HESPERIA AND AESACUSAn old man saw the two birds fly across
the wide extended sea and praised their love,
undying to the end. His old friend who
stood near him, said, “There is another bird,
which you can see skimming above the waves
with folded legs drawn up;” and as he spoke,
he pointed at a divedapper, which had
a long throat, and continued, “It was first
the son of a great king, as Ceyx, was:
and if you wish to know his ancestry,
I can assure you he descended from
Ilus, Assaracus, and Ganymede—
taken by Jupiter, and old Laomedon,
and Priam, ruler at the fall of Troy.
“Aesacus was the brother of the great
illustrious Hector; and, if he had not
been victimized by a strange fate in youth,
he would have equalled Hector's glorious fame,
Hector was child of Hecuba, who was
daughter of Dymas. Alexirhoe,
the daughter of the two-horned Granicus,
so rumor has it, secretly brought forth
Aesacus, hidden under Ida's shade.
“He loathed the city and away from court,
frequented lonely mountains and the fields
of unambitious peasants. Rarely he
was seen among the throngs of Ilium.—
yet, neither churlish nor impregnable
to love's appeal, he saw Hesperia,
the daughter of Cebrenus, while she was
once resting on the velvet-shaded banks
of her sire's cherished stream. Aesacus had
so often sought for her throughout the woods.
“Just when he saw her, while she rested there,
her hair spread on her shoulders to the sun,
she saw him, and without delay she fled,
even as the frightened deer runs from the wolf
or as the water-duck, when she has left
her favored stream, surprised, flies from the hawk.
Aesacus followed her, as swift with love
as she was swift with fear. But in the grass
a lurking snake struck at her rosy heel
and left its venom in her flesh.—And so,
her flight was ended by untimely death.
“Oh, frantic, he embraced her breathless form,
and cried: ‘Alas, alas, that I pursued!
I did not dream of such a dreadful fate!
Success was not worth such a price
I and the snake together caused your death—
the serpent gave the wound, I was the cause.
Mine is the greater guilt, and by my death
I'll give you consolation for your death!’ ”
“He said those words and leaped on a high rock,
which years of sounding waves had undermined,
and hurled himself into the sea below.
“Tethys was moved with pity for his fall,
received him softly, and then covered him
with feathers, as he swam among the waves.
The death he sought for was not granted him.
At this the lover was wroth. Against his will,
he was obliged to live in his distress,
with opposition to his spirit that desired
departure from the wretched pain of life.
“As he assumed upon his shoulders wings
newformed, he flew aloft and from that height
again he plunged his body in the waves
his feathers broke all danger of that fall—
and this new bird, Aesacus, plunged headlong
into the deep, and tried incessantly
that method of destruction. His great love
unsatisfied, made his sad body lean,
till even the spaces fixed between the joints
of his legs have grown long; his neck is long;
so that his head is far away from his
lean body. Still he hunts the sea
and takes his name from diving in the waves.