A Book of Myths

Page: 99

Amidst the trampled brake, where many a hound lay stiff and dead, while others, disembowelled by the tusks of the boar, howled aloud in mortal agony, lay Adonis. As he lay, he “knew the strange, slow chill which, stealing, tells the young that it is death.”

And as, in extremis, he thought of past things, manhood came to Adonis and he knew something of the meaning of the love of Aphrodite—a love stronger than life, than time, than death itself. His hounds and his spear seemed but playthings now. Only the eternities remained—bright Life, and black-robed Death.

Very still he lay, as though he slept; marble-white, and beautiful as a statue wrought by the hand of a god. But from the cruel wound in the white thigh, ripped open by the boar’s profaning tusk, the red blood dripped, in rhythmic flow, crimsoning the green moss under him. With a moan of unutterable anguish, Aphrodite threw herself beside him, and pillowed his dear head in her tender arms. Then, for a little while, life’s embers [Pg 206] flickered up, his cold lips tried to form themselves into a smile of understanding and held themselves up to hers. And, while they kissed, the soul of Adonis passed away.

“A cruel, cruel wound on his thigh hath Adonis, but a deeper wound in her heart doth Cytherea[6] bear. About him his dear hounds are loudly baying, and the nymphs of the wild woods wail him; but Aphrodite with unbound locks through the glades goes wandering—wretched, with hair unbraided, with feet unsandalled, and the thorns as she passes wound her and pluck the blossom of her sacred blood. Shrill she wails as down the woodland she is borne.... And the rivers bewail the sorrows of Aphrodite, and the wells are weeping Adonis on the mountains. The flowers flush red for anguish, and Cytherea through all the mountain-knees, through every dell doth utter piteous dirge:

“‘Woe, woe for Cytherea, he hath perished, the lovely Adonis!’”


Passionately the god besought Zeus to give her back her lost love, and when there was no answer to her prayers, she cried in bitterness: “Yet shall I keep a memorial of Adonis that shall be to all everlasting!” And, as she spoke, her tears and his blood, mingling together, were turned into flowers.

“A tear the Paphian sheds for each blood-drop of Adonis, and tears and blood on the earth are turned to flowers. The blood brings forth the roses, the tears, the wind-flower.”

Yet, even then, the grief of Aphrodite knew no abatement. And when Zeus, wearied with her crying, heard her, to his amazement, beg to be allowed to go down to the Shades that she might there endure eternal twilight with the one of her heart, his soul was softened.

“Never can it be that the Queen of Love and of [Pg 207] Beauty leaves Olympus and the pleasant earth to tread for evermore the dark Cocytus valley,” he said. “Nay, rather shall I permit the beauteous youth of thy love to return for half of each year from the Underworld that thou and he may together know the joy of a love that hath reached fruition.”