Dilacerant

Paolo Persico, Pietro Solari & Angelo Brunelli, Actaeonfontein, Caserta (detail)
The Actaeon fountain at Caserta

This is part 3 of 3. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.

Ille fugit, per quae fuerat loca saepe secutus,
heu famulos fugit ipse suos! clamare libebat:
‘Actaeon ego sum, dominum cognoscite vestrum!’
verba animo desunt; resonat latratibus aether.
prima Melanchaetes in tergo vulnera fecit,
proxima Therodamas, Oresitrophos haesit in armo:
tardius exierant, sed per compendia montis
anticipata via est; dominum retinentibus illis,
cetera turba coit confertque in corpore dentes.
iam loca vulneribus desunt; gemit ille sonumque,
etsi non hominis, quem non tamen edere possit
cervus, habet maestisque replet iuga nota querellis
et genibus pronis supplex similisque roganti
circumfert tacitos tamquam sua bracchia vultus.
at comites rapidum solitis hortatibus agmen
ignari instigant oculisque Actaeona quaerunt
et velut absentem certatim Actaeona clamant
(ad nomen caput ille refert) et abesse queruntur
nec capere oblatae segnem spectacula praedae.
vellet abesse quidem, sed adest; velletque videre,
non etiam sentire canum fera facta suorum.
undique circumstant, mersisque in corpore rostris
dilacerant falsi dominum sub imagine cervi,
nec nisi finita per plurima vulnera vita
ira pharetratae fertur satiata Dianae.
(Ovid, Met. 3.228-252)

…and he flees the hunt
he has so often led, longing to cry out
to the pack behind him “It’s me! Actaeon!
Recognize your master!” But the words
betray him and the air resounds with baying.
Now Brownie and Buster leap onto his back
while Mountain Climber dangles from one shoulder;
they’d started late but figured out a shortcut
across the hilltop; now he’s held at bay
until the pack can gather and begin
to savage him: torn by their teeth, he makes
a sound no man would make and no stag either,
a cry that echoes through those well-known heights;
and kneeling like a suppliant at prayer,
he turns toward them, pleading with his eyes,
as a man would with his hands.
But his companions
loudly encourage the ferocious pack,
all unaware: they look around for him,
call out to him as though he weren’t there;
“Actaeon!” “Pity he’s not here with us!”
And hearing his own name, he turns his head:
he might wish to be elsewhere, but he’s present,
and might wish merely to be watching this,
rather than feeling the frenzy of his dogs
who press around him, thrusting pointed snouts
into the savaged body of their master,
convinced that he’s a stag.
And it is said
he did not die until his countless wounds
had satisfied Diana’s awful wrath.
(tr. Charles Martin)

2 thoughts on “Dilacerant”

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