“The Story of Aglauros, transform’d into a Statue” (ll) – Ovid

by richibi



        Minerva or Pallas Athena” (1898)


               Gustav Klimt





Hermes / Mercury, messenger god,

has spotted Herse, Greek princess,

from on high, the most beautiful

among a procession of shining

virgins and, fir’d, swoops down to

earth, to th’ apartment of the royal

maid, in order to seduce her


             The roof was all with polish’d iv’ry lin’d,

             That richly mix’d, in clouds of tortoise shin’d.


tortoise, tortoiseshell, either the

colour, or the substance itself,

are referenced here, or maybe

even both

             Three rooms, contiguous, in a range were plac’d,


contiguous, one beside the other

             The midmost by the beauteous Herse grac’d;

             Her virgin sisters lodg’d on either side.


Herse, you might remember, had

two sisters, Pandrosos and

Aglauros, daughters of King

Cecrops, they’d seen the child

Ericthonius, half man, half snake,

son of Minerva, who had been

given to them, into their care, 

cradled in a basket, a chest, of

twining osierswhich they were

categorically not to open, but did,

to their great, to their utter, indeed

mythic, chagrin


             Aglauros first th’ approaching God descry’d,


descry’d, witnessed, beheld


             And, as he cross’d her chamber, ask’d his name,

             And what his business was, and whence he came.

             “I come,” reply’d the God, “from Heav’n, to woo

             Your sister, and to make an aunt of you;


however unabashedly be he



             I am the son and messenger of Jove;

             My name is Mercury, my bus’ness love;

             Do you, kind damsel, take a lover’s part,

             And gain admittance to your sister’s heart.”


take a lover’s part, Mercury entreats,

be of help, he asks Aglauros, in this

amorous adventure, strategize a path,

gain admittance for me, to your sister’s

heart, to her serene acquiescence

             She star’d him in the face with looks amaz’d,
             As when she on Minerva’s secret gaz’d,


Minerva’s secret, her babe,

Ericthonius, half man, half snake,

whom Aglauros had earlier,

however treacherously, beheld


             And asks a mighty treasure for her hire;


sure, says Aglauros, I’ll help, but

what will you give me in return

for my service, my hire


             And, ’till he brings it, makes the God retire.


Aglauros will not assist till she

receives the mighty treasure she

requests for her hire

             Minerva griev’d to see the nymph succeed;


Minerva, is not happy to see Aglauros

get anything at all because of her

earlier indiscretion, disobediently

uncovering Ericthonius, the

goddess’ son


             And now remembring the late impious deed,

             When, disobedient to her strict command,

             She touch’d the chest with an unhallow’d hand;

             In big-swoln sighs her inward rage express’d,

             That heav’d the rising Aegis on her breast;


Aegis, the shield that Minerva wore,

fashioned by the Cyclopes, brothers,

one-eyed giants, in the workplace of

Hephaestus, god of Craftsmen, Fire,

Metallurgy, it bore the Gorgoneion,

the head of Medusa, which would

turn one to stone when looked upon


see above

             Then sought out Envy in her dark abode,

             Defil’d with ropy gore and clots of blood:

             Shut from the winds, and from the wholesome skies,

             In a deep vale the gloomy dungeon lies,

             Dismal and cold, where not a beam of light

             Invades the winter, or disturbs the night.


Envy, its personification, is a goddess

here, though the representative of

Envy is usually considered to be

Phthonus, a male deity



next stop, Envy’s dark abode


stay tuned



R ! chard