MetamorphosesMachine readable text

By P. Ovidius Naso
Edited by: Brookes More

Boston Cornhill Publishing Co. 1922

Perseus Documents Collection Table of Contents

Book 2

Book 3

Book 4

Book 5

Book 6

Book 7

Book 8

Book 9

Book 10

Book 11

Book 12

Book 13

Book 14

Book 15

Funded by The Annenberg CPB/Project




An old man saw the two birds fly across
the wide extended sea and praised their love,
undying to the end. His old friend who
stood near him, said, There is another bird,
which you can see skimming above the waves
with folded legs drawn up; and as he spoke,
he pointed at a divedapper, which had
a long throat, and continued, It was first
the son of a great king, as Ceyx, was:
and if you wish to know his ancestry,
I can assure you he descended from
Ilus, Assaracus, and Ganymede
taken by Jupiter, and old Laomedon,
and Priam, ruler at the fall of Troy.

Aesacus was the brother of the great
illustrious Hector; and, if he had not
been victimized by a strange fate in youth,
he would have equalled Hector's glorious fame,
Hector was child of Hecuba, who was
daughter of Dymas. Alexirhoe,
the daughter of the two-horned Granicus,
so rumor has it, secretly brought forth
Aesacus, hidden under Ida's shade.

He loathed the city and away from court,
frequented lonely mountains and the fields
of unambitious peasants. Rarely he
was seen among the throngs of Ilium.
yet, neither churlish nor impregnable
to love's appeal, he saw Hesperia,
the daughter of Cebrenus, while she was
once resting on the velvet-shaded banks
of her sire's cherished stream. Aesacus had
so often sought for her throughout the woods.

Just when he saw her, while she rested there,
her hair spread on her shoulders to the sun,
she saw him, and without delay she fled,
even as the frightened deer runs from the wolf
or as the water-duck, when she has left
her favored stream, surprised, flies from the hawk.
Aesacus followed her, as swift with love
as she was swift with fear. But in the grass
a lurking snake struck at her rosy heel
and left its venom in her flesh.And so,
her flight was ended by untimely death.

Oh, frantic, he embraced her breathless form,
and cried: Alas, alas, that I pursued!
I did not dream of such a dreadful fate!
Success was not worth such a price
I and the snake together caused your death
the serpent gave the wound, I was the cause.
Mine is the greater guilt, and by my death
I'll give you consolation for your death!

He said those words and leaped on a high rock,
which years of sounding waves had undermined,
and hurled himself into the sea below.

Tethys was moved with pity for his fall,
received him softly, and then covered him
with feathers, as he swam among the waves.
The death he sought for was not granted him.
At this the lover was wroth. Against his will,
he was obliged to live in his distress,
with opposition to his spirit that desired
departure from the wretched pain of life.

As he assumed upon his shoulders wings
newformed, he flew aloft and from that height
again he plunged his body in the waves
his feathers broke all danger of that fall
and this new bird, Aesacus, plunged headlong
into the deep, and tried incessantly
that method of destruction. His great love
unsatisfied, made his sad body lean,
till even the spaces fixed between the joints
of his legs have grown long; his neck is long;
so that his head is far away from his
lean body. Still he hunts the sea
and takes his name from diving in the waves.

Book 12

Book 12

Graeci Aulide. Fama.


Sadly his father, Priam, mourned for him,
not knowing that young Aesacus had assumed
wings on his shoulders, and was yet alive.
Then also Hector with his brothers made
complete but unavailing sacrifice,
upon a tomb which bore his carved name.
Paris was absent. But soon afterwards,
he brought into that land a ravished wife,
Helen, the cause of a disastrous war,
together with a thousand ships, and all
the great Pelasgian nation.

Vengeance would
not long have been delayed, but the fierce winds
raged over seas impassable, and held
the ships at fishy Aulis. They could not
be moved from the Boeotian land. Here, when
a sacrifice had been prepared to Jove,
according to the custom of their land,
and when the ancient altar glowed with fire,
the Greeks observed an azure colored snake
crawling up in a plane tree near the place
where they had just begun their sacrifice.
Among the highest branches was a nest,
with twice four birdsand those the serpent seized
together with the mother-bird as she
was fluttering round her loss. And every bird
the serpent buried in his greedy maw.
All stood amazed: but Calchas, who perceived
the truth, exclaimed, Rejoice Pelasgian men,
for we shall conquer; Troy will fall; although
the toil of war must long continueso
the nine birds equal nine long years of war.
And while he prophesied, the serpent, coiled
about the tree, was transformed to a stone,
curled crooked as a snake.

but Nereus stormed
in those Aonian waves, and not a ship
moved forward. Some declared that Neptune thus
was aiding Troy, because he built the walls
of that great city. Not so Calchas, son
of Thestor! He knew all the truth, and told
them plainly that a virgin's blood
alone might end a virgin goddess' wrath.

The public good at last prevailed above
affection, and the duty of a king
at last proved stronger than a father's love:
when Iphigenia as a sacrifice,
stood by the altar with her weeping maids
and was about to offer her chaste blood,
the goddess, moved by pity, spread a mist
before their eyes, amid the sacred rites
and mournful supplications. It is said
she left a hind there in the maiden's place
and carried Iphigenia away. The hind,
as it was fitting, calmed Diana's rage
and also calmed the anger of the sea.
The thousand ships received the winds astern
and gained the Phrygian shore.


There is a spot
convenient in the center of the world,
between the land and sea and the wide heavens,
the meeting of the threefold universe.
From there is seen all things that anywhere
exist, although in distant regions far;
and there all sounds of earth and space are heard.

Fame is possessor of this chosen place,
and has her habitation in a tower,
which aids her view from that exalted highs.
And she has fixed there numerous avenues,
and openings, a thousand, to her tower
and no gates with closed entrance, for the house
is open, night and day, of sounding brass,
reechoing the tones of every voice.
It must repeat whatever it may hear;
and there's no rest, and silence in no part.
There is no clamor; but the murmuring sound
of subdued voices, such as may arise
from waves of a far sea, which one may hear
who listens at a distance; or the sound
which ends a thunderclap, when Jupiter
has clashed black clouds together. Fickle crowds
are always in that hall, that come and go,
and myriad rumorsfalse tales mixed with true
are circulated in confusing words.
Some fill their empty ears with all this talk,
and some spread elsewhere all that's told to them.
The volume of wild fiction grows apace,
and each narrator adds to what he hears.

Credulity is there and rash Mistake,
and empty Joy, and coward Fear alarmed
by quick Sedition, and soft Whisperall
of doubtful life. Fame sees what things are done
in heaven and on the sea, and on the earth.
She spies all things in the wide universe.