The Poem

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 670

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

Meeting him one morning in the fields as he rides out to the hunt, she urges him to dismount, tie his horse to a tree, and talk with her. Adonis has no desire to talk to any woman, even the goddess, but she forces him to do as she wishes. Reclining by his side, she looks at him with caressing glances and talks passionately of the wonder and glory of love. The more she talks, the more she begs him for a kind look, a kiss, the more anxious he becomes to leave her and go on with his hunting. Venus is not easily repulsed, however; she tells him how even the god of war was a willing prisoner of her charms. She numbers all the pleasures she can offer him if he will accept her love. Blushing, Adonis finally breaks from her arms and goes to get his horse.

At that moment, his stallion hears the call of a jennet in a field nearby. Aroused, he breaks the leather thong that holds him and gallops to her. At first the jennet pretends to be cold to the stallion’s advances, but when she perceives that Adonis is about to overtake his mount, she gives a neigh of affection and the two horses gallop away to another field. Adonis is left behind.

Dejected, he stands thinking of the hunt that he is missing because his horse ran away. Venus comes up to him again and continues her pleas of love. For a while he listens to her, but in disgust he turns finally and gives her such a look of scorn that the lovesick goddess faints and falls to the ground. Thinking he killed her with his unkind look, Adonis kneels beside her, rubs her wrists, and kisses her in hope of forgiveness. Venus, recovering from her swoon, asks him for one last kiss. He grudgingly consents before turning to leave. When Venus asks when they can meet the next day. Adonis replies that he will not see her, for he is to go boar hunting. Struck with a vision, the goddess warns the youth that he will be killed by a boar if he hunts the next day, and she begs him to meet her instead. She throws herself on the boy and carries him to the Earth in her arms in a last attempt to gain his love, Adonis admonishes the goddess on the difference between heavenly love and earthly lust. He leaves her alone and weeping.

The next morning finds Venus wandering through the woods in search of Adonis. In the distance, she can hear the noise of the dogs and the voices of the hunters. Frantic because of her vision of the dead Adonis, she rushes through the forest trying to follow the sounds of the hunt. When she sees a wounded and bleeding dog, the fear she feels for Adonis becomes almost overpowering. Suddenly she comes upon Adonis lying dead, killed by the fierce wild boar he hunted. Venus’s grief knows no bounds. If this love is taken from her, then never again should man love happily. Where love is, there also will mistrust, fear, and grief be found.

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

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