|Atalanta and Hippomenes by Guido [Reni]|
Canto 2 of Adone opens with a Renaissance "favorite quote": the myth of Hercules at the crossroads, i.e. the choice between the easy path of Vice and the hard path of Virtue. (It also surfaces in the Gospels, see Matthew 7.13-14.) Marino, with his genius, mixes this subject with the myth of Atalanta, the beautiful sprinter who would marry exclusively the man who could run faster than her. Hippomenes, following a suggestion from Venus, drops three golden apples during the race, and they attract Atalanta's attention so as to make her slow down. But in Marino's words other fundamental stories are hinted at, especially the judgment of Paris and the original sin (Genesis 3.6), that include in themselves the whole of human history and predicament.
In the mortals' race, as a new Atalanta
this very naive pilgrim, the soul,
runs fast, and with nimble feet
rushes towards the great journey's end.
But often, its course is diverted by
the flattering senses, which attract it
with the pleasant, joyful object
of this golden apple called the World.