“Metamorphoses” (The Golden Age) – Ovid


    “Field of Poppies (1873) 


           Claude Monet





once the Creation is complete, Time 

becomes one of its components, ages, 

or eras, or epochs ensue giving credence 

to the fact of an evolutionary process,

instead of stasis a continuation of the 

inner workings of primordial Chaos still 

roils, bristles, but among more orderly 

elements now 


so that the first age, The Golden Age,

is positively blissful 

             The golden age was first; when Man yet new,
             No rule but uncorrupted reason knew: 


Evil was not yet even a concept 

             And, with a native bent, did good pursue. 


a native bent, naturally, by instinct, inately


             Unforc’d by punishment, un-aw’d by fear,
             His words were simple, and his soul sincere; 



             Needless was written law, where none opprest: 


where no one offended, laws were 


             The law of Man was written in his breast: 


a function of his emotions

             No suppliant crowds before the judge appear’d,
             No court erected yet, nor cause was heard: 


suppliant crowds, petitioners for justice


             But all was safe, for conscience was their guard. 


remember conscience, something that too

often now has fallen, it seems, by the 



though we’re a long way off at present, 

admittedly, from the Golden Age

             The mountain-trees in distant prospect please, 


please is a verb here, as in the mountain-trees 

bring pleasure



             E’re yet the pine descended to the seas: 


E’re, or before, the pine trees descended, 

grew closer to, gravitated toward, the water


compare here, ” About her coasts, unruly 

waters roar; / And rising, on a ridge, 

insult the shore.”, from earlierwhere 

“water vies with earth for its place upon 

the strand”


instead of water, Earth encroaches here, 

an equally formidable opponent 


             E’re sails were spread, new oceans to explore: 


E’re, or before, ships set out to conquer,

see Columbus for the archetypal example

             And happy mortals, unconcern’d for more,
             Confin’d their wishes to their native shore. 


a world without an economy

             No walls were yet; nor fence, nor mote, nor mound,
             Nor drum was heard, nor trumpet’s angry sound: 


drums and trumpets at any distance 

would’ve been cause for alarm, or at

the very least caution


             Nor swords were forg’d; but void of care and crime, 


note the negative no, nor, nor hammered out

through the last three verses, describing by 

omission the state of the original age, 

what there was not

             The soft creation slept away their time. 


soft creation, not inclined to struggle

             The teeming Earth, yet guiltless of the plough,
             And unprovok’d, did fruitful stores allow: 

             Content with food, which Nature freely bred,
             On wildings and on strawberries they fed; 


the subject here throughout is the “teeming 

Earth”, the Earth, metonymized, becomes 

earthlings – therefore “they” replaces 

“teeming Earth” as subject in the last two 

lines – who’d feed on wildings, uncultivated 

plants, crab apples, for instance, strawberries

             Cornels and bramble-berries gave the rest,
             And falling acorns furnish’d out a feast. 


Cornels, shrubs 

             The flow’rs unsown, in fields and meadows reign’d: 


flowers bloomed unbidden, covering fields


see above 


I watch the cherry blossoms grace our 

streets with their opulence as I speak,

decking our April days with springtime, 

still, even thousands of years later“,

a remnant, a bequest, of that golden 


             And Western winds immortal spring maintain’d. 


like very Paradise, stretching into even 


             In following years, the bearded corn ensu’d
             From Earth unask’d, nor was that Earth renew’d. 


renew’d, tilled, harvested

             From veins of vallies, milk and nectar broke; 


valleys engender streams that create 

the conditions for milk and nectar

             And honey sweating through the pores of oak.


or our own indigenous syrup of maple



R ! chard