Book X of Ovid’s Metamorphoses
The death of Cyparissus
There was a giant stag, sacred to the nymphs that haunt the Carthaean country, which cast deep shadows, around its head, from his wide-branching antlers. The antlers shone with gold, and the gems of a jewelled collar, around his polished neck, hung down onto his shoulders. A bulla, a silver charm, fastened with small strips of leather, quivered on his forehead, and on either side of his hollow temples matching pearls of bronze gleamed from both ears. Free from fear, and forgetting his natural shyness, he used to visit people’s houses, and offer his neck to be stroked by strangers’ hands. Yet, above all others, he was dear to you, Cyparissus, loveliest of the Cean boys. You led the stag to fresh pastures, and the waters of the clear spring. Now you would weave diverse flowers through his horns, and then, astride his back like a horseman, delight in tugging his soft mouth one way or the other by means of a purple muzzle.
It was noon of a summer’s day, when the curving claws of shore-loving Cancer were burning in the hot sun. Tired, the stag had settled its body on the grassy turf and was enjoying the cool of the woodland shade. The boy, without intention, transfixed it with his sharp spear, and when he saw it dying from the cruel wound, he wished to die himself. What was there Phoebus did not say, in solace, advising a moderate grief matching the cause! He only sighed, and begged, as the last gift of the gods, that he might mourn forever. Then, his blood discharged among endless tears, his limbs began to turn to a shade of green, and his hair that a moment ago hung over his pale forehead, became a bristling crown, and he stiffened to a graceful point gazing at the starry heavens. The god sighed for him, and said, sadly: ‘I will mourn for you: you will mourn for others, and enter into sorrows’.