“The Transformation of Io into a Heyfer” – Ovid

by richibi


  “River gods consoling Peneus for the Loss of his Daughter, Daphne (1530–60) 


           Master of the Die





the transformation of Daphne into 

a lawrel, though a story on its own,

has repercussions, which flow into

the introduction of Ovid‘s following 

instalment, The Transformation of

Io into a Heyfer“, however 

essentially unrelated 

                  An ancient forest in Thessalia grows; 


Thessalia, or Thessaly, a region of

Ancient Greece 

                  Which Tempe’s pleasing valley does inclose: 


Tempe, a valley, or vale, in Greece,

the Vale of Tempe, with a rich

mythological history

                  Through this the rapid Peneus take his course; 


Peneus, river god, Daphne‘s father


you’ll note that Peneus is given 

a plural conjugation here, take 

instead of takes in the singular,

unless this is a typo, otherwise

we have a metonym at work, a 

part signifying the whole, the 

whole in this instance meaning

the collection of rivers of which

Peneus was the god

                  From Pindus rolling with impetuous force; 


Pindus, a mountain range in 

northern Greece named after 

its highest peak

                  Mists from the river’s mighty fall arise: 


the river, one of Peneus‘ mighty 

torrents, cascading down the 

mountain, the Pindus, creating, 

along the way, [m]ists

                  And deadly damps inclose the cloudy skies:
                  Perpetual fogs are hanging o’er the wood;
                  And sounds of waters deaf the neighbourhood. 


deaf, used as a verb here, means 

to deafen, to prevent sounds from 

being heard

                  Deep, in a rocky cave, he makes abode 


he, Peneus, the river god

                  (A mansion proper for a mourning God). 


mourning God, Peneus, who’s just

lost Daphnehis daughter

                  Here he gives audience; issuing out decrees
                  To rivers, his dependant deities.
                  On this occasion hither they resort;
                  To pay their homage, and to make their court. 


to make their court, [t]o pay  homage, 

to attend to, their sovereign, Peneus 


                  All doubtful, whether to congratulate
                  His daughter’s honour, or lament her fate. 


His daughter’s honour, Daphne has 

been deemed the symbolic mistress 

of champions, to compensate for her

irreversible, and lament[able], 


                  Sperchaeus, crown’d with poplar, first appears;
                  Then old Apidanus came crown’d with years:
                  Enipeus turbulent, Amphrysos tame;
                  And Aeas last with lagging waters came. 


Sperchaeus, or SpercheiosApidanus

Enipeus, Amphrysos, or Amphrysus

and Aeas, are all river gods, if not all 

actual rivers

                  Then, of his kindred brooks, a num’rous throng
                  Condole his loss; and bring their urns along. 


kindred brooks, smaller tributaries, 

of Peneus

                  Not one was wanting of the wat’ry train,
                  That fill’d his flood, or mingled with the main: 


all the waterways, the wat’ry flows, 

train, were in attendance

                  But Inachus, who in his cave, alone, 


Inachus, a personification of the 

Greek river, Inachos

                  Wept not another’s losses, but his own,
                  For his dear Io, whether stray’d, or dead, 


Io, nymph, a nature spirit, daughter 

of Inachus

                  To him uncertain, doubtful tears he shed.
                  He sought her through the world; but sought in vain;
And no where finding, rather fear’d her slain. 


a tragedy in the making



to be continued



R ! chard