|Perseus turns Phineus and his followers to stone (early 1680s)
In the middle of the wedding feast, uproar rises and it is Phineus, the brother of King Cepheus, coming to revenge himself on Perseus for stealing his bride. Curiously King Cepheus chastises his brother for not saving his bride himself and says that he has given her to Perseus for his deeds. Not certain whether to aim his shaft at the king or Perseus, Phineus chooses the latter, but Perseus hurls it back, killing Rhoetus, and the wedding feast turns into a brawl. Perseus battles nearly everyone at the feast until he is backed against a pillar and his strength is beginning to ebb. He holds up his old, trusty weapon, the head of Medusa, which turns his enemies to marble statues and his one friend, Aconteus, into stone. Phineus repents, but too late, as he too is transformed into marble.
|Minerva with the Muses (1640-45)
Now Minerva departs from her brother, Perseus, and journeys to the Virgin Muses’ home, the land of Thebes and Helicon, where a wondrous spring had formed when Pegasus had hit the ground with his hoof. She proclaims these daughters of Mnemosyne blessed.
The Muses tell Minerva of a savage, cruel king, Pyreneus, who lured them into his home, then tried to rape them, however they escaped on wings of flight. Enraged, he ran to the top of his tower and, claiming he could follow them, jumped to his death.
Barely had their words dissolved into the air, when nine magpies alight on branches nearby. The Muses reveal that these had once been the daughters of Pierus, a rich lord of Pella, and they had lost a singing contest to the Muses. The Pierides sang a rather impious song of the gods changing into animals, and the Muse, Calliope, was chosen as their storyteller; they relate her song to Minerva.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
In the land of Sicily, Typhoeus lies underneath it. Once a man, he was transformed into a volcano for daring to hope to receive heaven as his kingdom. Meanwhile,Venus decides that the daughter of Ceres, Prosperina (Persephone), is so intent on chastity, that it would weaken her rule over her, therefore she enlists Cupid to shoot Pluto with an arrow of love, and he becomes inflamed for the girl. He kidnaps her whilst she picks white lilies and violets in the woods, escaping in his chariot like white light. Cyane, a nymph in her pool, attempts to prevent the rape and, as Pluto strikes with his royal scepter, a crack opens in the earth, into which he disappears with his hostage-prize. Disconsolate, Cyane literally weeps herself into a pool of tears.
Ceres searches everywhere for her daughter, turning a rude boy into a newt during her travels, until eventually she reaches the pool of Cyane. Seeing the girdle of her daughter floating there, she curses the earth, withdrawing its bountiful harvest, and famine infects the land. Arethusa, a sacred spring, rises from the pool, pleading with Ceres to remove the curse, so Ceres petitions Zeus and it is agreed that Prosperina may return as long as she has not taken food. But Ascalaphus has seen the maiden eat and for denouncing her, he is transformed into a screech owl. Aschelous’ daughters, who had been with Proserpina when she had been gathering flowers, after searching all lands for her are changed by the gods into golden birds with a girl’s features and voice. Zeus, trying to heal the breach between brother and sister decrees that Proserpine may spend six months with her husband and six with her mother.
|Return of Persephone
Now Arethusa is asked by Ceres how she became a sacred spring: one day while bathing in a pool, Alpheus, a river-god, calls to her and she flees. Taking on the form of a man, Alpheus pursues her and Arethusa, calling on Diana for help, is hidden in a cloud. However, her fear is too great as Alpheus stalks around her and she sweats herself into a pool, whereupon Alpheus recognizes his prey and transforms back into his river form to join her.
Ceres departs in her chariot, landing in Athens and giving to Triptolemus both her chariot and seeds to scatter over many lands. He makes a journey across Europe, landing in the Scythian kingdom where Lyncus is king. The king, jealous of the boy’s means of travel, attempts to stab him, but Ceres transforms the king into a lynx, and Triptolemus escapes in the chariot.
And so with Calliope’s wonderful tales, the Nymphs wins the contest, and when insulted and jeered at by the Pierides, turn the nine sisters into insolent magpies.
The battle scene at the beginning of this book was so far from what I’d expect from a Greek battle that I still don’t know what to make of it. The battles in the Iliad, while bloody and fierce, still held a type of dignity and honour; this brawl of Ovid’s is a free-for-all. Perseus and his Medusa-head are almost becoming comical. Without it, he’d be quite a weak god.
More power-struggles and jealousy and competition and abductions. Ovid’s “song” is certainly repetitive.
|Ceres (Summer) – 1712