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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Let others to recover health run through fire and sword: let them hope for relief from bitter draughts. You have no need of these: avoid only the guilt of perjury, perform the promised vow, and preserve both yourself and me. The not knowing that you were in fault, will excuse what is past; the form by which you bound yourself may have slipped out of your mind. But now you are fully admonished, both by my words, and those fetters, which, as often as you endeavour to break from them, bind you the faster. But could you get happily clear of even these, still remember that you must invoke her aid in

the pressing hours of child-bed. She will attend; and, calling to mind the promise you made, enquire to what husband the birth belongs. If then you make a vow for your recovery, the Goddess will disregard it, knowing you to be false; if you confirm it by an oath, she still knows you can forget your engagements to the Gods themselves. I am not so much concerned for my own fate: a still greater care burthens my mind, and fills me with fear and anxiety for your life. Why do your trembling parents mourn your doubtful fate, while you keep them in ignorance of your daring crime? And why are they kept in ignorance? It is proper that you disclose all to your mother. There is nothing, Cydippe, of which you need be ashamed. Repeat all to her in order; say that I first saw you as you were engaged in the solemnities of the buskined Goddess. Tell her that, as soon as I saw you, (if perhaps you gave any attention to what I then did,) my eyes were immoveably fixed upon every limb and feature; that, while I was thus lost in admiration, (the sure sign of a growing love,) my cloak insensibly dropped from my shoulders; and that afterwards you perceived an apple, uncertain whence, come rolling towards you, but cunningly marked with ensnaring words; which, as they were read in the sacred presence of Diana, made the Goddess a witness that your faith is tied down to me.

But that she may not be ignorant of what was contained in the writing, repeat to her the words you at that time read in the temple. Marry without hesitation, will she say, the youth to whom the gracious Gods have joined you: let him only be my son-in-law, whom you have solemnly sworn to accept in that character. Whoever he may be, as he has already made himself agreeable to Diana, he is agreeable also to me. Such will be your mother's behaviour, if she really acts the part of a mother to you. Yet you may admonish her to enquire who and what I am; nor will she find the Goddess to have been wholly regardless of your happiness. An isle, by name Ceos, formerly ennobled by the Corycian nymphs, is surrounded by the gean sea. This is my native country: and, if you are pleased with illustrious names, my ancestors will not fall below your hopes. I have also riches; my morals are without reproach; and, if no other recommendations existed, love makes you mine by the justest claim. You might even be pleased with such a husband, had no vow passed your lips; such an one might be acceptable, did no prior engagement intervene. These words the illustrious huntress dictated to me in my sleep; these too wakeful love commanded me boldly to write. I am already deeply wounded by Cupid's darts; it is yours, fair nymph, to beware of being pierced by the

arrows of Diana. Our welfare is inseparable; have compassion both on me and yourself. Why do you delay the only cure that remains for both? If I should accomplish this object, I will, when the sacred solemnity begins, and Delos is sprinkledwith votive blood, consecrate a golden image of the happy apple, and upon it inscribe our fates in the following distich:

"Acontius proclaims, by the consecrated image of this apple, that the inscription engraven upon it, was fulfilled to his desire."

But not to fatigue you, already too much exhausted by a long epistle, and to end all in the usual terms of concluding, Farewell.

Poem 21

Cydippe to Acontius

I READ over your letter in silent fear, nor suffered so much as a murmur to escape me, lest my tongue might rashly swear by some of the gods. I even think you would have ensnared me again, but that, as you own yourself, you knew it was enough I was once promised to you. [5] Nor would I have read it over, but from a fear that my obstinacy might have encreased the anger of the too cruel goddess. Although I forget nothing to appease her, and adore her with the smoke of pious incense, yet the partial Goddess still remains your friend; and, according to your own wish, leaves no room to doubt, that the injury with which you are threatened is the cause of her resentment. [10] Scarcely was she so favorable to her own Hippolytus.

It is surely more proper for a virgin, not to shorten a virgin's years: I am afraid she has only allotted a few to fulfil my fate. For the wasting illness remains; the cause lies hidden; and I languish without hope of relief from the physician. [15] You can scarcely conceive how thin and feeble I am, when I write you this, or with what difficulty I support my wasted limbs in the bed. I am also full of apprehensions, that some beside my faithful nurse may know of our thus conversing with each other. She always sits by the door, [20] and, that I may write to you with the greater security, tells every one who enquires after me, that I am asleep. But when sleep, the best pretence in the world for long privacy, ceases to be a plausible excuse for the tedious retirement, and when she observes persons coming, to whom she can hardly with a good countenance deny admittance, she coughs, and warns me of the danger by some known sign.

[25] Intent as I am, I leave the half-written words, and slip the well-dissembled epistle into my beating bosom. I take it out thence when alone; and it again fatigues my moving fingers. Judge only yourself what pain and anxiety it costs me. And yet (to be honest) let me die if you deserve it; [30] but I am kind beyond what is due, or even what you could in reason expect. Have I then, on your account, so often hazarded my life? Have I suffered, and do I still suffer the punishment of your too successful artifice? Is this the fruit I reap from a beauty that made you an admirer? And must I pay so dearly for appearing agreeable to you? Had it been my good fortune to seam ugly, how happily might I have escaped this train of disasters! Now, because I am admired, I groan in anguish; now I am undone by your rival contentious, and perish by the wounds I receive from my own beauty. For while you refuse to yield, and he imagines himself in no respect your inferior, each stands an invincible obstacle to the other's desires. I, in the mean time, am tossed like an uncertain ship, driven by a strong North-wind to the open sea, but forcibly kept back by the tide and waves. When now the nuptial day, so earnestly wished by my dear parents, is at hand, a burning fever spreads over all my joints; and, at the very time

appointed for the threatening solemnity, stern Proserpine knocks hideous at the palace gate. I blush; and, though conscious of no crime, dread that I may be thought to have in some respect merited the wrath of Heaven.