Home  »  Complete Poetical Works by Alexander Pope  »  The Fable of Dryope

Alexander Pope (1688–1744). Complete Poetical Works. 1903.

Translations from Ovid

The Fable of Dryope

From the Ninth Book of Ovid’s Metamorphoses

SHE said, and for her lost Galanthis sighs;

When the fair consort of her son replies:

‘Since you a servant’s ravish’d form bemoan,

And kindly sigh for sorrows not your own,

Let me (if tears and grief permit) relate

A nearer woe, a sister’s stranger fate.

No nymph of all Œchalia could compare

For beauteous form with Dryope the fair,

Her tender mother’s only hope and pride

(Myself the offspring of a second bride).

This nymph compress’d by him who rules the day,

Whom Delphi and the Delian isle obey,

Andræmon lov’d; and bless’d in all those charms

That pleas’d a God, succeeded to her arms.

‘A lake there was with shelving banks around,

Whose verdant summit fragrant myrtles crown’d.

These shades, unknowing of the fates, she sought,

And to the Naiads flowery garlands brought:

Her smiling babe (a pleasing charge) she prest

Within her arms, and nourish’d at her breast.

Not distant far a wat’ry lotos grows;

The spring was new, and all the verdant boughs

Adorn’d with blossoms, promis’d fruits that vie

In glowing colours with the Tyrian dye.

Of these she cropp’d, to please her infant son,

And I myself the same rash act had done:

But, lo! I saw (as near her side I stood)

The violated blossoms drop with blood;

Upon the tree I cast a frightful look;

The trembling tree with sudden horror shook.

Lotis the nymph (if rural tales be true)

As from Priapus’ lawless lust she flew,

Forsook her form, and, fixing here, became

A flowery plant, which still preserves her name.

‘This change unknown, astonish’d at the sight,

My trembling sister strove to urge her flight;

And first the pardon of the Nymphs implor’d,

And those offended sylvan Powers ador’d:

But when she backward would have fled, she found

Her stiff’ning feet were rooted in the ground:

In vain to free her fasten’d feet she strove,

And as she struggles only moves above;

She feels th’ encroaching bark around her grow

By quick degrees, and cover all below:

Surprised at this, her trembling hand she heaves

To rend her hair; her hand is fill’d with leaves:

Where late was hair the shooting leaves are seen

To rise, and shade her with a sudden green.

The child Amphissus, to her bosom prest,

Perceiv’d a colder and a harder breast,

And found the springs, that ne’er till then denied

Their milky moisture, on a sudden dried.

I saw, unhappy! what I now relate,

And stood the helpless witness of thy fate;

Embraced thy boughs, thy rising bark delay’d,

There wish’d to grow, and mingle shade with shade.

‘Behold Andræmon and th’ unhappy sire

Appear, and for their Dryope inquire:

A springing tree for Dryope they find,

And print warm kisses on the panting rind;

Prostrate, with tears, their kindred plant bedew,

And close embrace as to the roots they grew.

The face was all that now remain’d of thee,

No more a woman, nor yet quite a tree;

Thy branches hung with humid pearls appear,

From ev’ry leaf distils a trickling tear;

And straight a voice, while yet a voice remains,

Thus thro’ the trembling boughs in sighs complains.

‘If to the wretched any faith be giv’n,

I swear by all th’ unpitying powers of Heav’n,

No wilful crime this heavy vengeance bred;

In mutual innocence our lives we led:

If this be false, let these new greens decay,

Let sounding axes lop my limbs away,

And crackling flames on all my honours prey.

But from my branching arms this infant bear;

Let some kind nurse supply a mother’s care;

And to his mother let him oft be led,

Sport in her shades, and in her shades be fed.

Teach him, when first his infant voice shall frame

Imperfect words, and lisp his mother’s name,

To hail this tree, and say with weeping eyes,

“Within this plant my hapless parent lies:”

And when in youth he seeks the shady woods,

Oh! let him fly the crystal lakes and floods,

Nor touch the fatal flowers; but, warn’d by me,

Believe a Goddess shrined in every tree.

My sire, my sister, and my spouse, farewell!

If in your breasts or love or pity dwell,

Protect your plant, nor let my branches feel

The browsing cattle or the piercing steel.

Farewell! and since I cannot bend to join

My lips to yours, advance at least to mine.

My son, thy mother’s parting kiss receive,

While yet thy mother has a kiss to give.

I can no more; the creeping rind invades

My closing lips, and hides my head in shades:

Remove your hands; the bark shall soon suffice

Without their aid to seal these dying eyes.’

‘She ceas’d at once to speak and ceas’d to be,

And all the Nymph was lost within the tree;

Yet latent life thro’ her new branches reign’d

And long the plant a human heat retain’d.’