The trumpet soon gave signal for the race
and both of them crouching flashed quickly forth
and skimmed the surface of the sandy course
with flying feet. You might even think those two
could graze the sea with unwet feet and pass
over the ripened heads of standing grain.
Shouts of applause gave courage to the youth:
the cheering multitude cried out to him:
Now is the time to use your strength. Go on!
Hippomenes! Bend to the work! You're sure
to win! It must be doubted who was most
rejoiced by those brave words, Megareus' son,
or Schoeneus' daughter. Oh, how often, when
she could have passed him, she delayed her speed;
and after gazing long upon his face
reluctantly again would pass him! Now
dry panting breath came from his weary throat
the goal still far away.Then Neptune's scion
threw one of three gold apples. Atalanta
with wonder saw iteager to possess
the shining fruit, she turned out of her course,
picked up the rolling gold. Hippomenes
passed by her, while spectators roared applause.
Increasing speed, she overcame delay,
made up for time lost, and again she left
the youth behind. She was delayed again
because he tossed another golden apple.
She followed him, and passed him in the race.
The last part of the course remained. He cried
Be near me, goddess, while I use your gift.
With youthful might he threw the shining gold,
in an oblique direction to the side,
so that pursuit would mean a slow return.
The virgin seemed to hesitate, in doubt
whether to follow after this third prize.
I forced her to turn for it; take it up;
and, adding weight to the gold fruit, she held,
impeded her with weight and loss of time.
For fear my narrative may stretch beyond
the race itself,the maiden was outstripped;
Hippomenes then led his prize away.
Adonis, did I not deserve his thanks
with tribute of sweet incense? But he was
ungrateful, and, forgetful of my help,
he gave me neither frankincense nor thanks.
Such conduct threw me into sudden wrath,
and, fretting at the slight, I felt I must
not be despised at any future time.
I told myself 'twas only right to make
a just example of them. They were near
a temple, hidden in the forest, which
glorious Echion in remembered time
had built to Rhea, Mother of the gods,
in payment of a vow. So, wearied from
the distance traveled, they were glad to have
a needed rest. Hippomenes while there,
was seized with love his heart could not control.
a passion caused by my divinity.
Quite near the temple was a cave-like place,
covered with pumice. It was hallowed by
religious veneration of the past.
Within the shadows of that place, a priest
had stationed many wooden images
of olden gods. The lovers entered there
and desecrated it. The images
were scandalized, and turned their eyes away.
The tower-crowned Mother, Cybele, at first
prepared to plunge the guilty pair beneath
the waves of Styx, but such a punishment
seemed light. And so their necks, that had been smooth.
Were covered instantly with tawny manes;
their fingers bent to claws; their arms were changed
to fore-legs; and their bosoms held their weight;
and with their tails they swept the sandy ground.
Their casual glance is anger, and instead
of words they utter growls. They haunt the woods,
a bridal-room to their ferocious taste.
And now fierce lions they are terrible
to all of life; except to Cybele;
whose harness has subdued their champing jaws.
My dear Adonis keep away from all
such savage animals; avoid all those
which do not turn their fearful backs in flight
but offer their bold breasts to your attack,
lest courage should be fatal to us both.
Indeed she warned him. Harnessing her swans,
she traveled swiftly through the yielding air;
but his rash courage would not heed advice.
By chance his dogs, which followed a sure track,
aroused a wild boar from his hiding place;
and, as he rushed out from his forest lair,
Adonis pierced him with a glancing stroke.
Infuriate, the fierce boar's curved snout
first struck the spear-shaft from his bleeding side;
and, while the trembling youth was seeking where
to find a safe retreat, the savage beast
raced after him, until at last he sank
his deadly tusk deep in Adonis' groin;
and stretched him dying on the yellow sand.
And now sweet Aphrodite, borne through air
in her light chariot, had not yet arrived
at Cyprus, on the wings of her white swans.
Afar she recognized his dying groans,
and turned her white birds towards the sound. And when
down looking from the lofty sky, she saw
him nearly dead, his body bathed in blood,
she leaped downtore her garmenttore her hair
and beat her bosom with distracted hands.
And blaming Fate said, But not everything
is at the mercy of your cruel power.
My sorrow for Adonis will remain,
enduring as a lasting monument.
Each passing year the memory of his death
shall cause an imitation of my grief.
Your blood, Adonis, will become a flower
perennial. Was it not allowed to you
Persephone, to transform Menthe's limbs
into sweet fragrant mint? And can this change
of my loved hero be denied to me?
Her grief declared, she sprinkled his blood with
sweet-smelling nectar, and his blood as soon
as touched by it began to effervesce,
just as transparent bubbles always rise
in rainy weather. Nor was there a pause
more than an hour, when from Adonis, blood,
exactly of its color, a loved flower
sprang up, such as pomegranates give to us,
small trees which later hide their seeds beneath
a tough rind. But the joy it gives to man
is short-lived, for the winds which give the flower
its name, Anemone, shake it right down,
because its slender hold, always so weak,
lets it fall to the ground from its frail stem.
DEATH OF ORPHEUS
While with his songs, Orpheus, the bard of Thrace,
allured the trees, the savage animals,
and even the insensate rocks, to follow him;
Ciconian matrons, with their raving breasts
concealed in skins of forest animals,
from the summit of a hill observed him there,
attuning love songs to a sounding harp.
One of those women, as her tangled hair
was tossed upon the light breeze shouted, See!
Here is the poet who has scorned our love!
Then hurled her spear at the melodious mouth
of great Apollo's bard: but the spear's point,
trailing in flight a garland of fresh leaves,
made but a harmless bruise and wounded not.
The weapon of another was a stone,
which in the very air was overpowered
by the true harmony of his voice and lyre,
and so disabled lay before his feet,
as asking pardon for that vain attempt.
The madness of such warfare then increased.
All moderation is entirely lost,
and a wild Fury overcomes the right.
although their weapons would have lost all force,
subjected to the power of Orpheus' harp,
the clamorous discord of their boxwood pipes,
the blaring of their horns, their tambourines
and clapping hands and Bacchanalian yells,
with hideous discords drowned his voice and harp.
at last the stones that heard his song no more
fell crimson with the Thracian poet's blood.
Before his life was taken, the maenads turned
their threatening hands upon the many birds,
which still were charmed by Orpheus as he sang,
the serpents, and the company of beasts
fabulous audience of that worshipped bard.
And then they turned on him their blood-stained hands:
and flocked together swiftly, as wild birds,
which, by some chance, may see the bird of night
beneath the sun. And as the savage dogs
rush on the doomed stag, loosed some bright fore-noon,
on blood-sand of the amphitheatre;
they rushed against the bard, with swift
hurled thyrsi which, adorned with emerald leaves
had not till then been used for cruelty.
And some threw clods, and others branches torn
from trees; and others threw flint stones at him,
and, that no lack of weapons might restrain
their savage fury then, not far from there
by chance they found some oxen which turned up
the soil with ploughshares, and in fields nearby
were strong-armed peasants, who with eager sweat
worked for the harvest as they dug hard fields;
and all those peasants, when they saw the troop
of frantic women, ran away and left
their implements of labor strown upon
deserted fieldsharrows and heavy rakes
and their long spades
after the savage mob
had seized upon those implements, and torn
to pieces oxen armed with threatening horns,
they hastened to destroy the harmless bard,
devoted Orpheus; and with impious hate,
murdered him, while his out-stretched hands implored
their mercythe first and only time his voice
had no persuasion. O great Jupiter!
Through those same lips which had controlled the rocks
and which had overcome ferocious beasts,
his life breathed forth, departed in the air.
The mournful birds, the stricken animals,
the hard stones and the weeping woods, all these
that often had followed your inspiring voice,
bewailed your death; while trees dropped their green leaves,
mourning for you, as if they tore their hair.
They say sad rivers swelled with their own tears
naiads and dryads with dishevelled hair
wore garments of dark color.
His torn limbs
were scattered in strange places. Hebrus then
received his head and harpand, wonderful!
While his loved harp was floating down the stream,
it mourned for him beyond my power to tell.
His tongue though lifeless, uttered a mournful sound
and mournfully the river's banks replied:
onward borne by the river to the sea
they left their native stream and reached the shore
of Lesbos at Methymna. Instantly,
a furious serpent rose to attack the head
of Orpheus, cast up on that foreign sand
the hair still wet with spray. Phoebus at last
appeared and saved the head from that attack:
before the serpent could inflict a sting,
he drove it off, and hardened its wide jaws
to rigid stone.
Meanwhile the fleeting shade
of Orpheus had descended under earth:
remembering now those regions that he saw
when there before, he sought Eurydice
through fields frequented by the blest; and when
he found her, folded her in eager arms.
Then lovingly they wandered side by side,
or he would follow when she chose to lead,
or at another time he walked in front,
looking back, safely,at Eurydice.
Bacchus would not permit the wickedness
of those who slaughtered Orpheus to remain
unpunished. Grieving for the loss of his
loved bard of sacred rites, at once he bound
with twisted roots the feet of everyone
of those Edonian women who had caused
the crime of Orpheus' death.
Their toes grew long.
He thrust the sharp points in the solid earth.
As when a bird entangled in a snare,
hid by the cunning fowler, knows too late
that it is held, then vainly beats its wings,
and fluttering only makes more tight the noose
with every struggle; so each woman-fiend
whose feet were sinking in the soil, when she
attempted flight, was held by deepening roots.
And while she looks down where her toes and nails
and feet should be, she sees wood growing up
from them and covering all her graceful legs.
Full of delirious grief, endeavoring
to smite with right hand on her changing thigh,
she strikes on solid oak. Her tender breast
and shoulders are transformed to rigid oak.
You would declare that her extended arms
are real branches of a forest tree,
and such a thought would be the very truth.