The Faun's Punishment

Image: Correggio; Allegory of the Vices (ca. 1531). Tempera on canvas. 148 x 88 cm. © The Louvre Museum, Paris

Correģgio

The Louvre
 

WHAT has the tortured, old Faun been doing ? 
What was his impious sin, 
That the Maenads have ceased from pursuing 
Cattle, with leaps and din, 
To compass him round, 
On woodland ground, 
With cords and faces dire,— 
Cords fastened with strain,
Faces hate-stretched ? 
Why have they fetched 
Snakes from the grass, with swift tongues of fire,
And a reed from the stream-sodden plain ? 

Beneath the sun's and the oak-leaves' flicker, 
They settle near—ah, near !
One blows her reed, as dry as a wicker, 
Into the old Faun's ear ; 
The scream of the wind, 
With flood combined,
Rolls on his simple sense : 
It is anguish heard, 
For quietness splits 
Within ; and fits 
Of gale and surge are a fierce offence
To him who knows but the breeze or bird. 

One sits with fanciful eyes beside him ; 
Malice and wonder mix 
In her glance at the victim—woe betide him,
When once her snakes transfix 
His side ! Ere they dart, 
With backward start 
She waits their rigid pause ; 
And with comely stoop 
One maid, elate 
With horror, hate 
And triumph, up from his ankle draws 
The skin away in a clinging loop. 

Before the women a boy-faun dances, 
Grapes and stem at his chin,— 
Mouth of red the red grape-bunch enhances 
Ere it is sucked within 
By the juicy lips, 
Free as the tips 
Of tendrils in their curve ; 
And his flaccid cheek, 
Mid mirthful heaves 
And ripples, weaves 
A guiltless smile that might almost serve 
For the vines themselves in vintage-week. 

What meaning is here, or what mystery, 
What fate, and for what crime ? 
Why so fearful this silvan history 
Of a far summer-time ?
There was no ill-will 
That day until 
With fun the grey-beard shook 
At the Maenads' torn, 
Spread hair, their brave, 
Tumultuous wave 
Dancing ; and women will never brook 
Mirth at their folly, O doomed, old Faun !

Correģgio

The Louvre
 

WHAT has the tortured, old Faun been doing ? 
What was his impious sin, 
That the Maenads have ceased from pursuing 
Cattle, with leaps and din, 
To compass him round, 
On woodland ground, 
With cords and faces dire,— 
Cords fastened with strain,
Faces hate-stretched ? 
Why have they fetched 
Snakes from the grass, with swift tongues of fire,
And a reed from the stream-sodden plain ? 

Beneath the sun's and the oak-leaves' flicker, 
They settle near—ah, near !
One blows her reed, as dry as a wicker, 
Into the old Faun's ear ; 
The scream of the wind, 
With flood combined,
Rolls on his simple sense : 
It is anguish heard, 
For quietness splits 
Within ; and fits 
Of gale and surge are a fierce offence
To him who knows but the breeze or bird. 

One sits with fanciful eyes beside him ; 
Malice and wonder mix 
In her glance at the victim—woe betide him,
When once her snakes transfix 
His side ! Ere they dart, 
With backward start 
She waits their rigid pause ; 
And with comely stoop 
One maid, elate 
With horror, hate 
And triumph, up from his ankle draws 
The skin away in a clinging loop. 

Before the women a boy-faun dances, 
Grapes and stem at his chin,— 
Mouth of red the red grape-bunch enhances 
Ere it is sucked within 
By the juicy lips, 
Free as the tips 
Of tendrils in their curve ; 
And his flaccid cheek, 
Mid mirthful heaves 
And ripples, weaves 
A guiltless smile that might almost serve 
For the vines themselves in vintage-week. 

What meaning is here, or what mystery, 
What fate, and for what crime ? 
Why so fearful this silvan history 
Of a far summer-time ?
There was no ill-will 
That day until 
With fun the grey-beard shook 
At the Maenads' torn, 
Spread hair, their brave, 
Tumultuous wave 
Dancing ; and women will never brook 
Mirth at their folly, O doomed, old Faun ! 

 

Image: Correggio; Allegory of the Vices (ca. 1531). Tempera on canvas. 148 x 88 cm. © The Louvre Museum, Paris