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“The Transformation of Tiresias” – Ovid

Jupiter and Juno, 1597 - Annibale Carracci

          Jupiter and Juno” (1597)


                   Annibale Carracci




                ‘Twas now, while these transactions past on Earth,

                And Bacchus thus procur’d a second birth,


second birth, Bacchus / Dionysus

had been granted a second birth

after he’d been plucked from

Semele‘s womb in a first, abortive,

birth, and carried in Jove / Jupiter

/ Zeus‘s thigh to term for the

second, if you’ll remember

                When Jove, dispos’d to lay aside the weight

                Of publick empire and the cares of state,

                As to his queen in nectar bowls he quaff’d,

                “In troth,” says he, and as he spoke he laugh’d,

                “The sense of pleasure in the male is far

                More dull and dead, than what you females share.”


you might note here that these last

eight verses have been one long

sentence, incorporating here and

there other full sentences, but

within commas, like railroad cars

pulled along by a locomotive, none

independent of the others, it seems

to me I’ve seen that kind of thing



quaff’d, drank, took a draught


to his queen, in her honour


in troth, in truth, truly


Jove / Jupiter / Zeus has a question

to settle with Juno / Hera, he claims

that men are less attuned to

pleasure than women are

               Juno the truth of what was said deny’d;


Juno / Hera doesn’t at all agree


                Tiresias therefore must the cause decide,


Tiresias will be the arbiter, he will

the cause decide


Tiresias, mythical prophet


                For he the pleasure of each sex had try’d.


hmmm, you don’t hear stuff like

that in the Bible, the monotheistic

counterpart to Ovid’s pantheistic



a pantheistic religion would have

no categorical set of values, no

Ten Commandments, the gods

themselves would not agree on 

a code of behaviour, morality

would be in the eye of the

beholder, not divinely mandated,

Nietzsche will have a lot to say

about that in the 19th Century

eminently pertinent to ensuing 


                It happen’d once, within a shady wood,

                Two twisted snakes he in conjunction view’d,


in conjunction, mating

                When with his staff their slimy folds he broke,

                And lost his manhood at the fatal stroke.


you shouldn’t mess around with

snakes, it appears

                But, after seven revolving years, he view’d

                The self-same serpents in the self-same wood:


self-same serpents, surely he means

the same species, not the same


                “And if,” says he, “such virtue in you lye,

                That he who dares your slimy folds untie

                Must change his kind, a second stroke I’ll try.”


if it worked once, it might work a

second time, Tiresias supposes

                Again he struck the snakes, and stood again

                New-sex’d, and strait recover’d into man.


it worked, Tiresias is reconfigured,

reconstituted, as a man

                Him therefore both the deities create

                The sov’raign umpire, in their grand debate;


create, appoint, assign duties to


the grand debate, the question,

the calculus, of pleasure


sov’raign umpire, chief, ruling,

irreversible by consent, judge

               And he declar’d for Jove:


women are more susceptible to

pleasure than men are, Tiresias

definitively decides


                                                     when Juno fir’d,

               More than so trivial an affair requir’d,


fir’d, not happy, furious, motivated


More than so trivial an affair, this

incident shouldn’t’ve been the

cause of, requir’d, the extreme

response to which Juno / Hera

condemns Tiresias


                Depriv’d him, in her fury, of his sight,

                And left him groping round in sudden night.


Tiresias, the blind prophet, the

apocryphal blind prophet, so

grimly subjected, finds powerful

resonance, incidentally, in Homer,

another, even more famous, and

actual, which is to say historically

authenticated, blind prophet, both,

nevertheless, of immeasurable

cultural consequence

                But Jove (for so it is in Heav’n decreed,

                That no one God repeal another’s deed)


an honour code among the gods,

to balance competing, however

august, visions, morality, in other

words, by consensus

                Irradiates all his soul with inward light,

                And with the prophet’s art relieves the want of sight.


thus Tiresias becomes the famed

prophet, for better, it’ll turn out,

or for worse, cursed, and blessed,



stay tuned



R ! chard

Beethoven – Septet, Opus 20

Cherry Blossoms, 1970 - Toshi Yoshida

              Cherry Blossoms” (1970)


                       Toshi Yoshida





though I’ve been focused on Ovid

especially lately, specifically his

Metamorphosesother less

concentrated pursuits have also

taken up my time, Sophocles,

Shakespeare, American Idol, The

Great Canadian Baking Show,

Euclid, Existentialism, the variations

in colour, number, size of the cherry

blossoms growing on the trees along

my street as I ponder each morning

from my window their magical,

miraculous, incarnation, into the

world, their augury of, once again,

wondrously, springtime, March,



but recently I picked up a book, a

biography of Beethoven, in

snapshots, through the lens of

nine works of his in particular,

arranged chronologically


join me as I, one by one, present

them through the requisite number

of commentaries


the first is his forgotten, but apparently

all the rage in his day, Septet, opus 20,

which continued to be admired for its

Classical roots for a long time, a

comfortable, recognizable music,

but with enough modernity to warrant

extended popularity, the irrepressible

pull of Romanticism, the draw of the

encroaching 19th Century


Beethoven would become more and

more radical, irascible, demanding

eventually, and I conscientiously

interject here, more manifestly,

however counterintuitively, sublime


but there were contrary opinions, 

much as elders have always objected

to the music of their children, portents,

always, of ensuing degeneration


you’ll recognize, perhaps, as I did,

in the Septet‘s third movement, the

same air as in Beethoven’s Piano

Sonata no 20, Opus 49, no 2, poets

borrowed from each other then,

still do, have ever, they speak the

same language, they would even,

as here, filch from themselves


the insignificant piece, the Sonata,

according to Beethoven, should’ve

been the disregarded work, the

Septet had the greater fame and

longevity, but history has its way,

a septet needs to put together

seven instrumentalists, of a certain

quality, each time, to survive, to

regenerate itself, a sonata, only

one committed interpreter each



it is also an integral part of the

complete Beethoven sonatas, a

historical account equal, musically,

to the very Ten Commandments,

that foundational



R ! chard

“The Birth of Bacchus” (lll) – Ovid

Semele, 1921 - John Duncan

        Semele” (1921)


             John Duncan





         To keep his promise he ascends,


his promise, Jove / Jupiter / Zeus

had sworn by very Styx, if you’ll

remember, to Semele, his current

inamorata, that when next he[‘d]

court[ ] the rites of love, he’d

descend in those celestial charms

with which he enters Juno / Hera‘s

chambers, his goddess / wife, on

similar intimate occasions


                                                    and shrowds

         His awful brow in whirl-winds and in clouds;


shrowds, shrouds, covers in

darkness, shields


awful, inspiring awe, inspiring


         Whilst all around, in terrible array,

         His thunders rattle, and his light’nings play.


not only does Jove / Jupiter / Zeus

shrowd[ ] /His awful brow, which is

to say he actively effects changes,

consciously and manifestly producing

identifiable outcomes, a shrouded brow,

in this instance, but he also inspires the

very elements, thunders rattle 

light’nings play, to rally round his


         And yet, the dazling lustre to abate,

         He set not out in all his pomp and state,


And yet, except that, Jove / Jupiter

/ Zeus chooses, set[s] … out, to rein

in, abate, elements of his pomp and

state, of his magnificence

         Clad in the mildest light’ning of the skies,

         And arm’d with thunder of the smallest size:

         Not those huge bolts, by which the giants slain

         Lay overthrown on the Phlegrean plain.

         ‘Twas of a lesser mould, and lighter weight;


Phlegrean plain, Phlegraean, site of the

war that won for the Olympians, Jove /

Jupiter / Zeus, Juno / Hera, and the

pantheon of other gods with whom

we’ve here become acquainted, control 

of the cosmos, against the Titans, who’d

earlier ruled, the children of Uranus,

Sky, and Gaia, Earth, though that’s

an entirely other, earlier story, equally



         They call it thunder of a second-rate,

         For the rough Cyclops, who by Jove’s command

         Temper’d the bolt, and turn’d it to his hand,


Cyclops, any of the three Cyclopes,

Arges, Brontes, and Steropes, or in

English translation, Bright, Thunder,

and Lightning, sons of Uranus and

Gaia, one-eyed giants, who

manufactured Jove / Jupiter /

Zeus‘s thunderbolts


Cyclops here is probably Cyclopes,

this translation‘s early 18th-Century

spelling of the now singular “Cyclops”,

all of whom [t]emper’d the bolt, and

turn’d … to his hand Jove / Jupiter /
Zeus‘s commissioned arsenal


         Work’d up less flame and fury in its make,

         And quench’d it sooner in the standing lake.


this particular thunderbolt therefore

would have been less menacing, in

keeping with Jove / Jupiter / Zeus‘s

wish his dazling lustre to abate


         Thus dreadfully adorn’d, with horror bright,

         Th’ illustrious God, descending from his height,

         Came rushing on her in a storm of light.


I knew someone who came to me

like that once

         The mortal dame, too feeble to engage         

         The lightning’s flashes, and the thunder’s rage,

         Consum’d amidst the glories she desir’d,

         And in the terrible embrace expir’d.


I broke only into a thousand million

pieces, did not expire, but ruefully,

rather, survived, but that’s another

story, perhaps too intimate

         But, to preserve his offspring from the tomb,


his offspring, you’ll remember that

Semele was pregnant with Jove /

Jupiter / Zeus‘s child

         Jove took him smoaking from the blasted womb:


blasted, destroyed, [c]onsum’d[,]

amidst the glories she desir’d


see above


         And, if on ancient tales we may rely,

         Inclos’d th’ abortive infant in his thigh.


in order to allow it to complete

gestation, Jove / Jupiter / Zeus

incubated th’ abortive infant in

his [own] thigh

         Here when the babe had all his time fulfill’d,


Here, in his thigh


         Ino first took him for her foster-child;


Ino, sister of Semele, with too long

a story here, however fascinating

         Then the Niseans, in their dark abode,


Niseans, Nysians, of Nysa, a

mountainous mythical land

beyond Greece, with dark

abode[s], caves, among its

mountains, presumably

         Nurs’d secretly with milk the thriving God.


the thriving God, Bacchusthe Roman

Dionysus, god of wine, merriment, and

all kinds of mischievousness, which is

to say bacchanals, Dionysian revelries,



stay tuned



R ! chard

“The Birth of Bacchus” (ll)– Ovid

Jupiter and Semele, 1889 - 1895 - Gustave Moreau

         Jupiter and Semele” (1889 – 1895)


                 Gustave Moreau





            Old Beroe’s decrepit shape she wears,

            Her wrinkled visage, and her hoary hairs;


Old Beroe, faithful servant of Semele


she, Juno / Hera, goddess


hoary hairs, love it


            Whilst in her trembling gait she totters on,

            And learns to tattle in the nurse’s tone.


Juno / Hera transforms herself into

Old Beroe, tattl[ing], talking idly, in

the nurse’s tone, impersonating her

in order to seek revenge, if you’ll

remember, on Semele, for bearing

her husband’s progeny


            The Goddess, thus disguis’d in age, beguil’d

            With pleasing stories her false foster-child.


foster-child, child who is fostered,

nurtured, by someone other than a

parent, Semele, by Old Beroe,

purportedly, in this instance


false, Juno / Hera is not Old Beroe,

but the nurse’s duplicitous, false,

in both senses of the word here,



beguil’d, enchanted, amused

            Much did she talk of love, and when she came

            To mention to the nymph her lover’s name,

            Fetching a sigh, and holding down her head,

            “‘Tis well,” says she, “if all be true that’s said.


Juliet’s nurse from Romeo and Juliet,

I thought, meets Sleeping Beauty’s

wicked stepmother, for a more

contemporary coupling


            But trust me, child, I’m much inclin’d to fear

            Some counterfeit in this your Jupiter:


Some counterfeit, yourJupiter is not

your [actual] Jupiter, Juno / Hera



            Many an honest well-designing maid

            Has been by these pretended Gods betray’d,


well-designing, without guile, with

no ulterior motive


pretended Gods, men who unjustifiably

beat their chest, tell tall tales, unequal

to their proclaimed accomplishments

            But if he be indeed the thund’ring Jove,

            Bid him, when next he courts the rites of love,

            Descend triumphant from th’ etherial sky,

            In all the pomp of his divinity,

            Encompass’d round by those celestial charms,

            With which he fills th’ immortal Juno’s arms.”


Juno / Hera, as Old Beroe, tells Semele

to ask her lover, when next he courts

the rites of love, to prove he is indeed

Jove / Jupiter / Zeus, to dress



Encompass’d round, accoutred,

enveloped, in


the pomp, incidentally, the splendour

of his divinity, take on a couple of

extra poetic lines, verses, indicative

of that very splendour


note also that Semele seems to have

no qualms about Jove / Jupiter / Zeus‘s

marital status, about bearing the child

of another woman’s man, indeed that

of a very, in this instance, goddess,

the redoubtable Juno / Hera

            Th’ unwary nymph, ensnar’d with what she said, 


ensnar’d, ensnarled, caught up in

            Desir’d of Jove, when next he sought her bed,

            To grant a certain gift which she would chuse;


Desir’d of, asked of, requested of


chuse, choose

            “Fear not,” reply’d the God, “that I’ll refuse

            Whate’er you ask: may Styx confirm my voice,

            Chuse what you will, and you shall have your choice.”


Styx, goddess of the river Styx, which

forms the boundary between Earth and

the Underworld, had sided with Jove /

Jupiter / Zeus during the War of the

Titans and been granted by him that

oaths should henceforth all be sworn

upon her, and be punctiliously observed


Phoebus / Apollo had similarly granted

his own son Phaeton his wish upon very

Styx, if you’ll remember, with the direst,

for both, of consequences

            “Then,” says the nymph, “when next you seek my arms,

            May you descend in those celestial charms,

            And fill with transport Heav’n’s immortal dame.”


show me, Semele asks of her suitor,

what she gets, what Juno / Hera gets,

when next you seek my arms


go, girl, I thought, if you’re going

to be irreverent


            The God surpriz’d would fain have stopp’d her voice,

            But he had sworn, and she had made her choice.


on very Styx, he’d sworn, ever so



stay tuned



R ! chard

“The Birth of Bacchus” – Ovid

Juno, c.1662 - c.1665 - Rembrandt

           Juno” (c.1662 – c.1665)






             Actaeon’s suff’rings, and Diana’s rage,

             Did all the thoughts of men and Gods engage;

             Some call’d the evils which Diana wrought,

             Too great, and disproportion’d to the fault:

             Others again, esteem’d Actaeon’s woes

             Fit for a virgin Goddess to impose.

             The hearers into diff’rent parts divide,

             And reasons are produc’d on either side.


Diana / Artemis had transformed

Actaeon into a stag, if you’ll

remembernot all the gods were

on side

              Juno alone, of all that heard the news,

              Nor would condemn the Goddess, nor excuse:


Juno, wife of Jove / Jupiter / Zeus

queen, therefore, of the gods

               She heeded not the justice of the deed,

               But joy’d to see the race of Cadmus bleed;


Cadmus, founder of Thebes, brother

of Europa

               For still she kept Europa in her mind,

               And, for her sake, detested all her kind.


Europa had been whisked away

by Jove / Jupiter / Zeus, Juno’s

husband, and borne him several

children, to the enduring enmity

of the queen of the deities

               Besides, to aggravate her hate, she heard

               How Semele, to Jove’s embrace preferr’d,

               Was now grown big with an immortal load,

               And carry’d in her womb a future God.


Jove / Jupiter / Zeus, incorrigible

philanderer apparently, had now

impregnated Semele, youngest

daughter of Cadmus, to Juno’s

utter disgust and dismay


              Thus terribly incens’d, the Goddess broke

               To sudden fury, and abruptly spoke.


the Goddess, Juno / Hera


let me reiterate here that the original

gods and goddesses of Olympus had

migrated with the Greeks to other

areas of the Mediterranean, but

became known, in the lands that

they’d settled, by other names

according to the languages and

customs that evolved in these new

territories, thus the Greek goddess

Hera was in Rome and its outlying

areas known as Juno, the Greek

Zeus as both Jupiter and Jove,

though their home remained for

all Mount Olympus


              “Are my reproaches of so small a force?

               ‘Tis time I then pursue another course:


though Juno / Hera might’ve

harangued Jove / Jupiter / Zeus

about his inveterate philandering,

her reproaches were not enough

to stop the god from his

determined activities


she therefore ordains

              It is decreed the guilty wretch shall die,

               If I’m indeed the mistress of the sky,

              If rightly styl’d among the Pow’rs above

               The wife and sister of the thund’ring Jove

               (And none can sure a sister’s right deny);

               It is decreed the guilty wretch shall die.


Juno / Hera is not only the wife of

Jove / Jupiter / Zeus, but also his

sister, both children of Cronos /

Saturn and Rhea / Ops, who

were themselves children of the

earth goddess Gaia and the sky

god Uranus


              She boasts an honour I can hardly claim,

               Pregnant she rises to a mother’s name;

              While proud and vain she triumphs in her Jove,

               And shows the glorious tokens of his love:


though Juno / Hera did indeed have

children with Jove / Jupiter / Zeus,

she is probably no longer here

bearing him any, I am supposing,

while Semele, proud and vain, is

now show[ing] the glorious tokens

of his love

              But if I’m still the mistress of the skies,

               By her own lover the fond beauty dies.”


it appears that Juno / Hera will

contrive to make Jove / Jupiter

/ Zeus the cause of Semele’s


              This said, descending in a yellow cloud,

               Before the gates of Semele she stood.


Semele, priestess of Jove / Jupiter

/ Zeus, would’ve been officiating at

the Cadmeia, the equivalent of the
Athenian Acropolis, at Thebes, the

city named after her father, its

founder, Cadmus


sparks will surely fly


stay tuned



R ! chard

“The Transformation of Actaeon into a Stag” (ll) – Ovid

Diana and Actaeon, c.1518 - Lucas Cranach the Elder

          Diana and Actaeon

                 Lucas Cranach the Elder



               Now all undrest the shining Goddess stood,
               When young Actaeon, wilder’d in the wood,


wilder’d in the wood, wandered

in the wild, in the forest

               To the cool grott by his hard fate betray’d,


grott, grotto


betray’d, treacherously confronted,

his hard fate would not be on his

side for this one

               The fountains fill’d with naked nymphs survey’d.


survey’d, observed, espied,

considered, contemplated


               The frighted virgins shriek’d at the surprize

               (The forest echo’d with their piercing cries).


listen, you can hear it

               Then in a huddle round their Goddess prest:
               She, proudly eminent above the rest,
               With blushes glow’d; such blushes as adorn
               The ruddy welkin, or the purple morn;


ruddy welkin, red sky, as at sunset

               And tho’ the crowding nymphs her body hide,
               Half backward shrunk, and view’d him from a side.
               Surpriz’d, at first she would have snatch’d her bow,
               But sees the circling waters round her flow;
               These in the hollow of her hand she took,
               And dash’d ’em in his face, while thus she spoke:


These, ’em, the circling waters

               “Tell, if thou can’st, the wond’rous sight disclos’d,
               A Goddess naked to thy view expos’d.”


not a warning here, but a curse, if thou

can’st being the operative expression,

for Actaeon, now in the process of

transformation, will no longer be able

to utter words

               This said, the man begun to disappear
               By slow degrees, and ended in a deer.


begun, began

               A rising horn on either brow he wears,
               And stretches out his neck, and pricks his ears;
               Rough is his skin, with sudden hairs o’er-grown,
               His bosom pants with fears before unknown:


the skittishness of a deer

               Transform’d at length, he flies away in haste,
               And wonders why he flies away so fast.


how did I do that, Actaeon wonders

               But as by chance, within a neighb’ring brook,
               He saw his branching horns and alter’d look.


his reflection, however by chance,

however inadvertently, in the water, 

the neighb’ring brook, reveals to him

his transformation, his metamorphosis

               Wretched Actaeon! in a doleful tone
               He try’d to speak, but only gave a groan;
               And as he wept, within the watry glass


the watry glass, the mirroring rivulet,

rill, waterway, brook

               He saw the big round drops, with silent pace,
               Run trickling down a savage hairy face.


the association with Bambi here for

me is inescapable, however grim

might be later Actaeon’s own fate

               What should he do? Or seek his old abodes,
               Or herd among the deer, and sculk in woods!
               Here shame dissuades him, there his fear prevails,
               And each by turns his aking heart assails.


something like the onset of puberty,

I think, that frightful fundamental

biological transformation, the fear,

the shame, remember


compare Calisto pregnant before the

very same goddess, Diana / Artemis

incidentally, the evidently unforgiving

deity before anything but unsullied

modesty, before uncompromised

chastity, who’s presently, consider,

condemning Actaeon

               As he thus ponders, he behind him spies
               His op’ning hounds, and now he hears their cries:


op’ning, advancing


               A gen’rous pack, or to maintain the chace,

               Or snuff the vapour from the scented grass.


or to … Or, either to … Or


maintain the chace … snuff the vapour,

dogs doing what dogs do

               He bounded off with fear, and swiftly ran
               O’er craggy mountains, and the flow’ry plain;
               Through brakes and thickets forc’d his way, and flew
               Through many a ring, where once he did pursue.


brakes, bracken, brush


a ring, a territory, a circumscribed



where once he did pursue, Actaeon

had earlier been not the hunted, but

the hunter

               In vain he oft endeavour’d to proclaim
               His new misfortune, and to tell his name;
               Nor voice nor words the brutal tongue supplies;


“Tell, if thou can’st, Diana / Artemis

had warned, and now [n]or voice

nor words the brutal tongue supplies,

allows, Actaeon, to speak


               From shouting men, and horns, and dogs he flies,

               Deafen’d and stunn’d with their promiscuous cries.


promiscuous, unleashed,


               When now the fleetest of the pack, that prest
               Close at his heels, and sprung before the rest,
               Had fasten’d on him, straight another pair,
               Hung on his wounded haunch, and held him there,
               ‘Till all the pack came up, and ev’ry hound
               Tore the sad huntsman grov’ling on the ground,
               Who now appear’d but one continu’d wound.


the attack

               With dropping tears his bitter fate he moans,
               And fills the mountain with his dying groans.
               His servants with a piteous look he spies,
               And turns about his supplicating eyes.


His servants, the jolly huntsmen, the

friends he’d advised to [t]ake the cool

morning to renew the chace

               His servants, ignorant of what had chanc’d,


what had chanc’d, the transformation,

the metamorphosis, Actaeon become

a stag

               With eager haste and joyful shouts advanc’d,
               And call’d their lord Actaeon to the game.


Actaeon seemed to them not there,


               He shook his head in answer to the name;


he couldn’t speak, could only [shake]

his head

               He heard, but wish’d he had indeed been gone,


gone, away, in another place, as [h]is

servants thought him to be

               Or only to have stood a looker-on.


a looker-on, observing rather than

having been the centre, the subject

of the situation

               But to his grief he finds himself too near,


too near, indeed present, central,

in the very thick of the fray

               And feels his rav’nous dogs with fury tear
               Their wretched master panting in a deer.


Actaeon doesn’t survive this

transformation, nor is he

transmuted, like so many others

who’d displeased the gods, into 

sets of stars, or constellations


a recurring theme seems to be,

as the poem advances, how

arbitrary the fate of humans is

in the hands of the, apparently

capricious, gods


to follow



R ! chard



“The Transformation of Actaeon into a Stag” – Ovid

The Bath of Diana, 1855 - Camille Corot


           “The Bath of Diana(1855)


                       Camille Corot




                In a fair chace a shady mountain stood,


chace, chase


a fair chace, not far away

                Well stor’d with game, and mark’d with trails of blood;

                Here did the huntsmen, ’till the heat of day,

                Pursue the stag, and load themselves with rey:


rey, probably prey, cause rey is not

a word, and ray instead of rey would

lead to inanities, improbabilities, lead

to hunters, huntsmen, bearing branches,

or stalks, of flowers at best, at worst,

bolts of light

                When thus Actaeon calling to the rest:


Actaeongrandson of Cadmus

founder of Thebes


                “My friends,” said he, “our sport is at the best,

                The sun is high advanc’d, and downward sheds

                His burning beams directly on our heads;


let’s take a break, Actaeon says, it’s
midday, too hot, it’s scorching

                Then by consent abstain from further spoils,

                Call off the dogs, and gather up the toils,

                And ere to-morrow’s sun begins his race,

                Take the cool morning to renew the chace.”


we’ve gathered sufficient quarry, he

continues, let’s wait until to-morrow,

for the cool[er] morning, in order to

renew the chace


                They all consent, and in a chearful train

                The jolly huntsmen, loaden with the slain,

                Return in triumph from the sultry plain.


loaden, laden


the slain, the spoils from the hunt

                Down in a vale with pine and cypress clad,

                Refresh’d with gentle winds, and brown with shade,

                The chaste Diana’s private haunt, there stood


Diana / Artemis, goddess of the Hunt,
and of the Moon


                Full in the centre of the darksome wood

                A spacious grotto, all around o’er-grown

                With hoary moss, and arch’d with pumice-stone.


see above


                From out its rocky clefts the waters flow,

                And trickling swell into a lake below.

                Nature had ev’ry where so plaid her part,

                That ev’ry where she seem’d to vie with art.


to vie, to contend, to curry for

position, favour


                Here the bright Goddess, toil’d and chaf’d with heat,

                Was wont to bathe her in the cool retreat.

                Here did she now with all her train resort,

                Panting with heat, and breathless from the sport;

                Her armour-bearer laid her bow aside,

                Some loos’d her sandals, some her veil unty’d;

                Each busy nymph her proper part undrest;

                While Crocale, more handy than the rest,

                Gather’d her flowing hair, and in a noose

                Bound it together, whilst her own hung loose.


Crocale, one of Diana’s nymphs


                Five of the more ignoble sort by turns

                Fetch up the water, and unlade the urns.


ignoble, not noble, lacking authority,

pedigree, courtly experience 


unlade, empty


an idyll about to unravel


stay tuned



R ! chard

“The Story of of Cadmus” (V) – Ovid

Minerva or Pallas Athena, 1898 - Gustav Klimt

         Minerva or Pallas Athena” (1898)


                Gustav Klimt





an interesting thing has happened with

the story of Cadmus, he is not only a

mythical figure, but also a legendary

one, which is to say that Cadmus has

roots in actual history, he’s not just an

imaginary construct like those that

until now have peopled Ovid’s text


Cadmus appears to have actually

founded Thebes, whose origins,

however, are lost in antiquity, going

back to, it appears, the late Bronze

Age, around 2000 BC, goodness


stories evidently grew around

Cadmus, that transformed him into

our first documented hero, indeed



counterparts exist in other traditions,

consider David, for instance, who

slew his own dragon, Goliath, before

becoming king of the Israelites, 10th

Century BCE, at Jerusalem, where

he consorted, incidentally, later, with

Bathsheba, however illicitly, but

that’s another story


King Arthur, late 5th to early 6th

Centuries CE, stems from British

lore, though his historical actuality

has been contested, is also a hero

with preternatural capabilities based

on some historical accountability


in our day, there’s James Bond,

based on real, living and breathing,



or, dare I say, even Jesus


the point here is that actual people

are being included in the, however

culturally specific, mythologies,

which, in each, had earlier consisted

of metaphorical constructs merely,

the concept of History, in other words,

was being born, memorable events

were to be remembered, recorded,

documented, if only, originally, orally,

around, say, campfires, however

aggrandized might have been their

recollected heroes


Cadmus, meanwhile, in our story, is

about to establish his own historical,

and archeologically confirmed, note,



            The dire example ran through all the field,
            ‘Till heaps of brothers were by brothers kill’d;


The dire example, the dragon’s teeth,

grown into men, had begun, if you’ll

remember, to slaughter one another


example, display

            The furrows swam in blood: and only five
            Of all the vast increase were left alive.
            Echion one, at Pallas’s command,
            Let fall the guiltless weapon from his hand,


Echion, one of the five surviving



Pallas, Pallas Athena, goddess of

Wisdom, also of War


see above


            And with the rest a peaceful treaty makes,
            Whom Cadmus as his friends and partners takes;


the rest, the four other survivors


            So founds a city on the promis’d earth,
            And gives his new Boeotian empire birth.


promis’d earth, the premonition of

the oracles whose counsel Cadmus

had sought at Delphi, if you’ll



            Here Cadmus reign’d; and now one would have guess’d
            The royal founder in his exile blest:


his exile, from Tyre, Cadmus’ original

home, from which his father, Agenor,

had sent him, not to return, he’d

warnedwithout his sister, Europa

            Long did he live within his new abodes,
            Ally’d by marriage to the deathless Gods;


Ally’d by marriage, at the end of a

period of penance for having killed

the dragon, which had been sacred

to Ares, god of War, the gods gave

Cadmus Harmonia, goddess of

Concord, to be his wife


Ares would eventually exact mighty

vengeance, but that’s another story


            And, in a fruitful wife’s embraces old,
            A long increase of children’s children told:
            But no frail man, however great or high,
            Can be concluded blest before he die.


even Cadmus, though he might

enjoy a long life, and many, a long

increase of, children, is not immune

to any of the vicissitudes of life either

until his own time has come, the poet

advises, however ominously


and here Ovid also introduces the

subject of his next metamorphosis,

Actaeon, however early, luring us

thereby, deftly, literarily, towards

his next instalment, Actaeon’s

story, eponymously, there, given

its title


            Actaeon was the first of all his race,

            Who griev’d his grandsire in his borrow’d face;

            Condemn’d by stern Diana to bemoan
            The branching horns, and visage not his own;


his grandsire, his grandfather,

Cadmus was the father of Autonoë,

who was the mother of Actaeon


borrow’d face, Actaeon was

transformed into a stag by the

goddess Diana / Artemis, of the

Hunt, of the Moon, of Chastity,

for having seen her naked as

she was bathing


he now has the face, the visage, of

someone, something, he hadn’t

been before, borrow’d

            To shun his once lov’d dogs, to bound away,
            And from their huntsman to become their prey,


having been transformed into a

stag, or metamorphized, Actaeon

would end up hunted, and worse,

by his own, once lov’d, dogs

            And yet consider why the change was wrought,
            You’ll find it his misfortune, not his fault;
            Or, if a fault, it was the fault of chance:
            For how can guilt proceed from ignorance?


to have been at the wrong place

at the wrong time, yet to suffer,

however unfairly, the consequences,

that, Ovid asks, is the question, the



stay tuned



R ! chard

“The Story of of Cadmus” (lV) – Ovid

     Cadmus Sowing the Dragon’s Teeth” (1610/1690)


               Peter Paul Rubens





                Cadmus beheld him wallow in a flood
                Of swimming poison, intermix’d with blood;


swimming poison, the venom the

dragon had spewed, intermix’d

with blood, after Cadmus had

struck the beast with his jav’lin,

if you’ll remember

                When suddenly a speech was heard from high
                (The speech was heard, nor was the speaker nigh),


the suggestion here is that the voice

is disincarnate, ethereal, otherworldly,

from high, not nigh


                “Why dost thou thus with secret pleasure see,
                Insulting man! what thou thy self shalt be?”


secret pleasure, the self-satisfaction

of the soul, unspoken


what thou thy self shalt be, a prophecy

as cryptic as oracular pronouncements

ever tended to be,also ever ominous

                Astonish’d at the voice, he stood amaz’d,
                And all around with inward horror gaz’d:


all around, the detritus, the waste, the

ravages that surrounded him, that

Cadmus viewed, gaz’d at, amaz’d …

with inward horror

                When Pallas swift descending from the skies,
                Pallas, the guardian of the bold and wise,


Pallas, the goddess Athena, of Wisdom,

of War, bold and wise patroness,

protectress of, among other Greek

cities, incidentally, Athens, site of, on

the Acropolis there, the Parthenon,

her temple

                Bids him plow up the field, and scatter round
                The dragon’s teeth o’er all the furrow’d ground;


we’ve seen this happen before, if you’ll

remember, with Deucalion and Pyrrha,

casting the stones, their mighty mother‘s

bones, to replenish, after the flood, the

resurgent Earth with people

                Then tells the youth how to his wond’ring eyes
                Embattled armies from the field should rise.


wond’ring, startled


                He sows the teeth at Pallas’s command,
               And flings the future people from his hand.
               The clods grow warm, and crumble where he sows;


Cadmus is sow[ing] people, future

people, however, apparently, military,

at the command of the goddess, but

Pallas, remember, is goddess of  War,

these metamorphosizing, ahem, 

entities would be her progeny, her


                And now the pointed spears advance in rows;
                Now nodding plumes appear, and shining crests,
                Now the broad shoulders and the rising breasts;
                O’er all the field the breathing harvest swarms,
                A growing host, a crop of men and arms.


an army – listen, this is how I think

Shostakovich would’ve heard it,

from his 7th Symphony, the

Leningrad, its first movement, a

searing allegretto, a movement

he’d initially entitled War before

deciding against it


here’s the entire symphony, should

you be, and I highly recommend it,

into it, a much more convincing, to

my mind, production, however

significantly extended

                So through the parting stage a figure rears
                Its body up, and limb by limb appears
                By just degrees; ’till all the man arise,
                And in his full proportion strikes the eyes.


as each of the teeth develops, grow[s]

warm, as each figure rears … and limb

by limb appears, men arise, recognizable

as such, each in his full proportion

                Cadmus surpriz’d, and startled at the sight
                Of his new foes, prepar’d himself for fight:
                When one cry’d out, “Forbear, fond man, forbear
                To mingle in a blind promiscuous war.”


forbear, hold on, desist, stop


promiscuous, indiscriminate

                This said, he struck his brother to the ground,
                Himself expiring by another’s wound;
                Nor did the third his conquest long survive,
                Dying ere scarce he had begun to live.


the new foes are slaughtering each

other, Cadmus doesn’t have to lift

a finger


what’s up


stay tuned



R ! chard

“The Story of of Cadmus” (lll) – Ovid

File:Hendrick Goltzius Cadmus Statens Museum for Kunst 1183.jpg

             Cadmus Slays the Dragon


                       Hendrick Goltzius





             And now the scorching sun was mounted high,

             In all its lustre, to the noon-day sky;

             When, anxious for his friends, and fill’d with cares,

             To search the woods th’ impatient chief prepares.

th’ impatient chief, Cadmus, prince of

Tyre, had sen[t] his servants to a

neighb’ring grove / For living streams,

if you’ll remembersacrifice to Jove,

to thank that god for these new

dominionstheir new home

             A lion’s hide around his loins he wore,

             The well poiz’d javelin to the field he bore,

             Inur’d to blood; the far-destroying dart;

             And, the best weapon, an undaunted heart.


Cadmus here is a precursor of the

mythologically later Heracles, or

Herakles, or Hercules in Latin, a

hero, which is to say descended

from the gods, in that latter’s case,

son of Jove / Zeus / Jupiter, the

very deity who’d just abducted

Europa, Cadmus‘ sister, mother

of all Europeans, divine or human


             Soon as the youth approach’d the fatal place,

             He saw his servants breathless on the grass;


breathless, not breathing,


             The scaly foe amid their corps he view’d,

             Basking at ease, and feasting in their blood.


The scaly foe, the dragon


corps, corpses

             “Such friends,” he cries, “deserv’d a longer date;


a longer date, a longer life, a more

extended period of existence

             But Cadmus will revenge or share their fate.”


either [t]he scaly foe will die, the

dragon, or Cadmus himself, in the

attempt to avenge his friends, his

servants breathless on the grass,

he promises

              Then heav’d a stone, and rising to the throw, 

              He sent it in a whirlwind at the foe:


in a whirlwind, taking advantage

of a meteorological condition, as

one would a kite

             A tow’r, assaulted by so rude a stroke,

             With all its lofty battlements had shook;


a tower would’ve swayed at so

powerful a strike, I remember

an earthquake once rocking my

own high rise apartment building

for an unnerving moment before

settling, returning the ground, 

my ground, to its, otherwise

imperturbable, placidity


             But nothing here th’ unwieldy rock avails,

             Rebounding harmless from the plaited scales,

             That, firmly join’d, preserv’d him from a wound,

             With native armour crusted all around.


native, integral, a constituent

part of

             With more success, the dart unerring flew,


the dart, the javelin

             Which at his back the raging warriour threw;


the raging warriour, Cadmus


             Amid the plaited scales it took its course,

             And in the spinal marrow spent its force.

             The monster hiss’d aloud, and rag’d in vain,

             And writh’d his body to and fro with pain;

             He bit the dart, and wrench’d the wood away;

             The point still buried in the marrow lay.

             And now his rage, increasing with his pain,

             Reddens his eyes, and beats in ev’ry vein;

             Churn’d in his teeth the foamy venom rose,

             Whilst from his mouth a blast of vapours flows,

             Such as th’ infernal Stygian waters cast.


Stygian, of the River Styx, which

forms the boundary between the

Earth and the Underworld, named

after the Goddess Styx, daughter

of Tethys and Oceanus, god, and

river also, which encircled the

entire world

             The plants around him wither in the blast.

             Now in a maze of rings he lies enrowl’d,


enrowl’d, encircled, surrounded

             Now all unravel’d, and without a fold;


without a fold, without a hitch, without

an intervening obstacle


             Now, like a torrent, with a mighty force

             Bears down the forest in his boist’rous course.


Bears down the forest, advances,

like a torrent, against the wall of



             Cadmus gave back, and on the lion’s spoil

             Sustain’d the shock, then forc’d him to recoil;


gave back, drew back, backed

away, forc’d … to recoil


the lion’s spoil, the dragon’s

venom and its gore

             The pointed jav’lin warded off his rage:


the dragon readies for the onslaught,

overcoming his, otherwise consuming

rage, at the sight of [t]he pointed jav’lin


             Mad with his pains, and furious to engage,

             The serpent champs the steel, and bites the spear,

             Till blood and venom all the point besmear.

             But still the hurt he yet receiv’d was slight;

             For, whilst the champion with redoubled might

             Strikes home the jav’lin, his retiring foe

             Shrinks from the wound, and disappoints the blow.


the jav’lin is still no match for the,

however wounded, dragon


             The dauntless heroe still pursues his stroke,

             And presses forward, ’till a knotty oak

             Retards his foe, and stops him in the rear;


retards, stops, inhibits

             Full in his throat he plung’d the fatal spear,

             That in th’ extended neck a passage found,

             And pierc’d the solid timber through the wound.


the fatal spear has pierc’d not

only th’ extended neck, but also

the knotty oak behind it, which

had prevented the dragon from

moving onward toward his



             Fix’d to the reeling trunk, with many a stroke

             Of his huge tail he lash’d the sturdy oak;

             ‘Till spent with toil, and lab’ring hard for breath,

             He now lay twisting in the pangs of death.


ding dong, the dragon is, if not

dead, dying


stay tuned



R ! chard