Metamorphoses 1:18-20

Amanda Cameron /
  • Created on 2018-09-21 05:21:27
  • Modified on 2018-10-14 03:58:36
  • Translated by A.S. Kline
  • Aligned by Amanda Cameron
We were quite a way off before the sun rose , lighting everything . Carefully , since I was curious , I examined the place on my friend’s neck where I’d seen the blade enter , I said to myself : ‘You’re mad , you were in your cups and sodden with wine , and had a dreadful nightmare . Look , Socrates is sound and whole , totally unscathed . Where are the wound and the sponge ? Where’s the deep and recent scar ? I turned to him : ‘Those doctors are not without merit who say that swollen with food and drink we have wild and oppressive dreams . Take me now . I took too much to drink last evening , and a bad night brought such dire and violent visions I still feel as though I was spattered , polluted with human blood .

He grinned at that : ‘It’s piss not blood you’re soaked with . I dreamed too , that my throat was cut . I felt the pain in my neck , and even thought my heart had been torn from my body . And now I’m still short of breath , and my knees are trembling , and I’m staggering along , and I need a bite to eat to restore my spirits .

‘Here’s breakfast , I said ‘all ready for you , and I swung the sack from my shoulder and quickly handed him bread and cheese . ‘Let’s sit by that plane tree , I said . Having done so , I took something from the sack for myself , and watched him eating avidly , but visibly weaker , somehow more drawn and emaciated , and with the pallor of boxwood . In short the colour of his flesh was so disturbing it conjured up the vision of those Furies of the night before , and my terror was such the first bit of bread I took , though only a small one , struck in my throat , and it wouldn’t go down , or come back up . The absence of anyone else on the road added to my fear . Who could believe my companion was murdered , and I was innocent ? Now he , when he’d had enough , began to feel quite thirsty , since he’d gobbled the best part of a whole cheese in his eagerness . A gentle stream flowed sluggishly not far from the plane-tree’s roots , flowing on through a quiet pool , the colour of glass or silver . ‘Here , I cried , ‘quench your thirst with the milky waters of this spring . He rose and after a brief search for a level place at the edge of the bank , he sank down on his knees and bent forward ready to drink . But his lips had not yet touched the surface of the water when in a trice the wound in his throat gaped open , and out flew the sponge , with a little trickle of blood . Then his lifeless body pitched forward , almost into the stream , except that I caught at one of his legs , and with a mighty effort dragged him higher onto the bank . I mourned for him there , as much as circumstance allowed , and covered him with sandy soil to rest there forever beside the water . Then trembling and fearful of my life I fled through remote and pathless country , like a man with murder on his conscience , abandoning home and country , embracing voluntary exile . Now I live in Aetolia , and I’m married again .

So Aristomenes’ story ended . But his friend , who had obstinately refused to believe a word from the very start , said : ‘There was never a taller tale , never a more absurd mendacity . And he turned to me : ‘You’re a cultured chap , as your clothes and manner show , can you credit a fable like that ?

I replied : ‘I judge that nothing’s impossible , and whatever the fates decide is what happens to mortal men . Now I and you and everyone experience many a strange and almost incredible event that is unbelievable when told to someone who wasn’t there . And as for Aristomenes , not only do I believe him , but by Hercules I thank him greatly for amusing us with his charming and delightful tale . I forgot about the pain of travel , and wasn’t bored on that last rough stretch of road . And I think the horse is happy too since , without him tiring , I’ve been carried all the way to the city gate here , not by his back but my ears !

Aliquantum processeramus et iam iubaris exortu cuncta collustrantur , et ego curiose sedulo arbitrabar iugulum comitis , qua parte gladium delapsum videram , et mecum ‘Vesane , aio ‘Qui poculis et vino sepultus extrema somniasti . Ecce Socrates integer , sanus , incolumis . Ubi vulnus ? Spongia ubi ? Ubi postremum cicatrix tam alta , tam recens ? et ad illum Ne’ inquam ‘Immerito medici fidi cibo et crapula distentos saeva ei gravia somniare autumant : mihi denique quod poculis vesperi minus temperavi , nox acerba diras et truces imagines obtulit , ut adhuc me credam cruore humano aspersum atque impiatum . Ad haec ille subridens ‘At tu’ inquit ‘Non sanguine I sed lotio perfusus es , verum tamen et ipse per somnium iugulari visus sum mihi . Nam et iugulum istum dolui et cor ipsum mihi avelli putavi et nunc etiam spiritu deficior et genua quatior et gradu titubo et I aliquid cibatus refovendo spiritu desidero . ‘En’ inquam Paratum tibi adest ientaculum , et cum dicto manticam meam numero exuo , caseum cum pane propere ei porrigo , et ‘Iuxta platanum istam residamus’ aio .

Quo facto et ipse aliquid indidem sumo , eumque avide esitantem aspicio aliquanto intentiore macie atque pallore buxeo deficientem video . Sic denique eum vitalis color turbaverat ut mihi prae metu , nocturnas etiam Furias illas imaginanti , frustulum panis quod primum sumpseram , quamvis admodum modicum , mediis faucibus inhaereret , ac neque deorsum demeare neque sursum remeare posset . Nam et crebritas ipsa commeantium metum mihi cumulabat : quis enim de duobus comitum alterum sine alterius noxa peremptum crederet ? Verum ille , ut satis detruncaverat cibum , sitire impatienter coeperat ; nam et optimi casei bonam partem avide devoraverat , et haud ita longe radices platani lenis fluvius in speciem placidae paludis ignavus ibat argento vel vitro aemulus in colorem . En inquam Explere latice fontis lacteo . Assurgit ille et oppertus paululum planiorem ripae marginem complicitus in genua appronat se avidus affectans poculum : necdum satis extremis labiis summum aquae rorem attigerat , et iugulo eius vulnus dehiscit in profundum patorem , et illa spongia de eo repente devolvitur eamque parvus admodum comitatur cruor : denique corpus examinatum in flumen paene cernuat , nisi ego altero eius pede retento vix et aegre ad ripam superiorem attraxi , ubi defletum pro tempore comitem misellum arenosa humo in amnis vicinia sempiterna contexi . Ipse trepidus et exinde metuens mihi per diversas et avias solitudines aufugi et quasi conscius mihi caedis humanae relicta patria et Lare ultroneum exilium amplexus nune Aetoliam novo contracto matrimonio colo .

Haec Aristomenes . At ille comes eius , qui statim initio obstinata incredulitate sermonem eius respuebat , ‘Nihil’ inquit ‘Hac fabula fabulosius , nihil isto mendacio absurdius , et ad me conversus Tu autem inquit Vir , ut habitus et habitudo demonstrat , ornatus , accredis1huic fabulae ? ‘Ego vero’ inquam ‘Nihil impossibile arbitror , sed utcumque fata decreverint , ita cuncta mortalibus provenire : nam et mihi et tibi et cunctis hominibus multa usu venire mira et paene infecta , quae tamen ignaro relata fidem perdant . Sed ego huic et credo Hercule et gratas gratias memini , quod lepidae fabulae festivitate nos avocavit ; asperam denique ac prolixam viam sine labore ae taedio evasi . Quod beneficium etiam illum vectorem meum credo laetari : sine fatigatione sui me usque ad istam civitatis portam non dorso illius sed meis auribus provecto .
‘When we had gone some way the sun rose ; and now that it was
fully light , I looked very closely at my friend’s neck where I had seen
the sword go in , and I said to myself : " You’re crazy ; you were dead
drunk and had a horrible dream . There’s Socrates whole , sound and
unharmed . Where’s the wound ? Where’s the sponge ? And where’s
the fresh deep scar ? " Aloud I said : " The doctors are quite right when
they tell us that eating and drinking too much causes nightmares .
Look at me ; I had a drop too much yesterday evening , and I passed a
night of such dreadful threatening dreams that I still can’t believe I’m
not spattered and defiled with human gore . " He smiled and said : " It’s
not blood but piss you were drenched with . But to tell the truth , I too
had a dream , that my throat was cut ; I had a pain there , and I
thought the heart was plucked out of me and even now I feel faint ,
my knees are trembling and I can’t walk properly . I think I need
something to eat to put the life back in me . " " Right , " I answered ,
" I’ve got some breakfast all ready for you , " and taking off my
knapsack I quickly gave him some bread and cheese , adding , " let’s sit
down under that plane tree . "

‘This we did , and I too had a little something . He was eating
greedily , but as I watched him , I saw that his face was becoming
drawn and waxy pale , and his strength seemed to be ebbing away .
Indeed he was so altered by this deathly change of complexion that I
panicked , thinking of those Furies of last night ; and the first piece of
bread I’d taken , not a very big one , lodged right in my throat and
refused either to go down or to come back up . What increased my
alarm was that there was almost nobody about . Who was going to
believe that one of a pair of companions had been done in without
foul play on the part of the other ? Meanwhile Socrates , having made
short work of the food , became desperately thirsty , as well he might ,
having wolfed down the best part of a first-rate cheese . Not far from
the plane tree there flowed a gentle stream , its current so slow that it
looked like a placid pool , all silver and glass . " There , " I said , " quench
your thirst in that limpid spring . " He got up , and finding a place that
sloped down to the water , he knelt and leaned over eagerly to drink .
He had hardly touched the surface with his lips when the wound in
his throat gaped wide open to the bottom and the sponge shot out ,
followed by a little blood . His lifeless body nearly pitched headlong
into the water , but I managed to get hold of one foot and drag him
laboriously up the bank . There , after mourning him as best I could in
the circumstances , I covered my unfortunate friend with the sandy
soil to rest there for ever by the river . Then , panic-stricken and in
fear of my life , I made my escape through remote and pathless
wildernesses ; and like a man with murder on his conscience I left
country and home to embrace voluntary exile . And now I have
remarried and live in Aetolia .

That was Aristomenes’ story . His companion , who from the start
had remained stubbornly incredulous and would have no truck with
what he told us , broke out : ‘Of all the fairytales that were ever
invented , of all the lies that were ever told , that takes the biscuit’ ; and
turning to me , ‘But you , he said , ‘to judge from your dress and
appearance you’re an educated man do you go along with this
stuff ? ‘Well , I said , ‘my opinion is that nothing is impossible and
that we mortals get whatever the Fates have decided for us . You , I ,
everybody , we all meet with many amazing and unprecedented
experiences , which aren’t believed when they’re told to somebody
who lacks first-hand knowledge of them . But I do , I assure you ,
believe our friend here , and I’m most grateful to him for diverting us
with such a charming and delightful story . Here I’ve got to the end of
this long and rugged road without effort and haven’t been bored . I
believe my horse too thinks you’ve done him a favour , for without tiring him I see I’ve reached the city gates transported not on his
back but , you might say , by my ears .

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