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Category: Apollo

The Story of Phaeton (IV) – Ovid

dawn.jpg!Large

    “Dawn (1873) 

 

           Fyodor Vasilyev

 

                     _______

 

 

 

                Thus did the God th’ unwary youth advise; 

 

Helios / Phoebus / Apollo tells his

son Phaeton, th’ unwary youth, 

that he shouldn’t try to ride the 

Chariot of the Sun himself


                But he still longs to travel through the skies. 

 

Phaeton, however, is inclined to

disregard his father’s advice


                When the fond father (for in vain he pleads)
                At length to the Vulcanian Chariot leads. 

 

Vulcanian, of Vulcan, god of fire,

metal, metalworkers

 

Vulcan, according to Ovid here, 

built the Chariot of the Sun 


                A golden axle did the work uphold, 

 

the axle is the principal part, the 

beam between the wheels, that 

holds the chariot together, that 

did the work, which is to say

the chariot, uphold


                Gold was the beam, the wheels were orb’d with gold.
                The spokes in rows of silver pleas’d the sight,
                The seat with party-colour’d gems was bright; 

 

the chariot was made of precious 

metals and gems, was therefore 

bright, resplendent

 

                Apollo shin’d amid the glare of light. 

 

Apollo, Sun god, would surely, as 

well as the chariot, be radiant, 

glowing

 

note that the Sun god is called 

Apollo here, where earlier he’d

been called Phoebus, the Latin 

name replacing the Greek, but

upon further investigation I found

that it was Dryden who’d made 

the switch, Ovid had called the 

Sun god Phoebus in the original

Latin text


                The youth with secret joy the work surveys, 

 

Phaeton is beside himself, eager 

with anticipation


                When now the moon disclos’d her purple rays; 

 

purple rays, tinged with the colours 

of dawn

 

see above


                The stars were fled, for Lucifer had chased
                The stars away, and fled himself at last. 

 

Lucifer, the Morning Star, the

planet Venus, as it appears in 

the East before sunrise

 

having suspected Dryden of having

replaced with Lucifer another name 

from the original Latin text, I was 

surprised to discover that Lucifer

had been indeed translated faithfully 

from Ovid’s poem, which means that 

the Christian name we’re familiar 

with as another name for Satan has 

to have been adopted from the 

Ancients and modified to fit the new 

Christian mythology, the biblical

narrative 

 

Lucifer, a god in his own right in

Antiquity, had been the son of 

Aurora, goddess of the Dawn

 

do you love it

 

                Soon as the father saw the rosy morn,
                And the moon shining with a blunter horn, 

 

blunter, less incandescent, dulled

by the advancing light

 

horn, a lesser phase of the moon, 

when it is either waxing or waning, 

thus resembling a horn


                He bid the nimble Hours, without delay,
                Bring forth the steeds; the nimble Hours obey: 

 

the Hours, or Horae, goddesses 

of the Seasons, horae is the 

Greek word for seasons


                From their full racks the gen’rous steeds retire, 

 

retire, come away, from their stalls

in the stables


                Dropping ambrosial foams, and snorting fire. 

 

ambrosial, especially fragrant, or

tasty


                Still anxious for his son, the God of day,
                To make him proof against the burning ray,
                His temples with celestial ointment wet,
                Of sov’reign virtue to repel the heat; 

 

celestial ointment, ambrosia,

elixir of the gods

 

sov’reign virtue, exceedingly effective

attribute


                Then fix’d the beamy circle on his head, 

 

beamy circle, radiant halo of

solar rays


                And fetch’d a deep foreboding sigh, and said,
                “Take this at least, this last advice, my son,
                Keep a stiff rein, and move but gently on:
                The coursers of themselves will run too fast,
                Your art must be to moderate their haste.
                Drive ’em not on directly through the skies,
                But where the Zodiac’s winding circle lies,
                Along the midmost Zone; but sally forth
                Nor to the distant south, nor stormy north.
                The horses’ hoofs a beaten track will show,
                But neither mount too high, nor sink too low.
                That no new fires, or Heav’n or Earth infest;
                Keep the mid way, the middle way is best.
                Nor, where in radiant folds the serpent twines,
                Direct your course, nor where the altar shines. 

 

serpent twines, serpentine, tortuous

entanglements

 

altar, probably alter, or other, light 

sources, the moon, for instance,

the Morning Star, do not be 

distracted by bright lights, 

Phoebus / Apollo advises


                Shun both extreams; the rest let Fortune guide, 
                And better for thee than thy self provide! 

 

Fortune, or Fortuna, goddess of Fate,

will be of greater help to you, Phoebus 

/ Apollo tells his son, than you, thy self,

can provide for yourself 

 

compare this last fatherly advice,

incidentally, to that of Polonius to

Laertes, his own son, act I, scene 

3, lines 55 to 81 in Shakespeare’s 

Hamlet, proof that Shakespeare 

was not only well acquainted 

with Ovid, but also much 

admired him

 

                See, while I speak, the shades disperse away,
                Aurora gives the promise of a day; 

 

Aurora, goddess of the Dawn


                I’m call’d, nor can I make a longer stay. 

 

I’m call’d, the time has come to 

mount the Chariot of the Sun, 

the morning breaks, I must, or

you must, in my stead, go


                Snatch up the reins; or still th’ attempt forsake,
                And not my chariot, but my counsel, take,
                While yet securely on the Earth you stand;
                Nor touch the horses with too rash a hand.
                Let me alone to light the world, while you
                Enjoy those beams which you may safely view.” 

 

should you choose to my counsel, take, 

from the Earth you may safely view my 

beams while I alone … light the world, 

Phoebus / Apollo implores his son


                He spoke in vain; the youth with active heat
                And sprightly vigour vaults into the seat;
                And joys to hold the reins, and fondly gives
                Those thanks his father with remorse receives.

 

for better, or for worse

 

stay tuned

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

The Story of Phaeton (III) – Ovid

Apollo_in_His_Chariot_with_the_Hours

   Apollo in His Chariot with the Hours (1922–25) 

 

               John Singer Sargent

 

                     __________

 

 


                 The God repented of the oath he took, 

 

the God, Helios / Phoebus / Apollo,

father of Phaeton, with Clymene,

Phaeton’s mother

 

the oath, to grant Phaeton his wish

in order to prove his paternity


                 For anguish thrice his radiant head he shook;
                 “My son,” says he, “some other proof require,
                 Rash was my promise, rash is thy desire.
                 I’d fain deny this wish, which thou hast made,
                 Or, what I can’t deny, wou’d fain disswade. 

 

fain, willingly, gladly

 

what I can’t deny, his oath

 

disswade, dissuade


                Too vast and hazardous the task appears,
                 Nor suited to thy strength, nor to thy years.
                 Thy lot is mortal, but thy wishes fly
                 Beyond the province of mortality:

 

Beyond the province of mortality,

into immortality, for which Phaeton

is not equipped, being human, his

lot is mortal


                There is not one of all the Gods that dares
                 (However skill’d in other great affairs)
                 To mount the burning axle-tree, but I; 

 

the axle-tree, the bar that joins the 

wheels of the chariot, is burning 

because it transports the sun


                Not Jove himself, the ruler of the sky,
                 That hurles the three-fork’d thunder from above,
                 Dares try his strength: yet who so strong as Jove? 

 

not even Jove / Jupiter / Zeus, god of 

gods, and of Thunder, will attempt to  

mount the burning axle-tree, despite 

his immense strength, superior to

anyone’s


                The steeds climb up the first ascent with pain,
                 And when the middle firmament they gain, 

 

the middle firmament, noon, the

middle of the day, where the sun

reaches its zenith


                If downward from the Heav’ns my head I bow,
                 And see the Earth and Ocean hang below, 

 

hang, suspended in the heavens


                Ev’n I am seiz’d with horror and affright,
                 And my own heart misgives me at the sight. 

 

Helios / Phoebus / Apollo admits 

to fear of vertigo

 

                A mighty downfal steeps the ev’ning stage,
                 And steddy reins must curb the horses’ rage.
                 Tethys herself has fear’d to see me driv’n
                 Down headlong from the precipice of Heav’n. 

 

Tethys, a Titaness, of the race of 

Giants, who were defeated during 

the Giants’ War

 

what I’ve learned in the meantime 

is that the Giants, the Titans, had 

actually ruled the cosmos before 

being defeated by the Olympians

something Ovid had misrepresented

in his retelling, where he suggests 

that they were upstarts, rather, 

mortal, however gigantic, who were 

trying from the Earth, Hills pil’d on

hills, on mountains mountains … /

To make their mad approaches to

the skie, in order to unseat the 

gods of Olympus

 

the Titans, as it turns out, were 

immortals, who ruled the cosmos 

before being ousted by the

Olympians, Jove / Jupiter / Zeus

and his cohorts, and relegated, 

most of them, to the Underworld

though Tethys herself seems to 

have made it out, and been 

reconciled with, at least, the 

Sun god

 

should I point out that to try to set 

out in one, however comprehensive,

manuscript, a mythology that had 

endured for going on a thousand 

years was likely to reflect some 

inconsistencies, some inaccuracies,

not to mention the dictates of not 

only cultural, but also political 

considerations, we’ll have to 

forgive Ovid, or not, it appears,

his  transgressions 

 

                Besides, consider what impetuous force
                 Turns stars and planets in a diff’rent course. 

 

Helios / Phoebus / Apollo continues

to speak, warning his son Phaeton

of the strong, impetuous, and 

unpredictable, currents that [t]urn,

jostle, stars and planets


                I steer against their motions; 

 

that’s what I have to deal with,

Helios / Phoebus / Apollo

cautions, these motions,

these irascible, interplanetary,

interstellar, streams 

 

                                                              nor am I
                 Born back by all the current of the sky. 

 

neither am I born back, which is 

to say borne back, carried back, 

guided back, by any regular,

orderly, current of the sky, by any 

rhythm, of the days, for instance, 

or of the, however intransigent,

hours, that could, potentially,

redirect his path 


                But how cou’d you resist the orbs that roul
                 In adverse whirls, and stem the rapid pole? 

 

roul, roll, swirl

 

adverse whirls, of the winds, like 

ocean currents, that stem, are 

created by, are the source of, as 

in the stem of plants, the rapid 

pole, or pull, to rhyme with roul,

a bit, I think, of a poetic stretch

 

                But you perhaps may hope for pleasing woods,
                 And stately dooms, and cities fill’d with Gods;
                 While through a thousand snares your progress lies,
                 Where forms of starry monsters stock the skies: 

 

dooms, eventualities, a wonderful 

conjunction here of stately, or 

exalted, expectations, with the 

more dire threat of a thousand

snares, or starry monsters, that

the word doom would usually

suggest

 

                For, shou’d you hit the doubtful way aright, 

 

even if you stay on the right track,

even if you hit the … way aright


                The bull with stooping horns stands opposite; 

 

you’ll have to confront [t]he bull, 

Taurus


                Next him the bright Haemonian bow is strung, 

 

Haemonian, of Thessaly, a region 

still of Greece  

 

the Haemonian bow, representative

of Sagittarius

 

                And next, the lion’s grinning visage hung: 

 

the lion, Leo


                 The scorpion’s claws, here clasp a wide extent; 

 

The scorpion, Scorpio


                And here the crab’s in lesser clasps are bent. 

 

the crab, Cancer

 

an array of astrological configurations 

obstruct the sky


                Nor wou’d you find it easie to compose
                 The mettled steeds, when from their nostrils flows
                 The scorching fire, that in their entrails glows. 

 

mettled, spirited 


                Ev’n I their head-strong fury scarce restrain,
                 When they grow warm and restif to the rein. 

 

Ev’n I, Helios / Phoebus / Apollo, can 

barely, scarce, hold them back, restrain

them, when they grow … restif, restive,

unable to keep still 


                Let not my son a fatal gift require, 

 

don’t require of me a fatal gift, 

Phaeton’s father pleads, a gift 

that will destroy you 

 

                But, O! in time, recall your rash desire;
                 You ask a gift that may your parent tell, 

 

a gift that may your parent tell,

that is meant to determine, to 

prove, your descent


                Let these my fears your parentage reveal;
                 And learn a father from a father’s care:
                 Look on my face; or if my heart lay bare,
                 Cou’d you but look, you’d read the father there. 

 

were you to just look at my face, 

see my concern, you should be 

able to make out that I’m your 

father, Helios / Phoebus / Apollo

says


                Chuse out a gift from seas, or Earth, or skies, 

 

[c]huse, choose


                For open to your wish all Nature lies,
                 Only decline this one unequal task,
                 For ’tis a mischief, not a gift, you ask. 

 

unequal task, a challenge that 

is too great for Phaeton


                You ask a real mischief, Phaeton:
                 Nay hang not thus about my neck, my son: 

 

don’t hang about my neck, Helios

/ Phoebus / Apollo tells his son, 

you don’t need to try to cajole me


                I grant your wish, and Styx has heard my voice, 

 

Helios / Phoebus / Apollo has 

sworn an oath on Styx, the 

goddess, the river, an 

unshakable promise, which 

he intends to deliver


                Chuse what you will, but make a wiser choice.” 

 

now it’s up to you, Phaeton, for 

better or for worse, to decide

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

“The Story of Phaeton” (II) – Ovid

the-sun-1916.jpg!Large

   “The Sun (1911 – 1916) 

 

            Edvard Munch

 

                _______

 

 


                    The Sun’s bright palace, on high columns rais’d, 

 

The Sun, Helios / Phoebus / Apollo


                    With burnish’d gold and flaming jewels blaz’d;
                    The folding gates diffus’d a silver light,
                    And with a milder gleam refresh’d the sight; 

 

since the folding gates of the bright

palace shimmered with a silver light 

rather than with the glow of the gold 

and flaming jewels of the palace itself,

their milder gleam was easier on the 

eyes, refresh’d the sight


                    Of polish’d iv’ry was the cov’ring wrought: 

 

the palace was covered with polish’d

wrought ivory


                    The matter vied not with the sculptor’s thought, 

 

the execution of the palace was  

everything that its sculptor, its

architect, had had in mind to 

create


                    For in the portal was display’d on high
                    (The work of Vulcan) a fictitious sky

 

Vulcan, god of fire, metal, smiths, 

metalworkers

 

at the entrance to the palace, the

portal, Vulcan had painted the ceiling, 

he’d display’d on high … a fictitious 

sky, I suspect Dryden must’ve had 

Michelangelo and his ceiling of the  

Sistine Chapel in mind during his 

translation of this passage of Ovid

 

                    A waving sea th’ inferiour Earth embrac’d, 

 

inferiour, Earth, surging from under the 

greater masses of water dominating it, 

especially after the flood, is, therefore, 

beneath the waving sea, inferiour to it


                    And Gods and Goddesses the waters grac’d. 

 

remember that Ovid is describing a 

painting here, on the ceiling at the

entrance, the portal, to the palace 

of the god of the Sun


                    Aegeon here a mighty whale bestrode; 

 

Aegeon, marine god, god of storms,

note the similarity of the name with 

that of the Aegean Sea, but which 

came first, the chicken or the egg, 

the god or the expanse of water, 

remains, as far as I’ve been able 

to determine, undetermined

 

                    Triton, and Proteus (the deceiving God) 

 

Triton, another god of the Sea, you’ll 

remember him coming to the aid of 

Neptune, his father, in settling the

waters after the flood at the request 

of Jove / Jupiter / Zeus

 

Proteus, still another sea god, 

described as deceiving, for his 

ability to effortlessly, and 

spontaneously, change his shape, 

from which, incidentally, we get 

the adjective protean, for easily 

changeable, or versatile 

 

                    With Doris here were carv’d, and all her train, 

 

Doris, sea goddess, and all her train,

her following of nymphs, the Nereids,

her fifty daughters, if you’ll remember,

are carv’d, etched, given graphic 

representation

 

                    Some loosely swimming in the figur’d main, 

 

figur’d, painted, depicted, drawn

 

main, the open ocean, but, probably 

also here, the main, or central, part 

of the painting itself


                    While some on rocks their dropping hair divide, 

 

their hair divide, they loosen strands 

of their wet hair 


                    And some on fishes through the waters glide: 

 

sea gods and goddesses are often

shown riding sea creatures, dolphins, 

seahorses, even whales, see Aegeon

above

                    Tho’ various features did the sisters grace,
                    A sister’s likeness was in ev’ry face. 

 

the sisters, the Nereids, all have different

features, but a family resemblance, sister’s 

likeness, can always be detected in each

individual sibling’s rendering

 

                    On Earth a diff’rent landskip courts the eyes, 

 

Earth doesn’t look, court[ ] the eyes,

at all like what’s painted on the 

palace’s ceiling

 

landskip, landscape


                    Men, towns, and beasts in distant prospects rise, 

 

distant prospects, from a distance, one 

can see [m]en, towns, and beasts 

appear, rise, arise


                    And nymphs, and streams, and woods, and rural deities. 

 

nymphs, consigned, it appears, to 

earthly duties, streams, and woods, 

are not a feature of the Sun god’s 

palace


                    O’er all, the Heav’n’s refulgent image shines; 

 

the Heav’n’s refulgent, brightly shining,

image, expression, is manifest [o]’er all,

everywhere, the rays of the sun cast a

light on everything

 

                    On either gate were six engraven signs. 

 

again I’m reminded of a Renaissance

wonder, Lorenzo Ghiberti‘s gilded bronze 

doors for the Florence Baptistery, which 

Michelangelo himself called the Gates of

Paradise, a work nearly as famous, then 

and now, as his own Sistine Chapel ceiling   

 

Ovid would never have known of these 

masterworks, of course, having lived 

over a millenium earlier, but I suspect 

John Dryden, a cultured man, a couple 

of hundred years later than these 

cultural icons, would no doubt have 

been fully aware of them, much as we, 

however disinterested we might be, 

can’t help but have heard of, say, 

RembrandtChopinCharles Dickens,

for instance, though they be, similarly, 

centuries separated from us 

 

my point is that, without knowledge of 

the original Latin, Dryden‘s cultural

heritage must’ve slipped, I think, 

consciously or not, into his 

translation, for better, or for worse

 

it should be remembered, however,

that Dryden was writing for an early 

18th Century audience, much as I 

am presently doing myself with 

Dryden for a 21st, and maybe also

similarly skewing his idiom to better 

adapt it to our own time, for better, 

also, or for worse 

 

                    Here Phaeton still gaining on th’ ascent, 

 

gaining on th’ ascent, going faster 

and faster, climbing higher and 

higher

 

                    To his suspected father’s palace went

 

suspected father, Phaeton doesn’t

yet know if Helios / Phoebus / Apollo

is indeed his father


                    ‘Till pressing forward through the bright abode,
                    He saw at distance the illustrious God:
                    He saw at distance, or the dazling light
                    Had flash’d too strongly on his aking sight. 

 

had Phaeton not been as far, at

distance, from what he was seeing,

the illustrious God, the dazling, or 

dazzling, light would’ve hurt his 

eyes, hurt his aking, or aching, 

sight

 

                     The God sits high, exalted on a throne
                    Of blazing gems, with purple garments on; 

 

Tyrian, surely, purple, a hue we’ve 

seen here before, indicative of 

stature, of imperial, if not even

divine, as in this instance, 

pedigree


                     The Hours, in order rang’d on either hand,
                    And Days, and Months, and Years, and Ages stand.
                    Here Spring appears with flow’ry chaplets bound;
                    Here Summer in her wheaten garland crown’d;
                    Here Autumn the rich trodden grapes besmear;
                    And hoary Winter shivers in the reer. 

 

this is no longer a picture, but the 

real thing, Phoebus / Apollo / Helios

sits high, exalted on a throne /  Of 

blazing gems, with purple garments 

on, while Time and all of the Seasons 

hold court around him


                     Phoebus beheld the youth from off his throne;
                    That eye, which looks on all, was fix’d in one. 

 

Phoebus, who sees everything, who 

looks on all, beholds, fixes his eye on, 

his son


                     He saw the boy’s confusion in his face,
                    Surpriz’d at all the wonders of the place;
                    And cries aloud, “What wants my son? for know
                    My son thou art, and I must call thee so.” 

 

Phaeton, according to Phoebus / 

Apollo / Helios‘ forthright admission,

is truly his son


                     “Light of the world,” the trembling youth replies,
                    “Illustrious parent! since you don’t despise
                    The parent’s name, 

 

despise, refute

 

                                                some certain token give,
                    That I may Clymene’s proud boast believe,
                    Nor longer under false reproaches grieve.” 

 

your word is good, Phaeton allows,

but incontrovertibly, now, prove it, 

some certain token give, he 

challenges 


                     The tender sire was touch’d with what he said,
                    And flung the blaze of glories from his head, 

 

flung the blaze of glories from his head, 

reduced the intensity of his presence,

the impact of his charisma, took off 

his dazling crown, if only, maybe,

metaphorically, to be father to his son


                    And bid the youth advance: “My son,” said he,
                    “Come to thy father’s arms! for Clymene
                    Has told thee true; a parent’s name I own,
                    And deem thee worthy to be called my son.
                    As a sure proof, make some request, and I,
                    Whate’er it be, with that request comply;
                    By Styx I swear, whose waves are hid in night,
                    And roul impervious to my piercing sight.” 

 

an oath upon Styx is incontrovertible, 

like swearing on a Bible, as earlier 

noted


                     The youth transported, asks, without delay,
                    To guide the sun’s bright chariot for a day. 

 

Phaeton wants to drive his father’s 

car, the sun’s bright chariot, how 

contemporary, how immediate, 

how timeless 

 

stay tuned

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

“The Story of Phaeton” – Ovid

landscape-with-a-palace-1916.jpg!Large

   Landscape with a Palace (1916) 

 

             Eugeniusz Zak

 

                  ________

 

  

               Her son was Epaphus, at length believ’d
               The son of Jove, and as a God receiv’d; 

 

without proof, it could not have been 

absolutely determined, during this 

ancient mythological era, that  

Epaphus, son of Io become Isis, was 

indeed the son of Jove / Jupiter / Zeus

though that’s what at length, eventually, 

came to be believed

 

and as such Epaphus was


               With sacrifice ador’d, and publick pray’rs,
               He common temples with his mother shares. 

 

both Isis and Epaphus are worshipped

in common, in the same places, and 

with a similar degree of devotion


               Equal in years, and rival in renown
               With Epaphus, the youthful Phaeton
               Like honour claims; 

 

Phaeton, another youth, [e]qual in 

years to Epaphus, and in renown,

as famous, [l]ike honour claims, 

puts forward, his own illustrious 

heritage

 

                                      and boasts his sire the sun. 

 

the sun, Phoebus / Apollo, god,

among a number of other things,

of that very orb


               His haughty looks, and his assuming air,
               The son of Isis could no longer bear:
               Thou tak’st thy mother’s word too far, said he,
               And hast usurp’d thy boasted pedigree. 

 

Epaphus, son of Isis, challenges 

Phaeton, says that his mother’s 

claim that her consort was the 

god of the Sun is false, and that 

he, Epaphus, is only promoting 

the fabricated story of his high, 

his boasted, pedigree, ancestry 


               Go, base pretender to a borrow’d name. 

 

Epaphus delivers a double whammy, 

base pretender, borrow’d name, ouch


               Thus tax’d, he blush’d with anger, and with shame;
               But shame repress’d his rage: 

 

tax’d, confronted

 

repress’d his rage, Phaeton didn’t 

slug Epaphus

 

                                                            the daunted youth
               Soon seeks his mother, and enquires the truth: 

 

is he truly the son of the god of the 

Sun, Phaeton asks his mother, nearly 

intolerable drama must surely follow, 

turning on this burning question 


               Mother, said he, this infamy was thrown
               By Epaphus on you, and me your son.
               He spoke in publick, told it to my face;
               Nor durst I vindicate the dire disgrace:
               Even I, the bold, the sensible of wrong, 

 

Even I, Phaeton asserts, the sensible 

of wrong, as he describes himself, the 

impatient of improprieties, however 

bold, quick to respond, impetuous, 

might he be, durst not, dared not, 

vindicate, validate, the dire disgrace, 

Epaphus‘ profoundly distressing insult    


               Restrain’d by shame, was forc’d to hold my tongue. 

 

I was unable, Phaeton says, too 

[r]estrain’d by shame, humiliated, 

to even answer


               To hear an open slander, is a curse:
               But not to find an answer, is a worse. 

 

a worse, we would say just worse, 

but note that worse, here, is not a

noun, but the adjective for curse,

which has been elided, left out, 

worse curse, which, included, 

would’ve altered, however, the 

metre, the pentameter, and thus, 

the poetry, style having trumped, 

for better or for worse, in this

instance, the substance 

 

a, incidentally, is the first beat of the 

iamb, which is to say, the weak beat,

while worse, is the second, the one 

with the accent, the determining 

thump, worse, da, dum, an iamb 

 

Dryden didn’t have, in other words, 

much choice, were he wanting to 

be a poet, but to deftly press his, 

surely masterful, grammar, to fit 

his meaning to his, however

constricting, verse


               If I am Heav’n-begot, assert your son
               By some sure sign; 

 

assert your son, acknowledge him,

[b]y some sure sign, Phaeton 

demands of his mother 

 

                                      and make my father known, 

 

at the same time, make … known, 

identify, Phaeton continues, point

him out, my father 

 

              To right my honour, and redeem your own.
               He said, 

 

it is the honour[able] thing to do,

the required thing to do, [h]e said, 

to restore, [t]o right, our reputations

 

                                   and saying cast his arms about
               Her neck, and beg’d her to resolve the doubt. 

 

a son imploring his mother, can 

anything be more poignant

 

               ‘Tis hard to judge if Clymene were mov’d
               More by his pray’r, whom she so dearly lov’d, 

 

Clymene, wife of Helios, or Phoebus / 

Apollo, sun god, mother of Phaeton 


               Or more with fury fir’d, to find her name
               Traduc’d, and made the sport of common fame. 

 

Traduc’d, translated, transmitted

 

common fame, the casual, everyday

sport, entertainment, however 

inappropriate, however malicious,
of many


               She stretch’d her arms to Heav’n, and fix’d her eyes
               On that fair planet that adorns the skies; 

 

that fair planet that adorns the skies, 

the sun, though Dryden must’ve 

known the sun wasn’t a planet, nor 

Ovid, for that matter, literary licence

having given style, here again, sway 

over substance, for better, it’ll be up 

to you to say, or for worse

 

literary licence, where style 

overtakes substance


               Now by those beams, said she, whose holy fires
               Consume my breast, and kindle my desires; 

 

girlfriend, I have to here interject, your 

temperature is, ahem, showing, you’re 

sounding, however uncharacteristically, 

awfully intemperate, aroused, [c]onsume 

my breast indeed, kindle, you audaciously 

request, my desires


               By him, who sees us both, and clears our sight,
               By him, the publick minister of light,
               I swear that Sun begot thee; 

 

Clymene swears an oath upon the 

very sun, her sire, the publick minister 

of light, the very priest of illumination, 

of clarity, for everyone, the sun’s 

manifest incarnation

 

                                                                if I lye,
               Let him his chearful influence deny: 

 

don’t shine on me, Helios / Phoebus /

Apollo, him, Helios / Phoebus / Apollo

himself, Clymene cries, if I lye, lie, if I

tell an untruth


               Let him no more this perjur’d creature see; 

 

Let him, let yourself, Helios / Phoebus /

Apollo, be unable any longer to see me,

perjur’d creature that I, Clymene, am 


               And shine on all the world but only me. 

 

obliterate me, she defies, from your

purview, let the world receive your 

rays, but not myself


               If still you doubt your mother’s innocence,
               His eastern mansion is not far from hence;
               With little pains you to his Leve go,
               And from himself your parentage may know. 

 

Leve, where Helios / Phoebus / 

Apollo lives


               With joy th’ ambitious youth his mother heard,
               And eager, for the journey soon prepar’d. 

 

Phaeton is off on his mission

 

               He longs the world beneath him to survey; 

 

he wants to see the world from the 

perspective of the sun, an astronaut,

a dreamer, pulsing with ambition


               To guide the chariot; and to give the day: 

 

to drive his father’s car, chariot, how 

contemporary, how immediate


               From Meroe’s burning sands he bends his course, 

 

Meroe, a city on the Nile, you’ll 

remember that we’re still in Egypt, 

where Io / Isis prevails, with Epaphus

her son, the one who started all this  


               Nor less in India feels his father’s force: 

 

the sun, his father’s force, is no less 

vigorous in India than it is, he, Helios

/ Phoebus / Apollo, is, in Egypt


               His travel urging, till he came in sight; 

 

His travel urging, impatient to speed 

up his pace, hastening his metaphorical

horses

 

               And saw the palace by the purple light. 

 

purple light, evening, though purple 

is also, since antiquity, the colour of 

royaltyPhaeton is perhaps seeing 

both, the palace, at evening  

 

see above

 

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

The Transformation of Syrinx into Reeds

pan-and-syrinx-1619.jpg!Large

   Pan and Syrinx (1617 – 1619) 

 

           Peter Paul Rubens

 

                 __________



               Then Hermes thus: 

 

Hermes, messenger of the gods,

addresses Argus, keeper of Io

who’s been transformed by Jove

god of gods, into a heifer, though 

she remains daughter, ever, of 

Inachus, river god, to tell the

story of his rare, beguiling reeds

 

                                             A nymph of late there was
               Whose heav’nly form her fellows did surpass. 

 

here we go again with nymphs, 

beautiful, irresistible, however 

ever innocent, prey, due, indeed,

to their very beauty, their very

innocence, to lustful, inordinate 

desires, in these instances, 

markedly divine 

 

deities, I point out again, make 

up their own rules


               The pride and joy of fair Arcadia’s plains, 

 

Arcadia, apart from being an 

actual area of Greece, is also 

the ideal, in our historical 

imagination, of an utopia

much as is the lost island of

Atlantis 


               Belov’d by deities, ador’d by swains:
               Syrinx her name, by Sylvans oft pursu’d, 

 

Sylvans, could only be, though

I’ve been unable to find actual 

confirmation of my opinion, 

wood spirits, forest entities, 

satyrs, goat men, and such

 

               As oft she did the lustful Gods delude: 

 

Syrinx could often, or oft, delude, 

or fool, ward off, the lustful Gods

 

               The rural, and the woodland Pow’rs disdain’d; 

 

satyr yourself, Syrinx would’ve 

impudently taunted

 

               With Cynthia hunted, and her rites maintain’d:
               Like Phoebe clad, even Phoebe’s self she seems, 

 

Cynthia, is Phoebe, both also known

as Dianagoddess of the Hunt, you’ll

remember Phoebe / Diana from her

connection to Daphne, who earlier

here was transformed into a laurel 

 

Syrinx sounds an awful lot, incidentally,

like another version of Daphne


               So tall, so streight, such well-proportion’d limbs:
               The nicest eye did no distinction know,
               But that the goddess bore a golden bow: 

 

the only difference between Syrinx

and Cynthia / Phoebe / Diana was 

that Syrinx didn’t have, bear, 

golden bow


               Distinguish’d thus, the sight she cheated too. 

 

had she borne a golden bow, Syrinx

[d]istinguish’d thus, would’ve cheated 

the sight, looked identical, to the 

beautiful, it is inferred, goddess 

 

               Descending from Lycaeus, Pan admires
               The matchless nymph, and burns with new desires. 

 

Pan, god of the wild, woodlands

 

Lycaeus, Latin spelling of Lykaion,

is a mountain in Arcadia


               A crown of pine upon his head he wore;
               And thus began her pity to implore.
               But e’er he thus began, she took her flight
               So swift, she was already out of sight.
               Nor stay’d to hear the courtship of the God;
               But bent her course to Ladon’s gentle flood: 

 

Ladon, a river in Arcadia 

 

flood, rushing, though gentl[y], 

water, rhymes in the preceding 

verse, you’ll note, with God


               There by the river stopt, and tir’d before;
               Relief from water nymphs her pray’rs implore. 

 

Syrinx, once by the river stopt, seeks 

the help of, assistance, [r]elief from, 

the nearby water nymphs, her 

consorts  


               Now while the lustful God, with speedy pace,
               Just thought to strain her in a strict embrace, 

 

Pan, like Phoebus / Apollo, or 

Jove / Jupiter / Zeus before him,

is, as well, and characteristically,

a lustful God


               He fill’d his arms with reeds, new rising on the place.
               And while he sighs, his ill success to find, 

 

his ill success, his thwarted, 

ineffective, enterprise 


               The tender canes were shaken by the wind;
               And breath’d a mournful air, unheard before; 

 

the reeds that Pan gathered in his arms, 

shaken by the wind, create a mournful 

air, a melancholy music


               That much surprizing Pan, yet pleas’d him more. 

 

though Pan might’ve been much

surpriz[ed] by the sorrowful sounds 

he heard, he was more pleas’d by 

them than startled

 

               Admiring this new musick, Thou, he said,
               Who canst not be the partner of my bed,
               At least shall be the confort of my mind: 

 

Thou, Syrinx


               And often, often to my lips be joyn’d. 

 

in a kiss of consolation 


               He form’d the reeds, proportion’d as they are,
               Unequal in their length, and wax’d with care,
               They still retain the name of his ungrateful fair. 

 

the instrument Pan devised from

the tender canes he fashioned

from the unaccommodating reeds, 

what we now name the Pan flute

was called in Ancient Greece a 

syrinx, in honour of the 

recalcitrant nymph 

 

listen, coincidentally, to Debussy 

tell the storyfor solo flute,

however, which is to say, on a

modern instrumentfor our having 

long ago abandoned at a 

professional level the original pipe, 

though it remains, apparently, as a

folk instrument in more agrarian,

communities around the world, for 

shepherds, one would imagine, to

while away the hours while tending

to their, however wayward, sheep 

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

“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

 

“The Transformation of Daphne into a Lawrel” (III) – Ovid

laurel-1901.jpg!Large

       Laurel”  (1901) 

 

             Alphonse Mucha

 

                         _______

 

 

however ardently might’ve Phoebus 

been pleading his case before 

Daphne, his, however recalcitrant,  

intended, flashing his divine pedigree, 

vowing to put all that aside to serve 

only her


               She heard not half; so furiously she flies;
               And on her ear th’ imperfect accent dies, 

 

th’ imperfect accent might be the 

unnatural tone of a divinity Daphne 

might be hearing, the unusual timbre 

of a deity’s voice, I can’t imagine Ovid 

would be suggesting that Daphne and 

Phoebus spoke different Greek dialects

 

perhaps th’ imperfect accent is the

unsettling manner of his entreaties,

his indecorous urgency

 

poets can be confounding


               Fear gave her wings; and as she fled, the wind
               Increasing, spread her flowing hair behind;
               And left her legs and thighs expos’d to view:
               Which made the God more eager to
pursue. 

 

the pagan gods were notoriously 

mischievous, spirited, impulsive,

quite human, never sublime and

irreproachable as is the Abrahamic 

Supreme Deity

 

the pagan gods lived in the fields

and streams, the hills and vales,

the seas and mountains, that 

surrounded Greek and Roman 

communities, Olympus was their 

steepest height, never the 

supernatural elevations, beyond 

even our visible heaven, that our 

present pervasive monotheism 

proclaims

 

               The God was young, and was too hotly bent
               To lose his time in empty compliment:
               But led by love, and fir’d with such a sight,
               Impetuously pursu’d his near delight. 

 

often, the gods of antiquity were

perverse, not at all blameless,

not innocent, not irreproachable, 

like the one and only god that, 

today, in its several interpretations, 

even murderously conflicting, rules,

oversees, mostly, our present, at 

least Western, faith communities

 

 

               As when th’ impatient greyhound slipt from far,

               Bounds o’er the glebe to course the fearful hare,

 

glebe, fields


               She in her speed does all her safety lay; 
               And he with double speed pursues the prey; 
               O’er-runs her at the sitting turn, and licks 
               His chaps in vain, and blows upon the flix: 

 

flix, fur, the greyhound’s pelt 

 

perhaps greyhounds do this, blow

upon their flix, you’ll have to ask 

Ovid, or maybe Dryden, his 

translator

 

               She scapes, and for the neighb’ring covert strives, 

 

 a covert, a bush in which to hide


               And gaining shelter, doubts if yet she lives: 

 

doubts if yet she lives, she can’t 

believe she made it 

 

               If little things with great we may compare,
               Such was the God, and such the flying fair, 

 

the flying fair, Daphne, the God,

Phoebus


               She urg’d by fear, her feet did swiftly move,
               But he more swiftly, who was urg’d by love. 

 

love, as Ovid, or is it, once again,  

Drydenwho defines it, urg’d, 

compelled by hormones, not at all 

our romantic conception of it

 

               He gathers ground upon her in the chace:
               Now breathes upon her hair, with nearer pace;
               And just is fast’ning on the wish’d embrace. 

 

Red Riding Hood and the Big

Bad Wolf


               The nymph grew pale, and in a mortal fright,
               Spent with the labour of so long a flight; 

 

Spent, defeated


               And now despairing, cast a mournful look
               Upon the streams of her paternal brook; 

 

her father, Peneus, was a river god, 

if you’ll remember, paternal brook, 

the rill, the rivulet, of her father


               Oh help, she cry’d, in this extreamest need!
               If water Gods are deities indeed: 

 

if there is a god, be with me, she 

cry’d, you, yourself, I’m sure, have 

been there, though Daphne‘s faith 

was grounded in help, in this case, 

from her father, god of, appropriately

in this instance, streams


               Gape Earth, and this unhappy wretch intomb; 

 

I’d rather die, Daphne pleads, I’d

rather the earth swallowed me up, 

I’d rather be intomb[ed]


               Or change my form, whence all my sorrows come. 

 

transform me, rid me of what makes 

me appealing, Daphne pleads


               Scarce had she finish’d, when her feet she found
               Benumb’d with cold, and fasten’d to the ground:
               A filmy rind about her body grows; 

 

a condition I’ve found not unlike the 

ravages I call, ironically, bark, crusty 

imperfections that afflict my own 

ageing body

 

               Her hair to leaves, her arms extend to boughs:
               The nymph is all into a lawrel gone; 

 

Daphne is turning into a tree,

a lawrel 


               The smoothness of her skin remains alone. 

 

of Daphne, only her smoothness 

remains


               Yet Phoebus loves her still, and casting round
               Her bole, his arms, some little warmth he found. 

 

bole, the stem of a tree


               The tree still panted in th’ unfinish’d part: 

 

where Daphne had not yet become

a tree, she still panted, pulsed


               Not wholly vegetive, and heav’d her heart. 

 

heav’d her heart, passionately

reacted


               He fixt his lips upon the trembling rind; 

 

rind, bark


               It swerv’d aside, and his embrace declin’d. 

 

kisses not at all sweeter than wine,

said the lawrel 


               To whom the God, Because thou canst not be
               My mistress, I espouse thee for my tree: 

 

Phoebus begins to speak directly 

here, Because thou canst not be, /

My mistress, he says, I espouse 

thee for my tree: 

 

espouse, marry


               Be thou the prize of honour, and renown; 

 

you will be, he continues, the 

prize that will represent heroes


               The deathless poet, and the poem, crown. 

 

honour, first of all, worthy, deathless, 

poets, Phoebus commands, let the 

laurel wreath crown deserving 

wordsmiths

 

Ovid had reason to champion poets,

he’d been exiled from Rome by the

Emperor, Augustus, his catering to

the Roman ruler becomes 

intermittently evident throughout 

this masterpiece

 

               Thou shalt the Roman festivals adorn,
               And, after poets, be by victors worn. 

 

victors, Olympic champions, notably


               Thou shalt returning Caesar’s triumph grace; 

 

Ovid curries imperial favour here with 

Augustus, by simply immortalizing in

poetry the name of Caesar, the new

Emperor’s great-uncle, and adoptive

father, making his own personal 

nemesis shine, for what it might be 

worth, by association


               When pomps shall in a long procession pass. 

 

the parades will be long ones


               Wreath’d on the posts before his palace wait; 

 

the laurel leaves will garland the 

posts, stations, before, in front of, 

the imperial palace

 

               And be the sacred guardian of the gate.
               Secure from thunder, and unharm’d by Jove, 

 

even Jove / Jupiter, god of gods,

will stand by, honour, the symbol 

of the laurel

 

               Unfading as th’ immortal Pow’rs above: 

 

Unfading, into very eternity

 

it’s interesting to note that the 

laurel has not lost its significance

despite the intervening centuries, 

epochs, we find reference to it even 

in the honorific title of laureate, as 

in Nobel laureate, or even in the

accolade of baccalaureate, the

bachelor’s degree, the prestigious

academic accomplishment 

 

Unfading indeed


               And as the locks of Phoebus are unshorn, 

 

Phoebus always sports perfect 

hair


               So shall perpetual green thy boughs adorn.

 

it would seem that, according to 

this, laurel leaves, perpetual 

green, don’t ever lose their 

colour, but I can’t attest to this,

being a poet rather than an

arborist, a gardener, though

bay leaves, laurel, even dry,

don’t turn brown, I’ve since

noticed

 

               The grateful tree was pleas’d with what he said;
               And shook the shady honours of her head. 

 

and they all lived happily ever 

after

 

or didn’t

 

 

myths are the enduring fairy tales 

that adults continue to believe in, 

according to their culture, about 

men and women rather than 

boys and girls, they help us, like

fairy tales, make up our moral 

order

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

“Apollo e Dafne” – George Frideric Handel

800px-George_Frideric_Handel_by_Balthasar_Denner

     “George Frideric Handel(1726 – 1728) 

 

              Balthasar Denner

 

                   __________

 

 

supposing that there would probably 

be a musical interpretation of the 

myth of Apollo and Daphne, I wasn’t 

surprised to discover that Handel 

had written one, in 1709 – 10, cantatas

on mythic subjects was the type of 

thing he did, don’t forget the 

Renaissance, the renewed, and 

probing fascination, starting more 

or less in the 14th Century, with 

Classical Greece and Rome, affecting 

everything, even as late, 1685 to 1759,

as the 18th Century for this composer

 

I must admit that I’m not particularly

partial to Handel, his rhythms are

way too elementary for my taste, 

plus he never achieves the depth 

of emotion Bach, his contemporary, 

does, 1685 – 1750, so that I’ve put 

him aside pretty well completely 

 

but here’s an Apollo e Dafne that

I found compelling from beginning 

to end

 

Apollo e Dafne is not an opera, but

a cantata, which means a piece 

for voice and orchestra, but with 

several movements, like tunes in

a Broadway show

 

this production, however, has 

incorporated a scenario with 

singers in costume acting 

out a plot

 

it has no subtitles though, but 

you can read the translation 

here, should you need to

 

Handel’s libretto, note, is a 

reworking of Ovid’s texttherefore 

not an exact reproduction of the 

version I’ve been highlighting, 

Dryden’s translation of 1717, 

written a few years, you’ll want to 

consider, after Handel’s own 

composition, but the essential 

story is there, she eventually 

turns into a tree, no surprise, 

you knew that already from Ovid’s

very title, The Transformation of

Daphne into a Lawrelas 

inscribed, however archaically 

now, by Dryden 

 

I’ll just point out that Cupid’s in 

red, doesn’t sing, just delivers 

atmospheric context, and you 

might find some later scenes 

quite, even shockingly, I did, 

explicit, be advised

 

otherwise, enjoy, be delighted

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

“The Transformation of Daphne into a Lawrel” (II) – Ovid

daphne-1892(1).jpg!Large

           “Daphne” (1879 – 1892) 

 

            George Frederick Watts

 

                    __________

 

 

                  The God of light, aspiring to her bed, 

 

The God of light, Phoebus, whose

name, incidentally, finds its roots 

in the Greek word for shining, 

which I won’t inscribe here for its 

being not only in another language,

but also of a different alphabet

 

Phoebus, also known as Apollo

was not only god of Light, but 

too, god of the Sun, as well as of

several other things that brought

clarity, his shrine at Delphi, for

instance, was famed for providing 

oracles, intelligibility in the face of 

confusion, however cryptic the 

actual words of the presiding 

sybil commonly were 

 

               Hopes what he seeks, with flattering fancies fed; 

 

Phoebus [h]opes, indeed trusts, 

that feeding Daphne flattering 

fancies will do the trick

 

               And is, by his own oracles, mis-led. 

 

even his oracles, his sybils, his

priestesses, in this circumstance, 

fail him


               And as in empty fields the stubble burns, 

 

stubble, what’s left of the shaft once 

the grain has been removed, 

harvested 


               Or nightly travellers, when day returns,
               Their useless torches on dry hedges throw,
               That catch the flames, and kindle all the row; 

 

now that day has arrived, the nightly

travellers‘ otherwise useless torches

can serve to kindle, ignite, and burn

off, the rows of slowly smouldering 

stubble  

 

               So burns the God, consuming in desire, 

 

Phoebus is similarly, [s]o, kindled,

burns with a desire [s]o, as, 

consuming


               And feeding in his breast a fruitless fire: 

 

the fire, the desire, however, remains 

in his breast … fruitless, unabated, 

unquenched


               Her well-turn’d neck he view’d (her neck was bare)
               And on her shoulders her dishevel’d hair; 

 

Daphne‘s hair would’ve been 

dishevel’d, undone, during her 

flight, by the wind


               Oh were it comb’d, said he, with what a grace
               Wou’d every waving curl become her face! 

 

Phoebus begins to idealize her


               He view’d her eyes, like heav’nly lamps that shone,
               He view’d her lips, too sweet to view alone,
               Her 
taper fingers, and her panting breast; 

 

see above

  

               He praises all he sees, 

 

his flattering fancies at work 

 

                                              and for the rest
               Believes the beauties yet unseen are best: 

 

Phoebus has no intention of enjoying 

merely what Daphne cannot but allow, 

her beauties yet unseen, he believes, 

are best, are preferable

 

ahem


               Swift as the wind, the damsel fled away,
               Nor did for these alluring speeches stay: 

 

alluring speeches, flattering fancies


               Stay Nymph, he cry’d, I follow, not a foe. 

 

a nymph, a nature spirit in the form 

of a maiden, imagined frolicking by 

rivers, or woods

 

Phoebus calls her by this metonym,

Nymph, probably because he doesn’t 

yet know her proper name

 

a metonym is the word for a part

which signifies the whole, the pen, 

for instance, is mightier than the 

sword, where the pen stands for

all that is written, and the sword 

represents the much larger 

concept of war

 

Nymph, therefore, to metonymize,

to stand in for, any nymph

 

Stay Nymph, Phoebus cries, I follow,

I don’t lead, I am not coercing you, 

you are in charge, I am not a foe, 

not an enemy


               Thus from the lyon trips the trembling doe;
               Thus from the wolf the frighten’d lamb removes,
               And, from pursuing faulcons, fearful doves; 

 

prey flee predators [t]hus, Phoebus

explains, which is to say in the 

manner that you’re behaving


               Thou shunn’st a God, and shunn’st a God, that loves. 

 

but I am not a predator, I am a God,

a God who loves you, who is in love,

he concedes


               Ah, lest some thorn shou’d pierce thy tender foot,
               Or thou shou’dst fall in flying my pursuit!
               To sharp uneven ways thy steps decline;
               Abate thy speed,

 

slow down, he says, Abate thy speed,

you might hurt yourself, you might

pierce thy tender foot, fall, your path 

decline[s], is becoming treacherous, 

less secure, sharp uneven ways lie 

ahead

 

                                           and I will bate of mine. 

 

bate, opposite of abate, don’t you 

love it

 

               Yet think from whom thou dost so rashly fly;
               Nor basely born, nor shepherd’s swain am I. 

 

I carry a big stick, Phoebus says, think

about it 


               Perhaps thou know’st not my superior state;
               And from that ignorance proceeds thy hate. 

 

maybe you haven’t recognized me

 

               Me Claros, Delphi, Tenedos obey; 

 

Claros, an ancient Greek sanctuary,

site of another oracle of Phoebus /

Apollo, along with Delphi, the 

principal shrine 

 

Tenedos, an island off the coast of 

modern Turkey, but under the 

dominion then also of the deity


               These hands the Patareian scepter sway. 

 

scepter, a staff symbolic of sovereignty

 

but I’ve found no source at all for the

indecipherable Patareian, forgive me

 

               The King of Gods begot me: 

 

I am the son, Phoebus proclaims, of 

Jove / Jupiter / Zeus, depending on 

the local vocabulary

 

                                                    what shall be,
               Or is, or ever was, in Fate, I see. 

 

Phoebus, like all the gods, sees

everything, past, present, and 

future


               Mine is th’ invention of the charming lyre; 

 

the lyre, an ancient musical instrument 

often associated with Phoebus /Apollo


               Sweet notes, and heav’nly numbers, I inspire. 

 

Phoebus / Apollo was also god,

among many other things, of 

Music


               Sure is my bow, unerring is my dart;
               But ah! more deadly his, who pierc’d my heart. 

 

Phoebus has ceded to Cupid, and

acknowledges the superiority of

the stripling‘s, the youth’s, sting


               Med’cine is mine; what herbs and simples grow
               In fields, and forrests, all their pow’rs I know; 

 

Phoebus / Apollo is also god of 

Healing


               And am the great physician call’d, below. 

 

that Phoebus / Apollo is god of 

Healing is acknowledged below,

which is to say among earthlings

 

               Alas that fields and forrests can afford.
               No remedies to heal their love-sick lord! 

 

there is no cure, however, for love, 

he moans, the sickness, Alas, No

remedies, among the fields and 

forrests for it


               To cure the pains of love, no plant avails:
               And his own physick, the physician falls. 

 

the physician, Phoebus / Apollo

falls, which must surely be fails

here, to rhyme with avails, an

unfortunate typo, cannot derive

from the ground, from the wealth

of his own domain, the physick,

the ingredients to make up a

medication

 

stay tuned

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

“The Transformation of Daphne into a Lawrel” (I) – Ovid

800px-Apollo_and_Daphne_(Bernini)_(cropped)

     “Apollo and Daphne(1622 – 1625) 

 

            Gian Lorenzo Bernini

 

                  ___________

 

 

Phoebus has just killed Python, and 

now his thoughts are turned to other 

things 


               The first and fairest of his loves, was she
               Whom not blind fortune, but the dire decree
               Of angry Cupid forc’d him to desire: 

 

that Phoebus should fall in love, indeed

for the first time, was not the work of 

blind fortune, but the decree, the will, 

rather, of Cupid, son of Mars, god of 

War, and Venus, goddess of Love, 

himself, Cupid, god of Desire, who’d 

been, we’ll see, unacceptably 

disrespected


               Daphne her name, and Peneus was her sire. 

 

her sire, her father, Peneus


               Swell’d with the pride, that new success attends,
               He sees the stripling, while his bow he bends,
               And thus insults him: 

 

Phoebus, fresh from his triumphant

bout with Python, thus [s]well’d with … 

pride at his new success, sees Cupid

the stripling, the youth, handling his 

own celebrated bow, and derisively

insults him

 

                                                    Thou lascivious boy,
               Are arms like these for children to employ? 

 

arms, weapons


               Know, such atchievements are my proper claim; 

 

arrows, Phoebus says, are my domain,

my proper claim, my undisputed

territory


               Due to my vigour, and unerring aim:
               Resistless are my shafts, and Python late
               In such a feather’d death, has found his fate. 

 

the death of Python is proof of my 

unparalleled ability, Phoebus 

proclaims

 

feather’d death, from the feathers that

are attached to the arrows to direct 

and speed their aim


               Take up the torch (and lay my weapons by), 

 

my weapons, weapons which should

be mine alone 


               With that the feeble souls of lovers fry. 

 

Take up the torch, take responsibility,

Phoebus says, lay down your 

weapons, your arrows, the ones that 

fry, he accuses Cupid, that frazzle, 

the feeble, incapacitated, souls of 

lovers

 

               To whom the son of Venus thus reply’d, 

 

the son of Venus here is Cupid 


               Phoebus, thy shafts are sure on all beside,
               But mine of Phoebus, mine the fame shall be
               Of all thy conquests, when I conquer thee. 

 

thy shafts, Cupid says, will always

prevail, surpass others, but my own

arrows will be the ones to best you, 

and yours, at which point the glory 

will be, notoriously, mine, over 

yours, forever


               He said, and soaring, swiftly wing’d his flight: 

 

Cupid is one of the very few ancient

deities to have wings, incidentally,

there’s also Mercury, the Roman 

Hermesmessenger god, god of

travel, communication


               Nor stopt but on Parnassus’ airy height. 

 

Parnassus, a mountain in Greece,

site of the Oracle of Delphi, site 

indeed where Python has just 

been killed


               Two diff’rent shafts he from his quiver draws;
               One to repel desire, and one to cause.
               One shaft is pointed with refulgent gold:
               To bribe the love, and make the lover bold:
               One blunt, and tipt with lead, whose base allay 

 

allay, alloy, combination of metals


               Provokes disdain, and drives desire away.
               The blunted bolt against the nymph he drest:
               But with the sharp transfixt Apollo’s breast.

 

gotcha


               Th’ enamour’d deity pursues the chace; 

 

Th’ enamour’d deity, Phoebus, is

now under the spell of Cupid‘s

pointed arrow


               The scornful damsel shuns his loath’d embrace:
               In hunting beasts of prey, her youth employs;
               And Phoebe rivals in her rural joys. 

 

The scornful damsel, Daphne, in the 

spirit of Phoebe, goddess of the Hunt, 

preferred rural joys, indeed rivalled 

Phoebe‘s own enjoyment of rustic 

sports

 

to explain the similarity in their names,

it should be noted that Phoebe and 

Phoebus were twins, both children 

of Zeus, god of gods, the equivalent 

of the Roman Jove, also known as 

Jupiter, she, Phoebe, goddess of

the Moon, as well as of the Hunt, he, 

Phoebus, god of the Sun, as well as 

of several other things

 

it should be noted that the gods and

goddesses of Ancient Greece, firmly 

installed during its period of glory, the

4th and 5th Centuries BCE, travelled 

throughout Europe and Asia, 

migrating, but were adapted to the 

local customs, consequently becoming 

known by different names according to 

the language and culture, you can see 

a parallel in the spread of Latin, for

instance, during the Roman conquests 

of, specifically, Europe, evolving into 

the several derivative languages, 

starting with, historically, Italian itself, 

little by little, achieved through the

effects of time rather than of distance, 

then French, Portuguese, Spanish in

the outlying, eventually impermeated,

areas, see the infiltration of English,

for instance, in the modern world


               With naked neck she goes, and shoulders bare;
               And with a fillet binds her flowing hair. 

 

fillet, a ribbon


               By many suitors sought, she mocks their pains,
               And still her vow’d virginity maintains.
               Impatient of a yoke, the name of bride
               She shuns, and hates the joys, she never try’d.
               On wilds, and woods, she fixes her desire:
               Nor knows what youth, and kindly love, inspire. 

 

she’s not the marrying kind


               Her father chides her oft: Thou ow’st, says he, 

 

Thou ow’st, you owe


               A husband to thy self, a son to me. 

 

that’s his position


               She, like a crime, abhors the nuptial bed: 

 

she’d, categorically, rather hunt


               She glows with blushes, and she hangs her head.
               Then casting round his neck her tender arms,
               Sooths him with blandishments, and filial charms: 

 

filial, can apply to both son or

daughter

 

blandishments, sweet nothings


               Give me, my Lord, she said, to live, and die,
               A spotless maid, without the marriage tye. 

 

allow me to live[ ] and die[ ] a spotless 

maid, a virgin, she asks, best, that

line, read without commas 

 

girls would’ve been at the mercy 

of their fathers’ wishes at the time, 

would’ve needed permission not to 

marry

 

               ‘Tis but a small request; I beg no more
               Than what Diana’s father gave before. 

 

Diana is the Roman equivalent 

of Phoebe, a virgin goddess, by

the grace of her father, Zeus, the 

Greek counterpart of the Roman 

Jupiter, or Jove, see above


               The good old sire was soften’d to consent;
               But said her wish wou’d prove her punishment:
               For so much youth, and so much beauty join’d,
               Oppos’d the state, which her desires design’d. 

 

good luck with that, Zeus prophesies, 

men will find you, so much youth, and 

so much beauty, very hard to resist,

you’ll surely suffer consequences

 

 

to be continued

 

 

R ! chard