by Bion of Smyrna (flourished 100 BCE)
Translation by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806 - 1861)

I mourn for Adonis — Adonis is dead!
Language: English  after the Greek (Ελληνικά) 
I mourn for Adonis — Adonis is dead!
⁠Fair Adonis is dead, and the Loves are lamenting.
Sleep, Cypris, no more, on thy purple strewed bed;
⁠Arise, wretch stoled in black, — beat thy breast unrelenting,
And shriek to the worlds, "Fair Adonis is dead."

I mourn for Adonis — the Loves are lamenting.
⁠He lies on the hills, in his beauty and death, —
The white tusk of a boar has transpierced his white thigh;
⁠And his Cypris grows mad at the thin gasping breath,
While the black blood drips down on the pale ivory:
⁠And his eye-balls lie quenched with the weight of his brows.
The rose fades from his lips, and, upon them just parted,
⁠The kiss dies which Cypris consents not to lose,
Though the kiss of the Dead cannot make her glad-hearted —
⁠He knows not who kisses him dead in the dews.

I mourn for Adonis — the Loves are lamenting.
⁠Deep, deep in the thigh, is Adonis's wound;
But a deeper, is Cypris's bosom presenting —
⁠The youth lieth dead, while his dogs howl around,
And the nymphs weep aloud from the mists of the hill, —
⁠And the poor Aphrodite, with tresses unbound,
All dishevelled, unsandalled, shrieks mournful and shrill
⁠Through the dusk of the groves. The thorns, tearing her feet,
Gather up the red flower of her blood, which is holy,
⁠Each footstep she takes; and the valleys repeat
The sharp cry which she utters, and draw it out slowly.
⁠She calls on her spouse, her Assyrian; on him
Her own youth; while the dark blood spreads over his body —
⁠The chest taking hue, from the gash in the limb,
And the bosom, once ivory, turning to ruddy.

Ah, ah, Cytherea! the Loves are lamenting: —
⁠She lost her fair spouse, and so lost her fair smile —
When he lived she was fair, by the whole world's consenting,
⁠Whose fairness is dead with him! woe worth the while!
All the mountains above and the oaklands below
⁠Murmur, ah, ah Adonis! the streams overflow
Aphrodite's deep wail, — river-fountains in pity
⁠Weep soft in the hills; and the flowers, as they blow,
Redden outward with sorrow; while all hear her go
⁠With the song of her sadness, through mountain and city.

Ah, ah, Cytherea! Adonis is dead:
⁠Fair Adonis is dead — Echo answers, Adonis!
Who weeps not for Cypris, when, bowing her head,
⁠She stares at the wound where it gapes and astonies?
— When, ah, ah! — she saw how the blood ran away
⁠And empurpled the thigh; and, with wild hands flung out,
Said with sobs, "Stay, Adonis! unhappy one, stay, —
⁠Let me feel thee once more — let me ring thee about
With the clasp of my arms, and press kiss into kiss!
⁠Wait a little, Adonis, and kiss me again,
For the last time, beloved; and but so much of this,
⁠That the kiss may learn life from the warmth of the strain!
— Till thy breath shall exude from thy soul to my mouth;
⁠To my heart; and, the loye-charm I once more receiving,
May drink thy love in it, and keep, of a truth,
⁠That one kiss in the place of Adonis the living.
Thou fliest me, mournful one, fliest me far,
⁠My Adonis; and seekest the Acheron portal —
To Hell's cruel King, goest down with a scar,
⁠While I weep, and live on like a wretched immortal,
And follow no step; — O Persephone, take him,
⁠My husband! — thou'rt better and brighter than I;
So all beauty flows down to thee! I cannot make him
⁠Look up at my grief; there's despair in my cry,
Since I wail for Adorns, who died to me . . died to me . .
⁠— Then, I fear thee! — Art thou dead, my Adored?
Passion ends like a dream in the sleep that's denied to me. —
⁠Cypris is widowed; the Loves seek their lord
All the house through in vain! Charm of cestus has ceased
⁠With thy clasp! — O too bold in the hunt, past preventing;
Ay, mad: thou so fair . . . to have strife with a beast!" —
⁠Thus did Cypris wail on — and the Loves are lamenting.

Ah, ah, Cytherea! Adonis is dead, —
She wept tear after tear, with the blood which was shed;
And both turned into flowers for the earth's garden-close;
Her tears, to the wind-flower, — his blood, to the rose.

I mourn for Adonis — Adonis is dead.
⁠Weep no more in the woods, Cytherea, thy lover!
So, well; make a place for his corse in thy bed,
⁠With the purples thou sleepest in, under and over.
He's fair though a corse—a fair corse . . like a sleeper —
⁠Lay soft in the silks he had pleasure to fold,
When, beside thee at night, holy dreams deep and deeper
⁠Enclosed his young life on the couch made of gold!
Love him still, poor Adonis! cast on him together
⁠The crowns and the flowers! since he died from the place
Why let all die with him — let the blossoms go wither;
⁠Rain myrtles and olive-buds down on his face:
Rain the myrrh down, let all that is best fall a-pining,
⁠For thy myrrh, his life, from thy keeping is swept! —
—Pale he lay, thine Adonis, in purples reclining —
⁠The Loves raised their voices around him and wept.
They have shorn their bright curls off to cast on Adonis:
One treads on his bow, — on his arrows, another, —
One breaks up a well-feathered quiver; and one is,
⁠Bent low on a sandal, untying the strings;
⁠And one carries the vases of gold from the springs,
While one washes the wound; and behind them a brother
⁠Fans down on the body sweet airs with his wings.

Cytherea herself, now, the Loves are lamenting.
⁠Each torch at the door, Hymenæus blew out;
And the marriage-wreath dropping its leaves as repenting,
⁠No more "Hymen, Hymen," is chanted about,
But the ai ai instead — "ai alas" is begun
⁠For Adonis, and then follows "ai Hymenæus!"
The Graces are weeping for Cinyris' son
⁠Sobbing low, each to each, "His fair eyes cannot see us!" —
Their wail strikes more shrill than the sadder Dione's;
The Fates mourn aloud for Adonis, Adonis,
Deep chanting! he hears not a word that they say:
⁠He would hear, but Persephone has him in keeping.
— Cease moan, Cytherea — leave pomps for to-day,
⁠And weep new when a new year refits thee for weeping.

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Based on

Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

This text was added to the website: 2018-10-28
Line count: 121
Word count: 1109