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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Let us then, setting out from opposite shores, meet in the midst of the sea, and

snatch the mutual kisses upon the surface of the waves. Let us then each return home; a small enjoyment indeed, but still better than none! How could I wish that powerful shame, which obliges us thus to conceal our love, would yield to desire, or trembling love give way to the dictates of fame! Honor and passion (things alas! incompatible) combat each other. Which shall I follow, or where end my suspense? On one side is decency, on the other pleasure. Jason of Thessaly, soon after entering Colchis, bore away Medea in his nimble bark. When the faithless Trojan had once arrived at Lacedmon, he quickly returned triumphant with his prey. As often as you grasp the object of your love, you abandon her; and swim even then when it is dangerous for ships to cut the liquid way. But yet remember, O daring youth, who have so often braved the swelling waves, that you so despise the threatening deep, as not to venture rashly in times of danger. Ships, formed with exquisite art, are often mastered by the foaming sea: can your feeble arms cut the deep like laboring oars? You, Leander, fondly spring forward to swim, an attempt that startles

the daring mariner; this is their last resource when compelled by shipwreck. Alas, how unhappy! I want to dissuade you from what I yet carnestly wish, and pray you may be bolder than my own admonitions allow: yet so that you may still come safe, and clasp my exulting shoulders with your wearied arms, often plunged in the foaming waves. But as often as I turn my eyes towards the blue extent of the sea, I know not what coldness spreads over my panting breast. Nor am I less disturbed by the vision of last night, although expiated by many sacred rites. For about the approach of morning, when the taper gave a faint and glimmering light (at the time when dreams are usually accounted true), my fingers, deadened with sleep, had dropped the lengthening threads, and my neck was gently reclined on the barren ridge. Here I espied a dolphin glide through the raging waves: I saw it a real spectre, and no deluding phantom; which, after being dashed by the waves upon the bubbling sand, was at once abandoned byits element and life. Whatever it may portend, I am full of fears. Despise not the ominous dream, nor trust your limbs but to a calm unruffled sea. If you are regardless of yourself, yet think of

your dearer half, who will never be able to survive your untimely fate. But I hope for a sudden calm to the troubled waves; then plunge with safety, and glide along the level tides. Meantime, as the threatening waves forbid your desired course, let this epistle soften the hated delays.

Poem 20

Acontius to Cydippe

BANISH all fear: you shall not here again swear in favor of your lover; it is enough that you have once solemnly vowed yourself to me. Read: so may that painful illness which spreads over all your joints, and racks my soul with a

thousand fears, leave every affected part. Why does the blush kindle in your check? For I fancy I see your color change, as in the temple of Diana. I demand nothing criminal; I only ask that affinity and allegiance which you promised in the temple of Diana; I love you as a lawful husband, not an infamous adulterer. Ah! only repeat to yourself those binding words, which the unthinking fruit thrown by my hands presented to your chaste eyes. There you will find yourself to be bound by that vow, which I could wish you had rather remembered than the Goddess. But now I tremble even for that, while this hope has already gathered strength, and my flame increases every moment. For that love, which was always violent, is now increased by tedious delays, and by the hope you have cherished in my breast. You gave me hope; my love rested upon this foundation; nor can you deny a thing that was done in the presence of the Goddess. She was present, and overheard your vow; and her statue was seen to give a nod of approbation. I allow you to accuse me of having deceived you by an artful management, if, at the same time, you own it was love that prompted me to the ingenious deceit. What did all my artifice

aim at, but to be joined to you alone? What you complain of, should render me rahter doubly dear to you. My ingenuity came neither from nature, nor from long practice; it is only you, dear girl, that can make me thus inventive. Love, fertile in expedients, turnished the form of words by which I bound you so close to myself; it indeed I really bound you. I inscribed a marriage-contract in words dictated by him; it was by following his suggestions, that I became so expert in the law. Let this stratagem then bear the name of fraud; let me be called cunning and deceitful, if it can be called a fraud to aim at the possession of what we love. See! I write a second time, and send you my prayers and entreaties. This too, no doubt, is a fraud; you have in this also a ground

of complaint. If it is a crime to love, I own it, and must still be guilty without end. I must still pursue you, should even you yourself avoid my cager hopes. Others have carried away by force the virgin whom they loved; and can it be a crime in me to write a few words with artifice? How earnestly do I wish I could bind you by a thousand other ties, that no liberty might remain to plight your faith to another! A thousand stratagems are still left: I struggle hard to mount the difficult steep; nor will my ardent flame leave any expedient unessayed. It is uncertain, perhaps, whether you can be gained; but assuredly you shall. True; the event belongs to Heaven; still you shall be mine. Should you escape some, it will be impossible to elude all my snares; Love has spread more than you are well aware of. If artifice be unsuccessful, recourse must be had to violence, and you shall be borne by force into the arms of your eager admirer. I am none of those who blame the brave attempt of Paris, or of any who have shewn themselves men of steadiness and courage. I also will

---- But I am silent. Were death to be the punishment of the daring rape, yet that is still less than to be deprived of you. Were you moderately fair, you would be pursued with a moderate impatience; but a form so enchanting, makes us rash and resolute. You and your deluding eyes do ail this; those eyes that eclipse the sparkling stars, and have raised the flame that rages in my breast. Why lay you not the blame upon your golden locks and ivory neck, and those fair hands, which, Oh how happy, were they fondly circled round my neck? Why not upon your comely looks, and that enchanting face, where modesty shines without rusticity; your feet, which I can scarcely imagine are equaled by those of Thetis? Where I able to commend the rest also, I should be much happier; nor do I question that the whole frame is uniformly beautiful.