“The Story of of Cadmus” – Ovid

by richibi

Lying Cow, 1883 - Vincent van Gogh

        Lying Cow(1883)


             Vincent van Gogh



            When now Agenor had his daughter lost,


Agenor, king of Tyre, father of

Europahis daughter lost

            He sent his son to search on ev’ry coast;


his son, Agenor’s son, Cadmus,

Europa’s brother

            And sternly bid him to his arms restore
            The darling maid, or see his face no more,
            But live an exile in a foreign clime;
            Thus was the father pious to a crime.


pious to a crime, intent on, devoted to,

having justice restored


            The restless youth search’d all the world around;
            But how can Jove in his amours be found?


amours, loves, trysts, entanglements


            When, tir’d at length with unsuccessful toil,
            To shun his angry sire and native soil,


his angry sire, Agenor, father, sire


            He goes a suppliant to the Delphick dome;


suppliant, supplicant, petitioner,

one in search of a favour


Delphick dome, the Temple of Apollo

at Delphi, where the oracle, Pythia,

proclaimed her cryptic prognostications,

her famously ambiguous prophecies


Delphi, incidentally, was one of several

sacred sites in Greece, sanctuaries,

open to any Greek, or person who

could speak Greek, regardless of

geographical provenance, any

city-statefor instance then, or

kingdom, akin to embassies today,

or places where people can expect

to find similar political haven


Delphi was the destination then also of

pilgrimages, comparable to our own

Santiago de Compostela today, an

ancient path I dearly would’ve, but

never have, unfortunately, undertaken


though I did walk to Mission B.C. some

several years ago, from my home in

Vancouver, to a monastery there, a

place of recuperation when I needed

one, three days there, and a half, three

days and an equal half back, my feet

were blistered, I noticed at one point,

but hadn’t at all registered any pain,

a truth I gathered about the power of

intention, one’s very aim can be a

salve, a balm, a solace, against any



but back to Cadmus


            There asks the God what new appointed home
            Should end his wand’rings, and his toils relieve.


where do I land, asks Cadmus,where

is my appointed home, my final


            The Delphick oracles this answer give.


The Delphick oracles, subordinates

to Pythia, the high priestess at Delphi


            “Behold among the fields a lonely cow,

            Unworn with yokes, unbroken to the plow;

            Mark well the place where first she lays her down,

            There measure out thy walls, and build thy town,

            And from thy guide Boeotia call the land,

            In which the destin’d walls and town shall stand.”


Boeotiaa region still of Greece


            No sooner had he left the dark abode,
            Big with the promise of the Delphick God,


the Delphick God, Apollo, god of

music, dance, truth, prophecy,

healing, the sun, light, poetry,

among many other things

            When in the fields the fatal cow he view’d,
            Nor gall’d with yokes, nor worn with servitude:


fatal, fateful


gall’d, irritated, frustrated

            Her gently at a distance he pursu’d;
            And as he walk’d aloof, in silence pray’d
            To the great Pow’r whose counsels he obey’d.


the great Pow’r, Apollo, by way of his

Delphick oracles,the high priestesses,

through their counsel, their divinations

            Her way thro’ flow’ry Panope she took,


Panope, plural, were sea nymphs, not

places, in Ancient Greece, therefore

Cadmus must’ve been crossing water,

however flow’ry, I’ll have to check my

Latin text for, maybe, inaccuracies in

the translation

            And now, Cephisus, cross’d thy silver brook;


Cephisus, or Cephissus, a river in Boeotia,

a brook, a stream, anthropomorphized here,

which is to say Cephissus, the flow, the

waterway, is being addressed as a rational

being, I have cross’d thy silver brook, he 

says, speaking to the torrent


meanwhile, to brook, to conquer, to

overcome, a wonderful, a shimmering,

literarily speaking, homonym, which is

to say, a word with two faces

            When to the Heav’ns her spacious front she rais’d,
            And bellow’d thrice, then backward turning gaz’d
            On those behind, ’till on the destin’d place
            She stoop’d, and couch’d amid the rising grass.


she, the fatal cow, see abovehas led

Cadmus to his famed, his mythic,

destination, destin’d place, destiny


stay tuned



R ! chard