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Ovid, Heroides II

Introduction and Synopsis

Phyllis to Demophoon

Demophoon--I, your Phyllis who made you welcome in Rhodope,
Complain that you are absent past the promised time.
When the horns of the moon had joined once in full circle,
Your anchor was promised to our shore--
The moon has waned four times, and waxed four times to full circle;
But the Sithonian wave does not bear the Actaean ships.
If you count the time--which we lovers count well--
My complaint does not come before its day.


Hope also has been slow to depart; we are slow to believe,
When believing wounds us; even now, your lover is unwilling for you to be guilty.
Often I have been deceitful to myself in your defense; often have I believed
The stormy south wind brought white sails.
Theseus have I cursed, because he would not let you go;
Yet perhaps he does not hold back your journey.
Sometimes I feared lest, while you made toward the shoals of the Hebrus,
Your ship had been wrecked, swamped in the white water.
Often, kneeling, have I honored the gods with prayer
And sacred incense, that you, evil man, should prevail.
Often, seeing the winds in sky and sea were favorable,
Have I said to myself, "If he prevails, he is coming."
In short, faithful love has imagined whatever might hinder haste,
And I have been clever in finding reasons.
But you are absent long; neither do the gods you swore by
Bring you back, nor do you return moved by my love.
Demophoon, you gave to the winds both words and sails;
I complain that your sails have not returned, and your words lack faith.






Tell me, what have I done, except to love unwisely?
By my crime, I could deserve to have you.
The only evil in me is that I took you, evil man.
Yet this evil has all the weight and likeness of merit.
Where now are rights and faith, the joining of hand to hand,
The god who was so often in your lying mouth?
Where now the promised bond of Hymen in our shared years,
Which was my surety and security for marriage?
By the sea, which is all agitated by wind and wave,
Over which you certainly traveled, over which you should travel again,
And by your grandfather, who soothes the excited waves
(Unless he is a fiction, too), you swore to me;
By Venus, and the weapons which wound me too greatly--
One weapon the bow, the other weapon the torch--
And Juno who, kind guardian, watches over the marriage bed,
And by the secret rites of the torchbearing goddess.
If all of the many outraged gods should avenge their
Godheads, you alone would not be enough for the punishment.
Ah, mad, I even repaired your damaged ships--
So that the keel by which I was deserted might be solid--
And gave you the oars with which you were to flee from me.
Alas, I suffer wounds made by my own weapons!
I believed your flattering words, of which you had many;
I believed in your family and your name;
I believed in your tears--or can these also be taught to deceive?
Do these also have skill, to go where they are ordered?
I believed also in the gods--where now are the many pledges to me?
By any part of these I could have been captured.







I am not troubled that I aided you with a port and a place to stay;
But this should have been the extent of my service!
I regret that I, shamefully, augmented my hospitality
With the marriage bed, and joined my side to yours.
The night before that one, I wish had been my last,
When I could have died Phyllis the chaste.
I hoped for better, for I thought I merited it;
Wherever hope comes from merit, it is fair.




To deceive a trusting maiden is not hard-won
Glory. My simplicity was worthy of favor.
I, a lover and a woman, was deceived by your words.
May the gods grant that this is the height of your praise!
Your image should stand among the sons of Aegeus, in the middle of the city;
And set your distinguished father there first, with his honors.
When one has read of Sciron and savage Procrustes,
And Sinis and the mixed form of bull and man,
And of Thebes subdued in war and the rout of the Centaurs,
And of the knocking at the dark palace of the black god--
After these let your image be inscribed with this honor:
"Here is he whose fraud deceived the lover who welcomed him."
Of all the many deeds and exploits of your father,
Only his deserted Cretan bride has remained in your nature.
The only thing he makes excuses for, is the only thing you admire in him;
You behave as the heir of your father's deceit, treacherous one.
She--and I do not envy her--enjoys a better husband
And sits on high behind bridled tigers;
But the scorned Thracians shun marriage with me,
For I am said to have preferred a foreigner to my own countrymen.
And someone says, "Let her go now to learned Athens;
There will be another who rules arms-bearing Thrace.
The outcome proves her deed." Let him lack success, I wish,
Who judges the deed harshly from its result.
But if our seas should begin to foam with your oars,
Then for myself and for my countrymen, I would be said to have counseled wisely--
But I have not counseled wisely, nor will my palace receive you again,
Nor will you bathe your exhausted limbs in Bistonian waters.








That image of your departure remains in my eyes
When your departing fleet was close by my port.
You dared to embrace me and, wrapped round the neck of your lover,
You joined our lips in deep kisses, lingering long,
And mixed my tears with yours,
And complained that the wind favored your sails,
And spoke these last words to me as you departed:
"Phyllis, be sure to wait for your Demophoon!"


And do I wait, when you departed never to see me again?
And do I wait for the sails denied to my seas?
And yet I do wait--only return late to your lover,
So that your faith will have erred only by delay!
Why do I, unhappy one, plead? Perhaps now you have another wife,
And another love--the love which favored me so badly.
And now you have forgotten me, and remember nothing of Phyllis.
Alas for me! If you ask who Phyllis is and where she is from--
I am the one who, Demophoon, when you had been driven in long wanderings,
Offered you the ports of Thrace and gave welcome to you--
You whose resources were increased by my own, to whose poverty
My wealth gave many gifts, and would have given many more;
I am the one who subjected to you the broadest kingdom of Lycurgus,
Hardly suitable to be ruled in a woman's name,
Where icy Rhodope stretches to shady Haemus,
And the sacred Heber drives his racing waters--
To you, to whom my virginity was offered amidst birds of evil omen,
And who loosened my chaste girdle with deceiving hand!
As matron goddess, Tisiphone howled at that wedding,
And the bird of solitary places chanted its sorrowful song;
Allecto was present, with a twisted collar of little serpents,
And the moving lights were funeral torches.







Sorrowful, I nevertheless tread the cliffs and the bushy shore
Wherever the broad sea lies open to my gaze.
Whether the soil is softened by the light of day, or the cold stars
Shine down, I look out to see what wind disturbs the strait;
And whatever sails I see approaching far off,
Immediately I predict that they are the ones of my prayers.
I rush to the strait, hardly held back by the waves,
Where the moving sea extends its first waters.
The more they approach, the less and less able am I to stand;
I faint, and fall, to be caught by my maidservants.



There is a bay, sickle-shaped, contracted slightly in a bow;
Its farthest horns rise stiffly in steep rocky masses.
I have thought to hurl myself from there into the waves below;
And, since you continue to deceive, so be it.
Let the waves carry me, throwing me up on your shores,
And let me come to your eyes unburied.
Although you are harder than steel and adamant,
You will say, "Not thus should I have been followed by you, Phyllis."
Often do I thirst for poison; often I would be glad
To die bleeding, pierced by a sword.
My neck also, because I had offered it to the bonds
Of your unfaithful arms, I would be glad to entwine in the noose.
I am determined to be ripe for death, to repay my youthful chastity.
In choosing my death, there will be little delay.




You will be inscribed as the hateful cause on my tomb.
By this or some similar verse you will be known:
"Demophoon the guest gave death to Phyllis, the lover;
He provided the cause of death; she provided the hand."





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Last updated 06/22/2013