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


After the son of Laius,Oedipus,
had solved the riddle of the monster-sphinx,
so often baffling to the wits of men,
and after she had fallen from her hill,
mangled, forgetful of her riddling craft;
not unrevenged the mighty Themis brooked
her loss. Without delay that goddess raised
another savage beast to ravage Thebes,
by which the farmer's cattle were devoured,
the land was ruined and its people slain.

Then all the valiant young men of the realm,
with whom I also went, enclosed the field
(where lurked the monster) in a mesh
of many tangled nets: but not a strand
could stay its onrush, and it leaped the crest
of every barrier where the toils were set.

Already they had urged their eager dogs,
which swiftly as a bird it left behind,
eluding all the hunters as it fled.

At last all begged me to let slip the leash
of straining Tempest; such I called the hound,
my dear wife's present. As he tugged and pulled
upon the tightened cords, I let them slip:
no sooner done, then he was lost to sight;
although, wherever struck his rapid feet
the hot dust whirled. Not swifter flies the spear,
nor whizzing bullet from the twisted sling,
nor feathered arrow from the twanging bow!

A high hill jutted from a rolling plain,
on which I mounted to enjoy the sight
of that unequalled chase. One moment caught,
the next as surely free, the wild beast seemed
now here now there, elusive in its flight;
swiftly sped onward, or with sudden turn
doubled in circles to deceive or gain.
With equal speed pursuing at each turn,
the rapid hound could neither gain nor lose.
Now springing forward and now doubling back,
his great speed foiled, he snapped at empty air.

I then turned to my javelin's aid; and while
I poised it in my right hand, turned away
my gaze a moment as I sought to twine
my practiced fingers in the guiding thongs;
but when again I lifted up my eyes,
to cast the javelin where the monster sped,
I saw two marble statues standing there,
transformed upon the plain. One statue seemed
to strain in attitude of rapid flight,
the other with wide-open jaws was changed,
just in the act of barking and pursuit.
Surely some Godif any god controls
decreed both equal, neither could succeed.

Now after these miraculous events,
it seemed he wished to stop, but Phocus said.
What charge have you against the javelin?

And Cephalus rejoined; I must relate
my sorrows last; for I would tell you first
the story of my joys'Tis sweet to think,
upon the gliding tide of those few years
of married life, when my dear wife and I
were happy in our love and confidence.
No woman could allure me then from her;
and even Venus could not tempt my love;
all my great passion for my dearest wife
was equalled by the passion she returned.

As early as the sun, when golden rays
first glittered on the mountains, I would rise
in youthful ardor, to explore the fields
in search of game. With no companions, hounds,
nor steeds nor nets, this javelin was alone
my safety and companion in my sport.

And often when my right hand felt its weight,
a-wearied of the slaughter it had caused,
I would come back to rest in the cool shade,
and breezes from cool valesthe breeze I wooed,
blowing so gently on me in the heat;
the breeze I waited for; she was my rest
from labor. I remember, Aura come,
I used to say, Come soothe me, come into
my breast most welcome one, and yes indeed,
you do relieve the heat with which I burn.

And as I felt the sweet breeze of the morn,
as if in answer to my song, my fate impelled
me further to declare my joy in song;

You are my comfort, you are my delight!
Refresh me, cherish me, breathe on my face!
I love you child of lonely haunts and trees!

Such words I once was singing, not aware
of some one spying on me from the trees,
who thought I sang to some beloved Nymph,
or goddess by the name of Auraso
I always called the breeze.Unhappy man!
The meddling tell-tale went to Procris with
a story of supposed unfaithfulness,
and slyly told in whispers all he heard.
True love is credulous; (and as I heard
the story) Procris in a swoon fell down.
When she awakened from her bitter swoon,
she ceased not wailing her unhappy fate,
and, wretched, moaned for an imagined woe.

So she lamented what was never done!
Her woe incited by a whispered tale,
she feared the fiction of a harmless name!
But hope returning soothed her wretched state;
and now, no longer willing to believe
such wrong, unless her own eyes saw it, she
refused to think her husband sinned.

When dawn
had banished night, and I, rejoicing, ranged
the breathing woods, victorious in the hunt
paused and said, Come Auralovely breeze
relieve my panting breast! It seemed I heard
the smothered moans of sorrow as I spoke:
but not conceiving harm, I said again;

Come here, oh my delight! And as those words
fell from my lips, I thought I heard a soft
sound in the thicket, as of moving leaves;
and thinking surely 'twas a hidden beast,
I threw this winged javelin at the spot.

It was my own wife, Procris, and the shaft
was buried in her breastAh, wretched me!
She cried; and when I heard her well-known voice,
distracted I ran towards her,only to find
her bathed in blood, and dying from the wound
of that same javelin she had given to me:
and in her agony she drew it forth,
ah me! alas! from her dear tender side.

I lifted her limp body to my own,
in these blood-guilty arms, and wrapped the wound
with fragments of my tunic, that I tore
in haste to staunch her blood; and all the while
I moaned, Oh, do not now forsake meslain
by these accursed hands!

Weak with the loss
of blood, and dying, she compelled herself
to utter these few words, It is my death;
but let my eyes not close upon this life
before I plead with you! By the dear ties
of sacred marriage; by your god and mine;
and if my love for you can move your heart;
and even by the cause of my sad death,
my love for you increasing as I die,
ah, put away that Aura you have called,
that she may never separate your soul,
your love from me.

So, by those dying words
I knew that she had heard me call the name
of Aura, when I wished the cooling breeze,
and thought I called a goddess,cause of all
her jealous sorrow and my bitter woe

Alas, too late, I told her the sad truth;
but she was sinking, and her little strength
swiftly was ebbing with her flowing blood.
As long as life remained her loving gaze
was fixed on mine; and her unhappy life
at last was breathed out on my grieving face.
It seemed to me a look of sweet content
was in her face, as if she feared not death.

In tears he folds these things; and, as they wept
in came the aged monarch, Aeacus,
and with the monarch his two valiant sons,
and troops, new-levied, trained to glorious arms.

Book 8

Book 8

Nisus et Scylla.


Now Lucifer unveiled the glorious day,
and as the session of the night dissolved,
the cool east wind declined, and vapors wreathed
the moistened valleys. Veering to the south
the welcome wind gave passage to the sons
of Aeacus, and wafted Cephalus
on his returning way, propitious; where
before the wonted hour, they entered port.

King Minos, while the fair wind moved their ship,
was laying waste the land of Megara.
He gathered a great army round the walls
built by Alcathous, where reigned in splendor
King Nisusmighty and renowned in war
upon the center of whose hoary head
a lock of purple hair was growing.Its
proved virtue gave protection to his throne.

Six times the horns of rising Phoebe grew,
and still the changing fortune of the war
was in suspense; so, Victory day by day
between them hovered on uncertain wings.

Within that city was a regal tower
on tuneful walls; where once Apollo laid
his golden harp; and in the throbbing stone
the sounds remained. And there, in times of peace
the daughter of king Nisus loved to mount
the walls and strike the sounding stone with pebbles:
so, when the war began, she often viewed
the dreadful contest from that height;
until, so long the hostile camp remained,
she had become acquainted with the names,
and knew the habits, horses and the arms
of many a chief, and could discern the signs
of their Cydonean quivers.

More than all,
the features of King Minos were engraved
upon the tablets of her mind. And when
he wore his helmet, crested with gay plumes,
she deemed it glorious; when he held his shield
shining with gold, no other seemed so grand;
and when he poised to hurl the tough spear home,
she praised his skill and strength; and when he bent
his curving bow with arrow on the cord,
she pictured him as Phoebus taking aim,
but when, arrayed in purple, and upon
the back of his white war horse, proudly decked
with richly broidered housings, he reined in
the nervous steed, and took his helmet off,
showing his fearless features, then the maid,
daughter of Nisus, could control herself
no longer; and a frenzy seized her mind.

She called the javelin happy which he touched,
and blessed were the reins within his hand.

She had an impulse to direct her steps,
a tender virgin, through the hostile ranks,
or cast her body from the topmost towers
into the Gnossian camp. She had a wild
desire to open to the enemy
the heavy brass-bound gates, or anything
that Minos could desire.

And as she sat
beholding the white tents, she cried, Alas!
Should I rejoice or grieve to see this war?
I grieve that Minos is the enemy
of her who loves him; but unless the war
had brought him, how could he be known to me?
But should he take me for a hostage? That
might end the wara pledge of peace, he might
keep me for his companion.

O, supreme
of mankind! she who bore you must have been
as beautiful as you are; ample cause
for Jove to lose his heart.

O, happy hour!
If moving upon wings through yielding air,
I could alight within the hostile camp
in front of Minos, and declare to him
my name and passion!

Then would I implore
what dowry he could wish, and would provide
whatever he might ask, except alone
the city of my father. Perish all
my secret hopes before one act of mine
should offer treason to accomplish it.
And yet, the kindness of a conqueror
has often proved a blessing, manifest
to those who were defeated. Certainly
the war he carries on is justified
by his slain son.

He is a mighty king,
thrice strengthened in his cause. Undoubtedly
we shall be conquered, and, if such a fate
awaits our city, why should he by force
instead of my consuming love, prevail
to open the strong gates? Without delay
and dreadful slaughter, it is best for him
to conquer and decide this savage war.

Ah, Minos, how I fear the bitter fate
should any warrior hurl his cruel spear
and pierce you by mischance, for surely none
can be so hardened to transfix your breast
with purpose known.

Oh, let her love prevail
to open for his army the great gates.
Only the thought of it, has filled her soul;
she is determined to deliver up
her country as a dowry with herself,
and so decide the war! But what avails
this idle talk.

A guard surrounds the gates,
my father keeps the keys, and he alone
is my obstruction, and the innocent
account of my despair. Would to the Gods
I had no father! Is not man the God
of his own fortune, though his idle prayers
avail not to compel his destiny?

Another woman crazed with passionate desires,
which now inflame me, would not hesitate,
but with a fierce abandon would destroy
whatever checked her passion. Who is there
with love to equal mine? I dare to go
through flames and swords; but swords and flames
are not now needed, for I only need
my royal father's lock of purple hair.
More precious than fine gold, it has a power
to give my heart all that it may desire.