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Title: Theocritus Bion and Moschus Rendered into English Prose
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Tag(s): daphnis; theocritus; comatas; idyl; adonis; zeus; nay; maiden; greek; muses; sicilian muses; song; pastoral song
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Title: Theocritus, Bion and Moschus rendered into English Prose

Author: Andrew Lang

Release Date: December, 2003  [EBook #4775]
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Transcribed by David Price, email, from
the 1889 Macmillan and Co. edition.


(From Suidas)

Theocritus, the Chian.  But there is another Theocritus, the son of
Praxagoras and Philinna (see Epigram XXIII), or as some say of
Simichus.  (This is plainly derived from the assumed name Simichidas
in Idyl VII.)  He was a Syracusan, or, as others say, a Coan settled
in Syracuse.  He wrote the so-called Bucolics in the Dorian dialect.
Some attribute to him the following works:- The Proetidae, The
Pleasures of Hope ([Greek]), Hymns, The Heroines, Dirges, Ditties,
Elegies, Iambics, Epigrams.  But it known that there are three
Bucolic poets:  this Theocritus, Moschus of Sicily, and Bion of
Smyrna, from a village called Phlossa.

(Usually prefixed to the Idyls)

Theocritus the Bucolic poet was a Syracusan by extraction, and the
son of Simichidas, as he says himself, Simichidas, pray whither
through the noon dost thou dray thy feet? (Idyl VII).  Some say that
this was an assumed name, for he seems to have been snub-nosed
([Greek]), and that his father was Praxagoras, and his mother
Philinna.  He became the pupil of Philetas and Asclepiades, of whom
he speaks (Idyl VII), and flourished about the time of Ptolemy Lagus.
He gained much fame for his skill in bucolic poetry.  According to
some his original name was Moschus, and Theocritus was a name he
later assumed.


At the beginning of the third century before Christ, in the years
just preceding those in which Theocritus wrote, the genius of Greece
seemed to have lost her productive force.  Nor would it have been
strange if that force had really been exhausted.  Greek poetry had
hitherto enjoyed a peculiarly free development, each form of art
succeeding each without break or pause, because each--epic, lyric,
dithyramb, the drama--had responded to some new need of the state and
of religion.  Now in the years that followed the fall of Athens and
the conquests of Macedonia, Greek religion and the Greek state had
ceased to be themselves.  Religion and the state had been the patrons
of poetry; on their decline poetry seemed dead.  There were no heroic
kings, like those for whom epic minstrels had chanted.  The cities
could no longer welcome an Olympian winner with Pindaric hymns.
There was no imperial Athens to fill the theatres with a crowd of
citizens and strangers eager to listen to new tragic masterpieces.
There was no humorous democracy to laugh at all the world, and at
itself, with Aristophanes.  The very religion of Sophocles and
Aeschylus was debased.  A vulgar usurper had stripped the golden
ornaments from Athene of the Parthenon.  The ancient faith in the
protecting gods of Athens, of Sparta, and of Thebes, had become a lax
readiness to bow down in the temple of any Oriental Rimmon, of
Serapis or Adonis.  Greece had turned her face, with Alexander of
Macedon, to the East; Alexander had fallen, and Greece had become
little better than the western portion of a divided Oriental empire.
The centre of intellectual life had been removed from Athens to
Alexandria (founded 332 B.C.)  The new Greek cities of Egypt and
Asia, and above all Alexandria, seemed no cities at all to Greeks who
retained the pure Hellenic traditions.  Alexandria was thirty times
larger than the size assigned by Aristotle to a well-balanced state.
Austere spectators saw in Alexandria an Eastern capital and mart, a
place of harems and bazaars, a home of tyrants, slaves, dreamers, and
pleasure-seekers.  Thus a Greek of the old school must have despaired
of Greek poetry.  There was nothing (he would have said) to evoke it;
no dawn of liberty could flush this silent Memnon into song.  The
collectors, critics, librarians of Alexandria could only produce
literary imitations of the epic and the hymn, or could at best write
epigrams or inscriptions for the statue of some alien and luxurious
god.  Their critical activity in every field of literature was
immense, their original genius sterile.  In them the intellect of the
Hellenes still faintly glowed, like embers on an altar that shed no
light on the way.  Yet over these embers the god poured once again
the sacred oil, and from the dull mass leaped, like a many-coloured
frame, the genius of THEOCRITUS.

To take delight in that genius, so human, so kindly, so musical in
expression, requires, it may be said, no long preparation.  The art
of Theocritus scarcely needs to be illustrated by any description of
the conditions among which it came to perfection.  It is always
impossible to analyse into its component parts the genius of a poet.
But it is not impossible to detect some of the influences that worked
on Theocritus.  We can study his early 'environment'; the country
scenes he knew, and the songs of the neatherds which he elevated into
art.  We can ascertain the nature of the demand for poetry in the
chief cities and in the literary society of the time.  As a result,
we can understand the broad twofold division of the poems of
Theocritus into rural and epic idyls, and with this we must rest

It is useless to attempt a regular biography of Theocritus.  Facts
and dates are alike wanting, the ancient accounts (p. ix) are clearly
based on his works, but it is by no means impossible to construct a
'legend' or romance of his life, by aid of his own verses, and of
hints and fragments which reach us from the past and the present.
The genius of Theocritus was so steeped in the colours of human life,
he bore such true and full witness as to the scenes and men he knew,
that life (always essentially the same) becomes in turn a witness to
his veracity.  He was born in the midst of nature that, through all
the changes of things, has never lost its sunny charm.  The existence
he loved best to contemplate, that of southern shepherds, fishermen,
rural people, remains what it always has been in Sicily and in the
isles of Greece.  The habits and the passions of his countryfolk have
not altered, the echoes of their old love-songs still sound among the
pines, or by the sea-banks, where Theocritus 'watched the visionary

Theocritus was probably born in an early decade of the third century,
or, according to Couat, about 315 B.C., and was a native of Syracuse,
'the greatest of Greek cities, the fairest of all cities.'  So Cicero
calls it, describing the four quarters that were encircled by its
walls,--each quarter as large as a town,--the fountain Arethusa, the
stately temples with their doors of ivory and gold.  On the fortunate
dwellers in Syracuse, Cicero says, the sun shone every day, and there
was never a morning so tempestuous but the sunlight conquered at
last, and broke through the clouds.  That perennial sunlight still
floods the poems of Theocritus with its joyous glow.  His birthplace
was the proper home of an idyllic poet, of one who, with all his
enjoyment of the city life of Greece, had yet been 'breathed on by
the rural Pan,' and best loved the sights and sounds and fragrant air
of the forests and the coast.  Thanks to the mountainous regions of
Sicily, to Etna, with her volcanic cliffs and snow-fed streams,
thanks also to the hills of the interior, the populous island never
lost the charm of nature.  Sicily was not like the overcrowded and
over-cultivated Attica; among the Sicilian heights and by the coast
were few enclosed estates and narrow farms.  The character of the
people, too, was attuned to poetry.  The Dorian settlers had kept
alive the magic of rivers, of pools where the Nereids dance, and
uplands haunted by Pan.  This popular poetry influenced the literary
verse of Sicily.  The songs of Stesichorus, a minstrel of the early
period, and the little rural 'mimes' or interludes of Sophron are
lost, and we have only fragments of Epicharmus.  But it seems certain
that these poets, predecessors of Theocritus, liked to mingle with
their own composition strains of rustic melody, volks-lieder,
ballads, love-songs, ditties, and dirges, such as are still chanted
by the peasants of Greece and Italy.  Thus in Syracuse and the other
towns of the coast, Theocritus would have always before his eyes the
spectacle of refined and luxurious manners, and always in his ears
the babble of the Dorian women, while he had only to pass the gates,
and wander through the fens of Lysimeleia, by the brackish mere, or
ride into the hills, to find himself in the golden world of pastoral.
Thinking of his early years, and of the education that nature gives
the poet, we can imagine him, like Callicles in Mr. Arnold's poem,
singing at the banquet of a merchant or a general -

'With his head full of wine, and his hair crown'd,
Touching his harp as the whim came on him,
And praised and spoil'd by master and by guests,
Almost as much as the new dancing girl.'

We can recover the world that met his eyes and inspired his poems,
though the dates of the composition of these poems are unknown.  We
can follow him, in fancy, as he breaks from the revellers and wanders
out into the night.  Wherever he turned his feet, he could find such
scenes as he has painted in the idyls.  If the moon rode high in
heaven, as he passed through the outlying gardens he might catch a
glimpse of some deserted girl shredding the magical herbs into the
burning brazier, and sending upward to the 'lady Selene' the song
which was to charm her lover home.  The magical image melted in the
burning, the herbs smouldered, the tale of love was told, and slowly
the singer 'drew the quiet night into her blood.'  Her lay ended with
a passage of softened melancholy -

'Do thou farewell, and turn thy steeds to Ocean, lady, and my pain I
will endure, even as I have declared.  Farewell, Selene beautiful;
farewell, ye other stars that follow the wheels of Night.'

A grammarian says that Theocritus borrowed this second idyl, the
story of Simaetha, from a piece by Sophron.  But he had no need to
borrow from anything but the nature before his eyes.  Ideas change so
little among the Greek country people, and the hold of superstition
is so strong, that betrayed girls even now sing to the Moon their
prayer for pity and help.  Theocritus himself could have added little
passion to this incantation, still chanted in the moonlit nights of
Greece:  {0a}

'Bright golden Moon, that now art near to thy setting, go thou and
salute my lover, he that stole my love, and that kissed me, and said,
"Never will I leave thee."  And, lo, he has left me, like a field
reaped and gleaned, like a church where no man comes to pray, like a
city desolate.  Therefore I would curse him, and yet again my heart
fails me for tenderness, my heart is vexed within me, my spirit is
moved with anguish.  Nay, even so I will lay my curse on him, and let
God do even as He will, with my pain and with my crying, with my
flame, and mine imprecations.'

It is thus that the women of the islands, like the girl of Syracuse
two thousand years ago, hope to lure back love or avenged love
betrayed, and thus they 'win more ease from song than could be bought
with gold.'

In whatever direction the path of the Syracusan wanderer lay, he
would find then, as he would find now in Sicily, some scene of the
idyllic life, framed between the distant Etna and the sea.  If he
strayed in the faint blue of the summer dawn, through the fens to the
shore, he might reach the wattled cabin of the two old fishermen in
the twenty-first idyl.  There is nothing in Wordsworth more real,
more full of the incommunicable sense of nature, rounding and
softening the toilsome days of the aged and the poor, than the
Theocritean poem of the Fisherman's Dream.  It is as true to nature
as the statue of the naked fisherman in the Vatican.  One cannot read
these verses but the vision returns to one, of sandhills by the sea,
of a low cabin roofed with grass, where fishing-rods of reed are
leaning against the door, while the Mediterranean floats up her waves
that fill the waste with sound.  This nature, grey and still, seems
in harmony with the wise content of old men whose days are waning on
the limit of life, as they have all been spent by the desolate margin
of the sea.

The twenty-first idyl is one of the rare poems of Theocritus that are
not filled with the sunlight of Sicily, or of Egypt.  The landscapes
he prefers are often seen under the noonday heat, when shade is most
pleasant to men.  His shepherds invite each other to the shelter of
oak-trees or of pines, where the dry fir-needles are strown, or where
the feathered ferns make a luxurious 'couch more soft than sleep,' or
where the flowers bloom whose musical names sing in the idyls.
Again, Theocritus will sketch the bare beginnings of the hillside, as
in the third idyl, just where the olive-gardens cease, and where the
short grass of the heights alternates with rocks, and thorns, and
aromatic plants.  None of his pictures seem complete without the
presence of water.  It may be but the wells that the maidenhair
fringes, or the babbling runnel of the fountain of the Nereids.  The
shepherds may sing of Crathon, or Sybaris, or Himeras, waters so
sweet that they seem to flow with milk and honey.  Again, Theocritus
may encounter his rustics fluting in rivalry, like Daphnis and
Menalcas in the eighth idyl, 'on the long ranges of the hills.'
Their kine and sheep have fed upwards from the lower valleys to the
place where

'The track winds down to the clear stream,
To cross the sparkling shallows; there
The cattle love to gather, on their way
To the high mountain pastures and to stay,
Till the rough cow-herds drive them past,
Knee-deep in the cool ford; for 'tis the last
Of all the woody, high, well-water'd dells
On Etna, . . .
. . . glade,
And stream, and sward, and chestnut-trees,
End here; Etna beyond, in the broad glare
Of the hot noon, without a shade,
Slope behind slope, up to the peak, lies bare;
The peak, round which the white clouds play.'  {0b}

Theocritus never drives his flock so high, and rarely muses on such
thoughts as come to wanderers beyond the shade of trees and the sound
of water among the scorched rocks and the barren lava.  The day is
always cooled and soothed, in his idyls, with the 'music of water
that falleth from the high face of the rock,' or with the murmurs of
the sea.  From the cliffs and their seat among the bright red berries
on the arbutus shrubs, his shepherds flute to each other, as they
watch the tunny fishers cruising far below, while the echo floats
upwards of the sailors' song.  These shepherds have some touch in
them of the satyr nature; we might fancy that their ears are pointed
like those of Hawthorne's Donatello, in 'Transformation.'

It should be noticed, as a proof of the truthfulness of Theocritus,
that the songs of his shepherds and goatherds are all such as he
might really have heard on the shores of Sicily.  This is the real
answer to the criticism which calls him affected.  When mock
pastorals flourished at the court of France, when the long dispute as
to the merits of the ancients and moderns was raging, critics vowed
that the hinds of Theocritus were too sentimental and polite in their
wooings.  Refinement and sentiment were to be reserved for princely
shepherds dancing, crook in hand, in the court ballets.  Louis XIV
sang of himself -

'A son labeur il passe tout d'un coup,
Et n'ira pas dormir sur la fougere,
Ny s'oublier aupres d'une Bergere,
Jusques au point d'en oublier le Loup.'  {0c}

Accustomed to royal goatherds in silk and lace, Fontenelle (a severe
critic of Theocritus) could not believe in the delicacy of a Sicilian
who wore a skin 'stripped from the roughest of he-goats, with the
smell of the rennet clinging to it still.'  Thus Fontenelle cries,
'Can any one suppose that there ever was a shepherd who could say
"Would I were the humming bee, Amaryllis, to flit to thy cave, and
dip beneath the branches, and the ivy leaves that hide thee"?' and
then he quotes other graceful passages from the love-verses of
Theocritean swains.  Certainly no such fancies were to be expected
from the French peasants of Fontenelle's age, 'creatures blackened
with the sun, and bowed with labour and hunger.'  The imaginative
grace of Battus is quite as remote from our own hinds.  But we have
the best reason to suppose that the peasants of Theocritus's time
expressed refined sentiment in language adorned with colour and
music, because the modern love-songs of Greek shepherds sound like
memories of Theocritus.  The lover of Amaryllis might have sung this
among his ditties -


'To flit towards these lips of thine, I fain would be a swallow,
To kiss thee once, to kiss thee twice, and then go flying homeward.'

In his despair, when Love 'clung to him like a leech of the fen,' he
might have murmured -


'Would that I were on the high hills, and lay where lie the stags,
and no more was troubled with the thought of thee.'

Here, again, is a love-complaint from modern Epirus, exactly in the
tone of Battus's song in the tenth idyl -

'White thou art not, thou art not golden haired,
Thou art brown, and gracious, and meet for love.'

Here is a longer love-ditty -

'I will begin by telling thee first of thy perfections:  thy body is
as fair as an angel's; no painter could design it.  And if any man be
sad, he has but to look on thee, and despite himself he takes
courage, the hapless one, and his heart is joyous.  Upon thy brows
are shining the constellated Pleiades, thy breast is full of the
flowers of May, thy breasts are lilies.  Thou hast the eyes of a
princess, the glance of a queen, and but one fault hast thou, that
thou deignest not to speak to me.'

Battus might have cried thus, with a modern Greek singer, to the
shade of the dead Amaryllis (Idyl IV), the 'gracious Amaryllis,
unforgotten even in death' -

'Ah, light of mine eyes, what gift shall I send thee; what gift to
the other world?  The apple rots, and the quince decayeth, and one by
one they perish, the petals of the rose!  I send thee my tears bound
in a napkin, and what though the napkin burns, if my tears reach thee
at last!'

The difficulty is to stop choosing, where all the verses of the
modern Greek peasants are so rich in Theocritean memories, so ardent,
so delicate, so full of flowers and birds and the music of fountains.
Enough has been said, perhaps, to show what the popular poetry of
Sicily could lend to the genius of Theocritus.

From her shepherds he borrowed much,--their bucolic melody; their
love-complaints; their rural superstitions; their system of answering
couplets, in which each singer refines on the utterance of his rival.
But he did not borrow their 'pastoral melancholy.'  There is little
of melancholy in Theocritus.  When Battus is chilled by the thought
of the death of Amaryllis, it is but as one is chilled when a thin
cloud passes over the sun, on a bright day of early spring.  And in
an epigram the dead girl is spoken of as the kid that the wolf has
seized, while the hounds bay all too late.  Grief will not bring her
back.  The world must go its way, and we need not darken its sunlight
by long regret.  Yet when, for once, Theocritus adopted the accent of
pastoral lament, when he raised the rural dirge for Daphnis into the
realm of art, he composed a masterpiece, and a model for all later
poets, as for the authors of Lycidas, Thyrsis, and Adonais.

Theocritus did more than borrow a note from the country people.  He
brought the gifts of his own spirit to the contemplation of the
world.  He had the clearest vision, and he had the most ardent love
of poetry, 'of song may all my dwelling be full, for neither is sleep
more sweet, nor sudden spring, nor are flowers more delicious to the
bees, so dear to me are the Muses.' . . .  'Never may we be sundered,
the Muses of Pieria and I.'  Again, he had perhaps in greater measure
than any other poet the gift of the undisturbed enjoyment of life.
The undertone of all his idyls is joy in the sunshine and in
existence.  His favourite word, the word that opens the first idyl,
and, as it were, strikes the keynote, is [Greek], sweet.  He finds
all things delectable in the rural life:

'Sweet are the voices of the calves, and sweet the heifers' lowing;
sweet plays the shepherd on the shepherd's pipe, and sweet is the

Even in courtly poems, and in the artificial hymns of which we are to
speak in their place, the memory of the joyful country life comes
over him.  He praises Hiero, because Hiero is to restore peace to
Syracuse, and when peace returns, then 'thousands of sheep fattened
in the meadows will bleat along the plain, and the kine, as they
flock in crowds to the stalls, will make the belated traveller hasten
on his way.'  The words evoke a memory of a narrow country lane in
the summer evening, when light is dying out of the sky, and the
fragrance of wild roses by the roadside is mingled with the perfumed
breath of cattle that hurry past on their homeward road.  There was
scarcely a form of the life he saw that did not seem to him worthy of
song, though it might be but the gossip of two rude hinds, or the
drinking bout of the Thessalian horse-jobber, and the false girl
Cynisca and her wild lover AEschines.  But it is the sweet country
that he loves best to behold and to remember.  In his youth Sicily
and Syracuse were disturbed by civil and foreign wars, wars of
citizens against citizens, of Greeks against Carthaginians, and
against the fierce 'men of Mars,' the banded mercenaries who
possessed themselves of Messana.  But this was not matter for his
joyous Muse -


'Not of wars, not of tears, but of Pan would he chant, and of the
neatherds he sweetly sang, and singing he shepherded his flocks.'

This was the training that Sicily, her hills, her seas, her lovers,
her poet-shepherds, gave to Theocritus.  Sicily showed him subjects
which he imitated in truthful art.  Unluckily the later pastoral
poets of northern lands have imitated HIM, and so have gone far
astray from northern nature.  The pupil of nature had still to be
taught the 'rules' of the critics, to watch the temper and fashion of
his time, and to try his fortune among the courtly poets and
grammarians of the capital of civilisation.  Between the years of
early youth in Sicily and the years of waiting for court patronage at
Alexandria, it seems probable that we must place a period of
education in the island of Cos.  The testimonies of the Grammarians
who handed on to us the scanty traditions about Theocritus, agree in
making him the pupil of Philetas of Cos.  This Philetas was a critic,
a commentator on Homer, and an elegiac poet whose love-songs were
greatly admired by the Romans of the Augustan age.  He is said to
have been the tutor of Ptolemy Philadelphus, who was himself born, as
Theocritus records, in the isle of Cos.  It has been conjectured that
Ptolemy and Theocritus were fellow pupils, and that the poet may have
hoped to obtain court favour at Alexandria from this early
connection.  About this point nothing is certainly known, nor can we
exactly understand the sort of education that was given in the school
of the poet Philetas.  The ideas of that artificial age make it not
improbable that Philetas professed to teach the art of poetry.  A
French critic and poet of our own time, M. Baudelaire, was willing to
do as much 'in thirty lessons.'  Possibly Philetas may have imparted
technical rules then in vogue, and the fashionable knack of
introducing obscure mythological allusions.  He was a logician as
well as a poet, and is fabled to have died of vexation because he
could not unriddle one of the metaphysical catches or puzzles of the
sophists.  His varied activity seems to have worn him to a shadow;
the contemporary satirists bantered him about his leanness, and it
was alleged that he wore leaden soles to his sandals lest the wind
should blow him, as it blew the calves of Daphnis (Idyl IX) over a
cliff against the rocks, or into the sea. {0e}  Philetas seems a
strange master for Theocritus, but, whatever the qualities of the
teacher, Cos, the home of the luxurious old age of Meleager, was a
beautiful school.  The island was one of the most ancient colonies of
the Dorians, and the Syracusan scholar found himself among a people
who spoke his own broad and liquid dialect.  The sides of the
limestone hills were clothed with vines, and with shadowy plane-trees
which still attain extraordinary size and age, while the wine-presses
where Demeter smiled, 'with sheaves and poppies in her hands,'
yielded a famous vintage.  The people had a soft industry of their
own, they fashioned the 'Coan stuff,' transparent robes for woman's
wear, like the [Greek], the thin undulating tissues which Theugenis
was to weave with the ivory distaff, the gift of Theocritus.  As a
colony of Epidaurus, Cos naturally cultivated the worship of
Asclepius, the divine physician, the child of Apollo.  In connection
with his worship and with the clan of the Asclepiadae (that
widespread stock to which Aristotle belonged, and in which the
practice of leechcraft was hereditary), Cos possessed a school of
medicine.  In the temple of Asclepius patients hung up as votive
offerings representations of their diseased limbs, and thus the
temple became a museum of anatomical specimens.  Cos was therefore
resorted to by young students from all parts of the East, and
Theocritus cannot but have made many friends of his own age.  Among
these he alludes in various passages to Nicias, afterwards a
physician at Miletus, to Philinus, noted in later life as the head of
a medical sect, and to Aratus.  Theocritus has sung of Aratus's love-
affairs, and St. Paul has quoted him as a witness to man's
instinctive consent in the doctrine of the universal fatherhood of
God.  These strangely various notices have done more for the memory
of Aratus than his own didactic poem on the meteorological theories
of his age.  He lives, with Philinus and the rest of the Coan
students, because Theocritus introduced them into the picture of a
happy summer's day.  In the seventh idyl, that one day of Demeter's
harvest-feast is immortal, and the sun never goes down on its
delight.  We see Theocritus


when he 'had not yet reached the mid-point of the way, nor had the
tomb yet risen on his sight.'  He reveals himself as he was at the
height of morning, at the best moment of the journey, in midsummer of
a genius still unchecked by doubt, or disappointment, or neglect.
Life seems to accost him with the glance of the goatherd Lycidas,
'and still he smiled as he spoke, with laughing eyes, and laughter
dwelling on his lips.'  In Cos, Theocritus found friendship, and met
Myrto, 'the girl he loved as dearly as goats love the spring.'  Here
he could express, without any afterthought, an enthusiastic adoration
for the disinterested joys, the enchanted moments of human existence.
Before he entered the thronged streets of Alexandria, and tuned his
shepherd's pipe to catch the ear of princes, and to sing the
epithalamium of a royal and incestuous love, he rested with his
friends in the happy island.  Deep in a cave, among the ruins of
ancient aqueducts, there still bubbles up, from the Coan limestone,
the well-spring of the Nymphs.  'There they reclined on beds of
fragrant rushes, lowly strown, and rejoicing they lay in new stript
leaves of the vine.  And high above their heads waved many a poplar,
many an elm-tree, while close at hand the sacred water from the
nymph's own cave welled forth with murmurs musical' (Idyl VII).

The old Dorian settlers in Syracuse pleased themselves with the fable
that their fountain, Arethusa, had been a Grecian nymph, who, like
themselves, had crossed the sea to Sicily.  The poetry of Theocritus,
read or sung in sultry Alexandria, must have seemed like a new
welling up of the waters of Arethusa in the sandy soil of Egypt.  We
cannot certainly say when the poet first came from Syracuse, or from
Cos, to Alexandria.  It is evident however from the allusions in the
fifteenth and seventeenth idyls that he was living there after
Ptolemy Philadelphus married his own sister, Arsinoe.  It is not
impossible to form some idea of the condition of Alexandrian society,
art, religion, literature and learning at the court of Ptolemy
Philadelphus.  The vast city, founded some sixty years before, was
now completed.  The walls, many miles in circuit, protected a
population of about eight hundred thousand souls.  Into that changing
crowd were gathered adventurers from all the known world.
Merchantmen brought to Ptolemy the wares of India and the porcelains
of China.  Marauders from upper Egypt skulked about the native
quarters, and sallied forth at night to rob the wayfarer.  The king's
guards were recruited with soldiers from turbulent Greece, from Asia,
from Italy.  Settlers were attracted from Syracuse by the prospect of
high wages and profitable labour.  The Jewish quarters were full of
Israelites who did not disdain Greek learning.  The city in which
this multitude found a home was beautifully constructed.  The
Mediterranean filled the northern haven, the southern walls were
washed by the Mareotic lake.  If the isle of Pharos shone dazzling
white, and wearied the eyes, there was shade beneath the long marble
colonnades, and in the groves and cool halls of the Museum and the
Libraries.  The Etesian winds blew fresh in summer from the north,
across the sea, and refreshed the people in their gardens.  No town
seemed greater nor wealthier to the voyager, who (like the hero of
the Greek novel Clitophon and Leucippe) entered by the gate of the
Sun, and found that, after nightfall, the torches borne by men and
women hastening to some religious feast, filled the dusk with a light
like that of 'the sun cut up into fragments.'  At the same time no
town was more in need of the memories of the country, which came to
her in well-watered gardens, in landscape-paintings, and in the verse
of Theocritus.

It is impossible to give a clearer idea of the opulence and luxury of
Alexandria and her kings, than will be conveyed by the description of
the coronation-feast of Ptolemy Philadelphus.  This great masquerade
and banquet was prepared by the elder Ptolemy on the occasion of his
admitting his son to share his throne.  The entertainment was
described (in a work now lost) by Callixenus of Rhodes, and the
record has been preserved by Atheneaus (v. 25).  The inner pavilion
in which the guests of Ptolemy reclined, contained one hundred and
thirty-five couches.  Over the roof was placed a scarlet awning, with
a fringe of white, and there were many other awnings, richly
embroidered with mythological designs.  The pillars which sustained
the roof were shaped in the likeness of palm-trees, and of thyrsi,
the weapons of the wine-god Dionysus.  Round three outer sides ran
arcades, draped with purple tissues, and with the skins of strange
beasts.  The fourth side, open to the air, was shady with the foliage
of myrtles and laurels.  Everywhere the ground was carpeted with
flowers, though the season was mid-winter, with roses and white
lilies and blossoms of the gardens.  By the columns round the whole
pavilion were arrayed a hundred effigies in marble, executed by the
most famous sculptors, and on the middle spaces were hung works by
the painters of Sicyon and tapestry woven with stories of the
adventures of the gods.  Above these, again, ran a frieze of gold and
silver shields, while in the higher niches were placed comic, tragic,
and satiric sculptured groups 'dressed in real clothes,' says the
historian, much admiring this realism.  It is impossible to number
the tripods, and flagons, and couches of gold, resting on golden
figures of sphinxes, the salvers, the bowls, the jewelled vases.  The
masquerade of this winter festival began with the procession of the
Morning-star, Heosphoros, and then followed a masque of kings and a
revel of various gods, while the company of Hesperus, the Evening-
star followed, and ended all.  The revel of Dionysus was introduced
by men disguised as Sileni, wild woodland beings in raiment of purple
and scarlet.  Then came scores of satyrs with gilded lamps in their
hands.  Next appeared beautiful maidens, attired as Victories, waving
golden wings and swinging vessels of burning incense.  The altar of
the God of the Vine was borne behind them, crowned and covered with
leaves of gold, and next boys in purple robes scattered fragrant
scents from golden salvers.  Then came a throng of gold-crowned
satyrs, their naked bodies stained with purple and vermilion, and
among them was a tall man who represented the year and carried a horn
of plenty.  He was followed by a beautiful woman in rich attire,
carrying in one hand branches of the palm-tree, in the other a rod of
the peach-tree, starred with its constellated flowers.  Then the
masque of the Seasons swept by, and Philiscus followed, Philiscus the
Corcyraean, the priest of Dionysus, and the favourite tragic poet of
the court.  After the prizes for the athletes had been borne past,
Dionysus himself was charioted along, a gigantic figure clad in
purple, and pouring libations out of a golden goblet.  Around him lay
huge drinking-cups, and smoking censers of gold, and a bower of vine
leaves grew up, and shaded the head of the god.  Then hurried by a
crowd of priests and priestesses, Maenads, Bacchantes, Bassarids,
women crowned with the vine, or with garlands of snakes, and girls
bearing the mystic vannus Iacchi.  And still the procession was not
ended.  A mechanical figure of Nysa passed, in a chariot drawn by
eighty men, among clusters of grapes formed of precious stones, and
the figure arose, and poured milk out of a golden horn.  The Satyrs
and Sileni followed close, and behind them six hundred men dragged on
a wain, a silver vessel that held six hundred measures of wine.  This
was only the first of countless symbolic vessels that were carried
past, till last came a multitude of sixteen hundred boys clad in
white tunics, and garlanded with ivy, who bore and handed to the
guests golden and silver vessels full of sweet wine.  All this was
only part of one procession, and the festival ended when Ptolemy and
Berenice and Ptolemy Philadelphus had been crowned with golden crowns
from many subject cities and lands.

This festival was obviously arranged to please the taste of a prince
with late Greek ideas of pictorial display, and with barbaric wealth
at his command.  Theocritus himself enables us in the seventeenth
idyl to estimate the opulence and the dominion of Ptolemy.  He was
not master of fertile Aegypt alone, where the Nile breaks the rich
dank soil, and where myriad cities pour their taxes into his
treasuries.  Ptolemy held lands also in Phoenicia, and Arabia; he
claimed Syria and Libya and Aethiopia; he was lord of the distant
Pamphylians, of the Cilicians, the Lycians and the Carians, and the
Cyclades owned his mastery.  Thus the wealth of the richest part of
the world flowed into Alexandria, attracting thither the priests of
strange religions, the possessors of Greek learning, the painters and
sculptors whose work has left its traces on the genius of Theocritus.

Looking at this early Alexandrian age, three points become clear to
us.  First, the fashion of the times was Oriental, Oriental in
religion and in society.  Nothing could be less Hellenic, than the
popular cult of Adonis.  The fifteenth idyl of Theocritus shows us
Greek women worshipping in their manner at an Assyrian shrine, the
shrine of that effeminate lover of Aphrodite, whom Heracles,
according to the Greek proverb, thought 'no great divinity.'  The
hymn of Bion, with its luxurious lament, was probably meant to be
chanted at just such a festival as Theocritus describes, while a
crowd of foreigners gossiped among the flowers and embroideries, the
strangely-shaped sacred cakes, the ebony, the gold, and the ivory.
Not so much Oriental as barbarous was the impulse which made Ptolemy
Philadelphus choose his own sister, Arsinoe, for wife, as if absolute
dominion had already filled the mind of the Macedonian royal race
with the incestuous pride of the Incas, or of Queen Hatasu, in an
elder Egyptian dynasty.  This nascent barbarism has touched a few of
the Alexandrian poems even of Theocritus, and his panegyric of
Ptolemy, of his divine ancestors, and his sister-bride is not much
more Greek in sentiment than are those old native hymns of Pentaur to
'the strong Bull,' or the 'Risen Sun,' to Rameses or Thothmes.

Again, the early Alexandrian was what we call a 'literary' age.
Literature was not an affair of religion and of the state, but
ministered to the pleasure of individuals, and at their pleasure was
composed. {0f}  The temper of the time was crudely critical.  The
Museum and the Libraries, with their hundreds of thousands of
volumes, were hot-houses of grammarians and of learned poets.
Callimachus, the head librarian, was also the most eminent man of
letters.  Unable, himself, to compose a poem of epic length and
copiousness, he discouraged all long poems.  He shone in epigrams,
pedantic hymns, and didactic verses.  He toyed with anagrams, and won
court favour by discovering that the letters of 'Arsinoe,' the name
of Ptolemy's wife, made the words [Greek], the violet of Hera.  In
another masterpiece the genius of Callimachus followed the stolen
tress of Queen Berenice to the skies, where the locks became a
constellation.  A contemporary of Callimachus was Zenodotus, the
critic, who was for improving the Iliad and Odyssey by cutting out
all the epic commonplaces which seemed to him to be needless
repetitions.  It is pretty plain that, in literary society, Homer was
thought out of date and rococo.  The favourite topics of poets were
now, not the tales of Troy and Thebes, but the amorous adventures of
the gods.  When Apollonius Rhodius attempted to revive the epic, it
is said that the influence of Callimachus quite discomfited the young
poet.  A war of epigrams began, and while Apollonius called
Callimachus a 'blockhead' (so finished was his invective), the
veteran compared his rival to the Ibis, the scavenger-bird.  Other
singers satirised each others' legs, and one, the Aretino of the
time, mocked at king Ptolemy and scourged his failings in verse.  The
literary quarrels (to which Theocritus seems to allude in Idyl VII,
where Lycidas says he 'hates the birds of the Muses that cackle in
vain rivalry with Homer') were as stupid as such affairs usually are.
The taste for artificial epic was to return; although many people
already declared that Homer was the world's poet, and that the world
needed no other.  This epic reaction brought into favour Apollonius
Rhodius, author of the Argonautica.  Theocritus has been supposed to
aim at him as a vain rival of Homer, but M. Couat points out that
Theocritus was seventy when Apollonius began to write.  The literary
fashions of Alexandria are only of moment to us so far as they
directly affected Theocritus.  They could not make him obscure,
affected, tedious, but his nature probably inclined him to obey
fashion so far as only to write short poems.  His rural poems are
[Greek], 'little pictures.'  His fragments of epic, or imitations of
the epic hymns are not


- not full and sonorous as the songs of Homer and the sea.  'Ce poete
est le moins naif qui se puisse rencontrer, et il se degage de son
oeuvre un parfum de naivete rustique.' {0g}  They are, what a German
critic has called them, mythologischen genre-bilder, cabinet pictures
in the manner called genre, full of pretty detail and domestic
feeling.  And this brings us to the third characteristic of the age,-
-its art was elaborately pictorial.  Poetry seems to have sought
inspiration from painting, while painting, as we have said, inclined
to genre, to luxurious representations of the amours of the gods or
the adventures of heroes, with backgrounds of pastoral landscape.
Shepherds fluted while Perseus slew Medusa.

The old order of things in Greece had been precisely the opposite of
this Alexandrian manner.  Homer and the later Homeric legends, with
the tragedians, inspired the sculptors, and even the artisans who
decorated vases.  When a new order of subjects became fashionable,
and when every rich Alexandrian had pictures or frescoes on his
walls, it appears that the painters took the lead, that the
initiative in art was theirs.  The Alexandrian pictures perished long
ago, but the relics of Alexandrian style which remain in the buried
cities of Campania, in Pompeii especially, bear testimony to the
taste of the period. {0h}  Out of nearly two thousand Pompeian
pictures, it is calculated that some fourteen hundred (roughly
speaking) are mythological in subject.  The loves of the gods are
repeated in scores of designs, and these designs closely correspond
to the mythological poems of Theocritus and his younger
contemporaries Bion and Moschus.  Take as an example the adventure of
Europa:  Lord Tennyson's lines, in The Palace of Art are intended to
describe picture -

'Or sweet Europa's mantle blew unclasp'd,
   From off her shoulder backward borne:
From one hand droop'd a crocus:  one hand grasp'd
      The mild bull's golden horn.'

The words of Moschus also seem as if they might have derived their
inspiration from a painting, the touches are so minute, and so
picturesque -

'Meanwhile Europa, riding on the back of the divine bull, with one
hand clasped the beast's great horn, and with the other caught up her
garment's purple fold, lest it might trail and be drenched in the
hoar sea's infinite spray.  And her deep robe was blown out in the
wind, like the sail of a ship, and lightly ever it wafted the maiden

Now every single 'motive' of this description,--Europa with one hand
holding the bull's horn, with the other lifting her dress, the wind
puffing out her shawl like a sail, is repeated in the Pompeian wall-
pictures, which themselves are believed to be derived from
Alexandrian originals.  There are more curious coincidences than
this.  In the sixth idyl of Theocritus, Damoetas makes the Cyclops
say that Galatea 'will send him many a messenger.'  The mere idea of
describing the monstrous cannibal Polyphemus in love, is artificial
and Alexandrian.  But who were the 'messengers' of the sea-nymph
Galatea?  A Pompeian picture illustrates the point, by representing a
little Love riding up to the shore on the back of a dolphin, with a
letter in his hand for Polyphemus.  Greek art in Egypt suffered from
an Egyptian plague of Loves.  Loves flutter through the Pompeian
pictures as they do through the poems of Moschus and Bion.  They are
carried about in cages, for sale, like birds.  They are caught in
bird-traps.  They don the lion-skin of Heracles.  They flutter about
baskets laden with roses; round rosy Loves, like the cupids of
Boucher.  They are not akin to 'the grievous Love,' the mighty
wrestler who threw Daphnis a fall, in the first idyl of Theocritus.
They are 'the children that flit overhead, the little Loves, like the
young nightingales upon the budding trees,' which flit round the dead
Adonis in the fifteenth idyl.  They are the birds that shun the boy
fowler, in Bion's poem, and perch uncalled (as in a bronze in the
Uffizi) on the grown man.  In one or other of the sixteen Pompeian
pictures of Venus and Adonis, the Loves are breaking their bows and
arrows for grief, as in the hymn of Bion.

Enough has perhaps been said about the social and artistic taste of
Alexandria to account for the remarkable differences in manner
between the rustic idyls of Theocritus and the epic idyls of himself
and his followers Moschus and Bion.  In the rural idyls, Theocritus
was himself and wrote to please himself.  In the epic idyls, as in
the Hymn to the Dioscuri, and in the two poems on Heracles, he was
writing to please the taste of Alexandria.  He had to choose epic
topics, but he was warned by the famous saying of Callimachus ('a
great book is a great evil') not to imitate the length of the epic.
{0i}  He was also to shun close imitation of what are so easily
imitated, the regular recurring formulae, the commonplace of Homer.
He was to add minute pictorial touches, as in the description of
Alcmena's waking when the serpents attacked her child,--a passage
rich in domestic pathos and incident which contrast strongly with
Pindar's bare narrative of the same events.  We have noted the same
pictorial quality in the Europa of Moschus.  Our own age has often
been compared to the Alexandrian epoch, to that era of large cities,
wealth, refinement, criticism, and science; and the pictorial Idylls
of the King very closely resemble the epico-idyllic manner of
Alexandria.  We have tried to examine the society in which Theocritus
lived.  But our impressions about the poet are more distinct.  In him
we find the most genial character; pious as Greece counted piety;
tender as became the poet of love; glad as the singer of a happy
southern world should be; gifted, above all, with humour, and with
dramatic power.  'His lyre has all the chords'; his is the last of
all the perfect voices of Hellas; after him no man saw life with eyes
so steady and so mirthful.

About the lives of the three idyllic poets literary history says
little.  About their deaths she only tells us through the dirge by
Moschus, that Bion was poisoned.  The lovers of Theocritus would
willingly hope that he returned from Alexandria to Sicily, about the
time when he wrote the sixteenth idyl, and that he lived in the
enjoyment of the friendship and the domestic happiness and honour
which he sang so well, through the golden age of Hiero (264 B.C.)  No
happier fortune could befall him who wrote the epigram of the lady of
heavenly love, who worshipped with the noble wife of Nicias under the
green roof of Milesian Aphrodite, and who prophesied of the return of
peace and of song to Sicily and Syracuse.



The shepherd Thyrsis meets a goatherd, in a shady place beside a
spring, and at his invitation sings the Song of Daphnis.  This ideal
hero of Greek pastoral song had won for his bride the fairest of the
Nymphs.  Confident in the strength of his passion, he boasted that
Love could never subdue him to a new question.  Love avenged himself
by making Daphnis desire a strange maiden, but to this temptation he
never yielded, and so died a constant lover.  The song tells how the
cattle and the wild things of the wood bewailed him, how Hermes and
Priapus gave him counsel in vain, and how with his last breath he
retorted the taunts of the implacable Aphrodite.

The scene is in Sicily.

Thyrsis.  Sweet, meseems, is the whispering sound of yonder pine
tree, goatherd, that murmureth by the wells of water; and sweet are
thy pipings.  After Pan the second prize shalt thou bear away, and if
he take the horned goat, the she-goat shalt thou win; but if he
choose the she-goat for his meed, the kid falls to thee, and dainty
is the flesh of kids e'er the age when thou milkest them.

The Goatherd.  Sweeter, O shepherd, is thy song than the music of
yonder water that is poured from the high face of the rock!  Yea, if
the Muses take the young ewe for their gift, a stall-fed lamb shalt
thou receive for thy meed; but if it please them to take the lamb,
thou shalt lead away the ewe for the second prize.

Thyrsis.  Wilt thou, goatherd, in the nymphs' name, wilt thou sit
thee down here, among the tamarisks, on this sloping knoll, and pipe
while in this place I watch thy flocks?

Goatherd.  Nay, shepherd, it may not be; we may not pipe in the
noontide.  'Tis Pan we dread, who truly at this hour rests weary from
the chase; and bitter of mood is he, the keen wrath sitting ever at
his nostrils.  But, Thyrsis, for that thou surely wert wont to sing
The Affliction of Daphnis, and hast most deeply meditated the
pastoral muse, come hither, and beneath yonder elm let us sit down,
in face of Priapus and the fountain fairies, where is that resting-
place of the shepherds, and where the oak trees are.  Ah! if thou
wilt but sing as on that day thou sangest in thy match with Chromis
out of Libya, I will let thee milk, ay, three times, a goat that is
the mother of twins, and even when she has suckled her kids her milk
doth fill two pails.  A deep bowl of ivy-wood, too, I will give thee,
rubbed with sweet bees'-wax, a twy-eared bowl newly wrought, smacking
still of the knife of the graver.  Round its upper edges goes the ivy
winding, ivy besprent with golden flowers; and about it is a tendril
twisted that joys in its saffron fruit.  Within is designed a maiden,
as fair a thing as the gods could fashion, arrayed in a sweeping
robe, and a snood on her head.  Beside her two youths with fair love-
locks are contending from either side, with alternate speech, but her
heart thereby is all untouched.  And now on one she glances, smiling,
and anon she lightly flings the other a thought, while by reason of
the long vigils of love their eyes are heavy, but their labour is all
in vain.

Beyond these an ancient fisherman and a rock are fashioned, a rugged
rock, whereon with might and main the old man drags a great net for
his cast, as one that labours stoutly.  Thou wouldst say that he is
fishing with all the might of his limbs, so big the sinews swell all
about his neck, grey-haired though he be, but his strength is as the
strength of youth.  Now divided but a little space from the sea-worn
old man is a vineyard laden well with fire-red clusters, and on the
rough wall a little lad watches the vineyard, sitting there.  Round
him two she-foxes are skulking, and one goes along the vine-rows to
devour the ripe grapes, and the other brings all her cunning to bear
against the scrip, and vows she will never leave the lad, till she
strand him bare and breakfastless.  But the boy is plaiting a pretty
locust-cage with stalks of asphodel, and fitting it with reeds, and
less care of his scrip has he, and of the vines, than delight in his

All about the cup is spread the soft acanthus, a miracle of varied
work, {6} a thing for thee to marvel on.  For this bowl I paid to a
Calydonian ferryman a goat and a great white cream cheese.  Never has
its lip touched mine, but it still lies maiden for me.  Gladly with
this cup would I gain thee to my desire, if thou, my friend, wilt
sing me that delightful song.  Nay, I grudge it thee not at all.
Begin, my friend, for be sure thou canst in no wise carry thy song
with thee to Hades, that puts all things out of mind!

The Song of Thyrsis.

Begin, ye Muses dear, begin the pastoral song!  Thyrsis of Etna am I,
and this is the voice of Thyrsis.  Where, ah! where were ye when
Daphnis was languishing; ye Nymphs, where were ye?  By Peneus's
beautiful dells, or by dells of Pindus? for surely ye dwelt not by
the great stream of the river Anapus, nor on the watch-tower of Etna,
nor by the sacred water of Acis.

Begin, ye Muses dear, begin the pastoral song!

For him the jackals, for him the wolves did cry; for him did even the
lion out of the forest lament.  Kine and bulls by his feet right
many, and heifers plenty, with the young calves bewailed him.

Begin, ye Muses dear, begin the pastoral song!

Came Hermes first from the hill, and said, 'Daphnis, who is it that
torments thee; child, whom dost thou love with so great desire?'  The
neatherds came, and the shepherds; the goatherds came:  all they
asked what ailed him.  Came also Priapus, -

Begin, ye Muses dear, begin the pastoral song!

And said:  'Unhappy Daphnis, wherefore dost thou languish, while for
thee the maiden by all the fountains, through all the glades is
fleeting, in search of thee?  Ah! thou art too laggard a lover, and
thou nothing availest!  A neatherd wert thou named, and now thou art
like the goatherd:

Begin, ye Muses dear, begin the pastoral song!

'For the goatherd, when he marks the young goats at their pastime,
looks on with yearning eyes, and fain would be even as they; and
thou, when thou beholdest the laughter of maidens, dost gaze with
yearning eyes, for that thou dost not join their dances.'

Begin, ye Muses dear, begin the pastoral song!

Yet these the herdsman answered not again, but he bare his bitter
love to the end, yea, to the fated end he bare it.

Begin, ye Muses dear, begin the pastoral song!

Ay, but she too came, the sweetly smiling Cypris, craftily smiling
she came, yet keeping her heavy anger; and she spake, saying:
'Daphnis, methinks thou didst boast that thou wouldst throw Love a
fall, nay, is it not thyself that hast been thrown by grievous Love?'

Begin ye Muses dear, begin the pastoral song!

But to her Daphnis answered again:  'Implacable Cypris, Cypris
terrible, Cypris of mortals detested, already dost thou deem that my
latest sun has set; nay, Daphnis even in Hades shall prove great
sorrow to Love.

Begin, ye Muses dear, begin the pastoral song!

'Where it is told how the herdsman with Cypris--Get thee to Ida, get
thee to Anchises!  There are oak trees--here only galingale blows,
here sweetly hum the bees about the hives!

Begin, ye Muses dear, begin the pastoral song!

'Thine Adonis, too, is in his bloom, for he herds the sheep and slays
the hares, and he chases all the wild beasts.  Nay, go and confront
Diomedes again, and say, "The herdsman Daphnis I conquered, do thou
join battle with me."

Begin, ye Muses dear, begin the pastoral song!

'Ye wolves, ye jackals, and ye bears in the mountain caves, farewell!
The herdsman Daphnis ye never shall see again, no more in the dells,
no more in the groves, no more in the woodlands.  Farewell Arethusa,
ye rivers, good-night, that pour down Thymbris your beautiful waters.

Begin, ye Muses dear, begin the pastoral song!

'That Daphnis am I who here do herd the kine, Daphnis who water here
the bulls and calves.

'O Pan, Pan! whether thou art on the high hills of Lycaeus, or
rangest mighty Maenalus, haste hither to the Sicilian isle!  Leave
the tomb of Helice, leave that high cairn of the son of Lycaon, which
seems wondrous fair, even in the eyes of the blessed. {9}

Give o'er, ye Muses, come, give o'er the pastoral song!

'Come hither, my prince, and take this fair pipe, honey-breathed with
wax-stopped joints; and well it fits thy lip:  for verily I, even I,
by Love am now haled to Hades.

Give o'er, ye Muses, come, give o'er the pastoral song!

'Now violets bear, ye brambles, ye thorns bear violets; and let fair
narcissus bloom on the boughs of juniper!  Let all things with all be
confounded,--from pines let men gather pears, for Daphnis is dying!
Let the stag drag down the hounds, let owls from the hills contend in
song with the nightingales.'

Give o'er, ye Muses, come, give o'er the pastoral song!

So Daphnis spake, and ended; but fain would Aphrodite have given him
back to life.  Nay, spun was all the thread that the Fates assigned,
and Daphnis went down the stream.  The whirling wave closed over the
man the Muses loved, the man not hated of the nymphs.

Give o'er, ye Muses, come, give o'er the pastoral song!

And thou, give me the bowl, and the she-goat, that I may milk her and
poor forth a libation to the Muses.  Farewell, oh, farewells
manifold, ye Muses, and I, some future day, will sing you yet a
sweeter song.

The Goatherd.  Filled may thy fair mouth be with honey, Thyrsis, and
filled with the honeycomb; and the sweet dried fig mayst thou eat of
Aegilus, for thou vanquishest the cicala in song!  Lo here is thy
cup, see, my friend, of how pleasant a savour!  Thou wilt think it
has been dipped in the well-spring of the Hours.  Hither, hither,
Cissaetha:  do thou milk her, Thyrsis.  And you young she-goats,
wanton not so wildly lest you bring up the he-goat against you.


Simaetha, madly in love with Delphis, who has forsaken her,
endeavours to subdue him to her by magic, and by invoking the Moon,
in her character of Hecate, and of Selene.  She tells the tale of the
growth of her passion, and vows vengeance if her magic arts are

The scene is probably some garden beneath the moonlit shy, near the
town, and within sound of the sea.  The characters are Simaetha, and
Thestylis, her handmaid.

Where are my laurel leaves? come, bring them, Thestylis; and where
are the love-charms?  Wreath the bowl with bright-red wool, that I
may knit the witch-knots against my grievous lover, {11} who for
twelve days, oh cruel, has never come hither, nor knows whether I am
alive or dead, nor has once knocked at my door, unkind that he is!
Hath Love flown off with his light desires by some other path--Love
and Aphrodite?  To-morrow I will go to the wrestling school of
Timagetus, to see my love and to reproach him with all the wrong he
is doing me.  But now I will bewitch him with my enchantments!  Do
thou, Selene, shine clear and fair, for softly, Goddess, to thee will
I sing, and to Hecate of hell.  The very whelps shiver before her as
she fares through black blood and across the barrows of the dead.

Hail, awful Hecate! to the end be thou of our company, and make this
medicine of mine no weaker than the spells of Circe, or of Medea, or
of Perimede of the golden hair.

My magic wheel, draw home to me the man I love!

Lo, how the barley grain first smoulders in the fire,--nay, toss on
the barley, Thestylis!  Miserable maid, where are thy wits wandering?
Even to thee, wretched that I am, have I become a laughing-stock,
even to thee?  Scatter the grain, and cry thus the while, ''Tis the
bones of Delphis I am scattering!'

My magic wheel, draw home to me the man I love!

Delphis troubled me, and I against Delphis am burning this laurel;
and even as it crackles loudly when it has caught the flame, and
suddenly is burned up, and we see not even the dust thereof, lo, even
thus may the flesh of Delphis waste in the burning!

My magic wheel, draw home to me the man I love!

Even as I melt this wax, with the god to aid, so speedily may he by
love be molten, the Myndian Delphis!  And as whirls this brazen
wheel, {13} so restless, under Aphrodite's spell, may he turn and
turn about my doors.

My magic wheel, draw home to me the man I love!

Now will I burn the husks, and thou, O Artemis, hast power to move
hell's adamantine gates, and all else that is as stubborn.
Thestylis, hark, 'tis so; the hounds are baying up and down the town!
The Goddess stands where the three ways meet!  Hasten, and clash the
brazen cymbals.

My magic wheel, draw home to me the man I love!

Lo, silent is the deep, and silent the winds, but never silent the
torment in my breast.  Nay, I am all on fire for him that made me,
miserable me, no wife but a shameful thing, a girl no more a maiden.

My magic wheel, draw home to me the man I love!

Three times do I pour libation, and thrice, my Lady Moon, I speak
this spell:- Be it with a friend that he lingers, be it with a leman
he lies, may he as clean forget them as Theseus, of old, in Dia--so
legends tell--did utterly forget the fair-tressed Ariadne.

My magic wheel, draw home to me the man I love!

Coltsfoot is an Arcadian weed that maddens, on the hills, the young
stallions and fleet-footed mares.  Ah! even as these may I see
Delphis; and to this house of mine, may he speed like a madman,
leaving the bright palaestra.

My magic wheel, draw home to me the man I love!

This fringe from his cloak Delphis lost; that now I shred and cast
into the cruel flame.  Ah, ah, thou torturing Love, why clingest thou
to me like a leech of the fen, and drainest all the black blood from
my body?

My magic wheel, draw home to me the man I love!

Lo, I will crush an eft, and a venomous draught to-morrow I will
bring thee!

But now, Thestylis, take these magic herbs and secretly smear the
juice on the jambs of his gate (whereat, even now, my heart is
captive, though nothing he recks of me), and spit and whisper, ''Tis
the bones of Delphis that I smear.'

My magic wheel, draw home to me the man I love!

And now that I am alone, whence shall I begin to bewail my love?
Whence shall I take up the tale:  who brought on me this sorrow?  The
maiden-bearer of the mystic vessel came our way, Anaxo, daughter of
Eubulus, to the grove of Artemis; and behold, she had many other wild
beasts paraded for that time, in the sacred show, and among them a

Bethink thee of my love, and whence it came, my Lady Moon!

And the Thracian servant of Theucharidas,--my nurse that is but
lately dead, and who then dwelt at our doors,--besought me and
implored me to come and see the show.  And I went with her, wretched
woman that I am, clad about in a fair and sweeping linen stole, over
which I had thrown the holiday dress of Clearista.

Bethink thee of my love, and whence it came, my Lady Moon!

Lo!  I was now come to the mid-point of the highway, near the
dwelling of Lycon, and there I saw Delphis and Eudamippus walking
together.  Their beards were more golden than the golden flower of
the ivy; their breasts (they coming fresh from the glorious
wrestler's toil) were brighter of sheen than thyself Selene!

Bethink thee of my love, and whence it came, my Lady Moon!

Even as I looked I loved, loved madly, and all my heart was wounded,
woe is me, and my beauty began to wane.  No more heed took I of that
show, and how I came home I know not; but some parching fever utterly
overthrew me, and I lay a-bed ten days and ten nights.

Bethink thee of my love, and whence it came, my Lady Moon!

And oftentimes my skin waxed wan as the colour of boxwood, and all my
hair was falling from my head, and what was left of me was but skin
and bones.  Was there a wizard to whom I did not seek, or a crone to
whose house I did not resort, of them that have art magical?  But
this was no light malady, and the time went fleeting on.

Bethink thee of my love, and whence it came, my Lady Moon!

Thus I told the true story to my maiden, and said, 'Go, Thestylis,
and find me some remedy for this sore disease.  Ah me, the Myndian
possesses me, body and soul!  Nay, depart, and watch by the
wrestling-ground of Timagetus, for there is his resort, and there he
loves to loiter.

Bethink thee of my love, and whence it came, my Lady Moon!

'And when thou art sure he is alone, nod to him secretly, and say,
"Simaetha bids thee to come to her," and lead him hither privily.'
So I spoke; and she went and brought the bright-limbed Delphis to my
house.  But I, when I beheld him just crossing the threshold of the
door, with his light step, -

Bethink thee of my love, and whence it came, my Lady Moon!

Grew colder all than snow, and the sweat streamed from my brow like
the dank dews, and I had no strength to speak, nay, nor to utter as
much as children murmur in their slumber, calling to their mother
dear:  and all my fair body turned stiff as a puppet of wax.

Bethink thee of my love, and whence it came, my Lady Moon!

Then when he had gazed on me, he that knows not love, he fixed his
eyes on the ground, and sat down on my bed, and spake as he sat him
down:  'Truly, Simaetha, thou didst by no more outrun mine own coming
hither, when thou badst me to thy roof, than of late I outran in the
race the beautiful Philinus:

Bethink thee of my love, and whence it came, my Lady Moon!

'For I should have come; yea, by sweet Love, I should have come, with
friends of mine, two or three, as soon as night drew on, bearing in
my breast the apples of Dionysus, and on my head silvery poplar
leaves, the holy boughs of Heracles, all twined with bands of purple.

Bethink thee of my love, and whence it came, my Lady Moon!

'And if you had received me, they would have taken it well, for among
all the youths unwed I have a name for beauty and speed of foot.
With one kiss of thy lovely mouth I had been content; but an if ye
had thrust me forth, and the door had been fastened with the bar,
then truly should torch and axe have broken in upon you.

Bethink thee of my love, and whence it came, my Lady Moon!

'And now to Cypris first, methinks, my thanks are due, and after
Cypris it is thou that hast caught me, lady, from the burning, in
that thou badst me come to this thy house, half consumed as I am!
Yea, Love, 'tis plain, lights oft a fiercer blaze than Hephaestus the
God of Lipara.

Bethink thee of my love, and whence it came, my Lady Moon!

'With his madness dire, he scares both the maiden from her bower and
the bride from the bridal bed, yet warm with the body of her lord!'

So he spake, and I, that was easy to win, took his hand, and drew him
down on the soft bed beside me.  And immediately body from body
caught fire, and our faces glowed as they had not done, and sweetly
we murmured.  And now, dear Selene, to tell thee no long tale, the
great rites were accomplished, and we twain came to our desire.
Faultless was I in his sight, till yesterday, and he, again, in mine.
But there came to me the mother of Philista, my flute player, and the
mother of Melixo, to-day, when the horses of the Sun were climbing
the sky, bearing Dawn of the rosy arms from the ocean stream.  Many
another thing she told me; and chiefly this, that Delphis is a lover,
and whom he loves she vowed she knew not surely, but this only, that
ever he filled up his cup with the unmixed wine, to drink a toast to
his dearest.  And at last he went off hastily, saying that he would
cover with garlands the dwelling of his love.

This news my visitor told me, and she speaks the truth.  For indeed,
at other seasons, he would come to me thrice, or four times, in the
day, and often would leave with me his Dorian oil flask.  But now it
is the twelfth day since I have even looked on him!  Can it be that
he has not some other delight, and has forgotten me?  Now with magic
rites I will strive to bind him, {19} but if still he vexes me, he
shall beat, by the Fates I vow it, at the gate of Hell.  Such evil
medicines I store against him in a certain coffer, the use whereof,
my lady, an Assyrian stranger taught me.

But do thou farewell, and turn thy steeds to Ocean, Lady, and my pain
I will bear, as even till now I have endured it.  Farewell, Selene
bright and fair, farewell ye other stars, that follow the wheels of
quiet Night.


A goatherd, leaving his goats to feed on the hillside, in the charge
of Tityrus, approaches the cavern of Amaryllis, with its veil of
ferns and ivy, and attempts to win back the heart of the girl by
song.  He mingles promises with harmless threats, and repeats, in
exquisite verses, the names of the famous lovers of old days,
Milanion and Endymion.  Failing to move Amaryllis, the goatherd
threatens to die where he has thrown himself down, beneath the trees.

Courting Amaryllis with song I go, while my she-goats feed on the
hill, and Tityrus herds them.  Ah, Tityrus, my dearly beloved, feed
thou the goats, and to the well-side lead them, Tityrus, and 'ware
the yellow Libyan he-goat, lest he butt thee with his horns.

Ah, lovely Amaryllis, why no more, as of old, dust thou glance
through this cavern after me, nor callest me, thy sweetheart, to thy
side.  Can it be that thou hatest me?  Do I seem snub-nosed, now thou
hast seen me near, maiden, and under-hung?  Thou wilt make me
strangle myself!

Lo, ten apples I bring thee, plucked from that very place where thou
didst bid me pluck them, and others to-morrow I will bring thee.

Ah, regard my heart's deep sorrow! ah, would I were that humming bee,
and to thy cave might come dipping beneath the fern that hides thee,
and the ivy leaves!

Now know I Love, and a cruel God is he.  Surely he sucked the
lioness's dug, and in the wild wood his mother reared him, whose fire
is scorching me, and bites even to the bone.

Ah, lovely as thou art to look upon, ah heart of stone, ah dark-
browed maiden, embrace me, thy true goatherd, that I may kiss thee,
and even in empty kisses there is a sweet delight!

Soon wilt thou make me rend the wreath in pieces small, the wreath of
ivy, dear Amaryllis, that I keep for thee, with rose-buds twined, and
fragrant parsley.  Ah me, what anguish!  Wretched that I am, whither
shall I turn!  Thou dust not hear my prayer!

I will cast off my coat of skins, and into yonder waves I will
spring, where the fisher Olpis watches for the tunny shoals, and even
if I die not, surely thy pleasure will have been done.

I learned the truth of old, when, amid thoughts of thee, I asked,
'Loves she, loves she not?' and the poppy petal clung not, and gave
no crackling sound, but withered on my smooth forearm, even so. {21}

And she too spoke sooth, even Agroeo, she that divineth with a sieve,
and of late was binding sheaves behind the reapers, who said that I
had set all my heart on thee, but that thou didst nothing regard me.

Truly I keep for thee the white goat with the twin kids that
Mermnon's daughter too, the brown-skinned Erithacis, prays me to give
her; and give her them I will, since thou dost flout me.

My right eyelid throbs, is it a sign that I am to see her?  Here will
I lean me against this pine tree, and sing, and then perchance she
will regard me, for she is not all of adamant.

Lo, Hippomenes when he was eager to marry the famous maiden, took
apples in his hand, and so accomplished his course; and Atalanta saw,
and madly longed, and leaped into the deep waters of desire.
Melampus too, the soothsayer, brought the herd of oxen from Othrys to
Pylos, and thus in the arms of Bias was laid the lovely mother of
wise Alphesiboea.

And was it not thus that Adonis, as he pastured his sheep upon the
hills, led beautiful Cytherea to such heights of frenzy, that not
even in his death doth she unclasp him from her bosom?  Blessed,
methinks is the lot of him that sleeps, and tosses not, nor turns,
even Endymion; and, dearest maiden, blessed I call Iason, whom such
things befell, as ye that be profane shall never come to know.

My head aches, but thou carest not.  I will sing no more, but dead
will I lie where I fall, and here may the wolves devour me.

Sweet as honey in the mouth may my death be to thee.


Battus and Corydon, two rustic fellows, meeting in a glade, gossip
about their neighbour, Aegon, who has gone to try his fortune at the
Olympic games.  After some random banter, the talk turns on the death
of Amaryllis, and the grief of Battus is disturbed by the roaming of
his cattle.  Corydon removes a thorn that has run into his friend's
foot, and the conversation comes back to matters of rural scandal.

The scene is in Southern Italy.

Battus.  Tell me, Corydon, whose kine are these,--the cattle of

Corydon.  Nay, they are Aegon's, he gave me them to pasture.

Battus.  Dost thou ever find a way to milk them all, on the sly, just
before evening?

Corydon.  No chance of that, for the old man puts the calves beneath
their dams, and keeps watch on me.

Battus.  But the neatherd himself,--to what land has he passed out of

Corydon.  Hast thou not heard?  Milon went and carried him off to the

Battus.  And when, pray, did HE ever set eyes on the wrestlers' oil?

Corydon.  They say he is a match for Heracles, in strength and

Battus.  And I, so mother says, am a better man than Polydeuces.

Corydon.  Well, off he has gone, with a shovel, and with twenty sheep
from his flock here. {24}

Battus.  Milo, thou'lt see, will soon be coaxing the wolves to rave!

Corydon.  But Aegon's heifers here are lowing pitifully, and miss
their master.

Battus.  Yes, wretched beasts that they are, how false a neatherd was

Corydon.  Wretched enough in truth, and they have no more care to

Battus.  Nothing is left, now, of that heifer, look you, bones,
that's all.  She does not live on dewdrops, does she, like the

Corydon.  No, by Earth, for sometimes I take her to graze by the
banks of Aesarus, fair handfuls of fresh grass I give her too, and
otherwhiles she wantons in the deep shade round Latymnus.

Battus.  How lean is the red bull too!  May the sons of Lampriades,
the burghers to wit, get such another for their sacrifice to Hera,
for the township is an ill neighbour.

Corydon.  And yet that bull is driven to the mere's mouth, and to the
meadows of Physcus, and to the Neaethus, where all fair herbs bloom,
red goat-wort, and endive, and fragrant bees-wort.

Battus.  Ah, wretched Aegon, thy very kine will go to Hades, while
thou too art in love with a luckless victory, and thy pipe is flecked
with mildew, the pipe that once thou madest for thyself!

Corydon.  Not the pipe, by the nymphs, not so, for when he went to
Pisa, he left the same as a gift to me, and I am something of a
player.  Well can I strike up the air of Glauce and well the strain
of Pyrrhus, and the praise of Croton I sing, and Zacynthus is a
goodly town, and Lacinium that fronts the dawn!  There Aegon the
boxer, unaided, devoured eighty cakes to his own share, and there he
caught the bull by the hoof, and brought him from the mountain, and
gave him to Amaryllis.  Thereon the women shrieked aloud, and the
neatherd,--he burst out laughing.

Battus.  Ah, gracious Amaryllis!  Thee alone even in death will we
ne'er forget.  Dear to me as my goats wert thou, and thou art dead!
Alas, too cruel a spirit hath my lot in his keeping.

Corydon.  Dear Battus, thou must needs be comforted.  The morrow
perchance will bring better fortune.  The living may hope, the dead
alone are hopeless.  Zeus now shows bright and clear, and anon he

Battus.  Enough of thy comforting!  Drive the calves from the lower
ground, the cursed beasts are grazing on the olive-shoots.  Hie on,
white face.

Corydon.  Out, Cymaetha, get thee to the hill!  Dost thou not hear?
By Pan, I will soon come and be the death of you, if you stay there!
Look, here she is creeping back again!  Would I had my crook for hare
killing:  how I would cudgel thee.

Battus.  In the name of Zeus, prithee look here, Corydon!  A thorn
has just run into my foot under the ankle.  How deep they grow, the
arrow-headed thorns.  An ill end befall the heifer; I was pricked
when I was gaping after her.  Prithee dost see it?

Corydon.  Yes, yes, and I have caught it in my nails, see, here it

Battus.  How tiny is the wound, and how tall a man it masters!

Corydon.  When thou goest to the hill, go not barefoot, Battus, for
on the hillside flourish thorns and brambles plenty.

Battus.  Come, tell me, Corydon, the old man now, does he still run
after that little black-browed darling whom he used to dote on?

Corydon.  He is after her still, my lad; but yesterday I came upon
them, by the very byre, and right loving were they.

Battus.  Well done, thou ancient lover!  Sure, thou art near akin to
the satyrs, or a rival of the slim-shanked Pans! {26}


This Idyl begins with a ribald debate between two hirelings, who, at
last, compete with each other in a match of pastoral song.  No other
idyl of Theocritus is so frankly true to the rough side of rustic
manners.  The scene is in Southern Italy.

Comatas.  Goats of mine, keep clear of that notorious shepherd of
Sibyrtas, that Lacon; he stole my goat-skin yesterday.

Lacon.  Will ye never leave the well-head?  Off, my lambs, see ye not
Comatas; him that lately stole my shepherd's pipe?

Comatas.  What manner of pipe might that be, for when gat'st THOU a
pipe, thou slave of Sibyrtas?  Why does it no more suffice thee to
keep a flute of straw, and whistle with Corydon?

Lacon.  What pipe, free sir? why, the pipe that Lycon gave me.  And
what manner of goat-skin hadst thou, that Lacon made off with?  Tell
me, Comatas, for truly even thy master, Eumarides, had never a goat-
skin to sleep in.

Comatas.  'Twas the skin that Crocylus gave me, the dappled one, when
he sacrificed the she-goat to the nymphs; but thou, wretch, even then
wert wasting with envy, and now, at last, thou hast stripped me bare!

Lacon.  Nay verily, so help me Pan of the seashore, it was not Lacon
the son of Calaethis that filched the coat of skin.  If I lie,
sirrah, may I leap frenzied down this rock into the Crathis!

Comatas.  Nay verily, my friend, so help me these nymphs of the mere
(and ever may they be favourable, as now, and kind to me), it was not
Comatas that pilfered thy pipe.

Lacon.  If I believe thee, may I suffer the afflictions of Daphnis!
But see, if thou carest to stake a kid--though indeed 'tis scarce
worth my while--then, go to, I will sing against thee, and cease not,
till thou dust cry 'enough!'

Comatas.  The sow defied Athene!  See, there is staked the kid, go
to, do thou too put a fatted lamb against him, for thy stake.

Lacon.  Thou fox, and where would be our even betting then?  Who ever
chose hair to shear, in place of wool? and who prefers to milk a
filthy bitch, when he can have a she-goat, nursing her first kid?

Comatas.  Why, he that deems himself as sure of getting the better of
his neighbour as thou dost, a wasp that buzzes against the cicala.
But as it is plain thou thinkst the kid no fair stake, lo, here is
this he-goat.  Begin the match!

Lacon.  No such haste, thou art not on fire!  More sweetly wilt thou
sing, if thou wilt sit down beneath the wild olive tree, and the
groves in this place.  Chill water falls there, drop by drop, here
grows the grass, and here a leafy bed is strown, and here the locusts

Comatas.  Nay, no whit am I in haste, but I am sorely vexed, that
thou shouldst dare to look me straight in the face, thou whom I used
to teach while thou wert still a child.  See where gratitude goes!
As well rear wolf-whelps, breed hounds, that they may devour thee!

Lacon.  And what good thing have I to remember that I ever learned or
heard from thee, thou envious thing, thou mere hideous manikin!

* * *

But come this way, come, and thou shalt sing thy last of country

Comatas.  That way I will not go!  Here be oak trees, and here the
galingale, and sweetly here hum the bees about the hives.  There are
two wells of chill water, and on the tree the birds are warbling, and
the shadow is beyond compare with that where thou liest, and from on
high the pine tree pelts us with her cones.

Lacon.  Nay, but lambs' wool, truly, and fleeces, shalt thou tread
here, if thou wilt but come,--fleeces more soft than sleep, but the
goat-skins beside thee stink--worse than thyself.  And I will set a
great bowl of white milk for the nymphs, and another will I offer of
sweet olive oil.

Comatas.  Nay, but an if thou wilt come, thou shalt tread here the
soft feathered fern, and flowering thyme, and beneath thee shall be
strown the skins of she-goats, four times more soft than the fleeces
of thy lambs.  And I will set out eight bowls of milk for Pan, and
eight bowls full of the richest honeycombs.

Lacon.  Thence, where thou art, I pray thee, begin the match, and
there sing thy country song, tread thine own ground and keep thine
oaks to thyself.  But who, who shall judge between us?  Would that
Lycopas, the neatherd, might chance to come this way!

Comatas.  I want nothing with him, but that man, if thou wilt, that
woodcutter we will call, who is gathering those tufts of heather near
thee.  It is Morson.

Lacon.  Let us shout, then!

Comatas.  Call thou to him.

Lacon.  Ho, friend, come hither and listen for a little while, for we
two have a match to prove which is the better singer of country song.
So Morson, my friend, neither judge me too kindly, no, nor show him

Comatas.  Yes, dear Morson, for the nymphs' sake neither lean in thy
judgment to Comatas, nor, prithee, favour HIM.  The flock of sheep
thou seest here belongs to Sibyrtas of Thurii, and the goats, friend,
that thou beholdest are the goats of Eumarides of Sybaris.

Lacon.  Now, in the name of Zeus did any one ask thee, thou make-
mischief, who owned the flock, I or Sibyrtas?  What a chatterer thou

Comatas.  Best of men, I am for speaking the whole truth, and
boasting never, but thou art too fond of cutting speeches.

Lacon.  Come, say whatever thou hast to say, and let the stranger get
home to the city alive; oh, Paean, what a babbler thou art, Comatas!


Comatas.  The Muses love me better far than the minstrel Daphnis; but
a little while ago I sacrificed two young she-goats to the Muses.

Lacon.  Yea, and me too Apollo loves very dearly, and a noble ram I
rear for Apollo, for the feast of the Carnea, look you, is drawing

Comatas.  The she-goats that I milk have all borne twins save two.
The maiden saw me, and 'alas,' she cried, 'dost thou milk alone?'

Lacon.  Ah, ah, but Lacon here hath nigh twenty baskets full of
cheese, and Lacon lies with his darling in the flowers!

Comatas.  Clearista, too, pelts the goatherd with apples as he drives
past his she-goats, and a sweet word she murmurs.

Lacon.  And wild with love am I too, for my fair young darling, that
meets the shepherd, with the bright hair floating round the shapely

Comatas.  Nay, ye may not liken dog-roses to the rose, or wind-
flowers to the roses of the garden; by the garden walls their beds
are blossoming.

Lacon.  Nay, nor wild apples to acorns, for acorns are bitter in the
oaken rind, but apples are sweet as honey.

Comatas.  Soon will I give my maiden a ring-dove for a gift; I will
take it from the juniper tree, for there it is brooding.

Lacon.  But I will give my darling a soft fleece to make a cloak, a
free gift, when I shear the black ewe.

Comatas.  Forth from the wild olive, my bleating she-goats, feed here
where the hillside slopes, and the tamarisks grove.

Lacon.  Conarus there, and Cynaetha, will you never leave the oak?
Graze here, where Phalarus feeds, where the hillside fronts the dawn.

Comatas.  Ay, and I have a vessel of cypress wood, and a mixing bowl,
the work of Praxiteles, and I hoard them for my maiden.

Lacon.  I too have a dog that loves the flock, the dog to strangle
wolves; him I am giving to my darling to chase all manner of wild

Comatas.  Ye locusts that overleap our fence, see that ye harm not
our vines, for our vines are young.

Lacon.  Ye cicalas, see how I make the goatherd chafe:  even so,
methinks, do ye vex the reapers.

Comatas.  I hate the foxes, with their bushy brushes, that ever come
at evening, and eat the grapes of Micon.

Lacon.  And I hate the lady-birds that devour the figs of Philondas,
and flit down the wind.

Comatas.  Dost thou not remember how I cudgelled thee, and thou didst
grin and nimbly writhe, and catch hold of yonder oak?

Lacon.  That I have no memory of, but how Eumarides bound thee there,
upon a time, and flogged thee through and through, that I do very
well remember.

Comatas.  Already, Morson, some one is waxing bitter, dust thou see
no sign of it?  Go, go, and pluck, forthwith, the squills from some
old wife's grave.

Lacon.  And I too, Morson, I make some one chafe, and thou dost
perceive it.  Be off now to the Hales stream, and dig cyclamen.

Comatas.  Let Himera flow with milk instead of water, and thou,
Crathis, run red with wine, and all thy reeds bear apples.

Lacon.  Would that the fount of Sybaris may flow with honey, and may
the maiden's pail, at dawning, be dipped, not in water, but in the

Comatas.  My goats eat cytisus, and goatswort, and tread the lentisk
shoots, and lie at ease among the arbutus.

Lacon.  But my ewes have honey-wort to feed on, and luxuriant
creepers flower around, as fair as roses.

Comatas.  I love not Alcippe, for yesterday she did not kiss me, and
take my face between her hands, when I gave her the dove.

Lacon.  But deeply I love my darling, for a kind kiss once I got, in
return for the gift of a shepherd's pipe.

Comatas.  Lacon, it never was right that pyes should contend with the
nightingale, nor hoopoes with swans, but thou, unhappy swain, art
ever for contention.

Morson's Judgement.  I bid the shepherd cease.  But to thee, Comatas,
Morson presents the lamb.  And thou, when thou hast sacrificed her to
the nymphs, send Morson, anon, a goodly portion of her flesh.

Comatas.  I will, by Pan.  Now leap, and snort, my he-goats, all the
herd of you, and see here how loud I ever will laugh, and exult over
Lacon, the shepherd, for that, at last, I have won the lamb.  See, I
will leap sky high with joy.  Take heart, my horned goats, to-morrow
I will dip you all in the fountain of Sybaris.  Thou white he-goat, I
will beat thee if thou dare to touch one of the herd before I
sacrifice the lamb to the nymphs.  There he is at it again!  Call me
Melanthius, {34} not Comatas, if I do not cudgel thee.


Daphnis and Damoetas, two herdsmen of the golden age, meet by a well-
side, and sing a match, their topic is the Cyclops, Polyphemus, and
his love for the sea-nymph, Galatea.

The scene is in Sicily.

Damoetas, and Daphnis the herdsman, once on a time, Aratus, led the
flock together into one place.  Golden was the down on the chin of
one, the beard of the other was half-grown, and by a well-head the
twain sat them down, in the summer noon, and thus they sang.  'Twas
Daphnis that began the singing, for the challenge had come from

Daphnis's Song of the Cyclops.

Galatea is pelting thy flock with apples, Polyphemus, she says the
goatherd is a laggard lover!  And thou dost not glance at her, oh
hard, hard that thou art, but still thou sittest at thy sweet piping.
Ah see, again, she is pelting thy dog, that follows thee to watch thy
sheep.  He barks, as he looks into the brine, and now the beautiful
waves that softly plash reveal him, {36} as he runs upon the shore.
Take heed that he leap not on the maiden's limbs as she rises from
the salt water, see that he rend not her lovely body!  Ah, thence
again, see, she is wantoning, light as dry thistle-down in the
scorching summer weather.  She flies when thou art wooing her; when
thou woo'st not she pursues thee, she plays out all her game and
leaves her king unguarded.  For truly to Love, Polyphemus, many a
time doth foul seem fair!

He ended and Damoetas touched a prelude to his sweet song.

I saw her, by Pan, I saw her when she was pelting my flock.  Nay, she
escaped not me, escaped not my one dear eye,--wherewith I shall see
to my life's end,--let Telemus the soothsayer, that prophesies
hateful things, hateful things take home, to keep them for his
children!  But it is all to torment her, that I, in my turn, give not
back her glances, pretending that I have another love.  To hear this
makes her jealous of me, by Paean, and she wastes with pain, and
springs madly from the sea, gazing at my caves and at my herds.  And
I hiss on my dog to bark at her, for when I loved Galatea he would
whine with joy, and lay his muzzle on her lap.  Perchance when she
marks how I use her she will send me many a messenger, but on her
envoys I will shut my door till she promises that herself will make a
glorious bridal-bed on this island for me.  For in truth, I am not so
hideous as they say!  But lately I was looking into the sea, when all
was calm; beautiful seemed my beard, beautiful my one eye--as I count
beauty--and the sea reflected the gleam of my teeth whiter than the
Parian stone.  Then, all to shun the evil eye, did I spit thrice in
my breast; for this spell was taught me by the crone, Cottytaris,
that piped of yore to the reapers in Hippocoon's field.

Then Damoetas kissed Daphnis, as he ended his song, and he gave
Daphnis a pipe, and Daphnis gave him a beautiful flute.  Damoetas
fluted, and Daphnis piped, the herdsman,--and anon the calves were
dancing in the soft green grass.  Neither won the victory, but both
were invincible.


The poet making his way through the noonday heat, with two friends,
to a harvest feast, meets the goatherd, Lycidas.  To humour the poet
Lycidas sings a love song of his own, and the other replies with
verses about the passion of Aratus, the famous writer of didactic
verse.  After a courteous parting from Lycidas, the poet and his two
friends repair to the orchard, where Demeter is being gratified with
the first-fruits of harvest and vintaging.

In this idyl, Theocritus, speaking of himself by the name of
Simichidas, alludes to his teachers in poetry, and, perhaps, to some
of the literary quarrels of the time.

The scene is in the isle of Cos.  G. Hermann fancied that the scene
was in Lucania, and Mr. W. R. Paton thinks he can identify the places
named by the aid of inscriptions (Classical Review, ii. 8, 265).  See
also Rayet, Memoire sur l'ile de Cos, p. 18, Paris, 1876.

The Harvest Feast.

It fell upon a time when Eucritus and I were walking from the city to
the Hales water, and Amyntas was the third in our company.  The
harvest-feast of Deo was then being held by Phrasidemus and
Antigenes, two sons of Lycopeus (if aught there be of noble and old
descent), whose lineage dates from Clytia, and Chalcon himself--
Chalcon, beneath whose foot the fountain sprang, the well of Burine.
He set his knee stoutly against the rock, and straightway by the
spring poplars and elm trees showed a shadowy glade, arched overhead
they grew, and pleached with leaves of green.  We had not yet reached
the mid-point of the way, nor was the tomb of Brasilas yet risen upon
our sight, when,--thanks be to the Muses--we met a certain wayfarer,
the best of men, a Cydonian.  Lycidas was his name, a goatherd was
he, nor could any that saw him have taken him for other than he was,
for all about him bespoke the goatherd.  Stripped from the roughest
of he-goats was the tawny skin he wore on his shoulders, the smell of
rennet clinging to it still, and about his breast an old cloak was
buckled with a plaited belt, and in his right hand he carried a
crooked staff of wild olive:  and quietly he accosted me, with a
smile, a twinkling eye, and a laugh still on his lips:-

'Simichidas, whither, pray, through the noon dost thou trail thy
feet, when even the very lizard on the rough stone wall is sleeping,
and the crested larks no longer fare afield?  Art thou hastening to a
feast, a bidden guest, or art thou for treading a townsman's wine-
press?  For such is thy speed that every stone upon the way spins
singing from thy boots!'

'Dear Lycidas,' I answered him, 'they all say that thou among
herdsmen, yea, and reapers art far the chiefest flute-player.  In
sooth this greatly rejoices our hearts, and yet, to my conceit,
meseems I can vie with thee.  But as to this journey, we are going to
the harvest-feast, for, look you some friends of ours are paying a
festival to fair-robed Demeter, out of the first-fruits of their
increase, for verily in rich measure has the goddess filled their
threshing-floor with barley grain.  But come, for the way and the day
are thine alike and mine, come, let us vie in pastoral song,
perchance each will make the other delight.  For I, too, am a clear-
voiced mouth of the Muses, and they all call me the best of
minstrels, but I am not so credulous; no, by Earth, for to my mind I
cannot as yet conquer in song that great Sicelidas--the Samian--nay,
nor yet Philetas.  'Tis a match of frog against cicala!'

So I spoke, to win my end, and the goatherd with his sweet laugh,
said, 'I give thee this staff, because thou art a sapling of Zeus,
and in thee is no guile.  For as I hate your builders that try to
raise a house as high as the mountain summit of Oromedon, {40} so I
hate all birds of the Muses that vainly toil with their cackling
notes against the Minstrel of Chios!  But come, Simichidas, without
more ado let us begin the pastoral song.  And I--nay, see friend--if
it please thee at all, this ditty that I lately fashioned on the
mountain side!'

The Song of Lycidas.

Fair voyaging befall Ageanax to Mytilene, both when the Kids are
westering, and the south wind the wet waves chases, and when Orion
holds his feet above the Ocean!  Fair voyaging betide him, if he
saves Lycidas from the fire of Aphrodite, for hot is the love that
consumes me.

The halcyons will lull the waves, and lull the deep, and the south
wind, and the east, that stirs the sea-weeds on the farthest shores,
{41} the halcyons that are dearest to the green-haired mermaids, of
all the birds that take their prey from the salt sea.  Let all things
smile on Ageanax to Mytilene sailing, and may he come to a friendly
haven.  And I, on that day, will go crowned with anise, or with a
rosy wreath, or a garland of white violets, and the fine wine of
Ptelea I will dip from the bowl as I lie by the fire, while one shall
roast beans for me, in the embers.  And elbow-deep shall the flowery
bed be thickly strewn, with fragrant leaves and with asphodel, and
with curled parsley; and softly will I drink, toasting Ageanax with
lips clinging fast to the cup, and draining it even to the lees.

Two shepherds shall be my flute-players, one from Acharnae, one from
Lycope, and hard by Tityrus shall sing, how the herdsman Daphnis once
loved a strange maiden, and how on the hill he wandered, and how the
oak trees sang his dirge--the oaks that grow by the banks of the
river Himeras--while he was wasting like any snow under high Haemus,
or Athos, or Rhodope, or Caucasus at the world's end.

And he shall sing how, once upon a time, the great chest prisoned the
living goatherd, by his lord's infatuate and evil will, and how the
blunt-faced bees, as they came up from the meadow to the fragrant
cedar chest, fed him with food of tender flowers, because the Muse
still dropped sweet nectar on his lips. {42}

O blessed Comatas, surely these joyful things befell thee, and thou
wast enclosed within the chest, and feeding on the honeycomb through
the springtime didst thou serve out thy bondage.  Ah, would that in
my days thou hadst been numbered with the living, how gladly on the
hills would I have herded thy pretty she-goats, and listened to thy
voice, whilst thou, under oaks or pine trees lying, didst sweetly
sing, divine Comatas!

When he had chanted thus much he ceased, and I followed after him
again, with some such words as these:-

'Dear Lycidas, many another song the Nymphs have taught me also, as I
followed my herds upon the hillside, bright songs that Rumour,
perchance, has brought even to the throne of Zeus.  But of them all
this is far the most excellent, wherewith I will begin to do thee
honour:  nay listen as thou art dear to the Muses.'

The Song of Simichidas.

For Simichidas the Loves have sneezed, for truly the wretch loves
Myrto as dearly as goats love the spring. {43}  But Aratus, far the
dearest of my friends, deep, deep his heart he keeps Desire,--and
Aratus's love is young!  Aristis knows it, an honourable man, nay of
men the best, whom even Phoebus would permit to stand and sing lyre
in hand, by his tripods.  Aristis knows how deeply love is burning
Aratus to the bone.  Ah, Pan, thou lord of the beautiful plain of
Homole, bring, I pray thee, the darling of Aratus unbidden to his
arms, whosoe'er it be that he loves.  If this thou dost, dear Pan,
then never may the boys of Arcady flog thy sides and shoulders with
stinging herbs, when scanty meats are left them on thine altar.  But
if thou shouldst otherwise decree, then may all thy skin be frayed
and torn with thy nails, yea, and in nettles mayst thou couch!  In
the hills of the Edonians mayst thou dwell in mid-winter time, by the
river Hebrus, close neighbour to the Polar star!  But in summer mayst
thou range with the uttermost AEthiopians beneath the rock of the
Blemyes, whence Nile no more is seen.

And you, leave ye the sweet fountain of Hyetis and Byblis, and ye
that dwell in the steep home of golden Dione, ye Loves as rosy as red
apples, strike me with your arrows, the desired, the beloved; strike,
for that ill-starred one pities not my friend, my host!  And yet
assuredly the pear is over-ripe, and the maidens cry 'alas, alas, thy
fair bloom fades away!'

Come, no more let us mount guard by these gates, Aratus, nor wear our
feet away with knocking there.  Nay, let the crowing of the morning
cock give others over to the bitter cold of dawn.  Let Molon alone,
my friend, bear the torment at that school of passion!  For us, let
us secure a quiet life, and some old crone to spit on us for luck,
and so keep all unlovely things away.

Thus I sang, and sweetly smiling, as before, he gave me the staff, a
pledge of brotherhood in the Muses.  Then he bent his way to the
left, and took the road to Pyxa, while I and Eucritus, with beautiful
Amyntas, turned to the farm of Phrasidemus.  There we reclined on
deep beds of fragrant lentisk, lowly strown, and rejoicing we lay in
new stript leaves of the vine.  And high above our heads waved many a
poplar, many an elm tree, while close at hand the sacred water from
the nymphs' own cave welled forth with murmurs musical.  On shadowy
boughs the burnt cicalas kept their chattering toil, far off the
little owl cried in the thick thorn brake, the larks and finches were
singing, the ring-dove moaned, the yellow bees were flitting about
the springs.  All breathed the scent of the opulent summer, of the
season of fruits; pears at our feet and apples by our sides were
rolling plentiful, the tender branches, with wild plums laden, were
earthward bowed, and the four-year-old pitch seal was loosened from
the mouth of the wine-jars.

Ye nymphs of Castaly that hold the steep of Parnassus, say, was it
ever a bowl like this that old Chiron set before Heracles in the
rocky cave of Pholus?  Was it nectar like this that beguiled the
shepherd to dance and foot it about his folds, the shepherd that
dwelt by Anapus, on a time, the strong Polyphemus who hurled at ships
with mountains?  Had these ever such a draught as ye nymphs bade flow
for us by the altar of Demeter of the threshing-floor?

Ah, once again may I plant the great fan on her corn-heap, while she
stands smiling by, with sheaves and poppies in her hands.


The scene is among the high mountain pastures of Sicily:-

'On the sword, at the cliff top
Lie strewn the white flocks,'

and far below shines and murmurs the Sicilian sea.  Here Daphnis and
Menalcas, two herdsmen of the golden age, meet, while still in their
earliest youth, and contend for the prize of pastoral.  Their songs,
in elegiac measure, are variations on the themes of love and
friendship (for Menalcas sings of Milon, Daphnis of Nais), and of
nature.  Daphnis is the winner,- it is his earliest victory, and the
prelude to his great renown among nymphs and shepherds.  In this
version the strophes are arranged as in Fritzsche's text.  Some
critics take the poem to be a patchwork by various hands.

As beautiful Daphnis was following his kine, and Menalcas shepherding
his flock, they met, as men tell, on the long ranges of the hills.
The beards of both had still the first golden bloom, both were in
their earliest youth, both were pipe-players skilled, both skilled in
song.  Then first Menalcas, looking at Daphnis, thus bespoke him.

'Daphnis, thou herdsman of the lowing kine, art thou minded to sing a
match with me?  Methinks I shall vanquish thee, when I sing in turn,
as readily as I please.'

Then Daphnis answered him again in this wise, 'Thou shepherd of the
fleecy sheep, Menalcas, the pipe-player, never wilt thou vanquish me
in song, not thou, if thou shouldst sing till some evil thing befall

Menalcas.  Dost thou care then, to try this and see, dost thou care
to risk a stake?

Daphnis.  I do care to try this and see, a stake I am ready to risk.

Menalcas.  But what shall we stake, what pledge shall we find equal
and sufficient?

Daphnis.  I will pledge a calf, and do thou put down a lamb, one that
has grown to his mother's height.

Menalcas.  Nay, never will I stake a lamb, for stern is my father,
and stern my mother, and they number all the sheep at evening.

Daphnis.  But what, then, wilt thou lay, and where is to be the
victor's gain?

Menalcas.  The pipe, the fair pipe with nine stops, that I made
myself, fitted with white wax, and smoothed evenly, above as below.
This would I readily wager, but never will I stake aught that is my

Daphnis.  See then, I too, in truth, have a pipe with nine stops,
fitted with white wax, and smoothed evenly, above as below.  But
lately I put it together, and this finger still aches, where the reed
split, and cut it deeply.

Menalcas.  But who is to judge between us, who will listen to our

Daphnis.  That goatherd yonder, he will do, if we call him hither,
the man for whom that dog, a black hound with a white patch, is
barking among the kids.

Then the boys called aloud, and the goatherd gave ear, and came, and
the boys began to sing, and the goatherd was willing to be their
umpire.  And first Menalcas sang (for he drew the lot) the sweet-
voiced Menalcas, and Daphnis took up the answering strain of pastoral
song--and 'twas thus Menalcas began:

Menalcas.  Ye glades, ye rivers, issue of the Gods, if ever Menalcas
the flute-player sang a song ye loved, to please him, feed his lambs;
and if ever Daphnis come hither with his calves, nay he have no less
a boon.

Daphnis.  Ye wells and pastures, sweet growth o' the world, if
Daphnis sings like the nightingales, do ye fatten this herd of his,
and if Menalcas hither lead a flock, may he too have pasture
ungrudging to his full desire!

Menalcas.  There doth the ewe bear twins, and there the goats; there
the bees fill the hives, and there oaks grow loftier than common,
wheresoever beautiful Milon's feet walk wandering; ah, if he depart,
then withered and lean is the shepherd, and lean the pastures

Daphnis.  Everywhere is spring, and pastures everywhere, and
everywhere the cows' udders are swollen with milk, and the younglings
are fostered, wheresoever fair Nais roams; ah, if she depart, then
parched are the kine, and he that feeds them!

Menalcas.  O bearded goat, thou mate of the white herd, and O ye
blunt-faced kids, where are the manifold deeps of the forest, thither
get ye to the water, for thereby is Milon; go, thou hornless goat,
and say to him, 'Milon, Proteus was a herdsman, and that of seals,
though he was a god.'

Daphnis. . . .

Menalcas.  Not mine be the land of Pelops, not mine to own talents of
gold, nay, nor mine to outrun the speed of the winds!  Nay, but
beneath this rock will I sing, with thee in mine arms, and watch our
flocks feeding together, and, before us, the Sicilian sea.

Daphnis . . . .

Menalcas . . . .

Daphnis.  Tempest is the dread pest of the trees, drought of the
waters, snares of the birds, and the hunter's net of the wild beasts,
but ruinous to man is the love of a delicate maiden.  O father, O
Zeus, I have not been the only lover, thou too hast longed for a
mortal woman.

Thus the boys sang in verses amoebaean, and thus Menalcas began the
crowning lay:

Menalcas.  Wolf, spare the kids, spare the mothers of my herd, and
harm not me, so young as I am to tend so great a flock.  Ah,
Lampurus, my dog, dost thou then sleep so soundly? a dog should not
sleep so sound, that helps a boyish shepherd.  Ewes of mine, spare ye
not to take your fill of the tender herb, ye shall not weary, 'ere
all this grass grows again.  Hist, feed on, feed on, fill, all of
you, your udders, that there may be milk for the lambs, and somewhat
for me to store away in the cheese-crates.

Then Daphnis followed again, and sweetly preluded to his singing:

Daphnis.  Me, even me, from the cave, the girl with meeting eyebrows
spied yesterday as I was driving past my calves, and she cried, 'How
fair, how fair he is!'  But I answered her never the word of railing,
but cast down my eyes, and plodded on my way.

Sweet is the voice of the heifer, sweet her breath, {50} sweet to lie
beneath the sky in summer, by running water.

Acorns are the pride of the oak, apples of the apple tree, the calf
of the heifer, and the neatherd glories in his kine.

So sang the lads; and the goatherd thus bespoke them, 'Sweet is thy
mouth, O Daphnis, and delectable thy song!  Better is it to listen to
thy singing, than to taste the honeycomb.  Take thou the pipe, for
thou hast conquered in the singing match.  Ah, if thou wilt but teach
some lay, even to me, as I tend the goats beside thee, this blunt-
horned she-goat will I give thee, for the price of thy teaching, this
she-goat that ever fills the milking pail above the brim.'

Then was the boy as glad,--and leaped high, and clapped his hands
over his victory,--as a young fawn leaps about his mother.

But the heart of the other was wasted with grief, and desolate, even
as a maiden sorrows that is newly wed.

From this time Daphnis became the foremost among the shepherds, and
while yet in his earliest youth, he wedded the nymph Nais.


Daphnis and Menalcas, at the bidding of the poet, sing the joys of
the neatherds and of the shepherds life.  Both receive the thanks of
the poet, and rustic prizes--a staff and a horn, made of a spiral
shell.  Doubts have been expressed as to the authenticity of the
prelude and concluding verses.  The latter breathe all Theocritus's
enthusiastic love of song.

Sing, Daphnis, a pastoral lay, do thou first begin the song, the song
begin, O Daphnis; but let Menalcas join in the strain, when ye have
mated the heifers and their calves, the barren kine and the bulls.
Let them all pasture together, let them wander in the coppice, but
never leave the herd.  Chant thou for me, first, and on the other
side let Menalcas reply.

Daphnis.  Ah, sweetly lows the calf, and sweetly the heifer, sweetly
sounds the neatherd with his pipe, and sweetly also I!  My bed of
leaves is strown by the cool water, and thereon are heaped fair skins
from the white calves that were all browsing upon the arbutus, on a
time, when the south-west wind dashed me them from the height.

And thus I heed no more the scorching summer, than a lover cares to
heed the words of father or of mother.

So Daphnis sang to me, and thus, in turn, did Menalcas sing.

Menalcas.  Aetna, mother mine, I too dwell in a beautiful cavern in
the chamber of the rock, and, lo, all the wealth have I that we
behold in dreams; ewes in plenty and she-goats abundant, their
fleeces are strown beneath my head and feet.  In the fire of oak-
faggots puddings are hissing-hot, and dry beech-nuts roast therein,
in the wintry weather, and, truly, for the winter season I care not
even so much as a toothless man does for walnuts, when rich pottage
is beside him.

Then I clapped my hands in their honour, and instantly gave each a
gift, to Daphnis a staff that grew in my father's close, self-shapen,
yet so straight, that perchance even a craftsman could have found no
fault in it.  To the other I gave a goodly spiral shell, the meat
that filled it once I had eaten after stalking the fish on the
Icarian rocks (I cut it into five shares for five of us),--and
Menalcas blew a blast on the shell.

Ye pastoral Muses, farewell!  Bring ye into the light the song that I
sang there to these shepherds on that day!  Never let the pimple grow
on my tongue-tip. {53}

Cicala to cicala is dear, and ant to ant, and hawks to hawks, but to
me the Muse and song.  Of song may all my dwelling be full, for sleep
is not more sweet, nor sudden spring, nor flowers are more delicious
to the bees--so dear to me are the Muses. {54}  Whom they look on in
happy hour, Circe hath never harmed with her enchanted potion.


This is an idyl of the same genre as Idyl IV.  The sturdy reaper,
Milon, as he levels the swathes of corn, derides his languid and
love-worn companion, Buttus.  The latter defends his gipsy love in
verses which have been the keynote of much later poetry, and which
echo in the fourth book of Lucretius, and in the Misanthrope of
Moliere.  Milon replies with the song of Lityerses--a string,
apparently, of popular rural couplets, such as Theocritus may have
heard chanted in the fields.

Milan.  Thou toilsome clod; what ails thee now, thou wretched fellow?
Canst thou neither cut thy swathe straight, as thou wert wont to do,
nor keep time with thy neighbour in thy reaping, but thou must fall
out, like an ewe that is foot-pricked with a thorn and straggles from
the herd?  What manner of man wilt thou prove after mid-noon, and at
evening, thou that dost not prosper with thy swathe when thou art
fresh begun?

Battus.  Milon, thou that canst toil till late, thou chip of the
stubborn stone, has it never befallen thee to long for one that was
not with thee?

Milan.  Never!  What has a labouring man to do with hankering after
what he has not got?

Battus.  Then it never befell thee to lie awake for love?

Milan.  Forbid it; 'tis an ill thing to let the dog once taste of

Battus.  But I, Milon, am in love for almost eleven days!

Milan.  'Tis easily seen that thou drawest from a wine-cask, while
even vinegar is scarce with me.

Battus.  And for Love's sake, the fields before my doors are untilled
since seed-time.

Milan.  But which of the girls afflicts thee so?

Battus.  The daughter of Polybotas, she that of late was wont to pipe
to the reapers on Hippocoon's farm.

Milan.  God has found out the guilty!  Thou hast what thou'st long
been seeking, that grasshopper of a girl will lie by thee the night

Battus.  Thou art beginning thy mocks of me, but Plutus is not the
only blind god; he too is blind, the heedless Love!  Beware of
talking big.

Milan.  Talk big I do not!  Only see that thou dust level the corn,
and strike up some love-ditty in the wench's praise.  More pleasantly
thus wilt thou labour, and, indeed, of old thou wert a melodist.

Battus.  Ye Muses Pierian, sing ye with me the slender maiden, for
whatsoever ye do but touch, ye goddesses, ye make wholly fair.

They all call thee a GIPSY, gracious Bombyca, and LEAN, and SUNBURNT,
'tis only I that call thee HONEY-PALE.

Yea, and the violet is swart, and swart the lettered hyacinth, but
yet these flowers are chosen the first in garlands.

The goat runs after cytisus, the wolf pursues the goat, the crane
follows the plough, but I am wild for love of thee.

Would it were mine, all the wealth whereof once Croesus was lord, as
men tell!  Then images of us twain, all in gold, should be dedicated
to Aphrodite, thou with thy flute, and a rose, yea, or an apple, and
I in fair attire, and new shoon of Amyclae on both my feet.

Ah gracious Bombyca, thy feet are fashioned like carven ivory, thy
voice is drowsy sweet, and thy ways, I cannot tell of them! {57}

Milan.  Verily our clown was a maker of lovely songs, and we knew it
not!  How well he meted out and shaped his harmony; woe is me for the
beard that I have grown, all in vain!  Come, mark thou too these
lines of godlike Lityerses


Demeter, rich in fruit, and rich in grain, may this corn be easy to
win, and fruitful exceedingly!

Bind, ye bandsters, the sheaves, lest the wayfarer should cry, 'Men
of straw were the workers here, ay, and their hire was wasted!'

See that the cut stubble faces the North wind, or the West, 'tis thus
the grain waxes richest.

They that thresh corn should shun the noon-day steep; at noon the
chaff parts easiest from the straw.

As for the reapers, let them begin when the crested lark is waking,
and cease when he sleeps, but take holiday in the heat.

Lads, the frog has a jolly life, he is not cumbered about a butler to
his drink, for he has liquor by him unstinted!

Boil the lentils better, thou miserly steward; take heed lest thou
chop thy fingers, when thou'rt splitting cumin-seed.

'Tis thus that men should sing who labour i' the sun, but thy
starveling love, thou clod, 'twere fit to tell to thy mother when she
stirs in bed at dawning.


Nicias, the physician and poet, being in love, Theocritus reminds him
that in song lies the only remedy.  It was by song, he says, that the
Cyclops, Polyphemus, got him some ease, when he was in love with
Galatea, the sea-nymph.

The idyl displays, in the most graceful manner, the Alexandrian taste
for turning Greek mythology into love stories.  No creature could be
more remote from love than the original Polyphemus, the cannibal
giant of the Odyssey.

There is none other medicine, Nicias, against Love, neither unguent,
methinks, nor salve to sprinkle,--none, save the Muses of Pieria!
Now a delicate thing is their minstrelsy in man's life, and a sweet,
but hard to procure.  Methinks thou know'st this well, who art
thyself a leech, and beyond all men art plainly dear to the Muses

'Twas surely thus the Cyclops fleeted his life most easily, he that
dwelt among us,--Polyphemus of old time,--when the beard was yet
young on his cheek and chin; and he loved Galatea.  He loved, not
with apples, not roses, nor locks of hair, but with fatal frenzy, and
all things else he held but trifles by the way.  Many a time from the
green pastures would his ewes stray back, self-shepherded, to the
fold.  But he was singing of Galatea, and pining in his place he sat
by the sea-weed of the beach, from the dawn of day, with the direst
hurt beneath his breast of mighty Cypris's sending,--the wound of her
arrow in his heart!

Yet this remedy he found, and sitting on the crest of the tall cliff,
and looking to the deep, 'twas thus he would sing:-

Song of the Cyclops.

O milk-white Galatea, why cast off him that loves thee?  More white
than is pressed milk to look upon, more delicate than the lamb art
thou, than the young calf wantoner, more sleek than the unripened
grape!  Here dust thou resort, even so, when sweet sleep possesses
me, and home straightway dost thou depart when sweet sleep lets me
go, fleeing me like an ewe that has seen the grey wolf.

I fell in love with thee, maiden, I, on the day when first thou
camest, with my mother, and didst wish to pluck the hyacinths from
the hill, and I was thy guide on the way.  But to leave loving thee,
when once I had seen thee, neither afterward, nor now at all, have I
the strength, even from that hour.  But to thee all this is as
nothing, by Zeus, nay, nothing at all!

I know, thou gracious maiden, why it is that thou dust shun me.  It
is all for the shaggy brow that spans all my forehead, from this to
the other ear, one long unbroken eyebrow.  And but one eye is on my
forehead, and broad is the nose that overhangs my lip.  Yet I (even
such as thou seest me) feed a thousand cattle, and from these I draw
and drink the best milk in the world.  And cheese I never lack, in
summer time or autumn, nay, nor in the dead of winter, but my baskets
are always overladen.

Also I am skilled in piping, as none other of the Cyclopes here, and
of thee, my love, my sweet-apple, and of myself too I sing, many a
time, deep in the night.  And for thee I tend eleven fawns, all
crescent-browed, {61} and four young whelps of the bear.

Nay, come thou to me, and thou shalt lack nothing that now thou hast.
Leave the grey sea to roll against the land; more sweetly, in this
cavern, shalt thou fleet the night with me!  Thereby the laurels
grow, and there the slender cypresses, there is the ivy dun, and the
sweet clustered grapes; there is chill water, that for me deep-wooded
AEtna sends down from the white snow, a draught divine!  Ah who, in
place of these, would choose the sea to dwell in, or the waves of the

But if thou dust refuse because my body seems shaggy and rough, well,
I have faggots of oakwood, and beneath the ashes is fire unwearied,
and I would endure to let thee burn my very soul, and this my one
eye, the dearest thing that is mine.

Ah me, that my mother bore me not a finny thing, so would I have gone
down to thee, and kissed thy hand, if thy lips thou would not suffer
me to kiss!  And I would have brought thee either white lilies, or
the soft poppy with its scarlet petals.  Nay, these are summer's
flowers, and those are flowers of winter, so I could not have brought
thee them all at one time.

Now, verily, maiden, now and here will I learn to swim, if perchance
some stranger come hither, sailing with his ship, that I may see why
it is so dear to thee, to have thy dwelling in the deep.

Come forth, Galatea, and forget as thou comest, even as I that sit
here have forgotten, the homeward way!  Nay, choose with me to go
shepherding, with me to milk the flocks, and to pour the sharp rennet
in, and to fix the cheeses.

There is none that wrongs me but that mother of mine, and her do I
blame.  Never, nay, never once has she spoken a kind word for me to
thee, and that though day by day she beholds me wasting.  I will tell
her that my head, and both my feet are throbbing, that she may
somewhat suffer, since I too am suffering.

O Cyclops, Cyclops, whither are thy wits wandering?  Ah that thou
wouldst go, and weave thy wicker-work, and gather broken boughs to
carry to thy lambs:  in faith, if thou didst this, far wiser wouldst
thou be!

Milk the ewe that thou hast, why pursue the thing that shuns thee?
Thou wilt find, perchance, another, and a fairer Galatea.  Many be
the girls that bid me play with them through the night, and softly
they all laugh, if perchance I answer them.  On land it is plain that
I too seem to be somebody!

Lo, thus Polyphemus still shepherded his love with song, and lived
lighter than if he had given gold for ease.


This is rather a lyric than an idyl, being an expression of that
singular passion which existed between men in historical Greece.  The
next idyl, like the Myrmidons of Aeschylus, attributes the same
manners to mythical and heroic Greece.  It should be unnecessary to
say that the affection between Homeric warriors, like Achilles and
Patroclus, was only that of companions in arms and was quite unlike
the later sentiment.

Hast thou come, dear youth, with the third night and the dawning;
hast thou come? but men in longing grow old in a day!  As spring than
the winter is sweeter, as the apple than the sloe, as the ewe is
deeper of fleece than the lamb she bore; as a maiden surpasses a
thrice-wedded wife, as the fawn is nimbler than the calf; nay, by as
much as sweetest of all fowls sings the clear-voiced nightingale, so
much has thy coming gladdened me!  To thee have I hastened as the
traveller hastens under the burning sun to the shadow of the ilex

Ah, would that equally the Loves may breathe upon us twain, may we
become a song in the ears of all men unborn.

'Lo, a pair were these two friends among the folk of former time,'
the one 'the Knight' (so the Amyclaeans call him), the other, again,
'the Page,' so styled in speech of Thessaly.

'An equal yoke of friendship they bore:  ah, surely then there were
golden men of old, when friends gave love for love!'

And would, O father Cronides, and would, ye ageless immortals, that
this might be; and that when two hundred generations have sped, one
might bring these tidings to me by Acheron, the irremeable stream.

'The loving-kindness that was between thee and thy gracious friend,
is even now in all men's mouths, and chiefly on the lips of the

Nay, verily, the gods of heaven will be masters of these things, to
rule them as they will, but when I praise thy graciousness no blotch
that punishes the perjurer shall spring upon the tip of my nose!
Nay, if ever thou hast somewhat pained me, forthwith thou healest the
hurt, giving a double delight, and I depart with my cup full and
running over!

Nisaean men of Megara, ye champions of the oars, happily may ye
dwell, for that ye honoured above all men the Athenian stranger, even
Diodes, the true lover.  Always about his tomb the children gather in
their companies, at the coming in of the spring, and contend for the
prize of kissing.  And whoso most sweetly touches lip to lip, laden
with garlands he returneth to his mother.  Happy is he that judges
those kisses of the children; surely he prays most earnestly to
bright-faced Ganymedes, that his lips may be as the Lydian touchstone
wherewith the money-changers try gold lest, perchance base metal pass
for true.


As in the eleventh Idyl, Nicias is again addressed, by way of
introduction to the story of Hylas.  This beautiful lad, a favourite
companion of Heracles, took part in the Quest of the Fleece of Gold.
As he went to draw water from a fountain, the water-nymphs dragged
him down to their home, and Heracles, after a long and vain search,
was compelled to follow the heroes of the Quest on foot to Phasis.

Not for us only, Nicias, as we were used to deem, was Love begotten,
by whomsoever of the Gods was the father of the child; not first to
us seemed beauty beautiful, to us that are mortal men and look not on
the morrow.  Nay, but the son of Amphitryon, that heart of bronze,
who abode the wild lion's onset, loved a lad, beautiful Hylas--Hylas
of the braided locks, and he taught him all things as a father
teaches his child, all whereby himself became a mighty man, and
renowned in minstrelsy.  Never was he apart from Hylas, not when
midnoon was high in heaven, not when Dawn with her white horses
speeds upwards to the dwelling of Zeus, not when the twittering
nestlings look towards the perch, while their mother flaps her wings
above the smoke-browned beam; and all this that the lad might be
fashioned to his mind, and might drive a straight furrow, and come to
the true measure of man.

But when Iason, Aeson's son, was sailing after the fleece of gold
(and with him followed the champions, the first chosen out of all the
cities, they that were of most avail), to rich Iolcos too came the
mighty man and adventurous, the son of the woman of Midea, noble
Alcmene.  With him went down Hylas also, to Argo of the goodly
benches, the ship that grazed not on the clashing rocks Cyanean, but
through she sped and ran into deep Phasis, as an eagle over the
mighty gulf of the sea.  And the clashing rocks stand fixed, even
from that hour!

Now at the rising of the Pleiades, when the upland fields begin to
pasture the young lambs, and when spring is already on the wane, then
the flower divine of Heroes bethought them of sea-faring.  On board
the hollow Argo they sat down to the oars, and to the Hellespont they
came when the south wind had been for three days blowing, and made
their haven within Propontis, where the oxen of the Cianes wear
bright the ploughshare, as they widen the furrows.  Then they went
forth upon the shore, and each couple busily got ready supper in the
late evening, and many as they were one bed they strewed lowly on the
ground, for they found a meadow lying, rich in couches of strown
grass and leaves.  Thence they cut them pointed flag-leaves, and deep
marsh-galingale.  And Hylas of the yellow hair, with a vessel of
bronze in his hand, went to draw water against suppertime, for
Heracles himself, and the steadfast Telamon, for these comrades twain
supped ever at one table.  Soon was he ware of a spring, in a hollow
land, and the rushes grew thickly round it, and dark swallow-wort,
and green maiden-hair, and blooming parsley, and deer-grass spreading
through the marshy land.  In the midst of the water the nymphs were
arraying their dances, the sleepless nymphs, dread goddesses of the
country people, Eunice, and Malis, and Nycheia, with her April eyes.
And now the boy was holding out the wide-mouthed pitcher to the
water, intent on dipping it, but the nymphs all clung to his hand,
for love of the Argive lad had fluttered the soft hearts of all of
them.  Then down he sank into the black water, headlong all, as when
a star shoots flaming from the sky, plumb in the deep it falls, and a
mate shouts out to the seamen, 'Up with the gear, my lads, the wind
is fair for sailing.'

Then the nymphs held the weeping boy on their laps, and with gentle
words were striving to comfort him.  But the son of Amphitryon was
troubled about the lad, and went forth, carrying his bended bow in
Scythian fashion, and the club that is ever grasped in his right
hand.  Thrice he shouted 'Hylas!' as loud as his deep throat could
call, and thrice again the boy heard him, and thin came his voice
from the water, and, hard by though he was, he seemed very far away.
And as when a bearded lion, a ravening lion on the hills, hears the
bleating of a fawn afar off, and rushes forth from his lair to seize
it, his readiest meal, even so the mighty Heracles, in longing for
the lad, sped through the trackless briars, and ranged over much

Reckless are lovers:  great toils did Heracles bear, in hills and
thickets wandering, and Iason's quest was all postponed to this.  Now
the ship abode with her tackling aloft, and the company gathered
there, {70} but at midnight the young men were lowering the sails
again, awaiting Heracles.  But he wheresoever his feet might lead him
went wandering in his fury, for the cruel Goddess of love was rending
his heart within him.

Thus loveliest Hylas is numbered with the Blessed, but for a runaway
they girded at Heracles, the heroes, because he roamed from Argo of
the sixty oarsmen.  But on foot he came to Colchis and inhospitable


This Idyl, like the next, is dramatic in form.  One Aeschines tells
Thyonichus the story of his quarrel with his mistress Cynisca.  He
speaks of taking foreign service, and Thyonichus recommends that of
Ptolemy.  The idyl was probably written at Alexandria, as a
compliment to Ptolemy, and an inducement to Greeks to join his
forces.  There is nothing, however, to fix the date.

Aeschines.  All hail to the stout Thyonichus!

Thyonichus.  As much to you, Aeschines.

Aeschines.  How long it is since we met!

Thyonichus.  Is it so long?  But why, pray, this melancholy?

Aeschines.  I am not in the best of luck, Thyonichus.

Thyonichus.  'Tis for that, then, you are so lean, and hence comes
this long moustache, and these love-locks all adust.  Just such a
figure was a Pythagorean that came here of late, barefoot and wan,--
and said he was an Athenian.  Marry, he too was in love, methinks,
with a plate of pancakes.

Aeschines.  Friend, you will always have your jest,--but beautiful
Cynisca,--she flouts me!  I shall go mad some day, when no man looks
for it; I am but a hair's-breadth on the hither side, even now.

Thyonichus.  You are ever like this, dear Aeschines, now mad, now
sad, and crying for all things at your whim.  Yet, tell me, what is
your new trouble?

Aeschines.  The Argive, and I, and the Thessalian rough rider, Apis,
and Cleunichus the free lance, were drinking together, at my farm.  I
had killed two chickens, and a sucking pig, and had opened the
Bibline wine for them,--nearly four years old,--but fragrant as when
it left the wine-press.  Truffles and shellfish had been brought out,
it was a jolly drinking match.  And when things were now getting
forwarder, we determined that each of us should toast whom he
pleased, in unmixed wine, only he must name his toast.  So we all
drank, and called our toasts as had been agreed.  Yet She said
nothing, though I was there; how think you I liked that?  'Won't you
call a toast?  You have seen the wolf!' some one said in jest, 'as
the proverb goes,' {72} then she kindled; yes, you could easily have
lighted a lamp at her face.  There is one Wolf, one Wolf there is,
the son of Labes our neighbour,--he is tall, smooth-skinned, many
think him handsome.  His was that illustrious love in which she was
pining, yes, and a breath about the business once came secretly to my
ears, but I never looked into it, beshrew my beard!

Already, mark you, we four men were deep in our cups, when the
Larissa man out of mere mischief, struck up, 'My Wolf,' some
Thessalian catch, from the very beginning.  Then Cynisca suddenly
broke out weeping more bitterly than a six-year-old maid, that longs
for her mother's lap.  Then I,--you know me, Thyonichus,--struck her
on the cheek with clenched fist,--one two!  She caught up her robes,
and forth she rushed, quicker than she came.  'Ah, my undoing' (cried
I), 'I am not good enough for you, then--you have a dearer
playfellow? well, be off and cherish your other lover, 'tis for him
your tears run big as apples!' {73}

And as the swallow flies swiftly back to gather a morsel, fresh food,
for her young ones under the eaves, still swifter sped she from her
soft chair, straight through the vestibule and folding-doors,
wherever her feet carried her.  So, sure, the old proverb says, 'the
bull has sought the wild wood.'

Since then there are twenty days, and eight to these, and nine again,
then ten others, to-day is the eleventh, add two more, and it is two
months since we parted, and I have not shaved, not even in Thracian
fashion. {74a}

And now Wolf is everything with her.  Wolf finds the door open o'
nights, and I am of no account, not in the reckoning, like the
wretched men of Megara, in the place dishonourable. {74b}

And if I could cease to love, the world would wag as well as may be.
But now,--now,--as they say, Thyonichus, I am like the mouse that has
tasted pitch.  And what remedy there may be for a bootless love, I
know not; except that Simus, he who was in love with the daughter of
Epicalchus, went over seas, and came back heart-whole,--a man of my
own age.  And I too will cross the water, and prove not the first,
maybe, nor the last, perhaps, but a fair soldier as times go.

Thyonichus.  Would that things had gone to your mind, Aeschines.  But
if, in good earnest, you are thus set on going into exile, PTOLEMY is
the free man's best paymaster!

Aeschines.  And in other respects, what kind of man?

Thyonichus.  The free man's best paymaster!  Indulgent too, the
Muses' darling, a true lover, the top of good company, knows his
friends, and still better knows his enemies.  A great giver to many,
refuses nothing that he is asked which to give may beseem a king,
but, Aeschines, we should not always be asking.  Thus, if you are
minded to pin up the top corner of your cloak over the right
shoulder, and if you have the heart to stand steady on both feet, and
bide the brunt of a hardy targeteer, off instantly to Egypt!  From
the temples downward we all wax grey, and on to the chin creeps the
rime of age, men must do somewhat while their knees are yet nimble.


This famous idyl should rather, perhaps, be called a mimus.  It
describes the visit paid by two Syracusan women residing in
Alexandria, to the festival of the resurrection of Adonis.  The
festival is given by Arsinoe, wife and sister of Ptolemy
Philadelphus, and the poem cannot have been written earlier than his
marriage, in 266 B.C. [?]  Nothing can be more gay and natural than
the chatter of the women, which has changed no more in two thousand
years than the song of birds.  Theocritus is believed to have had a
model for this idyl in the Isthmiazusae of Sophron, an older poet.
In the Isthmiazusae two ladies described the spectacle of the
Isthmian games.

Gorgo.  Is Praxinoe at home?

Praxinoe.  Dear Gorgo, how long it is since you have been here!  She
IS at home.  The wonder is that you have got here at last!  Eunoe,
see that she has a chair.  Throw a cushion on it too.

Gorgo.  It does most charmingly as it is.

Praxinoe.  Do sit down.

Gorgo.  Oh, what a thing spirit is!  I have scarcely got to you
alive, Praxinoe!  What a huge crowd, what hosts of four-in-hands!
Everywhere cavalry boots, everywhere men in uniform!  And the road is
endless:  yes, you really live TOO far away!

Praxinoe.  It is all the fault of that madman of mine.  Here he came
to the ends of the earth and took--a hole, not a house, and all that
we might not be neighbours.  The jealous wretch, always the same,
ever for spite!

Gorgo.  Don't talk of your husband, Dinon, like that, my dear girl,
before the little boy,--look how he is staring at you!  Never mind,
Zopyrion, sweet child, she is not speaking about papa.

Praxinoe.  Our Lady! the child takes notice. {77}

Gorgo.  Nice papa!

Praxinoe.  That papa of his the other day--we call every day 'the
other day'--went to get soap and rouge at the shop, and back he came
to me with salt--the great big endless fellow!

Gorgo.  Mine has the same trick, too, a perfect spendthrift--
Diocleides!  Yesterday he got what he meant for five fleeces, and
paid seven shillings a piece for--what do you suppose?--dogskins,
shreds of old leather wallets, mere trash--trouble on trouble.  But
come, take your cloak and shawl.  Let us be off to the palace of rich
Ptolemy, the King, to see the Adonis; I hear the Queen has provided
something splendid!

Praxinoe.  Fine folks do everything finely.

Gorgo.  What a tale you will have to tell about the things you have
seen, to any one who has not seen them!  It seems nearly time to go.

Praxinoe.  Idlers have always holiday.  Eunoe, bring the water and
put it down in the middle of the room, lazy creature that you are.
Cats like always to sleep soft! {78a}  Come, bustle, bring the water;
quicker.  I want water first, and how she carries it! give it me all
the same; don't pour out so much, you extravagant thing.  Stupid
girl!  Why are you wetting my dress?  There, stop, I have washed my
hands, as heaven would have it.  Where is the key of the big chest?
Bring it here.

Gorgo.  Praxinoe, that full body becomes you wonderfully.  Tell me
how much did the stuff cost you just off the loom?

Praxinoe.  Don't speak of it, Gorgo!  More than eight pounds in good
silver money,--and the work on it!  I nearly slaved my soul out over

Gorgo.  Well, it is MOST successful; all you could wish. {78b}

Praxinoe.  Thanks for the pretty speech!  Bring my shawl, and set my
hat on my head, the fashionable way.  No, child, I don't mean to take
you.  Boo!  Bogies!  There's a horse that bites!  Cry as much as you
please, but I cannot have you lamed.  Let us be moving.  Phrygia take
the child, and keep him amused, call in the dog, and shut the street

[They go into the street.

Ye gods, what a crowd!  How on earth are we ever to get through this
coil?  They are like ants that no one can measure or number.  Many a
good deed have you done, Ptolemy; since your father joined the
immortals, there's never a malefactor to spoil the passer-by,
creeping on him in Egyptian fashion--oh! the tricks those perfect
rascals used to play.  Birds of a feather, ill jesters, scoundrels
all!  Dear Gorgo, what will become of us?  Here come the King's war-
horses!  My dear man, don't trample on me.  Look, the bay's rearing,
see, what temper!  Eunoe, you foolhardy girl, will you never keep out
of the way?  The beast will kill the man that's leading him.  What a
good thing it is for me that my brat stays safe at home.

Gorgo.  Courage, Praxinoe.  We are safe behind them, now, and they
have gone to their station.

Praxinoe.  There!  I begin to be myself again.  Ever since I was a
child I have feared nothing so much as horses and the chilly snake.
Come along, the huge mob is overflowing us.

Gorgo (to an old Woman).  Are you from the Court, mother?

Old Woman.  I am, my child.

Praxinoe.  Is it easy to get there?

Old Woman.  The Achaeans got into Troy by trying, my prettiest of
ladies.  Trying will do everything in the long run.

Gorgo.  The old wife has spoken her oracles, and off she goes.

Praxinoe.  Women know everything, yes, and how Zeus married Hera!

Gorgo.  See Praxinoe, what a crowd there is about the doors.

Praxinoe.  Monstrous, Gorgo!  Give me your hand, and you, Eunoe,
catch hold of Eutychis; never lose hold of her, for fear lest you get
lost.  Let us all go in together; Eunoe, clutch tight to me.  Oh, how
tiresome, Gorgo, my muslin veil is torn in two already!  For heaven's
sake, sir, if you ever wish to be fortunate, take care of my shawl!

Stranger.  I can hardly help myself, but for all that I will be as
careful as I can.

Praxinoe.  How close-packed the mob is, they hustle like a herd of

Stranger.  Courage, lady, all is well with us now.

Praxinoe.  Both this year and for ever may all be well with you, my
dear sir, for your care of us.  A good kind man!  We're letting Eunoe
get squeezed--come, wretched girl, push your way through.  That is
the way.  We are all on the right side of the door, quoth the
bridegroom, when he had shut himself in with his bride.

Gorgo.  Do come here, Praxinoe.  Look first at these embroideries.
How light and how lovely!  You will call them the garments of the

Praxinoe.  Lady Athene, what spinning women wrought them, what
painters designed these drawings, so true they are?  How naturally
they stand and move, like living creatures, not patterns woven.  What
a clever thing is man!  Ah, and himself--Adonis--how beautiful to
behold he lies on his silver couch, with the first down on his
cheeks, the thrice-beloved Adonis,--Adonis beloved even among the

A Stranger.  You weariful women, do cease your endless cooing talk!
They bore one to death with their eternal broad vowels!

Gorgo.  Indeed!  And where may this person come from?  What is it to
you if we ARE chatterboxes!  Give orders to your own servants, sir.
Do you pretend to command ladies of Syracuse?  If you must know, we
are Corinthians by descent, like Bellerophon himself, and we speak
Peloponnesian.  Dorian women may lawfully speak Doric, I presume?

Praxinoe.  Lady Persephone, never may we have more than one master.
I am not afraid of YOUR putting me on short commons.

Gorgo.  Hush, hush, Praxinoe--the Argive woman's daughter, the great
singer, is beginning the Adonis; she that won the prize last year for
dirge-singing. {82}  I am sure she will give us something lovely;
see, she is preluding with her airs and graces.

The Psalm of Adonis.

O Queen that lovest Golgi, and Idalium, and the steep of Eryx, O
Aphrodite, that playest with gold, lo, from the stream eternal of
Acheron they have brought back to thee Adonis--even in the twelfth
month they have brought him, the dainty-footed Hours.  Tardiest of
the Immortals are the beloved Hours, but dear and desired they come,
for always, to all mortals, they bring some gift with them.  O
Cypris, daughter of Dione, from mortal to immortal, so men tell, thou
hast changed Berenice, dropping softly in the woman's breast the
stuff of immortality.

Therefore, for thy delight, O thou of many names and many temples,
doth the daughter of Berenice, even Arsinoe, lovely as Helen, cherish
Adonis with all things beautiful.

Before him lie all ripe fruits that the tall trees' branches bear,
and the delicate gardens, arrayed in baskets of silver, and the
golden vessels are full of incense of Syria.  And all the dainty
cakes that women fashion in the kneading-tray, mingling blossoms
manifold with the white wheaten flour, all that is wrought of honey
sweet, and in soft olive oil, all cakes fashioned in the semblance of
things that fly, and of things that creep, lo, here they are set
before him.

Here are built for him shadowy bowers of green, all laden with tender
anise, and children flit overhead--the little Loves--as the young
nightingales perched upon the trees fly forth and try their wings
from bough to bough.

O the ebony, O the gold, O the twin eagles of white ivory that carry
to Zeus the son of Cronos his darling, his cup-bearer!  O the purple
coverlet strewn above, more soft than sleep!  So Miletus will say,
and whoso feeds sheep in Samos.

Another bed is strewn for beautiful Adonis, one bed Cypris keeps, and
one the rosy-armed Adonis.  A bridegroom of eighteen or nineteen
years is he, his kisses are not rough, the golden down being yet upon
his lips!  And now, good-night to Cypris, in the arms of her lover!
But lo, in the morning we will all of us gather with the dew, and
carry him forth among the waves that break upon the beach, and with
locks unloosed, and ungirt raiment falling to the ankles, and bosoms
bare will we begin our shrill sweet song.

Thou only, dear Adonis, so men tell, thou only of the demigods dost
visit both this world and the stream of Acheron.  For Agamemnon had
no such lot, nor Aias, that mighty lord of the terrible anger, nor
Hector, the eldest born of the twenty sons of Hecabe, nor Patroclus,
nor Pyrrhus, that returned out of Troyland, nor the heroes of yet
more ancient days, the Lapithae and Deucalion's sons, nor the sons of
Pelops, and the chiefs of Pelasgian Argus.  Be gracious now, dear
Adonis, and propitious even in the coming year.  Dear to us has thine
advent been, Adonis, and dear shall it be when thou comest again.

Gorgo.  Praxinoe, the woman is cleverer than we fancied!  Happy woman
to know so much, thrice happy to have so sweet a voice.  Well, all
the same, it is time to be making for home.  Diocleides has not had
his dinner, and the man is all vinegar,--don't venture near him when
he is kept waiting for dinner.  Farewell, beloved Adonis, may you
find us glad at your next coming!


In 265 B.C. Sicily was devastated by the Carthaginians, and by the
companies of disciplined free-lances who called themselves
Mamertines, or Mars's men.  The hopes of the Greek inhabitants of the
island were centred in Hiero, son of Hierocles, who was about to
besiege Messana (then held by the Carthaginians) and who had revived
the courage of the Syracusans.  To him Theocritus addressed this
idyl, in which he complains of the sordid indifference of the rich,
rehearses the merits of song, dilates on the true nature of wealth,
and of the happy lift, and finally expresses his hope that Hiero will
rid the isle of the foreign foe, and will restore peace and pastoral
joys.  The idyl contains some allusions to Simonides, the old lyric
poet, and to his relations with the famous Hiero tyrant of Syracuse.

Ever is this the care of the maidens of Zeus, ever the care of
minstrels, to sing the Immortals, to sing the praises of noble men.
The Muses, lo, are Goddesses, of Gods the Goddesses sing, but we on
earth are mortal men; let us mortals sing of mortals.  Ah, who of all
them that dwell beneath the grey morning, will open his door and
gladly receive our Graces within his house? who is there that will
not send them back again without a gift?  And they with looks
askance, and naked feet come homewards, and sorely they upbraid me
when they have gone on a vain journey, and listless again in the
bottom of their empty coffer, they dwell with heads bowed over their
chilly knees, where is their drear abode, when gainless they return.

Where is there such an one, among men to-day?  Where is he that will
befriend him that speaks his praises?  I know not, for now no longer,
as of old, are men eager to win the renown of noble deeds, nay, they
are the slaves of gain!  Each man clasps his hands below the purse-
fold of his gown, and looks about to spy whence he may get him money:
the very rust is too precious to be rubbed off for a gift.  Nay, each
has his ready saw; the shin is further than the knee; first let me
get my own!  'Tis the Gods' affair to honour minstrels!  Homer is
enough for every one, who wants to hear any other?  He is the best of
bards who takes nothing that is mine.

O foolish men, in the store of gold uncounted, what gain have ye?
Not in this do the wise find the true enjoyment of wealth, but in
that they can indulge their own desires, and something bestow on one
of the minstrels, and do good deeds to many of their kin, and to many
another man; and always give altar-rites to the Gods, nor ever play
the churlish host, but kindly entreat the guest at table, and speed
him when he would be gone.  And this, above all, to honour the holy
interpreters of the Muses, that so thou mayest have a goodly fame,
even when hidden in Hades, nor ever moan without renown by the chill
water of Acheron, like one whose palms the spade has hardened, some
landless man bewailing the poverty that is all his heritage.

Many were the thralls that in the palace of Antiochus, and of king
Aleuas drew out their monthly dole, many the calves that were driven
to the penns of the Scopiadae, and lowed with the horned kine:
countless on the Crannonian plain did shepherds pasture beneath the
sky the choicest sheep of the hospitable Creondae, yet from all this
they had no joy, when once into the wide raft of hateful Acheron they
had breathed sweet life away!  Yea, unremembered (though they had
left all that rich store), for ages long would they have lain among
the dead forlorn, if a name among later men the skilled Ceian
minstrel had spared to bestow, singing his bright songs to a harp of
many strings.  Honour too was won by the swift steeds that came home
to them crowned from the sacred contests.

And who would ever have known the Lycian champions of time past, who
Priam's long-haired sons, and Cycnus, white of skin as a maiden, if
minstrels had not chanted of the war cries of the old heroes?  Nor
would Odysseus have won his lasting glory, for all his ten years
wandering among all folks; and despite the visit he paid, he a living
man, to inmost Hades, and for all his escape from the murderous
Cyclops's cave,--unheard too were the names of the swineherd Eumaeus,
and of Philoetius, busy with the kine of the herds; yea, and even of
Laertes, high of heart; if the songs of the Ionian man had not kept
them in renown.

From the Muses comes a goodly report to men, but the living heirs
devour the possessions of the dead.  But, lo, it is as light labour
to count the waves upon the beach, as many as wind and grey sea-tide
roll upon the shore, or in violet-hued water to cleanse away the
stain from a potsherd, as to win favour from a man that is smitten
with the greed of gain.  Good-day to such an one, and countless be
his coin, and ever may he be possessed by a longing desire for more!
But I for my part would choose honour and the loving-kindness of men,
far before wealth in mules and horses.

I am seeking to what mortal I may come, a welcome guest, with the
help of the Muses, for hard indeed do minstrels find the ways, who go
uncompanioned by the daughters of deep-counselling Zeus.  Not yet is
the heaven aweary of rolling the months onwards, and the years, and
many a horse shall yet whirl the chariot wheels, and the man shall
yet be found, who will take me for his minstrel; a man of deeds like
those that great Achilles wrought, or puissant Aias, in the plain of
Simois, where is the tomb of Phrygian Ilus.

Even now the Phoenicians that dwell beneath the setting sun on the
spur of Libya, shudder for dread, even now the Syracusans poise
lances in rest, and their arms are burdened by the linden shields.
Among them Hiero, like the mighty men of old, girds himself for
fight, and the horse-hair crest is shadowing his helmet.  Ah, Zeus,
our father renowned, and ah, lady Athene, and O thou Maiden that with
the Mother dost possess the great burg of the rich Ephyreans, by the
water of Lusimeleia, {89} would that dire necessity may drive our
foemen from the isle, along the Sardinian wave, to tell the doom of
their friends to children and to wives--messengers easy to number out
of so many warriors!  But as for our cities may they again be held by
their ancient masters,--all the cities that hostile hands have
utterly spoiled.  May our people till the flowering fields, and may
thousands of sheep unnumbered fatten 'mid the herbage, and bleat
along the plain, while the kine as they come in droves to the stalls
warn the belated traveller to hasten on his way.  May the fallows be
broken for the seed-time, while the cicala, watching the shepherds as
they toil in the sun, in the shade of the trees doth sing on the
topmost sprays.  May spiders weave their delicate webs over martial
gear, may none any more so much as name the cry of onset!

But the fame of Hiero may minstrels bear aloft, across the Scythian
sea, and where Semiramis reigned, that built the mighty wall, and
made it fast with slime for mortar.  I am but one of many that are
loved by the daughters of Zeus, and they all are fain to sing of
Sicilian Arethusa, with the people of the isle, and the warrior
Hiero.  O Graces, ye Goddesses, adored of Eteocles, ye that love
Orchomenos of the Minyae, the ancient enemy of Thebes, when no man
bids me, let me abide at home, but to the houses of such as bid me,
boldly let me come with my Muses.  Nay, neither the Muses nor you
Graces will I leave behind, for without the Graces what have men that
is desirable? with the Graces of song may I dwell for ever!


The poet praises Ptolemy Philadelphus in a strain of almost religious
adoration.  Hauler, in his Life of Theocritus, dates the poem about
259 B.C., but it may have been many years earlier.

From Zeus let us begin, and with Zeus make end, ye Muses, whensoever
we chant in songs the chiefest of immortals!  But of men, again, let
Ptolemy be named, among the foremost, and last, and in the midmost
place, for of men he hath the pre-eminence.  The heroes that in old
days were begotten of the demigods, wrought noble deeds, and chanced
on minstrels skilled, but I, with what skill I have in song, would
fain make my hymn of Ptolemy, and hymns are the glorious meed, yea,
of the very immortals.

When the feller hath come up to wooded Ida, he glances around, so
many are the trees, to see whence he should begin his labour.  Where
first shall _I_ begin the tale, for there are countless things ready
for the telling, wherewith the Gods have graced the most excellent of

Even by virtue of his sires, how mighty was he to accomplish some
great work,--Ptolemy son of Lagus,--when he had stored in his mind
such a design, as no other man was able even to devise!  Him hath the
Father stablished in the same honour as the blessed immortals, and
for him a golden mansion in the house of Zeus is builded; beside him
is throned Alexander, that dearly loves him, Alexander, a grievous
god to the white-turbaned Persians.

And over against them is set the throne of Heracles, the slayer of
the Bull, wrought of stubborn adamant.  There holds he festival with
the rest of the heavenly host, rejoicing exceedingly in his far-off
children's children, for that the son of Cronos hath taken old age
clean away from their limbs, and they are called immortals, being his
offspring.  For the strong son of Heracles is ancestor of the twain,
I and both are reckoned to Heracles, on the utmost of the lineage.

Therefore when he hath now had his fill of fragrant nectar, and is
going from the feast to the bower of his bed-fellow dear, to one of
his children he gives his bow, and the quiver that swings beneath his
elbow, to the other his knotted mace of iron.  Then they to the
ambrosial bower of white-ankled Hera, convey the weapons and the
bearded son of Zeus.

Again, how shone renowned Berenice among the wise of womankind, how
great a boon was she to them that begat her!  Yea, in her fragrant
breast did the Lady of Cyprus, the queenly daughter of Dione, lay her
slender hands, wherefore they say that never any woman brought man
such delight as came from the love borne to his wife by Ptolemy.  And
verily he was loved again with far greater love, and in such a
wedlock a man may well trust all his house to his children,
whensoever he goes to the bed of one that loves him as he loves her.
But the mind of a woman that loves not is set ever on a stranger, and
she hath children at her desire, but they are never like the father.

O thou that amongst the Goddesses hast the prize of beauty, O Lady
Aphrodite, thy care was she, and by thy favour the lovely Berenice
crossed not Acheron, the river of mourning, but thou didst catch her
away, ere she came to the dark water, and to the still-detested
ferryman of souls outworn, and in thy temple didst thou instal her,
and gavest her a share of thy worship.  Kindly is she to all mortals,
and she breathes into them soft desires, and she lightens the cares
of him that is in longing.

O dark-browed lady of Argos, {93} in wedlock with Tydeus didst thou
bear slaying Diomede, a hero of Calydon, and, again, deep-bosomed
Thetis to Peleus, son of Aeacus, bare the spearman Achilles.  But
thee, O warrior Ptolemy, to Ptolemy the warrior bare the glorious
Berenice!  And Cos did foster thee, when thou wert still a child new-
born, and received thee at thy mother's hand, when thou saw'st thy
first dawning.  For there she called aloud on Eilithyia, loosener of
the girdle; she called, the daughter of Antigone, when heavy on her
came the pangs of childbirth.  And Eilithyia was present to help her,
and so poured over all her limbs release from pain.  Then the beloved
child was born, his father's very counterpart.  And Cos brake forth
into a cry, when she beheld it, and touching the child with kind
hands, she said:

'Blessed, O child, mayst thou be, and me mayst thou honour even as
Phoebus Apollo honours Delos of the azure crown, yea, stablish in the
same renown the Triopean hill, and allot such glory to the Dorians
dwelling nigh, as that wherewithal Prince Apollo favours Rhenaea.'

Lo, thus spake the Isle, but far aloft under the clouds a great eagle
screamed thrice aloud, the ominous bird of Zeus.  This sign,
methinks, was of Zeus; Zeus, the son of Cronos, in his care hath
awful kings, but he is above all, whom Zeus loved from the first,
even from his birth.  Great fortune goes with him, and much land he
rules, and wide sea.

Countless are the lands, and tribes of men innumerable win increase
of the soil that waxeth under the rain of Zeus, but no land brings
forth so much as low-lying Egypt, when Nile wells up and breaks the
sodden soil.  Nor is there any land that hath so many towns of men
skilled in handiwork; therein are three centuries of cities builded,
and thousands three, and to these three myriads, and cities twice
three, and beside these, three times nine, and over them all high-
hearted Ptolemy is king.

Yea, and he taketh him a portion of Phoenicia, and of Arabia, and of
Syria, and of Libya, and the black Aethiopians.  And he is lord of
all the Pamphylians, and the Cilician warriors, and the Lycians, and
the Carians, that joy in battle, and lord of the isles of the
Cyclades,--since his are the best of ships that sail over the deep,--
yea, all the sea, and land and the sounding rivers are ruled by
Ptolemy.  Many are his horsemen, and many his targeteers that go
clanging in harness of shining bronze.  And in weight of wealth he
surpasses all kings; such treasure comes day by day from every side
to his rich palace, while the people are busy about their labours in
peace.  For never hath a foeman marched up the bank of teaming Nile,
and raised the cry of war in villages not his own, nor hath any
cuirassed enemy leaped ashore from his swift ship, to harry the kine
of Egypt.  So mighty a hero hath his throne established in the broad
plains, even Ptolemy of the fair hair, a spearman skilled, whose care
is above all, as a good king's should be, to keep all the heritage of
his fathers, and yet more he himself doth win.  Nay, nor useless in
HIS wealthy house, is the gold, like piled stores of the still
toilsome ants, but the glorious temples of the gods have their rich
share, for constant first-fruits he renders, with many another due,
and much is lavished on mighty kings, much on cities, much on
faithful friends.  And never to the sacred contests of Dionysus comes
any man that is skilled to raise the shrill sweet song, but Ptolemy
gives him a guerdon worthy of his art.  And the interpreters of the
Muses sing of Ptolemy, in return for his favours.  Nay, what fairer
thing might befall a wealthy man, than to win a goodly renown among

This abides even by the sons of Atreus, but all those countless
treasures that they won, when they took the mighty house of Priam,
are hidden away in the mist, whence there is no returning.

Ptolemy alone presses his own feet in the footmarks, yet glowing in
the dust, of his fathers that were before him.  To his mother dear,
and his father he hath stablished fragrant temples; therein has he
set their images, splendid with gold and ivory, to succour all
earthly men.  And many fat thighs of kine doth he burn on the
empurpled altars, as the months roll by, he and his stately wife; no
nobler lady did ever embrace a bridegroom in the halls, who loves,
with her whole heart, her brother, her lord.  On this wise was the
holy bridal of the Immortals, too, accomplished, even of the pair
that great Rhea bore, the rulers of Olympus; and one bed for the
slumber of Zeus and of Hera doth Iris strew, with myrrh-anointed
hands, the virgin Iris.

Prince Ptolemy, farewell, and of thee will I make mention, even as of
the other demigods; and a word methinks I will utter not to be
rejected of men yet unborn,--excellence, howbeit, thou shalt gain
from Zeus.


This epithalamium may have been written for the wedding of a friend
of the poet's.  The idea is said to have been borrowed from an old
poem by Stesichorus.  The epithalamium was chanted at night by a
chorus of girls, outside the bridal chamber.  Compare the conclusion
of the hymn of Adonis, in the fifteenth Idyl.

In Sparta, once, to the house of fair-haired Menelaus, came maidens
with the blooming hyacinth in their hair, and before the new painted
chamber arrayed their dance,--twelve maidens, the first in the city,
the glory of Laconian girls,--what time the younger Atrides had wooed
and won Helen, and closed the door of the bridal-bower on the beloved
daughter of Tyndarus.  Then sang they all in harmony, beating time
with woven paces, and the house rang round with the bridal song.

The Chorus.

Thus early art thou sleeping, dear bridegroom, say are thy limbs
heavy with slumber, or art thou all too fond of sleep, or hadst thou
perchance drunken over well, ere thou didst fling thee to thy rest?
Thou shouldst have slept betimes, and alone, if thou wert so fain of
sleep; thou shouldst have left the maiden with maidens beside her
mother dear, to play till deep in the dawn, for to-morrow, and next
day, and for all the years, Menelaus, she is thy bride.

O happy bridegroom, some good spirit sneezed out on thee a blessing,
as thou wert approaching Sparta whither went the other princes, that
so thou mightst win thy desire!  Alone among the demigods shalt thou
have Zeus for father!  Yea, and the daughter of Zeus has come beneath
one coverlet with thee, so fair a lady, peerless among all Achaean
women that walk the earth.  Surely a wondrous child would she bear
thee, if she bore one like the mother!

For lo, we maidens are all of like age with her, and one course we
were wont to run, anointed in manly fashion, by the baths of Eurotas.
Four times sixty girls were we, the maiden flower of the land, {98}
but of us all not one was faultless, when matched with Helen.

As the rising Dawn shows forth her fairer face than thine, O Night,
or as the bright Spring, when Winter relaxes his hold, even so
amongst us still she shone, the golden Helen.  Even as the crops
spring up, the glory of the rich plough land; or, as is the cypress
in the garden; or, in a chariot, a horse of Thessalian breed, even so
is rose-red Helen the glory of Lacedaemon.  No other in her basket of
wool winds forth such goodly work, and none cuts out, from between
the mighty beams, a closer warp than that her shuttle weaves in the
carven loom.  Yea, and of a truth none other smites the lyre, hymning
Artemis and broad-breasted Athene, with such skill as Helen, within
whose eyes dwell all the Loves.

O fair, O gracious damsel, even now art thou a wedded wife; but we
will go forth right early to the course we ran, and to the grassy
meadows, to gather sweet-breathing coronals of flowers, thinking
often upon thee, Helen, even as youngling lambs that miss the teats
of the mother-ewe.  For thee first will we twine a wreath of lotus
flowers that lowly grow, and hang it on a shadowy plane tree, for
thee first will we take soft oil from the silver phial, and drop it
beneath a shadowy plane tree, and letters will we grave on the bark,
in Dorian wise, so that the wayfarer may read:


Good night, thou bride, good night, thou groom that hast won a mighty
sire!  May Leto, Leto, the nurse of noble offspring, give you the
blessing of children; and may Cypris, divine Cypris, grant you equal
love, to cherish each the other; and may Zeus, even Zeus the son of
Cronos, give you wealth imperishable, to be handed down from
generation to generation of the princes.

Sleep ye, breathing love and desire each into the other's breast, but
forget not to wake in the dawning, and at dawn we too will come, when
the earliest cock shrills from his perch, and raises his feathered

Hymen, O Hymenae, rejoice thou in this bridal.


This little piece is but doubtfully ascribed to Theocritus.  The
motif is that of a well-known Anacreontic Ode.  The idyl has been
translated by Ronsard.

The thievish Love,--a cruel bee once stung him, as he was rifling
honey from the hives, and pricked his finger-tips all; then he was in
pain, and blew upon his hand, and leaped, and stamped the ground.
And then he showed his hurt to Aphrodite, and made much complaint,
how that the bee is a tiny creature, and yet what wounds it deals!
And his mother laughed out, and said, 'Art thou not even such a
creature as the bees, for tiny art thou, but what wounds thou


A herdsman, who had been contemptuously rejected by Eunica, a girl of
the town, protests that he is beautiful, and that Eunica is prouder
than Cybele, Selene, and Aphrodite, all of whom loved mortal
herdsmen.  For grammatical and other reasons, some critics consider
this idyl apocryphal.

Eunica laughed out at me when sweetly I would have kissed her, and
taunting me, thus she spoke:  'Get thee gone from me!  Wouldst thou
kiss me, wretch; thou--a neatherd?  I never learned to kiss in
country fashion, but to press lips with city gentlefolks.  Never hope
to kiss my lovely mouth, nay, not even in a dream.  How thou dost
look, what chatter is thine, how countrified thy tricks are, how
delicate thy talk, how easy thy tattle!  And then thy beard--so soft!
thy elegant hair!  Why, thy lips are like some sick man's, thy hands
are black, and thou art of evil savour.  Away with thee, lest thy
presence soil me!'  These taunts she mouthed, and thrice spat in the
breast of her gown, and stared at me all over from head to feet;
shooting out her lips, and glancing with half-shut eyes, writhing her
beautiful body, and so sneered, and laughed me to scorn.  And
instantly my blood boiled, and I grew red under the sting, as a rose
with dew.  And she went off and left me, but I bear angry pride deep
in my heart, that I, the handsome shepherd, should have been mocked
by a wretched light-o'-love.

Shepherds, tell me the very truth; am I not beautiful?  Has some God
changed me suddenly to another man?  Surely a sweet grace ever
blossomed round me, till this hour, like ivy round a tree, and
covered my chin, and about my temples fell my locks, like curling
parsley-leaves, and white shone my forehead above my dark eyebrows.
Mine eyes were brighter far than the glance of the grey-eyed Athene,
my mouth than even pressed milk was sweeter, and from my lips my
voice flowed sweeter than honey from the honeycomb.  Sweet too, is my
music, whether I make melody on pipe, or discourse on the flute, or
reed, or flageolet.  And all the mountain-maidens call me beautiful,
and they would kiss me, all of them.  But the city girl did not kiss
me, but ran past me, because I am a neatherd, and she never heard how
fair Dionysus in the dells doth drive the calves, and knows not that
Cypris was wild with love for a herdsman, and drove afield in the
mountains of Phrygia; ay, and Adonis himself,--in the oakwood she
kissed, in the oakwood she bewailed him.  And what was Endymion? was
he not a neatherd? whom nevertheless as he watched his herds Selene
saw and loved, and from Olympus descending she came to the Latmian
glade, and lay in one couch with the boy; and thou, Rhea, dust weep
for thy herdsman.

And didst not thou, too, Son of Cronos, take the shape of a wandering
bird, and all for a cowherd boy?

But Eunica alone would not kiss the herdsman; Eunica, she that is
greater than Cybele, and Cypris, and Selene!

Well, Cypris, never mayst thou, in city or on hillside, kiss thy
darling, {104} and lonely all the long night mayst thou sleep!


After some verses addressed to Diophantus, a friend about whom
nothing is known, the poet describes the toilsome life of two old
fishermen.  One of them has dreamed of catching a golden fish, and
has sworn, in his dream, never again to tempt the sea.  The other
reminds him that his oath is as empty as his vision, and that he must
angle for common fish, if he would not starve among his golden
dreams.  The idyl is, unfortunately, corrupt beyond hope of certain

'Tis Poverty alone, Diophantus, that awakens the arts; Poverty, the
very teacher of labour.  Nay, not even sleep is permitted, by weary
cares, to men that live by toil, and if, for a little while, one
close his eyes {105} in the night, cares throng about him, and
suddenly disquiet his slumber.

Two fishers, on a time, two old men, together lay and slept; they had
strown the dry sea-moss for a bed in their wattled cabin, and there
they lay against the leafy wall.  Beside them were strewn the
instruments of their toilsome hands, the fishing-creels, the rods of
reed, the hooks, the sails bedraggled with sea-spoil, {106a} the
lines, the weds, the lobster pots woven of rushes, the seines, two
oars, {106b} and an old coble upon props.  Beneath their heads was a
scanty matting, their clothes, their sailor's caps.  Here was all
their toil, here all their wealth.  The threshold had never a door,
nor a watch-dog; {106c} all things, all, to them seemed superfluity,
for Poverty was their sentinel.  They had no neighbour by them, but
ever against their narrow cabin gently floated up the sea.

The chariot of the moon had not yet reached the mid-point of her
course, but their familiar toil awakened the fishermen; from their
eyelids they cast out slumber, and roused their souls with speech.

Asphalion.  They lie all, my friend, who say that the nights wane
short in summer, when Zeus brings the long days.  Already have I seen
ten thousand dreams, and the dawn is not yet.  Am I wrong, what ails
them, the nights are surely long?

The Friend.  Asphalion, thou blamest the beautiful summer!  It is not
that the season hath wilfully passed his natural course, but care,
breaking thy sleep, makes night seem long to thee.

Asphalion.  Didst ever learn to interpret dreams? for good dreams
have I beheld.  I would not have thee to go without thy share in my
vision; even as we go shares in the fish we catch, so share all my
dreams!  Sure, thou art not to be surpassed in wisdom; and he is the
best interpreter of dreams that hath wisdom for his teacher.
Moreover, we have time to idle in, for what could a man find to do,
lying on a leafy bed beside the wave and slumbering not?  Nay, the
ass is among the thorns, the lantern in the town hall, for, they say,
it is always sleepless. {107}

The Friend.  Tell me, then, the vision of the night; nay, tell all to
thy friend.

Asphalion.  As I was sleeping late, amid the labours of the salt sea
(and truly not too full-fed, for we supped early if thou dost
remember, and did not overtax our bellies), I saw myself busy on a
rock, and there I sat and watched the fishes, and kept spinning the
bait with the rods.  And one of the fish nibbled, a fat one, for in
sleep dogs dream of bread, and of fish dream I.  Well, he was tightly
hooked, and the blood was running, and the rod I grasped was bent
with his struggle.  So with both hands I strained, and had a sore
tussle for the monster.  How was I ever to land so big a fish with
hooks all too slim?  Then just to remind him he was hooked, I gently
pricked him, {108a} pricked, and slackened, and, as he did not run, I
took in line.  My toil was ended with the sight of my prize; I drew
up a golden fish, lo you, a fish all plated thick with gold!  Then
fear took hold of me, lest he might be some fish beloved of Posidon,
or perchance some jewel of the sea-grey Amphitrite.  Gently I
unhooked him, lest ever the hooks should retain some of the gold of
his mouth.  Then I dragged him on shore with the ropes, {108b} and
swore that never again would I set foot on sea, but abide on land,
and lord it over the gold.

This was even what wakened me, but, for the rest, set thy mind to it,
my friend, for I am in dismay about the oath I swore.

The Friend.  Nay, never fear, thou art no more sworn than thou hast
found the golden fish of thy vision; dreams are but lies.  But if
thou wilt search these waters, wide awake, and not asleep, there is
some hope in thy slumbers; seek the fish of flesh, lest thou die of
famine with all thy dreams of gold!


This is a hymn, in the Homeric manner, to Castor and Polydeuces.
Compare the life and truth of the descriptions of nature, and of the
boxing-match, with the frigid manner of Apollonius Rhodius.--
Argonautica, II. I. seq.

We hymn the children twain of Leda, and of aegis-bearing Zeus,--
Castor, and Pollux, the boxer dread, when he hath harnessed his
knuckles in thongs of ox-hide.  Twice hymn we, and thrice the
stalwart sons of the daughter of Thestias, the two brethren of
Lacedaemon.  Succourers are they of men in the very thick of peril,
and of horses maddened in the bloody press of battle, and of ships
that, defying the stars that set and rise in heaven, have encountered
the perilous breath of storms.  The winds raise huge billows about
their stern, yea, or from the prow, or even as each wind wills, and
cast them into the hold of the ship, and shatter both bulwarks, while
with the sail hangs all the gear confused and broken, and the storm-
rain falls from heaven as night creeps on, and the wide sea rings,
being lashed by the gusts, and by showers of iron hail.

Yet even so do ye draw forth the ships from the abyss, with their
sailors that looked immediately to die; and instantly the winds are
still, and there is an oily calm along the sea, and the clouds flee
apart, this way and that, also the Bears appear, and in the midst,
dimly seen, the Asses' manger, declaring that all is smooth for

O ye twain that aid all mortals, O beloved pair, ye knights, ye
harpers, ye wrestlers, ye minstrels, of Castor, or of Polydeuces
first shall I begin to sing?  Of both of you will I make my hymn, but
first will I sing of Polydeuces.

Even already had Argo fled forth from the Clashing Rocks, and the
dread jaws of snowy Pontus, and was come to the land of the Bebryces,
with her crew, dear children of the gods.  There all the heroes
disembarked, down one ladder, from both sides of the ship of Iason.
When they had landed on the deep seashore and a sea-bank sheltered
from the wind, they strewed their beds, and their hands were busy
with firewood. {111}

Then Castor of the swift steeds, and swart Polydeuces, these twain
went wandering alone, apart from their fellows, and marvelling at all
the various wildwood on the mountain.  Beneath a smooth cliff they
found an ever-flowing spring filled with the purest water, and the
pebbles below shone like crystal or silver from the deep.  Tall fir
trees grew thereby, and white poplars, and planes, and cypresses with
their lofty tufts of leaves, and there bloomed all fragrant flowers
that fill the meadows when early summer is waning--dear work-steads
of the hairy bees.  But there a monstrous man was sitting in the sun,
terrible of aspect; the bruisers' hard fists had crushed his ears,
and his mighty breast and his broad back were domed with iron flesh,
like some huge statue of hammered iron.  The muscles on his brawny
arms, close by the shoulder, stood out like rounded rocks, that the
winter torrent has rolled, and worn smooth, in the great swirling
stream, but about his back and neck was draped a lion's skin, hung by
the claws.  Him first accosted the champion, Polydeuces.

Polydeuces.  Good luck to thee, stranger, whosoe'er thou art!  What
men are they that possess this land?

Amycus.  What sort of luck, when I see men that I never saw before?

Polydeuces.  Fear not!  Be sure that those thou look'st on are
neither evil, nor the children of evil men.

Amycus.  No fear have I, and it is not for thee to teach me that

Polydeuces.  Art thou a savage, resenting all address, or some
vainglorious man?

Amycus.  I am that thou see'st, and on thy land, at least, I trespass

Polydeuces.  Come, and with kindly gifts return homeward again!

Amycus.  Gift me no gifts, none such have I ready for thee.

Polydeuces.  Nay, wilt thou not even grant us leave to taste this

Amycus.  That shalt thou learn when thirst has parched thy shrivelled

Polydeuces.  Will silver buy the boon, or with what price, prithee,
may we gain thy leave?

Amycus.  Put up thy hands and stand in single combat, man to man.

Polydeuces.  A boxing-match, or is kicking fair, when we meet eye to

Amycus.  Do thy best with thy fists and spare not thy skill!

Polydeuces.  And who is the man on whom I am to lay my hands and

Amycus.  Thou see'st him close enough, the boxer will not prove a

Polydeuces.  And is the prize ready, for which we two must fight?

Amycus.  Thy man shall I be called (shouldst thou win), or thou mine,
if I be victor.

Polydeuces.  On such terms fight the red-crested birds of the game.

Amycus.  Well, be we like birds or lions, we shall fight for no other

So Amycus spoke, and seized and blew his hollow shell, and speedily
the long-haired Bebryces gathered beneath the shadowy planes, at the
blowing of the shell.  And in likewise did Castor, eminent in war, go
forth and summon all the heroes from the Magnesian ship.  And the
champions, when they had strengthened their fists with the stout ox-
skin gloves, and bound long leathern thongs about their arms, stepped
into the ring, breathing slaughter against each other.  Then had they
much ado, in that assault,--which should have the sun's light at his
back.  But by thy skill, Polydeuces, thou didst outwit the giant, and
the sun's rays fell full on the face of Amycus.  Then came he eagerly
on in great wrath and heat, making play with his fists, but the son
of Tyndarus smote him on the chin as he charged, maddening him even
more, and the giant confused the fighting, laying on with all his
weight, and going in with his head down.  The Bebryces cheered their
man, and on the other side the heroes still encouraged stout
Polydeuces, for they feared lest the giant's weight, a match for
Tityus, might crush their champion in the narrow lists.  But the son
of Zeus stood to him, shifting his ground again and again, and kept
smiting him, right and left, and somewhat checked the rush of the son
of Posidon, for all his monstrous strength.  Then he stood reeling
like a drunken man under the blows, and spat out the red blood, while
all the heroes together raised a cheer, as they marked the woful
bruises about his mouth and jaws, and how, as his face swelled up,
his eyes were half closed.  Next, the prince teased him, feinting on
every side but seeing now that the giant was all abroad, he planted
his fist just above the middle of the nose, beneath the eyebrows, and
skinned all the brow to the bone.  Thus smitten, Amycus lay stretched
on his back, among the flowers and grasses.  There was fierce
fighting when he arose again, and they bruised each other well,
laying on with the hard weighted gloves; but the champion of the
Bebryces was always playing on the chest, and outside the neck, while
unconquered Polydeuces kept smashing his foeman's face with ugly
blows.  The giant's flesh was melting away in his sweat, till from a
huge mass he soon became small enough, but the limbs of the other
waxed always stronger, and his colour better, as he warmed to his

How then, at last, did the son of Zeus lay low the glutton? say
goddess, for thou knowest, but I, who am but the interpreter of
others, will speak all that thou wilt, and in such wise as pleases

Now behold the giant was keen to do some great feat, so with his left
hand he grasped the left of Polydeuces, stooping slantwise from his
onset, while with his other hand he made his effort, and drove a huge
fist up from his right haunch.  Had his blow come home, he would have
harmed the King of Amyclae, but he slipped his head out of the way,
and then with his strong hand struck Amycus on the left temple,
putting his shoulder into the blow.  Quick gushed the black blood
from the gaping temple, while Polydeuces smote the giant's mouth with
his left, and the close-set teeth rattled.  And still he punished his
face with quick-repeated blows, till the cheeks were fairly pounded.
Then Amycus lay stretched all on the ground, fainting, and held out
both his hands, to show that he declined the fight, for he was near
to death.

There then, despite thy victory, didst thou work him no insensate
wrong, O boxer Polydeuces, but to thee he swore a mighty oath,
calling his sire Posidon from the deep, that assuredly never again
would he be violent to strangers.

Thee have I hymned, my prince; but thee now, Castor, will I sing, O
son of Tyndarus, O lord of the swift steeds, O wielder of the spear,
thou that wearest the corselet of bronze.

Now these twain, the sons of Zeus, had seized and were bearing away
the two daughters of Lycippus, and eagerly in sooth these two other
brethren were pursuing them, the sons of Aphareus, even they that
should soon have been the bridegrooms,--Lynceus and mighty Idas.  But
when they were come to the tomb of the dead Aphareus, then forth from
their chariots they all sprang together, and set upon each other,
under the weight of their spears and hollow shields.  But Lynceus
again spake, and shouted loud from under his vizor:-

'Sirs, wherefore desire ye battle, and how are ye thus violent to win
the brides of others with naked swords in your hands.  To us, behold,
did Leucippus betroth these his daughters long before; to us this
bridal is by oath confirmed.  And ye did not well, in that to win the
wives of others ye perverted him with gifts of oxen, and mules, and
other wealth, and so won wedlock by bribes.  Lo many a time, in face
of both of you, I have spoken thus, I that am not a man of many
words, saying,--"Not thus, dear friends, does it become heroes to woo
their wives, wives that already have bridegrooms betrothed.  Lo
Sparta is wide, and wide is Elis, a land of chariots and horses, and
Arcadia rich in sheep, and there are the citadels of the Achaeans,
and Messenia, and Argos, and all the sea-coast of Sisyphus.  There be
maidens by their parents nurtured, maidens countless, that lack not
aught in wisdom or in comeliness.  Of these ye may easily win such as
ye will, for many are willing to be the fathers-in-law of noble
youths, and ye are the very choice of heroes all, as your fathers
were, and all your father's kin, and all your blood from of old.
But, friends, let this our bridal find its due conclusion, and for
you let all of us seek out another marriage."

'Many such words I would speak, but the wind's breath bare them away
to the wet wave of the sea, and no favour followed with my words.
For ye twain are hard and ruthless,--nay, but even now do ye listen,
for ye are our cousins, and kin by the father's side.  But if your
heart yet lusts for war, and with blood we must break up the kindred
strife, and end the feud, {118} then Idas and his cousin, mighty
Polydeuces, shall hold their hands and abstain from battle, but let
us twain, Castor and I, the younger born, try the ordeal of war!  Let
us not leave the heaviest of grief to our fathers!  Enough is one
slain man from a house, but the others will make festival for all
their friends, and will be bridegrooms, not slain men, and will wed
these maidens.  Lo, it is fitting with light loss to end a great

So he spake, and these words the gods were not to make vain.  For the
elder pair laid down their harness from their shoulders on the
ground, but Lynceus stepped into the midst, swaying his mighty spear
beneath the outer rim of his shield, and even so did Castor sway his
spear-points, and the plumes were nodding above the crests of each.
With the sharp spears long they laboured and tilted at each other, if
perchance they might anywhere spy a part of the flesh unarmed.  But
ere either was wounded the spear-points were broken, fast stuck in
the linden shields.  Then both drew their swords from the sheaths,
and again devised each the other's slaying, and there was no truce in
the fight.  Many a time did Castor smite on broad shield and horse-
hair crest, and many a time the keen-sighted Lynceus smote upon his
shield, and his blade just shore the scarlet plume.  Then, as he
aimed the sharp sword at the left knee, Castor drew back with his
left foot, and hacked the fingers off the hand of Lynceus.  Then he
being smitten cast away his sword, and turned swiftly to flee to the
tomb of his father, where mighty Idas lay, and watched this strife of
kinsmen.  But the son of Tyndarus sped after him, and drove the broad
sword through bowels and navel, and instantly the bronze cleft all in
twain, and Lynceus bowed, and on his face he lay fallen on the
ground, and forthwith heavy sleep rushed down upon his eyelids.

Nay, nor that other of her children did Laocoosa see, by the hearth
of his fathers, after he had fulfilled a happy marriage.  For lo,
Messenian Idas did swiftly break away the standing stone from the
tomb of his father Aphareus, and now he would have smitten the slayer
of his brother, but Zeus defended him and drave the polished stone
from the hands of Idas, and utterly consumed him with a flaming

Thus it is no light labour to war with the sons of Tyndarus, for a
mighty pair are they, and mighty is he that begat them.

Farewell, ye children of Leda, and all goodly renown send ye ever to
our singing.  Dear are all minstrels to the sons of Tyndarus, and to
Helen, and to the other heroes that sacked Troy in aid of Menelaus.

For you, O princes, the bard of Chios wrought renown, when he sang
the city of Priam, and the ships of the Achaeans, and the Ilian war,
and Achilles, a tower of battle.  And to you, in my turn, the charms
of the clear-voiced Muses, even all that they can give, and all that
my house has in store, these do I bring.  The fairest meed of the
gods is song.


A lover hangs himself at the gate of his obdurate darling who, in
turn, is slain by a statue of Love.

This poem is not attributed with much certainty to Theocritus, and is
found in but a small proportion of manuscripts.

A love-sick youth pined for an unkind love, beautiful in form, but
fair no more in mood.  The beloved hated the lover, and had for him
no gentleness at all, and knew not Love, how mighty a God is he, and
what a bow his hands do wield, and what bitter arrows he dealeth at
the young.  Yea, in all things ever, in speech and in all approaches,
was the beloved unyielding.  Never was there any assuagement of
Love's fires, never was there a smile of the lips, nor a bright
glance of the eyes, never a blushing cheek, nor a word, nor a kiss
that lightens the burden of desire.  Nay, as a beast of the wild wood
hath the hunters in watchful dread, even so did the beloved in all
things regard the man, with angered lips, and eyes that had the
dreadful glance of fate, and the whole face was answerable to this
wrath, the colour fled from it, sicklied o'er with wrathful pride.
Yet even thus was the loved one beautiful, and the lover was the more
moved by this haughtiness.  At length he could no more endure so
fierce a flame of the Cytherean, but drew near and wept by the
hateful dwelling, and kissed the lintel of the door, and thus he
lifted up his voice:

'O cruel child, and hateful, thou nursling of some fierce lioness, O
child all of stone unworthy of love; I have come with these my latest
gifts to thee, even this halter of mine; for, child, I would no
longer anger thee and work thee pain.  Nay, I am going where thou
hast condemned me to fare, where, as men say, is the path, and there
the common remedy of lovers, the River of Forgetfulness.  Nay, but
were I to take and drain with my lips all the waters thereof, not
even so shall I quench my yearning desire.  And now I bid my farewell
to these gates of thine.

'Behold I know the thing that is to be.

'Yea, the rose is beautiful, and Time he withers it; and fair is the
violet in spring, and swiftly it waxes old; white is the lily, it
fadeth when it falleth; and snow is white, and melteth after it hath
been frozen.  And the beauty of youth is fair, but lives only for a
little season.

'That time will come when thou too shalt love, when thy heart shall
burn, and thou shalt weep salt tears.

'But, child, do me even this last favour; when thou comest forth, and
see'st me hanging in thy gateway,--pass me not careless by, thy
hapless lover, but stand, and weep a little while; and when thou hast
made this libation of thy tears, then loose me from the rope, and
cast over me some garment from thine own limbs, and so cover me from
sight; but first kiss me for that latest time of all, and grant the
dead this grace of thy lips.

'Fear me not, I cannot live again, no, not though thou shouldst be
reconciled to me, and kiss me.  A tomb for me do thou hollow, to be
the hiding-place of my love, and if thou departest, cry thrice above
me, -

O friend, thou liest low!

And if thou wilt, add this also, -

Alas, my true friend is dead!

'And this legend do thou write, that I will scratch on thy walls, -

This man Love slew!  Wayfarer, pass not heedless by,
But stand, and say, "he had a cruel darling."'

Therewith he seized a stone, and laid it against the wall, as high as
the middle of the doorposts, a dreadful stone, and from the lintel he
fastened the slender halter, and cast the noose about his neck, and
kicked away the support from under his foot, and there was he hanged

But the beloved opened the door, and saw the dead man hanging there
in the court, unmoved of heart, and tearless for the strange, woful
death; but on the dead man were all the garments of youth defiled.
Then forth went the beloved to the contests of the wrestlers, and
there was heart-set on the delightful bathing-places, and even
thereby encountered the very God dishonoured, for Love stood on a
pedestal of stone above the waters. {124}  And lo, the statue leaped,
and slew that cruel one, and the water was red with blood, but the
voice of the slain kept floating to the brim.

Rejoice, ye lovers, for he that hated is slain.  Love, all ye
beloved, for the God knoweth how to deal righteous judgment.


This poem describes the earliest feat of Heracles, the slaying of the
snakes sent against him by Hera, and gives an account of the hero's
training.  The vivacity and tenderness of the pictures of domestic
life, and the minute knowledge of expiatory ceremonies seem to stamp
this idyl as the work of Theocritus.  As the following poem also
deals with an adventure of Heracles, it seems not impossible that
Theocritus wrote, or contemplated writing, a Heraclean epic, in a
series of idyls.

When Heracles was but ten months old, the lady of Midea, even
Alcmena, took him, on a time, and Iphicles his brother, younger by
one night, and gave them both their bath, and their fill of milk,
then laid them down in the buckler of bronze, that goodly piece
whereof Amphitryon had strippen the fallen Pterelaus.  And then the
lady stroked her children's heads, and spoke, saying:-

'Sleep, my little ones, a light delicious sleep; sleep, soul of mine,
two brothers, babes unharmed; blessed be your sleep, and blessed may
ye come to the dawn.'

So speaking she rocked the huge shield, and in a moment sleep laid
hold on them.

But when the Bear at midnight wheels westward over against Orion that
shows his mighty shoulder, even then did crafty Hera send forth two
monstrous things, two snakes bristling up their coils of azure;
against the broad threshold, where are the hollow pillars of the
house-door she urged them; with intent that they should devour the
young child Heracles.  Then these twain crawled forth, writhing their
ravenous bellies along the ground, and still from their eyes a
baleful fire was shining as they came, and they spat out their deadly
venom.  But when with their flickering tongues they were drawing near
the children, then Alcmena's dear babes wakened, by the will of Zeus
that knows all things, and there was a bright light in the chamber.
Then truly one child, even Iphicles, screamed out straightway, when
he beheld the hideous monsters above the hollow shield, and saw their
pitiless fangs, and he kicked off the woollen coverlet with his feet,
in his eagerness to flee.  But Heracles set his force against them,
and grasped them with his hands, binding them both in a grievous
bond, having got them by the throat, wherein lies the evil venom of
baleful snakes, the venom detested even by the gods.  Then the
serpents, in their turn, wound with their coils about the young
child, the child unweaned, that wept never in his nursling days; but
again they relaxed their spines in stress, of pain, and strove to
find some issue from the grasp of iron.

Now Alcmena heard the cry, and wakened first, -

'Arise, Amphitryon, for numbing fear lays hold of me:  arise, nor
stay to put shoon beneath thy feet!  Hearest thou not how loud the
younger child is wailing?  Mark'st thou not that though it is the
depth of the night, the walls are all plain to see as in the clear
dawn? {127}  There is some strange thing I trow within the house,
there is, my dearest lord!'

Thus she spake, and at his wife's bidding he stepped down out of his
bed, and made for his richly dight sword that he kept always hanging
on its pin above his bed of cedar.  Verily he was reaching out for
his new-woven belt, lifting with the other hand the mighty sheath, a
work of lotus wood, when lo, the wide chamber was filled again with
night.  Then he cried aloud on his thralls, who were drawing the deep
breath of sleep, -

'Lights!  Bring lights as quick as may be from the hearth, my
thralls, and thrust back the strong bolts of the doors.  Arise, ye
serving-men, stout of heart, 'tis the master calls.'

Then quick the serving-men came speeding with torches burning, and
the house waxed full as each man hasted along.  Then truly when they
saw the young child Heracles clutching the snakes twain in his tender
grasp, they all cried out and smote their hands together.  But he
kept showing the creeping things to his father, Amphitryon, and
leaped on high in his childish glee, and laughing, at his father's
feet he laid them down, the dread monsters fallen on the sleep of
death.  Then Alcmena in her own bosom took and laid Iphicles, dry-
eyed and wan with fear; {128} but Amphitryon, placing the other child
beneath a lamb's-wool coverlet, betook himself again to his bed, and
gat him to his rest.

The cocks were now but singing their third welcome to the earliest
dawn, when Alcmena called forth Tiresias, the seer that cannot lie,
and told him of the new portent, and bade him declare what things
should come to pass.

'Nay, and even if the gods devise some mischief, conceal it not from
me in ruth and pity; and how that mortals may not escape the doom
that Fate speeds from her spindle, O soothsayer Euerides, I am
teaching thee, that thyself knowest it right well.'

Thus spake the Queen, and thus he answered her:

'Be of good cheer, daughter of Perseus, woman that hast borne the
noblest of children [and lay up in thy heart the better of the things
that are to be].  For by the sweet light that long hath left mine
eyes, I swear that many Achaean women, as they card the soft wool
about their knees, shall sing at eventide, of Alcmena's name, and
thou shalt be honourable among the women of Argos.  Such a man, even
this thy son, shall mount to the starry firmament, the hero broad of
breast, the master of all wild beasts, and of all mankind.  Twelve
labours is he fated to accomplish, and thereafter to dwell in the
house of Zeus, but all his mortal part a Trachinian pyre shall

'And the son of the Immortals, by virtue of his bride, shall he be
called, even of them that urged forth these snakes from their dens to
destroy the child.  Verily that day shall come when the ravening
wolf, beholding the fawn in his lair, will not seek to work him harm.

'But lady, see that thou hast fire at hand, beneath the embers, and
let make ready dry fuel of gorse, or thorn, or bramble, or pear
boughs dried with the wind's buffeting, and on the wild fire burn
these serpents twain, at midnight, even at the hour when they would
have slain thy child.  But at dawn let one of thy maidens gather the
dust of the fire, and bear and cast it all, every grain, over the
river from the brow of the broken cliff, {129} beyond the march of
your land, and return again without looking behind.  Then cleanse
your house with the fire of unmixed sulphur first, and then, as is
ordained, with a filleted bough sprinkle holy water over all, mingled
with salt. {130}  And to Zeus supreme, moreover, do ye sacrifice a
young boar, that ye may ever have the mastery over all your enemies.'

So spake he, and thrust back his ivory chair, and departed, even
Tiresias, despite the weight of all his many years.

But Heracles was reared under his mother's care, like some young
sapling in a garden close, being called the son of Amphitryon of
Argos.  And the lad was taught his letters by the ancient Linus,
Apollo's son, a tutor ever watchful.  And to draw the bow, and send
the arrow to the mark did Eurytus teach him, Eurytus rich in wide
ancestral lands.  And Eumolpus, son of Philammon, made the lad a
minstrel, and formed his hands to the boxwood lyre.  And all the
tricks wherewith the nimble Argive cross-buttockers give each other
the fall, and all the wiles of boxers skilled with the gloves, and
all the art that the rough and tumble fighters have sought out to aid
their science, all these did Heracles learn from Harpalacus of
Phanes, the son of Hermes.  Him no man that beheld, even from afar,
would have confidently met as a wrestler in the lists, so grim a brow
overhung his dreadful face.  And to drive forth his horses 'neath the
chariot, and safely to guide them round the goals, with the naves of
the wheels unharmed, Amphitryon taught his son in his loving-
kindness, Amphitryon himself, for many a prize had he borne away from
the fleet races in Argos, pasture-land of steeds, and unbroken were
the chariots that he mounted, till time loosened their leathern

But to charge with spear in rest, against a foe, guarding, meanwhile,
his back with the shield, to bide the biting swords, to order a
company, and to measure, in his onslaught, the ambush of foemen, and
to give horsemen the word of command, he was taught by knightly
Castor.  An outlaw came Castor out of Argos, when Tydeus was holding
all the land and all the wide vineyards, having received Argos, a
land of steeds, from the hand of Adrastus.  No peer in war among the
demigods had Castor, till age wore down his youth.

Thus did his dear mother let train Heracles, and the child's bed was
made hard by his father's; a lion's skin was the coverlet he loved;
his dinner was roast meat, and a great Dorian loaf in a basket, a
meal to satisfy a delving hind.  At the close of day he would take a
meagre supper that needed no fire to the cooking, and his plain
kirtle fell no lower than the middle of his shin.


This is another idyl of the epic sort.  The poet's interest in the
details of the rural life, and in the description of the herds of
King Augeas, seem to mark it as the work of Theocritus.  It has,
however, been attributed by learned conjecture to various writers of
an older age.  The idyl, or fragment, is incomplete.  Heracles visits
the herds of Augeas (to clean their stalls was one of his labours),
and, after an encounter with a bull, describes to the king's son his
battle with the lion of Nemea.

. . . Him answered the old man, a husbandman that had the care of the
tillage, ceasing a moment from the work that lay betwixt his hands--
'Right readily will I tell thee, stranger, concerning the things
whereof thou inquirest, for I revere the awful wrath of Hermes of the
roadside.  Yea he, they say, is of all the heavenly Gods the most in
anger, if any deny the wayfarer that asks eagerly for the way.

'The fleecy flocks of the king Augeas feed not all on one pasture,
nor in one place, but some there be that graze by the river-banks
round Elisus, and some by the sacred stream of divine Alpheius, and
some by Buprasium rich in clusters of the vine, and some even in this
place.  And behold, the pens for each herd after its kind are builded
apart.  Nay, but for all the herds of Augeas, overflowing as they be,
these pasture lands are ever fresh and flowering, around the great
marsh of Peneus, for with herbage honey-sweet the dewy water-meadows
are ever blossoming abundantly, and this fodder it is that feeds the
strength of horned kine.  And this their steading, on thy right hand
stands all plain to view, beyond the running river, there, where the
plane-trees grow luxuriant, and the green wild olive, a sacred grove,
O stranger, of Apollo of the pastures, a God most gracious unto
prayer.  Next thereto are builded long rows of huts for the country
folk, even for us that do zealously guard the great and marvellous
wealth of the king; casting in season the seed in fallow lands,
thrice, ay, and four times broken by the plough.  As for the marches,
truly, the ditchers know them, men of many toils, who throng to the
wine-press at the coming of high summer tide.  For, behold, all this
plain is held by gracious Augeas, and the wheat-bearing plough-land,
and the orchards with their trees, as far as the upland farm of the
ridge, whence the fountains spring; over all which lands we go
labouring, the whole day long, as is the wont of thralls that live
their lives among the fields.

'But, prithee, tell thou me, in thy turn (and for thine own gain it
will be), whom comest thou hither to seek; in quest, perchance, of
Augeas, or one of his servants?  Of all these things, behold, I have
knowledge, and could tell thee plainly, for methinks that thou, for
thy part, comest of no churlish stock, nay, nor hath thy shape aught
of the churl, so excellent in might shows thy form.  Lo, now, even
such are the children of the immortal Gods among mortal men.'  Then
the mighty son of Zeus answered him, saying -

'Yea, old man, I fain would see Augeas, prince of the Epeans, for
truly 'twas need of him that brought me hither.  If he abides at the
town with his citizens, caring for his people, and settling the
pleas, do thou, old man, bid one of the servants to guide me on the
way, a head-man of the more honourable sort in these fields, to whom
I may both tell my desire, and learn in turn what I would, for God
has made all men dependent, each on each.'

Then the old man, the worthy husbandman, answered him again -

'By the guidance of some one of the immortals hast thou come hither,
stranger, for verily all that thou requirest hath quickly been
fulfilled.  For hither hath come Augeas, the dear son of Helios, with
his own son, the strong and princely Phyleus.  But yesterday he came
hither from the city, to be overseeing after many days his substance,
that he hath uncounted in the fields.  Thus do even kings in their
inmost hearts believe that the eye of the master makes the house more
prosperous.  Nay come, let us hasten to him, and I will lead thee to
our dwelling, where methinks we shall find the king.'

So he spake, and began to lead the way, but in his mind, as he marked
the lion's hide, and the club that filled the stranger's fist, the
old man was deeply pondering as to whence he came, and ever he was
eager to inquire of him.  But back again he kept catching the word as
it rose to his lips, in fear lest he should speak somewhat out of
season (his companion being in haste) for hard it is to know
another's mood.

Now as they began to draw nigh, the dogs from afar were instantly
aware of them, both by the scent, and by the sound of footsteps, and,
yelling furiously, they charged from all sides against Heracles, son
of Amphitryon, while with faint yelping, on the other side, they
greeted the old man, and fawned around him.  But he just lifted
stones from the ground, {135} and scared them away, and, raising his
voice, he right roughly chid them all, and made them cease from their
yelping, being glad in his heart withal for that they guarded his
dwelling, even when he was afar.  Then thus he spake -

'Lo, what a comrade for men have the Gods, the lords of all, made in
this creature, how mindful is he!  If he had but so much wit within
him as to know against whom he should rage, and with whom he should
forbear, no beast in the world could vie with his deserts.  But now
he is something over-fierce and blindly furious.'

So he spake, and they hastened, and came even to that dwelling
whither they were faring.

Now Helios had turned his steeds to the west, bringing the late day,
and the fatted sheep came up from the pastures to the pens and folds.
Next thereafter the kine approaching, ten thousand upon ten thousand,
showed for multitude even like the watery clouds that roll forward in
heaven under the stress of the South Wind, or the Thracian North (and
countless are they, and ceaseless in their airy passage, for the
wind's might rolls up the rear as numerous as the van, and hosts upon
hosts again are moving in infinite array), even so many did herds
upon herds of kine move ever forwards.  And, lo, the whole plain was
filled, and all the ways, as the cattle fared onwards, and the rich
fields could not contain their lowing, and the stalls were lightly
filled with kine of trailing feet, and the sheep were being penned in
the folds.

There no man, for lack of labour, stood idle by the cattle, though
countless men were there, but one was fastening guards of wood, with
shapely thongs, about the feet of the kine, that he might draw near
and stand by, and milk them.  And another beneath their mothers kind
was placing the calves right eager to drink of the sweet milk.  Yet
another held a milking pail, while his fellow was fixing the rich
cheese, and another led in the bulls apart from the cows.  Meanwhile
Augeas was going round all the stalls, and marking the care his
herdsmen bestowed upon all that was his.  And the king's son, and the
mighty, deep-pondering Heracles, went along with the king, as he
passed through his great possessions.  Then though he bore a stout
spirit in his heart, and a mind stablished always imperturbable, yet
the son of Amphitryon still marvelled out of measure, as he beheld
these countless troops of cattle.  Yea none would have deemed or
believed that the substance of one man could be so vast, nay, nor ten
men's wealth, were they the richest in sheep of all the kings in the
world.  But Helios to his son gave this gift pre-eminent, namely to
abound in flocks far above all other men, and Helios himself did ever
and always give increase to the cattle, for upon his herds came no
disease, of them that always minish the herdman's toil.  But always
more in number waxed the horned kine, and goodlier, year by year, for
verily they all brought forth exceeding abundantly, and never cast
their young, and chiefly bare heifers.

With the kine went continually three hundred bulls, white-shanked,
and curved of horn,--and two hundred others, red cattle,--and all
these already were of an age to mate with the kine.  Other twelve
bulls, again, besides these, went together in a herd, being sacred to
Helios.  They were white as swans, and shone among all the herds of
trailing gait.  And these disdaining the herds grazed still on the
rich herbage in the pastures, and they were exceeding high of heart.
And whensoever the swift wild beasts came down from the rough oakwood
to the plain, to seek the wilder cattle, afield went these bulls
first to the fight, at the smell of the savour of the beasts,
bellowing fearfully, and glancing slaughter from their brows.

Among these bulls was one pre-eminent for strength and might, and for
reckless pride, even the mighty Phaethon, that all the herdsmen still
likened to a star, because he always shone so bright when he went
among the other cattle, and was right easy to be discerned.  Now when
this bull beheld the dried skin of the fierce-faced lion, he rushed
against the keen-eyed Heracles himself, to dash his head and stalwart
front against the sides of the hero.  Even as he charged, the prince
forthwith grasped him with strong hand by the left horn, and bowed
his neck down to the ground, puissant as he was, and, with the weight
of his shoulder, crushed him backwards, while clear stood out the
strained muscle over the sinews on the hero's upper arm.  Then
marvelled the king himself, and his son, the warlike Phyleus, and the
herdsmen that were set over the horned kine,--when they beheld the
exceeding strength of the son of Amphitryon.

Now these twain, even Phyleus and mighty Heracles, left the fat
fields there, and were making for the city.  But just where they
entered on the highway, after quickly speeding over the narrow path
that stretched through the vineyard from the farmhouses, a dim path
through the green wood, thereby the dear son of Augeas bespake the
child of supreme Zeus, who was behind him, slightly turning his head
over his right shoulder,

'Stranger, long time ago I heard a tale, which, as of late I guess,
surely concerneth thee.  For there came hither, in his wayfaring out
of Argos, a certain young Achaean, from Helice, by the seashore, who
verily told a tale and that among many Epeians here,--how, even in
his presence, a certain Argive slew a wild beast, a lion dread, a
curse of evil omen to the country folk.  The monster had its hollow
lair by the grove of Nemean Zeus, but as for him that slew it, I know
not surely whether he was a man of sacred Argos, there, or a dweller
in Tiryns city, or in Mycenae, as he that told the tale declared.  By
birth, howbeit, he said (if rightly, I recall it) that the hero was
descended from Perseus.  Methinks that none of the Aegialeis had the
hardihood for this deed save thyself; nay, the hide of the beast that
covers thy sides doth clearly proclaim the mighty deed of thy hands.
But come now, hero, tell thou me first, that truly I may know,
whether my foreboding be right or wrong,--if thou art that man of
whom the Achaean from Helice spake in our hearing, and if I read thee
aright.  Tell me how single-handed thou didst slay this ruinous pest,
and how it came to the well-watered ground of Nemea, for not in Apis
couldst thou find,--not though thou soughtest after it,--so great a
monster.  For the country feeds no such large game, but bears, and
boars, and the pestilent race of wolves.  Wherefore all were in amaze
that listened to the story, and there were some who said that the
traveller was lying, and pleasing them that stood by with the words
of an idle tongue.'

Thus Phyleus spake, and stepped out of the middle of the road, that
there might be space for both to walk abreast, and that so he might
hear the more easily the words of Heracles who now came abreast with
him, and spake thus,

'O son of Augeas, concerning that whereof thou first didst ask me,
thyself most easily hast discerned it aright.  Nay then, about this
monster I will tell thee all, even how all was done,--since thou art
eager to hear,--save, indeed, as to whence he came, for, many as the
Argives be, not one can tell that clearly.  Only we guess that some
one of the Immortals, in wrath for sacrifice unoffered, sent this
bane against the children of Phoroneus.  For over all the men of Pisa
the lion swept, like a flood, and still ravaged insatiate, and
chiefly spoiled the Bembinaeans, that were his neighbours, and
endured things intolerable.

'Now this labour did Eurystheus enjoin on me to fulfil the first of
all, and bade me slay the dreadful monster.  So I took my supple bow,
and hollow quiver full of arrows, and set forth; and in my other hand
I held my stout club, well balanced, and wrought, with unstripped
bark, from a shady wild olive-tree, that I myself had found, under
sacred Helicon, and dragged up the whole tree, with the bushy roots.
But when I came to the place whereby the lion abode, even then I
grasped my bow and slipped the string up to the curved tip, and
straightway laid thereon the bitter arrow.  Then I cast my eyes on
every side, spying for the baneful monster, if perchance I might see
him, or ever he saw me.  It was now midday, and nowhere might I
discern the tracks of the monster, nor hear his roaring.  Nay, nor
was there one man to be seen with the cattle, and the tillage through
all the furrowed lea, of whom I might inquire, but wan fear still
held them all within the homesteads.  Yet I stayed not in my going,
as I quested through the deep-wooded hill, till I beheld him, and
instantly essayed my prowess.  Now early in the evening he was making
for his lair, full fed with blood and flesh, and all his bristling
mane was dashed with carnage, and his fierce face, and his breast,
and still with his tongue he kept licking his bearded chin.  Then
instantly I hid me in the dark undergrowth, on the wooded hill,
awaiting his approach, and as he came nearer I smote him on the left
flank, but all in vain, for naught did the sharp arrow pierce through
his flesh, but leaped back, and fell on the green grass.  Then
quickly he raised his tawny head from the ground, in amaze, glancing
all around with his eyes, and with jaws distent he showed his
ravenous teeth.  Then I launched against him another shaft from the
string, in wrath that the former flew vainly from my hand, and I
smote him right in the middle of the breast, where the lung is
seated, yet not even so did the cruel arrow sink into his hide, but
fell before his feet, in vain, to no avail.  Then for the third time
was I making ready to draw my bow again, in great shame and wrath,
but the furious beast glanced his eyes around, and spied me.  With
his long tail he lashed his flanks, and straightway bethought him of
battle.  His neck was clothed with wrath, and his tawny hair bristled
round his lowering brow, and his spine was curved like a bow, his
whole force being gathered up from under towards his flanks and
loins.  And as when a wainwright, one skilled in many an art, doth
bend the saplings of seasoned fig-tree, having first tempered them in
the fire, to make tires for the axles of his chariot, and even then
the fig-tree wood is like to leap from his hands in the bending, and
springs far away at a single bound, even so the dread lion leaped on
me from afar, huddled in a heap, and keen to glut him with my flesh.
Then with one hand I thrust in front of me my arrows, and the double
folded cloak from my shoulder, and with the other raised the seasoned
club above my head, and drove at his crest, and even on the shaggy
scalp of the insatiate beast brake my grievous cudgel of wild olive-
tree.  Then or ever he reached me, he fell from his flight, on to the
ground, and stood on trembling feet, with wagging head, for darkness
gathered about both his eyes, his brain being shaken in his skull
with the violence of the blow.  Then when I marked how he was
distraught with the grievous torment, or ever he could turn and gain
breath again, I fell on him, and seized him by the column of his
stubborn neck.  To earth I cast my bow, and woven quiver, and
strangled him with all my force, gripping him with stubborn clasp
from the rear, lest he should rend my flesh with his claws, and I
sprang on him and kept firmly treading his hind feet into the soil
with my heels, while I used his sides to guard my thighs, till I had
strained his shoulders utterly, then lifted him up, all breathless,--
and Hell took his monstrous life.

'And then at last I took thought how I should strip the rough hide
from the dead beast's limbs, a right hard labour, for it might not be
cut with steel, when I tried, nor stone, nor with aught else. {143}
Thereon one of the Immortals put into my mind the thought to cleave
the lion's hide with his own claws.  With these I speedily flayed it
off, and cast it about my limbs, for my defence against the brunt of
wounding war.

'Friend, lo even thus befel the slaying of the Nemean Lion, that
aforetime had brought many a bane on flocks and men.'


This idyl narrates the murder of Pentheus, who was torn to pieces
(after the Dionysiac Ritual) by his mother, Agave, and other Theban
women, for having watched the celebration of the mysteries of
Dionysus.  It is still dangerous for an Australian native to approach
the women of the tribe while they are celebrating their savage rites.
The conservatism of Greek religion is well illustrated by
Theocritus's apology for the truly savage revenge commemorated in the
old Theban legend.

Ino, and Autonoe, and Agave of the apple cheeks,--three bands of
Maenads to the mountain-side they led, these ladies three.  They
stripped the wild leaves of a rugged oak, and fresh ivy, and asphodel
of the upper earth, and in an open meadow they built twelve altars;
for Semele three, and nine for Dionysus.  The mystic cakes {144} from
the mystic chest they had taken in their hands, and in silence had
laid them on the altars of new-stripped boughs; so Dionysus ever
taught the rite, and herewith was he wont to be well pleased.

Now Pentheus from a lofty cliff was watching all, deep hidden in an
ancient lentisk hush, a plant of that land.  Autonoe first beheld
him, and shrieked a dreadful yell, and, rushing suddenly, with her
feet dashed all confused the mystic things of Bacchus the wild.  For
these are things unbeholden of men profane.  Frenzied was she, and
then forthwith the others too were frenzied.  Then Pentheus fled in
fear, and they pursued after him, with raiment kirtled through the
belt above the knee.

This much said Pentheus, 'Women, what would ye?' and thus answered
Autonoe, 'That shalt thou straightway know, ere thou hast heard it.'

The mother seized her child's head, and cried loud, as is the cry of
a lioness over her cubs, while Ino, for her part, set her heel on the
body, and brake asunder the broad shoulder, shoulder-blade and all,
and in the same strain wrought Autonoe.  The other women tore the
remnants piecemeal, and to Thebes they came, all bedabbled with
blood, from the mountains bearing not Pentheus but repentance. {145}

I care for none of these things, nay, nor let another take thought to
make himself the foe of Dionysus, not though one should suffer yet
greater torments than these,--being but a child of nine years old or
entering, perchance, on his tenth year.  For me, may I be pure and
holy, and find favour in the eyes of the pure!

From aegis-bearing Zeus hath this augury all honour, 'to the children
of the godly the better fortune, but evil befall the offspring of the

'Hail to Dionysus, whom Zeus supreme brought forth in snowy Dracanus,
when he had unburdened his mighty thigh, and hail to beautiful
Semele:  and to her sisters,--Cadmeian ladies honoured of all
daughters of heroes,--who did this deed at the behest of Dionysus, a
deed not to be blamed; let no man blame the actions of the gods.'


The authenticity of this idyl has been denied, partly because the
Daphnis of the poem is not identical in character with the Daphnis of
the first idyl.  But the piece is certainly worthy of a place beside
the work of Theocritus.  The dialogue is here arranged as in the text
of Fritzsche.

The Maiden.  Helen the wise did Paris, another neatherd, ravish!

Daphnis.  'Tis rather this Helen that kisses her shepherd, even me!

The Maiden.  Boast not, little satyr, for kisses they call an empty

Daphnis.  Nay, even in empty kisses there is a sweet delight.

The Maiden.  I wash my lips, I blow away from me thy kisses!

Daphnis.  Dost thou wash thy lips?  Then give me them again to kiss!

The Maiden.  'Tis for thee to caress thy kine, not a maiden unwed.

Daphnis.  Boast not, for swiftly thy youth flits by thee, like a

The Maiden.  The grapes turn to raisins, not wholly will the dry rose

Daphnis.  Come hither, beneath the wild olives, that I may tell thee
a tale.

The Maiden.  I will not come; ay, ere now with a sweet tale didst
thou beguile me.

Daphnis.  Come hither, beneath the elms, to listen to my pipe!

The Maiden.  Nay, please thyself, no woful tune delights me.

Daphnis.  Ah maiden, see that thou too shun the anger of the Paphian.

The Maiden.  Good-bye to the Paphian, let Artemis only be friendly!

Daphnis.  Say not so, lest she smite thee, and thou fall into a trap
whence there is no escape.

The Maiden.  Let her smite an she will; Artemis again would be my
defender.  Lay no hand on me; nay, if thou do more, and touch me with
thy lips, I will bite thee. {148}

Daphnis.  From Love thou dost not flee, whom never yet maiden fled.

The Maiden.  Escape him, by Pan, I do, but thou dost ever bear his

Daphnis.  This is ever my fear lest he even give thee to a meaner

The Maiden.  Many have been my wooers, but none has won my heart.

Daphnis.  Yea I, out of many chosen, come here thy wooer.

The Maiden.  Dear love, what can I do?  Marriage has much annoy.

Daphnis.  Nor pain nor sorrow has marriage, but mirth and dancing.

The Maiden.  Ay, but they say that women dread their lords.

Daphnis.  Nay, rather they always rule them,--whom do women fear?

The Maiden.  Travail I dread, and sharp is the shaft of Eilithyia.

Daphnis.  But thy queen is Artemis, that lightens labour.

The Maiden.  But I fear childbirth, lest, perchance, I lose my

Daphnis.  Nay, if thou bearest dear children thou wilt see the light
revive in thy sons.

The Maiden.  And what wedding gift dost thou bring me if I consent?

Daphnis.  My whole flock, all my groves, and all my pasture land
shall be thine.

The Maiden.  Swear that thou wilt not win me, and then depart and
leave me forlorn.

Daphnis.  So help me Pan I would not leave thee, didst thou even
choose to banish me!

The Maiden.  Dost thou build me bowers, and a house, and folds for

Daphnis.  Yea, bowers I build thee, the flocks I tend are fair.

The Maiden.  But to my grey old father, what tale, ah what, shall I

Daphnis.  He will approve thy wedlock when he has heard my name.

The Maiden.  Prithee, tell me that name of thine; in a name there is
often delight.

Daphnis.  Daphnis am I, Lycidas is my father, and Nomaea is my

The Maiden.  Thou comest of men well-born, but there I am thy match.

Daphnis.  I know it, thou art of high degree, for thy father is
Menalcas. {150a}

The Maiden.  Show me thy grove, wherein is thy cattle-stall.

Daphnis.  See here, how they bloom, my slender cypress-trees.

The Maiden.  Graze on, my goats, I go to learn the herdsman's

Daphnis.  Feed fair, my bulls, while I show my woodlands to my lady!

The Maiden.  What dost thou, little satyr; why dost thou touch my

Daphnis.  I will show thee that these earliset apples are ripe.

The Maiden.  By Pan, I swoon; away, take back thy hand.

Daphnis.  Courage, dear girl, why fearest thou me, thou art over

The Maiden.  Thou makest me lie down by the water-course, defiling my
fair raiment!

Daphnis.  Nay, see, 'neath thy raiment fair I am throwing this soft

The Maiden.  Ah, ah, thou hast snatched my girdle too; why hast thou
loosed my girdle?

Daphnis.  These first-fruits I offer, a gift to the Paphian.

The Maiden.  Stay, wretch, hark; surely a stranger cometh; nay, I
hear a sound.

Daphnis.  The cypresses do but whisper to each other of thy wedding.

The Maiden.  Thou hast torn my mantle, and unclad am I.

Daphnis.  Another mantle I will give thee, and an ampler far than

The Maiden.  Thou dost promise all things, but soon thou wilt not
give me even a grain of salt.

Daphnis.  Ah, would that I could give thee my very life.

The Maiden.  Artemis, be not wrathful, thy votary breaks her vow.

Daphnis.  I will slay a calf for Love, and for Aphrodite herself a

The Maiden.  A maiden I came hither, a woman shall I go homeward.

Daphnis.  Nay, a wife and a mother of children shalt thou be, no more
a maiden.

So, each to each, in the joy of their young fresh limbs they were
murmuring:  it was the hour of secret love.  Then she arose, and
stole to herd her sheep; with shamefast eyes she went, but her heart
was comforted within her.  And he went to his herds of kine,
rejoicing in his wedlock.


This little piece of Aeolic verse accompanied the present of a
distaff which Theocritus brought from Syracuse to Theugenis, the wife
of his friend Nicias, the physician of Miletus.  On the margin of a
translation by Longepierre (the famous book-collector), Louis XIV
wrote that this idyl is a model of honourable gallantry.

O distaff, thou friend of them that spin, gift of grey-eyed Athene to
dames whose hearts are set on housewifery; come, boldly come with me
to the bright city of Neleus, where the shrine of the Cyprian is
green 'neath its roof of delicate rushes.  Thither I pray that we may
win fair voyage and favourable breeze from Zeus, that so I may
gladden mine eyes with the sight of Nicias my friend, and be greeted
of him in turn;--a sacred scion is he of the sweet-voiced Graces.
And thee, distaff, thou child of fair carven ivory, I will give into
the hands of the wife of Nicias:  with her shalt thou fashion many a
thing, garments for men, and much rippling raiment that women wear.
For the mothers of lambs in the meadows might twice be shorn of their
wool in the year, with her goodwill, the dainty-ankled Theugenis, so
notable is she, and cares for all things that wise matrons love.

Nay, not to houses slatternly or idle would I have given thee,
distaff, seeing that thou art a countryman of mine.  For that is thy
native city which Archias out of Ephyre founded, long ago, the very
marrow of the isle of the three capes, a town of honourable men.
{153}  But now shalt thou abide in the house of a wise physician, who
has learned all the spells that ward off sore maladies from men, and
thou shalt dwell in glad Miletus with the Ionian people, to this
end,--that of all the townsfolk Theugenis may have the goodliest
distaff and that thou mayst keep her ever mindful of her friend, the
lover of song.

This proverb will each man utter that looks on thee, 'Surely great
grace goes with a little gift, and all the offerings of friends are


This poem, like the preceding one, is written in the Aeolic dialect.
The first line is quoted from Alcaeus.  The idyl is attributed to
Theocritus on the evidence of the scholiast on the Symposium of

'Wine and truth,' dear child, says the proverb, and in wine are we,
and the truth we must tell.  Yes, I will say to thee all that lies in
my soul's inmost chamber.  Thou dost not care to love me with thy
whole heart!  I know, for I live half my life in the sight of thy
beauty, but all the rest is ruined.  When thou art kind, my day is
like the days of the Blessed, but when thou art unkind, 'tis deep in
darkness.  How can it be right thus to torment thy friend?  Nay, if
thou wilt listen at all, child, to me, that am thine elder, happier
thereby wilt thou be, and some day thou wilt thank me.  Build one
nest in one tree, where no fierce snake can come; for now thou dost
perch on one branch to-day, and on another to-morrow, always seeking
what is new.  And if a stranger see and praise thy pretty face,
instantly to him thou art more than a friend of three years'
standing, while him that loved thee first thou holdest no higher than
a friend of three days.  Thou savourest, methinks, of the love of
some great one; nay, choose rather all thy life ever to keep the love
of one that is thy peer.  If this thou dost thou wilt be well spoken
of by thy townsmen, and Love will never be hard to thee, Love that
lightly vanquishes the minds of men, and has wrought to tenderness my
heart that was of steel.  Nay, by thy delicate mouth I approach and
beseech thee, remember that thou wert younger yesteryear, and that we
wax grey and wrinkled, or ever we can avert it; and none may
recapture his youth again, for the shoulders of youth are winged, and
we are all too slow to catch such flying pinions.

Mindful of this thou shouldst be gentler, and love me without guile
as I love thee, so that, when thou hast a manly beard, we may be such
friends as were Achilles and Patroclus!

But, if thou dost cast all I say to the winds to waft afar, and cry,
in anger, 'Why, why, dost thou torment me?' then I,--that now for thy
sake would go to fetch the golden apples, or to bring thee Cerberus,
the watcher of the dead,--would not go forth, didst thou stand at the
court-doors and call me.  I should have rest from my cruel love.


Athenaeus (vii. 284 A) quotes this fragment, which probably was part
of a panegyric on Berenice, the mother of Ptolemy Philadelphus.

And if any man that hath his livelihood from the salt sea, and whose
nets serve him for ploughs, prays for wealth, and luck in fishing,
let him sacrifice, at midnight, to this goddess, the sacred fish that
they call 'silver white,' for that it is brightest of sheen of all,--
then let the fisher set his nets, and he shall draw them full from
the sea.


This idyl is usually printed with the poems of Theocritus, but almost
certainly is by another hand.  I have therefore ventured to imitate
the metre of the original.

When Cypris saw Adonis,
In death already lying
With all his locks dishevelled,
And cheeks turned wan and ghastly,
She bade the Loves attendant
To bring the boar before her.

And lo, the winged ones, fleetly
They scoured through all the wild wood;
The wretched boar they tracked him,
And bound and doubly bound him.
One fixed on him a halter,
And dragged him on, a captive,
Another drave him onward,
And smote him with his arrows.
But terror-struck the beast came,
For much he feared Cythere.
To him spake Aphrodite, -
'Of wild beasts all the vilest,
This thigh, by thee was 't wounded?
Was 't thou that smote my lover?'
To her the beast made answer -
'I swear to thee, Cythere,
By thee, and by thy lover,
Yea, and by these my fetters,
And them that do pursue me, -
Thy lord, thy lovely lover
I never willed to wound him;
I saw him, like a statue,
And could not bide the burning,
Nay, for his thigh was naked,
And mad was I to kiss it,
And thus my tusk it harmed him.
Take these my tusks, O Cypris,
And break them, and chastise them,
For wherefore should I wear them,
These passionate defences?
If this doth not suffice thee,
Then cut my lips out also,
Why dared they try to kiss him?'

Then Cypris had compassion;
She bade the Loves attendant
To loose the bonds that bound him.
From that day her he follows,
And flees not to the wild wood
But joins the Loves, and always
He bears Love's flame unflinching.


The Epigrams of Theocritus are, for the most part, either
inscriptions for tombs or cenotaphs, or for the pedestals of statues,
or (as the third epigram) are short occasional pieces.  Several of
them are but doubtfully ascribed to the poet of the Idyls.  The Greek
has little but brevity in common with the modern epigram.

I--For a rustic Altar.

These dew-drenched roses and that tufted thyme are offered to the
ladies of Helicon.  And the dark-leaved laurels are thine, O Pythian
Paean, since the rock of Delphi bare this leafage to thine honour.
The altar this white-horned goat shall stain with blood, this goat
that browses on the tips of the terebinth boughs.

II--For a Herdsman's Offering.

Daphnis, the white-limbed Daphnis, that pipes on his fair flute the
pastoral strains offered to Pan these gifts,--his pierced reed-pipes,
his crook, a javelin keen, a fawn-skin, and the scrip wherein he was
wont, on a time, to carry the apples of Love.

III--For a Picture.

Thou sleepest on the leaf-strewn ground, O Daphnis, resting thy weary
limbs, and the stakes of thy nets are newly fastened on the hills.
But Pan is on thy track, and Priapus, with the golden ivy wreath
twined round his winsome head,--both are leaping at one bound into
thy cavern.  Nay, flee them, flee, shake off thy slumber, shake off
the heavy sleep that is falling upon thee.


When thou hast turned yonder lane, goatherd, where the oak-trees are,
thou wilt find an image of fig-tree wood, newly carven; three-legged
it is, the bark still covers it, and it is earless withal, yet meet
for the arts of Cypris.  A right holy precinct runs round it, and a
ceaseless stream that falleth from the rocks on every side is green
with laurels, and myrtles, and fragrant cypress.  And all around the
place that child of the grape, the vine, doth flourish with its
tendrils, and the merles in spring with their sweet songs utter their
wood-notes wild, and the brown nightingales reply with their
complaints, pouring from their bills the honey-sweet song.  There,
prithee, sit down and pray to gracious Priapus, that I may be
delivered from my love of Daphnis, and say that instantly thereon I
will sacrifice a fair kid.  But if he refuse, ah then, should I win
Daphnis's love, I would fain sacrifice three victims,--and offer a
calf, a shaggy he-goat, and a lamb that I keep in the stall, and oh
that graciously the god may hear my prayer.

V--The rural Concert.

Ah, in the Muses' name, wilt thou play me some sweet air on the
double flute, and I will take up the harp, and touch a note, and the
neatherd Daphnis will charm us the while, breathing music into his
wax-bound pipe.  And beside this rugged oak behind the cave will we
stand, and rob the goat-foot Pan of his repose.

VI--The Dead are beyond hope.

Ah hapless Thyrsis, where is thy gain, shouldst thou lament till thy
two eyes are consumed with tears?  She has passed away,--the kid, the
youngling beautiful,--she has passed away to Hades.  Yea, the jaws of
the fierce wolf have closed on her, and now the hounds are baying,
but what avail they when nor bone nor cinder is left of her that is

VII--For a statue of Asclepius.

Even to Miletus he hath come, the son of Paeon, to dwell with one
that is a healer of all sickness, with Nicias, who even approaches
him day by day with sacrifices, and hath let carve this statue out of
fragrant cedar-wood; and to Eetion he promised a high guerdon for his
skill of hand:  on this work Eetion has put forth all his craft.

VIII--Orthon's Grave.

Stranger, the Syracusan Orthon lays this behest on thee; go never
abroad in thy cups on a night of storm.  For thus did I come by my
end, and far from my rich fatherland I lie, clothed on with alien

IX--The Death of Cleonicus.

Man, husband thy life, nor go voyaging out of season, for brief are
the days of men!  Unhappy Cleonicus, thou wert eager to win rich
Thasus, from Coelo-Syria sailing with thy merchandise,--with thy
merchandise, O Cleonicus, at the setting of the Pleiades didst thou
cross the sea,--and didst sink with the sinking Pleiades!

X--A Group of the Muses.

For your delight, all ye Goddesses Nine, did Xenocles offer this
statue of marble, Xenocles that hath music in his soul, as none will
deny.  And inasmuch as for his skill in this art he wins renown, he
forgets not to give their due to the Muses.

XI--The Grave of Eusthenes.

This is the memorial stone of Eusthenes, the sage; a physiognomist
was he, and skilled to read the very spirit in the eyes.  Nobly have
his friends buried him--a stranger in a strange land--and most dear
was he, yea, to the makers of song.  All his dues in death has the
sage, and, though he was no great one, 'tis plain he had friends to
care for him.

XII--The Offering of Demoteles.

'Twas Demoteles the choregus, O Dionysus, who dedicated this tripod,
and this statue of thee, the dearest of the blessed gods.  No great
fame he won when he gave a chorus of boys, but with a chorus of men
he bore off the victory, for he knew what was fair and what was

XIII--For a statue of Aphrodite.

This is Cypris,--not she of the people; nay, venerate the goddess by
her name--the Heavenly Aphrodite.  The statue is the offering of
chaste Chrysogone, even in the house of Amphicles, whose children and
whose life were hers!  And always year by year went well with them,
who began each year with thy worship, Lady, for mortals who care for
the Immortals have themselves thereby the better fortune.

XIV--The Grave of Euryrnedon.

An infant son didst thou leave behind, and in the flower of thine own
age didst die, Eurymedon, and win this tomb.  For thee a throne is
set among men made perfect, but thy son the citizens will hold in
honour, remembering the excellence of his father.

XV--The Grave of Eurymedon.

Wayfarer, I shall know whether thou dost reverence the good, or
whether the coward is held by thee in the same esteem.  'Hail to this
tomb,' thou wilt say, for light it lies above the holy head of

XVI--For a statue of Anacreon.

Mark well this statue, stranger, and say, when thou hast returned to
thy home, 'In Teos I beheld the statue of Anacreon, who surely
excelled all the singers of times past.'  And if thou dost add that
he delighted in the young, thou wilt truly paint all the man.

XVII--For a statue of Epicharmus.

Dorian is the strain, and Dorian the man we sing; he that first
devised Comedy, even Epicharmus.  O Bacchus, here in bronze (as the
man is now no more) they have erected his statue, the colonists {165}
that dwell in Syracuse, to the honour of one that was their fellow-
citizen.  Yea, for a gift he gave, wherefore we should be mindful
thereof and pay him what wage we may, for many maxims he spoke that
were serviceable to the life of all men.  Great thanks be his.

XVIII--The Grave of Cleita.

The little Medeus has raised this tomb by the wayside to the memory
of his Thracian nurse, and has added the inscription -


The woman will have this recompense for all her careful nurture of
the boy,--and why?--because she was serviceable even to the end.

XIX--The statue of Archilochus.

Stay, and behold Archilochus, him of old time, the maker of iambics,
whose myriad fame has passed westward, alike, and towards the dawning
day.  Surely the Muses loved him, yea, and the Delian Apollo, so
practised and so skilled he grew in forging song, and chanting to the

XX--The statue of Pisander.

This man, behold, Pisander of Corinth, of all the ancient makers was
the first who wrote of the son of Zeus, the lion-slayer, the ready of
hand, and spake of all the adventures that with toil he achieved.
Know this therefore, that the people set him here, a statue of
bronze, when many months had gone by and many years.

XXI--The Grave of Hipponax.

Here lies the poet Hipponax!  If thou art a sinner draw not near this
tomb, but if thou art a true man, and the son of righteous sires, sit
boldly down here, yea, and sleep if thou wilt.

XXII--For the Bank of Caicus.

To citizens and strangers alike this counter deals justice.  If thou
hast deposited aught, draw out thy money when the balance-sheet is
cast up.  Let others make false excuse, but Caicus tells back money
lent, ay, even if one wish it after nightfall.

XXIII--On his own Poems. {167}

The Chian is another man, but I, Theocritus, who wrote these songs,
am a Syracusan, a man of the people, being the son of Praxagoras and
renowned Philinna.  Never laid I claim to any Muse but mine own.



Bion was born at Smyrna, one of the towns which claimed the honour of
being Homer's birthplace.  On the evidence of a detached verse (94)
of the dirge by Moschus, some have thought that Theocritus survived
Bion.  In that case Theocritus must have been a preternaturally aged
man.  The same dirge tells us that Bion was poisoned by certain
enemies, and that while he left to others his wealth, to Moschus he
left his minstrelsy.


This poem was probably intended to be sung at one of the spring
celebrations of the festival of Adonis, like that described by
Theocritus in his fifteenth idyl.

Woe, woe for Adonis, he hath perished, the beauteous Adonis, dead is
the beauteous Adonis, the Loves join in the lament.  No more in thy
purple raiment, Cypris, do thou sleep; arise, thou wretched one,
sable-stoled, and beat thy breasts, and say to all, 'He hath
perished, the lovely Adonis!'

Woe, woe for Adonis, the Loves join in the lament!

Low on the hills is lying the lovely Adonis, and his thigh with the
boar's tusk, his white thigh with the boar's tusk is wounded, and
sorrow on Cypris he brings, as softly he breathes his life away.

His dark blood drips down his skin of snow, beneath his brows his
eyes wax heavy and dim, and the rose flees from his lip, and thereon
the very kiss is dying, the kiss that Cypris will never forego.

To Cypris his kiss is dear, though he lives no longer, but Adonis
knew not that she kissed him as he died.

Woe, woe for Adonis, the Loves join in the lament!

A cruel, cruel wound on his thigh hath Adonis, but a deeper wound in
her heart doth Cytherea bear.  About him his dear hounds are loudly
baying, and the nymphs of the wild wood wail him; but Aphrodite with
unbound locks through the glades goes wandering,--wretched, with hair
unbraided, with feet unsandaled, and the thorns as she passes wound
her and pluck the blossom of her sacred blood.  Shrill she wails as
down the long woodlands she is borne, lamenting her Assyrian lord,
and again calling him, and again.  But round his navel the dark blood
leapt forth, with blood from his thighs his chest was scarlet, and
beneath Adonis's breast, the spaces that afore were snow-white, were
purple with blood.

Woe, woe for Cytherea, the Loves join in the lament!

She hath lost her lovely lord, with him she hath lost her sacred
beauty.  Fair was the form of Cypris, while Adonis was living, but
her beauty has died with Adonis!  Woe, woe for Cypris, the mountains
all are saying, and the oak-trees answer, Woe for Adonis.  And the
rivers bewail the sorrows of Aphrodite, and the wells are weeping
Adonis on the mountains.  The flowers flush red for anguish, and
Cytherea through all the mountain-knees, through every dell doth
shrill the piteous dirge.

Woe, woe for Cytherea, he hath perished, the lovely Adonis!

And Echo cried in answer, He hath perished, the lovely Adonis.  Nay,
who but would have lamented the grievous love of Cypris?  When she
saw, when she marked the unstaunched wound of Adonis, when she saw
the bright red blood about his languid thigh, she cast her arms
abroad and moaned, 'Abide with me, Adonis, hapless Adonis abide, that
this last time of all I may possess thee, that I may cast myself
about thee, and lips with lips may mingle.  Awake Adonis, for a
little while, and kiss me yet again, the latest kiss!  Nay kiss me
but a moment, but the lifetime of a kiss, till from thine inmost soul
into my lips, into my heart, thy life-breath ebb, and till I drain
thy sweet love-philtre, and drink down all thy love.  This kiss will
I treasure, even as thyself; Adonis, since, ah ill-fated, thou art
fleeing me, thou art fleeing far, Adonis, and art faring to Acheron,
to that hateful king and cruel, while wretched I yet live, being a
goddess, and may not follow thee!  Persephone, take thou my lover, my
lord, for thy self art stronger than I, and all lovely things drift
down to thee.  But I am all ill-fated, inconsolable is my anguish,
and I lament mine Adonis, dead to me, and I have no rest for sorrow.

'Thou diest, O thrice-desired, and my desire hath flown away as a
dream.  Nay, widowed is Cytherea, and idle are the Loves along the
halls!  With thee has the girdle of my beauty perished.  For why, ah
overbold, didst thou follow the chase, and being so fair, why wert
thou thus overhardy to fight with beasts?'

So Cypris bewailed her, the Loves join in the lament:

Woe, woe for Cytherea, he hath perished the lovely Adonis!

A tear the Paphian sheds for each blood-drop of Adonis, and tears and
blood on the earth are turned to flowers.  The blood brings forth the
rose, the tears, the wind-flower.

Woe, woe for Adonis, he hath perished; the lovely Adonis!

No more in the oak-woods, Cypris, lament thy lord.  It is no fair
couch for Adonis, the lonely bed of leaves!  Thine own bed, Cytherea,
let him now possess,--the dead Adonis.  Ah, even in death he is
beautiful, beautiful in death, as one that hath fallen on sleep.  Now
lay him down to sleep in his own soft coverlets, wherein with thee
through the night he shared the holy slumber in a couch all of gold,
that yearns for Adonis, though sad is he to look upon.  Cast on him
garlands and blossoms:  all things have perished in his death, yea
all the flowers are faded.  Sprinkle him with ointments of Syria,
sprinkle him with unguents of myrrh.  Nay, perish all perfumes, for
Adonis, who was thy perfume, hath perished.

He reclines, the delicate Adonis, in his raiment of purple, and
around him the Loves are weeping, and groaning aloud, clipping their
locks for Adonis.  And one upon his shafts, another on his bow is
treading, and one hath loosed the sandal of Adonis, and another hath
broken his own feathered quiver, and one in a golden vessel bears
water, and another laves the wound, and another from behind him with
his wings is fanning Adonis.

Woe, woe for Cytherea, the Loves join in the lament!

Every torch on the lintels of the door has Hymenaeus quenched, and
hath torn to shreds the bridal crown, and Hymen no more, Hymen no
more is the song, but a new song is sung of wailing.

'Woe, woe for Adonis,' rather than the nuptial song the Graces are
shrilling, lamenting the son of Cinyras, and one to the other
declaring, He hath perished, the lovely Adonis.

And woe, woe for Adonis, shrilly cry the Muses, neglecting Paeon, and
they lament Adonis aloud, and songs they chant to him, but he does
not heed them, not that he is loth to hear, but that the Maiden of
Hades doth not let him go.

Cease, Cytherea, from thy lamentations, to-day refrain from thy
dirges.  Thou must again bewail him, again must weep for him another


Lycidas sings to Myrson a fragment about the loves of Achilles and

Myrson.  Wilt thou be pleased now, Lycidas, to sing me sweetly some
sweet Sicilian song, some wistful strain delectable, some lay of
love, such as the Cyclops Polyphemus sang on the sea-banks to

Lycidas.  Yes, Myrson, and I too fain would pipe, but what shall I

Myrson.  A song of Scyra, Lycidas, is my desire,--a sweet love-
story,--the stolen kisses of the son of Peleus, the stolen bed of
love how he, that was a boy, did on the weeds of women, and how he
belied his form, and how among the heedless daughters of Lycomedes,
Deidamia cherished Achilles in her bower. {176}

Lycidas.  The herdsman bore off Helen, upon a time, and carried her
to Ida, sore sorrow to OEnone.  And Lacedaemon waxed wroth, and
gathered together all the Achaean folk; there was never a Hellene,
not one of the Mycenaeans, nor any man of Elis, nor of the Laconians,
that tarried in his house, and shunned the cruel Ares.

But Achilles alone lay hid among the daughters of Lycomedes, and was
trained to work in wools, in place of arms, and in his white hand
held the bough of maidenhood, in semblance a maiden.  For he put on
women's ways, like them, and a bloom like theirs blushed on his cheek
of snow, and he walked with maiden gait, and covered his locks with
the snood.  But the heart of a man had he, and the love of a man.
From dawn to dark he would sit by Deidamia, and anon would kiss her
hand, and oft would lift the beautiful warp of her loom and praise
the sweet threads, having no such joy in any other girl of her
company.  Yea, all things he essayed, and all for one end, that they
twain might share an undivided sleep.

Now he once even spake to her, saying -

'With one another other sisters sleep, but I lie alone, and alone,
maiden, dost thou lie, both being girls unwedded of like age, both
fair, and single both in bed do we sleep.  The wicked Nysa, the
crafty nurse it is that cruelly severs me from thee.  For not of thee
have I . . . '


Cleodamus and Myrson discuss the charms of the seasons, and give the
palm to a southern spring.

Cleodamus.  Which is sweetest, to thee, Myrson, spring, or winter or
the late autumn or the summer; of which dost thou most desire the
coming?  Summer, when all are ended, the toils whereat we labour, or
the sweet autumn, when hunger weighs lightest on men, or even idle
winter, for even in winter many sit warm by the fire, and are lulled
in rest and indolence.  Or has beautiful spring more delight for
thee?  Say, which does thy heart choose?  For our leisure lends us
time to gossip.

Myrson.  It beseems not mortals to judge the works of God; for sacred
are all these things, and all are sweet, yet for thy sake I will
speak out, Cleodamus, and declare what is sweeter to me than the
rest.  I would not have summer here, for then the sun doth scorch me,
and autumn I would not choose, for the ripe fruits breed disease.
The ruinous winter, bearing snow and frost, I dread.  But spring, the
thrice desirable, be with me the whole year through, when there is
neither frost, nor is the sun so heavy upon us.  In springtime all is
fruitful, all sweet things blossom in spring, and night and dawn are
evenly meted to men.


A fowler, while yet a boy, was hunting birds in a woodland glade, and
there he saw the winged Love, perched on a box-tree bough.  And when
he beheld him, he rejoiced, so big the bird seemed to him, and he put
together all his rods at once, and lay in wait for Love, that kept
hopping, now here, now there.  And the boy, being angered that his
toil was endless, cast down his fowling gear, and went to the old
husbandman, that had taught him his art, and told him all, and showed
him Love on his perch.  But the old man, smiling, shook his head, and
answered the lad, 'Pursue this chase no longer, and go not after this
bird.  Nay, flee far from him.  'Tis an evil creature.  Thou wilt be
happy, so long as thou dost not catch him, but if thou comest to the
measure of manhood, this bird that flees thee now, and hops away,
will come uncalled, and of a sudden, and settle on thy head.'


Great Cypris stood beside me, while still I slumbered, and with her
beautiful hand she led the child Love, whose head was earthward
bowed.  This word she spake to me, 'Dear herdsman, prithee, take
Love, and teach him to sing.'  So said she, and departed, and I--my
store of pastoral song I taught to Love, in my innocence, as if he
had been fain to learn.  I taught him how the cross-flute was
invented by Pan, and the flute by Athene, and by Hermes the tortoise-
shell lyre, and the harp by sweet Apollo.  All these things I taught
him as best I might; but he, not heeding my words, himself would sing
me ditties of love, and taught me the desires of mortals and
immortals, and all the deeds of his mother.  And I clean forgot the
lore I was teaching to Love, but what Love taught me, and his love
ditties, I learned them all.


The Muses do not fear the wild Love, but heartily they cherish, and
fleetly follow him.  Yea, and if any man sing that hath a loveless
heart, him do they flee, and do not choose to teach him.  But if the
mind of any be swayed by Love, and sweetly he sings, to him the Muses
all run eagerly.  A witness hereto am I, that this saying is wholly
true, for if I sing of any other, mortal or immortal, then falters my
tongue, and sings no longer as of old, but if again to Love, and
Lycidas I sing, then gladly from my lips flows forth the voice of


I know not the way, nor is it fitting to labour at what we have not


If my ditties be fair, lo these alone will win me glory, these that
the Muse aforetime gave to me.  And if these be not sweet, what gain
is it to me to labour longer?


Ah, if a double term of life were given us by Zeus, the son of
Cronos, or by changeful Fate, ah, could we spend one life in joy and
merriment, and one in labour, then perchance a man might toil, and in
some later time might win his reward.  But if the gods have willed
that man enters into life but once (and that life brief, and too
short to hold all we desire), then, wretched men and weary that we
are, how sorely we toil, how greatly we cast our souls away on gain,
and laborious arts, continually coveting yet more wealth!  Surely we
have all forgotten that we are men condemned to die, and how short in
the hour, that to us is allotted by Fate. {181}


Happy are they that love, when with equal love they are rewarded.
Happy was Theseus, when Pirithous was by his side, yea, though he
went down to the house of implacable Hades.  Happy among hard men and
inhospitable was Orestes, for that Pylades chose to share his
wanderings.  And HE was happy, Achilles AEacides, while his darling
lived,--happy was he in his death, because he avenged the dread fate
of Patroclus.


Hesperus, golden lamp of the lovely daughter of the foam, dear
Hesperus, sacred jewel of the deep blue night, dimmer as much than
the moon, as thou art among the stars pre-eminent, hail, friend, and
as I lead the revel to the shepherd's hut, in place of the moonlight
lend me thine, for to-day the moon began her course, and too early
she sank.  I go not free-booting, nor to lie in wait for the
benighted traveller, but a lover am I, and 'tis well to favour


Mild goddess, in Cyprus born,--thou child, not of the sea, but of
Zeus,--why art thou thus vexed with mortals and immortals?  Nay, my
word is too weak, why wert thou thus bitterly wroth, yea, even with
thyself, as to bring forth Love, so mighty a bane to all,--cruel and
heartless Love, whose spirit is all unlike his beauty?  And wherefore
didst thou furnish him with wings, and give him skill to shoot so
far, that, child as he is, we never may escape the bitterness of


Mute was Phoebus in this grievous anguish.  All herbs he sought, and
strove to win some wise healing art, and he anointed all the wound
with nectar and ambrosia, but remedeless are all the wounds of Fate.


But I will go my way to yon sloping hill; by the sand and the sea-
banks murmuring my song, and praying to the cruel Galatea.  But of my
sweet hope never will I leave hold, till I reach the uttermost limit
of old age.


It is not well, my friend, to run to the craftsman, whatever may
befall, nor in every matter to need another's aid, nay, fashion a
pipe thyself, and to thee the task is easy.


May Love call to him the Muses, may the Muses bring with them Love.
Ever may the Muses give song to me that yearn for it,--sweet song,--
than song there is no sweeter charm.


The constant dropping of water, says the proverb, it wears a hole in
a stone.


Nay, leave me not unrewarded, for even Phoebus sang for his reward.
And the meed of honour betters everything.


Beauty is the glory of womankind, and strength of men.


All things, god-willing, all things may be achieved by mortals.  From
the hands of the blessed come tasks most easy, and that find their


Our only certain information about Moschus is contained in his own
Dirge for Bion.  He speaks of his verse as 'Ausonian song,' and of
himself as Mion's pupil and successor.  It is plain that he was
acquainted with the poems of Theocritus.


Cypris was raising the hue and cry for Love, her child,--'Who, where
the three ways meet, has seen Love wandering?  He is my runaway,
whosoever has aught to tell of him shall win his reward.  His prize
is the kiss of Cypris, but if thou bringest him, not the bare kiss, O
stranger, but yet more shalt thou win.  The child is most notable,
thou couldst tell him among twenty together, his skin is not white,
but flame coloured, his eyes are keen and burning, an evil heart and
a sweet tongue has he, for his speech and his mind are at variance.
Like honey is his voice, but his heart of gall, all tameless is he,
and deceitful, the truth is not in him, a wily brat, and cruel in his
pastime.  The locks of his hair are lovely, but his brow is impudent,
and tiny are his little hands, yet far he shoots his arrows, shoots
even to Acheron, and to the King of Hades.

'The body of Love is naked, but well is his spirit hidden, and winged
like a bird he flits and descends, now here, now there, upon men and
women, and nestles in their inmost hearts.  He hath a little bow, and
an arrow always on the string, tiny is the shaft, but it carries as
high as heaven.  A golden quiver on his back he bears, and within it
his bitter arrows, wherewith full many a time he wounds even me.

'Cruel are all these instruments of his, but more cruel by far the
little torch, his very own, wherewith he lights up the sun himself.

'And if thou catch Love, bind him, and bring him, and have no pity,
and if thou see him weeping, take heed lest he give thee the slip;
and if he laugh, hale him along.

'Yea, and if he wish to kiss thee, beware, for evil is his kiss, and
his lips enchanted.

'And should he say, "Take these, I give thee in free gift all my
armoury," touch not at all his treacherous gifts, for they all are
dipped in fire.'


To Europa, once on a time, a sweet dream was sent by Cypris, when the
third watch of the night sets in, and near is the dawning; when sleep
more sweet than honey rests on the eyelids, limb-loosening sleep,
that binds the eyes with his soft bond, when the flock of truthful
dreams fares wandering.

At that hour she was sleeping, beneath the roof-tree of her home,
Europa, the daughter of Phoenix, being still a maid unwed.  Then she
beheld two Continents at strife for her sake, Asia, and the farther
shore, both in the shape of women.  Of these one had the guise of a
stranger, the other of a lady of that land, and closer still she
clung about her maiden, and kept saying how 'she was her mother, and
herself had nursed Europa.'  But that other with mighty hands, and
forcefully, kept haling the maiden, nothing loth; declaring that, by
the will of AEgis-bearing Zeus, Europa was destined to be her prize.

But Europa leaped forth from her strown bed in terror, with beating
heart, in such clear vision had she beheld the dream.  Then she sat
upon her bed, and long was silent, still beholding the two women,
albeit with waking eyes; and at last the maiden raised her timorous

'Who of the gods of heaven has sent forth to me these phantoms?  What
manner of dreams have scared me when right sweetly slumbering on my
strown bed, within my bower?  Ah, and who was the alien woman that I
beheld in my sleep?  How strange a longing for her seized my heart,
yea, and how graciously she herself did welcome me, and regard me as
it had been her own child.

'Ye blessed gods, I pray you, prosper the fulfilment of the dream.'

Therewith she arose, and began to seek the dear maidens of her
company, girls of like age with herself, born in the same year,
beloved of her heart, the daughters of noble sires, with whom she was
always wont to sport, when she was arrayed for the dance, or when she
would bathe her bright body at the mouths of the rivers, or would
gather fragrant lilies on the leas.

And soon she found them, each bearing in her hand a basket to fill
with flowers, and to the meadows near the salt sea they set forth,
where always they were wont to gather in their company, delighting in
the roses, and the sound of the waves.  But Europa herself bore a
basket of gold, a marvel well worth gazing on, a choice work of
Hephaestus.  He gave it to Libya, for a bridal-gift, when she
approached the bed of the Shaker of the Earth, and Libya gave it to
beautiful Telephassa, who was of her own blood; and to Europa, still
an unwedded maid, her mother, Telephassa, gave the splendid gift.

Many bright and cunning things were wrought in the basket:  therein
was Io, daughter of Inachus, fashioned in gold; still in the shape of
a heifer she was, and had not her woman's shape, and wildly wandering
she fared upon the salt sea-ways, like one in act to swim; and the
sea was wrought in blue steel.  And aloft upon the double brow of the
shore, two men were standing together and watching the heifer's sea-
faring.  There too was Zeus, son of Cronos, lightly touching with his
divine hand the cow of the line of Inachus, and her, by Nile of the
seven streams, he was changing again, from a horned heifer to a
woman.  Silver was the stream of Nile, and the heifer of bronze and
Zeus himself was fashioned in gold.  And all about, beneath the rim
of the rounded basket, was the story of Hermes graven, and near him
lay stretched out Argus, notable for his sleepless eyes.  And from
the red blood of Argus was springing a bird that rejoiced in the
flower-bright colour of his feathers, and spreading abroad his tail,
even as some swift ship on the sea doth spread all canvas, was
covering with his plumes the lips of the golden vessel.  Even thus
was wrought the basket of the lovely Europa.

Now the girls, so soon as they were come to the flowering meadows,
took great delight in various sorts of flowers, whereof one would
pluck sweet-breathed narcissus, another the hyacinth, another the
violet, a fourth the creeping thyme, and on the ground there fell
many petals of the meadows rich with spring.  Others again were
emulously gathering the fragrant tresses of the yellow crocus; but in
the midst of them all the princess culled with her hand the splendour
of the crimson rose, and shone pre-eminent among them all like the
foam-born goddess among the Graces.  Verily she was not for long to
set her heart's delight upon the flowers, nay, nor long to keep
untouched her maiden girdle.  For of a truth, the son of Cronos, so
soon as he beheld her, was troubled, and his heart was subdued by the
sudden shafts of Cypris, who alone can conquer even Zeus.  Therefore,
both to avoid the wrath of jealous Hera, and being eager to beguile
the maiden's tender heart, he concealed his godhead, and changed his
shape, and became a bull.  Not such an one as feeds in the stall nor
such as cleaves the furrow, and drags the curved plough, nor such as
grazes on the grass, nor such a bull as is subdued beneath the yoke,
and draws the burdened wain.  Nay, but while all the rest of his body
was bright chestnut, a silver circle shone between his brows, and his
eyes gleamed softly, and ever sent forth lightning of desire.  From
his brow branched horns of even length, like the crescent of the
horned moon, when her disk is cloven in twain.  He came into the
meadow, and his coming terrified not the maidens, nay, within them
all wakened desire to draw nigh the lovely bull, and to touch him,
and his heavenly fragrance was scattered afar, exceeding even the
sweet perfume of the meadows.  And he stood before the feet of fair
Europa, and kept licking her neck, and cast his spell over the
maiden.  And she still caressed him, and gently with her hands she
wiped away the deep foam from his lips, and kissed the bull.  Then he
lowed so gently, ye would think ye heard the Mygdonian flute uttering
a dulcet sound.

He bowed himself before her feet, and, bending back his neck, he
gazed on Europa, and showed her his broad back.  Then she spake among
her deep-tressed maidens, saying -

'Come, dear playmates, maidens of like age with me, let us mount the
bull here and take our pastime, for truly, he will bear us on his
back, and carry all of us; and how mild he is, and dear, and gentle
to behold, and no whit like other bulls.  A mind as honest as a man's
possesses him, and he lacks nothing but speech.'

So she spake, and smiling, she sat down on the back of the bull, and
the others were about to follow her.  But the bull leaped up
immediately, now he had gotten her that he desired, and swiftly he
sped to the deep.  The maiden turned, and called again and again to
her dear playmates, stretching out her hands, but they could not
reach her.  The strand he gained, and forward he sped like a dolphin,
faring with unwetted hooves over the wide waves.  And the sea, as he
came, grew smooth, and the sea-monsters gambolled around, before the
feet of Zeus, and the dolphin rejoiced, and rising from the deeps, he
tumbled on the swell of the sea.  The Nereids arose out of the salt
water, and all of them came on in orderly array, riding on the backs
of sea-beasts.  And himself, the thund'rous Shaker of the World,
appeared above the sea, and made smooth the wave, and guided his
brother on the salt sea path; and round him were gathered the
Tritons, these hoarse trumpeters of the deep, blowing from their long
conches a bridal melody.

Meanwhile Europa, riding on the back of the divine bull, with one
hand clasped the beast's great horn, and with the other caught up the
purple fold of her garment, lest it might trail and be wet in the
hoar sea's infinite spray.  And her deep robe was swelled out by the
winds, like the sail of a ship, and lightly still did waft the maiden
onward.  But when she was now far off from her own country, and
neither sea-beat headland nor steep hill could now be seen, but
above, the air, and beneath, the limitless deep, timidly she looked
around, and uttered her voice, saying -

'Whither bearest thou me, bull-god?  What art thou? how dost thou
fare on thy feet through the path of the sea-beasts, nor fearest the
sea?  The sea is a path meet for swift ships that traverse the brine,
but bulls dread the salt sea-ways.  What drink is sweet to thee, what
food shalt thou find from the deep?  Nay, art thou then some god, for
godlike are these deeds of thine?  Lo, neither do dolphins of the
brine fare on land, nor bulls on the deep, but dreadless dost thou
rush o'er land and sea alike, thy hooves serving thee for oars.

'Nay, perchance thou wilt rise above the grey air, and flee on high,
like the swift birds.  Alas for me, and alas again, for mine
exceeding evil fortune, alas for me that have left my father's house,
and following this bull, on a strange sea-faring I go, and wander
lonely.  But I pray thee that rulest the grey salt sea, thou Shaker
of the Earth, propitious meet me, and methinks I see thee smoothing
this path of mine before me.  For surely it is not without a god to
aid, that I pass through these paths of the waters!'

So spake she, and the horned bull made answer to her again -

'Take courage, maiden, and dread not the swell of the deep.  Behold I
am Zeus, even I, though, closely beheld, I wear the form of a bull,
for I can put on the semblance of what thing I will.  But 'tis love
of thee that has compelled me to measure out so great a space of the
salt sea, in a bull's shape.  Lo, Crete shall presently receive thee,
Crete that was mine own foster-mother, where thy bridal chamber shall
be.  Yea, and from me shalt thou bear glorious sons, to be sceptre-
swaying kings over earthly men.

So spake he, and all he spake was fulfilled.  And verily Crete
appeared, and Zeus took his own shape again, and he loosed her
girdle, and the Hours arrayed their bridal bed.  She that before was
a maiden straightway became the bride of Zeus, and she bare children
to Zeus, yea, anon she was a mother.


Wail, let me hear you wail, ye woodland glades, and thou Dorian
water; and weep ye rivers, for Bion, the well beloved!  Now all ye
green things mourn, and now ye groves lament him, ye flowers now in
sad clusters breathe yourselves away.  Now redden ye roses in your
sorrow, and now wax red ye wind-flowers, now thou hyacinth, whisper
the letters on thee graven, and add a deeper ai ai to thy petals; he
is dead, the beautiful singer.

Begin, ye Sicilian Muses, begin the dirge.

Ye nightingales that lament among the thick leaves of the trees, tell
ye to the Sicilian waters of Arethusa the tidings that Bion the
herdsman is dead, and that with Bion song too has died, and perished
hath the Dorian minstrelsy.

Begin, ye Sicilian Muses, begin the dirge.

Ye Strymonian swans, sadly wail ye by the waters, and chant with
melancholy notes the dolorous song, even such a song as in his time
with voice like yours he was wont to sing.  And tell again to the
OEagrian maidens, tell to all the Nymphs Bistonian, how that he hath
perished, the Dorian Orpheus.

Begin, ye Sicilian Muses, begin the dirge.

No more to his herds he sings, that beloved herdsman, no more 'neath
the lonely oaks he sits and sings, nay, but by Pluteus's side he
chants a refrain of oblivion.  The mountains too are voiceless:  and
the heifers that wander by the bulls lament and refuse their pasture.

Begin, ye Sicilian Muses, begin the dirge.

Thy sudden doom, O Bion, Apollo himself lamented, and the Satyrs
mourned thee, and the Priapi in sable raiment, and the Panes sorrow
for thy song, and the fountain fairies in the wood made moan, and
their tears turned to rivers of waters.  And Echo in the rocks
laments that thou art silent, and no more she mimics thy voice.  And
in sorrow for thy fall the trees cast down their fruit, and all the
flowers have faded.  From the ewes hath flowed no fair milk, nor
honey from the hives, nay, it hath perished for mere sorrow in the
wax, for now hath thy honey perished, and no more it behoves men to
gather the honey of the bees.

Begin, ye Sicilian Muses, begin the dirge.

Not so much did the dolphin mourn beside the sea-banks, nor ever sang
so sweet the nightingale on the cliffs, nor so much lamented the
swallow on the long ranges of the hills, nor shrilled so loud the
halcyon o'er his sorrows;

(Begin, ye Sicilian Muses, begin the dirge.)

Nor so much, by the grey sea-waves, did ever the sea-bird sing, nor
so much in the dells of dawn did the bird of Memnon bewail the son of
the Morning, fluttering around his tomb, as they lamented for Bion

Nightingales, and all the swallows that once he was wont to delight,
that he would teach to speak, they sat over against each other on the
boughs and kept moaning, and the birds sang in answer, 'Wail, ye
wretched ones, even ye!'

Begin, ye Sicilian Muses, begin the dirge.

Who, ah who will ever make music on thy pipe, O thrice desired Bion,
and who will put his mouth to the reeds of thine instrument? who is
so bold?

For still thy lips and still thy breath survive, and Echo, among the
reeds, doth still feed upon thy songs.  To Pan shall I bear the pipe?
Nay, perchance even he would fear to set his mouth to it, lest, after
thee, he should win but the second prize.

Begin, ye Sicilian Muses, begin the dirge.

Yea, and Galatea laments thy song, she whom once thou wouldst
delight, as with thee she sat by the sea-banks.  For not like the
Cyclops didst thou sing--him fair Galatea ever fled, but on thee she
still looked more kindly than on the salt water.  And now hath she
forgotten the wave, and sits on the lonely sands, but still she keeps
thy kine.

Begin, ye Sicilian Muses, begin the dirge.

All the gifts of the Muses, herdsman, have died with thee, the
delightful kisses of maidens, the lips of boys; and woful round thy
tomb the loves are weeping.  But Cypris loves thee far more than the
kiss wherewith she kissed the dying Adonis.

Begin, ye Sicilian Muses, begin the dirge.

This, O most musical of rivers, is thy second sorrow, this, Meles,
thy new woe.  Of old didst thou lose Homer, that sweet mouth of
Calliope, and men say thou didst bewail thy goodly son with streams
of many tears, and didst fill all the salt sea with the voice of thy
lamentation--now again another son thou weepest, and in a new sorrow
art thou wasting away.

Begin, ye Sicilian Muses, begin the dirge.

Both were beloved of the fountains, and one ever drank of the
Pegasean fount, but the other would drain a draught of Arethusa.  And
the one sang the fair daughter of Tyndarus, and the mighty son of
Thetis, and Menelaus Atreus's son, but that other,--not of wars, not
of tears, but of Pan, would he sing, and of herdsmen would he chant,
and so singing, he tended the herds.  And pipes he would fashion, and
would milk the sweet heifer, and taught lads how to kiss, and Love he
cherished in his bosom and woke the passion of Aphrodite.

Begin, ye Sicilian Muses, begin the dirge.

Every famous city laments thee, Bion, and all the towns.  Ascra
laments thee far more than her Hesiod, and Pindar is less regretted
by the forests of Boeotia.  Nor so much did pleasant Lesbos mourn for
Alcaeus, nor did the Teian town so greatly bewail her poet, while for
thee more than for Archilochus doth Paros yearn, and not for Sappho,
but still for thee doth Mytilene wail her musical lament;

[Here seven verses are lost.]

And in Syracuse Theocritus; but I sing thee the dirge of an Ausonian
sorrow, I that am no stranger to the pastoral song, but heir of the
Doric Muse which thou didst teach thy pupils.  This was thy gift to
me; to others didst thou leave thy wealth, to me thy minstrelsy.

Begin, ye Sicilian Muses, begin the dirge.

Ah me, when the mallows wither in the garden, and the green parsley,
and the curled tendrils of the anise, on a later day they live again,
and spring in another year; but we men, we, the great and mighty, or
wise, when once we have died, in hollow earth we sleep, gone down
into silence; a right long, and endless, and unawakening sleep.  And
thou too, in the earth wilt be lapped in silence, but the nymphs have
thought good that the frog should eternally sing.  Nay, him I would
not envy, for 'tis no sweet song he singeth.

Begin, ye Sicilian Muses, begin the dirge.

Poison came, Bion, to thy mouth, thou didst know poison.  To such
lips as thine did it come, and was not sweetened?  What mortal was so
cruel that could mix poison for thee, or who could give thee the
venom that heard thy voice? surely he had no music in his soul.

Begin, ye Sicilian Muses, begin the dirge.

But justice hath overtaken them all.  Still for this sorrow I weep,
and bewail thy ruin.  But ah, if I might have gone down like Orpheus
to Tartarus, or as once Odysseus, or Alcides of yore, I too would
speedily have come to the house of Pluteus, that thee perchance I
might behold, and if thou singest to Pluteus, that I might hear what
is thy song.  Nay, sing to the Maiden some strain of Sicily, sing
some sweet pastoral lay.

And she too is Sicilian, and on the shores by Aetna she was wont to
play, and she knew the Dorian strain.  Not unrewarded will the
singing be; and as once to Orpheus's sweet minstrelsy she gave
Eurydice to return with him, even so will she send thee too, Bion, to
the hills.  But if I, even I, and my piping had aught availed, before
Pluteus I too would have sung.


A sad dialogue between Megara the wife and Alcmena the mother of the
wandering Heracles.  Megara had seen her own children slain by her
lord, in his frenzy, while Alcmena was constantly disquieted by
ominous dreams.

My mother, wherefore art thou thus smitten in thy soul with exceeding
sorrow, and the rose is no longer firm in thy cheeks as of yore? why,
tell me, art thou thus disquieted?  Is it because thy glorious son is
suffering pains unnumbered in bondage to a man of naught, as it were
a lion in bondage to a fawn?  Woe is me, why, ah why have the
immortal gods thus brought on me so great dishonour, and wherefore
did my parents get me for so ill a doom?  Wretched woman that I am,
who came to the bed of a man without reproach and ever held him
honourable and dear as mine own eyes,--ay and still worship and hold
him sacred in my heart--yet none other of men living hath had more
evil hap or tasted in his soul so many griefs.  In madness once, with
the bow Apollo's self had given him--dread weapon of some Fury or
spirit of Death--he struck down his own children, and took their dear
life away, as his frenzy raged through the house till it swam in
blood.  With mine own eyes, I saw them smitten, woe is me, by their
father's arrows--a thing none else hath suffered even in dreams.  Nor
could I aid them as they cried ever on their mother; the evil that
was upon them was past help.  As a bird mourneth for her perishing
little ones, devoured in the thicket by some terrible serpent while
as yet they are fledglings, and the kind mother flutters round them
making most shrill lament, but cannot help her nestlings, yea, and
herself hath great fear to approach the cruel monster; so I unhappy
mother, wailing for my brood, with frenzied feet went wandering
through the house.  Would that by my children's side I had died
myself, and were lying with the envenomed arrow through my heart.
Would that this had been, O Artemis, thou that art queen chief of
power to womankind.  Then would our parents have embraced and wept
for us and with ample obsequies have laid us on one common pyre, and
have gathered the bones of all of us into one golden urn, and buried
them in the place where first we came to be.  But now they dwell in
Thebes, fair nurse of youth, ploughing the deep soil of the Aonian
plain, while I in Tiryns, rocky city of Hera, am ever thus wounded at
heart with many sorrows, nor is any respite to me from tears.  My
husband I behold but a little time in our house, for he hath many
labours at his hand, whereat he laboureth in wanderings by land and
sea, with his soul strong as rock or steel within his breast.  But
thy grief is as the running waters, as thou lamentest through the
nights and all the days of Zeus.

Nor is there any one of my kinsfolk nigh at hand to cheer me:  for it
is not the house wall that severs them, but they all dwell far beyond
the pine-clad Isthmus, nor is there any to whom, as a woman all
hapless, I may look up and refresh my heart, save only my sister
Pyrrha; nay, but she herself grieves yet more for her husband
Iphicles thy son:  for methinks 'tis thou that hast borne the most
luckless children of all, to a God, and a mortal man. {205}

Thus spake she, and ever warmer the tears were pouring from her eyes
into her sweet bosom, as she bethought her of her children and next
of her own parents.  And in like manner Alcmena bedewed her pale
cheeks with tears, and deeply sighing from her very heart she thus
bespoke her dear daughter with thick-coming words:

'Dear child, what is this that hath come into the thoughts of thy
heart?  How art thou fain to disquiet us both with the tale of griefs
that cannot be forgotten?  Not for the first time are these woes wept
for now.  Are they not enough, the woes that possess us from our
birth continually to our day of death?  In love with sorrow surely
would he be that should have the heart to count up our woes; such
destiny have we received from God.  Thyself, dear child, I behold
vext by endless pains, and thy grief I can pardon, yea, for even of
joy there is satiety.  And exceedingly do I mourn over and pity thee,
for that thou hast partaken of our cruel lot, the burden whereof is
hung above our heads.  For so witness Persephone and fair-robed
Demeter (by whom the enemy that wilfully forswears himself, lies to
his own hurt), that I love thee no less in my heart than if thou
hadst been born of my womb, and wert the maiden darling of my house:
nay, and methinks that thou knowest this well.  Therefore say never,
my flower, that I heed thee not, not even though I wail more
ceaselessly than Niobe of the lovely locks.  No shame it is for a
mother to make moan for the affliction of her son:  for ten months I
went heavily, even before I saw him, while I bare him under my
girdle, and he brought me near the gates of the warden of Hell; so
fierce the pangs I endured in my sore travail of him.  And now my son
is gone from me in a strange land to accomplish some new labour; nor
know I in my sorrow whether I shall again receive him returning here
or no.  Moreover in sweet sleep a dreadful dream hath fluttered me;
and I exceedingly fear for the ill-omened vision that I have seen,
lest something that I would not be coming on my children.

It seemed to me that my son, the might of Heracles, held in both
hands a well-wrought spade, wherewith, as one labouring for hire, he
was digging a ditch at the edge of a fruitful field, stripped of his
cloak and belted tunic.  And when he had come to the end of all his
work and his labours at the stout defence of the vine-filled close,
he was about to lean his shovel against the upstanding mound and don
the clothes he had worn.  But suddenly blazed up above the deep
trench a quenchless fire, and a marvellous great flame encompassed
him.  But he kept ever giving back with hurried feet, striving to
flee the deadly bolt of Hephaestus; and ever before his body he kept
his spade as it were a shield; and this way and that he glared around
him with his eyes, lest the angry fire should consume him.  Then
brave Iphicles, eager, methought, to help him, stumbled and fell to
earth ere he might reach him, nor could he stand upright again, but
lay helpless, like a weak old man, whom joyless age constrains to
fall when he would not; so he lieth on the ground as he fell, till
one passing by lift him up by the hand, regarding the ancient
reverence for his hoary beard.  Thus lay on the earth Iphicles,
wielder of the shield.  But I kept wailing as I beheld my sons in
their sore plight, until deep sleep quite fled from my eyes, and
straightway came bright morn.  Such dreams, beloved, flitted through
my mind all night; may they all turn against Eurystheus nor come nigh
our dwelling, and to his hurt be my soul prophetic, nor may fate
bring aught otherwise to pass.


When the wind on the grey salt sea blows softly, then my weary
spirits rise, and the land no longer pleases me, and far more doth
the calm allure me. {208}  But when the hoary deep is roaring, and
the sea is broken up in foam, and the waves rage high, then lift I
mine eyes unto the earth and trees, and fly the sea, and the land is
welcome, and the shady wood well pleasing in my sight, where even if
the wind blow high the pine-tree sings her song.  Surely an evil life
lives the fisherman, whose home is his ship, and his labours are in
the sea, and fishes thereof are his wandering spoil.  Nay, sweet to
me is sleep beneath the broad-leaved plane-tree; let me love to
listen to the murmur of the brook hard by, soothing, not troubling
the husbandman with its sound.


Pan loved his neighbour Echo; Echo loved
A gamesome Satyr; he, by her unmoved,
Loved only Lyde; thus through Echo, Pan,
Lyde, and Satyr, Love his circle ran.
Thus all, while their true lovers' hearts they grieved,
Were scorned in turn, and what they gave received.
O all Love's scorners, learn this lesson true;
Be kind to Love, that he be kind to you.


Alpheus, when he leaves Pisa and makes his way through beneath the
deep, travels on to Arethusa with his waters that the wild olives
drank, bearing her bridal gifts, fair leaves and flowers and sacred
soil.  Deep in the waves he plunges, and runs beneath the sea, and
the salt water mingles not with the sweet.  Nought knows the sea as
the river journeys through.  Thus hath the knavish boy, the maker of
mischief, the teacher of strange ways--thus hath Love by his spell
taught even a river to dive.


Leaving his torch and his arrows, a wallet strung on his back,
One day came the mischievous Love-god to follow the plough-share's
And he chose him a staff for his driving, and yoked him a sturdy
And sowed in the furrows the grain to the Mother of Earth most dear.
Then he said, looking up to the sky:  'Father Zeus, to my harvest be
Lest I yoke that bull to my plough that Europa once rode through the


Would that my father had taught me the craft of a keeper of sheep,
For so in the shade of the elm-tree, or under the rocks on the steep,
Piping on reeds I had sat, and had lulled my sorrow to sleep. {210}


{0a}  This fragment is from the collection of M. Fauriel; Chants
Populaires de le Grece.

{0b}  Empedocles on Etna.

{0c}  Ballet des Arts, danse par sa Majeste; le 8 janvier, 1663.  A
Paris, par Robert Ballard, MDCLXIII.

{0d}  These and the following ditties are from the modern Greek
ballads collected by MM. Fauriel and Legrand.

{0e}  See Couat, La Poesie Alexandrine, p. 68 et seq., Paris 1882.

{0f}  See Couat, op. cit. p. 395.

{0g}  Couat, p. 434.

{0h}  See Helbig, Campenische Wandmalerie, and Brunn, Die
griechischen Bukoliker und die Bildende Kunst.

{0i}  The Hecale of Callimachus, or Theseus and the Marathonian Bull,
seems to have been rather a heroic idyl than an epic.

{6}  Or reading [Greek]=Aeolian, cf. Thucyd. iii. 102.

{9}  These are places famous in the oldest legends of Arcadia.

{11}  Reading, [Greek].  Cf.  Fritzsche's note and Harpocration, s.v.

{13}  On the word [Greek], see Lobeck, Aglaoph. p. 700; and 'The Bull
Roarer,' in the translator's Custom and Myth.

{19}  Reading [Greek].  Cf. line 3, and note.

{21}  He refers to a piece of folk-lore.

{24}  The shovel was used for tossing the sand of the lists; the
sheep were food for Aegon's great appetite.

{26}  Reading [Greek].

{34}  Melanthius was the treacherous goatherd put to a cruel death by

{36}  Ameis and Fritzsche take [Greek] (as here) to be the dog, not
Galatea.  The sex of the Cyclops's sheep-dog makes the meaning

{40}  Or, [Greek].  Hermann renders this domum Oromedonteam a
gigantic house.'  Oromedon or Eurymedon was the king of the Gigantes,
mentioned in Odyssey vii. 58.

{41}  [Greek].  This is taken by some to mean algam infimam, 'the
bottom weeds of the deepest seas', by others, the sea-weed highest on
the shore, at high watermark.

{42}  Comatas was a goatherd who devoutly served the Muses, and
sacrificed to them his masters goats.  His master therefore shut him
up in a cedar chest, opening which at the year's end he found Comatas
alive, by miracle, the bees having fed him with honey.  Thus, in a
mediaeval legend, the Blessed Virgin took the place, for a year, of
the frail nun who had devoutly served her.

{43}  Sneezing in Sicily, as in most countries, was a happy omen.

{50}  A superfluous and apocryphal line is here omitted.

{53}  An allusion to the common superstition (cf. Idyl xii. 24) that
perjurers and liars were punished by pimples and blotches.  The old
Irish held that blotches showed themselves on the faces of Brehons
who gave unjust judgments.

{54}  Spring in the south, like Night in the tropics, comes 'at one
stride'; but Wordsworth finds the rendering distasteful 'neque sic
redditum valde placet.'

{57}  'Quant a ta maniere, je ne puis la rendre.'--SAINTE-BEUVE.

{61}  Reading [Greek].

{70}  Cf. Wordsworth's proposed conjecture -


Meineke observes 'tota haec carminis pars luxata et foedissime
depravata est'.  There seems to be a rude early pun in lines 73, 74.

{72}  The reading -

[Greek],--makes good sense.  [Greek] is put in the mouth of the girl,
and would mean 'a good guess'!  The allusion of a guest to the
superstition that the wolf struck people dumb is taken by Cynisca for
a reference to young Wolf, her secret lover.

{73}  Or, as Wordsworth suggests, reading [Greek], 'for him your
cheeks are wet with tears.'

{74a}  Shaving in the bronze, and still more, of course, in the stone
age, was an uncomfortable and difficult process.  The backward and
barbarous Thracians were therefore trimmed in the roughest way, like
Aeschines, with his long gnawed moustache.

{74b}  The Megarians having inquired of the Delphic oracle as to
their rank among Greek cities, were told that they were absolute
last, and not in the reckoning at all.

{77}  Our Lady, here, is Persephone.  The ejaculation served for the
old as well as for the new religion of Sicily.  The dialogue is here
arranged as in Fritzsche's text, and in line 8 his punctuation is

{78a}  If cats are meant, the proverb is probably Alexandrian.
Common as cats were in Egypt, they were late comers in Greece.

{78b}  Most of the dialogue has been distributed as in the text of

{82}  Reading [Greek].

{89}  I.e. Syracuse, a colony of the Ephyraeans or Corinthians.  The
Maiden is Persephone, the Mother Demeter.

{93}  Deipyle, daughter of Adrastus.

{98}  Reading--[Greek].  See also Wordsworth's note on line 26.

{104}  For [Greek] Wordsworth and Hermann conjecture [Greek].  The
sense would be that Eunica, who thinks herself another Cypris, or
Aphrodite is, in turn, to be rejected by her Ares, her soldier-lover,
as she has rejected the herdsman.

{105}  Reading [Greek].

{106a}  Reading [Greek].

{106b}  [Greek].

{106c}  [Greek], and in the next line [Greek].

{106d}  [Greek].

{107}  Reading, with Fritzsche -


The lines seem to contain two popular saws, of which it is difficult
to guess the meaning.  The first saw appears to express helplessness;
the second, to hint that such comforts as lamps lit all night long
exist in towns, but are out of the reach of poor fishermen.

{108a}  Reading [Greek].  Asphalion first hooked his fish, which ran
gamely, and nearly doubled up the rod.  Then the fish sulked, and the
angler half despaired of landing him.  To stir the sullen fish, he
reminded him of his wound, probably, as we do now, by keeping a tight
line, and tapping the butt of the rod.  Then he slackened, giving the
fish line in case of a sudden rush; but as there was no such rush, he
took in line, or perhaps only showed his fish the butt (for it is not
probable that Asphalion had a reel), and so landed him.  The
Mediterranean fishers generally toss the fish to land with no display
of science, but Asphalion's imaginary capture was a monster.

{108b}  It is difficult to understand this proceeding.  Perhaps
Asphalion had some small net fastened with strings to his boat, in
which he towed fish to shore, that the contact with the water might
keep them fresher than they were likely to be in the bottom of the
coble.  On the other hand, Asphalion was fishing from a rock.  His
dream may have been confused.

{111}  [Greek] appear to have been 'fire sticks,' by rubbing which
together the heroes struck a light.

{118}  Or [Greek], 'wash the spears,' as in the Zulu idiom.

{124}  In line 57 for [Greek] read Wordsworth's conjecture [Greek] =

{127}  Odyssey. xix. 36 seq.  (Reading [Greek] not [Greek].)
'Father, surely a great marvel is this that I behold with mine eyes
meseems, at least, that the walls of the hall . . . are bright as it
were with flaming fire' . . . 'Lo! this is the wont of the gods that
hold Olympus.'

{128}  [Greek], prae timore non lacrymantem (Paley).

{129}  Reading, after Fritzsche, [Greek].  We should have expected
the accursed ashes (like those of Wyclif) to be thrown into the
river; cf. Virgil, Ecl. viii. 101, 'Fer cineres, Amarylli, foras,
rivoque fluenti transque caput lace nec respexeris.'  Virgil's
knowledge of these observances was not inferior to that of

{130}  Reading [Greek].  If [Greek] is read, the phrase will mean
'pure brimming water.'

{135}  Reading [Greek].

{143}  Reading [Greek], as in Wordsworth's conjecture, instead of

{144}  Reading [Greek].

{145}  [Greek], a play on words difficult to retain in English.
Compare Idyl xiii. line 74.

{147}  The conjecture [Greek] gives a good sense, mea vero Helena me
potius ultra petit.

{148}  Reading, as in Wordsworth's conjecture, [Greek].

{150a}  Reading [Greek], with Fritzsche.  Compare the conjecture of
Wordsworth, [Greek].

{150b}  See Wordsworth's explanation.

{153}  Syracuse.

{165}  Reading, [Greek] (that is, the Corinthian founders of
Syracuse), and following Wordsworth's other conjectures.

{167}  This epigram may have been added by the first editor of
Theocritus, Artemidorus the Grammarian.

{176}  This conjecture of Meineke's offers, at least, a meaning.

{181}  Les hommes sont tous condamnes a mort, avec des sursis
indefinis.--VICTOR HUGO.

{205}  Alcmena bore Iphicles to Amphictyon, Hercules to Zeus.

{208}  Reading, with Weise, [Greek].

{210}  For the translations into verse I have to thank Mr. Ernest


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