The Epistles of Ovid

The Epistles of Ovid
By P. Ovidius Naso
London J. Nunn, Great-Queen-Street; R. Priestly, 143, High-Holborn; R. Lea, Greek-Street, Soho; and J. Rodwell, New-Bond-Street 1813

Perseus Documents Collection Table of Contents

Penelope to Ulysses

Phyllis to Demophoon

Briseis to Achilles

Phaedra to Hippolytus

Oenone to Paris

Hypsipyle to Jason

Dido to Aeneas

Hermione to Orestes

Deianira to Hercules

Ariadne to Theseus

Canace to Macareus

Medea to Jason

Laodamia to Protesilaus

Hypermnestra to Lynceus

Sappho to Phaon

Paris to Helen

Helen to Paris

Leander to Hero

Hero to Leander

Acontius to Cydippe

Cydippe to Acontius

Funded by The Annenberg CPB/Project


Poem 1

Penelope to Ulysses

DEAR Ulysses, your Penelope sends this epistle to you, so slow in your return home; write not any answer, but come yourself. Troy is no more, that city so justly odious to the Grecian dames: scarcely were Priam and all his kingdom worth such a mighty stir. [5] Oh, how I wish that the infamous adulterer, when he sailed for Lacedmon with his fleet, had been swallowed up by the raging seas! I had not then lain cold in a solitary bed, nor thus forlorn complained of the tedious days; the pendulous web would not then have tired my tender hands, while by such means [10] I sought to elude the lingering nights. How often has my apprehension magnified your dangers? Love is a passion full of anxiety and fear. I often fancied you to myself assaulted by furious Trojans; and on hearing the name of Hector always turned pale. [15] If any one informed me that Antilochus had been slain by that hero, the fate of Antilochus proved the cause of fresh disquiet to me; or, if informed that Patroclus had fallen in counterfeit armour, I lamented that this stratagem should fail of success. Tlepolemus had stained the Lycian spear with his blood, [20] my anxiety was renewed by the catastroph of Tlepolemus. In fine, as often as any fell in the Grecian camp, my fond heart was chilled with icy fear. But the righteous gods had regard to my chaste flame; my husband lives, and Troy is reduced to ashes. [25] The Grecian chiefs have returned; our altars smoke; and the spoils of the barbarians are offered up to our gods. The matrons present grateful gifts for the safe return of their husbands; they in their turn sing the fate of Troy, constrained to yield to their better fortune. The good old men and timorous maids are stricken with admiration; [30] and the eager wife hangs upon her husband's tongue as he relates. Some, ordering a table to be brought, describe upon it the fierce battles in which they were engaged, and with a little wine trace out the whole of Troy. This way, they say, flowed Simois; here is the Sigan field; here stood the lofty palace of old Priam. [35] There was the tent of Achilles; yonder that of Ulysses; here mangled Hector frightened the foaming horses; for old Nestor related all to your son, whom I sent to enquire after you; and he again to me. He told me likewise, that Rhesus and Dolon had been slain; [40] how the one was surprised in his sleep, the other betrayed by guile. You also, my dear husband, alas! too, too forgetful of your family at home, adventured to enter the Thracian camp by stratagem in the night, and, assisted by Diomedes alone, to kill so great a number of men. No doubt you were wonderfully cautious, and did not forget your Penelope before the dangerous attempt. [45] My heart never ceased beating till I heard how you rode victorious through the army of your friends upon Thracian horses. But what does it avail me that Troy has fallen by your hands, and that the spot, where formerly its walls stood, is now a level plain, if I still continue forlorn as when Troy flourished, [50] and my husband is absent never to return? Troy remains to me alone; to others it is destroyed, and the victorious inhabitant tills it with the captive ox.