Metamorphoses: Lycaon's Lycanthropy


Quae pater ut summa vidit Saturnius arce,
ingemit et, facto nondum vulgata recenti,
165foeda Lycaoniae referens convivia mensae,
ingentes animo et dignas Iove concipit iras,
conciliumque vocat: tenuit mora nulla vocatos.
Est via sublimis, caelo manifesta sereno:
lactea nomen habet, candore notabilis ipso.
170Hac iter est superis ad magni tecta Tonantis
regalemque domum. Dextra laevaque deorum
atria nobilium valvis celebrantur apertis
(plebs habitat diversa locis): hac parte potentes
caelicolae clarique suos posuere penates.
175Hic locus est, quem, si verbis audacia detur,
haud timeam magni dixisse Palatia caeli.
Ergo ubi marmoreo superi sedere recessu,
celsior ipse loco sceptroque innixus eburno
terrificam capitis concussit terque quaterque
180caesariem, cum qua terram, mare, sidera movit.
Talibus inde modis ora indignantia solvit:
“Non ego pro mundi regno magis anxius illa
tempestate fui, qua centum quisque parabat
inicere anguipedum captivo bracchia caelo.
185Nam quamquam ferus hostis erat, tamen illud ab uno
corpore et ex una pendebat origine bellum.
Nunc mihi, qua totum Nereus circumsonat orbem,
perdendum est mortale genus: per flumina iuro
infera, sub terras Stygio labentia luco!
190cuncta prius temptata: sed inmedicabile corpus
ense recidendum est, ne pars sincera trahatur.
Sunt mihi semidei, sunt rustica numina, nymphae
faunique satyrique et monticolae silvani:
quos quoniam caeli nondum dignamur honore,
195quas dedimus certe terras habitare sinamus.
An satis, o superi, tutos fore creditis illos,
cum mihi, qui fulmen, qui vos habeoque regoque,
struxerit insidias notus feritate Lycaon?”
Confremuere omnes studiisque ardentibus ausum
200talia deposcunt. Sic, cum manus inpia saevit
sanguine Caesareo Romanum exstinguere nomen,
attonitum tanto subitae terrore ruinae
humanum genus est totusque perhorruit orbis:
nec tibi grata minus pietas, Auguste, tuorum est,
205quam fuit illa Iovi. Qui postquam voce manuque
murmura conpressit, tenuere silentia cuncti.
Substitit ut clamor pressus gravitate regentis,
Iuppiter hoc iterum sermone silentia rupit:
“Ille quidem poenas, curam hanc dimittite, solvit.
210Quod tamen admissum, quae sit vindicta, docebo.
Contigerat nostras infamia temporis aures;
quam cupiens falsam summo delabor Olympo
et deus humana lustro sub imagine terras.
Longa mora est, quantum noxae sit ubique repertum,
215enumerare: minor fuit ipsa infamia vero.
Maenala transieram latebris horrenda ferarum
et cum Cyllene gelidi pineta Lycaei:
Arcadis hinc sedes et inhospita tecta tyranni
ingredior, traherent cum sera crepuscula noctem.
220Signa dedi venisse deum, vulgusque precari
coeperat: inridet primo pia vota Lycaon,
mox ait ”experiar deus hic, discrimine aperto,
an sit mortalis. Nec erit dubitabile verum.”
Nocte gravem somno necopina perdere morte
225me parat: haec illi placet experientia veri.
Nec contentus eo est: missi de gente Molossa
obsidis unius iugulum mucrone resolvit,
atque ita semineces partim ferventibus artus
mollit aquis, partim subiecto torruit igni.
230Quod simul inposuit mensis, ego vindice flamma
in domino dignos everti tecta penates.
Territus ipse fugit, nactusque silentia ruris
exululat frustraque loqui conatur: ab ipso
conligit os rabiem, solitaeque cupidine caedis
235vertitur in pecudes et nunc quoque sanguine gaudet.
In villos abeunt vestes, in crura lacerti:
fit lupus et veteris servat vestigia formae.
Canities eadem est, eadem violentia vultus,
idem oculi lucent, eadem feritatis imago est.


When, from his throne
supreme, the Son of Saturn viewed their deeds,
he deeply groaned: and calling to his mind
the loathsome feast Lycaon had prepared,
a recent deed not common to report,
his soul conceived great anger worthy Jove
and he convened a council. No delay
detained the chosen Gods.
When skies are clear
a path is well defined on high, which men,
because so white, have named the Milky Way.
It makes a passage for the deities
and leads to mansions of the Thunder God,
to Jove's imperial home. On either side
of its wide way the noble Gods are seen,
inferior Gods in other parts abide,
but there the potent and renowned of Heaven
have fixed their homes.--It is a glorious place,
our most audacious verse might designate
the“Palace of High Heaven.” When the Gods
were seated, therefore, in its marble halls
the King of all above the throng sat high,
and leaning on his ivory scepter, thrice,
and once again he shook his awful locks,
wherewith he moved the earth, and seas and stars,--
and thus indignantly began to speak;
“The time when serpent footed giants strove
to fix their hundred arms on captive Heaven,
not more than this event could cause alarm
for my dominion of the universe.
Although it was a savage enemy,
yet warred we with a single source derived
of one. Now must I utterly destroy
this mortal race wherever Nereus roars
around the world. Yea, by the Infernal Streams
that glide through Stygian groves beneath the world,
I swear it. Every method has been tried.
The knife must cut immedicable wounds,
lest maladies infect untainted parts.
“Beneath my sway are demi gods and fauns,
nymphs, rustic deities, sylvans of the hills,
satyrs;--all these, unworthy Heaven's abodes,
we should at least permit to dwell on earth
which we to them bequeathed. What think ye, Gods,
is safety theirs when I, your sovereign lord,
the Thunder-bolt Controller, am ensnared
by fierce Lycaon?” Ardent in their wrath,
the astonished Gods demand revenge overtake
this miscreant; he who dared commit such crimes.
‘Twas even thus when raged that impious band
to blot the Roman name in sacred blood
of Caesar, sudden apprehensive fears
of ruin absolute astonished man,
and all the world convulsed. Nor is the love
thy people bear to thee, Augustus, less
than these displayed to Jupiter whose voice
and gesture all the murmuring host restrained:
and as indignant clamour ceased, suppressed
by regnant majesty, Jove once again
broke the deep silence with imperial words;
“Dismiss your cares; he paid the penalty
however all the crime and punishment
now learn from this:--An infamous report
of this unholy age had reached my ears,
and wishing it were false, I sloped my course
from high Olympus, andalthough a God
disguised in human form I viewed the world.
It would delay us to recount the crimes
unnumbered, for reports were less than truth.
“I traversed Maenalus where fearful dens
abound, over Lycaeus, wintry slopes
of pine tree groves, across Cyllene steep;
and as the twilight warned of night's approach,
I stopped in that Arcadian tyrant's realms
and entered his inhospitable home:--
and when I showed his people that a God
had come, the lowly prayed and worshiped me,
but this Lycaon mocked their pious vows
and scoffing said; ‘A fair experiment
will prove the truth if this be god or man.’
and he prepared to slay me in the night,--
to end my slumbers in the sleep of death.
So made he merry with his impious proof;
but not content with this he cut the throat
of a Molossian hostage sent to him,
and partly softened his still quivering limbs
in boiling water, partly roasted them
on fires that burned beneath. And when this flesh
was served to me on tables, I destroyed
his dwelling and his worthless Household Gods,
with thunder bolts avenging. Terror struck
he took to flight, and on the silent plains
is howling in his vain attempts to speak;
he raves and rages and his greedy jaws,
desiring their accustomed slaughter, turn
against the sheep--still eager for their blood.
His vesture separates in shaggy hair,
his arms are changed to legs; and as a wolf
he has the same grey locks, the same hard face,
the same bright eyes, the same ferocious look.