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




So Galatea, after she had told
her sorrow, ceased; and, when the company
had gone from there, the Nereids swam again
in the calm and quiet waves. But Scylla soon
returned (because she did not trust herself
in deep salt waters) and she wandered there
naked of garments on the thirsty sand;
but, tired, by chance she found a lonely bay,
and cooled her limbs with its enclosing waves.

Then suddenly appeared a newly made
inhabitant of that deep sea, whose name
was Glaucus. Cleaving through the blue sea waves,
he swam towards her. His shape had been transformed
but lately for this watery life, while he
was living at Anthedon in Euboea.
now he is lingering from desire for her
he saw there and speaks whatever words
he thought might stop her as she fled from him.
Yet still she fled from him, and swift through fear,
climbed to a mountain top above the sea.
Facing the waves, it rose in one huge peak,
parting the waters with a forest crown.
She stood on that high summit quite secure:
and, doubtful whether he might be a god
or monster, wondered at his flowing hair
which covered his broad shoulders and his back,
and marvelled at the color of his skin
and at his waist merged into a twisted fish.

All this he noticed, and while leaning there
against a rock that stood near by, he said:

I am no monster, maiden, I am not
a savage beast; I am in truth a god
of waters, with such power upon the seas
as that of Proteus, Triton, or Palaemon
reared on land the son of Athamas.

Not long ago I was a mortal man,
yet even then my thought turned to the sea
and all my living came from waters deep,
for I would drag the nets that swept up fish,
or, seated on a rock, I flung the line
forth from the rod. The shore I loved was near
a verdant meadow. One side were the waves,
the other grass, which never had been touched
by horned, grazing cattle. Harmless sheep
and shaggy goats had never cropped itno
industrious bee came there to harvest flowers;
no festive garlands had been gathered there,
adornments of the head; no mower's hands
had ever cut it. I was certainly
the first who ever sat upon that turf,
while I was drying there the dripping nets.
And so that I might in due order count
the fish that I had caught, I laid out those
which by good chance were driven into my nets,
or credulous, were caught on my barbed hooks.

It all seems like a fiction (but what good
can I derive from fictions?) just as soon
as any of my fish-prey touched the grass,
they instantly began to move and skip
as usual in sea water. While I paused
and wondered, all of them slid to the waves,
and left me, their late captor, and the shore.

I was amazed and doubtful, a long time;
while I considered what could be the cause.
What god had done this? Or perhaps the juice
of some herb caused it? But, I said, what herb
can have such properties? and with my hand
I plucked the grass and chewed it with my teeth.
My throat had hardly time to swallow those
unheard of juices, when I suddenly
felt all my entrails throbbing inwardly,
and my entire mind also, felt possessed
by passions foreign to my life before.

I could not stay in that place, and I said
with shouting, Farewell! dry land! never more
shall I revisit you; and with those words
upon my lips, I plunged beneath the waves.
The gods of that deep water gave to me,
when they received me, kindred honors, while
they prayed Oceanus and Tethys both
to take from me such mortal essence as
might yet remain. So I was purified
by them and after a good charm had been
nine times repeated over me, which washed
away all guilt, I was commanded then
to put my breast beneath a hundred streams.

So far I can relate to you all things
most worthy to be told; for all so far
I can remember; but from that time on
I was unconscious of the many things
that followed. When my mind returned to me,
I found myself entirely different
from what I was before; and my changed mind
was not the same as it had always been.
Then, for the first time I beheld this beard
so green in its deep color, and I saw
my flowing hair which now I sweep along
the spacious seas, and my huge shoulders with
their azure colored arms, and I observed
my leg extremities hung tapering
exactly perfect as a finny fish.

But what avail is this new form to me.
Although it pleased the Ocean deities?
What benefit, although I am a god,
if you are not persuaded by these things?

While he was telling wonders such as these
quite ready to say moreScylla arose
and left the god. Provoked at his repulse
enraged, he hastened to the marvellous court
of Circe, well known daughter of the Sun.

Book 14

Book 14

Scylla et Circe.


Now the Euboean dweller in great waves,
Glaucus, had left behind the crest of Aetna,
raised upward from a giant's head; and left
the Cyclops' fields, that never had been torn
by harrow or by plough and never were
indebted to the toil of oxen yoked;
left Zancle, also, and the opposite walls
of Rhegium, and the sea, abundant cause
of shipwreck, which confined with double shores
bounds the Ausonian and Sicilian lands.

All these behind him, Glaucus, swimming on
with his huge hands through those Tyrrhenian seas,
drew near the hills so rich in magic herbs
and halls of Circe, daughter of the Sun,
halls filled with men in guise of animals.
After due salutations had been given
received by her as kindlyGlaucus said,

You as a goddess, certainly should have
compassion upon me, a god; for you
alone (if I am worthy of it) can
relieve my passion. What the power of herbs
can be, Titania, none knows more than I,
for by their power I was myself transformed.
To make the cause of my strange madness known,
I have found Scylla on Italian shores,
directly opposite Messenian walls.

It shames me to recount my promises,
entreaties, and caresses, and at last
rejection of my suit. If you have known
a power of incantation, I implore
you now repeat that incantation here,
with sacred lipsIf herbs have greater power,
use the tried power of herbs. But I would not
request a curethe healing of this wound.
Much better than an end of pain, let her
share, and feel with me my impassioned flame.

But Circe was more quick than any other
to burn with passion's flame. It may have been
her nature or it may have been the work
of Venus, angry at her tattling sire.

You might do better, she replied, to court
one who is willing, one who wants your love,
and feels a like desire. You did deserve
to win her love, yes, to be wooed yourself.
In fact you might be. If you give some hope,
you have my word, you shall indeed be wooed.
That you may have no doubt, and so retain
all confidence in your attraction's power
behold! I am a goddess, and I am
the daughter also, of the radiant Sun!
And I who am so potent with my charms,
and I who am so potent with my herbs,
wish only to be yours. Despise her who
despises you, and her who is attached
to you repay with like attachmentso
by one act offer each her just reward.

But Glaucus answered her attempt of love,
The trees will sooner grow in ocean waves,
the sea-weed sooner grow on mountain tops,
than I shall change my love for graceful! Scylla.

The goddess in her jealous rage could not
and would not injure him, whom she still loved,
but turned her wrath upon the one preferred.
She bruised immediately the many herbs
most infamous for horrid juices, which,
when bruised, she mingled with most artful care
and incantations given by Hecate.
Then, clothed in azure vestments, she passed through
her troop of fawning savage animals,
and issued from the center of her hall.
Pacing from there to Rhegium, opposite
the dangerous rocks of Zancle, she at once
entered the tossed waves boiling up with tides:
on these as if she walked on the firm shore,
she set her feet and, hastening on dry shod,
she skimmed along the surface of the deep.

Not far away there was an inlet curved,
round as a bent bow, which was often used
by Scylla as a favorite retreat.
There, she withdrew from heat of sea and sky
when in the zenith blazed the unclouded sun
and cast the shortest shadows on the ground.
Circe infected it before that hour,

polluting it with monster-breeding drugs.
She sprinkled juices over it, distilled
from an obnoxious root, and thrice times nine
she muttered over it with magic lips,
her most mysterious charm involved in words
of strangest import and of dubious thought.

Scylla came there and waded in waist deep,
then saw her loins defiled with barking shapes.
Believing they could be no part of her,
she ran and tried to drive them back and feared
the boisterous canine jaws. But what she fled
she carried with her. And, feeling for her thighs,
her legs, and feet, she found Cerberian jaws
instead. She rises from a rage of dogs,
and shaggy backs encircle her shortened loins.

The lover Glaucus wept. He fled the embrace
of Circe and her hostile power of herbs
and magic spells. But Scylla did not leave
the place of her disaster; and, as soon
as she had opportunity, for hate
of Circe, she robbed Ulysses of his men.
She would have wrecked the Trojan ships, if she
had not been changed beforehand to a rock
which to this day reveals a craggy rim.
And even the rock awakes the sailors' dread.