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

by richibi


     “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