If you are a Facebook user, you may know that I’ve been making my way – very slowly – though Ovid’s Metamorphoses. After taking a course on Dante’s Inferno last summer, I was obsessing over Italian poets. I try to read a chapter every couple of weeks, when the mood strikes me. I’ve just completed the passages on Pyramus and Thisbe, the original star-crossed lovers who meet their tragic end under a mulberry tree, their blood turning the tree’s berries from white to red:

And you, O tree whose branches weave their shadows
Dark over the pitiful body of one lover
Shall soon bear shade for two; O fateful tree
Be the memorial of our twin deaths,
And your dark fruit the colour of our mourning.

-Book IV of The Metamorphoses by Ovid, trans. Horace Gregory

In the same chapter we find the origin of bats explicated. King Minyas’ daughters have refused to worship Bacchus on his feast day. They weave and tell stories and defy the god. But he has his vengeance:

…a delicate membrane spread
Over their legs and feet and thin wings shrouded
Their waving arms. Nor did they know how changed
They were, for darkness covered all. Their wings
Were featherless, yet they sufficed to carry
Small shrunken bodies whose voices grew as frail
As shrill as they. They haunted house and attic,
But not the forest, and hid in eaves and swung
From highest beams, avoiding the light of day;
Even their name is of the vesper hour.

-Book IV of The Metamorphoses by Ovid, trans. Horace Gregory

Which just goes to show, you should respect the forces of nature/gods/Mother Earth. Let us raise a glass of the grape to Bacchus. Salute!

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