Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Letters and Lovers: Paris and Helen

With Byblis and Caunus in Metamorphoses 9, Ovid returns to the epistolary mode of his Heroides. Several of the letters are in pairs, with a lover's overture followed by a response from the beloved. The snippet below is taken from the pair which Ovid composed for Paris and Helen. Paris is visiting the palace of Menelaos at Sparta. Menelaos is away, leaving Helen to entertain his Phrygian guest.

Paris writes:

Don’t think I divided the waves with my ship carrying goods –
the wealth I have the gods can keep.
Nor have I come just to visit the towns of Greece:
my kingdom’s cities are far richer.
I seek you, whom lovely Venus drives towards my bed:
I wished for you before you were known to me.
Your face was in my mind before I saw you with my eyes:
news of your fame first brought me the wound.

Paris to Helen, from Ovid, Heroides

A prose version of Paris to Helen and Helen to Paris is here.

Wax writing tablet and styluses

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