Richibi’s Weblog

Just another weblog

Month: August, 2020

“The Story of Coronis, and Birth of Aesculapius” (II) – Ovid


     “The Daughters of Cecrops Finding the Child Erichthonius (1640) 


               Jacob Jordaens





                                 Once upon a time, 


something interesting happens here,

where earlier in this particular myth

we had a fable, a story in which 

animals play major roles, Aesop is 

famous for his, for instance, as is

Jean de la Fontainewith the

opening catchphrase above, a line

as old at least as Dryden, we’re

suddenly in the land of fairy tales,

structurally, technically


              The two-shap’d Ericthonius had his birth 
              (Without a mother) from the teeming Earth; 


Ericthonius, son of Minervagoddess 

of Wisdom, and of several other traits 

and abilities, and Hephaestus, god of 

Craftsmen, Metallurgy, Fire, among

other, again, areas of malleability 

and possibility


Without a mother, not in the usual,

mammalian, manner


two-shap’d, half human, half serpent,

don’t ask

              Minerva nurs’d him, and the infant laid 
              Within a chest, of twining osiers made. 


Minerva hid her fearsome child in  

a box, a chest, closed the lid, and 

entrusted the secret contents to a 

trio of sisters

              The daughters of king Cecrops undertook 
              To guard the chest, commanded not to look 
              On what was hid within.


king Cecrops, mythical founder and

first king of Athens


                                                               I stood to see 
              The charge obey’d, perch’d on a neighb’ring tree. 


I, the daw, the storyteller

              The sisters Pandrosos and Herse keep 
              The strict command; Aglauros needs would peep, 


Pandrosos, not to be cofused with 

Pandora, Herseand Aglauros, the

three daughters of Cecrops

              And saw the monstrous infant, in a fright, 
              And call’d her sisters to the hideous sight: 
              A boy’s soft shape did to the waste prevail, 
              But the boy ended in a dragon’s tail. 


there’s the ring here, nevertheless,

of Pandora’s tale, though this story

is not at all as dire for humanity as 

Pandora‘s fateful introduction of 

very evil into the world

              I told the stern Minerva all that pass’d; 
              But for my pains, discarded and disgrac’d, 
              The frowning Goddess drove me from her sight, 
              And for her fav’rite chose the bird of night. 


the bird of night, the owl, with which

Minerva is often associated, often


              Be then no tell-tale; for I think my wrong 
              Enough to teach a bird to hold her tongue. 


and aptly, we learn the lesson a

fable is meant, by definition, to 




R ! chard





“The Story of Coronis, and Birth of Aesculapius” – Ovid


   “A Saint, from ‘The Jackdaw of Rheims’ (1868) 


           Briton Rivière





             The raven once in snowy plumes was drest, 
             White as the whitest dove’s unsully’d breast, 
             Fair as the guardian of the Capitol, 
             Soft as the swan; a large and lovely fowl; 
             His tongue, his prating tongue had chang’d him quite 
             To sooty blackness, from the purest white. 


the Capitol, the Temple of Jupiter, only 

portions of which remain, on exhibit in

the Capitoline Museums, on the 

Capitoline Hill, one of the Seven Hills 

of Rome


the guardian of the Capitol, the Vestalis

Maxima, or the greatest of the Vestals,

who were charged with ensuring the 

security of the city


the raven was white once, Ovid says, 

[f]air as the guardian of the Capitol, 

[s]oft as the swan, but it seems his 

prating tongue got him in trouble


prating, chattering, tattling


here’s what happened


            In Thessaly there liv’d a nymph of old, 
             Coronis nam’d; a peerless maid she shin’d, 
             Confest the fairest of the fairer kind. 
             Apollo lov’d her, ’till her guilt he knew, 
             While true she was, or whilst he thought her true. 


Thessaly, a region of Greece


contrary to what’s taken place in

these myths till now, Coronis, a 

nymph, in name only, it appears,

was found out to be untrue to 

Apollowho lov’d her


                   his own bird the raven chanc’d to find 
             The false one with a secret rival joyn’d. 
             Coronis begg’d him to suppress the tale, 
             But could not with repeated pray’rs prevail. 


the raven, Apollo‘s own bird, was not 

going to not tell his master about his 

mistress’ indiscretion, despite [t]he 

false one’s pray’rs not to


              His milk-white pinions to the God he ply’d;


pinion, the outer part of a bird’s wing,

including the flight feathers


             [A] busy daw flew with him, side by side, 


daw, jackdaw, a black bird related to 

the crow



             And by a thousand teizing questions drew
             Th’ important secret from him as they 


teizing, teasing

             The daw gave honest counsel, 
tho’ despis’d, 


tho’ despis’d, though the honest

counsel would be unpleasant to 



              And, tedious in her tattle, thus advis’d: 


listen, said the daw, cautioning

the raven 


              “Stay, silly bird, th’ ill-natur’d task refuse, 


silly bird, the raven 


              Nor be the bearer of unwelcome news. 
             Be warn’d by my example: 


pay attention, the daw insists, be 

wary, [b]e warn’d


                                                         you discern 
             What now I am, and what I was shall learn. 
             My foolish honesty was all my crime; 
             Then hear my story.


here’s what happened to me,

says the pitch black bird


                                             Once upon a time, 



to follow



R ! chard


psst: The Jackdaw of Reims, by

            Richard Harris Barham




“The Story of Calisto” – Ovid


   Jupiter and Callisto (1611 – 1613) 


            Peter Paul Rubens





after having read Homer’s Iliad, the 

greatest work of fiction, to my mind, 

ever told, resounding through the 

centuries and millennia with power,

pathos, and profound humanity, I 

found it hard for one reason or 

another to complete other 

acclaimed epics, Virgil’s Aeneid,

for instance, too brimming with 

bombast and bravado, much like

many American war movies,

wherein the Americans win every

conflict, whether or not they’ve 

indeed won, all on their own, with

little acknowledgment of the other

international militaries that might’ve

also played essential roles


Ovid’s Metamorphoses, as I read 

on, is becoming more and more 

offensive because of its recurrent

abuse of women, nymphs, virgins,

so that I can no longer champion 

this work, however enthusiastic I

might’ve been at the beginning


I’m not ready to personally give it 

up, but intend to relate it in brief

segments, with perhaps, here 

and there, noteworthy verses


the myth that follows the 

transformation of Cycnus into 

a swan, and the restoration of

Earth after its near conflagration 

upon the death of Phaeton, has 

Jove / Jupiter / Zeus cast[ing] 

an eye on ev’ry diff’rent coast in 

order to ensure that all is aright,

which it is, and Nature smiles 



but he spies by chance a nymph,

a follower of Diana, virginal

goddess of the Countryside, and

despite concerns about Juno, his

goddess wife, pursues the maiden


who was easy prey, did whate’er a 

virgin cou’d … / With all her might 

against his force … / But how can 

mortal maids contend with Jove?


following which Diana arrives with 

her train of nubile followers, to the 

dismay of the young victim, who 

could only try to hide her shame, 

which her altered demeanour 

must’ve somewhat, it is supposed, 



                   How in the look does conscious guilt appear! 
                   Slowly she mov’d, and loiter’d in the rear; 
                   Nor lightly tripp’d, nor by the Goddess ran, 
                   As once she us’d, the foremost of the train. 


but now the moon had nine times 

lost her light, and any doubt about 

her condition was erased, so that 

Diana, unforgiving, a not uncommon 

reaction, I’ve found, among women, 

banished her to eventually alone 

give birth to a son


meanwhile Juno, now doubly 

incensed – This boy, she rails, shall 

stand a living mark, to prove / My 

husband’s baseness and the strumpet’s

love – turns the wretched mom into a



but when the son had fifteen summers 

told, and came inadvertently upon this 

beast while in the forest, unaware it was 

his mother, and to protect himself, he


                                    aim’d a pointed arrow at her breast,  
                   And would have slain his mother in the beast;  
                   But Jove forbad, and snatch’d ’em through  
                   In whirlwinds up to Heav’n, and fix’d ’em there!


where now we know them as either 

the Great Bear and the Little Bear, 

Ursa Major and Ursa Minor or, 

more familiarly, as the Big Dipper 

and the Little Dipper


who could ‘a’ ever thunk it



R ! chard



Piano Concerto no 20, K.466 – Mozart (Uchida)


  Mozart (2015)


       Bernd Luz




having been immersed recently, indeed 

consumed by, Ovid, his Metamorphoses, 

for four months now, according to a 

friend, since, however improbably, April, 

and we’re now in mid-August, I’ve been 

redirected recently, not only for

metaphysical breath, but by friends 

who’ve brought up other ideological 



I watched a concert on TV yesterday, 

my mother said this morning when I 

went over for coffee, she lives, 

providentially, to my mind, only a few 

blocks away, we touch bases regularly


great, I reacted, I’ve got it on tape, I 

was meaning to watch it later


the pianist, she marvelled, also

conducted, I’ve never seen that


I cheered her on, and couldn’t wait to 

see for myself when I got home


but couldn’t watch more than a few 

moments, the pianist / conductor, 

famous in his day, had become 

crotchety, decrepit, the piece was 

Mozart, you can’t play Mozart with 

arthritic fingers


which had me finding the mistress of 

Mozart on the internet, unmatched at 

Mozart to this day, Mitsuko Uchida, 

watch her transform Mozart’s flights 

of lyrical fantasy into utter, and 

irrepressible, magic, sent it to my

mom for incontrovertible 



his 20th Piano Concerto, K.466


watch, marvel   



R ! chard



“The Transformation of Cycnus into a Swan” – Ovid


   “Swans among the Reeds at First Light (1832) 


             Caspar David Friedrich





were I to be transformed into anything,

I told myself, after reading about all 

these earlier metamorphoses, then 

coming upon this one, of Cycnus, I 

wouldn’t mind, I decided, becoming 

a swan

                   Cycnus beheld the nymphs transform’d, ally’d 
                   To their dead brother on the mortal side, 
                   In friendship and affection nearer bound; 


Cycnus, son of Sthenelus, King of Liguria,

a region still of Northern Italy, a prince, 

therefore, in his own right, was a good 

friend of Phaeton


the nymphs, the Heliades, daughters

of Helios / Phoebus / Apollo and 

Clymene, though transform’d into trees, 

were nevertheless on the mortal side, 

living things, ally’d  / To their dead 

brother, by the earth, which confined, 

constrained, covered them, if only,

the maidens, partially


nearer bound, ally’d again, like a refrain, 

a literary reverberation, honouring their 

brother, Phaeton, [i]n friendship and



                   He left the cities and the realms he own’d, 
                   Thro’ pathless fields and lonely shores to range, 
                   And woods made thicker by the sisters’ change. 


the sisters’ change, more trees than 

there had been before

                   Whilst here, within the dismal gloom, alone, 
                   The melancholy monarch made his moan, 


monarch, Cycnus, prince of Liguria

                   His voice was lessen’d, as he try’d to speak, 
                   And issu’d through a long-extended neck; 


the transformation of Cycnus occurs, 

much as it did earlier with the Heliades

through the mercy, presumably, of the 

gods, who, usually indifferent, express 

compassion here, however 

uncharacteristically, for the unbearable 

anguish suffered by the grieving sisters 

and friend


Cycnus, incidentally, would also later be 

placed by Apollo among the stars, to 

become the constellation Cygnus

                   His hair transforms to down, his fingers meet 
                   In skinny films, and shape his oary feet; 


oary, hoary, grayish white, grizzled,


                   From both his sides the wings and feathers break; 
                   And from his mouth proceeds a blunted beak: 
                   All Cycnus now into a Swan was turn’d, 
                   Who, still remembring how his kinsman burn’d, 


his kinsman, Phaeton, burn’d, in the

sundered Chariot of the Sun

                   To solitary pools and lakes retires, 
                   And loves the waters as oppos’d to fires. 


swans, it appears, seek out the shade, 

are oppos’d to fires, shun the heat of 

the nefarious, the treacherous, sun


see above

                   Mean-while Apollo in a gloomy shade 
                   (The native lustre of his brows decay’d) 


decay’d, disintegrated, fell away from,

its native lustre

                   Indulging sorrow, sickens at the sight 
                   Of his own sun-shine, and abhors the light; 


Indulging sorrow, allowing himself 

to steep in his own agony

                   The hidden griefs, that in his bosom rise, 
                   Sadden his looks and over-cast his eyes, 
                   As when some dusky orb obstructs his ray, 
                   And sullies in a dim eclipse the day. 


another reverberation erupts here

recalling the darkness, eclipse, just

undergone after the incineration of 

Apollo’s chariot, however paltry

might’ve been, to that god, the 

mere disturbance of a planet 

obstructing the sun, however 

otherwise momentous, compared 

to the death of his son    

                   Now secretly with inward griefs he pin’d, 
                   Now warm resentments to his griefs he joyn’d, 
                   And now renounc’d his office to mankind. 


Helios / Phoebus / Apollo, presently

in the throes of griefs and guilt, warm,

impassioned, resentments, chooses 

to no longer drive the Chariot of the 

Sun, renounc[es] his office, his duty,

responsibility, service, to mankind  

                   “Ere since the birth of time,” said he, “I’ve born 
                   A long ungrateful toil, without return; 
                   Let now some other manage, if he dare, 
                   The fiery steeds, and mount the burning carr; 
                   Or, if none else, let Jove his fortune try, 
                   And learn to lay his murd’ring thunder by; 


Helios / Phoebus / Apollo challenges 

Jove himself, if no other will take his 

place, to guide the horses, holding 

him responsible for the death of 

his son, Phaeton, by having cast his 

murd’ring thunder at him, though

the Earth herself and the harried

constellations, in Jove’s defence,

had begged the god of gods to do



                   Then will he own, perhaps, but own too late, 
                   My son deserv’d not so severe a fate.” 


but could there have been any other 


                   The Gods stand round him, as he mourns, and pray 
                   He would resume the conduct of the day, 
                   Nor let the world be lost in endless night: 


without the Chariot of the Sun and

someone to guide it, there would be

no day, an apocalyptic cataclysm

                   Jove too himself descending from his height, 
                   Excuses what had happen’d, and intreats, 


intreats, entreats, implores, beseeches

                   Majestically mixing pray’rs and threats. 


Jove / Jupiter / Zeus, from his position

of supreme authority, pulls out all the 

stops, uses all his mechanisms,

pray’rs, threats

                   Prevail’d upon at length, again he took 
                   The harness’d steeds, that still with horror shook, 
                   And plies ’em with the lash, and whips ’em on, 
                   And, as he whips, upbraids ’em with his son. 


Helios / Phoebus / Apollo takes out 

his anguish on the horses, which 

must’ve led to a daunting, a hellish 




R ! chard



Phaeton’s Sisters Transform’d into Trees – Ovid


   “Heliades (1920s) 


           Rupert Bunny





                     The Latian nymphs came round him, 


Latian, of Latium, a region still of Italy,

which comprised, and still comprises,

Rome, the Latians, or Latins, were its

original inhabitants, whose language,

Latin, is the root of many of our 

European languages today, it is, 

notably, the language of Ovid


                                                                                                 and, amaz’d, 
                     On the dead youth, transfix’d with thunder, gaz’d; 


the dead youth, Phaeton

                     And, whilst yet smoaking from the bolt he lay, 
                     His shatter’d body to a tomb convey, 
                     And o’er the tomb an epitaph devise: 
                     “Here he, who drove the sun’s bright chariot, lies; 
                     His father’s fiery steeds he cou’d not guide, 
                     But in the glorious enterprize he dy’d.” 


though Ovid’s text, as translated by

John Dryden, among others, has

its difficulties, a good portion of it 

is easy to understand, the secret,

mostly, is in paying attention to the

punctuation, which on occasion can

be tricky

                     Apollo hid his face, and pin’d for grief, 


Apollo, Phaeton’s father

                     And, if the story may deserve belief, 
                     The space of one whole day is said to run, 
                     From morn to wonted ev’n, without a sun: 


ev’n, evening

                     The burning ruins, with a fainter ray, 
                     Supply the sun, and counterfeit a day, 

                     A day, that still did Nature’s face disclose: 
                     This comfort from the mighty mischief rose. 


though the sun did not shine that

fateful day, the glow from the 

burning debris shed a light that 

allowed one to nevertheless 

make out, disclose, Nature’s face, 

a wry comfort midst the carnage,

midst the mighty mischief

                     But Clymene, enrag’d with grief, laments, 


Clymene, Phaeton’s mother

                     And as her grief inspires, her passion vents: 
                     Wild for her son, and frantick in her woes, 
                     With hair dishevel’d round the world she goes, 
                     To seek where-e’er his body might be cast; 
                     ‘Till, on the borders of the Po, at last 
                     The name inscrib’d on the new tomb appears. 


the Po, a river in Italy


the new tomb, where the Latian 

nymphs lay to rest Phaeton’s 



                     The dear dear name she bathes in flowing tears, 
                     Hangs o’er the tomb, unable to depart, 
                     And hugs the marble to her throbbing heart. 

                     Her daughters too lament, and sigh, and mourn 
                     (A fruitless tribute to their brother’s urn), 
                     And beat their naked bosoms, and complain, 
                     And call aloud for Phaeton in vain: 
                     All the long night their mournful watch they keep, 
                     And all the day stand round the tomb, and weep. 


Her daughters, the Heliades, along

with Phaeton, were the children of

Clymene and Helios / Phoebus / 

Apollo, god of the Sun


                     Four times, revolving, the full moon return’d; 
                     So long the mother and the daughters mourn’d: 


the equivalent of, more or less, 

four months

                     When now the eldest, Phaethusa, strove 
                     To rest her weary limbs, but could not move; 
                     Lampetia wou’d have help’d her, but she found 
                     Her self with-held, and rooted to the ground: 


Phaethusa and Lampetia, both daughters 

of Helios / Phoebus / Apollo, but with 

Neaera, and not, as Ovid indeed writes 

in his Latin text, with Clymene, were 

therefore not strictly speaking Heliades

but stepsisters only of Phaeton


furthermore, Ovid has them find their

purported brother in the Eridanos, a

river only later identified as the Po

so that Dryden cannot be faulted for

this not inaccurate anachronism


in either case, I suspect either’s metre

might’ve played a poetically pertinent 

part in these divergences


                     A third in wild affliction, as she grieves, 
                     Wou’d rend her hair, but fills her hands with leaves; 
                     One sees her thighs transform’d, another views 
                     Her arms shot out, and branching into boughs. 


in one version, Helios / Phoebus / 

Apollo and Clymene had three 

daughters, Aegiale, Aegle, and 

Aetheria, in another they had five, 

Helia, Merope, Phoebe, Aetheria 

and Dioxippe, you’ll note that 

Phaethusa and Lampetia are not 

among then

                     And now their legs, and breasts, and bodies stood  
                     Crusted with bark, and hard’ning into wood; 
                     But still above were female heads display’d, 

                     And mouths, that call’d the mother to their aid. 


there’s a pattern here, a friend said 

when I spoke to her about what 

was coming up


you mean these nymphs turning 

into trees, I asked


yes, she replied


look at it the other way around, I said, 

not that the girls are turning into trees, 

but that the trees are becoming human, 

becoming our kin, we are acknowledging 

their humanity, anthropomorphically, which 

is why some of us actually hug them, the 

world in Ovid’s earlier myths is still being 

created, not just the generic tree, but 

poplars, maples, laurel, out of the share 

of the common soul we impart to them, 

not only metaphorically, as in these myths, 

but even organically, we are, after all,  

all, fundamentally, stardust


                     What cou’d, alas! the weeping mother do? 
                     From this to that with eager haste she flew, 
                     And kiss’d her sprouting daughters as they grew. 
                     She tears the bark that to each body cleaves, 
                     And from their verdant fingers strips the leaves: 
                     The blood came trickling, where she tore away 
                     The leaves and bark: 


the process is not unlike watching, 

helplessly, a daughter leave home, 

age, take on life’s tribulations


                                                 the maids were heard to say, 
                     “Forbear, mistaken parent, oh! forbear; 
                     A wounded daughter in each tree you tear; 
                     Farewell for ever.” Here the bark encreas’d, 
                     Clos’d on their faces, and their words suppress’d. 


let go, let go, the daughters cry,

holding on to us only hurts 

                     The new-made trees in tears of amber run, 
                     Which, harden’d into value by the sun, 
                     Distill for ever on the streams below: 


the river Eridanos was supposed to be a

river rich in amber, the resin, apparently,  

of poplar trees there having drifted to the 

nearby stream, hardened


I’m reminded of the sap of our own

indigenous maple trees becoming

a prized delicacy

                     The limpid streams their radiant treasure show, 
                     Mixt in the sand; whence the rich drops convey’d 
                     Shine in the dress of the bright Latian maid. 


Latian, or Latin, maids have been 

weaving amber into their apparel

ever since



R ! chard



Story of Phaeton (VIII) – Ovid


  the initial page of the Peterborough Chronicle (14th Century CE)





                  Jove call’d to witness ev’ry Pow’r above, 
                  And ev’n the God, whose son the chariot drove, 
                  That what he acts he is compell’d to do, 
                  Or universal ruin must ensue. 


had Dryden applied commas above,

as I am, you might’ve noted, nearly

compulsively wont to do, commas 

being a significant part of my religion, 

the verses might’ve been more easily 

understood, put a comma after 

witness and the object of the 

witnessing, in this case an entire 

independent clause, That what he 

acts he is compell’d to do, finds its 

natural position, clarity, Jove has to 

do, he says, what Jove has to do


I cannot too much blame Dryden for 

this literary indiscretion, this peccadillo,

to my mind, for punctuation has been 

an evolving thing, there was a time 

when there was no punctuation at all, 

not even spaces between the words, 

see abovethis translation, of 1717, 

stands somewhere within the gamut 

of our ever evolving English grammar


the God, meanwhile, whose son the 

chariot drove, in, above, the second 

pentameter, is Phoebus / Apollo

Phaeton‘s father


                  Strait he ascends the high aetherial throne, 


Jove does

                  From whence 
he us’d to dart his thunder down,  
                From whence his show’rs and storms he us’d to pour, 
                But now cou’d meet with neither storm nor show’r. 


Jove, being rendered impotent by the 

raging fires, the immutable trajectory 

of the very Sun having been 

catastrophically, however improbably, 

distorted, is left, at that time, or Then, 

as the next line starts up, with no 



                  Then, aiming at the youth, with lifted hand, 
                  Full at his head he hurl’d the forky brand, 
                  In dreadful thund’rings. 


forky brand, a forklike piece of burning 

wood, Jove’s trident


                                                  Thus th’ almighty sire   
                  Suppress’d the raging of the fires with fire. 


I’m reminded of the planned explosions 

at the mouth of the oil wells in Kuwait,

wellheads, after the Gulf War, that were 

meant to still for a critical moment the 

fires, that would otherwise burn out 

of control, in order to squelch the

disastrous conflagrations 

                  At once from life and from the chariot driv’n, 
                  Th’ ambitious boy fell thunder-struck from Heav’n. 
                  The horses started with a sudden bound, 
                  And flung the reins and chariot to the ground: 
                  The studded harness from their necks they broke, 
                  Here fell a wheel, and here a silver spoke, 
                  Here were the beam and axle torn away; 
                  And, scatter’d o’er the Earth, the shining fragments lay. 
                  The breathless Phaeton, with flaming hair, 
                  Shot from the chariot, like a falling star, 
                  That in a summer’s ev’ning from the top 
                  Of Heav’n drops down, or seems at least to drop; 
                  ‘Till on the Po his blasted corps was hurl’d, 


corps, body, from the French, or 



the Po, a river in Italy

                   Far from his country, in the western world. 


one wonders, however, what happened

to the Earth, the Chariot of the Sun, 

upon their fiery interaction, perhaps 

the Sun, fallen behind the horizon,

beyond the western oceans, set out 

again, the following morning, with its 

usual master, Phoebus / Apollo, at 

its steady reins, for the world to 

see again another day under that 

lord’s august intervention



R ! chard