Nemorale

Willem van Mieris, Diana en haar nimfen, 1702
Willem van Mieris, Diana en haar nimfen (1702)

This is part 1 of 3. Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here.

Vallis erat piceis et acuta densa cupressu,
nomine Gargaphie, succinctae sacra Dianae,
cuius in extremo est antrum nemorale recessu
arte laboratum nulla: simulaverat artem
ingenio natura suo; nam pumice vivo
et levibus tofis nativum duxerat arcum.
fons sonat a dextra tenui perlucidus unda,
margine gramineo patulos incinctus hiatus.
hic dea silvarum venatu fessa solebat
virgineos artus liquido perfundere rore.
quo postquam subiit, nympharum tradidit uni
armigerae iaculum pharetramque arcusque retentos,
altera depositae subiecit bracchia pallae,
vincla duae pedibus demunt; nam doctior illis
Ismenis Crocale sparsos per colla capillos
colligit in nodum, quamvis erat ipsa solutis.
excipiunt laticem Nepheleque Hyaleque Rhanisque
et Psecas et Phiale funduntque capacibus urnis.
(Ovid, Met. 3.155-172)

There is a grove of pine and cypresses
known as Gargraphie, a hidden place
most sacred to the celibate Diana;
and deep in its recesses is a grotto
artlessly fabricated by the genius
of Nature, which, in imitating Art,
had shaped a natural organic arch
out of the living pumice and light tufa.
Before this little grotto, on the right,
a fountain burbles; its pellucid stream
widens to form a pool edged round with turf;
here the great goddess of the woods would come
to bathe her virgin limbs in its cool waters,
when hunting wearied her.
She is here today;
arriving, she hands the Armoress of Nymphs
her spear, her quiver, and her unstrung bow;
and while one nymph folds her discarded robe
over an arm, two more remove her sandals,
and that accomplished Theban nymph, Crocale,
gathers the stray hairs on Diana’s neck
into a knot (we cannot help but notice
that her own hair is left in careless freedom!);
five other nymphs, whose names are Nephele,
Hyale, Rhanis, Psecas, and Phiale,
fetch and pour water from enormous urns.
(tr. Charles Martin)

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