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Category: Apollo

“The Story of Narcissus” – Ovid


Narcissus, c.1599 - Caravaggio

          Narcissus” (c.1599)







               Thus did the nymphs in vain caress the boy,


the boy, Narcissus


in vain , Narcissus‘ pride, you’ll remember,

was such that love-sick maid[s] uselessly

[their] flame confess’d, Narcissus was

oblivious to their advances

He still was lovely, but he still was coy;
               When one fair virgin of the slighted train


slighted train, row of followers, love-sick

maid[s] who’d been spurned by Narcissus

               Thus pray’d the Gods, provok’d by his disdain,


provok’d by his disdain, angered by his


               “Oh may he love like me, and love like me in vain!”


beseeches the one fair virgin

               Rhamnusia pity’d the neglected fair,


Rhamnusia, goddess of Retribution,

also known as Nemesis

               And with just vengeance answer’d to her pray’r.


just vengeance, justified retribution


               There stands a fountain in a darksom wood,
               Nor stain’d with falling leaves nor rising mud;
               Untroubled by the breath of winds it rests,
               Unsully’d by the touch of men or beasts;
               High bow’rs of shady trees above it grow,
               And rising grass and chearful greens below.


bow’rs, enclosures among trees


greens, lawns, grasslands

               Pleas’d with the form and coolness of the place,
               And over-heated by the morning chace,
               Narcissus on the grassie verdure lyes:


verdure, greenness

               But whilst within the chrystal fount he tries
               To quench his heat, he feels new heats arise.


chrystal fount, glistening fountain,

or spring

               For as his own bright image he survey’d,
               He fell in love with the fantastick shade;


shade, apparition, illusion

               And o’er the fair resemblance hung unmov’d,


see above

               Nor knew, fond youth! it was himself he lov’d.
               The well-turn’d neck and shoulders he descries,


descries, espies, catches sight of

               The spacious forehead, and the sparkling eyes;
               The hands that Bacchus might not scorn to show,


Bacchus, god of Wine and Revelry, also

known as Dionysus

And hair that round Apollo’s head might flow;


Apollo, god of the Sun

               With all the purple youthfulness of face,
               That gently blushes in the wat’ry glass.


wat’ry glass, the chrystal fount

               By his own flames consum’d the lover lyes,
               And gives himself the wound by which he dies.


the wound, the sight of himself


dies, succumbs, is undone

               To the cold water oft he joins his lips,
               Oft catching at the beauteous shade he dips

               His arms,


shade, see above


                     as often from himself he slips.


slips, becomes abstracted, bewildered

               Nor knows he who it is his arms pursue
               With eager clasps, but loves he knows not who.


he cannot give substance to this illusion

What could, fond youth, this helpless passion move?

               What kindled in thee this unpity’d love?

 move, excite, indeed kindle[]

               Thy own warm blush within the water glows,


the poet, here, note, interjects, speaks

directly to Narcissus

               With thee the colour’d shadow comes and goes,


colour’d, because of the water, an exact

replication, even chromatically, but

shimmering, com[ing] and go[ing]


shadow, shade, see above, reflection

               Its empty being on thy self relies;


empty being, fabrication, imagined



on thy self relies, you are yourself

the source of your illusion

               Step thou aside, and the frail charmer dies.


frail charmer, shimmering, insubstantial



stay tuned



R ! chard

“The Birth of Bacchus” (ll)– Ovid

Jupiter and Semele, 1889 - 1895 - Gustave Moreau

         Jupiter and Semele” (1889 – 1895)


                 Gustave Moreau





            Old Beroe’s decrepit shape she wears,

            Her wrinkled visage, and her hoary hairs;


Old Beroe, faithful servant of Semele


she, Juno / Hera, goddess


hoary hairs, love it


            Whilst in her trembling gait she totters on,

            And learns to tattle in the nurse’s tone.


Juno / Hera transforms herself into

Old Beroe, tattl[ing], talking idly, in

the nurse’s tone, impersonating her

in order to seek revenge, if you’ll

remember, on Semele, for bearing

her husband’s progeny


            The Goddess, thus disguis’d in age, beguil’d

            With pleasing stories her false foster-child.


foster-child, child who is fostered,

nurtured, by someone other than a

parent, Semele, by Old Beroe,

purportedly, in this instance


false, Juno / Hera is not Old Beroe,

but the nurse’s duplicitous, false,

in both senses of the word here,



beguil’d, enchanted, amused

            Much did she talk of love, and when she came

            To mention to the nymph her lover’s name,

            Fetching a sigh, and holding down her head,

            “‘Tis well,” says she, “if all be true that’s said.


Juliet’s nurse from Romeo and Juliet,

I thought, meets Sleeping Beauty’s

wicked stepmother, for a more

contemporary coupling


            But trust me, child, I’m much inclin’d to fear

            Some counterfeit in this your Jupiter:


Some counterfeit, yourJupiter is not

your [actual] Jupiter, Juno / Hera



            Many an honest well-designing maid

            Has been by these pretended Gods betray’d,


well-designing, without guile, with

no ulterior motive


pretended Gods, men who unjustifiably

beat their chest, tell tall tales, unequal

to their proclaimed accomplishments

            But if he be indeed the thund’ring Jove,

            Bid him, when next he courts the rites of love,

            Descend triumphant from th’ etherial sky,

            In all the pomp of his divinity,

            Encompass’d round by those celestial charms,

            With which he fills th’ immortal Juno’s arms.”


Juno / Hera, as Old Beroe, tells Semele

to ask her lover, when next he courts

the rites of love, to prove he is indeed

Jove / Jupiter / Zeus, to dress



Encompass’d round, accoutred,

enveloped, in


the pomp, incidentally, the splendour

of his divinity, take on a couple of

extra poetic lines, verses, indicative

of that very splendour


note also that Semele seems to have

no qualms about Jove / Jupiter / Zeus‘s

marital status, about bearing the child

of another woman’s man, indeed that

of a very, in this instance, goddess,

the redoubtable Juno / Hera

            Th’ unwary nymph, ensnar’d with what she said, 


ensnar’d, ensnarled, caught up in

            Desir’d of Jove, when next he sought her bed,

            To grant a certain gift which she would chuse;


Desir’d of, asked of, requested of


chuse, choose

            “Fear not,” reply’d the God, “that I’ll refuse

            Whate’er you ask: may Styx confirm my voice,

            Chuse what you will, and you shall have your choice.”


Styx, goddess of the river Styx, which

forms the boundary between Earth and

the Underworld, had sided with Jove /

Jupiter / Zeus during the War of the

Titans and been granted by him that

oaths should henceforth all be sworn

upon her, and be punctiliously observed


Phoebus / Apollo had similarly granted

his own son Phaeton his wish upon very

Styx, if you’ll remember, with the direst,

for both, of consequences

            “Then,” says the nymph, “when next you seek my arms,

            May you descend in those celestial charms,

            And fill with transport Heav’n’s immortal dame.”


show me, Semele asks of her suitor,

what she gets, what Juno / Hera gets,

when next you seek my arms


go, girl, I thought, if you’re going

to be irreverent


            The God surpriz’d would fain have stopp’d her voice,

            But he had sworn, and she had made her choice.


on very Styx, he’d sworn, ever so



stay tuned



R ! chard

“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” – Ovid

Lying Cow, 1883 - Vincent van Gogh

        Lying Cow(1883)


             Vincent van Gogh



            When now Agenor had his daughter lost,


Agenor, king of Tyre, father of

Europahis daughter lost

            He sent his son to search on ev’ry coast;


his son, Agenor’s son, Cadmus,

Europa’s brother

            And sternly bid him to his arms restore
            The darling maid, or see his face no more,
            But live an exile in a foreign clime;
            Thus was the father pious to a crime.


pious to a crime, intent on, devoted to,

having justice restored


            The restless youth search’d all the world around;
            But how can Jove in his amours be found?


amours, loves, trysts, entanglements


            When, tir’d at length with unsuccessful toil,
            To shun his angry sire and native soil,


his angry sire, Agenor, father, sire


            He goes a suppliant to the Delphick dome;


suppliant, supplicant, petitioner,

one in search of a favour


Delphick dome, the Temple of Apollo

at Delphi, where the oracle, Pythia,

proclaimed her cryptic prognostications,

her famously ambiguous prophecies


Delphi, incidentally, was one of several

sacred sites in Greece, sanctuaries,

open to any Greek, or person who

could speak Greek, regardless of

geographical provenance, any

city-statefor instance then, or

kingdom, akin to embassies today,

or places where people can expect

to find similar political haven


Delphi was the destination then also of

pilgrimages, comparable to our own

Santiago de Compostela today, an

ancient path I dearly would’ve, but

never have, unfortunately, undertaken


though I did walk to Mission B.C. some

several years ago, from my home in

Vancouver, to a monastery there, a

place of recuperation when I needed

one, three days there, and a half, three

days and an equal half back, my feet

were blistered, I noticed at one point,

but hadn’t at all registered any pain,

a truth I gathered about the power of

intention, one’s very aim can be a

salve, a balm, a solace, against any



but back to Cadmus


            There asks the God what new appointed home
            Should end his wand’rings, and his toils relieve.


where do I land, asks Cadmus,where

is my appointed home, my final


            The Delphick oracles this answer give.


The Delphick oracles, subordinates

to Pythia, the high priestess at Delphi


            “Behold among the fields a lonely cow,

            Unworn with yokes, unbroken to the plow;

            Mark well the place where first she lays her down,

            There measure out thy walls, and build thy town,

            And from thy guide Boeotia call the land,

            In which the destin’d walls and town shall stand.”


Boeotiaa region still of Greece


            No sooner had he left the dark abode,
            Big with the promise of the Delphick God,


the Delphick God, Apollo, god of

music, dance, truth, prophecy,

healing, the sun, light, poetry,

among many other things

            When in the fields the fatal cow he view’d,
            Nor gall’d with yokes, nor worn with servitude:


fatal, fateful


gall’d, irritated, frustrated

            Her gently at a distance he pursu’d;
            And as he walk’d aloof, in silence pray’d
            To the great Pow’r whose counsels he obey’d.


the great Pow’r, Apollo, by way of his

Delphick oracles,the high priestesses,

through their counsel, their divinations

            Her way thro’ flow’ry Panope she took,


Panope, plural, were sea nymphs, not

places, in Ancient Greece, therefore

Cadmus must’ve been crossing water,

however flow’ry, I’ll have to check my

Latin text for, maybe, inaccuracies in

the translation

            And now, Cephisus, cross’d thy silver brook;


Cephisus, or Cephissus, a river in Boeotia,

a brook, a stream, anthropomorphized here,

which is to say Cephissus, the flow, the

waterway, is being addressed as a rational

being, I have cross’d thy silver brook, he 

says, speaking to the torrent


meanwhile, to brook, to conquer, to

overcome, a wonderful, a shimmering,

literarily speaking, homonym, which is

to say, a word with two faces

            When to the Heav’ns her spacious front she rais’d,
            And bellow’d thrice, then backward turning gaz’d
            On those behind, ’till on the destin’d place
            She stoop’d, and couch’d amid the rising grass.


she, the fatal cow, see abovehas led

Cadmus to his famed, his mythic,

destination, destin’d place, destiny


stay tuned



R ! chard

“Ocyrrhoe transform’d into a Mare” (II) – Ovid


      Indigo Sky Mares


             Laurel Burch





         Thus entring into destiny, the maid

         The secrets of offended Jove betray’d:


the maid, Ocyrrhoe, daughter of Chiron

and [t]he nymph Charicle


Ocyrrhoe had offended Jove, but

especially Hades, Jove’s brother,

ruler of the Underworld, when she

had prophesied that Apollo‘s child

with Coronis would be an acclaimed

healer, thus defraud[ing] the tomb,

thereby saving people from the 

clutches of Hades, the especially 

aggrieved god

         More had she still to say; but now appears

         Oppress’d with sobs and sighs, and drown’d in tears.


Occhyroe would have had more

to prophesy, but was impeded by

involuntary physical spasms


         “My voice,” says she, “is gone, my language fails;

         Through ev’ry limb my kindred shape prevails:


kindred shape, the bodily

characteristics of her father,

her kin, the centaur Chiron 

         Why did the God this fatal gift impart,

         And with prophetick raptures swell my heart!


prophetick raptures, Occhyroe, who

knew her father’s arts, and could

rehearse The depths of prophecy,

had inherited through her father,

Chiron, who had himself received

it from Apollo, his own father, the 

gift of divination, for better, for 

either, we’ll learn, or for worse


         What new desires are these? I long to pace

         O’er flow’ry meadows, and to feed on grass;

         I hasten to a brute, a maid no more;


what’s happening, What new desires

are these?, Occhyroe cries, or nearly

neighs, rather, at this point, I’m

becoming a brute, she groans, an

animal, a maid, no more, she objects


         But why, alas! am I transform’d all o’er?

         My sire does half a human shape retain,

         And in his upper parts preserve the man.”


why, Occhyroe asks, since my

father, Chiron, is partially a man,

am I transform’d all o’er?, why

is there nothing left of me that

is human

         Her tongue no more distinct complaints affords,


distinct, clear, easy to decipher


affords, allows, permits

         But in shrill accents and mis-shapen words

         Pours forth such hideous wailings, as declare

         The human form confounded in the mare:


Occhyroe has become a horse,

the proof is in her braying

         ‘Till by degrees accomplish’d in the beast,

         She neigh’d outright, and all the steed exprest.


all the steed exprest, was

everywhere the very picture 

of a horse

         Her stooping body on her hands is born,


born, borne, carried

         Her hands are turn’d to hoofs, and shod in horn,

         Her yellow tresses ruffle in a mane,

         And in a flowing tail she frisks her train,

         The mare was finish’d in her voice and look,

         And a new name from the new figure took.


Occhyroe can no longer be called

Occhyroe, she is no longer she,

but a new figure, needing to be

identified as something else



R ! chard

“Ocyrrhoe transform’d into a Mare” – Ovid



       Centaur and Nymph


              Arnold Böcklin




                  Old Chiron took the babe with secret joy,                 

                  Proud of the charge of the celestial boy.

                  His daughter too, whom on the sandy shore

                  The nymph Charicle to the centaur bore,

                  With hair dishevel’d on her shoulders, came

                  To see the child, Ocyrrhoe was her name;


Ocyrrhoe, daughter of Chiron and [t]he

nymph Chariclec[o]me …[t]see

the child


With hair dishevel’d on her shoulders,

there’s a suggestion here, regarding

Charicle, of madness, or possession


the child, the babethe celestial boy,

the infant, ript, by its very father,

Apollo, from his unfaithful lover,

Coronis’, womb, and [given] … to

the centaur Chiron”s charge, into

its, or his, care


                  She knew her father’s arts, and could rehearse

                  The depths of prophecy in sounding verse.


it appears that Ocyrrhoe, daughter of

Chiron and the nymph Charicle, was

a poetess, was possessed, on her

father’s side, of poetry, could reveal,  

decipher, or rehearse / The depths

of prophecy, in sounding verse, was

able, as wordmongers sometimes do,

to tell truth, deliver, in rhyme, incisive


              Once, as the sacred infant she survey’d,


the sacred infant, the child born of

Apollo and Coronis 


              The God was kindled in the raving maid,


The God, the child, the sacred infant,

by virtue of being half, if only half,

divine, having been fathered by the

god, Apollo


kindled, inspired


the raving maid, Ocyrrhoe, beset by

neurotic, irrational, though prophetic,

it is proposed, powers

                   And thus she utter’d her prophetick tale:

                  “Hail, great physician of the world, all-hail;


great physician of the world, the fated

child of Apollo and Coronis would

become a healer of legend


                  Hail, mighty infant, who in years to come

                  Shalt heal the nations, and defraud the tomb;


defraud the tomb, recall from the

hereafter, resuscitate, revive,

return to life

                  Swift be thy growth! thy triumphs unconfin’d!

                  Make kingdoms thicker, and increase mankind.


thicker, more populated

                  Thy daring art shall animate the dead,


Thy daring art, medicine, the mighty

infant will eventually be recognized

as a celebrated man of healing 

                  And draw the thunder on thy guilty head:


guilty head, when Hades, king of the

Underworld, complained to Zeus, his

brother, that the mighty infant was

stealing his subjects, the departed,

Zeus shot the great physician down,

acknowledging the healer’s guilt, of

his defraud[ing] the tomb, condemning

the culprit with a punishing, an

annihilating, thunderbolt


                  Then shalt thou dye, but from the dark abode

                  Rise up victorious, and be twice a God.


Apollo, aggrieved, had had his son,

the child, the sacred infant, reinstated,

after tortuous ministrations, as an

immortal god, an entirely, however,

other story


                  And thou, my sire, not destin’d by thy birth

                  To turn to dust, and mix with common earth,

                  How wilt thou toss, and rave, and long to dye,

                  And quit thy claim to immortality;

                  When thou shalt feel, enrag’d with inward pains,

                  The Hydra’s venom rankling in thy veins?


the child, the sire, not destin’d by [its] birth

/ To turn to dust, which is to say, to be no

longer mortal but immortal, how will it, not

wanting particularly to survive, quit [its]

claim to immortality, deal with the

impossibility of dying, [w]hen [it] shal[l]

feel, enrag’d with inward pains, agonies,

that compel it to seek personal annihilation


Hydra, a snakelike monster with many

heads, whose venom and very breath

were poisonous, stationed at one of

the entrances to the Underworld


                  The Gods, in pity, shall contract thy date,

                  And give thee over to the pow’r of Fate.”


contract thy date, make mortal,

subject once again to Fate



R ! chard

“The Story of Coronis, and Birth of Aesculapius” (IV) – Ovid


   “Apollo and Coronis (1606 – 1608)


                Adam Elsheimer





               On her incestuous life I need not dwell 
               (In Lesbos still the horrid tale they tell), 
               And of her dire amours you must have heard, 
               For which she now does penance in a bird, 
               That conscious of her shame, avoids the light, 
               And loves the gloomy cov’ring of the night; 
               The birds, where-e’er she flutters, scare away 
               The hooting wretch, and drive her from the day.” 


Nyctimene, daughter of Epopeus

king of Lesbos, a Greek Island in

the Aegean Sea, had been defiled 

by her father, Minerva, out of pity,

transformed her into an owl, the

above verses tell the story of

that owl, Nyctimene


               The raven, urg’d by such impertinence, 
               Grew passionate, it seems, and took offence, 
               And curst the harmless daw; the daw withdrew: 
               The raven to her injur’d patron flew, 
               And found him out, and told the fatal truth 
               Of false Coronis and the favour’d youth. 


the raven, Apollo’s own bird, having 

discovered Coronis to be unfaithful 

to their master, its and hers, remained

intentdespite the daw’s warnings,

earlier here reported, on informing

the god of the Sun 

               The God was wroth, the colour left his look, 


wroth, angry

               The wreath his head, the harp his hand forsook: 


[t]he wreath, … the harp, Apollo’s

usual attributes, symbols of his

harmony, concord

               His silver bow and feather’d shafts he took, 
               And lodg’d an arrow in the tender breast, 
               That had so often to his own been prest. 


though Apollo is not usually 

associated with bows and arrows,

his twin sister Diana, goddess of

the Hunt, always is, it would not 

be unusual to conflate the two 

deities for poetic, or indeed

mythological, purposes

               Down fell the wounded nymph, and sadly groan’d, 
               And pull’d his arrow reeking from the wound; 
               And weltring in her blood, thus faintly cry’d, 
               “Ah cruel God! tho’ I have justly dy’d, 
               What has, alas! my unborn infant done, 
               That he should fall, and two expire in one?” 
               This said, in agonies she fetch’d her breath. 


it is supposed here that the unborn

infant is indeed Apollo’s


               The God dissolves in pity at her death;

               He hates the bird that made her falshood known, 
               And hates himself for what himself had done; 
               The feather’d shaft, that sent her to the Fates, 
               And his own hand, that sent the shaft, he hates.


Apollo is suffused with regret, anger,


               Fain would he heal the wound, and ease her pain, 


Fain, with pleasure, gladly

               And tries the compass of his art in vain. 


the compass of his art, the range 

of his ability, in this case vain, 

faulty, ineffective

               Soon as he saw the lovely nymph expire, 
               The pile made ready, and the kindling fire. 


pile, pyre


the sentence lacks a verb here, it 

should read The pile was made 

ready, just saying

               With sighs and groans her obsequies he kept, 


obsequies, funeral rites

               And, if a God could weep, the God had wept. 


I’ll have to watch out for gods

weeping, I suspect some have, 

some can


               Her corps he kiss’d, and heav’nly incense brought, 
               And solemniz’d the death himself had wrought. 


corps, body, corpse


wrought, brought about, made



               But lest his offspring should her fate partake, 
               Spight of th’ immortal mixture in his make, 


Spight, in spite 

               He ript her womb, and set the child at large, 
               And gave him to the centaur Chiron’s charge: 


Chiron, first among the centaurs,  

half man, half horse, was highly 

revered as a teacher, having 

been raised by the twins, Apollo 

and Diana / Artemis, supremely

accomplished deities

               Then in his fury black’d the raven o’er, 
               And bid him prate in his white plumes no more. 


black’d, Apollo turned the snowy 

plume[d], [w]hite as the whitest 

dove’s unsully’d breast raven 



prate, babble, talk incoherently



R ! chard


“The Story of Coronis, and Birth of Aesculapius” – Ovid


   “A Saint, from ‘The Jackdaw of Rheims’ (1868) 


           Briton Rivière





             The raven once in snowy plumes was drest, 
             White as the whitest dove’s unsully’d breast, 
             Fair as the guardian of the Capitol, 
             Soft as the swan; a large and lovely fowl; 
             His tongue, his prating tongue had chang’d him quite 
             To sooty blackness, from the purest white. 


the Capitol, the Temple of Jupiter, only 

portions of which remain, on exhibit in

the Capitoline Museums, on the 

Capitoline Hill, one of the Seven Hills 

of Rome


the guardian of the Capitol, the Vestalis

Maxima, or the greatest of the Vestals,

who were charged with ensuring the 

security of the city


the raven was white once, Ovid says, 

[f]air as the guardian of the Capitol, 

[s]oft as the swan, but it seems his 

prating tongue got him in trouble


prating, chattering, tattling


here’s what happened


            In Thessaly there liv’d a nymph of old, 
             Coronis nam’d; a peerless maid she shin’d, 
             Confest the fairest of the fairer kind. 
             Apollo lov’d her, ’till her guilt he knew, 
             While true she was, or whilst he thought her true. 


Thessaly, a region of Greece


contrary to what’s taken place in

these myths till now, Coronis, a 

nymph, in name only, it appears,

was found out to be untrue to 

Apollowho lov’d her


                   his own bird the raven chanc’d to find 
             The false one with a secret rival joyn’d. 
             Coronis begg’d him to suppress the tale, 
             But could not with repeated pray’rs prevail. 


the raven, Apollo‘s own bird, was not 

going to not tell his master about his 

mistress’ indiscretion, despite [t]he 

false one’s pray’rs not to


              His milk-white pinions to the God he ply’d;


pinion, the outer part of a bird’s wing,

including the flight feathers


             [A] busy daw flew with him, side by side, 


daw, jackdaw, a black bird related to 

the crow



             And by a thousand teizing questions drew
             Th’ important secret from him as they 


teizing, teasing

             The daw gave honest counsel, 
tho’ despis’d, 


tho’ despis’d, though the honest

counsel would be unpleasant to 



              And, tedious in her tattle, thus advis’d: 


listen, said the daw, cautioning

the raven 


              “Stay, silly bird, th’ ill-natur’d task refuse, 


silly bird, the raven 


              Nor be the bearer of unwelcome news. 
             Be warn’d by my example: 


pay attention, the daw insists, be 

wary, [b]e warn’d


                                                         you discern 
             What now I am, and what I was shall learn. 
             My foolish honesty was all my crime; 
             Then hear my story.


here’s what happened to me,

says the pitch black bird


                                             Once upon a time, 



to follow



R ! chard


psst: The Jackdaw of Reims, by

            Richard Harris Barham




“The Story of Calisto” – Ovid


   Jupiter and Callisto (1611 – 1613) 


            Peter Paul Rubens





after having read Homer’s Iliad, the 

greatest work of fiction, to my mind, 

ever told, resounding through the 

centuries and millennia with power,

pathos, and profound humanity, I 

found it hard for one reason or 

another to complete other 

acclaimed epics, Virgil’s Aeneid,

for instance, too brimming with 

bombast and bravado, much like

many American war movies,

wherein the Americans win every

conflict, whether or not they’ve 

indeed won, all on their own, with

little acknowledgment of the other

international militaries that might’ve

also played essential roles


Ovid’s Metamorphoses, as I read 

on, is becoming more and more 

offensive because of its recurrent

abuse of women, nymphs, virgins,

so that I can no longer champion 

this work, however enthusiastic I

might’ve been at the beginning


I’m not ready to personally give it 

up, but intend to relate it in brief

segments, with perhaps, here 

and there, noteworthy verses


the myth that follows the 

transformation of Cycnus into 

a swan, and the restoration of

Earth after its near conflagration 

upon the death of Phaeton, has 

Jove / Jupiter / Zeus cast[ing] 

an eye on ev’ry diff’rent coast in 

order to ensure that all is aright,

which it is, and Nature smiles 



but he spies by chance a nymph,

a follower of Diana, virginal

goddess of the Countryside, and

despite concerns about Juno, his

goddess wife, pursues the maiden


who was easy prey, did whate’er a 

virgin cou’d … / With all her might 

against his force … / But how can 

mortal maids contend with Jove?


following which Diana arrives with 

her train of nubile followers, to the 

dismay of the young victim, who 

could only try to hide her shame, 

which her altered demeanour 

must’ve somewhat, it is supposed, 



                   How in the look does conscious guilt appear! 
                   Slowly she mov’d, and loiter’d in the rear; 
                   Nor lightly tripp’d, nor by the Goddess ran, 
                   As once she us’d, the foremost of the train. 


but now the moon had nine times 

lost her light, and any doubt about 

her condition was erased, so that 

Diana, unforgiving, a not uncommon 

reaction, I’ve found, among women, 

banished her to eventually alone 

give birth to a son


meanwhile Juno, now doubly 

incensed – This boy, she rails, shall 

stand a living mark, to prove / My 

husband’s baseness and the strumpet’s

love – turns the wretched mom into a



but when the son had fifteen summers 

told, and came inadvertently upon this 

beast while in the forest, unaware it was 

his mother, and to protect himself, he


                                    aim’d a pointed arrow at her breast,  
                   And would have slain his mother in the beast;  
                   But Jove forbad, and snatch’d ’em through  
                   In whirlwinds up to Heav’n, and fix’d ’em there!


where now we know them as either 

the Great Bear and the Little Bear, 

Ursa Major and Ursa Minor or, 

more familiarly, as the Big Dipper 

and the Little Dipper


who could ‘a’ ever thunk it



R ! chard



“The Transformation of Cycnus into a Swan” – Ovid


   “Swans among the Reeds at First Light (1832) 


             Caspar David Friedrich





were I to be transformed into anything,

I told myself, after reading about all 

these earlier metamorphoses, then 

coming upon this one, of Cycnus, I 

wouldn’t mind, I decided, becoming 

a swan

                   Cycnus beheld the nymphs transform’d, ally’d 
                   To their dead brother on the mortal side, 
                   In friendship and affection nearer bound; 


Cycnus, son of Sthenelus, King of Liguria,

a region still of Northern Italy, a prince, 

therefore, in his own right, was a good 

friend of Phaeton


the nymphs, the Heliades, daughters

of Helios / Phoebus / Apollo and 

Clymene, though transform’d into trees, 

were nevertheless on the mortal side, 

living things, ally’d  / To their dead 

brother, by the earth, which confined, 

constrained, covered them, if only,

the maidens, partially


nearer bound, ally’d again, like a refrain, 

a literary reverberation, honouring their 

brother, Phaeton, [i]n friendship and



                   He left the cities and the realms he own’d, 
                   Thro’ pathless fields and lonely shores to range, 
                   And woods made thicker by the sisters’ change. 


the sisters’ change, more trees than 

there had been before

                   Whilst here, within the dismal gloom, alone, 
                   The melancholy monarch made his moan, 


monarch, Cycnus, prince of Liguria

                   His voice was lessen’d, as he try’d to speak, 
                   And issu’d through a long-extended neck; 


the transformation of Cycnus occurs, 

much as it did earlier with the Heliades

through the mercy, presumably, of the 

gods, who, usually indifferent, express 

compassion here, however 

uncharacteristically, for the unbearable 

anguish suffered by the grieving sisters 

and friend


Cycnus, incidentally, would also later be 

placed by Apollo among the stars, to 

become the constellation Cygnus

                   His hair transforms to down, his fingers meet 
                   In skinny films, and shape his oary feet; 


oary, hoary, grayish white, grizzled,


                   From both his sides the wings and feathers break; 
                   And from his mouth proceeds a blunted beak: 
                   All Cycnus now into a Swan was turn’d, 
                   Who, still remembring how his kinsman burn’d, 


his kinsman, Phaeton, burn’d, in the

sundered Chariot of the Sun

                   To solitary pools and lakes retires, 
                   And loves the waters as oppos’d to fires. 


swans, it appears, seek out the shade, 

are oppos’d to fires, shun the heat of 

the nefarious, the treacherous, sun


see above

                   Mean-while Apollo in a gloomy shade 
                   (The native lustre of his brows decay’d) 


decay’d, disintegrated, fell away from,

its native lustre

                   Indulging sorrow, sickens at the sight 
                   Of his own sun-shine, and abhors the light; 


Indulging sorrow, allowing himself 

to steep in his own agony

                   The hidden griefs, that in his bosom rise, 
                   Sadden his looks and over-cast his eyes, 
                   As when some dusky orb obstructs his ray, 
                   And sullies in a dim eclipse the day. 


another reverberation erupts here

recalling the darkness, eclipse, just

undergone after the incineration of 

Apollo’s chariot, however paltry

might’ve been, to that god, the 

mere disturbance of a planet 

obstructing the sun, however 

otherwise momentous, compared 

to the death of his son    

                   Now secretly with inward griefs he pin’d, 
                   Now warm resentments to his griefs he joyn’d, 
                   And now renounc’d his office to mankind. 


Helios / Phoebus / Apollo, presently

in the throes of griefs and guilt, warm,

impassioned, resentments, chooses 

to no longer drive the Chariot of the 

Sun, renounc[es] his office, his duty,

responsibility, service, to mankind  

                   “Ere since the birth of time,” said he, “I’ve born 
                   A long ungrateful toil, without return; 
                   Let now some other manage, if he dare, 
                   The fiery steeds, and mount the burning carr; 
                   Or, if none else, let Jove his fortune try, 
                   And learn to lay his murd’ring thunder by; 


Helios / Phoebus / Apollo challenges 

Jove himself, if no other will take his 

place, to guide the horses, holding 

him responsible for the death of 

his son, Phaeton, by having cast his 

murd’ring thunder at him, though

the Earth herself and the harried

constellations, in Jove’s defence,

had begged the god of gods to do



                   Then will he own, perhaps, but own too late, 
                   My son deserv’d not so severe a fate.” 


but could there have been any other 


                   The Gods stand round him, as he mourns, and pray 
                   He would resume the conduct of the day, 
                   Nor let the world be lost in endless night: 


without the Chariot of the Sun and

someone to guide it, there would be

no day, an apocalyptic cataclysm

                   Jove too himself descending from his height, 
                   Excuses what had happen’d, and intreats, 


intreats, entreats, implores, beseeches

                   Majestically mixing pray’rs and threats. 


Jove / Jupiter / Zeus, from his position

of supreme authority, pulls out all the 

stops, uses all his mechanisms,

pray’rs, threats

                   Prevail’d upon at length, again he took 
                   The harness’d steeds, that still with horror shook, 
                   And plies ’em with the lash, and whips ’em on, 
                   And, as he whips, upbraids ’em with his son. 


Helios / Phoebus / Apollo takes out 

his anguish on the horses, which 

must’ve led to a daunting, a hellish 




R ! chard