“Metamorphoses” (The Giants’ War, III) – Ovid


    “Charon Carries Dead Souls across the River Styx(1861)


           Konstantin Makovsky




Jove, god of Thunder, speaks


            I was not more concern’d in that debate
            Of empire, when our universal state
            Was put to hazard, and the giant race
            Our captive skies were ready to imbrace: 


I was not especially disturbed, Jove says,

when the state of our universe was 

challenged, or debate[d], when the giants 

tried to usurp our territory, were ready to 

imbrace, or embrace, take on, our  

vulnerable, [o]ur captive, skies

            For tho’ the foe was fierce, the seeds of all
            Rebellion, sprung from one original; 


because the enemy, then, the adversary, 

came from the one original source, its 

however manifold predations, its 

however myriad desecrations, would’ve

been identifiable to Jove, not foreign, not

unmanageable, he would’ve recognized

the black sheep of the Olympian family,

the giants  


            Now, wheresoever ambient waters glide,
            All are corrupt, and all must be destroy’d. 


ambient, nearby, related, infected, corrupt,

all has been corrupted

            Let me this holy protestation make,
            By Hell, and Hell’s inviolable lake, 


here’s another anachronism, for Hell wouldn’t’ve 

been even a concept in the era of Ovid, where

the Underworld, and Hades, entirely different

afterworlds, would’ve prevailed, areas of 

persistent gloom and shade, see Homer here,

for instance, or Virgil


the Underworld of the ancient world was 

surrounded by five rivers, Hell’s inviolable 

lake, the most famous of which was the 

river Styx


in the Divine Comedy, Dante updates this 

watery boundary for his own 14th Century

readers, and makes it the passageway to

the fifth circle of Hell, where Charon 

remains, after even over a thousand 

years, the very same ferryman


see above


nor was there either any of our present

conception of Heaven, Heaven would’ve 

been Olympus then, the exclusive domain 

of the Gods, either Greek or Roman 


            I try’d whatever in the godhead lay: 


Jove says, I tried everything a god 

could use

            But gangren’d members must be lopt away,
            Before the nobler parts are tainted to decay. 


you’ve got to lop[ ] away, cut off, the bad 

parts before they infect the more vital 

components of the body

            There dwells below, a race of demi-gods,
            Of nymphs in waters, and of fawns in woods:
            Who, tho’ not worthy yet, in Heav’n to live,
            Let ’em, at least, enjoy that Earth we give. 


not all beings are corrupt, but nymphs 

and fawns, innocents, Jove pleads, 

should be given consideration on 

Earth, if they be not yet worthy of the 

majesty of Heav’n, and granted earthly 

areas of enjoyment in the confines of 

their forsaken place 

            Can these be thought securely lodg’d below,
            When I my self, who no superior know,
            I, who have Heav’n and Earth at my command,
            Have been attempted by Lycaon’s hand? 


if Lycaon could attack me, Jove, god 

of Thunder, asks, how can these 

innocents, nymphs, fawns, ever be 



             At this a murmur through the synod went,
             And with one voice they vote his punishment. 


the punishment of Lycaon, which we’ll 

soon encounter

             Thus, when conspiring traytors dar’d to doom
             The fall of Caesar, and in him of Rome,
             The nations trembled with a pious fear;
             All anxious for their earthly Thunderer: 


Thus, or in a similar manner, did the nations

of the earth tremble when Caesar, their 

earthly Thunderer, was assassinated 


nations, incidentally, is another anachronism,

nations didn’t appear on earth until the 

18th Century, with the French Revolution


             Nor was their care, o Caesar, less esteem’d
             By thee, than that of Heav’n for Jove was deem’d: 


Ovid addresses Caesar here, his contemporary,

and compares that emperor’s esteem for nations, 

his reliance on their allegiance, to the esteem 

Heav’n has for Jove


             Who with his hand, and voice, did first restrain
             Their murmurs, then resum’d his speech again. 


Jove calls for silence in the assembly

before speaking again

             The Gods to silence were compos’d, and sate
             With reverence, due to his superior state. 


The Gods … sate, or sat, then took heed,

bowing to Jove’s superior position


the tale of the punishment of Lycaon

will follow  


R ! chard