THE SPINNING WHEEL OF OMPHALE



(Victor Hugo)

It’s in the atrium, the beautiful ivory spinning wheel.
The nimble wheel is white, the distaff black;
the distaff is ebony inlaid with lapis lazuli.
It stands in the atrium on a rich carpet.

A craftsman in Aegina carved on the plinth
Europa; her god ignores her protests.
The white bull carries her off in triumph. Europa, helpless,
screams, and, looking down, is terrified to see
The monstrous Ocean lasciviously sucking her pink toes.

Needles, thread, half-closed boxes,
the wool of Miletus dyed purple and gold,
fill a basket near the sleeping wheel.
However, heinous, horrific, huge,
in the inner palace, twenty misshapen spectres,
twenty bloody-drenched monsters that we only half-see,
wander in and crowd around the sleeping wheel:
the Nemean lion, the terrible Hydra,
Cacus, dusky brigand of the black cave,
the triple Geryon, and water typhons
that respire noisily in the reeds at evening;
all have dents on their heads from the blows of a great club
and all without approaching, lurk, casting baleful gaze
upon the wheel and its supple fine thread fastened,

that burns into the shadows of their humiliated eyes.

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