V sec. d.C.

NONNO DI PANOPOLI, Dionisiache, V, 287-551

Traduzione da: Rouse W.H.D. (a cura di), Nonnos, Dionysiaca, Londra, 1956

Afterwards from the bed of Aristaios and Autonoe, arose Actaion. Hpassion was for the rocks; and having in him the blood of the hunter, he took the mould of his huntsman father, and became a mountainranging servant of Artemis – no wonder that illfated Actaion learnt the practice of the chase, when he was born grandson to lionslaying Cyrene! Never a bear escaped him on the hills; not even the baneful eye of the lioness with young could make his heart flutter. Many a time he lay in wait for the panther, and laid her low as she leapt on him hig in air. Sheperd Pan would ever gaze at him over the bushes with wondering eyes, while he outstripped the running of the swift stag. But his running feet availed himnothing, his quiver helped him not, nor the straight shot, the cunning of the chase; but the Portioner destroyed him, a scampering fawn worried by dogs, while still breathing battle after the Indian war. For as he sat up in a tall oak tree amid the spreading boughs, he had seen the whole body of the Archeress bathing; and gazing greedily on the goddess that none maysee, he surveyed inch by inch the holy body of the unweddwd virgin close at hand. A Naiad nynph unveiled espied him from afar with a sidelong look, as she stared with stolen glances on the unclothed shape of her queen, and shrieked in horror, telling her queen the wild daring of a lovesick man. Artemis half revealed caught up her dress and encircling shawl, and covered her modest breasts with the maiden zone in shame, and sank with gliding limbs into the water, until by little and little all her form was hidden. Actaion heavy-fated! At once your manly shape was gone – four feet had cloven hooves – long cheeks drew out on your jawbones – your legs became thinner – two long bunches of widebranching antlers curved over your forehead – a borrowed shape, its body all covered with air, dappled every limb with motley spots – a windswift fawn had nothing of you left but the mind! With quickfaring leap of the hoof he ran through the unfriendly forest, a hunter in terror of hunters. But in this new shape his dogs no longer knew their former master. The angry Archeress in resentment maddened them with a nod – there was no escape; panting infuriated with wild frenzy, they sharpende the double row of their fawnkilling teeth, and deceived by the false appearence of a stag they devoured the dappled changeling body in senseless fury. But that was not all the goddes meant: the dogs were to tear Actaion slowly to pieces with their jaws little by little, while breathing still and in his right mind, that she might torment his mind even morewith sharper pains. So he with a man’s feeling groaned for his own fate, while he cried aloud in a lamentable voice: “Happy Teiresias! You saw without destruction the naked body of Athena, reluctant but pitiful. You did not die! You did not get the shape of a stag, no poking horns raised themselves on your brow. You lost the light of your eyes, but you live! And the brilliancy of the eyes Athena transplanted to your mind. Archeress is more deadly in anger than Tritogeneia. O that she had given me a pain like that! O that she also had attacked the eyes, as Athena did! O that she had transformed my mind with my form – for I have the alien shape of a beast, yet a man’s feeling in me! Do beasts ever lament their own death? They live without thought, and know not their end. I alone keep a sensible mind perishing: I drop intelligent tears, under the brows of a beast! Now for the firts time, my hounds, you are really wild; when before have you hunted a lion with frenzied leap like this! “Sing a dirge for Actaion, my beloved hills! Yes I beseech you, and the beasts do the like! Chitharion, tell Autonoe what you know; with stony tears describe to Aristaios my father, my end and the maddened hounds unmerciful. O dreadful fate! With my own hands I fed my murderers” if only a hillranging lion had brought me low, if only a dappleback panther had dragged me and torn me, if only furious bears had pierced me about with sharp merciless claws, and feasted on the seeming fawn with fashing jaws, not my own familiar hounds had brought me down; no longer they know my shape, no longer the voice with a sound so strange!” Half dead he spoke, and he has prayed, the cruel hound din not understand the prayers poured out in sorrow with the voice of a beast; the stories he told had meaning, but instead of a human voice, only a noise of unmeaning sound rang out. Already Rumour self boorn had flown from the hills to Autoneo, proclaiming her son’s fate torn to pieces by his dogs: not indeed that he had donned the thickhaired shape of a stag, only that he was dead. His mother in her passionat elove, unshod, unveiled, was scourged by grief. She tore her hair, she rent all her smock, she scored her cheeks with her nails in sorrow till they were red with blood; baring her bosom, she reddened the lifegiving round of the breasts which had nursed her children, in memory of her son; over her sorrowing face the tears ran in ceaseless flood and drenched her robes. Actaion’s hounds returning from the mountain confirmed the tindings of woe, for they revealed the young man’s end by their silent tears. When the mother saw the mourning she wailed louder still. Old Cadmos shore off his hoary hair, Harmonia cried aloud; the whole house resounded heavybooming with the noise of women wailing in concert. Autonoe along with Aristaios her husband went in search of the scattered remains of the dead. She saw her son, but knem him not; she beheld the shape of a dappled deer and saw no aspect of a man. Often she passed the bones of a fawn unrecognized, lying on the ground, and did not understand; for her boy was dead, and she looked to find a human shape. I blame not unhappy Autonoe. The relics of her son wich met her eyes were of alien shape; she noticed the jaws of a face unrecognized and did not see the circle of his countenance, touched horns and did not know a son’s temples, found slim legs and did not trace of his feet, saw slim legs and saw not the rounded boots. I blame not unhappy Autonoe; she saw not the human eyes of him that was gone, she saw no image of a manly shape, she saw not the well-know chin marked with the dark flower of bloom. Passing over the forest ridges with wandering feet, she trod the rough back of the rugged hill, unshod, with loosened robe, and returned home frome themountiainranging task; grieving for her unsuccessful cares she dell asleep at the last beside her husband, unhappy father! Both were hounted by shadowy dreams, their eyes glimpsing the wing of a nighttingale sleep. The young man’s ghost stood by his disconsolate father, wearing the shadowy form of a dappled stag; but from his eyelids he poured tears of understanding and spoke with a human voice: “You sleep, my father, and ou know not my fate. Wake, and recognize my unknown changeling looks; wake, and embrace the horn of a stag you love, kiss a wild beast with understanding, on born of Autonoe’s womb! I whom you behold am that very one you brought up; you both see Actaaion and hear Actaion’s voice. If you desire to clasp your boy’s hand and fingers, look at my forefeet and you shall know my hands. If you want my head, behold the head of a stag; if human temples, look at the long horns; if Actaion’s feet, see the hindhoof. If you have seen my hairy coat, it was my clothing. Know your son, my father, whom Apollo did not save! Mourn your son, my father, whom Citharion did not protect! Cover in the sad dust your boy in disguise, and be not misled by this changeling incredible aspect, that you may not leave your dead fawn unburied and unhonoured. “Father, if you had only kept me unversed in hunting! I should never have desired the Archeress of the wilds, I sholud never have seen the Olympian shape. If only I have loved a mortal girl! But I left earthborn women and quickfated wedlock to others, and I desire an immortal: the goddess was angry, and I became a dinner for my dogs, father – the hills are my witnesses, or if you do not believe rocks, ask the Naiad nymphs – my trees know all, ask my wild beasts (with forms like mine) and the shepherds whom I summoned. " I do beg, my father, for one last grace: they knew not what they did, so do not kill my slayers. in your love and sorrow for your child; pity those who slew your son, for they àre not to blame-they did not mean it, they were misled by my beastlike looks to take me for a beast. What hound ever spares a stag? What man is angry with dogs for killing a fawn? How the poor creatures scamper about the hills all round, this way and that way, searching for the thing they have killed I They drop understanding tears from their eyes, and throw their forepaws round the nets with what might be an affectionate embrace, like sorrowing men, and weep over the place where I lie with mournful bellings. Yes, I pray you, do not kill the mourners! It was my face, but they saw only a hairy skin; they did not obey my prayers, they did not stay their teeth, because they heard only the bellow of my changeling voice, and in whimpering tones questioned my cliff: - 'To-day someone has stolen Actaion: tell us, Rocks, whither he plies his pricketchasing course? Tell us, Nymphs!’ So the dogs; and the hill made answer, ‘What hillranging pricket hunts the pricket himseIf? I never heard of a stag turned stagshooter! But Actaion has changed into another shape and become a fawn with a mind, he who once killed the wild beasts – he who has the blood of the Hunter in him is hunted by a manslayer himself, by Archeress!' So shouted the cliffs to the sorrowful hounds. Often Artemis said to my hunting murderer, 'Down, heavylabouring hound! trace no more the wander­ing slot. Do you seek Actaion whom you carry in your belly? Do you seek Actaion whom you have killed? If you like, you shall see the orts of your meal, nothing but bones.' “But I will tell you my fate, father, in due order. There was a longleafy thicket, part of wild­olive, part of orchard olive. Like a fool I left Phylia's namesfellow growth and scrambled up a handy branch of the pure o1ive, to spy out the naked skin of Artemis – forbidden sight! I was mad­ – I committed two outrageous sins, when I climbed Pallas's tree to look on the Archeress's body with bold eyes; from which the danger of heavy resent­ment attacked Actaion, both from Artemis and from Athena. For Artemis newly sweating in the vapour of the oppressive fiery heat, after coursing her familiar game, was bathing in the pure water; and as she bathed, ber brilliance shooting snowy gleams on the waters against my eyes dazzled me. You might have said the full moon of evening was flashing through the water near the refluent stream of Oceanos. The Naiads all shrieked together; Loxo cried aloud with Upis in concert, and checked her sister Hecaerge wbo was swimming in tje calm stream. Darkness pervaded the air and covered my eyes; I slipt down from the tree headlong into the dust, and suddenly got me a dappled shape. Instead of a human form I had a shape unknown, covered all over with hair, and the hunting-dogs all at once drove their fangs into me. “But I will not speak of all that – why should I inflict a second pain? or I may cause you to groan again even in sleep. Often you passed that tree where lies what is left of Actaion; often you went by those pitiable bones of a dappled fawn, disjointed, scattered on the ground far apart, torn from the flesh by many eaters. But I will tell you another sign of my death which you will believe. You will see my quiver and bow near the tree where the trouble began, unless the winged arrows have been trans­formed also, unless Artemis in her anger has changed roy bow back to its native wood and transformed the quiver. Otos was happy, that he became no wandering fawn. The dogs did not rend Orlonthe dogmaster. Would that a scorpion had killed Actaion also with a sharp sting! I was a fool-empty rumour deceived my mind. I heard that Phoibos, the Archeress's brother, slept with Cyrene and begat my father, and I thought to draw Artemis to marriage in the fami1y. I heard again that shining Dawn carried off Orion for a bridegroom, and Selene Endymion, and Deo embraced a mortaI husband Iasion, and I thought the Archeress's mind the same.  “I beg you, father, give burlai to the.changeling stronghorned shape; let it not be a toy for other dogs! And if you cover what is left of me in the hollowed earth, grant me this boon also: fix my bow and arrows beside my tomb, which is the honour due to the dead. But no, father, never mind bow and arrows, because Archeress delights in shafts and bends a curving bow. And ask a skilful artist to carve my changeling dappled shape from neck to feet, but let him make only my face of human form, that all may recognize my shape as false. But do not inscribe my fate, father; for the wayfarer can­not shed a tear for fate and shape together." So spoke in the dream the intelligent pricket, and without warning it was flown and gone. Au­tonoe's husband leapt up, and threw off the wing of this revealing sleep. He aroused his wife much dis­turbed, and described her boy's stronghorned animal form, and recounted the story which the intelligent fawn had told. Then there was more lamentation. The bride of Aristaios went on the search again, and passed often through the heart of the longbranching bush; sadly treading the difficult circuits of the rocky ways, she found with pains that fatal growth, she found even the quiver and bow beside a lonely trunk. With much trouble the mother gathered the fallen relics,  bones scattered here and there over the strewn earth. She clasped the sweet hotn with loving hand, and kissed hairy lips of the bloodstained fawn. Wailing loudly the mother entombed the dead, and carved along the tomb all that the voice in a dream of the night had told Actaion’s father.