“The Transformation of Io into a Heyfer” (II) – Ovid

Gerbrand_van_den_Eeckhout_-_Juno,_Jupiter_and_Io

   Juno, Jupiter and Io (1672) 

 

          Gerbrand van den Eeckhout

 

                      ________________

        

 

we left Inachus in my last instalment

looking for his daughter, Io

 

              Her, just returning from her father’s brook

 

Her, Io 


              Jove had beheld, with a desiring look: 

 

the sentence structure, as it’s been

crafted in the verses above, has 

been an aspect of Ovid’s poem for 

some time, though, it must again 

be noted, as translated by John 

Dryden, the subject goes where 

the object should go, the sentence 

is inverted

 

the sentence should be, Jove had

beheld her, … just returning from 

her father’s brook

 

but the placement of Her at the 

top of the sentence, and even 

capitalized, is, you must admit,
arresting, and of the highest

poetic order


              And, Oh fair daughter of the flood, he said, 

 

the flood, the many rivers that came 

to comfort Inachus, their sovereign, 

in his distress at having lost Io, his 

daughter, their many surging 

confluences would’ve created 

overflowing torrents, the flood

 

              Worthy alone of Jove’s imperial bed, 

 

Jove thinks Io worthy of no one 

else’s mattress but his own

 

              Happy whoever shall those charms possess;
              The king of Gods (nor is thy lover less)
              Invites thee to yon cooler shades; to shun
              The scorching rays of the meridian sun. 

 

whoever might partake of her charms,

Jove tells Io, would be Happy

 

again an inverted sentence, note

 

but Jove makes his play, flashes 

his pedigree,The king of Gods, 

nothing less, and invites her to a 

shady grove, out of the noonday, 

the meridian, sun


              Nor shalt thou tempt the dangers of the grove
              Alone, without a guide; thy guide is Jove. 

 

Jove / Jupiter, god of gods

 

              No puny Pow’r, but he whose high command
              Is unconfin’d, 

 

Jove / Jupiter is not a nobody, but, 

rather, unconfin’d, omnipotent,

he boasts

 

                                    who rules the seas and land;
              And tempers thunder in his awful hand, 

 

Jove / Jupiter, supreme master of 

the elements


              Oh fly not: 

 

Jove urges Io

 

                                for she fled from his embrace
              O’er Lerna’s pastures: 

 

Lerna, a region of Ancient Greece

 

                                                he pursu’d the chace
              Along the shades of the Lyrcaean plain; 

 

Lyrcaean, after some investigation,

seems to mean from Lycaeus, the

Latin name for Lykaion, a mountain

in Greece, considered by some to

be the birthplace of Jove / Jupiter /

Zeus

 

otherwise, but very improbably, the 

Lyrcaean plain is a literary invention,

of Ovid, or of his translator, Dryden


              At length the God, who never asks in vain,
              Involv’d with vapours, imitating night,
              Both Air, and Earth; 

 

Inform’d with, having transformed 

himself into, vapours, a mist, 

imitating night, shrouding [b]oth 

Air and Earth in darkness, 

becoming himself, therefore, 

indistinct, indefinite, nebulous, 

within them

 

                                              and then suppress’d her flight,
              And mingling force with love, enjoy’d the full delight. 

 

first of all Phoebus / Apollo‘s pursuit 

of Daphne, and now Jove / Jupiter‘s 

constraint of Io, are not admirable

aspects of male deities, indeed in

our age of action against the 

harassment of women, their 

behaviour is disturbing, uncomfortable

for me even to read, I’m too reminded 

of dissolute American CEOs, not to

mention presidents, but concluding 

that this dilemma has been around 

for countless ages among vertebrates,

be they animal, human, or, as in these 

instances, divine, therefore written in 

our antediluvian, our primeval, genes, 

maybe, consequently, ineradicably


              Mean-time the jealous Juno, from on high, 

 

Juno, goddess of goddesses, wife

of Jupiter / Jove


              Survey’d the fruitful fields of Arcady; 

 

Arcady, or Arcadia, a region still 

of Greece


              And wonder’d that the mist shou’d over-run
              The face of day-light, and obscure the sun. 

 

which is to say, Juno, suspicious, 

asks herself, what’s up with that 


              No nat’ral cause she found, from brooks, or bogs,
              Or marshy lowlands, to produce the fogs; 

 

she reckons


              Then round the skies she sought for Jupiter,
              Her faithless husband; but no Jove was there: 

 

Juno knows her Jove / Jupiter

 

              Suspecting now the worst, Or I, she said,
              Am much mistaken, or am much betray’d. 

 

it’s one of two things, Juno figures, 

after [s]uspecting … the worst, I am 

myself in error, she concludes, I am

myself mistaken , or am, by my 

husband, much betray’d 


              With fury she precipitates her flight: 

 

her flight, her plan of action, both

geographical, and tactical


              Dispels the shadows of dissembled night; 

 

dissembled, sham, not actual, Jove / 

Jupiter, if you’ll remember, Involv’d 

with vapours, was imitating night,

not easily visible

 

              And to the day restores his native light. 

 

note that day is masculine here, 

his native light


              Th’ Almighty Leacher, careful to prevent
              The consequence, foreseeing her descent,
              Transforms his mistress in a trice; and now
              In Io’s place appears a lovely cow. 

 

Leacher, lecher

 

in a trice, very quickly, in the bat

of an eyelash

 

a cow 

 

see above


              So sleek her skin, so faultless was her make,
              Ev’n Juno did unwilling pleasure take
              To see so fair a rival of her love; 

 

though transformed into a cow, Io 

remains lovely, even Juno can see 

that, however be she jealous 


              And what she was, and whence, enquir’d of Jove: 

 

where did you get that, Juno asks 

of Jove, surely dryly


              Of what fair herd, and from what pedigree? 

 

and what, and when, and how, she

further inquires, probably acidly 

 

              The God, half caught, was forc’d upon a lye:
              And said she sprung from Earth. 

 

Jove, who’d had to tell a lye, a lie, 

said that the heifer, the altered Io

had sprung, spontaneously, he 

claimed, from the earth

 

                                                     She took the word, 

 

Juno accepted Jove‘s explanation


              And begg’d the beauteous heyfer of her lord. 

 

Juno asks of Jove that she might 

keep the heyfer for herself, the 

heifer, a virgin cow


              What should he do? ’twas equal shame to Jove
              Or to relinquish, or betray his love:
              Yet to refuse so slight a gift, wou’d be
              But more t’ increase his consort’s jealousie: 

 

Jove / Jupiter was in a bind, to

out Io, or to out himself

 

              Thus fear, and love, by turns, his heart assail’d;
              And stronger love had sure, at length, prevail’d:
              But some faint hope remain’d, his jealous queen
              Had not the mistress through the heyfer seen. 

 

if it weren’t for the fact that Juno

maybe, some faint hope, might 

not have recognized Io in the 

heifer, Jove / Jupiter would’ve, 

had sure, eventually, at length, 

confessed to his indiscretion, his

stronger love, having prevail’d


              The cautious Goddess, of her gift possest,
              Yet 
harbour’d anxious thoughts within her breast;
              As she who knew the falshood of her Jove;

 

though Juno has been granted her

request, she remains sceptical, 

knew her husband was prone to

falshood, or falsehood


              And justly fear’d some new relapse of love. 

 

justly, the facts would bear her out, 

were she cognizant of them


              Which to prevent, and to secure her care,
              To trusty Argus she commits the fair. 

 

Argus Panoptes, one of the giants 

who must’ve remained after their 

war 

 

Panoptes, pan optes, Greek for many 

eyes, of which only a few, it came to 

be believed, of Juno‘s entrusted

guardian, slept at a time

 

 

to be continued

 

 

R ! chard