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

Funded by The Annenberg CPB/Project


No stubborn gates are to be forced open in the night; no watchful keeper to be deceived. One house served us both; one house will still serve us. You caressed me openly, and my do so still. Here you will be in safety; and our freedoms, far from exposing us to blame, will gain us praise. Only banish delay, and hasten to consummate our mutual loves; so may the tyrant that rages in my breast, prove gentle to you. I condescend to address you by prayers and entreaties; where is now my pride? where are my wonted boasts? I had resolved to hold out long, and not easily yield to a crime, if love were capable of any steady resolution. But, subdued by its power, I turn to prayers, and with my royal hands clasp your knees. Lovers, alas! are seldom awed by a sense of decency: shame and modesty have fled. Think favorably of my fond confession, and pity my sufferings. What though my father holds the empire of the seas, and my great grandsire darts the rapid thunder? What though my grandfather, crowned with pointed rays, guides the resplendent chariot of the day? Nobility gives place to love. Have some regard, however, for my race; and, if you undervalue me, yet shew respect to mine. The famous island of Crete falls by inheritance to me: here shall my Hippolytus reign supreme. Conquer that stubborn soul.

My mother could even inspire a bull with love; and will you be more cruel than a fierce bull? Hear, then, for Venus' sake, who is all-powerful with me; so may you never love a scornful fair. So may swift Diana still attend you in the remote forests, and the woods offer you the best game. So may the Satyrs and mountain Gods protect you, and the boar fall, pierced by your quivering spear. So may the kind Nymphs (though you are said to hate the softer sex) allay with grateful streams your burning thirst. Many tears accompany these prayers; think, while you read over the words of your Phdra, that you see also the tears streaming from her eyes.

Poem 5

Oenone to Paris

MAY I hope that you will read this? Or, over-awed by your new bride, must you treat it with neglect? Read it over, I entreat you: it is no threatening letter sent you from Mycen. I, the Nymph none, famous in the Phrygian woods, complain of injuries received from you, whom I am still fond to call mine, if you permit. What God opposes himself to my wishes? What crime have I committed, that I no longer possess your love? Where we suffer deservedly, we ought to bear it with patience; but unmerited calamities sit heavy upon us. You were yet in low circumstances, when I, a Nymph sprung from a mighty river, was contented to receive you for my husband. Thought now the

son of Priam, (excuse my freedom,) you were then no more than a slave: nor did I disdain to wed you even in that meanest rank. Oft under the shade of a tree, have we quietly rested amidst the flocks, where the ground, strewn with leaves, afforded a pleasant couch. Oft in our Iowly cottage, secure from hail and freezing winds, have we contentedly reposed on straw or a bed of hay. Who shewed you the forests best stocked with game, or pointed out the rocky caverns where the savage dam concealed her young? A constant companion of your toils, I often spread the knotted net, and cheered your sweeping hounds along the mountain's brow. The beeches still preserve my name carved by your hand; and 'none,' the work of your pruning-knife, is read upon their bark; and, as the trunks increase, the letters still dilate. Grow on, and rise as testimonies of my just claim. There grows a poplar (I remember it) by the river's side, on which is carved the motto of our love. Flourish. thou poplar, fed by the bordering stream, whose furrowed bark bears this inscription: Sooner shall Xanthus hasten back to his source, than Paris be able to live without his none. Xanthus,

flow backward; backward flow, ye streams! Paris still lives, though faithless to his none. My misfortunes began from that unhappy day, in which Venus, Juno, and Minerva (most graceful when clad in shining armor) appointed you judge of the prize of beauty. It was then that a black storm overcast my former peace. My heart failed while you repeated the fatal tale, and a cold trembling shot through all my bones. I acquainted the aged matrons and sages with my just fears; and they all agreed that some misfortune was approaching. Trees are cut down, ships are built; and the sea-green waves bear up your well-appointed fleet. When about to depart, you melted into tears; this at least you need not be ashamed to own; the present love is far more guilty than the past. You wept, and witnessed my melting grief; the mingled tears spoke our

mutual sadness. You clasped your arms round my neck, more closely than the curling vines embrace the towering elm. How did your companions smile, when you complained of the unfriendly winds! They favored; but love detained you. How often at parting did you repeat the ardent kisses; while your tongue was scarcely able to utter a last farewell!