Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
The Metamorphosis of Lucius Apuleius
By Philemon Holland (15521637) and the Classical Translators
From The XI Bookes of the Golden Ass, translated out of Latin into English by William Adlington
AFTER that I had well rubbed every part and member of my body, I hovered with mine arms, and moved myself, looking still when I should be changed into a bird as Pamphile was, and behold neither feathers nor appearance of feathers did burgen1 out, but verily my hair did turn into ruggedness, and my tender skin waxed tough and hard, my fingers and toes, lesing2 the number of five, changed into hoofs, and out of me grew a great tail, now my face became monstruous, my nosethrilles wide, my lips hanging down, and mine ears rugged with hair: neither could I see any comfort of my transformation, for my members increased likewise, and so without all help (viewing every part of my poor body) I perceived that I was no bird, but a plain ass. Then I thought to blame Fotis, but being deprived as well of language as human shape, I looked upon her with my hanging lips and watery eyes, who (as soon as she espied me in such sort) cried out, alas poor wretch that I am, I am utterly cast away. The fear that I was in, and my haste hath beguiled me, but especially the mistaking of the box hath deceived me. But it forceth not much, since as a sooner medicine may be gotten for this, than for any other thing. For if thou couldest get a rose and eat it, thou shouldest be delivered from the shape of an ass, and become my Lucius again. And would to God I had gathered some garlands this evening past according to my custom, then thou shouldest not continue an ass one nights space, but in the morning I will seek some remedy. Thus Fotis lamented in pitiful sort, but I that was now a perfect ass, and for Lucius a brute beast, did yet retain the sense and understanding of a man. And did devise a good space with myself, whether it were best for me to tear this mischievous and wicked harlot with my mouth, or to kick and kill her with my heels. But a better thought reduced me from so rash a purpose, for I feared lest by the death of Fotis I should be deprived of all remedy and help. Then shaking my head and dissimuling mine ire, and taking mine adversity in good part, I went into the stable to mine own horse, where I found another ass of Pilos, sometime mine host, and I did verily think that mine own horse (if there were any natural conscience or knowledge in brute beasts) would take pity upon me, and proffer me lodging for that night, but it chanced far otherwise. For see, my horse and the ass, as it were, consented together to work my harm, and fearing lest I should eat up their provender, would in no wise suffer me to come nigh the manger, but kicked me with their heels from their meat, which I myself gave them the night before. Then I, being thus handled by them and driven away, got me into a corner of the stable, where (while I remembered their uncourtesy, and how on the morrow I should return to Lucius by the help of a rose, when as I thought to revenge myself of mine own horse) I fortuned to espy in the middle of a pillar sustaining the rafters of the stable, the image of the goddess Hippone, which was garnished and decked round about with fair fresh roses. Then in hope o a present remedy I leaped up with my fore feet as high as I could, and stretching out my neck, and with my lips coveted to snatch some roses. But in an evil hour did I go about that enterprise, for behold, the boy to whom I gave charge of my horse came presently in, and finding me climbing upon the pillar, ran towards me, and said: How long shall we suffer this vile ass, that doth not only eat up his fellows meat, but also would spoil the images of the goddess: why do I not kill this lame thief, and weak wretch? and therewithal looking about for some kidgel,3 he espied where lay a faggot of wood, and choosing out a crabbed truncheon of the biggest he could find, did never cease beating of me, poor wretch, until such time as, by great noise and rumbling, he heard the doors of the house burst open, and the neighbours crying in lamentable sort, which enforced him (being stroken in fear) to fly his way. And by and by a troop of thieves entered in, and kept every part and corner of the house with weapons. And as men resorted to aid and help them which were within the doors, the thieves resisted and kept them back, for every man was armed with his sword and target in his hand, the glimpses whereof did yield out such light as if it had been day. Then they brake open a great chest with double locks and bolts wherein was laid all the treasure of Pilo, and ransacked the same, which when they had done they packed it up, and gave every one a portion to carry, but when they had more than they could bear away, yet were they loth to leave any behind; they came into the stable, and took us two poor asses, and my horse, and laded us with greater trusses than we were able to bear. And when we were out of the house, they followed us with great staves, and willed one of their fellows to tarry behind and bring them tidings what was done concerning the robbery, and so they beat us forward over great hills out of the high way. But I, what with my heavy burthen, and my long journey did nothing differ from a dead ass, wherefore I determined with myself to seek some civil remedy, and by invocation of the name of the Prince of the country, to be delivered from so many miseries. And in a time as I passed through a great fair, I came amongst a multitude of Greeks, and I thought to call upon the renowned name of the Emperor, and to say: O Cæsar, and I cried out aloud, O, but Cæsar I could in no wise pronounce; the thieves, little regarding my crying, did lay me on, and beat my wretched skin in such sort, that after it was neither apt nor meet to make sives or sarces. Howbeit at last Jupiter ministered unto me an unhoped remedy. For when we had passed through many towns and villages, I fortuned to espy a pleasant garden, wherein, besides many other flowers of delectable hue, were new and fresh roses, and (being very joyful and desirous to catch some as I passed by) I drew nearer and nearer, and while my lips watered upon them, I thought of a better advice, more profitable for me: lest if from an ass I should become a man, I might fall into the hands of the thieves, and either by suspicion that I were some witch, or for fear that I would utter their theft, I should be slain, wherefore I abstained for that time from eating of roses. And (enduring my present adversity) I eat hay as other asses did.