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Book Three

Ovid Indiana University Press ePub

BOOK III

The Story of Cadmus

And now the god put off the bull’s disguise,

Revealed himself at last. They had reached the shores

Of Crete, when the girl’s father, King Agenor,

Unknowing what had happened to his daughter,

Ordered his son, named Cadmus, to go and find her,

Threatening exile as a punishment

For failure, in that single action showing

Devotion toward his daughter, toward his son

Harsh wickedness. And Cadmus roamed the world

In vain—for who is good enough detective

To catch Jove cheating?—and became an exile

Leaving both fatherland and father’s anger.

He sought Apollo’s oracle, a suppliant

Asking what land to live in, and Apollo

Replied: “In lonely lands there will come to meet you

A heifer, one who has never worn the yoke

Nor drawn the curve of the plough. Follow the creature

Till she lies down to rest, and there establish

The city walls, and call the land Boeotia.”

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Book Six

Ovid Indiana University Press ePub

BOOK VI

Minerva heard the story, and praised the song

And praised the righteous anger, but was thinking:

“It is very well, this praise, but I myself

Deserve some praise; I too should show resentment

Toward those who flout my power.” She was thinking

About Arachne, a Maeonian girl,

Who, she had heard, was boasting of her talent,

Calling it better even than Minerva’s,

In spinning and weaving wool. The girl was no one

In birth, nor where she came from; her father, Idmon,

Was a dyer, steeping thirsty wool with crimson.

Her mother was dead, a common sort of person,

With the same sort of husband, but the daughter

Was famous for her skill, and it had traveled

Through all the Lydian towns, though she herself

Lived in the little village of Hypaepa.

The nymphs themselves would often watch in wonder,

Leaving their vineyards or the river waters,

To see her finished work, or watch her working

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Book Thirteen

Ovid Indiana University Press ePub

BOOK XIII

The Argument between Ajax and Ulysses for the Armor of Achilles

The leaders sat together, and the people

Stood in a ring about them. Ajax rose,

Lord of the sevenfold shield, seething with anger,

Glowering at the fleet and the Sigean waters,

And suddenly he made a gesture toward them

Crying: “So, this is where I do my pleading, here

Before these ships, and my rival is Ulysses!

Where was he, though, when Hector’s torches threatened

Those very ships? Running away! But I

Stood fast, and drove the fire away. It is safer

To fight with lies than hands, no doubt of that.

I am no good at speaking, any more

Than he is good at doing. He can beat me

In talking, by as far as I can beat him

In the fierce battle-line. As for my deeds,

O Greeks, I do not think I need to name them,

You have seen them. Let Ulysses tell of his,

The feats that no man witnessed, only darkness!

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Book Nine

Ovid Indiana University Press ePub

BOOK IX

The Story of Achelous’ Duel for Deianira

When Theseus asked him why the groan, the gesture,

The mutilated forehead, the old river,

With unadorned and reed-crowned hair, made answer:

“A sorrowful story; for what loser tells

His battles with any pleasure? But I will tell you.

It was not so bad to lose as it was glorious

To have made the fight, and the greatness of the winner

Gives me some satisfaction. You have heard,

Perhaps, of Deianira, once most lovely,

The hope of many suitors, and I myself

Was one of them, and came to her father’s house:

Receive me as a son-in-law, I said,

And Hercules said that too, and all the others

Left it to us to settle. He began

By claiming Jove as father, did some bragging

About his labors, and some mission or other

His stepmother had set him. I was thinking

No god should yield to a mortal; Hercules

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Book One

Ovid Indiana University Press ePub

BOOK I

My intention is to tell of bodies changed

To different forms; the gods, who made the changes,

Will help me—or I hope so—with a poem

That runs from the world’s beginning to our own days.

The Creation

Before the ocean was, or earth, or heaven,

Nature was all alike, a shapelessness,

Chaos, so-called, all rude and lumpy matter,

Nothing but bulk, inert, in whose confusion

Discordant atoms warred: there was no sun

To light the universe; there was no moon

With slender silver crescents filling slowly;

No earth hung balanced in surrounding air;

No sea reached far along the fringe of shore.

Land, to be sure, there was, and air, and ocean,

But land on which no man could stand, and water

No man could swim in, air no man could breathe,

Air without light, substance forever changing,

Forever at war: within a single body

Heat fought with cold, wet fought with dry, the hard

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Book Eleven

Ovid Indiana University Press ePub

BOOK XI

The Death of Orpheus

So with his singing Orpheus drew the trees,

The beasts, the stones, to follow, when, behold!

The mad Ciconian women, fleeces flung

Across their maddened breasts, caught sight of him

From a near hill-top, as he joined his song

To the lyre’s music. One of them, her tresses

Streaming in the light air, cried out: “Look there!

There is our despiser! “and she flung a spear

Straight at the singing mouth, but the leafy wand

Made only a mark and did no harm. Another

Let fly a stone, which, even as it flew,

Was conquered by the sweet harmonious music,

Fell at his feet, as if to ask for pardon.

But still the warfare raged, there was no limit,

Mad fury reigned, and even so, all weapons

Would have been softened by the singer’s music,

But there was other orchestration: flutes

Shrilling, and trumpets braying loud, and drums,

Beating of breasts, and howling, so the lyre

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Book Eight

Ovid Indiana University Press ePub

BOOK VIII

The morning-star brought back the shining day,

And the east wind fell, moist clouds arose, the south wind

Offered a smooth return to Cephalus

With his new armies, and they came to harbor

Sooner than they had hoped. And meanwhile Minos

Was laying waste the Lelegian shores,

Hurling his might against Alcathous’ city,

Ruled now by Nisus.

The Story of Nisus and Scylla

On King Nisus’ head,

Among the honored grayness, there was growing

One shining purple lock: this he must keep

Or lose his kingdom, so the legend had it.

Six months the moon had filled her horns with light,

And still the fate of war hung in the balance,

With Victory, on doubtful pinions, hovering

Over both forces. The palace had a tower

Built on the singing walls, where once Apollo

Laid down his golden lyre, whose power of music

Still lingered in the stones. There Nisus’ daughter

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Book Five

Ovid Indiana University Press ePub

BOOK V

The Fighting of Perseus

So Perseus told his story, and the halls

Buzzed loud, not with the cheery noise that rings

From floor to rafter at a wedding-party.

No; this meant trouble. It was like the riot

When sudden squalls lash peaceful waves to surges.

Phineus was the reckless one to start it,

That warfare, brandishing his spear of ash

With sharp bronze point. “Look at me! Here I am,”

He cried, “Avenger of my stolen bride!

No wings will save you from me, and no god

Turned into lying gold.” He poised the spear,

As Cepheus shouted: “Are you crazy, brother?

What are you doing? Is this our gratitude,

This our repayment for a maiden saved?

If truth is what you want, it was not Perseus

Who took her from you, but the Nereids

Whose power is terrible, it was hornèd Ammon,

It was that horrible monster from the ocean

Who had to feed on my own flesh and blood,

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Book Seven

Ovid Indiana University Press ePub

BOOK VII

The Story of Jason and Medea

So over the deep the Minyans went sailing.

They had seen Phineus, dragging out his years

In everlasting night, and Boreas’ sons

Had driven the Harpies from the poor old king.

They suffered much, but came at last with Jason,

Their brilliant leader, to the muddy waters

Where Phasis meets the sea. They went to the king,

Claiming the golden fleece, by Phrixus given,

And heard the dreadful terms, enormous labors.

And the king’s daughter burned with sudden passion,

And fought against it long, and when her reason

Could not subdue her madness, cried: “Medea,

You fight in vain; there is some god or other

Against you. I am wondering whether this

May be the thing called love, or something like it.

Why should my father’s orders seem too cruel?

They are too cruel! A fellow I have hardly

Much more than seen may die, and I am fearful!

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Book Fifteen

Ovid Indiana University Press ePub

BOOK XV

The Succession of Numa, and the Story of Myscelus

Who could sustain that burden, who succeed

So great a king? Fame, herald of the truth,

Selects the famous Numa for the throne.

It was not enough for him to know the customs

Of Sabines only, for his generous spirit

Sought wider fields, the general laws of Nature.

This passion led him far from his own town,

Cures, on to Crotona, which once gave

Welcome to Hercules, and there King Numa

Asked who had been the founder of that city,

Greek on Italian soil, and one old man,

Who knew the ancient legends, gave the answer:

“Hercules, so men say, came from the ocean,

Enriched with Spanish oxen, and good luck

Brought him to this Lacinian coast, and here

His cattle grazed on tender grass, and he

Entered great Croton’s friendly house, and rested

From his long labors. As he left, he said,

‘Here, in the far-off future, there will rise

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Book Two

Ovid Indiana University Press ePub

BOOK II

The Story of Phaethon

The royal palace of the Sun rose high

On lofty columns, bright with flashing gold,

With bronze that glowed like fire, and ivory crowned

The gables, and the double folding-doors

Were radiant with silver. Manner there

Had conquered matter, for the artist Vulcan

Carved, in relief, the earth-encircling waters,

The wheel of earth, the overarching skies.

The sea holds blue-green gods, resounding Triton,

Proteus who changes always, and Aegaeon

Gripping the backs of whales, the sea-nymph Doris

And all her daughters, swimming, some, and others

Sitting on sea-wet rocks, their green hair drying,

And others riding fishes. All the sea-girls

Seem different, but alike, as sisters ought to.

And the land has men and cities, beasts and forests,

Rivers and nymphs and woodland gods. Above them

The image of the shining sky is fashioned,

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Book Twelve

Ovid Indiana University Press ePub

BOOK XII

The Invasion of Troy

But Priam mourned for Aesacus, not knowing

He lived, a wingèd creature. To the tomb

That bore his name Hector brought sacrifice,

So did the other brothers. all but Paris,

Who, not long after, brought upon his country

Long warfare over the woman he had stolen.

A thousand ships were launched, and all the Greeks,

Banded together, followed, and they would have

Taken their vengeance sooner, but the storms

Made the sea pathless, and Boeotia held them,

Impatient, at the little port of Aulis.

When here, as always, they had gotten ready

Their sacrifice for Jove, just as the altar

Glowed with the lighted fires, they saw a serpent,

Blue-green in color, creeping up a plane-tree

Above them, toward a nest, high up, which held

Eight fledglings. These, together with the mother,

Flying too close to her doomed brood, the serpent

Seized and devoured. Amazement seized the people,

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Book Fourteen

Ovid Indiana University Press ePub

BOOK XIV

The Story of Glaucus Continued

Glaucus, the haunter of the swollen waves,

Had passed by Etna, heaped on the giant’s head,

Passed the unplowed, unharrowed fields which owed

No debt to any cattle; he went on

Past Regium’s walls, past Zancle, through the straits

Dangerous to mariners from either land,

Ausonia or Sicily, and he swam,

Untiring, through the Tuscan sea, and came

To the grassy hills and court of that enchantress,

Circe, the daughter of the Sun, where beasts,

Or phantoms of them, thronged. He saw her there,

Gave and received a welcome, and went on:

“Goddess, have pity on a god, I pray you!

No one but you can help me, if I seem

Worthy of help. Better than any man,

I know the magic power of herbs and grasses,

For I was changed by them. What caused my passion

You may already know: on Italy’s coast,

Across from Messina’s walls, I have seen Scylla.

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Book Four

Ovid Indiana University Press ePub

BOOK IV

Alcithoe, however, Minyas’ daughter

Would have no part in Bacchic orgies; further,

She was rash enough to say the god was really

No son of Jove. Her sisters sided with her.

The priest had ordered Bacchic celebration,

With serving-women, freed of toil, and ladies

As well as servants, dressed alike, in skins

Of animals; all should unbind the ribbons,

Let the hair stream, wear garlands, carry wands

Vine-wreathed. The god, his minister proclaimed,

Would otherwise be fearful in his anger.

So all obey, young wives and graver matrons,

Forget their sewing and weaving, the daily duties,

Burn incense, call the god by all his titles,

The Loud One, the Deliverer from Sorrow,

Son of the Thunder, The Twice-Born, The Indian,

The Offspring of Two Mothers, God of the Wine-Press,

The Night-hallooed, and all the other names

Known in the towns of Greece. He is young, this god,

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Book Ten

Ovid Indiana University Press ePub

BOOK X

The Story of Orpheus and Eurydice

So Hymen left there, clad in saffron robe,

Through the great reach of air, and took his way

To the Ciconian country, where the voice

Of Orpheus called him, all in vain. He came there,

True, but brought with him no auspicious words,

No joyful faces, lucky omens. The torch

Sputtered and filled the eyes with smoke; when swung,

It would not blaze: bad as the omens were,

The end was worse, for as the bride went walking

Across the lawn, attended by her naiads,

A serpent bit her ankle, and she was gone.

Orpheus mourned her to the upper world,

And then, lest he should leave the shades untried,

Dared to descend to Styx, passing the portal

Men call Taenarian. Through the phantom dwellers,

The buried ghosts, he passed, came to the king

Of that sad realm, and to Persephone,

His consort, and he swept the strings, and chanted:

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