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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Greece and Turkey in Europe: Vol. XIX. 1876–79.

Greece: Calydon

The Boar-Hunt

By Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837–1909)

(From Atalanta in Calydon)

THESE having halted bade blow horns, and rode

Through woods and waste lands cleft by stormy streams,

Past yew-trees and the heavy hair of pines,

And where the dew is thickest under oaks,

This way and that; but questing up and down

They saw no trail nor scented; and one said,

Plexippus, Help, or help not, Artemis,

And we will flay thy boarskin with male hands;

But, saying, he ceased and said not that he would,

Seeing where the green ooze of a sun-struck marsh

Shook with a thousand reeds untunable,

And in their moist and multitudinous flower

Slept no soft sleep, with violent visions fed,

The blind bulk of the immeasurable beast.

And, seeing, he shuddered with sharp lust of praise

Through all his limbs, and launched a double dart,

And missed; for much desire divided him,

Too hot of spirit and feebler than his will,

That his hand failed, though fervent; and the shaft,

Sundering the rushes, in a tamarisk stem

Shook, and stuck fast; then all abode save one,

The Arcadian Atalanta; from her side

Sprang her hounds, laboring at the leash, and slipped,

And plashed ear-deep with plunging feet; but she,

Saying, Speed it as I send it for thy sake,

Goddess, drew bow and loosed; the sudden string

Rang, and sprang inward, and the waterish air

Hissed, and the moist plumes of the songless reeds

Moved as a wave which the wind moves no more.

But the boar heaved half out of ooze and slime

His tense flank trembling round the barbéd wound,

Hateful; and fiery with invasive eyes

And bristling with intolerable hair

Plunged, and the hounds clung, and green flowers and white

Reddened and broke all round them where they came.

And charging with sheer tusk he drove, and smote

Hyleus; and sharp death caught his sudden soul,

And violent sleep shed night upon his eyes.

Then Peleus, with strong strain of hand and heart,

Shot; but the sidelong arrow slid, and slew

His comrade born and loving countryman,

Under the left arm smitten, as he no less

Poised a like arrow; and bright blood break afoam,

And falling, and weighed back by clamorous arms,

Sharp rang the dead limbs of Eurytion.

Then one shot happier, the Cadmean seer,

Amphiaraus; for his sacred shaft

Pierced the red circlet of one ravening eye

Beneath the brute brows of the sanguine boar,

Now bloodier from one slain; but he so galled

Sprang straight, and rearing cried no lesser cry

Than thunder and the roar of wintering streams

That mix their own foam with the yellower sea;

And as a tower that falls by fire in fight

With ruin of walls and all its archery,

And breaks the iron flower of war beneath,

Crushing charred limbs and molten arms of men;

So through crushed branches and the reddening brake

Clamored and crashed the fervor of his feet,

And trampled, springing sideways from the tusk,

Too tardy a moving mould of heavy strength,

Ancæus; and as flakes of weak-winged snow

Break, all the hard thews of his heaving limbs

Broke, and rent flesh fell every way, and blood

Flew, and fierce fragments of no more a man.

Then all the heroes drew sharp breath, and gazed,

And smote not; but Meleager, but thy son,

Right in the wild way of the coming curse

Rock-rooted, fair with fierce and fastened lips,

Clear eyes, and springing muscle and shortening limb,—

With chin aslant indrawn to a tightening throat,

Grave, and with gathered sinews, like a god,—

Aimed on the left side his well-handled spear

Grasped where the ash was knottiest hewn, and smote,

And with no missile wound, the monstrous boar

Right in the hairiest hollow of his hide

Under the last rib, sheer through bulk and bone,

Deep in; and deeply smitten, and to death,

The heavy horror with his hanging shafts

Leapt, and fell furiously, and from raging lips

Foamed out the latest wrath of all his life.