[…] quo sola timorem
ferre modo posses? quo consolante doleres?
namque ego, crede mihi, si te quoque pontus haberet,
te sequerer, coniunx, et me quoque pontus haberet.
o utinam possim populos reparare paternis
artibus atque animas formatae infundere terrae!
nunc genus in nobis restat mortale duobus
(sic visum superis) hominumque exempla manemus.’
Dixerat, et flebant.  placuit caeleste precari
numen et auxilium per sacras quaerere sortes.
(Met. 1.359-68)

[…] how could you
take the fear by yourself?  Who would console you?
Indeed, I know (believe you me) that if you had been also taken by the sea,
I would have followed you, my wife, and the sea would have me as well.
Oh, that I could restore humanity with my father’s
arts and could flood the reformed earth with living souls!
Now we alone are the two remaining
examples of the human race (so it seemed fitting to the gods).”
He spoke and they wept.  They decided to pray to the gods
in heaven and to ask for help through sacred rites.

There is the rest of Deucalion’s speech.  From the pragmatic assessment of their misfortunes in the first half, Deucalion descends rather quickly into despair.  His lamentations might seem a bit melodramatic, and perhaps they are, but you gotta give the guy some slack – he did just survive the apocalypse, after all.  The pessimism on display here actually has a strong tradition in speeches by epic heroes.  The scene it most recalls is the speech that introduces Aeneas, the hero of Vergil’s Aeneid:

[…] ’o terque quaterque beati,
quis ante ora patrum Troiae sub moenibus altis
contigit oppetere! o Danaum fortissime gentis
Tydide!  mene Iliacis occumbere campis
non potuisse tuaque animam hanc effundere dextra
saevus ubi Aecidae telo iacet Hector, ubi ingens
Sarpedon, ubi tot Simois correpta sub undis
scuta virum galeasque et fortia corpora voluit!’
(Vergil, Aen. 1.94-101)

[…] ‘o three and four times blessed [are they],
who managed to die before their fathers’ eyes under the high walls of Troy!
O Achilles, strongest of the Greek race!
Why could I not have died on Ilian fields,
and poured out my spirit by your right hand,
where savage Hector lies by your weapon, where huge
Sarpedon lies, where the Simois whirls
shields, helmets and strong bodies of men dragged down under its waves!’

At least Deucalion, despite his despair, still holds out the hope of life for himself and Pyrrha.  The first point of this comparison is to emphasise that weeping and despairing are not unbecoming of an epic hero; ancient heroes are in touch with their emotions and regularly express them with dramatic speeches.  Second, I want to point out an actual thematic link between Vergil’s Aeneas and Ovid’s Deucalion.  Between the two speeches, the facts and words are different, but the scenario is comparable: Vergil’s Aeneas watched his home and family destroyed (in the siege and sack of Troy); he is a drift in a storm of (literally) epic proportions.  Aeneas is subjected to a storm by the goddess Juno, who is intent on his never reaching Italy and establishing the Roman race.  Vergil’s storm, as scholars such as Hardie* have noted, contains references to the Gigantomachy (among other clashes of supernatural forces).  The references to cosmic violence emphasise the terrible nature of Vergil’s storm, and reflect how the Trojan world has been cast into apocalyptic confusion.  Ovid’s response to Vergil, whose poem was perhaps the defining book of his generation, was to put an actual cosmic storm in his first book.  The agents are the same: the gods order the winds to stir up the seas against mortals.  Ovid has simply taken Vergil’s hyperbole and made it literal.

Okay, it’s now time to talk about just who Deucalion and Pyrrha are.  At the beginning of his speech, Deucalion called Pyrrha his “sister and wife”.  This is actually not their true relationship; I think Barchiesi is right in assuming that this line is supposed to evoke Jupiter and Juno, who are both siblings and spouses, not mention supreme couple of the cosmos.**  While incest doesn’t matter to gods, it’s a little more complicated for humans.  Brother-sister marriages in antiquity were not unheard of, but were definitely not the norm.  However, Deucalion and Pyrrha are not siblings; they are first-cousins.  It doesn’t make the situation much more palatable to modern audiences, but in myth these sorts of things can slide.  Deucalion is the son of Prometheus, the Titan god who is often credited with creating humanity.***  Pyrrha is the daughter of Prometheus’ lesser known, less-talented brother, Epimetheus.  If we assume Ovid followed the genealogy by which Epimetheus married Pandora, the first woman, then Pyrrha’s status as the last woman is ironic.  Indeed, there is a fair bit of irony all around in the children of mankind’s greatest benefactors and progenitors being left to see humanity destroyed.  Can they live up to their parents’ legacies?  Will the world be “flooded” with people, as Deucalion wishes, or will they perish too?  Tune in next time for the answers and much much more!

*Hardie (1986), 90-7

**Barchiesi (2008), 197

***As indeed Deucalion implies in his speech.  Remembering the cosmogony earlier, we know that Ovid is ambiguous on just who created mortals.