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


She now burns for you. Thus she once loved Menelaus. He, too easy of belief, lies now in a forlorn bed. Happy Andromache, the worthy consort of a faithful spouse! My fidelity merited a like return from you. You are lighter than withered leaves driven by the inconstant winds, or than stalks of wheat parched by the continual heat of the sun. Heretofore your sister (now I recollect) forewarned me of all, and, with her hair disheveled, thus prophesied my approaching fate: What is it you hope for, none? Why bury you thus your seed in the sand? Why plough you up the shore with unprofitable steers? The Grecian heifer comes, fatal to you, to Troy, and our ancient house. She comes. Forbid it Heaven; and now, while it may be done, overwhelm the guilty ship. Alas! how is she fraught with Phrygian blood! She said: her servants carried her off full of the God. My

hair was erect with fear. Ah, you too truly foretold my wretched fate! This heifer now feeds in my lawns. Though fair to look upon, she is yet a prostitute, whom strangers have easily enticed from her native home. Thus Theseus (if I do not mistake the name), one Theseus, formerly made her a prize. It is likely, no doubt, that she was restored safe and untouched by a youth passionate and fond. If you wonder how I obtained a knowlege of this story, I answer, that I love. You may call it violence, and think to hide her fault by a specious name: it is evident that one who has been carried off so often, must have contrived the rape. But none continues faithful to a perjured spouse; and yet I might have returned the injury in kind. I was pursued by the Satyrs, a lustful crew, and, to escape their violence, concealed myself in the woods. Fauns too, adorned with garlands of pine-leaves, traced me over Ida's swelling

summits. Phbus, the guardian god of Troy, obtained at last, by violence, what others had struggled for in vain. I tore his hair, and left on his face the marks of my rage. Yet I desired no sordid recompence of jewels or gold, nor would meanly prostitute my free charms for hire. He thought me worthy to be intrusted with the healing art, and rewarded me with the same knowlege for which he is himself so famed. My skill reaches to every herb and healing root which the fertile carth produces. But, unhappy that I am! my art avails not to my own cure; nor are herbs sufficient to heal the wounds of love. Even Phbus, the founder of our art, fed (we are told) the herds of Admetus; nor could he withstand the pointed flames. Not heaven, nor earth with all its bounteous store, can ease my pain; it is from you alone that I expect relief. Paris can relieve; and I have deserved it. Pity a maid who merits and loves you. My alliance will bring upon you no dangerous bloody wars. I am yours, and with you innocently passed my infant years: Heaven grant that what yet remains of life may be also spent with you!

Poem 6

Hypsipyle to Jason

You are said to have reached the Thessalian coasts in your returning bark, enriched with the prize of the golden fleece. I congratulate your safety, as far as I am permitted: but I ought to have known this by a letter from yourself. For, though unfavorable winds might have hindered you from landing in my kingdom, had you even desired it, yet a letter might have been sealed and sent: surely Hypsipyle deserved this testimony of your love. Why as fame the first

messenger of your success? Why did I first hear from report, that the bulls sacred to the stern god of war had submitted to the yoke,------that harvests of armed men sprang from the sowing of the dragon's teeth, and did not want your right hand to cut them off,------that the yellow fleecy spoils, though guarded by a vigilant dragon, were yet a prey to your valiant arm? If I could assure those who believe with diffidence, that all this was confirmed to me by a letter from yourself, how great would be my happiness! Why do I complain that my husband by so long an absence has failed in the respect he owes me? If your heart continues mine, I have still all I ask. You are said to have brought with you a barbarian enchantress, and admitted her to a share of that bed which you had promised to me. Love is credulous and full of fears. I wish it may be found that I have rashly charged my husband with false crimes. A stranger lately arrived here from Thessaly: scarcely had he touched the threshold, when I enquired how my Jason was. He, overcome with shame, stood silent, and fixed his eyes upon the ground. Impatient, I ran up to him;

and in wild distraction tearing his coat from his breast, Tell me, I cried, does he still live, or has Fate determined also to end my days? He lives, said he. I forced the intimidated stranger to confirm the statement by an oath, and could scarcely be convinced of your existence even by the testimony of a God. After recovering from my surprise, I began to enquire of your exploits. He tells me how the brazen-footed bulls of Mars turned up the furrowed plain; that the teeth of the dragon were thrown into the earth for seed, and a sudden crop of armed men sprang up; and that these earth-born heroes, cut off by civil broils, had filled up the short span of life allotted to them by Fate. Upon hearing of the serpent overcome. I again asked if Jason still lived; my heart beating alternately with hope and fear. While he proceeds in recounting one thing after another, in the current of his discourse, he at last discovers the wounds made in your heart. Alas! where is now your promised faith? where are now the nuptial ties? and Hymen's torch, fitter to have lighted up my funeral pile? I was not known to you by stealth. Juno was witness to our vows; and Hymen also, having his temples bound with garlands. But neither Juno nor Hymen, but cruel Erinnys, bore in procession the inauspicious torch. What concern had I with the Argonauts?

what with the ship of Pallas? Why did your pilot Tiphys think of touching at this coast? Here was no ram to entice you by his golden spoils; nor had etes his royal palace at Lemnos. I had determined (but my unhappy destiny overruled me) to expel the strangers with a female band. The Lemnian ladies have too glaringly shown themselves an overmatch for men. My life and peace ought to have been defended by so trusty a band.