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


Now corn grows where once Troy stood; and the ground, fattened by Phrygian blood, produces a rich crop that tempts the hand of the reaper. [55] The half-buried bones of heroes are ploughed up by the crooked share; and rising grass covers the ruins of the houses. Though victorious, you are still absent; nor can I possibly know the cause of your long stay, or in what corner of the world my cruel Ulysses lurks. Whatever stranger touches upon these coasts, [60] is sure to be teased with a thousand questions about you; and, when he departs, is charged with a letter to deliver to you, in whatever region of the world he may chance to see you. We sent to Pylos, the Neleian kingdom of old Nestor; but we thence received no account beside uncertain report. [65] We sent likewise to Sparta; but Sparta, being equally ignorant of the truth, left us uncertain that lands you might be wandering over, or where you could make so long a stay. It would be better for me, if the walls of Troy were still standing. Alas! unstable and unhappy, I am offended at my own wishes. I should know in what part of the world you fought, and dread only the dangers of war; [70] nor should I be without companions to join in my complaint. Now I know not what to fear most. I am apt to fancy you exposed to every kind of hazard, and find myself bewildered in a wide field of care. Whatever dangers arise either from sea or land, these I suspect may be the causes of so long a delay. [75] While I thus fondly revolve these things within myself, your it is possible, are the slave of some foreign beauty (such is the inconstancy of man). Perhaps too you divert her by telling what a homely wife you have, who minds only the spindle and the distaff. But I may be deceived, and this imaginary crime may vanish into mere air and conceit; [80] nor can I persuade myself, that, if free to return, you would be absent from me. My father Icarius urges me to leave this widowed state, and never ceases chiding me for my continued delays. Let him chide on; I am yours, and must be called yours; Penelope will ever remain the wife of Ulysses. [85] He at length is softened by my piety and chaste prayers, and forbears to use his authority. A dissipated set of wooers from Dulichium, Samos, and lofty Zacynthos, teize me without intermission. They reign uncontrolled in your palace, and devour your wealth, [90] our very life and support. Why should I mention Pisander, Polybus, ugly Medon, and covetous Eurymachus and Antinos, beside many others, who all in your absence live upon the means gained at the hazard of your life? [95] Indigent Irus, and your goat-herd Melanthius, serve to finish your disgrace. We are only three in number, unable to defend ourselves; your wife weak and helpless, Lartes an old man, and Telemachus a child. That beloved boy we were lately in danger of losing, [100] as, against all our wills, he prepared to go in quest of you to Pylos. May the gods grant, that by the order of fate he may be appointed to close my eyes; to close also yours. The neat-herd, swine-herd, and aged nurse, all join in this prayer. [105] Lartes, now unfit for arms, is unable to maintain your right against such a crowd of enemies. Telemachus, it is true, if spared, will arrive at a more vigorous age; but at present he requires his father's protection. Nor can it be supposed that I am able to drive away this hostile crowd. [110] Come therefore speedily, you who are our only defence and sanctuary! You have (whom Heaven preserve) a son, whose tender years should have been formed to his father's virtue and prudence. Think of Laertes, and that it is your duty to close his eyes; he now languishes on the verge of dissolution. [115] Surely I, who, when you left me, was but a girl, when you return must appear old and decayed.

Poem 2

Phyllis to Demophoon

O DEMOPHON, Phyllis, your Thracian hostess, complains of your absence beyond the promised time. You engaged to drop anchor on our coast, when the moon should have completed her orb. [5] Already she hath four times waned, four times renewed her full orb; and your Athenian ships do not yet stem the Thracian tide. If you reckon time in the minute manner we lovers do, this complaint will not appear to have come before its day. [10] Hope forsook me slowly too: we are unwilling to believe what may be injurious; but now I feel it, and, in spite even of love and myself, must believe. Often have I lied to myself for your sake; often flattered myself that the raging south winds would drive hither your swelling sails. In my resentment I have cursed Theseus, imagining that he would not suffer you to depart; yet he perhaps was no cause of your stay. [15] Sometimes I dreaded that, in making towards the shallows of Hebrus, your ship might have been swallowed up by the foaming deep. Oft before the altars with offerings of incense have I, in a suppliant manner, implored the gods for your safety, O perfidious man! Oft seeing the winds favorable, the heaven serene, and the sea calm; [20] Surely, said I to myself, if alive, he will come. In fine, my indulgent love represented to me all the obstacles that might prevent a speedy return; and I became ingenious at finding out excuses for you. But still you linger: the gods whom you invoked have not restored you to me; nor, moved by a sense of my love, do you return. [25] O Demophon, you have given both your words and sails to the winds. Your sails, alas! have failed to bring you back, and your words were insincere. What have I done, unless perhaps I have loved you to excess? But surely this crime might have rather endeared me to you. My only fault is, to have loved and entertained you, faithless man: [30] yet this fault with you ought to be a merit. Where is now your honor? where are your oaths, and plighted troth? where are the many gods who dwelt on your perjured tongue? Where is now your matrimonial vow of constancy, which was to me the pledge and security of my phasing conjugal hopes? [35] You swore by the tempest-beaten main, which before you had often crossed, and on which you were again to hazard yourself; you swore too by your grandsire (if he also is not falsely called so) who soothes the boisterous waves; [40] by Venus doubly armed with her torch and bow, too successful, alas! with both against me; by Juno, who presides over the marriage-bed, and the sacred mysteries of the torch-bearing goddess. If each of these wronged powers should be disposed to take vengeance for the dishonor of invoking them falsely, you alone would be insufficient for the deserved punishment.