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Category: poetry to ponder

“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 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” (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 Io into a Heyfer” – Ovid

main-image

  “River gods consoling Peneus for the Loss of his Daughter, Daphne (1530–60) 

 

           Master of the Die

 

                __________

 

 

the transformation of Daphne into 

a lawrel, though a story on its own,

has repercussions, which flow into

the introduction of Ovid‘s following 

instalment, The Transformation of

Io into a Heyfer“, however 

essentially unrelated 


                  An ancient forest in Thessalia grows; 

 

Thessalia, or Thessaly, a region of

Ancient Greece 


                  Which Tempe’s pleasing valley does inclose: 

 

Tempe, a valley, or vale, in Greece,

the Vale of Tempe, with a rich

mythological history


                  Through this the rapid Peneus take his course; 

 

Peneus, river god, Daphne‘s father

 

you’ll note that Peneus is given 

a plural conjugation here, take 

instead of takes in the singular,

unless this is a typo, otherwise

we have a metonym at work, a 

part signifying the whole, the 

whole in this instance meaning

the collection of rivers of which

Peneus was the god


                  From Pindus rolling with impetuous force; 

 

Pindus, a mountain range in 

northern Greece named after 

its highest peak


                  Mists from the river’s mighty fall arise: 

 

the river, one of Peneus‘ mighty 

torrents, cascading down the 

mountain, the Pindus, creating, 

along the way, [m]ists


                  And deadly damps inclose the cloudy skies:
                  Perpetual fogs are hanging o’er the wood;
                  And sounds of waters deaf the neighbourhood. 

 

deaf, used as a verb here, means 

to deafen, to prevent sounds from 

being heard


                  Deep, in a rocky cave, he makes abode 

 

he, Peneus, the river god


                  (A mansion proper for a mourning God). 

 

mourning God, Peneus, who’s just

lost Daphnehis daughter


                  Here he gives audience; issuing out decrees
                  To rivers, his dependant deities.
                  On this occasion hither they resort;
                  To pay their homage, and to make their court. 

 

to make their court, [t]o pay  homage, 

to attend to, their sovereign, Peneus 

 

                  All doubtful, whether to congratulate
                  His daughter’s honour, or lament her fate. 

 

His daughter’s honour, Daphne has 

been deemed the symbolic mistress 

of champions, to compensate for her

irreversible, and lament[able], 

transformation


                  Sperchaeus, crown’d with poplar, first appears;
                  Then old Apidanus came crown’d with years:
                  Enipeus turbulent, Amphrysos tame;
                  And Aeas last with lagging waters came. 

 

Sperchaeus, or SpercheiosApidanus

Enipeus, Amphrysos, or Amphrysus

and Aeas, are all river gods, if not all 

actual rivers


                  Then, of his kindred brooks, a num’rous throng
                  Condole his loss; and bring their urns along. 

 

kindred brooks, smaller tributaries, 

of Peneus


                  Not one was wanting of the wat’ry train,
                  That fill’d his flood, or mingled with the main: 

 

all the waterways, the wat’ry flows, 

train, were in attendance


                  But Inachus, who in his cave, alone, 

 

Inachus, a personification of the 

Greek river, Inachos


                  Wept not another’s losses, but his own,
                  For his dear Io, whether stray’d, or dead, 

 

Io, nymph, a nature spirit, daughter 

of Inachus


                  To him uncertain, doubtful tears he shed.
                  He sought her through the world; but sought in vain;
                  
And no where finding, rather fear’d her slain. 

 

a tragedy in the making

 

 

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