"Metamorphoses," Vocabulary from Book 2

Ovid's "Metamorphoses" are tales full of shape-shifters and the supernatural, but the storytelling is grounded in a realism which transcends the mythology. (etext found here).

Learn these word lists for the tales: Book 1, Book 2, Book 3, Book 4, Book 5, Book 6, Book 7.

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. illustrious
    having or conferring glory
    'Till pressing forward through the bright abode,
    He saw at distance the illustrious God:
    He saw at distance, or the dazling light
    Had flash'd too strongly on his aching sight.
    "Illustrious" also means "widely known and esteemed"--this applies to the Sun God Phoebus, but the chosen definition fits the example sentence better because it describes the glory or "brilliant radiant beauty" that is emphasized by the "dazzling light" that hurts Phaeton's sight.
  2. exalt
    raise in rank, character, or status
    The God sits high, exalted on a throne
    Of blazing gems, with purple garments on;
  3. hoary
    covered with fine whitish hairs or down
    Here Spring appears with flow'ry chaplets bound;
    Here Summer in her wheaten garland crown'd;
    Here Autumn the rich trodden grapes besmear;
    And hoary Winter shivers in the rear.
  4. repent
    feel sorry for; be contrite about
    The God repented of the oath he took,
    For anguish thrice his radiant head he shook;
    "My son," says he, "some other proof require,
    Rash was my promise, rash is thy desire.
  5. precipice
    a very steep cliff
    Tethys herself has fear'd to see me driv'n
    Down headlong from the precipice of Heav'n.
  6. celestial
    relating to or inhabiting a divine heaven
    Still anxious for his son, the God of day,
    To make him proof against the burning ray,
    His temples with celestial ointment wet,
    Of sov'reign virtue to repel the heat;
  7. moderate
    make less fast or intense
    "Take this at least, this last advice, my son,
    Keep a stiff rein, and move but gently on:
    The coursers of themselves will run too fast,
    Your art must be to moderate their haste.
  8. disperse
    to cause to separate and go in different directions
    See, while I speak, the shades disperse away,
    Aurora gives the promise of a day;
  9. prodigious
    great in size, force, extent, or degree
    Now all the horrors of the Heav'ns he spies,
    And monstrous shadows of prodigious size,
    That, deck'd with stars, lie scatter'd o'er the skies.
  10. conflagration
    a very intense and uncontrolled fire
    The running conflagration spreads below.
    But these are trivial ills: whole cities burn,
    And peopled kingdoms into ashes turn.
  11. epitaph
    an inscription in memory of a buried person
    And o'er the tomb an epitaph devise:
    "Here he, who drove the sun's bright chariot, lies;
    His father's fiery steeds he cou'd not guide,
    But in the glorious enterprise he died."
  12. verdant
    characterized by abundance of verdure
    She tears the bark that to each body cleaves,
    And from their verdant fingers strips the leaves:
    The blood came trickling, where she tore away
    The leaves and bark: the maids were heard to say,
    "Forbear, mistaken parent, oh! forbear;
    A wounded daughter in each tree you tear;
    "Verdure" means the green, lush, growing nature of leaves or other vegetation, and indicates a healthy condition or state. In the example sentence, the verdant leaves contrast with red blood, both of which come from Phaeton's sisters, who have turned into trees from their grief.
  13. limpid
    transmitting light; able to be seen through with clarity
    The limpid streams their radiant treasure show,
    Mixt in the sand; whence the rich drops convey'd
    Shine in the dress of the bright Latian maid.
  14. abhor
    find repugnant
    Meanwhile Apollo in a gloomy shade
    (The native lustre of his brows decay'd)
    Indulging sorrow, sickens at the sight
    Of his own sun-shine, and abhors the light;
  15. quiver
    case for holding arrows
    Now in her hand a slender spear she bore,
    Now a light quiver on her shoulders wore;
  16. baseness
    unworthiness by virtue of lacking higher values
    This boy shall stand a living mark, to prove
    My husband's baseness and the strumpet's love:
  17. usurp
    seize and take control without authority
    You'll see, when night has cover'd all things o'er,
    Jove's starry bastard and triumphant whore
    Usurp the Heav'ns;
  18. venerable
    profoundly honored
    But you, ye venerable Pow'rs, be kind,
    And, if my wrongs a due resentment find,
    Receive not in your waves their setting beams,
    Nor let the glaring strumpet taint your streams."
  19. hasten
    act or move at high speed
    I hasten to a brute, a maid no more;
    But why, alas! am I transform'd all o'er?
  20. insidious
    intended to entrap
    The theft an old insidious peasant view'd
    (They call'd him Battus in the neighbourhood),
    Hir'd by a wealthy Pylian prince to feed
    His fav'rite mares, and watch the gen'rous breed.
  21. heifer
    young cow
    The thievish God suspected him, and took
    The hind aside, and thus in whispers spoke:
    "Discover not the theft, whoe'er thou be,
    And take that milk-white heifer for thy fee."
  22. lofty
    of imposing height; especially standing out above others
    This done, the God flew up on high, and pass'd
    O'er lofty Athens, by Minerva grac'd,
    And wide Munichia, whilst his eyes survey
    All the vast region that beneath him lay.
    "Lofty" also means "having or displaying great dignity or nobility" and "of high moral or intellectual value"--although the example sentence is focused on the physical height of the city that the God (Mercury) is flying over, all three definitions would be fitting for Athens.
  23. pompous
    characterized by ceremony and stately display
    The God well pleas'd beheld the pompous show,
    And saw the bright procession pass below;
    Remember that the melody "Pomp and Circumstance" plays when graduates enter the graduation ceremony. While graduates might connect to the other definition of "pompous" ("puffed up with vanity"), the maids in the bright procession would not, because they are returning from paying homage to the goddess Minerva and are described as "solemn" ("dignified and somber in manner or character").
  24. woo
    make amorous advances towards
    "I come," replied the God, "from Heav'n, to woo
    Your sister, and to make an aunt of you;
  25. smitten
    affected by something overwhelming
    Full of the dream, Aglauros pin'd away
    In tears all night, in darkness all the day;
    Consum'd like ice, that just begins to run,
    When feebly smitten by the distant sun;
    "Smitten" is the past participle of "smite" which means "inflict a heavy blow on, with the hand, a tool, or a weapon" and "affect suddenly with deep feeling"--both definitions fit, because Aglauros was stroked by the hands of Envy and stung with prickly thorns. This causes her to hate the god who, smitten with her sister, asked for her help. She is compared to ice that is smitten by the sun, but instead of melting, she is transformed into marble when she breaks her promise to the god.
  26. sedentary
    requiring sitting or little activity
    She sits unmov'd, and freezes to a stone.
    But still her envious hue and sullen mien
    Are in the sedentary figure seen.
  27. allay
    satisfy, as thirst
    When now the God his fury had allay'd,
    And taken vengeance of the stubborn maid,
    From where the bright Athenian turrets rise
    He mounts aloft, and re-ascends the skies.
  28. sublime
    lifted up or set high
    Jove saw him enter the sublime abodes,
    And, as he mix'd among the crowd of Gods,
    Beckon'd him out, and drew him from the rest,
    And in soft whispers thus his will exprest.
    "Sublime" also means "worthy of adoration or reverence" and "inspiring awe" and "of high moral or intellectual value"--while the example sentence focuses on Mercury flying up into the sky to enter Olympus, these three definitions could also describe the home of the Gods.
  29. languish
    have a desire for something or someone who is not present
    His eye-balls rowl'd, not formidably bright,
    But gaz'd and languish'd with a gentle light.
  30. wanton
    casual and unrestrained in sexual behavior
    'Till now grown wanton and devoid of fear,
    Not knowing that she prest the Thunderer,
    She plac'd her self upon his back, and rode
    O'er fields and meadows, seated on the God.

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