Friday, 19 December 2014

Transformations

 "My purpose is to tell of bodies which have been transformed into shapes of a different kind.  You heavenly powers, since you were responsible for those changes, as for all else, look favourably on my attempts, and spin an unbroken thread of verse, from the beginnings of the world, down to my own times.

Before there was any earth or sea, before the canopy of heaven stretched overhead, Nature presented the same aspect the world over, that to which men have given the name of Chaos.  This was a shapeless, uncoordinated mass, nothing but a weight of lifeless matter, whose ill-assorted elements were indiscriminately heaped together in one place.  There was no sun in those days, to provide the world with light, no crescent moon ever filling out her horns: the earth was not poised in the enveloping air, balanced there by its own weight, nor did the sea stretch out its arms along the margins of the shores.



Ovid banished from Rome,  J.W.M.Turner 1838
The Athenaeum, London


Although the elements of land and sea and air were there, the earth had no firmness, the water no fluidity, there was no brightness in the sky.  Nothing had any lasting shape, but everything got in the way of everything else; for, within that one body, cold warr'd with hot, moist with dry, soft with hard, and light with heavy.

This strife was finally resolved by a god, a natural force of a higher kind, who separated the earth from the heaven, and the waters from the earth, and set the clear air apart from the cloudy atmosphere."

The Metamorphoses of Ovid  trans. © Mary  M. Innes

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