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“The Transformation of Io into a Heyfer” (III) – Ovid by
The head of Argus (as with stars the skies)
Was compass’d round, and wore an hundred eyes.
not only did [ t]he head of have Argus
an hundred eyes, but they circled,
compass’d, round his head, as with
stars the skies, as with stars the
note the passive form of the verb to
compass in the two lines above
the standard sentence, the active
sentence, should read, an hundred
eyes compass’d [t]he head of Argus
But two by turns their lids in slumber steep;
The rest on duty still their station keep;
Nor cou’d the total constellation sleep.
never could all the eyes, the total
constellation, sleep, or in slumber
since only two of them would steep,
turn[ ] their lids, close, at a time,
while the others continued diligently
to keep watch
here, steep, incidentally, is a verb
as in to put the kettle on, not an
adjective, as in dauntingly
pitched, threateningly angled
Thus, ever present, to his eyes, and mind,
His charge was still before him, tho’ behind.
even when she was standing behind
him, Argus could still see Io, [h]is
charge, with the eyes he had in the
back of his head
In fields he suffer’d her to feed by Day,
But when the setting sun to night gave way,
The captive cow he summon’d with a call;
And drove her back, and ty’d her to the stall.
On leaves of trees, and bitter herbs she fed,
Heav’n was her canopy, bare earth her bed:
So hardly lodg’d, and to digest her food,
She drank from troubled streams, defil’d with mud.
hardly lodg’d, given difficult living
Her woeful story fain she wou’d have told,
With hands upheld, but had no hands to hold.
Her head to her ungentle keeper bow’d,
She strove to speak, she spoke not, but she low’d:
to low is to make the sound that
cows do, to moo
Affrighted with the noise, she look’d around,
And seem’d t’ inquire the author of the sound.
the sound that she herself was making
not only [a]ffrighted her, frightened her,
but had her wondering where could
it possibly be coming from
Once on the banks where often she had play’d
(Her father’s banks), she came,
Her father, Inachus, god of rivers
and there survey’d Her alter’d visage, and her branching head;
And starting, from her self she wou’d have fled.
much as the sound of her altered
voice had [a]ffrighted Io, now her
reflection in the water chastened
her as well, enough to make her
start, be startled, and want to run
away from her self
Her fellow nymphs, familiar to her eyes,
Beheld, but knew her not in this disguise.
Ev’n Inachus himself was ignorant;
And in his daughter, did his daughter want.
no one recognized Io, not even
her father, who, in his daughter,
the one who stood before him,
the altered Io, could not make
did his daughter want, as in to
be found wanting, in the cow,
to not even be suggested in
the, however conspicuous,
heifer, not at all part of the
Io is there but, simultaneously,
disconcertingly, not there
She follow’d where her fellows went, as she
Were still a partner of the company:
it should be remembered that
Io was a beautiful heifer, even
Juno had been impressed, so
that her fellows, her companions,
only other maidens, I’ll point out,
fellows taking on its sexually
indiscriminate meaning here,
not at all restricted to males,
would have easily let her follow
note the symmetry, incidentally,
between follow’d and fellows,
the nearly hidden alliteration,
a delightful literary effect,
though if you blinked you’d
They stroak her neck; the gentle heyfer stands,
And her neck offers to their stroaking hands.
Her father gave her grass; the grass she took;
And lick’d his palms, and cast a piteous look;
And in the language of her eyes, she spoke.
her lowing would’ve had no effect,
would’ve let no one in on the fact
that beneath the animal exterior
there might be an Io
She wou’d have told her name, and ask’d relief,
But wanting words, in tears she tells her grief.
and here we get the punchline,
the plot twist, which turns this
story into, relatively speaking,
a total enchantment, as though
Ovid were giving us, prefiguring
20th Century mythologist
with her foot she makes him understand;
And prints the name of Io in the sand.
R ! chard
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Filed Under: "Metamorphoses"
a poem to ponder
in search of beauty
in search of God/dess
in search of truth
literature to ponder
paintings to ponder
up my idiosyncrasies
walking in beauty Tags: "Io Recognised by Her Father" - Victor Honoré Janssens
"The Transformation of Io into a Heyfer" - Ovid
Inachus / god of rivers
Io / nymph
Juno / queen of the gods