METAMORPHOSES BOOK IV
scales, and swims in a pool; or how her daughter, changed to a pure white dove, spent her last years perched on high battlements; or how a certain nymph, by incantation and herbs too potent, changed the bodies of some boys into mute fishes, and at last herself became a fish; or how the mulberry-tree, which once had borne white fruit, now has fruit dark red, from the bloody stain. The last seems best. This tale, not commonly known as yet, she tells, spinning her wool the while.
"Pyramus and Thisbe"—he, the most beautiful youth, and she, loveliest maid of all the East—dwelt in houses side by side, in the city which Semiramis is said to have surrounded with walls of brick. Their nearness made the first steps of their acquaintance. In time love grew, and they would have been joined in marriage, too, but their parents forbade. Still, what no parents could forbid, sore smitten in heart they burned with mutual love. They had no go-between, but communicated by nods and signs; and the more they covered up the fire, the more it burned. There was a slender chink in the party-wall of the two houses, which it had at some former time received when it was building. This chink, which no one had ever discovered through all these years—but what does love not see?—you lovers first discovered and made it the channel of speech. Safe through this your loving words used to pass in tiny whispers. Often, when they had taken their positions, on this side Thisbe, and Pyramus on that, and when each in turn had listened eagerly for the other's breath, 'O envious wall,' they would say, 'why do you stand between lovers? How small a thing 'twould be for you to permit us to embrace each other, or, if this be too much, to open for our kisses! But we are