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Metamorphoses
Ovid

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Bk IX:517-594 The fatal letter.

This idea pleases her, and this decision overcomes the doubt in her mind. Turning on one side and leaning on her left elbow, she says to herself: "Let him know: let me acknowledge my insane desires! Alas, where am I heading? What fire has my heart conceived?" And, with a trembling hand, she begins to set down the words she has contemplated. She holds the pen in her right hand, and a blank wax tablet in her left. She begins, then hesitates; writes and condemns the writing; scribbles and smoothes it out; alters, blames and approves; in turn lays down what she has lifted, and lifts what she has laid down. She does not know what to do, displeased with whatever she is about to do. In her expression, shame is mixed with boldness.
        
She had written "sister," but decided to efface the name of sister, and inscribed these words on the corrected tablet: "That wish, for long life, that she will not have, unless you grant it, one who loves you sends to you. She is ashamed, oh, ashamed to tell her name. And if you ask what I desire, I would have wished to plead my cause, namelessly, and not to have been identified, until the expectation of what I desired was certain, as Byblis.
        
True, you might have seen signs of my wounded heart in my pallor, thinness, features, eyes full of tears, sighs with no apparent cause, frequent embraces, kisses, which, if you had chanced to notice, might not have felt like a sister's. Yet, though my soul was deeply stricken, though the mad fire is in me, I have done everything I can (the gods are my witnesses) to become calmer. For a long time I have struggled, unhappily, to escape Cupid's onslaught, and I have suffered more hardship than you would think a girl could suffer. I am compelled to confess, I have lost, and to beg your help, with humble prayers. You alone can save your lover, you alone destroy her. Choose what you will. It is not your enemy who prays to you, but one who, though closest to you, seeks to be closer still, and bound to you with a tighter bond.
        
Let old people know what is right, and what is allowed, and what is virtue and what is sin, and preserve the fine balance of the law. At our age Love is what is fitting, that takes no heed. We do not know yet what is permitted, and we consider all things permitted, and follow the example of the great gods. We have no harsh father, no regard for reputation, and no fear to impede us. Even if there were cause for fear, we can hide sweet theft under the names of brother and sister. I am free to speak to you in private, and we can embrace and kiss in front of others. How important is what is still lacking? Pity the one who confesses her love, and would not confess if extreme desire did not force her, and do not you be the reason for the writing on my tomb."
        
Her handwriting filled the wax, with these fruitless words, the last line close to the edge. Immediately she put her seal on the sinful message, dampening it with her tears (moisture failed her tongue), stamping it with her signet ring. Shamefacedly, she called one of her servants, and shyly and coaxingly said: "You are most faithful. Take these to my..........brother," she added after a long silence. As she let them go, the tablets slipped and fell from her hand. She still sent the letter, troubled by the omen. Finding a suitable time, the messenger went, and delivered the hidden words. Horrified, Maeander's grandson, suddenly enraged, hurled away the tablets he had accepted, and partly read, and, scarcely able to keep his hands from the trembling servant's throat, cried: "Run while you can, you rascally aide to forbidden lust! I would deal you death, as a punishment, if your fate would not also drag our honour down with it." The servant fled in fear, and reported Caunus's fierce words, to Byblis.
        
She grew pale, hearing that she had been rejected, and her body shook, gripped by an icy chill. But, when consciousness returned, so did the passion, and, she let out these words, her lips scarcely moving: "I deserve it! Well, why did I rashly reveal my wound?  Why was I in such a hurry to commit things, which were secret, to a hasty letter? I should have tested his mind's judgment before by ambiguous words. I should have observed how the winds blew; used other lesser sails, in case those breezes were not to be followed; and crossed the sea in safety, not as now, under full canvas, caught by uncertain gusts. So I am carried onto the rocks, swamped, overwhelmed by the whole ocean, and my sails have no means of retreat."
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