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.)