Hippomenes and Atalanta

Hippomenes and Atalanta strove
To win a race: he lov'd her; but she shunn'd
All lovers, and her royal sire had sworn
That none should marry her unless the one
Swifter of foot, believing none could match
His girl in fleetness, and decreed that all
Should surely die who fail'd in such attempt.
Courageously came forth Hippomenes.
She once beheld him, and she pitied him,
For she had made a vow to Artemis
That she would never violate a word
Her father had exacted.
Now the hour
Had come to prove her faith; the venturous youth
Stood now before her. Down she cast her eyes,
And cried in broken words, " Rash youth! depart,
The Fates (thou seest them not) are close behind;
Seven brave youths, hardly less brave than thou,
Have fallen for contending in the race
With wretched Atalanta . . . Go."

Hippomenes . To live
For Atalanta is the first of glory,
To die for her the next: this they enjoyed
In death, the better they bequeathe to me.
Atalanta . Pity I gave them, do not ask for more,
Nor for such cause; let me not weep again,
Let that be the last time.
Hippomenes . So may it be!
So shall it; for the Gods have given me strength
And confidence: one name for victory.
Certain I am to win.
Atalanta . No, thou rash boy!
If thou must try such hazard . . if thou must . . .
Must? what impels thee? madness! There is time
Yet to turn back; I do implore thee . . go.
Artemis sees me.
Hippomenes . Aphrodite sees
Me , and smiles on me, and instructs me how . .
Atalanta . Cease, cease, this instant: I abhor the name;
My Goddess hates her, should not I? I do.
Hippomenes . I love all Goddesses, the kindest most,
And I beseech her now to make me grateful.
Atalanta . All I can hope for is thy swift escape;
Be prompt: I see white sails below the cliff;
My father soon shall know 'twas my command,
He wills obedience, he shall value thine,
And send thee gifts.
Hippomenes . I want but one, which one
The king shall give me.
Atalanta . What is that?
Hippomenes . This hand.
Atalanta . And snatchest thou my hand? audacious creature!
No man hath dared to touch it until now,
Nor I converst with any half so long.
Hippomenes . Not half so long have any loved as I.
Atalanta . Insane! it was but yesterday we met.
Hippomenes . In yesterday, its day and night, lay years.
Atalanta . I never was dissembler. I will pass
Unyoked thro' life.
Hippomenes . O Atalanta! love
No yoke imposes, he removes the heaviest
The Destinies would throw around the neck
Of youth, who wearies in the dismal way
Of lonely life.
Atalanta . I do not comprehend
Those flighty words, they sound like idle song.
Hippomenes . Scoff not, add not another to the seven,
Without a race for it; my breath is failing.
Atalanta . O perfidy! to make me weep again!
Others too may have loved.
Hippomenes . But not like me;
Else would the Gods have rais'd them to themselves,
Ay, and above themselves, in happiness,
Crowning the best of them with amaranth.
Atalanta . Zeus holds the scales of weal and woe.
Hippomenes . Zeus holds them,
But little Eros with light finger stoops
The balance-bowl: Zeus shakes his head and smiles.
Atalanta . What wouldst thou?
Hippomenes . Thee; thee only; no rich ile,
No far dominion over land and sea.
Atalanta . Easier to win than what thou seekest here.
Remember last year's fruit; it lies beneath
The seven hillocks of yon turf, ill-squared
And disunited yet, on the left hand.
Shame! thus to weaken me in my resolve,
And break my father's heart! no, thou shalt not.
Hippomenes . I blame not tears for those who bravely fell.
Atalanta . I never did shed tears, and never will.
Come, let us lose no time, if strive we must.
The sward is level here and sound and soft;
Throw off thy sandals, I will throw off mine.

They both started; he, by one stride, first,
For she half pitied him so beautiful,
Running to meet his death, yet was resolved
To conquer: soon she near'd him, and he felt
The rapid and repeated gush of breath
Behind his shoulder.
From his hand now dropt
A golden apple: she lookt down and saw
A glitter on the grass, yet on she ran.
He dropt a second; now she seem'd to stoop:
He dropt a third; and now she stoopt indeed:
Yet, swifter than a wren picks up a grain
Of millet, rais'd her head: it was too late,
Only one step, only one breath, too late.
Hippomenes had toucht the maple goal
With but two fingers, leaning pronely forth.
She stood in mute despair; the prize was won.
Now each walkt slowly forward, both so tired,
And both alike breathed hard, and stopt at times.
When he turn'd round to her, she lowered her face
Cover'd with blushes, and held out her hand,
The golden apple in it.
" Leave me now,"
Said she, " I must walk homeward."
He did take
The apple and the hand.
" Both I detain,"
Said he, " the other two I dedicate
To the two Powers that soften virgin hearts,
Eros and Aphrodite; and this one
To her who ratifies the nuptial vow."
She would have wept to see her father weep;
But some God pitied her, and purple wings
(What God's were they?) hovered and interposed.
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