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Ovid XIV Chapter 6: 320-396 The transformation of Picus
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' " Picus the son of Saturn, was king in the land of Ausonia, and loved horses trained for war. The hero's appearance was as you see it there. Though, if you looked at his beauty itself, you would approve the true and not the imaginary form. His spirit equalled his looks. In age, he had not yet seen four of the five-yearly Games at Elis in Greece. He had turned the heads of the dryads born on the hills of Latium: the nymphs of the fountains pursued him, and the naiads; those that live in the Tiber; and in the River Numicius; in Anio's streams; and the brief course of the Almo; the rushing Nar; and Farfar of dense shadows; and those who haunt the wooded pool of Scythian Diana, and its neighbouring lakes. But, spurning them all, he loved one nymph alone, whom, it is said, Venilia once bore, on the Palatine hill, to two-faced Janus. She, when she had grown to marriageable age, was given to Picus of Laurentum, preferred of all her suitors. She was of rare beauty, but rarer her gift of song, so that she was called Canens. She could move the rocks and trees with her singing, make wild beasts gentle, halt wide rivers, and detain the wandering birds. One day when she was singing her song, with a girl's expressiveness, Picus left home to hunt the native wild boar, in the Laurentian fields. Astride the back of an eager mount, he carried two hunting spears in his left hand, and wore a Greek military cloak, dyed crimson, fastened with a golden brooch. Sol's daughter had come to those same woods, leaving the fields, called Circean from her name, to cull fresh herbs in the fertile hills. As soon as she saw the youth from the cover of a thicket, she was stunned: the herbs she had culled fell from her hand, and flames seemed to reach to her very marrow. As soon as she had recovered rational thought after the wave of passion, she wanted to own to her desires, but she could not reach him, because of his horse's speed, and his crowd of companions. 'Though the wind take you, you will not escape,' she cried, 'if I know my skill, if the power of herbs has not completely vanished, and my incantations do not fail.' Saying this, she conjured up a bodiless phantom boar, and commanded it to cross under the king's very eyes, and seem to enter a dense grove of trees, where the woods were thickest, and the place was impenetrable to horses. Instantly, and unwittingly, without a moment's delay, Picus, followed his shadowy prey, and, quickly leaping from the back of his foaming mount, he roamed, on foot, through the deep wood, chasing an empty promise. Circe recited curses, and spoke magic words, worshipping unknown gods, with unknown incantations, by which she used to dim the face of the bright moon, and veil her father's orb, with moisture-loving cloud. Now, also, by her song, the sky is darkened, and the earth breathes out fog, and his companions wander on blind trails, and the king's protection is lost. Having made the time and place, she says: 'O, by those eyes, that have captured mine, and by that beauty, most handsome of youths, that has made a goddess suppliant to you, think of my passion, and accept the sun, who sees all things, as your father-in-law [Note 1]. Do not, unfeelingly, despise Circe, daughter of Titan.' She spoke: he fiercely rejected her and her entreaties, and said: 'Whoever you may be, I am not for you. Another has captured my love and holds me, and I hope she will hold me forever. While the Fates guard Canens, Janus's daughter, for me, I will not harm our bond of affection by an alien love. Repeating her entreaties, time and again, in vain, Circe cried: 'You will not go unpunished, or return to your Canens, and you will learn the truth of what the wounded; a lover; a woman, can do: and Circe is a lover; is wounded; is a woman!' Then twice to the west, twice to the east, she turned; thrice touched the youth with her wand, thrice spoke an incantation. He ran, but was surprised to find himself running faster than before: he saw wings appear on his body. Angered at his sudden transformation to a strange bird in the woods of Latium, he pecked at the rough oak wood with his hard beak, and in fury wounded the long branches. The feathers of his crown and nape took on the colour of his crimson cloak, and what had been a golden brooch, pinning his clothes, became plumage, and his neck was surrounded behind by green-gold. Nothing was left to Picus of his former being, except his name." |
Note 1: father-in-law = Sol
Event: Picus and Circe
'"Picus in Ausoniis, proles Saturnia, terris |
rex fuit, utilium bello studiosus equorum;
forma viro, quam cernis, erat: licet ipse decorem
adspicias fictaque probes ab imagine verum;
par animus formae; nec adhuc spectasse per annos
quinquennem poterat Graia quater Elide pugnam.
ille suos dryadas Latiis in montibus ortas
verterat in vultus, illum fontana petebant
numina, naiades, quas Albula, quasque Numici,
quas Anienis aquae cursuque brevissimus Almo
Narve tulit praeceps et opacae Farfarus umbrae,
quaeque colunt Scythicae stagnum nemorale Dianae
finitimosque lacus; spretis tamen omnibus unam
ille colit nymphen, quam quondam in colle Palati
dicitur ancipiti peperisse Venilia Iano.
haec ubi nubilibus primum maturuit annis,
praeposito cunctis Laurenti tradita Pico est,
rara quidem facie, sed rarior arte canendi,
unde Canens dicta est: silvas et saxa movere
et mulcere feras et flumina longa morari
ore suo volucresque vagas retinere solebat.
quae dum feminea modulatur carmina voce,
exierat tecto Laurentes Picus in agros
indigenas fixurus apros tergumque premebat
acris equi laevaque hastilia bina ferebat
poeniceam fulvo chlamydem contractus ab auro.
venerat in silvas et filia Solis easdem,
utque novas legeret fecundis collibus herbas,
nomine dicta suo Circaea reliquerat arva.
quae simul ac iuvenem virgultis abdita vidit,
obstipuit: cecidere manu, quas legerat, herbae,
flammaque per totas visa est errare medullas.
ut primum valido mentem conlegit ab aestu,
quid cuperet, fassura fuit: ne posset adire,
cursus equi fecit circumfususque satelles.
'non' ait 'effugies, vento rapiare licebit,
si modo me novi, si non evanuit omnis
herbarum virtus, nec me mea carmina fallunt.'
dixit et effigiem nullo cum corpore falsi
fingit apri praeterque oculos transcurrere regis
iussit et in densum trabibus nemus ire videri,
plurima qua silva est et equo loca pervia non sunt.
haut mora, continuo praedae petit inscius umbram
Picus equique celer spumantia terga relinquit
spemque sequens vanam silva pedes errat in alta.
concipit illa preces et verba venefica dicit
ignotosque deos ignoto carmine adorat,
quo solet et niveae vultum confundere Lunae
et patrio capiti bibulas subtexere nubes.
tum quoque cantato densetur carmine caelum
et nebulas exhalat humus, caecisque vagantur
limitibus comites, et abest custodia regis.
nacta locum tempusque 'per o, tua lumina,' dixit
'quae mea ceperunt, perque hanc, pulcherrime, formam,
quae facit, ut supplex tibi sim dea, consule nostris
ignibus et socerum, qui pervidet omnia, Solem
accipe nec durus Titanida despice Circen.'
dixerat; ille ferox ipsamque precesque repellit
et 'quaecumque es,' ait 'non sum tuus; altera captum
me tenet et teneat per longum, conprecor, aevum,
nec Venere externa socialia foedera laedam,
dum mihi Ianigenam servabunt fata Canentem.'
saepe retemptatis precibus Titania frustra
'non inpune feres, neque' ait 'reddere Canenti,
laesaque quid faciat, quid amans, quid femina, disces
rebus; at est et amans et laesa et femina Circe!'
tum bis ad occasus, bis se convertit ad ortus,
ter iuvenem baculo tetigit, tria carmina dixit.
ille fugit, sed se solito velocius ipse
currere miratur: pennas in corpore vidit,
seque novam subito Latiis accedere silvis
indignatus avem duro fera robora rostro
figit et iratus longis dat vulnera ramis;
purpureum chlamydis pennae traxere colorem;
fibula quod fuerat vestemque momorderat aurum,
pluma fit, et fulvo cervix praecingitur auro,
nec quicquam antiquum Pico nisi nomina restat.