Ovide et ses Métamorphoses
La principale source littéraire qui inspira directement les peintres de la Renaissance, l'uvre ayant fait parti des plus larges diffusions imprimées du XVème siècle.
Publius Ovidius Naso
Poète latin né à Sulmona [43 av. J.-C. - 17/18 ap. J.-C.]
Auteur favori de la société mondaine des débuts de l'Empire, par ses poèmes légers ou mythologiques (l'Art d'aimer, les Héroïdes, les Métamorphoses), il fut banni pour une raison restée mystérieuse, et mourut en exil à Tomes (aujourd'hui en Roumanie), malgré les supplications de ses dernières élégies (les Tristes, les Pontiques).
Ses Métamorphoses sont un poème en quinze livres, où sont rassemblés les récits légendaires des transformations miraculeuses depuis la création du Monde jusqu'au règne d'Auguste.
Retour en haut
Métamorphoses, Livre IV, vers 662-803
the Sea Monster
| Now Aeolus had with strong chains
And deep imprisoned eevry blustering wind,
The rising Phospher with a purple light
Did sluggish mortals to new toils invite.
His feet again the valiant Perseus plumes,
And his keen sabre in his hand resumes:
Then nobly spurns the ground, and upwards springs,
And cuts the liquid air with sounding wings.
O'er various seas, and various lands he past,
'Till Aethiopia's shore appeared at last.
Andromeda was there, doomed to attone
By her own ruin follies not her own:
And if injustice in a God can be,
Such was the Libyan God's unjust decree.
Chained to a rock she stood; young Perseus stayed
His rapid flight, to view the beauteous maid.
So sweet her frame, so exquisitely fine,
She seemed a statue by a hand divine,
Had not the wind her waving tresses showed,
And down her cheeks the melting sorrows flowed.
Her faultless form the heroe's bosom fires;
The more he looks, the more he still admires.
The admirer almost had forgot to fly,
And swift descended, fluttering from on high.
O! Virgin, worthy no such chains to prove,
But pleasing chains in the soft folds of love;
Thy country, and thy name (he said) disclose,
And give a true rehearsal of thy woes.
A quick reply her bashfulness refused,
To the free converse of a man unused.
Her rising blushes had concealment found
From her spread hands, but that her hands were bound.
She acted to her full extent of power,
And bathed her face with a fresh, silent shower.
But by degrees in innocence grown bold,
Her name, her country, and her birth she told:
And how she suffered for her mother's pride,
Who with the Nereids once in beauty vyed.
Part yet untold, the seas began to roar,
And mounting billows tumbled to the shore.
Above the waves a monster raised his head,
His body oeer the deep was widely spread:
Onward he flounced; aloud the virgin cries;
Each parent to her shrieks in shrieks replies:
But she had deepest cause to rend the skies.
Weeping, to her they cling; no sign appears
Of help, they only lend their helpless tears.
Too long you vent your sorrows, Perseus said,
Short is the hour, and swift the time of aid,
In me the son of thundering Jove behold,
Got in a kindly shower of fruitful gold.
Medusa's snaky head is now my prey,
And throe the clouds I boldly wing my way.
If such desert be worthy of esteem,
And, if your daughter I from death redeem,
Shall she be mine? Shall it not then be thought,
A bride, so lovely, was too cheaply bought?
For her my arms I willingly employ,
If I may beauties, which I save, enjoy.
The parents eagerly the terms embrace:
For who would slight such terms in such a case?
Nor her alone they promise, but beside,
The dowry of a kingdom with the bride.
As well-rigged gallies, which slaves, sweating, row,
With their sharp beaks the whitened ocean plough;
So when the monster moved, still at his back
The furrowed waters left a foamy track.
Now to the rock he was advanced so nigh,
Whirled from a sling a stone the space would fly.
Then bounding, upwards the brave Perseus sprung,
And in mid air on hovering pinions hung.
His shadow quickly floated on the main;
The monster could not his wild rage restrain,
But at the floating shadow leaped in vain.
As when Jove's bird, a speckled serpent spies,
Which in the shine of Phoebus basking lies,
Unseen, he souses down, and bears away,
Trussed from behind, the vainly-hissing prey.
To writh his neck the labour nought avails,
Too deep the imperial talons pierce his scales.
Thus the winged heroe now descends, now soars,
And at his pleasure the vast monster gores.
Full in his back, swift stooping from above,
The crooked sabre to its hilt he drove.
The monster raged, impatient of the pain,
First bounded high, and then sunk low again.
Now, like a savage boar, when chafed with wounds,
And bayed with opening mouths of hungry hounds,
He on the foe turns with collected might,
Who still eludes him with an airy flight;
And wheeling round, the scaly armour tries
Of his thick sides; his thinner tall now plies:
eTill from repeated strokes out gushed a flood,
And the waves reddened with the streaming blood.
At last the dropping wings, befoamed all oeer,
With flaggy heaviness their master bore:
A rock he spyed, whose humble head was low,
Bare at an ebb, but covered at a flow.
A ridgy hold, he, thither flying, gained,
And with one hand his bending weight sustained;
With the other, vigerous blows he dealt around,
And the home-thrusts the expiring monster owned.
In deafening shouts the glad applauses rise,
And peal on peal runs ratling throe the skies.
The saviour-youth the royal pair confess,
And with heaved hands their daughter's bridegroom bless.
The beauteous bride moves on, now loosed from chains,
The cause, and sweet reward of all the heroe's pains,
Mean-time, on shore triumphant Perseus stood,
And purged his hands, smeared with the monster's blood:
Then in the windings of a sandy bed
Composed Medusa's execrable head.
But to prevent the roughness, leafs he threw,
And young, green twigs, which soft in waters grew,
There soft, and full of sap; but here, when layed,
Touched by the head, that softness soon decayed.
The wonted flexibility quite gone,
The tender scyons hardened into stone.
Fresh, juicy twigs, surprized, the Nereids brought,
Fresh, juicy twigs the same contagion caught.
The nymphs the petrifying seeds still keep,
And propagate the wonder throe the deep.
The pliant sprays of coral yet declare
Their stiffening Nature, when exposed to air.
Those sprays, which did, like bending osiers, move,
Snatched from their element, obdurate prove,
And shrubs beneath the waves, grow stones above.
The great immortals grateful Perseus praised,
And to three Powers three turfy altars raised.
To Hermes this; and that he did assign
To Pallas: the mid honours, Jove, were thine,
He hastes for Pallas a white cow to cull,
A calf for Hermes, but for Jove a bull.
Then seized the prize of his victorious fight,
Andromeda, and claimed the nuptial rite.
Andromeda alone he greatly sought,
The dowry kingdom was not worth his thought.
Pleased Hymen now his golden torch displays;
With rich oblations fragrant altars blaze,
Sweet wreaths of choicest flowers are hung on high,
And cloudless pleasure smiles in every eye.
The melting musick melting thoughts inspires,
And warbling songsters aid the warbling lyres.
The palace opens wide in pompous state,
And by his peers surrounded, Cepheus sate.
A feast was served, fit for a king to give,
And fit for God-like heroes to receive.
The banquet ended, the gay, chearful bowl
Moved round, and brightened, and enlarged each soul.
Then Perseus asked, what customs there obtained,
And by what laws the people were restrained.
Which told; the teller a like freedom takes,
And to the warrior his petition makes,
To know, what arts had won Medusa's snakes.
|The Story of
|The heroe with his just request complies,
Shows, how a vale beneath cold Atlas lies,
Where, with aspiring mountains fenced around,
He the two daughters of old Phorcus found.
Fate had one common eye to both assigned,
Each saw by turns, and each by turns was blind.
But while one strove to lend her sister sight,
He stretched his hand, and stole their mutual light,
And left both eyeless, both involved in night.
Throe devious wilds, and trackless woods he past,
And at the Gorgon-seats arrived at last:
But as he journeyed, pensive he surveyed,
What wasteful havock dire Medusa made.
Here, stood still breathing statues, men before;
There, rampant lions seemed in stone to roar.
Nor did he, yet affrighted, quit the field,
But in the mirror of his polished shield
Reflected saw Medusa slumbers take,
And not one serpent by good chance awake.
Then backward an unerring blow he sped,
And from her body loped at once her head.
The gore prolifick proved; with sudden force
Sprung Pegasus, and winged his airy course.
The Heaven-born warrior faithfully went on,
And told the numerous dangers which he run.
What subject seas, what lands he had in view,
And nigh what stars the adventerous heroe flew.
At last he silent sate; the listening throng
Sighed at the pause of his delightful tongue.
Some beged to know, why this alone should wear,
Of all the sisters, such destructive hair.
Great Perseus then: With me you shall prevail,
Worth the relation, to relate a tale.
Medusa once had charms; to gain her love
A rival crowd of envious lovers strove.
They, who have seen her, own, they neeer did trace
More moving features in a sweeter face.
Yet above all, her length of hair, they own,
In golden ringlets waved, and graceful shone.
Her Neptune saw, and with such beauties fired,
Resolved to compass, what his soul desired.
In chaste Minerva's fane, he, lustful, stayed,
And seized, and rifled the young, blushing maid.
The bashful Goddess turned her eyes away,
Nor durst such bold impurity survey;
But on the ravished virgin vengeance takes,
Her shining hair is changed to hissing snakes.
These in her Aegis Pallas joys to bear,
The hissing snakes her foes more sure ensnare,
Than they did lovers once, when shining hair.
Retour en haut
Métamorphoses, Livre V, vers 001-249
|WHILE Perseus entertained with this report
His father Cepheus, and the listening court,
Within the palace walls was heard aloud
The roaring noise of some unruly crowd;
Not like the songs which chearful friends prepare
For nuptial days, but sounds that threatened war;
And all the pleasures of this happy feast,
To tumult turned, in wild disorder ceased:
So, when the sea is calm, we often find
A storm raised sudden by some furious wind.
|The Story of
|Chief in the riot Phineus first appeared,
The rash ringleader of this boisterous herd,
And brandishing his brazen-pointed lance,
Behold, he said, an injured man advance,
Stung with resentment for his ravished wife,
Nor shall thy wings, o Perseus, save thy life;
Nor Jove himself; thoe weeve been often told
Who got thee in the form of tempting gold.
His lance was aimed, when Cepheus ran, and said,
Hold, brother, hold; what brutal rage has made
Your frantick mind so black a crime conceive?
Are these the thanks that you to Perseus give?
This the reward that to his worth you pay,
Whose timely valour saved Andromeda?
Nor was it he, if you would reason right,
That forced her from you, but the jealous spight
Of envious Nereids, and Jove's high decree;
And that devouring monster of the sea,
That ready with his jaws wide gaping stood
To eat my child, the fairest of my blood.
You lost her then, when she seemed past relief,
And wished perhaps her death, to ease your grief
With my afflictions: not content to view
Andromeda in chains, unhelped by you,
Her spouse, and uncle; will you grieve that he
Exposed his life the dying maid to free?
And shall you claim his merit? Had you thought
Her charms so great, you shoued have bravely sought
That blessing on the rocks, where fixed she lay:
But now let Perseus bear his prize away,
By service gained, by promised faith possessed;
To him I owe it, that my age is blessed
Still with a child: Nor think that I prefer
Perseus to thee, but to the loss of her.
Phineus on him, and Perseus, rouled about
His eyes in silent rage, and seemed to doubt
Which to destroy; etill, resolute at length,
He threw his spear with the redoubled strength
His fury gave him, and at Perseus struck;
But missing Perseus, in his seat it stuck.
Who, springing nimbly up, returned the dart,
And almost plunged it in his rival's heart;
But he for safety to the altar ran,
Unfit protection for so vile a man;
Yet was the stroke not vain, as Rhaetus found,
Who in his brow received a mortal wound;
Headlong he tumbled, when his skull was broke,
From which his friends the fatal weapon took,
While he lay trembling, and his gushing blood
In crimson streams around the table flowed.
But this provoked the unruly rabble worse,
They flung their darts, and some in loud discourse
To death young Perseus, and the monarch doom;
But Cepheus left before the guilty room,
With grief appealing to the Gods above,
Who laws of hospitality approve,
Who faith protect, and succour injured right,
That he was guiltless of this barberous fight.
Pallas her brother Perseus close attends,
And with her ample shield from harm defends,
Raising a sprightly courage in his heart:
But Indian Athis took the weaker part,
Born in the chrystal grottoes of the sea,
Limnate's son, a fenny nymph, and she
Daughter of Ganges; graceful was his mein,
His person lovely, and his age sixteen.
His habit made his native beauty more;
A purple mantle fringed with gold he wore;
His neck well-turned with golden chains was graced,
His hair with myrrh perfumed, was nicely dressed.
Thoe with just aim he coued the javelin throw,
Yet with more skill he drew the bending bow;
And now was drawing it with artful hand,
When Perseus snatching up a flaming brand,
Whirled sudden at his face the burning wood,
Crushed his eyes in, and quenched the fire with blood;
Throe the soft skin the splintered bones appear,
And spoiled the face that lately was so fair.
When Lycabas his Athis thus beheld,
How was his heart with friendly horror filled!
A youth so noble, to his soul so dear,
To see his shapeless look, his dying groans to hear!
He snatched the bow the boy was used to bend,
And cryed, With me, false traytor, dare contend;
Boast not a conquest oeer a child, but try
Thy strength with me, who all thy powers defy;
Nor think so mean an act a victory.
While yet he spoke he flung the whizzing dart,
Which pierced the plaited robe, but missed his heart:
Perseus defyed, upon him fiercely pressed
With sword, unsheathed, and plunged it in his breast;
His eyes oeerwhelmed with night, he stumbling falls,
And with his latest breath on Athis calls;
Pleased that so near the lovely youth he lies,
He sinks his head upon his friend, and dies.
Next eager Phorbas, old Methion's son,
Came rushing forward with Amphimedon;
When the smooth pavement, slippery made with gore,
Triped up their feet, and flung eem on the floor;
The sword of Perseus, who by chance was nigh,
Prevents their rise, and where they fall, they lye:
Full in his ribs Amphimedon he smote,
And then stuck fiery Phorbas in the throat.
Eurythus lifting up his ax, the blow
Was thus prevented by his nimble foe;
A golden cup he seizes, high embost,
And at his head the massy goblet tost:
It hits, and from his forehead bruised rebounds,
And blood, and brains he vomits from his wounds;
With his slain fellows on the floor he lies,
And death for ever shuts his swimming eyes.
Then Polydaemon fell, a Goddess-born;
Phlegias, and Elycen with locks unshorn
Next followed; next, the stroke of death he gave
To Clytus, Abanis, and Lycetus brave;
While oeer unnumbered heaps of ghastly dead,
The Argive heroe's feet triumphant tread.
But Phineus stands aloof, and dreads to feel
His rival's force, and flies his pointed steel:
Yet threw a dart from far; by chance it lights
On Idas, who for neither party fights;
But wounded, sternly thus to Phineus said,
Since of a neuter thou a foe hast made,
This I return thee, drawing from his side
The dart; which, as he strove to fling, he dyed.
Odites fell by Clymenus's sword,
The Cephen court had not a greater lord.
Hypseus his blade does in Protenor sheath,
But brave Lyncides soon revenged his death.
Here too was old Emathion, one that feared
The Gods, and in the cause of Heaven appeared,
Who only wishing the success of right,
And, by his age, exempted from the fight,
Both sides alike condemns: This impious war
Cease, cease, he cries; these bloody broils forbear.
This scarce the sage with high concern had said,
When Chromis at a blow struck off his head,
Which dropping, on the royal altar rouled,
Still staring on the crowd with aspect bold;
And still it seemed their horrid strife to blame,
In life and death, his pious zeal the same;
While clinging to the horns, the trunk expires,
The severed head consumes amidst the fires.
Then Phineus, who from far his javelin threw,
Broteas and Ammon, twins and brothers, slew;
For knotted gauntlets matchless in the field;
But gauntlets must to swords and javelins yield.
Ampycus next, with hallowed fillets bound,
As Cerese priest, and with a mitre crowned,
His spear transfixed, and struck him to the ground.
O Iapetides, with pain I tell
How you, sweet lyrist, in the riot fell;
What worse than brutal rage his breast could fill,
Who did thy blood, o bard celestial! spill?
Kindly you pressed amid the princely throng,
To crown the feast, and give the nuptial song:
Discord abhorred the musick of thy lyre,
Whose notes did gentle peace so well inspire;
Thee, when fierce Pettalus far off espyed,
Defenceless with thy harp, he scoffing cryed,
Go; to the ghosts thy soothing lessons play;
We loath thy lyre, and scorn thy peaceful lay:
And, as again he fiercely bid him go,
He pierced his temples with a mortal blow.
His harp he held, thoe sinking on the ground,
Whose strings in death his trembling fingers found
By chance, and tuned by chance a dying sound.
With grief Lycormas saw him fall, from far,
And, wresting from the door a massy bar,
Full in his poll lays on a load of knocks,
Which stun him, and he falls like a devoted ox.
Another bar Pelates would have snached,
But Corynthus his motions slily watched;
He darts his weapon from a private stand,
And rivets to the post his veiny hand:
When strait a missive spear transfixed his side,
By Abas thrown, and as he hung, he dyed.
Melaneus on the prince's side was slain;
And Dorylas, who owned a fertile plain,
Of Nasamonia's fields the wealthy lord,
Whose crowded barns, could scarce contain their board.
A whizzing spear obliquely gave a blow,
Stuck in his groin, and pierced the nerves below;
His foe behld his eyes convulsive roul,
His ebbing veins, and his departing soul;
Then taunting said, Of all thy spacious plain,
This spot thy only property remains.
He left him thus; but had no sooner left,
Than Perseus in revenge his nostrils cleft;
From his friend's breast the murdering dart he drew,
And the same weapon at the murderer threw;
His head in halves the darted javelin cut,
And on each side the brain came issuing out.
Fortune his friend, in deaths around he deals,
And this his lance, and that his faulchion feels:
Now Clytius dies; and by a different wound,
The twin, his brother Clanis, bites the ground.
In his rent jaw the bearded weapon sticks,
And the steeled dart does Clytiuse thigh transfix.
With these Mendesian Celadon he slew:
And Astreus next, whose mother was a Jew,
His sire uncertain: then by Perseus fell
Aethion, who coued things to come foretell;
But now he knows not whence the javelin flies
That wounds his breast, nor by whose arm he dies.
The squire to Phineus next his valour tryed,
And fierce Agyrtes stained with paricide.
As these are slain, fresh numbers still appear,
And wage with Perseus an unequal war;
To rob him of his right, the maid he won,
By honour, promise, and desert his own.
With him, the father of the beauteous bride,
The mother, and the frighted virgin side;
With shrieks, and doleful cries they rend the air:
Their shrieks confounded with the din of war,
With dashing arms, and groanings of the slain,
They grieve unpitied, and unheard complain.
The floor with ruddy streams Bellona stains,
And Phineus a new war with double rage maintains.
Perseus begirt, from all around they pour
Their lances on him, a tempestuous shower,
Aimed all at him; a cloud of darts, and spears,
Or blind his eyes, or whistle round his ears.
Their numbers to resist, against the wall
He guards his back secure, and dares them all.
Here from the left Molpeus renews the fight,
And bold Ethemon presses on the right:
As when a hungry tyger near him hears
Two lowing herds, a-while he both forbears;
Nor can his hopes of this, or that renounce,
So strong he lusts to prey on both at once;
Thus Perseus now with that, or this is loth
To war distinct:, but fain would fall on both.
And first Chaonian Molpeus felt his blow,
And fled, and never after faced his foe;
Then fierce Ethemon, as he turned his back,
Hurried with fury, aiming at his neck,
His brandished sword against the marble struck
With all his might; the brittle weapon broke,
And in his throat the point rebounding stuck.
Too slight the wound for life to issue thence,
And yet too great for battel, or defence;
His arms extended in this piteous state,
For mercy he woued sue, but sues too late;
Perseus has in his bosom plunged the sword,
And, ere he speaks, the wound prevents the word.
The crowds encreasing, and his friends distressed,
Himself by warring multitudes oppressed:
Since thus unequally you fight, etis time,
He cryed, to punish your presumptuous crime;
Beware, my friends; his friends were soon prepared,
Their sight averting, high the head he reared,
And Gorgon on his foes severely stared.
Vain shift! says Thescelus, with aspect bold,
Thee, and thy bugbear monster, I behold
With scorn; he lifts his arm, but ere he threw
The dart, the heroe to a statue grew.
In the same posture still the marble stands,
And holds the warrior's weapons in its hands.
Amphyx, whom yet this wonder canet alarm,
Heaves at Lyncidese breast his impious arm;
But, while thus daringly he presses on,
His weapon and his arm are turned to stone.
Next Nileus, he who vainly said he owed
His origin to Nile's prolifick flood;
Who on his shield seven silver rivers bore,
His birth to witness by the arms he wore;
Full of his seven-fold father, thus expressed
His boast to Perseus, and his pride confessed:
See whence we sprung; let this thy comfort be
In thy sure death, that thou didst die by me.
While yet he spoke, the dying accents hung
In sounds imperfect on his marble tongue;
Thoe changed to stone, his lips he seemed to stretch,
And throe the insensate rock woued force a speech.
This Eryx saw, but seeing woued not own;
The mischief by your selves, he cries, is done,
eTis your cold courage turns your hearts to stone.
Come, follow me; fall on the stripling boy,
Kill him, and you his magick arms destroy.
Then rushing on, his arm to strike he reared,
And marbled oeer his varied frame appeared.
These for affronting Pallas were chastised,
And justly met the death they had despised.
But brave Aconteus, Perseuse friend, by chance
Looked back, and met the Gorgon's fatal glance:
A statue now become, he ghastly stares,
And still the foe to mortal combat dares.
Astyages the living likeness knew,
On the dead stone with vengeful fury flew;
But impotent his rage, the jarring blade
No print upon the solid marble made:
Again, as with redoubled might he struck,
Himself astonished in the quarry stuck.
The vulgar deaths etwere tedious to rehearse,
And fates below the dignity of verse;
Their safety in their flight two hundred found,
Two hundred, by Medusaes head were stoned.
Fierce Phineus now repents the wrongful fight,
And views his varied friends, a dreadful sight;
He knows their faces, for their help he sues,
And thinks, not hearing him, that they refuse:
By name he begs their succour, one by one,
Then doubts their life, and feels the friendly stone.
Struck with remorse, and conscious of his pride,
Convict of sin, he turned his eyes aside;
With suppliant mein to Perseus thus he prays,
Hence with the head, as far as winds and seas
Can bear thee; hence, o quit the Cephen shore,
And never curse us with Medusa more,
That horrid head, which stiffens into stone
Those impious men who, daring death, look on.
I warred not with thee out of hate or strife,
My honest cause was to defend my wife,
First pledged to me; what crime coued I suppose,
To arm my friends, and vindicate my spouse?
But vain, too late I see, was our design;
Mine was the title, but the merit thine.
Contending made me guilty, I confess;
But penitence shoued make that guilt the less:
eTwas thine to conquer by Minerva's power;
Favoured of Heaven, thy mercy I implore;
For life I sue; the rest to thee I yield;
In pity, from my sight remove the shield.
He suing said; nor durst revert his eyes
On the grim head: and Perseus thus replies:
Coward, what is in me to grant, I will,
Nor blood, unworthy of my valour spill:
Fear not to perish by my vengeful sword,
From that secure; etis all the Fates afford.
Where I now see thee, thou shalt still be seen,
A lasting monument to please our queen;
There still shall thy betrothed behold her spouse,
And find his image in her father's house.
This said; where Phineus turned to shun the shield
Full in his face the staring head he held;
As here and there he strove to turn aside,
The wonder wrought, the man was petrifyed:
All marble was his frame, his humid eyes
Droped tears, which hung upon the stone like ice.
In suppliant posture, with uplifted hands,
And fearful look, the guilty statue stands.
Hence Perseus to his native city hies,
Victorious, and rewarded with his prize.
Conquest, oeer Praetus the usurper, won,
He re-instates his grandsire in the throne.
Praetus, his brother dispossessed by might,
His realm enjoyed, and still detained his right:
But Perseus pulled the haughty tyrant down,
And to the rightful king restored the throne.
Weak was the usurper, as his cause was wrong;
Where Gorgon's head appears, what arms are strong?
When Perseus to his host the monster held,
They soon were statues, and their king expelled.
Thence, to Seriphus with the head he sails,
Whose prince his story treats as idle tales:
Lord of a little isle, he scorns to seem
Too credulous, but laughs at that, and him.
Yet did he not so much suspect the truth,
As out of pride, or envy, hate the youth.
The Argive prince, at his contempt enraged,
To force his faith by fatal proof engaged.
Friends, shut your eyes, he cries; his shield he takes,
And to the king exposed Medusa's snakes.
The monarch felt the power he woued not own,
And stood convict of folly in the stone.
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