Metamorphoses

By Ovid

From Book 7

The Story of Cephalus & Procris

The Story of   To th' inmost courts the Grecian youths were led,
Cephalus       And plac'd by Phocus on a Tyrian bed;
and Procris    Who, soon observing Cephalus to hold
               A dart of unknown wood, but arm'd with gold:
None better loves (said he) the huntsman's sport,
Or does more often to the woods resort;
Yet I that jav'lin's stem with wonder view,
Too brown for box, too smooth a grain for yew.
I cannot guess the tree; but never art
Did form, or eyes behold so fair a dart!
The guest then interrupts him- 'Twou'd produce
Still greater wonder, if you knew its use.
It never fails to strike the game, and then
Comes bloody back into your hand again.
Then Phocus each particular desires,
And th' author of the wond'rous gift enquires.
To which the owner thus, with weeping eyes,
And sorrow for his wife's sad fate, replies,
This weapon here (o prince!) can you believe
This dart the cause for which so much I grieve;
And shall continue to grieve on, 'till Fate
Afford such wretched life no longer date.
Would I this fatal gift had ne'er enjoy'd,
This fatal gift my tender wife destroy'd:
Procris her name, ally'd in charms and blood
To fair Orythia courted by a God.
Her father seal'd my hopes with rites divine,
But firmer love before had made her mine.
Men call'd me blest, and blest I was indeed.
The second month our nuptials did succeed;
When (as upon Hymettus' dewy head,
For mountain stags my net betimes I spread)
Aurora spy'd, and ravish'd me away,
With rev'rence to the Goddess, I must say,
Against my will, for Procris had my heart,
Nor wou'd her image from my thoughts depart.
At last, in rage she cry'd, Ingrateful boy
Go to your Procris, take your fatal joy;
And so dismiss'd me: musing, as I went,
What those expressions of the Goddess meant,
A thousand jealous fears possess me now,
Lest Procris had prophan'd her nuptial vow:
Her youth and charms did to my fancy paint
A lewd adultress, but her life a saint.
Yet I was absent long, the Goddess too
Taught me how far a woman cou'd be true.
Aurora's treatment much suspicion bred;
Besides, who truly love, ev'n shadows dread.
I strait impatient for the tryal grew,
What courtship back'd with richest gifts cou'd do.
Aurora's envy aided my design,
And lent me features far unlike to mine.
In this disguise to my own house I came,
But all was chaste, no conscious sign of blame:
With thousand arts I scarce admittance found,
And then beheld her weeping on the ground
For her lost husband; hardly I retain'd
My purpose, scarce the wish'd embrace refrain'd.
How charming was her grief! Then, Phocus, guess
What killing beauties waited on her dress.
Her constant answer, when my suit I prest,
Forbear, my lord's dear image guards this breast;
Where-e'er he is, whatever cause detains,
Who-e'er has his, my heart unmov'd remains.
What greater proofs of truth than these cou'd be?
Yet I persist, and urge my destiny.
At length, she found, when my own form return'd,
Her jealous lover there, whose loss she mourn'd.
Enrag'd with my suspicion, swift as wind,
She fled at once from me and all mankind;
And so became, her purpose to retain,
A nymph, and huntress in Diana's train:
Forsaken thus, I found my flames encrease,
I own'd my folly, and I su'd for peace.
It was a fault, but not of guilt, to move
Such punishment, a fault of too much love.
Thus I retriev'd her to my longing arms,
And many happy days possess'd her charms.
But with herself she kindly did confer,
What gifts the Goddess had bestow'd on her;
The fleetest grey-hound, with this lovely dart,
And I of both have wonders to impart.
Near Thebes a savage beast, of race unknown,
Laid waste the field, and bore the vineyards down;
The swains fled from him, and with one consent
Our Grecian youth to chase the monster went;
More swift than light'ning he the toils surpast,
And in his course spears, men, and trees o'er-cast.
We slipt our dogs, and last my Lelaps too,
When none of all the mortal race wou'd do:
He long before was struggling from my hands,
And, e're we cou'd unloose him, broke his bands.
That minute where he was, we cou'd not find,
And only saw the dust he left behind.
I climb'd a neighb'ring hill to view the chase,
While in the plain they held an equal race;
The savage now seems caught, and now by force
To quit himself, nor holds the same strait course;
But running counter, from the foe withdraws,
And with short turning cheats his gaping jaws:
Which he retrieves, and still so closely prest,
You'd fear at ev'ry stretch he were possess'd;
Yet for the gripe his fangs in vain prepare;
The game shoots from him, and he chops the air.
To cast my jav'lin then I took my stand;
But as the thongs were fitting to my hand,
While to the valley I o'er-look'd the wood,
Before my eyes two marble statues stood;
That, as pursu'd appearing at full stretch,
This barking after, and at point to catch:
Some God their course did with this wonder grace,
That neither might be conquer'd in the chase.
A sudden silence here his tongue supprest,
He here stops short, and fain wou'd wave the rest. 

The eager prince then urg'd him to impart,
The Fortune that attended on the dart.
First then (said he) past joys let me relate,
For bliss was the foundation of my fate.
No language can those happy hours express,
Did from our nuptials me, and Procris bless:
The kindest pair! What more cou'd Heav'n confer?
For she was all to me, and I to her.
Had Jove made love, great Jove had been despis'd;
And I my Procris more than Venus priz'd:
Thus while no other joy we did aspire,
We grew at last one soul, and one desire.
Forth to the woods I went at break of day
(The constant practice of my youth) for prey:
Nor yet for servant, horse, or dog did call,
I found this single dart to serve for all.
With slaughter tir'd, I sought the cooler shade,
And winds that from the mountains pierc'd the glade:
Come, gentle air (so was I wont to say)
Come, gentle air, sweet Aura come away.
This always was the burden of my song,
Come 'swage my flames, sweet Aura come along.
Thou always art most welcome to my breast;
I faint; approach, thou dearest, kindest guest!
These blandishments, and more than these, I said
(By Fate to unsuspected ruin led),
Thou art my joy, for thy dear sake I love
Each desart hill, and solitary grove;
When (faint with labour) I refreshment need,
For cordials on thy fragrant breath I feed.
At last a wand'ring swain in hearing came,
And cheated with the sound of Aura's name,
He thought I some assignation made;
And to my Procris' ear the news convey'd.
Great love is soonest with suspicion fir'd:
She swoon'd, and with the tale almost expir'd.
Ah! wretched heart! (she cry'd) ah! faithless man.
And then to curse th' imagin'd nymph began:
Yet oft she doubts, oft hopes she is deceiv'd,
And chides herself, that ever she believ'd
Her lord to such injustice cou'd proceed,
'Till she her self were witness of the deed.
Next morn I to the woods again repair,
And, weary with the chase, invoke the air:
Approach, dear Aura, and my bosom chear:
At which a mournful sound did strike my ear;
Yet I proceeded, 'till the thicket by,
With rustling noise and motion, drew my eye:
I thought some beast of prey was shelter'd there,
And to the covert threw my certain spear;
From whence a tender sigh my soul did wound,
Ah me! it cry'd, and did like Procris sound.
Procris was there, too well the voice I knew,
And to the place with headlong horror flew;
Where I beheld her gasping on the ground,
In vain attempting from the deadly wound
To draw the dart, her love's dear fatal gift!
My guilty arms had scarce the strength to lift
The beauteous load; my silks, and hair I tore
(If possible) to stanch the pressing gore;
For pity beg'd her keep her flitting breath,
And not to leave me guilty of her death.
While I intreat she fainted fast away,
And these few words had only strength to say:
By all the sacred bonds of plighted love,
By all your rev'rence to the Pow'rs above,
By all the truth for which you held me dear,
And last by love, the cause through which I bleed,
Let Aura never to my bed succeed.
I then perceiv'd the error of our fate,
And told it her, but found and told too late!
I felt her lower to my bosom fall,
And while her eyes had any sight at all,
On mine she fix'd them; in her pangs still prest
My hand, and sigh'd her soul into my breast;
Yet, being undeceiv'd, resign'd her breath
Methought more chearfully, and smil'd in death. 

With such concern the weeping heroe told
This tale, that none who heard him cou'd with-hold
From melting into sympathizing tears,
'Till Aeacus with his two sons appears;
Whom he commits, with their new-levy'd bands,
To Fortune's, and so brave a gen'ral's hands.

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