Classics 430: Greek and Roman Myth

Reading on Deucalion and Pyrrha

From Ovid, Metamorphoses 1.348 and following

                      Once more
                      the earth appeared to heaven and the skies
                      appeared to earth. The fury of the main
                      abated, for the Ocean ruler laid
                      his trident down and pacified the waves,
                      and called on azure Triton.--Triton arose
                      above the waving seas, his shoulders mailed
                      in purple shells.--He bade the Triton blow,
                      blow in his sounding shell, the wandering streams
                      and rivers to recall with signal known:
                      a hollow wreathed trumpet, tapering wide
                      and slender stemmed, the Triton took amain
                      and wound the pearly shell at midmost sea.
                      Betwixt the rising and the setting suns
                      the wildered notes resounded shore to shore,
                      and as it touched his lips, wet with the brine
                      beneath his dripping beard, sounded retreat:
                      and all the waters of the land and sea
                      obeyed. Their fountains heard and ceased to flow;
                      their waves subsided; hidden hills uprose;
                      emerged the shores of ocean; channels filled
                      with flowing streams; the soil appeared; the land
                      increased its surface as the waves decreased:
                      and after length of days the trees put forth,
                      with ooze on bending boughs, their naked tops.

                      And all the wasted globe was now restored,
                      but as he viewed the vast and silent world
                      Deucalion wept and thus to Pyrrha spoke;
                      "O sister! wife! alone of woman left!
                      My kindred in descent and origin!
                      Dearest companion of my marriage bed,
                      doubly endeared by deepening dangers borne,--
                      of all the dawn and eve behold of earth,
                      but you and I are left--for the deep sea
                      has kept the rest! And what prevents the tide
                      from overwhelming us? Remaining clouds
                      affright us. How could you endure your fears
                      if you alone were rescued by this fate,
                      and who would then console your bitter grief?
                      Oh be assured, if you were buried in the waves,
                      that I would follow you and be with you!
                      Oh would that by my father's art I might
                      restore the people, and inspire this clay
                      to take the form of man. Alas, the Gods
                      decreed and only we are living!" Thus
                      Deucalion's plaint to Pyrrha;--and they wept.

                      And after he had spoken, they resolved
                      to ask the aid of sacred oracles,--
                      and so they hastened to Cephissian waves
                      which rolled a turbid flood in channels known.
                      Thence when their robes and brows were sprinkled well,
                      they turned their footsteps to the goddess' fane:
                      its gables were befouled with reeking moss
                      and on its altars every fire was cold.
                      But when the twain had reached the temple steps
                      they fell upon the earth, inspired with awe,
                      and kissed the cold stone with their trembling lips,
                      and said; "If righteous prayers appease the Gods,
                      and if the wrath of high celestial powers
                      may thus be turned, declare, O Themis! whence
                      and what the art may raise humanity?
                      O gentle goddess help the dying world!"

                      Moved by their supplications, she replied;
                      "Depart from me and veil your brows; ungird
                      your robes, and cast behind you as you go,
                      the bones of your great mother." Long they stood
                      in dumb amazement: Pyrrha, first of voice,
                      refused the mandate and with trembling lips
                      implored the goddess to forgive--she feared
                      to violate her mother's bones and vex
                      her sacred spirit. Often pondered they
                      the words involved in such obscurity,
                      repeating oft: and thus Deucalion
                      to Epimetheus' daughter uttered speech
                      of soothing import; "Oracles are just
                      and urge not evil deeds, or naught avails
                      the skill of thought. Our mother is the Earth,
                      and I may judge the stones of earth are bones
                      that we should cast behind us as we go."

                      And although Pyrrha by his words was moved
                      she hesitated to comply; and both amazed
                      doubted the purpose of the oracle,
                      but deemed no harm to come of trial. They,
                      descending from the temple, veiled their heads
                      and loosed their robes and threw some stones
                      behind them. It is much beyond belief,
                      were not receding ages witness, hard
                      and rigid stones assumed a softer form,
                      enlarging as their brittle nature changed
                      to milder substance,--till the shape of man
                      appeared, imperfect, faintly outlined first,
                      as marble statue chiseled in the rough.
                      The soft moist parts were changed to softer flesh,
                      the hard and brittle substance into bones,
                      the veins retained their ancient name. And now
                      the Gods supreme ordained that every stone
                      Deucalion threw should take the form of man,
                      and those by Pyrrha cast should woman's form
                      assume: so are we hardy to endure
                      and prove by toil and deeds from what we sprung.