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Metamorphoses
Ovid

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Bk XI:573-649 The House of Sleep.

Meanwhile, Alcyone, Aeolus’s daughter, counts the nights, unaware of this great misfortune, quickly weaving clothes for him to wear, and for herself, for when he returns, and she promises herself the homecoming that will not be. She piously offers incense to all the gods, but worships mostly at Juno’s temple, coming to the altars for a man who is no more, hoping her husband is safe, and returning to her, preferring her above any other woman. Of all her prayers, only this could be granted.
        
The goddess could no longer bear these appeals for one who was dead, and, to free her altar from those inauspicious hands, she said: "Iris, most faithful carrier of my words, go quickly to the heavy halls of Sleep, and order him to send Alcyone a dream-figure in the shape of her dead Ceyx, to tell her his true fate." As she spoke, Iris donned her thousand-coloured robe, and, tracing her watery bow on the sky, she searched out, as ordered, the palace of that king, hid under cloud.
        
There is a deeply cut cave, a hollow mountain, near the Cimmerian country, the house and sanctuary of drowsy Sleep. Phoebus can never reach it with his dawn, mid-day or sunset rays. Clouds mixed with fog, and shadows of the half-light, are exhaled from the ground. No waking cockerel summons Aurora with his crowing: no dog disturbs the silence with its anxious barking, or goose, cackling, more alert than a dog. No beasts, or cattle, or branches in the breeze, no clamour of human tongues. There still silence dwells. But out of the stony depths flows Lethe’s stream, whose waves, sliding over the loose pebbles, with their murmur, induce drowsiness. In front of the cave mouth a wealth of poppies flourish, and innumerable herbs, from whose juices dew-wet Night gathers sleep, and scatters it over the darkened earth. There are no doors in the palace, lest a turning hinge lets out a creak, and no guard at the threshold. But in the cave’s centre there is a tall bed made of ebony, downy, black-hued, spread with a dark-grey sheet, where the god himself lies, his limbs relaxed in slumber. Around him, here and there, lie uncertain dreams, taking different forms, as many as the ears of corn at harvest, as the trees bear leaves, or grains of sand are thrown onshore.
        
When the nymph entered and, with her hands, brushed aside the dreams in her way, the sacred place shone with the light of her robes. The god, hardly able to lift his eyes heavy with sleep, again and again, falling back, striking his nodding chin on his chest, at last shook himself free of his own influence, and resting on an elbow asked her (for he knew her) why she had come, and she replied:
        
"Sleep, all things rest: Sleep, gentlest of the gods, the spirit’s peace, whom care flies from: who soothes the body wearied with toil, and readies it for fresh labours: Sleep, order a likeness, that mirrors his true form, and let it go, the image of King Ceyx, to Alcyone, in Trachin of Hercules, and depict a phantasm of the wreck. This, Juno commands." After she had completed her commission, Iris departed, no longer able to withstand the power of sleep, and, feeling the drowsiness steal over her body, she fled, and re-crossed the arch by which she had lately come.
        
From a throng of a thousand sons, his father roused Morpheus, a master craftsman and simulator of human forms. No one else is as clever at expressing the movement, the features, and the sound of speech. He depicts the clothes and the usual accents. He alone imitates human beings. A second son becomes beast, or bird, or long snake’s body. The gods call him Icelos, the mortal crowd Phobetor. The third, of diverse artistry, is Phantasos: he takes illusory shapes of all inanimate things, earth, stones, rivers, trees. These are the ones that show themselves by night to kings and generals, the rest wander among citizens and commoners. Old Somnus passed them by, choosing one of all these brothers, Morpheus, to carry out the command of Iris, daughter of Thaumas, and relaxing again into sweet drowsiness his head drooped, and he settled into his deep bed.
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