RUSTICS CHANGED TO FROGSAll men and women, after this event,
feared to incur Latona's fateful wrath,
and worshiped with more zeal the Deity,
mother of twins.—And, as it is the way
of men to talk of many other things
after a strong occurrence, they recalled
what other deeds the goddess had performed;—
and one of them recited this event:
'Twas in the ancient days of long-ago,—
some rustics, in the fertile fields of Lycia,
heedless, insulted the goddess to their harm:—
perhaps you've never heard of this event,
because those country clowns were little known.
The event was wonderful, but I can vouch
the truth of it. I visited the place
and I have seen the pool of water, where
happened the miracle I now relate.
My good old father, then advanced in years,
incapable of travel, ordered me
to fetch some cattle—thoroughbreds—from there,
and had secured a Lycian for my guide,
as I traversed the pastures, with the man,
it chanced, I saw an ancient altar,—grimed
with sacrificial ashes—in the midst
of a large pool, with sedge and reeds around,
a-quiver in the breeze. And there my guide
stood on the marge, and with an awe-struck voice
began to whisper, “Be propitious, hear
my supplications, and forget not me!”
And I, observing him, echoed the words,
“Forget not me!” which, having done, I turned
to him and said, “Whose altar can this be?
Perhaps a sacred altar of the Fauns,
or of the Naiads, or a native God?”
To which my guide replied, “Young man, such Gods
may not be worshiped at this altar. She
whom once the royal Juno drove away
to wander a harsh world, alone permits
this altar to be used: that goddess whom
the wandering Isle of Delos, at the time
it drifted as the foam, almost refused
There Latona, as she leaned
against a palm-tree—and against the tree
most sacred to Minerva, brought forth twins,
although their harsh step-mother, Juno, strove
to interfere.—And from the island forced
to fly by jealous Juno, on her breast
she bore her children, twin Divinities.
At last, outwearied with the toil, and parched
with thirst—long-wandering in those heated days
over the arid land of Lycia, where
was bred the dire Chimaera— at the time
her parching breasts were drained, she saw this pool
of crystal water, shimmering in the vale.
Some countrymen were there to gather reeds,
and useful osiers, and the bulrush, found
with sedge in fenny pools. To them approached
Latona, and she knelt upon the merge
to cool her thirst, with some refreshing water.
But those clowns forbade her and the goddess cried,
as they so wickedly opposed her need:
“Why do you so resist my bitter thirst?
The use of water is the sacred right
of all mankind, for Nature has not made
the sun and air and water, for the sole
estate of any creature; and to Her
kind bounty I appeal, although of you
I humbly beg the use of it. Not here
do I intend to bathe my wearied limbs.
I only wish to quench an urgent thirst,
for, even as I speak, my cracking lips
and mouth so parched, almost deny me words.
A drink of water will be like a draught
of nectar, giving life; and I shall owe
to you the bounty and my life renewed.—
ah, let these tender infants, whose weak arms
implore you from my bosom, but incline
your hearts to pity!” And just as she spoke,
it chanced the children did stretch out their arms
and who would not be touched to hear such words,
as spoken by this goddess, and refuse?
But still those clowns persisted in their wrong
against the goddess; for they hindered her,
and threatened with their foul, abusive tongues
to frighten her away—and, worse than all,
they even muddied with their hands and feet
the clear pool; forcing the vile, slimy dregs
up from the bottom, in a spiteful way,
by jumping up and down.—Enraged at this,
she felt no further thirst, nor would she deign
to supplicate again; but, feeling all
the outraged majesty of her high state,
she raised her hands to Heaven, and exclaimed,
“Forever may you live in that mud-pool!”
The curse as soon as uttered took effect,
and every one of them began to swim
beneath the water, and to leap and plunge
deep in the pool.—Now, up they raise their heads,
now swim upon the surface, now they squat
themselves around the marshy margent, now
they plump again down to the chilly deeps.
And, ever and again, with croaking throats,
indulge offensive strife upon the banks,
or even under water, boom abuse.
Their ugly voices cause their bloated necks
to puff out; and their widened jaws are made
still wider in the venting of their spleen.
Their backs, so closely fastened to their heads,
make them appear as if their shrunken necks
have been cut off. Their backbones are dark green;
white are their bellies, now their largest part.—
Forever since that time, the foolish frogs
muddy their own pools, where they leap and dive.