“The Story of of Cadmus” (lll) – Ovid

by richibi

File:Hendrick Goltzius Cadmus Statens Museum for Kunst 1183.jpg

             Cadmus Slays the Dragon


                       Hendrick Goltzius





             And now the scorching sun was mounted high,

             In all its lustre, to the noon-day sky;

             When, anxious for his friends, and fill’d with cares,

             To search the woods th’ impatient chief prepares.

th’ impatient chief, Cadmus, prince of

Tyre, had sen[t] his servants to a

neighb’ring grove / For living streams,

if you’ll remembersacrifice to Jove,

to thank that god for these new

dominionstheir new home

             A lion’s hide around his loins he wore,

             The well poiz’d javelin to the field he bore,

             Inur’d to blood; the far-destroying dart;

             And, the best weapon, an undaunted heart.


Cadmus here is a precursor of the

mythologically later Heracles, or

Herakles, or Hercules in Latin, a

hero, which is to say descended

from the gods, in that latter’s case,

son of Jove / Zeus / Jupiter, the

very deity who’d just abducted

Europa, Cadmus‘ sister, mother

of all Europeans, divine or human


             Soon as the youth approach’d the fatal place,

             He saw his servants breathless on the grass;


breathless, not breathing,


             The scaly foe amid their corps he view’d,

             Basking at ease, and feasting in their blood.


The scaly foe, the dragon


corps, corpses

             “Such friends,” he cries, “deserv’d a longer date;


a longer date, a longer life, a more

extended period of existence

             But Cadmus will revenge or share their fate.”


either [t]he scaly foe will die, the

dragon, or Cadmus himself, in the

attempt to avenge his friends, his

servants breathless on the grass,

he promises

              Then heav’d a stone, and rising to the throw, 

              He sent it in a whirlwind at the foe:


in a whirlwind, taking advantage

of a meteorological condition, as

one would a kite

             A tow’r, assaulted by so rude a stroke,

             With all its lofty battlements had shook;


a tower would’ve swayed at so

powerful a strike, I remember

an earthquake once rocking my

own high rise apartment building

for an unnerving moment before

settling, returning the ground, 

my ground, to its, otherwise

imperturbable, placidity


             But nothing here th’ unwieldy rock avails,

             Rebounding harmless from the plaited scales,

             That, firmly join’d, preserv’d him from a wound,

             With native armour crusted all around.


native, integral, a constituent

part of

             With more success, the dart unerring flew,


the dart, the javelin

             Which at his back the raging warriour threw;


the raging warriour, Cadmus


             Amid the plaited scales it took its course,

             And in the spinal marrow spent its force.

             The monster hiss’d aloud, and rag’d in vain,

             And writh’d his body to and fro with pain;

             He bit the dart, and wrench’d the wood away;

             The point still buried in the marrow lay.

             And now his rage, increasing with his pain,

             Reddens his eyes, and beats in ev’ry vein;

             Churn’d in his teeth the foamy venom rose,

             Whilst from his mouth a blast of vapours flows,

             Such as th’ infernal Stygian waters cast.


Stygian, of the River Styx, which

forms the boundary between the

Earth and the Underworld, named

after the Goddess Styx, daughter

of Tethys and Oceanus, god, and

river also, which encircled the

entire world

             The plants around him wither in the blast.

             Now in a maze of rings he lies enrowl’d,


enrowl’d, encircled, surrounded

             Now all unravel’d, and without a fold;


without a fold, without a hitch, without

an intervening obstacle


             Now, like a torrent, with a mighty force

             Bears down the forest in his boist’rous course.


Bears down the forest, advances,

like a torrent, against the wall of



             Cadmus gave back, and on the lion’s spoil

             Sustain’d the shock, then forc’d him to recoil;


gave back, drew back, backed

away, forc’d … to recoil


the lion’s spoil, the dragon’s

venom and its gore

             The pointed jav’lin warded off his rage:


the dragon readies for the onslaught,

overcoming his, otherwise consuming

rage, at the sight of [t]he pointed jav’lin


             Mad with his pains, and furious to engage,

             The serpent champs the steel, and bites the spear,

             Till blood and venom all the point besmear.

             But still the hurt he yet receiv’d was slight;

             For, whilst the champion with redoubled might

             Strikes home the jav’lin, his retiring foe

             Shrinks from the wound, and disappoints the blow.


the jav’lin is still no match for the,

however wounded, dragon


             The dauntless heroe still pursues his stroke,

             And presses forward, ’till a knotty oak

             Retards his foe, and stops him in the rear;


retards, stops, inhibits

             Full in his throat he plung’d the fatal spear,

             That in th’ extended neck a passage found,

             And pierc’d the solid timber through the wound.


the fatal spear has pierc’d not

only th’ extended neck, but also

the knotty oak behind it, which

had prevented the dragon from

moving onward toward his



             Fix’d to the reeling trunk, with many a stroke

             Of his huge tail he lash’d the sturdy oak;

             ‘Till spent with toil, and lab’ring hard for breath,

             He now lay twisting in the pangs of death.


ding dong, the dragon is, if not

dead, dying


stay tuned



R ! chard