PYGMALION AND THE STATUE
by: Ovid (43 BC-17 AD?)
loathing their lascivious Life,
- Abhorred all Womankind, but most a Wife:
- So single chose to live, and shunned to wed,
- Well pleased to want a Consort of his Bed.
- Yet fearing Idleness, the Nurse of Ill,
- In Sculpture exercised his happy Skill;
- And carved in Ivory such a Maid, so fair,
- As Nature could not with his Art compare,
- Were she to work; but in her own Defence,
- Must take her Pattern here, and copy hence.
- Pleased with his Idol, he commends, admires,
- Adores; and last, the Thing adored, desires.
- A very Virgin in her Face was seen,
- And she had moved, a living Maid had been:
- One would have thought she could have stirred; but strove
- With Modesty, and was ashamed to move.
- Art hid with Art, so well performed the Cheat,
- It caught the Carver with his own Deceit:
- He knows 'tis Madness, yet he must adore,
- And still the more he knows it, loves the more:
- The Flesh, or what so seems, he touches oft,
- Which feels so smooth, that he believes it soft.
- Fired with his Thought, at once he strained the Breast,
- And on the Lips a burning Kiss impressed.
- 'Tis true, the hardened Breast resists the Gripe,
- And the cold Lips return a Kiss unripe:
- But when, retiring back, he looked again,
- To think it Ivory, was a thought too mean:
- So would believe she kissed, and courting more,
- Again embraced her naked Body o'er;
- And straining hard the Statue, was afraid
- His Hands had made a Dint, and hurt his Maid:
- Explored her, Limb by Limb, and feared to find
- So rude a Gripe had left a livid Mark behind
- With Flatt'ry now he seeks her Mind to move,
- And now with Gifts (the powerful bribe of Love):
- He furnishes her Closet first; and fills
- The crowded Shelves with Rarities of Shells;
- Adds Orient Pearls, which from the Conches he drew,
- And all the sparkling Stones of various Hue:
- And Parrots, imitating Human Tongue,
- And singing-birds in Silver Cages hung;
- And ev'ry fragrant Flower, and odorous Green,
- Were sorted well, with Lumps of Amber laid between:
- Rich, fashionable Robes her person Deck:
- Pendants her Ears, and Pearls adorn her neck:
- Her tapered Fingers too With Rings are graced,
- And an embroidered Zone surrounds her slender Waist.
- Thus like a Queen arrayed, so richly dressed,
- Beauteous she shewed, but naked shewed the best.
- Then, from the Floor, he raised a Royal Bed,
- With Cov'rings of Sydonian Purple spread:
- The Solemn Rites performed, he calls her Bride,
- With Blandishments invites her to his Side,
- And as she were with Vital Sense possessed,
- Her Head did on a plumy Pillow rest.
- The Feast of Venus came, a Solemn Day,
- To which the Cypriots due Devotion pay;
- With gilded Horns the milk-white Heifers led,
- Slaughtered before the sacred Altars, bled:
- Pygmalion offering, first approached the Shrine,
- And then with Pray'rs implored the Powers Divine:
- Almighty Gods, if all we Mortals want,
- If all we can require, be yours to grant;
- Make this fair Statue mine, he would have said,
- But changed his Words for shame; and only prayed,
- Give me the likeness of my Ivory Maid.
- The Golden Goddess, present at the Prayer,
- Well knew he meant th' inanimated Fair,
- And gave the Sign of granting his Desire;
- For thrice in cheerful Flames ascends the Fire.
- The Youth, returning to his Mistress, hies,
- And, impudent in Hope, with ardent Eyes,
- And beating Breast, by the dear Statue lies.
- He kisses her white Lips, renews the Bliss,
- And looks and thinks they redden at the Kiss:
- He thought them warm before: Nor longer stays,
- But next his Hand on her hard Bosom lays:
- Hard as it was, beginning to relent,
- It seemed, the Breast beneath his Fingers bent;
- He felt again, his Fingers made a Print,
- 'Twas Flesh, but Flesh so firm, it rose against the Dint:
- The pleasing Task he fails not to renew;
- Soft, and more soft at every Touch it grew;
- Like pliant Wax, when chafing Hands reduce
- The former Mass to Form, and frame for Use
- He would believe, but yet is still in pain,
- And tries his Argument of Sense again,
- Presses the Pulse, and feels the leaping Vein.
- Convinced, o'erjoyed, his studied Thanks and Praise,
- To her who made the Miracle, he pays:
- Then Lips to Lips he joined; now freed from Fear,
- He found the Savour of the Kiss sincere:
- At this the wakened image oped her Eyes,
- And viewed at once the Light and Lover, with surprise.
- The Goddess present at the Match she made,
- So blessed the Bed, such Fruitfulness conveyed,
- That e'er ten Moons had sharpened either Horn,
- To crown their Bliss, a lovely Boy was born;
- Paphos his Name, who, grown to manhood, walled
- The City Paphos, from the Founder called.
- TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH BY
POEMS BY OVID
"Pygmalion and the Statue"
is reprinted from Poetica Erotica. Ed. T.R. Smith. New
York: Crown Publishers, 1921.