“The Story of Coronis, and Birth of Aesculapius” – Ovid
“A Saint, from ‘The Jackdaw of Rheims’“ (1868)
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
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
Apollo, who 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
And by a thousand teizing questions drew
Th’ important secret from him as they flew.
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
“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
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,
R ! chard
psst: The Jackdaw of Reims, by
Richard Harris Barham