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 it—eager 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.
ADONIS TRANSFORMEDIndeed 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 down—tore her garment—tore 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.