Monday, September 17, 2007

Metamorphoses XIV (1567): Pomona

In this Kings reigne Pomona (1) livd. There was not to bee found
Among the woodnymphes any one in all the Latian ground
That was so conning for to keepe an Ortyard as was shee,
Nor none so paynefull to preserve the frute of every tree.
And theruppon shee had her name. Shee past not for the woodes
Nor rivers, but the villages and boughes that bare bothe buddes
And plentuous frute. In sted of dart a shredding hooke shee bare,
With which the overlusty boughes shee eft away did pare
That spreaded out too farre, and eft did make therwith a rift
To greffe another imp uppon the stocke within the clift.
And lest her trees should die through drought, with water of the springs
Shee moysteth of theyr sucking roots the little crumpled strings.
This was her love and whole delyght. And as for Venus deedes,
Shee had no mynd at all of them. And forbycause shee dreedes
Enforcement by the countrye folke, shee walld her yards about,
Not suffring any man at all to enter in or out.
What have not those same nimble laddes so apt to frisk and daunce
The Satyrs doone? Or what the Pannes that wantonly doo praunce
With horned forheads? And the old Silenus whoo is ay
More youthfull than his yeeres? And eeke the feend that scares away
The theeves and robbers with his hooke, or with his privy part
To winne her love? But yit than theis a farre more constant hart
Had sly Vertumnus (2), though he sped no better than the rest.
O Lord, how often being in a moawers garment drest,
Bare he in bundells sheaves of corne? And when he was so dyght,
He was the very patterne of a harvest moawer ryght.
Oft bynding newmade hay about his temples he myght seeme
A haymaker. Oft tymes in hand made hard with woork extreeme
He bare a goade, that men would sweere he had but newly then
Unyoakt his weerye Oxen. Had he tane in hand agen
A shredding hooke, yee would have thought he had a gardener beene,
Or proyner of sum vyne. Or had you him with ladder seene
Uppon his necke, a gatherer of frute yee would him deeme.
With swoord a souldier, with his rod an Angler he did seeme.
And finally in many shapes he sought to fynd accesse
To joy the beawty but by syght, that did his hart oppresse.
Moreover, putting on his head a womans wimple gay,
And staying by a staffe, graye heares he foorth to syght did lay
Uppon his forehead, and did feyne a beldame for to bee,
By meanes wherof he came within her goodly ortyards free.
And woondring at the frute, sayd: Much more skill hast thou I see
Than all the Nymphes of Albula. Hayle, Lady myne, the flowre
Unspotted of pure maydenhod in all the world this howre.
And with that woord he kissed her a little: but his kisse
Was such as trew old women would have never given ywis,
Then sitting downe uppon a bank, he looked upward at
The braunches bent with harvests weyght. Ageinst him where he sat
A goodly Elme with glistring grapes did growe: which after hee
Had praysed, and the vyne likewyse that ran uppon the tree:
But if (quoth hee) this Elme without the vyne did single stand,
It should have nothing (saving leaves) to bee desyred: and
Ageine if that the vyne which ronnes uppon the Elme had nat
The tree to leane unto, it should uppon the ground ly flat.
Yit art not thou admonisht by example of this tree
To take a husband, neyther doost thou passe to maryed bee.
But would to God thou wouldest. Sure Queene Helen never had
Mo suters, nor the Lady that did cause the battell mad
Betweene the halfbrute Centawres and the Lapythes, nor the wyfe
Of bold Ulysses whoo was eeke ay fearefull of his lyfe,
Than thou shouldst have. For thousands now (even now most cheefly when
Thou seemest suters to abhorre) desyre thee, both of men,
And Goddes and halfgoddes, yea and all the fayryes that doo dwell
In Albane hilles. But if thou wilt bee wyse, and myndest well
To match thyself, and wilt give eare to this old woman heere,
(To whom thou more than to them all art (trust mee) leef and deere,
And more than thou thyself beleevst) the common matches flee,
And choose Vertumnus to thy make. And take thou mee to bee
His pledge. For more he to himself not knowen is, than to mee.
He roves not like a ronneagate through all the world abrode.
This countrye heerabout (the which is large) is his abode.
He dooth not (like a number of theis common wooers) cast
His love to every one he sees. Thou art the first and last
That ever he set mynd uppon. Alonly unto thee
Hee vowes himself as long as lyfe dooth last. Moreover hee
Is youthfull, and with beawtye sheene endewd by natures gift,
And aptly into any shape his persone he can shift.
Thou canst not bid him bee the thing, (though al things thou shouldst name)
But that he fitly and with ease will streyght becomme the same.
Besydes all this, in all one thing bothe twayne of you delyght,
And of the frutes that you love best the firstlings are his ryght:
And gladly he receyves thy gifts. But neyther covets hee
Thy Apples, Plommes, nor other frutes new gathered from the tree,
Nor yit the herbes of pleasant sent that in thy gardynes bee:
Nor any other kynd of thing in all the world, but thee.
Have mercy on his fervent love, and think himself to crave
Heere present by the mouth of mee, the thing that he would have.
And feare the God that may revenge: as Venus whoo dooth hate
Hard harted folkes, and Rhammuse whoo dooth eyther soone or late
Expresse her wrath with myndfull wreake. And to th'entent thou may
The more beware, of many things which tyme by long delay
Hathe taught mee, I will shewe thee one which over all the land
Of Cyprus blazed is abroade, which being ryghtly skand
May easly bow thy hardned hart and make it for to yild.

... The God that can uppon him take what kynd of shape he list
Now having sayd thus much in vayne, omitted to persist
In beldames shape, and shewde himself a lusty gentleman,
Appeering to her cheerefully, even like as Phebus whan
Hee having overcomme the clowdes that did withstand his myght,
Dooth blaze his brightsum beames agein with fuller heate and lyght.
He offred force, but now no force was needfull in the cace.
For why shee beeing caught in love with beawty of his face,
Was wounded then as well as hee, and gan to yeeld apace.

(1) It may be interpreted Appleby
(2) Turner

Arthur Golding, trans. Ovid's Metamorphoses. 1565-67. Ed. Madeleine Forey. Harmondsworth: Penguin English Poets, 2002. 425-28.

So Pomona (or "Appleby"), the goddess of fruit trees, gardens and orchards, married Vertumnus ("Turner") because he fooled her into listening to him by disguising himself as an old woman.

This, we're informed, is the only purely Latin story in the whole of the Metamorphoses, and is perhaps included to make a contrast to the Rape of the Sabine Women and all the other bloody episodes from Roman history which fill the last couple of books.

Are they, in fact, meant as a pair of rustic rivals to Virgil's tragic protagonists Dido and Aeneas?

The whole talky episode certainly contrasts strongly with all the rape scenes earlier in the poem. The turning seasons require fertility - it's appropriate that the goddess should give in, rather than being frozen in place as yet another virgin Laurel tree or fountain ...

Golding is, of course, the first and most influential translator of Ovid into English. His rhyming fourteeners sound very clumsy now, but even if they had no particular distinction in themselves, they would still be worth reading for their influence on Shakespeare.

Popund famously declared Golding's translation to be the "most beautiful book in the language." And it never does seem to go out of print, so there must be something in it. See what you think, anyway ...

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