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


And she gave to her
the reins; and so the swiftly carried Nymph
arrived in Scythia. There, upon the told
of steepy Caucasus, when she had slipped
their tight yoke from the dragons' harnessed necks,
she searched for Famine in that granite land,
and there she found her clutching at scant herbs,
with nails and teeth. Beneath her shaggy hair
her hollow eyes glared in her ghastly face,
her lips were filthy and her throat was rough
and blotched, and all her entrails could be seen,
enclosed in nothing but her shriveled skin;
her crooked loins were dry uncovered bones,
and where her belly should be was a void;
her flabby breast was flat against her spine;
her lean, emaciated body made
her joints appear so large, her knobbled knees
seemed large knots, and her swollen ankle-bones

When the Nymph, with keen sight, saw
the Famine-monster, fearing to draw near
she cried aloud the mandate she had brought
from fruitful Ceres, and although the time
had been but brief, and Famine far away,
such hunger seized the Nymph, she had to turn
her dragon-steeds, and flee through yielding air
and the high clouds;at Thessaly she stopped.

Grim Famine hastened to obey the will
of Ceres, though their deeds are opposite,
and rapidly through ether heights was borne
to Erysichthon's home. When she arrived
at midnight, slumber was upon the wretch,
and as she folded him in her two wings,
she breathed her pestilential poison through
his mouth and throat and breast, and spread the curse
of utmost hunger in his aching veins.

When all was done as Ceres had decreed,
she left the fertile world for bleak abodes,
and her accustomed caves. While this was done
sweet Sleep with charming pinion soothed the mind
of Erysichthon. In a dreamful feast
he worked his jaws in vain, and ground his teeth,
and swallowed air as his imagined food;
till wearied with the effort he awoke
to hunger scorching as a fire, which burned
his entrails and compelled his raging jaws,
so he, demanding all the foods of sea
and earth and air, raged of his hunger, while
the tables groaned with heaps before him spread;
he, banqueting, sought banquets for more food,
and as he gorged he always wanted more.

The food of cities and a nation failed
to satisfy the cravings of one man.
The more his stomach gets, the more it needs
even as the ocean takes the streams of earth,
although it swallows up great rivers drawn
from lands remote, it never can be filled
nor satisfied. And as devouring fire
its fuel refuses never, but consumes
unnumbered beams of wood, and burns for more
the more 'tis fed, and from abundance gains
increasing famine, so the raving jaws
of wretched Erysichthon, ever craved
all food in him, was on]y cause of food,
and what he ate made only room for more.

And after Famine through his gluttony
at last had wasted his ancestral wealth
his raging hunger suffered no decline,
and his insatiate gluttony increased.
When all his wealth at last was eaten up,
his daughter, worthy of a fate more kind,
alone was left to him and her he sold.
Descendant of a noble race, the girl
refusing to be purchased as a slave,
then hastened to the near shore of the sea,
and as she stretched her arms above the waves,
implored kind Neptune with her tears, Oh, you
who have deprived me of virginity,
deliver me from such a master's power!

Although the master, seeking her, had seen
her only at that moment, Neptune changed
her quickly from a woman to a man,
by giving her the features of a man
and garments proper to a fisher-man:
and there she stood. He even looked at her
and cried out, Hey, there! Expert of the rod!
While you are casting forth the bit of brass,
concealed so deftly in its tiny bait,
gods-willing! let the sea be smooth for you,
and let the foolish fishes swimming up,
never know danger till they snap the hook!
Now tell me where is she, who only now,
in tattered garment and wind-twisted hair,
was standing on this shorefor I am sure
I saw her standing on this shore, although
no footstep shows her flight.

By this assured
the favor of the god protected her;
delighted to be questioned of herself,
she said, No matter who you are, excuse me.
So busy have I been at catching fish,
I have not had the time to move my eyes
from this pool; and that you may be assured
I only tell the truth, may Neptune, God
of ocean witness it, I have not seen a man
where I am standing on this shoremyself
exceptednot a woman has stood here.

Her master could not doubt it, and deceived
retraced his footsteps from the sandy shore.
As soon as he had disappeared, her form
unchanged, was given back to her. But when
her father knew his daughter could transform
her body and escape, he often sold
her first to one and then anotherall
of whom she cheated as a mare, bird,
a cow, or as a stag she got away; and so
brought food, dishonestly, to ease his greed.

And so he lived until the growing strength
of famine, gnawing at his vitals, had
consumed all he could get by selling her:
his anguish burned him with increasing heat.
He gnawed his own flesh, and he tore his limbs
and fed his body all he took from it.

ah, why should I dwell on the wondrous deeds
of othersEven I, O gathered youths,
have such a power I can often change
my body till my limit has been reached.
A while appearing in my real form,
another moment coiled up as a snake,
then as a monarch of the herd my strength
increases in my hornsmy strength increased
in my two horns when I had twobut now
my forehead, as you see, has lost one horn.
And having ended with such words,he groaned.

Book 9

Book 9

Achelous et Hercules.


To him the hero, who proclaimed himself
a favored son of Neptune, answered now;
Declare the reason of your heavy sighs,
and how your horn was broken? And at once
the Calydonian River-God replied,
binding with reeds his unadorned rough locks:

It is a mournful task you have required,
for who can wish to tell his own disgrace?
But truly I shall speak without disguise,
for my defeat, if rightly understood,
should be my glory.Even to have fought
in battle with a hero of such might,
affords me consolation.

(you may have heard some tales of her) was once
the envied hope of many. She was then
a lovely virgin.I, among the rest
who loved this maiden, entered the fair home
of her great father Oeneus, and I said;

Consider all my claims, Parthaon's son,
for I am come to plead your daughter's cause
and mineSo you may make me son-in-law.,
no sooner was it said, than Hercules
in such words also claimed the virgin's hand:
all others quickly yielded to our claims.

He boasted his descent from Jupiter;
the glory of his labors and great deeds
performed at his unjust stepmother's wish.

But as he was not then a God, it seemed
disgraceful if my state should yield my right;
so I contended with these haughty words,
Why should this alien of a foreign land,
contending for your daughter, match himself
to me! king of the waters in this realm!
For as I wind around, across your lands,
I must be of your people, and a part
of your great state. Oh, let it not be said,
because the jealous Juno had no thought
to punish me by labors, my descent
is not so regal! This tremendous boast,
that you, Alcmena's son, are sprung from Jove,
falls at the touch of truth;or it reveals
the shame of a weak mother, who so gained
your doubtful glory of descent from Heaven!
Prove your descent from Jupiter is false,
or else confess you are the son of shame!

But Hercules, unable to control
the flame of his great wrath, scowled as I spoke.
He briefly answered me, My hand excels
my tongue; let me now overcome in fight,
and I may suffer your offence of words.

Full of unvented rage he rushed on me,
but firm I stood, ashamed to yield a foot
I had so largely boasted, no retreat was left,
and so I doffed my green robeStriking guard,
with clenched hands doubled at my breast,
I stood my ground. He scooped up in his hand
fine, yellow dust; and tossed it on the air
so that the tawny powder sprinkled us;
quick-shifting then he sought to strike my neck,
or feint at my quick-moving legs, and turn
swift moving to attack me at all points.
But as a huge cliff in the sea remains
unmoved, unshaken by the sounding waves,
so my great size, against his vain attacks,
defended me securelyBack we went;
retiring for a space; then rushed again
together, furious, and with foot to foot,
determined not to yield, defiant stood,
till, forward-bending from my waist and hips,
I pressed my forehead against his and locked
his fingers into mine: so, have I seen
two strong bulls rush in combat for the good
of some smooth heifer in the pasturewhile
the herd a-tremble and uncertain, wait;
ready to give allegiance to the one
most worthy of dominion.

Thrice in vain
Hercules strove to push my breast from his,
but I pressed ever closertill, the fourth
attempt succeeding, he unloosed my grip,
and breaking from my circling arms drew back,
and struck me such a buffet with his hand,
it twisted me about, and instantly
he clung with all his weight upon my back

Believe me I have not suppressed the truth.
Nor shall I try to gain applause not due:
I seemed to bear a mountain on my back.
straining and dripping sweat, I broke his hold,
with great exertion I unlocked his grip.
He pressed upon me, as I strained for breath,
preventing a renewal of my strength,
and seized upon my neck. Then at the last,
my bent knee went down on the gritty earth,
I bit the sand. So, worsted in my strength,
I sought diversion by an artifice,
and changed me to a serpent.I then slipped
from his tight clutches my great length, and coiled
my body now transformed to snaky folds
hissing I darted my divided tongue.

But Hercules, Alcides, only laughed
and in derision of my scheming, said,
It was the pastime of my cradle days
to strangle better snakes than youand though
your great length may excel all of your kind,
how small a part of that Lernaean snake
would youone serpent be? It grew from wounds
I gave (at first it had one hundred heads)
and every time I severed one head from
its neck two grew there in the place of one,
by which its strength increased. This creature then
outbranching with strong serpents, sprung from death
and thriving on destruction, I destroyed.
What do you think will then become of you,
disguised so in deceitful serpent-form,
wielding a borrowed weapon not your own

And after he had ridiculed me thus,
he gouged his fingers underneath my jaws,
so that my throat was tortured, as if squeezed
with forceps, while I struggled in his grip.

Twice was I vanquished, there remained to me
a third form so again I changed to seem
a savage bull, and with my limbs renewed
in that form fought once more. He threw his arms
about the left side of my ponderous neck,
and dragging on me followed as I ran.
He seized on my hard horns, and, tugging turned
and twisted me, until he fastened them
firm in the surface of the earth; and pushed
me, helpless, to the shifting sand beneath.
Not yet content he laid his fierce right hand
on my tough horn, and broke and tore it from
my mutilated head.This horn, now heaped
with fruits delicious and sweet-smelling flowers,
the Naiads have held sacred from that hour,
devoted to the bounteous goddess Plenty.

All this the River-god said; then a nymph,
a lovely nymph like fair Diana dressed,
whose locks were flowing down on either side,
came graceful to the board, and brought to them
of Autumn's plenty in an ample horn,
and gave to them selected apples for
a second course.

And now, as early dawn
appeared, and as the rising sunlight flashed
on golden summits of surrounding hills,
the young men waited not until the stream
subsiding, had resumed its peaceful way,
but all arose, reluctant, and went forth.

Then Achelous, in his moving waves,
hid his fine rustic features and his head,
scarred by the wound which gave the Horn of Plenty.