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Venus and Adonis


Locale: Greece

Principal characters

VENUS, goddess of love

ADONIS, a handsome youth loved by Venus


In all the world there was no more beautiful figure, no more perfectly made creature, than young Adonis. Although his beauty was a delight to the sun and to the winds he had no interest in love. His only joy was in hunting and riding over the hills and fields after the deer and the fox. When Venus, the goddess of love, saw the beauty of young Adonis, she came down to Earth because she was filled with love for him. 

Meeting him one morning in the fields as he rode out to the hunt, she urged him to dismount, tie his horse to a tree, and talk with her. Adonis had no desire to talk to any woman, even the goddess, but she forced him to do as she wished. Reclining by his side she looked at him with caressing glances and talked passionately of the wonder and glory of love. The more she talked, the more she begged him for a kind look a kiss, the more anxious he became to leave her and go on with his hunting Venus was not easily repulsed, however; she told him how even the god of war had been a willing prisoner of her charms. She numbered all the pleasures she could offer him if he would accept her love. Blushing, Adonis finally broke from her arms and went to get his horse. At that moment, his stallion heard the call of a jennet in a field nearby. Aroused, he broke the leather thong that held him and galloped to her. At first the jennet pretended to be cold to the stallion's advances, but when she perceived that Adorns was about to overtake his mount, she gave a neigh of affection and the two horses galloped away to another field. Adonis was left behind. 

Dejected, he stood thinking of the hunt that he was missing because his horse had run away. Venus came up to him again and continued her pleas of love. For a while he listened to her, but in disgust he turned finally and gave her such a look of scorn that the lovesick goddess fainted and fell to the ground. Thinking he had killed her with his unkind look. Adonis knelt beside her, rubbed her wrists and kissed her in hope of forgiveness. Venus, recovering from her swoon, asked him for one last kiss. He grudgingly consented before turning to leave. When Venus asked when they could meet the next day. Adonis replied that he would not see her, for he was to go boar hunting. Struck with a vision, the goddess warned the youth that he would be killed by a boar if he hunted the next day, and she begged him to meet her instead. She threw herself on the boy and carried him to the earth in her arms in a last attempt to gain his love. Adonis admonished the goddess on the difference between heavenly love and earthly lust. He left her alone and weeping. 

The next morning found Venus wandering through the woods in search of Adonis. In the distance, she could hear the noise of the dogs and the voices of the hunters. Frantic because of her vision of the dead Adonis, she rushed through the forest trying to follow the sounds of the hunt. When she saw a wounded and bleeding dog, the fear she felt for Adonis became almost overpowering. Suddenly she came upon Adonis lying dead, killed by the fierce wild boar he had hunted. Venus' grief knew no bounds. If this love were taken from her, then never again should man love happily. Where love was, there also would mistrust, fear, and grief be found. 

The body of Adonis lay white and cold on the ground, his blood coloring the earth and plants about him. From this soil there grew a flower, white and purple like the blood that spotted his skin. With a broken heart, Venus left Earth to hide her sorrow in the dwelling place of the gods.



To view other Venus and Adonis sections:

Main Poem Page       Poem Text         Synopsis         Commentary


To view other Poems  sections:

Poems Main Page      Venus and Adonis     The Rape of Lucrece      A Lover's Complaint     The Phoenix and the Turtle


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