8×6 inches, oil on panel
‘The lyre my fingers pluck, the songs I chant,
shall celebrate you; and as a new flower,
you’ll bear inscribed upon you, my lament.
And, too, in time to come, the bravest man
shall be identified with you―Ajax’
own letters, on your petals shall be stamped.’
As he spoke these true words, the blood that had
been spilled upon the ground and stained the grass
is blood no more; instead―more brilliant than
the purple dye of Tyre―a flower sprang;
though lily-shaped, it was not silver-white;
this flower was purple. Then not yet content,
Phoebus―for it was he who’d brought about
this wonder that would honor Hyacinthus―
inscribed upon the petals his lament:
with his own hand, he wrote these letters―AI,
AI―signs of sad outcry.
~ from “The Death of Hyacinthus” in “The Metamorphoses, Book X”
by Ovid (43 BC – 17/18 AD)
translated by Allen Mandelbaum
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