The Palace of Circe, 1918

From “Metamorphoses”, Book XIV

[261] She, in a beautiful recess, sat on her throne, clad richly in a shining purple robe, and over it she wore a golden veil. Nereids and nymphs, who never carded fleece with motion of their fingers, nor drew out a ductile thread, were setting potent herbs in proper order and arranging them in baskets—a confusing wealth of flowers were scattered among leaves of every hue: and she prescribed the tasks they all performed. She knew the natural use of every leaf and combinations of their virtues, when mixed properly; and, giving them her close attention, she examined every herb as it was weighed. When she observed us there, and had received our greetings and returned them, she smiled, as if we should be well received. At once she had her maidens bring a drink of parched barley, of honey and strong wine, and curds of milk. And in the nectarous draught she added secretly her baleful drugs.

[276] “We took the cups presented to us by her sacred right hand; and, as soon as we, so thirsty, quaffed them with our parching mouths, that ruthless goddess with her outstretched wand touched lightly the topmost hair upon our heads. (Although I am ashamed, I tell you this) stiff bristles quickly grew out over me, and I could speak no more. Instead of words I uttered hoarse murmurs and towards the ground began to bend and gaze with all my face. I felt my mouth take on a hardened skin with a long crooked snout, and my neck swell with muscles. With the very member which a moment earlier had received the cup I now made tracks in sand of the palace court. Then with my friends, who suffered a like change (charms have such power!) I was prisoned in a stye. We saw Eurylochus alone avoid our swinish form, for he refused the cup. If he had drained it, I should still remain one of a bristly herd. Nor would his news have made Ulysses sure of our disaster and brought a swift avenger of our fate.

–trans. Brookes More via

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