Galatea finishes the story of Polyphemus and Acis; Scylla is pursued by Glaucus, and out of fear rejects him.
‘“Iam modo caeruleo nitidum caput exere ponto,
iam, Galatea, veni, nec munera despice nostra!
certe ego me novi liquidaeque in imagine vidi 840
nuper aquae, placuitque mihi mea forma videnti.
adspice, sim quantus: non est hoc corpore maior
Iuppiter in caelo, nam vos narrare soletis
nescio quem regnare Iovem; coma plurima torvos
prominet in vultus, umerosque, ut lucus, obumbrat; 845
nec mea quod rigidis horrent densissima saetis
corpora, turpe puta: turpis sine frondibus arbor,
turpis equus, nisi colla iubae flaventia velent;
pluma tegit volucres, ovibus sua lana decori est:
barba viros hirtaeque decent in corpore saetae. 850
unum est in media lumen mihi fronte, sed instar
ingentis clipei. quid? non haec omnia magnus
Sol videt e caelo? Soli tamen unicus orbis.
‘“Adde, quod in vestro genitor meus aequore regnat:
hunc tibi do socerum; tantum miserere precesque 855
supplicis exaudi! tibi enim succumbimus uni,
quique Iovem et caelum sperno et penetrabile fulmen,
Nerei, te vereor, tua fulmine saevior ira est.
atque ego contemptus essem patientior huius,
si fugeres omnes; sed cur Cyclope repulso 860
Acin amas praefersque meis conplexibus Acin?
ille tamen placeatque sibi placeatque licebit,
quod nollem, Galatea, tibi; modo copia detur:
sentiet esse mihi tanto pro corpore vires!
viscera viva traham divulsaque membra per agros 865
perque tuas spargam (sic se tibi misceat!) undas.
uror enim, laesusque exaestuat acrius ignis,
cumque suis videor translatam viribus Aetnam
pectore ferre meo, nec tu, Galatea, moveris.”
‘Talia nequiquam questus (nam cuncta videbam) 870
surgit et ut taurus vacca furibundus adempta
stare nequit silvaque et notis saltibus errat,
cum ferus ignaros nec quicquam tale timentes
me videt atque Acin “video” que exclamat “et ista
ultima sit, faciam, Veneris concordia vestrae.” 875
tantaque vox, quantam Cyclops iratus habere
debuit, illa fuit: clamore perhorruit Aetne.
ast ego vicino pavefacta sub aequore mergor;
terga fugae dederat conversa Symaethius heros
et “fer opem, Galatea, precor, mihi! ferte, parentes,” 880
dixerat “et vestris periturum admittite regnis!”
insequitur Cyclops partemque e monte revulsam
mittit, et extremus quamvis pervenit ad illum
angulus e saxo, totum tamen obruit Acin,
at nos, quod fieri solum per fata licebat, 885
fecimus, ut vires adsumeret Acis avitas.
puniceus de mole cruor manabat, et intra
temporis exiguum rubor evanescere coepit,
fitque color primo turbati fluminis imbre
purgaturque mora; tum moles iacta dehiscit, 890
vivaque per rimas proceraque surgit harundo,
osque cavum saxi sonat exsultantibus undis,
miraque res, subito media tenus exstitit alvo
incinctus iuvenis flexis nova cornua cannis,
qui, nisi quod maior, quod toto caerulus ore, 895
Acis erat, sed sic quoque erat tamen Acis, in amnem
versus, et antiquum tenuerunt flumina nomen.’
Desierat Galatea loqui, coetuque soluto
discedunt placidisque natant Nereides undis.
Scylla redit; neque enim medio se credere ponto 900
audet, et aut bibula sine vestibus errat harena
aut, ubi lassata est, seductos nacta recessus
gurgitis, inclusa sua membra refrigerat unda:
ecce fretum stringens, alti novus incola ponti,
nuper in Euboica versis Anthedone membris, 905
Glaucus adest, visaeque cupidine virginis haeret
et, quaecumque putat fugientem posse morari,
verba refert; fugit illa tamen veloxque timore
pervenit in summum positi prope litora montis.
ante fretum est ingens, apicem conlectus in unum 910
longa sub arboribus convexus in aequora vertex:
constitit hic et tuta loco, monstrumne deusne
ille sit, ignorans admiraturque colorem
caesariemque umeros subiectaque terga tegentem,
ultimaque excipiat quod tortilis inguina piscis. 915
sensit et innitens, quae stabat proxima, moli
‘non ego prodigium nec sum fera belua, virgo,
sed deus’ inquit ‘aquae: nec maius in aequora Proteus
ius habet et Triton Athamantiadesque Palaemon.
ante tamen mortalis eram, sed, scilicet altis 920
debitus aequoribus, iam tum exercebar in illis;
nam modo ducebam ducentia retia pisces,
nunc in mole sedens moderabar harundine linum.
sunt viridi prato confinia litora, quorum
altera pars undis, pars altera cingitur herbis, 925
quas neque cornigerae morsu laesere iuvencae,
nec placidae carpsistis oves hirtaeve capellae;
non apis inde tulit conlectos sedula flores,
non data sunt capiti genialia serta, neque umquam
falciferae secuere manus; ego primus in illo 930
caespite consedi, dum lina madentia sicco,
utque recenserem captivos ordine pisces,
insuper exposui, quos aut in retia casus
aut sua credulitas in aduncos egerat hamos.
res similis fictae, sed quid mihi fingere prodest? 935
gramine contacto coepit mea praeda moveri
et mutare latus terraque ut in aequore niti.
dumque moror mirorque simul, fugit omnis in undas
turba suas dominumque novum litusque relinquunt.
obstipui dubitoque diu causamque requiro, 940
num deus hoc aliquis, num sucus fecerit herbae:
“quae tamen has” inquam “vires habet herba?” manuque
pabula decerpsi decerptaque dente momordi.
vix bene conbiberant ignotos guttura sucos,
cum subito trepidare intus praecordia sensi 945
alteriusque rapi naturae pectus amore;
nec potui restare diu “repetenda” que “numquam
terra, vale!” dixi corpusque sub aequora mersi.
di maris exceptum socio dignantur honore,
utque mihi, quaecumque feram, mortalia demant, 950
Oceanum Tethynque rogant: ego lustror ab illis,
et purgante nefas noviens mihi carmine dicto
pectora fluminibus iubeor supponere centum;
nec mora, diversis lapsi de partibus amnes
totaque vertuntur supra caput aequora nostrum. 955
hactenus acta tibi possum memoranda referre,
hactenus haec memini, nec mens mea cetera sensit.
quae postquam rediit, alium me corpore toto
ac fueram nuper, neque eundem mente recepi:
hanc ego tum primum viridem ferrugine barbam 960
caesariemque meam, quam longa per aequora verro,
ingentesque umeros et caerula bracchia vidi
cruraque pinnigero curvata novissima pisce.
quid tamen haec species, quid dis placuisse marinis,
quid iuvat esse deum, si tu non tangeris istis?’ 965
talia dicentem, dicturum plura, reliquit
Scylla deum; furit ille inritatusque repulsa
prodigiosa petit Titanidos atria Circes.
“‘And now, Galatea, do but raise your glistening head from the blue sea. Now come and don’t despise my gifts. Surely I know myself; lately I saw my reflection in a clear pool, and I liked my features when I saw them. Just look, how big I am! Jupiter himself up there in the sky has no bigger body; for you are always talking of some Jove or other as ruling there. A wealth of hair overhangs my manly face and it shades my shoulders like a grove. And don’t think it ugly that my whole body is covered with thick, bristling hair. A tree is ugly without its leaves and a horse is ugly if a thick mane does not clothe his sorrel neck; feathers clothe the birds, and their own wool is becoming to sheep; so a beard and shaggy hair on his body well become a man. True, I have but one eye in the middle of my forehead, but it is as big as a good-sized shield. And what of that? Doesn’t the great sun see everything here on earth from his heavens? And the sun has but one eye.
“‘Furthermore, my father is king over your own waters; and him I am giving to you for father-in-law. Only pity me and listen to my humble prayer; for I bow to you alone; I, who scorn Jove and his heaven and his all-piercing thunderbolt, I fear you alone, O Nereid; your anger is more deadly than the lightning-flash. And I could better bear your scorning if you fled from all your suitors. But why, though you reject Cyclops, do you love Acis, and why do you prefer Acis to my arms? And yet he may please himself and please you too, Galatea; but oh, I wish he didn’t please you. But only let me have a chance at him! Then he’ll find that I am as strong as I am big. I’ll tear his vitals out alive, I’ll rend him limb from limb and scatter the pieces over the fields and over your waves—so may he mate with you! For oh, I burn, and my hot passion, stirred to frenzy, rages more fiercely within me; I seem to carry Aetna let down into my breast with all his violence. And you, Galatea, do not care at all.’
“Such vain complaints he uttered, and rose up (I saw it all), just as a bull which, furious when the cow has been taken from him, cannot stand still, but wanders through the woods and familiar pasturelands. Then the fierce giant spied me and Acis, neither knowing nor fearing such a fate, and he cried: ‘I see you, and I’ll make that union of your loves the last.’ His voice was big and terrible as a furious Cyclops’ voice should be. Aetna trembled with the din of it. But I, in panic fright, dived into the near-by sea. My Symaethian hero had already turned to run, and cried: ‘Oh, help me, Galatea, I pray; help me, my parents, and take me, doomed now to perish, to your kingdom.’ Cyclops ran after him and hurled a piece wrenched from the mountain-side; and, although the merest edge of the rock reached Acis, still it was enough to bury him altogether. But I (the only thing that fate allowed to me) caused Acis to assume his ancestral powers. Crimson blood came trickling from beneath the mass; then in a little while its ruddy colour began to fade away and it became the colour of a stream swollen by the early rains, and it cleared entirely in a little while. Then the mass that had been thrown cracked wide open and a tall, green reed sprang up through the crack, and the hollow opening in the rock resounded with leaping waters, and, wonderful! suddenly a youth stood forth waist-deep from the water, his new-sprung horns wreathed with bending rushes. The youth, save that he was larger and his face of dark sea-blue, was Acis. But even so he still was Acis, changed to a river-god; and his waters kept their former name.”
When Galatea had finished her story, the group of Nereids broke up and went swimming away on the peaceful waves. But Scylla, not daring to trust herself to the outer deep, returned to the shore, and there either wandered all unrobed along the thirsty sands or, when she was wearied, she would seek out some deep sequestered pool and there refresh her limbs in its safe waters. Behold Glaucus, speeding along the surface of the sea; a new-come dweller in the deep waters; for his form had been but lately changed near Anthedon in Euboea. He saw the maid and straightway burned with love, and said whatever things he thought might stay her flight. Nevertheless, she fled him and, her speed increased by fear, she came to the top of a mountain which stood near the shore. It was a huge mountain facing the sea, rising into one massive peak, its shady top reaching far out over the water. Here Scylla stayed her flight and, protected by her position, not knowing whether he was a monster or a god, looked in wonder at his colour, his hair which covered his shoulders and his back, and at his groins merging into a twisted fish-form. He saw her and, leaning on a mass of rock which lay at hand, he said: “Maiden, I am no monster or wild creature; I am a sea-god; and neither Proteus nor Triton nor Palaemon, son of Athamas, has greater power over the deeps than I. I was mortal once, but, being destined for the sea, I spent my life in it even then. Now I would draw in the nets full of fish, and now, sitting on some projecting rock, I would ply rod and line. There is a shore fringed by verdant meadows, one side of which is hemmed in by the waves and the other by herbage, which neither horned cattle have ever disturbed in grazing nor have the peaceful sheep nor hairy she-goats cropped it. No busy bee ever gathered flowersfrom there and bore them off; no festal wreaths for the head were ever gathered there, no hands with sickles ever mowed its grasses. I was the first to seat me on that turf, drying my dripping lines and spreading out upon the bank to count them the fish that I had caught, which either chance had brought to my nets or their own guilelessness had fixed upon my hooks. It sounds like an idle tale; but what advantage have I in deceiving you? My catch, after nibbling at the grass, began to stir, then to turn over and to move about on land as in the sea. And while I paused in wonder they all slipped down into their native waters, abandoning their new master and the shore. I stood a long time in amaze and doubt, seeking the cause of this. Had some god done it, or was it the grasses’ juice? ‘And yet what herb could have such potency?’ I said, and plucking some of the herbage with my hands, I chewed what I had plucked. Scarce had I swallowed the strange juices when suddenly I felt my heart trembling within me, and my whole being yearned with desire for another element. Unable long to stand against it, I cried aloud: ‘Farewell, O Earth, to which I shall nevermore return!’ and I plunged into the sea. The sea-divinities received me, deeming me worthy of a place with them, and called on Oceanus and Tethys to purge my mortal nature all away. And then they purged me, first with a magic song nine times repeated to wash all evil from me, and next they bade me bathe my body in a hundred streams. Straightway the rivers that flow from every side poured all their waters upon my head. So far I can recall and tell you what befell me; so far can I remember. But of the rest my mind retains no knowledge. When my senses came back to me I was far different from what I was but lately in all my body, nor was my mind the same. Then for the first time I beheld this beard of dark green hue, these locks which sweep on the long waves, these huge shoulders and bluish arms, these legs which twist and vanish in a finny fish. And yet, what boots this form, what, that I pleased the sea-divinities, what profits it to be a god, if you are not moved by these things?” As he thus spoke and would have spoken more, Scylla fled from the god, and he, stung to mad rage by his repulse, betook him to the wondrous court of Circe, daughter of the Sun.
i.e. either the honey from the flowers, or, according to Aristotle (de An. Hist., V. XXII. 4), the flowers themselves, out of which the bees made the honeycombs.