Saturday, 9 April 2016

The Yokel and the Light-o’-Love - Theocritus

When I would kiss Eunice, loud laughed she,
And taunting cried: ‘Thou boor, begone from me!
Would’st kiss me, wretch?—I cannot kiss a clown—
No lips press I but such as hail from town.
To touch my dainty mouth thou shalt not dare,
Not even in thy dreams.—How thou dost stare!
How gross thy speech, how coarse thy playfulness!—
What winning words, what delicate address,
Thy beard how soft, thy hair how fine!—Alack,—
Thy lips are sickly-wan, thy hands are black,
And evil is thy smell. Away with thee!
And do not sully me.’

                    So saying she
Thrice in her bosom spat, with look askance
Eyeing me head to foot with steady glance,
And shooting out her lips she laughed at me
With haughty sneer and insolent coquetry.
My blood boiled straightway and I crimson grew
Under the smart, as doth a rose with dew.
Away she fled. With rage my soul is torn
That such a wanton should my beauty scorn.
Shepherds, am I not fair? Speak sooth to me.
Hath some god made me other, suddenly?
A charm once blossomed round me, beautiful
As ivy round a stem; my beard was full;
Like parsley on my temples curled my hair,
And o’er swart eyebrows gleamed my forehead fair;
My eyes were brighter than Athen’s eyne,
Softer than curded milk this mouth of mine,
My speech more honied than the honey-flow.
Sweetly to sing and sweetly play I know
Pipe, oboe, reed or fife, whiche’er I will.
That I am fair all women on the hill
Confess, and kiss me. But that city she,
She kissed me not, but ran away from me.

Hath she not heard how Bacchus drives along
His heifers through the dells, nor learned in song
How once in days gone by the Cyprian Queen
On Phrygian hills a shepherdess was seen;
And how she maddened for a herdsman’s sake,
And kissed and wailed Adonis in the brake?

What was Endymion, too, Selene’s flame?
What but a hind? And yet from heaven she came
To Latmus’ vale to share a herd-boy’s bed.
A swain thou weepest, Rhea; and ’tis said
That for a pretty lad that drove a herd
The son of Cronos roamed a wanton bird.
Alone of all, Eunice will not kiss
A neatherd, she who thinks herself, I wis,
Finer than Rhea, Cypris and the Moon!

O Cypris, may’st thou never, late or soon,
Thine Ares kiss in town or on hill-side,
But sleeping lone the live-long night abide!

Theocritus (3rd Century BC) Greece
Translated by James Henry Hallard
From the Idylls

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