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The Lovely Huntress:

Venus, Adonis & The Painter

The Painter: A Novel of Pursuit plays on the literary tradition of the lovely huntress - i.e. the female playing the aggressive role - has a very long and distinguished history.

In Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis, Venus pursues Adonis like a suitor:

    Over one arm the lusty courser's rein,
    Under her other was the tender boy,
    Who blushed and pouted in dull disdain.
In an extended simile, Shakespeare portrays Venus as the eagle glutting upon its prey:
    Even as an empty eagle, sharp and fast,
    Tears with her beak on feathers, flesh, and bone,
    Shaking her wings, devouring all in haste,
    Till either gorge be stuffed or prey be gone,
    Even so she kissed his brow, his cheek, his chin,
    And where she ends she doth anew begin.

Venus tries to make love to Adonis, and throws him upon the ground, but he will not rise to the occasion:
    All is imaginary she doth prove,
    He will not manage her, although he mount her

He rejects her pleas and protests:
    I know not love . . . nor will not know it,
    Unless it be a boar, and then I chase it.

Venus warns Adonis that a boar might kill him, and this warning is in effect a threat:

    I prophesy thy death, my living sorrow,
    If thou encounter with the boar tomorrow.

The word "encounter" for Renaissance poets is said to be a synonym with "cope" and hence a pun on "copulation." Venus has in effect arranged for Adonis to be castrated by the boar, and after his death she gazes with rapt fascination upon

    the wide wound that the boar had trenched
    In his soft flank whose wonted lily white
    With purple tears, that his wound wept, was drenched.

The male boar who kills Adonis with a sexual thrust of his tusk is none other than Venus herself. Venus herself is nearly conscious of her identity with the boar - who is portrayed as having loved Adonis to death:

    . . . thus was Adonis slain:
    He ran upon the boar with his sharp spear,
    Who did not whet his teeth at him again,
    But by a kiss though to persuade him there,
    And nuzzling in his flank, the loving swine
    Sheathed unaware the tusk in his soft groin,
    Had I been toothed like him, I must confess,
    With kissing him I should have killed him first.
Throughout the poem, Venus is portrayed as a greedy eater at a sacrificial feast. Usually she is depicted as a ferocious bird of prey. Thus she kisses Adonis like an eagle; "gluttonlike she feeds," like a vulture; she flies "as falcons to the lure." She is like Diana the Huntress pursuing either Actaeon or her prey, and Adonis is like "a fleet-foot roe" chased down by her. He is fastened in her arms "as a bird lies tangled in a net."

In the novel, The Painter, a struggling young artist who is trying to perfect his craft is repeatedly distracted by the efforts of a young woman who has other things than art on her mind. Read the first chapter here.


See Stephen Denning, The Painter: A Novel of PursuitThe Painter, A Novel of Pursuit, (iUniverse, October 2000)

The Lovely Lad and Shame-Faced Catamite, by Rictor Norton (1974, 1997) References: See Stephen Denning, Sonnets 2000(iUniverse, October 2000)


The Painter by Stephen Denning

The Painter

Read chapter 1 Other books
Sonnets by Stephen Denning

Sonnets 2000

Read a Sample Other books