Nam perhibent olim crudeli peste coactam
Androgeoneae poenas exsolvere caedis
electos iuvenes simul et decus innuptarum
Cecropiam solitam esse dapem dare Minotauro.
quis angusta malis cum moenia vexarentur,
ipse suum Theseus pro caris corpus Athenis
proicere optavit potius quam talia Cretam
funera Cecropiae nec funera portarentur.
atque ita nave levi nitens ac lenibus auris
magnanimum ad Minoa venit sedesque superbas.
hunc simul ac cupido conspexit lumine virgo
regia, quam suavis exspirans castus odores
lectulus in molli complexu matris alebat,
quales Eurotae praecingunt flumina myrtus
aurave distinctos educit verna colores,
non prius ex illo flagrantia declinavit
lumina, quam cuncto concepit corpore flammam
funditus atque imis exarsit tota medullis.
heu misere exagitans immiti corde furores
sancte puer, curis hominum qui gaudia misces,
quaeque regis Golgos quaeque Idalium frondosum,
qualibus incensam iactastis mente puellam
fluctibus, in flavo saepe hospite suspirantem!
quantos illa tulit languenti corde timores!
quanto saepe magis fulgore expalluit auri,
cum saevum cupiens contra contendere monstrum
aut mortem appeteret Theseus aut praemia laudis!
For long ago, the tale goes, in thrall to a pestilential
cruel demand for atonement after Androgeos’ murder,
the city of Cecrops would send the pick of her young men,
the flower of her maidens, as a feast for the Minotaur.
With this evil hanging heavy over her narrow ramparts,
Theseus chose, for the sake of the Athens he loved, to
expose his own body rather than suffer these dead,
these living dead, to be shipped to Crete like cattle.
So trusting to his light vessel and following breezes
he came to haughty Minos and his palatial abode.
Him, the instant that with eyes of desire the royal
virgin spied him, though still confined to a single
sweet-scented bed and her mother’s soft embraces,
like myrtle brought forth by the waters of Eurotas
or the dappled colors that vernal breezes conjure,
she did not lower her smoldering gaze from him till
through the length of her body the flame was kindled
deep at the core, and blazed up in her inmost marrow.
Ah, wretchedly stirring wild passions, ruthless at heart,
Sacred Boy, you who mingle joy with sorrow for mortals,
and you, Lady, ruler of Golgi and leaf-thick Idalium,
on what rough surges you tossed that girl, mind flaring,
as over and over she sighed for the blond stranger:
what looming terrors with heavy heart she suffered,
how often she turned paler than gold’s bright splendor
when Theseus, hot to contend with the savage monster,
courted either death or the rewards of glory!
(tr. Peter Green)