from "METAMORPHOSES V" 1-29
Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso)prose tr. Mary Innes
Dumque ea Cephenum medio Danaeius heros
agmine commemorat; fremida regalia turba
atria conplentur: nec, coniugialia festa
qui canat, est clamor; sed qui fera nuntiet arma,
inque repentinos convivia versa tumultus,
adsimulare freto possis, quod saeva quietum
ventorum rabies motis exasperat undis.
primus in his Phineus belli temerarius auctor
fraxineam quatiens aeratae cuspidis hastam
"en", ait, "en adsum praereptae conjugis ultor;
nec mihi te pennae, nec falsum versus in aurum
Iuppiter eripiet!" Conanti mittere Cepheus,
"quid facis?" exclamat, "quae te, germane, furentem
mens agit in facinus? meritisne haec gratia tantis
redditur? hac vitam servatae dote rependis?
quam tibi non Perseus, verum si quaeris, ademit,
sed grave Nereidum numen, sed corniger Ammon,
sed quae visceribus veniebat belua ponti
exsaturanda meis; illo tibi tempore rapta est,
quo peritura fuit, nisi si, crudelis, id ipsum
exigis, ut pereat, luctuque levabere nostro.
scilicet haud satis est, quod te spectante revincta est,
et nullam quod opem patruus, sponsusve tulisti;
insuper a quoquam quod sit servata, dolebis
praemiaque eripies? Quae si tibi magna videntur,
ex illis scopulis, ubi erant adfixa, petisses.
nunc sine, qui petiit, per quem haec non orba senectus,
ferre, quod et meritis, et voce est pactus, eumque
non tibi, sed certae praelatum intellige morti."
Meanwhile, as Danae's heroic son was relating his adventures to the assembled company of the Ethiopians, a riotous mob crowded into the royal palace, their raised voices singing no festive wedding hymn, but issuing a fierce challenge to fight. The banquet, suddenly thrown into confusion, could be compared with the sea, when its still waters are lashed to fury by the wild wind. Foremost among the intruders, rashly inciting the rest to war, was Phineus. Brandishing his ashen spear, with its bronze-tipped point, 'Behold, here am I!' he cried, 'come to avenge the theft of my promised bride. Neither your wings nor Jupiter, who changed himself to spurious gold, will save you from me.' As he made to throw his weapon, Cepheus intervened. 'What are you doing, brother?' he exclaimed. 'What mad impulse drives you to this criminal behaviour? Is this your gratitude for so great a service? Is this the dowry with which you reward one who has saved my daughter's life? If you want the truth, it was not Perseus who took her away from you, but rather the stern god of the Nereids, and the horned Ammon, and the monster who came forth from the sea to glut himself on my flesh and blood. It was then she was lost to you, then when she almost perished. You have no complaint now, unless it is, in fact, her death that you are cruelly demanding, to comfort your own grief by the sight of mine. It is not enough, I suppose, that you stood by and watched, while she was put in chains, and did nothing to aid her, you who were at once her uncle and her betrothed? You further dare to be indignant that anyone else should save her, and you would snatch his prize away? If that prize seems to you so valuable, you should have tried to carry it off from the cliffs where it was fastened. As things stand, let the man who did rescue her, and saved me from a childless old age, have the reward which he was promised in return for his services. Understand that he has been chosen, not in preference to you, but in preference to certain death.'

Click here 1 for another translation of this poem.

Trans. Copyright © Mary M. Innes, 1955 - publ. Penguin Classics


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