Greek Mythology >> Heroes >> Daphnis


Greek Name




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Of the laurel

Daphnis and the god Pan | Greco-Roman marble statue | Naples National Archaeological Museum
Daphnis and the god Pan, Greco-Roman marble statue, Naples National Archaeological Museum

DAPHNIS was a Sicilian herdsman and the inventor of bucolic poetry. He pledged his love to a Naias-nymphe but, after cheating on her with another woman, was blinded and fell to his death from a cliff. The bucolic poets sang of Daphnis in their idylls.



[1.1] HERMES (Theocritus Idylls 1.78, Parthenius 29, Aelian Miscellany 10.18)
[1.2] HERMES & a NYMPHE (Diodorus Siculus 4.84.2)
[2.1] LYKIDAS & NOMAIE (Theocritus Idylls 27.42)


DAPHNIS, a Sicilian hero, to whom the invention of bucolic poetry is ascribed. He is called a son of Hermes by a nymph (Diod. iv. 84), or merely the beloved of Hermes. (Aelian, V. H. x. 18.) Ovid (Met. iv. 275) calls him an Idaean shepherd; but it does not follow from this, that Ovid connected him with either the Phrygian or the Cretan Ida, since Ida signifies any woody mountain. (Etym. Magn. s.v.) His story runs as follows: The nymph, his mother, exposed him when an infant in a charming valley in a laurel grove, from which he received his name of Daphnis, and for which he is also called the favourite of Apollo. (Serv. ad Virg. Eclog. x. 26.) He was brought up by nymphs or shepherds, and he himself became a shepherd, avoiding the bustling crowds of men, and tending his flocks on mount Aetna winter and summer. A Naiad (her name is different in different writers, Echenais, Xenea, Nomia, or Lyce,--Parthen. Erot. 29; Schol. ad Theocrit. i. 65, vii. 73; Serv. ad Virg. Eclog. viii. 68; Phylarg. ad Virg. Eclog. v. 20) fell in love with him, and made him promise never to form a connexion with any other maiden, adding the threat that he should become blind if he violated his vow. For a time the handsome Daphnis resisted all the numerous temptations to which he was exposed, but at last he forgot himself, having been made intoxicated by a princess. The Naiad accordingly punished him with blindness, or, as others relate, changed him into a stone. Previous to this time he had composed bucolic poetry, and with it delighted Artemis during the chase. According to others, Stesichorus made the fate of Daphnis the theme of his bucolic poetry, which was the earliest of its kind. After having become blind, he invoked his father to help him. The god accordingly raised him up to heaven, and caused a well to gush forth on the spot where this happened. The well bore the name of Daphnis, and at it the Sicilians offered an annual sacrifice. (Serv. ad Virg. Ecl. v. 20.) Phylargyrius, on the same passage, states, that Daphnis tried to console himself in his blindness by songs and playing on the flute, but that he did not live long after; and the Scholiast on Theocritus (viii. 93) relates, that Daphnis, while wandering about in his blindness, fell from a steep rock. Somewhat different accounts are contained in Servius (ad Virg. Eclog. viii. 68) and in various parts of the Idyls of Theocritus.

Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.



Parthenius, Love Romances 29 (trans. Gaselee) (Greek poet C1st B.C.) :
"From the Sikelika of Timaios [historian of early Sicily, C4th-3rd B.C.].
In Sikelia (Sicily) was born Daphnis the son of Hermes, who was skilled in playing on the pipes and also exceedingly beautiful. He would never frequent the places where men come together, but spent his life in the open, both winter and summer, keeping his herds on the slopes of Aitna (Etna). The nymphe Ekhenais (Echenais), so the story runs, fell in love with him, and bade him never have to do with mortal woman; if he disobeyed, his fate would be to lose his eyes. For some considerable time he stood out strongly against all temptation, although not a few women were madly in love with him; but at last one of the Sikelian (Sicilian) princesses worked his ruin by plying him with much wine, and so brought him to the desire to consort with her. Thus he, too, like Thamyras the Thrakian (Thracian), was thenceforward blind through his own folly."

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 84. 1 - 4 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"At this time we shall endeavour to set forth what the myths relate concerning Daphnis. There are in Sikelia (Sicily), namely, the Heraia (Heraea) Mountains, which, men say, are naturally well suited, by reason of the beauty and nature and special character of the region round about, to relaxation and enjoyment in the summer season. For they possess many springs of exceptionally sweet water and are full of trees of every description. On them also is a multitude of great oak-trees which bear fruit of extraordinary size, since it is twice as large as any that grows in other lands. And they possess as well some of the cultivated fruits, which have sprung up of their own accord, since the vine is found there in profusion and tree-fruits in quantities beyond telling . . .
It was in this region, where there were glens filled with trees and meet for a god and a grove consecrated to the Nymphai (Nymphs), that, as the myths relate, he who was known as Daphnis was born, a son of Hermes and a Nymphe, and he, because of the sweet bay (daphnê) which grew there in such profusion and so thick, was given the name Daphnis.
He was reared by Nymphai, and since he possessed very many herds of cattle and gave great attention to their care, he was for this reason called by the name Boukolos (Bucolus) or ‘Neatherd.’ And being endowed with an unusual gift of song, he invented the bucolic or pastoral poem and the bucolic song which continues to be so popular throughout Sikelia (Sicily) to the present day.
The myths add that Daphnis accompanied Artemis in her hunting, serving the goddess in an acceptable manner, and that with his shepherd's pipe and singing of pastoral songs he pleased her exceedingly. The story is also told that one of the Nymphai became enamoured of him and prophesied to him that if he lay with any other woman he would be deprived of his sight; and indeed, when once he had been made drunken by a daughter of a king and had lain with her, he was deprived of his sight in accordance with the prophecy delivered by the Nymphe. As for Daphnis, then, let what we have said suffice."

Aelian, On Animals 11. 13 (trans. Scholfield) (Greek natural history C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"They say that the five hounds, Sannos, Podargos, Lampas, Alkimos (Alcimus), and Theon, kept by Daphnis the neatherd of Syrakouse (Syracuse) who suffered his well-known punishment at the hands of the Nymphe, at the sight of their master's misfortune chose to die after he died, having previously bewailed him deeply and shed tears in abundance."

Aelian, Historical Miscellany 10. 18 (trans. Wilson) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"Some say the herdsman Daphnis was the favourite boy (erômenos) of Hermes, others that he was his son. He acquired his name from something that happened to him: he was the child of a Nymphe, exposed after birth beside a laurel tree. The cattle he looked after were said to be sisters of Helios the Sun, recorded by Homer in the Odyssey [12.127]. While was was with his flock in Sikelia (Sicily) a nymphe fell in love with him; she made love to him--he was handsome, young, and just beginning to grow a beard, at the stage when good-looking young men show their youth in its most attractive form, as Homer himself remarks somewhere [Iliad 24.348]. She arranged that he should never approach any other woman and threatened him that he was fated to lose his sight if he transgressed. They made a solemn agreement with each other in these terms. Later, when a king's daughter fell in love with him, he got drunk, broke the agreement, and made advances to her. That was when pastoral songs were first sung and had as their subject his misfortune in being blinded. Stesikhoros (Stesichorus) of Himera began this type of lyric poetry."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 4. 275 ff (trans. Brookes More) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"The amours of the shepherd Daphnis, known to many of you, I shall not relate; the shepherd Daphnis of Mount Ida, who was turned to stone obdurate, for the Nymphe whose love he slighted--so the rivalry of love neglected rouses to revenge."


Daphnis was a stock character in bucolic poetry. In the Idylls of Theocritus, he is a rustic herdsman, who competes with Menalkas in song. The poems contain a few mythological references:--he is described as a son of Hermes, marries a Naias (Naiad-nymph), loves the girl Xenea, is blinded by the nymphe, and dies a tragic death. Virgil, in his Eclogues, sings of the hero's apotheosis.

Theocritus, Idylls 1. 18 & 65 - 145 (trans. Edmonds) (Greek bucolic C3rd B.C.) :
[Synopsis : Thyrsis sings The Affliction of Daphnis, a ballad which tells how Daphnis, having vowed to his first love that she should be his last, pined and died for the love of another. The ballad is divided into three parts. The first part, after a complaint to the Nymphai (Nymphs) of their neglect, tells how the herds and the herdsmen gathered about the dying man, and Hermes his father, and Priapos the country-god of fertility whom he had flouted, came and spoke and got no answer. In the second part, the slighted Aphrodite comes, and gently upbraids him, whereat he breaks silence with a threat of vengeance after death. In the third part the bequeaths his pipe to Pan, ends his dying speech with an address to all Nature, and is overwhelmed at last in the river of Death.]
"Goatherd : But for singing, you, Thyrsis, used to sing The Affliction of Daphnis as well as any man; you are no 'prentice in the art of country music . . .
Thyrsis (sings) : Country-song, sing country-song, sweet Moisai (Muses).
'Tis Thyrsis sings, of Aitna (Etna), and a rare sweet voice hath he. Where were ye, Nymphai (Nymphs), when Daphnis pined? ye Nymphai, O where were ye? Was it Peneios' (Peneus') pretty vale, or Pindos' glens? 'twas never Anápos' flood nor Aitna's pike nor Akis' (Acis') holy river.
Country-song, sing country-song, sweet Moisai (Muses).
When Daphnis died the foxes wailed and the wolves they wailed full sore, the lion from the greenward wept when Daphnis was no more.
Country-song, sing country-song, sweet Moisai.
O many the lusty steers at his feet, and may the heifers slim, many the claves and many the kine that made their moan for him.
Country-song, sing country-song, sweet Moisai.
Came Hermes first, from the hills away, and said ‘O Daphnis tell, who is't that fretteth thee, my son? whom lovest thou so well?’
Country-song, sing country-song, sweet Moisai.
The neatherds came, the shepherds came, and the goatherds him beside, all fain to hear what ail'd him; Priapos came and cried ‘Why peak and pine, unhappy wight, when thou mightest bed a bride? For there's nor wood nor water but hath seen her footsteps flee--’
Country-song, sing country-song, sweet Moisai--
‘In search o' thee. O a fool-in-love and a feeble is here, perdye! Neatherd, forsooth? 'tis goatherd now, or 'faith, 'tis like to be; when goatherd in the rutting-time the skipping kids doth scan, his eye grows soft, his eye grows sad, because he's born a man;--’
Country-song, sing country-song, sweet Moisai--
‘So you, when ye see the lasses laughing in gay riot, your eye grows soft, your eye grows sad, because you share it not.’ But never a word said the poor neathérd, for a bitter love bare he; and he bare it well, as I shall tell, to the end that was to be.
Country-song, more country-song, ye Moisai.
But and Kypris (Cypris) [Aphrodite] came him to, and smiled on him full sweetly--for thou she fain would foster wrath, she could not choose but smile--and cried ‘Ah, braggart Daphnis, that wouldst throw Love so featly! Thou'rt thrown, methinks, thyself of Eros' (Love's) so grievous guile.’
Country-song, more country-song, ye Moisai.
Then out he spake; ‘O Kypris cruel, Kypris vengeful yet, Kypris hated of all flesh! think'st all my sun be set? I tell thee even 'mong the dead Daphnis shall work thee ill:--’
Country-song, more country-song, ye Moisai.
‘Men talk of Kypris and the hind; begone to Ida hill, begone to hind Ankhises (Anchises); sure bedstraw there doth thrive and fine oak-trees and pretty bees all humming at the hive.’
Country-song, more country-song, ye Moisai.
‘Adonis too is ripe to woo, for a 'tends his sheep o' the lea and shoots the hare and a-hunting goes of all the beasts there be.’
Country-song, more country-song, ye Moisai.
‘And then I'd have thee take thy stand by Diomedes, and say "I slew the neatherd Daphnis; fight me thou to-day."’
Country-song, more country-song, ye Moisai.
‘But 'tis wolf farewell and fox farewell and bear o' the mountain den, your neatherd fere, your Daphnis dear, ye'll never see agen, by glen no more, by glade no more. And 'tis o farewell to thee sweet Arethoise (Arethusa), and all pretty watérs down Thymbris vale that flee.’
Country-song, more country-song, ye Moisai.
‘For this, O this is that Daphnis, your kine to field did bring, this Daphnis he, led stirk and steer to you a-watering.’
Country-song, more country-song, ye Moisai.
‘And Pan, O Pan, whether at this hour by Lykaios' (Lycaeus') mountain-pile or Mainalos (Maenalus) steep thy watch thou keep, come away to the Sicil isle (Sikelia), come away from the knoll of Helikè (Helice) and the howe lift high i' the lea, the howe of Lykáon's (Lycaon's) child, the howe that Gods in heav's envye;’
Country-song, leave country-song, ye Moisai.
‘Come, Master, and take this pretty pipe, this pipe of honey breath, of wax well knit round lips to fit; for Love hales mé to my death.’
Country-song, leave country-song, ye Moisai.
‘Bear violets now ye briers, ye thistles violets too; daffodilly may hang on the juniper, and all things go askew; pines may grow figs now Daphnis dies, and hind tear hound if she will, and the sweet nightingále be outsung i' the dale by the scritch-owl from the hill.’
Country-song, leave country-song, ye Moisai.
Such words spake he, and he stayed him still; and O, Aphrodite, she would fain have raised him where he lay, but that could never be. For the (Moirai's) thread was spun and the days were done and Daphnis gone to the River [Akheron in the netherworld], and the Nymphai's (Nymphs') good friend and the Moisai's fere was whelmed i' the whirl for ever.
There; give me the goat and the tankard man [i.e. as payment for the lay]; and the Moisai shall have a libation of her milk. Fare you well, ye Moisai, and again fare you well, and I'll e'en sing you a sweeter song another day."

Theocritus, Idylls 5. 20 ff :
"Lakon (Lacon) : Heaven send me the affliction of Daphnis [i.e. blindness] if e'er I believe that tale."

Theocritus, Idylls 5. 80 ff :
"Komatas (Comatas) : The Moisai (Muses) bear me greater love than Daphnis ere did see."

Theocritus, Idylls 7. 73 ff :
"And sing beside me of Xénea and neatherd Daphnis' love, how the hills were troubled around him and the oaks sang dirges above, sang where they stood by Himeras flood, when he a-wasting lay like snow on Haimos (Haemus) or Athos or Kaukasos (Caucasus) far far away."

Theocritus, Idylls 6 :
[A Country Singing Match. A friendly contest between the neatherd Daphnis and the rustic Damoitas.]
"Damoitas (Damoetas) and neatherd Daphnis, Aratos (Aratus), half-bearded one, the other's chin ruddy with the down, had driven each his herd together to a single spot at noon of a summer's day, and sitting them down side by side at a water-spring began to sing. Daphnis sang first, for from him came the challenge : [He sings of the love of the Kyklops (Cyclops) Polyphemos for Galateia.] . . .
Then Damoitas in answer lifted up his voice, singing : [He sings of the god Pan.] . . .
So far Damoitas, and kissed Daphnis, and that to this gave a pipe and this to that a pretty flue. Then lo! the piper was neatherd Daphnis and the flute-player Damoitas, and the dancers were the heifers who forthwith began to bound mid the tender grass. And as for the victory, that fell to neither one, being they both stood unvanquished in the match."

Theocritus, Idylls 8 :
[The Second Country Singing-Match. The mythical neatherd Daphnis and the shepherd Menalkas compete in a song contest. Daphnis sings of his love for the Naias-nymphe.]
"Once on a day the fair Daphnis, out upon the long hills with his cattle, met Menalkas (Menalcas) keeping his sheep. Both had ruddy heads, both were striplings grown, both were players of music, and both knew how to sing. Looking now towards Daphnis, Menalkas first ‘What, Daphnis,’ cries he, ‘thou watchman o' bellowing kine, art thou willing to sing me somewhat? I'll warrant, come my turn, I shall have as much the better of thee as I choose.’ And this was Daphnis' answer : ‘Thou shepherd o' woolly sheep, thou mere piper Menalkas, never shall the likes of thee have the better of me in song, strive he never so hard.’
Menalkas : Then will 't please you look hither? Will't please you lay a wage?
Daphnis : Aye, that it will; I'll look you and lay you, too.
Menalkas : And what shall our wage be? what shall be sufficient for us?
Daphnis : Mine shall be a calf, only let yours be that mother-tall fellow yonder.
Menalkas : He shall be no wage of mine. Father and mother are both sour as can be, and tell the flock to head every night.
Daphnis : Well, but what is't to be? and what's the winner to get for's pains?
Menalkas : Here's a gallant nine-stop pipe I have made, with good white beeswax the same top and bottom; this I'm willing to lay, but I'll not stake what is my father's.
Daphnis : Marry, I have a nine-stop pipe likewise, and it like yours hath good white beeswax the same top and bottom. I made it t'other day, and my finer here sore yet where a split reed cut it for me. (Each takes a pipe,)
Menalkas : But who's to be our judge? who's to do the hearing for us?
Dapnnis : Peradventure that goatherd yonder, if we call him; him wi' that spotted flock-dog a-barking near by the kids.
So the lads holla'd, and the goatherd came to hear them, the lads sang and the goatherd was fain to be their judge. Lots were cast, and 'twas Menalkas Loud-o'-voice to begin the country-song and Daphnis to take him up by course. Menalkas thus began:
Menalkas : Ye woods and waters, wondrous race, lith and listen of your grace; if e'er my son was your delight feed my lambs with all your might; and if Daphnis wend this way, make his calves as fat as they.
Daphnis : Ye darling wells and meadows dear, sweets o' the earth, come lend an ear; if like the nightingales I sing, give my cows good pasturing; and if Menalcas e'er you see, fill his block and make him glee.
Menalkas : Where sweet Milon trips the leas there's fuller hives and loftier trees; where'er those pretty footings fall goats and sheep come twinners all; if otherwhere those feet be gone, pasture's lean and shepherd lone.
Daphnis : Where sweet Naïs [Naiad-nymph] comes a-straying there the green meads go a-maying; where'er her pathway lies along, there's springing teats and growing young; if otherwhere her gate be gone, cows are dry and herd fordone.
Menalkas : Buck-goat, husband of the she's, hie to th' wood's infinities--nay, snubbies, hither to the spring; this errand's not for your running;--go buck, and ‘Fairest Milon’ say, ‘a god kept seals' once on a day.’
Daphnis : [Daphnis' reply is lost.]
Menalkas : I would not Pelops' tilth untold nor all Kroisos' (Croesus') coffered gold, nor yet t' outfoot the storm-wind's breath, so I may sit this rock beneath, pretty pasture-mate, wi' thee, and gaze on the Sicilian sea.
Daphnis : Wood doth fear the tempest's ire, water summer's drouthy fire, beasts the net and birds the snare. Man the love of maiden fair; not I alone lie under ban; Zeus himself's a woman's man.
So far went the lads' songs by course. Now 'twas the envoy, and Menalkas thus began :
Menalkas : Spare, good Wolf, the goats you see, spare them dam and kid for me; ff flock is great and flockman small, is't reason you should wrong us all? Come, White-tail, why so sound asleep? Good dogs wake when boys tend sheep. Fear not, ewes, your fill to eat; for when the new blade sprouteth sweet, then ye shall no losers be; to't, and fed you every she, feed till every udder teem store for lambs and store for cream.
Then Daphnis, for his envoy, lifted up his tuneful voice, singing--
Daphnis : Yestermorn a long-browed maid, spying from a rocky shade neat and neatherd passing by, cries ‘What a pretty boy am I!’ Did pretty boy the jape repay : Nay, bent his head and went his way. Sweet to hear and sweet to smell, god wot I love a heifer well, and sweet alsó 'neath summer sky to sit where brooks go babbling by; but 'tis berry and bush, 'tis fruit and tree, 'tis calf and cow, wi' my kine and me.
So sang those two lads, and this is what the goatherd said of their songs : ‘You, good Daphnis, have a sweet and delightful voice. Your singing is to the ear as honey to the lip. Here's the pipe; take it; your song has fairly won it you. And if you are willing to teach me how to sing while I share pasture with you, you shall have the little she-goat yonder to your school-money, and I warrant you she'll fill your pail up the brim and further.’
At that the lad was transported, and capered and clapped hands for joy of his victory; so capers a fawn at the sight of his dam. At that, too, the other's fire was utterly extinct, and his heart turned upside-down for grief; so mourns a maiden that is forced against her will.
From that day forth Daphnis had the pre-eminence of the shepherds, insomuch that he was scarce come to man's estate ere he had to wife that Naïs of whom he sang."

Theocritus, Idylls 9 :
[The Third Country Singing-Match. Daphnis and Menalkas compete in a singing contest.]
"Sing a country-song, Daphnis. Be you the first and Menalkas (Menalcas) follow when you have let out the calves to run with the cows and the bulls with the barren heifers. As for the cattle, may they feed together and wander together among the leaves and never stray alone, but do you come and sing me your song on this side, and Menalkas stand for judgment against you on that.
Daphnis (sings) : O sweet the cry o' the calf, and sweet the cry o' the cow, and sweet he tune o' the neatherd's pipe, and I sing sweet enow; and a greenbed's mine by the cool brook-side piled thick and thick with many a hide from the pretty heifers wi' skin so white which the storm found browsing on the height and hurled them all below : and as much reck I o' the scorching heat as a love-struck lad of his father's threat.
So sang me Daphnis, and then Menalkas thus :--
Menalkas (sings) : Aitna (Etna), mother o' mine! my shelter it is a grot, a pretty rift in a hollow clift, and for skins to my bed, god wot, head and foot 'tis goats and sheep as many as be in a vision o' sleep, and an oaken fire i' the winter days with chestnuts roasting at the blaze and puddings in the pot : and as little care I for the wintry sky as the toothless for nuts when porridge is by.
Then clapped I the lads both, and then and there gave them each a gift, Daphnis a club which grew upon my father's farm and e'en the same as it grew--albeit an artificer could not make one to match it--, and Menalkas a passing fine conch, of which the fish when I took it among the Icarian rocks furnished five portions for five mouths,--and he blew a blast upon the shell.
All hail, good Moisai (Muses) o' the countryside (boukolikai)! and the song I did sing that day before those herdsmen, let it no longer raise pushes on the tip o' my tongue, but show it me you:
(the song) O cricket is to cricket dear, and ant for ant doth long, the hawk's the darling of his fere, and o' me the Moise (Muse) and her song : of songs be my house the home away, for neither sleep, nor a sudden spring-day, nor flowers to the bees, are as sweet as they; I love the Moise and her song : for any the Moisai be glad to see, is proof agen Kirkè's (Circe's) witcheyre."

Theocritus, Idylls 27 :
[The Lover's Talk. A shepherd sings of a conservation between Daphnis and the girl Akrotime.]
Akrotime (Acrotime) : 'Twas a neatherd like you carried off the wise Helene.
Daphnis : Helene is more willing now, for she kisses her neatherd.
Akrotime : Soft, my satyr-boy (satyriskos), be not so sure; there's a saying ‘nought goes to a kiss.’
Daphnis : Even in an empty kiss there's a sweet delight.
Akrotime : Look ye, I wipe my mouth o' your kiss and spit it from me.
Daphnis : Wipe thy lips, quotha? then give them hither again and have thee another.
Akrotime : 'Twere rather becoming you to kiss your heifers than a maiden woman like me.
Daphnis : Soft you, be not so sure; your youth passes you by like a dream.
Akrotime : But the grape's in the raisin, and dry rose-leaves may live.
Daphnis (kissing her cheek) : Shall this be suffered to grow old, that is my milk and honey? Pray you come hither under those wild-olives; I would fain tell you a tale.
Akrotime : Nay, I thank you; you beguiled me before with your pretty tales.
Daphnis : Then pray you come hither under those elms and let me play you my pipe.
Akrotime : Nay; that way you may pleasure yourself; scant joy comes of a sorry ting.
Daphnis : Alackaday! you likewise, honey, must e'en fear the wrath of Dame Phaphian [i.e. Aphrodite].
Akrotime : Dame Paphian may go hang for me; my prayers are to Artemis.
Daphnis : Hist! or she'll have at thee, and then thou'lt be in the trap.
Akrotime : Let her have at me; Artemis will help me out.
Daphnis : No other maiden escapes Eros (Love), nor doest thou escape him.
Aktrotime : 'Fore Pan, that do I; as for you, I only pray you may ever bear his yoke. (he puts his arm about her and makes to kiss her again) Unhand me, man; I'll bite thy lip yet.
Daphnis : But I fear if I let thee go a worser man will have thee.
Akrotime : Many the wooers have been after me, but never a one have I had to my mind.
Daphnis : Well, here am I come to add one more to those may.
Akrotime : O friend, what is to do? marriage is all woe.
Daphnis : Nay; a marriage is a thing neither of pain nor grief but rather of dancing.
Akrotime : Aye, but I'm told the wives do fear their bed-fellows.
Daphnis : Nay; rather have they ever the upper hand; what should wives fear?
Akrotime : 'Tis the throes I fear; the stroke of Eileithyia is hard to bear.
Daphnis : But thou hast Artemis to thy queen, and she lightens the labour.
Akrotime : Ah! but I fear lest the childbirth lose me my pretty face.
Daphnis : But if thou bear sweet children, thou'lt see a new light in thy sons.
Akrotime : And if I say thee yea, what gift bring'st thou with thee worthy the marriage?
Daphnis : Thou shalt have all my herd and all the planting and pasture I possess.
Akrotime : Swear thou'lt never thereafter leave me all forlorn.
Daphnis : Before great Pan I swear it, even if thou choose to send me packing.
Akrotime : Buildest me a bower and a house and a farmstead?
Daphnis : Yea, I build thee a house, and the flocks I feed are fine flocks.
Akrotime : But then my gray-headed father, O what can I say to him?
Daphnis : He'll think well o' thy wedlock when he hears my name.
Akrotime : Then tell me that name o' thine; there's often joy in a name.
Daphnis : 'Tis Daphnis, mine, and my father's Lykidas (Lycidas) and my mother's Nomaie (of the Pastures).
Daphnis : Thou com'st of good stock; and yet methinks I am as good as thou.
Daphnis : Aye, I know it; thou art Akrotimè and thy father Menalkas (Menalcas).
Akrotime : Come, show me thy planting, show me where thy farmstead is.
Daphnis : Lo! this way it is; look how tall and slender my cypress-trees spring!
Akrotime : Graze on, my goats; I go to see the neatherd's labours.
Daphnis : Feed you well, my bulls; I would fain show the maid my planting.
Akrotime : What art thou at, satyr-boy? why hast put thy hand inside on my breasts?
Daphnis : I am fain to give thy ripe pippins their first lesson.
Akrotime : 'Fore pan, I shall swoon; take back thy hand.
Daphnis : Never thou mind, sweet; what hadst thou to fear, little coward.
Akrotime : Thou thrustest me into the water-conduit and soilest my pretty clothes.
Daphnis : Nay; look ye there! I cast my soft sheepskin under thy cloak.
Akrotime : Out, alack! thou hast torn off my girdle, too. Why didst loose that?
Daphnis : This shall be my firstlings to our Lady of Paphos [Aphrodite].
Akrotime : Hold, ah hold! sure somebody's e'en coming. There's a noise.
Daphnis : Aye, the cypress-trees talking together of thy bridal.
Akrotime : Thou hast torn my mantle and left me in the nude.
Daphnis : I'll give thee another mantle, and an ampler.
Akrotime : You say you'll give me anything I may ask, who soon mayhap will deny me salt.
Daphnis : Would I could give thee my very soul to boot!
Akrotime : O Artemis, be not wroth with a transgressor of thy word.
Daphnis : Eros (Love) shall have a heifer of me, and great Aphrodite a cow.
Akrotime : Lo, I came hither a maid and I go home a woman.
Daphnis : Aye, a mother and a nursing-mother, maiden no more.
Thus they prattled in the joy of their fresh young limbs. The secret bridal over, she rose and went her ways for to feed her sheep, her look shamefast but her heart glad within her; while as for him, he betook himself to his herds of bulls rejoicing in his wedlock.
The Umpire [addresses the shepherd who has sung this song of Daphnis and Akrotime] : Here, take the pipe, thou happy shepherd; 'tis thine once more; and so let's hear and consider another of the tunes of the leaders o' sheep."

Theocritus, Inscriptions 2 :
"[Inscription for a picture :] These stopped reeds, this hurl-bat, this sharp javelin, this fawnskin, and this wallet he used to carry apples in, are an offering unto Pan from the fair-skinned Daphnis, who piped the music o' the country upon this pretty flute."

Theocritus, Inscriptions 3 :
"[Inscription for a picture :] You sleep there upon the leaf-strown earth, good Daphnis, and rest your weary frame, while your netting-stakes are left planted on the hillside. But Pan is after you, and Priapos also, with the yellow ivy about his jolly head; they are going side by side into your cave. Quick then, put off the lethargy that is shed of sleep, and up with you and away."

Theocritus, Inscriptions 5 :
"'Fore the Nymphai (Nymphs) I pray you play me some sweet thing upon the double pipe, and I will take my viol and strike up likewise, and neatherd Daphnis shall join with us and make charming music with the notes of his wax-bound breath; and so standing beside the shaggy oak behind the cave, let's rob you goat-foot Pan of his slumber."

Sositheus, Daphnis (lost play) (Greek drama C3rd B.C.) :
Sositheus--a poet of Syracuse, Athens or Alexandreia in the Troad--was the author a pastoral play entitled Daphnis. Presumably it told the story of the Sicilian hero in the manner of the poet Theocritus.

Virgil, Eclogues 2. 27 ff (trans. Fairclough) (Roman bucolic C1st B.C.) :
"[A rustic sings to his lover :] With you for judge, I should fear not Daphnis, if the mirror never lies!" [N.B. By "fear not Daphnis" the rustic means his beloved would not betray him even for one so handsome as the legendary Daphnis.]

Virgil, Eclogues 3. 12 ff :
"Damoetas : Or was it when, by these old beeches, you broke Daphnis' bow and arrows; for you were vexed, spiteful Menalcas, when you saw them given to the boy, and if you hadn't hurt him somehow, you'd have died." [N.B. Menalcus is Daphnis' rival in the Idylls of Theocritus.]

Virgil, Eclogues 5. 1 - 80 :
"Menalcus : Mopsus, now that we have met, good men both, you at blowing on the slender reeds, I at singing verses--why don't we sit together here, where hazels mix with elms? . . .
Mopsus (sings) : ‘For Daphnis, cut off by a cruel death, the Nymphae wept--you hazels and rivers bear witness to the Nymphae--when, clasping her son's piteous corpse, his mother cried out on the cruelty of both gods and stars. On those days, Daphnis, none drove the pastured kine to the cool streams; no four-footed beast tasted the brook or touched a blade of grass. Daphnis, the wild mountains and woods tell us that even African lions moaned over your death. Daphnis it was that taught men to yoke Armenian tigers beneath the car, to lead on the dances of Bacchus and entwine in soft leaves the tough spears. As the vine gives glory to its trees, as the grape to the vines, as the bull to the herd, as the corn to rich fields, you alone give glory to your people. Since the Fates bore you off, even Pales has left our fields, and even Apollo. Often in the furrows, to which we entrusted the big barley grains, luckless darnel springs up and barren oat straws. Instead of the soft violet, instead of the gleaming narcissus, the thistle rises up and the sharp-spiked thorn. Strew the turf with leaves, shepherds, curtain the springs with shade--such honours Daphnis charges you to pay him. And build a tomb, and on the tomb place, too, this verse : "Daphnis was I amid the woods, known from here even to the stars. Fair was my flock, but fairer I, their shepherd."’
Menalcas : Your lay, heavenly bard, is to me even as sleep on the grass to the weary . . . Still I will sing you in turn, poorly it may be, this strain of mine, and exalt your Daphnis to the stars. Daphnis I will exalt to the stars; me, too, Daphnis loved . . .
Menalcas (sings) : ‘Daphnis, in radiant beauty, marvels at Heaven's unfamiliar threshold, and beneath his feet beholds the clouds and stars [i.e. after death he joined the gods of heaven]. Therefore frolic glee seizes the woods and all the countryside, and Pan, and the shepherds, and the Dryad maids. The wolf plans no ambush for the flock, and nets no snare for the stag; kindly Daphnis loves peace. The very mountains, with woods unshorn, joyously fling their voices starward; the very rocks, the very groves ring out the song : "A god is he, a god, Menalcas!" Be kind and gracious to your own! Lo here are four altars--two, see, for you, Daphnis; two for Phoebus [Apollon]! Two cups, foaming with fresh milk, will I year by year set up for you, and two bowls of rich olive oil; and, for my chief care, making the feast merry with wine--in winter, before the hearth; in harvest time, in the shade--I will pour from goblets fresh nectar of Chian wine. Damoetas and Lyctian Aegon shall sing for me, and Alphesiboeus mimic the dance of Satyri (Satyrs). These rites shall be yours for ever, both when we pay our yearly vows to the Nymphs, and when we purify our fields. So long as the boar loves the mountaintops, and the fish the streams; so long as the bees feed on thyme and the cicadas on dew--so long shall your honour, name, and glory abide. As to Bacchus [Dionysos] and Ceres [Demeter], so to you, year after year, shall the husbandmen pay their vows; you, too, shall hold them to their vows.’"

Virgil, Eclogues 7. 1 ff :
"Meliboeus : Daphnis, it chanced had made his seat beneath a whispering ilex, while Corydon and Thyrsis had driven their flocks together--Thyrsis his sheep, Corydon his goats swollen with milk--both in the bloom of life, Arcadians both, ready in a singing match to start, ready to make reply . . . and I catch sight of Daphnis. As he in turn saw me, ‘Quick,’ he cries, ‘come hither, Meliboeus; your goat and kids are safe, and if you can idle awhile, pray rest beneath the shade. Hither your steers will of themselves come over the meadows to drink; here Mincius fringes his green banks with waving reeds, and from the hallowed oak swarm humming bees.’"

N.B. Daphnis also occurs in the refrain of Virgil's 8th Eclogue.

For more bucolic poetry see :--
The Idylls of Theocritus, The Poems of Moschus, and Virgil's Eclogues





A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.