“Metamorphoses” – Ovid, 105

by richibi


    The Creation(1935) 


           Aaron Douglas




it should be noted that this exemplary 

translation of Metamorphoses was 

done by a clutch of eminent poets, 

John Dryden principally, England’s 

first Poet Laureate, 1688, but with 

the help of, notably, Joseph Addison,  

Alexander Pope, and William 

Congreve, among a number of 

celebrated others, under the 

direction of the poet and physician,

Samuel Garth, in no later than 1717, 

over 300 hundred years ago


this will explain the sometimes 

disorienting spelling of some 

otherwise common words, you’ve

read alreadyfor instance, extreams” 

for “extremes”“watry” for “watery”, 

“blustring” for “blustering” 


it might also be that my own reading

of the text could be influenced by 

idiosyncratic interpretations given 

by the above poets, who would’ve 

written according to the perspectives 

of their own time, the 18th Century, 

somewhat altering, most likely, the 

pristine intentions of Ovid’s original


as I myself, however philologically 

scrupulously – mea culpa, mea 

culpa, mea maxima culpaI must 

contritely confess – can, can 


be forewarned



but onwards to the completion of 

the Creation


            High o’er the clouds, and empty realms of wind,
           The God a clearer space for Heav’n design’d;
           Where fields of light, and liquid aether flow; 


a description of Heaven, “fields of light and 

liquid aether”

            Purg’d from the pondrous dregs of Earth below. 


“the pondrous dregs of Earth”, our dwelling


             Scarce had the Pow’r distinguish’d these, when streight
            The stars, no longer overlaid with weight,
            Exert their heads, from underneath the mass;
           And upward shoot, and kindle as they pass, 

“the Pow’r”, or “the God, whatever God was he”, 

earlier noted


while gravitation again allows the “fields of light”, 

newly “distinguished”, or separated, from the 

pondrous dregs of Earth“, to “streight…upward 

shoot, and kindle”, or sparkle, like firewood, or 

nebulae, aurorae, very constellations 


             And with diffusive light adorn their heav’nly place.

diffusive, evanescent, aetherial, nearly 



             Then, every void of Nature to supply,
           With forms of Gods he fills the vacant sky:
           New herds of beasts he sends, the plains to share:
           New colonies of birds, to people air:
           And to their oozy beds, the finny fish repair. 


note that all life forms are “forms of Gods”,

and “birds”, anthropomorphically, no less

than “people air”

             A creature of a more exalted kind
           Was wanting yet, and then was Man design’d: 


the design follows

             Conscious of thought, of more capacious breast,
           For empire form’d, and fit to rule the rest: 


though the specific initial progenitor will remain 

ever the secret of that Creator

           Whether with particles of heav’nly fire
           The God of Nature did his soul inspire,
           Or Earth, but new divided from the sky


was it “heav’nly fire” or Earth”, which malleable


             And, pliant, still retain’d th’ aetherial energy: 


we are, in other words, quintessentially, 

however muddied, starlight


             Which wise Prometheus temper’d into paste,
           And, mixt with living streams, the godlike image cast. 


Prometheus is the Titan who fashioned 

us of clay, and gifted us with fire despite 

the opposition of the Gods, for which he 

was cruelly punished, but that’s another



             Thus, while the mute creation downward bend
            Their sight, and to their earthly mother tend, 


mute creation, species who have no 

language, animals, lizards, insects


             Man looks aloft; and with erected eyes
            Beholds his own hereditary skies. 


hereditary, received from the Creator,

the primordial ancestor, generator


             From such rude principles our form began;
           And earth was metamorphos’d into Man.


R ! chard