Theocritus, Bion and Moschus rendered into English Prose

Author: Andrew Lang
Published: 1889
Language: English
Wordcount: 52,672 / 152 pg
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 76.3
LoC Category: PN
Downloads: 646
mnybks.net#: 4245
Genre: Poetry
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Excerpt

he murmurs of the sea. From the cliffs and their seat among the bright red berries on the arbutus shrubs, his shepherds flute to each other, as they watch the tunny fishers cruising far below, while the echo floats upwards of the sailors' song. These shepherds have some touch in them of the satyr nature; we might fancy that their ears are pointed like those of Hawthorne's Donatello, in 'Transformation.'

It should be noticed, as a proof of the truthfulness of Theocritus, that the songs of his shepherds and goatherds are all such as he might really have heard on the shores of Sicily. This is the real answer to the criticism which calls him affected. When mock pastorals flourished at the court of France, when the long dispute as to the merits of the ancients and moderns was raging, critics vowed that the hinds of Theocritus were too sentimental and polite in their wooings. Refinement and sentiment were to be reserved for princely shepherds dancing, crook in hand, in the court ballets. Louis XIV sang of himself -

'A son labeur il passe tout d'un coup,
Et n'ira pas dormir sur la fougere,
Ny s'oublier aupres d'une Bergere,
Jusques au point d'en oublier le Loup.' {0c}

Accustomed to royal goatherds in silk and lace, Fontenelle (a severe critic of Theocritus) could not believe in the delicacy of a Sicilian who wore a skin 'stripped from the roughest of he-goats, with the smell of the rennet clinging to it still.' Thus Fontenelle cries, 'Can any one suppose that there ever was a shepherd who could say "Would I were the humming bee, Amaryllis, to flit to thy cave, and dip beneath the branches, and the ivy leaves that hide thee"?' and then he quotes other graceful passages from the love-verses of Theocritean swains. Certainly no such fancies were to be expected from the French peasants of Fontenelle's age, 'creatures blackened with the sun, and bowed with labour and hunger.' The imaginative grace of Battus is quite as remote from our own hinds. But we have the best reason to suppose th

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