“The Story of of Cadmus” (ll) – Ovid

by richibi

St. George and the Dragon, c.1470 - Paolo Uccello

          “St. George and the Dragon” (c.1470)


                 Paolo Uccello





             Cadmus salutes the soil, and gladly hails

             The new-found mountains, and the nameless vales,

             And thanks the Gods, and turns about his eye

             To see his new dominions round him lye;


Cadmus, son of Agenor, brother of

Europa, has, on the advice of the

Delphick oracles, settled where

the lonely cow, / Unworn with yokes,

unbroken to the plow had stoop’d,

and couch’d amid the rising grass,

and stakes there his new appointed



vales, valleys

             Then sends his servants to a neighb’ring grove

             For living streams, a sacrifice to Jove.


Cadmus, a prince, would’ve had

a retinue, followers, Hamlet for

instance, his Horatio, his

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern


Jove, note, is the god who abducted

Europa, though Cadmus, according

to our story, isn’t yet supposed to 

know this, never having found his

sister, nor identified, consequently,

her ravisher, namely Jovethe god

to whom Cadmus is now about to

give sacrifice, give thanks

             O’er the wide plain there rose a shady wood

             Of aged trees; in its dark bosom stood

             A bushy thicket, pathless and unworn,

             O’er-run with brambles, and perplex’d with thorn:


perplex’d, a wonderful metaphor

here for entangled, enmeshed


             Amidst the brake a hollow den was found,

             With rocks and shelving arches vaulted round.


brake, bracken, brush


             Deep in the dreary den, conceal’d from day,

             Sacred to Mars, a mighty dragon lay,


Mars, god of War


a mighty dragon, dragons, it appears,

go back to very prehistory, perhaps

as a memory in our reptilian brain of

dinosaurs, and the like, that made its

way into our poetic imagination


see above 

             Bloated with poison to a monstrous size;

             Fire broke in flashes when he glanc’d his eyes:


glanc’d his eyes, threw glances at


             His tow’ring crest was glorious to behold,


crest, as in roosters, or reptiles

             His shoulders and his sides were scal’d with gold;


scal’d, having scales, plates,

overlapping surfaces

             Three tongues he brandish’d when he charg’d his foes;

             His teeth stood jaggy in three dreadful rowes.


rowes, rows, three dreadful ones,

one behind the other

             The Tyrians in the den for water sought,


The Tyrians, Cadmus and his men,

all originally from Tyre

             And with their urns explor’d the hollow vault:


urns, to collect from living streams

within the vault a sacrifice to Jove

             From side to side their empty urns rebound,


rebound, knock against a harder

surface repeatedly

             And rowse the sleeping serpent with the sound.


rowse, rouse


             Strait he bestirs him, and is seen to rise;


he bestirs him, he bestirs himself


             And now with dreadful hissings fills the skies,

             And darts his forky tongues, and rowles his glaring eyes.


rowles, rolls

             The Tyrians drop their vessels in the fright,


vessels, urns


             All pale and trembling at the hideous sight.

             Spire above spire uprear’d in air he stood,


Spire above spire, scale upon scale


uprear’d, reared up


he, the serpent

             And gazing round him over-look’d the wood:


overlook’d, looked over, surveyed

             Then floating on the ground in circles rowl’d;


rowl’d, rolled

             Then leap’d upon them in a mighty fold.


fold, embrace, encirclement


             Of such a bulk, and such a monstrous size

             The serpent in the polar circle lyes,

             That stretches over half the northern skies.


The serpent in the polar circle, Serpens,

a constellation in the Northern Hemisphere

in close proximity to the North Pole


lyes, lies

             In vain the Tyrians on their arms rely,


their arms, their weapons

             In vain attempt to fight, in vain to fly:
             All their endeavours and their hopes are vain;
             Some die entangled in the winding train;


the winding train, the serpent’s



             Some are devour’d, or feel a loathsom death,
             Swoln up with blasts of pestilential breath.


stay tuned




R ! chard