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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She spoke, and disappeared with the voice. I rose amazed, and my dim eyes overflowed with tears. I go, O nymph,

to prove these healing rocks; fear recedes, borne down by powerful love. My fate, whatever it is, will be milder than at present. Blow up, gentle gales, beneath my falling body, and lay me softly on the swelling waves. And thou too, gentle Love, bear up my sinking limbs with out-spread wings; and let not Sappho's death profane the guiltless Leucadian flood. I will then hang up my lyre to Phbus, and under it write this inscription: Grateful Sappho consecrates her harp to Phbus; a gift that suits both the giver and the God. But why, relentless youth, do you drive me to distant coasts, when you can so easily cure me by your return? Your charms are more powerful than the Leucadian waves; and your merit and beauty make you a Phbus to me. Can you bear, O more hard-hearted than the rocks and waves, to be reputed the cause of my untimely death? Would'st thou rather see this breast dashed on pointed rocks, than

pressed to thine? this breast, which you, Phaon, have so often praised as the seat of love and genius. But now genius is no more; grief checks my thoughts, and the edge of my wit is blunted by my misfortunes. My wonted strength no more furnishes the flowing lines; my lute is silent, and the sounding notes sink under a weight of woe. Ye Lesbian virgins and dames, so often celebrated by the olian lyre; Lesbians, the objects of my guilty love; cease to hope that I will more touch the sounding harp. Phaon is gone, and with him all my joys have vanished. Unhappy wretch, I had almost called him mine. Make him return; no more shall you complain of the absence of your poetess; it is he, he only, that inspires or quenches the poetic flame. Can prayers avail nothing? Is your savage breast proof against all tender feelings? or have the flying Zephyrs lost my words in air? O that the winds which bear away my words, would bring back your welcome sails! It is what, if you are wise for yourself, you

ought now, though late, to hasten. Or are you already on the way, and are sacrifices offered for your safety? Why do you tear my heart with cruel delays? Spread your sails: the sea-born Goddess will smooth the waves, and prosperous gales speed your course. Only weigh anchor, and set sail. Cupid himself, sitting at the helm, will govern the bark; he with a skilful hand will unfold and gather in the sails. Or do you choose to fly from unhappy Sappho? Alas! what have I done to be thus the object of your aversion? At least inform me of this by a few cruel lines, that I may plunge myself, with all my miseries, amidst the Leucadian waves.

Poem 16

Paris to Helen

PARIS, the son of Priam, sends health to helen; that health, which he can himself no otherwise enjoy, than as it is your gift. Shall I then speak? or is it unnecessary to inform you of a passion that betrays itself? Has not my love already laid itself too open? I could indeed wish it to lie conceaied, till the time comes when we can taste of joys unallayed by any mixture of fear. But it is in vain that I dissemble; for who can smother a flame that always discovers itself by its own brightness? If yet you expect that my tongue should confirm what my actions have so long declared,--I burn. This message brings

you the true sense of my heart. Forgive this kind confession; and do not peruse what remains with a severe look, but with one that best becomes your heavenly form. Already it gives me pleasure to think that my letter is well received; for this creates a hope that I may also meet with the same kind entertainment. Heaven grant that my hopes may be confirmed, and that the queen of love, who urged me to this voyage, may not have promised in vain. For, that you may not offend through ignorance, know that I came hither by a divine admonition, and that one, not the meanest of the divine powers, favors my design. The prize I seek indeed is great, yet what I may justly claim; for Venus promised you, fair as you are, to my bed. Guided by her, I abandoned the

Sigean shore, ventured upon a doubtful fate, and did not decline to plough the pathless deep in the Phereclean bark. She commanded a gentle breeze, and stretched the canvass with auspicious gales; for, having sprung from the teeming deep, she still retains her empire over the main. May she still persevere; and, as she calms the sea, so may she calm the tempest that rages in my breast, and bring home all my vows and sighs to their desired port. My flames I brought with me; for I did not first find them here. They were the cause of my undertaking so long a voyage: for no threatening storm or mistaken course drove us hither; my fleet was designed from the first for the coast of Laconia. Nor fancy that I plough the waves in a ship laden with merchandise: the Gods have already blessed me with ample wealth. Nor came I so far to view and admire the cities of Greece; my own kingdom is filled with richer towns. It is you that I seek, whom beautiful Venus promised to my embraces; I wished for the enjoyment of your love, even before I was acquainted with your charms. Long before my eyes beheld you, I had formed an image of you in my mind; for fame was the first messenger of your beauty. Nor is it so great a wonder,

that, pierced by the swift-winged arrow at such a distance, I offer you my heart. So the Fates have ordained; which that you may not strive to resist, attend to a relation that carries in it nothing but truth.

I was yet enclosed in the womb of my mother, now pregnant with a burthen almost struggling for birth. She in a mysterious dream seemed to herself to be delivered of a burning torch. She was frighted, and related to priam the tremendous visions of the gloomy might: he consulted the sacred seers. The prophet foretold, that the flames of the ruined Troy were portended by the threatening torch; but surely Fate meant the flames that now rage in my breast. Though exposed among shepherds, yet my form and native greatness

spoke the nobility of my birth.