Myths, Gods, and Men
Fall 2006 Readings - Week 3
Creation Myth 2 of 2
Ovid's Metamorphoses 1.5 - 1.88
Read September 19, 2006 by Michael Cummings
|Ante mare et terras et quod tegit omnia caelum
unus erat toto naturae vultus in orbe,
quem dixere chaos: rudis indigestaque moles
nec quicquam nisi pondus iners congestaque eodem
non bene iunctarum discordia semina rerum.
nullus adhuc mundo praebebat lumina Titan, 
nec nova crescendo reparabat cornua Phoebe,
nec circumfuso pendebat in aere tellus
ponderibus librata suis, nec bracchia longo
margine terrarum porrexerat Amphitrite;
utque aer, tellus illic et pontus et aether. 
Sic erat instabilis tellus, innabilis unda,
lucis egens aer: nulli sua forma manebat,
obstabatque aliis aliud, quia corpore in uno
frigida pugnabant calidis, umentia siccis,
mollia cum duris, sine pondere habentia pondus. 
|Before the ocean and the earth appeared--
before the skies had overspread them all--
the face of Nature in a vast expanse
was naught but Chaos uniformly waste.
It was a rude and undeveloped mass,
that nothing made except a ponderous weight;
and all discordant elements confused,
were there congested in a shapeless heap.
As yet the sun afforded earth no light,
nor did the moon renew her crescent horns;
the earth was not suspended in the air
exactly balanced by her heavy weight.
Not far along the margin of the shores
had Amphitrite stretched her lengthened arms,--
for all the land was mixed with sea and air.
The land was soft, the sea unfit to sail,
the atmosphere opaque, to naught was given
a proper form, in everything was strife,
and all was mingled in a seething mass--
with hot the cold parts strove, and wet with dry
and soft with hard, and weight with empty void.
|Hanc deus et melior litem natura diremit.
Nam caelo terras et terris abscidit undas,
et liquidum spisso secrevit ab aere caelum.
Quae postquam evolvit caecoque exemit acervo,
dissociata locis concordi pace ligavit. 
Ignea convexi vis et sine pondere caeli
emicuit summaque locum sibi fecit in arce:
proximus est aer illi levitate locoque:
densior his tellus, elementaque grandia traxit
et pressa est gravitate sua: circumfluus umor 
ultima possedit solidumque coercuit orbem.
|But God, or kindly Nature, ended strife--
he cut the land from skies, the sea from land,
the heavens ethereal from material air;
and when were all evolved from that dark mass
he bound the fractious parts in tranquil peace.
The fiery element of convex heaven
leaped from the mass devoid of dragging weight,
and chose the summit arch to which the air
as next in quality was next in place.
The earth more dense attracted grosser parts
and moved by gravity sank underneath;
and last of all the wide surrounding waves
in deeper channels rolled around the globe.
|Sic ubi dispositam quisquis fuit ille deorum
congeriem secuit sectamque in membra redegit,
principio terram, ne non aequalis ab omni
parte foret, magni speciem glomeravit in orbis. 
Tum freta diffudit rapidisque tumescere ventis
iussit et ambitae circumdare litora terrae.
Addidit et fontes et stagna inmensa lacusque
fluminaque obliquis cinxit declivia ripis,
quae, diversa locis, partim sorbentur ab ipsa, 
in mare perveniunt partim campoque recepta
liberioris aquae pro ripis litora pulsant.
Iussit et extendi campos, subsidere valles,
fronde tegi silvas, lapidosos surgere montes.
Utque duae dextra caelum totidemque sinistra 
parte secant zonae, quinta est ardentior illis,
sic onus inclusum numero distinxit eodem
cura dei, totidemque plagae tellure premuntur.
Quarum quae media est, non est habitabilis aestu:
nix tegit alta duas: totidem inter utrumque locavit 
temperiemque dedit mixta cum frigore flamma.
Inminet his aer. Qui quanto est pondere terrae,
pondere aquae levior tanto est onerosior igni.
|And when this God --which one is yet unknown--
had carved asunder that discordant mass,
had thus reduced it to its elements,
that every part should equally combine,
when time began He rounded out the earth
and moulded it to form a mighty globe.
Then poured He forth the deeps and gave command
that they should billow in the rapid winds,
that they should compass every shore of earth.
he also added fountains, pools and lakes,
and bound with shelving banks the slanting streams,
which partly are absorbed and partly join
the boundless ocean. Thus received amid
the wide expanse of uncontrolled waves,
they beat the shores instead of crooked banks.
At His command the boundless plains extend,
the valleys are depressed, the woods are clothed
in green, the stony mountains rise. And as
the heavens are intersected on the right
by two broad zones, by two that cut the left,
and by a fifth consumed with ardent heat,
with such a number did the careful God
mark off the compassed weight, and thus the earth
received as many climes.--Such heat consumes
the middle zone that none may dwell therein;
and two extremes are covered with deep snow;
and two are placed betwixt the hot and cold,
which mixed together give a temperate clime;
and over all the atmosphere suspends
with weight proportioned to the fiery sky,
exactly as the weight of earth compares
with weight of water.
|Illic et nebulas, illic consistere nubes
iussit et humanas motura tonitrua mentes 
et cum fulminibus facientes fulgura ventos.
His quoque non passim mundi fabricator habendum
aera permisit: vix nunc obsistitur illis,
cum sua quisque regant diverso flamina tractu,
quin lanient mundum: tanta est discordia fratrum. 
Eurus ad Auroram Nabataeaque regna recessit
Persidaque et radiis iuga subdita matutinis;
vesper et occiduo quae litora sole tepescunt,
proxima sunt Zephyro: Scythiam septemque triones
horrifer invasit Boreas: contraria tellus 
nubibus adsiduis pluviaque madescit ab Austro.
Haec super inposuit liquidum et gravitate carentem
aethera nec quicquam terrenae faecis habentem.
Vix ita limitibus dissaepserat omnia certis,
cum, quae pressa diu massa latuere sub illa, 
sidera coeperunt toto effervescere caelo.
Neu regio foret ulla suis animalibus orba,
astra tenent caeleste solum formaeque deorum,
cesserunt nitidis habitandae piscibus undae,
terra feras cepit, volucres agitabilis aer. 
|And He ordered mist
to gather in the air and spread the clouds.
He fixed the thunders that disturb our souls,
and brought the lightning on destructive winds
that also waft the cold. Nor did the great
Artificer permit these mighty winds
to blow unbounded in the pathless skies,
but each discordant brother fixed in space,
although His power can scarce restrain their rage
to rend the universe. At His command
to far Aurora, Eurus took his way,
to Nabath, Persia, and that mountain range
first gilded by the dawn; and Zephyr's flight
was towards the evening star and peaceful shores,
warm with the setting sun; and Boreas
invaded Scythia and the northern snows;
and Auster wafted to the distant south
where clouds and rain encompass his abode.--
and over these He fixed the liquid sky,
devoid of weight and free from earthly dross.
And scarcely had He separated these
and fixed their certain bounds, when all the stars,
which long were pressed and hidden in the mass,
began to gleam out from the plains of heaven,
and traversed, with the Gods, bright ether fields:
and lest some part might be bereft of life
the gleaming waves were filled with twinkling fish;
the earth was covered with wild animals;
the agitated air was filled with birds.
|Sanctius his animal mentisque capacius altae
deerat adhuc et quod dominari in cetera posset.
Natus homo est, sive hunc divino semine fecit
ille opifex rerum, mundi melioris origo,
sive recens tellus seductaque nuper ab alto 
aethere cognati retinebat semina caeli;
quam satus Iapeto mixtam pluvialibus undis
finxit in effigiem moderantum cuncta deorum.
Pronaque cum spectent animalia cetera terram,
os homini sublime dedit, caelumque videre 
iussit et erectos ad sidera tollere vultus.
Sic, modo quae fuerat rudis et sine imagine, tellus
induit ignotas hominum conversa figuras.
|But one more perfect and more sanctified,
a being capable of lofty thought,
intelligent to rule, was wanting still
man was created! Did the Unknown God
designing then a better world make man
of seed divine? or did Prometheus
take the new soil of earth (that still contained
some godly element of Heaven's Life)
and use it to create the race of man;
first mingling it with water of new streams;
so that his new creation, upright man,
was made in image of commanding Gods?
On earth the brute creation bends its gaze,
but man was given a lofty countenance
and was commanded to behold the skies;
and with an upright face may view the stars:--
and so it was that shapeless clay put on
the form of man till then unknown to earth.