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The Metamorphoses

The Metamorphoses

by Ovid

Science Quotes Page 2

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #4

You rush to rise within the eastern sky,
and you are slow to sink into the sea.
Too early and too late – you stretch your stay
to gaze upon that girl, and your delay
prolongs the winter days. But then, at times,
your light has failed; your heart is dark, and so
your rays are darkened, too; and fear takes hold
of mortals. And you are not dark because
the moon, drawn close, has interposed itself
between the earth and you: it's love that leaves
your face so wan and weak. (4.197-203)

In this passage, Ovid once again blends the scientific theories of his day with poetic ideas of his own invention. In this passage, which is addressed to the Sun-god, he shows that he knows to true cause of solar eclipses – i.e., that the moon stands in between the earth and the sun. Here, however, for poetic effect, he claims that, at this point at least, the sun was not dark because of the moon, but rather because the Sun-god was sick with love.

Quote #5

The plague was sent by Juno in her rage
against the people of the isle that bore
her rival's name, Aegina. A fierce scourge,
at first it seemed a sickness nature caused,
one to be fought with the physician's art;
but medicine was thwarted – nothing helped. (7.523-527)

Can you guess what we're noticing in this passage? (Take a second.) Yup, you got it: Ovid is mixing together science and the imagination. Here, he raises the possibility that sicknesses can have two causes: they can be either naturally caused or supernaturally caused, by gods. In this case, the cause of the plague is divine, and the doctors of Aegina have no hope of curing it.

Quote #6

The river-god,
while warning him against the waters' course,
told Theseus: "Please take shelter in my house,
you famous son of Athens; for the course
my current takes is far too ominous:
those roaring, rolling waters are quite used
to bearing off stout trees and giant rocks.
I've seen great stables standing on those shores
and seen them carried off – livestock and all;
against such surge, the bullocks' power failed,
the helpless horses' speed did not avail.
And when the snows along the mountain slopes
have melted, this – my torrent – often swallows
the bodies of young men in its wild whirlpools.
Rest here; wait till the waters ebb and find
their normal channel, and the banks confine
the current." (8.449-559)

This is yet another example of a blended picture of science and mythology. The mythological part comes from the fact that a river-god is doing the talking. The scientific part comes from his very realistic account of the action of his own currents.

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