previous next

“After the son of Laius,—Oedipus,—
had solved the riddle of the monster-sphinx,
so often baffling to the wits of men,
and after she had fallen from her hill,
mangled, forgetful of her riddling craft;
not unrevenged the mighty Themis brooked
her loss. Without delay that goddess raised
another savage beast to ravage Thebes,
by which the farmer's cattle were devoured,
the land was ruined and its people slain.

“Then all the valiant young men of the realm,
with whom I also went, enclosed the field
(where lurked the monster) in a mesh
of many tangled nets: but not a strand
could stay its onrush, and it leaped the crest
of every barrier where the toils were set.

“Already they had urged their eager dogs,
which swiftly as a bird it left behind,
eluding all the hunters as it fled.

“At last all begged me to let slip the leash
of straining Tempest; such I called the hound,
my dear wife's present. As he tugged and pulled
upon the tightened cords, I let them slip:
no sooner done, then he was lost to sight;
although, wherever struck his rapid feet
the hot dust whirled. Not swifter flies the spear,
nor whizzing bullet from the twisted sling,
nor feathered arrow from the twanging bow!

“A high hill jutted from a rolling plain,
on which I mounted to enjoy the sight
of that unequalled chase. One moment caught,
the next as surely free, the wild beast seemed
now here now there, elusive in its flight;
swiftly sped onward, or with sudden turn
doubled in circles to deceive or gain.
With equal speed pursuing at each turn,
the rapid hound could neither gain nor lose.
Now springing forward and now doubling back,
his great speed foiled, he snapped at empty air.

“I then turned to my javelin's aid; and while
I poised it in my right hand, turned away
my gaze a moment as I sought to twine
my practiced fingers in the guiding thongs;
but when again I lifted up my eyes,
to cast the javelin where the monster sped,
I saw two marble statues standing there,
transformed upon the plain. One statue seemed
to strain in attitude of rapid flight,
the other with wide-open jaws was changed,
just in the act of barking and pursuit.
Surely some God—if any god controls—
decreed both equal, neither could succeed.”

Now after these miraculous events,
it seemed he wished to stop, but Phocus said.
“What charge have you against the javelin?”

And Cephalus rejoined; “I must relate
my sorrows last; for I would tell you first
the story of my joys—'Tis sweet to think,
upon the gliding tide of those few years
of married life, when my dear wife and I
were happy in our love and confidence.
No woman could allure me then from her;
and even Venus could not tempt my love;
all my great passion for my dearest wife
was equalled by the passion she returned.

“As early as the sun, when golden rays
first glittered on the mountains, I would rise
in youthful ardor, to explore the fields
in search of game. With no companions, hounds,
nor steeds nor nets, this javelin was alone
my safety and companion in my sport.

“And often when my right hand felt its weight,
a-wearied of the slaughter it had caused,
I would come back to rest in the cool shade,
and breezes from cool vales—the breeze I wooed,
blowing so gently on me in the heat;
the breeze I waited for; she was my rest
from labor. I remember, ‘Aura come,’
I used to say, ‘Come soothe me, come into
my breast most welcome one, and yes indeed,
you do relieve the heat with which I burn.’

“And as I felt the sweet breeze of the morn,
as if in answer to my song, my fate impelled
me further to declare my joy in song;

“ ‘You are my comfort, you are my delight!
Refresh me, cherish me, breathe on my face!
I love you child of lonely haunts and trees!’

“Such words I once was singing, not aware
of some one spying on me from the trees,
who thought I sang to some beloved Nymph,
or goddess by the name of Aura—so
I always called the breeze.—Unhappy man!
The meddling tell-tale went to Procris with
a story of supposed unfaithfulness,
and slyly told in whispers all he heard.
True love is credulous; (and as I heard
the story) Procris in a swoon fell down.
When she awakened from her bitter swoon,
she ceased not wailing her unhappy fate,
and, wretched, moaned for an imagined woe.

“So she lamented what was never done!
Her woe incited by a whispered tale,
she feared the fiction of a harmless name!
But hope returning soothed her wretched state;
and now, no longer willing to believe
such wrong, unless her own eyes saw it, she
refused to think her husband sinned.

“When dawn
had banished night, and I, rejoicing, ranged
the breathing woods, victorious in the hunt
paused and said, ‘Come Aura—lovely breeze—
relieve my panting breast!’ It seemed I heard
the smothered moans of sorrow as I spoke:
but not conceiving harm, I said again;

“ ‘Come here, oh my delight!’ And as those words
fell from my lips, I thought I heard a soft
sound in the thicket, as of moving leaves;
and thinking surely 'twas a hidden beast,
I threw this winged javelin at the spot.—

“It was my own wife, Procris, and the shaft
was buried in her breast—‘Ah, wretched me!’
She cried; and when I heard her well-known voice,
distracted I ran towards her,—only to find
her bathed in blood, and dying from the wound
of that same javelin she had given to me:
and in her agony she drew it forth,—
ah me! alas! from her dear tender side.

“I lifted her limp body to my own,
in these blood-guilty arms, and wrapped the wound
with fragments of my tunic, that I tore
in haste to staunch her blood; and all the while
I moaned, ‘Oh, do not now forsake me—slain
by these accursed hands!’

“Weak with the loss
of blood, and dying, she compelled herself
to utter these few words, ‘It is my death;
but let my eyes not close upon this life
before I plead with you! — By the dear ties
of sacred marriage; by your god and mine;
and if my love for you can move your heart;
and even by the cause of my sad death,—
my love for you increasing as I die,—
ah, put away that Aura you have called,
that she may never separate your soul,—
your love from me.’

“So, by those dying words
I knew that she had heard me call the name
of Aura, when I wished the cooling breeze,
and thought I called a goddess,—cause of all
her jealous sorrow and my bitter woe

“Alas, too late, I told her the sad truth;
but she was sinking, and her little strength
swiftly was ebbing with her flowing blood.
As long as life remained her loving gaze
was fixed on mine; and her unhappy life
at last was breathed out on my grieving face.
It seemed to me a look of sweet content
was in her face, as if she feared not death.”

In tears he folds these things; and, as they wept
in came the aged monarch, Aeacus,
and with the monarch his two valiant sons,
and troops, new-levied, trained to glorious arms.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Latin (Hugo Magnus, 1892)
load focus English (Arthur Golding, 1567)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Thebes (Greece) (1)

Visualize the most frequently mentioned Pleiades ancient places in this text.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide References (1 total)
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (1):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: