“The Transformation of Daphne into a Lawrel” (I) – Ovid

by richibi


     “Apollo and Daphne(1622 – 1625) 


            Gian Lorenzo Bernini





Phoebus has just killed Python, and 

now his thoughts are turned to other 


               The first and fairest of his loves, was she
               Whom not blind fortune, but the dire decree
               Of angry Cupid forc’d him to desire: 


that Phoebus should fall in love, indeed

for the first time, was not the work of 

blind fortune, but the decree, the will, 

rather, of Cupid, son of Mars, god of 

War, and Venus, goddess of Love, 

himself, Cupid, god of Desire, who’d 

been, we’ll see, unacceptably 


               Daphne her name, and Peneus was her sire. 


her sire, her father, Peneus

               Swell’d with the pride, that new success attends,
               He sees the stripling, while his bow he bends,
               And thus insults him: 


Phoebus, fresh from his triumphant

bout with Python, thus [s]well’d with … 

pride at his new success, sees Cupid

the stripling, the youth, handling his 

own celebrated bow, and derisively

insults him


                                                    Thou lascivious boy,
               Are arms like these for children to employ? 


arms, weapons

               Know, such atchievements are my proper claim; 


arrows, Phoebus says, are my domain,

my proper claim, my undisputed


               Due to my vigour, and unerring aim:
               Resistless are my shafts, and Python late
               In such a feather’d death, has found his fate. 


the death of Python is proof of my 

unparalleled ability, Phoebus 



feather’d death, from the feathers that

are attached to the arrows to direct 

and speed their aim

               Take up the torch (and lay my weapons by), 


my weapons, weapons which should

be mine alone 

               With that the feeble souls of lovers fry. 


Take up the torch, take responsibility,

Phoebus says, lay down your 

weapons, your arrows, the ones that 

fry, he accuses Cupid, that frazzle, 

the feeble, incapacitated, souls of 



               To whom the son of Venus thus reply’d, 


the son of Venus here is Cupid 

               Phoebus, thy shafts are sure on all beside,
               But mine of Phoebus, mine the fame shall be
               Of all thy conquests, when I conquer thee. 


thy shafts, Cupid says, will always

prevail, surpass others, but my own

arrows will be the ones to best you, 

and yours, at which point the glory 

will be, notoriously, mine, over 

yours, forever

               He said, and soaring, swiftly wing’d his flight: 


Cupid is one of the very few ancient

deities to have wings, incidentally,

there’s also Mercury, the Roman 

Hermesmessenger god, god of

travel, communication

               Nor stopt but on Parnassus’ airy height. 


Parnassus, a mountain in Greece,

site of the Oracle of Delphi, site 

indeed where Python has just 

been killed

               Two diff’rent shafts he from his quiver draws;
               One to repel desire, and one to cause.
               One shaft is pointed with refulgent gold:
               To bribe the love, and make the lover bold:
               One blunt, and tipt with lead, whose base allay 


allay, alloy, combination of metals

               Provokes disdain, and drives desire away.
               The blunted bolt against the nymph he drest:
               But with the sharp transfixt Apollo’s breast.



               Th’ enamour’d deity pursues the chace; 


Th’ enamour’d deity, Phoebus, is

now under the spell of Cupid‘s

pointed arrow

               The scornful damsel shuns his loath’d embrace:
               In hunting beasts of prey, her youth employs;
               And Phoebe rivals in her rural joys. 


The scornful damsel, Daphne, in the 

spirit of Phoebe, goddess of the Hunt, 

preferred rural joys, indeed rivalled 

Phoebe‘s own enjoyment of rustic 



to explain the similarity in their names,

it should be noted that Phoebe and 

Phoebus were twins, both children 

of Zeus, god of gods, the equivalent 

of the Roman Jove, also known as 

Jupiter, she, Phoebe, goddess of

the Moon, as well as of the Hunt, he, 

Phoebus, god of the Sun, as well as 

of several other things


it should be noted that the gods and

goddesses of Ancient Greece, firmly 

installed during its period of glory, the

4th and 5th Centuries BCE, travelled 

throughout Europe and Asia, 

migrating, but were adapted to the 

local customs, consequently becoming 

known by different names according to 

the language and culture, you can see 

a parallel in the spread of Latin, for

instance, during the Roman conquests 

of, specifically, Europe, evolving into 

the several derivative languages, 

starting with, historically, Italian itself, 

little by little, achieved through the

effects of time rather than of distance, 

then French, Portuguese, Spanish in

the outlying, eventually impermeated,

areas, see the infiltration of English,

for instance, in the modern world

               With naked neck she goes, and shoulders bare;
               And with a fillet binds her flowing hair. 


fillet, a ribbon

               By many suitors sought, she mocks their pains,
               And still her vow’d virginity maintains.
               Impatient of a yoke, the name of bride
               She shuns, and hates the joys, she never try’d.
               On wilds, and woods, she fixes her desire:
               Nor knows what youth, and kindly love, inspire. 


she’s not the marrying kind

               Her father chides her oft: Thou ow’st, says he, 


Thou ow’st, you owe

               A husband to thy self, a son to me. 


that’s his position

               She, like a crime, abhors the nuptial bed: 


she’d, categorically, rather hunt

               She glows with blushes, and she hangs her head.
               Then casting round his neck her tender arms,
               Sooths him with blandishments, and filial charms: 


filial, can apply to both son or



blandishments, sweet nothings

               Give me, my Lord, she said, to live, and die,
               A spotless maid, without the marriage tye. 


allow me to live[ ] and die[ ] a spotless 

maid, a virgin, she asks, best, that

line, read without commas 


girls would’ve been at the mercy 

of their fathers’ wishes at the time, 

would’ve needed permission not to 



               ‘Tis but a small request; I beg no more
               Than what Diana’s father gave before. 


Diana is the Roman equivalent 

of Phoebe, a virgin goddess, by

the grace of her father, Zeus, the 

Greek counterpart of the Roman 

Jupiter, or Jove, see above

               The good old sire was soften’d to consent;
               But said her wish wou’d prove her punishment:
               For so much youth, and so much beauty join’d,
               Oppos’d the state, which her desires design’d. 


good luck with that, Zeus prophesies, 

men will find you, so much youth, and 

so much beauty, very hard to resist,

you’ll surely suffer consequences



to be continued



R ! chard