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


     Rainstorm over the Sea (1824 – 1828) 


            John Constable



              Already had he toss’d the flaming brand;
              And roll’d the thunder in his spacious hand;
              Preparing to discharge on seas and land: 


in order to begin to fulfil his decree

of ridding the world of humans, Jove

had toss’d [a] flaming brand, a piece

of wood that’s been set on fire, and

roll’d [ ] thunder, set it to rumble, in 

his spacious, or large, hand, ready 

to cast it upon the seas and land

              But stopt, for fear, thus violently driv’n,
              The sparks should catch his axle-tree of Heav’n. 


an axletree is a beam that connects 

two wheels of a carriage in order to 

make them turn simultaneously 


the suggestion here is that Heaven

is intimately connected to the earth,

both interwoven parts of a functioning, 

and interdependent, mechanism

              Remembring in the fates, a time when fire
              Shou’d to the battlements of Heaven aspire,
              And all his blazing worlds above shou’d burn;
              And all th’ inferior globe to cinders turn. 

Jove remembers that the fates had 

decreed a time when fire would reach 

the very battlements of Heaven, and 

shou’d burn it, as well as the earth 

below, turning everything there to 

cinders, ashes


a counterpart to this event exists in 

Norse mythology, incidentally, which 

Richard Wagner sets to extraordinary 

music, in the last segment, 

Götterdämmerung, or The Twilight

of the Gods, of his four-part opera, 

The Ring of the Nibelungwherein 

Valhalla, the great hall of the Gods, 

goes up in flames, bringing an end 

to the dominion of that hallowed, 

not to mention earlier incontestable, 



do not, despite its lack of subtitles, 

not watch this Götterdämmerung, 

do not not be astonished, Richard 

Wagner is the Pink Floyd of the 

19th Century, let him take you to

the conflagration

I cried



              His dire artill’ry thus dismist, he bent
              His thoughts to some securer punishment:
              Concludes to pour a watry deluge down;
              And what he durst not burn, resolves to drown. 


having decided against fire, his dire

artill’ry, as an effective way of carrying

out his destructive mission, Jove opts 

for water instead, a wat’ry deluge 


need I even bring up here, Valhalla,

an obvious mythological equivalent,

but which of the two was the chicken,

one wonders, which was the egg, both 

trails leading deep into inscrutable,

and indecipherable, antiquity


              The northern breath, that freezes floods, he binds;
              With all the race of cloud-dispelling winds:
              The south he loos’d, who night and horror brings; 


to set in motion his scheme, Jove 

enlists, or binds, the winds, [t]he 

northern breath, and [t]he south 

wind, both of which apply their 

own destructive methods


              And foggs are shaken from his flaggy wings. 


flaggy, in layers, feathers upon 

feathers, Jove is represented

here, however unusually, with 



              From his divided beard two streams he pours,
              His head, and rheumy eyes distill in show’rs,
              With rain his robe, and heavy mantle flow:
              And lazy mists are lowring on his brow; 


the water that will lay waste the 

earth flows from Jove’s very

physical attributes, his divided

beard, his rheumy eyes, his 

brow, et cetera


              Still as he swept along, with his clench’d fist
              He squeez’d the clouds, 


not only does Jove exude a flow 

of water through divine, though 

intrinsically viable coroporeal 

avenues, but he also actively 

promotes it, squeez[ing] the 

very clouds  




                                               th’ imprison’d clouds resist: 



              The skies, from pole to pole, with peals resound;
              And show’rs inlarg’d, come pouring on the ground. 


February, for instance, in Vancouver

              Then, clad in colours of a various dye,
              Junonian Iris breeds a new supply
              To feed the clouds: 


Iris was a messenger of the gods, 

though of Juno, Jove’s wife, in 



Iris, herself a goddess, of the 

rainbow, was usually depicted 

arrayed, appropriately, in vibrant 



                                             impetuous rain descends;
              The bearded corn beneath the burden bends:
              Defrauded clowns deplore their perish’d grain;
              And the long labours of the year are vain.

clowns, people who’ve been made 

to look foolish, having been deprived,

[d]efrauded, of the fruit of their labour


R ! chard