OVID


THE METAMORPHOSES

 

Translated by Ian Johnston, Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada

 

[For publication and copyright details, please use the following link: Table of Contents. Note that the numbers without brackets refer to the English text; those in square brackets refer to the Latin text.]

 

BOOK ELEVEN

 

 [Orpheus is attacked and killed by maenads; the world laments his death; Orpheus is reunited with Eurydice in the underworld; Bacchus punishes the maenads; Bacchus goes to Tmolus; Midas gives Silenus back to Bacchus, who rewards Midas with a wish; Midas wants to turn all things to gold; Midas prays to have the gift revoked; Bacchus complies; Apollo and Pan compete in music; Apollo gives Midas asses’ ears; Midas’ servant gives his secret away; Apollo and Neptune help Laomedon build Troy; Neptune punishes Laomedon for reneging on his promise; Hercules attacks Troy; Peleus wins Thetis as his wife; Peleus visits Ceyx, who tells the story of Daedalion and Chione, who was seduced by Mercury and Apollo; Peleus’ cattle are attacked by a giant wolf sent by Psamathe; Thetis placates Psamathe; the story of Ceyx and Alcyone; a storm at sea kills Ceyx; Juno gets Sleep to send a dream to Alcyone; Morpheus visits Alcyone; the corpse of Ceyx appears; Alcyone and Ceyx are transformed; the story of Aesacus and Hesperië; Aesacus is transformed.]

 

While with songs like these the Thracian poet                                        MAENADS ATTACK ORPHEUS
was making trees, rocks, and wild creature’s hearts
all follow him, lo and behold, from a hilltop
the frenzied women of the Cicones,
with skins of savage beasts draped on their breasts,
caught sight of Orpheus playing his lyre,
accompanying his songs with music.
One of them, whose hair was being blown back
by the gentle breezes, screamed:

 

                                            “Look! Down there!
It’s him—the man who has rejected women!”(1)                                  10
She hurled her spear at Apollo’s poet,
while he was in the middle of a song.
But the spear had leaves wrapped around the point,
and so it made a mark but left no wound.
Another woman threw a rock at him,                                                                    [10]
but while the stone was flying through the air,
it was overpowered by the harmonies
of his voice and lyre and fell at his feet,
as if it were begging his forgiveness
for such a rash assault. But after that                                                      20
the mad attacks increased, and all restraint
was gone—the frenzied Furies took control.
His songs would have made all weapons harmless,
but loud noises from Berecyntian flutes
of curving horn, the din of tambourines,
as well as beating hands and Bacchic chants,
drowned out the music Orpheus was playing,
and finally the rocks turned red with blood,
for now the poet’s song could not be heard.(2)

 

First the maenads rip apart those creatures                                           30            [20]
still captivated by the singer’s voice—
countless birds, snakes, and throngs of savage beasts—
that audience which made the poet famous.(3)
And then they lay their bloody hands on him,
crowding together, like those birds who glimpse
the night owl roaming in the light of day,
or like the dogs in amphitheatre sand
at a morning show in the arena,
when they throng around the body of a stag
who is doomed to become their prey and die.                                       40
That’s how those women go at Orpheus,
hurling their leafy thyrsus stems, not made
for such a purpose. Some throw lumps of earth,
others toss branches they have torn from trees,
and others flint stones. Their insane attack                                                            [30]
does not lack weapons, for it so happens
some oxen have been working on the soil,
hauling a plough, and not far away from there
burly farmers are digging up tough ground,
sweating hard, and getting their fields ready                                           50
to plant the grain. But when they see that mob,
they run away and leave their tools behind.
Long mattocks, hoes, and heavy rakes lie there,
scattered across the empty fields. The women,
in their frantic state, get their hands on these,
and, once they have torn apart the oxen,
whose horns are menacing them, hurry back
to kill the poet. Stretching out his arms,
Orpheus speaks, but now, for the first time,                                          DEATH OF ORPHEUS
his voice is useless and has no effect.                                                     60            [40]
Those sacrilegious women rip him up,
and through those lips which stones have listened to
and senses of wild beasts have understood—
O Jupiter!—the soul of Orpheus
slips away and vanishes in the winds.

 The grieving birds, the crowds of savage beasts,
the flinty rocks and woods, which so often
followed your songs, wept for you, Orpheus.
Trees shed their leaves and, with their crowns now bare,
grieved at your death, and rivers, too, men say,                                    70
were swollen with their tears. Naiads and dryads,
their hair unkempt, put on dark mourning clothes.

 

The poet’s scattered limbs lay everywhere.
You, Hebrus, received his head and lyre,                                                             [50]
and (what is amazing!) as they floated
down the middle of the stream, the lyre
sounded some kind of doleful melody,
the lifeless tongue intoned a sad lament,
and river banks echoed the plaintive song.(4)
And then, carried down to the sea, they left                                          80
their native stream and were tossed up onshore
on Lesbos at Methymna. Here the head,
as it lay on that foreign beach exposed,
with its dishevelled hair still dripping wet,
was assaulted by a ferocious snake.
But as the beast was just about to bite,
Phoebus finally appeared and stopped it.
He froze the striking creature’s open jaws
and, in that posture, hardened it to stone.                                                              [60]

 

The shade of Orpheus moved underground                                           90
and recognized the places he had seen                                                  ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE REUNITED
on his earlier trip. He set out searching
in fields of the blessed for Eurydice,
his wife, and when he came across her there,
he held her in his eager arms. And now,
they wander side by side together.
Sometimes he follows as she walks in front.
At other times he strolls ahead of her
and, since the action is quite safe, looks back
to watch his own Eurydice.

 

                                                  But Bacchus                                       100
does not allow this crime to go unpunished.                                           BACCHUS AND THE MAENADS
Grief stricken at the loss of Orpheus,
who played his music in the sacred rites,
he quickly ties the Thracian women down
in the woods, using twisted roots, all those
who were there and saw the brutal death.                                                             [70]
On each woman’s foot he stretches out the toes
and shoves the tips down into solid ground,
right at the spot where she joined in the chase.
Just as a wild bird, once its leg gets snagged                                          110
in a snare crafty hunters have set up,
feels itself held back, beats its wings, flutters,
and with its motion tightens up the noose,
so each of those women, once she is stuck
and rooted in the soil, grows terrified
and tries to run from there. But her attempts
are futile, for the pliant root holds firm
and stops her as she tries to jerk away.
When she looks down for her toes and nails,
to learn where they might be, she sees tree bark                                    120
moving up her shapely calf and when, in grief,                                                       [80]
she slaps her leg, her hand hits solid wood.
Her chest and shoulders change to oak, as well.
Her arms are knotted—they look like branches,
and if you said they had been changed to oak,
you would not be mistaken.

 

                                           But Bacchus                                              MIDAS AND SILENUS
was not satisfied with this. So he left
the land of Thrace, and with a company
of better celebrants went to the vineyards
of his own Mount Tmolus and the waters                                              130
of the Pactolus river, which at that time
did not bear gold and were not envied
for their precious sands.(5) The usual throng
went with him, Bacchic worshippers and satyrs,
except for Silenus, who had been seized
by Phrygians, as he staggered along,
tottering from age and wine. Those peasants                                                         [90]
chained him in wreaths of flowers and led him
to king Midas, a man who had been taught
the Bacchic mysteries by Orpheus                                                        140
and by Eumolpus, a man from Athens.(6)
Midas recognized him as a comrade,
his associate in the sacred rites,
and was pleased to honour the arrival
of his guest with joyful celebrations
which lasted ten successive days and nights.
On the eleventh day, once Lucifer
had ushered out the distant ranks of stars,
Midas happily set out for Lydia,
where he gave Silenus back to Bacchus,                                               150
the satyr’s youthful foster child. The god,                                              MIDAS AND BACCHUS
pleased to have Silenus returned to him,                                                               [100]
gave Midas, as a favour, the chance to ask
for any gift—a fine offer, but wasted,
for Midas made poor use of this reward.
He said:

 

                          “Make all things my body touches
change to yellow gold.”

 

                           Since this was his choice,
Bacchus consented and granted Midas
the harmful gift, sorry he had not asked
for something better. However, the king                                                160
from Berecyntia was happy as he left,
joyful in his misfortune. He tested                                                          MIDAS’ GOLDEN TOUCH
his belief in what Bacchus had conveyed
by touching various things and, when he did,
could hardly comprehend the things he saw.
When on an oak he snaps a green twig off
a lower branch, the twig is changed to gold.
If he picks any rock up from the ground,                                                              [110]
it, too, becomes pale gold, and when he grasps
a clod of earth, the power of his touch                                                  170
turns it into a lump of yellow metal.
He gathers in dry ears of Ceres’ grain,
and they become a harvest of pure gold.
He holds an apple taken from a tree,
and you would think he has received the fruit
of the Hesperides.(7) When his fingers touch
tall pillars by the door, they seem to glow,
and if he dips his hands in running streams,
Danaë herself could well have been seduced
by the liquid gold flowing past his palms.(8)                                           180
Midas has trouble holding back the dreams
now active in his mind, for he imagines
all things turned to gold. As he rejoices,
his servants set tables out before him
loaded with rich amounts of meat and bread.                                                        [120]
But if he puts his hand on Ceres’ gifts,
the bread grows hard. If his hungry jaws
attempt to chew the meat, when his teeth touch,
a golden yellow plating coats his food.
And when he drinks pure water mixed with wine,                                  190
a present from the very god who gave him
his new gift, you see a golden liquid
flowing in his mouth. This strange disaster
fills Midas with dismay. For all his wealth,
he is a wretched man. He wants to flee
from all his riches and now despises
the very things he recently desired.
No supply of food relieves his hunger,
his throat is burning with a parching thirst,
and he is plagued, as he deserves to be,                                                200            [130]
by the gold he now detests. He stretches
his shining hands and arms up to the skies
and cries:

 

                  “Forgive me, father Bacchus.
I have sinned. But pity me, I beg you.
Save me from this gift which seemed so fine!”

 

The will of the gods is kind. Once Midas
had confessed his fault, Bacchus restored him
and took back the present he had given
to fulfill his promise. He told Midas:

 

“To make sure you are no longer covered                                        210
with gold, as you so foolishly desired,
go to great Sardis, to the river there,
and make your way across the shining ridge.
Keep going upstream to the river’s source,
then plunge your head and body both at once
right where the spring is frothing up the most,                                                   [140]
and, as you do that, wash away your crime.”

 

Midas went to the spring, as he was told.
When the golden force moved from his human flesh
and passed into the spring, its colour stained                                         220
the waters of the stream, and even today,
the lands absorbing grains from this old source
gleam and harden in those spots where water
flowing in the river soaks into the soil.

 Midas now hated wealth and spent his time
in fields and woods and mountain caves, where Pan
is always present. But his wits remained
as stupid as before, and his foolish mind
was doomed to hurt its owner once again.

 

Tmolus, a towering, rugged mountain                                                    230            [150]
with panoramic views out to the sea
has one flank extending down to Sardis                                               APOLLO AND PAN
and another reaching tiny Hypaepe.
Pan is there, boasting to some gentle nymphs
about his songs and playing a modest tune
on a pipe of reeds held in place by wax.
He dares to demean Apollo’s music
in comparison with his own. And thus,
it comes to an unequal competition
in which Tmolus will select the winner.                                                  240
The ancient judge sits on his mountainside
and shakes his ears to rid them of their trees.
The only thing he wears in his dark hair
is a wreath of oak, with acorns hanging
by his hollow temples. He looks at Pan,
the god of flocks, and says:

 

                                    “No need to wait.                                                        [160]
It’s time to judge.”

 

                          Pan plays his rustic pipes,
and his wild tune fills Midas with delight
(he happens to be there, close by the music).
After that, sacred Tmolus turns his head                                                250
towards Apollo’s face and, as he turns,
his forests follow. Around his golden head
Phoebus wears a wreath of Parnassus laurel.
His garments, dyed with Tyrian purple,
sweep along the ground. In his left hand
he holds his lyre, inlaid with gemstones
and Indian ivory, and in his right
a plectrum. The very way he holds himself
proclaims the artist. Then he plucks the strings
with skilful fingers, and his sweet music                                                 260            [170]
captivates Tmolus, who then orders Pan
to hold his pipes inferior to the lyre.
The verdict of the holy mountain god                                                     APOLLO AND MIDAS
delighted all of them, except for Midas.
He was the only one to disagree
and say it was unfair. The Delian god
could not allow such foolish ears to keep
their human shape, and so he stretched them out,
filled them with white hairs, made them flexible
at the base, and gave them power to move.                                          270
Midas was human in his other parts,
but in this one feature he was punished,
for he now carried plodding asses’ ears.

 

Midas was anxious to conceal this change
and tried to mitigate his own disgrace                                                                   [180]
with a purple turban around his head.
But a servant, the one who trimmed his hair
with iron scissors, saw what the god had done.
Though he was keen to tell what he had seen,
he did not dare divulge such shameful news.                                          280
But still, he could not keep it to himself.
So he went off alone, scooped out the earth,
and in a whisper told the empty pit
the kind of ears he had seen on Midas.
He pushed the soil in place again and buried
the news he had disclosed, then filled the pit
and crept away in silence. But a thick patch
of trembling reeds began to sprout up there,
and in a year, when they were now full grown,
they gave away the man who dug the hole.                                            290
For when the gentle South Wind stirs those reeds,
they repeat the words the servant buried
and tell the truth about his master’s ears.(9)

 

When Latona’s son had punished Midas,                                              APOLLO AND NEPTUNE AT TROY
he left Tmolus, flew through the limpid air,
and landed in the realm of Laomedon,
on this side of the narrow strait of Helle,
Nephele’s daughter.(10) An ancient altar stands
between the western headland of Sigaeum
and high Rhoeteum to the east, a shrine                                                 300
to Jupiter Panomphe, the Thunderer.
Here Apollo noticed Laomedon
building the first walls of his new city,
Troy, a massive project which demanded                                                             [200]
arduous work and immense resources.
And so he and trident-wielding Neptune,
the father of the heaving sea, put on
a human form and built the city walls
for the Phrygian king, who had agreed
to pay them gold to fortify the site.                                                        310
When the task was done, king Laomedon
said he would not pay the gods their wages
and, to complete his treachery, denied
with outright lies what he had guaranteed.
The king of sea cried out:

 

                          “You won’t do that
and get away unpunished.”

 

                                         So Neptune drove
all the ocean waves against the coastline
of greedy Troy, making the land a sea,
washing away the farmers’ property,                                                                    [210]
and burying their fields beneath his waves.                                             320
This punishment was not enough for him,
so Neptune said that Laomedon’s daughter,
Hesione, must be sacrificed, as well,
to a monster from the sea. She was chained
to a rough boulder but was later saved
by Hercules, who asked for the reward                                                HERCULES AND LAOMEDON
he had been promised, since Laomedon
had agreed to give him certain horses.
But he refused to pay out the reward,
though Hercules had served him very well.                                            330
So Hercules attacked and conquered Troy
and seized the walls of the defeated city,
which had broken its word twice. Telamon,
a man who fought alongside Hercules,
did not depart without being honoured,
for he won Hesione as his prize.

 

Now, Peleus, brother of Telamon,                                                        PELEUS AND THETIS
was already famous, for he had taken
a goddess as his wife. The pride he took
in his father-in-law was no less strong                                                   340
than what he felt about his grandfather,
for Peleus was not, by any means,
the only one whom providence had made
grandson of Jupiter, but only he
had had the luck to wed a goddess, too.(11)                                                         [220]
For old Proteus had said to Thetis:

 

“Goddess of the waves, get yourself with child!
For you will be the mother of a youth
who will achieve more than his father did,
once he becomes a full-grown warrior,                                            350
and will be called a greater man than he.”

 

Once he heard this prophecy, Jupiter—
who did not want anyone in the world
to be more powerful than he—avoided
having a sexual affair with Thetis,
goddess of the sea, even though he felt
a fierce love for her burning in his heart.
And so, to fulfill a promise he had made,
he commanded Peleus, his grandson,
son of Aeacus, to visit Thetis                                                                360
on his behalf, to hold her in his arms
and make love with that virgin of the sea.

 

In Thessaly there is a curving bay,
shaped like a sickle, with projecting arms,
where there would be a harbour, if the sea                                                           [230]
were deeper there. The surface of the sand
is covered by the waves. The shore is firm.
It holds no footprints, does not slow one down,
and has no seaweed. A grove of myrtle
grows close by, with different coloured berries,                                     370
and in the centre of it is a cave.
One cannot tell if it was made by nature
or by human art, but probably by art.
This place, Thetis, you would often visit,
riding naked on a bridled dolphin.
And Peleus found you here, lying down,
overcome by sleep. He tried to win you
with his entreaties, but you turned him down.
So Peleus placed both arms around your neck,                                                    [240]
ready to use force, and his bold attempt                                                380
would have prevailed, if with your usual skill
you had not kept changing your appearance.
At one point you became a bird, but Peleus
still kept a firm grip on you in that shape,
and when you turned into a massive tree,
he held on with his arms around the trunk.
But when, in your third change, you turned into
a spotted tigress, that so terrified
the son of Aeacus, his arms let go.
So he poured wine into the ocean waves                                               390
and, with sheep entrails and smoking incense,
prayed to the sea gods, until Proteus,
the Carpathian prophet, cried out to him
from the ocean waves:

 

                                           “Son of Aeacus,
you will obtain the bride you’re looking for,                                                     [250]
if you catch her unawares, fast asleep
in that cool cave of hers, and tie her up
with cords she cannot break. Do not let her
deceive you with her hundred tricky shapes.
Hold onto her, no matter how she changes,                                      400
till she becomes the one she was before.”(12)

 

Proteus said this and then hid his face
down in the sea, letting his own waters
close over his last words.

 

                                            The Titan Sun
was low in the sky, with his chariot pole
now slanting down, close to the western sea,
as the beautiful Nereïd left the waves
and went inside her usual resting place.
Once Peleus had seized the young girl’s arms,                                                      [260]
she kept on changing shapes, until she saw                                            410
her limbs were tightly bound and both her arms
pinned down on either side. And so, at last,
she sighed and said:

 

                          “You could not conquer me
without help from some god.”

 

                               Then she changed back
and was Thetis once again. At that point,
when she stood revealed in her true nature,
Peleus held her, got what he desired,
and with her conceived the great Achilles.

 

Happy with his wife and son, Peleus                                                     PELEUS AND CEYX
was a man fortune blessed in everything,                                               420
if one excludes the crime of killing Phocus.(13)
But once guilty of his brother’s murder,
his native country forced him into exile,
where he was welcomed by the land of Trachis,
which Ceyx ruled, a son of Lucifer,
a peaceful man who shed no blood.(14) His face                                                   [270]
shone with his father’s glow, but at the time
he was not his normal self, for he was sad,
mourning his brother’s loss. When Peleus
reached there, worn out by worry and his trip,                                      430
he left the cattle herds and flocks of sheep
he brought with him in a sheltered valley
close to the walls and then approached the town
with few companions. When he got the chance
for an initial meeting with the king,
he went in as a suppliant, holding
a wool-draped olive branch. He told the king
his name and the family he came from,
but did not divulge the killing and lied                                                                    [280]
about the reason for his flight. He asked                                                440
if he could stay there, either in the town
or in the countryside. In his response,
the king of Trachis dealt gently with him,
saying:

 

               “Peleus, our resources here
are open even to the common folk,
and the place I rule is kind to strangers.
As well as these two things, you also bring
the persuasive weight of a famous name—
grandson of Jupiter. So waste no time
in making a petition. All those things                                                 450
you ask for you shall have. What you see here,
no matter what it is, is yours to share.
Think of it as your own. I only wish
the things you see were finer than they are!”

 

As Ceyx finished, he burst into tears.
Peleus and his companions asked him
what was causing him such heartfelt sorrow.                                                         [290]
The king gave this reply:

 

                                  “That bird, the hawk—                                  DAEDALION
the one which lives off prey and terrifies
all other birds—you may perhaps believe                                         460
it has always had its wings. But, in fact,
the hawk was once a man (and since nature
rarely changes, back then he was already fierce,
an aggressive warrior in battle
and well prepared for violent action.
Daedalion was his name. The two of us
were sons of Lucifer, the star who calls
Aurora forth, the last to leave the sky.
I am a man of peace, and my concern
was to preserve it and to love my wife.                                            470
My brother got his joy from cruel war.
Kings and nations fell to his fierce power,
that nature which, since he became a hawk,
keeps anxious doves in Thisbe fluttering.(15)                                                    [300]
My brother had a daughter called Chione,                                       CHIONE, APOLLO, AND MERCURY
fourteen years old and ready to get married.
Because she was so beautiful, she had
a thousand suitors. As it so happened,
Apollo, returning back from Delphi,
and Mercury, Maia’s son, travelling                                                 480
from the top of Mount Cyllene, saw her,
both in the same instant, and the two gods,
in that instant, both desired Chione.
Apollo postponed his passionate hopes
until the hours of night, but Mercury
did not delay. He stroked the young girl’s face
with the staff which brings on sleep. Chione,
at that potent touch, lay prone and suffered
Mercury’s assault. After that, once night
had strewn the sky with stars, Apollo came,                                     490
disguised as an old woman, and tasted
those delights which Mercury had enjoyed                                                      [310]
before he got there. When Chione’s womb
was ready to give birth, she bore Autolycus,
a crafty child conceived from Mercury,
wing-footed god, a son so devious,
he was well skilled in every form of theft.
His nature, no less scheming than his father’s,
could make black things look white and white things black.
Chione also bore a child to Phoebus                                                500
(for she had twins), a boy called Philammon,
famed for his melodious voice and lyre.

 

But what benefits did Chione obtain                                                 DIANA AND CHIONE
from having pleased two gods and given birth
to a pair of boys or from being the child
of a mighty father and the grandchild
of a brilliant star? Is not such glory
also harmful? It has injured many,                                                                    [320]
and clearly it harmed her. For she was rash,
thinking she was better than Diana                                                   510
and criticizing how the goddess looked.
Diana, stirred to anger, told herself:

 

‘Let’s see if what we do brings her delight.’

 

She did not wait, but pulled back on her bow
and shot an arrow from the string. The shaft
pierced Chione through her presumptuous tongue,
which then fell silent, for it made no sounds.
Whatever words it formed did not come out,
and as it tried to speak, the young girl’s life
drained from her with her blood.

 

                                 Filled with sorrow,                                          520
I put my arms around her. In my heart
I felt a father’s grief. With soothing words
I made an effort to console my brother,
but what I said her father did not hear,
any more than cliffs take note of murmurs                                                        [330]
made by the sea. He bitterly lamented
the daughter he had lost. But when he saw
her body burning, he made four attempts
to charge into the middle of the pyre,
and all four times he had to be held back.                                        530
Then, in a mad escape, he ran away.
Like a young bull tormented by the stings
of hornets on a neck chafed from the yoke,
he charged off to places with no pathways.
And even then it seemed to me he ran
faster than humans do—you could have thought
his feet had wings. So he outran us all,                                             DAEDALION IS TRANSFORMED
made swift by his desire for death, and reached
the summit of Parnassus. Apollo
pitied him, and when Daedalion threw himself                                   540           [340]
from a high cliff, he changed him to a bird
and held him up as he was hovering
on wings he had so suddenly acquired.
He gave him a hooked beak, curving talons
instead of nails, greater physical strength,
and left the courage he possessed before.
And now, as a hawk, he attacks all birds,
is merciful to none, and in his grief
has become a source of grief to others.”

 

While the son of Lucifer was describing                                                550
these strange things that happened to his brother,
Antenor, a man from Phocis, who guarded
Peleus’ cattle herds, came running up,
out of breath, and yelled:

 

                                      “Peleus! Peleus!
Let me speak to you! A great disaster!”

 

Peleus told him to report his news,                                                                        [350]
whatever it might be, while king Ceyx,                                                  PELEUS AND PSAMATHE
with a worried face, waited in suspense.
Antenor carried on:

 

                                     “I had just driven
the weary oxen down to the curved bay.                                          560
The Sun was at his highest point, halfway
on his daily path, as much behind him
as he could see ahead. Some of the bulls
were kneeling in yellow sand, relaxing
and gazing at the broad expanse of sea.
Others were slowly moving back and forth
or wading in the waves, holding their necks
high above the water. There is a temple
hard by the shore, made from solid timbers,
with no hint of gold or gleaming marble,                                           570
and shaded by an ancient stand of trees.                                                          [360]
Nereïds and Nereus live around there
(a sailor drying nets on shore informed me
they were the gods of that part of the sea).
Near it is a marsh full of willow trees
in a dense stand, where water from the sea
which does not drain away has made a swamp.
And from that place came fearful crashing sounds                            A MONSTROUS WOLF APPEARS
which terrified the neighbourhood, and then,
out of that marsh, a monstrous wolf appeared,                                 580
its deadly jaws spattered with slime and blood,
a flaming red glare in its eyes. The beast
was ravenous with hunger and with rage,
but it was driven more by savagery
and did not stop, for all its need to eat,                                                            [370]
beside the cattle it had killed and sate
its deadly appetite, but rather slashed
the entire herd and so ferociously
it butchered all of them. A few of us
trying to guard the herd were wounded, too,                                    590
or else lay dead from fatal bites. The shore
and the sea beside it both turned crimson.
So did the marshland filled with bellowing bulls.
It’s dangerous to delay! This business
calls for us to act at once! Let’s form a group
and arm ourselves. While something is still left,
we must get weapons and in one large mass
attack the beast with spears.”

 

                                  The herdsman finished.
Peleus was not concerned about the loss,
but thinking of his crime, he realized                                                       600           [380]
the goddess Psamathe, still lamenting
her son’s death, had brought on these disasters,
as a sacrifice to murdered Phocus.(16)
Ceyx, the Oetaean king, told his men
to put their armour on and pick up weapons
for the coming battle, while he himself
prepared to join them. But Alcyone,
his wife, alarmed by the commotion, ran out—
she had not taken time to fix her hair
and kept pulling at it—clung to Ceyx,                                                    610
her arms around his neck, imploring him
in words and tears to provide assistance
but not go himself, to protect his life
and thus save both of them. So Peleus,
son of Aeacus, said this to her:

 

                                          “O queen,
this loving fear of yours is admirable,
but set it to one side. These promises
your husband made fill me with gratitude,                                                         [390]
but I do not want weapons to be used
against this strange new monster. Instead,                                        620
I must placate the goddess of the sea.”

 

A lofty tower with a beacon fire
stood on the summit of the citadel,
a welcome sight for weary ships at sea.
They climbed up there and groaned as they looked out
at cattle lying strewn along the shore
and at that savage beast with blood-stained jaws,
its long fur caked with gore. From that high place,
Peleus stretched his hands out to the beach,
towards the open sea, and prayed to Psamathe,                                    630
to end her anger and give him her aid.
But the goddess of the sea brushed aside
the pleas made by the son of Aeacus.
Then Thetis, by her intercession, won                                                                    [400]
Psamathe’s forgiveness for her husband.
Though told to stop its murderous carnage,                                           THE MONSTROUS WOLF IS TRANSFORMED
the wolf kept up the slaughter, driven mad
by the sweet taste of blood, until the goddess
turned it to marble, as it sunk its teeth
deep in the neck of a mangled heifer.                                                     640
Its body stayed the same in every feature
except its colour, and the white stone showed
there was no need to fear the creature now,
for it was a wolf no more.

 

                              But the Fates
did not permit the exiled Peleus
to settle in that land. Still a fugitive,
he moved on to the Magnetes and there
the king of Thessaly, Acastus, granted
absolution for his crime of murder.(17)

 

Meanwhile, king Ceyx, whose heart is troubled                                     650            [410]
by his brother’s fate and the strange events
which followed, is making preparations                                                 CEYX AND ALCYONE
for a journey to the god at Claros,
in order to consult the sacred shrine,
which offers grieving mortals consolation.(18)
For evil Phorbys and his Phlegyans
have blocked the route to Delphi’s oracle.
Before he starts his journey, Ceyx tells
his loyal wife what his intentions are.
Deep in her bones she feels an instant chill,                                            660
her face turns pale as boxwood, and her cheeks
are moist from weeping. She tries to speak
three times, with tears still streaming down her face,
and as her sobs break up her fond complaints,                                                      [420]
she says:

 

                       “My dearest love, what fault of mine
has changed your heart? Where is that care for me
which used to be your first priority?
Can you now go away without concern
and leave Alcyone? Does a long trip
now fill you with delight? And am I now                                           670
more dear to you when I am far away?
If I thought you were travelling by land,
then I would only grieve, not be afraid.
My worries would be free of dreadful fear.
But oceans and the grim face of the sea
I find so frightening. Just recently
I saw ship timbers lying wrecked on shore,
and on grave markers I have often seen
the names of those whose bodies were not there.(19)
You must not let your spirit place false trust                                     680            [430]
in Aeolus, the son of Hippotas,
your father-in-law, who, when he wishes,
locks up the mighty winds and calms the waves.(20)
For once winds are released and seize the sea,
nothing holds them back. And then they threaten
land and sea alike. They even agitate
the heavenly clouds with fierce collisions
and make the fiery lighting flash.(21) The more
I learn about them (and I do know the winds,
for when I was a girl I often saw them                                              690
inside my father’s home), the more I think
we ought to be afraid. But if no prayers,
my dear Ceyx, can change what you propose,
if you are all too set on sailing off,                                                                    [440]
then take me with you, too. At least then
both of us will ride the storms together.
I will fear the things I have to go through,
but nothing else. And whatever happens
we will bear together, and together
we two will sail across the spacious sea.”                                         700

 

The words and tears of Aeolus’ daughter
stirred her husband Ceyx, born of a star,
for the fire of love in him was no less bright.
But he did not wish to scrap the journey
he planned to make across the sea or have
Alcyone share the dangers of the trip.
His answered her with many soothing words,
trying to ease her fearful heart. But still,
for all his effort, she did not agree.
The only part that moved his loving wife                                                710            [450]
came when he added one more consolation:

 

“It’s true that all delays are long to us,
but I swear to you, by my father’s light,
if Fates allow me to return back home,
I will be here again, before the moon
has twice filled in her sphere”

 

                                                    By promising this,
he spurred her hopes that he would be back soon.
He quickly ordered men to bring a ship
down from the dock, launch it in the sea,
and fit it out with gear. Alcyone                                                             720
looked on and shuddered, as if foreseeing
what the future held, and then, once again,
shed floods of tears. She hugged her husband
and, still utterly dismayed, said at last
in a mournful voice:

 

                     “Farewell.”

 

                                          Then she collapsed,
and all her body sank down to the ground.                                                            [460]
While Ceyx was still seeking to delay,
the youthful crew, arranged in double rows,
hauled their oars back against their sturdy chests
and, with equal strokes, cut through the water.                                      730
Alcyone looked up with weeping eyes
to watch her husband standing in the ship
by the curving stern. When he waved his hand,
she returned the wave. Further out from land,
when she could not observe his features any more,
her eyes kept following the moving ship,
while they still could, and when she found it hard,
as it kept going, to make out the ship,
she kept on looking at the fluttering sails                                                               [470]
by the top part of the mast. And later,                                                   740
when her eyes could no longer see those sails,
she went inside, to her empty bedroom,
heart full of grief, and lay down on the bed.
The bed and room brought back her tears again,
for they made Alcyone remember
the part of her that was not there.

 

                                                              By now                                  STORM AT SEA
the ship has cleared the harbour, and the wind
has set the halyards stirring. The captain
boats the sloping oars, raises the topsails
to the masthead, and lets the sails fill out,                                              750
to catch the coming breeze. But when the ship
has sailed about half way across or less—
no more than half, at most—and both coasts
are far away, as night comes on, the sea                                                               [480]
begins to whiten with a heavy chop
and the strong East Wind blows in more fiercely.
The captain cries:

 

                         “Quick now! Lower the topsail!
Lash all sails against the yards!”

 

                                               He bellows
his orders, but the wind howls in his face
and drowns out his commands. The roaring sea                                    760
makes any voice impossible to hear.
But still, some sailors, on their own, move fast
to stow the oars. Some reinforce the sides
or furl the sails. One man bails out water
and throws it back into the sea, another
lashes down the spars. But while they do this,
with no sense of order, the violent storm
grows stronger. Angry winds attack the ship                                                          [490]
from every side and rouse the furious sea.
Even the captain of the ship is fearful,                                                    770
for he has no idea how matters stand
or what to order or forbid. They face
such mighty perils, much more powerful
than all his skill. The sound is deafening—
men screaming, ship’s ropes groaning from the strain,
waves crashing down in heavy seas, and thunder
rolling through the sky. The heaving water
seems to reach the heavens and spray the clouds,
which hover overhead. At times, the seas
turn yellow with the sand the storm churns up                                        780
from deep below and then, at other times,
are blacker than the river Styx, while waves,                                                         [500]
hissing with white foam, keep surging forward.
Chance blows batter that Trachinian ship,
now lifting it way up, as if it stood
on some high mountain peak and seemed to peer
down in the valleys and the deepest pit
of Acheron, then letting the ship drop
down in a trough, with sea walls all around,
as though the crew were gazing at the sky                                             790
from the bottom of an infernal gulf.
Waves from the raging sea pound on the hull,
again and again, with massive crashing,
as loud as iron rams or catapults
when they assault a shattered citadel.
Just as savage lions gather their strength                                                                [510]
and charge at hunters armed with lowered spears,
so storm waves surge ahead in rising winds,
as high as the ship, and even higher.
The wedges slip, and now, as wax is stripped,                                      800
seams open up, providing passageways
for the deadly waves. Then, lo and behold,
colossal rainstorms fall from melting clouds.
One might well think all heaven is pelting down
into the sea and all the swollen seas
are rising up to regions of the sky.
The sails are soaked, as water from the clouds
is mixed with ocean waves. The upper air                                                             [520]
has lost its fiery stars, and the dark night
is heavy with the blackness of the storm                                                810
as well as its own gloom. But lightning bolts
dispel the murk with flashes of their fire
and make the waters glow as if they burn.
And then the waters breach the hollow hull
and pour into the ship. Just as a soldier
more daring than the rest, who often tries
to scale walls of a city under siege,
at last succeeds, gets what he wants, and then,
inspired by love of glory, takes the wall,
one man among a thousand, in the same way,                                       820
once nine waves in a row have crashed against
the ship’s steep hull, a tenth wave surges in,                                                          [530]
with even greater force, and does not stop
assaulting that exhausted, battered ship,
until it falls inside its captured walls.
So some of the sea keeps trying to get in,
and some of it is now inside the ship.
The whole crew is confused and terrified,
no less afraid than those inside a city
when troops outside are undermining walls,                                           830
while other men are now inside, as well,
occupying those walls. Their seamanship
has failed them, and their spirits fall. It seems
that death is charging at them, breaking in
with each successive wave. One man cannot
hold back his tears, another stands there dazed,
while another calls those truly blessed
for whom a proper burial is waiting.
One sailor offers prayers up to the gods,                                                              [540]
raising his arms in vain towards the heavens                                          840
he cannot see, and pleading for their aid.
Some recall their brothers and their parents,
some their homes and children, or other things,
whatever they have left behind. But Ceyx
is stirred by memories of Alcyone—
nothing but Alcyone is on his lips.
But though she is the only one he longs for,
he is glad she is not there. He would like
to look back at his native shore, as well,
and gaze one final time towards his home,                                             850
but he has no idea which way to look.
The sea is whirling round him with such force,
and the whole sky is hidden behind sheets
of pitch-black clouds, thus doubling the darkness                                                  [550]
on the face of night. The gusting storm winds
snap the mast, and the rudder breaks apart.
And now one final wave, like a conqueror
eyeing spoils with keen delight, arches up,
looks down on other waves, and then, as if
Pindus and Athos had been uprooted                                                    860
and their whole mass hurled out into the sea,
crashes straight down, and with its force and weight
both together, strikes the ship and drives it
to the bottom of the deep.(22) Many sailors
who go down with the ship are overwhelmed
in the swirling water and meet their fate,
without returning to the air. Others
hold onto broken fragments of the wreck.
Ceyx himself clings to a piece of wreckage,
with a hand that used to wield a sceptre,                                               870            [560]
and calls out to his father, Lucifer,
and to Aeolus, his father-in-law—
alas, with no effect! But as he swims,
his wife’s name, Alcyone, is the one
most often on his lips. He thinks of her,
speaks to her, prays the waves will bear his corpse
where she will see it and, when he is dead,
her loving hands will place him in his tomb.
As long as he can open up his mouth
while swimming in the waves, he keeps calling                                       880
to Alcyone, though she is far away,
and even as the waves close over him
he is murmuring her name. Then, behold,
a black arcing wall of water crashes down,
right the middle of the roiling sea,
buries his head below its bursting wave,
and drowns him.

 

                               That day Lucifer was dim
and could not be seen. He was not allowed                                                          [570]
to leave the heavens, so he hid his face
behind a layer of thick cloud.

 

                                  Meanwhile,                                                         890
Alcyone, daughter of Aeolus,
knowing nothing of the great disaster,
kept track of the nights, promising herself
he would be coming home, an empty pledge.
She hurried to make clothes—some for Ceyx,
and some for her to wear when he got back.
She piously gave incense to each god,
but, ahead of all the rest, she worshipped
at Juno’s shrine, visiting the altars
for a man who was no more and praying                                               900
her husband would be safe, return back home,                                                     [580]
and love no other woman more than her.
Of all the prayers she made, this last one
was the only one that could be granted.
But Juno could not bear to hear more pleas
for someone dead, and, to free her altars
from Alcyone’s ill-fated hands, she said:

 

“Iris, most faithful bearer of my words,
go quickly to the languid halls of Sleep.
Tell him to send Alcyone a dream                                                    910
in the image of Ceyx, who is dead,
to let her know the truth about his fate.”

 

Juno spoke. Iris put on a garment
with a thousand colours and then, tracing
her curved arc across the heavens, made for                                                         [590]
the home of Sleep, concealed beneath the clouds,
as Juno had commanded.

 

                                    Near the land                                                   THE CAVE OF SLEEP
of the Cimmerians, there is a cave
carved into the rock, a hollow mountain,
the house and resting place of drowsy Sleep,                                        920
where the rays of Phoebus can never shine,
not when he is rising, or half way round,
or sinking down, a place where earth exhales
mists mingling with the darkness, in a twilight
of uncertain gloom. Here no crested cock
calls for Aurora with his wakeful cries.
No voices of uneasy hounds or geese
(more vigilant than dogs) break the silence,
no wild animals, or cattle, or branches                                                                  [600]
swaying in the wind, or strident noises                                                   930
from human tongues. There quiet silence reigns.
But from the very bottom of the rock
streams of Lethe’s waters run, murmuring
as they glide across the whispering stone,
inducing sleep. In front of the cave door,
rich beds of poppies grow, with countless herbs,
and from their juices damp Night gathers sleep
and scatters it across the darkened earth.
In the entire cavern there is no door,
in case some moving hinge should make a noise,                                   940
nor any watchman by the entranceway.
A bed stands in the middle of the cave,                                                                 [610]
raised on black ebony, dark and downy,
covered with black sheets, where the god himself
is lying down, his limbs relaxed in sleep.
Around him everywhere lie unformed Dreams
resembling various shapes, as numerous
as ears of harvest grain, or forest leaves,
or particles of sand cast up on shore.
Iris entered and quickly pushed aside                                                    950
dreams standing in her way. Her splendid clothes                                  IRIS AND SLEEP
filled the sacred home with light. The god Sleep
had trouble lifting up his heavy eyes.
He kept falling back to sleep again—once more
his chin would droop and strike him in the chest.                                                   [620]
But finally he stirred and roused himself.
Leaning on his elbow, he asked Iris
(for he knew who she was) why she had come,
and she replied:

 

                                     “O Sleep, gentlest of gods,
in whom all things find rest and minds find peace,                             960
who makes cares fly, who eases hearts of men
worn out by heavy work, renewing them
for further labour. Sleep, command a dream,
which in its shape depicts the real man,
to go to Trachis, city of Hercules,
to Alycone, in the form of Ceyx,
her king, and present to her the image
of a ship destroyed at sea. This order
comes from Juno.”(23)

 

                          Once she had carried out
what Juno ordered, Iris left the cave,                                                     970
unable any more to tolerate                                                                                  [630]
the power of Sleep. For once she noticed
that languid force creeping through her body,
she fled and moved across the arcing path
by which she had arrived just moments earlier.
Then, from the huge crowd of his thousand sons,                                  MORPHEUS
father Sleep roused Morpheus, an artist
expert at imitating human shapes.
No one has more ability than he
at copying someone’s way of moving,                                                   980
his face, and speaking voice. To that he adds
the person’s clothes and customary words.
Morpheus is the only one who copies
human beings. Another son becomes
a beast, turns into a bird, or changes
to a serpent with a stretched-out body.
Gods call him Icelos. To mortal men                                                                    [640]
his name is Phobetor. And a third son
called Phantasos has yet another skill,
for he can easily transform himself                                                         990
to earth and water, to stones and trees,
to anything that has no life. These dreams
are the visions that parade their faces
to kings and generals at night, while others
appear to citizens and common folk.
Ancient Sleep walked past these dreams and picked out
his son Morpheus from all the brothers,
to carry out what Iris had commanded.
Then he relaxed once more in gentle sleep.
His head drooped, as he collapsed on his high bed.                              1000

 

Morpheus flew through the night on silent wings                                                    [650]
and soon reached that city in Haemonia.                                               MORPHEUS AND ALCYONE
Shedding his wings, he then assumed the form
of Ceyx. As pale as death and naked,
he stood before his wretched wife in bed.
His beard looked soaking wet, and heavy drops
of water dripped down from his sodden head.
With tears flowing from his eyes, he leant down
and said to her:

 

                        “My most unhappy wife,
surely you still recognize your Ceyx,                                                1010
or has death changed my face? Look up here.
You will know me. But rather than your husband,
you will find your husband’s shade! Your prayers,                                           [660]
Alycone, were of no help to me,
and I have died. Do not deceive yourself
with promises I will be coming back!
The cloud-filled South Wind in the Aegean
caught my ship, tossed it with tremendous force,
and broke it up. I vainly called your name,
until the waves choked off my lips. This news                                   1020
comes to you from no doubtful messenger,
nor are you hearing some uncertain rumour.
I myself, a victim of that shipwreck,
am telling you my fate. So rouse yourself.
Come, weep for me, put on mourning garments,
and do not send me off unlamented                                                                  [670]
to the empty void of Tartarus.”

 

                                                      These words
Morpheus spoke in a voice which she believed
must be her husband’s (and the tears he shed
seemed genuine, as well). He also moved                                              1030
his hands in the same gestures Ceyx used.
Alcyone groaned, shed tears, moved her arms,
and tried to reach his body in her sleep.
But all she held was air. She cried out:

 

                                                             “Wait!
Where are you rushing? We’ll go together!”

 

Roused by her own voice and husband’s image,
she shook off sleep. First, she looked around her,
to see if the person who had just appeared
was there, for her shout had roused her servants
who brought in a lamp. After she had failed                                           1040           [680]
to find him anywhere, she struck her face
with her own hand, ripped away the clothing
covering her chest, pounded on her breast,
and tore her hair without undoing it.
When her nurse asked why she felt such grief,
she screamed at her:

 

                                         “Alcyone is no more!
She is finished! She has been quite destroyed
together with her Ceyx! Set aside
all soothing words! He perished in a wreck.
I saw him! I recognized him! I stretched                                           1050
my hand to him as he was leaving here,
eager to hold him back. He was a shade,
but it was clear the shade was really him,
the ghost of my dead husband. If you asked,
it’s true he did not have his usual look—
his face was not as bright as earlier.                                                                 [690]
But in my misery I did see him,
pale and naked, his hair still dripping wet.
The poor man stood here, on this very spot.
Look here!”

 

                  She searched the room, trying to find                                   1060
some trace of footprints.

 

                                    “This is what I feared.
My mind foresaw it. I kept begging you
not to abandon me and chase the wind.
I truly wish you had taken me as well,
since you were sailing to your death. For me,
going with you would have been much better,
for then none of my life would have been spent
away from you, and death would not have found
the two of us apart. I am not with you,                                                             [700]
so now I die. Though I am far away,                                                1070
the waves are tossing me around, as well.
Without me there, the sea has taken me.
My mind would torture me more savagely
even than the sea, if I attempted
to live on any longer, if I struggled
to subdue such overwhelming sorrow!
But I will not fight. I will not leave you,
my poor Ceyx. At least now I shall come
as your companion. If not in one urn,
one funeral epitaph will join us,                                                        1080
and if your bones will not be mixed with mine,
we will still be there, my name touching yours.”

 

Grief hindered her from saying any more.
Each word was interrupted by a sob,
and groans came from her suffering heart.
Morning came. Alcyone left her house                                                                  [710]
and went down to the shore, seeking, in her grief,
the place where she had watched her husband leave.
She lingered there a while, saying to herself,

 

“Here he untied the ropes. This stretch of beach                               1090
is where he kissed me when he sailed away.”

 

While she is remembering his actions
from their locations, she gazes out to sea
and, far off in the waves, observes something
which looks as if it is a human body.
At first she is not sure what it could be.
But once waves push it in a little closer,
still some distance out, she can clearly see
it is indeed a corpse. She does not know
who the body is, but, moved by the omen                                             1100
of a shipwreck, as if she were in mourning
for a total stranger, she says:

 

                                                        “Alas                                                            [720]
for you, poor man, whoever you may be,
and, if you have a wife, for her, as well.”

 

The waves propel the body even nearer.
The more Alcyone keeps watching it,
the less and less she can control herself.
Now the body is carried close inshore.
Now she can make out who the person is.
She looks. It is her husband! She screams out,                                      1110

 

“It’s him!”

 

                      She tears her face, her hair, her clothing—
all at once—stretches out her trembling arms
to Ceyx and then cries,

 

                                        “O my dearest husband,
you poor man, is this how you come back to me?”

 

A man-made pile of rock along the shore                                                            ALCYONE AND CEYX ARE TRANSFORMED
broke the initial power of the waves,
weakening the water’s force. Alcyone                                                                   [730]
jumped out on it—that she could manage this
was beyond belief—and she kept on flying,
beating the gentle air with new-found wings.                                          1120
Now a sorrowful bird she skimmed across
the surface of the sea, and while she flew,
from a slender beak her plaintive voice cried
sounds of sorrow, like someone filled with grief.
But when she touched the silent, bloodless corpse,
she clasped the limbs she loved in her new wings
and her hard beak kissed his cold lips in vain.
People wonder whether Ceyx sensed this                                                             [740]
or whether it was the motion of the waves
that made him seem to lift his countenance.                                            1130
But he surely felt it. So in the end,
thanks to the pity of the gods above,
they both were changed to birds. And even then,
though they both met this fate, their love endured.
The change did not dissolve their marriage ties.
They still mate and raise their offspring, and now,
for seven peaceful days in wintertime,
Alcyone broods in her nest, floating
atop the waves, which at that time are calm,
for Aeolus keeps all the winds confined,                                                1140
prevents their leaving, and makes waters safe
for his descendants.

 

                            Watching these two birds                                          AESACUS
fly side by side across the spacious sea,
an old man praised the love they had maintained                                                   [750]
right to the end. Then someone next to him,
or perhaps it was the same old man, pointed
to a long-necked bird and said:

 

                                                  “That bird
you see skimming across the sea, trailing
its thin legs behind, is a child of kings,
and if you seek out his direct descent                                               1150
in a family line right down to him, he comes
from Ilus, Assaracus, Ganymede
(seized by Jupiter), old Laomedon,
and then Priam, destined by Fate to reign
in Troy’s last days.(24) He was Hector’s brother,
and if as a young man he had not met
a bizarre fate, he might perhaps have had
a name no less illustrious than Hector’s.                                                           [760]
Though Hector was the son of Hecuba,
Dymas’ daughter, men say that Aesacus                                          1160
was born in secret, in the shady groves
below Mount Ida, to Alexirhoë,
daughter of the two-horned Granicus.
Aesacus hated cities and spent his days                                           AESACUS AND HESPERIË
far distant from the glittering palace,
in far-off hills and humble rural places.(25)
He rarely went to crowded Ilium.
But he was not uncouth, nor was his heart
impervious to love. Often he would seek
through all the forest glades to catch the nymph                                1170
Hesperië, daughter of Cebrenus.
He had observed her sitting on the banks
beside her father’s river, in the sun,
drying the wet hair spread across her shoulders.                                              [770]
But when he looked at her, the nymph ran off,
like a startled deer fleeing a tawny wolf
or water ducks escaping from a hawk,
who catches them far from the pool they left.
The Trojan hero races close behind her,
his feet made swift by love and hers by fear.                                     1180
But then, behold, a sly snake in the grass,
as she races past, bites her in the foot
with its curved fang and leaves its poison
in her body. Her flight and life both end.
The lover hugs the lifeless girl and cries:

 

‘It’s bad that I chased after you, so bad!
But I did not expect something like this.
Winning your love was not worth this to me.
The two of us have brought about your death,
unhappy girl. The snake gave you the wound,                              1190          [780]
but I brought it about. And that makes me
more guilty than the beast, unless I give you
solace in your death by dying myself.’

 

Aesacus said this, and then threw himself                                         AESACUS IS TRANSFORMED
from a rock into the sea, where pounding surf
had eaten away the cliff. But as he fell,
Tethys, moved by pity, gently caught him.
While he was in the sea, she covered him
with feathers and would not give him the chance
to die the way he longed to. The lover                                              1200
was incensed. He was being forced to live
against his will, and his spirit, which yearned
to leave its sad abode, was being blocked.
Once new wings were growing on his shoulders,
he flew up and, once again, hurled his body                                                     [790]
down into the sea. The feathers eased his fall.
Enraged, Aesacus dove headfirst deep down.
He kept on trying—and has never stopped—
to find a route to death. Love made him thin,
with elongated legs between the joints.                                             1210
His neck remains quite long and holds his head
some distance from his chest. He loves the sea
and still keeps hurling his body into it.
From this he has acquired his name, the diver.”

 

ENDNOTES

 

(1) After the death of his wife, Eurydice, Orpheus had rejected the love of women (see above 10.126). [Back to Text]

(2) Berecyntia was a mountain in Phrygia sacred to Cybele, whose worship involved music from flutes. [Back to Text]

(3) Maenads were ecstatic female worshippers of Bacchus. They usually carried a thyrsus (a staff of fennel wrapped in ivy leaves with a pine cone on top). At times the thyrsus can acquire magically lethal qualities as a weapon. [Back to Text]

(4) Hebrus was a river in Thrace. [Back to Text]

(5) Mount Tmolus was in Asia Minor. [Back to Text]

(6) Silenus was a satyr and a divine patron of drunkenness, who helped to raise Bacchus after he was taken out of Jupiter’s thigh. Eumolpus was a disciple of Orpheus and founder of the Eleusinian mysteries. [Back to Text]
 
(7) The Hesperides were three divine nymphs of the evening and western regions. They took care of a tree whose fruit was golden apples. [Back to Text]

(8) Danaë was tricked by Jupiter, who had sex with her in the form of a shower of gold. [Back to Text]

(9) The sound coming from the wind blowing in the reeds allegedly resembled the words “Midas has asses’ ears.” [Back to Text]

(10) The land of Laomedon was Troy, and the strait of Helle was the Hellespont, just north of Troy. Helle was a daughter of Athamas and Nephele. She ran away from home (to escape her step-mother Ino) and was drowned in the sea which was from then on named after her. [Back to Text]

(11) Peleus, who was also a part of the Hercules’ expedition against Troy, married Thetis, a minor goddess of the sea and a daughter of Proteus (a god of the sea). Peleus’ father, Aeacus, was a son of Jupiter. Telamon was also a grandson of Jupiter (he had been one of the Argonauts and had taken part in the Calydonian Boar Hunt with Meleager). Hercules was a son of Jupiter. Peleus is, in effect, claiming double honours from his two connections with divinities. [Back to Text]

(12) Carpathia was an island in the Aegean Sea. [Back to Text]

(13) Peleus had two brothers, Telamon and Phocus (all three were sons of Aeacus). Peleus killed Phocus by accident during a game. Ovid seems to suggest that the killing was deliberate. [Back to Text]

(14) Lucifer was the brightest star in the sky, prominent just before dawn. [Back to Text]

(15) Thisbe was a town in Boeotia. [Back to Text]

(16) Psamathe, a Nereïd, was the mother of Phocus. [Back to Text]

(17) Magnesia refers to a few different places. The one here is in Thessaly, in northern Greece. [Back to Text]

(18) Claros, in Asia Minor, had a well-known shrine to Apollo. The Phelgyans were a group of people in Thessaly. Ceyx would normally go by land to consult Apollo at Delphi, which was closer and more famous than the shrine at Claros. [Back to Text]

(19) A memorial stone was an important way to honour the dead if there was no formal burial because the body was not available (as in the case of people lost at sea). [Back to Text]

(20) Aeolus, god of the winds, was in other accounts the grandson of Hippotas. [Back to Text]

(21) In some philosophical theories of Ovid’s time (e.g., in Lucretius) the winds were a major cause of all sorts of natural events from lightning to earthquakes.[Back to Text]

(22) Pindus and Athos were large mountains. [Back to Text]

(23) Trachis a city and region in central Greece was associated with and consecrated to Hercules because he and his wife Deïaneira lived there. [Back to Text]

(24) These are some of the best-known names in the royal family of Troy. [Back to Text]

(25) Granicus is a river in Asia Minor. [Back to Text]

 

 

[Link to Metamorphoses, Book 12]

 

[Link to Metamorphoses, Table of Contents]