Ovid: Metamorphosis

Book 1, Plate 5

The Brazen Age

To this came next in course, the brazen age:
A warlike offspring, prompt to bloody rage,
Not impious yet...

The Iron Age

Hard steel succeeded then:
And stubborn as the metal, were the men.

Truth, modesty, and shame, the world forsook:
Fraud, avarice, and force, their places took.

Then sails were spread, to every wind that blew.

Raw were the sailors, and the depths were new:
Trees, rudely hollow'd, did the waves sustain;
E're ships in triumph plough'd the watry plain.

Then land-marks limited to each his right:
For all before was common as the light.

Nor was the ground alone requir'd to bear
Her annual income to the crooked share,
But greedy mortals, rummaging her store,
Digg'd from her entrails first the precious oar;
Which next to Hell, the prudent Gods had laid;
And that alluring ill, to sight display'd.

Thus cursed steel, and more accursed gold,
Gave mischief birth, and made that mischief bold:
And double death did wretched Man invade,
By steel assaulted, and by gold betray'd,
Now (brandish'd weapons glittering in their hands)
Mankind is broken loose from moral bands;
No rights of hospitality remain:
The guest, by him who harbour'd him, is slain,
The son-in-law pursues the father's life;
The wife her husband murders, he the wife.

The step-dame poyson for the son prepares;
The son inquires into his father's years.

Faith flies, and piety in exile mourns;
And justice, here opprest, to Heav'n returns.

From here you may go to the text and image of Book 1, Plate 6, 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.