"Metamorphoses," Vocabulary from Book 4

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. propitious
    presenting favorable circumstances
    Come, Bacchus, come propitious, all implore,
    And act thy sacred orgies o'er and o'er.
  2. impertinent
    improperly forward or bold
    But Mineus' daughters, while these rites were paid,
    At home, impertinently busy, stay'd.
  3. dexterous
    skillful in physical movements; especially of the hands
    Their wicked tasks they ply with various art,
    And thro' the loom the sliding shuttle dart;
    Or at the fire to comb the wool they stand,
    Or twirl the spindle with a dext'rous hand.
  4. perplexed
    full of difficulty or confusion or bewilderment
    She said: her sisters lik'd the humour well,
    And smiling, bade her the first story tell.
    But she a-while profoundly seem'd to muse,
    Perplex'd amid variety to choose:
  5. lewd
    suggestive of or tending to moral looseness
    Or how lewd Nais, when her lust was cloy'd,
    To fishes turn'd the youths, she had enjoy'd,
    By pow'rful verse, and herbs; effect most strange!
  6. encumbered
    loaded to excess or impeded by a heavy load
    There they might rest secure beneath the shade,
    Which boughs, with snowy fruit encumber'd, made:
  7. supine
    lying face upward
    Then in his breast his shining sword he drown'd,
    And fell supine, extended on the ground.
  8. haughty
    having or showing arrogant superiority
    Stung at the sight, and swift on mischief bent,
    To haughty Juno's shapeless son he went:
  9. bellows
    a mechanical device that blows a strong current of air
    Poor Vulcan soon desir'd to hear no more,
    He drop'd his hammer, and he shook all o'er:
    Then courage takes, and full of vengeful ire
    He heaves the bellows, and blows fierce the fire:
    One who "bellows" can be considered "full of hot air"--Vulcan is both bellowing with ire ("a strong emotion toward some real or supposed grievance") and using a mechanical bellows to fan a fire that would help him make a brass net to catch his wife Venus and her lover Mars.
  10. niggardly
    petty or reluctant in giving or spending
    The lamp of light, for human good design'd,
    Is to one virgin niggardly confin'd.
  11. ambrosia
    the food and drink of the gods
    Ambrosia there they eat, and thence they gain
    New vigour, and their daily toils sustain.
    A traditional ambrosia is a creamy fruit salad made of oranges, bananas, and shredded coconut--this could be what the Sun God's horses enjoy each day so that they have the vigor ("active strength of body") to pull the chariot across the sky each morning.
  12. frankincense
    an aromatic gum resin formerly valued for worship
    The body soon dissolv'd, and all around
    Perfum'd with heav'nly fragrancies the ground,
    A sacrifice for Gods up-rose from thence,
    A sweet, delightful tree of frankincense.
  13. peevish
    easily irritated or annoyed
    You too would peevish frown, and patience want
    To hear, how Celmis grew an adamant.
  14. ruddy
    inclined to a healthy reddish color
    The boy knew nought of love, and toucht with shame,
    He strove, and blusht, but still the blush became:
    In rising blushes still fresh beauties rose;
    The sunny side of fruit such blushes shows,
    And such the moon, when all her silver white
    Turns in eclipses to a ruddy light.
    "Blush" is repeated many times here to emphasize the young boy's embarrassment at knowing nothing about love. In addition to the reddening of his face, the example sentence describes the redness of fruit touched by the sun and of eclipses touched by moonlight. With an innocence to match his blushing shame, the young boy tells the nymph to either leave him alone or he will leave.
  15. feign
    give a false appearance of
    "Fair stranger then," says she, "it shall be so";
    And, for she fear'd his threats, she feign'd to go:
    But hid within a covert's neighbouring green,
    She kept him still in sight, herself unseen.
  16. vesper
    a late afternoon or evening worship service
    In towns, not woods, the sooty bats delight,
    And, never, 'till the dusk, begin their flight;
    'Till Vesper rises with his ev'ning flame;
    From whom the Romans have deriv'd their name.
    "Vesper" means "evening" in Latin, and it is being used here to refer to the God of Evening, similar to how "helios" means "sun" in Greek, which makes Helios the Sun God (although he is often replaced by Apollo).
  17. consort
    the husband or wife of a reigning monarch
    Imperial Juno saw her with disdain,
    Vain in her offspring, in her consort vain,
    Who rul'd the trembling Thebans with a nod,
    But saw her vainest in her foster-God.
  18. baleful
    deadly or sinister
    Down a steep, yawning cave, where yews display'd
    In arches meet, and lend a baleful shade,
    Thro' silent labyrinths a passage lies
    To mournful regions, and infernal skies.
  19. noisome
    offensively malodorous
    Here Styx exhales its noisome clouds, and here,
    The fun'ral rites once paid, all souls appear.
  20. implacable
    incapable of being appeased or pacified
    Before a lofty, adamantine gate,
    Which clos'd a tow'r of brass, the Furies sate:
    Mis-shapen forms, tremendous to the sight,
    Th' implacable foul daughters of the night.
    "Adamantine" and "implacable" could be synonyms--although the example sentence is using "adamantine" to describe a gate that is as hard as diamond, this is a gate of the Underworld, so it would be as "impervious to pleas, persuasion, requests, reason" as the Furies who are guarding it are incapable of being placated ("cause to be more favorably inclined").
  21. efface
    remove completely from recognition or memory
    And that revenge the Furies soon could grant:
    They could the glory of proud Thebes efface,
    And hide in ruin the Cadmean race.
    Es (out) + face (appearance): to literally rub the face away, or rub off "the face of the earth"--which the Furies attempt to do to Thebes by shaking the palace, withering the grass, and infecting the king and queen with so much poison that one smashes his baby son against a wall and the other jumps into the sea with her other son.
  22. boon
    something that is desirable, favorable, or beneficial
    To gain this trifling boon, there is no need
    (She cried) in formal speeches to proceed.
  23. gird
    bind with something round or circular
    Girt in a bloody gown, a torch she shakes,
    And round her neck twines speckled wreaths of snakes.
    "Gird" also means "prepare oneself for a military confrontation"--this fits the example sentence because the bloody gown, torch, and snakes are weapons the Furies use to efface the kingdom of Thebes.
  24. lavish
    bestow or expend profusely
    She wide extended her unfriendly arms,
    And all the Fury lavish'd all her harms.
  25. rueful
    feeling or expressing pain or sorrow for sins or offenses
    The grinning Fury her own conquest spied,
    And to her rueful shades return'd with pride,
    And threw th' exhausted, useless snakes aside.
  26. amicable
    characterized by friendship and good will
    The transformation was again renew'd,
    And, like the husband, chang'd the wife they view'd.
    Both, serpents now, with fold involv'd in fold,
    To the next covert amicably roul'd.
  27. atone
    make amends for
    Andromeda was there, doom'd to atone
    By her own ruin follies not her own:
    And if injustice in a God can be,
    Such was the Libyan God's unjust decree.
  28. dowry
    money brought by a woman to her husband at marriage
    For her my arms I willingly employ,
    If I may beauties, which I save, enjoy.
    The parents eagerly the terms embrace:
    For who would slight such terms in such a case?
    Nor her alone they promise, but beside,
    The dowry of a kingdom with the bride.
  29. execrable
    unequivocally detestable
    Then in the windings of a sandy bed
    Compos'd Medusa's execrable head.
  30. prolific
    bearing in abundance especially offspring
    Then backward an unerring blow he sped,
    And from her body lopped at once her head.
    The gore prolific prov'd; with sudden force
    Sprung Pegasus, and wing'd his airy course.

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