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Actaeon and His Hounds

Actaeon and His Hounds

By Charles Moffat, February 2014.

Once there was a bowman trained by the centaur Chiron
He was the son of a pious herdsman, by the name of Actaeon
A skilled Theban hunter and swimmer, he was faster than a siren

As a hunter Actaeon loved to roam and with him took his hounds
He travelled to many great lands and was a guest on many palace grounds
His legs were fast and his bow was strong, the sum of many pounds

Actaeon feared no man or beast, hunting as he did
No less than fifty hounds travelled with him, doing as he bid
Stags and lions fell to his arrows, no matter how well they hid

His hounds were Acamas, Aethon, Agre, Agrius, Arcas, Argiodus, Argo,
Asbolos, Borax, Boreas, Charops, Corus, Cyllo, Dinomache, Dorceus, Draco,
Dromas, Dromius, Eudromas, Gorgo, Haemon, Harpalos, Harpyia, Hylacto

Hylaeus, Labros, Lacaena, Lachnas, Lacon, Ladon, Leaena, Laelaps, Leonus,
Leucon, Machimus, Melaneus, Nape, Nebrophonos, Obrimus, Orias, Oribasus,
Pachylus, Sagnos, Stilbon, Syrus, Theron, Thoos, Tigris, Volatos, Zephyrus,

So great was Actaeon's skill at hunting that he was called upon by Artemis
She sought a great stag that lived in a forest so deep it was an abyss
Actaeon immediately agreed to help the goddess, hoping for a kiss

As a prize Artemis offered the young archer her own bow, a rare prize
But while Actaeon was a great hunter and archer he was not very wise
His lust for the goddess grew daily, so much that he rarely met her eyes

Artemis grew displeased at his lustful gazes and took her leave from him
She found a spring by the road in Attica and decided to take a swim
But unbeknownst to the goddess Actaeon had pursued her on a whim

Artemis disrobed herself and swam in the cool deep waters of the spring
To get a better view Actaeon climbed into a tree and to a branch did cling
There he saw her in all her glorious beauty while she was singing

The moonlight flowed around her and the waters reflected the stars and trees
Suddenly Artemis stood bolt upright, something had set her at unease
She spotted it, the reflection in the water of a loincloth flapping in the breeze

Actaeon had disrobed and was approaching the dark pool, confident in his beauty
He tousled his hair, and stood there before her smiling without a shred of modesty
When Artemis turned to flee he jumped in after her with a hoot of wild glee

Madly Actaeon pursued her, shouting for his hounds to help him in the hunt
But Artemis thought quickly and cursed him angrily where he stood so blunt
"Shout one more word Actaeon and you shall never have my c**t!"

But the hunter thought nothing of this, so wild was he in his passions
He shouted after her, claiming he was best of all her companions
A hunter even greater than she, his kills many great stags and lions

Artemis changed into a golden doe, fleeing quickly through the foliage
Past sparkling rivers and streams she bounded over every hedge
Until at long last she came to a cliff and jumped over the ledge

Actaeon pursued her wildly, her distant figure disappearing in the brush
He could hear the hounds behind him, barking wildly in their rush
Until he at last lost his breath and paused by a stream that did gush

There in the water he saw his reflection, a handsome rack of antlers
Long neck and four powerful legs, all ending with hooves like hers
So beautiful, he had never seen finer stags, lions or panthers

He knew instantly that she was not the only one thus transformed
He had become his own prey and although beautiful he felt malformed
He could hear his hounds coming closer, across the river they stormed

Actaeon turned and fled, all fifty of his hounds nipping at his heels
He shouted at Artemis to forgive him, so plaintive were his appeals
None of this she heard as his hounds ripped into his flesh for their evening meals

Actaeon died near a spring in Attica, a feast for his beloved hunting pets
Artemis took his hounds as her own, renaming them without any regrets
Let this be a warning to all men who ignore a goddess's threats


Actaeon Sculpture in Caserta Italy

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