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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Every stranger who may arrive upon the Phrygian coast will be a fresh cause of fear on my account. In your rage you will not fail to upbraid me with my crime, forgetting the part you bear in it yourself. You, who are the author of my guilt, will be the first to reproach me. O may the earth rather overwhelm me for ever! But I shall shine in Troj in riches, and all the ornaments of a happy dress. You tell me, that I shall meet with a reception far beyond even your promises; that purple and embroidered garments shall be given me; and that I shall be enriched by a mass of gold. But forgive the trank confession; these gifts have no charms for me: the ties that bind me to my own country, are far more powerful. Who among the Phrygians will resent the injuries which may be offered? What aid from brothers or a father could I there implore? Deceitful Jason won Medea by his unbounded promises; but was he less ready to banish her from the house of his father son? She had then no Aeetes to whom she could fly for relief, no mother Ipsea, or sister Chalciope to hear her complaints. I indeed fear none of this; but neither did Medea fear: love often contributes to its own deceit. What ship now tossed by stormy waves did not sail first from the port with a favorable wind? I am terrified too by the flaming torch, which, in your mother's dream, seemed to spring from her womb before your birth. Add to this the prophecies which fortell that Ilium shall be consumed with Grecian fire. It is true that Venus favors us, because she carried off the prize, and by your judgement triumphed over two. But then I fear again the resentment of the two, who in this contest, so much to your honor, lost their cause by your sentence. Nor can it be doubetd, if I follow you, that troops will be raised to recover me. Our love (alas!) must make

its way through sword and slaughter. Did Hippodamia of Atrace instigate the Thessalian heroes to that cruel slaughter of the Centaurs? And can you fancy that Menclaus will be slow to revenge in so just a cause, or that my brothers and father will not contribute their aid? You boast highly of your valor, and recount your noble acts: but your face gains no great credit to your words. Those limbs are better formed for the delights of Venus, than the rude encounters of Mars: let heroes distinguish themselves in war; Paris will shine in the softer pursuits of love. Hector, whom you so much commend, may bravely defend you against the foe: a different warfare suits those graceful motions. Were I bold and daring as many of my sex, I would throw myself into your soft embraces; but time and you may at last bring me to yield, when, laying aside this foolish shame, I will gladly extend my consenting hand. You demand a private meeting, that you may acquaint me fully with all: I know your meaning, and what you aim at by this conference. But you are too forward; now is your harvest yet come to ripeness. This short delay may perhaps

promote the object of your hopes. Thus far my epistle bears the secret message of my heart; but the betraying pen has tired my tender hand. The rest you will learn of thra and Clymene, my faithful companions and counsellors.

Poem 18

Leander to Hero

LEANDER of Abydos sends, to his girl of Sestos, those wishes for her health, which he would rather bring himself, if the rage of the sea should abate. If the Gods are favorable, and wish well to my love, you will run over this with discontented eyes. But they, alas! are far from being favorable. Why else are my hopes deferred? why am I forbidden to swim over the known seas? You

see that the heavens are dark as pitch; the billows swell with the wind, too fierce to be stemmed by the hollow ships. One mariner, more daring than the rest, who brings you this epistle, ventured to leave the harbour. Here I intended to embark, if, when he weighed anchor, all Abydos had not viewed us from the eminences. I could not, as before, have dissembled with my parents, and that love, which prudence requires us to conceal, would no longer have been unknown. Writing being now my only relief, I wrote: Go, said I, happy epistle! Soon, with a graceful smile, will she extend to thee her fair hand. Perhaps too thou mayest be pressed to her ruby lips, as with her ivory teeth she eagerly breaks the seals. After muttering this in gentle whispers, my ready right-hand quickly marked down the rest. How much would I rather it should dash through the swelling flood, than thus in languishing accents write my complaints! How much rather it should bear me sedulous though the well-known waves! Far better does it indeed serve to lash the foamming deep; yet it is no unfit minister of my warmest thoughts and wishes. It is now the seventh night (a space to me more tedious than a year) that the raging sea has tossed her

sounding billows. May the angry sea prolong her rage with ten-fold heat, if in all these lingering nights my distracted breast has tasted the sweets of soothing rest! Mounted on some rocky cliff, I pensive view the beloved shore, and am carried in thought whither I cannot convey myself in person. My eyes too behold, or seem to behold, upon the tower's top, the watchful light that is to guide my course. Thrice I stripped, and laid my clothes upon the dry sand; thrice I attempted, naked, the threatening watery way. But the swelling sea opposed my bold youthful attempts, and, as I swam, overwhelmed me with adverse waves. But you, North, the most inexorable of all the raging winds, why do you obstinately raise up against me a malicious opposition? If you are not already aware, know, that It is against me, and not the seas, that you thus terribly rage. What would you do, were you wholly a stranger to love? Cold as you are, perverse Boreas, you cannot deny that you were once warmed by Actan fires. When keen to snatch the joys of love, had any one shut up the arial way, how would you have taken it? Pity me then for heaven's sake, and blow more mildly the gentle gales: so may olus lay no harsh commands

upon you. In vain I beg: he murmurs and rages at my petitions, nor offers to smoothe the billows which he has so violently agitated. Oh that Ddalus would gift me with daring wings! the Icarian shore so near, causes no terror in me.