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

by richibi


   “Apollo and Coronis (1606 – 1608)


                Adam Elsheimer





               On her incestuous life I need not dwell 
               (In Lesbos still the horrid tale they tell), 
               And of her dire amours you must have heard, 
               For which she now does penance in a bird, 
               That conscious of her shame, avoids the light, 
               And loves the gloomy cov’ring of the night; 
               The birds, where-e’er she flutters, scare away 
               The hooting wretch, and drive her from the day.” 


Nyctimene, daughter of Epopeus

king of Lesbos, a Greek Island in

the Aegean Sea, had been defiled 

by her father, Minerva, out of pity,

transformed her into an owl, the

above verses tell the story of

that owl, Nyctimene


               The raven, urg’d by such impertinence, 
               Grew passionate, it seems, and took offence, 
               And curst the harmless daw; the daw withdrew: 
               The raven to her injur’d patron flew, 
               And found him out, and told the fatal truth 
               Of false Coronis and the favour’d youth. 


the raven, Apollo’s own bird, having 

discovered Coronis to be unfaithful 

to their master, its and hers, remained

intentdespite the daw’s warnings,

earlier here reported, on informing

the god of the Sun 

               The God was wroth, the colour left his look, 


wroth, angry

               The wreath his head, the harp his hand forsook: 


[t]he wreath, … the harp, Apollo’s

usual attributes, symbols of his

harmony, concord

               His silver bow and feather’d shafts he took, 
               And lodg’d an arrow in the tender breast, 
               That had so often to his own been prest. 


though Apollo is not usually 

associated with bows and arrows,

his twin sister Diana, goddess of

the Hunt, always is, it would not 

be unusual to conflate the two 

deities for poetic, or indeed

mythological, purposes

               Down fell the wounded nymph, and sadly groan’d, 
               And pull’d his arrow reeking from the wound; 
               And weltring in her blood, thus faintly cry’d, 
               “Ah cruel God! tho’ I have justly dy’d, 
               What has, alas! my unborn infant done, 
               That he should fall, and two expire in one?” 
               This said, in agonies she fetch’d her breath. 


it is supposed here that the unborn

infant is indeed Apollo’s


               The God dissolves in pity at her death;

               He hates the bird that made her falshood known, 
               And hates himself for what himself had done; 
               The feather’d shaft, that sent her to the Fates, 
               And his own hand, that sent the shaft, he hates.


Apollo is suffused with regret, anger,


               Fain would he heal the wound, and ease her pain, 


Fain, with pleasure, gladly

               And tries the compass of his art in vain. 


the compass of his art, the range 

of his ability, in this case vain, 

faulty, ineffective

               Soon as he saw the lovely nymph expire, 
               The pile made ready, and the kindling fire. 


pile, pyre


the sentence lacks a verb here, it 

should read The pile was made 

ready, just saying

               With sighs and groans her obsequies he kept, 


obsequies, funeral rites

               And, if a God could weep, the God had wept. 


I’ll have to watch out for gods

weeping, I suspect some have, 

some can


               Her corps he kiss’d, and heav’nly incense brought, 
               And solemniz’d the death himself had wrought. 


corps, body, corpse


wrought, brought about, made



               But lest his offspring should her fate partake, 
               Spight of th’ immortal mixture in his make, 


Spight, in spite 

               He ript her womb, and set the child at large, 
               And gave him to the centaur Chiron’s charge: 


Chiron, first among the centaurs,  

half man, half horse, was highly 

revered as a teacher, having 

been raised by the twins, Apollo 

and Diana / Artemis, supremely

accomplished deities

               Then in his fury black’d the raven o’er, 
               And bid him prate in his white plumes no more. 


black’d, Apollo turned the snowy 

plume[d], [w]hite as the whitest 

dove’s unsully’d breast raven 



prate, babble, talk incoherently



R ! chard