…And Cadmus found them helpers and companions In the building of the town Apollo promised.
That was the city Thebes, and now the exile Might seem a happy man. Venus and Mars Were parents of his bride, and there were children Who turned out well, and children of the children, Grown to maturity. But always, always, A man must wait the final day, and no man Should ever be called happy before burial.
One of these grandsons was the lad Actaeon, First cause of Cadmus' sorrow. On his forehead Horns sprouted, and his hound-dogs came to drink The blood of their young master. In the story . You will find Actaeon guiltless; put the blame On luck, not crime: what crime is there in error?
There was a mountain, on whose slopes had fallen The blood of many kinds of game: high noon, Short shadows, and Actaeon, at ease, and friendly Telling his company: "Our nets and spears Drip with the blood of our successful hunting. To-day has brought us luck enough; to-morrow We try again. The Sun-god, hot and burning, Is halfway up his course. Give up the labor, Bring home the nets." And they obeyed his orders.
There was a valley there, all dark and shaded With pine and cypress, sacred to Diana, Gargaphie, its name was, and it held Deep in its inner shade a secret grotto Made by no art, unless you think of Nature As being an artist. Out of rock and tufa She had formed an archway, where the shining water Made slender watery sound, and soon subsided Into a pool, and grassy banks around it.
The goddess of the woods, when tired from hunting, Came here to bathe her limbs in the cool crystal. She gave her armor-bearer spear and quiver And loosened bow; another's arm received
The robe, laid off; two nymphs unbound her sandals, And one, Crocale, defter than the others, Knotted the flowing hair; others brought water, Psecas, Phyale, Nephele, and Rhanis, Pouring it out from good-sized urns, as always.
But look! While she was bathing there, all naked, Actaeon came, with no more thought of hunting Till the next day, wandering, far from certain, Through unfamiliar woodland till he entered Diana's grove, as fate seemed bound to have it. And when he entered the cool dripping grotto, The nymphs, all naked, saw him, saw a man, And beat their breasts and screamed, and all together Gathered around their goddess, tried to hide her with their own bodies, but she stood above them, Taller by head and shoulders. As the clouds Grow red at sunset, as the daybreak reddens, Diana blushed at being seen, and turned Aside a little from her close companions, Looked quickly for her arrows, found no weapon Except the water, but scooped up a handful And flung it in the young man's face, and over The young man's hair. Those drops had vengeance in them.
She told him so: "Tell people you have seen me, Diana, naked! Tell them if you can!"
She said no more, but on the sprinkled forehead Horns of the long-lived stag began to sprout, The neck stretched out, the ears were long and pointed, The arms were legs, the hands were feet, the skin A dappled hide, and the hunter's heart was fearful. Away in flight he goes, and, going, marvels At his own speed, and finally sees, reflected, His features in a quiet pool. "Alas!" He tries to say, but has no words. He groans, The only speech he has, and the tears run down Cheeks that are not his own. There is one thing only Left him, his former mind. What should he do? Where should he go-back to the royal palace Or find some place of refuge in the forest? Fear argues against one, and shame the other.
And while he hesitates; he sees his hounds, Blackfoot, Trailchaser, Hungry, Hurricane, Gazelle and Mountain-Ranger, Spot and Sylvan, Swift Wingfoot, Glen, wolf-sired, and the bitch Harpy With her two pups, half-grown, ranging beside her, Tigress, another bitch, Hunter, and Lanky, Chop-jaws, and Soot, and Wolf, with the white marking On his black muzzle, Mountaineer, and Power, The Killer, Whirlwind, YVhitey, Blackskin, Grabber, And others it would take too long to mention, Arcadian hounds, and Cretan-bred, and Spartan.
The whole pack, with the lust of blood upon them, Come baying over cliffs and crags and ledges Where no trail runs: Actaeon, once pursuer Over this very ground, is now pursued, Fleeing his old companions. He would cry "I am Actaeon: recognize your master!"
But the words fail, and nobody could hear him So full the air of baying. First of all The Killer fastens on him, then the Grabber, Then Mountaineer gets hold of him by a shoulder. These three had started last, but beat the others By a short-cut through the mountains. So they run him To stand at bay until the whole pack gathers And all together nip and slash and fasten Till there is no more room for wounds. He groans, Making a sound not human, but a sound No stag could utter either, and the ridges Are filled with that heart-breaking kind of moaning.
Actaeon goes to his knees, like a man praying, Faces them all in silence, with his eyes In mute appeal, having no arms to plead with, To stretch to them for mercy. His companions, The other hunting lads, urge on the pack With shouts as they did always, and not knowing What has become of him, they call Actaeon! Actaeon! each one louder than the others, As if they thought him miles away. He answers, Hearing his name, by turning his head toward them, And hears them growl and grumble at his absence, Calling him lazy, missing the good show Of quarry brought to bay. Absence, for certain, He would prefer, but he is there; and surely He would rather see and hear the dogs than feel them. They circle him, dash in, and nip, and mangle And lacerate and tear their prey, not master, No master whom they know, only a deer. And so he died, and so Diana's anger Was satisfied at last.
Chapter 3, Lines 129 to 249 Translated by Rolfe Humphries, 1955
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