wandering through solitary woodlands || Metamorphoses III.138-176

A little context so you are not totally confused: I’ve been translating the Metamorphoses, a work by the Roman poet Ovid, in my Latin class. My teacher requires very literal translations, but I’ve been wanting to try my hand at a more poetic version. So, using the Latin text, my original (stilted, though technically accurate) translation, and my poetic skills, I’ve created this…

To you, oh Cadmus, amidst all your prosperity
the first cause of sorrow was your grandson.
Strange horns sprouted on his forehead,
and his dogs were sated with the blood of their master.
But if you look well, you will see that it was fortune’s crime, not his own:
for it is not evil to make a mistake.

There was a mountain, stained
with the blood of wild animals.
And now the middle of the day brought shadows
and the sun was high, and a young man from the country
called to his friends as they wandered
through solitary woodlands.

“Companions, our nets, our spears are wet
with the blood of beasts. Our day has seen enough good fortune.
When a different dawn,
riding on golden wheels,
brings new light to us, we will seek our prey again.
But now it hangs high, and its heat burns the land.
Let us halt our present work and put aside our snares.”

And his companions listened, and they rested as he ordered.

By this mountain there was a valley, thick
with spruces and cypress trees, called after a river goddess, sacred
to Diana, with her tucked tunic.
On its outer edge was hidden
a cave, with quiet glades of trees:
a cave not made by men.
For nature herself had copied men’s art
with her power: she had made an arch with native stone and light rock.
A shining fountain, its waves slight, murmured to the right, surrounded
by a grassy bank, encircled by an open cleft.

Here the goddess of the forest,
weary from hunting, would come alone
to wash her virgin limbs in the fountain’s waters.
Approaching it, she handed her spear to a nymph, there to hold her weapons,
and her quiver, and her slack bow. Another
took her robe with a raised arm.
Two took away the sandals from her feet.
Crocale, daughter of Ismenus — for she
was more skilled than the others — gathered Diana’s hair, tangled across her neck,
into a knot, though she wore her own hanging free.
And Nephele and Hyale, Ranis and Psecas, and Phiale
took up water and poured it from their jugs.

Artemis - Greek Goddess of the Hunt, an art print by Chelsea Jade - INPRNT
source (Diana is also known as Artemis)

And while Diana was bathing there in the familiar fountain,
behold, Cadmus’ grandson, wandering in an unknown wood,
having put off his work, arrived in the grove with uncertain strides.
The fates had led him there.

Would you like to read more of this story? It was so refreshing to put it into poetry without being bound by literal translation. (The actual Latin, if you read it, is in dactylic hexameter — a specific rhythm — and the lines of my translation don’t coincide with Ovid’s original lines.)

In other news, I really like Matt Walsh’s podcast, I finished my history midterms, I invented a new character for Remnant, and I watched the 2020 Emma. (currently watching the 2009 version with my family).

How are you? Do you sense trouble ahead for Cadmus’ grandson? (Hint: yes. You do.)

10 thoughts on “wandering through solitary woodlands || Metamorphoses III.138-176”

  1. Mwahahaha, I know the story well so I do indeed sense trouble coming. *rubs hands* Anyway, this is SO cool. I’m muy impressed with your translating skills—and I’d definitely love to see more. I’m well thanks! Life is busy but good. I’ve been hammering away at school and I recently discovered a new favorite musical group (and turned my whole family into fans as well, heehee). So yeah. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, what beautiful language! That poem is so neat. I can’t imagine reading and translating the original Latin. Oh, so you watched the 2020 Emma?? I refuse to watch it. I’ve heard things about that don’t incline me to be friendly towards it. *shudders* What did you think?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I loved it! It was hilarious. Maybe not super book-accurate, but it kept the spirit of the story. It’s delightfully funny. (The thing that a lot of people seem to dislike is that there’s two shots with partial nudity. Which is… weird and unnecessary, but they’re both non-sexual, very brief, and near the beginning, so you’re soon over that.)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, oh, wow, this is gorgeous, Maya!!

    (Ooh, I LOVE the 2009 Emma! I got it for my mom for Christmas, and we had a lot of fun binge-watching it. I’m glad you enjoyed the new one, too! It wasn’t my absolute favorite, but it was still fun to watch (except for the *weird* parts that they threw in just for shock value *rolls eyes*). I do actually really like Johnny Flynn as Mr. Knightley.)

    Liked by 1 person

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