Ovid: Ibis

Translated by A. S. Kline © 2003 All Rights Reserved

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Translator’s note: I have attempted to identify and index all the mythological and historical references in Ibis, but some eluded me, and I may consequently have been guilty of mistranslation through lack of a context. If anyone identifies any of the missing references or disagrees with the translation please let me know by e-mail.


 Ibis:1-40 Preliminaries at the Altar: The Enemy

Until now, now that I’ve reached my fifties,

all my Muse’s poetry has been harmless:

and no letter of Ovid’s exists, of the thousands

written, that can be interpreted as hostile:

and my books have hurt no one but myself:

the author’s own life was ruined by his ‘Art’.

One person alone (and this itself is a great wrong)

won’t grant me the title of an honest man.

Whoever it is (for I’ll be silent still as yet about his name)

he forces my novice hand to take up weapons.

He won’t let me, a man banished to the frozen

source of the north wind, hide myself away in exile:

and he, inexorably, disturbs the wound of a man

seeking peace, bandies my name about the forum:

won’t let the companion of my marriage bed mourn,

the ruin of her living husband, without troubling her,

and while I cling to the shattered fragments of my boat,

he fights for the planks from my shipwreck:

this robber, who ought to quench the sudden flame,

looks for plunder here in the middle of the fire.

He works so there might be no succour for an aged fugitive:

ah, how much more he himself deserves my misfortune!

The gods are kinder! And to me He’s by far the greatest,

who did not wish my path to be that of poverty.

So let thanks be expressed for that, whenever possible,

and may I always deal with so merciful a heart.

Pontus might hear it: perhaps might see to it too,

that the earth nearest me acts as my witness.

But may you who trample on me, violently, in my fall,

be made wretched for it! I’ll be your dearest enemy.

Moisture will sooner cease to conflict with fire,

the sun’s light be merged with that of the moon:

one part of the sky bring east and west winds too,

warm south winds blow out of the frozen pole:

spring with autumn, summer with winter, mix,

dawn and sunset lie in the same part of the sky:

new harmony rise with smoke, that an ancient

quarrel divides, from the brothers’ blazing pyre:

than you and I lay down, in a friendship that you shattered

by your crimes, these weapons we’ve assumed, cruel one.

 Ibis:41-104 Preliminaries at the Altar: The Invocation

We’ll enjoy that peace, while life remains to me,

that lies between the wolves and the defenceless flock.

First I’ll wage a war in these verses I’ve begun,

though it’s not the thing to go to battle in this metre:

and as the spear of a soldier, who’s not fighting mad

as yet, buries itself deep in the yellow sand,

so I’ll not hurl my sharpened steel at you as yet,

my shaft won’t seek your hateful life at once:

I’ll not speak your name or actions in this work,

but let you hide whom you are, for a little longer.

Then, if you persist, unrestrained iambics will hurl

my missiles at you, stained with Lycambean blood.

Now, as Battiades cursed his enemy Ibis,

I’ll curse you, and yours, in the same way.

And like him I’ve involved my poem with hidden matters:

I’ve followed him, though I’m unused to this sort of thing.

Its convolutions are uttered in imitation of those

in Ibis, forgetful of my own custom and taste.

And since, when asked, I’m not saying who you are, as yet,

you too, in the meantime, can take the name of Ibis:

and as my verse will reflect something of my nights,

so may the sequence of your days be wholly dark.

Have this read to you on your birthday, and at new

year, by anyone whose lips have no need for lies.

Gods of earth and sea, and you who inhabit better

than these, in various heavens, where Jupiter rules,

I beg this of you: bend all your thoughts to this,

and let my wishes carry their weight with you:

and you earth itself, and the waves of ocean,

and the highest sky itself, approve my prayers:

and the stars, and that form clothed with rays of sunlight,

and you Moon, that never glittered brighter in your orbit,

and Night whom we revere for the beauty of your shadows:

and you who spin your fatal work with triple thumbs,

and you the stream of waters, not to be named in vain,

that glides with dread murmurs through infernal valleys,

and you with your hair bound by writhing snakes,

who sit before the shadowy doors of the prison:

you too, the lower powers, FaunsSatyrsLares,

the rivers, and the nymphs and semi-divine races:

appear, at the last, in our presence, all you gods,

old and new, from out the ancient chaos,

while dread charms are sung by treacherous mouths,

and anger and grief act out their proper parts.

All, in order, show your assent to my desires,

and let there be no part of my prayer that fails.

And let it be fulfilled, I beg: so it may be thought

not my word, but a speech of the son-in-law of Pasiphae.

And I’ll have recounted these punishments, and he’ll

endure them, let his misery be greater for my skill!

And let the prayers of execration harm his false

name no less, nor the great gods be less inclined to stir:

I curse him as Ibis, whom the mind perceives,

who knows he’s earned these curses by his deeds.

No delay is mine: I act as priest with sure prayer.

Whoever is at my rites, show favour to my words:

whoever is at my rites, speak your words of mourning,

and with wet cheeks begin your weeping for Ibis:

and run with every ill, and on stumbling feet,

and cloak all your bodies with black garments!

You too, why hesitate to don the fatal bands? Now

your funeral altar’s ready, as you yourself can see.

 Ibis:105-134 The Litany of Maledictions: The Denial Of Benefits

Your cortège is prepared: no delay to the sad prayers:

dread sacrifice, relinquish your throat to my knives.

Let earth deny its fruits to you, the rivers their waves,

let the winds and the breezes deny you their breath.

Let there be no heat to the sun, for you, no light for you

from the moon, let all the bright stars forsake your eyes.

Nor let fire or air offer themselves to you,

nor earth or ocean grant you a way.

Exiled, wander helpless, across the alien thresholds,

seek out scant nourishment with a trembling mouth.

Body never free of ills, mind of grievous sickness,

night be worse than day for you, and day than night.

May you be always pitiable, and yet let no one pity:

let men and women take delight in your adversity.

Let hatred for your tears be on you, be so fit to stink,

that when you might have known the worst of ills,

you’ll suffer more. And be, what’s rare, devoid

of common charity, a face offensive to your own fate.

And let no reason fail, of the many, for your dying:

yet life be forced to shun the death you long for:

and your spirit struggle long to leave your tortured

body, and interminable delay torment it first.

Let this come to pass. Just now, himself, Apollo gave me

an omen of the future, a bird flew from the mournful left.

I’ll consider the gods influenced by what I vow, and I’ll

always be nourished, traitor, by expectation of your death.

And first let that day, that comes too slow for me,

take away this life, often sought to excess by you,

that this grief might have the power to vanish in a moment,

and heal my hateful hours, and these hated days of mine.

 Ibis:135-162 The Litany of Maledictions: Vengeance From The Grave

While Thracians fight with bows, Iazyges with spears,

while the Ganges runs warm, and Danube cold:

while mountains produce oaks, and plains soft grass,

while the Tuscan Tiber flows with its clear waters,

I’ll wage war on you: death will not end my anger, rather

among the shades it will set a cruel weapon in my hands.

Then, too, when I shall be dissolved in empty air,

my bloodless ghost will still revile all your ways,

then, too, my remembering shadow will pursue

remedy for your deeds, and my bony form your face.

Whether, as I’d not wish, I’m exhausted by long years,

whether I’m dissolved in death by my own hand:

whether I’m lost, shipwrecked by mighty waves,

while the foreign fishes feed on my entrails:

whether wandering birds pick at my limbs:

whether wolves stain their jaws with my blood:

whether any will deign to place me in the earth,

or give my corpse in vain to the common pyre:

wherever I may be, I’ll strive to break from Styx’s shores,

and, in vengeance, stretch an icy hand to where you are.

You’ll see me watching, in the shades of silent nights,

appearing as a vision, I’ll drive away your sleep.

Whatever you do, I’ll flit before your lips and eyes,

and moan so there can be no peace in your house.

Cruel whips, and twining snakes, will hiss, and funeral

torches, forever smoke before your guilty face.

Living, you’ll be haunted by the furies, dead as well,

and the shorter then will be your punishment in life.

 Ibis:163-208 The Litany of Maledictions: His Enemy After Death

Your funeral will not affect you or your tears: you’ll forgo

your life, unlamented: and the mob will all applaud

while you are dragged away, at the executioners’ hands,

and their hooks are buried deep in your bones.

Let the flames that snatch at all men, flee from you:

let the honest earth reject your hated corpse. May

the cruel vulture tear your entrails, beak and claw,

and the greedy dogs rip out your treacherous heart,

and let there be (though you may be proud to be so

loved) a quarrel for your body, among the wolves.

May you be in a place far from Elysian Fields,

and be exiled, where the guilty host abide.

Sisyphus is there: he rolls and retrieves his stone:

and Ixion, beaten, driven by his wheel’s swift circling,

and Tityus, stretched across nine acres, head to toe,

destined to offer his entrails evermore to carrion birds.

and the Belides who always bear water-jars on their shoulders,

that savage crowd, the daughters-in-law of exiled Aegyptos.

TantalusPelop’s father, always reaches for the fruit there,

and water overflowing forever, forever torments him.

There let one of the Furies rake your flanks with her whip,

till the measure of your sins has been confessed:

another give your scored body to her hellish snakes:

the third one scorch your smoking cheeks with fire.

Be tortured by noxious shades in a thousand ways,

and Aeacus be gifted in forming your punishments.

The torment in the old tales be transferred to you:

let you be the reason for the ancients to be at peace.

You take Sisyphus’s place: he’ll grant you his weight to roll:

now your new limbs will turn Ixion’s swift wheel:

and here the one who snatches vainly at branch and wave,

here the one that feeds the birds with his uneaten entrails.

Let no second death end the torments of this death,

let there be no final hour to all these ills.

Let me prophesy as few of them as the leaves one might gather

from Ida, or drops of flowing water from the Libyan Sea.

For there could never be as many flowers in Sicilian Hybla,

or yellow crocuses, I would say, in Cilician country,

nor winter shudder as much from swift Northerlies,

those that make Mount Athos white with all their hail:

as all the torments you should undergo that could be recalled

by my voice, out of this mouth that adds to them.

Ah, let as many be yours, you wretch, and such disaster,

that even I might be counted on to be reduced to tears.

Those tears will make me endlessly blessed:

those tears will be sweeter, then, to me than laughter.

 Ibis:209-250 The Litany of Maledictions: His Enemy’s Fate

You were born unfortunate (the gods willed it so),

and no star was kind or beneficent at your birth.

Venus did not shine, nor Jupiter, in that hour,

neither Moon nor Sun were favourably placed,

nor did Mercury, whom that bright Maia bore

to great Jove, offer his fires in any useful aspect.

Cruel Mars that promises no peace, lowered down,

and that planet of aged Saturn, with his scythe.

And the day of your birth was dark and impure,

overcast with cloud, so you would only see sadness.

This is the day to which, in our history, the fatal

Allia gives it name: Ibis’s day brought ruin to our people.

As soon as he’d fallen from his mother’s foul

womb, his vile body lay on Cinyphian soil,

a night-owl sat over against him on the heights,

and uttered dire sounds in a funereal voice,.

At once the Furies washed him in marsh water,

where a water channel ran from the Stygian stream,

and smeared venom from a snake of Erebus on his breast,

and clapped their bloodstained hands together thrice.

They moistened the child’s throat with bitches’ milk:

that was the first nourishment in the boy’s mouth:

from it the fosterling drank it’s nurse’s fury,

and howled with a dog’s cry over all the city.

They bound his limbs with dark-coloured bands,

snatched from an accursed abandoned pyre:

and, lest it lie unsupported on the naked earth,

they propped his tender head on a  hard stone.

Then to make his eyelids retract they brought brands

made of green twigs close to his eyes, close to the lids.

The child wept when he was touched by bitter smoke,

while one of the three sisters spoke, as follows:

‘We have set these tears flowing for all time, in you,

and they’ll always have sufficient reason to fall.’

She spoke: but ordered Clotho to empower the future,

and she spun the dark fateful thread with her hand:

and so as not to speak a lengthy prophecy with her lips,

she said: ‘There’ll be a poet who will sing your fate.’

I am that poet: from me you’ll learn your torments,

let the gods grant you strength according only to my words:

and let weighty matters follow from my verses,

that you’ll experience with certain grief.

 Ibis:251-310 The Litany of Maledictions: Ancient Torments

May you not be tortured without ancient precedent,

nor your troubles be less than those of the Trojans,

and may you suffer pain as great as Philoctetes,

heir to Club-bearing Hercules, from venom’s torment.

Nor let your grief be less than Telephus’, who drank from

the doe’s teat, and armed received a wound, unarmed help:

or he who fell headlong from his horse in the Aleian field,

Philopoimen, whose character was nearly his own ruin.

May you know what Phoenix knew, and, robbed of sight,

find your perilous way with the help of a stick.

Nor see more than Oedipus whom his daughter guided,

both her parents being acknowledged sinners:

be blind as Tiresias, the old man famous for Apollo’s art,

after he’d acted as judge of the gods’ playful quarrel:

and as that man, Phineus, by whose command a dove of Pallas

was sent out to lead the way, and be a guide to the Argo:

and Polymestor, lacking eyes, that had viewed gold sinfully,

the father giving them as funeral gifts to his murdered child:

and like PolyphemusEtna’s shepherd, whose blinding,

Telemus, son of Eurymus, prophesied before the event:

like the two sons of Phineus, from whom he took the same

light he gave: as the faces of Thamyris and Demodocus.

May someone sever your genitals, as Saturn,

when he was born, severed those of Uranus.

Nor let Neptune in the swelling waves be kinder to you

than to him whose brother and wife were turned into birds,

or to Ulysses, that cunning man, whom InoSemele’s sister,

pitied as he clung to the shattered timbers of his raft.

Or, lest your flesh shall have known only this one manner

of punishment, let it be split and dragged apart by horses:

or you yourself suffer what the man, who thought to be free

by disgracing Rome, endured from the Carthaginian leader.

Nor let divine power be prompt to your relief, just as

the altars of Jupiter brought Hercules no profit.

And as Thessalus leapt from the heights of Ossa,

you too will throw yourself from the stony cliff.

Or like Cychreus, who snatched Eurylochus’ crown,

let your body be food for ravenous serpents.

Or, as in Ariadne’s fate, may raging liquid rush

over your head, covered by the waters.

And like Prometheus, pinned there, without mercy,

and exposed, feed the birds of the air with your blood.

Or be thrown like stricken Eumolpus, scion of Erectheus,

three times defeated by mighty Hercules, into the vast sea.

Or like Phoenix, child of Amyntor, the loved will be hated through

shameful desire, and the son wounded by the cruel sword.

Let no more cups be mixed for you that are safe to drink,

than for him who was born of horned Jupiter.

Or die suspended like the captive Acheus who hung

a wretched witness to the gold-bearing waters.

Or like Achilles’ scion, known by a famous name,

struck down by a tile hurled from an enemy hand.

Nor let your bones lie more happily than Pyrrhus’,

that were scattered over the roads of Ambracia.

Die driven through by javelins like one born

of Pyrrhus: nor may that rite of Ceres hide you.

And like that king’s scion spoken of just now in my verse,

drink the aphrodisiac juice given you by your parent.

Or be said to have been killed by a sacred adultress,

as Leucon fell to an avenger said to be holy.

 Ibis:311-364 The Litany of Maledictions: Ancient Torments

May you send those dearest to you to the pyre,

an ending to his life that Sardanapalus knew.

Like those about to violate the temple of Libyan Jove,

may the sand driven by south winds bury your face.

Like those killed by the later Darius’s deceit,

may the ash as it subsides consume your visage.

Or like he who once set out from olive-rich Sicyon,

may hunger and cold be the causes of your death.

Or like the Atarnean may you be brought, basely,

to your lord as a prize, sewn inside a bull’s-hide.

May your throat be cut in your room, like him

of Pherae, whose own wife killed him with a sword.

Like Aleuas of Larissa, by your wound, may you find

those faithless whom you thought were faithful to you.

Like Milo, under whose tyranny Pisa suffered,

may you be hurled alive into shrouded waters.

And may the weapons sent by Jove against Adimantus,

who ruled the Phyllesian kingdom, find you too.

Or like Lenaeus once from Amastris’s shores,

may you be left naked on Achillean soil.

And as Eurydamas was drawn three times round

the tomb of Thrasyllus by hostile Larissean wheels,

as Hector who often rendered the walls safe, circled

them with his body, they not long surviving him,

as the adulterer was dragged over Athenian soil

while Hippomenes’ daughter suffered strange punishment,

so, when that hated life has departed your limbs,

may avenging horses drag your vile body.

May some rock pierce your entrails, as once

the Greeks were pierced in the Euboean Bay:

and as the fierce ravager died by lightning and the waves,

so may the waters that drown you be helped by fire.

May your crazed mind too be driven by frenzies,

like a man who’s whole body is a single wound:

as Dryas’s son who held the kingdom of Rhodope,

he who was disparately shod on his two feet,

or as Oetean Hercules was once, Athamas the serpent’s son-in-law,

Orestes Tisamenus’s father, and Alcmaeon Callirhoe’s husband.

May your mother be no more chaste than her whom Tydeus

would have blushed to have as a daughter-in-law:

or the Locrian who, disguised as her murdered

servant, joined in love with her brother-in-law.

And may the gods grant you have such joy in your wife’s

loyalty as Talaus, or AgamemnonTyndareus’s son-in-law.

or such a wife as the daughters of Belus, who dared to plan

their cousins’ deaths, whose necks bow, carrying water.

May your sister burn with fire as Byblis and Canace

did, and not prove true except in their sinning.

If you’ve a daughter, may she be what Pelopea was

to ThyestesMyrrha to her father, Nyctimene to hers.

Nor let her be more pious and careful of her father’s life

than yours was Pterelaus, or yours Nisus, towards you:

or she who made a place infamous with her crime’s name,

trampling and crushing her father’s limbs under the wheels.

 Ibis:365-412 The Litany of Maledictions: Ancient Torments

May you die like the young men of Pisa, whose face

and limbs the mountain slopes outside received:

as Oenomaus who stained that soil more deeply, himself,

that was often drenched by the blood of wretched princes,

as that cruel tyrant’s traitorous charioteer, Myrtilus,

died, who gave a new name to Myrtoan waters:

as those who sought in vain the speeding girl,

Atalanta, she who was slowed by the three apples:

those in the hidden cave changed to new monstrous shapes,

never to return from the house of the dark one:

like those whose bodies violent Aeacides sent

to the high pyre, aged men, and then women:

like those we read of, whom the vile Sphinx killed,

those defeated by the tortuous questions she uttered:

like those sacrificed in Bistonian Minerva’s temple,

for whom the goddess’s glance is even now hidden:

like those who once were made into a banquet

in the blood-stained stables of Diomede of Thrace:

like those who encountered the lions of Therodamas,

or suffered the Tauric rites of Thoantean Diana:

like the terrified men that ravening Scylla, and

opposing Charybdis, snatched from the Ithacan ship:

like those consumed in Polyphemus’s vast gut,

like those who fell into Laestrygonian hands:

like those the Punic leader drowned in the waters

of the well, making the depths white with their ashes:

as Penelope’s twelve handmaids died, and the suitors,

and the chief of the tyrants who armed the suitors:

as the wrestler died, thrown by the Boetian stranger,

his conqueror astonished that he had died:

or the strong men crushed in that Antaeus’s arms,

or those killed by the savage crowd of Lemnian women:

or the one, denounced for wicked rites, on whom

a stricken victim, at last, brought down vast rains:

like Antaeus’s brother, Busiris, bound by that blood,

who stained the field, and died by his example:

like the impious man who having poor grass

for fodder, fed his horses on human entrails:

like those two CentaursNessus, and Eurytion, son-in-law

of Dexamenus, killed, with separate wounds, by the same avenger:

like one from his city that your great-grandson,

SaturnAsclepius, himself saw restored to life:

like Sinis and Sciron and his father Procrustes:

and the Minotaur, half man and half bull:

Sinis, who sent bent pine-trees from earth to air,

to gaze at the Isthmus’ seas on both sides:

and Cercyon, whom Ceres saw with delighted

gaze, dying at the hands of Theseus.

 Ibis:413-464 The Litany of Maledictions: Ancient Torments

Let these ills, and none lighter than these, fall on you,

you whom my anger rightly heaps with curses.

Such as Achaemenides knew, abandoned on Sicilian

Etna, who saw Aeneas’ Trojan sails approaching:

such a fate as Irus, too, that beggar with two names, and those

who haunt the bridge: let it be more than you dare hope for.

May you love Plutus, god of wealth, Ceres’ son, in vain,

and riches fail however you search for them:

and as the ebbing wave retreats in its turn,

and the soft sand washes from under your feet,

so may your fortune always vanish, who knows how,

slipping away, endlessly, flowing through your hands.

And like Erysichthon, the father of Mestra who changed her form

repeatedly, may you be wasted by endless hunger though full-fed:

and may you not be averse to human flesh: but in whatever

way you can, may you be the Tydeus of this age.

And may you commit an act to make the frantic horses

of the Sun hurtle back from west to east:

may you repeat the vile banquet at a Lycaonian table,

trying to mislead Jupiter with a deceptive food:

and I beg someone to test the power of the god,

serve you as Tantalus’s son, or the son of Tereus.

And scatter your limbs through the open fields

like the ones that delayed a father’s pursuit.

May you imitate real bulls in Perillus’s bronze,

with cries that match the contours of the beast:

like cruel Phalaris, your tongue first slit with a sword,

may you bellow like an ox in that Paphian metal.

When you wish to return to years of youth, may you

be deceived like PeliasAdmetus’s old father-in-law.

Or may you be drowned, as you ride, sucked down

by the mud, so long as your name wins no renown.

I want you to die like those born from the serpent’s teeth

that Cadmus, the Sidonian, scattered on Theban fields.

Or as Pittheus’s scion’s did to Medusa’s cousin,

may ominous imprecations descend on your head:

like one cursed by the birds without warning,

who purifies his body in a shower of water

And may you suffer as many wounds as they say

they suffered, whom a knife used to cut at from beneath.

And, inspired, slash your private parts to Phrygian music,

like those whom Cybele, the Mother, maddens:

and like Attis, once a man, become not man or woman,

and strike the harsh cymbals with effeminate hand,

and at a stroke become one of the Great Mother’s cattle,

turned, in one swift step, from winner to sacrifice.

And lest Limon should suffer his punishment alone,

may a horse with cruel teeth feed on your entrails.

Or like Cassandreus, no gentler than his master,

be wounded and buried under a pile of earth.

Or like the infant Perseus, or the Cycnean hero,

may you fall, confined, into the ocean waves.

 Ibis:465-540 The Litany of Maledictions: Ancient Torments

Or be struck down, a sacrifice to Apollo at the holy altars,

as Theudotus suffered death from a savage enemy.

Or may Abdera set you apart for certain days,

and many stones hail down on you, accursed.

Or may you suffer the three-pronged bolts of angry Jove,

like Hipponous’s son, Capaneus, or Dexithea’s father,

or Autonoe’s sister, Semele, or Maia’s nephew,

like Phaethon who guided the terrified horses he chose:

like the cruel scion of Aeolus, and his son of that blood,

of whom Arctos was begot, that never knows the water,

or as Macelo and her husband, struck down by swift flames,

so, I pray, may you die by the fire of the divine avenger.

And may you be their prize to whom is Diana’s Delos,

not before the day Thasos needed to be wasted:

and those who tore apart Actaeon catching shy

Artemis bathing, and Linus, scion of Crotopus.

Nor may you suffer less from a poisonous snake

than Eurydice, daughter-in-law of Calliope and old Oeagrus:

than Hypsipyle’s ward, Opheltes: than he, of famous horses,

who first fastened a sharp point into hollowed wood.

May you approach high places no more safely than Elpenor,

and suffer the effects of wine in the same way he did.

And die as tamely, as whoever delighted in calling

savage Dryops to his Theiodamantine weapons:

or as cruel Cacus died, crushed, in his cave,

given away by the bellowing of oxen inside:

or Lichas who brought Nessus’ gift steeped in venom,

and stained the Euboean waters with his blood.

Or like Prometheus may you hang in Tartarus 

from a high rock, or, as books tell, die Socrates’ death:

as Aegeus who saw the deceptive sail of Theseus’s ship,

as the child, Astyanax, thrown from the Trojan citadel,

as Ino, the nurse, also aunt, of infant Bacchus,

as Talus who found a saw the cause of his death:

as the envious girl who threw herself from high cliffs,

who had spoken evil words to the unconquered god.

May a brooding lioness of your country, attack you

in your native fields, and be the cause of a death like Phalaecus’.

May the wild boar that killed Lycurgus’s son, and Adonis

born of a tree, and brave Idmon, destroy you too.

And may it even wound you as it dies, like him

on whom the mouth, he had transfixed, closed.

Or may you be like the Phrygian, the Berecyntian hunter,

whom a pine tree killed in the same way.

If your ship touches the Minoan sands,

may the Cretan crowd think you’re from Corfu.

May you be buried in a falling house, like the offspring

of Aleus, when Jove’s star befriended a scion of Leoprepeus.

Or may you give your name to the flowing waters,

like Evenus or Tiberinus, drowned in the rushing river.

May you be worthy of truncation, like that son of Astacus,

Melanippus, a maimed corpse, your head eaten by your fellow men,

or may you give your burning limbs to the kindling pyre,

as they say Broteas did in his desire for death.

May you suffer death shut in a cave,

like that author of unprofitable stories.

And as fierce iambics harm their creator,

may your insolent tongue be your destruction.

And like him who wounded Athens with endless

song, die hated through a deficiency of food.

And as it’s said the poet of the grim lyre perished

may a wound to your right hand be the cause of ruin.

And as a serpent wounded Agamemnonian Orestes

may you too die of an envenomed sting.

May the first night of your marriage be the last

of your life: so Eupolis and his new bride died.

And as they say the tragedian Lycophron ended,

may an arrow pierce you, and cling to your entrails.

Or be torn apart and scattered in the woods by your kin,

as Pentheus at Thebes, grandson of the serpent, Cadmus.

May you be caught by a raging bull, dragged over wild

mountains, as Lycus’s imperial wife Dirce was dragged.

May your severed tongue lie there, before your feet,

as Philomela, her own sister’s unwilling rival, suffered.

And like dull Myrrha’s author, Cinna, harmed by his name,

may you be found scattered about throughout the city.

 Ibis:541-596 The Litany of Maledictions: Ancient Torments

And may that artisan, the bee, bury his venomous

sting in your eye, as he did to the Achaean poet.

And, on the harsh cliff, may your entrails be torn

like Prometheus, whose brother’s daughter was Pyrrha.

May you follow Thyestes’ example, like Harpagus’s son,

and, carved in pieces, enter your father’s gut.

May the cruel sword maim your trunk, and mutilate

the parts, as they say Mamertas’s limbs were maimed.

Or may a noose close the passage of your breath

as the Syracusan poet’s throat was stopped.

Or may your naked entrails be revealed by stripping

your skin, like Marsyas who named a Phrygian river.

Unhappy, may you see Medusa’s petrifying face,

that dealt death to many of the Cephenes.

Like Glaucus, be bitten by the horses of Potniae,

or like the other Glaucus, leap into the sea’s waves.

Or may Cretan honey choke your windpipe, like one

who had the same name as the two I’ve mentioned.

May you drink anxiously, where Socrates, wisest of men,

accused by Anytus, once drank with imperturbable lips.

Nor may you be happier than Haemon in your love:

or may you possess your sister as Macareus did his.

Or see what Hector’s son, Astyanax, saw from his

native citadel, when all was gripped by flames.

May you pay for infamies in your offspring, as for his grandfather,

that father’s son, by whose crime his sister became a mother.

And may that kind of weapon cling to your bones, with which

they say Ulysses, the son-in-law of Icarius, was killed.

And as that noisy throat was crushed in the wooden Horse,

so may your vocal passage be closed off with a thumb.

Or like Anaxarchus may you be ground in a deep mortar,

and your bones resound like grain does being pounded.

And may Apollo bury you in Tartarus’s depths like Psamathe’s

father, Crotopus, because of what he did to his son Linus.

And may that plague affect your people, that Coroebus’s

right hand ended, bringing aid to the wretched Argolis.

Like HippolytusAethra’s grandson, killed by Venus’s anger,

may you an exile, be dragged away by your terrified horses.

As a host, Polymestor, killed his foster-child Polydorus, for

his great wealth, may a host murder you for your scant riches.

And may all your race die with you, as they say

his six brothers died with Damasicthon.

As his funeral added to the musician’s natal ills,

may a just loathing visit your existence.

Like Pelops’ sister, Niobe, may you be hardened

to standing stone, or Battus harmed by his own tongue.

If a Spartan boy attacks the empty air with a hurled

discus, may you fall to a blow from that disc.

If any water’s struck by your flailing arms,

may it all be worse to you than the straits of Abydos.

As the comic writer died in the clear waves, while

swimming, may the waters of Styx choke your mouth.

Or as shipwrecked you ride the stormy sea,

may you die on touching land, like Palinurus.

As Diana’s guardian did to Euripides, the tragic poet

may a pack of vigilant dogs tear you to shreds.

 Ibis:597-644 The Litany of Maledictions: Concluding Words

Or like a Sicilian may you leap over the giants’ mouth,

because of whom Etna emits its wealth of flame.

May the Thracian women, thinking you Orpheus,

tear your limbs apart with maddened fingers.

As Althaea’s son burned in the distant flames,

so may your pyre be lit by a burning brand.

As the Colchian bride was held captive by her new crown,

and the bride’s father, and with the father the household:

as the thinning blood ebbed from Hercules’ body:

so may the baleful venom devour your body.

As his Athenian child avenged Lycurgus may a wound

be left for you too to receive from a fresh weapon.

Like Milo, may you try to split open the wood with ease,

but be unable to withdraw your captive hand.

May you be hurt like Icarius, by gifts that an armed

hand brought him from the drunken crowd.

And as a virtuous daughter brought to death sadly

to her father, may your throat be bound in a noose.

And may you suffer starvation behind your own locked door

like the father who punished himself according to his own law.

May you outrage a phantom, like that of Minerva’s,

who stopped the straits at Aulis being an easy harbour.

Or may you pay by death for a false charge, as Palamedes

was punished, and not delight in what you did not earn.

As Isindius, the host, took the life of Aethalos,

whom even now Ion, mindful, drives from his rites:

as her father himself, from duty, brought Melanthea to light,

when she was hidden in the dark because of murder,

so may your entrails be stabbed by spears,

so, I pray, may all help be withheld from you.

May such night be yours, as Dolon, the Trojan, who by a coward’s pact, wished to drive the horses, that great Achilles drove.

May you have no quieter a sleep than Rhesus,

and his comrades before him on death’s road:

like those that forceful Nisus son of Hyrtacus ,and his friend

Euryalus, sent to their deaths with Rhamnes the Rutulian.

Or like the scion of Clinias, surrounded by dark fires,

may you bear your half-burned bones to a Stygian death.

Or like Remus who dared to leap the new-made

walls, may a simple spear take your life.

Last, I pray that you may live and die in this place,

between the Sarmatian and the Getan arrows.

Meanwhile lest you complain that I’ve forgotten you,

these words are sent to you in a hasty work.

It’s brief indeed, I confess: but, by their favour, may the gods

grant more than I ask, and multiply the power of my prayers.

You’ll read more in time, containing your true name,

in that metre in which bitter wars should be waged.

The End of Ibis