Pyramus and Thisbe

Ovid Metamorphoses 4.55-166

Pyramus and Thisbe—the one the most handsome of young men, the other esteemed (lit., preferred) above the girls whom the East held—lived in adjoining houses where Semiramis is said to have enclosed [her] lofty city with baked (i.e., brick) walls. Proximity brought about (lit, made) the first steps in [their] acquaintance; in time, [their] love grew. They would have also been joined by right of marriage, but [their] fathers forbade [it]. They both [however] equally burned with hearts overcome, which (i.e., something that) [their fathers] could not forbid. No one was privy [to their love]. They spoke with a nod and with signs, and the more it was hidden, the more the hidden fire [of love] blazed.

The wall common to each house had split with a narrow crack, which it had long ago formed when it was being built. That fault, noticed by no one over long ages, you, O lovers, first saw (what does love not perceive?), and you made [it] a path for [your] voices, and through it blandishments used to cross safely in the lowest whisper. Often when Thisbe had been standing on this side [and] Pyramus on the other, and the breath of [their] mouths had been caught in turn, they used to say,"0 ill-natured wall, why do you stand in the way of lovers? Was it so much that you should allow us to be joined with [our] whole bodies, or if that is too much, that you should open just for giving kisses? But we are not ungrateful. We admit that we owe to you that a passage to loving ears has been given to [our] words."

Having spoken such [words] to no purpose from [their] separate positions, they said "Farewell!" at nightfall, and each to his own side [of the wall] gave kisses that could not pass across (lit, not passing across). The following dawn had banished the fires of night (i.e., the stars), and the sun had dried the dewy grasses with [its] rays. They came together at (lit., to) the usual place. Then after first making many complaints (lit, having first complained many [things]) in a low whisper, they decided that in the quiet night they would attempt to elude the guards and go out from [their] doors, and when they departed from [their] homes, they would also leave the city's buildings behind; and so that they would not be obliged to wander aimlessly as they roamed over the broad countryside, they would meet at the tomb of Ninus and hide under the shadow of a tree— there was a tree there, a tall mulberry, laden with snowy fruits [and] close to a cool spring. They agreed on the arrangements (lit., the arrangements are agreed on); and the sun (lit., light), after seeming to depart slowly, plunged itself in the waters [of the sea], and from the same waters night came out.

Careful Thisbe, after the door had been opened (lit., after the hinge had been turned) in the darkness, went out and eluded her [family] and, with [her] face covered, arrived at the grave and sat under the appointed tree. Love made [her] bold. [But] behold! a lioness, [its] open jaws smeared [and] dripping from [its] recent slaughter of catde, came in order to quench [its] thirst in the water of the nearby spring. Babylonian Thisbe saw it at a distance in the moon's rays and with frightened foot fled into a dark cave, and while she was fleeing, she left behind a garment that fell (lit, fallen) from [her] back. When the savage lioness [had] relieved [its] thirst with much water, while it was returning to the woods, by chance it found the light garment without the girl and tore it apart with [its] blood-stained mouth.

Pyramus, having come out later, saw the unmistakable footprints of the wild beast in the deep dust and his whole face turned pale (lit., he turned pale over [his] whole face). When, however, he also found the garment stained with blood, he said, "One night will destroy [us] two lovers, of whom she was most worthy of a long life. I am the guilty one (lit, my soul is guilty). I destroyed you, O unhappy girl, [I] who bade you come by night to places full of fear, and I did not come here first. Tear apart my body and devour [my] guilty flesh with cruel bites, O all you lions who live under this cliff! But [simply] to pray for death is [the mark] of a cowardly [person]." He raised Thisbe's garment and carried it with him to the shadow of the designated tree. And when he had given tears [and] given kisses to the garment he had recognized, he said, "Take now a draft of my blood too," and he plunged into [his] stomach the sword with which he had been girded. And immediately, [as he was] dying, he withdrew [it] from the hot wound and lay on the ground on his back. The blood shot up high, just as when a [water] pipe splits after [its] lead has been damaged and from the small hissing opening shoots out long [jets of] water and cleaves the air with [its] spurts. The fruit of the tree was changed to a dark color with the spray of blood, and [its] root, soaked with blood, stained the hanging mulberries with a purple tint.

Behold! Thisbe (lit, she), her fear not yet laid aside, returned so that she would not miss her lover, and looked for the young man with [her] eyes and [her] heart, and longed to tell what great dangers she [had] escaped. And although she recognized the place and the shape of the tree she had [previously] seen (lit., in the tree having been seen), the color of [its] fruit made her unsure. She was uncertain whether this was [the right tree]. While she hesitated, she saw the trembling limbs striking the blood-stained earth, and she took a step backwards and, with (lit., wearing) a face paler than boxwood, she shuddered in the same way as the sea, which trembles when its surface is grazed by a slight breeze. But when, after having delayed, she recognized her beloved, she struck her guiltless arms with loud beating, and, with hair torn, she, embracing the body she loved (lit., the loved body), filled the wounds with tears and mixed [her] weeping with the blood, and planting kisses on [his] cold face, she shouted, "Pyramus, what misfortune has taken you away from me? Pyramus, answer [me]! Your dearest Thisbe calls you. Listen [to me] and raise [your] drooping face!" At [the sound of] Thisbes name, Pyramus lifted [his] eyes, already weighed down by death, and on seeing her, closed (lit., hid) [them] again.

After she recognized her garment and saw the ivory [sheath] empty of [its] sword, she said, "Your own hand and love have destroyed you, unhappy one! [But] I too have a hand strong [enough] for this one thing, [and] I have love as well (lit., there is for me too a hand ... there is [for me] love too). This will give [me] strength for the blow (lit., wounds). I will follow [you] in death, and I will be called the most unfortunate cause and companion of your death. And you, who—alas!—could have been torn away from me by death alone, will not be able to be torn away by death. But, O very unhappy fathers of us two, be asked this by the words of both [of us], that you do not refuse that we, whom sure love, whom our last hour joined, be put together in one grave. But you, O tree, who now cover the pitiable corpse of one [and] are soon going to cover [the corpses] of two, keep the signs of [our] death and always have dark fruit appropriate to grief [as] a memorial of [our] double death."

She spoke, and after putting the sword tip under the lowest [part of her] chest, she fell on the blade (lit., sword), which was still warm with blood. [Her] prayers, however, moved the gods [and] moved [their] fathers, for the color on the fruit, when it becomes fully ripe, is dark, and what was left from [their] pyres rests in one urn.

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