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Monday, 20 August 2012

Actaeon and Diana

Tip-toe
taut
as a drawn bow
is Actaeon
acting on instinct
leaving the hunt
bowing out
from his man-eating hounds.

Behind him the kill
the blood spill the thrill 
of the chase.
Forsaking them all
and all for the sake
of a soft
warmer shape
a quite different scent
an incense
a worshipful sense
which he finds
more alluring.

But none of this yet
is a physical kick
not an earthly bouquet
not an essence of flesh
and wild flowers.

The senses are making no sense.
An ether has entered his head
a virtual tease
something to please 
an old god.
So Actaeon stumbles along
lost in the forest
and lost in mind.

Soon in his head
the odour is joined
by a sound.
Water is  falling
somewhere around:
water like laughter
and laughter like water -
there's water and laughter
falling together,
their volumes and sounds 
buried deep in each other.

Think of him now 
as a stem 
in the dark underbelly 
of earth.
Think of him blind,
in the sway of a force 
that controls half the mind,
leads him on
to a light that
as yet he can't see. 

But now he's the force
as he forces a way
through the thick undergrowth
with the strength of a man
out of touch.

Such a force, he breaks through
as he hacks at thick vines
to be blinded again
in a quite different way
by a light that engulfs,
near swamps, his brain.

Vision and sight and light ever-
lasting at last!
A switch has been thrown. 
The change is from inner
to earthly encounter.

The laughter 
like water
spills from plump nymphs
attending their goddess,
Diana the virgin,
the huntress who bathes
in water like laughter.

Cascades all around
replenish the pool
with its rocks like a throne
on which she reclines
as naked as any rock
he's ever known.

The nymphs 
crowd their queen,
attempting to screen from 
his gaze what must not be seen.

Too late!
His eyes have locked on
with a gaze that
she feels like an arrow.
The arrow she fires in return
is a missile that robs him of speech.
How else to protect
the secrets he's seen,
the mysteres locked
in her nakedness?
He's condemned 
to a life without speech
a silence profound
and beyond that endured
by many a monk
or anchorite.

Now Actaeon plays along well,
believes he can 
yet beat the curse,
plays it dumb - 'til the sound
of the hunting horn reaches his ears
and impulse wins out.
He responds with his call -
then bites his tongue.
Too late, yet again:
the sad deed is done.
 
For Actaeon now 
all action 
flows out of remorse.
He runs through the forest
to melt in the trees
and rejoin the hunt.
Diana's ill humour
has followed him there.

Thirsty, he stoops 
to drink from a brook
sees in the water,
reflected from him,
half- human, half-finished
a stag's head with antlers
with streaks here and there
of the way that one day
humanity might be washed out. 
He watches 
more changes take place.

Startled at first,
he composes himself,
then stands 
like a stag on four feet
as the hounds fall 
upon him,
drawing blood by the pint.
They have not seen 
in the half-and-half beast
their old lord and leader. 
They tear at his flesh.
His heart, lungs and gut,
eyes, face and tongue,
are shredded
devoured
or strewn on the ground.

14 comments:

Dave King said...

Humble apologies to those whose comments did not appear when they should have. I was under the impression that I had temporarily de-activated moderation while I was away from the computer. Obviously not!

I can assure you that all the comments have been read and appreciated. I will catch up as best I can.

Once again, thank you all.

Brian Miller said...

wow vicious man....great story telling, i was right in it...and to be killed unrecognized by his own men in the end....whew...

jabblog said...

This danced along so beautifully and then drew to its bloody end. Powerful, Dave.

Tabor said...

Such a sad ending. Guess I wasn't expecting that. Too much like the Hunger Games ;-)

manicddaily said...

Wonderful tale well-told. I think there's a typo on last line or so - strewn?

I'm sorry to bring it up but it's at an important place. I think that's what you mean. k.

kaykuala said...

Strong, powerful read, Dave! Was somewhat taken aback at the ending.

Hank

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

I enjoyed the directness and intensity of this.
The Maenads' force at the end.

ds said...

I love the rhythm and the rhyme in this. Excellent retelling of the myth: you had me in it from the beginning. Thank you.

Mary said...

I second what Janice / Jabblog said. The ending really was a game changer. Intense and somewhat shocking!

Dulcina said...

The hunter hunted, first by his curiosity, then by the beauty of a goddess and finally by his friends.
I love these myths so much!
A lot of action in this tragedy flowing beautifully in your words like a cascade, red with blood at the end.
You are a good story teller, Dave.
These lines are my favs:
- The senses are making no sense.
- water like laughter
and laughter like water

I could watch all the scenes in my mind as if I were there. No break. Another terrific script, this time one for Tarantino or Brian de Palma.
Thanks for sharing.

The Elephant's Child said...

Powerful, seductive and a truly rewarding read. Thank you.

haricot said...

Beautiful and melancholic lines!
I'm curious about Diana's secret...
Is it a myth or your creation?

Dave King said...

Brian
Thanks Brian. Yes, those old Greeks knew how to twist the tail/tale!

jabblog
Much thanks for this.

Tabor
Mmmm, very like.

manicddaily
Thanks for pointing this out. No need to apologise, I'd rather know than not know! You're right, of course: strewn is what it should have been.

Hank
Yes, it's a gruesome end, I agree. So typical of them, though.

Tommaso
Thanks for your thoughts.

ds
Much thanks for your kind words.

Mary
Certainly, they didn't hold anything back, those old myths.

Dulcina
Wow, thanks a million for this. Methinks you do me too much credit (Tarantino and Brian de Palma!), but I'm happy to go with the thought!

The Elephant's Child
And thank you, so much, for your thoughts. Once more I am lost for an adequate reply, but I do appreciate them.

haricot
It is basically the Greek myth of Actaeon and the virgin Goddess Artemis - though I took the liberty of giving her her Roman name of Diana. The gory end was the consequence of seeing her naked.






Jack said...

Fantastic use of homonyms and alliteration. Also, the rhymes here--slant, perfect, unaccented--were well-placed and super effective. The line length and pacing really fit the piece, too.