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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While you sought to embrace me, and half-awake stretched your clasping arms, your hand was almost wounded by the drawn sword. And now, I began to dread my father, the guards, and the approaching light; when these my words roused you from sleep: Rise speedily, grandson of Belus, now the only survivor of so many brothers; unless you are quick in escaping, this is fated to be your eternal night. You start up in a fright; the fetters of sleep are all loosened, and you behold in my hand the pointed weapon. As you ask the cause; Fly, interrupted I, while night permits. You escape, favored by the darkness of the night; while I remain. And now, morning coming on,

Danaus numbers over his slaughtered sons; one only was wanting to complete the bloody crime. He storms at his disappointment in the death of a single kinsman, and complains that too little blood had been shed. I am torn from my father as I embrace his knees, and dragged by the hair to prison. Is this the due reward of my piety? So it is that Juno's resentment has ever pursued our race, since Jove transformed Io into a cow, and the cow into a goddess. But was it not sufficient punishment for the unhappy maid to lose her natural form, and, stripped of her beauty, be no longer able to please the almighty Jove? She stood amazed at her new shape, upon the banks of her flowing parent; and beheld, in this paternal mirror, the unusual horns. Striving to complain, her mouth was filled with lowings; and she was equally terrified at her form and

voice. Unhappy maid, why this mad rage? Why do you wonder at your own shadow? Why do you number your feet formed to new joints? This beauteous rival, once dreaded by the sister of almighty Jove, now allays her raging hunger with leaves and grass: she drinks of the running stream, and is astonished to behold her own shape; she even trembles at the arms she wears, and thinks them aimed against herself. You, lately so rich as to be deemed worthy even of almighty Jove, now lie naked and defenceless in the unsheltered fields. You wildly run through the sea, over lands, and through kindred rivers. Even seas, lands and rivers, permit your wanderings. What is the cause of your flight? Why, Io, do you thus traverse the spacious main? It is impossible to fly from your own shadow. Whither, daughter of Inachus, do you run? It is the same individual who flies and who pursues; you lead, and at the same time follow the leader. The Nile, which pours into the ocean through seven floodgates, restored to her former shape this beloved of Jove. But why should I

mention remote times, and accounts for which I am beholden to old age? Even the present years afford ground of complaint. My father and uncle are at war: we are driven from our kingdom and home, and wander exiles on earth's remotest verge. My savage uncle singly possesses the throne and sceptre; we, a destitute crowd, follow, disconsolate, a helpless old man. You only (how small a part!) remain of a whole nation of brothers. I mourn both for those who perished, and those who gave the fatal stroke. I have not only lost a multitude of brothers, but also a like number of sisters; and both losses equally demand my tears. Lo, even I am reserved to a cruel punishment, because I saved your life! What fate is left for the guilty, when I, who merit only praise, am thus accused? And must I, once the hundredth of a kindred

tribe, suffer death for saving one of so many brothers? But, my dear Lynceus, if you have any regard to the piety of your sister, or any remembrance of her love, and the life she gave you, help me in this extremity; or, if death should set me free before you can arrive, bear privately my breathless frame to the funeral pile, and sprinkle my ashes with unfeigned tears. When you have faithfully performed the last obsequies, engrave upon my tomb this short inscription:

Hypermnestra, an unhappy exile, was, as a reward for her piety, unjustly doomed to that death from which she had saved her brother.

I wish to write more; but my hand fails, disabled by a weight of chains; and ill-boding fears deprive me of the power of reflection.

Poem 15

Sappho to Phaon

AT the sight of this letter written with an anxious hand, will you not instantly know the characters to be mine? Or must even the name of the unhappy writer be added, to prove the person by whom the few lines are sent? You may perhaps wonder why I address you in alternate measures, when lyric numbers so much better suit my genius. But unsuccessful love complains in melancholy notes, and elegy is the most proper for the expression of my woe. No harp can serve to paint my flowing tears. I burn like a ripened field of corn, when driving east-winds spread the catching flames. Phaon honors the distant fields of burning tna, while flames fierce as those of tna prey upon my heart. I no more take pleasure in forming my numbers to the tuneful strings: music and poetry are the employment of a mind at ease. The dames of Pyrrha, Methymna, and the other cities of Lesbos, please no more. Anactorie and fair Cydno have

lost their charms; and Atthis, of late so grateful to my sight; with hundreds of others, once the objects of my guilty love. Faithless man, yo alone engross that heart, formerly shared by many. You are happy in a fine face, and years fit for pleasure and dalliance. O enchanting looks, so fatal to me and my repose! Take the harp and bow, and you will pass with all for Apollo. Adorn your head with wreaths of ivy, and you will appear beautiful as Bacchus. Yet Apollo was enamored of Daphne, and Bacchus of the Cretan maid, though neither of them excelled in lyric measures. To me the Muses dictate the sweetest lays, and the name of Sappho resounds through all nations. Even great Alcus, the partner of my country and my harp, has not more renown,

though he sings in loftier notes. If unfriendly nature has denied me an engaging form, yet the charms of my wit abundantly compensate that deficiency. I am short of stature; yet I have a name that fills the whole earth, and by my own merit have gained this extensive renown. What if I am not fair? Was not even Perseus pleased with Andromede, an thiopian dame? Doves of various colours often unite, and the white turtle matches with the shining green. If no charms can gain your heart but such as equal your own, no charms will be ever able to gain Phaon. yet when you read my lays, I then seemed formed to please: you were never enough delighted with my voice, and swore that it became me alone to speak. I remember when wont to sing (for, ah, how vast a memory have lovers!) how you stopped my tongue with kisses; even these you praised: I pleased in all, but more particularly when united with you is the close bonds of love. Then you were fired by my amorous sport; each motion, each glance, each word inflamed you, till, dissolving in tumultuous raptures, gentle faintness surprised our wearied limbs. But now the Sicilian

maids take up all your thoughts. Why was I born at Lesbos? Why am I not a native of Sicily?