“The Mariners transform’d to Dolphins” – Ovid

by richibi

Bacchus, 1497 - Michelangelo

        Bacchus” (1497)





             Him Pentheus view’d with fury in his look,


Pentheus, king of Thebes, if you’ll

remember, after Cadmus, his

grandfather, founder of Thebes


viewed, scanned, surveyed

             And scarce with-held his hands, whilst thus he spoke:


with-held, withheld

             “Vile slave! whom speedy vengeance shall pursue,
             And terrify thy base seditious crew:


Vile slave, the zealous votary from

the last instalment, follower, acolyte

of Bacchus / Dionysus, who’d been

captured by Pentheus’ men instead

of the god himself


by exacting a speedy vengeance on

this [v]ile slave, Pentheus expects

to terrify the remaining elements of

the offending crew, the seditious

party of Bacchus / Dionysus


             Thy country and thy parentage reveal,
             And, why thou joinest in these mad Orgies, tell.”


where are you from, what are you

doing here, Pentheus asks

             The captive views him with undaunted eyes,
             And, arm’d with inward innocence, replies,

             “From high Meonia’s rocky shores I came,
             Of poor descent, Acoetes is my name:
             My sire was meanly born; no oxen plow’d
             His fruitful fields, nor in his pastures low’d.

meanly, poor, without adequate



plow’d, low’d, an interesting

rhyme, they’re called forced

or oblique rhymes

             His whole estate within the waters lay;


estate, livelihood, Acoetes‘ father,

his sire, was a fisherman

             With lines and hooks he caught the finny prey,


finny, having fins

             His art was all his livelyhood; which he
             Thus with his dying lips bequeath’d to me:


His art, the quality of his work

             In streams, my boy, and rivers take thy chance;
             There swims, said he, thy whole inheritance.


Acoetes will inherit at best his

father’s skill

             Long did I live on this poor legacy;
             ‘Till tir’d with rocks, and my old native sky,


that of Meonia, see above


             To arts of navigation I inclin’d;


arts of navigation, knowledge of

the open sea, the wider oceans

             Observ’d the turns and changes of the wind,
             Learn’d the fit havens, and began to note
             The stormy Hyades, the rainy Goat,
             The bright Taygete, and the shining Bears,
             With all the sailor’s catalogue of stars.


Hyadesa cluster of stars, with their

own mythic origin story, grieving

nymphs cast upon the heavens,

augurs of rain,hence stormy


the rainy Goat, Capricornus, the



Taygete, a satellite of the planet


the shining Bears, Ursa Major

and Ursa Minor, or the Great

and the Little Bear, whose

origins you might remember

from The Story of Calisto

             “Once, as by chance for Delos I design’d,


Delos, a Greek island


design’d, planned as a destination


             My vessel, driv’n by a strong gust of wind,
             Moor’d in a Chian Creek; a-shore I went,


Chian, of Chios, a Greek island

             And all the following night in Chios spent.
             When morning rose, I sent my mates to bring
             Supplies of water from a neighb’ring spring,
             Whilst I the motion of the winds explor’d;
             Then summon’d in my crew, and went aboard.
             Opheltes heard my summons,


Opheltes, a confederate apparently


                                                                and with joy
             Brought to the shore a soft and lovely boy,
             With more than female sweetness in his look,



             Whom straggling in the neighb’ring fields he took.


he took, he apprehended

             With fumes of wine the little captive glows,
             And nods with sleep, and staggers as he goes.

             “I view’d him nicely, and began to trace
             Each heav’nly feature, each immortal grace,
             And saw divinity in all his face,
             I know not who, said I, this God should be;
             But that he is a God I plainly see:
             And thou, who-e’er thou art, excuse the force
             These men have us’d; and oh befriend our course!

befriend, accord it your sympathy

             Pray not for us, the nimble Dictys cry’d, 

Dictys, one of Acoetes‘ shipmates


             Dictys, that could the main-top mast bestride,
             And down the ropes with active vigour slide.
             To the same purpose old Epopeus spoke,


Epopeus, another sailor

             Who over-look’d the oars, and tim’d the stroke;
             The same the pilot, and the same the rest;
             Such impious avarice their souls possest.


all countermanding Acoetes‘, however

discerning, assessment

             Nay, Heav’n forbid that I should bear away
             Within my vessel so divine a prey,
             Said I; and stood to hinder their intent:


Acoetes had no intention of confining

this so divine a prey to his ship


             When Lycabas, a wretch for murder sent
             From Tuscany, to suffer banishment,
             With his clench’d fist had struck me over-board,
             Had not my hands in falling grasp’d a cord.


Lycabas, a third shipmate


Tuscany, a region of what is now

central Italy


it appears, however, that Acoetes

lived to tell the tale


stay tuned



R ! chard