Ovid, Metamorphoses

LCL 43: 162-163

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sustinet utque manus funestas arceat aris, 585“Iri, meae” dixit “fidissima nuntia vocis, vise soporiferam Somni velociter aulam exstinctique iube Ceycis imagine mittat somnia ad Alcyonen veros narrantia casus.” dixerat: induitur velamina mille colorum 590Iris et arquato caelum curvamine signans tecta petit iussi sub nube latentia regis. Est prope Cimmerios longo spelunca recessu, mons cavus, ignavi domus et penetralia Somni, quo numquam radiis oriens mediusve cadensve 595Phoebus adire potest: nebulae caligine mixtae exhalantur humo dubiaeque crepuscula lucis. non vigil ales ibi cristati cantibus oris evocat Auroram, nec voce silentia rumpunt sollicitive canes canibusve sagacior anser; non fera, non pecudes, non moti flamine rami humanaeve sonum reddunt convicia linguae. muta quies habitat; saxo tamen exit ab imo rivus aquae Lethes, per quem cum murmure labens invitat somnos crepitantibus unda lapillis. 605ante fores antri fecunda papavera florent innumeraeque herbae, quarum de lacte soporem Nox legit et spargit per opacas umida terras. ianua, ne verso stridores cardine reddat, nulla domo tota est, custos in limine nullus; 610at medio torus est ebeno sublimis in antro, plumeus, atricolor, pullo velamine tectus, quo cubat ipse deus membris languore solutis. hunc circa passim varias imitantia formas Somnia vana iacent totidem, quot messis aristas, 615silva gerit frondes, eiectas litus harenas.


Metamorphoses Book XI

entreaties for the dead. And that she might free her altar from the touch of the hands of mourning, she said: “Iris, most faithful messenger of mine, go quickly to the drowsy house of Sleep, and bid him send to Alcyone a vision in dead Ceyx’ form to tell her the truth about his fate.” She spoke; and Iris put on her cloak of a thousand hues and, trailing across the sky in a rainbow curve, she sought the cloud-concealed palace of the king of sleep.

Near the land of the Cimmerians there is a deep recess within a hollow mountain, the home and chamber of sluggish Sleep. Phoebus can never enter there with his rising, noontide, or setting rays. Clouds of vapour breathe forth from the earth, and dusky twilight shadows. There no wakeful, crested cock with his loud crowing summons the dawn; no watch-dog breaks the deep silence with his baying, or goose, more watchful than the dog. There is no sound of wild beast or of cattle, of branches rustling in the breeze, no clamorous tongues of men. There mute silence dwells. But from the bottom of the cave there flows the stream of Lethe, whose waves, gently murmuring over the gravelly bed, invite to slumber. Before the cavern’s entrance abundant poppies bloom, and countless herbs, from whose juices dewy night distils sleep and spreads its influence over the darkened lands. There is no door in all the house, lest some turning hinge should creak; no guardian on the threshold. But in the cavern’s central space there is a high couch of ebony, downy-soft, black-hued, spread with a dusky coverlet. There lies the god himself, his limbs relaxed in languorous repose. Around him on all sides lie empty dream-shapes, mimicking many forms, many as ears of grain in harvest-time, as leaves upon the trees, as sands cast on the shore.

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.ovid-metamorphoses.1916