Ovid, Metamorphoses


Priam, to whom the story was unknown,
As dead, deplor’d his metamorphos’d son:
A cenotaph his name, and title kept,
And Hector round the tomb, with all his brothers, wept.
This pious office Paris did not share;
Absent alone; and author of the war,
Which, for the Spartan queen, the Grecians drew
T’ avenge the rape; and Asia to subdue.
A thousand ships were mann’d, to sail the sea:
Nor had their just resentments found delay,
Had not the winds, and waves oppos’d their way.
At Aulis, with united pow’rs they meet,
But there, cross-winds or calms detain’d the fleet.
Now, while they raise an altar on the shore,
And Jove with solemn sacrifice adore;
A boding sign the priests and people see:
A snake of size immense ascends a tree,
And, in the leafie summit, spy’d a nest,
Which o’er her callow young, a sparrow press’d.
Eight were the birds unfledg’d; their mother flew,
And hover’d round her care; but still in view:
‘Till the fierce reptile first devour’d the brood,
Then seiz’d the flutt’ring dam, and drunk her blood.
This dire ostent, the fearful people view;
Calchas alone, by Phoebus taught, foreknew
What Heav’n decreed; and with a smiling glance,
Thus gratulates to Greece her happy chance:
O Argives, we shall conquer: Troy is ours,
But long delays shall first afflict our pow’rs:
Nine years of labour, the nine birds portend;
The tenth shall in the town’s destruction end.

Terracotta kylix (drinking cup)
Source: Art of the Trojan War, Scalar
Attributed to the Amasis Painter
Location: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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