The Cerynitian Hind or the Third Labour of Heracles

A crash in brambles, and the hind is caught;
Now worn down, Heracles has what he sought.
Through forests, valleys, over mountain tops,
Through fields that yielded a bounty of crops,
The warrior chased her: but she was swift,
And northwards she tended always to drift;
For though in the south the chase had begun,
To Hyperborea did the doe run;
And Heracles laboured through cold and snow,
Where winds that are bitter bluster and blow.
The hind would have left Heracles behind,
But great strength within himself did he find:
His father was Zeus, from him he received
Such might as the mind has barely conceived;
He lost the deer not, but southward again
He followed to where, reared up o’er the plain
The Artemision, the mount of old,
Where the goddess herself her hunts did hold.
The hind yet pressed on, with horns like the stags;
She leaped and she bounded over the crags;
Then onward she pressed, and came through the wood,
Which by the river known as Ladon stood:
A bush snagged her horns; she shook with her might,
To free herself, that she could resume flight;
She freed herself, but the warrior’s ambit
Is such that a shot is surely to hit
(At least for a son born to the god Zeus:
For others to try would be of no use).
Now Heracles sees; he notches his bow,
Then pulls the string back, and last, marks the doe.
He looses his shaft; the arrow flies straight,
The reindeer is struck by the hand of Fate:
But he was careful, that only the haunch
Was struck by the missile that he did launch;
He knew that the deer was sacred to she
Who rules the woodlands, the goddess, the free;
Had he killed the hind, the goddess, engaged,
Might have killed him, when in anger she raged.
But such as it was, the doe was alive,
And Heracles, too, would also survive.
He carried the hind, and went on his way;
Across his shoulders, his catch did he lay;
With speed he we went, with this labour employed,
But yet Artemis he couldn’t avoid:
Apollo was with her, crossing the land;
Before Heracles revealed did she stand.
Accused she the hero of trying to kill,
And thus, of defying her sacred will,
The hallowed hind: but Heracles pleaded,
And said the deed was desperately needed;
Eurystheus required him: he was bound
To bring him the hind, when it had been found.
When Artemis heard, then she let him go,
And onward he went, still bearing the doe.
The warrior returned to Mycenae,
And the labour the king could not deny;
The deer that he had was surely the one,
By which the damage before had been done.
Eurystheus hoped the hero would fail;
And, deep in his soul, he gave a great wail;
The strength of the lion could not succeed,
Neither the hydra could finish the deed:
The might of Heracles overcame these,
And, now, the hind, he had captured with ease.
Eurystheus feared, and sent him away,
To call for a labour another day.

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