I Weep for Adonis

I Weep for Adonis

Bion (275 B.C.) was born near Smyrna, says Suidas; and from the elegy on his death, attributed to his pupil Moschus, we infer that he lived in Sicily and died there of poison. “Say that Bion the herdsman is dead,” says the threnody, appealing to the Sicilian muses, “and that song has died with Bion, and the Dorian minstrelsy hath perished.... Poison came, Bion, to thy mouth. What mortal so cruel as to mix poison for thee!” As Theocritus is also mentioned in the idyl, Bion is supposed to have been his contemporary, and to have flourished about 275 B. C.

Adonis in Greek mythology, is a central figure in various mystery religions. The Dying of Adonis was fully developed in the circle of young girls around the poet Sappho from the island of Lesbos, about 600 BC, as revealed in a fragment of Sappho’s surviving poetry.

Adonis has had multiple roles, and there has been much scholarship over the centuries concerning his meaning and purpose in Greek religious beliefs. Modern scholarship often describes him as an annually-renewed, ever-youthful vegetation god, a life-death-rebirth deity whose nature is tied to the calendar. The poetic fragment that follows is mystical look at this archetype.

The source for the Fragment is Library of the World’s Best Literature Ancient and Modern as edited by Charles Dudley Warner.
— Orly


I weep for Adonaïs--he is dead!
   Dead Adonaïs lies, and mourning all,
The Loves wail round his fair, low-lying head.
   O Cypris, sleep no more! Let from thee fall
Thy purple vestments--hear'st thou not the call?
   Let fall thy purple vestments! Lay them by!
Ah, smite thy bosom, and in sable pall
   Send shivering through the air thy bitter cry
For Adonaïs dead, while all the Loves reply.

   I weep for Adonaïs--weep the Loves.
      Low on the mountains beauteous lies he there,
   And languid through his lips the faint breath moves,
      And black the blood creeps o'er his smooth thigh, where
      The boar's white tooth the whiter flesh must tear.
   Glazed grow his eyes beneath the eyelids wide;
      Fades from his lips the rose, and dies--Despair!
   The clinging kiss of Cypris at his side--
Alas, he knew not that she kissed him as he died!

   I wail--responsive wail the Loves with me.
      Ah, cruel, cruel is that wound of thine,
   But Cypris' heart-wound aches more bitterly.
      The Oreads weep; thy faithful hounds low whine;
      But Cytherea's unbound tresses fine
   Float on the wind; where thorns her white feet wound,
      Along the oaken glades drops blood divine.
   She calls her lover; he, all crimsoned round
His fair white breast with blood, hears not the piteous sound.

   Alas! for Cytherea wail the Loves,
      With the beloved dies her beauty too.
   O fair was she, the goddess borne of doves,
      While Adonaïs lived; but now, so true
      Her love, no time her beauty can renew.
   Deep-voiced the mountains mourn; the oaks reply;
      And springs and rivers murmur sorrow through
   The passes where she goes, the cities high;
And blossoms flush with grief as she goes desolate by.

   Alas for Cytherea! he hath died--
      The beauteous Adonaïs, he is dead!
   And Echo sadly back "is dead" replied.
      Alas for Cypris! Stooping low her head,
      And opening wide her arms, she piteous said,
   "O stay a little, Adonaïs mine!
      Of all the kisses ours since we were wed,
   But one last kiss, oh, give me now, and twine
Thine arms close, till I drink the latest breath of thine!

   "So will I keep the kiss thou givest me
      E'en as it were thyself, thou only best!
   Since thou, O Adonaïs, far dost flee--
      Oh, stay a little--leave a little rest!--
      And thou wilt leave me, and wilt be the guest
      Of proud Persephone, more strong than I?
      All beautiful obeys her dread behest--
   And I a goddess am, and cannot die!
O thrice-beloved, listen!--mak'st thou no reply?

   "Then dies to idle air my longing wild,
      As dies a dream along the paths of night;
   And Cytherea widowed is, exiled
      From love itself; and now--an idle sight--
      The Loves sit in my halls, and all delight
   My charmèd girdle moves, is all undone!
      Why wouldst thou, rash one, seek the maddening fight?
   Why, beauteous, wouldst thou not the combat shun?"--
Thus Cytherea--and the Loves weep, all as one.

   Alas for Cytherea!--he is dead.
      Her hopeless sorrow breaks in tears, that rain
   Down over all the fair, beloved head,--
      Like summer showers, o'er wind-down-beaten grain;
      They flow as fast as flows the crimson stain
   From out the wound, deep in the stiffening thigh;
      And lo! in roses red the blood blooms fair,
   And where the tears divine have fallen close by,
Spring up anemones, and stir all tremblingly.

   I weep for Adonaïs--he is dead!
      No more, O Cypris, weep thy wooer here!
   Behold a bed of leaves! Lay down his head
      As if he slept--as still, as fair, as dear,--
      In softest garments let his limbs appear,
   As when on golden couch his sweetest sleep
      He slept the livelong night, thy heart anear;
   Oh, beautiful in death though sad he keep,
No more to wake when Morning o'er the hills doth creep.

   And over him the freshest flowers fling--
      Ah me! all flowers are withered quite away
   And drop their petals wan! yet, perfumes bring
      And sprinkle round, and sweetest balsams lay;--
      Nay, perish perfumes since thine shall not stay!
   In purple mantle lies he, and around,
      The weeping Loves his weapons disarray,
   His sandals loose, with water bathe his wound,
And fan him with soft wings that move without a sound.

   The Loves for Cytherea raise the wail.
      Hymen from quenched torch no light can shake.
   His shredded wreath lies withered all and pale;
      His joyous song, alas, harsh discords break!
      And saddest wail of all, the Graces wake;
   "The beauteous Adonaïs! He is dead!"
      And sigh the Muses, "Stay but for our sake!"
   Yet would he come, Persephone is dead;--
Cease, Cypris! Sad the days repeat their faithful tread!




Old Friends

Old Friends