Read IDYLL VII of Theocritus, free online book, by Theocritus, on


Once on a time did Eucritus and I
(With us Amyntas) to the riverside
Steal from the city. For Lycopeus’ sons
Were that day busy with the harvest-home,
Antigènes and Phrasidemus, sprung
(If aught thou holdest by the good old names)
By Clytia from great Chalcon him who erst
Planted one stalwart knee against the rock,
And lo, beneath his foot Burine’s rill
Brake forth, and at its side poplar and elm
Shewed aisles of pleasant shadow, greenly roofed
By tufted leaves. Scarce midway were we now,
Nor yet descried the tomb of Brasilas:
When, thanks be to the Muses, there drew near
A wayfarer from Crete, young Lycidas.
The horned herd was his care: a glance might tell
So much: for every inch a herdsman he.
Slung o’er his shoulder was a ruddy hide
Torn from a he-goat, shaggy, tangle-haired,
That reeked of rennet yet: a broad belt clasped
A patched cloak round his breast, and for a staff
A gnarled wild-olive bough his right hand bore.
Soon with a quiet smile he spoke his eye
Twinkled, and laughter sat upon his lip:
“And whither ploddest thou thy weary way
Beneath the noontide sun, Simichidas?
For now the lizard sleeps upon the wall,
The crested lark folds now his wandering wing.
Dost speed, a bidden guest, to some reveller’s board?
Or townward to the treading of the grape?
For lo! recoiling from thy hurrying feet
The pavement-stones ring out right merrily.”
Then I: “Friend Lycid, all men say that none
Of haymakers or herdsmen is thy match
At piping: and my soul is glad thereat.
Yet, to speak sooth, I think to rival thee.
Now look, this road holds holiday to-day:
For banded brethren solemnise a feast
To richly-dight Demeter, thanking her
For her good gifts: since with no grudging hand
Hath the boon goddess filled the wheaten floors.
So come: the way, the day, is thine as mine:
Try we our woodcraft each may learn from each.
I am, as thou, a clarion-voice of song;
All hail me chief of minstrels. But I am not,
Heaven knows, o’ercredulous: no, I scarce can yet
(I think) outvie Philetas, nor the bard
Of Samos, champion of Sicilian song.
They are as cicadas challenged by a frog.”

I spake to gain mine ends; and laughing light
He said: “Accept this club, as thou’rt indeed
A born truth-teller, shaped by heaven’s own hand!
I hate your builders who would rear a house
High as Oromedon’s mountain-pinnacle:
I hate your song-birds too, whose cuckoo-cry
Struggles (in vain) to match the Chian bard.
But come, we’ll sing forthwith, Simichidas,
Our woodland music: and for my part I
List, comrade, if you like the simple air
I forged among the uplands yesterday.

[Sings] Safe be my true-love
convoyed o’er the main To Mitylene though
the southern blast Chase the lithe waves, while
westward slant the Kids, Or low above the verge
Orion stand If from Love’s furnace
she will rescue me, For Lycidas is parched with
hot desire. Let halcyons lay the sea-waves
and the winds, Northwind and Westwind, that in
shores far-off Flutters the seaweed halcyons,
of all birds Whose prey is on the waters, held
most dear By the green Nereids: yea let all
things smile On her to Mitylene voyaging, And
in fair harbour may she ride at last. I on
that day, a chaplet woven of dill Or rose or simple
violet on my brow, Will draw the wine of Pteleas
from the cask Stretched by the ingle. They
shall roast me beans, And elbow-deep in thyme
and asphodel And quaintly-curling parsley shall
be piled My bed of rushes, where in royal ease
I sit and, thinking of my darling, drain With
stedfast lip the liquor to the dregs. I’ll
have a pair of pipers, shepherds both, This from
Acharnae, from Lycope that; And Tityrus
shall be near me and shall sing How the swain
Daphnis loved the stranger-maid; And how he ranged
the fells, and how the oaks (Such oaks as Himera’s
banks are green withal) Sang dirges o’er
him waning fast away Like snow on Athos, or on
Haemus high, Or Rhodope, or utmost Caucasus.
And he shall sing me how the big chest held (All
through the maniac malice of his lord) A living
goatherd: how the round-faced bees, Lured
from their meadow by the cedar-smell, Fed him
with daintiest flowers, because the Muse Had made
his throat a well-spring of sweet song. Happy
Cometas, this sweet lot was thine! Thee
the chest prisoned, for thee the honey-bees Toiled,
as thou slavedst out the mellowing year: And
oh hadst thou been numbered with the quick In
my day! I had led thy pretty goats About
the hill-side, listening to thy voice: While
thou hadst lain thee down ’neath oak or pine,
Divine Cometas, warbling pleasantly.”

He spake and paused; and thereupon spake I.
“I too, friend Lycid, as I ranged the fells,
Have learned much lore and pleasant from the Nymphs,
Whose fame mayhap hath reached the throne of Zeus.
But this wherewith I’ll grace thee ranks the first:
Thou listen, since the Muses like thee well.

[Sings] On me the young Loves
sneezed: for hapless I Am fain of Myrto as
the goats of Spring. But my best friend Aratus
inly pines For one who loves him not. Aristis
saw (A wondrous seer is he, whose
lute and lay Shrined Apollo’s self would
scarce disdain) How love had scorched
Aratus to the bone. O Pan, who hauntest
Homole’s fair champaign, Bring the soft
charmer, whosoe’er it be, Unbid to his sweet
arms so, gracious Pan, May ne’er
thy ribs and shoulderblades be lashed With squills
by young Arcadians, whensoe’er They are
scant of supper! But should this my prayer Mislike
thee, then on nettles mayest thou sleep, Dinted
and sore all over from their claws! Then
mayest thou lodge amid Edonian hills By Hebrus,
in midwinter; there subsist, The Bear thy neighbour:
and, in summer, range With the far AEthiops ’neath
the Blemmyan rocks Where Nile is no more seen!
But O ye Loves, Whose cheeks are like pink apples,
quit your homes By Hyetis, or Byblis’ pleasant
rill, Or fair Dione’s rocky pedestal, And
strike that fair one with your arrows, strike The
ill-starred damsel who disdains my friend. And
lo, what is she but an o’er-ripe pear?
The girls all cry ‘Her bloom is on the wane.’
We’ll watch, Aratus, at that porch no
more, Nor waste shoe-leather: let the morning
cock Crow to wake others up to numb despair!
Let Molon, and none else, that ordeal brave:
While we make ease our study, and secure Some
witch, to charm all evil from our door.”

I ceased. He smiling sweetly as before,
Gave me the staff, ‘the Muses’ parting gift,’
And leftward sloped toward Pyxa. We the while,
Bent us to Phrasydeme’s, Eucritus and I,
And baby-faced Amyntas: there we lay
Half-buried in a couch of fragrant reed
And fresh-cut vineleaves, who so glad as we?
A wealth of elm and poplar shook o’erhead;
Hard by, a sacred spring flowed gurgling on
From the Nymphs’ grot, and in the sombre boughs
The sweet cicada chirped laboriously.
Hid in the thick thorn-bushes far away
The treefrog’s note was heard; the crested lark
Sang with the goldfinch; turtles made their moan,
And o’er the fountain hung the gilded bee.
All of rich summer smacked, of autumn all:
Pears at our feet, and apples at our side
Rolled in luxuriance; branches on the ground
Sprawled, overweighed with damsons; while we brushed
From the cask’s head the crust of four long years.
Say, ye who dwell upon Parnassian peaks,
Nymphs of Castalia, did old Chiron e’er
Set before Heracles a cup so brave
In Pholus’ cavern did as nectarous draughts
Cause that Anapian shepherd, in whose hand
Rocks were as pebbles, Polypheme the strong,
Featly to foot it o’er the cottage lawns:
As, ladies, ye bid flow that day for us
All by Demeter’s shrine at harvest-home?
Beside whose cornstacks may I oft again
Plant my broad fan: while she stands by and smiles,
Poppies and cornsheaves on each laden arm.