Ovid Illustrated: The Renaissance Reception
of Ovid in Image and Text
George Sandys, Ovid's Metamorphosis (1632)
An Online Edition
Daniel Kinney, Director
Special Thanks to Alison Caviness, Zack Long, Keicy Tolbert, and the Many Resident Experts of U.Va.'s E-Text Staff
VPON THE ELEVENTH BOOKE
OF OVID'S METAMORPHOSIS.
The Thracian Bacchides, by drowning with their out-cries the musick of Orpheus, made his dissipated auditory fly back to their former retreats & condition: & then frantickly inuade the life of their Prophet for the contempt of their sex; auoided as a hinderance to the study of philosophy, & administration of ciuill affairs: he esteeming the propagation of wisdome & virtuous endeauours, more noble and immortall then that of posterity. As Epaminondas answered his friends, bewailing his death and want of issue; That he left two faire daughters behind him, the Battailes of Leuctra and Mantinea, in whom his memory should flourish. Therefore well may these drunken Bacchides be taken for the heady rage of mutiny and Sedition, which silence the authority of the law, and infringe that concord (the musicke of Orpheus) which had reduced wild people to ciuility; returning now to their former prauity and naturall fiercenesse: himselfe, the life of philosophy, torne in peeces by their fury. Moreouer; nothing more endangers the harmony of gouernment then the distemperature of Bacchus, which by inflaming the spirits, make them deafe to perswasion, and intractable to Authority: those Nations which are the greatest drinkers, either not receiuing, or soone casting off, the yoake of obedience. Orpheus his head and Harp being throwne into Hebrus; are borne away by the murmuring current. So the scattered reliques of learning, expulsed from one country, are transported to another, as here vnto Lesbos: Pittacus, Arion, Sappho, & Alcaeus, being all of that Iland, who succeeded Orpheus in the fame of Lyricall Poesy. A Serpent attempts to deuoure his head; presenting Detraction and serpentine Enuy: whom Apollo, the eternity of diuine composures, converts into a stone, or confounds and stupifies. His Harp was feigned to haue beene translated into that coelestiall constellation which consisteth of nine starres, in reference to the nine Muses; and one more bright then the rest, expressing Apollo. But indeed hung vp it was in Apollo's Temple at Lesbos: when Neanthes, the sonne of the tyrant Pittacus; emulating the glory of Orpheus, by corrupting of the Priest, conueyed it from thence: who supposing that the taming of wild beasts had beene inherent to the instrument (as Mahomet attributed the wonderfull exploits of Scanderbeg to the admirable temper of his sword) retired by night into the suburbs, & playing thereon, was torne in peeces by the dogs that gathered about him: imitating herein not his skill, but his destiny. But the Soule of Orpheus descends into Elizium: and now without feare of loosing reinioyes his Euridice. The ancient, ignorant of the true beatitude, conceiued that the reward after death (as now the Mahometans doe) consisted in the fruition of sensuall delights: and therefore, the better to incite the minde vnto vertue, invented this fiction of those happy fields (perhaps deriued from the terrestriall Paradice) thus described by Virgil.
Midas King of Phrygia entertaines his foster father Silenus, and feasts him for tenne daies: by whom demanded what was best for man, or what hee should chiefly desire? It is said, that after a long silence, and much importunity, hee rendred this answer: O generation of a small continuance, wretched and miserable! the seed of laborious Destiny, and ishue of Fortune! why would you know your owne deplorable condition, whereof it is better to be ignorant? The best is not to be borne at all; & the next to dye quickly. A truth discouered to others by the light of Nature, and to vs by the wisest of Men. But this made no impression in the stupidity of Midas; to whom Bacchus granted his wish for restoring vnto him his foster father Silenus; which he converts into a punishment, in desiring that all might be gold which he touched. How much wiser and happier had he beene, had he followed this instruction.
His conversation with Pan, denotes the brutish and ignorant life, which he led: cleansed from couetousnesse but retaining his folly. For Pan contending with Apollo in musick, the mountaine Tmolus being their Iudge, gaue the palme to Apollo: but sottish Midas protests against the sentence; for which Apollo produceth his cares to the length and instability of an Asses. Pan presents illiterate rusticity; Apollo a mind imbued with the diuine endowments of art and nature. Midas an ignorant Prince, vnable to distinguish betweene that which is vile and excellent; and therefore preferrs the one before the other; for which he is iustly branded by the learned with the ensignes of folly. But to sore more high: the contention betweene these musitians, and the euent thereof, exhibits a healthfull doctrine, which may restraine our vaineglory and iudgements with sobriety. For there is a twofold harmony or musick; the one of diuine prouidence, and the other of humane reason. To humane iudgement (which is as it were to mortall cares) the administration of the World, of the creature, and more secret decrees of the highest, sound harsh and disconsonant; which ignorance, though it be deseruedly markt with the eares of an asse, yet is it not apparant, or noted for a deformity by the vulgar. These long eares are also attributed to Midas, as being a suspitious Prince; who heard whatsoeuer was done a farre off by his spies and intelligencers: who (by their false informations) becoming suspitious of his best deseruing seruants, and confident of his worst, might well be said to heare with such eares; ignorant of the true estate of his affaires; irresolute, and wauing through seuerall suggestions. But then most dangerous when (as here) vnexamined and concealed, the accuser neuer brought before the accused, but all taken vpon trust: so that not seldome the most noble are subuerted by the seruile instruments of his vices; to whose safety neither innocency nor discretion are auailable. Calisthenes makes mention of two hills in Phrygia, which were called the Asses eares, whose tops were crowned with two strong fortresses possessed by Theiues. These assailed and taken by Midas it became prouerbiall, that Midas had got the eares of an asse.
These he hides with a Tiara; an ornament for the head appropriate to Princes. The deformities and follies of great ones, being couered or qualified at the least, by the awe and repute of their dignity; yet knowne to their neere attendants; as this of Midas to the seruant that trimmed him, who dares not reueale, nor yet could conceale it, therefore wispers and buries the secret in a pit, which after by the reeds, which grew from the same was discouered. The vices and defects of Princes are likely palliated or obscured in their life time: but dead; these vocall Reedes arise, the pens of historians to diuulge them to posterity. This Midas, in the end much troubled in his mind with dreames and apparitions, fell into so deepe a melancholy, that he made him selfe away by the drinking of Bulls blood.
Apollo flies from hence into Phrygia: who induing a mortall shape; together with Neptune; assists Laomedon, for a proposed reward, in the immuring of Troy. The fable deriued according to Herodotus from Laomedons imploying the treasure, which had beene offered to Apollo and Neptune, in the building of the walls of his Citty. So Nero robbed the temples at Rome (as those of Greece, not only of their gifts, but of the golden Idolls to whom they were consecrated) to rebuild the Citty, set on fire by his appointment. But the treasure not restored by Laomedon, it was faigned that Neptune surrounded his Country; and commanded the exposure of his daughter Hesione, to be deuoured by a whale. Palephatus would haue this a King of that name; who powerfull by sea, made many incursions vpon the Coasts of Phrygia, and tooke away, with their wealth, their daughters, among whom Hesione, deliuered soone after by Hercules. Incensed in that Leomedon denied him the promised horses, he sackt his Citty, and gaue his daughter to Telamon, by whom he had Aiax and Teucer. From hence we may produce this allegory; that no commonwealth or Citty can be raised but by the diuine assistance; or continue without religion, iustice and performance of promise; which violated, is the cause if not of vtter ruine, of infinite calamities. Plutarch obserues that Troy was thrice ruinated by horses: First by these witheld from Hercules through the periury of Laomedon; next by the Epean horse and treachery of Sinon; and lastly by a horse which stood in the Port (the same periury persuing them) insomuch as they could not shut their gates soone enough, against the sudden surprise of Charidemus.
Telamon had married Hesione; but his brother Peleus a Goddesse, by the appointment of Iupiter; who durst not himselfe, though desirous, approach her; in that Proteus had prophesied, how Thetis should beare a sonne, who should become more great then his father. Proteus was a man of great wisdome; & accounted a Prophet, in that he could fortell what would happen by the disposition of the starres; aiming also at the future, by the times foregoing. By his Counsell Peleus obtained Thetis, who by changing of her formes had deluded him long. Thetis is taken for the water, whom Iupiter espoused to Peleus, which signifies clay: for of earth and water they held that man was ingendred. Wherefore Ioue would not ly with Thetis, for feare he should beget a greater then himselfe, who might depriue him of his kingdome: for Iupiter, which is fire, is extinguished, if it ioyne, by the humidity of water. And therefore the Persians accustomed to carry their Idoliz'd fire to the riuer; threatning to extinguish it, if it would not graunt them their petitions. But there is no discord betweene Peleus and Thetis, for of the concord of these two elements man is begotten: of Peleus the flesh, and of Thetis the humors, both quickned by the soule, or the fire of Iupiter.
Thetis is said to haue changed her selfe into sundry shapes e're Peleus could possesse her; which is the various transmigration of water, before it produce that moysture, which is seruiceable to the body. Iupiter is faigned to haue inuited all the Gods to this marriage; because they held that euery part of a man belonged to a particular deity: Iupiter gouerning the head, Minerva the eyes, Iuno the armes, Neptune the breast, Mars the loynes, Venus the reynes, and Mercury the feet. Betweene Peleus and Thetis, Achilles, an absolute man, is begotten: whom his mother dips in the riuer of Styx; that is, hardens his body to labour, and fortifies his mind against dangers. But historically taken; this borrowed name of Thetis should bee some Lady of an excellent beauty (perhaps Philomela the daughter of Actor the Mermidon) said to be a Goddesse of the Sea, in that a Queene of some maritime Cittie or Iland: who long reiecting the sute of Peleus, then king of Thessaly (feigned to vary her shape for the variety of her minde and sundry disguises) at length was fixed in her proper forme, and obtained by his importunity. And it may be she was called Thetis, in that such an abundance of water fell at her wedding: as obserued by Staphilus: wherein they feigned for her greater honour, that the Gods descended to celebrate her nuptialls; this also hapning in a great drought when raine was most welcome. Neither is it vnusuall in the Ethnick diuinity, to call the Gods by the names of the second causes; or to suppose them in person to accompany their operations; as in that of Virgil.
By Chione Mercury had Autolicus, a notable Impostor: feigned to be his son, as borne vnder his Plannet, or participating those conditions: who by his thefts & cousonage attained to great riches. He had a daughter called Anticlea; after wife vnto Laertes, and mother to Vlisses, who nothing degenerated in subtilty from his grandfather. Vpon the same reason Philammon was said to be the son of Apollo; infusing virtue, and a naturall inclination to knowledge. A man admired for his excellency in Musick and Poetry: the father of Tamyris the celebrated musitian, who lost his eyes for contending with the Muses. An ambition deriued from his Grandmother Chione; who elated with her beauty, the loue of two Gods & hight of prosperity, durst preferre her selfe before despised Diana: For which shee was slaine by her arrowes. A fate deseruedly inflicted on those, who dote on their owne gifts, and value them more then the giuer: Diana's arrow not vnusually taken for the pestilence.
Daedalion, distracted for the death of his daughter, throwes himselfe from the top of Parnassus: but is by commiserating Apollo converted into a Faulkon. Sorrow is the greatest of all the mindes perturbations, which dethrones the reason, and headlong driues to desperation. Dedalion, a fierce and truculent souldier, is aptly changed into a creature, which delights in blood, & liues by the slaughter of others. The transformation effected by Apollo; because the Aegyptians expressed the Sun by a Faulkon, in regard of her viuacity, fruitfulnesse, and celerity; towring aloft, and seeing all beneath her; who can gaze on his beames with vndazled eyes, and oppose them, without hurt to the lightning. And as the Sun is the soule of the world, so the soule of man was presented by this Fowle, which mounts from earth vnto heauen with the wings of diuine speculation. Sacred therefore she was to Apollo; and is called by Homer his messenger, in that a bird of presage; as hee the God of Diuination.
Ceyx is feigned to be the sonne of Lucifer, or the Morning Starre, in regard of his excellent beauty, and early hopefulnesse: happy in his faire and affectionat wife, in his peaceable gouernment, and other felicities of fortune: which swelled him, as others haue written, so farre aboue the sense of his mortality, that hee caused himselfe to be called Iupiter, and his wife Alcyone Iuno; for which by the diuine vengeance, he was shipwrackt and drowned in his voyage to Claros. Our Poet hath excelled himselfe in the description of this tempest: wherein is to be obserued the tumor of the Sea before the windes arise, a certaine presage of a following storme; proceeding either from a naturall instinct, or the impulsion of the water from the waues a farre off. The windes incounter one another: yet Aristotle writes that they cannot blow at once in an opposite diameter, though the contrary was manifested in that inundation, raised by the North and South windes which surunded Buris and Helice: and Virgil.
I haue seene two winde-mills goe together with contrary windes: neither is it to be doubted, but they were concurrent, which blew downe the foure corners of the house, where the children of Iob were a feasting. The Sea sometimes appeares troubled on either side, and smooth in the middle, an argument that the windes, comming from contrary parts, breake the force of one another at their meeting; succeeded by a generall calme. We see the Rack carried one way, and the winde blowing right against it: the high clowds to be carried, and passe by the lower, as it were by contrary currents. Certainely therefore they may blowe together, though long last they cannot; because the one of necessity must quickly yeeld to the ouermastering strength of the other. This darke and dismall night is onely enlightned with lightning: if not also with those Meteors which often hang in tempests about the Masts & yards of ships; by the ancient named Castor and Pollux, of those celebrated Twins the sonnes of Iupiter and Leda: who were said to be propitious to Sailers, because they cleared the seas from Pirats. Diodorus writes that in the voyage of the Argonauts, when the windes began to rage, and Orpheus had made his vowes, these two well boading lights sat on the heads of those brothers: whereupon the tempest miraculously ceased: called euer after by their names: as now by the Italians S. Nicholas and S. Hermes, and by the Spaniard Corpos Santos: whereof if two appeare, they prognosticate safety; if one, extreame danger; if these resigne to a third, vnauoidable shipwracke. But here the tenth billow accomplisheth the destiny of Ceyx, which is obserued to exceed the fore-going in greatnesse: whereupon the word Decumanus is ordinarily taken for great and mighty.
Yet Alcyone implores all the Gods for the safe returne of her husband, but especially Iuno, the Goddess of coniugall affections, who pittying her preuented prayers, shakes her polluted hand from the Altar, (for they were held vncleane for a season who had any dead in their family, nor could enter the temples of the Gods before they were purified, borrowed belike from the Leuiticall Law) and by her Messenger Iris commandeth Sleepe to send a Dreame that might present to Alcyone the fate of Ceyx. The Pallace of Sleepe is aptly placed among the Cymerians, a miserable people inhabiting about the Scythian Bosphorus, liuing incaued in the rocks, the ayre euer dull and obscure by reason of the distant Sun and high-hanging mountaines, whence sprung the prouerb of Cymmerian darknesse, And there be vallies in Wales, wherein the sun shines not for six months together, if wee may credit their owners. No Cock here crowed to disturbe his repose and awaken the morning. A creature, saith Pliny, ordained by Nature to sentinell the night and rouse vp mortalls to their labours; by which in their Hierogliphicks they presented vigilancy. It is feigned that Alectrion (which signifies a Cock) was a youth beloued by Mars, and conscious to his adultery with Venus; who accustomed to watch at the doore, and giue notice if any approached: but falling on a time asleepe, they were discouered by the Sun, and caught in a net by Vulcan; for which angry Mars converted him into a Fowle with a Crest on his Crowne, representing his Helmet, who mindfull of his former neglect, continually crowes before the Sunnes vp-rise, least he should take any one tardy. But the Cock was sacred vnto Mars in that so courageous a Bird; and the Swisse, a martiall people, as heretofore, so now when they goe to the warres haue them alwaies in their pauilions. It is generally belieued, that the Cock crowes thrice, and those at set times, in the night: which Scaliger condemnes by his experience for fictitious. But to omit other reasons of his nightly-crowing, as that of his burning desire vnto Venus; all creatures haue in their kinde a peculiar instinct proceeding from their quality and temperature: so that a Cock, being extraordinary hot, and of a quicke digesture, awakens alwaies about mid-night with hunger; at which time he crowes & claps his wings out of the instinct of his phantasie. No Dog sollicitous for his Masters safety (& therefore the symbol of fidelity) was here heard to barke: or more wakefull goose to gaggle; by whose clamour roused, the Romans repulsed the Gaules, who then had ascended the walls of the Capitoll: in memory whereof they euer after fed geese in that place at the publique charges; by whose image they represented Safe-custody. A creature naturally fearefull, and therefore subtle to finde any apparance of danger, and easily awaked. These, nor any other noyses, were here to disturbe him, onely a streame of Lethe, which inuited sleepe by purling on the pebbles. To worke the like effect Augustus Caesar had water poured long and constantly by his beds-head into a Cesterne. Foure Riuers there be which were named Lethe: one supposed Infernall and most friendly to the miserable: for their Ghosts hauing drank thereof, forget forthwith whatsoeuer in this life had befall'n them. So feigned, because death procures a generall obliuion; the name of Lethe importing as much: and therefore well placed by the mansion of Sleepe, who seldome girts their browes with Poppy, that are perplexed with too restlesse a remembrance. For such soporiferous weeds grow here in his garden; repealing sleep by cooling and moistning of the braine, before exiled by intemperate heat and drinesse. The Sycionians painted Sleepe subduing of Lyons: in that no sorrow was so outrageous, which sleepe could not vanquish.
Neither might the Cormorant vaunt of lesse noble parentage: Once Aesacus the sonne of Priamus by the Nymph Alixothoe. Who hating the glorious miseries of the Court; enioyes his freedome in the open fields and Forrests of Ida.