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Theocritus by Theocritus

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Wives dread their husbands: so I've heard it said.

Nay, they rule o'er them. What does woman dread?

Then children--Eileithya's dart is keen.

But the deliverer, Artemis, is your queen.

And bearing children all our grace destroys.

Bear them and shine more lustrous in your boys.

Should I say yea, what dower awaits me then?

Thine are my cattle, thine this glade and glen.

Swear not to wed, then leave me in my woe?

Not I by Pan, though thou should'st bid me go.

And shall a cot be mine, with farm and fold!

Thy cot's half-built, fair wethers range this wold.

What, what to my old father must I say?

Soon as he hears my name he'll not say nay.

Speak it: by e'en a name we're oft beguiled.

I'm Daphnis, Lycid's and Nomaea's child.

Well-born indeed: and not less so am I.

I know--Menalcas' daughter may look high.

That grove, where stands your sheepfold, shew me please.

Nay look, how green, how tall my cypress-trees.

Graze, goats: I go to learn the herdsman's trade.

Feed, bulls: I shew my copses to my maid.

Satyr, what mean you? You presume o'ermuch.

This waist is round, and pleasant to the touch.

By Pan, I'm like to swoon! Unhand me pray!

Why be so timorous? Pretty coward, stay.

This bank is wet: you've soiled my pretty gown.

See, a soft fleece to guard it I put down.

And you've purloined my sash. What can this mean?

This sash I'll offer to the Paphian queen.

Stay, miscreant--some one comes--I heard a noise.

'Tis but the green trees whispering of our joys.

You've torn my plaidie, and I am half unclad.

Anon I'll give thee a yet ampler plaid.

Generous just now, you'll one day grudge me bread.

Ah! for thy sake my life-blood I could shed.

Artemis, forgive! Thy eremite breaks her vow.

Love, and Love's mother, claim a calf and cow.

A woman I depart, my girlhood o'er.

Be wife, be mother; but a girl no more.

Thus interchanging whispered talk the pair,
Their faces all aglow, long lingered there.
At length the hour arrived when they must part.
With downcast eyes, but sunshine in her heart,
She went to tend her flock; while Daphnis ran
Back to his herded bulls, a happy man.


The Distaff.

Distaff, blithely whirling distaff, azure-eyed Athena's gift
To the sex the aim and object of whose lives is household thrift,
Seek with me the gorgeous city raised by Neilus, where a plain
Roof of pale-green rush o'er-arches Aphrodite's hallowed fane.
Thither ask I Zeus to waft me, fain to see my old friend's face,
Nicias, o'er whose birth presided every passion-breathing Grace;
Fain to meet his answering welcome; and anon deposit thee
In his lady's hands, thou marvel of laborious ivory.
Many a manly robe ye'll fashion, much translucent maiden's gear;
Nay, should e'er the fleecy mothers twice within the selfsame year
Yield their wool in yonder pasture, Theugenis of the dainty feet
Would perform the double labour: matron's cares to her are sweet.
To an idler or a trifler I had verily been loth
To resign thee, O my distaff, for the same land bred us both:
In the land Corinthian Archias built aforetime, thou hadst birth,
In our island's core and marrow, whence have sprung the kings of earth:
To the home I now transfer thee of a man who knows full well
Every craft whereby men's bodies dire diseases may repel:
There to live in sweet Miletus. Lady of the Distaff she
Shall be named, and oft reminded of her poet-friend by thee:
Men shall look on thee and murmur to each other, 'Lo! how small
Was the gift, and yet how precious! Friendship's gifts are priceless



'Sincerity comes with the wine-cup,' my dear:
Then now o'er our wine-cups let us be sincere.
My soul's treasured secret to you I'll impart;
It is this; that I never won fairly your heart.
One half of my life, I am conscious, has flown;
The residue lives on your image alone.
You are kind, and I dream I'm in paradise then;
You are angry, and lo! all is darkness again.
It is right to torment one who loves you? Obey
Your elder; 'twere best; and you'll thank me one day.
Settle down in one nest on one tree (taking care
That no cruel reptile can clamber up there);
As it is with your lovers you're fairly perplext;
One day you choose one bough, another the next.
Whoe'er at all struck by your graces appears,
Is more to you straight than the comrade of years;
While he's like the friend of a day put aside;
For the breath of your nostrils, I think, is your pride.
Form a friendship, for life, with some likely young lad;
So doing, in honour your name shall be had.
Nor would Love use you hardly; though lightly can he
Bind strong men in chains, and has wrought upon me
Till the steel is as wax--but I'm longing to press
That exquisite mouth with a clinging caress.

No? Reflect that you're older each year than the last;
That we all must grow gray, and the wrinkles come fast.
Reflect, ere you spurn me, that youth at his sides
Wears wings; and once gone, all pursuit he derides:
Nor are men over keen to catch charms as they fly.
Think of this and be gentle, be loving as I:
When your years are maturer, we two shall be then
The pair in the Iliad over again.
But if you consign all my words to the wind
And say, 'Why annoy me? you're not to my mind,'
I--who lately in quest of the Gold Fruit had sped
For your sake, or of Cerberus guard of the dead--
Though you called me, would ne'er stir a foot from my door,
For my love and my sorrow thenceforth will be o'er.


The Death of Adonis.

Cythera saw Adonis
And knew that he was dead;
She marked the brow, all grisly now,
The cheek no longer red;
And "Bring the boar before me"
Unto her Loves she said.

Forthwith her winged attendants
Ranged all the woodland o'er,
And found and bound in fetters
Threefold the grisly boar:
One dragged him at a rope's end
E'en as a vanquished foe;
One went behind and drave him
And smote him with his bow:
On paced the creature feebly;
He feared Cythera so.

To him said Aphrodite:
"So, worst of beasts, 'twas you
Who rent that thigh asunder,
Who him that loved me slew?"
And thus the beast made answer:
"Cythera, hear me swear
By thee, by him that loved thee,
And by these bonds I wear,
And them before whose hounds I ran--
I meant no mischief to the man
Who seemed to thee so fair.

"As on a carven statue
Men gaze, I gazed on him;
I seemed on fire with mad desire
To kiss that offered limb:
My ruin, Aphrodite,
Thus followed from my whim.

"Now therefore take and punish
And fairly cut away
These all unruly tusks of mine;
For to what end serve they?
And if thine indignation
Be not content with this,
Cut off the mouth that ventured
To offer him a kiss"--

But Aphrodite pitied
And bade them loose his chain.
The boar from that day forward
Still followed in her train;
Nor ever to the wildwood
Attempted to return,
But in the focus of Desire
Preferred to burn and burn.



Ah for this the most accursed, unendurable of ills!
Nigh two months a fevered fancy for a maid my bosom fills.
Fair she is, as other damsels: but for what the simplest swain
Claims from the demurest maiden, I must sue and sue in vain.
Yet doth now this thing of evil my longsuffering heart beguile,
Though the utmost she vouchsafes me is the shadow of a smile:
And I soon shall know no respite, have no solace e'en in sleep.
Yesterday I watched her pass me, and from down-dropt eyelids peep
At the face she dared not gaze on--every moment blushing more--
And my love took hold upon me as it never took before.
Home I went a wounded creature, with a gnawing at my heart;
And unto the soul within me did my bitterness impart.

"Soul, why deal with me in this wise? Shall thy folly know no bound?
Canst thou look upon these temples, with their locks of silver crowned,
And still deem thee young and shapely? Nay, my soul, let us be sage;
Act as they that have already sipped the wisdom-cup of age.
Men have loved and have forgotten. Happiest of all is he
To the lover's woes a stranger, from the lover's fetters free:
Lightly his existence passes, as a wild-deer fleeting fast:
Tamed, it may be, he shall voyage in a maiden's wake at last:
Still to-day 'tis his to revel with his mates in boyhood's flowers.
As to thee, thy brain and marrow passion evermore devours,
Prey to memories that haunt thee e'en in visions of the night;
And a year shall scarcely pluck thee from thy miserable plight."

Such and divers such reproaches did I heap upon my soul.
And my soul in turn made answer:--"Whoso deems he can control
Wily love, the same shall lightly gaze upon the stars of heaven
And declare by what their number overpasses seven times seven.
Will I, nill I, I may never from my neck his yoke unloose.
So, my friend, a god hath willed it: he whose plots could outwit Zeus,
And the queen whose home is Cyprus. I, a leaflet of to-day,
I whose breath is in my nostrils, am I wrong to own his sway?"


Ye that would fain net fish and wealth withal,
For bare existence harrowing yonder mere,
To this our Lady slay at even-fall
That holy fish, which, since it hath no peer
For gloss and sheen, the dwellers about here
Have named the Silver Fish. This done, let down
Your nets, and draw them up, and never fear
To find them empty * * * *



Yours be yon dew-steep'd roses, yours be yon
Thick-clustering ivy, maids of Helicon:
Thine, Pythian Paean, that dark-foliaged bay;
With such thy Delphian crags thy front array.
This horn'd and shaggy ram shall stain thy shrine,
Who crops e'en now the feathering turpentine.


To Pan doth white-limbed Daphnis offer here
(He once piped sweetly on his herdsman's flute)
His reeds of many a stop, his barbed spear,
And scrip, wherein he held his hoards of fruit.


Daphnis, thou slumberest on the leaf-strown lea,
Thy frame at rest, thy springes newly spread
O'er the fell-side. But two are hunting thee:
Pan, and Priapus with his fair young head
Hung with wan ivy. See! they come, they leap
Into thy lair--fly, fly,--shake off the coil of sleep!


For yon oaken avenue, swain, you must steer,
Where a statue of figwood, you'll see, has been set:
It has never been barked, has three legs and no ear;
But I think there is life in the patriarch yet.
He is handsomely shrined within fair chapel-walls;
Where, fringed with sweet cypress and myrtle and bay,
A stream ever-fresh from the rock's hollow falls,
And the ringleted vine her ripe store doth display:
And the blackbirds, those shrill-piping songsters of spring,
Wake the echoes with wild inarticulate song:
And the notes of the nightingale plaintively ring,
As she pours from her dun throat her lay sweet and strong.
Sitting there, to Priapus, the gracious one, pray
That the lore he has taught me I soon may unlearn:
Say I'll give him a kid, and in case he says nay
To this offer, three victims to him will I burn;
A kid, a fleeced ram, and a lamb sleek and fat;
He will listen, mayhap, to my prayers upon that.


Prythee, sing something sweet to me--you that can play
First and second at once. Then I too will essay
To croak on the pipes: and yon lad shall salute
Our ears with a melody breathed through his flute.
In the cave by the green oak our watch we will keep,
And goatish old Pan we'll defraud of his sleep.


Poor Thyrsis! What boots it to weep out thine eyes?
Thy kid was a fair one, I own:
But the wolf with his cruel claw made her his prize,
And to darkness her spirit hath flown.
Do the dogs cry? What boots it? In spite of their cries
There is left of her never a bone.


For a Statue of AEsculapius.

Far as Miletus travelled Paean's son;
There to be guest of Nicias, guest of one
Who heals all sickness; and who still reveres
Him, for his sake this cedarn image rears.
The sculptor's hand right well did Nicias fill;
And here the sculptor lavished all his skill.


Ortho's Epitaph.

Friend, Ortho of Syracuse gives thee this charge:
Never venture out, drunk, on a wild winter's night.
I did so and died. My possessions were large;
Yet the turf that I'm clad with is strange to me quite.


Epitaph of Cleonicus.

Man, husband existence: ne'er launch on the sea
Out of season: our tenure of life is but frail.
Think of poor Cleonicus: for Phasos sailed he
From the valleys of Syria, with many a bale:
With many a bale, ocean's tides he would stem
When the Pleiads were sinking; and he sank with them.


For a Statue of the Muses.

To you this marble statue, maids divine,
Xenocles raised, one tribute unto nine.
Your votary all admit him: by this skill
He gat him fame: and you he honours still.


Epitaph of Eusthenes.

Here the shrewd physiognomist Eusthenes lies,
Who could tell all your thoughts by a glance at your eyes.
A stranger, with strangers his honoured bones rest;
They valued sweet song, and he gave them his best.
All the honours of death doth the poet possess:
If a small one, they mourned for him nevertheless.


For a Tripod Erected by Damoteles to Bacchus.

The precentor Damoteles, Bacchus, exalts
Your tripod, and, sweetest of deities, you.
He was champion of men, if his boyhood had faults;
And he ever loved honour and seemliness too.


For a Statue of Anacreon.

This statue, stranger, scan with earnest gaze;
And, home returning, say "I have beheld
Anacreon, in Teos; him whose lays
Were all unmatched among our sires of eld."
Say further: "Youth and beauty pleased him best;"
And all the man will fairly stand exprest.


Epitaph of Eurymedon.

Thou hast gone to the grave, and abandoned thy son
Yet a babe, thy own manhood but scarcely begun.
Thou art throned among gods: and thy country will take
Thy child to her heart, for his brave father's sake.



Prove, traveller, now, that you honour the brave
Above the poltroon, when he's laid in the grave,
By murmuring 'Peace to Eurymedon dead.'
The turf should lie light on so sacred a head.


For a Statue of the Heavenly Aphrodite.

Aphrodite stands here; she of heavenly birth;
Not that base one who's wooed by the children of earth.
'Tis a goddess; bow down. And one blemishless all,
Chrysogone, placed her in Amphicles' hall:
Chrysogone's heart, as her children, was his,
And each year they knew better what happiness is.
For, Queen, at life's outset they made thee their friend;
Religion is policy too in the end.


To Epicharmus.

Read these lines to Epicharmus. They are Dorian, as was he
The sire of Comedy.
Of his proper self bereaved, Bacchus, unto thee we rear
His brazen image here;
We in Syracuse who sojourn, elsewhere born. Thus much we can
Do for our countryman,
Mindful of the debt we owe him. For, possessing ample store
Of legendary lore,
Many a wholesome word, to pilot youths and maids thro' life, he spake:
We honour him for their sake.


Epitaph of Cleita, Nurse of Medeius.

The babe Medeius to his Thracian nurse
This stone--inscribed _To Cleita_--reared in the midhighway.
Her modest virtues oft shall men rehearse;
Who doubts it? is not 'Cleita's worth' a proverb to this day?


To Archilochus.

Pause, and scan well Archilochus, the bard of elder days,
By east and west
Alike's confest
The mighty lyrist's praise.
Delian Apollo loved him well, and well the sister-choir:
His songs were fraught
With subtle thought,
And matchless was his lyre.


Under a Statue of Peisander,

He whom ye gaze on was the first
That in quaint song the deeds rehearsed
Of him whose arm was swift to smite,
Who dared the lion to the fight:
That tale, so strange, so manifold,
Peisander of Cameirus told.
For this good work, thou may'st be sure,
His country placed him here,
In solid brass that shall endure
Through many a month and year.


Epitaph of Hipponax.

Behold Hipponax' burialplace,
A true bard's grave.
Approach it not, if you're a base
And base-born knave.
But if your sires were honest men
And unblamed you,
Sit down thereon serenely then,
And eke sleep too.

* * * * *

Tuneful Hipponax rests him here.
Let no base rascal venture near.
Ye who rank high in birth and mind
Sit down--and sleep, if so inclined.


On his own Book.

Not my namesake of Chios, but I, who belong
To the Syracuse burghers, have sung you my song.
I'm Praxagoras' son by Philinna the fair,
And I never asked praise that was owing elsewhere.

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