a collection of literature from poets, bards, songwriters, and skalds in the SCA

The Death of Actaeon

Poem (Canso): 

When Cynthia her winter reign did end
And cast away her cloak of frozen dew,
Then Flora to her newborn babes attend
While Zephyrs breath the pasture grant green hue.
And mortal Actaeon, that shepherd boy,
Did set out to seek of the world his joy.

That gentle youth into dark wood did go,
Hoping treasure to find, or else kind fate
That pastor before he did never know
Nor would again ere reaching Heavens gate.
Actaeon brave trod from th’ established way
And found a realm which forsook light of day.

His hunting-hounds some prey did chance espie,
But unskilled was he to it overcome,
And soon the boy, alone of enemie,
Sought not fortune but merely the way home.
Alone, Actaeon began soft to sing,
In hopes that his words might friends closer bring.

The fair boy did begin to sing of love
And noble virtue that such bliss could bear,
But no reply sprang forth to further more
The melody which grew ever less fair.
Actaeon, o kind Actaeon, gaze now
At this loneliness which ‘round thee doth grow.

The wilderness before him grew more black,
And youthful hope turned then to frightful wail
And eke of scornful fear he wished to lack,
But spread throughout his soul like deadly ail.
Actaeons song, grown thus in ignorance
To wretched filth, gave the wood sustenance.

As he roamed, e’er more gnarled did he grow
While hellish chant escaped his tainted lip.
In bestial stagger ‘gan the shepherd bow
And poisoned poesy from his mouth drip.
But ere Actaeon was condemned to Hell,
Came he upon a blessed dryad well.

The shephered youth continued forth in vain
Without a thought of who within might rest,
And found before himself, with bathing train,
Was chaste Diane, her full beauty undrest.
Yet simple Actaeon, who kept no wit,
Crept closer to where no man is admit.

Gazed then the boy upon that goddess pure,
And sought he full her favor to him grant:
To be ne’er from her sight would he endure,
For little else could the youth ever want.
So Actaeon began to sing anew,
Hoping to win her favor and love trew.

But for his wandering in darkened wood,
The pastor’s song resembled little fair;
In pain cried out the nature’s dryad brood
While Diane cloaked herself beneath her hair.
Yet did Actaeon sing on without heed,
Unknowing of the fate for his sad deed.

Diana and her kin themselves did arm
And seek the shepherd who made ugly song.
The boy, bade silent under threat of harm,
Was shed of all he owned for his wrong.
Actaeon, who turned to bitter hate,
Now must accept the terms of his cruel fate.

The virgin goddess did give this decree,
That the boy who came thus into her bath
Would never again form of fair youth be,
His villainy inciting Dian’s wrath.
“Actaeon, poetaster, flee thou hence,
For soon thou losest all thy wit and sense.”

Fleeing in vain, the youth no longer sings,
His cries becoming the stag’s bellowed moan.
And far off in return, a howling rings:
The hunting-hounds now prey upon their own.
Poor Actaeon, whose form was wracked by ill,
Did lose his soul under cruel yoke of will.