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From book X of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

My translation follows the citation of the original text.

I reserve all copyrights on my work, but it may be freely used so long as I am cited. You know the drill.

  1. Inde per immensum croceo velatus amictu
  2. aethera digreditur Ciconumque Hymenaeus ad oras
  3. tendit et Orphea nequiquam voce vocatur
  4. adfuit ille quidem sed nec sollemnia verba
  5. nec laetos vultus nec felix attulit omen
  6. fax quoque quam tenuit lacrimoso stridula fumo
  7. usque fuit nullosque invenit motibus ignes
  8. exitus auspicio gravior nam nupta per herbas
  9. dum nova naiadum turba comitata vagatur
  10. occidit in talum serpentis dente recepto
  11. quam satis ad superas postquam Rhodopeius auras
  12. deflevit vates ne non temptaret et umbras
  13. ad Styga Taenaria est ausus descendere porta
  14. perque leves populos simulacraque functa sepulcro
  15. Persephonen adiit inamoenaque regna tenentem
  16. umbrarum dominum pulsisque ad carmina nervis
  17. sic ait O positi sub terra numina mundi
  18. in quem reccidimus quidquid mortale creamur
  19. si licet et falsi positis ambagibus oris
  20. vera loqui sinitis non huc ut opaca viderem
  21. Tartara descendi nec uti villosa colubris
  22. terna Medusaei vincirem guttura monstri
  23. causa viae est coniunx in quam calcata venenum
  24. vipera diffudit crescentesque abstulit annos
  25. posse pati volui nec me temptasse negabo
  26. vicit Amor supera deus hic bene notus in ora est
  27. an sit et hic dubito sed et hic tamen auguror esse
  28. famaque si veteris non est mentita rapinae
  29. vos quoque iunxit Amor per ego haec loca plena timoris
  30. per Chaos hoc ingens vastique silentia regni
  31. Eurydices oro properata retexite fata
  32. omnia debentur vobis paulumque morati
  33. serius aut citius sedem properamus ad unam
  34. tendimus huc omnes haec est domus ultima vosque
  35. humani generis longissima regna tenetis
  36. haec quoque cum iustos matura peregerit annos
  37. iuris erit vestri pro munere poscimus usum
  38. quod si fata negant veniam pro coniuge certum est
  39. nolle redire mihi leto gaudete duorum
  40. talia dicentem nervosque ad verba moventem
  41. exsangues flebant animae nec Tantalus undam
  42. captavit refugam stupuitque Ixionis orbis
  43. nec carpsere iecur volucres urnisque vacarunt
  44. Belides inque tuo sedisti Sisyphe saxo
  45. tunc primum lacrimis victarum carmine fama est
  46. Eumenidum maduisse genas nec regia coniunx
  47. sustinet oranti nec qui regit ima negare
  48. Eurydicenque vocant umbras erat illa recentes
  49. inter et incessit passu de vulnere tardo
  50. hanc simul et legem Rhodopeius accipit Orpheus
  51. ne flectat retro sua lumina donec Avernas
  52. exierit valles aut irrita dona futura
  53. carpitur adclivis per muta silentia trames
  54. arduus obscurus caligine densus opaca
  55. nec procul afuerunt telluris margine summae
  56. hic ne deficeret metuens avidusque videndi
  57. flexit amans oculos et protinus illa relapsa est
  58. bracchiaque intendens prendique et prendere certans
  59. nil nisi cedentes infelix arripit auras
  60. iamque iterum moriens non est de coniuge quicquam
  61. questa suo quid enim nisi se quereretur amatam
  62. supremumque vale quod iam vix auribus ille
  63. acciperet dixit revolutaque rursus eodem est
  64. Non aliter stupuit gemina nece coniugis Orpheus
  65. quam tria qui timidus medio portante catenas
  66. colla canis vidit quem non pavor ante reliquit
  67. quam natura prior saxo per corpus oborto
  68. quam qui in se crimen traxit voluitque videri
  69. Olenos esse nocens tuque o confisa figurae
  70. infelix Lethaea tuae iunctissima quondam
  71. pectora nunc lapides quos umida sustinet Ide
  72. orantem frustraque iterum transire volentem
  73. portitor arcuerat septem tamen ille diebus
  74. squalidus in ripa Cereris sine munere sedit
  75. cura dolorque animi lacrimaeque alimenta fuere
  76. esse deos Erebi crudeles questus in altam
  77. se recipit Rhodopen pulsumque aquilonibus Haemum
  78. Tertius aequoreis inclusum Piscibus annum
  79. finierat Titan omnemque refugerat Orpheus
  80. femineam Venerem seu quod male cesserat illi
  81. sive fidem dederat multas tamen ardor habebat
  82. iungere se vati multae doluere repulsae

And from book XI, the conclusion of the Orpheus myth. (In between, Orpheus, in bardly fashion, sings several other myths; I’m leaving these out.)

  1. Umbra subit terras et quae loca viderat ante
  2. cuncta recognoscit quaerensque per arva piorum
  3. invenit Eurydicen cupidisque amplectitur ulnis
  4. hic modo coniunctis spatiantur passibus ambo
  5. nunc praecedentem sequitur nunc praevius anteit
  6. Eurydicenque suam iam tuto respicit Orpheus

From Crete, through vast open spaces, wrapped in a saffron cloak, Hymenaeus parted the air as he headed for the shore; he was needlessly summoned by the mortal's voice. Indeed, he had been near at Orpheus and Eurydice's wedding, but neither the festive words nor rejoicing faces had carried a good omen. The marital torch was continuously hissing with harsh smoke, and more flames could not be coaxed out of it.1 The result was an omen most grave.

For as the new bride wandered through a field, accompanied by a crowd of Naiads, she was felled by a serpent’s tooth, taken into her ankle. After the Rhodopeian bard had mourned her enough to the winds of the world above, and, that he should not fail to attempt the shadows, he dared to descend to Styx, by the gate of Taenarus. He walked through the ghostly populace, and among those shades who had experienced the grave2; he then came to Persephone, and to the Lord of shadows, holding his dire reign. Orpheus struck his lyre’s cords to song, and spoke thus:

"O gods of this world found under the earth, into which we all descend, we who are created mortal: if it may be allowed, abandoning the lies of deceiving lips, you might permit me to speak truths. I did not come into this place to see dark Tartarus, nor to bind the three necks of that Medusaean monster, bristling with snakes.3 No, the reason for my journey is my beloved, into whom a viper she stepped upon poured out its venom, robbing her of her budding years. I wanted to be able to suffer this — and I do not deny that I have tried! — but Love won.

"He is a god known well in the world above, though if this is also true here, I know not. But still, I think it to be so, for if the rumor of that theft of old did not lie, Love also joined you two. I beg you, by these places full of fear, by this great Underworld, by the silences of your vast realm, unmake the hurried fate of Eurydice!

"All things are bound to you, my lord, and though we may delay a little, sooner or later, to your seat we are swiftly bound. We are all headed here. This is our final home. You hold the longest reign of the human race, and I beseech you: this woman also, when in maturity, she will have lived a just number of years, will be of your law; we beg this loan as a favor. But if the Fates deny this kindness to our union, I commit that I shall not return to the world above: delight, then, in our two deaths."

Bloodless spirits wept then to hear him saying such things, and moving the strings to his words; neither did Tantalus try to catch the fleeing water, and the wheel of Ixion was halted in a stupor, nor did vultures try to pluck out the liver of Tityus, and the Belides were free from their jars, and you, Sisyphus, on your rock, you sat. Then, for the first time, the cheeks of the overcome Furies were wetted with tears by his song. Neither the royal wife nor he who rules these lands could bear to deny Orpheus’ pleas, and they called for Eurydice.

She was among the recently arrived shades, and fell upon a step slowed by her wound. At the same time, Orpheus, the poet of Rhodope, accepted the stipulation that he could not turn his eyes behind him until he exited the valley of Avernus, or the gifts would be forfeit.

The ascending path was taken through a mute silence, arduous, obscure, dense with an opaque fog. Nor were they far off from one another there, near the world’s border. There, fearing that she might fail, and aching to see her, the lover turned his eyes, and she quickly slid away. He stretched out his arms, struggling to hold and be held, but the unfortunate man grasped nothing but the empty air.

Dying a second time, she made no complaint to her husband, for what complaint could she make, other than that she was loved? A final "Goodbye" echoed through the empty air, which he barely grasped with his ears. Orpheus was stunned at the twin deaths of his wife, like that man who saw the dog with three necks3 (the middle of the three held by chains), whose fear did not leave him before stone flowed through his body4. Or like you, Olenos, wishing to be guilty with your Lethaea, who was so confident in her face, yet unhappy. Once your hearts were joined, and now, you are joined as rocks on wet Ida.

The ferryman had to hold back the pleading man, who wished in vain to cross a second time. Nevertheless, for seven days he sat squalid on the bank of the river without the gift of Ceres; worry, grief of the spirit, and tears were his only food. Complaining of the gods of Erebus being cruel, he took himself back into high Rhodope and Haemus, beaten by a north wind.

The sun completed three years enclosed by watery Pisces5, and Orpheus still shunned all womanly love, whether it was that kind which came to him wickedly, or that kind which gave him faith. Still, his passion had managed to join many to the bard, and many women were hurt by his rejection.

The shade of Orpheus entered the earth and, having seen that place before, recognized everything. Seeking through the fields of the pious,6 he came upon Eurydice, and embraced her with eager arms. In this way they walked, with both steps joined: now he followed as she led, now he, going before, led her, and now Orpheus looked back safely at his Eurydice.


  1. A torch was carried at Roman weddings. It was considered a good sign if it burned brightly. Here, it did not, and shaking the torch, which was how one brought more tar to the surface and made it burn brighter, did nothing. This would be a considered a truly bad omen.
  2. Proper burial was important to ensure that a dead spirit would not suffer in the Underworld.
  3. Cerberus, the three-headed dog, nephew of Medusa, and guardian of the entrance to the Underworld.
  4. It is unclear which myth Ovid is referring to, if it is even one which has survived.
  5. That is to say, three springs.
  6. The Elysian Fields.

For the translation, I made use of:

The New College Latin & English Dictionary
Copyright 1966 Bantam Books
Published by Amsco School Publications, Inc.

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