Theocritus

(270 BC / Syracuse, Italy)

First Idyll - Poem by Theocritus

Thyrsis:
That pine tree, goatherd, sings a rustling sweet
Beside the streams, and sweetly do you play
Your pipe. Behind Pan you'll take second prize.
If he take hornèd he-goat, you will take the she-,
If he take she-goat as his prize, to you falls he-,
And he-goat, 'til you milk him, has good meat.

Goatherd:
O shepherd, sweeter is your song than that
Resounding water pours off rock from up above.
If, as a gift, the Muses took the sheep,
You'll take the weanling lamb as prize, but if they please
To take the lamb, thereafter you'll take th' ewe.

Thyrsis:
In Nymphs' name, do, o goatherd, sitting here,
Where this steep hillside is, and tamarisks,
Do play your pipe, and I shall tend your goats on top.

Goatherd:
Not right, o shepherd, it's not right for me at noon
To pipe; I'm scared of Pan, for then he takes his rest
From hunt, on tiring. He is fast annoyed,
And ever sits keen anger by his nose.
But Thyrsis, you were wont to sing of Daphnis' woes
And found success the greater in the country song.
Come, let us sit beneath the elm, aside
The statues of Priápus and the Nymphs, where are
That shepherd's seat and th' oaks. Were you to sing
As when you sang contesting Chromis, Libya-born,
Then I'll give you a goat who bore twins thrice to milk,
Which, having two kids, milks enough for two whole pails,
Withal a deep, robust cup, wiped with pleasant wax,
Two-handled, newly-carved, still smelling of the knife.
Around its edges ivy winds itself above,
The ivy intertwined with marigold. Along
Its sides the spiral clasps, adorned with yellow fruit.
Inside some work of heaven's made, a woman decked
In both a robe and circlet. Next to her
Two nobly long-haired men in turns, from this to that,
Dispute with words, nor do their words affect her heart.
Though sometimes she acknowledges one laughingly,
At other times she states her mind again; they long
Endure in vain eyes dark and sleepless from desire.
Behind them there are carved both elder fisherman
And ragged rock, on which th' old man in haste draws back
Great net to cast, like him who toils with force severe.
You'd think he fishes with all his limbs' strength,
So fully swell the tendons all around his neck,
Though being quite grisly. His strength's rival to a youth's.
And hardly far from th' ocean-worn old man
An orchard's well weighed down with ripened grapes,
Which some small lad defends, he sitting on
Stone walls. Beside him are two foxes, one frequents
The vine-rows, plund'ring grapes; the other says,
While wholly making scheme about his pouch, she'll not
Leave this young lad until she drains his breakfrast dry.
But he with daffodils weaves a fine locust-trap,
Affixing rushes, and he's not so mindful of
His wallet or fields as amused with weaving-work.
The soft acanthus crusts on all sides 'round the cup,
A glitt'ring wonder. Thing could frighten you at heart.
I gave a Calydonian boatman, as price for
The thing, a goat and lots of cheese from pallid milk.
It's never touched my lip at all, but ever lies
Unsoiled. I'd very gladly please you with it, though,
Were you, my friend, to sing me that delightful ode,
Nor do I taunt you. Come, good sir, for you must not
Withhold your song into th' oblivious underworld.

Thyrsis:
Begin, fond Muses, do begin the country song.
I'm Etna's Thyrsis, and my speech is sweet.
Wherever were you when did Daphnis pine, wherever, Nymphs?
By lovely Penius' or Pindus' dales?
You kept not to Anápus river's mighty flow,
Nor Etna's peak, nor Acis' holy stream.
Begin, fond Muses, do begin the country song.
For him indeed the jackals howled, for him the wolves,
And him, when dead, the lion mourned from in the wood.
Begin, fond Muses, do begin the country song.
His many cows were at his feet, and many bulls,
and many calfs and heifers wailed besides.
Begin, fond Muses, do begin the country song.
Descended Hermes first of all the mount: "Now, Daphnis, speak:
Who wears you down? Good man, whom do you so desire?"
Begin, fond Muses, do begin the country song.
The herdsmen came; the shepherds and the goatherds came.
They all did ask why he endured malaise: Priápus came
And said, "Sad Daphnis, why now waste away? A maid
Meanders by each fount and grove on foot-
Begin, fond Muses, do begin the country song.
In search of you. How very ill in love you are, and dumb.
Indeed, you're called a herdsman, but you're like the goatherd now,
Who, when he looks upon the she-goats as they graze,
Then cloys, because he's not himself a billy-goat.
Begin, fond Muses, do begin the country song.
And you, when you look on the virgins as they dance,
So cloy, because among them you dance not."
The cowherd answered not a word, but he instead
Acknowledged bitter love and, to his lifetime's end, endured.
Begin, fond Muses, do begin the country song.
But even still came smiling Cypris sweet,
Though smiling falsely, she uplifts his heavy heart
And says: "Forsooth you, Daphnis, vowed to conquer Love,
But have you not yourself been conquered by vexatious Love?"
Begin, fond Muses, do begin the country song.
At once did Daphnis answer her, now: "Cypris grave,
Indignant Cypris. Cypris, loath'd of mortal men.
You think that all my sun's already set?
In even death shall I be bane to Love.
How is a cowherd said to conquer Cypris? Ida-bound
Go to Anchises, where are oaks and galingale,
And bees buzz beautifully about their hives-
Begin, fond Muses, do begin the country song.
Adonis is young, too, as he attends his sheep
And shoots the hares and chases all wild beasts-
Begin, fond Muses, do begin the country song.
To stand again, approaching Diomedes near,
And say, 'I'm victor over cowherd Daphnis, so fight me.'
Begin, fond Muses, do begin the country song.
O wolves, o jackals, o bears lurking on the mountaintops,
Farewell! Your cowherd Daphnis is no longer for the wood,
No thickets, nor the groves. Farewell, Aréthusa,
And rivers which down into Thybris pour your lovely streams.
Begin, fond Muses, do begin the country song.
I am that Daphnis, feeding thus his cows.
The Daphnis, watering his bulls and heifers thus.
Begin, fond Muses, do begin the country song.
O Pan, Pan. Whether you're along Lycaeus' mountains broad
Or watch the great mount Maenelus, come to this isle
Of Sicily, and leave that tomb of Helice
And Lycaonides' steep grave, belovèd to the blest.
Forget the country song, you Muses. Go, forget.
O master, come take this fine, honey-breathing pipe
Made from well-moulded wax, bent 'round its lip,
for now to Hades' home I'm torn by Love.
Forget the country song, you Muses. Go, forget.
Now let you brambles, let you thorns bear violet buds.
Let handsome daffodils grow long 'midst junipers,
And let all things be changed - let pine-tree bear the pear
As Daphnis dies: and let the deer attack the hounds,
And let, from on the mountains, owls contend with nightingales."
Forget the country song, you Muses. Go, forget.
So greatly spoken, he refrained, and Aphrodite wished
To give him health, but all his thread had well run out
By Fates' design, and Daphnis crossed the Flow. Him the Flood
Washed over, him loved by the Muses nor disliked by Nymphs.
Forget the country song, you Muses. Go, forget.
Now you give up both cup and goat. As I milk her myself,
I'll pour the Muses a libation. Hail, o Muses, hail
So much. For you I shall sing ever sweetly to the end.

Goatherd:
Your noble mouth be full of honey, Thyrsis, full
Of honeycomb, and let you nibble winsome fig-leaf from
Egílus, since you sing quite better than cicadas do.
Behold, the cup is yours. See, friend, how good it smells.
You'd think it had been dipped in th' Horae's fount.
Come here, Cisséthe. And you, go milk her. Don't skip about,
You she-goats, lest the he-goat rouse himself at you.

Form: Idyll or Idyl


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Poem Submitted: Friday, October 23, 2015



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