Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Greece. Ancient Mediterranean land in which the poem is set. Greece is famous for its gods, myths, and philosophy that individual destinies are controlled by fate. By employing the setting of an ancient and pagan Greece, Swinburne is able to express an anti-Victorian point of view.


*Calydon. Ancient Greek city that is at the center of Atalanta in Calydon. When Oneus, the king of Calydon, mistakenly forgets to pay homage to Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, Artemis sends a wild boar to ravage Calydon. In addition to killing all who get in its path, the great boar destroys the farmlands, vineyards, and olive groves of Calydon. It then becomes incumbent for Greek heroes to come from far and wide to hunt down the boar and kill it. From a swamp, the boar attacks the hunters, and only after a fierce fight is it killed by Meleager.


*Arcadia. Mountainous region of ancient Greece from which come some of the warriors—including the beautiful athletic, virginal Atalanta—who hunt the boar destroying Calydon. Atalanta has grown up in the Arcadian wilderness, where she was reared by a female bear. Because of her rugged childhood, Atalanta is a fierce hunter and wounds the mighty boar with an arrow. Prince Meleager is so taken with her that he decides that she should be awarded the head and hide of the boar. This angers Meleager’s uncles, who believe that a woman from Arcadia should not be given the spoils of the hunt.

Atalanta in Calydon Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Cassidy, John A. Algernon C. Swinburne. New York: Twayne, 1964. A comprehensive study of Swinburne’s life and work. Part 3 of chapter 5 posits that Atalanta in Calydon is a response to Mary Gordon’s rejection of the marriage proposal that Swinburne may have made.

Henderson, Philip. Swinburne: The Portrait of a Poet. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974. Chapter 6 deals with various works, including Atalanta in Calydon and Poems and Ballads.

Louis, Margot Kathleen. Swinburne and His Gods: The Roots and Growth of Agnostic Poetry. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1990. Tracks the changes in Swinburne’s attitude to fate, in which context Atalanta in Calydon is a key work.

Rutland, William R. Swinburne: A Nineteenth Century Hellene. Oxford, England: Basil Blackwell, 1931. Proposes that Swinburne is an authentic tragedian in the classical tradition. Offers a comprehensive dissection of Atalanta in Calydon. Contains a useful appendix on various versions of the story of Meleager.

Thomas, Edward. Algernon Charles Swinburne: A Critical Study. London: Martin Secker, 1912. Chapter 1 opens this pioneering exercise in apologetics with a discussion of Atalanta in Calydon.