The Story of Phaeton (VII) – Ovid

by richibi


   Earth (2010) 


            Rolf Ohst




mythologies are stories a people will 

tell itself to explain phenomena that 

remain mysterious, by transforming 

conundrums into people, 

anthropomorphizing them, a tale is

told that not only entertains, but 

informs, gives context in order to

shape moral character


most mythologies, if not all, it’s a 

question of definition, which I’ll 

get into later, past and present, 

are pantheistic, which is to say 

they refer to many goddesses 

and gods, rather than to one 

almighty one, therefore they see 

deities in rivers, trees, oceans, 

mountains, the sun, the moon, 

constellations, as well as in the 

more metaphysical entities, 

poetry, beauty, love  


there is therefore a more respectful,

even reverent, attitude to all of these

otherwise neglected realities, for 

being, often, peripheral to more 

immediate, daily, domestic, 



our prevalent monotheistic 

mythologies, by contrast, purport 

to be historical, however specious, 

which is why the word mythology 

here might not be appropriate, but 

regardless, they all posit one 

omnipotent God, notably 

imponderable, esoteric, and there 

are, correspondingly, only a few 

mentions in their foundational  

texts, the Bible, the Koran, the 

Torah, of nature playing any  

significant part, it is secondary to

to their overriding message


we therefore have allowed ourselves 

to watch the world burning without

having even noticed it come about, 

a function exacerbated, incidentally,

by our living mostly, now, in cities


Phaeton has let his horses stray from 

the cosmically ordained path of the 

Sun, the constellations have already

complained, Earth will follow


we, for our part, have despoiled our 

mother, we are presently watching 

her being ignominiously desecrated


see above


                   The Earth at length, on ev’ry side embrac’d
                   With scalding seas that floated round her waste, 


waste, waist, though waste itself throws 

its own homonymic reverberations of 

disorganized detritus, float[ing] round, 

into the mix, something Shakespeare,

incidentally, was especially good at

                   When now she felt the springs and rivers come,
                   And crowd within the hollow of her womb, 


the waters are receding, evaporating

                   Up-lifted to the Heav’ns her blasted head, 


blasted, overwhelmed

                   And clapt her hand upon her brows, and said
                   (But first, impatient of the sultry heat,
                   Sunk deeper down, and sought a cooler seat): 


a strange, and not especially effective

interjection between the parentheses

here, I think

                   “If you, great king of Gods, my death approve,
                   And I deserve it, let me die by Jove; 


Earth asks of Jove, king of Gods, 

that she might die at his own hands,

if her time has come

                   If I must perish by the force of fire,
                   Let me transfix’d with thunder-bolts expire.
                   See, whilst I speak, my breath the vapours choak
                   (For now her face lay wrapt in clouds of smoak),
                   See my singe’d hair, behold my faded eye,
                   And wither’d face, where heaps of cinders lye! 


we are familiar with forest fires,

hurricanes, droughts in our own day

                   And does the plow for this my body tear? 


after all I have given through 

agriculture, the plow, of nourishment, 

Earth asks, is this how I am to be 



                   This the reward for all the fruits I bear,
                   Tortur’d with rakes, and harrass’d all the year?
                   That herbs for cattle daily I renew,
                   And food for Man, and frankincense for you? 


not only does Earth benefit living

creatures, but also the goddesses

and gods, she exclaims


                   But grant me guilty; what has Neptune done? 


Neptune, god of Water, the Sea,

is also Jove‘s brother

                   Why are his waters boiling in the sun?
                   The wavy empire, which by lot was giv’n,
                   Why does it waste, and further shrink from Heav’n? 


wavy empire, made of waves


Jove, Neptune, and Pluto were all

sons of Saturn, Titan, god of Time, 

after the sons overthrew their father 

during the Giants’ War, they divided 

the world by lot, which is to say, who

had the longest straw, Jove got the 

Heavens, Neptune, the Seas, Pluto

the Underworld


waste, resounding from above 


                   If I nor he your pity can provoke,
                   See your own Heav’ns, the Heav’ns begin to smoke!
                   Shou’d once the sparkles catch those bright abodes,
                   Destruction seizes on the Heav’ns and Gods;
                   Atlas becomes unequal to his freight,
                   And almost faints beneath the glowing weight. 


Atlas, a Titan, condemned to hold 

the heavens up for eternity

                   If Heav’n, and Earth, and sea, together burn,
                   All must again into their chaos turn. 


into their chaos turn, see the Creation

of the World

                   Apply some speedy cure, prevent our fate,
                   And succour Nature, ere it be too late.” 


sounds disquietingly familiar

                   She cea’sd, for choak’d with vapours round her spread,
                   Down to the deepest shades she sunk her head. 


surrounded by vapours, round her 

spread, Earth inexorably succumbs





R ! chard