Thursday, December 30, 2021

Robinet Testard's illustrations for "Ovide, Heroides ou Epitres" an extension of Ovid's Heroides by Octavien de Saint-Gelais

Robinet Testard lived in France from around 1470 to 1531-ish

Ovide, Héroïdes, traduction d'Octavien de Saint-Gelais Ovidius Naso, Publius (0043 av. J.-C.-0017). Auteur du texte

I’m confused … did Ovid only wrote fifteen ? so maybe Octavien de Saint-Gelais added some ?

ah ! 

i am mostly wrong ... he wrote fifteen ... then three pairs were added

Adding to my confusion, the BNF volume seems to be incomplete … There may be twenty-one letters but there are only nineteen illustrations.  

The illustrations aren't always easy to allocate to the stories because of the variations in spelling over the last 2000 years

... no illustration of Medea ?  No illustration of Sappho at the end.

Penelope writes to Ulysses ...

Phyllis writes to Semophon ...

Briseis writes to Achilles ...

Phaedra writes to Hippolytus ... 

Zenone writes to Paris ...

Hipsyphile writes to Jason ...

Dido writes to Aeneas ...

Hermione ( composing her thoughts before she ) writes to Orestes ...

Deianira writes to Hercules ...

Ariadne writes to Theseus ...

Canace writes to Macareus ...

Laodamia writes to Protosilaus ...

Hypermnestra writes to Lynceus ...

Paris writes to Helen ...

... and Helen writes back to Paris

Leander sees Hero's candle after sending a message ...

... and Hero writes back to Leander

Acontius writes to Cydippe ...

... and Cydippe writes back to Acontius

ovid ... imagines a letter from helen to paris ...



XVII:  Helen to Paris

Paris, if only I might have not read what I’ve read,

I might indeed retain your good regard as before.

Now that my eyes have been troubled by your letter,

I take pride in not replying lightly.

A chance stranger to our sacred hospitality you’ve dared

to tamper with the rightful loyalty of a wife!

When Taenarus’s shore welcomed you, driven by stormy seas,

to its harbour, and, our kingdom held no doors shut against you,

though you come of a foreign people,

is insult then to be the reward for such great services?

You who so enter, are you friend or enemy?

No doubt, in your judgement, my reproach,

though just, might indeed be called naive.

Let me be naive, then, as long as I’m not smeared with shame,

and the course of my life is free of blemish.

If there’s no sad expression on my face,

and I don’t sit grimly with a frown on my brow,

still my reputation’s spotless, and as yet, without sin,

I entertain myself, and no adulterer has my approval.

I’m the more surprised you’ve confidence in your attempt,

and that it’s given you reason to hope to share my bed.

Perhaps because Neptune’s hero, Theseus, took me by force,

once taken I’m thought worthy of being taken twice?

If I’d been seduced, the crime would have been mine:

since I was forced, what was I but unwilling?

He still didn’t get from his deed the fruits he sought:

I returned untouched except by fear.

The insolent man only stole a few kisses:

he had nothing further from me.

Your wickedness mightn’t have been content with that.

The gods help me! He wasn’t like you.

He returned me intact, and his restraint lessened the crime,

and it’s obvious the young man repented of his actions.

Did Theseus repent, so that Paris might succeed him,

so that my name would always be on men’s lips?

Yet I’m not angry – who’s angered by a lover? –

If only the love you show for me isn’t false.

Indeed I doubt that too, not because assurance is lacking,

or that my beauty’s not well-known to me,

but because credulity’s usually harmful to girls

and they say your words lack truth.

It may be said others sin, and a chaste woman’s rare.

Why is my name forbidden to be among the rare ones?

Or that my mother seems suited to you, by whose example

you may think you can sway me too: it’s an error: my mother

accepted love-making while under a false illusion:

the adulterer was hidden by a swan’s plumage.

I can’t pretend ignorance, if I sin: nor would there be any error

that could screen the fact of my crime.

She erred in good faith, and the wrong was redeemed by its author.

For what Jove could I be said to be happily at fault?

And you mention your race, forebears, your royal name:

this house is distinguished enough in its nobility.

Not to speak of Jupiter, my husband’s ancestor, and all the glory

of Pelops, Tantalus’s son, and of Tyndareus:

Leda, deceived by the swan, gave me Jupiter for a father,

she who trustingly fondled the illusory bird in her lap.

Now go on telling me of the distant origin of the Phrygian race

and of Priam and his father Laomedon!

I admire them: but he who’s your greatest glory is fifth in line

from you: Jupiter, who would be first in line from my name.

Though I suppose your sceptre to be a power in your land,

yet I don’t think ours is less mighty.

If indeed the place outdoes this one in wealth and numbers of men,

certainly yours is a barbarous country.

It’s true your letter offers such rich gifts

that they might move the gods themselves.

But if I wished now to cross the bounds of modesty,

you yourself would be a better reason for my sin.

Either I’ll keep my name forever without stain

or I’ll follow you rather than your gifts.

While I don’t reject them, gifts are always the most acceptable

when the author of them has made them precious.

It’s more that you love me, that I’m the reason for your labours,

that you come in hope, over such wastes of water.

Also, persistent man, I notice what you do now

when the tables are laid, though I try to pretend –

when you only look at me with your eyes, impudent, bold,

the gaze which my eyes can scarcely bear,

and now you sigh, and now you take the cup nearest me,

and where I drank from, you drink from that place too.

Ah, how many times I’ve seen your fingers, how many times,

giving secret signals, and your eyebrows almost speaking!

And often I’ve been fearful lest my husband might see it,

and I blushed at the signs you didn’t sufficiently hide.

Often I’ve whispered or, not even aloud, I’ve said:

‘This man has no shame!’ nor did that voice deceive me.

Also I’ve read, on our corner of the table beneath my name,

what the letters, composed with wine, spelt: ‘I love.’

I still refused to believe it, giving a look of denial.

Ah me, now I’ve learnt how to speak in that manner!

These are the blandishments, if I’d been sinful, that might

have deflected me: these might have captured my heart.

It’s also I confess your rare beauty: and a girl

could want to fall into your embrace.

But some other might be made happier, without sinning,

rather than that my honour fall to a foreign lover.

Only, learn by example to be able to do without beauty:

virtue is to refrain from self-indulgent pleasures.

How many young men, do you think, wish for what you wish for?

Are they wise, or is Paris the only one with eyes?

You see no more than them, but you dare more rashly:

you’ve no more judgement, but less composure.

I wish that your swift ship had come then,

when a thousand suitors sought my virginity.

If I’d seen you, you’d have been first among the thousand:

my husband himself will pardon my opinion.

You come late, to delights already taken and possessed:

you hope was tardy: what you seek another has.

Though I chose to become your bride in Troy,

Menelaus does not hold me here unwillingly.

I beg you, stop tearing my heart apart sweetly with your words,

don’t hurt me, whom you say you love:

but allow me to keep the situation fate has granted,

and don’t shamefully make a prize of my honour.

But Venus agreed this, and in the deep valleys of Ida

three naked goddesses showed themselves to you:

and while one offered a kingdom, and another fame in battle,

the third said: ‘Helen will be your bride!’

It’s hard to believe, for my part, that those heavenly bodies

were presented to you for judgement on their beauty:

if it were true, certainly the rest is fiction,

that I was said to be the prize for your judgement.

I don’t have enough confidence in my body to think that I

might have been the finest gift the goddess could call on.

I’m content that men’s eyes approve my beauty:

Venus praising me would be a cause of envy.

But I won’t refute a thing: I favour your praise too:

For, heart, why reject the voice that is desired?

Don’t be angry if my belief in you comes only with great difficulty:

trust in important things usually builds slowly.

My prime pleasure is to have so pleased Venus:

the next, that you saw me as the greatest prize,

and preferred neither Hera’s nor Athene’s offerings

to the charms of Helen you had heard of.

So I’m excellence to you, I’m a noble kingdom?

I’d be made of iron, if I didn’t love your heart.

Believe me, I’m not of iron: but I resist loving

he whom I think could scarcely be mine.

Why plough the wet sands with curving blade,

or try to chase hopes that this situation denies?

I’m innocent of the affairs of Venus, and I never –

may the gods be my witness! – play tricks on my husband!

Now too, as I entrust my words to the silent page,

this letter performs a new service.

Happy, those who are used to these things! I know nothing of them,

I suspect the path of sin is difficult.

Fear is itself wrong: I’m confused now,

and I think all eyes are on my face.

Nor do I think it false: I sense the hostile murmurs of the people,

and Aethra brings me news of what they say.

But hide your love, unless you prefer to end it?

Why end it? You can dissimulate.

Indulge, but secretly! I’m given more freedom

though not total, because Menelaus is away.

In fact business required him to travel abroad,

there was a great, and valid, cause for his sudden journey:

or so it seemed to me. When he hesitated about going,

I said: ‘Go, and return quickly!’ Pleased by this

he kissed me, saying: ‘Care for the house,

and business, and for the Trojan guest.’

I could scarcely hold my laughter, which, with a struggle,

I suppressed, and could say nothing except; ‘It shall be.’

It’s true he sailed for Crete with a following wind:

but don’t think everything is as you’d wish!

When my husband’s away like this, absent he still guards me,

or don’t you realise a king’s hands have a long reach?

Also beauty is a burden: now I’m constantly praised

by your people’s mouths, he’s rightly more anxious.

That same glory I delight in, as it now is, harms me,

and it would have been better to have foregone fame.

Don’t be amazed that he’s gone, leaving me with you:

he trusts my virtue and my way of life.

He fears my looks, relies on my habits:

my goodness makes him feel secure, my beauty scares him.

You anticipate a later time beforehand, lest it’s lost,

so as to take advantage of my foolish husband.

And I both desire and fear, and my inclination’s not yet clear

enough: my mind hesitates, with doubt.

And my husband’s away, and you sleep without a partner,

your beauty captivates me, mine in turn captivates you:

and the nights are long, and now we meet to talk,

and you, ah me! flatter, and we share one house.

And let me perish if everything does not invite my sin:

I don’t know why I delay, but for the fear itself.

I wish you could rightly compel, what you wrongly persuade!

My awkwardness should have been overcome by force.

Sometimes a wrong benefits those who suffer it.

so I might have been compelled to be happy.

While it’s new, we should fight love’s inception the more!

A fresh flame dies sprinkled with a little water.

Love’s not certain in a guest: it wanders, like himself,

and, when you think nothing’s more certain, vanishes.

Hypsipyle’s a witness, and Ariadne, the Minoan virgin:

both of them dallied in illicit beds.

You also, unfaithful man, have abandoned Oenone,

they say, your delight for many years.

You have still not denied it: and if you don’t know

it was my first care to search out everything about you.

Added to which, if you wished to stay true in love,

you couldn’t. Your Phrygians are readying your sails:

while you speak to me, while you arrange the hoped-for night,

a breeze will come, to carry you soon to your homeland.

you’ll abandon complete delight in the midst of its newness:

our love will be gone with the wind.

Or should I follow, as you argue, and see the Troy you praise,

and be the granddaughter-in-law of great Laomedon?

I wouldn’t take the noise of rumour’s wings so lightly,

if the countries were full of my unchastity.

What would Sparta say of me, all Achaia,

the peoples of Asia, and your Troy?

What would Priam and Hecuba feel about me,

and all your brothers, and Trojan daughters-in-law?

You too, how could you hope for me to be faithful

and not be anxious at your own example?

Every stranger entering a Trojan port,

would be a source of troublesome fear to you.

How often, angry with me, you’d cry: ‘Adulteress!’

forgetting my guilt also belongs to you!

You’d become at once the author and critic of the offence.

Before that may the earth cover my face!

But I’ll enjoy Troy’s wealth and rich culture

and I’ll bear gifts more copious than you promised:

I’ll be offered purple-dyed and precious fabrics,

and I’ll be rich in heaped weights of gold!

Forgive this confession! Your gifts aren’t worth that much to me:

I don’t know this land that would hold me at all.

Who will rush to help me, if I’m hurt, on Phrygian shores?

Where will I find a brother or father’s aid?

Jason, the deceiver, promised Medea everything:

wasn’t she driven out, no less, from Aeson’s house?

There was no Aeetes, to whom, scorned, she might return,

no mother, Idyia, no sister, Chalciope.

I fear nothing like that, but nor did Medea fear:

often hope’s deceived by its own presentiments of good.

You’ll find the sea in harbour was calm for every ship

that’s now tossed about in the deep.

That torch of blood terrifies me too, that your mother saw

born to her, before your day of birth:

and I fear the seer’s warning, who prophesied, it’s said,

that Troy would be burnt by a Pelasgian fire.

And as Venus favours you, because she triumphed, and holds

the double trophy through your choice (the apple and her beauty),

so I am afraid of those other two, if your boast is true,

who, through your decision, lost their cause:

I’ve no doubt, if I followed you, war would be prepared.

Our love would travel among weapons, alas!

Perhaps Hippodamia of Atrax was the cause that forced

the Thessalian warriors into savage war with the Centaurs:

do you think Menelaus would be slow to righteous anger

or the Twins, his brothers-in-law, or Tyndareus?

For all your talk and tales of brave deeds

your beauty conflicts with your words.

Your body’s fitter for Venus than Mars.

Let the brave wage war, you, Paris, always love!

Command Hector, whom you praise, to fight for you:

your skills are in another kind of battle.

If I were to taste of them, and were a little braver,

I might enjoy them: if any girl tastes them, she might.

Or perhaps, abandoning shame, I might taste them

and, hesitation conquered by time, give you my hand.

I know what you seek: to tell me this, privately, in person:

what you might attempt to win, and invite in conversation:

But you’re too hasty, and as yet green shoots are your harvest.

Perhaps a fond delay would be to your liking.

Enough: now let these words, which share the mysteries

of my secret heart, cease with my weary fingers.

I’ll speak the rest through my friends Clymene and Aethra,

who are my two companions, and my counsel.