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Category: in search of God/dess

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, 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 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 hours, that could, 

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 poetic, indeed, 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 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, represents

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 Eyes of Argus transform’d into a Peacock’s Train” – Ovid

juno-and-argus.jpg!Large

    Juno and Argus (c.1611) 

 

           Peter Paul Rubens

 

                         ______

 

 

 

                  While Hermes pip’d, and sung, and told his tale,
                  The keeper’s winking eyes began to fail, 

 

The keeper, Argus, of Io, nymph

become heifer


                  And drowsie slumber on the lids to creep; 
                  ‘Till all the watchman was at length asleep. 

 

all the watchman, all of Argus‘ eyes, 

were closed, asleep, at length, after 

a time 

 

                  Then soon the God his voice, and song supprest; 

 

the God, Hermes, messenger of the

gods, on a mission from Jove / 

Jupiter / Zeus to save Io, nymph 

become heifer

 

his voice, and song supprest, Hermes 

stopped talking, stopped playing his

song, his music


                  And with his pow’rful rod confirm’d his rest: 

 

his powerful rod, the caduceus, with

which Hermes could both waken those

asleep as well lull the wakeful to

slumber


                  Without delay his crooked faulchion drew, 

 

faulchion, now spelled falchion, 

is a short sword with only one 

sharp edge, a sort of sickle

 

since falchions go back only to the 

13th Century, Dryden‘s translation 

from the Latin has to be an 

anachronism

 

just saying


                  And at one fatal stroke the keeper slew.
                  Down from the rock fell the dissever’d head,
                  Opening its eyes in death; and falling, bled;
                  And mark’d the passage with a crimson trail:
                  Thus Argus lies in pieces, cold, and pale;
                  And all his hundred eyes, with all their light,
                  Are clos’d at once, in one perpetual night.
                  These Juno takes, that they no more may fail,
                  And spreads them in her peacock’s gaudy tail. 

 

see above

 

Juno, wife of Jove / Jupiter / Zeus,
queen, therefore, of the gods and 

goddesses


                  Impatient to revenge her injur’d bed, 

 

Juno had been offended by the fact 

that Jove / Jupiter / Zeus had

transgressed 

 

                  She wreaks her anger on her rival’s head; 

 

her rival, Io


                  With Furies frights her from her native home; 

 

Furies, also known as Erinyes

goddesses of vengeance, the 

oldest of all the deities, they live 

in Erebus, the Underworld, look 

frightful, snakes in their hair, bat’s 

wings, and haunt, unsettle, the 

disrespectful, the insolent, those 

who betray, are not true to, their 

word 

 

frights, frightens


                  And drives her gadding, round the world to roam: 

 

her, Io, nymph become heifer

 

to gad, to wander


                  Nor ceas’d her madness, and her flight, before
                  She touch’d the limits of the Pharian shore. 

 

Pharian, relating to Pharos, island off 

the coast of Alexandria, notable for 

its lighthouse, itself called Pharos

one of the Seven Wonders of the 

Ancient World


                  At length, arriving on the banks of Nile,
                  Wearied with length of ways, and worn with toil,
                  She laid her down; 

 

She laid her down, she laid herself 

down, stopped, stayed in place

 

                                                 and leaning on her knees,
                  Invok’d the cause of all her miseries: 

 

the cause of all her miseries, Jove /

Jupiter / Zeus, who’d abandoned 

her, Io, to the wrath of Juno, his 

wife, when she’d discovered him 

to be unfaithful 


                  And cast her languishing regards above,
                  For help from Heav’n, and her ungrateful Jove.
                  She sigh’d, she wept, she low’d; ’twas all she cou’d;
                  And with unkindness seem’d to tax the God. 

 

to tax, to accuse, to make 

responsible for


                  Last, with an humble pray’r, she beg’d repose,
                  Or death at least, to finish all her woes. 

 

repose, relief, Io, nymph become 

heifer, has completely had it


                  Jove heard her vows, and with a flatt’ring look,
                  In her behalf to jealous Juno spoke, 

 

a flatt’ring look, a seductive approach,

toward Juno, his reproachful wife


                  He cast his arms about her neck, and said,
                  Dame, rest secure; no more thy nuptial bed
                  This nymph shall violate; 

 

Dame, or Madam

 

                                                       by Styx I swear, 

 

Styx, one of the five rivers that 

separate Earth from the 

Underworld, also one of the 

earliest goddesses, after whom

the river itself was named, who 

had, significantly, sided with Jove /

Jupiter / Zeus during the Giants’ 

War, for which, upon having won, 

Jove / Jupiter / Zeus ordained that 

all oaths be sworn upon her, Styx

much as we, in our own day, swear 

upon Bibles

 

this all precedes, note, Bibles

 

                  And every oath that binds the Thunderer. 

 

the Thunderer, Jove / Jupiter, Zeus,

god, indeed, of Thunder


                  The Goddess was appeas’d;  

 

The Goddess, Juno

         

                                                       and at the word
                  Was Io to her former shape restor’d.
                  The rugged hair began to fall away;
                  The sweetness of her eyes did only stay,
                  Tho’ not so large; her crooked horns decrease;
                  The wideness of her jaws and nostrils cease:
                  Her hoofs to hands return, in little space: 

 

little space, the blink of an eye


                  The five long taper fingers take their place,
                  And nothing of the heyfer now is seen,
                  Beside the native whiteness of the skin.
                  Erected on her feet she walks again:
                  And two the duty of the four sustain. 

 

rather than walk on four feet, Io

now stands erect, [e]rected, on 

two


                  She tries her tongue; her silence softly breaks,
                  And fears her former lowings when she speaks: 

 

she can hardly believe she’s  

become, not just a nymph,

but indeed 


                  A Goddess now, through all th’ Aegyptian State:
                  And serv’d by priests, who in white linnen wait. 

 

Io has become the Egyptian 

goddess Isis

 

but that’s an entirely other story 

 

stay tuned

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

“The Afternoon of a Faun” – Debussy / Nijinsky / Nureyev

397px-Faun_merse

      Faun and Nymph (1867)

 

              Pál Szinyei Merse               

 

                      ________

 

 

to take a break, for a moment, from the

travails of Io, a heifer still, though her

father, Inachus, is aware of the situation,

and Hermes, messenger of the gods, is 

out, on the orders of Jove/ Jupiter / Zeus

to save her, and, at the same time, 

inspired by the music Hermes tells Argus

her many-eyed keeper, Pan, god of the

wilds, has been playing, with reeds he’s 

been left with of Syrinx, the nymph he  

would’ve loved had she not been 

transformed into rushes, as imagined by 

Debussy in his evocative Syrinx for solo 

flute, as highlighted in my last instalment

I could not not remember Debussy‘s 

other similarly mythological, and intimately

related, work, his Prelude to the Afternoon 

of a Faun, as modified itself by Vaslav

Nijinsky, legendary dancer and 

choreographer, into an event that verily 

shook the early 20th Century 

 

retitled, L’après-midi d’un faune, The

Afternoon of a Faun in English, the 

performance captures everything one

would gather from Ovid’s myths of its 

primitive, primal, sensibilities

 

the faun, needless to say, is representative 

of Pan, god of the wild, woodlands, a satyr, 

part instinct, part man, see above 

 

watch Rudolf Nureyev, then, his equally 

celebrated successor, take on the role

Nijinsky made famous, without any 

alterations made to the original 1912 

production, however improbably, 

though entirely successfully, we’re in 

Paris, May 29, though transposed,

faithfully and superbly, to New York,

Broadway, 1979 

 

proceed, however, at your own discretion, 

The Afternoon of a Faun is steaming, it’s 

about what happens when a young buck’s 

fancies, implacable and irrepressible, turn 

to love, not for the scrupulous, where does 

love begin, it asks, and lust retire, or is it 

the other way around, where does yin, in 

other words, meet, become, yang

 

these are questions that more and more 

begin to come up, you’ll find, in Greek 

and Roman, and most other ancient, 

for that matter, mythologies, something 

that isn’t at all touched upon in the 

Abrahamic traditions, Christanity, Islam, 

Judaism, monotheistic, though they’re 

at least as old, where nature, the place 

of animals, vegetation, land, water, our

intimate interconnection with them, 

don’t much, for better or for worse, 

come up

 

I miss the wonder of the more 

pantheistic, the pagan, perspective 

 

enjoy

 

 

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” (V) – Ovid

320px-Statue_Hermes_Chiaramonti

     Statue of Hermes (Vatican Museums)

                     ___________________

though Io might still have been “not

out of the woods”, when last we saw 

her, there remained nevertheless 

her original suitor, Jove, god of gods


                 Now Jove no longer cou’d her suff’rings bear;
                 But call’d in haste his airy messenger,
                 The son of Maia, with severe decree
                 To kill the keeper, and to set her free.  
 

The son of Maia, Hermes, messenger

of the gods

 

Maia, one of the Pleiadesplaymates

of Artemisgoddess of the Hunt,

daughters, also, of Atlasfamously 

condemned, he, to hold up the

heavens for eternity


                 With all his harness soon the God was sped, 
 

Hermes, no sooner equipped,

[w]ith all his harness, livery,

attire, was sped, got under

way


                 His flying hat was fastned on his head,
                 Wings on his heels were hung, and in his hand
                 He holds the vertue of the snaky wand. 
 

vertue, virtue, but having retained, 

still in 1717, its root, vertu, French 

for virtue, benefit 

 

Hermes is usually shown wearing

[h]is flying hat, [w]ings on his heels,

a snaky wand, identifying accessories

 

snaky wand, his caduceus

 

see above

 

                 The liquid air his moving pinions wound, 

 

pinions, the feathers of a bird’s wing

 

wound, to injure, but also to wrap 

around, according to its two 

differing pronunciations


                 And, in the moment, shoot him on the ground.

 

to rhyme with wound, note

 

Hermes has landed, but apparently

uncomfortably


                 Before he came in sight, the crafty God
                 His wings dismiss’d, but still retain’d his rod: 

 

dismiss’d, put aside, made invisible,

[h]is wings


                 That sleep-procuring wand wise Hermes took,
                 But made it seem to sight a sherpherd’s hook. 

 

though Hermes kept his rod, he made

it look, seem to sight, like a shepherd’s 

staff, hook

 

                 With this, he did a herd of goats controul;  

 

controul, control


                 Which by the way he met, and slily stole. 

 

by the way, as he walked along

 

slily stole, deities make up their

own rules


                 Clad like a country swain, he pip’d, and sung;
                 And playing, drove his jolly troop along. 

 

swain, young man


                 With pleasure, Argus the musician heeds; 

 

Argus heeds the musician, again

an inverted sentence, in order to 

rhyme with


                 But wonders much at those new vocal reeds. 

 

vocal reeds suggests Pan pipes

here, a wind instrument consisting 

of several tubes of increasing length 

placed side by side, where the piper 

creates the melody by moving his 

lips, her lips, from embouchure to 

embouchure, the openings through 

which to blow

 

               And whosoe’er thou art, my friend, said he,
               Up hither drive thy goats, and play by me: 

 

Argus asks Hermes to stay, drive thy 

goats away, [u]p hither, he directs, 

and play thy instrument, keep him 

company


                 This hill has browz for them, and shade for thee. 

 

browz, browse, matter, twigs, shoots,

upon which goats might graze


                 The God, who was with ease induc’d to climb,  

 

to climb, [u]p hither, in order to drive

the goats 

                Began discourse to pass away the time;
                 And still betwixt, his tuneful pipe he plies;   

 

betwixt, meanwhile

 

plies, continues


                 And watch’d his hour, to close the keeper’s eyes.

 

his hour, his opportune moment  

 

the keeper, Argus, over Io


                 With much ado, he partly kept awake; 

 

the calming effect of the Pan pipes

was making it hard, much ado, for

Argus to stay awake 


                 Not suff’ring all his eyes repose to take: 

 

never allowing, suff’ring, all his eyes 

to close, repose to take, at the same

time


                 And ask’d the stranger, who did reeds invent,
                 And whence began so rare an instrument? 

 

how do you do that, Argus asks,

which leads to an interpolated story,

wherein Hermes, before we learn

much more about Io, answers the 

questions 

 

stay tuned

 

R ! chard

 

 

 
 

 

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

800px-Io_Argos_MAN_Napoli_Inv9556

   Io Wearing Bovine Horns Watched over by Argos on Hera’s Orders

                                                                                               (1st century AD)

 

           ______________

 

 

before moving forward with the trials 

of Io in Ovid’s poem, let me interject 

a few extracurricular opinions

 

a great work of art, be it poetry, prose,

a painting, a piece of music, is indicated 

by what you can read between the lines

 

this very Ovid is such an example, 

interrupted, as it is, by my

commentaries

 

but a better example, a more personal 

one, I would think, would be that of 

listening to music, and finding oneself 

wandering, often often, in all kinds of 

apparently unrelated areas of 

introspection, before being drawn 

back into the piece, the present, often 

unexpectedly, when it recaptures, with 

artful ingenuity, an arresting mixture of 

substance and style according to the

poet’s artistry, one’s errant attention, 

helping one find one’s way back home  

 

to rekindle again and again your 

attention, therein lies the art

 

the journey, the reverie, has been the

point of the music, where it is that the 

enchantment, and I use that word 

advisedly here, has taken you, that 

jaunt has been your part of the  

communication, which has turned it

into, indeed, a conversation

 

all art tries to do that

 

 

here are a few of my own reveries 

around Ovid’s poem, that it must be 

read as a cooperation in this instance  

between Ovid and John Dryden, who 

translated it, along with the help, here 

and there throughout the work, of a 

few other noteworthies, who must be 

acknowledged

 

it would be impossible to translate

alliteration, onomatopeia, other 

literary devices from one language 

to another, these exist only, and

specifically, in the individual 

vernacular, like fingerprints, the 

personal and particular impression 

of teeth, in people, for example 

 

of a more technical nature is the 

fact that though Dryden‘s verse

is in iambic pentameter

Shakespeare‘s shtick, a notably

conversational metre, Ovid‘s 

dactylic hexameter is of a heroic 

cadence, orotund and imperious,

like ceremonial music is 

unmistakably different from more 

lilting popular ditties

 

the point is that this translation of 

Metamorphoses must be read, in

my opinion, as a collaboration 

between Ovid for his substance, 

which is to say, the essential 

story, and John Dryden for his 

style

 

for better or for worse

 

otherwise we must learn Latin

 

 

an interesting element of the style,

meanwhile, I’ve uncovered, upon 

reading this text, is that the 

apostrophe that is often removed 

from verbs we see today with the 

e typically installed before the d, 

in the first line below, cry’d, for 

instance, reply’d in the next,

would’ve been that the poet was 

indicating, in his 1717, by the 

insistent elision, that the letter 

not be pronounced, where 

custom had earlier had it that it 

often was

 

for a more vivid impression, compare 

bless’d with blessed, both pronunciations 

still in use today, where the second 

spelling, the one with the e, is a 

throwback to a time when most of these 

participles would’ve been voiced in that

manner

 

1717, we learn, however incidentally, 

was a year when the English language 

was evolving, their is not was turning 

into their isn’t  

 

 

but back now to Ovid

 

                 Ah wretched me! her mournful father cry’d;
                 She, with a sigh, to wretched me reply’d:

 

how, between two profoundly 

different oratories, Inachus, Io‘s 

father, wonders, to translate 

 

see my exegesis above

 

                 About her milk-white neck, his arms he threw;
                 And wept, and then these tender words ensue. 

 

Inachus speaks


                 And art thou she, whom I have sought around
                 The world, and have at length so sadly found?
                 So found, is worse than lost: with mutual words
                 Thou answer’st not, no voice thy tongue affords: 

 

mutual words,a shared language


                 But sighs are deeply drawn from out thy breast;
                 And speech deny’d, by lowing is express’d. 

 

lowing, the sound a cow makes


                 Unknowing, I prepar’d thy bridal bed;
                 With empty hopes of happy issue fed. 

 

happy issue, children


                 But now the husband of a herd must be
                 Thy mate, and bell’wing sons thy progeny. 

 

bell’wing, bellowing 

 

Inachus fears Io will be mothering

calves

 

                 Oh, were I mortal, death might bring relief:
                 But now my God-head but extends my grief:
                 Prolongs my woes, of which no end I see,
                 And makes me curse my immortality! 

 

note that even the gods in this 

mythology suffer


                 More had he said, but fearful of her stay,
                 The starry guardian drove his charge away, 

 

The starry guardian, Argus

 

see above


                 To some fresh pasture; on a hilly height
                 He sate himself, and kept her still in sight. 

 

to sate, to refresh, satisfy

 

Io is still not out of the woods

 


R ! chard

 


 

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

1024px-Victor-Janssens_Io-recognized-by-her-father

     Io Recognised by Her Father 

 

          Victor Honoré Janssens

 

              ______________

 

 

               The head of Argus (as with stars the skies)
               Was compass’d round, and wore an hundred eyes. 

 

not only did [t]he head of Argus have

an hundred eyes, but they circled,

compass’d, round his head, as with

stars the skies, as with stars the

geocentric firmament 

 

note the passive form of the verb to 

compass in the two lines above 

standing in for the inverted sentences

I earlier made mention of as literary 

devices Ovid, or Dryden, uses 

throughout the poem

 

the standard sentence, the active

sentence,  should read, an hundred

eyes compass’d [t]he head of Argus

 

compass’d, encircled

 

               But two by turns their lids in slumber steep;
               The rest on duty still their station keep;
               Nor cou’d the total constellation sleep. 

 

never could all the eyes, the total

constellation, sleep, or in slumber 

steep, since only two of them would 

turn[ ] their lids, close, at a time, 

while the others continued diligently

to keep watch

 

steep, incidentally, is a verb here, 

as in to put the kettle on, not an 

adjective, as in dauntingly

pitched, threateningly angled 

 

               Thus, ever present, to his eyes, and mind,
               His charge was still before him, tho’ behind. 

 

even when she was standing behind

him, Argus could still see Io, [h]is

charge, with the eyes he had in the

back of his head


               In fields he suffer’d her to feed by Day,
               But when the setting sun to night gave way,
               The captive cow he summon’d with a call;
               And drove her back, and ty’d her to the stall.
               On leaves of trees, and bitter herbs she fed,
               Heav’n was her canopy, bare earth her bed:
               So hardly lodg’d, and to digest her food,
               She drank from troubled streams, defil’d with mud. 

 

hardly lodg’d, given difficult living 

conditions


               Her woeful story fain she wou’d have told,
               With hands upheld, but had no hands to hold. 

 

fain, gladly


               Her head to her ungentle keeper bow’d,
               She strove to speak, she spoke not, but she low’d: 

 

to low is to make the sound that 

cows do, to moo


               Affrighted with the noise, she look’d around,
               And seem’d t’ inquire the author of the sound. 

 

the sound that she herself was making 

not only [a]ffrighted her, frightened her, 

but had her wondering where could 

it possibly be coming from 


               Once on the banks where often she had play’d
               (Her father’s banks), she came, 

 

Her father, Inachus, god of rivers

 

                                                    and there survey’d
               Her alter’d visage, and her branching head;
               And starting, from her self she wou’d have fled. 

 

much as the sound of her altered

voice had [a]ffrighted Io, now her 

reflection in the water chastened 

her as well, enough to make her

start, be startled, and want to run 

away from her self


               Her fellow nymphs, familiar to her eyes,
               Beheld, but knew her not in this disguise.
               Ev’n Inachus himself was ignorant;
               And in his daughter, did his daughter want. 

 

no one recognized Io, not even 

her father, who, in his daughter, 

the one who stood before him, 

the altered Io, could not make 

her out 

 

did his daughter want, as in to 

be found wanting, in the cow, 

to not even be suggested in

the, however conspicuous, 

heifer, not at all part of the 

picture 

 

Io is there but, simultaneously, 

disconcertingly, not there


               She follow’d where her fellows went, as she
               Were still a partner of the company: 

 

it should be remembered that 

Io was a beautiful heifer, even 

Juno had been impressed, so

that her fellows, her companions,

only other maidens, I’ll point out, 

fellows taking on its sexually 

indiscriminate meaning here, 

not at all restricted to males, 

would have easily let her follow

 

note the symmetry, incidentally, 

between follow’d and fellows, 

the nearly hidden alliteration, 

a delightful literary effect, 

though if you blinked you’d 

miss it

 

               They stroak her neck; the gentle heyfer stands,
               And her neck offers to their stroaking hands.
               Her father gave her grass; the grass she took;
               And lick’d his palms, and cast a piteous look;
               And in the language of her eyes, she spoke. 

 

her lowing would’ve had no effect,

would’ve let no one in on the fact

that beneath the animal exterior 

there might be an Io


               She wou’d have told her name, and ask’d relief,
               But wanting words, in tears she tells her grief.
               Which,
 

 

and here we get the punchline,

the plot twist, which turns this

story into, relatively speaking,

a total enchantment, as though 

Ovid were giving us, prefiguring

in fact, Walt Disney, our own 

20th Century mythologist

 

                            with her foot she makes him understand;
               And prints the name of Io in the sand. 

 

see above

 

 

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