[…] fugit ocior aura
illa levi neque ad haec revocantis verba resistit:
“nympha, precor, Penei, mane! non insequor hostis;
nympha, mane! sic agna lupum, sic cerva leonem,
sic aquilam penna fugiunt trepidante columbae,
hostes quaeque suos; amor est mihi causa sequendi.
[…] she flees more swiftly than the light wind
nor does she stop to listen to these words of the one who is calling her back:
“Nymph of Peneus, please wait! it’s not an enemy that is following you;
Nymph, wait! This is how a lamb flees a wolf, how a deer flees a lion,
how doves flee the eagle on fearful feathers,
how anyone flees their enemies; love is my reason for following you.
Well, we all should have seen that coming (I mean, even those of us who haven’t read this poem a bajillion times). Daphne is cursed to flee, and Apollo and doomed to chase. What Ovid is doing in this scene is accentuating the cliches of Roman love poetry to the point they become literal: guys are always chasing after girls. Philip Hardie actually has a really fantastic analysis of Daphne as a consumate metaphor for the “beloved girl” (puella amata) character of Roman love elegy (Hardie: 2002, 45-50). That is a dynamic that will colour this episode from start to finish. In these lines, however, we see the emergence of another type of imagery, one that is less expected but which will feature throughout the Metamorphoses: hunting. If today we say, “love is a battlefield”, the Romans would be inclined to say, “love is a hunt” (although they also used military imagery in love poetry). Ovid himself tells his male students in the Art of Love that they should do their “hunting” in various places around Rome, setting up the imagery of love as one of lovers attempting to ensnare each other. While Ovid revealed in the third book of the Art of Love that women have their own kinds of traps for men, here in the Daphne and Apollo episode, the hunting dynamic is much more literal. Apollo is literally chasing down Daphne through the woods. His denial of this (“I’m not a wolf, you’re not a lamb”) actually strengthens the imagery, and Apollo’s words ring both ironic and hollow. We’ll see Ovid actually contradict Apollo on the next page (you ARE a wolf and she IS a lamb), but I wanted to introduce you to the topic of hunting here, just at the lines where Ovid himself introduces the dynamic. If you want to read more in the meantime on hunting and love in the Metamorphoses, Gregson Davis’ book, The Death of Procris (1983), is indispensible.
You might be inclined to get a good book and stick your feet up, because I haven’t been updating this comic as quickly as I should be. It turns out, finishing a PhD is a lot of work, and you don’t get to take much of a break even after submission. I have now defended the dissertation, however, and I am speeding towards the conclusion of this doctoral odyssey! I will be applying to jobs and preparing articles for publication over the next few months, but I am also determined to get this comic back on schedule. Look out for more updates in the near future – until then, thank you for reading and waiting patiently!