Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Creation
By Ovid (43 B.C.–18 A.D.)
Translation of John Dryden (see full text)

OF bodies changed to various forms I sing.
Ye gods, from whence these miracles did spring,
Inspire my numbers with celestial heat,
Till I my long laborious work complete;
And add perpetual tenor to my rhymes,        5
Deduced from nature’s birth to Cæsar’s times.
  Before the seas, and this terrestrial ball,
And heaven’s high canopy, that covers all,
One was the face of nature, if a face;
Rather a rude and indigested mass:        10
A lifeless lump, unfashioned and unframed,
Of jarring seeds, and justly Chaos named.
No sun was lighted up, the world to view;
No moon did yet her blunted horns renew;
Nor yet was earth suspended in the sky,        15
Nor, poised, did on her own foundations lie;
Nor seas about the shores their arms had thrown:
But earth and air and water were in one.
Thus air was void of light, and earth unstable,
And water’s dark abyss unnavigable.        20
No certain form on any was impressed:
All were confused, and each disturbed the rest.
For hot and cold were in one body fixed,
And soft with hard, and light with heavy mixed.
  But God, or Nature, while they thus contend,        25
To these intestine discords put an end.
Then earth from air, and seas from earth, were driven,
And grosser air sunk from ethereal heaven.
Thus disembroiled, they take their proper place;
The next of kin contiguously embrace;        30
And foes are sundered by a larger space.
The force of fire ascended first on high,
And took its dwelling in the vaulted sky.
Then air succeeds, in lightness next to fire;
Whose atoms from unactive earth retire.        35
Earth sinks beneath, and draws a numerous throng
Of ponderous, thick, unwieldy seeds along.
About her coasts unruly waters roar,
And rising on a ridge, insult the shore.
Thus when the God, whatever God was he,        40
Had formed the whole, and made the parts agree,
That no unequal portions might be found,
He molded earth into a spacious round;
Then, with a breath, he gave the winds to blow,
And bade the congregated waters flow.        45
He adds the running springs and standing lakes;
And bounding banks for winding rivers makes,—
Some part in earth are swallowed up, the most
In ample oceans, disembogued, are lost;
He shades the woods, the valleys he restrains        50
With rocky mountains, and extends the plains.

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