Centaur History: Cyllarus and Hylonome

Cyllarus dying in the arms of Hylonome=

 

For such a tragically romantic tale there is relatively little art devoted to Cyllarus and Hylonome, the first perfect centaur couple in literature.

From Ovid’s Metamorpheses (Book 12) comes the Story of Cyllarus and Hylonome:

Nor cou’d thy form, o Cyllarus, foreflow

Thy Fate (if form to monsters men allow):

Just bloom’d thy beard: thy beard of golden hue:

Thy locks, in golden waves, about thy shoulders flew.

Sprightly thy look: thy shapes in ev’ry part

So clean, as might instruct the sculptor’s art;

As far as man extended: where began

The beast, the beast was equal to the man.

Add but a horse’s head and neck; and he,

O Castor, was a courser worthy thee.

So was his back proportion’d for the seat:

So rose his brawny chest; so swiftly mov’d his feet.

Coal-black his colour, but like jett it shone;

His legs, and flowing tail were white alone.

Belov’d by many maidens of his kind;

But fair Hylonome possess’d his mind;

Hylonome, for features, and for face,

Excelling all the nymphs of double race:

Nor less her blandishments, than beauty, move;

At once both loving, and confessing love.

For him she dress’d: for him, with female care

She comb’d, and set in curls, her auburn hair.

Of roses, violets, and lillies mix’d,

And sprigs of flowing rosemary betwixt,

She form’d the chaplet, that adorn’d her front:

In waters of the Pegasaean fount,

And in the streams that from the fountain play,

She wash’d her face; and bath’d her twice a-day.

The scarf of furs, that hung below her side,

Was ermin, or the panther’s spotted pride;

Spoils of no common beast: with equal flame

They lov’d: their silvan pleasures were the same:

All day they hunted: and when day expir’d,

Together to some shady cave retir’d:

Invited to the nuptials, both repair:

And, side by side, they both engage in war.

Uncertain from what hand, a flying dart

At Cyllarus was sent; which pierc’d his heart.

The jav’lin drawn from out the mortal wound,

He faints with stagg’ring steps; and seeks the ground:

The fair within her arms receiv’d his fall,

And strove his wand’ring spirits to recall:

And while her hand the streaming blood oppos’d,

Join’d face to face, his lips with hers she clos’d.

Stifled with kisses, a sweet death he dies;

She fills the fields with undistinguish’d cries;

At least her words were in her clamour drown’d;

For my stunn’d ears receiv’d no vocal sound.

In madness of her grief, she seiz’d the dart

New-drawn, and reeking from her lover’s heart;

To her bare bosom the sharp point apply’d;

And wounded fell; and falling by his side,

Embrac’d him in her arms; and thus embracing dy’d.

 

This tale is the very definition of romantic devotion.

Hylonome Restrained by Girolamo Franchini 1727-1808

 

 

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May 18, 2014 · 2:59 PM

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