Ovid - The Amores Book II Elegy VI; The Death of Corinna’s Pet Parrot
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Book II Elegy VI: The Death of Corinna’s Pet Parrot
Parrot, the mimic, the winged one from India’s Orient,
is dead – Go, birds, in a flock and follow him to the grave!
Go, pious feathered ones, beat your breasts with your wings
and mark your delicate cheeks with hard talons:
tear out your shaggy plumage, instead of hair, in mourning:
sound out your songs with long piping!
Philomela , mourning the crime of the Thracian tyrant,
the years of your mourning are complete:
divert your lament to the death of a rare bird –
Itys is a great but ancient reason for grief.
All who balance in flight in the flowing air,
and you, above others, his friend the turtle-dove, grieve!
All your lives you were in perfect concord,
and held firm in your faithfulness to the end.
What the youth from Phocis was to Orestes of Argos,
while she could be, Parrot, turtle-dove was to you.
What worth now your loyalty, your rare form and colour,
the clever way you altered the sound of your voice,
what joy in the pleasure given you by our mistress? –
Unhappy one, glory of birds, you’re certainly dead!
You could dim emeralds matched to your fragile feathers,
wearing a beak dyed scarlet spotted with saffron.
No bird on earth could better copy a voice –
or reply so well with words in a lisping tone!
You were snatched by Envy – you who never made war:
you were garrulous and a lover of gentle peace.
Behold, quails live fighting amongst themselves:
perhaps that’s why they frequently reach old age.
Your food was little, compared with your love of talking
you could never free your beak much for eating.
Nuts were his diet, and poppy-seed made him sleep,
and he drove away thirst with simple draughts of water.
Gluttonous vultures may live and kites, tracing spirals
in air, and jackdaws, informants of rain to come:
and the raven detested by armed Minerva lives too –
he whose strength can last out nine generations:
but that loquacious mimic of the human voice,
Parrot, the gift from the end of the earth, is dead!
The best are always taken first by greedy hands:
the worse make up a full span of years.
Thersites saw Protesilaus’s sad funeral,
and Hector was ashes while his brothers lived.
Why recall the pious prayers of my frightened girl for you –
prayers that a stormy south wind blew out to sea?
The seventh dawn came with nothing there beyond,
and Fate held an empty spool of thread for you.
Yet still the words from his listless beak astonished:
dying his tongue cried: ‘Corinna, farewell!’
A grove of dark holm oaks leafs beneath an Elysian slope,
the damp earth green with everlasting grass.
If you can believe it, they say there’s a place there
for pious birds, from which ominous ones are barred.
There innocuous swans browse far and wide
and the phoenix lives there, unique immortal bird:
There Juno’s peacock displays his tail-feathers,
and the dove lovingly bills and coos.
Parrot gaining a place among those trees
translates the pious birds in his own words.
A tumulus holds his bones – a tumulus fitting his size –
whose little stone carries lines appropriate for him:
‘His grave holds one who pleased his mistress:
his speech to me was cleverer than other birds’.