from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Book 3



Hapless Actaeon's end in various ways
was now regarded; some deplored his doom,
but others praised Diana's chastity;
and all gave many reasons. But the spouse
of Jove, alone remaining silent, gave
nor praise nor blame. Whenever calamity
befell the race of Cadmus she rejoiced,
in secret, for she visited her rage
on all Europa's kindred.

Now a fresh
occasion has been added to her grief,
and wild with jealousy of Semele,
her tongue as ever ready to her rage,
lets loose a torrent of abuse;
Away with words! Why should I speak of it?
Let me attack her! Let me spoil that jade!
Am I not Juno the supreme of Heaven?
Queen of the flashing scepter? Am I not
sister and wife of Jove omnipotent?
She even wishes to be known by him
a mother of a Deity, a joy
almost denied to me! Great confidence
has she in her great beauty--nevertheless,
I shall so weave the web the bolt of Jove
would fail to save her.--Let the Gods deny
that I am Saturn's daughter, if her shade
descend not stricken to the Stygian wave.”

She rose up quickly from her shining throne,
and hidden in a cloud of fiery hue
descended to the home of Semele;
and while encompassed by the cloud, transformed
her whole appearance as to counterfeit
old Beroe, an Epidaurian nurse,
who tended Semele.

Her tresses changed
to grey, her smooth skin wrinkled and her step
grown feeble as she moved with trembling limbs;--
her voice was quavering as an ancient dame's,
as Juno, thus disguised, began to talk
to Semele
. When presently the name
of Jove was mentioned--artful Juno thus;
(doubtful that Jupiter could be her love)--
“When Jove appears to pledge his love to you,
implore him to assume his majesty
and all his glory, even as he does
in presence of his stately Juno--Yea,
implore him to caress you as a God.”

With artful words as these the goddess worked
upon the trusting mind of Semele,
daughter of Cadmus, till she begged of Jove
a boon, that only hastened her sad death;
for Jove not knowing her design replied,
“Whatever thy wish, it shall not be denied,
and that thy heart shall suffer no distrust,
I pledge me by that Deity, the Waves
of the deep Stygian Lake,--oath of the Gods.”
All overjoyed at her misfortune, proud
that she prevailed, and pleased that she secured
of him a promise, that could only cause
her own disaster, Semele addressed
almighty Jove; “Come unto me in all
the splendour of thy glory, as thy might
is shown to Juno, goddess of the skies.”

Fain would he stifle her disastrous tongue;
before he knew her quest the words were said;
and, knowing that his greatest oath was pledged,
he sadly mounted to the lofty skies,
and by his potent nod assembled there
the deep clouds: and the rain began to pour,
and thunder-bolts resounded.

But he strove
to mitigate his power, and armed him not
with flames overwhelming as had put to flight
his hundred-handed foe Typhoeus--flames
too dreadful. Other thunder-bolts he took,
forged by the Cyclops of a milder heat,
with which insignia of his majesty,
sad and reluctant, he appeared to her.--
her mortal form could not endure the shock
and she was burned to ashes in his sight.

An unformed babe was rescued from her side,
and, nurtured in the thigh of Jupiter,
completed Nature's time until his birth.

Ino, his aunt, in secret nursed the boy
and cradled him. And him Nyseian nymphs
concealed in caves and fed with needful milk.

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