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pg 121Editor’s NoteBOOK VI


  • Link Pallas had listened to the tale she told
  • With warm approval of the Muses' song
  • And of their righteous rage. Then to herself—
  • 'To praise is not enough; I should have praise
  • Myself, not suffer my divinity
  • To be despised unscathed.' She had in mind
  • Arachne's* doom, the girl of Lydia,
  • Who in the arts of wool-craft claimed renown
  • (So she had heard) to rival hers. The girl
  • Had no distinction in her place of birth
  • Or pedigree, only that special skill.
  • Her father was Idmon* of Colophon,
  • Whose trade it was to dye the thirsty wool
  • With purple of Phocaea. She had lost
  • Her mother, but she too had been low-born
  • And matched her husband. Yet in all the towns
  • Of Lydia Arachne's work had won
  • A memorable name, although her home
  • Was humble and Hypaepae where she lived
  • Was humble too. To watch her wondrous work
  • The nymphs would often leave their vine-clad slopes
  • Of Tmolus, often leave Pactolus' stream,
  • Delighted both to see the cloth she wove
  • And watch her working too; such grace she had.
  • Forming the raw wool first into a ball,
  • Or fingering the flock and drawing out
  • Again and yet again the fleecy cloud
  • In long soft threads, or twirling with her thumb,
  • Her dainty thumb, the slender spindle, or
  • Embroidering the pattern—you would know
  • Pallas had trained her. Yet the girl denied it*
  • (A teacher so distinguished hurt her pride)
  • And said, 'Let her contend with me. Should I
  • Lose, there's no forfeit that I would not pay.'
  •   Pallas disguised herself as an old woman,

pg 122vi. 27–58

  • A fringe of false grey hair around her brow,
  • Her tottering steps supported by a stick,
  • And speaking to the girl, 'Not everything
  • That old age brings', she said, 'we'd wish to avoid.
  • With riper years we gain experience.
  • Heed my advice. Among the world of men
  • Seek for your wool-craft all the fame you will,
  • But yield the goddess place, and humbly ask
  • Pardon for those rash words of yours; she'll give
  • You pardon if you ask.' With blazing eyes
  • Arachne stared at her and left her work.
  • She almost struck her; anger strong and clear
  • Glowed as she gave the goddess (in disguise)
  • Her answer: 'You're too old, your brain has gone.
  • You've lived too long, your years have done for you.
  • Talk to your daughters, talk to your sons' wives!
  • My own advice is all I need. Don't think
  • Your words have any weight. My mind's unchanged.
  • Why doesn't Pallas come herself? Why should
  • She hesitate to match herself with me?'
  • Then Pallas said, 'She's come!' and threw aside
  • The old crone's guise and stood revealed. The nymphs
  • And Lydian women knelt in reverence.
  • Only Arachne had no fear. Yet she
  • Blushed all the same; a sudden colour tinged
  • Her cheeks against her will, then disappeared;
  • So when Aurora rises in the dawn,
  • The eastern sky is red and, as the sun
  • Climbs, in a little while is pale again.
  •   She stood by her resolve, setting her heart,
  • Her stupid heart, on victory, and rushed
  • To meet her fate. Nor did the child of Jove
  • Refuse or warn her further or postpone
  • The contest. Then, with no delay, they both,
  • Standing apart, set up their separate looms
  • And stretched the slender warp. The warp is tied
  • To the wide cross-beam; a cane divides the threads;
  • The pointed shuttles carry the woof through,
  • Sped by their fingers. When it's through the warp,
  • The comb's teeth, tapping, press it into place.

pg 123Editor’s Notevi. 59–92

  • Both work in haste, their dresses girdled tight
  • Below their breasts; the movements of their arms
  • Are skilled and sure; their zeal beguiles their toil.
  • Here purple threads that Tyrian vats have dyed
  • Are woven in, and subtle delicate tints
  • That change insensibly from shade to shade.
  • So when the sunshine strikes a shower of rain,
  • The bow's huge arc will paint the whole wide sky,
  • And countless different colours shine, yet each
  • Gradation dupes the gaze, the tints that touch
  • So similar, the extremes so far distinct.
  • Threads too of golden wire were woven in,
  • And on the loom an ancient tale was traced.
  •   The rock of Mars in Cecrops' citadel*
  • Is Pallas' picture and that old dispute*
  • About the name of Athens. Twelve great gods,
  • Jove in their midst, sit there on lofty thrones,
  • Grave and august, each pictured with his own
  • Familiar features: Jove in regal grace,
  • The Sea-god standing, striking the rough rock
  • With his tall trident, and the wounded rock
  • Gushing sea-brine, his proof to clinch his claim.
  • Herself she gives a shield, she gives a spear
  • Sharp-tipped, she gives a helmet for her head;
  • The aegis guards her breast, and from the earth,
  • Struck by her spear, she shows an olive tree,
  • Springing pale-green with berries on the boughs;
  • The gods admire; and Victory ends the work.
  • Yet to provide examples to instruct
  • Her rival what reward she should expect
  • For her insensate daring, she designed
  • In each of the four corners four small scenes
  • Of contest, brightly coloured miniatures.
  • There in one corner Thracian Rhodope
  • And Haemon,* icy mountains now, but once
  • Mortals, who claimed the names of gods most high.
  • Another showed the Pygmy matron's* doom,
  • Her pitiable doom, when Juno won
  • The contest and transformed her to a crane
  • And made her fight her folk, her kith and kin.

pg 124Editor’s Notevi. 93–123

  • Antigone* she pictured too, who once
  • Challenged the royal consort of great Jove.
  • And Juno changed her to a bird, and Troy
  • Availed her nothing nor Laomedon,
  • Her father—no! with snowy feathers clothed,
  • In self-applause she claps her stork's loud bill.
  • In the last corner Cinyras,* bereaved,
  • Embraced the temple steps, his daughters' limbs,
  • And lying on the marble seemed to weep.
  • All round the border ran an olive-branch,
  • The branch of peace.* That was the end, and she
  • Finished her picture with her own fair tree.
  •   Arachne shows* Europa cheated by
  • The bull's disguise, a real bull you'd think,*
  • And real sea. The girl was gazing at
  • The shore she'd left and calling to her friends,
  • Seeming to dread the leaping billows' touch,
  • Shrinking and drawing up her feet in fear.
  • Asterie* in the struggling eagle's clutch
  • She wove, and pictured Leda as she lay
  • Under the white swan's wings, and added too
  • How Jove once in a satyr's guise had got
  • Antiope with twins, and, as Amphitryon,
  • Bedded Alcmena; in a golden shower
  • Fooled Danae, Aegina in a flame,*
  • And as a shepherd snared Mnemosyne,*
  • And as a spotted serpent Proserpine.*
  • Neptune she drew, changed to a savage bull
  • For love of Canace; and Neptune too
  • Sired, as Enipeus, the Aloidae;*
  • Bisaltes' child* he cheated as a ram;
  • The corn's most gracious mother,* golden-haired,
  • Suffered him as a horse, and, as a bird,
  • The snake-tressed mother* of the flying steed;
  • And poor Melantho knew him as a dolphin.
  • To all of them Arachne gave their own
  • Features and proper features of the scene.
  • She wove too Phoebus in a herdsman's guise,*
  • And how he sometimes wore a lion's skin,
  • Sometimes hawk's plumage;* how he fooled Isse,

pg 125Editor’s Notevi. 124–52

  • Macareus' daughter, as a shepherd; how
  • Bacchus with bunches of false grapes deceived
  • Erigone,* and Saturn, as a horse,
  • Begot* the centaur Chiron. Round the edge
  • A narrow band of flowers she designed,
  • Flowers and clinging ivy intertwined.
  •   In all that work of hers Pallas could find,
  • Envy could find, no fault. Incensed at such
  • Success the warrior goddess, golden-haired,
  • Tore up the tapestry, those crimes of heaven,
  • And with the boxwood shuttle in her hand
  • (Box of Cytorus) three times, four times, struck
  • Arachne on her forehead. The poor wretch,
  • Unable to endure it, bravely placed
  • A noose around her neck; but, as she hung,
  • Pallas in pity raised her. 'Live!' she said,
  • 'Yes, live but hang, you wicked girl, and know
  • You'll rue the future too: that penalty
  • Your kin shall pay to all posterity!'
  • And as she turned to go, she sprinkled her
  • With drugs of Hecate,* and in a trice,
  • Touched by the bitter lotion, all her hair
  • Falls off and with it go her nose and ears.
  • Her head shrinks tiny; her whole body's small;
  • Instead of legs slim fingers line her sides.
  • The rest is belly; yet from that she sends
  • A fine-spun thread and, as a spider, still
  • Weaving her web, pursues her former skill.


  • All Lydia rang; the story raced abroad
  • Through Phrygia's towns and filled the world with talk.
  • Before her marriage Niobe had known
  • Arachne, when she lived in Lydia,
  • Near Sipylus, while still a girl. Even so
  • She took no warning from the punishment
  • Of her compatriot to give the gods
  • Their proper place and moderate her tongue.
  • Much made her haughty. Yet her husband's skill,*

pg 126Editor’s Notevi. 153–83

  • The high birth of them both, their kingdom's power,
  • Though all indeed gave pleasure, none could give
  • Such pleasure as her children. Niobe
  • Must have been thought the happiest of mothers,
  • Had she not thought so too. The prophetess,
  • Manto,* Tiresias' daughter, had been spurred
  • By heavenly promptings. Through the city's streets
  • She cried her holy call: 'Women of Thebes,
  • Come in your throngs, with bay wreaths round your hair,
  • And give Latona and her children twain
  • Incense and reverent worship. Through my lips
  • Latona calls!' And, in obedience, all
  • The Theban women wreathe their brows and bring
  • Their prayers and incense to the holy shrine.
  •   But here, escorted by a multitude
  • Of courtiers, comes Niobe, superb
  • In a shining Phrygian gown of woven gold.
  • Lovely she was, as far as rage allowed,
  • Tossing her graceful head and glorious hair
  • That fell upon her shoulders either side.
  • She stopped, and in her full height cast her gaze,
  • Her haughty gaze, around. 'What lunacy
  • Makes you prefer a fabled god', she said,
  • 'To gods you see? Latona, why should her
  • Shrine be revered, when my divinity
  • Lacks incense still? My father's Tantalus,*
  • The only mortal gods in heaven allowed
  • To share their banquet-board. My mother* ranks
  • As sister of the Pleiads. That great giant,
  • Atlas,* whose shoulders bear the circling sky,
  • Is one grandfather; Jupiter the other,*
  • My husband's father too I'm proud to say.
  • The Phrygian nation fears me. I am mistress
  • Of Cadmus' royal house; our city's walls,
  • Built by my husband's music, and our people
  • Are ruled by him and me.* Enormous wealth
  • I see throughout my home wherever I turn
  • My gaze; and godlike beauty too is mine.
  • Then add my seven sons and seven daughters
  • And soon my sons' wives and my sons-in-law.

pg 127Editor’s Notevi. 184–216

  • Now ask yourselves the reason for my pride,
  • And dare prefer me to that Titan's child,
  • Whom Coeus sired, whoever he may be,
  • Latona whom the great globe once refused
  • The smallest spot to give her children birth.*
  • Not earth, nor sky, nor water would accept
  • Your goddess, outcast from the world, until
  • Delos took pity on her wanderings
  • And said, "You roam the land and I the sea,*
  • Homeless", and gave her drifting refuge there.
  • She bore two children;* so her womb was worth
  • A seventh part of mine. O happy me!
  • (Who would deny it?) and happy I'll remain
  • (Who could doubt that?). My riches make me safe.
  • Yes, I'm too great to suffer Fortune's blows;
  • Much she may take, yet more than much she'll leave.
  • My blessings banish fear. Suppose some part
  • Of this my clan of children could be lost,
  • And I bereft, I'll never be reduced
  • To two, Latona's litter—near enough
  • Childless! Away with you! Enough of this!
  • Remove those laurels from your hair!' With wreaths
  • Removed, they left the ritual unfinished.
  • They worshipped, as they might, in silent words.
  •   The goddess was outraged; upon the peak
  • Of Cynthus* she addressed her pair of twins:
  • 'I, here, your mother, proud to have borne you both,
  • I, who will give no goddess precedence
  • Save Juno, find that my divinity
  • Is doubted and unless you children help
  • I'm barred from shrines and altars evermore.
  • Nor is this all that hurts. To injury
  • Tantalus' child adds insults. Yes, she dares
  • Set her own children above you, and calls
  • Me childless—may that fall on her own head!
  • Her wicked tongue shows her paternity!'*
  • To this sad tale Latona had in mind
  • To add too her entreaties, when 'Enough!'
  • Said Phoebus, 'Long complaints do but delay
  • The punishment', and Phoebe said the same.

pg 128vi. 217–50

  • Then clothed in cloud they glided swiftly down
  • And reached the citadel of Cadmus' town.
  •   Beside the walls there spread a practice-ground,
  • A broad flat level, trampled endlessly
  • By horses, all the surface sandy-soft
  • Beneath the hard hooves and the thronging wheels.
  • Some of Amphion's seven sons had there
  • Mounted their mettled chargers, reining them
  • With bright gold-studded bridles, and astride
  • Caparisons of purple pageantry.
  • The first-born son, Ismenus, with tight rein
  • And foaming bit, was circling round the ring,
  • When suddenly he cried in pain—an arrow
  • Had pierced him to the heart. His dying hands
  • Let the reins fall and slowly he sank down,
  • Collapsing sideways from his mount's right flank.
  • Next Sipylus who heard in the empty air
  • A quiver's rattling sound, shook out his reins,
  • As when a master of a ship has seen
  • Storm-clouds and runs for safety, crowding on
  • All canvas to catch every breath of wind.
  • He shook the reins, but inescapable
  • The arrow followed him and in his nape
  • Stuck quivering, and from his throat in front
  • The bare steel thrust. Hunched forward as he was,
  • Over the flying mane and racing legs
  • He pitched and fouled the ground with his hot blood.
  • Then ill-starred Phaedimus, and Tantalus
  • Endowed with his grandfather's name, had made
  • An end to their habitual exercise
  • And turned to wrestling, shining sport of youth,
  • And now were locked and struggling breast to breast,
  • When, sped from the taut string, an arrow pierced
  • The pair of them, close clinching as they were.
  • Both gave a groan, both writhed in pain and fell;
  • Both, as they lay there, rolled their dying eyes,
  • And both together breathed their lives away.
  • Alphenor saw them, beat and bruised his breast,
  • And flew to lift their cold limbs in his arms,
  • And in that loyal service fell. Apollo

pg 129Editor’s Notevi. 251–84

  • Severed his vitals with a shaft of doom,
  • And, as it was withdrawn, part of his lung
  • Was dragged out on the barbs and life and blood
  • Streamed forth into the air. But Damasichthon,
  • A long-haired lad, was wounded more than once,
  • Struck first just where the lower leg begins,
  • That soft and sinewy spot behind the knee,
  • And while he struggled to extract the shaft,
  • The fatal shaft, a second arrow struck
  • And drove right to the feathers through his throat:
  • The blood expelled the arrow,* spurting high
  • In a long leaping jet that bored the air.
  • Ilioneus, last, held out his arms in prayer,
  • Prayer profitless, crying 'All ye Gods in heaven',
  • Not knowing that he need not ask them all,
  • 'Have mercy!' and the Archer-god was moved—
  • Too late: the shaft was now beyond recall.
  • Yet was the wound that laid Ilioneus low
  • The least; the arrow barely pierced his heart.
  •   Rumours of havoc, sorrow in the streets,
  • Her household's tears brought Niobe the news,
  • News of her sudden ruin. She was shocked
  • That it could happen, angry that the gods
  • Had dared so far, that they possessed such power.
  • (The father, Amphion,* had already plunged
  • A dagger in his heart and by his death
  • Ended both life and grief.) Ah, Niobe!
  • Alas! how unlike now that Niobe
  • Who drove the Thebans from Latona's shrine,
  • Who walked her city's streets with head so high,
  • The envy of her friends—whom now her foes,
  • Even her foes, must pity! On the cold
  • Corpses she threw herself and gave her last
  • Kisses convulsively to all her sons.
  • Then raising her bruised arms to heaven, she cried
  • 'Feast, cruel Latona, feast upon my grief!
  • Yes, glut your savage heart! On seven biers
  • I'm borne. Exult! Triumph in victory!
  • Even so, why victory? My wretchedness
  • Link Still gives me more than you your happiness:

pg 130Editor’s Notevi. 285–316

  • After so many deaths I triumph still!'
  •   Hard on her words a bowstring twanged, and all
  • Were terrified, save only Niobe.
  • Disaster made her bold. In robes of black,
  • With hair unbound, beside their brothers' biers
  • The sisters stood. One of them, as she wrenched
  • An arrow from her vitals, swooned away,
  • Her cheek upon her brother. One, who tried
  • To comfort her poor mother, suddenly
  • Was silent, doubled by an unseen wound.
  • One, in vain flight, collapsed; another died
  • Upon her sister. One concealed herself,
  • One trembled there for all to see. So six
  • With one wound or another met their deaths.
  • The last was left. Her mother shielded her
  • With her whole body, her whole dress, and cried,
  • 'Leave me my one, my littlest! Of them all
  • I crave this one, my littlest!' As she begged,
  • The one she begged for fell. She sat bereft
  • Amid her sons, her daughters and her husband,
  • All lifeless corpses, rigid in her ruin.
  • Her hair no breeze can stir; her cheeks are drained
  • And bloodless; in her doleful face her eyes
  • Stare fixed and hard—a likeness without life.
  • So too inside; that tongue of hers congeals;
  • Her palate's hard; no pulse beats in her veins;
  • No way for neck to bend nor arms to wave
  • Nor feet to walk; and all within is stone.
  • Yet still she weeps, and in a whirling wind
  • Is swept back to her homeland. Fastened there
  • Upon a mountain peak* she pines away,
  • And tears drip from that marble to this day.
  •   Then every man and woman, all of them,
  • Dreaded the goddess' wrath made manifest,
  • And worshipped more devoutly the divine
  • Power of the mother of the heavenly pair.
  • And, as will happen, new tales bring back old,
  • And one of them this story then retold.

pg 131vi. 317–47Editor’s Notethe lycian peasants

  • 'In Lycia's fertile fields once, long ago,
  • The peasants scorned Latona—not unscathed.
  • It's not a thing well known—the men of course
  • Being low-born louts*—but marvellous all the same.
  • I saw with my own eyes the lake and place
  • Famed for the miracle. For my old father,
  • Too old by then, too worn to take the road,
  • Had charged me to retrieve some special steers
  • And given me a Lycian for guide.
  • With him I traversed those far pasture-lands,
  • When, standing in the middle of a mere,
  • And black with ash of sacrifice, behold
  • An ancient altar, ringed with waving reeds.
  • My guide stood still and muttered anxiously
  • "Be gracious to me!" and I muttered too
  • "Be gracious!"; then I asked him if the altar
  • Was built to Faunus or the Naiads or
  • Some local god, and he gave this reply.
  • "Not so, my lad, no mountain deity
  • Enjoys this altar; it is claimed by her
  • Whom once the queen of heaven barred from the world,
  • Whom drifting Delos scarcely dared consent
  • To harbour, when that island swam the sea.
  • There, leaning on a palm and Pallas' tree,*
  • Latona in spite of Juno bore her twins;
  • From there again she fled the wife of Jove,
  • Hugging her new-born infants, both divine.
  • And now in Lycia, the Chimaera's* land,
  • The flaming sun beat down upon the fields;
  • The goddess, tired by her long toil, was parched
  • With thirst, so hot heaven's torrid star; the babes
  • Had drained their mother's milk and cried for more.
  • She chanced to see, down in the dale below,
  • A mere of no great size. Some farmfolk there
  • Were gathering reeds and leafy osiers
  • And sedge that marshes love. Reaching the edge,
  • Latona knelt upon the ground to drink
  • The cooling water, knelt to drink her fill.

pg 132Editor’s Notevi. 348–81

  • The group of yokels stopped her. 'Why?' said she,
  • 'Why keep me from the water? Everyone
  • Has right to water.* Nature never made
  • The sunshine private nor the air we breathe,
  • Nor limpid water. No! A common right
  • I've reached. Even so I ask, I humbly ask,
  • Please give it me. I do not mean to wash,
  • Or bathe my weary limbs, only to quench
  • My thirst. My mouth is dry, as I am speaking,
  • My throat is parched, words hardly find a way.
  • A drink of water—nectar it will be,
  • And life, believe me, too; life you will give
  • With water. And these babies here, who stretch
  • Their little arms, must touch your hearts.' It chanced*
  • The twins stretched out their arms. Whom could those words,
  • Those gentle words the goddess spoke, not touch?
  • Despite her pleas they stopped her, adding threats
  • Unless she went away, and insults too.
  • And, not content with that, they even stirred
  • The pond with hands and feet, and on the bottom
  • Kicked the soft mud about* in spiteful leaps.
  •   Her thirst gave way to anger. Of such boors
  • She'd ask no favour now, nor speak again
  • In tones beneath a goddess. Raising her hands
  • To heaven, 'Live in that pool of yours', she cried,
  • 'For evermore!' And what she wished came true.
  • They love to live in water; sometimes all
  • Their bodies plunge within the pool's embrace;
  • Sometimes their heads pop up; often they swim
  • Upon the surface, often squat and rest
  • Upon the swampy bank and then jump back
  • To the cool pond; but even now they flex
  • Their squalid tongues in squabbling,* and beneath
  • The water try to croak a watery curse.
  • Their voice is harsh, their throats are puffed and swollen;
  • Their endless insults stretch their big mouths wide;
  • Their loathsome heads protrude, their necks seem lost;
  • Their backs are green; their bodies' biggest part,
  • Their bellies, white; and in the muddy pond
  • They leap and splash about—new-fangled frogs." '

pg 133vi. 382–408Editor’s Notemarsyas

  • Then, when whoever it was had told the doom
  • Those Lycian peasants met, someone recalled
  • The satyr who had lost to Leto's son
  • The contest when he played Minerva's pipe,
  • And paid the penalty. 'No! no!' he screamed,
  • 'Why tear me from myself? Oh, I repent!
  • A pipe's not worth the price!' and as he screamed
  • Apollo stripped his skin; the whole of him
  • Was one huge wound, blood streaming everywhere,
  • Sinews laid bare, veins naked, quivering
  • And pulsing. You could count his twitching guts,
  • And the tissues as the light shone through his ribs.
  • The countryfolk, the sylvan deities,
  • The fauns and brother satyrs and the nymphs,
  • All were in tears,* Olympus* too, still loved,
  • And every swain who fed his fleecy flocks
  • And long-horned cattle on those mountainsides.
  • The fertile earth grew moist and, moistened, held
  • Their falling tears and drank them deep into
  • Her veins and, changing them to water there,
  • Issued them forth into the open air;
  • And thence a river hurries to the sea
  • Through falling banks, the river Marsyas,
  • The freshest, clearest stream of Phrygia.


  • From tales like these the townsfolk quickly turned
  • To present things and mourned Amphion dead,
  • Perished with all his line. The blame was laid
  • Upon the mother. Even then one man,
  • Pelops, they say, shed tears for her, and when
  • He tore his robe apart revealed his left
  • Shoulder of ivory. This at his birth
  • Was flesh and matched the colour of his right,
  • And later, when his father* carved him up,
  • The gods rejoined the parts and all were found

pg 134Editor’s Notevi. 409–37

  • Save one between the neck and upper arm.
  • An ivory block was inset to replace
  • The missing piece, and that made Pelops whole.

tereus, procne, and philomela

  • Leaders from neighbouring lands assembled there
  • And cities near at hand besought their kings
  • To visit Thebes with words of sympathy—
  • Mycenae, Pelops' pride, Argos and Sparta;
  • Messene fierce in battle; Calydon,
  • Not yet* the victim of Diana's hate;
  • Fertile Orchomenus, and Corinth famed
  • For bronzes*; Patrae, humble Cleonae,
  • And Pylos, Neleus' town, and Troezen too,
  • Where Pittheus later reigned;* and all the towns
  • The twin-sea'd Isthmus locks, and all the towns
  • Outside at which the twin-sea'd Isthmus looks.
  • Athens alone (who could believe it?) lagged.
  • War thwarted such a service. Sea-borne bands
  • Of wild barbarians held her walls in fear.
  • Tereus of Thrace with his relieving force
  • Had routed them and won a victor's fame;
  • And, seeing he was strong in wealth and men
  • And, as it happened, traced his lineage
  • From Mars* himself, Pandion gave his child,
  • Procne, in marriage, thus to link their lines.
  • When they were married, Juno was not there*
  • To bless the rite, nor Hymen nor the Graces.
  • The Furies held the torches, torches seized
  • From mourners' hands; the Furies made their bed.
  • An unclean screech-owl like a nightmare sat
  • Above their chamber on the palace roof.
  • That bird* haunted the couple's union,
  • That bird haunted their parenthood. Of course
  • Tereus' and Procne's marriage gave delight
  • To Thrace, and they too gave the gods their thanks;
  • And those glad days when that illustrious prince
  • Married Pandion's child, and when their son,
  • Itys, was born were named as holidays:

pg 135vi. 438–70

  • So deep men's true advantage lies concealed.
  •   Now season followed season, as the sun
  • Led on the years; five autumns glided by,
  • And Procne coaxed her husband, 'If my love
  • Finds any favour, give me leave to visit
  • My sister, or invite my sister here,
  • Giving my father your sure word that she
  • Will soon return. To see her once again
  • Will be a gift most precious.' So her husband
  • Had his ship launched, and gained by sail and oar
  • Athens' great port and reached Piraeus' shore.
  •   There King Pandion gave him audience,
  • And hand clasped hand, their meeting seemed set fair.
  • He had begun to speak of Procne's plan,
  • The reason of his visit, and to pledge
  • Her sister's swift return, when suddenly
  • In entered Philomela, richly robed
  • In gorgeous finery, and richer still
  • Her beauty; such the beauty of the nymphs,
  • Naiads and Dryads, as we used to hear,
  • Walking the woodland ways, could one but give
  • The nymphs such finery, such elegance.
  • The sight of her set Tereus' heart ablaze
  • As stubble leaps to flame when set on fire,
  • Or fodder blazes, stored above the byre.
  • Her looks deserved his love; but inborn lust
  • Goaded him too, for men of that rough race
  • Are warm for wenching:* Thracian villainy
  • Joined flaring with his own. An impulse came
  • To bribe her retinue, suborn her nurse,
  • Even assail the girl herself with gifts,
  • Huge gifts, and pay his kingdom for the price—
  • Or ravish her and then defend the rape
  • In bloody war. Nothing he would not do,
  • Nothing not dare, as passion drove unreined,
  • A furnace barely in his heart contained.
  •   Now he'll not linger and turns eagerly
  • To Procne's plan again, and under hers
  • Forwards his own. Love made him eloquent;
  • And, if at times he pressed his pleas too far,

pg 136Editor’s Notevi. 471–500

  • Why, Procne wished it so; he even wept,
  • As if she'd ordered tears. Ye Gods above,
  • How black the night that blinds our human hearts!
  • The pains he took for sin appeared to prove
  • His loyalty; his villainy won praise.
  • Why, Philomela had the same desire,
  • And threw her arms around her father's neck,
  • And begged him, as he wished her happiness,
  • (Alas for happiness!) to let her go.
  • As Tereus watched, already in his thoughts
  • He fondled her, and when he saw her kisses
  • And how she hugged Pandion, everything
  • Thrust like a goad, his passion's food and fire.
  • As she embraced her father, would he were
  • Himself her father! Nor would his sin be less!
  •   Pandion yields, since both his daughters plead,
  • And, filled with joy, she thanks him. Hapless girl,
  • She thinks they both have won a victory,
  • Though what both won will end in tragedy.
  •   Now the Sun's team, the day's toil nearly done,
  • Were pounding down the slope that led them home.
  • A royal banquet was arrayed, with wine
  • In golden goblets, and anon they lay
  • Relaxed in slumber. But the Thracian king,
  • Though he too had retired, was simmering
  • With thoughts of her, as he recalled her face,
  • Her hands and gestures, and his mind's eye shaped,
  • To suit his fancy, charms he'd not yet seen.
  • He fuelled his own fire, and, as he lay,
  • The turmoil in his heart drove sleep away.
  •   Daylight had come, and now, as Tereus left,
  • Pandion wrung him by the hand and gave
  • His daughter to his trust with many a tear:
  • 'My son, since links of love leave me no choice,
  • And both have set their hearts (and your heart too,
  • My son, is set), I give her to your keeping;
  • And I beseech you by your honour, by the ties
  • Of family and by the gods above,
  • To guard her with a father's love and send
  • Back soon (each waiting day will be so long)

pg 137Editor’s Notevi. 501–32

  • The darling solace of my sombre age.
  • And you too, Philomela, if you love
  • Your father, come back soon—it is enough
  • That your dear sister is so far from home.'
  • So he adjured them, weeping tenderly,
  • And kissed his child goodbye, and took their hands
  • And joined them, his and hers, to seal their pledge
  • And charged them to remember his fond love
  • To Procne and his grandson far away.
  • He scarce could say farewell for sobs and tears,
  • Such dire forebodings filled his soul with fears.
  •   Once Philomel was on the painted ship
  • And the oars struck and thrust the land away,
  • 'I've won!' he cried, 'I've won! My dearest wish
  • Is mine on board with me!' His heart leapt high;
  • The brute could hardly wait to seize his joys,
  • And never turned his eyes away from her.
  • So, when Jove's bird of prey* has caught a hare
  • And in his talons carries it aloft
  • To his high nest, the captive has no chance
  • Of flight, the captor gloats over his prize.
  •   The voyage now is done, and now they leave
  • The weary ship and land on their own shore;
  • And then the king drags off Pandion's daughter
  • Up to a cabin in the woods, remote
  • And hidden away among dark ancient trees,
  • And there pale, trembling, fearing everything,
  • Weeping and asking where her sister was,
  • He locked her, and revealed his own black heart
  • And ravished her, a virgin, all alone,
  • Calling and calling to her father, calling to
  • Her sister, calling, even more, to heaven above.
  • She shivered like a little frightened lamb,
  • Mauled by a grizzled wolf and cast aside,
  • And still unable to believe it's safe;
  • Or as a dove, with feathers dripping blood,
  • Still shudders in its fear, still dreads the claws,
  • The eager claws that clutched it. In a while,
  • When sense returned, she tore her tumbled hair,
  • And like a mourner bruised her arms, and cried

pg 138Editor’s Notevi. 533–66

  • With outstretched hands, 'You brute! You cruel brute!
  • Do you care nothing for the charge, the tears
  • Of my dear father, for my sister's love,
  • For my virginity, your marriage vows?
  • All is confused! I'm made a concubine,
  • My sister's rival; you're a husband twice,
  • And Procne ought to be my enemy!
  • You traitor, why not take, to crown your crimes,
  • My life as well? Would God you'd taken it
  • Before you wreaked your wickedness: my ghost
  • Had then been free from guilt. Yet, if the gods
  • Are watching, if heaven's power means anything,
  • Unless my ruin's shared by all the world,
  • You'll pay my score one day. I'll shed my shame
  • And shout what you have done. If I've the chance,
  • I'll walk among the crowds: or, if I'm held
  • Locked in the woods, my voice shall fill the woods
  • And move the rocks to pity. This bright sky
  • Shall hear, and any god that dwells on high!'
  •   In anger at her words and fear no less,
  • Goaded by both, that brutal despot drew
  • His dangling sword and seized her by the hair,
  • And forced her arms behind her back and bound
  • Them fast; and Philomela, seeing the sword,
  • Offered her throat and hoped she would have died.
  • But as she fought, outraged, for words and called
  • Her father's name continually, he seized
  • Her tongue with tongs and, with his brutal sword,
  • Cut it away. The root jerked to and fro;
  • The tongue lay on the dark soil muttering
  • And wriggling, as the tail cut off a snake
  • Wriggles, and, as it died, it tried to reach
  • Its mistress' feet.* Even after that dire deed
  • Men say (could I believe it), lusting still,
  • Often on the poor maimed girl he worked his will.
  •   After this bestial business he returns,
  • Brazen, to Procne. When they meet, she asks
  • Her husband for her sister, and he groans
  • As if in grief and tells a lying tale
  • About her death, with tears to prove it true.

pg 139Editor’s Notevi. 567–96

  • Then Procne snatches off her gleaming robe,
  • With its wide golden fringe, and clothes herself
  • In weeds of black and builds a cenotaph,
  • With offerings to the ghost that is no ghost,
  • And mourns her darling sister's tragedy,
  • And right she was to mourn—though differently.
  •   Through all the twelve bright signs of heaven the sun
  • Had journeyed and a whole long year had passed.
  • But what could Philomela do? A guard
  • Closed her escape, the cabin's walls were built
  • Of solid stone, her speechless lips could tell
  • No tale of what was done. But there's a fund
  • Of talent in distress, and misery
  • Learns cunning. On a clumsy native loom
  • She wove a clever fabric, working words
  • In red on a white ground to tell the tale
  • Of wickedness, and, when it was complete,
  • Entrusted it to a woman and by signs
  • Asked her to take it to the queen; and she
  • Took it, as asked, to Procne, unaware
  • What it contained. The savage monarch's wife
  • Unrolled the cloth and read the tragic tale*
  • Of her calamity—and said no word
  • (It seemed a miracle, but anguish locked
  • Her lips). Her tongue could find no speech to match
  • Her outraged anger; no room here for tears;
  • She stormed ahead, confusing right and wrong,
  • Her whole soul filled with visions of revenge.
  •   It was the time of Bacchus' festival,
  • Kept by the Thracian women each three years.
  • Night knows their sacraments; at night the peaks
  • Of Rhodope resound with ringing bronze;
  • At night the queen, arrayed to celebrate
  • The rites, went forth with frenzy's weaponry.
  • Vines wreathed her head, a light spear lay upon
  • Her shoulder and a deerskin draped her side.
  • Wild with her troop of women through the woods
  • She rushed, a sight of terror, frenzied by
  • The grief that maddened her, the image of
  • A real Bacchanal. At last she reached

pg 140Editor’s Notevi. 597–629

  • The lonely hut and, screaming Bacchic cries,
  • Broke down the door, burst in and seized her sister,
  • Garbed her in Bacchic gear and hid her face,
  • Concealed in ivy leaves, and brought the girl
  • Back, in a daze, inside her palace wall.
  •   Then Philomela, when she realized
  • That she had reached that house of wickedness,
  • Shuddered in horror and turned deathly pale.
  • And Procne, in a private place, removed
  • The emblems of the revels and revealed
  • Her sister's face, a face of misery
  • And shame, and took her in her arms. But she,
  • Convinced that she had wronged her, could not bear
  • To meet her eyes and, gazing on the ground,
  • She made her hands speak for her voice, to swear
  • By all the gods in heaven that her disgrace
  • Was forced on her. Then Procne,* in a flame
  • Of anger uncontrolled, sweeping aside
  • Her sister's tears, 'This is no time for tears,
  • But for the sword', she cried, 'or what may be
  • Mightier than the sword. For any crime
  • I'm ready, Philomel! I'll set on fire
  • These royal roofs and bury in the blaze
  • That scheming fiend. I'll gouge his wicked eyes!
  • I'll pluck his tongue out, cut away those parts
  • That stole your honour, through a thousand wounds
  • I'll sluice his guilty soul! Some mighty deed
  • I'll dare, I'll do, though what that deed shall be,
  • Is still unsure.' As Procne spoke, her son,
  • Itys, approached—she knew what she could do!
  • Looking at him with ruthless eyes, she said
  • 'You're like, so like your father!' and she planned
  • In silent rage a deed of tragedy.
  • Yet as the boy came close and greeted her
  • And hugged her, as she stooped, in his small arms,
  • And mingled kisses with sweet childish words
  • Of love, her mother's heart was touched, her rage
  • Stood checked and broken, and, despite herself
  • Her eyes were wet with tears that forced their way.
  • Link But then she felt her will was faltering—

pg 141vi. 630–59

  • She loved him well, too well—and turned again
  • To Philomel, and gazing at them both
  • In turn, 'Why, why', she cried, 'can one of them
  • Speak words of love and the other has no tongue
  • To speak at all? Why, when he calls me mother,
  • Does she not call me sister? See, just see,
  • Whom you have married, you, Pandion's daughter!
  • Will you betray your birth? For such a husband,
  • For Tereus, love and loyalty are crimes!'
  • Then—with no pause—she pounced on Itys, like
  • A tigress pouncing on a suckling fawn
  • In the dark jungle where the Ganges glides,
  • And dragged him to a distant lonely part
  • Of the great house. He saw his fate and cried
  • 'Mother! Mother!' and tried to throw his arms
  • Around her neck. She struck him with a knife
  • Below his ribs, and never even looked
  • Away; one wound sufficed to seal his fate.
  • And Philomela slit his throat. Alive,
  • And breathing still, they carved and jointed him,
  • And cooked the parts; some bubbled in a pan,
  • Some hissed on spits; the closet swam with blood.
  •   Then to the banquet Procne called her husband,
  • Unwitting, unsuspecting, and dismissed
  • The courtiers and servants: on this day,
  • So she pretended, at her father's court,
  • This holy day, the husband dines alone.
  • So, seated high on his ancestral throne,
  • King Tereus dines and, dining, swallows down
  • Flesh of his flesh, and calls, so dark the night
  • That blinds him, 'Bring young Itys here to me!'
  • Oh joy! She cannot hide her cruel joy,
  • And, bursting to announce her deed of doom,
  • 'You have him here', she cries, 'inside!' and he
  • Looks round, asks where he is, and, as he asks
  • And calls again, in rushes Philomel,
  • Just as she is, that frantic butchery
  • Still spattered in her hair, and throws the head
  • Of Itys, bleeding, in his father's face.
  • She never wanted more her tongue to express

pg 142Editor’s Notevi. 660–89

  • Her joy in words that matched her happiness!
  •   With a great shout the Thracian king thrust back
  • The table, calling from the chasms of Hell
  • The snake-haired Furies. Gladly, if he could,
  • He'd tear himself apart to vomit back
  • That frightful feast, that flesh of his own flesh.
  • He wept and wailed and called himself his son's
  • Disastrous tomb, then with his naked sword
  • Pursued Pandion's daughters. As they flee,
  • You'd think they float on wings. Yes, sure enough,
  • They float on wings! One daughter seeks the woods,
  • One rises to the roof;* and even now
  • The marks of murder show upon a breast
  • And feathers carry still the stamp of blood.
  • And he, grief-spurred, swift-swooping for revenge,
  • Is changed into a bird that bears a crest,
  • With, for a sword, a long fantastic bill—
  • A hoopoe, every inch a fighter still.

boreas and orithyia

  • His sorrow sent Pandion to the shades
  • Of Tartarus before his time, before
  • His long old age had reached its last full term.
  • Erechtheus held the sceptre and control,
  • A prince whose excellence might seem no less
  • In justice than in arms. Four sons he had,
  • Four daughters also, two of whom were matched
  • In beauty; Procris was the happy bride
  • Of Cephalus, but Boreas, whose love
  • Was Orithyia,* found the ill-repute
  • Of Tereus and his Thracians damaging,
  • And long he'd been without his heart's desire
  • While he preferred to woo with words not force.
  • But when fair speeches failed him, anger stormed,
  • The north wind's too familiar mood at home.
  • 'Yes, I deserved it! Why, oh, why', he said,
  • 'Did I give up my armoury, my wrath,
  • My blustering threats, my force, my savagery,
  • And take to grovelling and disgrace myself?

pg 143Editor’s Notevi. 680–721

  • Force is what fits me, force! By force I drive
  • The weeping clouds, by force I whip the sea,
  • Send gnarled oaks crashing, pack the drifts of snow,
  • And hurl the hailstones down upon the lands.
  • I, when I meet my brothers in the sky,
  • The open sky, my combat field, I fight
  • And wrestle with such force that heaven's height
  • Resounds with our collisions and a blaze
  • Of fire struck from the hollow clouds leaps forth.
  • I, when I've pierced earth's vaulted passageways
  • And in her deepest caverns strain and heave
  • My angry shoulders, I put ghosts in fear,
  • And with those tremors terrify the world.*
  • Such means I should have used my wife to gain;
  • By force I should have won, not wooed in vain!'
  • With words like these or others no less high,
  • He waved his wings and, as they beat, the whole
  • World felt the blast and all the wide sea surged.
  • Trailing his dusty cloak across the peaks,
  • He swept the ground and, clothed in darkness, wrapped
  • Terrified Orithyia in his wings,
  • His loving tawny wings,* and as he flew
  • His fire was fanned and flared. The ravisher
  • Held on his airy course until he reached
  • The peopled cities of the Cicones.
  • There the princess of Attica became
  • Wife of the icy king and mother too,
  • Mother of twins, who had their father's wings,
  • Though all else from their mother. Yet the boys
  • Weren't born, it's said, with wings and, while their beards
  • Were still ungrown below their auburn locks,
  • Both Calais and Zeto were unwinged.
  • But later as their cheeks grew yellow down,
  • So, like a bird, wings lapped them on each side.
  • And thus it was that when their boyhood years
  • Gave place to manhood, with the Argonauts,
  • On that first ship* across the unknown sea
  • They sailed to seek the gleaming Golden Fleece.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1–145 arachne. Minerva (Athene) now assumes an active role: as the Muses had punished the Pierides for their presumption, so she determines to punish Arachne for a similar offence. This is the first of a series of tales of divine vengeance.
Editor’s Note
5 Arachne: the word means 'spider' in Greek; it is connected etymologically with Latin aranea, 'web' or 'spider'.
Editor’s Note
8 Idmon: 'Knowing'.
Editor’s Note
24 denied it: all such gifts come from 'God', so Arachne's denial and her self-sufficiency are blasphemous. This must be the justification for Minerva's apparently unjust and arbitrary revenge.
Editor’s Note
70 in Cecrops' citadel: arx here stands for 'city'; Ovid knew that the Areopagus is not on the Acropolis.
Editor’s Note
71 that old dispute: between Minerva and Neptune, to determine who should be the city's patron deity; it is frequently alluded to from Herodotus (viii. 55) onwards. The scene was portrayed on the west gable of the Parthenon by Phidias. Minerva's choice of subject is in itself an implicit warning of the folly of challenging her. The lesson is underlined by the four subsidiary vignettes.
Editor’s Note
87 Rhodope … Haemon: brother and sister; they compounded their incest by calling each other Zeus (Jupiter) and Hera (Juno).
Editor’s Note
90 the Pygmy matron: Oenoe; no other source mentions a contest between her and Juno. The enmity between the cranes and the pygmies was famous from Homer onwards (Iliad iii. 3 ff.).
Editor’s Note
93 Antigone: a Trojan heroine who boasted of her beauty; again it is only in Ovid that we hear of a 'contest'.
Editor’s Note
98 Cinyras: the story is known only from this passage.
Editor’s Note
101 The branch of peace: in the circumstances an ironical touch.
Editor’s Note
103 Arachne shows …: in contrast to Minerva's calm, stately, and symmetrical composition, Arachne provocatively offers a hectic anthology of divine delinquency (l. 131 'crimes of heaven') at the expense of deluded women. Cf. v. 319 n. The scores are as follows: Jupiter 9, Neptune 6, Apollo 4, Bacchus and Saturn 1 each. Ovid, of course, improves the occasion by a display of recondite mythological learning.
Editor’s Note
104 you'd think: a common appreciative formula, ancient art being esteemed as it was representational; in this case 'you' would have been wrong, since it was Jupiter in disguise.
Editor’s Note
108 Asterie: this particular episode is otherwise unattested.
Editor’s Note
113 in a flame: this is unique to Ovid; elsewhere the disguise is the familiar eagle. Aegina's son by Jupiter was Aeacus, king of the island which he called after his mother (vii. 474).
Editor’s Note
114 Mnemosyne: mother by Jupiter of the Muses; the disguise is otherwise unattested.
Proserpine: incest into the bargain, for she was his daughter. The offspring of this union was the 'chthonic' Dionysus Zagreus (Callimachus, Frag. 43. 117 Pfeiffer).
Editor’s Note
117 the Aloidae: the giants Otus and Ephialtes; their mother was Iphimedia. This variant is attested only here. Better known is the version in which Neptune impersonated Enipeus to seduce Tyro (Homer, Odyssey xi. 235 ff.).
Bisaltes' child: Theophane. She bore the ram with the Golden Fleece.
Editor’s Note
118 The corn's most gracious mother: Ceres; as Demeter Erinys she took the shape of a mare.
Editor’s Note
119 The snake-tressed mother: Medusa; see iv. 615 n., 791 n. The bird-disguise is otherwise unattested.
Editor’s Note
122 a herdsman's guise: when he was in love with Admetus; see ii. 683 n.
Editor’s Note
123 a lion's skin … hawk's plumage: nothing is known of these stories.
Editor’s Note
125 Erigone: presumbly Bacchus took on the form of a bunch of grapes. Erigone was an important figure in Attic legend (x. 448–51 n.), but this episode is otherwise unknown.
Editor’s Note
126 Begot: on Philyra.
Editor’s Note
139 Hecate: daughter of Asterie (above, vi. 108 n.), an Underworld goddess sometimes identified with Diana (Artemis), and associated with ghosts and witchcraft. How Minerva happened to have these drugs by her (for the metamorphosis itself arises from an unforeseen impulse of pity) or why she should need them anyway Ovid does not explain.
Editor’s Note
146–317 niobe. This story was familiar from Homer onwards (Iliad xxiv. 599 ff.), both in literature and art, but Ovid's is the only full poetical treatment extant.
Editor’s Note
152 her husband's skill: Amphion and Zethus were the twin sons of Jupiter and Antiope (above, l. 111). The walls of Thebes built themselves to the music of Amphion's lyre (below, ll. 178–9).
Editor’s Note
157 Manto: apparently introduced into the story by Ovid. Her warning echoes that of her father Tiresias to Pentheus (iii. 514 ff.) and so helps to motivate Niobe's defiance and accentuate her insolence.
Editor’s Note
172 Tantalus: ironical: Tantalus had abused his privilege of intimacy with the gods and had been duly punished (iv. 457 ff. n.).
Editor’s Note
174 My mother: Dione; in Homer (Iliad v. 370–1) mother of Aphrodite (Venus) and often later identified with her.
Atlas: more irony, as will appear, for he had been turned to stone (iv. 631 ff.).
Editor’s Note
176 Jupiter the other: as father of Tantalus.
Editor’s Note
177–9 The Phrygian … by him and me: in the Latin the repeated personal pronouns (me … me … mei … me) are in the style of a hymn (cf. iv. 16 n.). Niobe praises herself as if she really were a goddess.
Editor’s Note
187 to give her children birth: the story had been told in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo and more fully by Callimachus in his hymn to Delos (IV).
Editor’s Note
190 I the sea: cf. below, ll. 333–4. Delos was a floating island until it was rewarded for receiving Latona by being fixed to the seabed.
Editor’s Note
191 two children: Apollo (Phoebus) and Diana, by Jupiter—hence Juno's persecution (below, ll. 337 ff.).
Editor’s Note
204 Cynthus: Mount Cynthus on Delos was their birthplace.
Editor’s Note
213 her paternity: Tantalus' downfall was often ascribed to his garrulity.
Editor’s Note
259 The blood expelled the arrow: cf. iv. 122 n.
Editor’s Note
271 Amphion: his fate varies from one account to another; suicide is peculiar to Ovid. This detail 'serves to emphasize the unique pride of the queen' (W. S. Anderson).
Editor’s Note
311 Upon a mountain peak: Mount Sipylus in Phrygia. 'Niobe from close up is a rock and a stream, and nothing like a woman either grieving or otherwise; but if you go further off you seem to see a woman downcast and in tears' (Pausanias, Guide to Greece i. 21. 3, tr. Peter Levi). The whirlwind seems to be Ovid's invention; in other accounts she more tamely returns home to be transfigured.
Editor’s Note
317–81 the lycian peasants. This story—an obscure one, as Ovid implies—offers a good example of the way in which his material came to him. It was included in a local history, the Lyciaca of Menecrates of Xanthus (fourth century bc), whence it was picked up by Nicander, from whom Ovid adapted it. Cf. Introd. xxiii.
Editor’s Note
319 low-born louts: whereas epic was concerned with gods and heroes; Ovid is, however, really pluming himself on his erudition in unearthing the story. The technique, with an 'interior' narrator providing the aition of a cult, is reminiscent of the Fasti.
Editor’s Note
335 Pallas' tree: the olive.
Editor’s Note
339 the Chimaera: see ix. 647 ff.
Editor’s Note
349 Has right to water: a legal and philosophical commonplace.
Editor’s Note
359 It chanced …: because the poet has seen to it that it did—a beautifully sly touch.
Editor’s Note
365 Kicked the soft mud about: their crime anticipates the punishment that is to fit it.
Editor’s Note
376 squalid … squabbling: these are the words happily chosen by A. E. Watts to render Ovid's brilliant onomatopoeia, 'quamuis sunt sub aqua, sub aqua maledicere temptant'.
Editor’s Note
382–400 marsyas. The ultimate in gruesome wit. More than one critic has tried to justify the treatment on artistic grounds, just as more than one pundit has assured the world that Titian's picture of the subject offers an uplifting experience to the beholder.
Editor’s Note
394 All were in tears: the wording is designed to recall the mourning for Gallus in Virgil's Tenth Eclogue (ll. 13 ff.), which in turn is indebted to Theocritus' Daphnis (Idyll i. 71 ff.). Marsyas was both an artist and an inhabitant of the world of pastoral.
Editor’s Note
401–11 pelops. This familiar legend is introduced very briefly for the sake of the reconstitution of Pelops, ranked by courtesy as a metamorphosis. It assists the transition to the next cycle of stories, centred on Athens, and prefigures a theme in the following story (below, ll. 644 ff.).
Editor’s Note
407 his father: Tantalus; having killed and butchered Pelops he cooked and served the joints to the gods to test their omniscience. The missing shoulder was eaten by Ceres, in her distraction over Proserpine.
Editor’s Note
412–674 tereus, procne, and Philomela. This story was known from Homer onwards (Odyssey xix. 518 ff.) in more than one version; as often, Ovid gave it more or less definitive literary form. The technique of the catalogue of mourners, with the sole absentee providing the transition to the next story, is repeated from i. 577 ff.
Editor’s Note
415 Not yet: a hint that the story will be told in Book VIII. Cf. below, vi. 418 n.
Editor’s Note
416 famed/For bronzes: at this point in mythological chronology the renown of Corinthian bronzework was some nine or ten centuries in the future.
Editor’s Note
418 Where Pittheus later reigned: another reference forward: cf. viii. 623 n.
Editor’s Note
427 From Mars: first attested here. Thrace was the home of Mars (Ares) (Homer, Odyssey viii. 361).
Editor’s Note
428 Juno was not there: reminiscence with inversion of the ill-omened wedding of Dido and Aeneas (Virgil, Aeneid iv. 166), at which Juno was present.
Editor’s Note
433–4 That bird: 'bird' in Greek and Latin also means 'omen'.
Editor’s Note
454 warm for wenching: Herodotus (v. 5), Menander (Fragg. 794, 795 Sandbach), and others note that the Thracians were polygamous. Their besetting sins in the eyes of the Greeks were drunkenness and violence.
Editor’s Note
517 Jove's bird of prey: the eagle.
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560 tried to reach/Its mistress' feet: a peculiarly grotesque version of the commonplace illustrated at v. 104–6 n. The snake-simile was probably suggested by Lucretius (De Rerum Natura iii. 657 ff.).
Editor’s Note
582 the tragic tale: Ovid's word is carmen, here='spell'; writing borders on the magical. Sophocles made Philomela weave a picture of her experiences, the version used by Chaucer and illustrated by Burne-Jones. Rape as a theme for tapestry had previously been exploited by Arachne (above, ll. 103 ff.).
Editor’s Note
609 Then Procne …: throughout what follows runs a thread of indebtedness to the great figure of Euripides' Medea; Ovid himself had written a tragedy about her, now lost.
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668–9 the woods … the roof: generally Greek poets made Procne the nightingale, Philomela the swallow; in Roman poets it is usually the other way about. See Introd. xxviii–xxix.
Editor’s Note
675–721 boreas and orithyia. This story—a favourite subject for Attic vase-painters—constitutes a 'frame' for the next group of episodes. One sister, Orithyia, provides through her sons a transition to the Argonauts and Medea (herself already foreshadowed: above, vi. 609 n.); Procris, barely mentioned here, will be the heroine of the long tragic episode that ends the next book.
Editor’s Note
683 Orithyia: 'Mountain-Rager'.
Editor’s Note
693–9 I, when I meet … terrify the world: allusions to contemporary scientific explanations of the causes of thunder and lightning and of earthquakes—the effect in the mouth of Boreas is humorous.
Editor’s Note
707 His … tawny wings: how he managed to fly at the same time Ovid leaves his readers to conjecture.
Editor’s Note
721 that first ship: in the popular tradition—but not in the Metamorphoses (i. 293 ff., vi. 444–5, 511). See Introd. xxviii–xxix.
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