P Sufenas Virius Lupus
The days of hunting, of forest chasing
for Phylonome came to a close
the humid afternoon that the shepherd
approached, enticed, and seduced her.
Artemis, ever–vigilant virgin
smelled the seed the shepherd left.
No mortal seed was it, sulfurous
and ferrous its rusty aroma.
Ares had ravished the daughter of Nyktimos,
now forever cast out from the troop
of maidens accompanying the Lady
of Far–Shooting and Firebrands.
In anguish and distress Phylonome birthed
twins alone, no goddess or good woman
present as midwife; in fear of her father,
she cast them into the Erymanthos.
A noble she – wolf — strange the tale —
dropped her own pups by the scruffs
of their necks into the rushing river
to make room for the helpless humans.
No barks nor howls upset the night
when the two infants sucked
at the teats of the wolf–bitch
in the hollow of the oak tree.
They would have become hunters,
stalkers of prey in packs
had not another shepherd
taken in the stray children.
Gyliphos, turning the feral boys
from wild men to watchmen
tamed them, clothed them,
called them by their names:
Parrhasios and Lykastos, brothers
of Arcadian lineage. No sheep
was taken by wolf nor dog, thief,
bear, nor mountain lion under their watch,
but no neighbor’s flocks were free
of depradation, true sons of Hermes
as the boys were, stealing, raiding,
taking their increase of wealth.
Helios in his heights one summer,
sweltering the sky under Sirius,
looked down at Lykastos lounging
in the shade of a leaf–crowned laurel.
Parrhasios tended the flocks far away
while Lykastos ventured forth seeking
the spoils of neighboring herds or hunts.
He laid his pedum and chlamys aside,
the sweat glistening on his fair form
yearning to cool in the clear breeze
but denied in the downpour of heat,
his resting breaths heaving in his lungs.
It was then he heard the sound —
a splash like chimes on the wind,
the silvery singing of water
playing upon living flesh.
Thinking not of anything
but to see what could make
a sound so sweet and vibrant
he rose from his rest and started
into the dark thickets and paths
overgrown with weeds and brush.
Nettles stung his naked skin,
thorns and sharp sticks scratched
and bled him, but he paid little mind
to the minor irritations.
The sound sang its chorus still,
and he found upon the whispered breeze
a scent like silver pine boughs.
He came to a clearing, showered
in rays of sunlight streaming forth
upon the waters of a forest pool.
Among the water lilies was a whiteness
of uncovered flesh that paled
the flowers’ color completely:
Artemis of pristine splendor.
Lykastos’ eyes drank in the sight —
the pool, the lilies, the Lady, the light,
the silver speckles of splashing water —
with holy awe and utter calm.
The cooling bathing activity forgotten,
the divine maiden stared in silence
at the amazed youth before her.
She saw his firm flesh, and asked,
“What is it that you want?”
His throat dry, his head parched,
the words like sand through his gullet,
“Only a drink of water.”
She marveled at the naked man,
his beautiful penis hanging slack,
thinking back to Aktaion’s intrusion
and his unrestrained erectness.
“Only water? Then approach, boy!”
Her heart jumped within her breast …
What was this? Restraint, humility,
fearlessness … had slain her?
He stood at water’s edge, eyes downcast,
bending, kneeling, cupping his hands
for a sip of the cool spring’s drink.
His ivory flesh was so close to hers …
But surely he was imperfect, prone
to lust and hubris like all men?
No, like any animal of the woods
his mind was on the water alone.
With a flash of her hands a flail
appeared; she brandished it high,
water drops cascading from its tails,
bring it down harshly upon
the back of Lykastos, intending
to tempt him, teach him, turn him
into the raging beast she thought, knew,
lurked inside his feeble flesh.
He lapped at the water, quivered
under the unexpected blow,
faltered, spilled the liquid
from his surprised fingers.
Again, never looking up,
he cupped his hands and drank,
sipping the sweet water
to quench his summer thirst.
Confused, insulted, Artemis asked,
“Anything else you want, boy?”
Between laps, breathing heavily,
Lykastos made an answer,
“Perhaps to hunt successfully later,
only if it is your will that I do.”
The goddess laughed at this —
amazed, impressed, enamored.
“It is at my side you shall do so!
Be in the form of a wolf
and have the senses of a wolf,
but the reason of a human, now!”
Where once there was skin, fur
covered Lykastos’ muscles, his
two arms now two legs, his face
a muzzle, his ears high and pricked,
a tail from his back side wagged,
his eyes golden and keen.
For a day and a night
under sun and moon they chased
every deer from its thicket,
every hare from its burrow,
fowl from trees and frogs from ponds,
and even mosquitoes in the night air —
but not one beast was felled,
not a drop of blood spilled,
no arrows flown to their marks
or snares set found their victims.
And when the chase was done,
wolf and woman rolled around
on the edge of the pool where they met,
playfully with aroused blood boiling
but never coupling all the while.
Lykastos slowly regained his shape,
clinging tightly to Artemis’ side,
his skin still covered in fur,
his head still lupine lying
on the shoulder of the lady,
his sharp–nailed hand clutching
beneath the breast of the resting goddess.
She placed her hand on his head:
“May you always have the strength
and ferocity of a rabid wolf,
but the sense to use it wisely.”
His toothed maw gleamed as cheeks
pulled back in a canid smile.
She put one hand on his groin
and spoke a further blessing:
“May the seed within you
be the roots of a mighty race
of heroes, of hunters, of wise men
who know not of Aktaion’s fault.”
Lykastos awoke beneath the laurel,
the sun still beating down around him.
With the back of his hand he wiped away
beads of sweat from his forehead.
In the distance he saw approaching
bright Chryses and lovely Cyparissos.
Lykastos laid back and smiled,
aroused, looking down at himself.