The Rape of Europa, 1918


From “Metamorphoses,” Book II, 846-875

Majesty is incompatible truly with love; they cohabit
Nowhere together. The father and chief of the gods, whose right hand is
Armed with the triple-forked lightning, who shakes the whole world with a nod, laid
Dignity down with his sceptre, adopting the guise of a bull that
Mixed with the cattle and lowed as he ambled around the fresh fields, a
Beautiful animal, colored like snow that no footprint has trodden
And which no watery south wind has melted. His muscular neck bulged,
Dewlaps hung down from his chin; his curved horns you might think had been hand carved,
Perfect, more purely translucent than pearl. His unthreatening brow and
Far from formidable eyes made his face appear tranquil. Agenor’s
Daughter was truly amazed that this beautiful bull did not seem to
Manifest any hostility. Though he was gentle she trembled at first to
Touch him, but soon she approached him, adorning his muzzle with flowers.
Then he rejoiced as a lover and, while he looked forward to hoped for
Pleasures, he slobbered all over her hands, and could hardly postpone the
Joys that remained. So he frolicked and bounded about on the green grass,
Laying his snowy-white flanks on the yellowish sands. As her fear was
Little by little diminished, he offered his chest for her virgin
Hand to caress and his horns to be decked with fresh flowers. The royal
Maiden, not knowing on whom she was sitting, was even so bold as
Also to climb on the back of the bull. As the god very slowly
Inched from the shore and the dry land he planted his spurious footprints
Deep in the shallows. Thus swimming out farther, he carried his prey off
Into the midst of the sea. Almost fainting with terror she glanced back,
As she was carried away, at the shore left behind. As she gripped one
Horn in her right hand while clutching the back of the beast with the other,
Meanwhile her fluttering draperies billowed behind on the sea breeze.

–trans. Daryl Hine via

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