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the reins; and so the swiftly carried Nymph
arrived in Scythia. There, upon the told
of steepy Caucasus, when she had slipped
their tight yoke from the dragons' harnessed necks,
she searched for Famine in that granite land,
and there she found her clutching at scant herbs,
with nails and teeth. Beneath her shaggy hair
her hollow eyes glared in her ghastly face,
her lips were filthy and her throat was rough
and blotched, and all her entrails could be seen,
enclosed in nothing but her shriveled skin;
her crooked loins were dry uncovered bones,
and where her belly should be was a void;
her flabby breast was flat against her spine;
her lean, emaciated body made
her joints appear so large, her knobbled knees
seemed large knots, and her swollen ankle-bones
When the Nymph, with keen sight, saw
the Famine-monster, fearing to draw near
she cried aloud the mandate she had brought
from fruitful Ceres, and although the time
had been but brief, and Famine far away,
such hunger seized the Nymph, she had to turn
her dragon-steeds, and flee through yielding air
and the high clouds;—at Thessaly she stopped.
Grim Famine hastened to obey the will
of Ceres, though their deeds are opposite,
and rapidly through ether heights was borne
to Erysichthon's home. When she arrived
at midnight, slumber was upon the wretch,
and as she folded him in her two wings,
she breathed her pestilential poison through
his mouth and throat and breast, and spread the curse
of utmost hunger in his aching veins.
When all was done as Ceres had decreed,
she left the fertile world for bleak abodes,
and her accustomed caves. While this was done
sweet Sleep with charming pinion soothed the mind
of Erysichthon. In a dreamful feast
he worked his jaws in vain, and ground his teeth,
and swallowed air as his imagined food;
till wearied with the effort he awoke
to hunger scorching as a fire, which burned
his entrails and compelled his raging jaws,
so he, demanding all the foods of sea
and earth and air, raged of his hunger, while
the tables groaned with heaps before him spread;
he, banqueting, sought banquets for more food,
and as he gorged he always wanted more.
The food of cities and a nation failed
to satisfy the cravings of one man.
The more his stomach gets, the more it needs —
even as the ocean takes the streams of earth,
although it swallows up great rivers drawn
from lands remote, it never can be filled
nor satisfied. And as devouring fire
its fuel refuses never, but consumes
unnumbered beams of wood, and burns for more
the more 'tis fed, and from abundance gains
increasing famine, so the raving jaws
of wretched Erysichthon, ever craved
all food in him, was on]y cause of food,
and what he ate made only room for more.
And after Famine through his gluttony
at last had wasted his ancestral wealth
his raging hunger suffered no decline,
and his insatiate gluttony increased.
When all his wealth at last was eaten up,
his daughter, worthy of a fate more kind,
alone was left to him and her he sold.
Descendant of a noble race, the girl
refusing to be purchased as a slave,
then hastened to the near shore of the sea,
and as she stretched her arms above the waves,
implored kind Neptune with her tears, “Oh, you
who have deprived me of virginity,
deliver me from such a master's power!”
Although the master, seeking her, had seen
her only at that moment, Neptune changed
her quickly from a woman to a man,
by giving her the features of a man
and garments proper to a fisher-man:
and there she stood. He even looked at her
and cried out, “Hey, there! Expert of the rod!
While you are casting forth the bit of brass,
concealed so deftly in its tiny bait,—
gods-willing! let the sea be smooth for you,
and let the foolish fishes swimming up,
never know danger till they snap the hook!
Now tell me where is she, who only now,
in tattered garment and wind-twisted hair,
was standing on this shore—for I am sure
I saw her standing on this shore, although
no footstep shows her flight.”
By this assured
the favor of the god protected her;
delighted to be questioned of herself,
she said, “No matter who you are, excuse me.
So busy have I been at catching fish,
I have not had the time to move my eyes
from this pool; and that you may be assured
I only tell the truth, may Neptune, God
of ocean witness it, I have not seen a man
where I am standing on this shore—myself
excepted—not a woman has stood here.”
Her master could not doubt it, and deceived
retraced his footsteps from the sandy shore.
As soon as he had disappeared, her form
unchanged, was given back to her. But when
her father knew his daughter could transform
her body and escape, he often sold
her first to one and then another—all
of whom she cheated— as a mare, bird,
a cow, or as a stag she got away; and so
brought food, dishonestly, to ease his greed.
And so he lived until the growing strength
of famine, gnawing at his vitals, had
consumed all he could get by selling her:
his anguish burned him with increasing heat.
He gnawed his own flesh, and he tore his limbs
and fed his body all he took from it.
ah, why should I dwell on the wondrous deeds
of others—Even I, O gathered youths,
have such a power I can often change
my body till my limit has been reached.
A while appearing in my real form,
another moment coiled up as a snake,
then as a monarch of the herd my strength
increases in my horns—my strength increased
in my two horns when I had two—but now
my forehead, as you see, has lost one horn.
And having ended with such words,—he groaned.
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