Ovid: Metamorphosis

Book 1, Plate 12

The Transformation of Io into a Heyfer

An ancient forest in Thessalia grows;
Which Tempe's pleasing valley does inclose:
Through this the rapid Peneus take his course;
From Pindus rolling with impetuous force;
Mists from the river's mighty fall arise:
And deadly damps inclose the cloudy skies:
Perpetual fogs are hanging o'er the wood;
And sounds of waters deaf the neighbourhood.

Deep, in a rocky cave, he makes abode
(A mansion proper for a mourning God).

Here he gives audience; issuing out decrees
To rivers, his dependant deities.

On this occasion hither they resort;
To pay their homage, and to make their court.

All doubtful, whether to congratulate
His daughter's honour, or lament her fate.

Sperchaeus, crown'd with poplar, first appears;
Then old Apidanus came crown'd with years:
Enipeus turbulent, Amphrysos tame;
And Aeas last with lagging waters came.

Then, of his kindred brooks, a num'rous throng
Condole his loss; and bring their urns along.

Not one was wanting of the wat'ry train,
That fill'd his flood, or mingled with the main:
But Inachus, who in his cave, alone,
Wept not another's losses, but his own,
For his dear Io, whether stray'd, or dead,
To him uncertain, doubtful tears he shed.

He sought her through the world; but sought in vain;
And no where finding, rather fear'd her slain.

Her, just returning from her father's brook,
Jove had beheld, with a desiring look:
And, Oh fair daughter of the flood, he said,
Worthy alone of Jove's imperial bed,
Happy whoever shall those charms possess;
The king of Gods (nor is thy lover less)
Invites thee to yon cooler shades; to shun
The scorching rays of the meridian sun.

Nor shalt thou tempt the dangers of the grove
Alone, without a guide; thy guide is Jove.

No puny Pow'r, but he whose high command
Is unconfin'd, who rules the seas and land;
And tempers thunder in his awful hand,
Oh fly not: for she fled from his embrace
O'er Lerna's pastures: he pursu'd the chace
Along the shades of the Lyrcaean plain;
At length the God, who never asks in vain,
Involv'd with vapours, imitating night,
Both Air, and Earth; and then suppress'd her flight,
And mingling force with love, enjoy'd the full delight.

Mean-time the jealous Juno, from on high,
Survey'd the fruitful fields of Arcady;
And wonder'd that the mist shou'd over-run
The face of day-light, and obscure the sun.

No nat'ral cause she found, from brooks, or bogs,
Or marshy lowlands, to produce the fogs;
Then round the skies she sought for Jupiter,
Her faithless husband; but no Jove was there:
Suspecting now the worst, Or I, she said,
Am much mistaken, or am much betray'd.

With fury she precipitates her flight:
Dispels the shadows of dissembled night;
And to the day restores his native light.

Th' Almighty Leacher, careful to prevent
The consequence, foreseeing her descent,
Transforms his mistress in a trice; and now
In Io's place appears a lovely cow.

So sleek her skin, so faultless was her make,
Ev'n Juno did unwilling pleasure take
To see so fair a rival of her love;
And what she was, and whence, enquir'd of Jove:
Of what fair herd, and from what pedigree?

The God, half caught, was forc'd upon a lye:
And said she sprung from Earth. She took the word,
And begg'd the beauteous heyfer of her lord.

What should he do? 'twas equal shame to Jove
Or to relinquish, or betray his love:
Yet to refuse so slight a gift, wou'd be
But more t' increase his consort's jealousie:
Thus fear, and love, by turns, his heart assail'd;
And stronger love had sure, at length, prevail'd:
But some faint hope remain'd, his jealous queen
Had not the mistress through the heyfer seen.

The cautious Goddess, of her gift possest,
Yet harbour'd anxious thoughts within her breast;
As she who knew the falshood of her Jove;
And justly fear'd some new relapse of love.

Which to prevent, and to secure her care,
To trusty Argus she commits the fair.

The head of Argus (as with stars the skies)
Was compass'd round, and wore an hundred eyes.

But two by turns their lids in slumber steep;
The rest on duty still their station keep;
Nor cou'd the total constellation sleep.

Thus, ever present, to his eyes, and mind,
His charge was still before him, tho' behind.

In fields he suffer'd her to feed by Day,
But when the setting sun to night gave way,
The captive cow he summon'd with a call;
And drove her back, and ty'd her to the stall.

On leaves of trees, and bitter herbs she fed,
Heav'n was her canopy, bare earth her bed:
So hardly lodg'd, and to digest her food,
She drank from troubled streams, defil'd with mud.

Her woeful story fain she wou'd have told,
With hands upheld, but had no hands to hold.

Her head to her ungentle keeper bow'd,
She strove to speak, she spoke not, but she low'd:
Affrighted with the noise, she look'd around,
And seem'd t' inquire the author of the sound.

Once on the banks where often she had play'd
(Her father's banks), she came, and there survey'd
Her alter'd visage, and her branching head;
And starting, from her self she wou'd have fled.

Her fellow nymphs, familiar to her eyes,
Beheld, but knew her not in this disguise.

Ev'n Inachus himself was ignorant;
And in his daughter, did his daughter want.

She follow'd where her fellows went, as she
Were still a partner of the company:
They stroak her neck; the gentle heyfer stands,
And her neck offers to their stroaking hands.

Her father gave her grass; the grass she took;
And lick'd his palms, and cast a piteous look;
And in the language of her eyes, she spoke.

She wou'd have told her name, and ask'd relief,
But wanting words, in tears she tells her grief.

Which, with her foot she makes him understand;
And prints the name of Io in the sand.

Ah wretched me! her mournful father cry'd;
She, with a sigh, to wretched me reply'd:
About her milk-white neck, his arms he threw;
And wept, and then these tender words ensue.

And art thou she, whom I have sought around
The world, and have at length so sadly found?

So found, is worse than lost: with mutual words
Thou answer'st not, no voice thy tongue affords:
But sighs are deeply drawn from out thy breast;
And speech deny'd, by lowing is express'd.

Unknowing, I prepar'd thy bridal bed;
With empty hopes of happy issue fed.

But now the husband of a herd must be
Thy mate, and bell'wing sons thy progeny.

Oh, were I mortal, death might bring relief:
But now my God-head but extends my grief:
Prolongs my woes, of which no end I see,
And makes me curse my immortality!

More had he said, but fearful of her stay,
The starry guardian drove his charge away,
To some fresh pasture; on a hilly height
He sate himself, and kept her still in sight.

From here you may go to the text and image of Book 1, Plate 13, or to the complete page of Plates for Book 1, or to the Baur 1703 Title Page, or to the Ovid Title Page.

Hope Greenberg, University of Vermont, Last update: November 17, 1997.