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Ovid XIV Chapter 5: 223-319 Ulysses and Circe
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Macareus spoke of how Aeolus ruled the Tuscan deep, Aeolus son of Hippotes, imprisoning the winds. Ulysses, the Dulichian leader, had received them from him, an amazing gift, fastened up, in a bull's hide bag. Sailing for nine days, with a favourable wind, Ulysses and his crew spied the homelands they sought, but when the tenth morning came, his comrades were conquered by greed and desire for their share: thinking the bag contained gold, they loosened the strings that tied up the winds. The ship was blown back over the waters, through which they had come, and, once more, entered king Aeolus's harbour. 'From there,' Macareus said, 'we came to the ancient city of Lamus, of the Laestrygonians: Antiphates was now king in that land. I was sent to him with two companions. One of my friends and myself, fleeing, barely reached safety. The third reddened the Laestrygonians' evil mouths with his blood. Antiphates chased us as we ran for it, urging his men on. They rushed us, hurling rocks and tree-trunks, drowning the men, and sinking the ships. The one which Ulysses himself, and I sailed in, escaped. Mourning our lost companions, lamenting greatly, we came to that land you see, in the distance, (believe me the island I saw is best seen from a distance!) and I warn you, O most virtuous of Trojans, son of the goddess, (since the war is over now, I will not treat you as an enemy, Aeneas) shun the shores of Circe! We, likewise, beaching our vessel, refused to go on, remembering Antiphates, and savage Cyclops: but we were chosen by lot to explore the unknown place. I, and the loyal Polites, and also Eurylochus, and Elpenor, too fond of wine, and eighteen others of my comrades, were sent within Circe's walls. We had no sooner arrived, and were standing on the threshold of her courts, when a thousand wolves, and mixed with the wolves, she-bears and lionesses rushed at us, filling us with terror. But there was nothing to be afraid of none of them gave our bodies a single scratch. Why they even wagged their tails in the air with affection, and fawned on us, as they followed our footsteps, until female servants received us, and led us, through halls covered with marble, to their mistress. She sat in a lovely inner room on her sacred throne, wearing a shining robe, covered over with a gold-embroidered veil. Nereids and nymphs were with her, who do not work wool with nimble fingers, nor, then, spin the thread: they arrange herbs, scattered without order, separating flowers and grasses of various colours, into baskets. She herself directs the work they do: she herself knows the use of each leaf, which kinds mix in harmony, examines them, and pays attention to the weighing of the herbs. When she saw us, and words of welcome had been received, she smiled at us, and seemed to give a blessing to our desires. Without delay she ordered a drink to be blended, of malted barley, honey, strong wine, and curdled milk, to which she secretly added juices, that its sweetness would hide. We took the cup offered by her sacred hand. As soon as we had drained it, thirstily, with parched lips, the dread goddess touched the top of our hair with her wand, and then (I am ashamed, but I will tell you) I began to bristle with hair, unable to speak now, giving out hoarse grunts instead of words, and to fall forward, completely facing the ground. I felt my mouth stiffening into a long snout, my neck swelling with brawn, and I made tracks on the ground, with the parts that had just now lifted the cup to my mouth. I was shut in a sty with the others in the same state (so much can magic drugs achieve!) We saw that only Eurylochus had escaped the transformation: the only one to avoid the proffered cup. If he had not refused, I would even now be one of the bristly herd, since Ulysses would not have heard of our plight from him, or come to Circe, as our avenger. Peace-loving Cyllenian Mercury had given him the white flower, the gods call moly, that springs from a black root. With this, and divine warnings, he entered Circe's house in safety, and, when he was asked to drink from the fateful cup, he struck aside the wand, with which she tried to stroke his hair, and scared off the frightened goddess, with drawn sword. Then they gave their right hands to each other, as a pledge of good faith, and after being received into her bed as her husband, he asked for his friends true bodies to be restored, as a wedding gift. We were sprinkled with the more virtuous juices of unknown herbs, our heads were stroked with the wand reversed, and the words, she had said, were pronounced, with the words said backwards. The more words she spoke, the more we stood erect, lifted from the ground. Our bristles fell away, our cloven hoofs lost their cleft, our shoulders reappeared, and below them were our upper and lower arms. Weeping we embraced him, as he wept himself, and clung to our leader's neck, and nothing was said until we had testified to our gratitude. We stayed there for a year, and, in that length of time, I saw and heard many things. Here is one told me, in secret, by one of the four female servants, dedicated to those earlier tasks. While Circe was tarrying alone with our leader, the girl showed me the statue of a young man [Note 1], carved out of snow-white marble, with a woodpecker's head on top. It stood in a holy temple, distinguished by many wreaths. I asked, as I wished to know, who it was, and why he was worshipped in a holy temple, and why he bore a bird's head. She said "Listen, Macareus, and learn, as well, how great is my mistress's power: keep your mind on my words!" |
Note 1: young man = Picus
Aeolon ille refert Tusco regnare profundo, |
Aeolon Hippotaden, cohibentem carcere ventos;
quos bovis inclusos tergo, memorabile munus,
Dulichium sumpsisse ducem flatuque secundo
lucibus isse novem et terram aspexisse petitam;
proxima post nonam cum sese aurora moveret,
invidia socios praedaeque cupidine victos
esse; ratos aurum, dempsisse ligamina ventis;
cum quibus isse retro, per quas modo venerat undas,
Aeoliique ratem portus repetisse tyranni.
'inde Lami veterem Laestrygonis' inquit 'in urbem
venimus: Antiphates terra regnabat in illa.
missus ad hunc ego sum, numero comitante duorum,
vixque fuga quaesita salus comitique mihique,
tertius e nobis Laestrygonis inpia tinxit
ora cruore suo. fugientibus instat et agmen
concitat Antiphates; coeunt et saxa trabesque
coniciunt merguntque viros merguntque carinas.
una tamen, quae nos ipsumque vehebat Ulixem,
effugit. amissa sociorum parte dolentes
multaque conquesti terris adlabimur illis,
quas procul hinc cernis (procul est, mihi crede, videnda
insula visa mihi!) tuque o iustissime Troum,
nate dea, (neque enim finito Marte vocandus
hostis es, Aenea) moneo, fuge litora Circes!
nos quoque Circaeo religata in litore pinu,
Antiphatae memores inmansuetique Cyclopis,
ire negabamus; sed tecta ignota subire
sorte sumus lecti: sors me fidumque Politen
Eurylochumque simul nimiique Elpenora vini
bisque novem socios Circaea ad moenia misit.
quae simul attigimus stetimusque in limine tecti,
mille lupi mixtaeque lupis ursaeque leaeque
occursu fecere metum, sed nulla timenda
nullaque erat nostro factura in corpore vulnus;
quin etiam blandas movere per aera caudas
nostraque adulantes comitant vestigia, donec
excipiunt famulae perque atria marmore tecta
ad dominam ducunt: pulchro sedet illa recessu
sollemni solio pallamque induta nitentem
insuper aurato circumvelatur amictu.
Nereides nymphaeque simul, quae vellera motis
nulla trahunt digitis nec fila sequentia ducunt:
gramina disponunt sparsosque sine ordine flores
secernunt calathis variasque coloribus herbas;
ipsa, quod hae faciunt, opus exigit, ipsa, quis usus
quove sit in folio, quae sit concordia mixtis,
novit et advertens pensas examinat herbas.
haec ubi nos vidit, dicta acceptaque salute
diffudit vultus et reddidit omina votis.
nec mora, misceri tosti iubet hordea grani
mellaque vimque meri cum lacte coagula passo,
quique sub hac lateant furtim dulcedine, sucos
adicit. accipimus sacra data pocula dextra.
quae simul arenti sitientes hausimus ore,
et tetigit summos virga dea dira capillos,
(et pudet et referam) saetis horrescere coepi,
nec iam posse loqui, pro verbis edere raucum
murmur et in terram toto procumbere vultu,
osque meum sensi pando occallescere rostro,
colla tumere toris, et qua modo pocula parte
sumpta mihi fuerant, illa vestigia feci
cumque eadem passis (tantum medicamina possunt!)
claudor hara, solumque suis caruisse figura
vidimus Eurylochum: solus data pocula fugit;
quae nisi vitasset, pecoris pars una manerem
nunc quoque saetigeri, nec tantae cladis ab illo
certior ad Circen ultor venisset Ulixes.
pacifer huic dederat florem Cyllenius album:
moly vocant superi, nigra radice tenetur;
tutus eo monitisque simul caelestibus intrat
ille domum Circes et ad insidiosa vocatus
pocula conantem virga mulcere capillos
reppulit et stricto pavidam deterruit ense.
inde fides dextraeque datae thalamoque receptus
coniugii dotem sociorum corpora poscit.
spargimur ignotae sucis melioribus herbae
percutimurque caput conversae verbere virgae,
verbaque dicuntur dictis contraria verbis.
quo magis illa canit, magis hoc tellure levati
erigimur, saetaeque cadunt, bifidosque relinquit
rima pedes, redeunt umeri et subiecta lacertis
bracchia sunt: flentem flentes amplectimur ipsi
haeremusque ducis collo nec verba locuti
ulla priora sumus quam nos testantia gratos.
annua nos illic tenuit mora, multaque praesens
tempore tam longo vidi, multa auribus hausi,
hoc quoque cum multis, quod clam mihi rettulit una
quattuor e famulis ad talia sacra paratis.
cum duce namque meo Circe dum sola moratur,
illa mihi niveo factum de marmore signum
ostendit iuvenale gerens in vertice picum,
aede sacra positum multisque insigne coronis.
quis foret et quare sacra coleretur in aede,
cur hanc ferret avem, quaerenti et scire volenti
"accipe" ait, "Macareu, dominaeque potentia quae sit
hinc quoque disce meae; tu dictis adice mentem!