Metamorphoses

By Ovid

From Book 13

The Story of Glaucus & Scylla

The Story of    Here ceas'd the nymph; the fair assembly broke,
Glaucus and     The sea-green Nereids to the waves betook:
Scylla          While Scylla, fearful of the wide-spread main,
                Swift to the safer shore returns again.
There o'er the sandy margin, unarray'd,
With printless footsteps flies the bounding maid;
Or in some winding creek's secure retreat
She baths her weary limbs, and shuns the noonday's heat.
Her Glaucus saw, as o'er the deep he rode,
New to the seas, and late receiv'd a God.
He saw, and languish'd for the virgin's love;
With many an artful blandishment he strove
Her flight to hinder, and her fears remove.
The more he sues, the more she wings her flight,
And nimbly gains a neighb'ring mountain's height.
Steep shelving to the margin of the flood,
A neighb'ring mountain bare, and woodless stood;
Here, by the place secur'd, her steps she stay'd,
And, trembling still, her lover's form survey'd.
His shape, his hue, her troubled sense appall,
And dropping locks that o'er his shoulders fall;
She sees his face divine, and manly brow,
End in a fish's wreathy tail below:
She sees, and doubts within her anxious mind,
Whether he comes of God, or monster kind.
This Glaucus soon perceiv'd; and, Oh! forbear
(His hand supporting on a rock lay near),
Forbear, he cry'd, fond maid, this needless fear.
Nor fish am I, nor monster of the main,
But equal with the watry Gods I reign;
Nor Proteus, nor Palaemon me excell,
Nor he whose breath inspires the sounding shell.
My birth, 'tis true, I owe to mortal race,
And I my self but late a mortal was:
Ev'n then in seas, and seas alone, I joy'd;
The seas my hours, and all my cares employ'd,
In meshes now the twinkling prey I drew;
Now skilfully the slender line I threw,
And silent sat the moving float to view.
Not far from shore, there lies a verdant mead,
With herbage half, and half with water spread:
There, nor the horned heifers browsing stray,
Nor shaggy kids, nor wanton lambkins play;
There, nor the sounding bees their nectar cull,
Nor rural swains their genial chaplets pull,
Nor flocks, nor herds, nor mowers haunt the place,
To crop the flow'rs, or cut the bushy grass:
Thither, sure first of living race came I,
And sat by chance, my dropping nets to dry.
My scaly prize, in order all display'd,
By number on the greensward there I lay'd,
My captives, whom or in my nets I took,
Or hung unwary on my wily hook.
Strange to behold! yet what avails a lye?
I saw 'em bite the grass, as I sate by;
Then sudden darting o'er the verdant plain,
They spread their finns, as in their native main:
I paus'd, with wonder struck, while all my prey
Left their new master, and regain'd the sea.
Amaz'd, within my secret self I sought,
What God, what herb the miracle had wrought:
But sure no herbs have pow'r like this, I cry'd;
And strait I pluck'd some neighb'ring herbs, and try'd.
Scarce had I bit, and prov'd the wond'rous taste,
When strong convulsions shook my troubled breast;
I felt my heart grow fond of something strange,
And my whole Nature lab'ring with a change.
Restless I grew, and ev'ry place forsook,
And still upon the seas I bent my look.
Farewel for ever! farewel, land! I said;
And plung'd amidst the waves my sinking head.
The gentle Pow'rs, who that low empire keep,
Receiv'd me as a brother of the deep;
To Tethys, and to Ocean old, they pray
To purge my mortal earthy parts away.
The watry parents to their suit agreed,
And thrice nine times a secret charm they read,
Then with lustrations purify my limbs,
And bid me bathe beneath a hundred streams:
A hundred streams from various fountains run,
And on my head at once come rushing down.
Thus far each passage I remember well,
And faithfully thus far the tale I tell;
But then oblivion dark, on all my senses fell.
Again at length my thought reviving came,
When I no longer found my self the same;
Then first this sea-green beard I felt to grow,
And these large honours on my spreading brow;
My long-descending locks the billows sweep,
And my broad shoulders cleave the yielding deep;
My fishy tail, my arms of azure hue,
And ev'ry part divinely chang'd, I view.
But what avail these useless honours now?
What joys can immortality bestow?
What, tho' our Nereids all my form approve?
What boots it, while fair Scylla scorns my love? 

Thus far the God; and more he wou'd have said;
When from his presence flew the ruthless maid.
Stung with repulse, in such disdainful sort,
He seeks Titanian Circe's horrid court.

Translated under the direction of Sir Samuaul Garth by John Dryden, Alexander Pope, Joseph Addison, William Congreve and others.