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


Unhappy Phyllis, what do you pray for? He perhaps is detained by another mistress, [105] and a love that banishes all remembrance of thee. Alas! I fear that, since you left me, you have never once thought of Phyllis. Cruel fate! should you be at a loss to know who I Phyllis am, and whence; I: who admitted you, after a long course of wandering, into our Thracian harbours, and entertained you in so hospitable a manner; who increased your wealth from my own stock, [110] supplied your wants by many gifts, and intended to have enriched you still more; who subjected to your rule the spacious kingdom of Lycurgus, too warlike and fierce to be awed by a female name; even from Rhodope covered with eternal snow, to shady Hmus, and where gentle Hebrus rolls his sacred stream; on whom in an unlucky hour I bestowed my virgin love, [115] and whom I suffered with treacherous hands to untie my chaste girdle. Doubtless Tisiphone howled over us in that fatal night, and the wandering owl complained in mournful notes. Alecto too was present, her hair wreathed with curling snakes; [120] and lighted the tapers with infernal flame. Disconsolate, I tread the rocks and shore overgrown with shrubs, where-ever the wide sea lies open to my eyes. Whether by day, when earth relenting feels the genial heat, or by night when the stars shine, and cold damps fall, I am anxious in observing the course of the winds. [125] If by chance I can espy and distant sail, forthwith I divine it to be my Demophon. I run towards the shore whither the inconstant billows flow, and can scarcely be restrained even by the waves. The nearer they approach, the more my fears increase, [130] till at last fainting away I am carried home by my train. Near my present abode is a bay, bent in the manner of a bow, whose sides running out into the sea form a precipice of rocks. Hence my despair has often urged me to throw myself headlong into the raging flood; [135] and I am still resolved upon it, because you continue to deceive me. The friendly waves may perhaps waft me over to the Athenian shore, and my unburied remains may there meet your unexpecting eyes. Though more hard-hearted than iron or adamant, year even than yourself, you will in pity say; Alas! Phyllis, you ought not to have followed me thus. Oft I thirst after poisons; oft resolve to pierce my heart, [140] and perish by a bloody death. Sometimes I think of tying a silken knot upon that neck, round which you have so often twined your treacherous arms. It is fixed; I must repair my ruined honor by a speedy death: when the mind is once determined, it is easy to choose the mode of dying. You shall be marked upon my tomb as the cruel cause of my death, [145] and handed down to posterity in these or similar lines: Phyilis died by the cruelty of Demophon; a faithful mistress by a perfidious guest. He was the barbarous cause; she herself gave the fatal blow.

Poem 3

Briseis to Achilles

THE letter which you now read in broken Greek, written by a foreign hand, comes from captive Briseis. Whatever blots you observe, were occasioned by my tears; but even tears are often more prevalent than words. [5] If it may be allowed to complain a little of my lord and husband, I have a few causes of complaint against you, who are both. I do not blame you that I was so tamely delivered up to the king when demanded; and yet, even in that point, you are not altogether without blame: for no sooner was I demanded by Eurybates and Talthybius, than I was delivered up to be carried away by those military heralds. each regarding the other with a look of surprise, inquired in whispers, Where is their so famed love? I might have been detained somewhat longer; delay of miscry would have been grateful. Alas! when torn from you, I gave no parting kisses: but my tears flowed without ceasing; I tore my hair, and hapless seemed to myself, for the second time, a captive. I have often thought to deceive my keeper and escape, but trembled at the apprehension of falling into the hands of the enemy. I dreaded that, upon leaving the Grecian camp, I might again perhaps become a captive, and presented to some of the daughters-in-law of Priam. But I was delivered up, because so it must be. Though absent many nights, I am not demanded back. You linger, and are slow of resenting. Patroclus himself, when I was carried away, whispered in my ear, Why do you weep? your stay with Agamemnon will be very short. But your neglect of requiring me again from the hing is the least part of your crime; you even strive against my return. Weight now with yourself what right you have to the name of a lover. The sons of Telamon and Amyntor came ambassadors from Agamemnon; the first related to you by blood, the other your friend and

guardian: the son also of Laertes came; by whom I might have returned attended. Softening entreaties were added to their costly presents,----twenty shining vessels curiously wrought in Corinthian brass, and seven tripods, alike in weight and workmanship. To these were added twice five talents of gold, and twelve spirited steeds. matchless in the race; and (what might have well been spared) Lesbian girls of exquisite beauty, captives of that pillaged island. With these (but what need of this?) you had the choice of one of Agamemnon's three daughters for a wife. You refused to accept me with gifts, which, had Agamemnon consented to my ransom, you ought with joy to have carried to him. What have I done thus to merit your neglect, Achilles? Whither has your changeable love so soon fled? Does cruel fortune incessantly pursue the wretched? Shall no propitious gales favour my chaste hopes?