VENUS AND ADONIS
Adonis strays far from the other hunters
seeking the boar in a remoter part of the forest.
Entering a clearing, he pauses to listen,
hearing not the grunting of the prey
but a voice like the wind in the trees
calling him across the field to a spot
where he spies a shady opening.
Peering in, he hears a sound like splashing water
beckoning him to enter, drawing him ever closer.
Inside it is dark as the rain is dark,
quiet as a mountain is quiet, with a heavy stillness.
A stream trickles and the leaves rustle.
Adonis thinks he hears the strumming of a lyre.
With his eyes he sees almost nothing for a time,
then a form appears, flame-like,
a radiance shimmering between shadows —
a sudden lightness bursts into the shady grove,
aflutter like a giant white swan.
All at once he sees dark golden hair,
elongated rose-white neck and arms,
eyes coming at him like the hunter's arrows.
Her hands toss rose petals over him;
moving closer, she rubs his temples with ambrosia.
"I have been by your side, Adonis,
through the woods and across the rocky places
amidst the tangled vines and brambles
as you hunted the deer and rabbits,
though I have always much preferred
moss-covered groves such as this
where I could tend to my beauty with meticulous care.
I am no Diana, no fearless fleet-footed
bare-kneed runner with the hounds
yet I have done this to be near you.
But now for love of you I give this warning:
Do not pursue the wild boar, my love,
for his tusks are as sharp as death
and the lion too has fangs that rip like lightning.
Content yourself with my soft neck and arms —
my breasts have driven men to mad ecstasies —
explore my long legs rather than ravines and meadows
and let your lips drink your fill from my beauty
as you would slake your thirst from a clear virgin spring.
Or if you must hunt then go after the timid creatures
that prance, hop, and scamper over the forest floor."
Adonis shudders to think how unmanly this would be,
hears the sneering laughter of his friends. His gorge
rises at the smothering embrace of Venus' lovely arms.
Adonis speaks and says she must explain her fear.
Pausing, Venus tells him she is weary now.
"All this hunting has worn me out, my love.
Let us lie upon this mossy bed.
That is what I am used to. Come now."
And down they lay with Venus plumping up her breasts
and kissing Adonis as he rests his head, at peace
for the moment but doomed to die
from a wound to the thigh
made by the tusk of a savage boar.
And those breasts which she offered him now
she will beat in wild grief upon his death.