The Story of Phaeton (VII) – Ovid

by richibi


   Landscape of Ruins and Fires (1914)


               Félix Vallotton






                ‘Twas then, they say, the swarthy Moor begun
                To change his hue, and blacken in the sun. 


Moor, a flagrant anachronism here, 

as Moors, Muslim inhabitants of

North Africa, didn’t exist before the 

advent of Islam, which began in the 

Seventh Century CE, Ovid, in Latin,

uses Ethiopian, which would entirely 

throw off, note, Dryden‘s poetic 

metre, thus Moor

                Then Libya first, of all her moisture drain’d,
                Became a barren waste, a wild of sand. 


Libya, Ancient Libya, a much larger 

country of North Africa than the 

Libya we know of today

                The water-nymphs lament their empty urns,
                Boeotia, robb’s of silve Dirce, mourns, 


empty urns, the water has evaporated


Boeotia, a region still of Greece


Dirce, upon her gruesome death, which 

I won’t get into here, was transformed 

by Dionysus, god of revelry and fertility,  

into a fountain, which became revered


silve, sylvan, of the forest, the 



robb’s, I’ll guess robbers, because 

Boeotia is where Dirce, abducted,

became a fountain 

                Corinth Pyrene’s wasted spring bewails,
                And Argos grieves whilst Amymone fails. 


Corinth, a city still in Greece


Pyrene, a princess, who was, another 

distressing story, transformed into the 

Pyreneesby Heracles, her seducer,

as well as being a god renowned for 

his extraordinary exploits


Argos, a city still in Greece


Amymone, another unfortunate maiden,

who was granted by Poseidon, god of 

Water, for, throughout her tribulations, 

her probity, springs, sources of water, 

for her community, which, in the 

instance, all fail[ ] 

                The floods are drain’d from ev’ry distant coast,
                Ev’n Tanais, tho’ fix’d in ice, was lost. 


Tanais, the river today known as the 

Don in Russia, thus fix’d in ice

                Enrag’d Caicus and Lycormas roar, 


Caicus, a river in Asia Minor, now

given a different name in a different

script, Bakırçay, which I’ll let you 

try to pronounce 


Lycormas, a river in Ancient Greece, 

now called Evinos

                And Xanthus, fated to be burnt once more. 


Xanthus, or Xanthos, a river in Ancient

Asia Minor, which was yellowish already

due to its surrounding tainted soil, thus 

burnt once more    


                The fam’d Maeander, that unweary’d strays 


Maeander, a river in Ancient Asia


                Through mazy windings, smoaks in ev’ry maze. 


smoaks, smokes


mazy, maze, cute

                From his lov’d Babylon Euphrates flies;
                The big-swoln Ganges and the Danube rise
                In thick’ning fumes, and darken half the skies. 


the Euphrates, the Ganges, and the

Danube, rivers which still go by their

ancient names


                In flames Ismenos and the Phasis roul’d, 


Ismenos, or Ismenus, a river in 

Boeotia, Greece


Phasis, ancient name for the 

Rioni River in Georgia, Eurasia


roul’d, rolled

                And Tagus floating in his melted gold. 


Tagus, a river in the Iberian 


                The swans, that on Cayster often try’d
                Their tuneful songs, now sung their last and dy’d. 


Cayster, a river in Turkey

                The frighted Nile ran off, and under ground
                Conceal’d his head, nor can it yet be found:
                His sev’n divided currents all are dry,
                And where they row’ld, sev’n gaping trenches lye: 


it is being suggested that the Nile

had at one point seven tributaries,

some of which dried up, never



rowl’d, rolled


                No more the Rhine or Rhone their course maintain,
                Nor Tiber, of his promis’d empire vain. 


the Rhine, the Rhone, and the Tiber

are all European rivers


vain, deprived

                The ground, deep-cleft, admits the dazling ray,
                And startles Pluto with the flash of day. 


dazling, dazzling


Pluto, god of the Underworld, who 

would be understandably startle[d] 

by a flash of day

                The seas shrink in, and to the sight disclose
                Wide naked plains, where once their billows rose; 


billows, of [t]he seas

                Their rocks are all discover’d, and increase
                The number of the scatter’d Cyclades.

 discover’d, uncovered


Cyclades, a group of islands in the 

Aegean Sea, between present-day

Greece and Turkey

                The fish in sholes about the bottom creep, 


sholes, shoals

                Nor longer dares the crooked dolphin leap
                Gasping for breath, th’ unshapen Phocae die, 


Phocae, plural of Phoca, is the 

generic name, and therefore, 

interestingly, capitalized, for 

seals, walruses, sea lions

                And on the boiling wave extended lye. 


lye, lie

                Nereus, and Doris with her virgin train,
                Seek out the last recesses of the main; 


Nereus, and Doris, Sea god and 

goddess, parents, notably, of the 

Nereids, sea nymphs, the virgin 



the main, the ocean


                Beneath unfathomable depths they faint,
                And secret in their gloomy caverns pant. 


secret, unseen, alone, untended


                Stern Neptune thrice above the waves upheld
                His face, and thrice was by the flames repell’d. 


Neptune, principal god of the Sea


it is interesting to note that where 

earlier the earth had been 

submerged in water, during the 

Giants’ War, now the earth is

engulfed in flames, a primordial

global warming, as it were, the 

result, consider, of a human, 

Phaeton, trying to take on the 

duties of a god, a warning the 

Ancients were already delivering,

so many years, so many centuries, 

so many millennia, ago


I suspect, worldwide, indigenous 

people would be telling a similar 

tale were we able to access their 

own, unfortunately unwritten, 

though undoubtedly comparable, 

ancestral wisdom, going back,

perhaps, even as far 



R ! chard