No Business for Tears; Ovid, Metamorphoses 6.611-13

“This is an affair to be conducted not by tears, but iron, or anything you might have which can conquer iron. Sister, I am prepared to commit every sort of crime.”

…’non est lacrimis hoc’ inquit ‘agendum
sed ferro, sed si quid habes, quod vincere ferrum
possit. in omne nefas ego me, germana, paravi…’

3 thoughts on “No Business for Tears; Ovid, Metamorphoses 6.611-13

  1. Should be “seu si quid habes” I think. Interesting, too, that technically the meaning could be “if you have anything which iron could conquer” as well!

    1. On the basis of your suggestion, I thought that I may have copied the text incorrectly, but I checked Tarrant’s OCT, and he records no MSS variants with “seu.” I do, however, like the suggestion, and am surprised that I didn’t find any authority for it. I imagine that the intended effect of the anaphora “sed…sed” is meant to heighten the sense of Philomela’s rage with a certain disordered syntax and haste of expression. It may also be suggested that seu would most appropriately be used to mark a set of alternative choices, but Philomela’s suggestions may be intended as amplification: “to be done with iron, AND ALSO whatever you can suggest which is stronger than iron.” This is in some ways born out by the result: Procne kills her son “with iron,” and then adds to this the monstrous crime of feeding Tereus his own son, which – in drawing miasma upon both parents, in addition to being a horrific act – can be said to supersede mere slaughter with the sword.

      I will admit had not even considered the ambiguity of the phrase “quod vincere ferrum possit.” You really read this closely – thanks for the suggestions!

  2. A pleasure. I’ve enjoyed this site for a very long time, so I’m glad my suggestion was of some interest. After re-reading the Latin, I can certainly see some point to “sed”; it was probably reading the English translation first (a dangerous practice!) that led me to think that “seu” made more sense.

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