Metamorphoses

By Ovid

From Book 6

Latona Changes the Lycian Peasants to Frogs

The Peasants     Then all, reclaim'd by this example, show'd
of Lycia         A due regard for each peculiar God:
transform'd to   Both men, and women their devoirs express'd,
Frogs            And great Latona's awful pow'r confess'd.
                 Then, tracing instances of older time,
To suit the nature of the present crime,
Thus one begins his tale.- Where Lycia yields
A golden harvest from its fertile fields,
Some churlish peasants, in the days of yore,
Provok'd the Goddess to exert her pow'r.
The thing indeed the meanness of the place
Has made obscure, surprizing as it was;
But I my self once happen'd to behold
This famous lake of which the story's told.
My father then, worn out by length of days,
Nor able to sustain the tedious ways,
Me with a guide had sent the plains to roam,
And drive his well-fed stragling heifers home.
Here, as we saunter'd thro' the verdant meads,
We spy'd a lake o'er-grown with trembling reeds,
Whose wavy tops an op'ning scene disclose,
From which an antique smoaky altar rose.
I, as my susperstitious guide had done,
Stop'd short, and bless'd my self, and then went on;
Yet I enquir'd to whom the altar stood,
Faunus, the Naids, or some native God?
No silvan deity, my friend replies,
Enshrin'd within this hallow'd altar lies.
For this, o youth, to that fam'd Goddess stands,
Whom, at th' imperial Juno's rough commands,
Of ev'ry quarter of the Earth bereav'd,
Delos, the floating isle, at length receiv'd.
Who there, in spite of enemies, brought forth,
Beneath an olive's shade, her great twin-birth. 

Hence too she fled the furious stepdame's pow'r,
And in her arms a double godhead bore;
And now the borders of fair Lycia gain'd,
Just when the summer solstice parch'd the land.
With thirst the Goddess languishing, no more
Her empty'd breast would yield its milky store;
When, from below, the smiling valley show'd
A silver lake that in its bottom flow'd:
A sort of clowns were reaping, near the bank,
The bending osier, and the bullrush dank;
The cresse, and water-lilly, fragrant weed,
Whose juicy stalk the liquid fountains feed.
The Goddess came, and kneeling on the brink,
Stoop'd at the fresh repast, prepar'd to drink.
Then thus, being hinder'd by the rabble race,
In accents mild expostulates the case.
Water I only ask, and sure 'tis hard
From Nature's common rights to be debar'd:
This, as the genial sun, and vital air,
Should flow alike to ev'ry creature's share.
Yet still I ask, and as a favour crave,
That which, a publick bounty, Nature gave.
Nor do I seek my weary limbs to drench;
Only, with one cool draught, my thirst I'd quench.
Now from my throat the usual moisture dries,
And ev'n my voice in broken accents dies:
One draught as dear as life I should esteem,
And water, now I thirst, would nectar seem.
Oh! let my little babes your pity move,
And melt your hearts to charitable love;
They (as by chance they did) extend to you
Their little hands, and my request pursue. 

Whom would these soft perswasions not subdue,
Tho' the most rustick, and unmanner'd crew?
Yet they the Goddess's request refuse,
And with rude words reproachfully abuse:
Nay more, with spiteful feet the villains trod
O'er the soft bottom of the marshy flood,
And blacken'd all the lake with clouds of rising mud. 

Her thirst by indignation was suppress'd;
Bent on revenge, the Goddess stood confess'd.
Her suppliant hands uplifting to the skies,
For a redress, to Heav'n she now applies.
And, May you live, she passionately cry'd,
Doom'd in that pool for ever to abide. 

The Goddess has her wish; for now they chuse
To plunge, and dive among the watry ooze;
Sometimes they shew their head above the brim,
And on the glassy surface spread to swim;
Often upon the bank their station take,
Then spring, and leap into the cooly lake.
Still, void of shame, they lead a clam'rous life,
And, croaking, still scold on in endless strife;
Compell'd to live beneath the liquid stream,
Where still they quarrel, and attempt to skream.
Now, from their bloated throat, their voice puts on
Imperfect murmurs in a hoarser tone;
Their noisy jaws, with bawling now grown wide,
An ugly sight! extend on either side:
Their motly back, streak'd with a list of green,
Joyn'd to their head, without a neck is seen;
And, with a belly broad and white, they look
Meer frogs, and still frequent the muddy brook.

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