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Theocritus, Idylls

THEOCRITUS was a Greek bucolic poet who flourished in Syracuse, Cos and Alexandria in the C3rd B,C. His surviving work can mostly be found within an old compendium of 30 poems known as the "Idylls of Theocritus," Many of these works, however, are no longer attributed to the poet.

The Greek Bucolic Poets. Translated by Edmonds, J M. Loeb Classical Library Volume 28. Cambridge, MA. Harvard Univserity Press. 1912.

This Loeb volume is still in print and available new from Amazon.com (click on image right for details). In addition to the works of Theocritus the book contains the poems of Bion and Moschus, a pair of anonymous works (The Megara and Dead Adonis), various pattern-poems (by Simas, Theocritus, Dosiadas, and Vestinus), source Greek texts, Edmond's introduction and footnotes and an index of proper names.

This, as well as several other more recent translations and academic commentaries, appear in the booklist (left below).


IDYLLS 1 - 4

1. Thyrsis
2. The Spell
3. The Serenade
4. The Herdsmen

IDYLLS 5 - 11

5. The Goatherd & the Shepherd
6. A Country Singing Match
7. The Harvest-Home
8. Second Country Singing-Match
9. Third Country Singing-Match
10. The Reapers
11. The Cyclops

IDYLLS 12 - 18

12. The Beloved
13. Hylas
14. The Love of Cynisca
15. Women at the Adonia
16. The Charites
17. The Panegyris of Ptolemy
18. The Epithalamy of Helen

IDYLLS 19 - 25

19. The Honey-Stealer
20. The Young Countryman
21. The Fishermen
22. The Dioscuri
23. The Lover
24. The Little Heracles
25. How Heracles Slew the Lion


26. The Bacchanals
27. The Lovers' Talk
28. The Distaff
29. The First Love-Poem
30. The Second Love-Poem
B. Inscriptions
C. Fragments



A shepherd and a goatherd meet in the pastures one noontide, and compliment each other upon their piping. The shepherd, Thyrsis by name, is persuaded by the other – for a cup which he describes but does not at first show – to sing him The Affliction of Daphnis, a ballad which tells how the ideal shepherd, friend not only of Nymphs and Muse, but of all the wild creatures, 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 marked by changes in the refrain. The first part, after a complaint to the Nymphs of their neglect, tells how the herds and the herdsmen gathered about the dying man, and Hermes his father, and Priapus the country-god of fertility whom he had flouted, came and spoke and got no answer. In the second part, the slighted Love-Goddess comes, and gently upbraids him, whereat he breaks silence with a threat of vengeance after death. The lines of his speech which follow tell in veiled ironic terms what he vengeance of this friend of wild things will be; for Anchises was afterwards blinded by bees, Adonis slain by a boar, and Cypris herself wounded by Diomed. The speech is continued with a farewell to the wild creatures, and to the wells and rivers of Syracuse. 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. The scene of the mime is Cos, but Thyrsis comes from Sicily, and Sicily is the scene of his song.

[1] Something sweet is the whisper of the pine that makes her music by yonder springs, and sweet no less, master Goatherd, the melody of your pipe. Pan only shall take place and prize afore you; and if they give him a horny he-goat, then a she shall be yours; and if a she be for him, why, you shall have her kid; and kid’s meat’s good eating till your kids be milch-goatds.

[7] As sweetly, good Shepherd, falls your music as the resounding water that gushes down from the top o’ yonder rock. If the Muses get the ewe-lamb to their meed, you shall carry off the cosset,1 the ewe-lamb come to you.

[12] ‘Fore the Nymphs I pray you, master Goatherd, come now and sit ye down here by this shelving bank and these brush tamarisks and play me a tune. I’ll keep your goats the while.

[15] No, no man; there’s no piping for me at high noon. I go in too great dread of Pan for that. I wot high noon’s his time for taking rest after the swink o’ the chase; and he’s one o’ the tetchy sort; his nostril’s ever sour wrath’s abiding-place. 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. So let’s come and sit yonder beneath the elm, this way, over against Priapus and the fountain-goddesses,2 where that shepherd’s seat is and those oak-trees. And if you but sing as you sang that day in the match with Chromis of Libya, I’ll not only grant you three milkings of a twinner goat that for all her two young yields two pailfuls, but I’ll give you a fine great mazer3 to boot, well scoured with sweet beeswax, and of two lugs, bran-span-new and the smack of he graver upon it yet.

[29] The lip of it is hanged about with curling ivy, ivy freaked4 with a cassidony5 which goes twisting and twining among the leaves in the pride of her saffron fruitage. And within this bordure there’s a woman, fashioned as a god might fashion her, lapped in a robe and snood about her head. And either side the woman a swain with fair and flowing locks, and they bandy words the one with the other. Yet her heart is not touched by aught they say; for now ‘tis a laughing glance to this, and anon a handful of regard to that, and for all their eyes have been so long hollow for love of her, they spend their labour in vain. Besides these there’s an old fisher wrought on’t and a rugged rock, and there stands gaffer gathering up his great net for a cast with a right good will like one that toils might and main. You would say that man went about his fishing with all the strength o’s limbs, he stands every sinew in his neck, for all his grey hairs, puffed and swollen; for his strength is the strength of youth.
[45] And but a little removed from master Weather-beat there’s a vineyard well laden with clusters red to the ripening, and a little lad seated watching upon a hedge. And on either side of him two foxes; this ranges to and fro along the rows and pilfers all such grapes as be ready for eating, while that setteth all his cunning at the lad’s wallet, and vows he will not let him be till he have set him breaking his fast6 with but poor victuals to his drink.7 And all the time the urchin’s got star-flower-stalks a-platting to a reed for to make him a pretty gin for locusts, and cares never so much, not he, for his wallet or his vines as he takes pleasure in his platting. And for an end, mark you, spread all about he cup goes the lissom bear’s-foot, a sight worth the seeing with its writhen leaves; ‘tis a marvellous work, ‘twill amaze your heart.

[57] Now for that cup a ferryman of Calymnus8 had a goat and a gallant great cheese-loaf of me, and never yet hath it touched my lip; it still lies unhandselled by. Yet right welcome to it art thou, if like a good fellow thou’lt sing me that pleasing and delightful song. Nay, not so; I am in right earnest. To’t, good friend; sure thou wilt not be hoarding that song against thuo be’st come where all’s forgot?

THYRSIS (sings)

Country-song, sing country-song, sweet Muses.

[65] ‘Tis Thyrsis sings, of Etna, and a rare sweet voice hath he.
Where were ye, Nymphs, when Daphnis pined? ye Nymphs, O where were ye?
Was it Peneius’9 pretty vale, or Pindus’9 glens? ‘twas never
Anápus’10 flood nor Etna’s pike nor Acis’10 holy river.

Country-song, sing country-song, sweet Muses.

[71] 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 Muses.

[74] 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 Muses.

[77] 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 Muses.

[80] The neatherds came, the shepherds came, and the goatherds him beside,
All fain to hear what ail’d him; Priápus 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 Muses –

[85] “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 Muses –

[90] “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 Muses.

[95] But and the Cyprian 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 Love’s so grievous guile.”

Country-song, more country-song, ye Muses.

[100] Then out he spake; “O Cypris cruel, Cypris vengeful yet,
“Cypris 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 Muses.

[104] “Men talk of Cypris and the hind; begone to Ida hill,
“Begone to hind Anchises; sure bedstraw there doth thrive
“And fine oak-trees and pretty bees all humming at the hive.

Country-song, more country-song, ye Muses.

[109] “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 Muses.

[112] And then I’ld have thee take thy stand by Diomed, and say
“’I slew the neatherd Daphis; fight me thou to-day.’

Country-song, more country-song, ye Muses.

[115] “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 Arethuse,11 and all pretty watérs down Thymbris vale that flee.

Country-song, more country-song, ye Muses.

[120] “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 Muses.

[123] “And Pan, O Pan, whether at this hour by Lycee’s mountain-pile
“Or Maenal steep thy watch thou keep, come away to the Sicil isle,
“Come away from the knoll of Helicè12 and the howe lift high i ’ the lea,
“The howe of Lycáon’s child,12 the howe that Gods in heav’s envye;

Country-song, leave country-song, ye Muses.

[128] “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 Muses.

[132] “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 Muses.

[138] Such words spake he, and he stayed him still; and O, the Love-Ladye,
She would fain have raised him where he lay, but that could never be.
For the thread was spun and the days were done and Daphnis gone to the River,13
And the Nymphs’ good friend and the Muses’ fere was whelmed i ’ the whirl14 for ever.

[143] There; give me the goat and the tankard man; and the Muses shall have a libation of her milk. Fare you well, ye Muses, and again fare you well, and I’ll e’en sing you a sweeter song another day.

[146] Be your fair mouth filled with honey and the honeycomb, good Thyrsis; be your eating of the sweet figs of Aegilus; for sure your singing’s as delightful as the cricket’s chirping in spring. Here’s the cup (taking it from his wallet). Pray mark how good it smells; you’ll be thinking it hath been washed at the well o’ the Seasons. Hither, Browning; and milk her, you. A truce to your skipping, ye kids yonder, or the buckgoat will be after you.

1. “cosset” : a pet lamb.
2. “Priapus and the fountain-goddesses” : effigies.
3. “Mazer” : a carved wooden cup.
4. “freaked” : lit. “dusted.”
5. “Cassidony” : the Everlasting or Golden-Tufts. Some scholars, following Suidas’ explanation, take helichrysô as the ivy-flower. This meaning may have been invented to explain the passage; it is not recorded in the Scholia. But it cannot be denied that kekonimenos (or kekonismenos, as some mss give it) “dusted” suits the groups of dots which represent the ivy-flower on many ancient cups.
6. “Breaking his fast” : the chief feature of a Greek breakfast, as the word akratizô shows, was unmixed wine; this, being in a bottle, the fox, even if he wished it, could not expect to get at.
7. “To his drink” : cf. Plato, Rep. 372 B, epipinontes tou oinou, “drinking the wine to the food.”
8. Calymnus is an island near Cos.
9. “Peneius, Pindus” : a river and a mountain in Thessaly.
10. “Anapus, Acis” : rivers in Sicily.
11. “Arethusa” : the fountain of Syracuse.
12. “Helicè, Lycaon’s child” : the tombs of Helicè and her son Arcas were famous sights of Arcadia.
13. “Gone to the River” : Acheron, the river of Death; or “over the River” (eba = crossed, so schol.)
14. “Whelmed i’ the whirl” : “pent by the flood.”


This monologue, which preserves the dialogue-form by a dumb character, consists of two parts; in the first a Coan girl named Simaetha lays a fire-spell upon her neglectful lover, the young athlete Delphis, and in the second, when her maid goes off to smear the ashes upon his lintel, she tells the Moon how his love was won and lost. The scene lies not far from the sea, at a place where three roads meet without the city, the roads being bordered with tombs. The Moon shines in the background, and in the foreground is a wayside shrine and statue of Hecate with a little altar before it. Upon this altar, in the first part of the rite, the poor girl burns successively barley-meal, bay-leaves, a waxen puppet, and some bran; next, the coming of the Goddess having been heralded by the distant barking of dogs and welcomes with the beating of brass, amid the holy silence that betokens her presence Simaetha pours the libations and puts up her chief prayer; lastly she burns the herb hippomanes and a piece of the fringe of her lover’s cloak. The incantation which begins and ends the four-line stanza devoted to the burning of each of these things, as well as two central stanzas belonging to the holy silence and the libation, is addressed to the magic four-spoked wheel which still bears the name of the bird that was originally bound to such wheels, and which is kept turning by Simaetha throughout the rite. When Thestylis withdraws with the collected ashes in the libation-bowl, her mistress begins her soliloquy. This consists of two halves, the first of which is divided, by a refrain addressed to the listening Moon, into stanzas, all, except the last, of five lines; then instead of the refrain comes the climax of the story, put briefly in two lines, and the second half begins, with its tale of desertion. In the latter half the absence of the refrain with its lyric and romantic associations is intended to heighten the contrast between then and now, between the fulness of joy and the emptiness of despair. Towards the end both of the first and of the second parts of the poem there is a suggestion that Simaetha only half believes in the efficacy of her spell; for she threatens that if it fails to bring back Delphis’ love to her, poison shall prevent his bestowing it elsewhere.

[1] Where are my bay-leaves? Come, Thestylis; where are my love-charms? Come crown me the bowl with the crimson flower o’ wool; I would fain have the fire-spell to my cruel dear that for twelve days hath not so much as come anigh me, the wretch, nor knows not whether I be alive or dead, nay nor even hath knocked upon my door, implacable man. I warrant ye Love and the Lady be gone away with his feat fancy. In the morning I’ll to Timagetus’ school and see him, and ask what he means to use me so; but, for to-night, I’ll put the spell o’ fire upon him.

[10] So shine me fair, sweet Moon; for to thee, still Goddess, is my song, to thee and that Hecat infernal who makes e’en the whelps to shiver on her goings to and fro where these tombs be and the red blood lies. All hail to thee, dread and awful Hecat! I prithee so bear me company that this medicine of my making prove potent as any of Circe’s or Medea’s or Perimed’s of the golden hair.

Wryneck, wryneck, draw him hither.

[18] First barley-meal to the burning. Come, Thestylis; throw it on. Alack, poor fool! whither are thy wits gone wandering? Lord! am I become a thing a filthy drab like thee may crow over? On, on with the meal, and say “These be Delphis’ bones I throw.”

Wryneck, wryneck, draw him hither.

[23] As Delphis hath brought me pain, so I burn the bay against Delphis. And as it crackles and then lo! is burnt suddenly to nought and we see not so much as the ash of it, e’en so be Delphis’ body whelmed in another flame.

Wryneck, wryneck, draw him hither.

[28] As this puppet melts for me before Hecat, so melt with love, e’en so speedily, Delphis of Myndus.1 And as this wheel of brass turns by grace of Aphrodite, so turn he and turn again before my threshold.2

Wryneck, wryneck, draw him hither.

[33] Now to the flames the bran. O Artemis, as thou movest the adamant that is at the door of Death, so mayst thou move all else that is unmovable. Hark, Thestylis, where the gods howl in the town. Sure the Goddess is at these cross-roads. Quick beat the pan.

Wryneck, wryneck, draw him hither.

[38] Lo there! now wave is still and wind is still, though never still the pain that is in my breast; for I am all afire for him, afire alas! for him that hath made me no wife and left me to my shame no maid.

Wryneck, wryneck, draw him hither.

[43] Thrice this libation I pour, thrice, Lady, this prayer I say: be woman at this hour or man his love-mate, O be that mate forgotten even as old Theseus once forgat the fair-tressed damsel in Dia.3

Wryneck, wryneck, draw him hither.

[48] Horse-madness is a herb that grows in Arcady, and makes every filly, every flying mare run a-raving in the hills. In like case Delphis may I see, aye, coming to my door from the oil and the wrestling-place like one that is raving mad.

Wryneck, wryneck, draw him hither.

[53] This fringe hath Delphis lost from his cloak, and this now pluck I in pieces and fling away into the ravening flame. Woe’s me, remorseless Love! why hast clung to me thus, thou muddy leech, and drained my flesh of the red blood every drop?

Wryneck, wryneck, draw him hither.

[58] I’ll bray thee an eft to-morrow, and an ill drink thou shalt find it. But for to-night take thou these ashes, Thestylis, while ‘tis yet dark, and smear them privily upon his lintel above, and spit for what thou doest4 and say “Delphis’ bones I smear.”

Wryneck, wryneck, draw him hither.

[64] Now I am alone. Where shall I begin the lament of my love? Here b’t begun; I’ll tell who ‘twas brought me to this pass.

[66] One day came Anaxo daughter of Eubulus our way, came a-basket-bearing in procession to the temple of Artemis, with a ring of man beasts about her, a lioness one.

List, good Moon, where I learnt my loving.

[70] Now Theumaridas’ Thracian nurse that dwelt next door, gone ere this to her rest, had begged and prayed me to gout and see the pageant, and so – ill was my luck – I followed her, in a long gown of fine silk, with Clearista’s5 cloak over it.

List, good Moon, where I learnt my loving.

[76] I was halfway o’ the road, beside Lycon’s, when lo! I espied walking together Delphis and Eudamippus, the hair o’ their chins as golden as cassidony,6 and the breasts of them, for they were on their way from their pretty labour at the school, shone full as fair as thou, great Moon.

List, good Moon, where I learnt my loving.

[82] And O the pity of it! in a moment I looked and was lost, lost and smit i’ the heart7; the colour went from my cheek; of that brave pageant I bethought me no more. How I got me home I know not; but this I know, a parching fever laid me waste and I was ten days and ten nights abed.

List, good Moon, where I learnt my loving.

[88] And I would go as wan and pale as any dyer’s boxwood; the hairs o’ my head began to fall; I was nought but skin and bone. There’s not a charmer in the town to whom I resorted not, nor witch’s hovel whither I went not for a spell. But ‘twas no easy thing to cure a malady like that, and time sped on apace.

List, good Moon, where I learnt my loving.

[94] At last I told my woman all the truth. “Go to, good Thestylis,” cried I, “go find me some remedy for a sore distemper. The Myndian, alack! he possesseth me altogether. Go thou, pray, and watch for him by Timagetus’ wrestling-place: ‘tis thither he resorts, ‘tis there he loves well to sit.

List, good Moon, where I learnt my loving.

[100] “And when so be thou be’st sure he’s alone, give him a gentle nod o’ the head and say Simaetha would see him, and bring him hither.” So bidden she went her ways and brought him that was so sleek and gay to my dwelling. And no sooner was I ware of the light fall o’s foot across my threshold, –

List, good Moon, where I learnt my loving –

[106] than I went cold as ice my body over, and the sweat dripped like dewdrops from my brow; aye, and for speaking I could not so much as the whimper of a child that calls on’s mother in his sleep; for my fair flesh was gone all stiff and stark like a puppet’s.

List, good Moon, where I learnt my loving.

[112] When he beheld me, heartless man!8 he fixed his gaze on the ground, sat him upon the bed, and sitting thus spake: “Why, Simaetha, when thou bad’st me hither to this thy roof, marry, thou didst no further outrun my own coming than I once outran the pretty young Philinus.9

List, good Moon, where I learnt my loving.

[118] “For I had come of myself, by sweet Love I had, of myself the very first hour of night, with comrades twain or more, some of Dionysus’ own apples in my pocket, and about my brow the holy aspen sprig of Heracles with gay purple ribbons wound in and out.

List, good Moon, where I learnt my loving.

[124] “And had ye received me so, it had been joy; for I have a name10 as well for beauty of shape as speed of foot with all the bachelry o’ the town, and I had been content so I had only kissed thy pretty lips. But and if ye had sent me packing with bolt and bar, then I warrant ye axes and torches had come against you.

List, good Moon, where I learnt my loving.

[130] “But seeing thou hadst sent for me, I vowed my thanks to the Cyprian first – but after the Cyprian ‘tis thou, in calling me to this roof, sweet maid, didst snatch the brand from a burning that was all but done; for i’ faith, Cupid’s flare oft will outblaze the God o’ Lipara11 himself, –

List, good Moon, where I learnt my loving –

[137] “And with the dire frenzy of him bride is driven from groom ere his marriage-bed by cold, much more a maid from the bower of her virginity.” So he ended, and I, that was so easy to win, took him by the hand and made him lie along the bed. Soon cheek upon cheek grew ripe, our faces waxed hotter, and lo! sweet whispers went and came. My prating shall not keep thee too long, good Moon: enough that all was done, enough that both desires were sped.

[145] And till ‘twas but yesterday, he found never a fault in me nor I in him. But lo! to-day, when She o’ the Rose-red Arms began her swift charioting from sea to sky, comes me the mother of Melixo and of our once flute-girl12 Philista, and among divers other talk would have me believe Delphis was in love. And she knew not for sure, so she said, whether this new love were of maid or of man, only “he was ever drinking” quoth she “to the name of Love, and went off in haste at the last saying his love-garlands were for such-and-such a house.” So ran my gossip’s story, and sure ‘tis true; tor ah! though time was, i’ faith, when he would come thrice and four times a day, and often left his Dorian flask with me to fetch again, now ‘tis twelve days since I so much as set eyes upon him. I am forgot, for sure; his joy doth lie otherways.

[160] To-night these my fire-philtres shall lay a spell upon him; but if so be they make not an end of my trouble, then, so help me Fate, he shall be found knocking at the gate of Death; for I tell thee, good Mistress, I have in my press medicines evil enough, that one out of Assyria13 told me of. So fare thee well, great Lady; to Ocean with thy team. And I, I will bear my love as best I may. Farewell sweet Lady o’ the Shining Face,14 and all ye starry followers in the train of drowsy Night, farewell, farewell.

1. “Myndus” : a town of Caria, opposite Cos.
2. “Turn and turn again before my threshold” : waiting to be let in; cf. 7.122.
3. “Dia” : Naxos where Theseus abandoned Ariadne.
4. “Spit for what thou doest” : to avert ill-luck.
5. “Clearista” : perhaps her sister.
6. “Cassidony” : the Everlasting or Golden-Tufts.
7. “smit i' the heart” : or perhaps ‘and my heart pierced with fire (metaph. from fire-darts used in war).
8. “Heartless man” : to behave so and then desert me.
9. “Philinus” : of Cos, here spoken of as a youth; he won at Olympia in 264 and 260.
10. “I have a name” : the self-complimentary details of Delphis’ speech are due to the reporter.
11. “God of Lipara”: the Liparaean Islands contain volcanoes.
12. “Our flute-girl” : the girl who used to play to him and me’; the same is still employed by Delphis, and it is through her mother that Simaetha learns that he loves another, a second daughter of the same woman being one of Simaetha’s serving-maids.
13. “Assyria”: the land of magic herbs.
14. For “Shining Face” there was an ancient variant ‘Shining Throne.’


The poet appears to personate a young goatherd, who after five lines dedicatory to a friend whom he calls Tityrus, serenades his mistress Amaryllis. The poem is a monologue, but, like II, preserves the dialogue-form of the mime by means of a dumb character. The appeal to Amaryllis may be regarded as consisting of three parts each ending with the offer of a gift – apples, garland, a goat – and a fourth part containing a love-song of four stanzas. The reciter would doubtless make a slight pause to mark the rejection of each gift and the failure of the song before the renewal of the cry of despair.

[1] I go a-courting of Amyrallis, and my goats they go browsing on along the hill with Tityrus to drive them on. My well-beloved Tityrus, pray feed me my goats; pray lead them to watering, good Tityrus, and beware or the buckgoat, the yellow Libyan yonder, will be butting you.

[6] Beautiful Amaryllis, why peep you no more from your cave and call me in? Hate you your sweet-heart? Can it be a near view hath shown him snub-nosed, Nymph, and over-bearded? I dare swear you’ll be the death of me. See, here have I brought you half a score of apples plucked yonder where you bade me pluck them, and to-morrow I’ll bring you so many again . . .

[12] Look, ah! look upon me; my heart is torn with pain. I wish I were yon humming bee to thread my way through the ivy and the fern you do prink your cave withal and enter in! O now know I well what Love is. ‘Tis a cruel god. I warrant you a she-lion’s dugs it was he sucked and in a forest was reared, so doth he slow-burn me, aye, pierce me to the very bone. O Nymph of the pretty glance, but all stone; O Nymph of the dark dark eyebrow, come clasp thy goatherd that is so fain to be kissing thee. E’en in an empty kiss there’s sweet delight. You’ll make me tear in pieces the ivy-wreath I have for you, dear Amaryllis; of rosebuds twined it is, and of fragrant parsley leaves . . .

[24] Alas and well-a-day! what’s to become of me? Ay me! you will not answer. I’ll doff my plaid and go to Olpis’ watching-place for tunnies and leap from it into the waves; and if I die not, ‘twill be though no fault of yours.1 I found it out t’other day; my thoughts were of you and whether or no you loved me, and when I played slap to see, the love-in-absence2 that should have stuck on, shrivelled up forthwith against the soft of my arm. Agroeo too, the sieve-witch that was out the other day a-simpling beside the harvesters, she spoke me true when she said you made me of none account, though I was all wrapt up in you. Marry, a white twinner-goat have I to give you, which that nut-brown little handmaiden of Mermnon’s is fain to get of me – and get her she shall seeing you choose to play me the dainty therein . . .

[37] Lo there! a twitch o’ my right eye.3 Shall I be seeing her? I’ll go lean me against yon pine-tree and sing awhile. It may be she’ll look upon me then, being she’s no woman of adamant.

[40] (sings) When Schoenus’ bride-race4 was begun, apples fell from one that run;
She looks, she’s lost, and lost doth leap, into love so dark and deep.
When the seer5 in’s brother’s name with those kin to Pylus came,
Bias to the joy-bed hies whence sprang Alphesibee the wise.
When Adonis o’er the sheep in the hills his watch did keep,
The Love-Dame proved so wild a wooers, e’en in death she clips him to her.6
O would I were Endymion7 that sleeps the unchanging slumber on,
Or, Lady, knew thy Jasion’s7 glee which prófane eyes may never see! . . .

[52] My head aches sore, but ‘tis nought to you. I’ll make an end, and throw me down, aye, and stir not if the wolves devour me – the which I pray be as sweet honey in the throat to you.

1. “Through no fault of yours” : the Greek is “at any rate as far as you are concerned it has (i.e. will have) been done as you wished.
2. “Love-in-absence” : a flower. The Greek is “stuck not on at the slapping-game.”
3. “A twitch o’ my right eye” : a good omen.
4. “Schoenus’ bride-race” : Hippomenes won Atalanta the fleet-footed daughter of Schoenus by throwing an apple in the race for her hand
5. The seer Melampus by bringing to the king of Pylus the oxen of Iphiclus won the king’s daughter Pero for his brother Bias.
6. Although he was slain long ago, Aphrodite Cytherea loves her Adonis so dearly that she still clasps him – at the Adonis festival – to her breast.
7. Endymion was loved by the Moon, and Jasion – as in the Eleusinian mysteries – by Demeter.


A conversation between a goatherd named Battus and his fellow goatherd Corydon, who is acting oxherd in place of a certain Aegon who has been persuaded by one Milon son of Lampriadas to go and compete in a boxing-match at Olympia. Corydon’s temporary rise in rank gives occasion for some friendly banter – which the sententious fellow does not always understand – varied with bitter references to Milon’s having supplanted Battus in the favours of Amaryllis. The reference to Glaucè fixes the imaginary date as contemporary with Theocritus. This is not the great Milon, but a fictitious strong man of the same town called, suitably enough, by his name.1 The poem, like all the other genuine shepherd-mimes, contains a song. Zacynthus is still called the flower of the Levant. The scene in near Crotona in Southern Italy.

BATTUS (in a bantering tone)
[1] What, Corydon man; whose may your cows be? Philondas’s?

[2] Nay, Aegon’s; he hath given me the feeding of them in his stead.

[3] And I suppose, come evening, you give them all a milking hugger-mugger?2

[4] Not so; the old master sees me to that; he puts the calves to suck, himself.

[5] But whither so far was their own proper herdsman gone?

[6] Did you never hear? Milon carried him off with him to the Alpheus.

[7] Lord! When had the likes of him ever so much as set eyes upon a flask of oil?3

CORYDON (sententiously)
[8] Men say he rivals Heracles in might.

BATTUS (scoffing)
[9]And mammy says I’m another Polydeuces.

[10] Well, he took a score of sheep4 and a spade with him, when he went.

BATTUS (with a momentary bitterness)
[11] Ah, that Milon! he'ld persuade a wolf5 to run mad for the asking.

[12] And his heifers miss him sore; hark to their lowing.

BATTUS (resuming his banter)
[13] Aye; ‘twas an ill day for the kine; how sorry a herdsman it brought them!

CORYDON (misunderstanding)
[14] Marry, an ill day it was, and they are off their feed now.

[15] Look you now, yonder beast, she’s nought but skin and bone. Pray, doth she feed on dewdrops like the cricket?


[17] Zeus! No. Why, sometimes I graze her alone the Aesarus and give her a brave bottle of the tenderest green grass, and oftentimes her play-ground’s in the deep shade of Latymnus.

[20] Aye, and the red-poll bull, he’s lean as can be. (bitterly again) I only would to god, when there’s a sacrifice to Hera in their ward, the sons of Lampriadas might get such another6 as he: they are a foul mixen sort, they o’ that ward.

[23] All the same that bull’s driven to the sea-lake and the Physcian border, and to that garden of good things, goat-flower, mullet,7 sweet odorous balsam, to with Neaethus.

BATTUS (sympathising as with another of Milon’s victims)
[26] Heigho, poor Aegon! thy very kine must needs meet their death because thou art gone a-whoring after vainglory, and the herdsman’s pipe thou once didst make thyself is all one mildew.

[29] Nay, by the Nymphs, not it. He bequeathed it to me when he set out for Pisa. I too am something of a musician. Mark you, I’m a dabster at Glaucè’s snatches and those ditties Pyrrhus makes: (sings)
O Croton is a bonny town as Zacynth by the sea,
And a bonny sight on her eastward height is the fane of Laciny,
Where boxer Milon one fine morn made fourscore loaves his meal,
And down the hill another day, while lasses holla’d by the way,
To Amaryllis, laughing gay led the bull by the heel.

BATTUS (not proof against the tactless reference; apostrophising)
[38] O beautiful Amaryllis, though you be dead, I am true, and I’ll never forget you. My pretty goats are dear to me, but dear no less a maiden that is no more. O well-a-day that my luck turned so ill!

[41] Soft you, good Battus; be comforted. Good luck comes with another morn; while there’s life there’s hope; rain one day, shine the next.

[44] Let be. ‘tis well. (changing the subject) Up with you, ye calves; up the hill! They are at the green of those olives, the varlets.

[45] Hey up, Snowdrop! hey up, Goodbody! to the hill wi’ ye! Art thou deaf? ‘Fore Pan I’ll presently come thee an evil end if thou stay there. Look ye there; back she comes again. Would there were but a hurl-bat in my hand! I had had at the.

[50] Zeus save thee, Corydon; see here! It had at me as thou sadist the word, this thorn, here under my ankle. And how deep the distaff-thistles go! A plague o’ thy heifer! It all came o’ my gaping after her. (Corydon domes to help him) Dost see him, lad?

[54] Aye, aye, and have got him ‘twixt my nails; and lo! here he is.

BATTUS (in mock-heroic strain)
[55] O what a little tiny wound to overmaster so mighty a man!

CORYDON (pointing the moral)
[56] Thou should’st put on thy shoes when thou goest into the hills, Battus; ‘tis rare ground for thorns and gorse, the hills.

[58] Pray tell me, Corydon, comes gaffer yet the gallant with that dark-browed piece o’love he was smitten of?

[60] Aye, what does he, ill’s his luck. I happened of them but two days agone, and near the byre, too, and faith, gallant was the word.

BATTUS (apostrophising)
[62] Well done, Goodman Light-o’-love. ‘Tis plain thou comest not far below the old Satyrs8 and ill-shanked Pans o’ the country-side for lineage.

1. The identification of Milon with the great athlete is incorrect. The great Milon flourished B.C. 510; the scholiast knows of no such feats in connexion with him; and the feats ascribed to him by authors ap. Athen. 10. 412 e, f, are by no means identical with these.
2. “Hugger-mugger” : on the sly.
3. “Oil” : used by athletes upon their bodies.
4. “A score of sheep” : athletes when training fed largely upon meat, and kept themselves in condition by shovelling sand.
5. “Persuade a wolf” : i.e. “he beguiled Aegon to compete at Olympia though he is but a poor hand at boxing (cf. l. 7) just as he beguiled Amaryllis away from me though she never really loved him.”
6. “Might get such another” : the greater part of a sacrificed animal was eaten by the sacrificers.
7. “Mullet” : usually called ‘fleabane.’
8. “Old Satyrs” : effigies of Pan and the Satyrs were a feature of the country-side.