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

by richibi


    Scene of the Deluge (1820) 


            Théodore Géricault





following upon the threat of water,

rather than fire, to destroy the world

under the command of Jove, dutifully 

abetted by Neptune, his Olympian

brother, sea god himself, with his 

fleet of observant minions, the 

rivers, streams, waterways, the 

annihilating flood takes place


Ovid recounts


            The floods, by Nature enemies to land,
            And proudly swelling with their new command,
            Remove the living stones, that stopt their way, 


the living stones, you’ve got me there, 

these could only be stones as initial 

matter somehow contributing to the 

advent of an inherent life source, later 

activated, induced into vivifying action


we are dust, in other words, we return 

to dust, inert dust, however 



            And gushing from their source, augment the sea. 


the flowing rivers augment, enlarge, 

the growing sea, covering the land

          Then, with his mace, their monarch struck the ground; 


a mace is a club with metal spikes

          With inward trembling Earth receiv’d the wound; 


a comma after trembling here would 

make this line easier to read, “With

inward trembling, Earth receiv’d the 

wound”, but not everyone is as 

punctilious about grammar as I am

          And rising streams a ready passage found. 


streams easily found their way 

amidst the bracken, the shrubbery, 

the rushes, to overwhelm the 

otherwise quiescent pastures

          Th’ expanded waters gather on the plain: 


Manitoba, often, lately, in spring

          They float the fields, and over-top the grain;
          Then rushing onwards, with a sweepy sway,
          Bear flocks, and folds, and lab’ring hinds away. 


Bear here is a verb, not a noun, meaning 

that animals, flocks, and folds, and lab’ring

hinds, are carried away, borne away,

borne asunder 

          Nor safe their dwellings were, for, sap’d by floods, 


sap’d, sapped, deprived, weakened,

rendered unsuitable

          Their houses fell upon their houshold Gods. 


household Gods, icons, Lares or Penates

personally held by the Ancients, like we 

now keep pictures, tokens, of our own

particular, however often secular, 

rather than religious, idols

            The solid piles, too strongly built to fall,
            High o’er their heads, behold a watry wall: 


though tall, and apparently indestructible,

the solid piles are nevertheless submerged, 

the very recent South Asian tsunami, for

instance, or the Japanese one that 

provoked the nuclear incident that put an

end there to that earlier profoundly 

nationally integrated industry, if you’ll 



            Now seas and Earth were in confusion lost;
            A world of waters, and without a coast. 


water, water, everywhere, but the last 

thing you want to do is drink



next, how humans survive


stay tuned



R ! chard