Thursday, December 17, 2009


Here's another passage from Eucalyptus, which reminded me of a story from Ovid's Metamorphoses.
So there he is in Bathurst, our traveller from Britain.
It is at Bathurst, or rather on the outskirts, that the story develops a sudden twist. On the second day he was wandering along the river when he came across two brown snakes - ne shedding its skin. He killed the wrong one, and was turned into a woman. That's apparently what happened.

When last heard of he was living in Seattle - or was it San Francisco? - as a woman.
Here's Ovid's version of the tale of Tiresias:
Dumque ea per terras fatali lege geruntur
tutaque bis geniti sunt incunabula Bacchi,
forte Iovem memorant diffusum nectare curas
seposuisse graves vacuaque agitasse remissos
cum Iunone iocos et 'maior vestra profecto est,
quam quae contingit maribus' dixisse 'voluptas.'
illa negat. placuit quae sit sententia docti
quaerere Tiresiae: Venus huic erat utraque nota.

While these things were being done on earth by fate's decree, while the cradle of twice-born Bacchus was safely guarded, it happened, so the story goes, that Jupiter put aside his weighty cares; mellowed by deep draughts of nectar, he indulged in idle banter with Juno, who shared his leisure, and teased her saying: 'Of course, you women get far more pleasure out of love than men do.' Juno denied that this was true. They decided to ask the opinion of the wise Tiresias, for he had experienced love both as a man and as a woman.

nam duo magnorum viridi coeuntia silva
corpora serpentum baculi violaverat ictu
deque viro factus (mirabile) femina septem
egerat autumnos; octavo rursus eosdem
vidit, et 'est vestrae si tanta potentia plagae'
dixit, 'ut auctoris sortem in contraria mutet,
nunc quoque vos feriam.' percussis anguibus isdem
forma prior rediit, genetivaque venit imago.

Once when two huge serpents were intertwining themselves in the depths of the green wood, he had struck them with his staff; from being a man he was miraculously changed into a woman, and had lived as such for seven years. In the eigth year he saw the same serpents again and said: 'If there is so much power in the act of striking you that it changes the striker to the opposite sex, I shall now strike you again.' So by striking the same snakes, he was restored to his former shape, and the nature with which he was born returned.
(Ovid, Metamorphoses III.316-331)

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