Ovid's Metamorphoses : The Origin of the Cosmos

    My soul is wrought to sing of forms transformed
    to bodies new and strange! Immortal Gods
    inspire my heart, for ye have changed yourselves
    and all things you have changed! Oh lead my song
5  in smooth and measured strains, from olden days
    when earth began to this completed time!

     Before the ocean and the earth appeared--
     before the skies had overspread them all--
     the face of Nature in a vast expanse
10 was naught but Chaos uniformly waste.
     It was a rude and undeveloped mass,
     that nothing made except a ponderous weight;
     and all discordant elements confused,
     were there congested in a shapeless heap.
15 As yet the sun afforded earth no light,
     nor did the moon renew her crescent horns;
     the earth was not suspended in the air
     exactly balanced by her heavy weight.
     Not far along the margin of the shores
20  had Amphitrite stretched her lengthened arms,--
     for all the land was mixed with sea and air.
     The land was soft, the sea unfit to sail,
     the atmosphere opaque, to naught was given
     a proper form, in everything was strife,
25 and all was mingled in a seething mass--
     with hot the cold parts strove, and wet with dry
     and soft with hard, and weight with empty void.
     But God, or kindly Nature, ended strife--
     he cut the land from skies, the sea from land,
30  the heavens ethereal from material air;
     and when were all evolved from that dark mass
     he bound the fractious parts in tranquil peace.
     The fiery element of convex heaven
     leaped from the mass devoid of dragging weight,
35 and chose the summit arch to which the air
     as next in quality was next in place.
     The earth more dense attracted grosser parts
     and moved by gravity sank underneath;
     and last of all the wide surrounding waves
40  in deeper channels rolled around the globe.
     And when this God --which one is yet unknown--
     had carved asunder that discordant mass,
     had thus reduced it to its elements,
     that every part should equally combine,
45 when time began He rounded out the earth
     and moulded it to form a mighty globe.
     Then poured He forth the deeps and gave command
     that they should billow in the rapid winds,
     that they should compass every shore of earth.
50 he also added fountains, pools and lakes,
     and bound with shelving banks the slanting streams,
     which partly are absorbed and partly join
     the boundless ocean. Thus received amid
     the wide expanse of uncontrolled waves,
55 they beat the shores instead of crooked banks.
     At His command the boundless plains extend,
     the valleys are depressed, the woods are clothed
     in green, the stony mountains rise. And as
     the heavens are intersected on the right
60 by two broad zones, by two that cut the left,
     and by a fifth consumed with ardent heat,
     with such a number did the careful God
     mark off the compassed weight, and thus the earth
     received as many climes.--Such heat consumes
65 the middle zone that none may dwell therein;
     and two extremes are covered with deep snow;
     and two are placed betwixt the hot and cold,
     which mixed together give a temperate clime;
     and over all the atmosphere suspends
70 with weight proportioned to the fiery sky,
     exactly as the weight of earth compares
     with weight of water. And He ordered mist
     to gather in the air and spread the clouds.
75 He fixed the thunders that disturb our souls,
     and brought the lightning on destructive winds
     that also waft the cold. Nor did the great
     Artificer permit these mighty winds
     to blow unbounded in the pathless skies,
80 but each discordant brother fixed in space,
     although His power can scarce restrain their rage
     to rend the universe. At His command
     to far Aurora, Eurus took his way,
     to Nabath, Persia, and that mountain range
85 first gilded by the dawn; and Zephyr's flight
     was towards the evening star and peaceful shores,
     warm with the setting sun; and Boreas
     invaded Scythia and the northern snows;
     and Auster wafted to the distant south
90 where clouds and rain encompass his abode.--
     and over these He fixed the liquid sky,
     devoid of weight and free from earthly dross.
     And scarcely had He separated these
     and fixed their certain bounds, when all the stars,
95 which long were pressed and hidden in the mass,
     began to gleam out from the plains of heaven,
     and traversed, with the Gods, bright ether fields:
     and lest some part might be bereft of life
     the gleaming waves were filled with twinkling fish;
100 the earth was covered with wild animals;
     the agitated air was filled with birds.
     But one more perfect and more sanctified,
     a being capable of lofty thought,
     intelligent to rule, was wanting still
105 man was created! Did the Unknown God
     designing then a better world make man
     of seed divine? or did Prometheus
     take the new soil of earth (that still contained
     some godly element of Heaven's Life)
110 and use it to create the race of man;
     first mingling it with water of new streams;
     so that his new creation, upright man,
     was made in image of commanding Gods?
     On earth the brute creation bends its gaze,
115 but man was given a lofty countenance
     and was commanded to behold the skies;
     and with an upright face may view the stars:--
     and so it was that shapeless clay put on
     the form of man till then unknown to earth.