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

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Have I then been able to tame the serpents and raging bulls, and yet cannot vanquish a single man? Could I by magic arts repress the fire-breathing bulls, and not conquer the flames of love that rage in my own breast? Have my enchantments, herbs, and skill, abandoned me? Can Diana and the rites of powerful Hecate yield no relief? Day is odious to me; the nights are full of cruel bitterness; no soft slumbers soothe my anxious breast. I, who can do nothing to myself, could yet lull to rest the dragon; my art is useful to every one but myself. A rival embraces those limbs which I preserved; she now enjoys the fruit of my toil. Perhaps too, while you endeavour to recommend yourself to your silly spouse, and say what may be agreeable to her partial ears, you unjustly ridicule my face and manners. She stupidly laughs, and rejoices at my defects. Laugh on,

proud fair, and pride yourself in your purple bed; soon you shall mourn, and burn with flames more fierce than mine. While fire, sword, and poisons, may be had, no enemy of Medea shall escape her resentment. Yet if prayers are able to touch your obdurate heart, hear me now descend to requests below my usual greatness of soul. I address you with the same submission with which you have often applied to me; nor delay to throw myself at your feet. If I am now despicable to you, yet think of your children, those common pledges of our former love. Shall my offspring be exposed to the rage of a cruel step-mother? Alas! they too strongly bear your likeness, and strike me with the resemblance: as often as I look at them, my eyes swim in tears. I implore you by the Gods above, by the splendor of my grand-father's chariot, by the love I always bore you, and your two sons, those dear pledges of what I once was, restore me to that bed, for which I have made so many sacrifices; make good your promises, and give me relief. I ask not your aid against the bulls, and earth-born heroes, or to lull to rest the watchful dragon: I demand you whom I have dearly purchased, who yourself made a surrender of your heart to me; by whom I likewise have been made a mother. If you enquire for my

dowry, remember the field that was to be ploughed up before you could carry off the golden fleece. My dowry is that golden ram, beautiful by his rich wool; which if I should demand back, would you ever consent? I bring for a dowry your own safety, and that of all the Grecian youths. Go now, perjured man, and boast the ill-gotten wealth of Sisyphus. To me you owe your life, that you have a spouse, a powerful father-in-law, or even that you can be ungrateful. But hold: I will quickly be revenged. Yet what avails it to threaten before-hand? Rage drives me upon the deepest destruction. I will yield to all the madness of rage, however I may afterwards repent. I even now repent the aid I granted to a perfidious wretch. The God who rages in my breast can alone penetrate these designs: I only know that my mind conceives something vast and worthy of myself.

Poem 13

Laodamia to Protesilaus

LAODAMIA of Thessaly wishes health to her Thessalian husband, and ardently prays that the Gods may convey this health whither she sends it. It is said that you are detained at Aulis by contrary winds; ah! cruel winds, where were ye when he first parted from me? It was then the seas ought to have opposed themselves to your oars: that was the proper season for the waves to rage. I would nave given him many kisses, many admonitions; for I had an abundance of admonitions to give. You were suddenly hurried

from me; an inviting gale called forth the sails, a gale grateful to the mariners, not to me; a gale that exactly suited their views, but not those of an unhappy lover. I was torn from the embraces of my dear Protesilaus; my faltering tongue gave you its last charge in broken words, and scarcely was I able to utter the mournful adieu. The north-wind sprang up, and stretched the swelling sails. My Protesilaus was soon carried far from me. While my husband remained in sight, I found a pleasure in looking at him, and incessantly pursued your eyes with mine. Even after I could no longer see you, I still could behold your sails: the sails kept my eyes long fixed upon them. But when I could no more perceive either you or the flying sails, and nothing appeared to my aching sight beside the sea, light fled also with you; a darkness hung round me, nor were my tottering knees longer able to support my pale frame. My father-in-law Iphiclus, the good old Acastus, and my sorrowful mother, hardly recovered me by sprinkling my face with cold water. They were taken up in a kind good-natured office, but ungrateful to me, who mourn that I was not suffered to finish a wretched life. With my senses, my grief also returned; and a just love preyed upon my chaste heart. I now neg-

lect the care of my hanging locks, and refuse to adorn myself with cloth of gold. I wander where-ever my madness urges me, like those whom Bacchus is supposed to have touched with his rod. The Thessalian matrons flock round me. Put on, they cry, Laodamia, the royal robes. Shall I shine in robes of Tyrian purple, and my husband be engaged in a bloody war under the walls of Troy? Shall I adorn my hair, while his head is loaded with a helmet? or strut in new apparel, while he bears about a coat of mail? I will at least be said to copy your hardships in the negligence of my dress, and pass the time of this fatal war in sadness. O Paris of the house of Priam, beautiful to the destruction of your country, may you prove as cowardly an enemy, as you were a perfidious guest. How could I wish that you had disliked the countenance of the Lacedmonian queen, or that she had found less cause to admire yours! And you, Menelaus, who shew too great anxiety about one who so easily consented to be ravished from you, how fatal an avenger will you prove to many! Avert, ye Gods, the dire omen from me; and grant that my husband may consecrate his spoils to Jupiter, the author of his safe return! Yet I am full of fears; and, as often as I think of the horrible war, the tears drop from me like snow melted by the sun. Ilion, and Tenedos, and Simois, and Xanthus, and Ida, are names which, by their very sound, strike me with terror. A stranger would not have ventured to carry her away, had he not known himself able to defend the prize: doubtless, he was well acquainted with his own strength.