The Death of Adonis

c. 300 B.C. – c. 260 B.C.


Cythera saw Adonis
And knew that he was dead;
She marked the brow, all grisly now,
The cheek no longer red;
And “Bring the boar before me”
Unto her Loves she said.

Forthwith her winged attendants
Ranged all the woodland o’er,
And found and bound in fetters
Threefold the grisly boar:
One dragged him at a rope’s end
E’en as a vanquished foe;
One went behind and drave him
And smote him with his bow:
On paced the creature feebly;
He feared Cythera so.

To him said Aphrodite:
“So, worst of beasts, ‘twas you
Who rent that thigh asunder,
Who him that loved me slew?”
And thus the beast made answer:
“Cythera, hear me swear
By thee, by him that loved thee,
And by these bonds I wear,
And them before whose hounds I ran—
I meant no mischief to the man
Who seemed to thee so fair.

“As on a carven statue
Men gaze, I gazed on him;
I seemed on fire with mad desire
To kiss that offered limb:
My ruin, Aphrodite,
Thus followed from my whim.

“Now therefore take and punish
And fairly cut away
These all unruly tusks of mine;
For to what end serve they?
And if thine indignation
Be not content with this,
Cut off the mouth that ventured
To offer him a kiss”—

But Aphrodite pitied
And bade them loose his chain.
The boar from that day forward
Still followed in her train;
Nor ever to the wildwood
Attempted to return,
But in the focus of Desire
Preferred to burn and burn.

Translation by C.S. Calverley

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