Ovid, Metamorphoses, VIII, ll.183-235 [Daedalus and Icarus].

[Source: Trans. Robert Kern Curtius Curtius LLD and Faculty Adviser at Hackenstack High School. He is also associated with Brooklyn Prep School, a Jesuit foundation - [online].







Daedalus interea Creten longumque perosus
exilium tactusque loci natalis amore
clausus erat pelago. “terras licet” inquit “et undas
obstruat: et caelum certe patet; ibimus illac:
omnia possideat, non possidet aera Minos.”
dixit et ignotas animum dimittit in artes
naturamque novat. nam ponit in ordine pennas
aminima coeptas, longam breviore sequenti,
ut clivo crevisse putes: sic rustica quondam
fistula disparibus paulatim surgit avenis;
tum lino medias et ceris alligat imas
atque ita conpositas parvo curvamine flectit,
ut veras imitetur aves. puer Icarus una
atabat et, ignarus sua se tractare pericla,
ore renidenti modo, quas vaga moverat aura,
captabat plumas, flavam modo pollice ceram
mollibat lususque suo mirabile patris
impediebat opus. postquam manus ultima coepto
inposita est, geminas opifex libravit in alas
ipse suum corpus motaque pependit in aura;
instruit et natum “medio” que “ut limite curras,
Icare,” ait “moneo, ne, si demissior ibis,
unda gravet pennas, si celsior, ignis adurat:
inter utrumque vola. nec te spectare Booten
aut Helicen iubeo strictumque Orionis ensem:
me duce carpe viam!” pariter parecepta volandi
tradit et ignotas umeris accommodat alas.
inter opus monitusque henae maduere seniles,
et patriae tremuere manus; dedit oscula nato
non iterum repetenda suo pennisque levatus
ante volat comitique timet, velut ales, ab alto
quae teneram prolem produxit in aera nido,
hortaturque sequi damnosasque erudit artes
et movet ipse suas et nati respicit alas.
hos aliquis tremula dum captat harundine pisces,
aut pastor baculo stivave innixus arator
vidit et obstipuit, quique aethera carpere possent,
credidit esse deos. et iam Iunonia laeva
parte Samos (fuerant Delosque Parosque relictae)
dextra Lebinthos erat fecundaque melle Calymne
cum puer audaci coepit gaudere volatu
deseruitque ducem caelique cupidine tractus
altius egit iter. rapidi vicinia solis
mollit odoratas, pennarum vincula, ceras;
tabuerant cerae: nudos quatit ille lacertos,
remigioque carens non ullas percipit auras,
oraque caerulea patrium clamantia nomen
excipiuntur aqua, quae nomen traxit ab illo.
at pater infelix, nec iam pater, “Icare,” dixit,
“Icare,” dixit “ubi es? qua te regione requiram?”
“Icare” dicebat: pennas aspexit in undis
devovitque suas artes corpusque sepulcro
condidit, et tellus a nomine dicta sepulti.
Meanwhile Daedalus, hating Crete and his long exile, and longing to see his native land, was shut in by the sea. “Though he may block escape by land and water,” he said, “yet the sky is open, and by that way I will go. Though Minos rules over all, he does not rule the air.” So saying, he sets his mind at work upon unknown arts, and changes the laws of nature. For he lays feathers in order, beginning at the smallest, short next to long, so you would think they had grown on a slope. Just so the old-fashioned rustic pan-pipes with their unequal reeds rise one above another.Then he fastened the feathers together with twine and wax at the middle and bottom; and, thus arranged, he bent them with a gentle curve, so that they looked like real birds’ wings.
 His son, Icarus, was standing by and, little knowing that he was handling his own peril, with gleeful face would now catch at the feathers which some passing breeze had blown about, now mold the yellow wax with his thumb, and by his sport would hinder his father’s wonderful task. When now the finishing touches had been put upon the work, the master workman himself balanced his body on two wings and hung poised on the beaten air. He taught his son also and said: “I warn you, Icarus, to fly in a middle course, lest, if you go too low, the water may weight your wings; if you go too high, the fire may burn them. Fly between the two. And I bid you not to shape your course like Bootes or Helice or the drawn sword of Orion, but fly where I shall lead.” At the same time he tells him the rules of flight and fits the strange wings on his boy’s shoulders. While he works and talks the old man’s cheeks are wet with tears, and his fatherly hands tremble. He kisses his son, which he was destined never again to do, and rising on his wings, he flew on ahead, fearing for his companion, just like a bird which has led forth her fledglings from the high nest into the unsubstantial air.
 He encourages the boy to follow, instructs him in the fatal art of flight, himself flapping his wings and looking back on his son. Now some fisherman spies them, angling for fish with his flexible rod, or a shepherd, leaning upon his crook, or a plowman, on his plow-handles - spies them and stands stupefied, and believes them to be gods that they could fly through the air. And now Juno’s sacred Samos had been passed on the left, and Delos and Paros; Lebinthos was on the right and Calymne, rich in honey, when the boy began to rejoice in his bold flight and, deserting his leader, led by a desire for the open sky, directed his course to a greater height. The scorching rays of the nearer sun softened the fragrant wax which held his wings.
 The wax melted; his arms were bare as he beat them up and down, but, lacking wings, they took no hold on the air. His lips, calling to the last upon his father’s name, were drowned in the dark blue sea, which took its name from him. But the unhappy father, now no longer father, called: “Icarus, Icarus, where are you? In what place shall I seek you? Icarus,” he called again; and then he spied the wings floating on the deep, and cursed his skill. He buried the boy in a tomb, and the land was called for the buried boy.
—Translated by Frank Justus Miller

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