Richibi’s Weblog

Just another weblog

Month: February, 2021

“The Birth of Bacchus” – Ovid

Juno, c.1662 - c.1665 - Rembrandt

           Juno” (c.1662 – c.1665)






             Actaeon’s suff’rings, and Diana’s rage,

             Did all the thoughts of men and Gods engage;

             Some call’d the evils which Diana wrought,

             Too great, and disproportion’d to the fault:

             Others again, esteem’d Actaeon’s woes

             Fit for a virgin Goddess to impose.

             The hearers into diff’rent parts divide,

             And reasons are produc’d on either side.


Diana / Artemis had transformed

Actaeon into a stag, if you’ll

remembernot all the gods were

on side

              Juno alone, of all that heard the news,

              Nor would condemn the Goddess, nor excuse:


Juno, wife of Jove / Jupiter / Zeus

queen, therefore, of the gods

               She heeded not the justice of the deed,

               But joy’d to see the race of Cadmus bleed;


Cadmus, founder of Thebes, brother

of Europa

               For still she kept Europa in her mind,

               And, for her sake, detested all her kind.


Europa had been whisked away

by Jove / Jupiter / Zeus, Juno’s

husband, and borne him several

children, to the enduring enmity

of the queen of the deities

               Besides, to aggravate her hate, she heard

               How Semele, to Jove’s embrace preferr’d,

               Was now grown big with an immortal load,

               And carry’d in her womb a future God.


Jove / Jupiter / Zeus, incorrigible

philanderer apparently, had now

impregnated Semele, youngest

daughter of Cadmus, to Juno’s

utter disgust and dismay


              Thus terribly incens’d, the Goddess broke

               To sudden fury, and abruptly spoke.


the Goddess, Juno / Hera


let me reiterate here that the original

gods and goddesses of Olympus had

migrated with the Greeks to other

areas of the Mediterranean, but

became known, in the lands that

they’d settled, by other names

according to the languages and

customs that evolved in these new

territories, thus the Greek goddess

Hera was in Rome and its outlying

areas known as Juno, the Greek

Zeus as both Jupiter and Jove,

though their home remained for

all Mount Olympus


              “Are my reproaches of so small a force?

               ‘Tis time I then pursue another course:


though Juno / Hera might’ve

harangued Jove / Jupiter / Zeus

about his inveterate philandering,

her reproaches were not enough

to stop the god from his

determined activities


she therefore ordains

              It is decreed the guilty wretch shall die,

               If I’m indeed the mistress of the sky,

              If rightly styl’d among the Pow’rs above

               The wife and sister of the thund’ring Jove

               (And none can sure a sister’s right deny);

               It is decreed the guilty wretch shall die.


Juno / Hera is not only the wife of

Jove / Jupiter / Zeus, but also his

sister, both children of Cronos /

Saturn and Rhea / Ops, who

were themselves children of the

earth goddess Gaia and the sky

god Uranus


              She boasts an honour I can hardly claim,

               Pregnant she rises to a mother’s name;

              While proud and vain she triumphs in her Jove,

               And shows the glorious tokens of his love:


though Juno / Hera did indeed have

children with Jove / Jupiter / Zeus,

she is probably no longer here

bearing him any, I am supposing,

while Semele, proud and vain, is

now show[ing] the glorious tokens

of his love

              But if I’m still the mistress of the skies,

               By her own lover the fond beauty dies.”


it appears that Juno / Hera will

contrive to make Jove / Jupiter

/ Zeus the cause of Semele’s


              This said, descending in a yellow cloud,

               Before the gates of Semele she stood.


Semele, priestess of Jove / Jupiter

/ Zeus, would’ve been officiating at

the Cadmeia, the equivalent of the
Athenian Acropolis, at Thebes, the

city named after her father, its

founder, Cadmus


sparks will surely fly


stay tuned



R ! chard

“The Transformation of Actaeon into a Stag” (ll) – Ovid

Diana and Actaeon, c.1518 - Lucas Cranach the Elder

          Diana and Actaeon

                 Lucas Cranach the Elder



               Now all undrest the shining Goddess stood,
               When young Actaeon, wilder’d in the wood,


wilder’d in the wood, wandered

in the wild, in the forest

               To the cool grott by his hard fate betray’d,


grott, grotto


betray’d, treacherously confronted,

his hard fate would not be on his

side for this one

               The fountains fill’d with naked nymphs survey’d.


survey’d, observed, espied,

considered, contemplated


               The frighted virgins shriek’d at the surprize

               (The forest echo’d with their piercing cries).


listen, you can hear it

               Then in a huddle round their Goddess prest:
               She, proudly eminent above the rest,
               With blushes glow’d; such blushes as adorn
               The ruddy welkin, or the purple morn;


ruddy welkin, red sky, as at sunset

               And tho’ the crowding nymphs her body hide,
               Half backward shrunk, and view’d him from a side.
               Surpriz’d, at first she would have snatch’d her bow,
               But sees the circling waters round her flow;
               These in the hollow of her hand she took,
               And dash’d ’em in his face, while thus she spoke:


These, ’em, the circling waters

               “Tell, if thou can’st, the wond’rous sight disclos’d,
               A Goddess naked to thy view expos’d.”


not a warning here, but a curse, if thou

can’st being the operative expression,

for Actaeon, now in the process of

transformation, will no longer be able

to utter words

               This said, the man begun to disappear
               By slow degrees, and ended in a deer.


begun, began

               A rising horn on either brow he wears,
               And stretches out his neck, and pricks his ears;
               Rough is his skin, with sudden hairs o’er-grown,
               His bosom pants with fears before unknown:


the skittishness of a deer

               Transform’d at length, he flies away in haste,
               And wonders why he flies away so fast.


how did I do that, Actaeon wonders

               But as by chance, within a neighb’ring brook,
               He saw his branching horns and alter’d look.


his reflection, however by chance,

however inadvertently, in the water, 

the neighb’ring brook, reveals to him

his transformation, his metamorphosis

               Wretched Actaeon! in a doleful tone
               He try’d to speak, but only gave a groan;
               And as he wept, within the watry glass


the watry glass, the mirroring rivulet,

rill, waterway, brook

               He saw the big round drops, with silent pace,
               Run trickling down a savage hairy face.


the association with Bambi here for

me is inescapable, however grim

might be later Actaeon’s own fate

               What should he do? Or seek his old abodes,
               Or herd among the deer, and sculk in woods!
               Here shame dissuades him, there his fear prevails,
               And each by turns his aking heart assails.


something like the onset of puberty,

I think, that frightful fundamental

biological transformation, the fear,

the shame, remember


compare Calisto pregnant before the

very same goddess, Diana / Artemis

incidentally, the evidently unforgiving

deity before anything but unsullied

modesty, before uncompromised

chastity, who’s presently, consider,

condemning Actaeon

               As he thus ponders, he behind him spies
               His op’ning hounds, and now he hears their cries:


op’ning, advancing


               A gen’rous pack, or to maintain the chace,

               Or snuff the vapour from the scented grass.


or to … Or, either to … Or


maintain the chace … snuff the vapour,

dogs doing what dogs do

               He bounded off with fear, and swiftly ran
               O’er craggy mountains, and the flow’ry plain;
               Through brakes and thickets forc’d his way, and flew
               Through many a ring, where once he did pursue.


brakes, bracken, brush


a ring, a territory, a circumscribed



where once he did pursue, Actaeon

had earlier been not the hunted, but

the hunter

               In vain he oft endeavour’d to proclaim
               His new misfortune, and to tell his name;
               Nor voice nor words the brutal tongue supplies;


“Tell, if thou can’st, Diana / Artemis

had warned, and now [n]or voice

nor words the brutal tongue supplies,

allows, Actaeon, to speak


               From shouting men, and horns, and dogs he flies,

               Deafen’d and stunn’d with their promiscuous cries.


promiscuous, unleashed,


               When now the fleetest of the pack, that prest
               Close at his heels, and sprung before the rest,
               Had fasten’d on him, straight another pair,
               Hung on his wounded haunch, and held him there,
               ‘Till all the pack came up, and ev’ry hound
               Tore the sad huntsman grov’ling on the ground,
               Who now appear’d but one continu’d wound.


the attack

               With dropping tears his bitter fate he moans,
               And fills the mountain with his dying groans.
               His servants with a piteous look he spies,
               And turns about his supplicating eyes.


His servants, the jolly huntsmen, the

friends he’d advised to [t]ake the cool

morning to renew the chace

               His servants, ignorant of what had chanc’d,


what had chanc’d, the transformation,

the metamorphosis, Actaeon become

a stag

               With eager haste and joyful shouts advanc’d,
               And call’d their lord Actaeon to the game.


Actaeon seemed to them not there,


               He shook his head in answer to the name;


he couldn’t speak, could only [shake]

his head

               He heard, but wish’d he had indeed been gone,


gone, away, in another place, as [h]is

servants thought him to be

               Or only to have stood a looker-on.


a looker-on, observing rather than

having been the centre, the subject

of the situation

               But to his grief he finds himself too near,


too near, indeed present, central,

in the very thick of the fray

               And feels his rav’nous dogs with fury tear
               Their wretched master panting in a deer.


Actaeon doesn’t survive this

transformation, nor is he

transmuted, like so many others

who’d displeased the gods, into 

sets of stars, or constellations


a recurring theme seems to be,

as the poem advances, how

arbitrary the fate of humans is

in the hands of the, apparently

capricious, gods


to follow



R ! chard