THEOCRITUS, IDYLLS 26 - 30
IDYLLS 26 - 30, TRANSLATED BY J. M. EDMONDS
This poem was probably written in honour of the initiation of a boy of nine into the mysteries of Dionysus by a mock slaying-rite. That young children were initiated into these mysteries is clear from a poem by Antistius in the Anthology, which may have been written for a similar occasion; and in Callimachus Artemis asks that her maiden attendants shall be nine years old.1 In this poem the father describes the slaying of Pentheus by his mother, and takes credit to himself for following her example. The slaying of the boy is the bringing of him to Dionysus, even as the eagles made Ganymede immortal by bringing him to Zeus. The poem is almost certainly not by Theocritus, but such poems may well have figured in the competitions mentioned in line 112 of the Ptolemy.
 Three dames led three meinies2 to the mountain, Ino, Autonoë, and apple-cheeked3 Agavè, and gathering there wild leaves of the shag-haired oak, and living ivy and groundling asphodel, wrought in a lawn of the forest twelve altars, unto Semelè, three and unto Dionysus nine. Then took they from a box offerings made of their hands4 and laid them in holy silence upon those altars of their gathering, as was at once the precept and the pleasure of the great Dionysus. Meanwhile Pentheus spied upon all they did from a sleepy crag, being crept into an ancient mastich-tree such as grown in that country. Autonoe saw him first and gave a horrible shriek, and made quick confusion of the sacred things of the madding Bacchus with her feet, for these things are not to be seen by the profane. Mad was she now, and the others were straightway mad also. Pentheus, he fled afraid, and the women, girding their kirtles up about their thighs, they went in hot pursuit. Pentheus, he cried “What would you, ye women?” Autonoe, she cried “That shall you know were you hear it.” Then took off the mother the head of her child and roared even as the roar of a milch lioness, while Ino setting foot upon his belly wrenched shoulder and shoulder-blade from the one side of him, and Autonoe made the other side like5 unto it; and the other women wrought out the rest of the butchery. And so bedabbled all with blood they carried with them into Thebes in the stead of a kindred wight6 a kindred woe.
 And I care not if they did, and may I take thought for no other that is hated of Dionysus, nay, not if such an one suffer a worse fate than Pentheus and be but a child nine years old or going ten years. As for me, may I be pure and do the will of them that are pure. Thus hath the eagle honour of the Aegis-Bearer. To the children of pious fathers belong the good things rather than to those that come of impious men.
 All hail to Dionysus, whom most high Zeus took forth from his mighty thigh and laid down in snowy Dracanus; and all hail to beauteous Semele and her heroine sisters, the far-honoured daughters of Cadmus who did at Dionysus’ bidding this deed that none may blame. Where ‘tis a god’s will let no man cavil.
1. Antist. Anth. Pal. 11. 40, Callim. 3. 14, quoted by Cholmeley.
2. “meinies” : companies.
3. “apple-cheeked” : the Greek may also mean ‘white-faced.’
4. “offerings made of their hands” : or perhaps ‘sacrificial cakes.’
5. “Mad the other side like unto it” : the Greeks is ‘Autonoe’s rhythm was the same,’ i.e. ‘Autonoe followed suit.’
6. “Kindred wight” : the Greek has a grim pun upon Pentheus and penthema (woe).
This poem in its complete form was a match between a shepherd and another whom he had challenged, the stake being the shepherd’s pipe. The missing part comprised the lines introducing the match, the whole of the rival’s piece, and the prelude to the shepherd’s piece. What is left is the main part of the shepherd’s piece, its epilogue, and the award of the umpire. The umpire returns the shepherd his pipe, and adds a compliment in the form of a request that now he will play him another of his tunes, as, not having lost his pipe in the match, he will still be able to do. In the dialogue supposed to be recited, or perhaps to be sung, by the shepherd, one speaker answers the other speaker line for line except in two places where the same speaker has two lines. These exceptions necessary in order to shift the rôle of answerer, have brought about a wrong arrangement of lines 9 and 19 in the manuscripts. The poem may have been ascribed to an imitator of Theocritus. Line 4 he has taken bodily from him.
(The Shepherd tells of the conversation between Daphnis and Acrotimè)
 ‘Twas a neatherd like you carried off the wise Helen.
 Helen is more willing now, for she kisses her neatherd.
 Soft, my satyr-boy, be not so sure; there’s a saying “nought goes to a kiss.”
 Even in an empty kiss there’s a sweet delight.
 Look ye, I wipe my mouth o’ your kiss and spit it from me.
 Wipe thy lips, quotha? then give them hither again and have thee another.
 ‘Twere rather becoming you to kiss your heifers than a maiden woman like me
 Soft you, be not so sure; your youth passes you by like a dream.
 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.
 Nay, I thank you; you beguiled me before with your pretty tales.
Then pray you come hither under those elms and let me play you my pipe.
 Nay; that way you may pleasure yourself; scant joy comes of a sorry ting.
 Alackaday! you likewise, honey, must e’en fear the wrath of Dame Phaphian.
 Dame Paphian may go hang for me; my prayers are to Artemis.
 Hist! or she’ll have at thee, and then thou’lt be in the trap.
 Let her have at me; Artemis will help me out.
 No other maiden escapes Love, nor doest thou escape him.
 ‘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.
 But I fear if I let thee go a worser man will have thee.
 Many the wooers have been after me, but never a one have I had to my mind.
 Well, here am I come to add one more to those may.
 O friend, what is to do? marriage is all woe.
 Nay; a marriage is a thing neither of pain nor grief but rather of dancing.
 Aye, but I’m told the wives do fear their bed-fellows.
 Nay; rather have they ever the upper hand; what should wives fear?
 ‘Tis the throes I fear; the stroke of Eileithyia is hard to bear.
 But thou hast Artemis to thy queen, and she lightens the labour.
 Ah! but I fear lest the childbirth lose me my pretty face.
 But if thou bear sweet children, thou’lt see a new light in thy sons.
 And if I say thee yea, what gift bring’st thou with thee worthy the marriage?
 Thou shalt have all my herd and all the planting and pasture I possess.
 Swear thou’lt never thereafter leave me all forlorn
 Before great Pan I swear it, even if thou choose to send me packing.
 Buildest me a bower and a house and a farmstead?
 Yea, I build thee a house, and the flocks I feed are fine flocks.
 But then my gray-headed father, O what can I say to him?
 He’ll think well o’ thy wedlock when he hears my name.
 Then tell me that name o’ thine; there’s often joy in a name.
 ‘Tis Daphnis, mine, and my father’s Lycidas and my mother’s Nomaeë.
 Thou com’st of good stock; and yet methinks I am as good as thou.
 Aye, I know it; thou art Acrotimè and they father Menalcas.
 Come, show me thy planting, show me where thy farmstead is.
 Lo! this way it is; look how tall and slender my cypress-trees spring!
 Graze on, my goats; I go to see the neatherd’s labours.
 Feed you well, my bulls; I would fain show the maid my planting.
 What art thou at, satyr-boy? why hast put thy hand inside on my breasts?
 I am fain to give thy ripe pippins their first lesson.
 ‘Fore pan, I shall swoon; take back thy hand.
 Never thou mind, sweet; what hadst thou to fear, little coward.
 Thou thrustest me into the water-conduit and soilest my pretty clothes.
 Nay; look ye there! I cast my soft sheepskin under thy cloak.
 Out, alack! thou hast torn off my girdle, too. Why didst loose that?
 This shall be my firstlings to our Lady of Paphos.
 Hold, ah hold! sure somebody’s e’en coming. There’s a noise.
 Aye, the cypress-trees talking together of thy bridal.
 Thou hast torn my mantle and left me in the nude.
 I’ll give thee another mantle, and an ampler.
 You say you’ll give me anything I may ask, who soon mayhap will deny me salt.
 Would I could give thee my very soul to boot!
 O Artemis, be not wroth with a transgressor of thy word.
 Love (Eros) shall have a heifer of me, and great Aphrodite a cow.
 Lo, I came hither a maid and I go home a woman.
 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.
 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.
The Distaff is an occasional poem in Aeolic dialect and the Asclepiad metre, and was almost certainly modelled upon Sappho or Alcaeus. It was written by Theocritus before or during a voyage from Syracuse to Miletus, and presented with the gift of a carved ivory distaff to the wife of his friend the poet-physician Nicias.
 Distaff, friend of them that weave and spin, gift of the Grey-eyed Huswife above to all good huswives here below, come away, come away to Neleus’ town1 so bright and fair, where the Cyprian’s precinct lies fresh and green among the tall soft reeds2; for ‘tis thither bound I ask of Zeus fair passage, with intent both to glad my eyes with the sight and my heart with the love of a dear good child of the Ladies o’ the Voice of Delight, by name Nicias, and to give you, my pretty offspring of laboured ivory, into the hands of the goodwife of the same, to be her helpmate in the making of much wool into clothes, whether the coats of men or those translucent robes the women do wear. For the fleecy mothers o’ flocks might well get them shorn afield twice in one year for aught Mistress Pretty-toes would care, so busy a little body is she and enamoured of all that delighteth the discreet. Trust me, I would never have given a fellow-countryman it is, seeing you hail from the town of old Archias founded out of Ephyra,3 the sap and savour of the Isle o’ Three Capes, the birthplace of good men and true.
 But now you are to lodge at a wiseacre’s deep-learned in the lore of such spells as defend us of the flesh from woeful ills; now you are to dwell among an Ionian people in Miletus the delectable, to the end that Theugenis’ neighbours may be jealous of her and her distaff, and so you may serve always to mind her of her friend the lover of song. For at the sight of you it shall be said, “Great love goes here with a little gift, and all is precious that comes of a friend.”
1. “Neleus’ town” : Miletus was founded by Neleus, and a temple of Aphrodite-in-the-Marsh seems to have been one of its outstanding features.
2. “Tall soft reeds” : Simias ap. Powell, Coll. Alex. 109, speaks of ‘islands roofed with high-tressed reeds.’
3. “Ephyra” : an old name for Corinth, the mother city of Syracuse.
IDYLLS XXIX – XXX. THE AEOLIC LOVE-POEMS
These two poems are inspired, like XII, by a passionate friendship. The first line of No. 1 contains a quotation from Alcaeus, and in both poems metre and dialect point to him or Sappho as the model. The metre in the one case is the fourteen-syllable Sapphic Pentameter, and in the other the Greater Asclepiad. As in XII. There is much here that is reminiscent to us of some of the Elizabethan love-poetry.1
 In sack, out sooth goes the saying, lad, and now that you and I are a-drinking we must fain be men of truth. I for one will tell what doth lie in my mind’s hold, and it is that you will not that I should love you with my whole heart. I know it; for such is the power of your beauty that there’s but half a living left me to love you withal, seeing my day is spent like as a god’s or in very darkness according as you do choose. What righteousness is here, to deliver one that loves you over unto woe? Trust me, if you ‘ld only hearken to your elder ‘twould be profit unto you and thanks unto me. Listen then: one tree should hold one nest, and that where no noisome beast may come at it; but you, you do possess one bough to-day and another to-morrow, seeking ever from this unto that; and if one but see and praise your fair face, straightway are you more than a three years’ friend to him, and as for him that first loved you, in three days, lad, you reckon him of those men whose very manhood you seem to disdain. Choose rather to be friends with the same body so long as you shall live; for if so you do, you will have both honour of the world and kindness of that Love who doth so easily vanquish the mind of man and hath melted in me a hart of very iron.
 O by those soft lips I beseech you remember that you were younger a year agone, and as we men wax old and wrinkled sooner than one may spit, so there’s no re-taking of Youth once she be fled, seeing she hath wings to her shoulders, and for us ‘tis ill catching winged beasts. Come then, think on these things and be the kinder for’t, and give love for love where true loving is; and so when Time shall bring thee a beard we’ll be Achilles and his friend.2 But if so be you cast me these words to the winds, and say, and say in your heart, “Peace, man; begone,” then, for all I would go now for your sake and get the Golden Apples3 to fetch you the Watch-dog o’ the Dead, I would not come forth, no, not if you should stand at my very door and call me, for the pain of my woodness4 would be overpast.
1. The Antinoë Papyrus has the remains of what appears to be a third Aeolic Love-Poem of about 33 lines, but they are too fragmentary to be given here; Hunt calls it XXXI.
2. “Achilles and his friend” : Patroclus.
3. “Golden Apples” : of the Hesperides; the fetching of these and of Cerberus were two of the Labours of Heracles.
4. “woodness” : madness.
 Aye me, the pain and the grief of it! I have been sick of Love’s quartan now a month and more. He’s not so fair, I own, but all the ground his pretty foot covers is grace, and the smile of his face is very sweetness. ‘Tis true the ague takes me now but day on day off, but soon there’ll be no respite, no not for a wink of sleep. When we met yesterday he gave me a sidelong glance, afeared to look me in the face, and blushed crimson; at that, Love gripped my reins still the more, till I gat me wounded and heartsore home, there to arraign my soul at bar and hold with myself this parlance: “What wast after, doing so? whither away this fond folly? know'st thou not there’s three gray hairs on thy brow? Be wise in time, or one that is no youth in’s looks shall play new-taster o’ the years. Other toys thou forgettest; ‘twere better, sure, at thy time o’ life to know no more such loves as this. For whom Life carries swift and easy as hoof doth hind, and might endure to cross and cross the sea every day’s morrow that is, can he and the flower o’ sweet Youth abide ever of one date? How much less he that hath yearnful remembrance gnawing at his heart’s core, and dreams often o’ nights and taketh whole years to cure his lovesickness!”
 Such lesson and more read I unto my soul, and thus she answered me again: “Whoso thinketh to outvie yon cozening Love, as soon might he think to tell how-many-times-nine stars be i' th’ skies above us; and so I too, willy-nilly, must fain stretch my neck beneath the yoke and pull, seeing such, my lord, is the will of a god that hath betrayed ev’n the mickle mind of Zeus, and beguiled ev’n the Cyprus-born, and catcheth up and carrieth whither-soever he list (as well he may) a poor mortal leaf like me that needs a puff of air to lift it.”
These little poems are all, with the exception of IV, actual inscriptions, and would seem to have been collected from works of art upon which they were inscribed. XII and XXIII are in all probability by other hands, and there is some doubt of the genuineness of SSIV; but the rest are not only ascribed to Theocritus in the best manuscripts, but are fully worthy of him.
I. [AN INSCRIPTION FOR A PICTURE]
Those dewy roses and that thick bushy thyme are an offering to the Ladies of Helicon, and since ‘tis the Delphian Rock hath made it honoured, the dark-leaved bay, Pythian Healer, is for thee; and yon horny white he-goat that crops the outmost sprays of the terebinth-tree is to be the blood-offering upon the altar.
II. [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.
III. [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 Priapus 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.
IV. [A LOVE-POEM IN THE FORM OF A WAYSIDE INSCRIPTION]
When you turn the corner of yonder lain, sweet Goatherd, where the oak-trees are, you’ll find a new-carved effigy of fig-wood, without legs or ears and the bark still upon it, but nevertheless an able servant of the Cyprian. There’s a brave little sacrificial close runs round it, and a never-ceasing freshet that springs from the rocks there is greened all about with bays and myrtles and fragrant cypress, among which the mother o’ grapes doth spread and twine, and in spring the blackbirds cry their lisping medleys of clear-toned song, and the babbling nightingales cry them back their warblings with the honey voice that sings from their tuneful throats. Thither go, and sit you down and pray that pretty fellow to make cease my love of Daphnis, and I’ll straightway offer him a fat young goat; but should he say me nay, then I’ll make him three sacrifices if he’ll win me his love, a heifer, a shaggy buck-goat, and a pet lamb I am rearing; and may the god hear and heed your prayer.
V. [AN INSCRIPTION FOR A PICTURE]
‘Fore the 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.
VI. [FOR A PICTURE]
Well-a-day, you poor Thyrsis! what boots it if you cry your two eyes out of their sockets? Your kid’s gone, the pretty babe, dead and gone, all crushed in the talons of the great rough wolf. True, the gods are baying him; but to what end, when there’s neither ash nor bone of the poor dead left?
VII. [FOR THE GRAVE OF A YOUNG FATHER]
Here you are, Eurymedon, come in your prime to the grave; but you left a little son behind you, and though your dwelling henceforth is with the great o’ the earth, you may trust your countrymen to honour the child for the sake of the father.
VIII. [FOR NICIAS’ NEW STATUE OF ASCLEPIUS]
The Great Healer’s son is come to Miletus now, to live with his fellow-crafsman Nicias, who both maketh sacrifice before him every day, and hath now made carve this statue of fragrant cedar-wood; he promised Eëtion a round price for the finished cunning of his hand, and Eëtion hath put forth all his art to the making of the work.
IX. [FOR THE GRAVE OF A LANDED GENTLEMAN]
This, good Stranger, is the behest of Orthon of Syracuse: Go you never abroad drunk of a stormy night; for that was my fate to do, and so it is I lie here, and there’s weighed me out a foreign country in exchange for much native-land.
X. [FOR AN ALTAR WITH A FRIEZE OF THE MUSES]
This carved work of marble, sweet Goddesses, is set up for the nine of you by the true musician – as all must name him – Xenocles, who having much credit of his art forgets not the Muses whose it is.
XI. [FORTE GRAVE OF A STROLLING PHYSIOGNOMIST]
Here lies Strong-i’-th’-arm the great physiognomist, the man who could read the mind by the eye. And so, for all he is a stranger in a strange land, he has had friends to give him decent burial, and the dirge-writer has been kindness itself. The dead philosopher has all he could have wished; and thus, weakling wight1 though he be, there is after all somebody that cares for him.
XII. [FOR A PRIZE TRIPOD]
Choir-master Demomeles, who set up this tripod and this effigy, Dionysus, of the sweetest god in heaven, had always been a decent fellow, and he won the victory with his men’s-chorus because he knew beauty and seemliness when he saw them.
XIII. [FOR A COAN LADY’S NEW STATUE OF APHRODITE]
This is not the People’s Cyprian, but pray when you propitiate this goddess do so by the name of Heavenly; for this is the offering of a chaste woman, to wit of Chrysogonè, in the house of Amphicles, whose children and whose life she shared; so that beginning, Great Lady, with worship of thee, they ever increased their happiness with the years. For any that have care for the Immortals are the better off for it themselves.
XIV. [FOR THE TABLE OF A BARBARIAN MONEY-CHANGER]
This table makes no distinction of native and foreigner. You pay in and you receive out in strict accordance with the lie of the counters. If you want shifts and shuffles go elsewhere. Caïcus pays out deposits even after dark.
XV. [FOR THE GRAVE OF A BRAVE MAN]
I shall know, master Wayfarer, whether you prefer the valiant or esteem him even as the craven; for you will say: “Blest be this tomb for lying so light above the sacred head of Eurymedon.”
XVI. [FOR THE GRAVE OF TWO LITTLE CHILDREN]
This little maid was taken untimely, seven years old and her life before her, and ‘twas for grief, the poor child, that her brother of twenty months should have tasted, pretty babe, the unkindness of Death; O Peristerè, the pity of it! how near to man and ready hath god set what is woefullest!
XVII. [FOR A STATUE OF ANACREON OF TEOS]
Look well upon this statue, good Stranger, and when you return home say “I saw Teos a likeness of Anacreon, the very greatest of the old makers of songs”; and you will describe him to the letter if you say also “He delighted in the young.”
XVIII. [FOR A STATUE OF EPICHARMUS IN THE THEATRE OF SYRACUSE]
The speech is the Dorian, and the theme the inventor of comedy, Epicharmus. They that have their habitation in the most mighty city of Syracuse have set him up here, as became fellow-townsmen, unto thee, good Bacchus, in bronze in the stead of the flesh; and thus have remembered to pay him his wages for the great heap of words he hath builded. For many are the things he hath told their children profitable unto life. He hath their hearty thanks.
XIX. [A NEW INSCRIPTION FOR THE GRAVE OF HIPPONAX]
Here lies the bard Hipponax. If you are a rascal, go not nigh his tomb; but if you are a true man of good stock, sit you down and welcome, and if you choose to drop off to sleep you shall.
XX. [AN INSCRIPTION FOR THE GRAVE OF A NURSE]
This memorial the little Medeius hath builded by the wayside to his Thracian nurse, and written her name upon it, “Cleita.” She hath her reward for the child’s good upbringing, and what is it? to be called “a good servant” evermore.
XXI. [FOR THE STATUE OF ARCHILOCHUS]
Stand and look at Archilochus, the old maker of iambic verse, whose infinite renown hath spread both to utmost east and furthest west. Sure the Muses and Delian Apollo liked him well, such taste and skill had he to bring both to the framing of the words and to the setting of them to the lyre.
XXII. [FOR A STATUE OF PEISANDER AT CAMIRUS]
This is Peisander of Camirus, the bard of old time who first wrote you of the lion-fighting quick-o’-th’-hand son of Zeus and told of all the labours he wrought. That you may know this for certain, the people have made this likeness in bronze and set it here after many months and many years.
XXIII. [FOR THE GRAVE OF ONE GLAUCE]
The writing will say what the tomb is and who lies beneath it: “I am the grave of one that was called Glaucè.”
XXIV. [FOR A NEW BASE TO SOME OLD OFFERINGS]
These offerings Apollo had possessed before; but the base of you see below them is younger, than this by twenty years and that by seven, this by five and that by twelve, and this again by two hundred. For when you reckon them that is what it comes to.
Three fragments of Theocritus have been preserved in quotations.
Eustathius commening upon Iliad 5.904 says: –
Hebe is the sister of Ares, as Theocritus tells us.
In the Etymologicum Magnum we read: –
To fight against two, as in Theocritus.
The third passage is quoted by Athenaeus (7.284A) from a poem in honour of Berenicè, the queen either of Ptolemy III; it is also referred to be Eustathius upon Iliad 16.407 (1076.43): –
. . . And if a man whose living is of the deep, a man whose ploughshares are his nets, prayeth for luck and lucre with an evening sacrifice unto this Goddess of one of the noble fishes which being noblest of all they call Leucus, then when he shall set his trammels he shall draw them from out the sea full to the brim . . .