Portrayals of Gender in The Metamorphoses

Arachne and Minerva Caeneus Ceres and Proserpina Dryope Diana and Actaeon Hercules and Achelous Echo and Narcissus
Hermaphroditus Jason and Medea Iphis and Ianthe Tereus and Philomela Minos and Scylla Scylla and Circe Daughters of Minyas


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“O my dear mother, if you weep because
of her who was your servant, now transformed
into a weasel,
physical how can you support
the true narration of my sister's fate;
which I must tell to you, although my tears
and sorrows hinder and forbid my speech

“Most beautiful of all Oechalian maids,
was Dryope, her mother's only child,
for you must know I am the daughter of
my father's second wife. She is not now
a maid; because, through violence of him
who rules at Delphi and at Delos, she
was taken by Andraemon, who since then
has been accounted happy in his wife.

“There is a lake surrounded by sweet lawns,
encircling beauties, where the upper slope
is crowned with myrtles in fair sunny groves.
Without a thought of danger Dryope
in worship one day went to gather flowers,
(who hears, has greater cause to be indignant)
delightful garlands, for the water-nymphsvirginal,
and, in her bosom, carried her dear son,
not yet a year old, whom she fed for love
Not far from that dream-lake, in moisture grew
a lotus, beautiful in purple bloom,
the blossoms promising its fruit was near.

“At play with her sweet infant, Dryope
plucked them as toys for him. I, too, was there,
eagerly, also, I put forth my hand,
and was just ready to secure a spray,
when I was startled by some drops of blood
down-falling from the blossoms which were plucked;
and even the trembling branches shook in dread.

“Who wills, the truth of this may learn from all
quaint people of that land, who still relate
the Story of Nymph Lotis. She, they say,
while flying from the lust of Priapus,
was transformed quickly from her human shape,
into this tree,
physical though she has kept her name.

“But ignorant of all this, Dryope,
alarmed, decided she must now return;
so, having first adored the hallowed nymphsvirginal,
upright she stood, and would have moved away,
but both her feet were tangled in a root.
There, as she struggled in its tightening hold,
she could move nothing save her upper parts;
and growing from that root, live bark began
to gather slowly upward from the ground,
spreading around her, till it touched her loins:
in terror when she saw the clinging growth,
she would have torn her hair out by the roots,
but, when she clutched at it, her hands were filled
with lotus leaves grown up from her changed head.

“Alas, her little son, Amphissos, felt
his mother's bosom harden to his touch,
and no life-stream refreshed his eager lips.
And while I saw your cruel destiny,
O my dear sister! and could give no help,
I clung to your loved body and around
the growing trunk and branches, hoping so
to stop their evil growth; and I confess,
endeavored there to hide beneath the bark.

“And, oh! Andraemon and her father, then
appeared to me while they were sadly seeking
for Dryope: so there I had to show
the lotus as it covered her, and they
gave kisses to the warm wood, and prostrate fell
upon the ground, and clung to growing roots
of their new darling tree, transformed from her
Dear sister, there was nothing of yourself
remaining but your face; and I could see
your tears drop slowly on the trembling leaves
which had so marvellously grown on you;
and while your lips remained uncovered, all
the air surrounding, echoed your complaint:—

“If oaths of wretched women can have force,
I swear I have not merited this fate!
Though innocent, to suffer punishment!
And if one word of my complaint is false,
I pray I may soon wither, and my leaves
fall from me as in blight, and let the axe
devote me, wretched to the flames. But take
this infant from my branches to a nurse;
and let him often play beneath his tree,—
his mother always. Let him drink his milk
beneath my shade. When he has learned to talk
let him salute me, and in sorrow say
“In this tree-trunk my mother is concealed.”
O, let him dread the fate that lurks in ponds,
and let him often play beneath his tree,—
and let him be persuaded every shrub
contains the body of a goddess. — Ah!
Farewell my husband,—sister, — and farewell
my father! If my love remain in you
remember to protect my life from harm,
so that the pruning-knife may never clip
my branches, and protect my foliage from
the browsing sheep.

I cannot stoop to you;
0h, if you love me, lift your lips to mine,
and let me kiss you, if but once again,
before this growing lotus covers me.
Lift up my darling infant to my lips.
How can I hope to say much more to you?
The new bark now is creeping up my neck,
and creeping downward from my covered brow!
Ah, do not close my live eyes with your hands;
there is no need of it, for growing bark
will spread and darken them before I die
Such were the last words her poor smothered lips
could utter; for she was so quickly changed;
and long thereafter the new branches kept
the warmth of her lost body, so transformed