MetamorphosesMachine readable text

By P. Ovidius Naso
Edited by: Brookes More

Boston Cornhill Publishing Co. 1922

Perseus Documents Collection Table of Contents

Book 2

Book 3

Book 4

Book 5

Book 6

Book 7

Book 8

Book 9

Book 10

Book 11

Book 12

Book 13

Book 14

Book 15

Funded by The Annenberg CPB/Project




And genial Ceres, full of joy, that now
her daughter was regained, began to speak;
Declare the reason of thy wanderings,
O Arethusa! tell me wherefore thou
wert made a sacred stream. The waters gave
no sound; but soon that goddess raised her head
from the deep springs; and after sue had dried
her green hair with her hand, with fair address
she told the ancient amours of that stream
which flows through Elis.I was one among
the Nymphs of old Achaia,so she said
And none of them more eager sped than I,
along the tangled pathways; and I fixed
the hunting-nets with zealous care.Although
I strove not for the praise that beauty gives,
and though my form was something stout for grace,
it had the name of being beautiful.

So worthless seemed the praise, I took no joy
in my appearanceas a country lass
I blushed at those endowments which would give
delight to otherseven the power to please
seemed criminal.And I remember when
returning weary from Stymphal fan woods,
and hot with toil, that made the glowing sun
seem twice as hot, I chanced upon a stream,
that flowed without a ripple or a sound
so smoothly on, I hardly thought it moved.

The water was so clear that one could see
and count the pebbles in the deepest parts,
and silver willows and tall poplar trees,
nourished by flowing waters, spread their shade
over the shelving banks. So I approached,
and shrinkingly touched the cool stream with my feet;
and then I ventured deeper to my knees;
and not contented doffed my fleecy robes,
and laid them on a bending willow tree.
Then, naked, I plunged deeply in the stream,
and while I smote the water with my hands,
and drew it towards me, striking boldly forth,
moving my body in a thousand ways,
I thought I heard a most unusual sound,
a murmuring noise beneath the middle stream.

Alarmed, I hastened to the nearest bank,
and as I stood upon its edge, these words
hoarsely Alpheus uttered from his waves;
Oh, whither dost thou hasten? and again,
Oh, whither dost thou hasten? said the voice.

Just as I was, I fled without my clothes,
for I had left them on the other bank;
which, when he saw, so much the more inflamed,
more swiftly he pursued: my nakedness
was tempting to his gaze. And thus I ran;
and thus relentlessly he pressed my steps:
so from the hawk the dove with trembling wings;
and so, the hawk pursues the frightened dove.

Swiftly and long I fled, with winding course,
to Orchamenus, Psophis and Cyllene,
and Maenalus and Erymanthus cold,
and Elis. Neither could he gain by speed,
although his greater strength must soon prevail,
for I not longer could endure the strain.

Still I sped onward through the fields and woods,
by tangled wilds and over rocks and crags;
and as I hastened from the setting sun,
I thought I saw a growing shadow move
beyond my feet; it may have been my fear
imagined it, but surely now I heard
the sound of footsteps: I could even feel
his breathing on the loose ends of my hair;
and I was terrified. At last, worn out
by all my efforts to escape, I cried;
Oh, help methou whose bow and quivered darts
I oft have bornethy armour-bearer calls
O chaste Diana help,or I am lost.
It moved the goddess, and she gathered up
a dense cloud, and encompassed me about.
The baffled River circled round and round,
seeking to find me, hidden in that cloud
twice went the River round, and twice cried out,
Ho, Arethusa! Arethusa, Ho!
What were my wretched feelings then? Could I
be braver than the Iamb that hears the wolves,
howling around the high-protecting fold?
Or than the hare, which lurking in the bush
knows of the snarling hounds and dares not move?
And yet, Alpheus thence would not depart,
for he could find no footprints of my flight.

He watched the cloud and spot, and thus besieged,
a cold sweat gathered on my trembling limbs.
The clear-blue drops, distilled from every pore,
made pools of water where I moved my feet,
and dripping moisture trickled from my hair.
Much quicker than my story could be told,
my body was dissolved to flowing streams.
But still the River recognized the waves,
and for the love of me transformed his shape
from human features to his proper streams,
that so his waters might encompass mine.

Diana, therefore, opened up the ground,
in which I plunged, and thence through gloomy caves
was carried to Ortygiablessed isle!
To which my chosen goddess gave her name!
Where first I rose amid the upper air!


Thus Arethusa made an end of speech:
and presently the fertile goddess yoked
two dragons to her chariot: she curbed
their mouths with bits: they bore her through the air,
in her light car betwixt the earth and skies,
to the Tritonian citadel, and to
Triptolemus, to whom she furnished seed,
that he might scatter it in wasted lands,
and in the fallow fields; which, after long
neglect, again were given to the plow.

After he had traveled through uncharted skies,
over wide Europe and vast Asian lands,
he lit upon the coast of Scythia, where
a king called Lyncus reigned. And there, at once
he sought the palace of that king, who said;
Whence come you, stranger, wherefore in this land?
Come, tell to me your nation and your name.
And after he was questioned thus, he said,
I came from far-famed Athens and they call
my name Triptolemus. I neither came
by ship through waves, nor over the dry land;
for me the yielding atmosphere makes way.
I bear the gifts of Ceres to your land,
which scattered over your wide realm may yield
an ample harvest of nutritious food.
The envious Lyncus, wishing to appear
the gracious author of all benefits,
received the unsuspecting youth with smiles;
but when he fell into a heavy sleep
that savage king attacked him with a sword
but while attempting to transfix his guest,
the goddess Ceres changed him to a lynx:
and once again she sent her favoured youth
to drive her sacred dragons through the clouds.


The greatest of our number ended thus
her learned songs; and with concordant voice
the chosen Nymphs adjudged the Deities,
on Helicon who dwell, should be proclaimed
the victors.

But the vanquished nine began
to scatter their abuse; to whom rejoined
the goddess; Since it seems a trifling thing
that you should suffer a deserved defeat,
and you must add unmerited abuse
to heighten your offence, and since by this
appears the end of our endurance, we
shall certainly proceed to punish you
according to the limit of our wrath.

But these Emathian sisters laughed to scorn
our threatening words; and as they tried to speak,
and made great clamour, and with shameless hands
made threatening gestures, suddenly stiff quills
sprouted from out their finger-nails, and plumes
spread over their stretched arms; and they could see
the mouth of each companion growing out
into a rigid beak.And thus new birds
were added to the forest.While they made
complaint, these Magpies that defile our groves,
moving their stretched-out arms, began to float,
suspended in the air. And since that time
their ancient eloquence, their screaming notes,
their tiresome zeal of speech have all remained.

Book 6

Book 6

Pallas et Arachne.


All this Minerva heard; and she approved
their songs and their resentment; but her heart
was brooding thus, It is an easy thing
to praise another, I should do as they:
no creature of the earth should ever slight
the majesty that dwells in me,without
just retribution.So her thought was turned
upon the fortune of Arachne proud,
who would not ever yield to her the praise
won by the art of deftly weaving wool,
a girl who had not fame for place of birth,
nor fame for birth, but only fame for skill!

For it was well known that her father dwelt
in Colophon; where, at his humble trade,
he dyed in Phocean purples, fleecy wool.
Her mother, also of the lower class,
had died. Arachne in a mountain town
by skill had grown so famous in the Land
of Lydia, that unnumbered curious nymphs
eager to witness her dexterity,
deserted the lush vineyards of Timolus;
or even left the cool and flowing streams
of bright Pactolus, to admire the cloth,
or to observe her deftly spinning wool.

So graceful was her motion then,if she
was twisting the coarse wool in little balls,
or if she teased it with her finger-tips,
or if she softened the fine fleece, drawn forth
in misty films, or if she twirled the smooth
round spindle with her energetic thumb,
or if with needle she embroidered cloth;

in all her motions one might well perceive
how much Minerva had instructed her:
but this she ever would deny, displeased
to share her fame; and said, Let her contend
in art with me; and if her skill prevails,
I then will forfeit all!

Minerva heard,
and came to her, disguised with long grey hair,
and with a staff to steady her weak limbs.
She seemed a feeble woman, very old,
and quavered as she said, Old age is not
the cause of every ill; experience comes
with lengthened years; and, therefore, you should not
despise my words. It is no harm in you
to long for praise of mortals, when
your nimble hands are spinning the soft wool,
but you should not deny Minerva's art
and you should pray that she may pardon you,
for she will grant you pardon if you ask.

Arachne, scowling with an evil face.
Looked at the goddess, as she dropped her thread.
She hardly could restrain her threatening hand,
and, trembling in her anger, she replied
to you, disguised Minerva:

Silly fool,
worn out and witless in your palsied age,
a great age is your great misfortune! Let
your daughter and your son's wifeif the Gods
have blessed youlet them profit by your words;
within myself, my knowledge is contained
sufficient; you need not believe that your
advice does any good; for I am quite
unchanged in my opinion. Get you gone,
advise your goddess to come here herself,
and not avoid the contest!

the goddess said, Minerva comes to you!
And with those brief words, put aside the shape
of the old woman, and revealed herself,
Minerva, goddess.

All the other Nymphs
and matrons of Mygdonia worshiped her;
but not Arachne, who defiant stood;
although at first she flushed upthen went pale
then blushed again, reluctant.So, at first,
the sky suffuses, as Aurora moves,
and, quickly when the glorious sun comes up,
pales into white.

She even rushed upon
her own destruction, for she would not give
from her desire to gain the victory.
Nor did the daughter of almighty Jove
decline: disdaining to delay with words,
she hesitated not.

And both, at once,
selected their positions, stretched their webs
with finest warp, and separated warp with sley.
The woof was next inserted in the web
by means of the sharp shuttles, which
their nimble fingers pushed along, so drawn
within the warp, and so the teeth notched in
the moving sley might strike them.Both, in haste,
girded their garments to their breasts and moved
their skilful arms, beguiling their fatigue
in eager action.

Myriad tints appeared
besides the Tyrian purpleroyal dye,
extracted in brass vessels.As the bow,
that spans new glory in the curving sky,
its glittering rays reflected in the rain,
spreads out a multitude of blended tints,
in scintillating beauty to the sight
of all who gaze upon it; so the threads,
inwoven, mingled in a thousand tints,
harmonious and contrasting; shot with gold:
and there, depicted in those shining webs,
were shown the histories of ancient days:

Minerva worked the Athenian Hill of Mars,
where ancient Cecrops built his citadel,
and showed the old contention for the name
it should be given.Twelve celestial Gods
surrounded Jupiter, on lofty thrones;
and all their features were so nicely drawn,
that each could be distinguished.Jupiter
appeared as monarch of those judging Gods.

There Neptune, guardian of the sea, was shown
contending with Minerva. As he struck
the Rock with his long trident, a wild horse
sprang forth which he bequeathed to man. He claimed
his right to name the city for that gift.

And then she wove a portrait of herself,
bearing a shield, and in her hand a lance,
sharp-pointed, and a helmet on her head
her breast well-guarded by her Aegis: there
she struck her spear into the fertile earth,
from which a branch of olive seemed to sprout,
pale with new clustered fruits.And those twelve Gods,
appeared to judge, that olive as a gift
surpassed the horse which Neptune gave to man.

And, so Arachne, rival of her fame,
might learn the folly of her mad attempt,
from the great deeds of ancient histories,
and what award presumption must expect,
Minerva wove four corners with life scenes
of contest, brightly colored, but of size