Richibi’s Weblog

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Month: January, 2021

“The Transformation of Actaeon into a Stag” – Ovid

The Bath of Diana, 1855 - Camille Corot


           “The Bath of Diana(1855)


                       Camille Corot




                In a fair chace a shady mountain stood,


chace, chase


a fair chace, not far away

                Well stor’d with game, and mark’d with trails of blood;

                Here did the huntsmen, ’till the heat of day,

                Pursue the stag, and load themselves with rey:


rey, probably prey, cause rey is not

a word, and ray instead of rey would

lead to inanities, improbabilities, lead

to hunters, huntsmen, bearing branches,

or stalks, of flowers at best, at worst,

bolts of light

                When thus Actaeon calling to the rest:


Actaeongrandson of Cadmus

founder of Thebes


                “My friends,” said he, “our sport is at the best,

                The sun is high advanc’d, and downward sheds

                His burning beams directly on our heads;


let’s take a break, Actaeon says, it’s
midday, too hot, it’s scorching

                Then by consent abstain from further spoils,

                Call off the dogs, and gather up the toils,

                And ere to-morrow’s sun begins his race,

                Take the cool morning to renew the chace.”


we’ve gathered sufficient quarry, he

continues, let’s wait until to-morrow,

for the cool[er] morning, in order to

renew the chace


                They all consent, and in a chearful train

                The jolly huntsmen, loaden with the slain,

                Return in triumph from the sultry plain.


loaden, laden


the slain, the spoils from the hunt

                Down in a vale with pine and cypress clad,

                Refresh’d with gentle winds, and brown with shade,

                The chaste Diana’s private haunt, there stood


Diana / Artemis, goddess of the Hunt,
and of the Moon


                Full in the centre of the darksome wood

                A spacious grotto, all around o’er-grown

                With hoary moss, and arch’d with pumice-stone.


see above


                From out its rocky clefts the waters flow,

                And trickling swell into a lake below.

                Nature had ev’ry where so plaid her part,

                That ev’ry where she seem’d to vie with art.


to vie, to contend, to curry for

position, favour


                Here the bright Goddess, toil’d and chaf’d with heat,

                Was wont to bathe her in the cool retreat.

                Here did she now with all her train resort,

                Panting with heat, and breathless from the sport;

                Her armour-bearer laid her bow aside,

                Some loos’d her sandals, some her veil unty’d;

                Each busy nymph her proper part undrest;

                While Crocale, more handy than the rest,

                Gather’d her flowing hair, and in a noose

                Bound it together, whilst her own hung loose.


Crocale, one of Diana’s nymphs


                Five of the more ignoble sort by turns

                Fetch up the water, and unlade the urns.


ignoble, not noble, lacking authority,

pedigree, courtly experience 


unlade, empty


an idyll about to unravel


stay tuned



R ! chard

“The Story of of Cadmus” (V) – Ovid

Minerva or Pallas Athena, 1898 - Gustav Klimt

         Minerva or Pallas Athena” (1898)


                Gustav Klimt





an interesting thing has happened with

the story of Cadmus, he is not only a

mythical figure, but also a legendary

one, which is to say that Cadmus has

roots in actual history, he’s not just an

imaginary construct like those that

until now have peopled Ovid’s text


Cadmus appears to have actually

founded Thebes, whose origins,

however, are lost in antiquity, going

back to, it appears, the late Bronze

Age, around 2000 BC, goodness


stories evidently grew around

Cadmus, that transformed him into

our first documented hero, indeed



counterparts exist in other traditions,

consider David, for instance, who

slew his own dragon, Goliath, before

becoming king of the Israelites, 10th

Century BCE, at Jerusalem, where

he consorted, incidentally, later, with

Bathsheba, however illicitly, but

that’s another story


King Arthur, late 5th to early 6th

Centuries CE, stems from British

lore, though his historical actuality

has been contested, is also a hero

with preternatural capabilities based

on some historical accountability


in our day, there’s James Bond,

based on real, living and breathing,



or, dare I say, even Jesus


the point here is that actual people

are being included in the, however

culturally specific, mythologies,

which, in each, had earlier consisted

of metaphorical constructs merely,

the concept of History, in other words,

was being born, memorable events

were to be remembered, recorded,

documented, if only, originally, orally,

around, say, campfires, however

aggrandized might have been their

recollected heroes


Cadmus, meanwhile, in our story, is

about to establish his own historical,

and archeologically confirmed, note,



            The dire example ran through all the field,
            ‘Till heaps of brothers were by brothers kill’d;


The dire example, the dragon’s teeth,

grown into men, had begun, if you’ll

remember, to slaughter one another


example, display

            The furrows swam in blood: and only five
            Of all the vast increase were left alive.
            Echion one, at Pallas’s command,
            Let fall the guiltless weapon from his hand,


Echion, one of the five surviving



Pallas, Pallas Athena, goddess of

Wisdom, also of War


see above


            And with the rest a peaceful treaty makes,
            Whom Cadmus as his friends and partners takes;


the rest, the four other survivors


            So founds a city on the promis’d earth,
            And gives his new Boeotian empire birth.


promis’d earth, the premonition of

the oracles whose counsel Cadmus

had sought at Delphi, if you’ll



            Here Cadmus reign’d; and now one would have guess’d
            The royal founder in his exile blest:


his exile, from Tyre, Cadmus’ original

home, from which his father, Agenor,

had sent him, not to return, he’d

warnedwithout his sister, Europa

            Long did he live within his new abodes,
            Ally’d by marriage to the deathless Gods;


Ally’d by marriage, at the end of a

period of penance for having killed

the dragon, which had been sacred

to Ares, god of War, the gods gave

Cadmus Harmonia, goddess of

Concord, to be his wife


Ares would eventually exact mighty

vengeance, but that’s another story


            And, in a fruitful wife’s embraces old,
            A long increase of children’s children told:
            But no frail man, however great or high,
            Can be concluded blest before he die.


even Cadmus, though he might

enjoy a long life, and many, a long

increase of, children, is not immune

to any of the vicissitudes of life either

until his own time has come, the poet

advises, however ominously


and here Ovid also introduces the

subject of his next metamorphosis,

Actaeon, however early, luring us

thereby, deftly, literarily, towards

his next instalment, Actaeon’s

story, eponymously, there, given

its title


            Actaeon was the first of all his race,

            Who griev’d his grandsire in his borrow’d face;

            Condemn’d by stern Diana to bemoan
            The branching horns, and visage not his own;


his grandsire, his grandfather,

Cadmus was the father of Autonoë,

who was the mother of Actaeon


borrow’d face, Actaeon was

transformed into a stag by the

goddess Diana / Artemis, of the

Hunt, of the Moon, of Chastity,

for having seen her naked as

she was bathing


he now has the face, the visage, of

someone, something, he hadn’t

been before, borrow’d

            To shun his once lov’d dogs, to bound away,
            And from their huntsman to become their prey,


having been transformed into a

stag, or metamorphized, Actaeon

would end up hunted, and worse,

by his own, once lov’d, dogs

            And yet consider why the change was wrought,
            You’ll find it his misfortune, not his fault;
            Or, if a fault, it was the fault of chance:
            For how can guilt proceed from ignorance?


to have been at the wrong place

at the wrong time, yet to suffer,

however unfairly, the consequences,

that, Ovid asks, is the question, the



stay tuned



R ! chard