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“Where the Columbines Grow”—One Last Time

Rob at the Trevi Fountain in Rome

Rob at the Trevi Fountain in Rome

Just before preparing an article on Colorado’s state song, Where the Columbines Grow, for the Colorado Springs Gazette, I noticed something I had not previously seen.

As documented in my Issue Paper on the subject, Arthur Fynn’s lyrics are filled with contrasts. The most notable is the contrast between the eagle and the dove, an opposition taken from the names and characteristics of the columbine flower. However, I also observed in that Issue Paper that the lyrics’ image of nymphs wandering in loneliness would have been evocative to a classically-trained person like Dr. Fynn—indeed, to most educated people of his generation.

Dr. Fynn’s education turns out to be a key to another aspect of the song: An allusion to the Latin epic poem called Metamorphoses, written by the Roman poet Ovid.

In the poem, the Greek god Apollo pursues a lovely nymph named Daphne, and urges her to accept his advances, calling out to her that he is chasing her in love. He does not pursue as an enemy, as the eagle chases the dove.

There is virtually no chance that Dr. Fynn would not have known this passage. During Fynn’s youth, the Metamorphoses was part of the general curriculum taught to all who wished for a thorough education. Fynn’s education had, moreover, not been a mere general one. He had attended a classical academy. He had served as a Latin teacher. And this passage is not buried deeply in the poem, but near the beginning.

Ovid’s story almost certainly affected Fynn’s lyrics, either unconsciously or (as I think) from conscious choice.

The Metamorphoses passage (Book I, lines 505-507) appears below in Latin, after which I have translated it into English.

Nympha, mane! Sic agna lupum, sic cerva leonem,
sic aquilam penna fugiunt trepidante columbae,
hostes quaeque suos: amor est mihi causa sequendi!

Nymph, stay! You flee as the lamb from the wolf, the doe from the lion,
As doves flee with trembling wing from the eagle,
As all flee from their enemies. But Love is the reason for my pursuit!

The Colorado Springs Gazette article appears here.

Rob Natelson