Metamorphoses ~ Book XV


Book XV


Myscelus / Pythagoras / Numa / Egeria & Hippolytus / Tages / Cipus / Aesculapius / Ceasar / Epilogue 


Claude Lorrain
source Wikimedia Commons

Numa becomes king of Rome, and since he has cemented the laws and customs of Rome, he now decides to study the laws of nature. Leaving Cures, he travels to Croton where an elder tells him the story of the founding of the city. Hercules on his way back to Croton, stopped at Cape Lacinium. As he grazed his cattle, he pronounced a prophesy that in two generations time, a city would rise on that spot, and it came to pass. Myscelus, son of Alemon, was born, loved of the gods.  One night as he slept, Hercules stood over him, commanding him to seek the distant Aesar.  Myscelus found himself in a terrible conflict.  It was forbidden him to leave his homeland on pain of death, yet Hercules had issued threats if he did not obey.  Myscelus called out to the gods for help and their vote freed him. Reaching Aesar, he established Croton, building walls about it as Hercules commanded, founding this Greek town on Italian soil.

Born on Samos, Pythagoras fled the tyranny of his island, preferring exile.  Drawing near to the gods, they gave him in his intellect, what nature had denied to sight.  He could speak of what governed the universe and was the first to condemn the eating of animals, calling it monstrous to let another die so you may live.  It is fine to kill an animal if it is spoiling your crops or dangerous, but for heaven’s sake, don’t eat it!  There is quite a diatribe supporting vegetarianism.  At the end, Pythagoras cautions:

“But if, in any case, your mouths still crave
the limbs of butchered beasts, then be aware

that you’re devouring your own laborers.”


You’ll stumble around if you lack reason, but Pythagoras will enlighten you.

He goes on to explain his idea of the principles of the universe, examining how all matter is continuously changing; there is no death only transformation.  This great thinker provides us with many examples, from people, to landforms, to the heavens.  This is the most (dare I say, only) scientific part of Metamorphoses.

Pythagoras advocating vegetarianism (1618-20)
Peter Paul Rubens
source Wikimedia Commons

When Numa learns all he is able from Pythagoras and other great thinkers, guided by the Muses, he rules the Latin state with his wife, Egeria.  He teaches the people the art of peace, as all they’ve known is war, and upon his death the populous mourns.  Egeria flees to the woods in the Aricia valley.

Weeping Egeria is confronted by Theseus’ son, Hippolytus, who urges her to stop her grieving.  He tells her of his father’s wife, Phaedra, who tried to seduce him and when he resisted, told lies about him in revenge.  A fugitive, he fled to Corinth where he came upon an enormous wave which terrified his horses.  Hurled from his chariot and dragged, he went down into the kingdom of the dead, before his life was saved by Apollo’s son, Aesculapius.  Diana hid him, renaming him Virbius in case he was recognized.  Egeria’s suffering cannot even compare to his, but she continues to weep, her piteous grief transforming her into an eternal spring with the help of Diana.

Hippolytus (1859)
Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema
source Wikimedia Commons

In an Etruscan field, a clod of earth takes human form, the augur, Tages.  He taught the people of Etruria to read the future, and Hippolytus is also amazed at how Romulus’ shaft sprouted into a tree when he placed it in the ground, offering shade to all.

Yet Hippolytus is dismayed by Cipus, who looks into the sea and views horns upon his head.  He is amazed, uncertain if the unexpected appendages augur good or evil.  An augur prophecies that he must go to Rome and rule the great city, however Cipus prefers exile to power.  He is banished from the city, but given a plot of land in consolation.

The Greek god of medicine Aesculapius

An horrendous plague breaks out in Latium with dead bodies rotting everywhere.  The people appeal to Phoebus but are told they need to seek Apollo’s son, Aesculapius (see Metamorphoses Book II). Travelling to Greece, the Roman senators ask for the god to be dispatched to Rome, relating the circumstances.  The Greek elders are divided as to how to act, but at the temple, the god himself appears in the form of a serpent.  Joining with the Romans, the Greeks worship him and the snake, hissing a blue-streak, slithers onto the Roman ship, a clear sign as to his decision.  And so the snake/god comes to Rome, the plague is lifted and all are saved.

The deeds of Caesar won him great triumph and in the end he turned into a comet. Ovid spews sycophantic praise on the man and through him, August Ceasar, his “son”, then he relates Caesar’s demise.  An hideous crime …. a sorry death …. and Venus was distraught beyond grief.  Many signs and omens appeared to expose the plot but blood was spilled in the Curia.  Ovid then links Augustus’ name with the great hero, Aeneas. One day Augustus will join his “father” in the divine realms.  Lots of spectacular rhetorical flourishes in this part, which are a bit much to take.

The Death of Caesar (1867)
Jean-Leon Gerome
source Wikiart

Ovid’s tale is now complete but for his epilogue:

” ….. But with the better part of me, I’ll gain
a place that’s higher than the stars: my name,
indelible, eternal, will remain.
And everywhere that Roman power has sway,
in all domains the Latins gain, my lines
will be on people’s lips; and through all time —
if poets’ prophecies are ever right —
my name and fame are sure: I shall have life.”

In parting, Ovid rather deifies himself, and at the same time, confirms Pythagoras’ theory: things to not die, they merely metamorphose.

❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀

The last few chapters of Metamorphoses certainly didn’t compare to the rest of the book. They have a rather bland resonance to them, are even more uneven and disparate than the other books.  I did, however, find a quote from this book that is a wonderful description of the work as a whole:

since I am now well launched on this vast sea
and, under full sail, with kind winds, can speed,
I add:  in all this world, no thing can keep
its form.  For all things flow; all things are born
to change their shapes.  And time itself is like
a river, flowing on an endless course.
Witness: no stream and no swift moment can
relent; they must forever flow, just as
wave follows wave, and every wave is renewed.
What was is now no more, and what was not
as come to be; renewal is the lot
of time …..”

Egeria  ❥  cool, eternal spring
Caesar ❥  comet

Narnian Suite by C.S. Lewis

For my second poem during National Poetry Month, I read C.S. Lewis’ Narnian Suite.

Narnian Suite
March for Strings, Kettledrums, and Sixty-three Dwarfs
With plucking pizzicato and the prattle of the kettledrum
We’re trotting into battle mid a clatter of accoutrement;
Our beards are big as periwigs and trickle with opopanax,
And trinketry and treasure twinkle out on every part of us –
          (Scrape! Tap! The fiddle and the kettledrum).
The chuckle-headed humans think we’re only petty puppetry
And all our battle-tackle nothing more than pretty bric-a–brac;
But a little shrub has prickles, and they’ll soon be in a pickle if
A scud of dwarfish archery has crippled all their cavalry –
          (Whizz! Twang! The quarrel and the javelin).
And when the tussle thickens we can writhe and wriggle under it;
Then dagger-point’ll tickle ‘em, and grab and grip’ll grapple ‘em,
And trap and trick’ll trouble ‘em and tackle ‘em and topple ‘em
Till they’re huddled, all be-diddled, in the middle of our caperings –
          (Dodge! Jump! The wriggle and the summersault).
When we’ve scattered ‘em and peppered ‘em with pebbles from our catapults
We’ll turn again in triumph and by crannies and by crevices
Go back to where the capitol and cradle of our people is,
Our forges and our furnaces, the caverns of the earth –
          (Gold! Fire! The anvil and the smithying).
March for Drum, Trumpet, and Twenty-one Giants
                  With strumping stride in pomp and pride
                  We come to thump and floor ye;
                  We’ll bump your lumpish heads to-day
                  And tramp your ramparts into clay,
                  And as we stamp and romp and play
                  Our trump’ll blow before us –
(crescendo)     Oh tramp it, tramp it, tramp it, trumpet, trumpet blow before us!
                  We’ll grind and break and bind and take
                  And plunder ye and pound ye!
                  With trundled rocks and bludgeon blow,
                  You dunderheads, we’ll dint ye so
                  You’ll blunder and run blind, as though
                  By thunder stunned, around us –
By thunder, thunder, thunder stunned around us!
                  Ho! Tremble town and tumble down
                  And crumble shield and sabre!
                  Your kings will mumble and look pale,
                  Your horses stumble or turn tail,
                  Your skimble-scamble counsels fail,
                  So rumble drum belaboured —
(Diminuendo)     Oh rumble, rumble, rumble, rumble, rumble drum belaboured!
C.S. Lewis 
Poems (1964)
The Giant Antaeus (1868)
Gustave Doré
source Wikiart

There is not much information on this poem to quench our curiosity as to how it ties to Narnia.  Tirian in The Last Battle sings a short “Narnian marching song”, very much like it:

“Ho, rumble, rumble, rumble, rumble
Rumble drum belaboured.”

The Last Battle was finished in the spring of 1953 but not published until 1956 and Narnian Suite was written in 1953.  Perhaps Lewis simply attempted to take the original marching song and expand it.  In any case, it’s all speculation at this point; I may come up with some reference to it as I read through Lewis’ letters (yes, three huge volumes with a fourth soon to be published).

Does anyone think that this poem sounds very much like Tolkien’s poems in The Lord of the Rings?  I do, but I am reading The Lord of the Rings presently, so perhaps I have that tone lingering in my head.

Metamorphoses ~ Book XIV

Book XIV

Glaucus, Circe, Scylla / The Cercopes / The Sibyl / Achaemenides / Aeolus, Ulysses, Circe / Picus & Canens / Diomedes / The Apulian Shepherd / Aeneas’ Ships / Ardea / Aeneas / Vertumnus & Pomona / Iphis & Anaxarete / Vertumnus & Pomona / The Fountain of Janus / Romulus / Hersilia

Passing the Cyclop’s fields, Messina, and that dangerous strait that separates Ausonia and Sicily, Glaucus streaks through the Tyrrhenian sea until he reaches Circe‘s palace. He tells of her of his woe and the fleet foot of Scylla who spurs his advances, but the goddess is enraged that he can only love Scylla and not her.  Chanting infernal spells of Hecate, she heads for Rhegium across from Messina, polluting Scylla’s favourite pool with noxious poisons.  As soon as the girl immerses herself, she sees snarling barking dogs in the water.  Leaping up and running, she is astonished that she cannot escape them, finally realizing that they are part of her lower quarters.  Glaucus flees in anguish but Scylla remains, and it is she who snatched up Ulysses’ men for revenge on Circe (see The Odyssey Book XII).  She would have swallowed all the ships that passed if she hadn’t been changed into a rock, but even then, sailors fear her presence.

Tilla Durieux als Circe (1913)
Franz von Stuck
source Wikimedia Commons

When the Trojan ships pass Scylla and Charybdis, the wind pushes them back to the Libyan coast where a woman from Sidon (Dido) welcomes Aeneas.  Unable to bear his departure, when he leaves she falls on her sword, but Aeneas continues on, visiting Acestes at Eryx, passing the rocks called the Sirens, Achelous’ daughters.  Having lost his pilot, Palinurus, he sails along barren Pythecusae (an island off the coast of Naples) where a pack of scoundrels called the Cercopes live.  They were so dishonest that the father of the gods transformed them into monkeys and their words into chatter.

Aeneas sails past Parthenope and turns westward, finding the tomb of the trumpeter Misenus.  Upon entering the Sibyl‘s grotto, he requests to cross Avernus and speak with his father’s shade.  The Sibyl reveals that because of his great virtue, she can assist him and orders him to pluck a golden bough in the forest of Persephone.  He is shown Anchises’ shade and the laws of the underworld.  Grateful, Aeneas thanks the Sibyl and offers to build her a shine but she refuses.  She could have been a goddess but she submitted to Apollo’s love and afterwards, she asked him for long life, forgetting to also ask for youth.  Thus, she will become a shrivelled form and suffer the frailties of old age.  Aeneas then sails to a shore, naming it Caieta after his old nurse.

Aeneas and the Sibyl (c. 1800)
source Wikimedia Commons

Macareus of Neritus, companion of Ulysses, had long been living on this shore and is astounded to see his friend, Achaemenides, still alive and among the Trojans.   He wants to know why his friend, a Greek, is sailing in a Trojan boat.  Achaemenides reveals that he loves Aeneas as a father because it was he who prevented him from becoming food for the Cyclops (see The Odyssey Book IX).  He saw Ulysses and his comrades sail away from the island of the Cyclops, and he would have shouted but was terrified of discovery. Watching the Cyclops cursing the Greeks, he remembered how he’d eaten his friends, and he hid, eating acorns, leaves and grass.  He finally saw a Trojan ship that took him away.  Now he wishes to hear Macareus’ story.

Macareus tells of his voyage with Ulysses and how they received a gift from king Aeolus of a sack of wind (see The Odyssey Book X).  Finally, they reached Ithaca, but greedy and curious, they released the tie and the wind rushed out, blowing them all the way back to where they’d started.  They reached the city of the Laestrygonians surrounded by the walls of Lamus, and Ulysses sent his men to reconnoitre but the inhabitants attacked them and then threw rocks at his ships from above.  Only the ship of Ulysses escaped.  Next, they landed at the isle of Circe (see The Odyssey Book X), against whom Macareus delivers a ominous warning.  They drew lots to see who would call at her door and were met by a number of beasts, but though her appearance was appealing, she slipped a drug into their drinks, transforming the men into pigs. Eurylochus escaped to warn Ulysses and although Circe attempted to charm him, he drew his sword, forcing her to change the “pigs” into men again, even as he agreed to be her husband.

Circe (1889)
Wright Barker
source Wikimedia Commons

For a year they stayed in the land of Circe.  One day her nymph showed him a snow-white marble statue of a man with a woodpecker formed on his head.  The nymph informed him that the effigy was Picus, son of Saturn.  He had been sought by all the nymphs and dryads, but he had love for only one, Canens, and she became his bride.  As beautiful as she was, she could also move the woods with her songs.  Seeing Picus hunting one day, Circe lured him into the woods and confessed her love for him but he spurned her advances.  In anger, she turned him into a woodpecker, and as his men attempted to find him, accusing her of his disappearance, she transformed them into beasts. Canens, in mournful despair, wandered searching for her husband, and finally, worn out, vanished into thin air.  The story finished, Macareus tells his listener that they prepared to leave Circe’s island, but the witch warned them of treacherous dangers, so he decided to remain behind.

Nymph (1929)
Gaston Bussière
source Wikipedia Commons

They leave the ashes of Aeneas’ nurse, Caieta, on a tomb, then set sail, next landing in Latium where ‘the Tiber’s waters pour their yellow silt into the sea’.  He is greeted by Latinus, son of Faunus, and Aeneas takes a bride, Lavinia, the daughter of Latinus. Turnus is enraged because Lavinia had been promised to him!  The battle is furious with Aeneas receiving help from Evander, but Turnus, through his man Venulus, receives a refusal of assistance from Diomedes.  Diomedes had earlier arrived at Iapygia, founded a great city and married Daunus’ daughter.  His refusal stemmed from the weakness of his troops, as they had been greatly reduced.  When Ajax had raped the priestess, Cassandra, at the end of the Trojan War, Minerva in her rage cursed the Greeks and their journeys home were fraught with peril.  Diomedes and his men were shipwrecked and Acmon scorned the goddess, causing her to turn him and almost all the rest of Diomedes’ men into a flock of birds.

Venulus continued on, passing the Peucetians and arriving in Messapians where he saw great caves.  Long ago, it had been the home of Pan, and then nymphs, but an Apulian shepherd had startled them, and as he mocked their choral dance, was changed into an olive tree.

An Olive Tree in the Garden of Gethsemane (1882)
Vasily Polenov
source Wikiart

When Turnus learns no help from Diomedes will be forthcoming, he attacks Aeneas, reaching his ships and putting torches to them.  But Cybele recalls the timbers of Aeneas’ ships had come from her pine trees, sacred wood, and cursing Turnus, she promises their salvation.  The Mother goddess snaps their hawsers, then tilts them into the sea and they become sea-green Naiads.

There was hope that the Rutulians, seeing such power, would cease fighting but it was not to be.  Both sides, contended still, driven by courage more than the gods, and instead of brides, or dowry, or land, they fought for glory.  However Turnus fell and so did his town of Ardea; it was burned to the ground and from the ashes, a heron flew into the sky.

Ascanius, son of Aeneas, and now named Iulus (hmmm ….. sounds very similar to “Julius”) has grown to manhood and his father reaches his end.  Venus petitions Jove to grant her favourite a divinity.  When even Juno agrees, Venus flies with her harnessed doves to ensure the river-god carries the mortal parts of Aeneas to the sea, where she anoints him with ambrosia and declares him the god, Indiges.

The Purification of Aeneas in the River Numicus (1725)
Pier Leone Ghezzi
source ArtUK

Iulus is now the king of Alba.  Next in line came Silvius, then his son, Latinus, then Alba and Epytus, his son.  Capis and Capetus followed, then Tibernius who had sons Remulus and Acrotas.  Remulus was struck by lightening, so Acrotas passed the title to Aventinus and finally Proca.  The next story about Pomona, took place in the days of this king.

Pomona was a nymph who loved all gardens and orchards, but spurned all men.  The god, Vertumnus, brought her gifts but to no avail, so he craftily disguised himself as an old woman, bestowed forceful flattery upon her and told her the following story.

In Cyprus, young Iphis loved Anaxarete, but while she was from a noble family, his birth was very humble.  Continuously, he wooed her and left her gifts wet with his tears, yet she was harsh and disdainful towards him.  When his torment became long, he took a rope and hung himself from her doorway.  Wailing servants returned his corpse to his widowed mother, who was heartbroken.  As his body passed Anaxarete’s house on the way to its pyre, she leaned out the window, and when her eyes rested on Iphis, she tried to step back but couldn’t.  Her body was held fast by the stone that began in her heart and she metamorphosed into a stone statue.  Vertumnus cautioned Pomona to remember this tale, urging her to wed the one who loves her.

Vertumnus & Pomona (1617-19)
Peter Paul Rubens
source Wikipedia

Pomona was unresponsive to Vertumnus‘ pleas, but when he shed his disguise, revealing himself as a god, and prepared to take her by force, she decided that she liked him more than a little and gave herself to him.

The above story took place during the rule of Procus in Ausonia, then Numitor should have had the crown, but his false brother usurped it, his name, Aumalius.  But Numitor’s grandsons came to his aid, Romulus and Remus, and Rome was founded.  Tatius and the Sabines waged war upon the city, the treacherous Tarpeia showing them the secret route to the citadel.  They reached the gate and dispatched the sleeping sentinels, however Juno had loosed a bar to allow the gate to be opened.  Venus wished to undo her work but one god cannot undo the work of another so instead, she had the Naiads of Ausonia rush the waters of the fountain of Janus downstream, igniting the stream with burning sulfur.  The Sabines could not pass easily and the Romans had time to arm themselves. There was much slaughter before peace was declared and Tatius shared the crown.

Finding of Romulus and Remus (1720-40)
Andrea Lucatelli (credited)
source Wikimedia Commons

When Tatius dies, Romulus has sole rule and treats both the Romans and Sabines equally.  It is time for the death of Romulus and Mars asks for him to be deified. Racing down in his chariot, Mars seizes his son, and as his mortal parts dissolve, he becomes the god, Quirinius.

The wife of Romulus, Hersilia, weeps endlessly for her husband, so Juno orders Iris to fetch the woman.  She follows Iris to the Palantine hills where a star descends, lighting Hersilia’s hair and she ascends with the star, becoming the goddess Hora, who now walks with her husband.

❇ ❇ ❇ ❇ ❇ ❇ ❇ ❇ ❇ ❇ ❇ ❇ ❇ ❇ ❇ ❇ ❇ ❇ ❇

There are interesting parallels that Ovid provides us:  both Odysseus (Ulysses) and Aeneas have contact with Polyphemus, Scylla, Aeolus, the Sirens and Circe.

The verse gets less fluid towards the end of this book, with lots of changes in time and a very quick catalogue of Latin kings.  I must say I’ve enjoyed the Greek stories more, but it’s been fun to revisit some of Odysseus’ journeys through Aeneas.

Scylla’s lower body  ❥  snarling dogs
Scylla  ❥  rock
Cercopes  ❥  monkeys
Ulysses’ men  ❥  pigs
Picus  ❥  woodpecker
Picus’ men  ❥  beasts
Canens  ❥  thin air
Acmon & Diomedes’ men  ❥ swan-like birds
Apulian shepherd  ❥  olive tree
Trojan ships  ❥  sea-green Naiads
Ardea (town)  ❥  heron
Aeneas  ❥  Indiges (god)
Vertumnus (god)  ❥  Vertumnus (old woman)
Anaxarete  ❥  stone statue
Vertumnus (old woman)  ❥  Vertumnus (god)
Romulus  ❥  Quirinius (god)
Hersilia  ❥  Hora (goddess)

Poetry Month Tag

The Poetry Month celebration has begun at The Edge of the Precipice, and Hamlette has posted a tag with a few questions to answer.  Poetry and I aren’t close friends yet, but we’ll see how I do …..  Fortunately the first questions is easy!

What are some poems you like?
The Lady of Shallot by Alfred Lord Tennyson
The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes
Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe
Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats
What are some poems you dislike?
Since I’m a rank amateur when it comes to poetry, I’m trying to concentrate on poems which I think I’ll enjoy. I haven’t come across any I particularly dislike as of yet.  As for poets whom I’m hesitant to read because I think that I might not like their works, I can guess perhaps Lord Byron and William Blake.  But I could read them and love them for all I know!  
Are there any poets whose work you especially enjoy?  If so, who are they?
I’m very excited to read more Keats.  His ability with words and images is magnificent!  Then I’d also like to read more of Tennyson, Hilaire Belloc, and Oscar Wilde.  Curious list, isn’t it? 🙂
Do you write poetry?
I used to write a little long ago when I was in high school.  I remember that I wrote a haiku that my teacher loved, so I’m going to try to find it and post it.
Have you ever memorized a poem?
Yes!  A few:  Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll,  My Shadow by Robert Louis Stevenson, Celery by Ogden Nash,  and Ooey Gooey by Unknown.
Do you prefer poetry that rhymes and had a strict meter, or free verse?  Or do you like both?
I don’t enjoy rhyming for the sake of rhyming, but with poems such as The Canterbury Tales, the rhyming forms part of the tone of the stories and it’s wonderful!  Free verse has been less enjoyable for me, but again, I haven’t had much experience with it and my opinion could certainly change.
Do you have any particular poetry movements you’re fond of?  (Beat poets, Romanticism, Fireside poets, etc?)(If you haven’t got any idea what I’m talking about, that’s fine!  You can check out this listfor more info, if you want to.)

I have no idea what Hamlette is talking about!  Just kidding. 😉   I actually enjoy epic poems best, such as The Iliad, The Odyssey, Beowulf, etc.  As for eras, I think I’d like the Romantics, but again, I’m not sure. 

For my first poem of the month, I’m going to read Narnian Suite by C.S. Lewis because I’d never heard of it before and surprisingly it seems very Tolkien-ish.  Since they were part of the Inklings, a group that met together and read their writings to each other, it’s perhaps expected that certain styles and tones of writing, might have rubbed off on each other.

Metamorphoses ~ Book XIII



Ajax and Achilles’ Armor / Ulysses and Achilles’ Armor / Ajax / The Fall of Troy / Polymestor and Polydorus / Polyxena / Polyxena & Hecuba / Hecuba, Polydorus, Polymestor / Aurora & Memnon / The Voyage of Aeneas / The Daughters of Anius / The Daughters of Orion / The Voyage of Aeneas / Galatea & Acis / Glaucus & Scylla


Ajax and Ulysses contend for the armour of the fallen hero, Achilles.  In spite of proclaiming himself a man of action and not one for florid speech, Ajax commences a rhetorical banquet, listing all his ancestors and spewing vitriol against Ulysses.  Ajax’s father is Telamon, who was friend to Hercules as he destroyed Troy’s walls, sailed in the ship with Jason and was born of Aecus.  In fact, he is a descendant of Jove, a honour he shares with Achilles, etc., etc.  Ulysses is nothing but a smooth talking, lily-livered, cowardly, sneaky, dishonest fraud.  Oh, and all his feats are minor.  In fact, he, Ajax, should be the winner of the armour because his own shield is so damaged with fighting, yet Ulysses’ shield is so little used.  He suggests that the armour be thrown among the Trojans and whoever reclaims it, be it him or Ulysses, will be the victor.

The Quarrel Between Ajax and Odysseus (1625-30)
Leonaert Bramer
[Public Domain] source

With his renowned eloquence and gracious speech, Ulysses counters the argument of Ajax, contending that lineage should not be the judge of greatness, but instead a man’s own deeds.  He disputes Ajax’s deprecation of his lineage, saying that he has an equal ancestry to him, and furthermore, none of his ancestors are criminals.  As for deeds, what has Ajax really done?  However, he, on the other hand, has worked wonders, such as finding Achilles for the War, and therefore, all Achilles’ feats are due to him.  He also brought about Agamemnon’s change of heart with regard to the sacrifice of his daughter, and he was responsible for asking for the return of Helen.  For nine years the Trojans stayed within their walls, so open war was impossible, but while Ajax did nothing, he was busy planning objectives.  It was he who turned the troops back to war after they were going to disperse prompted by Agamemnon’s dream.  His further rhetorical examples, reverse Ajax’s argument with stunning guile and perception.  The Greek chieftains are so moved by Ulysses’ reasoning that they award Achilles’ armour to him.

Thetis Bringing Armor to Achilles (1806)
Benjamin West
source Wikimedia Commons

This decision is too much for the undefeated hero’s pride and he encounters the first enemy that will be his destruction:  his own unmitigated anger.  Grabbing his blade, Ajax cries that he is the only one who can claim victory over himself, driving the shaft into his own chest.  As his blood seeps into the rich soil, up springs a purple flower, the same flower from Hyacinth’s wound, with the letters, “AI-AI”, echoing both of Ajax (often spelt Aias, therefore the “AI”) and the lament of Hyacinth. (See Book X)

Ulysses retrieves his arrows from Lemnos, the arrows Hercules gave to Philoctetes, and brought back they haunt the skies of Troy.  The fall of Troy was swift, and with Ilium ablaze, the Trojan women embrace their gods for the last time.  They kiss the soil as they are born away, captive, and Hecuba is found at the graves of her sons.  Ulysses carries her off, clutching ashes of Hector to her bosom.

Dead Hector (1892)
Briton Riviere
source Wikiart

In Thrace lies Polymestor‘s magnificent palace and there he is covertly keeping Polydorus, son of Priam.  But there was gold given in payment and when the fall of Troy begins, the king slits the throat of the boy and tosses him from a cliff into the sea, to hide the body.

Agamemnon’s fleet is moored along the Thracian coast when the ghost of Achilles bursts up, awesome and threatening, incensed that the Greeks would leave without honouring him.  He requests the daughter of Priam and Hecuba, Polyxena, as a sacrifice.  She dies with dignity, asking only that no rough hands touch her and that her body will be given to her suffering mother.  Every one weeps at her sacrifice.

The Sacrifice of Polyxena (1733-34)
Giovanni Battista Pittoni
source Getty Open Content

The Trojan women mourn.  Ulysses has won Hecuba but does not really want her, only accepting her because she gave birth to the great Hector.  Hecuba thought that after Achilles death he could threaten them no more, but he has proved her wrong.  Her speech is a dirge:

“…. I gave birth to a funeral offering
to our destroyer.  I must have a heart 
of iron if I still resist, still live.
What am I waiting for?  Endless old age —
what can it hold in store?  O cruel gods
why do you let me live — unless it be
that you have savd saved still other griefs for me? ….”

Priam should be glad he’s gone, unable to witness the atrocity.  She cannot even give her daughter a respectable burial; the only honour Polyxena receives is her mother’s tears on foreign soil.  At least, Polydorus, Hecuba’s son, is sheltered by the Thracian king.  This fact is her only consolation.

Hecuba and Polyxena (c. 1814)
Merry-Joseph Blondel
source Wikimedia Commons


Hecuba moves towards the shore but suddenly sees the corpse of her son, Polydorus. The Trojan women wail in lament but Hecuba is arrested in her grief, the tragedy almost too much to bear.  As she views his fate, anger inflames her, burning to revenge.  She meets with Polymestor and promises gold for her son which he agrees to give him. False, lying Polymestor!!  Hecuba grips him and calls her Trojan women, and as she does, she digs her nails into his eyeballs and plucks his flesh.  The Thracians attack the women with stones and lances, but Hecuba attempts to catch the stones, her voice transforming into barks and howls and even the gods admit that Hecuba did not deserve such sorrow.

Hecuba (c. 18th century)
Guiseppe Crespi
source Wikimedia Commons

Aurora did not lament the Trojans’ demise as expected because she was devastated by the death of her son Memnon at the hands of Achilles.  She pleads with Jove for a gift for the honour of her son and from his pyre, flames and ashes soar high then from it a bird ascends, then many.  After circling the pyre three times, they split into two flocks and begin to battle, falling into the ashes of Memnon as an offering.  They do this every time the sun rises but even to this day, Aurora mourns her son with her tears.

Aurora (1614)
Guido Reni
source Wikiart

Even though Troy was destroyed, part of it survived in the figure of Aeneas, hence the voyage of Aeneas begins.  Fleeing his city with his old father, Anchises, his son, Ascanius, and sacred images, he sails first to Thrace, then to Delos.  The kind, Anius, welcomes Aeneas, and it was here that the two tree-trunks opened and Latona gave birth to her twins.  (See Book VI)

Aeneas and his Father Fleeing Troy (c. 1635)
Simon Vouet
source Wikimedia Commons

Aeneas asks if he saw a son and four daughters of Anius when he last visited his city and Anius tells a tale of woe.  His son, Andros, is king of an island that bears his name, but Bacchus gave to his daughters the power to turn anything they touched into wheat, wine, or oil.  Realizing their value, Agamemnon dragged off the girls, to use them to feed the Grecian fleet.  Two daughters escaped to Euboea, and two to Andros, but their brother, fearing war, relinquished them to their fate.  About to be chained, the two girls lifted their arms in plea to Bacchus and were turned into snow-white doves.

At daybreak, the Trojans visit the oracle which tells them to seek out their “ancient mother” — their land of origin.  Anius sees them off with gifts, and an engraved cup he brings tells its own story.  The seven gated city of Thebes was in a disasterous state with fires and pyres and wailing women, bare trees, stony fields and a mighty funeral pyre where Orion’s daughters sacrificed themselves to save the people from the plague.  Out of their virgin ashes rose the Coroni, two youths, the final scene on the cup to commemorate their origin —- their mothers.  The Trojans give fine gifts in return.

The voyage of Aeneas begins.  Seeking the land of Crete, where their ancestor, Teucer came from, an early king of Troy, upon landing they find the land too harsh and sail for Italy.  Sailing on and on, they reach Sicily and land on the sands of Messina.

The Wanderings of Aeneas
source Googlemap

In the straits of Messina, Scylla is watching the east and Charybdis never sleeps in the west.  The latter preys on ships by sucking them into her depths but Scylla’s waist is populated by snapping dogs.  She once was a young girl but disdained her suitors and when the sea nymph, Galatea, heard Scylla’s tale, she related her own story of her interactions with the Cyclops.  She loved Acis, son of a woodland Faun, but Polyphemus the Cyclops wished to possess her, although she hated him with a passion. He composed odes to her beauty, then disparaged her, spewing barely cloaked threats. With a menacing tirade directed towards Acis, he discovered the lovers. Pursuing Acis, he hurled a massive rock and even though it only grazed Acis, its size pressed him into the ground.  But then the rock split and from it came a green reed, then a river rushing and from the waters sprung a river-god …. Acis.  (I hope this is a different Galatea than Pygmalion’s Galatea in Book X)

Galatea (1896)
Gustave Moreau
source Wikiart

Scylla continued on, stopping to rest in a pool to refresh herself.  Glaucus, its inhabitant, desired the girl and pursued her though she fled.  Reaching a mountain peak that rose from the sea, she turned to see that he was part man and part fish, not sure whether to marvel or be terrified.  He was a god as important as Triton or Proteus, but  he used to be a man who worked always near the sea.  One day as he saw fish leave his net and walk back into the sea, he suspected the grass they had laid upon to be the source of their powers.  Chewing it, he felt himself metamorphosing, a desire welling up within him for the ocean.  He would have said more but Scylla had fled and he set out for the isle of Circe.  (See also Scylla in Book VIII)


Glaucus and Scylla (1580-82)
Bartholomäus Spranger
source Wikimedia Commons

With the sparring between Ajax and Ulysses, we seem to get more questions than answers.  The reader, as well as the chieftains, are trying to discover who has the most kleos (glory) to be worthy of the armour of Achilles.  Instead, we get two sides of action —- the physical (Ajax) and the mental (Ulysses), and which one is most important?  An answer doesn’t seem to be possible, and in the end, it is Ulysses’ smooth tongue and not kleos that secures the prize.

Ovid does not seem to care for Thracians.  Not much good seems to come from them or be said about them.

Ajax’s blood  ❥  purple flower
Hecuba’s speech  ❥  barks/howls
Memnon  ❥  birds {Memnonides}
Daughter’s of Anius’ touch  ❥  wheat, wine, oil
Anius’ daughters  ❥  snow-white doves
Orion’s daughters’ ashes  ❥  Coroni
Acis  ❥  river-god
Glaucus’ lower body  ❥  fish


The Morning of Life by Victor Hugo

My ninth choice for my Deal Me In Challenge comes from “diamonds,” my poetry section.  I have completely avoided my short story section so far, not out of design, but out of fate.  I just haven’t chosen a club yet.  In any case, for this choice we move to France and the poetry of Victor Hugo.

Le Voile du Matin
by Victor Hugo
Le voile du matin sur les monts se déploie.
Vois, un rayon naissant blanchit la vieille tour ;
Et déjàdans les cieux s’unit avec amour,
Ainsi que la gloire àla joie,
Le premier chant des bois aux premiers feux du jour.
Oui, souris à l’éclat dont le ciel se décore ! –
Tu verras, si demain le cercueil me dévore,
Un soleil aussi beau luire à ton désespoir,
Et les mêmes oiseaux chanter la même aurore,
Sur mon tombeau muet et noir !
Mais dans l’autre horizon l’âme alors est ravie.
L’avenir sans fin s’ouvre à l’être illimité.
Au matin de l’éternité
On se réveille de la vie,
Comme d’une nuit sombre ou d’un rêve agité.
source Wikipedia
The Morning Of Life (an ode)
by Victor Hugo
The mist of the morning is torn by the peaks,
Old towers gleam white in the ray,
And already the glory so joyously seeks
The lark that’s saluting the day.
Then smile away, man, at the heavens so fair,
Though, were you swept hence in the night,
From your dark, lonely tomb the owlets would stare
At the sun rising newly as bright.
But out of earth’s trammels your soul would have flown
Where glitters Eternity’s stream,
And you shall have waked ‘midst pure glories unknown,
As sunshine disperses a dream.

This is a beautiful poem, but this was the only English translation that I was able to find, and the poem really suffers in the translation.  From the French (keeping in mind, my French is adequate, but I’m certainly not fluent),  the reader is assailed wtih images of newness and light and birth and song, but there is also a reference to an old tower.  Yet in the second stanza the poet mentions that though he may be found in a coffin (I suspect that he is the “old tower” from the first stanza), the sun will continue to shine and that same bird will sing on his tomb.  And should the reader be saddened by his death?  The third stanza indicates not, as the poet will have an endless horizon as he awakens in the light of eternity.  The first life now appears as a dark night or restless dream in comparison to this new everlasting life.

Ai-ya!  I was able to pull very little of that explanation from the English translation.  The French says “mon tombeau” (my tomb), not your tomb, and with the English second person pronouns in the third stanza, it is very confusing as to who is speaking.  Anyone with more adequate French skills than I have, is welcome to comment.

For those of you who didn’t know that Hugo was also a recreational artist, producing more than 4000 drawings, I’ll leave you with one of them:

The Wave of My Destiny (1857)
Victor Hugo
source Wikiart

Deal Me In Challenge #9

Metamorphoses ~ Book XII

Book XII

Iphegenia / Rumor / Achilles & Cycnus / Caenis/Caenus / Lapiths & Centaurs / Cyllarus / Caenus / Hercules & Periclymenus / The Death of Achilles

The Sacrifice of Iphigenia (1770)
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
source Wikimedia Commons
While Priam doesn’t realize that his son has been changed to a bird, and mourns his death with Hector, Paris is missing from the funeral rites, as he has gone to Greece, stolen a wife and returned with a war behind him.  But the Greeks chasing Paris, become bound by storms at Aulis, so they kindle fires for Jove in hopes of smooth sailing.  However, a blue-green serpent climbs a sycamore tree, seizing eight fledglings and their mother, and swallowing them in his greedy jaws.  Calchus, the augur, son of Thestor, claims it is a sign that the Greeks will be victorious but only after a long war.  Nereus’ rage though is unrelenting and Calchus claims Diana is aggrieved that Agamemnon slew her sacred stag.  He requires payment in virgin’s blood, and so Agamemnon’s daughter, Iphigenia is sacrificed.  The girl does not die, however, as Diana covers the altar with a dark cloud, exchanging Iphigenia for a hind.  Her wrath appeased, the thousand ships are able to sail for Phrygian shores (Troy).  (For a somewhat different story of Iphigenia’s sacrifice, see Agamemnon).
Where the earth, heavens and sea meet, Rumorlives high upon a peak in a palace with no doors, and everything that is spoken in the wide world is taken in ….  Credulity, Error, Joy, Consternations, Fears, Seditions and unknown whispers.  Rumor knows all.  This is why, as the Greeks reach the shores of Troy, the Trojans are not unaware of their coming.  Under Hector’s deadly spear, Protestilaus is the first to lose his life.  The Danaans pay in death, but the Trojans lose men too and each learn the prowess of the other.
Achilles races in his chariot, searching for Cycnusor for Hector. He finds the former and attempts to kill him but Cycnus is the son of Neptune and no weapon can pierce his skin.  Spear after spear glances off him and Achilles is enraged, eventually questioning his own might. Leaping from his chariot, he attempts to stab him without success, finally grabbing Cycnus and choking him until the hero dies.  Or so he thinks, for as he tries to strip his armour, he finds no body.  Neptune has already changed his son into a swan.  This seems a perpetual feat, as Cycnus has already been changed into a swan under different circumstances in Book II and is mentioned again in Book VII.
Achilles is so wonderful that everyone can only speak of courage and bravery around him.  His victory over Cycnus is astonishing, although Nestor relates of another warrior whose body could not be touched by weapons.  His name was Caenus although he was born as a woman.  Shocked, the Greeks beg for the rest of the tale and we hear how Caenis was born fair and famous for her beauty.  Raped by Neptune, he promises to give her what she desires, and vowing never to suffer such outrage again, she wishes to become a man.  She transforms into Caenus, and no weaponry could ever kill her.
Battle Between Lapiths & Centaurs (1735-40)
Francesco Solimena
source Wikiart 
In Thessaly, Pirithous, king of Lapith and son of Ixion, is to be wed to Hippodame (who was supposed to be wed to Pelops in the backstory to Agamemnon, but perhaps this is a different Hippodame) and Caenus attends.   At the feast, the centaurs (bred by Ixion and “Cloud” — it’s a horrendous story if you want to look it up) go mad on lust and wine.  Eurytus snatches the bride, and his brothers begin to snatch women without qualm.  Brave Theseus stands to oppose their evil intentions, throwing a vat into the face of Eurytus, upon which the centaur gushes blood and brains and vomits wine, falling dead to the floor.  War ensues with a descriptive tapestry reminiscent of The Iliad.  Some of the centaurs flee (including Nessus, who met Hercules’ bow in Book IX), yet the war continues with even more elaborate description.
Flawlessly handsome, with a black coat yet a white tail and legs, the centaur, Cyllarus, is loved by a woman, Hylonome. However, he is unable to escape his fate and when a spear pierces his body, his wife runs to him, holding him, and then throwing herself on the spear so they die together.

Lapiths and the Centaurs
Jacob Jordaens
source Wikiart
Nestor continues with his stories, telling of how Phaeocomes threw a log which smashed the skull of Tectaphos, the son of Olenus, his brain matter oozing from his eyes, ears and nostrils. Nestor struck him down, along with other centaurs, his strength in those days equal to Hector’s.  Caenus was killing centaurs as well, and the rest of the bipeds were in a frenzy of irritation because none of their weapons were able to pierce his skin.  Finally, Monycus came up with a plan: if they weren’t able to skewer him, they would smother him.  The centaurs ripped trees from the ground, piling them onto Caenus until he was buried.  A golden-winged bird escaped from the rubble; some say it was Caenus but others claimed that he was pushed right down to the Underworld.

As Nestor’s tale ends, Tlepolemus is disturbed that no mention of his father Hercules’ feats were acknowledged.  Nestor reveals his hatred for the hero, as Hercules was responsible for razing Pylos, Nestor’s homeland, without provocation.  Hercules killed all eleven of his brothers, including his brother, Periclymenus, who was able to change shape, yet as an eagle, Hercules shot him with an arrow.  Yet in spite of his rage against Hercules, Nestor gracefully says that he hold no enmity towards Tlepolemus.

Neptune, still in grief over Cycnus, detests Achilles with a raging passion. He enlists Apollo to covertly bring about the death of Achilles.  Apollo enters the Trojan battle and, as Paris shoots an arrow, the god guides it towards Achilles, felling the hero.  The death is a shameful one, as Achilles is killed by a coward and a debaucher of women.  At his funeral, Achilles’ physical ashes barely fill a small urn, yet his reknown is as large as the whole world.  Ajax the greater and Ulysses prepare to contend over the hero’s armour. 

The Death of Achilles (1630-32)
Peter Paul Rubens
source Wikimedia Commons

Ovid continues to astonish with his vivid description and puzzle with choice of stories and pacing.  The Trojan War itself is nearly skipped through, as we go from an event at the beginning of it, to an event at the end.  Instead of the battles of Troy, the warriors themselves appear more important.  

There is also the parallel theme of the ignorance of fathers: Priam does not realize that his son was changed into a bird, and neither does Agamemnon know that Iphigenia was saved by Minerva.  

Nestor’s treatment of Hercules is very startling.  Fame and glory (kleos) for a Greek warrior is their ultimate purpose in life.  By not mentioning the feats of Hercules against the centaurs, Nestor is suppressing Hercules fame and glory.

“The vengeance that I seek for my dear brothers stops at this:  my speech, in telling of the Lapiths’ victory omitted the great deeds of Hercules….”

Nestor is effectively erasing Hercules, as Hercules obliterated Nestor’s cherished homeland.

And as much as I’m enjoying Ovid’s poetry and stories, he can’t hold a candle to Homer.  Ovid’s poetry can have some beautiful passages but often the underlying tone seems more ghastly and outrageous, whereas Homer’s tone sounds more majestic, with a resonating grandeur.  But, of course, I’m reading poetry in translation, which is always problematic when making judgements.  However, I think the Greeks, at least, would agree with me. 🙂

Snake  ❥  stone
Cycnus  ❥  swan
Caenis/woman  ❥  Caenus/man
Caenus  ❥  golden-winged bird
Periclymenus  ❥  many shapes  ❥ eagle

The Faerie Queene in Poetry Month ~ Two Events!

As you’re probably aware from both my On Reading the Faerie Queene and Spenser’s Images of Life posts, I’m gearing up to read The Faerie Queene in late April.  But instead of sliding quietly into the read-along, I thought it might be nice to give it an official announcement!

O at Behold the Stars was the instigator of this event and Jean, Cirtnecce, RuthConsoled Reader and I quickly followed her lead.  We will be attempting to stick to this schedule:

April 25 – May 1st ~  Book I
May 2 – May 8th ~  Book II
May 9 – May 15th ~  Book III
May 16 – May 22nd ~  Book IV
May 23 – May 29th ~  Book V
May 30 – June 5th ~  Book VI
June 6 – June 12th ~  Mutability

Thanks to O for the prod, and to Jean’s husband for creating a rather awesome button! Anyone else who would like to join us is very welcome!  Reading this tome among friends will make it much less intimidating!

And, coincidentally corresponding with the above read, in April Hamlette from The Edge of the Precipice is going to be hosting a Poetry Month Celebration in honour of National Poetry Month.

We’ll be starting The Faerie Queene read-along near the end of the month, but I hope to be able to read a few more poems, at least one per week, for this event.  It’s a good chance to focus on that category for my Deal Me In Challenge.

So if either of these events interest you, I hope you’ll join us for a very busy April, and ring in the spring with poetry!

Metamorphoses ~ Book XI

Book XI

Orpheus / The Bacchantes / Midas / Troy / Peleus & Thetis / Ceyx / Daedalion The Wolf / Ceyx & Alcyone / Aesacus

Orpheus charms the beasts and trees with his songs, and even the stones pause to listen.  But the Thracian women, the Bacchantes, are enraged, accusing Orpheus of scorning them.  They hurl staffs and rocks at him, intent on murder but when a stone is flung,

“….it cleaved the air, it yielded to the spell
of his enchanting voice and lyre: it fell
at Orpheus’ feet as if compelled to seek 
forgiveness for its mad audacity …… “
Circling him, the women attack, and all of their weapons would have been tamed by his sweet music, if their “shrieks and caterwauls” had not drowned it out, and they murder and dismember him.  Mournful sounds fill the air as his body is carried by the Hebrus river to the coast.  There, a snake attempts to attack the head, but before it can, Phoebus turns it into stone.  As the Shade of Orpheus descends to the Underworld, he meets Eurydice.  Side by side, they walk and they can now gaze at each other without fear.

Nymphs finding the head of Orpheus (1900)
John William Waterhouse
source Wikiart
Bacchus intends to punish the criminals for their profane act, and the Bacchantes find themselves bound to the ground.  Roots spread from their feet, bark begins to cover their bodies, as they are transformed into oak trees.
König Midas (1670)
Andrea Vaccaro
source Wikimedia Commons
Bacchus leaves Thrace for his Lydian land and own vineyards in Tmolus.  His satyrs and bacchantes crowd around him, but Silenus (his tutor) is missing, yet he finds him with King Midas who has him in his care.  Bacchus rewards Midas with one wish, and the king requests that everything he touches will turn to gold.  Delighted, Midas begins to touch everything, but soon realizes the curse of his request, repents, and Bacchus instructs him to go to a river near Sardis to wash his sin away.  Midas complies and even today, as Ovid tells us, the Pactolus’ shores can be streaked with gold.  Midas, however, now hates riches and roams the hillside, but his wits were never clever and he continue to seek stupid things which will bring harm.  While watching a musical contest between Pan and Phoebus, upon Tmolus judging Phoebus Apollo the winner, Midas disagrees and for his ill-judgement, Phoebus turns Midas’ ears into those of an ass.  He wraps those ears to his head with a purple turban and when his slave discovers his secret, the slave whispers it into a hole in the ground.  But when the reeds there grow tall, they whisper the secret to the winds, betraying the servant.
Apollo departs for Troy where Laomedon had accepted the offered of Phoebus and Neptune to build the walls of Troy for payment in gold and then reneged on his debt. The sea god caused a flood to bury the fields of Troy.  In payment, they demanded the daughter of the king, Hesione, who was chained to a reef for the prey of monsters, but Hercules saved her.  For his payment, he was promised horses, but again Troy was faithless and Hercules razed its walls.
Apollo and Poseidon Punishing Troy (c. 1590)
Paolo Fiammingo
source Wikimedia Commons
Hercules gives Hesione to Telamon as a royal bride but he is busy fighting with his brother, Peleus.  Peleus is famous for his goddess wife, and we learn of his “courtship”. Zeus had an ardent desire fot Thetis, the goddess of the waves,” but it was prophesied by Proteus that her son would be greater than his father, so Zeus blessed his grandson, Peleus, to pursue her.  Peleus attempted to rape her in her grotto but Thetis transformed into a bird, a tree and then a spotted tigress, so Peleus wisely abandoned his plans.   He prayed to the gods for success and was counselled by Proteus, who rose from the sea, to tie her up, which he did and made her pregnant with Achilles.
The Feast of Peleus (1872-81)
Edward Burne-Jones
source Wikimedia Commons
Peleus accidentally kills his half-brother, Phocus, and for this treachery he is exiled to the land of Trachin, recounting a lie as to his crime.  Ceyx, the king of Trachin, welcomes him, then weeps, whereupon Peleus and his men ask the cause of his sadness.

Ceyx tells of his brother, Daedalion, who had a lovely fourteen-year-old daughter, Chione.  She was raped by both Phoebus and Mercury, bearing twin sons but one from each god: Autolycus, “a connoisseur of wiles and guiles”, and Phillamon, Apollo’s son, “famed for lyre and song.”  Chione, because of this glory bestowed on her, now considered herself surpassing Diana’s beauty, and, for her insult, she was killed by an arrow of the goddess.  At her funeral (burning), Daedalion overcome with grief, ran senselessly around, finally leaping from Parnassus’ peak, where Apollo changed him into a hawk, and “aggrieved, he makes all others mourn.”

As Ceyx relates this story, Peleus’ Phocian cowherd rushes in to announce that a wolf is ravaging the herds of oxen and terrifying the people.  Peleus silently believes this event to be his penance for his crime.  As they prepare to leave to deal with the wolf, Alcyone, the wife of Ceyx, begs him not to go, foreseeing his death.  Thetis intervenes to pardon Peleus and helps him, changing the wolf into a marble statue.  But the fates cause Peleus to travel to the land of Magnesia and King Acastus, where he is cleansed of his guilt.

Meanwhile Ceyx is still puzzled by his brother’s fate and these strange happenings, so he decides to consult an oracle on the isle of Clarus.  Alcyone begs him not to go, but, while trying to calm her fears, he departs and his boat encounters a momentous storm. Before he drowns, he prays that his body will return to his wife for burial, and she finally spots it floating in the water, confirmation of her husband’s death that she had received in a dream conducted by Morpheus.  As she tries to reach the body, she is changed into a bird (a kingfisher), and when she tries to cover her husband with her wings, he too changes:

“…… Their love remained; they shared one fate.
Once wed, they still were wed: they kept their bond.
They mate; they rear their young; when winter comes,
for seven peaceful days Alcyone — 
upon a cliff that overlooks the sea —
broods on her nest.  The surge is quiet then,
for Aeolus won’t let his winds run free;
he keeps them under guard, so that the sea
maintain the peace his fledgling grandsons need.”

Halcyone seeking her husband Ceyx (1914)
Herbert James Draper
source Wikimedia Commons

An old man, as he watches the pair of birds, is reminded of another bird, a swift merganser.  The bird is of the line of Ilus and Assaracus, then Ganymede, then Laomedeon, and finally Priam, who was the last king of Troy.  Aesacus, half-brother of Hector (son of Priam) pursued the nymph, Hesperie, who was bitten by a serpent as she fled.  Distraught, Aesacus offered his life for hers.  As he leapt into the sea, Thetis pitied him and clothed him in feathers, but Aesacus so diligently sought death, he continually attempts to plunge in the sea, only to rise again.  He is the diving bird, the merganser.


❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀  ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ 

In this book, I noticed varying motifs on music, sound and hearing.  Orpheus communicates by music, yet is drowned out by the Bacchantes’ shrieks; Apollo and Pan have a musical contest; Mt Tmolus must brush away the forest to hear; Midas for hearing ‘incorrectly’ has his ears changed to those of an ass; Proteus’ words are stopped/finished as he sinks into the sea; on Ceyx’s ship, the captain’s voice in drowned out by the “blustering winds”; Ceyx’s words are impeded by the waves; and the Cimmerian cave is a place of complete silence yet for the Lethe.

While the stories often seem random, we can experience a non-linear telling of some of the history of Troy and its heroes.  The scattering make up a puzzle, if we can only pick up the pieces and fit them into the whole.


Snake  ❥  stone
Thracian women  ❥  oak trees
Midas’ touch  ❥  gold
Midas’ ears  ❥  ears of an ass
Thetis  ❥  bird/tree/spotted tigress
Thetis  ❥  various shapes  ❥ Thetis
Daedalion  ❥  hawk
Wolf  ❥  marble statue
Ceyx & Alcyone  ❥  birds (kingfishers)
Aesacus  ❥  merganser (“diving bird”)

Metamorphoses ~ Book X

Book X

Orpheus and Eurydice / Cyparissus / Orpheus’ Prologue / Ganymede / Hyacinthus / The Cerastes / The Propoetides Pygmalion / Myrrha & Cinyras / The Birth of Adonis / Venus and Adonis / Atalanta & Hippomenes / The Fate of Adonis

Orpheus & Eurydice (1864)
Frederic Leighton
source Wikiart

Hymen did not bless the wedding of Orpheus, and what a mess! (I’m losing my narrative tone, aren’t I?) His bride, Eurydice, while crossing the meadow with her Naiad friends, stepped on a viper and died.  After his weeping ceased, he travelled to the Underworld to seek his cherished wife.  Playing sweetly on his lyre, he begged the gods to restore her to life, and so beautiful his song that even the bloodless shades shed tears and the Furies wept. By his skill and love, Orpheus won his wife back, but was warned as he was leading her out, to only look straight ahead or she would be reclaimed by the dead.  Nearly in the upper world, Orpheus could not resist looking at her, and as his eyes fell upon her, he watched her sink back into the abyss.  Frantic, he ranged the banks of the Styx like a shade, then finally left the Underworld.

Three years went by and Orpheus, in his grief, shunned the love of women.  He spent days playing his lyre, and playing it so sweetly that even the trees came to listen.  We learn of a youth, Cyparissus, who had a stag he treated almost like a pet.  Tragically, one day his javelin accidently pierced the stag, killing it, and Cyparissus was so distraught that he begged the gods to let him grieve forever.  In response, they transformed him into a cypress tree.

Cyparissus (c1670-77)
Jacopo Vignali
source Wikimedia Commons

Opheus now goes into a prologue, plucking his lyre and announcing that he will sing of “boys the gods have loved, and girls incited by unlawful lust and passions, who paid the penalty for their transgressions.”

Ganymede (1531-32)
source Wikiart

Singing, Orpheus tells how the lusts of Jove raged for the Phrygian, Ganymede, so he transformed himself into a bird, “one with force enough to carry Jove’s thunderbolts,” and snatched up the Trojan boy.  Even now, Ganymede is a page for Jove, preparing nectar for him and filling his cups.

Phoebus Apollo loved Hyacinthus, a Spartan boy, and was his close comrade.  In competition, as Phoebus threw a discus, Hyacinthus recklessly rushed to pick it up, only to have it rebound with great force back into his face, killing him.  Phoebus, blaming himself, wished to die as well, but death was denied him so he claimed the boy would be a new flower on which his lament was inscribed: “Ajax” would be stamped on his petals.  With his own hand, he wrote “AI” and Sparta honours Hyacinthus each year with the Hyacinthus festival.

The Cerastes polluted the altar of Jove with the blood of guests, appalling Venus who made ready to leave Cyprus.  But thinking awhile of the dear sites and towns, she instead transformed them into savage bulls.

The Propoetides declared that Venus was not a goddess, and for their audacity, the girls, who were the first prostitutes, were transformed into hard stones.

Pygmalion & Galatea (c. 1890)
Jean-Leon Gerome
source Wikiart

Repulsed by the shameful acts of women, Pygmalion is determined not to take a wife, instead, carving a beautiful woman from a block of ivory.  Enchanted with his creation, he desires a wife like her, and Venus, understanding his prayers, answers.  This time when Pygmalion kisses the statue, as usual, he feels warm lips and flesh. After the wedding, his wife gives birth to Paphos and since, Cypress is called the Paphian isle.

The son of Paphos, Cinyras, would have found happiness where it not for his misfortune of having daughters.  Myrrha, loves her father in an unnatural way.  To subdue this perfidy, she attempts to hang herself but her nurse interrupts the deed and pledges her assistance.  During the feast honouring Ceres, they trick the king into sleeping with her, until he finally recognizes her, and drawing his sword attempts to kill her but, Myrrha flees.  Pregnant, she escapes “palm-rich Arabia and Panchaea’s lands” coming at last to the Sabaeans’ land where she prays to be denied both life and death.  At this prayer, she is metamorphised into a Myrrh tree.

Even though Myrrha is now a tree, her child is still ready to be born and Lucina, goddess of chidbirth, speak a spell and Adonis is born.  Set in a meadow by the Naiads, he is anointed with myrrh, his mother’s tears, and his beauty is unsurpassed.

The Awakening of Adonis (1899)
John William Waterhouse
source Wikiart

Adonis grows into manhood and as he grows, so does his beauty.  Venus, the goddess herself, is in love with him.  She is scratched by Cupid’s arrow and cannot suppress her desire for this mortal, and neglects all her duties, sinking into a pining admiration for him. She warns him against being reckless and about wild animals, then cuddling him on the grass, she tells him a story.

Atalanta (1908)
John William Godward
source Wikiart

Atalanta is a girl faster than the fastest of men.  The oracle instructs her to shun marriage and if she does not, she will remain alive but lose herself.  Terrified, she lives in the shadowy forest but suitors still seek her out so she devises a plan, telling all that she would marry the one who could best her in a footrace, but those who lost would surely die.  Hippomenes, at first scoffs at the contenders, but when he sees Atalanta’s splendid “form”, he too desires her for a wife.  Atalanta bests all the suitors, but Hippomenes challenges her to a one-on-one race.  Atalanta enjoys his attention and agrees, yet while they prepare for the race, Hippomenes prays to Venus who gives him three golden apples. During the race, he drops an apple at a time and Atalanta, drawn by their beauty, swerves to pick them up.  With the first two apples, she is able to catch up but with the last apple’s distraction, Hippomenes is able to win the race and his bride.  Stupidly, the hero forgets to thank his benefactress, Venus, who causes him to have an overwhelming desire for his wife near a shrine and they defile it with their lovemaking, causing the goddess Cybele to change them into two lions.  The story is a warning to Adonis to avoid wild beasts, and Venus sails away in her chariot.

Adonis youthful ignorance supersedes all warnings and he hunts the wild boar, wounding the animal but not killing it.  The boar turns on him, impaling him in the groin (ouch!) and his life ebbs away.  Venus, hearing his groans, rushes to him but he is dead. She transforms the blood of the young man into the Anenome flower, a flower that is brilliantly beautiful but quickly fades to death.

Venus Weeping Over Adonis (c. 1625)
Nicolas Poussin
source Wikiart
Man frightened by Cerebus  ❥  stone
Olenus & Lethaea  ❥  two rocks on Ida
Attis  ❥  pine tree
Cyparissus  ❥  cypress tree
Jove  ❥  bird
Hyacinth’s blood  ❥  flower
The Cerastes  ❥  savage bulls
The Propoetides  ❥  hard stones
Ivory woman  ❥  real woman
Myrrha  ❥  myrrh tree
Hippomenes & Atalanta  ❥  lions
Adonis’ blood  ❥  Anemone flower