(from Metamorphoses X)
quas quia Pygmalion aevum per crimen agentis
viderat, offensus vitiis, quae plurima menti
femineae natura dedit, sine coniuge caelebs
vivebat thalamique diu consorte carebat.
interea niveum mira feliciter arte
sculpsit ebur formamque dedit, qua femina nasci
nulla potest, operisque sui concepit amorem.
virginis est verae facies, quam vivere credas,
et, si non obstet reverentia, velle moveri:
ars adeo latet arte sua. miratur et haurit
pectore Pygmalion simulati corporis ignes.
saepe manus operi temptantes admovet, an sit
corpus an illud ebur, nec adhuc ebur esse fatetur.
oscula dat reddique putat loquiturque tenetque
et credit tactis digitos insidere membris
et metuit pressos veniat ne livor in artus
et modo blanditias adhibet, modo grata puellis
munera fert illi conchas teretesque lapillos
et parvas volucres et flores mille colorum
liliaque pictasque pilas et ab arbore lapsas
Heliadum lacrimas; ornat quoque vestibus artus,
dat digitis gemmas, dat longa monilia collo,
aure leves bacae, redimicula pectore pendent:
cuncta decent; nec nuda minus formosa videtur.
conlocat hanc stratis concha Sidonide tinctis
adpellatque tori sociam adclinataque colla
mollibus in plumis, tamquam sensura, reponit.
festa dies Veneris tota celeberrima Cypro
venerat, et pandis inductae cornibus aurum
conciderant ictae nivea cervice iuvencae,
turaque fumabant, cum munere functus ad aras
constitit et timide 'si, di, dare cuncta potestis,
sit coniunx, opto,' non ausus 'eburnea virgo'
dicere, Pygmalion 'similis mea' dixit 'eburnae.'
sensit, ut ipsa suis aderat Venus aurea festis,
vota quid illa velint et, amici numinis omen,
flamma ter accensa est apicemque per aera duxit.
ut rediit, simulacra suae petit ille puellae
incumbensque toro dedit oscula: visa tepere est;
admovet os iterum, manibus quoque pectora temptat:
temptatum mollescit ebur positoque rigore
subsidit digitis ceditque, ut Hymettia sole
cera remollescit tractataque pollice multas
flectitur in facies ipsoque fit utilis usu.
dum stupet et dubie gaudet fallique veretur,
rursus amans rursusque manu sua vota retractat.
corpus erat! saliunt temptatae pollice venae.
tum vero Paphius plenissima concipit heros
verba, quibus Veneri grates agat, oraque tandem
ore suo non falsa premit, dataque oscula virgo
sensit et erubuit timidumque ad lumina lumen
attollens pariter cum caelo vidit amantem.
coniugio, quod fecit, adest dea, iamque coactis
cornibus in plenum noviens lunaribus orbem
illa Paphon genuit, de qua tenet insula nomen.
(from Metamorphoses X)
Wicked women spent their lives in base, disgraceful crime,
Indulging every loathsome vice innate to female nature.
Pygmalion, disgusted, dwelt unmarried and alone,
For many years a bachelor, no partner in his bed.
But meanwhile, with astounding skill, he carved of ivory
A snow-white form more beautiful than any mortal girl;
And, looking at his sculpted work, the sculptor fell in love.
The features were so like a girl's you'd think it was alive,
And, though restrained by nature's laws, it seemed to want to move:
Such artistry lay in his art. Pygmalion was awed
By the shape that he'd created; passion's flame devoured his heart.
His hand reached out to feel if it was ivory or flesh,
Unwilling to admit that it was only ivory.
He kissed it, and imagined that it kissed him in return;
He spoke to it and held it; he believed his fingers' touch
Would press into soft skin, and feared that bruises might arise.
At times he whispered in its ear sweet nothings, or he brought
The sort of gifts a girl would like: bright seashells, polished stones,
Small birds, and thousand-coloured flowers, lilies, coloured balls,
And drops of amber, tears shed by the daughters of the sun.
He draped its limbs in finery, long robes and jewellery,
He gave its fingers rings, he gave its neck long necklaces,
And polished pearls hung in its ears, and bands hung on its breast.
These suited it – that's not to say that nudity did not.
He placed it on a couch with sheets of royal purple hue,
With downy pillows for its head, as though that head could feel,
And lay beside it, calling it his partner in his bed.
The festival of Venus came: all Cyprus now rejoiced.
Men brought unblemished heifers, crooked horns encased in gold;
They struck the snow-white necks to make a sacrifice to Love;
They burned sweet-smelling incense. When he'd made his offering,
Pygmalion stood shyly at the altar, and he said:
'O gods, if you can really grant desires, I wish to wed – '
Afraid to say 'my ivory girl' ' – one like my ivory girl.'
Golden Venus heard and understood his unsaid wish,
And sent a sign to indicate her favourable will:
A flaming crown of fire three times flashed blazing through the air.
Pygmalion came home, and went to find his statue girl,
And lay beside her, giving her a kiss. Her face was warm.
Again he kissed her face; his trembling hand caressed her breast:
Underneath his fingers' touch, the ivory grew soft.
All hardness melted, ebbed, subsided, faded fast away,
Like wax, which, softened in the sun, is moulded by men's hands
And sculpted into many forms, made fit for use by use.
Astounded, filled with doubtful joy, afraid of some mistake,
He reached a loving hand out to his object of desire.
Yes – it was flesh! He felt a pulse that throbbed beneath his thumb.
Pygmalion, profoundly grateful, lavishly gave thanks
To Venus; and at last he pressed his lips to living lips.
The maiden coloured shyly at the feel of his embrace;
She lifted up her shining eyes towards the light above
And, seeing for the first time, saw the sky and saw her love.
The wedding Love created was attended by her too;
And, when the moon had nine times passed its cycle through the sky,
She bore a daughter, Paphos; and the city bears her name.
Translated from the Latin by Anna Thornton