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GOWER, John

Confessio Amantis

Book 1 - The death of Acteon  

…..

A tale tells Ovid in his book

Of how a man may wrongly look:

There was one time a worthy lord

Whose name was Acteon adored

By all in Thebes, a cousin to

Him who that city built and who

As monarch was king Cadmus called.

This prince, within this city walled,

Above all others folks was fond

Of hunting, every year he donned

His gear and with great horns and hounds

To thorny woodland hunting grounds

He’d venture and enjoy the chase:

Where he thought best to every place

He rode for hunting and for play,

To stalk and to pursue his prey.

Once as the hunt he did begin

It happened that when he was in

The woods he found himself alone:

He saw that much green grass had grown

On which fresh flowers fair had sprung,

The thrush and nightingale among

The rustling foliage he did hear:

Erelong into a meadow clear

Within a valley he did ride;

All round about on every side

Were bushes green and cedars high;

Into this place he cast his eye.

A pleasant well was in this plain,

How fair no mortal might explain,

Diana stood completely bare

To bathe and in the waters there

With many nymphs who served her play.

He did not turn his eyes away

From her who stood all naked there;

At him she cast an angry glare,

And as she was a goddess she

Transformed him so that he would be

A stag for everyone to see,

Which startled all his hounds, as he

Most anxiously did run around

While many a hunter’s horn did sound

That loud incessant noises made:

His ill fate he could not evade,

As his own hounds his life did take

And tore him up for vengeance sake.

My son, consider how much ache

Was purchased at a price so high

When Acteon miscast his eye;

This lesson to yourself apply.

Before you act take heed, and think

It’s better not to look, just wink.

  Modern English version by Richard Brodie.