have perished then, so long before he fought
the heroes of old Troy, but ever wise,
he vaulted on his long lance from the ground
into the branches of a sheltering tree;
where in a safe position, he could look
down on his baffled foe. The raging boar
whetted his gleaming tushes on an oak.
Then with his sharpened tusks he gored the thigh
of mighty Hippasus. Observed of all,
and mounted on their horses—whiter than
the northern snow—the twins (long afterward
transformed to constellations) sallied forth,
and brandishing their lances, poised in air,
determined to destroy the bristling boar.
It thwarted their design by hiding in
a thicket intricate; where neither steed
nor lance could penetrate. But Telamon
pursued undaunted, and in haste tripped up
by tangled roots, fell headlong.—Peleus stooped
to rescue him.
While he regained his feet,
the virgin, Atalanta, took her bow
and fitting a sharp arrow to the notch,
twanged the tight cord. The feathered shaft
quivered beneath the monster's ear, the red blood
stained his hard bristles.
Flushed with her success
rejoiced the maid, but not more gladly than
the hero Meleager. He it was
who first observed the blood, and pointed out
the stain to his companions as he cried,
“Give honor to the courage of a maid!”
Unwilling to be worsted by a maid,
the rushing heroes raised a mighty cry
and as they shouted in excitement, hurled
their weapons in confusion; and so great
the multitude their actions interfered.
Behold! Ancaeus wielding his war-axe,
and rushing madly to his fate, exclaimed,
“Witness it! See the weapons of a man
excel a woman's! Ho, make way for my
achievement! Let Diana shield the brute!
Despite her utmost effort my right hand
shall slaughter him!” So mighty in his boast
he puffed himself; and, lifting with both hands
his double-edged axe, he stood erect,
on tiptoe fiercely bold. The savage boar
caught him, and ripped his tushes through his groin,
a spot where death is sure.—Ancaeus fell;
and his torn entrails and his crimson blood
stained the fair verdure of the spot with death.
Ixion's doughty son was running straight
against the monster, shaking his long lance
with nervous vigor in his strong right hand;
but Theseus, standing at a distance called:
“Beware! beware, O, dearest of my friends;
be valiant at a distance, or the fate
of rashly-bold Ancaeus may be yours!”
Even as he spoke he balanced in his hand
his brazen-pointed lance of corner wood;
with aim so true it seemed the great boar's death
was certain, but an evergreen oak branch
shielded the beast.—Then Jason hurled his dart,
which turned by chance, transfixed a luckless dog
and pinned him yelping, to the sanguine earth.—
So fared those heroes. Better fortune gave
success to Meleager; first he threw
a spear that missed and quivered in the ground;
but next he hurled a spear with certain aim.
It pierced the middle of the monster's back;
and rushing in upon the dreaded beast,
while raging it was whirling round and round,
the fearless prince provoked to greater rage
the wounded adversary. Bloody froth
dripped down his champing jaws—his purple blood
poured from a rankling wound. Without delay
the mighty Meleager plunged a spear
deep in the monster's shoulder. All his friends
raised a glad shout, and gathering round him, tried
to grasp his hand.—With wonder they beheld
the monster's bulk stretched out upon the plain;
and fearful still to touch him, they began
to stain their weapons in his spouting blood.
At length the hero Meleager pressed
his conquering foot upon the monster's head
and said, “O Atalanta, glorious maid,
of Nonacris, to you is yielded spoil,
my lawful right, and I rejoice to share
the merit of this glorious victory.”
And while he spoke, he gave to her the pelt,
covered with horrid bristles, and the head
frightful with gory tusks: and she rejoiced
in Meleager and his royal gift.
But all the others, envious, began
to murmur; and the sons of Thestius
levelled their pointed spears, and shouted out;
“Give up the prize! Let not the confidence
of your great beauty be a snare to you!
A woman should not interfering filch
the manly honors of a mighty hunt!
Aside! and let your witless lover yield!”
So threatened they and took from her the prize;
and forcibly despoiled him of his rights.
The warlike prince, indignant and enraged,—
rowed with resentment, shouted out. “What! Ho!
You spoilers of this honor that is ours,
brave deeds are different far from craven threats!”
And with his cruel sword he pierced the breast
of rash Plexippus, taken unawares,
and while his brother, Toxeus, struck with fear,
stood hesitating whether to avenge
or run to safety, Meleager plunged
the hot sword, smoking with a brother's blood,
in his breast also. And so perished they.
ALTHAEA AND THE DEATH OF MELEAGEREre this, Althaea, mother of the prince,
and sister of the slaughtered twain,—because
her son had killed the boar, made haste to bear
rich offerings to the temples of the Gods;
but when she saw her slaughtered brothers borne
in sad procession, she began to shriek,
and filled the city with her wild lament.
Unwilling to abide her festal robes
she dressed in sable.—When she was informed
her own son Meleager was the cause,
she banished grief and lamentations,—
thirsting for vengeance.