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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Why do you rejoice at this danger over? In the mid-hall sits olus; and from a parent's eyes our crimes must be concealed. The cunning old nurse shrouds

the babe with leaves, white olive boughs, and holy fillets; and while she feigns sacred rites, and mutters prayers, the people, and even my father, make way for the solemnity. And now she had almost reached the threshold, when the infant's cry invades my father's ears; by its own evidence, alas! betrayed. Instantly he seizes the child, and unveils the feigned solemnity: the palace resounds with his raging voice. As the sea quivers when brushed by the curling breeze, or a tall ash when shaken by the stormy south-wind; so you might see my pale limbs shiver with fear, and the bed shake under my trembling body. olus rushes in with violence, and publishes my shame by his clamors: hardly could he restrain his hands from my face. I, overwhelmed with conscious guilt, answered only by my tears; fear had bound up my frozen tongue. And now he commanded his little grandchild to be thrown out a prey to dogs and hungry birds, and left in some solitary place. The helpless babe cried out, as if he understood his doom, and conjured his grandfather with what voice he could. Imagine, dear brother, what anguish of soul I must then feel, (for you

may easily guess the state of my mind by your own,) to hear my bowels doomed in my presence a prey to mountain-wolves, and the savage beasts of the woods. My father left me: then was I at liberty to beat my breast, and wound my checks with my nails. Meantime a messenger came from my father, his countenance sad, and his words full of cruelty. olus sends thee this sword (he then gave the sword into my hand), and says, that the sense of thy own demerits will teach thee what it means. I know what it means; and will boldly urge the piercing steel: my father's gift shall be treasured in my breast. Are these the gifts with which a father graces my nuptials? Is this the dower with which you enrich your daughter? Deluded Hymenus, remove far hence the nuptial torch, and fly with hurry and trepidation from this detested place. Let the hideous Furies bring hither their internal brands, that, kindled up by them, my funeral pile may blaze. Do you, my sisters, wed, blessed with more propitious fate; but, warned, be ever mindful of my crime. What has my infant son, so

lately born, committed? What could one scarcely brought forth do to offend his grandfather? If it were possible for him to have deserved so hard a fate, let him be thought to have deserved it. Alas, unhappy balse, you suffer for the guilt to your mother! O my darling son, to be your mother's grief, and the prey of wild beasts! alas! doomed to be destroyed on the very day of your birth; ill-fated babe, the mournful pledge of our unhappy loves; this was your first day of life, this also must be your last! I was not allowed to shed over you a mother's tears, or offer upon your sepulchre my shora hair. I did not hang over thy lifeless frame, or snatch from thy mouth the cold kisses. My bowels, alas! are made a prey to savage beasts. But I will soon follow by this wound thy infant shade: not long a mother, nor long shall I be called childless. But thou, in vain, alas! thy wretched sister's hope, fail not to gather up the scattered members of thy son; bear them to his fond mother's grave, and unite them with her in the social tomb: let the same urn, though small, contain us

both. Live ever mindful of your Canace, and shed some tears over my wound: nor fear to touch the breathless body of one whom you loved. Fulfil these last commands of thy hapless sister; and I will execute the cruel mandates of my unrelenting sire.

Poem 12

Medea to Jason

WELL I remember that, though queen of Colchis, I found leisure to provide for your safety, when you requested the help of my art. Then, if ever, the Sisters, who measure out the thread of human life, ought to have finished the number of my days. Then might Medea have died honorably. Life ever since has been a series of woes. Alas! why did the Thessalian bark, manned by a

troop of resolute youths, sail in quest of the golden fleece? why did Argo come within sight of Colchis, or a Grecian band drink of the water of Phasis? why was I so much pleased with your golden locks, your personal attractions, and the dissembled eloquence of your enchanting tongue? Doubtless, (as a strange ship had arrived on our coast, and landed a set of bold enterprising youths.) ungrateful Jason should have been left to rush, unfortified with spells, upon the glowing nostrils of the fire-breathing bulls, and dare their lofty looks: he should have been left to sow the serpent's teeth, and feel the arms of his numerous foes; that the forward cultivator might thus have fallen by his own harvest.

Perjured wretch! how much perfidy had been prevented by your fall! how many heart-piercing griefs might I have escaped! It is some relief to upbraid the ungrateful with the favors which they have received. This I can still enjoy; and it is indeed the only pleasure you have now left me. Commanded by your uncle to sail to Colchis with the unproved ship, you entered the happy kingdom of my native land. There Medea held the same place which your new bride holds here: my father, in wealth and dominion, came not short of her's. He rules over Corinth placed between two seas: my father commands all that part of snowy Scythia, which runs along the left-side of the Euxine sea. etes gave a kind and noble reception to the Pelasgian youths, and placed them on richly embroidered couches. It was then I first saw you, and understood who you were; that was the dreadful day of ruin to my quiet and peace of mind. How did I gaze, how did I imbibe the fatal poison, and burn with fires I had not felt before, like a pine-torch when lighted up at the sacrifices of the

Gods! You were beautiful and charming, and my unhappy destiny pushed me on; my eyes remained continually fixed upon your's. Base man, you too clearly perceived it; for who was ever discrete enough to hide love? A flame that betrays itself by its own light. In the mean time the law of victory is laid down, that you train to the unusual plough the unbroken necks of the fierce bulls. These bulls, sacred to Mars, were not only terrible by their horns: they breathed out streams of flame. Their feet were guarded with brazen hoofs; plates of brass also covered their nostrils, which were rendered black by their glowing breath. You are farther required to scatter over the wide fields, with devoted hand, seed that will suddenly bring forth a harvest of men, who will attack you with their self-born darts; a crop fatal to the laborer. Your last and greatest toil is, artfully to elude the eyes of the watchful dragon; eyes, unacquainted with the power of sleep. Here etes ended. You all rise up sad; the table is removed, and stripped of the purple carpets.