Europa

Europa

Europa

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A weekly poem, read by the author.
July 17 1996 3:30 AM

Europa

An ode by Horace

May bad people see bad omens everywhere,

The screech of an owl, the sight of a pregnant dog,

Or a grey she-wolf running across a field,

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Or maybe a fox that's lately dropped her litter;

Or may they see a serpent like an arrow

Slither obliquely across, scaring the horses.

My prayers will make good omens for good people.

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I'll look to the east and call upon the raven

To sing good fortune to come to those I fear for,

Before he has a chance to fly to the west,

To the standing pools, to prophesy bad weather.

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Wherever it is your heart desires to go,

Go safely there and be happy, Galatea,

Remembering with pleasure how we were.

Let no sinister magpie say you nay

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Nor any wandering crow forbid your journey.

But you can see the tumult in the sky

When angry Orion sets. You know how black

The Adriatic can be, and what can go wrong

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Even when lapyx the favoring West Wind blows.

O rather may our enemies' wives and children

Experience the unexpected gales

The South Wind brings upon them, the roaring of

The blackening waters, the sound of the pounding surf

Shaking the beaches. Thus it was for Europa,

Entrusting the safety of her snow-white body

To the not to be trusted bull when in the very

Moment of her departure she was aghast

At the midnight sea swarming with terrible monsters.

She who had only a moment before that been

A pupil of the flowers of the fields

And a weaver of the garlands of the nymphs,

Now all she saw in the blackness of the night

Were the waves of the sea and the faint light of stars.

At last she found herself upon the shore

Of the mighty hundred-citied island of Crete

And cried out to her father, "Father, I,

Who left behind my name and daughterly duty,

What madness was it that came over me?

Where am I now? Where is it I have come from?

One death alone is too little for such as I--

Am I in my senses, deploring the deed I did?--

Or didn't I do it? Was it some empty phantom

That flew up through the ivory gate of lies?--

Which was it better to do? To do as I did,

To fly here through the darkness over the waves--

Or stay back there in the field, gathering flowers?--

If that young bull were here before me now

I'd strike into its hide with avenging steel

And break the horns I lately hung with flowers.

Shameless I left the gods of my father's house.

Shameless I wait for Orcus to take me away.

If there are any gods who listen to me,

While still my beauty remains, send me, naked,

Out among lions, let me be eaten by tigers,

Before these fresh cheeks wither." "Vilest Europa,"

The voice of her father says from far away,

"Why do you put off dying? There is a tree,

An ash-tree, near, to hand yourself upon

With the silken sash you luckily brought with you.

Unless, that is, the jagged rocks that lie

At the bottom of yonder cliff would please you better,

If that is so, just give yourself to the wind,

A royal princess otherwise fated to be

A slave handmaiden to some savage queen."

Europa wept. Quite suddenly, there stood Venus,

Heartlessly laughing and laughing, and with her her son,

With his bow unstrung, and when Venus had laughed enough

She aid, "Dry up your tears and quell your rage

When the bull presents its horns for you to break.

Europa, you are the bride of Jupiter.

Learn how to bear your great good fortune, for

A region of the world is named for you."