Tag Archives: Pygmalion

‘Depths and Surfaces’ Glance 2/3: Transformations Poems (Book 10)

10 Dec


George Braque Metamorphoses

February 2013-March 2014

17 poets, 15 months, creating 1 contemporary reworking of Ovid’s Metamorphoses

See the Transformations Page for more details or the ‘Present Collaborations’ Tab


Poems Inspired by Book 10


Nat Hall and Richard Biddle


Wild Vows

by Nat Hall

You don’t want to hurt me,
but see deep how the bullet lies*


Before lone gods,
mice and strange priests,
we hunted down our wildest
I, da daughter of
the stringman
in love with chords…
But as we put words in a cage,
they grew feathers, talons and taste for
blood and flesh.
I carried mine on nameless hills,
through sly mires,
peat bogs,
cold swamps;
you long drowned yours
inside poison you always took for
night’s nectar, and
walked away,
………….walked away,
………………….. walked away.

No need to throw stones in the wind,
I walk though life with
brand new

©Nat Hall 2013


*echo from Running Up That Hill, 2012 Remix, Kate Bush.


Thoughtform (after Pygmalion)

by Richard Biddle


Plagued with perfection, I create you –

A mockery of bones. Unknown to flesh and
you are fruitlessly beautiful; an ivory womb.

You are the mummified dove, flawlessly carved
in the clotted veins of my limestone heart.

Those pumice lips, counterfeit and teasing,
despairingly manifested as a sad man’s plaything.

An unbecoming bloom.

Entombed in a fanatical psyche,
you are born of an impotent selfing.

A plastic fantasy .

No teeth, no nails, no tears, no hair
no voice, no perfume, no name.

An unblemished, numb dummy unyielding
no reflections.

My secret, my lover, my shame.



You can find more about Nat and Richard here:

Nat Hall



Richard Biddle





‘Depths and Surfaces’ Glance 1/3: Transformations Poems (Book 10)

3 Dec


George Braque Metamorphoses

February 2013-March 2014

17 poets, 15 months, creating 1 contemporary reworking of Ovid’s Metamorphoses

See the Transformations Page for more details or the ‘Present Collaborations’ Tab


Poems Inspired by Book 10


Greg Mackie and Adam Wimbush


That Loser Pygmalion

(with apologies to Ovid)

by Greg Mackie

That loser Pygmalion
said he wanted perfection,
but he just couldn’t handle
yet another rejection.
He wanted a woman
with no heat, with no soul,
so he sculpted a maiden
of ivory cold.

He bathed and he dressed her
in fine cloth and in pearls,
and bruised all his fingers
on her stone curves and swells.
And when caressing cold concrete
was no longer enough,
he prayed for his fantasy
to become flesh and blood.

What wonder, what joy,
did fill his old heart
when her ivory lips
so softly did part!
“You’re alone now, no longer,
and I will share your bed,
but just not tonight, dear,
I’ve got a sore head…”



by Adam Wimbush


Vision drips a landscape vast,
Where emerald shard sparks shine and,
Even the dust seems illuminated.

Paradise becomes pregnant,
Thus shadows are born.

Their silent music maps weird webs,
Echoes caught in the fragile framework.

Static veins begin to reverberate.
Their varied atomic structures,
Spiral beneath the surface,
Like alien antenna protocol sniffing.

The flesh of the cosmos ripens,
While dog noise hardens to skin.

Under the weight of atoms,
The slender supports of reality bend,
The luxuriant knots of DNA unravel.
All previous preconceptions discarded.

Camouflaged amongst this cosmic clutter,
A boy materializes from the organic mess.
Shy shadows sipped at his thinking juice.

This is the flavor of his thoughts…

Once besotted with an animal;
A creature, which nourished minds,
From its magnificent antlers.
See the crackling energy of synapses spreading,
Forking like lightening.
The tips telling stories which were never repeated.

So some magic mechanism was fashioned,
To delicately decorate its neck,
And record the data, but alas,
The delicious delirium dodged this device.

Anyway the being visited many people’s minds,
It’s brain-quenching menu spluttering with story sparks.
It caressed your sub consciousness,
With its dream fingers.
Welcoming all formats of adoration.

The boy desired a fix,
From the fable cables upon its head,
So he led his beloved quadruped to an oasis,
Were they got drunk on dream soup.

He fondled the fantasy filigrees,
And marveled at the intricate imagery,
Pulsating from the animals amazing antlers.
Stories injected straight into his head, and
Together they galloped across galaxies.
The boy riding on its back.

Afterwards as the “Story Stag”
Was resting its ‘Tale Tendrils’
Beneath the Crab Nebular.
The boy went hunting, and
While wandering in the twilight reverie of story-haze,
He accidentally spears his companion.

Upon realizing the error in reality,
The boy, distraught, decides to die too,
No god could convince him otherwise.

He cried continually, and cries still into infinity.
The boy’s tears turned to pollen,
And were blown into the ether.

Eventually his whole essence evaporated,
His melancholy molecules metamorphed.

You can see them now,
Every time you gaze into the night sky,
The billion bits of his broken heart.

The scattered sorrow seeds called Stars.
Ready to germinate more galaxies.

A J Wimbush 2013

Obscurum per obscurius, ignotum per ignotius


You can find more about Greg and Adam here:

Greg Mackie




Adam Wimbush


Metamorphoses Book 10 Overview and Prompts: Transformations Collaborative Poetry Project

14 Oct
George Braque Metamorphoses

George Braque Metamorphoses


Started in February 2013, 17 poets, 15 months,  creating 1 contemporary reworking of Ovid‘s Metamorphoses

See the Transformations Page For More Details

Here we are in the middle of October with our deadline of Book 9 poetry being Wednesday 30th October

This post sets out to provide an overview of Book 10 with a deadline for the poems inspired by this  book being Thursday 28th November.

The last  batch of Book 7  poems went out last week featuring  NAT HALL, JAMES KNIGHT and KARIN HEYER (here).  The other great Book 8 poems will be posted out during the rest of  October and  November.

If you missed out on  Book 7 poems you can find them here, here, here . I’ve also created a ‘Transformations Poems Tab’ on the site menu for ease of access.

Overview of Book 10: 

 ‘boys whom the gods have loved and girls punished for their lustful desires’  

In Book 10 Ovid throws us with great glee into a  sequence of tales of  doom and misery in marriage  via Hymen (the god of marriage ceremonies), and in so doing gives us an exploration of the problematics of marriage and conjugation. Book 10 is often perceived to be the darkest book of Metamorphoses’ 15,  because any happiness granted is immediately retracted. The book starts with the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice. Here we have a tale of conquest and ruin which Ovid uses to draw us down into a sequence of other challenging relationships that are deeply entrenched in the sexual. It is also  the book which explores notions of guilt and guilt by association. All the tales are of ‘unnatural love‘ (picking up on the threads of Book 9). Orpheus and Eurydice is one of the most famous tales from Metamorphoses;  one that has inspired many an opera; as has the tale of Pygmalion and its confrontation with reality and  fantasy and Galatea (the name usually given to Pygmalion’s statue)  which inspired George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. In contrast to these tales of discord and otherness is also, an engagement with the connectedness of life and its inter-relations.

Summary of the Tales in Book 10


Rape of Ganymede by Rembrandt

Thence Hymen came, in saffron mantle clad,
At Orpheus’ summons through the boundless sky
To Thessaly, but vain the summons proved.
True he was present, but no hallowed words
He brought nor happy smiles nor lucky sign
Even the torch he held sputtered throughout
With smarting smoke, and caught no living flame
For all his brandishing.

The Myths and Key Characters: Orpheus and Eurydice, Cyparissus, The Song of Orpheus, Ganymede and Hyacinthus, Cerastae and Propoetides, Pygmalion, Myrrha and Venus and Adonis.




Orpheus and Eurydice

In direct contrast to the joyous marriage of Iphis (daughter of Telethusa) and Ianthe (Cretian girl who married Ianthe, See Book 9)  the marriage of Orpheus (musician, poet and prophet) and Eurydice (one of the daughters of Apollo)  is truly problematic, and eventually culminates in her being bitten by a snake and dying. Ovid tells this part of the story in a very matter of fact way with no emotion. Orpheus then travels to the underworld to persuade the gods to give her back. Permission is given to him but only if he does not look back at her as she follows behind him. Orpheus can’t control his ardour and he does look back-only to see Eurydice sliding into Hell.  What we have in this tale is Orpheus setting out to conquer the underworld and what we see by the end is something ruinous.  We get the two sides of the coin. This movement from conquest to ruin is is practically  the only transformation in this particular story. Ovid’s depiction of this tale is in direct contrast to Virgil’s version (Lively:100) and can also  be considered a transformation by Ovid of Virgil’s take on the subject matter.  After Eurydice’s death Orpheus mourns for 7 days. Eventually Orpheus dies and his decapitated head floats down a stream with his lyre mystically playing as he goes.





Orpheus overwhelmed by the grief of Eurydice goes through what could be called a psychological transformation – spurning the love of women and seeking solace in boys. It is worth noting, Liveley says, ‘that same sex sexual relationships were not viewed negatively in ancient Greece or Rome’ (100). However, Ovid was not overtly in agreement with this and this impacts on his depiction of Orpheus in relation to Cyparissus (a boy beloved by Apollo).

Orpheus sits down to sing on top of a hill surrounded by some trees which he turns into his audience. Ovid describes these trees in a form of ‘epic catalogue’ (101). For instance Heliades (one of the daughters of Helios) who was transformed into a poplar tree (Book 2), and Daphne (a female nymph, Niad) who was transformed into a laurel tree (Book 1),  and the metamorphoses into a  Lotus refers back to Lotis  (the daughter of Neptune)  (Book 9). The catalogue concludes with the transformation of Cyparissus (who was well-known for the inconsolable grief he showed for his beloved pet deer. In butting these two tales up against each other Ovid finds a means to explore Orpheus’ psychological metamorphoses in an innovative manner.


The Song of Orpheus


The Song of Orpheus

As Orpheus sings all the animals and trees are transfixed by his music and voice. He enchants them as he sings of Ganymede, Hyacinthus, Pygmalion, Myrrha and Adonis, All the tales that form his song. He calls upon Jupiter (the king of the gods) and the Muse Calliope (muse of epic poetry and daughter of Zeus) to inspire him.



Ganymede and Hyacinthus

 Orpheus begins his sequence of songs with Jupiter’s rape of Ganymede (the son of Tros)  a young boy. Finishing this song  he moves onto the story of how Apollo (god of light and the sun) accidently killed his beloved  Hyacinthus (a divine hero) with a discus. Apollo, despite his divine arts, can’t manage to save him and he mourns Hyacinthus, holding him in his arms crying.  Apollo, like Orpheus, promises to remember his love in song. He also pledges to mark Hyacinthus’ death by the creation of a flower which also serves to later commemorate the hero Ajax (son of Telamon) as well. From the blood that pours out from the wound caused by the discus, grows a flower- the hyacinth.




Cerastae and Propoetides

The next song Orpheus sings is of the Cerastae (horn wearers-). They are a dangerous, murdering race of both men and women who are transformed into bulls by Venus (the goddess of love, beauty and sex) for their profanity.  This is followed by the tale of Propoetides (the daughters of Propetus) , who deny the rulership of Venus and turn to prostitution and then are transformed into statutes for their misdemeanour.  Interestingly, the Propoetides, are not turned to stone because they have turned to prostitution, but more for their impiety to Venus. The turning into stone can be seen as a second transformation- a reflection of what they have had to do to their psyche to undergo this life of prostitution: ie. become ‘as hard (as) stones (103).





The tale of Pygmalion (Cypriot sculptor) is told next. He so abhors the behaviour of the Propoetides that he  turns to celibacy and the rejection of women. Rejecting the flesh  he shapes an ivory sculpture of what he sees as the perfect woman. The sculpture is so realistic it appears as if it is alive. Pygmalion falls in love with the statue  and caresses the figure as if it were his mistress. He also believes that the figure is returning his favours. He buys her gifts and flatters her. Pygmalion behaves very similarly to the ‘art of love’ Ovid lays out in
Ars Amatoria which sets out in detail how to woo a woman.

As this continues Pygmalion confuses fantasy with reality and this all escalates at a festival for Venus. He prays to Venus for a wife exactly like his statue and it is clear he is truly confused between what is real and what is not. He returns to his house from his prayers and finds that his prayers have been granted and a wife exactly like the statue has been given to him.  Because of this he is filled with affection for his statue and he handles her like she is ‘a work of art’. He caresses her body not like a woman, but  ‘as a sculptor would mould wax’ (Liveley 105). The sclupture is transformed into something living but aesthetic  and then into something real and tangible from an ‘art object’ into a ‘love object’ (105).



Ovid then tells the story of Myrrha and her incestuous relationship with her father. Orpheus abhors the behaviour of Myrrha-rejecting the lure of women and their wily ways.  Myrrha’s behaviour has nothing to do with love or ‘amor’ rather than passion. There is no sympathy for her like Ovid had for Byblis (See Book 9). Here we are given another  measured soliloquy (like we had from Medea) . Myrrha calls upon examples from nature and other societies to justify her actions and ‘unnatural love’. Indeed, matters get very complex when Cinyras (Myrrha’s father)  asks her what sort of husband she would like and she replies- ‘someone like you’.  A nurse helps Myrrha into her father’s bed chamber and tells him she has a young girl for him of a similar age to Myrrha. Night upon night of incest follows. Cinyras eventually wants to really know who he has been sleeping with and he brings in a lamp to look properly upon his lover.  When all is illuminated he grabs a sword to kill her. Myrrha escapes from her home petrified, and in so doing is transformed from villain to victim. She roams around for 9 months pregnant and then she asks to be released from her mental and physical agony. A random god feels sorry for her and turns her into a tree where you can see Myrrha’s tears trickling down the bark. The tree was called a Myrrh tree.


Venus and Adonis 

Venus and Adonis

Myrrha, trapped within the tree, still has to give birth to her child, Adonis. Lucina (the goddess of childbirth) helps Myrrha and she gives birth to a baby boy. Adonis grows up and gets some retribution for what has happened to his mother by making Venus (the goddess of love) fall in love with him. Cupid (Venus’ son)  accidentally grazes her breast with one of Cupid’s  magic arrows and she falls in love with Adonis.

Ovid then creates a story within a story as Venus then tells the story of Atalanta (daughter of Iasus and virgin huntress)  and Hippomenes (descendant of Poseidon).  Atalanta, trying to evade getting married, challenges her suitors to a running race. She offers herself as the prize for success and their death if they fail.  Venus helps Hippomenes trick Atalanta so he wins the race. However, Hippomenes forgets to thank Venus for her help and she inflames the pairs passions so much they desecrate a sacred spot of Cybele’s (Anatoian mother goddess) and they are turned into Lions as punishment.

Adonis is mortally wounded by a boar, and a flower, the anemone sprang up from his blood to commemorate Venus’ grief.




Themes, Analysis and Relevance

In Book 10 some of the following ideas and themes are explored:

  • ‘Unnatural’ Love: There is a strong undercurrent of subversiveness in this book-particularly in relation to sexual love. This is in direct contrast to the examples we have seen of ‘amor’ in previous books. We have Orpheus assuaging the loss of Eurydice with his new love of young boys, and we have Myrrha in her incestuous relationship with her father. Judgement of these unnatural acts is often veiled or masked.
  • Moral Transformations: There are relatively few actual metamorphoses in this particular book, rather we are given depictions of ‘moral transformations’. We have firstly the Propoetides and their moral  ‘metamorphoses’ into prostitutes:  and then the even more catastrophic moral impiety of ignoring Venus, which actually is the act that turns them into stone- not the prostitution. It is the change in morality that is flagged up as more important than the physical calcification. And secondly in  Pygmalion we have love for an object, ‘aesthetic love’ turned into ‘real’ love; from  aesthetic objectification, to fantasy,  to reality.
  • Reality Versus Fantasy: In this book Ovid challenges the notion of the boarders between reality and fantasy, and the notion of subject and object. This is subtly depicted by the transforming relationship Pygmalion has with the sculpture he has created. As his involvement with his art transforms from aesthetic love into the world of his imagination, to the moment with his fantasy becomes real. In this depiction Ovid blurs and challenges the lines of reality and fantasy asking which is the better?


Things of Interest:


Orpheus and Eurydice by C.W. Gluck (1774) 

Dance of the Blessed Spirits


George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion

“I can’t turn your soul on. Leave me those feelings; and you can take away the voice and the face. They are not you.”  (From Pygmallion by George Bernard Shaw) 


Theatre Guild Radio Production


Optional Prompts and Verse Form

Prompts: Love, Remembering, city, extermination, prophesy, Stone, Pleasure, Water, Attachment, Guilt, Photograph

Verse Form:  Urjuzah  – The rajaz metre calls for lines of 24 syllables, divided into two hemistichs (or half-lines) of 12 syllables, with a caesura (or break) between them. Each hemistich contains three similar feet, of 4 syllables each. The third syllable is unstressed, and all the others are stressed – “dum-dum-di-dum”. In Western prosody, such a foot (which doesn’t arise all that often) would be called a third epitrite.

See here for more information.

n.b. Here is an  audio of the tale of ‘Hyacinth’ in case any of you are too busy to read the book.


Watch out for more poetry inspired by Book 8 coming out throughout October and November.

To confirm: the deadline for Book 9 Poetry is Wednesday 30th October.  



Brunauer, Dalma H (1996) The Metamorphoses of Ovid, New Jersey Research and Education Association

Hughes, T (1997) Tales from Ovid, London: Faber and Faber

Liveley, G. (2011) Ovid’s Metamorphoses, A Reader’s Guide,  London: continuum

Ovid (1986) Metamorphoses, World Classics, tr. A.D. Melville, Oxford: Oxford University Press





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