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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If you will be governed by the advice of a mother, she disapproves your choice; nor does your father relish a bride from the frozen zone. Let her seek a husband from the borders of the Tanais, the marshy fens of Scythia, or her native banks of Phasis. Inconstant Jason, More unstable than the vernal breeze; why are your words without their promised weight? You departed my husband, and return wedded to another. But, as I was your wife when we parted, let me be still the

same since your return. If nobility and great names move you, I boast a descent from Thoas, the grandson of Minos. I have Bacchus for my grandfather; whose spouse, adorned with a radiant crown, eclipses the inferior lights by her more refulgent rays. Lemnos is my dowry, a fertile land, that crowns the labor of the cultivator. And I myself am not to be overlooked amidst so many noble gifts. I am also a mother, and bore the load with pleasure for the father's sake: let us both rejoice in this auspicious pledge. I am happy too in the number, and have brought forth twins, a double pledge of Lucina's favor. If you enquire concerning their likeness, you may be known by them: they are indeed strangers to treachery, but, in every thing else, the express image of their father. These had been sent envoys for their mother; but a cruel stepdame prevented the intended journey. I dreaded Medea; Medea is more cruel than even cruelty itself. Medea has hands ready for every kind of wickedness. Would she, who could scatter the dismembered joints of her own brother, scruple to imbue her hands in the blood of these innocent pledges of my love?

And yet, O deluded man, intoxicated with the philtres of Colchis! this is the woman for whom you are said to have deserted Hypsipyle. She basely associated with the husband of another; we were chastely united by the hymeneal torch. She betrayed her father; I saved mine from destruction. She deserted her native land; I still remain at Lemnos. But what avails it, if her wickedness triumphs over my piety, and she gains the heart of her husband by her very crimes? Far from admiring the cruelty of the Lemnian ladies, I blame it, Jason; although indignation and resentment stirred them up to arms. Tell me, if, driven by inhospitable winds, you and your companion had entered my ports, and I, accompanied by my twin-offspring, had gone out to welcome you, would you not have wished the earth to open and swallow you up? With what face could you have beheld the harmless babes, and me your faithful wife? What punishment could have been inflicted upon you, equal to your perfidy

and ingratitude? You would indeed have been safe and unhurt; not because you deserved it, but in consequence of my softness and good-nature. But I would have satiated my eyes with the blood of that harlot; and you, the slave of her sorceries, should have beheld the tragedy. I would have been Medea to Medea. If you, O just Jupiter, hear from heaven the prayers of injured love, may this base intruder into my chaste bed groan under the same pangs which I now feel, and herself experience that treachery of which she has set the first example; and, as I, a wife and the mother of twins, am left destitute and forlorn, may she also be ravished from her husband and children: may she soon lose and shamefully abandon these ill-gotten trophies; exiled, and wandering a fugitive over all the earth! What sister she was to her brother, what daughter to her parent, such a mother and wife may she prove to her children and husband! When she has traversed the earth and sea, let her attempt the air, till, destitute and hopeless, she end a miserable life by her own hand. These are the prayers of the disappointed and injured daughter of Thoas. May you live an execrable pair, the partners of a devoted bed!

Poem 7

Dido to Aeneas

THUS the silver swan, when death approaches, bemoans her fate among the willows on the banks of Mander. Nor do I address you, from a hope of being able to move you by my prayers: that, the Gods, averse to my request, forbid. But, having lost merit and fame, my honor and myself, why should I fear to lose a few dying words? You are then resolved to depart, and abandon unhappy Dido; the same winds will bear away your promises and sails. You are, I say, O neas, resolved to weigh at once your anchor and your vows, and go in quest of Italy, a land to which you are wholly a stranger. Neither my new-built Carthage and her rising walls have power to detain you; nor the supreme rule, which you are in vain urged to accept. You fly a city already built, and seek one that is yet to be raised; the one realm is still to be conquered, the other is subject to your command. Even if you had disembarked on the wished-for coast, how can the natives be induced to resignit? What people will grant the property of their lands to strangers? You must first be so fortunate as to find another love, another affectionate, constant Dido: you must again bind yourself by vows which you cannot keep. Yet when will you build a city flourishing like Carthage, and from your lofty towers survey the crowds below? But were all events to meet your desires, so that not even a wish remained unanswered, where will you find a wife to love like me? I burn like waxen torches smeared with sulphur, or pious incense cast into the smoking censer. neas is ever before my wakeful eyes; the image of neas baunts me both by night and day.

He indeed is ungrateful, and regardless of all my good offices; and I am a fond fool, not to tear him instantly from my heart. In spite of all his ill-usage, I have not power to hate him. I can only complain of his baseness; and, when my complaints are over, love him more than ever. Pity, O Venus, your daughter-in-law; pierce, O Cupid, the unrelenting heart of your brother, and teach him to fight under your banners. Teach me also, who have already begun the pleasing task, (for I deny it not,) and let him prove an object worthy of my tenderness and concern. I rave; and the enchanting image deludes my eager mind; nor does he retain any portion of the softness of his mother. You are certainly the offspring of rocks and mountains, or the hardened oak that rises out of the hanging cliff. A savage tigress, or the tempestuous ocean, such as it is now when swelled by gathering storms, gave thee birth. But whither can you shape your course, or how stem the force of opposing billows? You prepare to set sail, a stormy sea forbids: let me enjoy the blessing which a rough winter offers. Behold how the blustering east-wind raises the foaming waves. Let me owe that to winter and a stormy sea, which I would rather owe to your love; the winds and waves have more of justice than you. Although thou deservest to perish, cruel and barbarous man, yet I am not of such value, that in

flying from me you should lose your life. It is a costly hatred, and of too great amount, if you despise death while you endeavour to shun me. Soon the winds will cease, a calm succeed, and Triton, drawn by sea-green horses, wheel along the surface of the deep.