Scylla to Glaucus

Scylla was a beautiful but vain Nereid and Glaucus was a fisherman who had been turned into a merman by a twist of fate. One day he saw Scylla bathing on Aeaea and fell hopelessly in love with her, but she spurned his clumsy advances, running away from him in fright. Glaucus was not the first man she spurned, in fact she never gave her admirers the time of day, but dismissing them had never burned her before. Glaucus went to Circe for help and she suggested that he stay with her, since although she was powerful, she was lonely. He turned down her generous invite, so when he asked for some magical remedy which would help him win Scylla's affections, she made a potion which she told him would 'change' Scylla. As a result of this potion Scylla had six dogs sprouting out of her below the waist and, ashamed of her new hideous appearance, she took up residence in a cave on Aeaea where the dogs, which she could not control, ate passing sailors. Eventually, Scylla was turned into a rock which poses a threat to sailors to this day.

Why did you pursue me, Glaucus? Did I entice you?

Did I do anything to encourage your lust for me?

I did not. Instead, as any virtuous maiden would be,

I was shy when first you appeared before me.

Before our unfortunate meeting, I delighted in lying out in the sun

And swimming in the playful surf, laughing as sailors on the ships

I aided crowded to the railing, struck by my beauty.

They wondered at my divine shape, jostling at the rail,

And I caught my breath, fearing that in their adoration of me

They would forget themselves, lose their footing and plunge

Overboard into the unforgiving ocean, for this had happened before.

In his over eagerness one brave adventurer had fallen

To the mercy of the waves, and, because it was my beauty

Which had put his young life in peril,

I could not but rescue him, diving beneath the waves,

Catching my arms about his strong form

And pulling him to the surface once more.

Despite his protests and pleas to stay with me in the ocean,

Even if it meant his death, he being but mortal,

His shipmates brought him aboard once more

And I followed the ship at some distance to its destination,

Wishing to see my young admirer safely home,

But not wishing to see more of him than that.

Before we met I would run along the shore,

And then, at the height of midday, slipping into a clear, quiet pool

In which I might bathe and cleanse myself of happy toil,

it was there you found me, Galucus,

There with your rough blue arms did you mean

To make me yours. There, at my private retreat,

My sanctuary from unwanted and unworthy lovers

There did you make bold with you affections,

Expressing your crude desires in an even cruder,

More awkward speech.

I asked, and rightly so, whether you were a man

Or some monster of the sea, and you seemed wounded

By this fair query. A man with blue beard, tangles of seaweed

Sprouting from his neck and chin, the tail of a fish

Where his legs ought to have been.

Was I not right to be affrighted by this strange apparition?

Stranger still because it had the boldness to presume

That I would be impressed by your haughty claims.

A former mortal fisherman, you claimed to be, and now you

Inhabit the world and possess the partial body

Of that which you used to hunt and kill for profit.

Tell me, do you ever find yourself tallying

How great a fortune might have been yours if you had caught,

In your mortal life, in one day all the creatures of the sea

Whom you see each day that you live in Oceanus?

So wounded were you, by my words, crafted to hurt?

Words, what words? I said nothing to you, merely hid,

Affrighted, behind a tree and then, when you showed no signs

Of realizing your fault in wooing me, in pursuing me,

Me, one whom Poseidon has lusted after

And failed to impress as being worthy of my favors,

You showed no signs, again I say, of remitting your claim on me,

And I, being but a slip of a girl, and as such unable

To protect my virtue if the thought entered

Your uncouth head to force me to your bed,

As I, not having the gifts of Thetis,

Of being able to change shape at will to fend off

Unwelcome suitors, not being able to become a flame

Or a lion or a snake to frighten you away,

Not having these gifts I fled, never glancing back.

Had I cast you a lingering look, then you might have

Claimed that I was at least intrigued by you.

Then you might have had a leg to stand on,

In your pursuit of me. But you have no legs, creature!

And as you have no legs, no strong thighs to please me with,

What could we ever have done together?

And so you fled to Circe, the mad old turtle,

Begging her for some love potion, some spell

To make me take leave of my senses and submit to you.

But she, alone on her island but for the bestial men

Who have had the misfortune to land upon her shores

Lusted after you, with a desire as absurd, as fruitless and grotesque

As yours for me. She offered you the chance to be her consort,

To preside with her over her kingdom of beasts.

Indeed, you would have made quite a fit ruler

For such a kingdom, hodgepodge of 'man' that you are.

Thou fool, did you not see how you angered Circe

with your refusal? Did you not understand that,

Powerful as she is, and accustomed to having her will be law,

she would be outraged? She would not harm a slimy hair on

Your scaly head, for she was far too fond of you to cause you

Any hurt, but me? I was an easy target for her malice.

Not only her bruised pride at being caught out as

A lonely old fool, lusting after a mixed creature of land and air,

Absurd in and of himself, but she was also angered on your behalf

—did you not realize? Angered that you had been refused.

Her precious boy-fish, so seductive to her, had repulsed another?

Incredible to her, and since you had come to her, begging a potion

To be used on me anyway, she perceived a golden opportunity.

She could give you a potion, knowing full well that you

Would be too ignorant to inquire what, specifically, it would do,

And not nearly knowledgeable enough to know

What the herbs she gave you were used for.

Could you not have asked, before pouring the vile concoction

Into my bath, my favorite pool, where you had first seen me?

Ah, but she would have lied to you, spinning elegant falsehoods

As to how the potion would work to make me yours,

Because the crafty woman, child of Helios, knew that

If she breathed a word of the potion's true nature,

Of its true purpose, you would never have used it.

I have said many unkind things about you:

Your lack of refinement, the bizarreness of your shape,

Your simple, lustful nature, but one thing I will not say

Is that you carry hatred in your heart, or a desire for vengeance.

Though I had shunned you, I know that you did not intend me harm.

However, this does not lessen the burden of complicity

That you should feel in what happened to me!

Also, the fact that your affections are steady is admirable.

Granted, I would have preferred it if you had stayed with Circe

And that accursed potion had never been mixed in my pool,

But then you would have earned for yourself a reputation

As a fickle lover, something which is never worthy of praise.

Also, in staying with Circe, you would have been a fool.

Old, withered, bitter and hateful as she is, what guarantee

Would you have had that you would not join the many boars

In her forest which came to her shores as men?

She is indeed a terror of the seas, and all men

Would do well to shun her shores if they have any love for life,

But because of her, and your part in this sad affair too,

Because of the two of you the same is now said about me.

Me, who, until you appeared, was guiltless. I had never murdered,

Never attacked an innocent sailor whose only crime had been

To be on a ship sailing too close to Aeaea.

But now, because of you and that dreadful witch,

Against my will, and despite all I do to control the greedy pack,

My body count grows by six with every passing ship

Which is not swallowed whole by my unhappy cousin, Charybdis.

Alas, if only I had never returned to my lovely, secluded pool,

But I did not believe that the crude, blue-bearded man would return,

So I saw no reason to avoid the place. If only the memory

Of your coming there had been enough to frighten me

Into choosing a new favorite spot, my fate might have been changed,

But fool that I was, Oblivious to my fate,

I plunged headlong into the crystal clear waters,

Splashing happily and diving beneath the cool waves,

Enjoying how the sunlight glinted off my well-formed legs

And pale breasts, and understanding why so many men,

Upon seeing them, would profess their undying love for me.

I finished my bath – oh, if only I had taken more time to enjoy it!

If only I had know that these were to be my last moments of joy,

I would have savored them so much more. But no,

As was my custom, I laid myself out in the kind warmth

Of the sunlight to sleep whilst I dried, not giving a thought

To how lucky I was, being so fair of form and voice.

Upon waking – I still shudder to think on it, but now my fear,

Instead of drawing admirers to my side, wishing to comfort me

In some rough or tender fashion, now my fear causes the pack

To become restless, snapping their cruel jaws at each other.

That first moment of terror – you unwitting handiwork, clumsy fool,

– Of seeing the bulging eyes, the thick, misshapen necks,

the slavering jaws and razor-keen fangs at my waist.

Do you know what it is to have beasts growing out of you?!

To be so affrighted by your own appearance that you try to flee,

Only to find that YOU are the source of your terror?!

I now know what it is to be a monster, my love,

And I only wish that you could come to visit my humble home,

So that I might greet you properly, as a dutiful lover should.

How the pack would welcome you! That sight I would wish to see,

Even though it would mean your hideous shape paining my eyes

Beforehand.