that he has) found in a deserted field. He (i.e. the boy), heavy with wine and sleep, seems to stumble and to follow with difficulty. I examine his clothing, his appearance and his stature: I saw nothing which could be considered mortal. And I felt (this) and said to my comrades: 'I  am uncertain which god is in that body, but there is a god in that body. Whoever you are, O favour and assist our efforts. Also, may you grant your pardon to these (men).' 'Stop praying for us,' says Dictys; (there was) no one quicker than him at climbing to the top of the yard-arms and sliding back down again by grasping the rigging. Libys approves this, and (so does) yellow-haired Melanthus, the look-out on the prow, and Alcimedon, and Epopeus, the inciter of their spirits, who would give by his voice both rhythm and method to the oars, and (so do) all the others. So blind is their greed for gain. 'Still, I shall not allow this ship to be profaned by a criminal occurrence,' said I: 'Here I (have) the greatest share of authority;' I resist (them) in their (attempts) to board. Lycabas, the most audacious of the whole pack (of them), rages (at me), (he) who had been expelled from his Etruscan city and was paying the penalty of exile for a terrible murder. While I stand firm, he strikes me in the throat with his young fist, and would have thrown (me) into the sea unconscious, if I had not clung on, though dazed, being held back in the rigging. That impious crew approves the deed. Then, at last, Bacchus - for Bacchus it (certainly) was - as if his sleep is disturbed by the noise, and his senses return to his mind from (the influence) of drink, says, 'What are you doing? What is this noise? Tell (me), (you) seamen, by what means I came here? (And) where are you preparing to take me?' 'Set aside your fear,' said Proreus, 'and tell (us) which port you wish to come to: you will be set down in the country you are seeking.' 'Naxos,' says Liber. 'Set your course in (that direction). That is my home; (and) for you it will be a hospitable land.'

Ll. 638-691.  Acoetes' ship and crew are transformed.

"Those treacherous (men) swear by the sea and by all the gods that it would be so, and they tell me to get the painted vessel under sail. Naxos was to starboard. (But) as I trim the sails to a starboard (tack), Opheltes says,'What (on earth) are you doing? O (you) madman? What frenzy (has got) into you?' Someone (says) on their behalf, 'Hold on! Make towards port!' The majority of them indicate to me what they want with a nod, the others by a whisper in my ear. I was horrified, and said, 'Someone else can take the helm,' and distanced myself from this act of wickedness and deception. I am rebuked by everyone, and the whole crew murmur against me. (One) of them, Aethalion, cries, 'Obviously, all of our safety depends on you,' and he himself takes my place and discharges my work, and, abandoning Naxos, seeks the opposite (course). Then the god, playfully, as if he had only just realised their deceit, looks at the sea from the curved stern, and, as though (he were) in tears, says, 'Sailors, these (are) not the shores (which) you promised me. This (is) not the land (which) I asked for. Through what deed have I deserved this punishment? What glory is there for you, if young men (cheat) boys (and) many (men) cheat a single (person)?' I was already weeping: (but) that impious crew scoffs at my tears, and lashes the surface (of the sea) with their quickening oars.

"Now, I swear to you, by the (the god) himself - for there is no god more present than he (is) - that the (things) I am saying to you (are) as true as they surpass belief in the truth: the ship stood still in the water, just as if it were occupying a dry dock. Amazed, they persist in the lashing of their oars, and they unfurl the sails and try to run with double power. (But) ivy impedes the oars and creeps (over them) with a binding grip, and adorns the sails with its heavy clusters. (The god,) himself, his forehead wreathed with clusters of grapes, shakes a lance covered with the leaves of vine-shoots. Around him lie tigers, and the insubstantial phantoms of lynxes, and the savage bodies of spotted panthers. The men leapt overboard, whether madness or fear caused this, and Medon (is) the first to begin to become black all over his body and for his spine to be bent into a distinct curve. Lycabas begins (to speak) to him: 'What (sort of) a monster are you turning into?' he said, and, as he spoke, his jaws became wide and his nose hooked, and his hardened skin developed a scale. Then, Labys, hampered when he wishes to turn the oars, saw his hands shrink into a small size, and that he no longer had any hands (but) they could already be called fins. Another, eagerly grasping the twisted ropes, no longer had any arms, and, bending backwards, jumped into the sea with his limbless body: his newest (feature) is a sickle-shaped tail, (which) bends like the horns of a half-moon. They make jumps in all directions and drench (everything) with much spray, and they emerge once more, and return to the depths again, and they play (together) in the form of a chorus (i.e. like dolphins), and they hurl their bodies (around), and blow out the sea (water) received through their broad nostrils.

"Of a group of twenty - for that (was) how many the ship was carrying - I alone was left. My body shaking with fear and cold, the god rouses me with difficulty, saying, 'Cast out the fear from your heart, and steer for Dia (i.e. Naxos).' Having settled on that (island), I have adopted its religious (practices) and celebrate the sacred (rites) of Bacchus."

Ll. 692-733.  Pentheus is killed by the Maenads.

"We have (only) lent our ears to these long circumlocutions," says Pentheus, "so that our anger could consume its strength in delay. (You) attendants, remove this (man) quickly, and send his body, tortured by harsh torments, down to Stygian night." At once, the Tyrrhenian Acoetes (is) dragged away and shut up in a strong dungeon; but, while the instruments of cruelty, the iron and fires, were bring prepared, the doors flew open of their own accord, and the chains slipped from his arms unaided, without anyone loosening (them).

The son of Echion (i.e. Pentheus) persists (in his purpose). He did not order (anyone else) to go, but now went himself to where (Mount) Cithaeron (i.e. a mountain in Boeotia, near Thebes), chosen for performing the rites, was resounding with the chants and shrill cries of the Bacchantes. As a brave horse snorts and shows his love for the fight, when the military trumpeter with his brazen sound has given the signal (to attack), so the bruised sky resounds with long (drawn-out) howls of woe, and anger turns Pentheus' (countenance) white again when he hears the noise.

Near the middle of the mountainside there is a patch of ground with woods surrounding its edges, (but) free of trees and visible all round. Here, as he watched the mysteries with profane eyes, his mother (i.e. Agave) (is) the first (to) see Pentheus, (is) the first (to) have been roused into a mad run, (and is) the first (to) have wounded him by hurling her thyrsus (i.e. her Bacchic wand). Oh, (you) two sisters (i.e. Autonoë and Ino) , come here!" she shouted. "That boar which is wandering in our fields, that boar is mine to sacrifice." The whole maddened crowd rushes at him; they all come together and pursue the frightened (man), now terrified, now speaking words free of violence, now cursing himself, now confessing that he has sinned. Stricken, he still cried out, "Bring (me) your help, aunt Autonoë! Let Actaeon's shade (n.b. Actaeon was her son) move your spirit." She did not remember who Actaeon (was), and tore off the suppliant's right (arm): the other (arm) is ripped off by Ino with a wrench. (Now) the unhappy (man) has no arms which he can hold out to his mother, but, showing his mutilated trunk, shorn of its limbs, he cries, "Mother, look (what you've done)!" Seeing (these things), Agave howled, tossed her neck and shook her hair in the air, and, tearing off his head (and) clasping (it) in her blood-stained fingers, she shouts, "Ho! my companions, this work is our victory!" The wind does not strip the leaves from a lofty tree, which, touched by autumn's frost (are) already scarcely attached (to it), more quickly than this man's limbs are torn by those impious hands.

Warned by such examples, the women of the Ismenus (i.e. a river near Thebes) celebrate the new rites, burn incense, and worship at the holy altars.


Published in Latin Translation


Readers are referred to Sabidius' translation of Book VIII of Ovid's "Metamorphoses" which was published on his blog on 25th March 2010 for information about this great poem. The text of this extract is taken from the 'Cambridge Latin Anthology', Cambridge University Press, 1996.
Ll. 354-360, 368-399. The story opens when Narcissus is out hunting one day.
A babbling nymph, who has learned neither to keep quiet for (someone) talking, nor to speak first herself, the answering Echo, espied him (i.e. Narcissus), driving some frightened deer into his net. Still, Echo was a body, not (only) a voice: and yet the chatterbox had no other use of her mouth than she now has, so that she could repeat (only) the very last words of many (words).....Therefore, when she saw Narcissus wandering through the remote countryside, she burned with love (for him), she follows his footsteps stealthily, and the more she follows, with a closer flame does she burn, just as (lit. not otherwise than) when the lively sulphur smeared on the top of a torch catches the flames brought close (to it). O how often she wished to approach (him) with sweet words and to employ gentle prayers. Nature prevents (her) and does not allow (her) to begin, but, (something) which (her nature) allows, she was ready to await the sounds to which she returns his words. The boy, by chance having separated from the trusty band of his companions, had said, "Is anyone there?" and Echo had replied, "...one there?" He is astonished, and gazes (lit. distributes his glance) in all directions, (and) he shouts with a loud voice, "Come (here)! She calls (him) calling. He looks around, and, no one coming, says again, "Why are you avoiding me?" And as many (words) as he spoke, she had recourse to his words. He persists, and, having been deceived by the illusion of an answering voice, he says, "Let us meet hither," and Echo, to no sound ever about to reply more gladly, answered "Let us meet," and emphasises the words herself, and, coming out of the woods in accordance with her (words), she came (to him) in order to throw her arms around the desired neck. He flies, and, fleeing, he says, "Take your hands away from these embraces; may I die before you may have (lit. before there may be to you) enjoyment of me." Spurned, she hides in the woods, and, ashamed, she covers her face with leaves, and from that (time) she lives in lonely caves, but yet her love persists and grows with the pain of rejection: the cares that keep one awake (lit. the wakeful cares) weaken her wretched body, and thinness shrivels her skin, and all the moisture of her body dissolves into the air; only her voice and bones survive: (then only) her voice remains: thence she hides in the woods and is seen on no mountain. She is heard by all: it is sound which lives in her.
Ll. 411-429. Narcissus rejected the love of many others, too; one of them prayed that Narcissus might himself fall in love without success. One day he found himself on a grassy bank beside a secluded, crystal-clear spring.
Here, the boy, tired both by his enthusiasm for hunting and by the heat, sat down, attracted both by the appearance of the place and its fountain; and, while he desired to quench his thirst, another thirst grew, and, while he drank, having been captivated by the image of beauty which he had seen (lit. having been seen), he loves a hope without a body, he thinks (something) which is a shadow to be a body, he himself is astonished at himself, and he clings to the unchanged countenance, motionless, as a statue shaped from Parian marble. Lying (lit. having been placed) on the ground, he looks at his twin stars, his own eyes (lit. lights), worthy of Bacchus (i.e. the god of wine) and worthy of Apollo (i.e. the god of youth and prophecy), and his youthful cheeks and ivory-coloured neck and the beauty of his face and its redness mixed in a snowy whiteness, and he admires everything, by which he is himself admired. Unknowingly, he desires himself, and (he) who fancies himself, is himself fancied, and, while he seeks, he is sought, and he burns and is burned at the same time. How often he gave futile kisses to the deceiving fountain! How often he plunged his arms in the middle of the water, trying to capture the apparent neck, but he does not catch himself in those things! He does not know what he sees, but for that which he sees he burns, and the same error which deceives his eyes arouses (him).
Ll. 484-508. Frustrated by his hopeless love for himself, Narcissus pines away, and, in his desperation, begins to inflict wounds upon himself.
And, as soon as he saw these things, in the water (which was) clear once again, he could not endure (it) any longer, but just as yellow wax (is accustomed) to melt in a gentle flame and the morning frosts are accustomed (to melt) in the warm sun, so, weakened by love, he wastes away and is gradually consumed by a hidden fire; and there is no longer (any) colour to his redness mixed with whiteness, nor vigour and strength and (the things) which, only just seen, were pleasing, nor did his body last, which Echo had once loved. Yet, when she saw these things, although angry when (lit. and) remembering, she felt pity, and whenever the wretched boy had said "alas", she repeated "alas" in an echoing voice. And, when he had beaten his own arms with his hands, she also gave back the same sound of grief. The final words of him gazing into his accustomed water were these: "Alas, the boy beloved in vain!" The spot returned the same number of words, and "Farewell" having been said, Echo also said "Farewell." He laid down his tired head on the green grass, (and) death closed his eyes still admiring the appearance of their owner. Even then, when he had been accepted into the resting place of the Underworld, he gazed at himself in the waters of the Styx (i.e. the river of death). His sisters, the Naiads (i.e the water nymphs) wailed, and , their tresses having been cut off, offered (them) to their brother, and the Dryads (i.e. the wood nymphs) lamented; Echo echoes their lamentations. And now, they were preparing his funeral pyre and the brandished torches and the bier. (But) his body was nowhere (to be seen); in place of his body, they find a yellow flower with white petals surrounding its centre.


Published in Latin Translation


For his next piece of translation Sabidius turns to Ovid, after Virgil and Horace the third great poet of Golden or Augustan Age Latin (i.e. 40 B.C.-14 A.D.). In his 'Metamorphoses', written in fifteen books of hexameter verse, he describes the miraculous 'Transformations' of classical mythology, in which humans or demi-gods are changed into other forms, such as stars, trees and birds. Ovid's verse is polished and smooth, and he is a gifted story teller. This work, which is a true treasure chest of classical mythology, has had a huge influence on subsequent European literature. Book VIII includes eight 'Metamorphosis' myths, including the haunting tale of Daedalus and Icarus, and the delightful account of how Philemon and Baucis, despite their poverty, seek to show hospitality to two travellers who turn out to be Jupiter and Mercury in disguise. In this translation, Sabidius seeks to keep as closely as possible to the structure of Ovid's sentences, and, where words have to be understood, these are put into parenthesis. The text is that of H.E. Gould, M.A. and J.L. Whiteley, M.A. in the Macmillan's 'Modern School Classics' series (1969). This translation breaks up the text using the divisions employed in this edition.
Ll. 1-24. How Megara was besieged by King Minos of Crete.
Now Lucifer (i.e. the Morning Star), revealing the shining day, and putting to flight the hours of night, Eurus (i.e. the East Wind) falls, and the moist clouds lift: the gentle Austri (i.e. the South Winds) give passage to the returning sons of Aeacus (i.e Peleus and Telamon) and to Cephalus, favourably propelled by which they reached the harbour before they were expected (lit. before expectation). Meanwhile, Minos ravages the coast of Lelegaia (i.e. Megara) and tries out the strength of his army on the city of Alcathous (i.e. Megara), which Nisus rules, amongst whose revered white hair and in the middle of whose head a lock bright with purple grows, the pledge of his great kingdom. The horns of the rising moon were rising for the sixth time, and the fortune of war was still in the balance, and for a long time victory flies between both (kings) with doubtful wings. There was a royal tower built upon tuneful walls, in which the child of Leto (i.e. Apollo) is said to have put down his golden lyre. The sound of it is absorbed in the stone. Thither the daughter of Nisus (i.e. Scylla) was accustomed often to climb in the days when there was peace, and aim at the sounding stone with a small pebble; in war she was also accustomed often to watch from that place the stern contest of battle. And now, owing to the length of the war, she even knew the names of the chiefs and their arms and their horses and their dress and Cydonian (i.e. Cretan) quivers. She knew before others the face of the leader, the son of Europa (i.e. Minos), more indeed than it was good (for her) to know.
Ll. 24-66. How Scylla, daughter of Nisus, the Megarian King, fell in love with Minos.
With her as judge, Minos, if he had hidden his head, in a helmet crested with plumes, was handsome in his helmet; if he took up his shield gleaming with gold, it became (him) to have taken up his shield. His arm having been bent, he had hurled a flexible spear: the maiden praised his skill joined with strength. An arrow in place, he has bent his broad bow: she swore that Phoebus (i.e. Apollo) was standing thus, his arrows having been taken up. But, whenever, his bronze (helmet) having been removed, he exposed his face, and he sat on the back of his white steed, caparisoned with embroidered saddle-cloth, and curbed its foaming mouth, the maiden daughter of Nisus was scarcely mistress of herself, scarcely in control of her wits (lit. of a sound mind): she called the javelin happy which he touched, and blessed the reins which he grasped in his hands. She has an impulse, let it only be permitted, to carry her maiden steps through the enemy ranks; she has an impulse to cast her body from the top of the tower into the Cnossian (i.e Cretan) camp, or to open the brazen gates to the enemy, or (to do) whatever else Minos might wish. And as she sat beholding the white tents of the king of (Mount) Dicte (i.e. Crete) she cries that: "It is in doubt whether I should rejoice or grieve whether this mournful war is being waged: I grieve because Minos is the enemy to one loving (him), but unless there had been war he could never have been known to me. But, myself having been received (as) a hostage, he could lay aside the war: he could have me (as) his companion, me (as) a pledge of peace. If she who bore you (i.e Europa), most beautiful of creatures, was such as you yourself are, the god (i.e Jupiter) was deservedly on fire on account of her. Oh, I should be thrice fortunate, if, having glided through the air on wings, I could alight within the camp of the Cnossian king, and, having confessed myself and my passion, I should enquire for what dowry he was willing to be bought: (and to beg him) only not to demand my father's citadel. For may the bed of my dreams be lost rather than I should be mistress of my desires through treachery. Yet the mercy of an appeased conqueror has often made (it) profitable to many to be defeated. He is certainly waging a just war on behalf of his murdered son (i.e. Androgeus), and he is strong both in his cause and in the arms defending his cause. As I believe, we shall be conquered. If this end awaits our city, why should his army and not my love unbar these my walls to him? (It is) better for him that he should be able to conquer without slaughter and delay and the expending of his own blood. Certainly, I shall not have to fear lest anyone pierces your breast, Minos, unaware, for (is there) anyone so hard that he dares to aim his cruel spear against you not ignorantly?"
Ll. 66-94. How Scylla, for love of Minos, betrayed her father to him.
The plans are pleasing (to her) and her resolve is fixed to surrender her country together with herself as dowry and to bring an end to the war. But to wish is too little. "A guard protects the entrance, and my father keeps the keys of the gates. I, unfortunate one, alone fear him; only he delays my desires. Oh that the gods acted (so that) I were without a father! Surely each man is a god to himself: destiny is inconsistent with idle prayers. Another woman, if she had been fired by such strong desire, would long since have delighted to destroy whatever was standing in the way of her love. And why should another be braver than I? I should venture to go through fire and sword. But in this case there is no need of any fire or sword: there is a need to me of the paternal lock. That (lock) is more precious to me than gold, that purple (lock) shall make me blessed and mistress of my heart's desire." Night, chief nourisher of desire, came upon (her) uttering such things, and her boldness grew in the darkness. The first (hour) of rest was come, in which slumber takes possession of the breast, wearied with the cares of the day. Silently she enters her father's bed-chamber, and - alas, evil deed! - she, his daughter, robs her father of his fateful lock, and, having obtained her impious spoil, she carries her prize with her, and, having gone out swiftly through a gate into the midst of the enemy, so great is her confidence in her deserts, she reaches the king. Thus she addressed him, being horrified: "Love has prompted this crime. I, the princess Scylla, offspring of Nisus, surrender to you the guardian spirit both of my own country and my own. I seek no reward, except you. Take the purple lock as a pledge of my love, and believe that I am now handing over to you not (just) a lock of hair but my father's life". And in her impious right hand she holds out the gift.
Ll. 95-151. How Scylla, scorned by Minos for her treachery, plunged into the sea to follow his departing fleet and was changed into the sea-bird Ciris.
Minos shunned the proferred (gift); and, deeply troubled by the sight of the strange deed, he replied: "May the gods banish you from their own world, O disgrace of our age, and may earth and ocean be denied to you. Certainly, I shall not allow Crete, the cradle of Jupiter, which is my own sphere, to suffer contact with so great a monster". He spoke: and when the most just law-giver had imposed terms on his captured enemies, he ordered the hawsers of his fleet to be loosened and the brazen sterns to be filled up with rowers. When Scylla saw that the keels, which had been launched (lit. having been launched), were afloat on the sea, and that their leader had not bestowed a reward on her for her crime, her prayers having been exhausted, she passed into violent rage and stretching out her hands, her hair dishevelled, she shouted in fury, "Whither do you flee, the author of your success having been abandoned, O (you) whom I preferred to my native country, (you) whom I preferred to my father? Whither do you flee, pitiless one, whose victory is both my crime and my merit? Does neither the gift given to you nor my love move you, nor the fact that all my hope was centred on you alone? For whither shall I turn, having been abandoned? To my country? It lies defeated. But imagine that it still existed: it is barred to me by my betrayal. To the face of my father, who I have presented to you? My fellow-citizens detest (me) deservedly: neighbours fear the example (I have set). I am banished from the world, so that Crete alone might lie open to me. If you also forbid it, and abandon me, ungrateful man, your mother is not Europa, but cruel Syrtis or an Armenian tigress or Charybdis tossed by a south wind. Nor (are) you a son of Jupiter, nor was your mother seduced by the appearance of a bull: that story of your birth is false: the bull who sired you, was real and feral and captured by the love of no heifer. Take your revenge, Nisus, my father! Rejoice at my miseries, my city lately betrayed (by me)! For I confess that I have deserved and am worthy to perish. But may someone destroy me from among those whom I have impiously injured. Why should (you) who have conquered through my sin, prosecute my crime? Let this be, both to my country and to my father, a crime: to you a service. That adulterous woman (i.e. Pasiphae) who deceived the savage bull with wood and bore discordant fruit in her womb is indeed worthy of you (as) a mate. Are my words reaching your ears in any way at all? Or do the winds and the same (winds which drive) your ships, ungrateful man, bear away my words (as) empty? Now indeed it is not surprising that Pasiphae preferred a bull to you: you had more beastliness. Woe (is) me! It pleases (him) to hasten, and the torn water ripples with oars. And my country recedes together with me. You gain nothing, O (you) forgetful of my deserts in vain, I shall follow (you) though you are unwilling, and, having embraced your curving stern, I shall be dragged through the long seas". She had scarcely spoken, (when) she leapt into the waves, and she reached a ship, her passion making strength, and she clings, an unwelcome companion, to a Cnossian hull. When her father saw her, for he was now hovering in the air and had just been made an osprey with tawny wings, he began to swoop in order to tear with crooked beak at (her) as she clung (lit. clinging). In fear, she let go of the stern, and a light breeze seemed to sustain (her) as she fell (lit. falling), lest she touched the sea. It was her plumage; changed into a bird with feathers, she is called Ciris (i.e. the Shearer), and this name is obtained from the shorn lock.
Ll. 152-168. How Daedalus, the great craftsman, built for Minos the Labyrinth, to house the half-beast Minotaur.
When, having set forth in his ships, he reached the land of Crete, Minos paid his offerings to Jupiter, the bodies of a hundred bulls, and his palace was adorned with trophies set up. This reproach to his family (i.e. the Minotaur) had grown and the loathsome adultery of the mother stood revealed in the strangeness of the double-formed monster. Minos resolved to remove this disgrace from his chamber and to shut (it) into a house of manifold passages and a dark dwelling. Daedalus, renowned for his skill in the art of carpentry, builds the work; and he confuses the signs, and leads the eyes into wandering this way and that down the windings of various passages. Not otherwise than the clear Maeander sports in the fields of Phrygia and ebbs and flows in his doubtful course and, meeting himself, he looks on the waters (yet) to come, and turning now to his sources, now to the open sea, he drives the wavering waters: thus Daedalus makes up the countless passages with wanderings, and he himself could scarcely retrace (his footsteps) to the entrance: the treachery of the building is so great.
Ll. 169-182. How Ariadne, daughter of Minos, fleeing from Crete after aiding Theseus to slay the Minotaur, had her diadem changed into a constellation by Bacchus.
When he had imprisoned in it the two-fold form of bull and of young man, and the third lot renewed every nine years had slain the monster twice fed on Attic blood, and, when with the help of a maiden the elusive entrance, reached again by none of his predecessors, had been found by the thread which he wound up (lit. having been wound up),the son of Aegeus (i.e. Theseus), the daughter of Minos (i.e. Ariadne) having been seized, set sail for Dia (i.e. Naxos), but cruelly abandoned his companion on that shore. Liber (i.e. Bacchus) brought embraces and help to her, having been deserted and much complaining, and, so that she might be renowned as an everlasting star, he cast into the sky the diadem from her brow. It flies through the slight breezes, and, as it flies, the gems are turned into brilliant fires and they come to rest, the shape of a crown remaining, in a place mid-way between the Kneeler and the one who grasps the Serpent (i.e. Ophiucus).
Ll. 183-220. How Daedalus, wearying of his long exile in Crete, sought to escape to Athens, with his son Icarus, by flying through the air on man-made wings.
Meanwhile, Daedalus, hating Crete and his long exile and touched by love for his native land, had been shut in by the sea. "Although he blocks land and sea," he said, "yet surely the sky lies open. We shall go that way. Although Minos possesses everything, (yet) he is not master of the air." He spoke and he applies his mind to unknown skills and seeks to change his nature. For he places feathers in order, begun by the smallest, a shorter (one) following a longer (one), so that you would think they had grown upon a hill-side: thus a rustic pipe sometimes rises with reeds of unequal length, then he binds (them) with twine in the middle parts and with wax in the lower parts, and bends (them) thus arranged in a gentle curve, in order to imitate real birds. The boy Icarus stood together (with him), unaware that he was handling his own dangers, now with a smiling mouth he would try to catch at the feathers which the fluttering wind had ruffled, now he would soften the yellow wax with his thumb, and through play he hindered his father's wonderful work. When the final touch to the undertakings was made, the craftsman himself balanced his body upon twin wings and hung on the moved air. He prepares his son also, and he says, "I warn you to fly upon a middle course, Icarus, lest, if you go too low, the sea may weigh down your wings, if (you go) too high, the fire (of the sun) may burn (you): fly between each one. And I bid you not to watch Bootes (i.e. the Waggoner) or Helice (i.e. the Great Bear) or the drawn sword of Orion (i.e. the Hunter); with me (as) your guide, traverse the route". At the same time he delivers his precepts for flying and he fits the strange wings on his shoulders. between the work and the warnings the old man's cheeks were wet, and the paternal hands trembled. He gave kisses, destined not to be repeated again, to his son, and, raised upon his wings, he flies in front, and fears for his companion like a mother bird who has brought forth a tender fledgling from her high nest into the air; and he encourages (him) to follow, and teaches (him) the dread skills and he himself moves his own wings and looks back at (those) of his son. Someone, while he captured a fish with his trembling rod, or a shepherd leaning on his staff or a ploughman (leaning on) his ploughshare, saw them and was amazed, and believed that they were gods who could traverse the sky.
Ll. 220-235. How Icarus, flying too near the sun, lost his wings and fell to his death in the sea.
And now Juno's Samos was on the left side - both Paros and Delos had been left behind - , Lebinthus (was) on the right, and Calymne, fruitful in honey, when the boy began to rejoice in adventurous flight, and he forsook his guide and, carried away with a desire for the sky, he pursued too high a course. The nearness of the fiery sun softens the fragrant wax, the fastenings of his wings. The wax melted; he shakes his naked arms and lacking the oarage (of the feathers) he does not grip any breezes, and his blue lips, crying out the name of his father, are caught by the sea: it took its name from him. But his unfortunate father, no longer a father, said "Icarus", "Icarus," he said, " where are you? In which place am I to seek you? "Icarus," he continued to say: he saw his wings in the waves, and he cursed his skills, and he buried the body in a tomb, and the land was called by the name of the buried (boy).
Ll. 236-259. How the nephew of Daedalus, Perdix, who having been flung by him from the Acropolis, was changed by Minerva into a partridge, rejoiced in the sorrow of Daedalus.
A chattering partridge observed him from a muddy ditch placing the body of his son in an earth-mound, and clapped with its wings and its joy was demonstrated by a song: (it was) then a single bird, and had not been seen in earlier years, and had recently been made a bird, (as) an everlasting reproach to you, Daedalus. For his sister, unaware of destiny, had entrusted her offspring (to him) to be taught, a boy, twelve (lit. twice six) birthdays having been spent, with a mind capacious towards instruction. He even took as a model the backbone in the middle of a fish
which he had observed (lit. having been observed) and he cut endless teeth (i.e. a row of teeth) with sharp iron, and he invented the power of the saw. He was also the first to bind two branches of iron out of one hinge, so that they, standing apart at an equal distance, one arm stood fast (while) the other arm described a circle (i.e. the compass). Daedalus was envious, and hurled (him) headlong from the sacred citadel of Minerva, having pretended that he had slipped. But Pallas (i.e. Minerva) who favours (men of) genius, caught him, and made (him) a bird, and clothed (him) in the middle of the air with (feathered) wings. But the strength of his once quick intelligence was absorbed into his wings and into his feet: his name remained, even what (it was) before (i.e a partridge). This bird, however, does not lift her body on high, nor makes her nests in trees and on tall crags: she flies near the ground, and places her eggs in hedgerows and, mindful of her former fall, she fears the heights.
Ll. 260-300. How Theseus, returning home from Crete, was begged by the townsfolk of Calydon to aid them in destroying a monstrous boar, sent by Diana to ravage their land.
And now the land of Sicily supported the weary Daedalus, and Cocalus was deemed merciful, arms having been taken up on behalf of the suppliant; already Athens had ceased to pay its mournful tribute through the merits of Theseus. The temples are wreathed, and they call upon warlike Minerva with Jupiter and the other gods, whom they worship with the blood that had been vowed (lit. having been vowed) and the offerings which had been given (lit. having been given) and with caskets of incense. Wandering rumour had spread abroad the name of Theseus through the cities of Argos (i.e. Greece), and the peoples, whom rich Achaea (i.e. Greece) contained, entreated his help in their great peril. Although it had Meleager, Calydon humbly sought his help with anxious prayer. The cause of their asking was a boar, the servant and champion of an angry Diana. For they say that Oeneus had paid as libations for a year full of triumphs the first fruits of corn to Ceres, his wine to Lyaeus (i.e. Bacchus), (and) oil of Pallas (i.e. pressed from olives) to Minerva. Begun with the gods of farming the much sought after honour was extended to all the gods: they say that the altars of the forsaken daughter of Latona (i.e. Diana), having alone been left without incense, stood idle. "But I shall not bear (this) with impunity, and (I) who (am called) unhonoured, shall not also be called unavenged," she cried, and, having been (thus) slighted, she sent (as) an avenger thorough the fields of Oeneus a boar (so great) as grassy Epirus has not bigger bulls, but the fields of Sicily have smaller (ones). His eyes flash with blood and fire, his high neck is stiff, and his bristles stand on end like hard spears, and they stand like a rampart, as if his bristles (were) tall spears: hot foam runs down across his broad flanks with a hoarse hissing, his tusks are as big as the teeth of Indian (beasts)(i.e. elephants), lightning comes from his mouth, (and) the leaves are on fire from his breath. Now he tramples under foot the crops (while) growing in the blade, now he mows down the full-grown hopes of the farmer fated to weep, and he has destroyed the corn in the ear; in vain the threshing-floors, in vain the barns await the promised harvests. The bulging fruits (of the grape) with their long vine-shoots are laid low, as also the berry of the always leafy olive with its branches. He rages too among the flocks: neither the shepherd nor the dogs can guard them, nor (can) the the fierce bulls (guard) the cattle. The people scatter in flight, and they do not think that they are safe except within the walls of the city: until Meleager and his chosen band of young men met together in their desire for glory.
Ll. 301-328. How many great hunters - and one huntress - joined Prince Meleager to hunt the Calydonian boar.
(Such were) the twin sons of Tyndareus (i.e. Castor and Pollux), one renowned for boxing, the other on a horse, and Jason, the builder of the first ship, and Theseus, with Pirithous a blessed partnership, and the two sons of Thestius (i.e. Plexippus and Toxeus) and Lynceus and swift Idas, (both) offspring of Aphareus, and Caeneus, no longer a woman, and fierce Leucippus and famed Acastus, and Hippothous and Dryas and Phoenix, sprung from Amyntor, and the twins of Actor (i.e. Eurytus and Cleatus), and Phyleus, sent from Elis. And Telamon was there (lit. not absent), and the begetter of the mighty Achilles (i.e. Peleus), and the son of Pheres (i.e. Admetus) and Iolaus of the Hyantes (i.e. Boeotia), tireless Eurytion and Echion, unconquered in running, and Lelex from Naryx and Panopeus and Hyleus and fierce Hippasus and Nestor, still in his early years, and (those) whom Hippocoon sent from ancient Amyclae, and the father-in-law of Penelope (i.e. Laertes) with Arcadian Ancaeus, and the wise son of Ampyx (i.e. Mopsus) and the son of Oecleus (i.e. Amphiaraus), still safe from his wife, and she of Tegea, the pride of the Lycaean forest (i.e Atalanta). A polished buckle fastened her robe at the top, her hair was simply (arranged), gathered in a single knot: hanging from her left shoulder, the ebony guardian of her arrows rattled, her left (hand) was also holding a bow. Such she was in dress: her face (was) such as one could truthfully call maidenly in a boy, (and) boyish in a maiden. At the same time as he saw her, so the Calydonian hero (i.e. Meleager) desired her, (though) heaven forbidding (this), and he conceived hidden fires (of love), and he said, "O happy the man, if she shall deem him worthy (as) husband!" But neither time nor modesty allowed (him) to say more: the work of the great contest is more pressing.
Ll. 329-364. How the hunt began, and how Enaesimus was slain by the boar's tusk.
A wood thick with trees, which age had in no way cut down, begins from the flat and looks out on sloping fields. After the men had come to this, some stretch their nets, some take away the chains from the dogs, some follow the pressed foot-prints, and they wish to find their dangerous (quarry). There was a deep gorge, into which rivulets of rain water had been used to discharge themselves: the pliant willow and light sedge and marsh rushes and osiers and the small reeds overshadowed by tall bulrushes occupy the bottom of the hollow. Roused from this (covert), the boar rushes violently into the middle of his foes, like lightning struck from clashing clouds. The forest is laid low by his onslaught, and the felled wood gives out a crash. The young men shout out, and bravely hold in their stretched out right (hands) their spears with broad quivering iron-tips. He rushes forward and scatters the hounds, as each one stands in the way of (him) raging, and disperses the barking pack by an attack on their flank. The spear of Echion, hurled from the shoulder first was in vain, and dealt a slight wound to the trunk of a maple. The next (spear), if it had not received the excessive strength of its sender, seemed likely to stick in the back at which it was aimed (lit. having been aimed): it goes too far. The thrower of the spear (was) Jason of Pagasae (i.e. Thessaly). "Phoebus", said the son of Ampyx, " grant me to hit with a sure spear (that) at which it is aimed!" As far as he could, the god assented to the prayer: the boar was struck by it, but without a wound: Diana took away the iron tip from the flying spear; the wood arrived without its point. The anger of the wild beast was stirred, and it was blazing no more mildly than a thunderbolt: flame shoots forth from his eyes (and) also breathes from his breast. And as a mass of rock flies sped by the tautened strings, when it is aimed at either walls or towers full with soldiers, thus the wound-dealing hog rushes upon the young men with a determined attack, and threw down Eupalamon and Pelagon, guarding the right wing: their comrades carried (them) off as they lay (lit. lying). But Enaesimus, sprung from Hippocon, did not escape the fatal blows: trembling and preparing to turn his back, his sinews failed (him), his leg muscle having been torn.
Ll. 365-402. How the boar was first wounded by Atalanta, and how Ancaeus was slain.
And the Pylian (i.e. Nestor) might perhaps have perished on this side of Trojan times: but his effort having been taken from his spear placed (in the ground), he vaulted into the branches of a tree, which was standing nearby, and in this safe place he looked down upon the enemy from whom he had fled. His teeth having been ferociously whetted upon the bark of an oak-tree, he (i.e the boar) is bent upon destruction and, trusting in his freshly sharpened tusks, he gored with his turned up snout the thigh of the great son of Eurytus (i.e. Hippasus). But the twin brothers (i.e. Castor and Pollux), not yet heavenly stars, both conspicuous, were both riding on horses whiter than snow, and both brandished with a quivering movement the points of their lances hurled through the air. They would have inflicted wounds, if the bristle-bearer had not gone into dark woods, places passable neither to spears nor to a horse. Telamon went in pursuit, and unwary due to his eagerness to advance, having been caught by the root of a tree, he fell headlong. While Peleus lifted him up, she of Tegea placed a swift arrow on her bow-string and fired (it) from her bent bow. The shaft, having been fixed under the ear of the beast, reddens his bristles with a trickle of blood. But she was not more joyful at the success of her blow than Meleager. He is thought to have seen the blood first and, having seen (it), and (to be) the first to point (it) out to his comrades, and to have said, "You will receive the honour deserved by courage". The men blushed, and exhort themselves and inspire fresh courage with shouting, and hurl weapons without order. Their number hampers the (weapons) having been thrown and hinders the blows which (each) seeks (to inflict). Behold the axe-bearing Arcadian (i.e. Ancaeus), burning to meet his doom: "See how far the weapons of a man surpass those of a woman, and give way to my work, O young men!" he said. "Although the daughter of Latona herself may protect him with her weapons, yet my right hand will destroy him, with Diana unwilling." Such things he said proudly from his boastful lips and, raising his two-headed axe with both his hands poised for a downward stroke: the beast forestalls his reckless (foe), (and) aimed his twin tusks at his upper groin and where the way to death is nearest. Ancaeus falls, and his heaped up entrails flow tumbling out with much blood: the earth was moistened with his blood.
Ll. 403-424. How the boar was slain at last by Meleager.
Pirithous, offspring of Ixion, went against the contending foe, brandishing his hunting spear in his strong right (hand). To him the son of Aegeus said, "Stand still from afar, O (you) dearer to me than myself, (you are) half of my soul. It is permitted (to us) to be brave at a distance: reckless courage was the undoing of Ancaeus". He spoke and hurled his heavy cornel-wood(shaft) with bronze spear-point. This having been well aimed and about to be achieving of its wish, an evergreen branch from an oak-tree blocked (it). The son of Aeson (i.e. Jason) threw his spear, which chance turned away from him (i.e. the boar) to the destruction of an undeserving barker, and, having been hurled into the midst of its flanks, pinned it to the earth through its flanks. But the aim of the son of Oeneus varies, and, two having been thrown, the first spear was fixed in the earth, the second in the middle of his back. Nor (is there) a delay: while he rages, while he whirls his body round in circles and spews out bubbling foam together with fresh blood, the author of the wound comes forward, and provokes his foe to fury and buries his gleaming hunting spear in the shoulder turned towards (him). His comrades prove their joy by a favourable shout and seek to join his right (hand) with their own right hands; and, marvelling, they gaze on the savage beast lying on (so) much earth, nor as yet do they think that it is safe to touch (it), but however each one stains his spear in its blood.
Ll. 425-444. How Meleager slew his uncles, Plexippus and Toxeus, for having resented his bestowal of the spoils upon Atalanta.
He himself, his foot having been placed there, trod on the deadly head and said thus, "Take the spoil (that is) of my right, Nonacria (i.e. Atalanta), and let my glory come into share with you". Forthwith he gives (her) the spoils, the skin prickly with stiff bristles and the head, remarkable for its enormous tusks. The author of the gift is for a delight to her (along) with the gift. Others were envious and there was a noise through the whole company. Out of these the sons of Thestius, stetching their arms out, shouted in a loud voice, "Come, put (them) down, and do not usurp our honours, woman, nor let trust in your beauty deceive you, lest the author (of the gift), conquered by love, is far from you", and they took the gift away from her, (and) the right of (bestowing) the gift from him. The son of Mars (i.e. Meleager) did not endure (this), and gnashing his teeth in swelling rage, he said, "Learn, seizers of another's honour, how much deeds differ from threats", and he pierced with an impious sword the heart of Plexippus, fearing nothing such. He does not allow Toxeus, uncertain what to do, and equally wishing to avenge his brother and fearing (to suffer) the fate of his brother, to waver for a long time, and his weapon, warm from the first murder, is warmed up again with the blood of a kinsman.
Ll. 445-514. How Althaea, mother of Meleager, long torn by her two loyalties, at last revenged herself upon him for his saying of her brothers by committing to the flames the sacred brand on which his life depended.
Her son the victor, Althaea was bearing gifts to the temples of the gods, when she saw her dead brothers being brought back. A wail having been given, she fills the city with sorrowful cries and changed black (garments) with golden garments. But as soon as the name of the agent of death was reported, all grief passed away, and she turned from tears towards a passion for vengeance. There was a brand, which, when the daughter of Thestius (i.e. Althaea) was in childbed, having brought forth her offspring, the three sisters ( i.e. the Parcae or Fates) placed in the fire, and spinning the threads of fate with thumb pressed on, they said, "O (child) just born, we give the same life-span both to this wood and to you". This incantation having been cast, as soon as the goddesses had departed, the mother snatched away the brand from the fire, and doused (it) in running water. It had been hidden for a long time in the depths of the innermost parts (of the palace), and, (thus) preserved, had safeguarded your years, young man. The mother had brought it forth, and orders pinewood and kindling to be laid in position, and (these things) having been laid, she brings the fatal flames near (them). Then, having tried four times to place the brand in the flames, four times she checked her design (lit. beginnings). Both mother and sister were at war (within her), and two different names tug at one heart. Often her face went pale in dread of her projected crime, often burning anger gave its redness to her eyes, and now her face was like (one) threatening I know not what cruel (deed), now (one) whom you could believe had pity. And, whenever the fierce heat of her anger had dried her tears, yet tears were found. And as a vessel, which the wind and the tide at war with the wind catches, feels the twin powers and obeys the two uncertainly, not otherwise the daughter of Sestius wavers under conflicting emotions and by turns lays aside her anger and, having laid (it) aside, (then) rekindles (it). However, the sister begins to be stronger than the parent, and to appease the ghosts of her blood, she is pious in her impiety. For, when the deadly fire grew strong, she said, "Let that pyre consume my flesh". And as she held the fatal wood in her dread hand, the unhappy (creature) took her stand before the funereal altar and says, "Eumenides (i.e. Furies), three goddesses of punishment, turn your faces to a sacrifice pleasing to the Furies. I take revenge and I commit a sin. Death must be atoned for by death: a crime must be joined to a crime, a body to a body: may the guilty house perish amid griefs heaped together. Shall the fortunate Oeneus enjoy his son (as) the victor, (while) Thestius shall be bereft. You will both grieve rather. You only, fraternal shades and new-made spirits, perceive my dutifulness and receive my sacrifices to the dead prepared at great cost, the evil child of my womb. Alas for me! Whither am I carried off? Pardon a mother, brothers! My hands lack the strength for undertakings. I confess that he deserves to die: (but being) the agent of death is displeasing to me. Therefore, shall he carry (it) off without punishment, and living (as) victor and puffed up with success itself shall he have the kingdom of Calydon, (while) you shall lie (as) a handful of ashes and shivering ghosts? I shall not indeed allow this. Let that impious man perish, and may he bring down with him both his father's hope and his kingdom, and the ruin of his fatherland. Where is my mother's mind? Where are the loving duties of parents and the pains of twice five months which I endured? Oh, would that you had burned (as) an infant in that first fire, and I had suffered it (then)! You have lived by my favour; now you will die by your own deserts. Take the reward of your action, and return the life twice given (to you), first by your birth, then by the brand having being snatched, or add me to the tombs of my brothers. I both take (it) and I cannot (hold it). What am I to do? Now the wounds of my brothers and the picture of so impious a slaughter are before my eyes, now the love and the name of a mother breaks my spirit. Ah, wretched me! You will win in an evil manner, but conquer, my brothers, provided that I myself shall follow the solace which I shall have given to you, and you (down to the shades). She spoke, and, averting (her eyes), with a trembling right hand, she threw the funereal brand into the midst of the fire. That brand either gave or seemed to have given a groan, as, having been caught by the reluctant fire, it burned.
Ll. 515-546. How Meleager died, and how his sisters, grieving for death, were changed by Diana into guinea-hens.
Unaware (of this) and absent (from home) Meleager is burned by that flame, and feels his vital organs being scorched by unseen fire, but he overcomes the terrible pains by his courage. He grieves, however, because he is falling through a cowardly death and (one) without blood, and he calls the wounds of Ancaeus lucky: and with a groan he calls on his aged father and his brothers and his loving sisters and the partner of his bed and perhaps his mother too with his last utterance. Both the fire and his pain flare up and subside again: both were extinguished together, and his spirit gradually passed into the thin breezes with white ash gradually shrouding the embers. Haughty Calydon lies low: both young and old grieve, both the common people and the nobles lament, and Calydonian mothers, the daughters of Evenus,having torn their tresses, beat (their breasts). Outstretched upon the ground, his old father begrimes his grey hair and his face in the dust, and curses his long life-span. As for the mother, her hand, aware within itself of the dreadful deed, enforced punishment, a sword having been driven through her vital organs. Nor, if heaven had given to me a hundred mouths sounding with tongues and a capacious wit and total inspiration, could I report the dismal laments of his wretched sisters. Heedless of decorum, they beat their breasts black and blue, and, while the body was there, they both fondle and fondle the body again; they give kisses to (the body) itself, (and) they give kisses to the bier, having been placed (on the pyre). After (it was turned) to ashes, they press the scraped up ashes to their bosoms, and lie stretched over his tomb and, embracing the name marked upon the stone, they poured their tears on to his name. Sated at last by the disaster to the house of Parthaon, the daughter of Latona raises them up, except Gorge and the daughter-in-law of high-born Alcmena (i.e. Deianira), feathers having been born on their bodies, and she extends long wings along their arms and makes their mouths horny, and, (thus) transfigured, she launches (them) on the breeze (i.e. as guinea-hens or Meleagrides).
Ll. 547-611. Achelous, the river-god, feasting Theseus on his homeward way, tells how certain nymphs were changed into islands.
Meanwhile, Theseus, having performed his share of the common task, was going to the Erecthean (i.e. Athenian) citadel of Tritonis (i.e. Minerva). Achelous, swollen with rain, stopped his journey and caused a delay for him as he went (lit. going). "Enter my house, glorious descendant of Cecrops," he says, "and do not entrust yourself to these greedy waters. They are accustomed to carry thick tree-trunks and to roll boulders slantwise with a great noise. I have seen high-walled stables adjacent to the bank carried away with their flocks, nor did it then profit oxen to be strong or horses (to be) swift. Snow, having been loosened from the mountains, this torrent has also engulfed many young men's bodies in its eddying currents. Rest is safer until the river may run in its usual channel, (and) until its bed may hold reduced waters." The son of Aegeus agreed, and he replied, "I shall make use of both your house and your advice," and he made use of both. He enters a hall built of porous pumice-stone and rough (lit. not smooth) tufa: the ground was moist with soft moss; shells panelled the roof with purple-shell alternate. And now, Hyperion (i.e. the sun) having traversed two parts of the day, Theseus and the companions of his labours reclined on couches: on this (side) was the son of Ixion, on that side (was) Lelex, the hero of Troezen, now sprinkled as to his temples with scattered grey (hairs), and others whom the Acarnanian river (god), very joyful at (entertaining) so great a guest, had deemed worthy of so great an honour. Immediately, nymphs, bare as to the soles (of their feet), laid the tables which had been brought up (lit. having been brought up) with the feast, and, the banquet having been removed, they served unwatered wine in jewelled (goblets). The very great hero (i.e. Theseus) looking at the sea lying beneath his eyes, says, "What (is) that place?" He points with his finger, and (says) "Tell me the name which that island bears: and yet it does not seem a single (island)".To this the river (god) replies, "(That ) which you see is not one. Five lands are lying (there): the distance conceals the gaps (between them). And so that you may wonder less at scorned Diana's deed, these (islands) were once Naiads, who when they had slaughtered ten (lit. twice five) bullocks and had invited the rural gods to the sacrificial feast, led the festal dance, unmindful of me. I swelled up and was as great as I flow whenever I (am) fullest, and terrible alike in anger and in flood I tore away woods from woods and fields from fields, (and) I rolled along the nymphs, now at last mindful of me, and with the ground (on which they stood). My flood and (that) of the sea separated the continuous land, and broke (it) into as many pieces as you see the Echinades (i.e. the Hedgehog Isles) in the midst of the sea. Yet, as you can see, far off in the distance an island, pleasing to me, has withdrawn; a mariner calls (it) Perimele: I took away the name of virgin from her whom I loved (lit. having been loved); her father Hippodamas took this badly, and pushed the body of his doomed daughter from a cliff into the sea. I caught her up, and bearing her as she swam (lit. swimming) said, 'O Trident-bearer, having received as your portion the kingdom of the waves, in which we end up (and) whither we sacred rivers flow, come hither, Neptune, and calmly hear (me) praying. I have injured her whom I carry. If her father Hippodamas had been merciful and level-headed, he ought to have pitied her, (and) to have pardoned me. Bring help and grant a place of safety, I pray, Neptune, to (one) drowned by paternal savagery; or it shall be permitted that she herself becomes a place. May I embrace her also'. The king of the sea moved his head and shook all the seas in his agreement. The nymph was terrified, yet she swam. I myself touched her breast as she swam (lit. of [her] swimming), throbbing with agitated motion. And as I touched it, I felt her whole body grow hard and her breast was hidden by the earth in which it was dressed (lit. having been dressed in). While I spoke, new earth surrounded her floating limbs, and from her altered limbs a solid island grew (i.e. Perimele)."
Ll. 612-681. Lelex tells the scoffer Pirithous how an old peasant Philemon and Baucis entertained Jupiter and Mercury.
With these words the river (god) was silent. His wonderful account had moved everyone. The son of Ixion scorns (those) believing, both as he was a despiser of the gods and (as he was) headstrong: "You are telling stories, Achelous," he said, "and you think the gods to be much too powerful, if (you think) they give and (then) take away the shapes (in nature)". All were aghast, nor did they approve any such words, and, before all, Lelex, mature in mind and in age, says thus: "The power of heaven is unmeasurable and has no bounds, and whatsoever the gods have decreed is accomplished. And in order that you may doubt less there is in the hills of Phrygia an oak-tree near to a linden, (both) surrounded by a low wall: I myself have seen the place, for Pittheus sent me into the lands of Pelops, once ruled by his own father. Not far from here is a swamp, once habitable land, now waters frequented by divers and coots from the marshes. Jupiter came hither with the appearance of a mortal and with his father (came) the grandson of Atlas, the herald with his wings laid aside (i.e. Mercury). They went to a thousand homes, seeking a place and rest: bolts closed a thousand homes. However, one received (them), small indeed, roofed with straw and marsh reeds, but dutiful Baucis, an old woman, and Philemon of equal age were joined in that (cottage) from their youthful years; they grew old in that cottage, and by admitting their poverty and by bearing (it) with a not impatient spirit they made (it) light. Nor does it matter whether there you ask for the masters or the servants: the two (of them) are the whole household, (and) the same (two) both obey and give orders. Therefore, when the heaven-dwellers arrived at the small house and entered the low doors with bowed head, the old man bade (them) to relax their limbs on a couch which had been placed there (lit. having been placed), on which bustling Baucis threw a rough cloth. Then she stirred up the warm ash in the hearth and rekindles yesterday's fire and feeds (it) with leaves and dry bark and coaxes it to flames with her old woman's breath, and she brought down finely split sticks and dry twigs from the roof and chopped them up and put them under a small bronze cauldron, and she strips of its leaves a cabbage which her husband had picked from his well-watered garden; he lifts down with a two-pronged fork the smoked back of a pig, hanging from a blackened beam, and he cuts off a small part from the back which had been preserved (lit. having been preserved) for a long time, and he makes tender (the piece) cut off in the boiling water. Meanwhile, they deceive the intervening hours with conversation and prevent the delay being felt. There was a beech-wood bowl there, hung from a hook by its strong handle; it is filled with warm water and receives their limbs which need to be refreshed (lit. needing to be refreshed). In the middle (of the room) there is a mattress (made) from soft sedge placed upon a bed with a frame and feet of willow-wood; they cover this with a cloth which they had not been accustomed to spread out except on a festal occasion, but even this cloth was both cheap and old, (although) not meet to be resented by a willow-wood couch. The gods reclined. Girt-up and trembling, the old woman places a table (beside them). But the third foot of the table was unequal (in height): a potsherd made (it) equal. As soon as this, having been shoved underneath, raised up the slope, green mint wiped clean the levelled table. Here two-coloured berries of the virgin Minerva (i.e. olives) are placed, and pickled autumn cornel-cherries in flowing lees, and endives and radishes and a lump of curdled milk, and eggs, lightly cooked in the not searing embers, all on earthenware (dishes). After these things, a carved mixing bowl of a similar fine material is placed (there) and cups made from beech-wood, coated with yellow wax where they are hollow. There is a small delay, and then the hearth dispatched the hot main course. And the wine of no long vintage is brought back again, and, having been set aside for a while, gives way to the second (course). Herein there are nuts, herein there are figs mixed with dried dates and plums and sweet-smelling apples in broad baskets and grapes gathered from purple vines. In the middle (of the table) there is a gleaming honey-comb. Over everything pleasant faces and a good will, neither sluggish nor mean.
Ll. 682-727. How Philemon and Baucis, at last recognising their guests, were made guardians of their temple and were changed in extreme old age into trees.
Meanwhile, they see that as often as the mixing bowl is drained it is refilled of its own accord, and that the wine rises up through itself: astonished by the strangeness they are fearful, and with upturned hands both Baucis and frightened Philemeon repeat prayers and beg pardon for the meal and the non-existent preparations. There was a single goose, the guardian of the tiny house: the hosts were preparing to sacrifice it to the gods (who were their guests). Swift of wing, it exhausts (them), slowed down by age, and for a long time eludes (them), and at last it was seen to have fled to the gods themselves. The gods forbade (it) to be killed, and said, 'We are gods, and this impious neighbourhood will pay deserved penalties; (but) it shall be granted to you to be exempt from this disaster. Only leave your home and accompany our steps to the heights of the mountain'. They both obey and,supported by sticks, they struggle to place their footsteps up the long slope. They were as far away from the top as an arrow, which has been fired (lit. having been fired) is able to go: they turned their eyes and see the rest (of the countryside) submerged by a flood, and that their house alone was remaining. And while they marvelled at these things and while they bewail the fate of heir own (friends), that old cottage, small even for two occupants, is changed into a temple: columns took the place of forked poles, the roof thatch grows yellow and the roof appears gilded, and the doors (appear) engraved, and the earth (appears) covered over with marble. Then, the son of Saturn (i.e. Jupiter) uttered these things from his calm mouth: 'Tell (us), just old man and woman worthy of a just husband, what you desire'. Having spoken a few (words) with Baucis, Philemon reveals their shared decision: 'We ask to be priests and to watch over your shrine, and, since we have spent years together, may the same hour carry the two (of us) off, nor may I ever see the tomb of my wife nor may I have to be buried by her'. Fulfilment follows their prayer; they were guardians of the temple while life was given (to them). Worn out by the years and by old age, when they were standing by chance before the sacred steps and they were relating the fortunes of the place, Baucis (saw) Philemon sprouting leaves, and old man Philemon saw Baucis sprouting leaves. And now, with a tree-top growing on top of both of their faces, they exchanged words in turn, while it was (still) possible, and they said, 'Farewell O spouse', at the same time as greenery covered their hidden faces. The inhabitant of Thynia (i.e. Bithynia) still points to the neighbouring tree-trunks there (sprung) from their twin body. Trustworthy (lit. not frivolous) old men narrated these things to me, nor was there (a reason) why they should wish to deceive (me). Indeed, I saw the wreathes hanging from the branches, and, placing a fresh (one), I said, 'The pious are a care unto the gods, and (those) who have worshipped are worshipped'."
Ll. 728-779. Achelous tells how Erysichthon the impious felled a tree in which dwelt a Dryad.
He had ceased, and both the tale and the the teller had moved everyone, especially Theseus. The Calydonian river (god) leaning upon his elbow addresses him who was wishing (lit. wishing) to hear of the wonderful deeds of the gods with these (words): "O bravest man, there are (some) whose form has changed (only) once, and (who) stayed in this new state; there are some who have the power (lit. to whom there is the power) to transform themselves into several shapes, as you have (lit. as [there is] to you), Proteus, inhabitant of the sea which encompasses (lit. encompassing) the earth. For (men) saw you, now (as) a young man, now (as) a lion; now you were a violent boar, now a serpent whom they would fear to touch; now horns made you a bull. Often, you could appear (as) a stone, often (as) a tree also: sometimes he was a river, imitating the form of flowing waters, sometimes fire, the contrary (element) to water. Nor has the wife of Autolycus, the daughter of Erysichthon (i.e. Mestra), (any) less power. Her father was (the sort of man) who despised the divine power of the gods and burned no fragrant offerings on the altars. He is even said to have violated the grove of Ceres with an axe and to have defiled the ancient woods with iron. An enormous oak-tree, with the strength of years, was standing in these (woods), a forest in itself (lit. alone): fillets and votive tablets and garlands surrounded its middle, the tokens of powerful (i.e. granted) prayers. Often the Dryads conducted festal dances under it: often they would also trip around the circumference of its trunk in order with hands joined, and the measure of the oak made up fifteen (lit. thrice five) ells. And (lit. nor not) indeed the rest of the wood was as much lower than this (oak) as the grass was lower than all the wood. Yet the son of Triopas (i.e. Erysichthon) did not keep his axe away from it for this reason, but he orders his servants to cut down the sacred oak: and, when he saw (them) hesitating, (although) having been (so) bidden, an axe having been seized from one (of them), the impious man pronounced these words: 'Not only (though) beloved by the goddess but even though it may be the goddess herself, it will now reach the ground with its leafy tops'. He spoke, and, while he raised his weapon for a slanting blow, the oak-tree, sacred to Deo (i.e. Ceres), trembled greatly and gave a groan: and the leaves at the same time as the acorns began to grow pale and the long branches (began ) to assume a pallor. As the impious hand made a wound on its trunk, blood flowed out from its shattered bark, not otherwise than (as) gore is accustomed to be poured out from a severed neck when a huge bull falls (as) a victim before the altar. All were appalled: but one among (them) all dares to prevent the crime, and restrain the savage axe. The Thessalian (i.e. Erysichthon) sees him and said, 'Take this reward for your pious mind!' and he turns his axe from the tree to the man, and lops off his head; and hews at the oak, attacked anew, and this sound is made from the midle of the oak: 'I am the nymph beneath this tree, beloved of Ceres, who, as I die, prophesies that punishment for your deeds is at hand for you, (as) compensation for my death'. That man persists in his crime, and, tottering under countless blows and pulled down by ropes, the tree collapsed and toppled much of the wood by its weight.
Ll. 780-825. How Erysichthon, for his sin, was smitten by Ceres with insatiable hunger.
Horrified both by the forest's and their own loss, all the sisters come to Ceres, lamenting with black garments, and beg for the punishment of Erysichthon. The most beautiful (goddess) agreed with them by the movement of her head and shook the fields laden with heavy corn; and she contrives a kind of punishment worthy of pity, if he were not by reason of his own deeds worthy of pity by no one, (namely) to rack (him) by deadly Hunger. Since she is not fit to be approached by the goddess herself, for the Fates do not allow both Ceres and Hunger to meet, she hails a rural Oread, one of the mountain spirits, with these words: "There is a place on the furthest borders of icy Scythia, a gloomy terrain, a barren land without crops, (and) without trees. Sluggish Cold and Pallor and Trembling and also ravenous Hunger live there. Command that she (i.e Hunger) hide herself in the accursed heart of that sacrilegious man, and that an abundance of foodstuffs should not conquer her, and that she should conquer my strength in a struggle. And that the length of the journey should not frighten you, take my chariot, take my dragons, whom you may guide on high by the reins". And she gave (them): the chariot having been given, she, soaring through the air, arrives in Scythia, and on the top of a frozen mountain - they call it Caucasus - she freed the necks of the serpents, and, Hunger having been sought, she saw her in a stony field plucking at the scanty grass with her nails and teeth. Her hair was shaggy, her eyes (were) hollow, (there was) a pallor in her face, her lips (were) grey with neglect, her throat (was) rough with scurf, her skin, through which her entrails could be seen, (was) drawn tight, her dry bones were visible under her sagging loins, the space for a stomach was instead of a stomach, (and) you would have thought her breasts hung (free) and were supported only by the framework of her backbone. Her leanness had magnified her joints, and the round of her knees was swollen, and her ankles bulged in great swellings. When she saw her from afar - for she did not dare to come up close - , she reports the commands of the goddess: having delayed for a little, although she remained far off, (and) although she had only (just) come there, she yet seemed to feel hunger; and she drove the dragons back to Haemonia (i.e. Thessaly), turning (them) on high with the reins. Hunger carries out Ceres' commands, although she is always opposed to her work, and she was carried through the air on the wind to the appointed palace, and forthwith she enters the bed-chamber of the sacrilegious man, and she embraces (him) relaxed in a deep sleep - for (it was) night time - with both her arms, and she breathes herself into the man, and breathes upon his throat and his breast and his mouth, and sows hunger into his hollow veins. And, having accomplished her mandate, she forsakes the world of plenty and returns to her accustomed caves in the abodes of the destitute.
Ll. 826-887. How Erysichthon's hunger drove him at last to sell his daughter into slavery; how she was changed by Neptune, her lover, into a man, and how she thereafter had power to assume many forms.
Gentle sleep on her peaceful wings caressed Erysichthon: under the dream of sleep he seeks a feast, and he works his jaws in vain and wearies tooth on tooth, and he keeps his deluded throat busy with imagined food, and for a banquet he devours thin air in vain. But, when sleep is driven away, a craving for eating is raging (within him), and rules through his ravenous throat and cavernous vitals. And (there is) no delay: he demands (all) that sea, (all) that earth, (all) that air produces, and, tables having been placed before (him), he complains of hunger, and in the midst of banquets he seeks banquets; and what (could) be (enough) for (whole) cities, what could (be) enough for a nation, does not suffice for a single man, and by which (amount) he lowers more into his belly, by that (amount) he desires more. And (just) as the ocean receives rivers from the whole earth, and is not satisfied with the water, but drinks up far-away rivers, and (just) as a raging fire does not ever refuse food, but burns countless logs and, by which amount a greater supply is given, (by that amount) it seeks more, and the more voracious it is because of the very quantity: thus the lips of profane Erysichthon receive every banquet, and he demands (them) at the same time. In him all food is for the sake of food, and his belly always becomes empty by eating. And now he had diminished his ancestral wealth through hunger and through the deep abyss of his stomach, but then his dreadful hunger still remained undiminished, and the flame of his unappeased belly burned. At last, his wealth having been lowered into his vital organs, (only) his daughter (i.e. Mestra), not worthy of that father, was left. In his poverty he even sold her. The noble (girl) rejected her master, and, stretching her palms over the nearby sea, she said: '(O you) who has the prize of my virginity, snatched from me, rescue me from my master': Neptune, who had this (prize), her entreaty not having been scorned, although she had only (just) been seen by her master who was following (lit. following) (her), both changes her shape and puts a male face (on her) and a dress suited to (men) catching fish. Her master, catching sight of her, says, 'O (you) who conceals your hanging bronze hook with a little food, manager of the fishing-rod, so (may) the sea be calm, so may there be to you a gullible fish in the waves, and may it perceive no hooks unless it has been been pierced (lit. having been pierced): tell (me) where she is who only (just now) was standing on this shore with shabby clothing and with dishevelled hair - for I saw (her) standing on this shore - : for her foot-prints are no longer visible'. She perceives that the gift of the god was turning out well, and, delighted that she was being enquired for from herself, she answered (him) asking with these (words): 'Whoever you are, may you pardon (me): I have turned my eyes in no direction from this pool, and I have stuck to my pursuit, being absorbed (in it). And so that you may doubt less, so that the god may assist this skill, no man has stood on this shore this long while but myself excepted, nor any woman (either)'. Her master believed (her), and, his feet having been turned (around), he trod the sand, and, having been deceived, he went away. But, when her father perceived that his (daughter) had a body capable of changing its form, he sells the child of Triopas (i.e. Mestra) to (new) masters on a number of occasions. But she, now a mare, now a bird, now a cow, now a deer, got away and bestowed stolen (lit. not honest) food on her greedy father. But when that force of his affliction had consumed all his wealth, and he had given (any) new food to his virulent malady, he himself began to tear apart his own limbs with a lacerating bite, and the wretched man nourished his body by diminishing (it). (But) why do I dwell on outside instances? I have (lit. There is to me) also, O young man, the limited power of a body which can be changed (lit. changeable) often in a number of ways. For sometimes I seem as I am (just) now, sometimes I am turned into a snake, sometimes (as) the leader of a herd I take up strength in horns, while I could. Now, the other side of my forehead lacks a weapon, as you yourself can see." Groans followed his words.
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