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

by richibi


   “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