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

by richibi


       Statue in the Park of Versailles


                   Giovanni Boldini





Envy, at the instigation of Minerva,

has flown towards the site of her

commissioned mischief, to hex

Aglauros, who’s miffed her


            When Athens she beheld, for arts renown’d,

            With peace made happy, and with plenty crown’d,


Athens, its glories, architectural,

literary, political, philosophical, would

have been impressive still, despite its

intervening decline, to the mind of a

Roman poet of the later First Century,

compare, say, a contemporary poet’s

evaluation of Great Britain’s grandeur

during its 19th Century supremacy, or

of the United States’ promise before

its late-20th-Century deterioration


            Scarce could the hideous fiend from tears forbear,

            To find out nothing that deserv’d a tear.


Envy, the hideous fiend, was upset

because she couldn’t find anything

to cry about, anything that deserv’d

a tear

            Th’ apartment now she enter’d, where at rest

            Aglauros lay, with gentle sleep opprest.


with gentle sleep opprest seems

to me oxymoronic, conflicting

definitions, how could a gentle

sleep oppress, but let’s continue

            To execute Minerva’s dire command,

            She stroak’d the virgin with her canker’d hand,

            Then prickly thorns into her breast convey’d,

            That stung to madness the devoted maid:

            Her subtle venom still improves the smart,


improves the smart, accentuates

the sudden pain


            Frets in the blood, and festers in the heart.


Frets in, unsettles, the blood, festers,

rots , becomes cankerous, in the heart.


            To make the work more sure, a scene she drew,

            And plac’d before the dreaming virgin’s view

            Her sister’s marriage, and her glorious fate:

            Th’ imaginary bride appears in state;

            The bride-groom with unwonted beauty glows:

            For envy magnifies what-e’er she shows.


Aglauros is not only struck with

subtle venom, but subjected to

psychological manipulation, if

you’ll excuse the reference to

modern analytical methods, is

made to see [h]er sister’s

marriage, Herse‘s, as well as 

her glorious fate


For envy magnifies what-e’er

she shows, an observation

worth remembering


            Full of the dream, Aglauros pin’d away

            In tears all night, in darkness all the day;


the dream, though Envy might’ve

envenomed Aglauros in her sleep,

the unwanted vision continues to

plague her throughout the following

days, and nights


            Consum’d like ice, that just begins to run,

            When feebly smitten by the distant sun;

            Or like unwholsome weeds, that set on fire

            Are slowly wasted, and in smoke expire.


the slow torture in the mind of

rancour there eating away at

the psyche

            Giv’n up to envy (for in ev’ry thought

            The thorns, the venom, and the vision wrought)


The thorns, the venom, and the vision,

all three, wrought, writhing, smouldering,

in ev’ry thought


            Oft did she call on death, as oft decreed,


decreed, resolved


            Rather than see her sister’s wish succeed,

            To tell her awfull father what had past:


her awfull father, Cecrops l, founder

and first king of Athens, according to



awfull, as in inspiring awe, reverence

            At length before the door her self she cast;


the door, of her chamber, where the

God Hermes / Mercury had asked

Aglauros to speak in his favour to

her sister, Herse, whom he had

wanted, if you’ll remember, to woo


cast, set herself up awaiting the

God’s return

            And, sitting on the ground with sullen pride,

            A passage to the love-sick God deny’d.


Aglauros denies the God his wish,

she will not praise him to her sister

            The God caress’d, and for admission pray’d,

            And sooth’d in softest words th’ envenom’d maid.


caress’d, used endearing words

            In vain he sooth’d: “Begone!” the maid replies,

            “Or here I keep my seat, and never rise.”


I’ll stay here till you leave, Aglauros

tells Hermes / Mercury

            “Then keep thy seat for ever,” cries the God,


the impudence of vying with a god

has its consequences

            And touch’d the door, wide op’ning to his rod.


his rod, his caduceus, his winged


            Fain would she rise, and stop him,




                                                             but she found

            Her trunk too heavy to forsake the ground;

            Her joynts are all benum’d, her hands are pale,

            And marble now appears in ev’ry nail.

            As when a cancer in the body feeds,

            And gradual death from limb to limb proceeds;

            So does the chilness to each vital parte

            Spread by degrees, and creeps into her heart;

            ‘Till hard’ning ev’ry where, and speechless grown,

            She sits unmov’d, and freezes to a stone.


Aglauros has become of stone,

a statue

            But still her envious hue and sullen mien

            Are in the sedentary figure seen.


still, though Aglauros might’ve been

rendered inanimate, it’s interesting

to note that she’s nevertheless

become immortal, immortalized


see, for instance, above



R ! chard