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


As a great ship with steady prow speeds on;
forced forwards by the sweating arms of youth
it plows the deep; so, breasting the great waves,
the monster moved, until to reach the rock
no further space remained than might the whirl
of Balearic string encompass, through
the middle skies, with plummet-mold of lead.

That instant, spurning with his feet the ground,
the youth rose upwards to a cloudy height;
and when the shadow of the hero marked
the surface of the sea, the monster sought
vainly to vent his fury on the shade.

As the swift bird of Jove, when he beholds
a basking serpent in an open field,
exposing to the sun its mottled back,
and seizes on its tail; lest it shall turn
to strike with venomed fang, he fixes fast
his grasping talons in the scaly neck;
so did the winged youth, in rapid flight
through yielding elements, press down
on the great monster's back, and thrust his sword,
sheer to the hilt, in its right shoulderloud
its frightful torture sounded over the waves.
So fought the hero-son of Inachus.

Wild with the grievous wound, the monster rears
high in the air, or plunges in the waves;
or wheels around as turns the frightened boar
shunning the hounds around him in full cry.

The hero on his active wings avoids
the monster's jaws, and with his crooked sword
tortures its back wherever he may pierce
its mail of hollow shell, or strikes betwixt
the ribs each side, or wounds its lashing tail,
long, tapered as a fish.

The monster spouts
forth streamsincarnadined with blood
that spray upon the hero's wings; who drenched,
and heavy with the spume, no longer dares
to trust existence to his dripping wings;
but he discerns a rock, which rises clear
above the water when the sea is calm,
but now is covered by the lashing waves.
On this he rests; and as his left hand holds
firm on the upmost ledge, he thrusts his sword,
times more than three, unswerving in his aim,
sheer through the monster's entrails.Shouts of praise
resound along the shores, and even the Gods
may hear his glory in their high abodes.

Her parents, Cepheus and Cassiope,
most joyfully salute their son-in-law;
declaring him the saviour of their house.
And now, her chains struck off, the lovely cause
and guerdon of his toil, walks on the shore.

The hero washes his victorious hands
in water newly taken from the sea:
but lest the sand upon the shore might harm
the viper-covered head, he first prepared
a bed of springy leaves, on which he threw
weeds of the sea, produced beneath the waves.
On them he laid Medusa's awful face,
daughter of Phorcys;and the living weeds,
fresh taken from the boundless deep, imbibed
the monster's poison in their spongy pith:
they hardened at the touch, and felt in branch
and leaf unwonted stiffness. Sea-Nymphs, too,
attempted to perform that prodigy
on numerous other weeds, with like result:
so pleased at their success, they raised new seeds,
from plants wide-scattered on the salt expanse.

Even from that day the coral has retained
such wondrous nature, that exposed to air
it hardens.Thus, a plant beneath the waves
becomes a stone when taken from the sea.

Three altars to three Gods he made of turf.
To thee, victorious Virgin, did he build
an altar on the right, to Mercury
an altar on the left, and unto Jove
an altar in the midst. He sacrificed
a heifer to Minerva, and a calf
to Mercury, the Wingfoot, and a bull
to thee, O greatest of the Deities.

Without a dower he takes Andromeda,
the guerdon of his glorious victory,
nor hesitates.Now pacing in the van,
both Love and Hymen wave the flaring torch,
abundant perfumes lavished in the flames.

The houses are bedecked with wreathed flowers;
and lyres and flageolets resound, and songs
felicit notes that happy hearts declare.
The portals opened, sumptuous halls display
their golden splendours, and the noble lords
of Cepheus' court take places at the feast,
magnificently served.

After the feast,
when every heart was warming to the joys of genial Bacchus,
then, Lyncidian Perseus asked about the land and its ways
about the customs and the character of its heroes.
Straightway one of the dinner-companions made reply,
and asked in turn, Now, valiant Perseus, pray
tell the story of the deed, that all may know,
and what the arts and power prevailed, when you
struck off the serpent-covered head.

There is,
continued Perseus of the house of Agenor,
There is a spot beneath cold Atlas, where
in bulwarks of enormous strength, to guard
its rocky entrance, dwelt two sisters, born
of Phorcys. These were wont to share in turn
a single eye between them: this by craft
I got possession of, when one essayed
to hand it to the other.I put forth
my hand and took it as it passed between:
then, far, remote, through rocky pathless crags,
over wild hills that bristled with great woods,
I thence arrived to where the Gorgon dwelt.

Along the way, in fields and by the roads,
I saw on all sides men and animals
like statuesturned to flinty stone at sight
of dread Medusa's visage. Nevertheless
reflected on the brazen shield, I bore
upon my left, I saw her horrid face.

When she was helpless in the power of sleep
and even her serpent-hair was slumber-bound,
I struck, and took her head sheer from the neck.
To winged Pegasus the blood gave birth,
his brother also, twins of rapid wing.

So did he speak, and truly told besides
the perils of his journey, arduous
and longHe told of seas and lands that far
beneath him he had seen, and of the stars
that he had touched while on his waving wings.

And yet, before they were aware, the tale
was ended; he was silent. Then rejoined
a noble with enquiry why alone
of those three sisters, snakes were interspersed
in dread Medusa's locks. And he replied:
Because, O Stranger, it is your desire
to learn what worthy is for me to tell,
hear ye the cause: Beyond all others she
was famed for beauty, and the envious hope
of many suitors. Words would fail to tell
the glory of her hair, most wonderful
of all her charmsA friend declared to me
he saw its lovely splendour. Fame declares
the Sovereign of the Sea attained her love
in chaste Minerva's temple. While enraged
she turned her head away and held her shield
before her eyes. To punish that great crime
minerva changed the Gorgon's splendid hair
to serpents horrible. And now to strike
her foes with fear, she wears upon her breast
those awful viperscreatures of her rage.

Book 5

Book 5


While Perseus, the brave son of Jupiter,
surrounded at the feast by Cepheus' lords,
narrated this, a raging multitude
with sudden outcry filled the royal courts
not with the clamours of a wedding feast
but boisterous rage, portentous of dread war.

As when the fury of a great wind strikes
a tranquil sea, tempestuous billows roll
across the peaceful bosom of the deep;
so were the pleasures at the banquet changed
to sudden tumult.

Foremost of that throng,
the rash ring-leader, Phineus, shook his spear,
brass-tipped of ash, and shouted, Ha, 'tis I!
I come avenger of my ravished bride!
Let now your flittering wings deliver you,
or even Jupiter, dissolved in showers
of imitation gold. So boasted he,
aiming his spear at Perseus.

Thus to him
cried Cepheus: Hold your hand, and strike him not!
What strange delusions, O my brother, have
compelled you to this crime? Is it the just
requital of heroic worth? A fair
reguerdon for the life of her you loved?

If truth were known, not Perseus ravished her
from you; but, either 'twas the awful God
that rules the Nereides; or Ammon, crowned
with crescent horns; or that monstrosity
of Ocean's vast abyss, which came to glut
his famine on the issue of my loins.
Nor was your suit abandoned till the time
when she must perish and be lost to you.
So cruel are you, seeking my daughter's death,
rejoicing lightly in our deep despair.

And was it not enough for you to stand
supinely by, while she was bound in chains,
and offer no assistance, though you were
her lover and betrothed? And will you grieve
that she was rescued from a dreadful fate,
and spoil her champion of his just rewards?
Rewards that now may seem magnificent,
but not denied to you if you had won
and saved, when she was fettered to the rock.

Let him, whose strength to my declining years
restored my child, receive the merit due
his words and deeds; and know his suit was not
preferred to yours, but granted to prevent
her certain death.

not deigning to reply,
against them Phineus stood; and glancing back
from him to Perseus, with alternate looks,
as doubtful which should feel his first attack,
made brief delay. Then vain at Perseus hurled
his spear, with all the force that rage inspired,
but, missing him it quivered in a couch.

Provoked beyond endurance Perseus leaped
forth from the cushioned seats, and fiercely sent
that outwrenched weapon back. It would have pierced
his hostile breast had not the miscreant crouched
behind the altars. Oh perverted good,
that thus an altar should abet the wrong!

But, though the craven Phineus escaped,
not vainly flew the whizzing point, but struck
in Rhoetus' forehead. As the barb was torn
out of the bone, the victim's heels began
to kick upon the floor, and spouting blood
defiled the festal board. Then truly flame
in uncontrolled rage the vulgar crowd,
and hurl their harmful darts.

And there are some
who hold that Cepheus and his son-in-law
deserved to die; but Cepheus had passed forth
the threshold of his palace: having called
on all the Gods of Hospitality
and Truth and Justice to attest, he gave
no comfort to the enemies of Peace.

Unconquered Pallas is at hand and holds
her Aegis to protect her brother's life;
she lends him dauntless courage. At the feast
was one from India's distant shores, whose name
was Athis. It was said that Limnate,
the daughter of the River Ganges, him
in vitreous caverns bright had brought to birth;
and now at sixteen summers in his prime,
the handsome youth was clad in costly robes.

A purple mantle with a golden fringe
covered his shoulders, and a necklace, carved
of gold, enhanced the beauty of his throat.
His hair encompassed with a coronal,
delighted with sweet myrrh. Well taught was he
to hurl the javelin at a distant mark,
and none with better skill could stretch the bow.

No sooner had he bent the pliant horns
than Perseus, with a smoking billet, seized
from the mid-altar, struck him on the face,
and smashed his features in his broken skull.

And when Assyrian Lycabas had seen
his dear companion, whom he truly loved,
beating his handsome countenance in blood.
And when he had bewailed his lost life,
that ebbed away from that unpiteous wound,
he snatched the bow that Athis used, and said;
Let us in single combat seek revenge;
not long will you rejoice the stripling's fate;
a deed most worthy shame. So speaking, forth
the piercing arrow bounded from the cord,
which, though avoided, struck the hero's cloak
and fastened in its folds.

Then Perseus turned
upon him, with the trusted curving sword,
cause of Medusa's death, and drove the blade
deep in his breast. The dying victim's eyes,
now swimming in a shadowous night, looked 'round
for Athis, whom, beholding, he reclined
upon, and ushered to the other world,
sad consolation of united death.