The daughters of Minyas impiously reject the cult of Bacchus. To pass the time as they work, they tell the stories which take up the first half of Book IV: one of Ovid’s ‘framing’ devices ... (Melville, 395)
The Daughters of Minyas transformed
The tale was done but still the girls worked on,
Scorning the god, dishonouring his feast,
When suddenly the crash of unseen drums
Clamoured, and fifes and jingling brass
Resounded, and the air was sweet with scents
of myrrh and saffron, and – beyond belief! –
The weaving all turned green. the hanging cloth
Grew leaves of ivy, part became a vine,
What had been threads formed tendrils, from the warp
Broad leaves unfurled, bunches of grapes were seen,
Matching the purple with their coloured sheen.
And now the day was spent, the hour stole on
When one would doubt if it were light or dark,
Some lingering light at night’s vague borderlands.
Suddenly the whole house began to shake,
the lamps flared up, and all the rooms were bright
With flashing crimson fires, and phantom forms
of savage beast of prey howled all around.
Among the smoke-filled rooms, one here, one there,
The sisters cowered in hiding to escape
The flames and glare, and, as they sought the dark,
A skinny membrane spread down their dwarfed limbs,
And wrapped thin wings around their tiny arms,
And in what fashion they had lost their shape
The dark hid from them., Not with feathered plumes
They ride the air, but keep themselves aloft
On parchment wings; and when they try to speak
They send a tiny sound that suits their size.
And pour their plaints in thin high squeaking cries.
Houses they haunt, not woods; they loathe the light;
From dusk they take their name*, and flit by night.
A. D. Melville, trans. The Metamorphoses of Ovid. The World's Classics (London: Oxford University Press, 1986). 86.
* take their name: ‘bat’ in Latin is uespertilio, from uesper ‘evening’; In ’flit by night’ Ovid also alludes to its Greek name, nykteris, from nyx ‘night’. In Nicander’s much more elaborate version of the story the sisters are changed into a bat, an owl, and another, unidentified, bird. (Melville, 399)
"In more recent years translations have appeared in the USA whose main value is as a warning of the difficulty of the task," [xxx] says A. D. Melville in his “Translator’s Note.” Bold words.
Presumably he has in mind Rolfe Humphries (1955) and Horace Gregory (1958), but it's hard to see just why he supposes his own pentameters so superior to theirs. I suspect Charles Boer had this remark in mind when he commented on the "pedantic and dull" nature of the several British attempts to represent the Metamorphoses in verse.
Melville's lines may be unexciting, though, but his book is clearly laid-0ut, engagingly annotated, and generally extremely accessible, especially for the first-time Ovidian.
And why the daughters of Minyas? What is it that interests me about them? Is it the fact that they are turned into bats as a consequence of scorning Dionysos, the god of wine? Dionysos / Bacchus, of course, was the son of Zeus and Semele, conceived before she was burnt to death by seeing the god in his full glory, and rescued from her corpse to be gestated in his father's thigh.
They reject the god in his several aspects as maiden, bull, lion and panther, and as a result one of them, Leucippe, tears her own son Hipassus to pieces and feasts on his flesh.
This idea of the necessity of losing control and submitting to the judgements of the god of intoxicating drugs offers an interesting contrast with our own culture's desire to maintain rationality at all costs.
Whether they became bats or (as other authorities have it) a mouse, a screech-owl and a barn-owl, it's clear that they are guilty of preferring their own ontological certainties to the expanded horizons offered by the god.
Semele was punished for her presumptuous attempt to attain immortality by seeing her lover, the god, as he truly was. The Minyades appear to exemplify the opposite fault, lacking (as they do) the attention-span even to pay heed to their metamorphosing visitor.