The Tradition of the
First a short insight in plain speak, taken from James
Frazer's , The Golden Bough. Below is a part of chapter 31, which lends
great insight into the culture of the times, in particular to that of
ritual and sacred prostitution. I never realized that the oldest
profession was indeed a kind of holy communion of the mother goddess
religion. We do swing the pendulum, from totally anonymous promiscuity to
the now popular vows of celibacy.
I heard recently that the origins of the veil as worn by
nuns and also Muslim women originated from the rituals where priestesses
(who were every woman) of the mother goddess would deflower the young men
at the temple, and in order to retain anonymity they wore a veil over
their faces, rather a swing of the pendulum to the current tradition I
Copyright notice Below
Cinyras of Paphos
Among the stories which were told of Cinyras, the ancestor of the
priestly kings of Paphos and the father of Adonis, there are some that
deserve our attention. In the first place, he is said to have begotten his
son Adonis in incestuous intercourse with his daughter Myrrha at a
festival of the corn-goddess, at which women robed in white were wont to
offer corn-wreaths as first-fruits of the harvest and to observe strict
chastity for nine days. Similar cases of incest with a daughter are
reported of many ancient kings. It seems unlikely that such reports are
without foundation, and perhaps equally improbable that they refer to mere
fortuitous outbursts of unnatural lust. We may suspect that they are based
on a practice actually observed for a definite reason in certain special
circumstances. Now in countries where the royal blood was traced through
women only, and where consequently the king held office merely in virtue
of his marriage with an hereditary princess, who was the real sovereign,
it appears to have often happened that a prince married his own sister,
the princess royal, in order to obtain with her hand the crown which
otherwise would have gone to another man, perhaps to a stranger. May not
the same rule of descent have furnished a motive for incest with a
daughter? For it seems a natural corollary from such a rule that the king
was bound to vacate the throne on the death of his wife, the queen, since
he occupied it only by virtue of his marriage with her. When that marriage
terminated, his right to the throne terminated with it and passed at once
to his daughter's husband. Hence if the king desired to reign after his
wife's death, the only way in which he could legitimately continue to do
so was by marrying his daughter, and thus prolonging through her the title
which had formerly been his through her mother.
Cinyras is said to have been famed for his exquisite beauty and to have
been wooed by Aphrodite herself. Thus it would appear, as scholars have
already observed, that Cinyras was in a sense a duplicate of his handsome
son Adonis, to whom the inflammable goddess also lost her heart. Further,
these stories of the love of Aphrodite for two members of the royal house
of Paphos can hardly be dissociated from the corresponding legend told of
Pygmalion, a Phoenician king of Cyprus, who is said to have fallen in love
with an image of Aphrodite and taken it to his bed. When we consider that
Pygmalion was the father-in-law of Cinyras, that the son of Cinyras was
Adonis, and that all three, in successive generations, are said to have
been concerned in a love-intrigue with Aphrodite, we can hardly help
concluding that the early Phoenician kings of Paphos, or their sons,
regularly claimed to be not merely the priests of the goddess but also her
lovers, in other words, that in their official capacity they personated
Adonis. At all events Adonis is said to have reigned in Cyprus, and it
appears to be certain that the title of Adonis was regularly borne by the
sons of all the Phoenician kings of the island. It is true that the title
strictly signified no more than "lord"; yet the legends which connect
these Cyprian princes with the goddess of love make it probable that they
claimed the divine nature as well as the human dignity of Adonis. The
story of Pygmalion points to a ceremony of a sacred marriage in which the
king wedded the image of Aphrodite, or rather of Astarte. If that was so,
the tale was in a sense true, not of a single man only, but of a whole
series of men, and it would be all the more likely to be told of
Pygmalion, if that was a common name of Semitic kings in general, and of
Cyprian kings in particular. Pygmalion, at all events, is known as the
name of the king of Tyre from whom his sister Dido fled; and a king of
Citium and Idalium in Cyprus, who reigned in the time of Alexander the
Great, was also called Pygmalion, or rather Pumiyathon, the Phoenician
name which the Greeks corrupted into Pygmalion. Further, it deserves to be
noted that the names Pygmalion and Astarte occur together in a Punic
inscription on a gold medallion which was found in a grave at Carthage;
the characters of the inscription are of the earliest type. As the custom
of religious prostitution at Paphos is said to have been founded by king
Cinyras and observed by his daughters, we may surmise that the kings of
Paphos played the part of the divine bridegroom in a less innocent rite
than the form of marriage with a statue; in fact, that at certain
festivals each of them had to mate with one or more of the sacred harlots
of the temple, who played Astarte to his Adonis. If that was so, there is
more truth than has commonly been supposed in the reproach cast by the
Christian fathers that the Aphrodite worshipped by Cinyras was a common
whore. The fruit of their union would rank as sons and daughters of the
deity, and would in time become the parents of gods and goddesses, like
their fathers and mothers before them. In this manner Paphos, and perhaps
all sanctuaries of the great Asiatic goddess where sacred prostitution was
practised, might be well stocked with human deities, the offspring of the
divine king by his wives, concubines, and temple harlots. Any one of these
might probably succeed his father on the throne or be sacrificed in his
stead whenever stress of war or other grave junctures called, as they
sometimes did, for the death of a royal victim. Such a tax, levied
occasionally on the king's numerous progeny for the good of the country,
would neither extinguish the divine stock nor break the father's heart,
who divided his paternal affection among so many. At all events, if, as
there seems reason to believe, Semitic kings were often regarded at the
same time as hereditary deities, it is easy to understand the frequency of
Semitic personal names which imply that the bearers of them were the sons
or daughters, the brothers or sisters, the fathers or mothers of a god,
and we need not resort to the shifts employed by some scholars to evade
the plain sense of the words. This interpretation is confirmed by a
parallel Egyptian usage; for in Egypt, where the kings were worshipped as
divine, the queen was called "the wife of the god" or "the mother of the
god," and the title "father of the god" was borne not only by the king's
real father but also by his father-in-law. Similarly, perhaps, among the
Semites any man who sent his daughter to swell the royal harem may have
been allowed to call himself "the father of the god."
If we may judge by his name, the Semitic king who bore the name of
Cinyras was, like King David, a harper; for the name of Cinyras is clearly
connected with the Greek _cinyra,_ "a lyre," which in its turn comes from
the Semitic _kinnor,_ "a lyre," the very word applied to the instrument on
which David played before Saul. We shall probably not err in assuming that
at Paphos as at Jerusalem the music of the lyre or harp was not a mere
pastime designed to while away an idle hour, but formed part of the
service of religion, the moving influence of its melodies being perhaps
set down, like the effect of wine, to the direct inspiration of a deity.
Certainly at Jerusalem the regular clergy of the temple prophesied to the
music of harps, of psalteries, and of cymbals; and it appears that the
irregular clergy also, as we may call the prophets, depended on some such
stimulus for inducing the ecstatic state which they took for immediate
converse with the divinity. Thus we read of a band of prophets coming down
from a high place with a psaltery, a timbrel, a pipe, and a harp before
them, and prophesying as they went. Again, when the united forces of Judah
and Ephraim were traversing the wilderness of Moab in pursuit of the
enemy, they could find no water for three days, and were like to die of
thirst, they and the beasts of burden. In this emergency the prophet
Elisha, who was with the army, called for a minstrel and bade him play.
Under the influence of the music he ordered the soldiers to dig trenches
in the sandy bed of the waterless waddy through which lay the line of
march. They did so, and next morning the trenches were full of the water
that had drained down into them underground from the desolate, forbidding
mountains on either hand. The prophet's success in striking water in the
wilderness resembles the reported success of modern dowsers, though his
mode of procedure was different. Incidentally he rendered another service
to his countrymen. For the skulking Moabites from their lairs among the
rocks saw the red sun of the desert reflected in the water, and taking it
for the blood, or perhaps rather for an omen of the blood, of their
enemies, they plucked up heart to attack the camp and were defeated with
Again, just as the cloud of melancholy which from time to time darkened
the moody mind of Saul was viewed as an evil spirit from the Lord vexing
him, so on the other hand the solemn strains of the harp, which soothed
and composed his troubled thoughts, may well have seemed to the hag-ridden
king the very voice of God or of his good angel whispering peace. Even in
our own day a great religious writer, himself deeply sensitive to the
witchery of music, has said that musical notes, with all their power to
fire the blood and melt the heart, cannot be mere empty sounds and nothing
more; no, they have escaped from some higher sphere, they are outpourings
of eternal harmony, the voice of angels, the Magnificat of saints. It is
thus that the rude imaginings of primitive man are transfigured and his
feeble lispings echoed with a rolling reverberation in the musical prose
of Newman. Indeed the influence of music on the development of religion is
a subject which would repay a sympathetic study. For we cannot doubt that
this, the most intimate and affecting of all the arts, has done much to
create as well as to express the religious emotions, thus modifying more
or less deeply the fabric of belief to which at first sight it seems only
to minister. The musician has done his part as well as the prophet and the
thinker in the making of religion. Every faith has its appropriate music,
and the difference between the creeds might almost be expressed in musical
notation. The interval, for example, which divides the wild revels of
Cybele from the stately ritual of the Catholic Church is measured by the
gulf which severs the dissonant clash of cymbals and tambourines from the
grave harmonies of Palestrina and Handel. A different spirit breathes in
the difference of the music.
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The stories are told by a
man of the times, well almost,
Ovid wrote about 2000 years ago.
First we have the story of Cinyras and Myrrha and
The Story of Venus and Adonis
The Story of Cinyras and Myrrha
Nor him alone produc'd the fruitful queen;
But Cinyras, who like his sire had been
A happy prince, had he not been a sire.
Daughters, and fathers, from my song retire;
I sing of horror; and could I prevail,
You shou'd not hear, or not believe my tale.
Yet if the pleasure of my song be such,
That you will hear, and credit me too much,
Attentive listen to the last event,
And, with the sin, believe the punishment:
Since Nature cou'd behold so dire a crime,
I gratulate at least my native clime,
That such a land, which such a monster bore,
So far is distant from our Thracian shore.
Let Araby extol her happy coast,
Her cinamon, and sweet Amomum boast,
Her fragrant flow'rs, her trees with precious tears,
Her second harvests, and her double years;
How can the land be call'd so bless'd, that Myrrha bears?
Nor all her od'rous tears can cleanse her crime;
Her Plant alone deforms the happy clime:
Cupid denies to have inflam'd thy heart,
Disowns thy love, and vindicates his dart:
Some Fury gave thee those infernal pains,
And shot her venom'd vipers in thy veins.
To hate thy sire, had merited a curse;
But such an impious love deserv'd a worse.
The neighb'ring monarchs, by thy beauty led,
Contend in crowds, ambitious of thy bed:
The world is at thy choice; except but one,
Except but him, thou canst not chuse, alone.
She knew it too, the miserable maid,
Ere impious love her better thoughts betray'd,
And thus within her secret soul she said:
Ah Myrrha! whither wou'd thy wishes tend?
Ye Gods, ye sacred laws, my soul defend
From such a crime as all mankind detest,
And never lodg'd before in human breast!
But is it sin? Or makes my mind alone
Th' imagin'd sin? For Nature makes it none.
What tyrant then these envious laws began,
Made not for any other beast, but Man!
The father-bull his daughter may bestride,
The horse may make his mother-mare a bride;
What piety forbids the lusty ram,
Or more salacious goat, to rut their dam?
The hen is free to wed the chick she bore,
And make a husband, whom she hatch'd before.
All creatures else are of a happier kind,
Whom nor ill-natur'd laws from pleasure bind,
Nor thoughts of sin disturb their peace of mind.
But Man a slave of his own making lives;
The fool denies himself what Nature gives:
Too-busie senates, with an over-care,
To make us better than our kind can bear,
Have dash'd a spice of envy in the laws,
And straining up too high, have spoil'd the cause.
Yet some wise nations break their cruel chains,
And own no laws, but those which love ordains;
Where happy daughters with their sires are join'd,
And piety is doubly paid in kind.
O that I had been born in such a clime,
Not here, where 'tis the country makes the crime!
But whither wou'd my impious fancy stray?
Hence hopes, and ye forbidden thoughts away!
His worth deserves to kindle my desires,
But with the love, that daughters bear to sires.
Then had not Cinyras my father been,
What hinder'd Myrrha's hopes to be his queen?
But the perverseness of my fate is such,
That he's not mine, because he's mine too much:
Our kindred-blood debars a better tie;
He might be nearer, were he not so nigh.
Eyes, and their objects, never must unite;
Some distance is requir'd to help the sight:
Fain wou'd I travel to some foreign shore,
Never to see my native country more,
So might I to my self my self restore;
So might my mind these impious thoughts remove,
And ceasing to behold, might cease to love.
But stay I must, to feed my famish'd sight,
To talk, to kiss, and more, if more I might:
More, impious maid! What more canst thou design?
To make a monstrous mixture in thy line,
And break all statutes human and divine!
Can'st thou be call'd (to save thy wretched life)
Thy mother's rival, and thy father's wife?
Confound so many sacred names in one,
Thy brother's mother! Sister to thy son!
And fear'st thou not to see th' infernal bands,
Their heads with snakes; with torches arm'd their hands
Full at thy face th' avenging brands to bear,
And shake the serpents from their hissing hair;
But thou in time th' increasing ill controul,
Nor first debauch the body by the soul;
Secure the sacred quiet of thy mind,
And keep the sanctions Nature has design'd.
Suppose I shou'd attempt, th' attempt were vain,
No thoughts like mine, his sinless soul profane;
Observant of the right: and o that he
Cou'd cure my madness, or be mad like me!
Thus she: but Cinyras, who daily sees
A crowd of noble suitors at his knees,
Among so many, knew not whom to chuse,
Irresolute to grant, or to refuse.
But having told their names, enquir'd of her
Who pleas'd her best, and whom she would prefer.
The blushing maid stood silent with surprize,
And on her father fix'd her ardent eyes,
And looking sigh'd, and as she sigh'd, began
Round tears to shed, that scalded as they ran.
The tender sire, who saw her blush, and cry,
Ascrib'd it all to maiden modesty,
And dry'd the falling drops, and yet more kind,
He stroak'd her cheeks, and holy kisses join'd.
She felt a secret venom fire her blood,
And found more pleasure, than a daughter shou'd;
And, ask'd again what lover of the crew
She lik'd the best, she answer'd, One like you.
Mistaking what she meant, her pious will
He prais'd, and bid her so continue still:
The word of pious heard, she blush'd with shame
Of secret guilt, and cou'd not bear the name.
'Twas now the mid of night, when slumbers close
Our eyes, and sooth our cares with soft repose;
But no repose cou'd wretched Myrrha find,
Her body rouling, as she roul'd her mind:
Mad with desire, she ruminates her sin,
And wishes all her wishes o'er again:
Now she despairs, and now resolves to try;
Wou'd not, and wou'd again, she knows not why;
Stops, and returns; makes, and retracts the vow;
Fain wou'd begin, but understands not how.
As when a pine is hew'd upon the plains,
And the last mortal stroke alone remains,
Lab'ring in pangs of death, and threatning all,
This way, and that she nods, consid'ring where to fall:
So Myrrha's mind, impell'd on either side,
Takes ev'ry bent, but cannot long abide;
Irresolute on which she shou'd relie,
At last, unfix'd in all, is only fix'd to die.
On that sad thought she rests, resolv'd on death,
She rises, and prepares to choak her breath:
Then while about the beam her zone she ties,
Dear Cinyras farewell, she softly cries;
For thee I die, and only wish to be
Not hated, when thou know'st die I for thee:
Pardon the crime, in pity to the cause:
This said, about her neck the noose she draws.
The nurse, who lay without, her faithful guard,
Though not the words, the murmurs over-heard;
And sighs, and hollow sounds: surpriz'd with fright,
She starts, and leaves her bed, and springs a light;
Unlocks the door, and entring out of breath,
The dying saw, and instruments of death;
She shrieks, she cuts the zone with trembling haste,
And in her arms her fainting charge embrac'd:
Next (for she now had leisure for her tears),
She weeping ask'd, in these her blooming years,
What unforeseen misfortune caus'd her care,
To loath her life, and languish in despair!
The maid, with down-cast eyes, and mute with grief
For death unfinish'd, and ill-tim'd relief,
Stood sullen to her suit: the beldame press'd
The more to know, and bar'd her wither'd breast,
Adjur'd her by the kindly food she drew
From those dry founts, her secret ill to shew.
Sad Myrrha sigh'd, and turn'd her eyes aside:
The nurse still urg'd, and wou'd not be deny'd:
Nor only promis'd secresie, but pray'd
She might have leave to give her offer'd aid.
Good-will, she said, my want of strength supplies,
And diligence shall give what age denies:
If strong desires thy mind to fury move,
With charms and med'cines I can cure thy love:
If envious eyes their hurtuful rays have cast,
More pow'rful verse shall free thee from the blast:
If Heav'n offended sends thee this disease,
Offended Heav'n with pray'rs we can appease.
What then remains, that can these cares procure?
Thy house is flourishing, thy fortune sure:
Thy careful mother yet in health survives,
And, to thy comfort, thy kind father lives.
The virgin started at her father's name,
And sigh'd profoundly, conscious of the shame
Nor yet the nurse her impious love divin'd,
But yet surmis'd that love disturb'd her mind:
Thus thinking, she pursu'd her point, and laid,
And lull'd within her lap the mourning maid;
Then softly sooth'd her thus; I guess your grief:
You love, my child; your love shall find relief.
My long-experienc'd age shall be your guide;
Rely on that, and lay distrust aside.
No breath of air shall on the secret blow,
Nor shall (what most you fear) your father know.
Struck once again, as with a thunder-clap,
The guilty virgin bounded from her lap,
And threw her body prostrate on the bed.
And, to conceal her blushes, hid her head;
There silent lay, and warn'd her with her hand
To go: but she receiv'd not the command;
Remaining still importunate to know:
Then Myrrha thus: Or ask no more, or go;
I pr'ythee go, or staying spare my shame;
What thou would'st hear, is impious ev'n to name.
At this, on high the beldame holds her hands,
And trembling both with age, and terror stands;
Adjures, and falling at her feet intreats,
Sooths her with blandishments, and frights with threats,
To tell the crime intended, or disclose
What part of it she knew, if she no farther knows.
And last, if conscious to her counsel made,
Confirms anew the promise of her aid.
Now Myrrha rais'd her head; but soon oppress'd
With shame, reclin'd it on her nurse's breast;
Bath'd it with tears, and strove to have confess'd:
Twice she began, and stopp'd; again she try'd;
The falt'ring tongue its office still deny'd.
At last her veil before her face she spread,
And drew a long preluding sigh, and said,
O happy mother, in thy marriage-bed!
Then groan'd, and ceas'd. The good old woman shook,
Stiff were her eyes, and ghastly was her look:
Her hoary hair upright with horror stood,
Made (to her grief) more knowing than she wou'd.
Much she reproach'd, and many things she said,
To cure the madness of th' unhappy maid,
In vain: for Myrrha stood convict of ill;
Her reason vanquish'd, but unchang'd her will:
Perverse of mind, unable to reply;
She stood resolv'd, or to possess, or die.
At length the fondness of a nurse prevail'd
Against her better sense, and virtue fail'd:
Enjoy, my child, since such is thy desire,
Thy love, she said; she durst not say, thy sire:
Live, though unhappy, live on any terms;
Then with a second oath her faith confirms.
The solemn feast of Ceres now was near,
When long white linnen stoles the matrons wear;
Rank'd in procession walk the pious train,
Off'ring first-fruits, and spikes of yellow grain:
For nine long nights the nuptial-bed they shun,
And sanctifying harvest, lie alone.
Mix'd with the crowd, the queen forsook her lord,
And Ceres' pow'r with secret rites ador'd:
The royal couch, now vacant for a time,
The crafty crone, officious in her crime,
The first occasion took: the king she found
Easie with wine, and deep in pleasures drown'd,
Prepar'd for love: the beldame blew the flame,
Confess'd the passion, but conceal'd the name.
Her form she prais'd; the monarch ask'd her years;
And she reply'd, The same thy Myrrha bears.
Wine, and commended beauty fir'd his thought;
Impatient, he commands her to be brought.
Pleas'd with her charge perform'd, she hies her home,
And gratulates the nymph, the task was overcome.
Myrrha was joy'd the welcome news to hear;
But clog'd with guilt, the joy was unsincere:
So various, so discordant is the mind,
That in our will a diff'rent will we find.
Ill she presag'd, and yet pursu'd her lust;
For guilty pleasures give a double gust.
'Twas depth of night: Arctophylax had driv'n
His lazy wain half round the northern Heav'n,
When Myrrha hasten'd to the crime desir'd:
The moon beheld her first, and first retir'd:
The stars amaz'd, ran backward from the sight,
And (shrunk within their sockets) lost their light.
Icarius first withdraws his holy flame:
The virgin sign, in Heav'n the second name,
Slides down the belt, and from her station flies,
And night with sable clouds involves the skies.
Bold Myrrha still pursues her black intent;
She stumbled thrice (an omen of th' event);
Thrice shriek'd the fun'ral owl, yet on she went,
Secure of shame, because secure of sight;
Ev'n bashful sins are impudent by night.
Link'd hand in hand, th' accomplice, and the dame,
Their way exploring, to the chamber came:
The door was ope; they blindly grope their way,
Where dark in bed th' expecting monarch lay.
Thus far her courage held, but here forsakes;
Her faint knees knock at ev'ry step she makes.
The nearer to her crime, the more within
She feels remorse, and horror of her sin;
Repents too late her criminal desire,
And wishes, that unknown she could retire.
Her lingring thus, the nurse (who fear'd delay
The fatal secret might at length betray)
Pull'd forward, to compleat the work begun,
And said to Cinyras, Receive thy own.
Thus saying, she deliver'd kind to kind,
Accurs'd, and their devoted bodies join'd.
The sire, unknowing of the crime, admits
His bowels, and prophanes the hallow'd sheets;
He found she trembled, but believ'd she strove
With maiden modesty against her love,
And sought with flatt'ring words vain fancies to remove.
Perhaps he said, My daughter, cease thy fears
(Because the title suited with her years);
And, Father, she might whisper him again,
That names might not be wanting to the sin.
Full of her sire, she left th' incestuous bed,
And carry'd in her womb the crime she bred.
Another, and another night she came;
For frequent sin had left no sense of shame:
'Till Cinyras desir'd to see her face,
Whose body he had held in close embrace,
And brought a taper; the revealer, light,
Expos'd both crime, and criminal to sight.
Grief, rage, amazement, could no speech afford,
But from the sheath he drew th' avenging sword:
The guilty fled: the benefit of night,
That favour'd first the sin, secur'd the flight.
Long wand'ring thro' the spacious fields, she bent
Her voyage to th' Arabian continent;
Then pass'd the region which Panchaea join'd,
And flying, left the palmy plains behind.
Nine times the moon had mew'd her horns; at length
With travel weary, unsupply'd with strength,
And with the burden of her womb oppress'd,
Sabaean fields afford her needful rest:
There, loathing life, and yet of death afraid,
In anguish of her spirit, thus she pray'd:
Ye Pow'rs, if any so propitious are
T' accept my penitence, and hear my pray'r;
Your judgments, I confess, are justly sent;
Great sins deserve as great a punishment:
Yet since my life the living will profane,
And since my death the happy dead will stain,
A middle state your mercy may bestow,
Betwixt the realms above, and those below:
Some other form to wretched Myrrha give,
Nor let her wholly die, nor wholly live.
The pray'rs of penitents are never vain;
At least she did her last request obtain:
For while she spoke, the ground began to rise,
And gather'd round her feet, her legs, and thighs;
Her toes in roots descend, and spreading wide,
A firm foundation for the trunk provide:
Her solid bones convert to solid wood,
To pith her marrow, and to sap her blood:
Her arms are boughs, her fingers change their kind,
Her tender skin is harden'd into rind.
And now the rising tree her womb invests,
Now shooting upwards still, invades her breasts,
And shades the neck; when weary with delay,
She sunk her head within, and met it half the way.
And tho' with outward shape she lost her sense,
With bitter tears she wept her last offence;
And still she weeps, nor sheds her tears in vain;
For still the precious drops her name retain.
Mean-time the mis-begotten infant grows,
And ripe for birth, distends with deadly throes
The swelling rind, with unavailing strife,
To leave the wooden womb, and pushes into life.
The mother-tree, as if oppress'd with pain,
Writhes here, and there, to break the bark, in vain;
And, like a lab'ring woman, wou'd have pray'd,
But wants a voice to call Lucina's aid:
The bending bole sends out a hollow sound,
And trickling tears fall thicker on the ground.
The mild Lucina came uncall'd, and stood
Beside the struggling boughs, and heard the groaning wood;
Then reach'd her midwife-hand to speed the throes,
And spoke the pow'rful spells, that babes to birth disclose.
The bark divides, the living load to free,
And safe delivers the convulsive tree.
The ready nymphs receive the crying child,
And wash him in the tears the parent plant distill'd.
They swath'd him with their scarfs; beneath him spread
The ground with herbs; with roses rais'd his head.
The lovely babe was born with ev'ry grace,
Ev'n envy must have prais'd so fair a face:
Such was his form, as painters when they show
Their utmost art, on naked loves bestow:
And that their arms no diff'rence might betray,
Give him a bow, or his from Cupid take away.
Time glides along with undiscover'd haste,
The future but a length behind the past;
So swift are years. The babe, whom just before
His grandsire got, and whom his sister bore;
The drop, the thing, which late the tree inclos'd,
And late the yawning bark to life expos'd;
A babe, a boy, a beauteous youth appears,
And lovelier than himself at riper years.
Now to the queen of love he gave desires,
And, with her pains, reveng'd his mother's fires.
The Story of Venus and Adonis
For Cytherea's lips while Cupid prest,
He with a heedless arrow raz'd her breast,
The Goddess felt it, and with fury stung,
The wanton mischief from her bosom flung:
Yet thought at first the danger slight, but found
The dart too faithful, and too deep the wound.
Fir'd with a mortal beauty, she disdains
To haunt th' Idalian mount, or Phrygian plains.
She seeks not Cnidos, nor her Paphian shrines,
Nor Amathus, that teems with brazen mines:
Ev'n Heav'n itself with all its sweets unsought,
Adonis far a sweeter Heav'n is thought.
On him she hangs, and fonds with ev'ry art,
And never, never knows from him to part.
She, whose soft limbs had only been display'd
On rosie beds beneath the myrtle shade,
Whose pleasing care was to improve each grace,
And add more charms to an unrival'd face,
Now buskin'd, like the virgin huntress, goes
Thro' woods, and pathless wilds, and mountain-snows
With her own tuneful voice she joys to cheer
The panting hounds, that chace the flying deer.
She runs the labyrinth of fearful hares,
But fearless beasts, and dang'rous prey forbears,
Hunts not the grinning wolf, or foamy boar,
And trembles at the lion's hungry roar.
Thee too, Adonis, with a lover's care
She warns, if warn'd thou wou'dst avoid the snare,
To furious animals advance not nigh,
Fly those that follow, follow those that fly;
'Tis chance alone must the survivors save,
Whene'er brave spirits will attempt the brave.
O! lovely youth! in harmless sports delight;
Provoke not beasts, which, arm'd by Nature, fight.
For me, if not thy self, vouchsafe to fear;
Let not thy thirst of glory cost me dear.
Boars know not bow to spare a blooming age;
No sparkling eyes can sooth the lion's rage.
Not all thy charms a savage breast can move,
Which have so deeply touch'd the queen of love.
When bristled boars from beaten thickets spring,
In grinded tusks a thunderbolt they bring.
The daring hunters lions rouz'd devour,
Vast is their fury, and as vast their pow'r:
Curst be their tawny race! If thou would'st hear
What kindled thus my hate, then lend an ear:
The wond'rous tale I will to thee unfold,
How the fell monsters rose from crimes of old.
But by long toils I faint: see! wide-display'd,
A grateful poplar courts us with a shade.
The grassy turf, beneath, so verdant shows,
We may secure delightfully repose.
With her Adonis here be Venus blest;
And swift at once the grass and him she prest.
Then sweetly smiling, with a raptur'd mind,
On his lov'd bosom she her head reclin'd,
And thus began; but mindful still of bliss,
Seal'd the soft accents with a softer kiss.
Perhaps thou may'st have heard a virgin's name,
Who still in swiftness swiftest youths o'ercame.
Wondrous! that female weakness should outdo
A manly strength; the wonder yet is true.
'Twas doubtful, if her triumphs in the field
Did to her form's triumphant glories yield;
Whether her face could with more ease decoy
A crowd of lovers, or her feet destroy.
For once Apollo she implor'd to show
If courteous Fates a consort would allow:
A consort brings thy ruin, he reply'd;
O! learn to want the pleasures of a bride!
Nor shalt thou want them to thy wretched cost,
And Atalanta living shall be lost.
With such a rueful Fate th' affrighted maid
Sought green recesses in the wood-land glade.
Nor sighing suiters her resolves could move,
She bad them show their speed, to show their love.
He only, who could conquer in the race,
Might hope the conquer'd virgin to embrace;
While he, whose tardy feet had lagg'd behind,
Was doom'd the sad reward of death to find.
Tho' great the prize, yet rigid the decree,
But blind with beauty, who can rigour see?
Ev'n on these laws the fair they rashly sought,
And danger in excess of love forgot.
There sat Hippomenes, prepar'd to blame
In lovers such extravagance of flame.
And must, he said, the blessing of a wife
Be dearly purchas'd by a risk of life?
But when he saw the wonders of her face,
And her limbs naked, springing to the race,
Her limbs, as exquisitely turn'd, as mine,
Or if a woman thou, might vie with thine,
With lifted hands, he cry'd, forgive the tongue
Which durst, ye youths, your well-tim'd courage wrong.
I knew not that the nymph, for whom you strove,
Deserv'd th' unbounded transports of your love.
He saw, admir'd, and thus her spotless frame
He prais'd, and praising, kindled his own flame.
A rival now to all the youths who run,
Envious, he fears they should not be undone.
But why (reflects he) idly thus is shown
The fate of others, yet untry'd my own?
The coward must not on love's aid depend;
The God was ever to the bold a friend.
Mean-time the virgin flies, or seems to fly,
Swift as a Scythian arrow cleaves the sky:
Still more and more the youth her charms admires.
The race itself t' exalt her charms conspires.
The golden pinions, which her feet adorn,
In wanton flutt'rings by the winds are born.
Down from her head, the long, fair tresses flow,
And sport with lovely negligence below.
The waving ribbands, which her buskins tie,
Her snowy skin with waving purple die;
As crimson veils in palaces display'd,
To the white marble lend a blushing shade.
Nor long he gaz'd, yet while he gaz'd, she gain'd
The goal, and the victorious wreath obtain'd.
The vanquish'd sigh, and, as the law decreed,
Pay the dire forfeit, and prepare to bleed.
Then rose Hippomenes, not yet afraid,
And fix'd his eyes full on the beauteous maid.
Where is (he cry'd) the mighty conquest won,
To distance those, who want the nerves to run?
Here prove superior strength, nor shall it be
Thy loss of glory, if excell'd by me.
High my descent, near Neptune I aspire,
For Neptune was grand-parent to my sire.
From that great God the fourth my self I trace,
Nor sink my virtues yet beneath my race.
Thou from Hippomenes, o'ercome, may'st claim
An envy'd triumph, and a deathless fame.
While thus the youth the virgin pow'r defies,
Silent she views him still with softer eyes.
Thoughts in her breast a doubtful strife begin,
If 'tis not happier now to lose, than win.
What God, a foe to beauty, would destroy
The promis'd ripeness of this blooming boy?
With his life's danger does he seek my bed?
Scarce am I half so greatly worth, she said.
Nor has his beauty mov'd my breast to love,
And yet, I own, such beauty well might move:
'Tis not his charms, 'tis pity would engage
My soul to spare the greenness of his age.
What, that heroick conrage fires his breast,
And shines thro' brave disdain of Fate confest?
What, that his patronage by close degrees
Springs from th' imperial ruler of the seas?
Then add the love, which bids him undertake
The race, and dare to perish for my sake.
Of bloody nuptials, heedless youth, beware!
Fly, timely fly from a too barb'rous fair.
At pleasure chuse; thy love will be repaid
By a less foolish, and more beauteous maid.
But why this tenderness, before unknown?
Why beats, and pants my breast for him alone?
His eyes have seen his num'rous rivals yield;
Let him too share the rigour of the field,
Since, by their fates untaught, his own he courts,
And thus with ruin insolently sports.
Yet for what crime shall he his death receive?
Is it a crime with me to wish to live?
Shall his kind passion his destruction prove?
Is this the fatal recompence of love?
So fair a youth, destroy'd, would conquest shame,
Aud nymphs eternally detest my fame.
Still why should nymphs my guiltless fame upbraid?
Did I the fond adventurer persuade?
Alas! I wish thou would'st the course decline,
Or that my swiftness was excell'd by thine.
See! what a virgin's bloom adorns the boy!
Why wilt thou run, and why thy self destroy?
Hippomenes! O that I ne'er had been
By those bright eyes unfortunately seen!
Ah! tempt not thus a swift, untimely Fate;
Thy life is worthy of the longest date.
Were I less wretched, did the galling chain
Of rigid Gods not my free choice restrain,
By thee alone I could with joy be led
To taste the raptures of a nuptial bed.
Thus she disclos'd the woman's secret heart,
Young, innocent, and new to Cupid's dart.
Her thoughts, her words, her actions wildly rove,
With love she burns, yet knows not that 'tis love.
Her royal sire now with the murm'ring crowd
Demands the race impatiently aloud.
Hippomenes then with true fervour pray'd,
My bold attempt let Venus kindly aid.
By her sweet pow'r I felt this am'rous fire,
Still may she succour, whom she did inspire.
A soft, unenvious wind, with speedy care,
Wafted to Heav'n the lover's tender pray'r.
Pity, I own, soon gain'd the wish'd consent,
And all th' assistance he implor'd I lent.
The Cyprian lands, tho' rich, in richness yield
To that, surnam'd the Tamasenian field.
That field of old was added to my shrine,
And its choice products consecrated mine.
A tree there stands, full glorious to behold,
Gold are the leafs, the crackling branches gold.
It chanc'd, three apples in my hand I bore,
Which newly from the tree I sportive tore;
Seen by the youth alone, to him I brought
The fruit, and when, and how to use it, taught.
The signal sounding by the king's command,
Both start at once, and sweep th' imprinted sand.
So swiftly mov'd their feet, they might with ease,
Scarce moisten'd, skim along the glassy seas;
Or with a wondrous levity be born
O'er yellow harvests of unbending corn.
Now fav'ring peals resound from ev'ry part,
Spirit the youth, and fire his fainting heart.
Hippomenes! (they cry'd) thy life preserve,
Intensely labour, and stretch ev'ry nerve.
Base fear alone can baffle thy design,
Shoot boldly onward, and the goal is thine.
'Tis doubtful whether shouts, like these, convey'd
More pleasures to the youth, or to the maid.
When a long distance oft she could have gain'd,
She check'd her swiftness, and her feet restrain'd:
She sigh'd, and dwelt, and languish'd on his face,
Then with unwilling speed pursu'd the race.
O'er-spent with heat, his breath he faintly drew,
Parch'd was his mouth, nor yet the goal in view,
And the first apple on the plain he threw.
The nymph stop'd sudden at th' unusual sight,
Struck with the fruit so beautifully bright.
Aside she starts, the wonder to behold,
And eager stoops to catch the rouling gold.
Th' observant youth past by, and scour'd along,
While peals of joy rung from th' applauding throng.
Unkindly she corrects the short delay,
And to redeem the time fleets swift away,
Swift, as the lightning, or the northern wind,
And far she leaves the panting youth behind.
Again he strives the flying nymph to hold
With the temptation of the second gold:
The bright temptation fruitlessly was tost,
So soon, alas! she won the distance lost.
Now but a little interval of space
Remain'd for the decision of the race.
Fair author of the precious gift, he said,
Be thou, O Goddess, author of my aid!
Then of the shining fruit the last he drew,
And with his full-collected vigour threw:
The virgin still the longer to detain,
Threw not directly, but a-cross the plain.
She seem'd a-while perplex'd in dubious thought,
If the far-distant apple should be sought:
I lur'd her backward mind to seize the bait,
And to the massie gold gave double weight.
My favour to my votary was show'd,
Her speed I lessen'd, and encreas'd her load.
But lest, tho' long, the rapid race be run,
Before my longer, tedious tale is done,
The youth the goal, and so the virgin won.
Might I, Adonis, now not hope to see
His grateful thanks pour'd out for victory?
His pious incense on my altars laid?
But he nor grateful thanks, nor incense paid.
Enrag'd I vow'd, that with the youth the fair,
For his contempt, should my keen vengeance share;
That future lovers might my pow'r revere,
And, from their sad examples, learn to fear.
The silent fanes, the sanctify'd abodes,
Of Cybele, great mother of the Gods,
Rais'd by Echion in a lonely wood,
And full of brown, religious horror stood.
By a long painful journey faint, they chose!
Their weary limbs here secret to repose.
But soon my pow'r inflam'd the lustful boy,
Careless of rest he sought untimely joy.
A hallow'd gloomy cave, with moss o'er-grown,
The temple join'd, of native pumice-stone,
Where antique images by priests were kept.
And wooden deities securely slept.
Thither the rash Hippomenes retires,
And gives a loose to all his wild desires,
And the chaste cell pollutes with wanton fires.
The sacred statues trembled with surprize,
The tow'ry Goddess, blushing, veil'd her eyes;
And the lewd pair to Stygian sounds had sent,
But unrevengeful seem'd that punishment,
A heavier doom such black prophaneness draws,
Their taper figures turn to crooked paws.
No more their necks the smoothness can retain,
Now cover'd sudden with a yellow mane.
Arms change to legs: each finds the hard'ning breast
Of rage unknown, and wond'rous strength possest.
Their alter'd looks with fury grim appear,
And on the ground their brushing tails they hear.
They haunt the woods: their voices, which before
Were musically sweet, now hoarsly roar.
Hence lions, dreadful to the lab'ring swains,
Are tam'd by Cybele, and curb'd with reins,
And humbly draw her car along the plains.
But thou, Adonis, my delightful care,
Of these, and beasts, as fierce as these, beware!
The savage, which not shuns thee, timely shun,
For by rash prowess should'st thou be undone,
A double ruin is contain'd in one.
Thus cautious Venus school'd her fav'rite boy;
But youthful heat all cautions will destroy.
His sprightly soul beyond grave counsels flies,
While with yok'd swans the Goddess cuts the skies.
His faithful hounds, led by the tainted wind,
Lodg'd in thick coverts chanc'd a boar to find.
The callow hero show'd a manly heart,
And pierc'd the savage with a side-long dart.
The flying savage, wounded, turn'd again,
Wrench'd out the gory dart, and foam'd with pain.
The trembling boy by flight his safety sought,
And now recall'd the lore, which Venus taught;
But now too late to fly the boar he strove,
Who in the groin his tusks impetuous drove,
On the discolour'd grass Adonis lay,
The monster trampling o'er his beauteous prey.
Fair Cytherea, Cyprus scarce in view,
Heard from afar his groans, and own'd them true,
And turn'd her snowy swans, and backward flew.
But as she saw him gasp his latest breath,
And quiv'ring agonize in pangs of death,
Down with swift flight she plung'd, nor rage forbore,
At once her garments, and her hair she tore.
With cruel blows she beat her guiltless breast,
The Fates upbraided, and her love confest.
Nor shall they yet (she cry'd) the whole devour
With uncontroul'd, inexorable pow'r:
For thee, lost youth, my tears, and restless pain
Shall in immortal monuments remain,
With solemn pomp in annual rites return'd,
Be thou for ever, my Adonis, mourn'd,
Could Pluto's queen with jealous fury storm,
And Menthe to a fragrant herb transform?
Yet dares not Venus with a change surprise,
And in a flow'r bid her fall'n heroe rise?
Then on the blood sweet nectar she bestows,
The scented blood in little bubbles rose:
Little as rainy drops, which flutt'ring fly,
Born by the winds, along a low'ring sky.
Short time ensu'd, 'till where the blood was shed,
A flow'r began to rear its purple head:
Such, as on Punick apples is reveal'd,
Or in the filmy rind but half conceal'd.
Still here the Fate of lovely forms we see,
So sudden fades the sweet Anemonie.
The feeble stems, to stormy blasts a prey,
Their sickly beauties droop, and pine away.
The winds forbid the flow'rs to flourish long,
Which owe to winds their names in Grecian song.
Taken from http://classics.mit.edu/Ovid/metam.10.tenth.html