“Metamorphoses” (The Giants’ War, XII) – Ovid

after-the-storm-1872.jpg!Large

      “After the Storm (1872)

 

            Gustave Courbet

 

                __________

 

 

                  A thin circumference of land appears;
                  And Earth, but not at once, her visage rears,
                  And peeps upon the seas from upper grounds; 

 

as the land begins to peep[ ] through 

the water, a circumference of land 

appears, a circle of Earth within the 

earlier universal water

 

to rear, to raise upright, boldly, the better,

here, for Earth‘s visage, Earth‘s face, to 

peep[ ] upon the seas from newly gained 

upper grounds

 

                  The streams, but just contain’d within their bounds,
                  By slow degrees into their channels crawl; 

 

streams, just recently redefining their  

boundaries, or bounds[b]y slow 

degrees settle, become waterways, 

channels, rivers, rivulets, rills

 

I love crawl here, incidentally, the slow, 

insidious, infiltration of a territory, silent 

and immutable, as [t]he streams, at the 

dispassionate pace of nature, find their 

individual course

 

                  And Earth increases, as the waters fall. 

 

the waters fall, the waters recede


                  In longer time the tops of trees appear, 

 

[i]n longer time, after a while

                                                         

                  Which mud on their dishonour’d branches bear. 

 

for which the only solution here, would

be, I thought, however ironically, a

shower, rain

 

but I digress

                 
                  At length the world was all restor’d to view;

                  But desolate, and of a sickly hue:  

see, for instance, above


                  Nature beheld her self, and stood aghast,
                  A dismal desart, and a silent waste. 

 

desart, is desert, even my spellcheck 

insisted

 

meanwhile, back on Mount Parnassus

our two survivors, look around

 

                  Which when Deucalion, with a piteous look
                  Beheld, he wept, and thus to Pyrrha spoke: 

 

let me point out that what follows, 

which is to say when Deucalion 

… thus to Pyrrha spoke, we have 

an extended monologue, rather 

than a narration, the poet, Ovid

has given a voice to Deucalion

his character, his creation

 

I was reminded of Shakespeare‘s 

monologues, especially since the 

metre is iambic pentameter,

Shakespeare‘s signature poetic

rhythm 

 

it should be noted that this translation

of Metamorphoses is from 1717, a

century and a very year after 

Shakespeare‘s demise, in 1616, time 

for poets to have imbibed his already 

profound influence

 

nor could they not have been marked

by the spirit of their own time, and the 

many transformative epochs since 

Metamorphoses had been written, in 

the year 1, that would’ve affected the 

translation 

 

the original Latin text, for instance,

was in dactylic hexameter, not 

iambic pentameter

 

                  Oh wife, oh sister, oh of all thy kind
                  The best, and only creature left behind,
                  By kindred, love, and now by dangers joyn’d;
                  Of multitudes, who breath’d the common air,
                  We two remain; a species in a pair:
                  The rest the seas have swallow’d; nor have we
                  Ev’n of this wretched life a certainty.
                  The clouds are still above; and, while I speak,
                  A second deluge o’er our heads may break.
                  Shou’d I be snatcht from hence, and thou remain,
                  Without relief, or partner of thy pain,
                  How cou’dst thou such a wretched life sustain?
                  Shou’d I be left, and thou be lost, the sea
                  That bury’d her I lov’d, shou’d bury me.
                  Oh cou’d our father his old arts inspire,
                  And make me heir of his informing fire,
                  That so I might abolisht Man retrieve,
                  And perisht people in new souls might live.
                  But Heav’n is pleas’d, nor ought we to complain,
                  That we, th’ examples of mankind, remain. 

 

cou’d our father, JoveDeucalion asks,

breathe into me his inspiration, his old 

arts, his informing fire, so that I could 

reconstitute Man, retrieve him, and 

supply the perisht people with new, and

presumably more honourable, souls

 

                  He said; the careful couple joyn their tears: 

 

He said, or this he spoke, and the

couple joyn their tears


                  And then invoke the Gods, with pious prayers.
                  Thus, in devotion having eas’d their grief,
                  From sacred oracles they seek relief;
                  And to Cephysus’ brook their way pursue: 

 

Cephysus, or Cephissus, was a river god,

associated with the river Cephissus, which 

runs through Central Greece

 

                  The stream was troubled, but the ford they knew; 

 

the ford, the way across the stream


                  With living waters, in the fountain bred, 

 

living waters would gush from a 

spring, around which a fountain 

would’ve been built

 

                  They sprinkle first their garments, and their head,
                  Then took the way, which to the temple led.
                  The roofs were all defil’d with moss, and mire,
                  The desart altars void of solemn fire.
                  Before the gradual, prostrate they ador’d;
                  The pavement kiss’d; and thus the saint implor’d.

 

the gradual is a hymn sung within

the context of a full religious service

 

desart here is again desert, but in

this instance signifying deserted

 

the saint, an anachronism here, 

for saints were not at all even a

concept at the time of Ovid

would’ve been Themis, goddess,

at Delphi, on Mount Parnassus

of Divine Justice

 

 

R ! chard