Metamorphoses Book 8, Lines 200 - 235

Daedalus and Icarus

by Ovid

In this extract, Ovid tells the story of Daedalus, the legendary craftsman who built the Cretan Labyrinth to hold the Minotaur, and his child Icarus, who flew too close to the Sun. The things that Daedalus tells Icarus not to look at are all constellations.

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postquam manus ultima coepto
inposita est, geminas opifex libravit in alas
ipse suum corpus motaque pependit in aura;
instruit et natum “medio” que “ut limite curras,
Icare,” ait “moneo ne, si demissior ibis,
unda gravet pennas, si celsior, ignis adurat:
inter utrumque vola. Nec te spectare Boöten
aut Helicen iubeo strictumque Orionis ensem:
me duce carpe viam!” pariter praecepta volandi
tradit et ignotas umeris accommodat alas.
inter opus monitusque genae maduere seniles,
et patriae tremuere manus; dedit oscula nato
non iterum repetenda suo pennisque levatus
ante volat comitique timet, velut ales, ab alto
quae teneram prolem produxit in aera nido,
hortaturque sequi damnosasque erudit artes
et movet ipse suas et nati respicit alas.
hos aliquis tremula dum captat harundine pisces,
aut pastor baculo stivaque innixus arator
vidit et obstipuit, quique aethera carpere possent,
credidit esse deos. Et iam Iunonia laeva
parte Samos (fuerant Delosque Parosque relictae)
dextra Lebinthos erat fecundaque melle Calymne,
cum puer audaci coepit gaudere volatu
deseruitque ducem caelique cupidine tractus
altius egit iter. Rapidi vicinia solis
mollit odoratas, pennarum vincula, ceras,
tabuerant cerae: nudos quatit ille lacertos,
remigioque carens non ullas percipit auras,
oraque caerulea patrium clamantia nomen
excipiuntur aqua, quae nomen traxit ab illo.
at pater infelix, nec iam pater, “Icare”, dixit
“Icare,” dixit, “ubi es? qua te regione requiram?
Icare”, dicebat: pennas aspexit in undis
devovitque suas artes corpusque sepulcro
condidit et tellus a nomine dicta sepulti.

The finishing touch done, the inventor
balanced his body on the pair of wings
and hung in the beaten air; and told his son
“I warn, you travel in the middle path,
Icarus, if you go lower the sea may weigh down
your wings, if higher the Sun may scorch them:
fly in between. Don’t watch Boötes or Helice,
or Orion’s drawn sword: follow me and keep
to the path”! manwhile he gives the rules for flying
and fits the unfamiliar wings to his son’s shoulders.
As he worked and warned, the father’s old cheeks
were wet, his hands shook; he gave his son kisses,
not to be repeated, and rising on his feathers flies
ahead, fretting for his companion like a bird, which
has led its tender chick from the nest to the air,
urges him to follow and teaches him his fatal skills
flapping his own wings and watching his son’s.
An angler catching fish with his bending rod, or
shepherd or ploughman, leant on staff or rig
spots them dumbstruck, and believes, if you can fly,
you must be gods. Now Juno’s isle, Samos,
was on the left, Delos and Paros already past,
on the right was Lebinthos and honey-rich Calymne,
when the boy began to revel in reckless flight
left his guide and, drawn by desire for the sky,
pressed higher. The nearness of the swift Sun
softened the fragrant wax that held the feathers,
they melted: he flapped bare shoulders,
without his oars he had no hold on the air,
and his face, calling his Father’s name was
swallowed by the blue sea that took his name.
The unhappy Father, a father no more, called
“Icarus, where are you? Where will I find you?
Icarus!” speaking, he saw feathers on the water.
He cursed his invention, set his son in a tomb
and that land takes its name from the boy buried there.