- Book 10: Pygmalion Notes from Metamorphoses
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Book 10: Pygmalion Notes from Metamorphoses
Translated by A. This work may be freely reproduced, stored, and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose. Hymen , called by the voice of Orpheus , departed, and, dressed in his saffron robes, made his way through the vast skies to the Ciconian coast: but in vain. The torch, too, that he held, sputtered continually, with tear-provoking fumes, and no amount of shaking contrived to light it properly. The result was worse than any omens. While the newly wedded bride, Eurydice , was walking through the grass, with a crowd of naiads as her companions, she was killed, by a bite on her ankle, from a snake, sheltering there.
When Thracian Orpheus , the poet of Rhodope , had mourned for her, greatly, in the upper world, he dared to go down to Styx , through the gate of Taenarus , also, to see if he might not move the dead.
Through the weightless throng, and the ghosts that had received proper burial, he came to Persephone , and the lord of the shadows , he who rules the joyless kingdom.
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My wife is the cause of my journey. A viper she trod on diffused its venom into her body, and robbed her of her best years. I longed to be able to accept it, and I do not say I have not tried: Love won.
Metamorphoses: Book 10 (8) by Ovid
He is a god well known in the world above, though I do not know if it is so here: though I do imagine him to be here, as well, and if the story of that rape in ancient times is not a lie, you also were wedded by Amor. All things are destined to be yours, and though we delay a while, sooner or later we hasten home. Here we are all bound, this is our final abode, and you hold the longest reign over the human race. Eurydice, too, will be yours to command, when she has lived out her fair span of years, to maturity.
I ask this benefit as a gift; but, if the fates refuse my wife this kindness, I am determined not to return: you can delight in both our deaths.
The bloodless spirits wept as he spoke, accompanying his words with the music.
Metamorphoses Book 10: Pygmalion
Then they say, for the first time, the faces of the Furies were wet with tears, won over by his song: the king of the deep, and his royal bride, could not bear to refuse his prayer, and called for Eurydice. She was among the recent ghosts, and walked haltingly from her wound.
The poet of Rhodope received her, and, at the same time, accepted this condition, that he must not turn his eyes behind him, until he emerged from the vale of Avernus , or the gift would be null and void. They took the upward path, through the still silence, steep and dark, shadowy with dense fog, drawing near to the threshold of the upper world. Afraid she was no longer there, and eager to see her, the lover turned his eyes. In an instant she dropped back, and he, unhappy man, stretching out his arms to hold her and be held, clutched at nothing but the receding air.
Dying a second time, now, there was no complaint to her husband what, then, could she complain of, except that she had been loved? Stunned by the double loss of his wife, Orpheus was like that coward who saw Cerberus, the three-headed dog, chained by the central neck, and whose fear vanished with his nature, as stone transformed his body. Or like Olenos , and you, his Lethaea , too proud of your beauty: he wished to be charged with your crime, and seem guilty himself: once wedded hearts, you are now rocks set on moist Mount Ida.
OVID, METAMORPHOSES 10
Orpheus wished and prayed, in vain, to cross the Styx again, but the ferryman fended him off. Still, for seven days, he sat there by the shore, neglecting himself and not taking nourishment. Sorrow, troubled thought, and tears were his food. He took himself to lofty Mount Rhodope , and Haemus , swept by the winds, complaining that the gods of Erebus were cruel.
Three times the sun had ended the year, in watery Pisces , and Orpheus had abstained from the love of women, either because things ended badly for him, or because he had sworn to do so. Yet, many felt a desire to be joined with the poet, and many grieved at rejection. Indeed, he was the first of the Thracian people to transfer his love to young boys, and enjoy their brief springtime, and early flowering, this side of manhood. There was a hill, and, on the hill, a wide area of level ground, turfed with fresh blades of grass: shade was absent there: but when the poet, born of the god, sounded the strings of his lyre, shade gathered there.
Among the crowd came the cypress, formed like the cone-shaped meta, that marks the turning point in the race-course: once a boy, but now a tree: loved by the god who tunes the lyre, and strings the bow.
There was a giant stag, sacred to the nymphs that haunt the Carthaean country, which cast deep shadows, around its head, from his wide-branching antlers. The antlers shone with gold, and the gems of a jewelled collar, around his polished neck, hung down onto his shoulders. A bulla , a silver charm, fastened with small strips of leather, quivered on his forehead, and on either side of his hollow temples matching pearls of bronze gleamed from both ears.
Yet, above all others, he was dear to you, Cyparissus , loveliest of the Cean boys. You led the stag to fresh pastures, and the waters of the clear spring.
Now you would weave diverse flowers through his horns, and then, astride his back like a horseman, delight in tugging his soft mouth one way or the other by means of a purple muzzle.
Tired, the stag had settled its body on the grassy turf and was enjoying the cool of the woodland shade. The boy, without intention, transfixed it with his sharp spear, and when he saw it dying from the cruel wound, he wished to die himself. What was there Phoebus did not say, in solace, advising a moderate grief matching the cause!
He only sighed, and begged, as the last gift of the gods, that he might mourn forever. Then, his blood discharged among endless tears, his limbs began to turn to a shade of green, and his hair that a moment ago hung over his pale forehead, became a bristling crown, and he stiffened to a graceful point gazing at the starry heavens.
Such was the grove of trees the poet gathered round him, and he sat in the midst of a crowd, of animals and birds. I have often sung the power of Jove before: I have sung of the Giants , in an epic strain, and the victorious lightning bolts, hurled at the Phlegraean field. Now there is gentler work for the lyre, and I sing of boys loved by the gods, and girls stricken with forbidden fires, deserving punishment for their lust.
The king of the gods once burned with love for Phrygian Ganymede , and to win him Jupiter chose to be something other than he was. Yet he did not deign to transform himself into any other bird, than that eagle, that could carry his lightning bolts. You too, Hyacinthus , of Amyclae , Phoebus would have placed in heaven, if sad fate had given him time to do so.
Still, as it is, you are immortal, and whenever spring drives winter away, and Aries follows watery Pisces , you also rise, and flower in the green turf.
METAMORPHOSES BOOK 10, TRANSLATED BY BROOKES MORE
My father, Phoebus, loved you above all others: and Delphi , at the centre of the world, lost its presiding deity, while the god frequented Eurotas , and Sparta without its walls, doing no honour to the zither or the bow. Forgetting his usual pursuits, he did not object to carrying the nets, handling the dogs, or travelling as a companion, over the rough mountain ridges, and by constant partnership feeding the flames. Now, the sun was midway between the vanished and the future night, equally far from either extreme: they stripped off their clothes, and gleaming with the rich olive oil, they had rubbed themselves with, they began a contest with the broad discus.
Phoebus went first, balancing it, and hurling it high into the air, scattering the clouds with its weight.
Its mass took a long time to fall back to the hard ground, showing strength and skill combined. Immediately the Taenarian boy, without thinking, ran forward to pick up the disc, prompted by his eagerness to throw, but the solid earth threw it back, hitting you in the face, with the rebound, Hyacinthus.
The god is as white as the boy, and cradles the fallen body. Now he tries to revive you, now to staunch your dreadful wound, and now applies herbs to hold back your departing spirit.
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His arts are useless: the wound is incurable. Just as if, when someone, in a garden, breaks violets, stiff poppies, or the lilies with their bristling yellow stamens, and, suddenly, they droop, bowing their weakened heads, unable to support themselves, and their tops gaze at the soil: so his dying head drops, and, with failing strength, the neck is overburdened, and sinks onto the shoulder.
You are my grief and my reproach: your death must be ascribed to my hand. I am the agent of your destruction.
Ovid metamorphoses summary book 10
Yet, how was it my fault, unless taking part in a game can be called a fault, unless it can be called a fault to have loved you?
If only I might die with you, and pay with my life! But since the laws of fate bind us, you shall always be with me, and cling to my remembering lips. My songs; the lyre my hand touches; will celebrate you.
As a new-formed flower, you shall denote my woe, by your markings. And the time will come, when Ajax , bravest of heroes, will associate himself with this same flower, and be identified by its petals.
While the truthful mouth of Apollo uttered these words, look, the blood that had spilt on the ground staining the grass was no longer blood, and a flower sprang up, brighter than Tyrian dye, and took the shape of a lily, though it was purple in colour, where the other is silvery white. Not satisfied with this alone, Phoebus he, indeed, was the giver of the honour himself marked his grief on the petals, and the flower bore the letters AI AI, the letters of woe traced there.
Nor was Sparta ashamed of producing Hyacinthus: his honour has lasted to this day, and by ancient custom the Hyacinthia is celebrated, at its annual return, by displaying the flower in procession.
An altar, to Jove the Hospitable, used to stand in front of the gates: if any stranger, ignorant of their wickedness, had seen it, stained with blood, they would have thought that calves or sheep, from Amathus, were sacrificed there: it was their guests they killed! What is their crime?
Instead, let this impious race pay the penalty of death or exile, or some punishment between execution and banishment, and what might that be but the penalty of being transformed? Nevertheless, the immoral Propoetides dared to deny that Venus was the goddess.
For this, because of her divine anger, they are said to have been the first to prostitute their bodies and their reputations in public, and, losing all sense of shame, they lost the power to blush, as the blood hardened in their cheeks, and only a small change turned them into hard flints.
But, with wonderful skill, he carved a figure, brilliantly, out of snow-white ivory, no mortal woman, and fell in love with his own creation. The features are those of a real girl, who, you might think, lived, and wished to move, if modesty did not forbid it. Indeed, art hides his art. He marvels: and passion, for this bodily image, consumes his heart. Often, he runs his hands over the work, tempted as to whether it is flesh or ivory, not admitting it to be ivory.
He kisses it and thinks his kisses are returned; and speaks to it; and holds it, and imagines that his fingers press into the limbs, and is afraid lest bruises appear from the pressure. He dresses the body, also, in clothing; places rings on the fingers; places a long necklace round its neck; pearls hang from the ears, and cinctures round the breasts.
All are fitting: but it appears no less lovely, naked. He arranges the statue on a bed on which cloths dyed with Tyrian murex are spread, and calls it his bedfellow, and rests its neck against soft down, as if it could feel.
When he returned, he sought out the image of his girl, and leaning over the couch, kissed her. She felt warm: he pressed his lips to her again, and also touched her breast with his hand.
The lover is stupefied, and joyful, but uncertain, and afraid he is wrong, reaffirms the fulfilment of his wishes, with his hand, again, and again. It was flesh! The pulse throbbed under his thumb. Then the hero, of Paphos , was indeed overfull of words with which to thank Venus, and still pressed his mouth against a mouth that was not merely a likeness.
The girl felt the kisses he gave, blushed, and, raising her bashful eyes to the light, saw both her lover and the sky. I speak of terrible things. Fathers and daughters, keep away: or if your mind takes pleasure in my song, put no faith in this story of mine, and imagine it did not happen.
Or, if you do believe it, believe in the punishment also, that it brought. If nature, however, allows such crimes to be visible, then I give thanks that the people of Thrace , this city, and this land, are far from the regions where such sin is born.