Author: Ovid, translated by David Raeburn
Published: Reprint, 2004
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Book Six has 721 lines on 35 pages.
This book is filled with stories of arrogant mortal women getting their comeuppance from goddesses.
Arachne, of humble birth and place, has a reputation in her region as being a remarkable weaver. She is also arrogant enough to believe she is better than Minerva, goddess of weaving (among other things), and challenges her to a contest.
Minerva’s weaving showed triumphal stories of the gods while Arachne’s illustrated faults. Of course, the goddess took umbrage and “used it [shuttle] to strike Arachne on the forehead.” (line 153) Rather than take this punishment, Arachne tried to hang herself.
She was hanging in air when the goddess took pity
and lifted her up. “You may live you presumptuous creature,” she said,
“but you’ll hang suspended forever. Don’t count on a happier future:
my sentence applies to the whole of your kind, and to all your descendants!”
(lines 135 – 138)
Niobe, on the other hand, brags that her fourteen children are more than the two Latona has had. Therefore, she is more worthy of worship than Latona.
I am undeniably blessed; and blessed I’ll continue to be,
without any doubt. My abundance assures me I’ll always be safe.
I am far too important a person for fortune’s changes to harm me.
However much I am robbed, far more will be left to enjoy.
My blessings are such that I’ve nothing to fear; supposing a fraction
of all this people, my children could ever be taken away, my losses could never reduce me to only two, the magnificent
crowd Latona can boast, so near to making her childless!
(lines 193 – 200)
Some people never learn. Don’t taunt the goddesses, it never ends well.
Ovid spends a lot of time describing, in excruciating detail, how Latona shows her wrath, with the help of her two children, Apollo and Phoebe, killing all fourteen children. As Niobe weeps and wails, Latona turns her into a weeping rock.
Book Six feels like a much shorter book than it is because most of it is taken up with Arachne and Latona.
Delos (aka Leto), just after giving birth to her twins comes across a lake and begins to drink from it. The peasants have different ideas and order her off. After pleading with them, they jump in the lake and stir up the mud so the water is undrinkable. For this transgression, they are turned into frogs.
She raised her hands to the heavens and cried, “May you live in your filthy
pool for ever!” Her prayer was answered. The peasants’ delight
to be under water, now plunging the whole of themselves to the bottom,
now popping their heads out, sometimes swimming close to the surface.
Often they’ll stay on the bank in the sun and often jump back
to the cool of the water. But even today they continue to wag
their tongues in loud and unseemly arguments; shameless as ever,
although they are under the water, they’ll try to indulge in abuse.
Their voices too have gone hoarse; their throats are inflated and swollen;
their noisy quarrels have stretched their jaws to a hideous width.
Their shoulders rise to their heads as their necks appear to have vanished;
their backs are green, while their huge protruding bellies are white.
They leap about in the muddy pool transmuted to frogs.
(lines 368 – 381)
Near the end of Book Six is the story of Tereus, Procne and Philomela, but I have had enough of brutal rape, and arrogant, narcissistic males who find nothing wrong with their actions. Metamorphoses can be really brutal sometimes.