Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ovid on abortion

On his blog "What Does the Prayer Really Say?"Father Zuhlsdorf had an enlightening post today where he provided a few elegies from the classical poet Ovid. While I knew there was a socially conservative strain amongst some of the thinkers of that age, like the satirist Horace, I honestly didn't know how closely it resembled today's culture. Here, of course, I'm talking about the horror of abortion.

From Father Z, Here's Ovid, Book II, Elegy XIV:

Where’s the joy in a girl being free from fighting wars,
unwilling to follow the army and their shields,
if without battle she suffers wounds from her own weapons,
and arms unsure hands to her own doom?
Whoever first taught the destruction of a tender foetus,
deserved to die by her own warlike methods.
No doubt you’d chance your arm in that dismal arena
just to keep your belly free of wrinkles with your crime?
If the same practice had pleased mothers of old,
Humanity would have been destroyed by that violation.
And we’d need a creator again for each of our peoples
to throw the stones that made us onto the empty earth.
Who would have shattered the wealth of Priam, if Thetis,
the sea goddess, had refused to carry her rightful burden?
If Ilia had murdered the twins in her swollen womb,
the founder of my mistress’s City would have been lost.
If Venus had desecrated her belly, pregnant with Aeneas,
Earth would have been bereft of future Caesars.
You too, with your beauty still to be born, would have died,
if your mother had tried what you have done:
I myself would be better to die making love
than have been denied the light of day by my mother.
Why rob the loaded vine of burgeoning grapes,
or pluck the unripe apple with cruel hand?
Let things mature themselves – grow without being forced:
life is a prize that’s worth a little waiting.
Why submit your womb to probing instruments,
or give lethal poison to what is not yet born?
Medea is blamed for sprinkling the blood of her children,
and Itys, slain by his mother, is lamented with tears:
both cruel parents, yet both had bitter reason
to shed blood, revenge on a husband.
Say, what Tereus, what Jason incites you
to pierce your troubled body with your hand?
No tiger in its Armenian lair would do it,
no lioness would dare destroy her foetus.
But tender girls do it, though not un-punished:
often she who kills her child, dies herself.
She dies, and is carried to the pyre with loosened hair,
and whoever looks on cries out: ‘She deserved it!’
But let these words vanish on the ethereal breeze,
and let my imprecations have no weight!
You gods, prosper her: let her first sin go, in safety,
and be satisfied: you can punish her second crime!

This elegy comes from someone unenlightened by Divine Revelation whose reflections are based purely on Natural Law. We know in our hearts that abortion is wrong -- that it violates our own desire for dignity. As Ovid wrote, not even a "lioness would dare destroy her foetus." The U.S. bishops have made today a day of prayer and penance for the horrible sin of abortion. Thousands have gathered in Washington D.C. to protest. Please take at least a moment today to pray that we may end this slaughter and reverse Roe v. Wade!

Franz Klein