Roman culture [ca
750 BCE-ca 500 CE]
Virgil (70-19 BCE) reinventing
Theocritean bucolic epic as Roman pastoral,
imagines a herdsman, Corydon, in love with a boy, Alexis, who does not respond.
Similarities with the Cyclops of Theocritus allow us to reflect on interesting differences.
Eclogue II: Corydon’s Love for Alexis
Corydon the shepherd burned for lovely Alexis,
his master’s delight: and knew not whether to hope.
So he went continually among the dense beech-trees,
canopied with shadows. Alone, with vain passion, there,
he flung these artless words to the woods and hills.
“Oh, cruel Alexis, do you care nothing for my songs?
Have you no pity on me? You’ll force me to die at last.
Now even the cattle seek the coolness and the shade,
now even the green lizards hide themselves in the hedge,
and Thestylis pounds her perfumed herbs, garlic
and wild thyme, for the reapers weary with the fierce heat.
And while I track your footprints, the trees echo
shrill cicadas, under the burning sun.
Wasn’t it better to endure Amaryllis’s sullen anger,
and scornful pride? Or Menalcas,
though he was dark and you are blond?
Oh lovely boy, don’t trust too much to your bloom:
white privet falls, the dark hyacinths are taken.
I’m scorned by you, Alexis: you don’t ask who I am,
how rich in cattle, how overflowing with snowy milk:
a thousand of my lambs wander Sicilian hills:
fresh milk does not fail me, in summer or in winter.
I sing, as Amphion used to sing of Dirce,
calling the herds home, on Attic Aracynthus.
I’m not so hideous: I saw myself the other day on the shore
when the sea was calm without breeze: if the mirror never lies.
I have no fear of Daphnis, with you as judge.
O if you’d only live with me in the lowly countryside
and a humble cottage, shooting at the deer,
and driving the flock of kids with a green mallow!
Together with me in the woods you’ll rival Pan in song.
Pan first taught the joining of many reeds with wax,
Pan cares for the sheep, and the sheep’s master,
and you’d not regret chafing your lips with the reed,
what did Amyntas not do to learn this art?
I have a pipe made of seven graded hemlock stems,
that Damoetas once gave me as a gift,
and dying said: ‘It has you now as second owner.’
Damoetas said: Amyntas, the fool, was envious
Two roe deer beside, their hides still sprinkled
with white, found in a dangerous valley,
drain a ewe’s udders twice a day: I keep them for you.
Thestylis has long been begging to take them from me:
she shall, since my gifts seem worthless to you.
O lovely boy, come here: see the Nymphs bring for you,
lilies in heaped baskets: the bright Naiad picks, for you,
pale violets and the heads of poppy flowers,
blends narcissi with fragrant fennel flowers:
then, mixing them with spurge laurel and more sweet herbs,
embroiders hyacinths with yellow marigolds.
I’ll gather quinces, pale with soft down
and chestnuts, that my Amaryllis loved:
I’ll add waxy plums: they too shall be honoured:
and I’ll pluck you, O laurels, and you, neighbouring myrtle,
since, so placed, you mingle your sweet perfumes.
Corydon, you’re foolish: Alexis cares nothing for gifts,
nor if you fought with gifts would Iollas yield.
Ah, alas, what wish, wretch, has been mine? I’ve allowed
the south winds near my flowers, the wild boar at my clear springs.
Madman! Whom do you flee? The gods too have dwelt
in the woods, and Dardanian Paris. Let Pallas live herself
in the cities she’s founded: let me delight in woods above all.
The fierce lioness hunts the wolf, the wolf hunts the goat,
the wanton goat hunts for flowering clover,
O Alexis, Corydin hunts you: each is led by his passion.
Look, the bullocks under the yoke pull home the hanging plough,
and the setting sun doubles the lengthening shadows:
love burns me: for what limits has love?
Ah, Corydon, Corydon, what madness has snared you?
Your vine on the leafy elm is half-pruned.
Why not at least choose to start weaving what you need,
something out of twigs and pliant rushes?
find another Alexis, if this girl scorns you.’
A.S.Kline ã 2001 All Rights Reserved