Theocritean Pastoral: A Study in the Definition of Genre

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Chapter 2. Idyll 7: θΑΛΥΣΙΑ

If the sweetness of Theocritean pastoral is elaborated in Idyll I, it is in Idyll VII, that its great complementary vision is articulated. Ἁδύ struck the opening and echoing note of I, which in VII is paralleled by the programmatic phrase Ἦς χρόνος; in Gow’s expressive colloquialism, “Time was.” Idyll I is all of the moment, saturated with present sensation and immediacy of events again and again in time, endowing the pastoral vision with depth and above all, establishing its proper perspective, which is temporal. This demands emphasis, after the many analyses which have stressed the spatial dimension exclusively: country vs. city, pasture vs. plow land, locus amoenus vs. the gilded closets of the court. This exaggerated estimate has contributed to the literalism which, as noted above, complicates criticism of the pastoral. It attributes to the genre a simple-minded environmentalism which ties its full statement of value to the prescriptive zeal urging a ‘change of air:’ “In the mountains, there one feels free.” It is only a step from his assumption to logical condescension, and explanation of the genre in terms of nostalgia, escapism, and assorted regressions from psychological to socio-economic. To explore the theme of time in Theocritean pastoral is crucial to an examination of the seventh Idyll, and may provide a counterbalance for interpretation of the genre as a whole.

Ἦς χρόνος ἁνίκ᾽ ἐγώ τε καὶ Εὔκριτος ἐς τὸν ῞Αλεντα
εἵρπομες ἐκ πόλιος, σὺν καὶ τρίτος ἁμὶν ᾿Αμύντας·
τᾷ Δηοῖ γὰρ ἔτευχε θαλύσια καὶ Φρασίδαμος
κἀντιγένης, δύο τέκνα Λυκωπέος …

(VII, 1-4)

The poem begins as a purposeful journey which is in fact completed:

     … αὐτὰρ ἐγώ τε καὶ Εὔκριτος ἐς Φρασιδάυω
στραφθέντες χὡ καλὸς ᾿Αμύντιχος ἔν τε βαθείαις
ἁδείας σχοίνοιο χαμευνίσιν ἐκλίνθημες
ἔν τε νεοτμάτοισι γεγαθότες οἰναρέοισι.

(VII, 131-134)

But these eight lines of intention and attainment are only the structural underpinning of a poem twenty times that length, which proceeds by means of an intricate parataxis almost Herodotean in its management of significant digression. Idyll I, by comparison, appears rigid in its symmetry and undeviating in its narrative sequence: exchange of compliments (1-11); invitation to pipe (12-14); countered by the invitation to sing (15-23); offer of the Cup (description; 24-63); countered by the offering of the song (performance; 64-142); and a final confirmation that the exchange has been a fair one (143-152). The description and the performance are long enough to generate their own structure, but in the one case the organization is tightly circular, in the other dramatically linear; neither compromises the precision of the Idyll overall.

Idyll VII is no doubt equally precise, but according to a different premise. Its organization gains initial complexity from the very juxtaposition of past action and first-person narration. Four words into the poem we are aware that simple narrative has acquired an extra level and that recollection will dictate the character and sequence of what is to come. The poem immediately utilizes this potential for flexibility, for between line 4 and line 10, when the subject of the journey is mentioned again, intervene six lines of genealogical commentary which extended into mythological and geographical reference and end in the evocative physical description of a spring that represents no stage of the journey at all. [1]

                              … εἴ τί περ ἐσθλὸν
χᾳῶν τῶν ἐπάνωθεν, ἀπὸ Κλυτίας τε καὶ αὐτῶ
Χάλκωνος, Βούριναν ὃς ἐκ ποδὸς ἄνυσε κράναν
εὖ ἐνερεισάμενος πέτρᾳ γόνυ· ταὶ δὲ παρ᾽ αὐτὰν
αἴγειροι πτελέαι τε ἐύσκιον ἄλσος ὕφαινον,
χλωροῖσιν πετάλοισι κατηρεφέες κομόωσαι.

(VII, 4-9)

Lycidas, however, is a genuine novelty, and Simichidas takes no part of his equipage for granted. Each garment, its fastening and materials, is recorded, omitting no exotic or uncouth detail—the hairiness of the cloak, the twist of the throwing-stick, the pungent rennet. Lycidas is resplendently picturesque to the eye of Simichidas, who paints him in full native costume. But the goatherd himself, for all his emphatic regalia, remains unselfconscious. His bearing is easy and self-possessed, his address sparkling with spontaneous wit. [5]

                              καί μ᾽ ἀτρέμας εἶπε σεσαρὼς
ὄμματι μειδιόωντι, γέλως δέ οἱ εἴχετο χείλευς·
‘Σιμιχίδα, πᾷ δὴ τὸ μεσαμέριον πόδας ἕλκεις,
ἁνίκα δὴ καὶ σαῦρος ἐν αἱμασιαῖσι καθεύδει,
οὐδ᾽ ἐπιτυμβίδιαι κορυδαλλίδες ἠλαίνοντι;
ἦ μετὰ δαῖτα κλητὸς ἐπείγεαι; ἤ τινος ἀστῶν
λανὸν ἔπι θρώσκεις; ὥς τοι ποσὶ νισσομένοιο
πᾶσα λίθος πταίοισα ποτ᾽ ἀρβυλίδεσσιν ἀείδει.’

(VII, 19-26)

He chides Simichidas with the natural authority of the man at home, whose sense of the rhythm of a country day parallels the intuition of the lizards and the larks. The incongruity of city bustle in the breathless world of noon is the focus of all his jokes on the subject: perhaps Simichidas’ is the speed of a gate-crasher, or his host an absentee landlord. His very shoes clatter in the midday silence, announcing an urban presence to the barefoot rustic. Simichidas is out of place, out of pace; Lycidas, with his outlandish get-up, is comfortable in these, the outlands.

The key to this odd encounter lies in the tone of the confrontation. Lycidas’ cordial laughter marks both its beginning (20) and its end (128). He greets Simichidas with humor (21-26) and parts from him with the gift (128-129) he has promised earlier (43)—a pledge (129), not a prize. ( Simichidas introduces every reference to competition in their exchange of songs.) Lycidas clearly embodies the rusticity and the musical impulse associated with pastoral poetry; but his congeniality and sense of rapport are no less characteristic.

In order to keep company with the goatherd, Simichidas and his friends must temper their citified bustle, so initially out of step with natural time. Their goal will not be to merge with the rhythm of lizards and larks but to achieve that relative harmony with it which the poem’s finale celebrates. The central hour of noon invites the transition: as nature wakes up, the travelers slow down. As in Idyll I (15-25), their bucolic song (49) fills the midday silence, to be replaced by a crescendo of nature’s music as the human singers seek their own rest and shade (131-142). Lycidas makes his time Simichidas’s own, just as his λαγωβόλον changes hands when their ways part. His hospitality is as lavish as Prasidamas’, though he is a host on the open road, in the open moment, which slip away as the lines enact them.

Lycidas not only gives but also takes in the proper pastoral spirit. He responds to the best in Simichidas, ignoring his transparently assertive elaborations and double-edged courtliness (27-31, 37-42). The goatherd, in his laughing reply, seems to acknowledge Simichidas’ arch self-deprecation, but his amusement is sweet (ἁδὺ 42) rather than scornful. His innocence is less naive than Simichidas’ pretention. An opportunity to ridicule the boast is obliquely indulged (45-48), yet by praising the young man’s modesty as if it were genuine, Lycidas seems to acknowledge an aspect of him which the poem will, increasingly, reveal. The account of the θαλύσια is indeed pronounced by πᾶν ἐπ᾽ ἀλαθείᾳ πεπλασμένον ἐκ Διὸς ἔρνος (44).

From the fact of passion (55-56), Lycidas elaborates a song that compounds the anticipated future and the wished-for past in one seamless imaginative vision. Simichidas frets over present entanglements throughout his song, and the solutions which he proposes are overstated and fragmentary: only the most hyperbolic (103-114) are realized with any imaginative fullness. Lycidas acknowledges his passion almost as an excuse for the vivid evocations of its resolution which follow.

The damaging heat of passion is something to escape, to be rescued from (ῥύσηται 56). Lycides’ song promptly plunges away from it into (τὰ κύματα τάν τε θάλασσαν 57) the cold Aegean (56-60) which will separate him from the object of desire. So quenched, Aphrodite’s searing flame is replaced by the tame fire of the heart (66), which provides an appropriate warmth, sufficient for the supply of roast beans. The tempered flame, the tempered pleasure upon which the song will dwell depends on a movement quite different from the gift of self or possession of another which is the exercise of physical or fantasized desire. Rather, the theme is deliverance—the self’s safe return to itself. The charming calm which the halcyons devise bears Ageanax to harbor in Mytilene, but no less does Lycidas progress toward the haven of his own hearth and the repossession of a quiet heart.

The first is its enactment of the principle of reciprocity. The poet is nourished because he has nourished: his mouth receives sweetness as a return for the sweetness which it has uttered. As a poet, his function has been the preservation of remembered acts, the revitalizing of past actors; and he himself is preserved and restored. The sequence in which these events are presented makes the scheme still more emphatic. The bees (in the past—“ποκ᾽” 78) come to feed Comatas because the Muse (in the more distant past) had come to him, to feed or anoint him with nectar. The phrasing casts Comatas as strictly passive: he receives or is received, encloses or is enclosed. Where is the missing, the active term? When does he give forth, to balance the movement?

αἴθ᾽ ἐπ᾽ ἐμεῦ ζωοῖς ἐναρίθμιος ὤφελες εἶμεν,
ὥς τοι ἐγὼν ἐνόμευον ἀν᾽ ὤρεα τὰς καλὰς αἶγας
φωνᾶς εἰσαΐων, τὺ δ᾽ ὑπὸ δρυσὶν ἢ ὑπὸ πεύκαις
ἁδὺ μελισδόμενος κατεκέκλισο θεῖε Κομάτα.

(VII, 86-89)

In the eternal present of Lycidas’ imagination. Here Comatas sings. Created—and creating—in the final moments of Lycidas’ song, Comatas’ voice is raised at last. It is Lycidas’ dream to fall silent, deferring to that voice and freeing its owner for music (as, in Idyll I, Thyrsis offered to do for the piping goatherd, I, 14). Instead it is he who has redeemed the silence of Comatas, releasing it from the locked coffer of the past into the common pastoral landscape.

The exhilaration of this poetic closure has several sources. The reanimation of Comatas—first narrated and then realized—coincides with the refreshment of Lycidas, as his escape from passion evolves from a negative evasion to an exuberant participation. “When the half-gods go, the gods arrive:” perhaps this is the sense in which to view both θεῖε Κομάτα and the numinous allusions to divine epiphany that surround Lycidas himself. This sense of refreshment combines, appropriately, both the joys of producing poetry and of hearing it (50-51; 78; 88-89), the giving and taking of sweetness epitomized in the Comatas story. By extension in time, Lycidas has experienced the future joys of Tityrus’ songs (72, 78) and the past joys of Comatas’ (88-89), all contained within his own song which, though composed in the past (50-51), exists not only as the present performance/composition of lines 52-89, but already enjoys that future into which the repetition of Simichidas, in the context of his total narration of the Idyll, has brought it. If, to this first audience (Simichidas, Eucritus, Amyntas), we add Simichidas’ immediate audience, to whom the narrative Idyll is “immediately” addressed, and finally consider the potential audience of any literary [27] composition—which in this case happens to have persisted for twenty-two centuries—the song of Lycidas involves a temporal range that touches both the mythic past [28] and the inconceivably distant future. In lines 88-89 Theocritus presents in effect the compressed model of a poetic tradition, in this song (of Comatas) within a song (of Tityrus) within a song (of Lycidas) within a song (the Idyll, as spoken by Simichidas). What is communicated is not simply virtuosity and poetic density, although in themselves these qualities constitute an analogy with Greek archaic poetry. Theocritus invokes the tradition as a continuum, relevant in both past and future, enunciating its whole history in whatever performance is at this moment the present one. The flexibility and permanence of that present moment have their own value for the pastoral, precisely balanced with the power of poetry with which it is so intimately related. But the relationship is, again, reciprocal: the art and the moment exchanging celebration and security. In later pastoral the scales will shift, most often in favor of the poet, who condescends to let things mortal touch the mind of his immortal art. Theocritus’ theme of equilibrium is never more completely articulated than in Idyll VII, where the last 29 lines of the poem recapitulate in ‘reality’ (128-157) what Lycidas has realized in song (52-89). [29]

Simichidas leaves unrecorded his response to the performance of Lycidas, urging his own song without even a sidelong reference to the competition. From the first, indeed, he has viewed Lycidas exclusively as a competitor, defining him as such by reputation and specifically assigning him the role of personal rival.

τὸν δ᾽ ἐγὼ ἀμείφθην· ‘Λυκίδα φίλε, φαντί τυ πάντες
συριγκτὰν ἔμεναι μέγ᾽ ὑπείροχον ἔν τε νομεῦσιν
ἔν τ᾽ ἀμητήρεσσι. τὸ δὴ μάλα θυμὸν ἰαίνει
ἁμέτερον· καί τοι κατ᾽ ἐμὸν νόον ἰσοφαρίζειν

(VII, 27-31)

This is far from the attitude of an admiring non-competitor (e.g. The Goatherd of I, 7-11, 19-20, 23ff., 61, 146-148) or even of Lycidas himself, who concerns himself with the pleasure of his audience (VII, 80) rather than his power to do it honor (94-95), and whose emblematic good humor (19-20, 42-43, 128-129) lightly divorces him from implication in the solemnities of a real match. Indeed, he is most responsive to Simichidas when the latter allows humor (41) or common sense (122-127) to keep him from taking himself too seriously. In Lycidas this characteristic capacity—exalted in his song—is reflected in his conversational wit, which combines warmth with a frontal attack on pretension.

Although the detailed recollection that the Idyll presents and the particular example of lines 128ff. testify to Simichidas’ perceptive attention, little in his address to Lycidas suggests it. Like the song that he sings, Simichidas’ speeches to the Goatherd present a mixture of the trivial and the grandiose. His compliments mask posturings (17-31, 91-95). His disclaimers are no more than a formal blush (36-39). He speaks without scruple of his own calculation (ὣς ἐφάμαν ἐπίταδες 42), although the example of Aphrodite (γελάοισα,/ λάθρια μὲν γελάοισα …95-96) in Idyll I bespeaks the pastoral’s horror of the sly and the covert. This last attitude deserves special attention in our account of Theocritean pastoral.


Ironically, in view of its later function as a vehicle for insinuations over-subtle, arch, or flattering, the pastoral begins by preferring the crude candor of Priapus and Polyphemos to the evasions of Aphrodite and Galatea. The Aphrodite of Idyll I is Κύπρι νεμεσσατά, Κύπρι θνατοῖσιν ἀπεχθής (100-101)—an address borne out in the poem by her craft, coldness, and lack of commitment, whether to her cited series of lovers or to a firm position regarding Daphnis. Just this indecision is the essence of Galatea’s charm in Idylls VI and XI. [30]

βάλλει τοι Πολύφαμε τὸ ποίμνιον ἁ Γαλάτεια
μάλοισιν, δυσέρωτα τὸν αἰπόλον ἄνδρα καλεῦσα·
. . . .
ἁ δὲ καὶ αὐτόθε τοι διαθρύπτεται, ὡς ἀπ᾽ ἀκάνθας
ταὶ καπυραὶ χαῖται, τὸ καλὸν θέρος ἁνίκα φρύγει·
καὶ φεύγει φιλέοντα καὶ οὐ φιλέοντα διώκει,
καὶ τὸν ἀπὸ γραμμᾶς κινεῖ λίθον·

(VI, 6-7, 15-18)

Ὦ λευκὰ Γαλάτεια, τί τὸν φιλέοντ᾽ ἀποβάλλῃ;
. . . .
φοιτῇς δ᾽ αὖθ᾽ οὑτῶς, ὅκκα γλυκὺς ὕπνος ἔχῃ με,
οἴχῃ δ᾽ εὐθὺς ἰοῖσ᾽, ὅκκα γλυκὺς ὕπνος ἀνῇ με,
φεύγεις δ᾽ ὥσπερ ὄις πολιὸν λύκον ἀθρήσασα.

(XI, 19, 22-24)

The myth [
31] has been selected and developed by Theocritus for an important reason beyond the fact that, as Gow observes, “the theme …, with its combination of the pathetic and the grotesque, naturally commended itself to Hellenistic taste.” As a Nereid, Galatea represents the ideal erotic foil for the pastoral swain, whose area and whose experience, as he follows the grazing flocks, are decisively landlocked. From this point of view, Polyphemos is not as badly miscast as he may seem at first. [32] As τὸν κρατερὸν Πολύφαμον, ὃς ὤρεσι νᾶας ἔβαλλε (VIII, 152), he is from his first appearance in the Odyssey , the son of Poseidon Earth-shaker rather than Sea-lord. Introducing the Cyclopes, Odysseus details their ignorance of civilized arts and skills, but dwells with special scorn on their inability to master the sea. Rich land and wild flocks are there for the taking, as the Achaean sailors demonstrate; but the Cyclopes cannot sail. (In Theocritus’ comic treatment, Polyphemos cannot even swim [XI, 60-62], and awaits intelligence in that art from the outside world. [33] ) The perpetual circuit of pasture and sheepfold bind them, uninterrupted even by the seasonal demands of agriculture or by social diversion. Each pursues his solitary and stolid routine. Their mountain caves are homes as emblematic as Odysseus’ variety of ships, rafts, and spars.

For Theocritus, Polyphemos still represents the land. But his meeting with the sea is of a different kind. Rather than contentious or hostile, this encounter of opposites is romantic. The impossibility of intimacy is the very condition for such a fascination, especially on the part of Polyphemos. Where Galatea flirts (XI, 22-24; VI, 6-18), the Cyclops loves ardently, distractedly:

ἤρατο δ᾽ οὐ μάλοις οὐδὲ ῥόδῳ οὐδὲ κικίννοις,
ἀλλ᾽ ὀρθαῖς μανίαις, ἁγεῖτο δὲ πάντα πάρεργα.
πολλάκι ταὶ ὄιες ποτὶ ταὐλίον αὐταὶ ἀπῆνθον
χλωρᾶς ἐκ βοτάνας· ὁ δὲ τὰν Γαλάτειαν ἀείδων
αὐτόθ᾽ ἐπ᾽ ἀιόνος κατετάκετο φυκιοέσσας
ἐξ ἀοῦς, ἔχθιστον ἔχων ὑποκάρδιον ἕλκος
Κύπριδος ἐκ μεγάλας, τό οἱ ἥπατι πᾶξε βέλεμνον.
ἀλλὰ τὸ φάρμακον εὗρε, καθεζόμενος δ᾽ ἐπὶ πέτρας
ὑψηλᾶς ἐς πόντον ὁρῶν …

(XI, 10-18)

His is the perpetual infatuation of the fixed with the fluid. The surface variation and unknown depths of ocean intrigue; the land is wholly knowable in its broad stability.

Nicias is described by Theocritus as skilled in both poetry and medicine. Compare with the opening lines of XI the descriptions in XXVIII:

Νικίαν, Χαρίτων ἰμεροφώνων ἴερον φύτον, …


νῦν μὰν οἶκον ἔχοισ᾽ ἄνερος, ὃς πόλλ᾽ ἐδάη σόφα
ἀθρώποισι νόσοις φάρμακα λύγραις ἀπαλαλκέμεν,…

(XXVIII, 19-20)

As such he is in an especially favorable position to evaluate remedies for love. The two Idylls that are addressed to Nicias, XI and XIII, form a complementary pair of vignettes on the subject of Ἔρως. Polyphemos extricated himself from his passion, as the closing lines emphasize, by both pointing a moral and linking it verbally with the issue of the opening lines.

                    κοῦφον δέ τι τοῦτο καὶ ἁδὺ
γίνετ᾽ ἐπ᾽ ἀνθρώποις, εὑρεῖν δ᾽ οὐ ῥᾴδιόν ἐστι.
. . . .
οὕτω γοῦν ῥάιστα διᾶγ᾽ ὁ Κύκλωψ ὁ παρ᾽ ἁμῖν,
ὡρχαῖος Πολύφαμος, ὅκ᾽ ἤρατο τᾶς Γαλατείας,
. . . .
οὕτω τοι Πολύφαμος ἐποίμαινεν τὸν ἔρωτα
μουσίσδων, ῥᾷον δὲ διᾶγ᾽ ἢ εἰ χρυσὸν ἔδωκεν.

(XI, 3-4, 7-8, 80-81)

But the Heracles story is in many ways the inversion of this.

Like ὡρχαῖος Πολύφαμος (XI, 8), Heracles is a figure of old: brawny, huge, and evidently miscast as a lover. Hylas is not deliberately inaccessible, like Galatea, but he must go to live in the water anyway, for the nymphs of that alien element find their other-worldly visitor irresistible. In a brilliant simile, Theocritus conveys him into the pool and, guiding us along the trajectory of the falling star, opens the scene out again into the world of the waiting Argo.

                    κατήριπε δ᾽ ἐς μέλαν ὕδωρ
ἀθρόος, ὡς ὅτε πυρσὸς ἀπ᾽ οὐρανοῦ ἤριπεν ἀστὴρ
ἀθρόος, ἐν πόντῳ, ναύταις δέ τις εἶπεν ἑταίροις·
‘κουφότερ᾽ ὦ παῖδες ποιεῖσθ᾽ ὅπλα· πνευστικὸς οὖρος.’
. . . .
ναῦς γέμεν ἄρμεν᾽ ἔχοισα μετάρσια τῶν παρεόντων,
ἱστία δ᾽ ἡμίθεοι μεσονύκτιον ἐξεκάθαιρον
῾Ηρακλῆα μένοντες.

(XIII, 49-52, 68-70)

But Heracles is caught between the two.

σχέτλιοι οἱ φιλέοντες· ἀλώμενος ὅσσ᾽ ἐμόγησεν
οὔρεα καὶ δρυμούς, τὰ δ᾽ ᾿Ιήσονος ὕστερα πάντ᾽ ἦς.

(XIII, 66-67)

Far from apostrophizing his lover in song (cf. XI, 19-21), he can only shout the boy’s name (XIII, 58) and loses not only him but the opportunity to join Jason’s [ἡμίθεοι] (69) in their immortal deeds.

οὕτω μὲν κάλλιστος ῞Υλας μακάρων ἀμιθρεῖται·
῾Ηρακλέην δ᾽ ἥρωες ἐκερτόμεον λιποναύταν,
οὕνεκεν ἠρώησε τριακοντάζυγον ᾿Αργώ,
πεζᾷ δ᾽ ἐς Κόλχους τε καὶ ἄξενον ἵκετο Φᾶσιν.

(XIII, 72-75)

Once more a didactic conclusion establishes (for Nicias?) the lesson in managing unhappy love that the given hero exemplifies. Likewise, the closing lines of the (spurious?) ninth Idyll summarize the power of poetry in terms of pharmacological potency.

‘… τόσσον ἐμὶν Μοῖσαι φίλαι. οὓς μὲν ὁρεῦντι
γαθεῦσαι, τοὺς δ᾽ οὔτι ποτῷ δαλήσατο Κίρκη.’

(IX, 35-36)

The vulnerability of love’s victims links them to the notion of medicinal remedy (XI, 1-6; XIII, 1-4). The doctor ministers to mortality, and so does whoever would cure passion’s wounds (XI, 15-17). In this the physician may minister to himself, but in the identity of poet.

This motif of the closing frame in the Idylls returns us to our consideration of the songs of Lycidas and Simichidas. Lycidas’ song ended with the formula that closed Daphnis’ own utterance in the Thyrsis song of Idyll I.

χὡ μὲν τόσσ᾽ εἰπὼν ἀπεπαύσατο·

(I, 138)

χὡ μὲν τόσσ᾽ εἰπὼν ἀπεπαύσατο

(VII, 90)

If Simichidas began in the vein of passionate immersion, his song, like that of Polyphemos, has ended on a different note. If his is not the visionary pastoral detachment that called forth the revenant Comatas, at least he now proposes the self-respecting goal of peace of mind.

                    αὐτὰρ ἐγὼ κλᾳξῶ θύρας, ἕστέ κ᾽ ὀμόσσῃ
αὐτά μοι στορεσεῖν καλὰ δέμνια τᾶσδ᾽ ἐπὶ νάσω.
καὶ γάρ θην οὐδ᾽ εἶδος ἔχω κακόν, ὥς με λέγοντι.
ἦ γὰρ πρᾶν ἐς πόντον ἐσέβλεπον, ἦς δὲ γαλάνα,
καὶ καλὰ μὲν τὰ γένεια, καλὰ δέ μευ ἁ μία κώρα,
ὡς παρ᾽ ἐμὶν κέκριται, κατεφαίνετο, τῶν δέ τ᾽ ὀδόντων
λευκοτέραν αὐγὰν Παρίας ὑπέφαινε λίθοιο.
ὡς μὴ βασκανθῶ δέ, τρὶς εἰς ἐμὸν ἔπτυσα κόλπον·
ταῦτα γὰρ ἁ γραία με Κοτυταρὶς ἐξεδίδαξε.

(VI 32-40)

μηκέτι τοι φρουρέωμες ἐπὶ προθύροισιν ῎Αρατε,
μηδὲ πόδας τρίβωμες· ὁ δ᾽ ὄρθριος ἄλλον ἀλέκτωρ
κοκκύζων νάρκαισιν ἀνιαραῖσι διδοίη,
εἷς δ᾽ ἀπὸ τᾶσδε φέριστε Μόλων ἄγχοιτο παλαίστρας,
ἄμμιν δ᾽ ἁσυχία τε μέλοι γραία τε παρείη,
ἅτις ἐπιφθύζοισα τὰ μὴ καλὰ νόσφιν ἐρύκοι.

(VII, 122-127)

Nor does Lycidas see the two as competitive. He greets it with no countermove, but rather smiling acceptance.

          τόσσ᾽ ἐφάμαν· ὁ δέ μοι τὸ λαγωβόλον, ἁδὺ γελάσσας
ὡς πάρος, ἐκ Μοισᾶν ξεινήιον ὤπασεν εἶμεν.

(VII, 128-129)

This reflects the stability and good will that have been unqualifiedly associated with him throughout the Idyll, from his comically unimpeachable status as goatherd (VII, 13-14) and genial hospitality (VII, 19-21; 42-44) to the themes of his performance. But it is also true that Simichidas’ song has generated its own appropriate response. Like Daphnis, Polyphemos (in both VI and XI), and Lycidas, Simichidas has in his own way produced a song that is resolved within itself and no longer depends on, or demands, balance as complementary force from outside. Daphnis placed himself beyond Aphrodite’s power either to victimize or save him; Polyphemos and Lycidas won, in their songs, not the favors of the beloved, but independence from either favor or frown. After the false start in which he maunders to Pan (an unlikely audience) about Aratus’ loves and describes a whole emotional geography of rivers, Simichidas has blundered onto a more fruitful perspective.

                    ‘Λυκίδα φίλε, πολλὰ μὲν ἄλλα
νύμφαι κἠμὲ δίδαξαν ἀν᾽ ὤρεα βουκολέοντα
ἐσθλά, τά που καὶ Ζηνὸς ἐπὶ θρόνον ἄγαγε φάμα·
ἀλλὰ τόγ᾽ ἐκ πάντων μέγ᾽ ὑπείροχον, ᾧ τυ γεραίρειν
ἀρξεῦμ᾽· …

(VII, 91-95)

Simichidas’ is a curious achievement, for his (“very best”) song presents itself as emotion only at second hand. The love problem is that of Aratus (VII, 98). Simichidas deftly excepts himself from such issues with his rare luck in love:

          Σιμιχίδᾳ μὲν ῎Ερωτες ἐπέπταρον· ἦ γὰρ ὁ δειλὸς
τόσσον ἐρᾷ Μυρτοῦς, ὅσον εἴαρος αἶγες ἐρᾶντι.

(VII, 96-97)

Perhaps this second-hand aspect of feeling is paralleled in Simichidas’ account of how he learned the song (VII, 91-95). In contrast to this is the sense of originating craftsmanship with which Lycidas introduces his own composition (VII, 50-51)—both more responsible and less authoritative. Simichidas draws yet another friend into the commentary, this one (Aristis) to vouch for Aratus’ passion.

                                        οἶδεν ῎Αριστις,
ἐσθλὸς ἀνήρ, μέγ᾽ ἄριστος, ὃν οὐδέ κεν αὐτὸς ἀείδειν
Φοῖβος σὺν φόρμιγγι παρὰ τριπόδεσσι μεγαίροι,
ὡς ἐκ παιδὸς ῎Αρατος ὑπ᾽ ὀστέον αἴθετ᾽ ἔρωτι.

(VII, 99-102)

His nobility (VII, 100), like that of the two actual companions of Simichidas (VII, 3-6), may be cited to shed its aura on the poet himself. Praise of Aristis in terms precisely related to epic could also serve to inflate the present singer by association, especially when we recall the double allusion of Simichidas’ introductory flourish. On the one hand he sees himself as Hesiod (VII, 91-93).

                                        τὸν δὲ μετ᾽ αὖθις
κἠγὼ τοῖ᾽ ἐφάμαν· ‘Λυκίδα φίλε, πολλὰ μὲν ἄλλα
νύμφαι κἠμὲ δίδαξαν ἀν᾽ ὤρεα βουκολέοντα
ἐσθλά, τά που καὶ Ζηνὸς ἐπὶ θρόνον ἄγαγε φάμα·

(VII, 90-93)

On the other, his claim echoes the boast of Odysseus at the very moment when, recapturing his identity as hero of epic through listening to the songs of the Phaiakian bard Demodokos, he is about to take up the lyre himself in order to become the performer/composer of the Odyssey (Bks. ix-xii) itself.

This series of oblique claims to epic stature have been anticipated by Lycidas on the basis of their first exchange (VII, 27-41). Simichidas’ response to the goatherd’s inquiry about his destination (VII, 31-34) is tucked in between a pair of challenges, and his genuine sociability (VII, 35-36) is dwarfed by statements of rivalry. But he seems to assume the opposite, and evidently congratulates himself on the subtle lure he has presented to Lycidas. Even his self-styled craft is naive.

ὣς ἐφάμαν ἐπίταδες· ὁ δ᾽ αἰπόλος ἁδὺ γελάσσας,
‘τάν τοι” ἔφα “κορύναν δωρύττομαι, οὕνεκεν ἐσσὶ
πᾶν ἐπ᾽ ἀλαθείᾳ πεπλασμένον ἐκ Διὸς ἔρνος.
ὥς μοι καὶ τέκτων μέγ᾽ ἀπέχθεται, ὅστις ἐρευνῇ
ἶσον ὄρευς κορυφᾷ τελέσαι δόμον εὐρυμέδοντος,
καὶ Μοισᾶν ὄρνιχες, ὅσοι ποτὶ Χῖον ἀοιδὸν
ἀντία κοκκύζοντες ἐτώσια μοχθίζοντι.
ἀλλ᾽ ἄγε βουκολικᾶς ταχέως ἀρχώμεθ᾽ ἀοιδᾶς,

(VII, 42-50)

Lycidas, immune to the flat-footed claims of false modesty, recognizes and deflates in advance Simichidas’ delusions of epic grandeur. And yet his curious promise of reward simultaneously sidesteps the issue of competition altogether. As a prologue to Lycidas’ critical pronouncement, it smilingly (42) neutralizes the difference of opinion that seemed otherwise personal and inevitable. If he possesses such skill at imposing his own harmonious terms, perhaps we must be alerted to more than a common irony in Lycidas’ assertion that Simichidas is definitively “fashioned all for truth” (VII, 43-44). Perhaps, like the sapling to which Simichidas is compared, his present strength is one of promise, with the full flourish of truth waiting ahead, in future growth.

The actual mode that Simichidas adopts to develop his second-hand love theme hardly reassures us (VII, 103-121). Two fulsome apostrophes to Pan and one to the Ἔρωτες culminate in a fragment of rhetoric that Philinus must, imaginatively, be present to overhear, for its conventional persuasion is aimed just at the recalcitrant lover.

Philinus is an urban figure. Lines 122 ff. establish him in a setting that corresponds to that of the city-dwelling Simaetha in Idyll II.

ἦνθον γάρ κεν ἐγώ, ναὶ τὸν γλυκὺν ἦνθον ῎Ερωτα,
ἢ τρίτος ἠὲ τέταρτος ἐὼν φίλος αὐτίκα νυκτός,
μᾶλα μὲν ἐν κόλποισι Διωνύσοιο φυλάσσων,
κρατὶ δ᾽ ἔχων λεύκαν, ῾Ηρακλέος ἱερὸν ἔρνος,
πάντοθε πορφυρέαισι περὶ ζώστραισιν ἑλικτάν.
φράζεό μευ τὸν ἔρωθ᾽ ὅθεν ἵκετο, πότνα Σελάνα.
καί μ᾽ εἰ μέν κ᾽ ἐδέχεσθε, τάδ᾽ ἦς φίλα· καὶ γὰρ ἐλαφρὸς
καὶ καλὸς πάντεσσι μετ᾽ ἠιθέοισι καλεῦμαι·
εὗδόν τ᾽, εἴ κε μόνον τὸ καλὸν στόμα τεῦς ἐφίλασα·
εἰ δ᾽ ἀλλᾷ μ᾽ ὠθεῖτε καὶ ἁ θύρα εἴχετο μοχλῷ,
πάντως καὶ πελέκεις καὶ λαμπάδες ἦνθον ἐφ᾽ ὑμέας.

(II, 118-128)

This is the last realm where one would expect Pan to intervene; and the same unlikelihood attaches to his proposed concern for the outcome of a sophisticated love affair. Whatever his association with sexuality and fertility via his flocks and his link with Priapus, his sphere of influence is hardly erotic; in fact, as the Idylls demonstrate, these areas are really antithetical. The sexuality of Pan, like his music and his laughter, is a release from passion, and in his arena of wild nature, his work is to foster and to slay. [
40] Huntsman and herdsman, he dominates both wild and tame animals, and the wrath that Simichidas turns against him seems rather to be the god’s normal prerogative.

οὐ θέμις ὦ ποιμὴν τὸ μεσαμβρινόν, οὐ θέμις ἄμμιν
συρίσδεν. τὸν Πᾶνα δεδοίκαμες· ἦ γὰρ ἀπ᾽ ἄγρας
τανίκα κεκμακὼς ἀμπαύεται· ἔστι δὲ πικρός,
καί οἱ ἀεὶ δριμεῖα χολὰ ποτὶ ῥινὶ κάθηται.

(I, 15-18)

Indeed, the motif of hyperbole that marks Simichidas’ speeches so far (both inside the “song”, 96ff., and without), is applied here to that of inversion. The disorder of things that Simichidas calls down as potential punishment is represented from the start in the song itself, on its urban erotic theme, suitable to a night scene (VII, 123-124). The hour of performance is Pan’s hour, the noon hour when the countryside is quiet (VII, 21-26). Simichidas violates Pan’s province no less with his restless song than with his city-shod progress through the lanes.

Yet this is not the last word, either in the song or in the Idyll. Lycidas’ song was a triumph of centripetal imagination. In transporting the object of his passion safely into Mitylene, he drew toward himself a secure and local moment of peace (63ff.). Richly depicted, built up from homely detail, it incorporated both the now-benignant memory of Aegeanax and the mythological past, in the reanimated person of “divine Comatas.” He becomes the poet’s companion (poet of poets! companion of companions!) in a living and local pastoral present. Simichidas, roaming from Helenus to Nile with Pan and variously around the seats of the Ἔρωτες, seems far from that ideal. Yet in imagining Philinus, he is drawn into a precision of detail that detaches itself from its old hyperbolical context and generates, as it were, a new and more realistic one, which includes the possibility of a new perspective. Philinus in his pitilessness becomes once again a human being. As an object for Pan to deliver up or even for the Loves to wound, he was impersonal. But in the course of his trope, the poet finds a new tone. The Ἔρωτες are still picturesque in line 117; the vocative is lazily adorned with its simile.

ὦ μάλοισιν ῎Ερωτες ἐρευθομένοισιν ὁμοῖοι,
. . . .

(VII, 117)

But when, in the next line, Simichidas finally reaches his verb, the imperative seems to involve his own momentum. What was in line 118 merely the extension of a conceit has become in line 119 an urgent and felt command.

βάλλετέ μοι τόξοισι τὸν ἱμερόεντα Φιλῖνον,
βάλλετ᾽, ἐπεὶ τὸν ξεῖνον ὁ δύσμορος οὐκ ἐλεεῖ μευ.

(VII, 118-119)

The repetition not only conveys added force, but again begins the succeeding lines, as if to start over with the idea, from a different point of view. The motive is clear in the line-ending phrase, which identifies Aratus and Philinus in terms of the poet’s feelings about them (VII, 119). Philinus is without pity; he wounds Aratus ὁ τὰ πάντα φιλαίτατος ἀνέρι τήνῳ (VII, 98); since he is to blame, let him in turn be wounded; and his fading charms make him vulnerable. Lines 120-121 are transitional. They look backward to the notion of the Loves’ vengeance, for the typical pairing involved an older lover who courted the barely adolescent beloved. Philinus, as his beard grows and his tender youth passes to maturity, has become ripe for the potentially frustrating role of lover. His attraction fades visibly. The resonance of τό τοι καλὸν ἄνθος (121) may include the comparison with the unaging bloom and blush of the immortal Loves, the ephemeral (cf. τὸν ἱμερόεντα Φιλῖνον 118) flower of all mortal youth, and the distinctive “bloom” of the pear (120) that is eminently ripe—but which further age will degenerate and dull.

The women whom Simichidas invokes to generalize and objectify this deprecatory opinion of Philinus give the lines their second orientation. Their comment becomes social, actual. It seems to be quoted for Philinus’ own ears: to wound him, to warn him of his imminent vulnerability, and to serve as a cautionary admonition: ‘treat Aratus with the pity you’ll soon need yourself.’ At the same time it becomes a public judgment rather than private one; it gains authority. It seems to be on the basis of this (imagined!) consensus that Simichidas turns from his complex demands of the gods to a simple offer of advice to Aratus.

‘… μηκέτι τοι φρουρέωμες ἐπὶ προθύροισιν ῎Αρατε,
μηδὲ πόδας τρίβωμες· ὁ δ᾽ ὄρθριος ἄλλον ἀλέκτωρ
κοκκύζων νάρκαισιν ἀνιαραῖσι διδοίη,
εἷς δ᾽ ἀπὸ τᾶσδε φέριστε Μόλων ἄγχοιτο παλαίστρας,
ἄμμιν δ᾽ ἁσυχία τε μέλοι γραία τε παρείη,
ἅτις ἐπιφθύζοισα τὰ μὴ καλὰ νόσφιν ἐρύκοι.’

(VII, 122-127)

The song ends conversationally and colloquially. Both the action and the diction are those of common sense. The vividness of Philinus’ presence has, once invoked, generated his setting as well, and as the particular doorfront and too-familiar street assert themselves, the fantastic landscape of the earlier verses must make way for it. With realism of context comes realism of response. Simichidas has remembered who he is: a concerned friend, a fellow sufferer in the night vigil of the exclusus amator . And with that the literary apparatus of passion collapses. The old metaphor of wrestling (cf. especially I, 97-98) sums up the possibilities of Ἔρως in familiar terms: win or lose. And Simichidas, until now the competitor par excellence , offers his advice: don’t play. Let another suffer the loss (VII, 125) or, for that matter, the win. The proper choice is the invisible third. ἄμμιν δ᾽ ἁσυχία τε μέλοι (VII, 126).

Simichidas, then, ends where Polyphemos ends. Like the Cyclops, he has recovered a sense of self in the very process of verbal immersion (cf. XI, 54-56) in the beloved. Language has led him home in spite of himself. [41]

ὦ Κύκλωψ Κύκλωψ, πᾷ τὰς φρένας ἐκπεπότασαι;
αἴκ᾽ ἐνθὼν θαλάρως τε πλέκοις καὶ θαλλὸν ἀμάσας
ταῖς ἄρνεσσι φέροις, τάχα κα πολὺ μᾶλλον ἔχοις νῶν.
. . . .
δῆλον ὅ τ᾽ ἐν τᾷ γᾷ κἠγώ τις φαίνομαι ἦμεν.

(XI, 72-74, 79)

ὡς μὴ βασκανθῶ δέ, τρὶς εἰς ἐμὸν ἔπτυσα κόλπον·
ταῦτα γὰρ ἁ γραία με Κοτυταρὶς ἐξεδίδαξε.

(VI, 39-40)

‘… ἄμμιν δ᾽ ἁσυχία τε μέλοι γραία τε παρείη,
ἅτις ἐπιφθύζοισα τὰ μὴ καλὰ νόσφιν ἐρύκοι.’

(VII, 126-127)

The old woman’s charm is especially invoked to ward off passion, as Simaetha’s case testifies. [

          φράζεό μευ τὸν ἔρωθ᾽ ὅθεν ἵκετο, πότνα Σελάνα.
χὡς ἴδον, ὡς ἐμάνην, ὥς μευ πέρι θυμὸς ἰάφθη
δειλαίας· τὸ δὲ κάλλος ἐτάκετο,
. . . .
ὀστί᾽ ἔτ᾽ ἦς καὶ δέρμα. καὶ ἐς τίνος οὐκ ἐπέρασα
ἢ ποίας ἔλιπον γραίας δόμον, ἅτις ἐπᾷδεν;

(II, 81-83, 90-91)

Here are the expected motifs of madness, wasting, and inner flame, together with the notion of fading bloom: τὸ δὲ κάλλος ἐτάκετο. The sight of Delphis’ beauty has drained Simaetha’s.

                                  ἦ γὰρ ἔρωτι
πολλάκις ὦ Πολύφαμε τὰ μὴ καλὰ καλὰ πέφανται.

(VI, 18-19)

That foul things may seem fair to the lover now assumes a broader context than its initial one, although even in VI, 18-19, it demanded a multiple reference. [
43] Fair aspect is associated with love in similar terms at XIII, 1-4, in an elevated but still admonitory tone.

          οὐχ ἁμῖν τὸν ῎Ερωτα μόνοις ἔτεχ᾽, ὡς ἐδοκεῦμες,
Νικία, ᾧ τινι τοῦτο θεῶν ποκα τέκνον ἔγεντο.
οὐχ ἁμῖν τὰ καλὰ πράτοις καλὰ φαίνεται εἶμεν,
οἳ θνατοὶ πελόμεσθα, τὸ δ᾽ αὔριον οὐκ ἐσορῶμες·

(XIII, 1-4)

So τὰ μὴ καλὰ of VII 127 may mean, not just bad things in general, but those foul things which Ἔρως presents as fair-seeming. Hesiod’s Muses, whom Simichidas recalled at VII 37 and 91-93, could sing true things and false things as if they were true. Perhaps this command of truth and falsehood is one element of the demonstrable power of poetry, in Theocritean pastoral, to achieve detachment from (if not necessarily to decode) τὰ καλὰ of Ἔρως, behind which seeming either good or evil may lurk.

The sweet laughter of Lycidas begins and ends the contest, in parallel phrases and gestures that point to the motive behind pastoral’s formal symmetry. Simichidas, when they meet, angles for an ἔρις (41), identifying both himself (37-41) and Lycidas (27-31) in comparative and competitive terms. His false modesty conceals a challenge, and he clearly expects a victory, though his busman’s holiday is proposed in terms of exchange on an equal footing.

ἀλλ᾽ ἄγε δή, ξυνὰ γὰρ ὁδός, ξυνὰ δὲ καὶ ἀώσ,
βουκολιασδώμεσθα· τάχ᾽ ὥτερος ἄλλον ὀνασεῖ.

(VII, 35-36)

Lycidas takes him at his word, joining his (apparent) scorn of competition (45-47). He offers his song only to please (50-51), [
45] whereas Simichidas boasts of the general fame, relative excellence, and condescending honor of his own (91-95). Above all Lycidas treats the contest as no contest. The “prize” is “awarded” in advance, and becomes a gift and token, rather than a stake. It verifies the equality to which Simichidas paid lip-service at the outset and that Lycidas affirmed by understanding him literally, overlooking the clumsily concealed motive with a true pastoral bias toward the externalized and open. It is no coincidence that strife is that deeper meaning; Lycidas’ smile is surely to be contrasted with that of Aphrodite in Idyll I.

ἦνθέ γε μὰν ἁδεῖα καὶ ἁ Κύπρις γελάοισα,
λάθρια μὲν γελάοισα, βαρὺν δ᾽ ἀνὰ θυμὸν ἔχοισα,
κεἶπε· ‘τύ θην τὸν ῎Ερωτα κατεύχεο Δάφνι λυγιξεῖν·
ἦ ῥ᾽ οὐκ αὐτὸς ῎Ερωτος ὑπ᾽ ἀργαλέω ἐλυγίχθης;’

(I, 95-98)

His laughter is rather to be compared with the laughter of Pan [
46] and linked to the triumph of Demeter that closes this Idyll.

          τόσσ᾽ ἐφάμαν· ὁ δέ μοι τὸ λαγωβόλον, ἁδὺ γελάσσας
ὡς πάρος, ἐκ Μοισᾶν ξεινήιον ὤπασεν εἶμεν.
χὡ μὲν ἀποκλίνας ἐπ᾽ ἀριστερὰ τὰν ἐπὶ Πύξας
εἷρφ᾽ ὁδόν, αὐτὰρ ἐγώ τε καὶ Εὔκριτος ἐς Φρασιδάυω

(VII, 128-131)

And was his estimate of Simichidas justified? … οὕνεκεν ἐσσὶ / πᾶν ἐπ᾽ ἀλαθείᾳ πεπλασμένον ἐκ Διὸς ἔρνος (VII, 43-44). Simichidas has dropped not only his false modesty but the keen competitive spirit that it veiled. As at the end of his Philinus-song, he finds himself in company: this time the actual company with whom he set out for the Haleis before the memory that is the Idyll opens. The poem had barely sketched the trio’s journey before pausing decisively on Lycidas’ appearance.

κοὔπω τὰν μεσάταν ὁδὸν ἄνυμες, οὐδὲ τὸ σᾶμα
ἁμὶν τὸ Βρασίλα κατεφαίνετο, καὶ τὸν ὁδίταν
ἐσθλὸν σὺν Μοίσαισι Κυδωνικὸν εὕρομες ἄνδρα,
οὔνομα μὲν Λυκίδαν, ἦς δ᾽ αἰπόλος, …

(VII, 10-13)

No sooner has he vanished than the travelers find themselves stretched out on lush couches at their destination. A single participle comprises the longer half of their walk.

                    αὐτὰρ ἐγώ τε καὶ Εὔκριτος ἐς Φρασιδάυω
στραφθέντες χὡ καλὸς ᾿Αμύντιχος ἔν τε βαθείαις
ἁδείας σχοίνοιο χαμευνίσιν ἐκλίνθημες
ἔν τε νεοτμάτοισι γεγαθότες οἰναρέοισι.

(VII, 131-134)

Two moments have gained foreground and force in Simichidas’ account, and surely this represents a variety of truth: the truth of memory. The last 25 lines of the Idyll not only focus the second of these moments, but also elaborate the nature of that truth.

The central moments are, then, the encounter and exchange with Lycidas, and the θαλὐσια itself. In terms of the opening lines of the Idyll, these points represent the (nearly) halfway mark and the conclusion of the journey. Taking the departure (1-2) as our third point of reference, we have in Idyll VII a complete progression: from the city (2) to country (131-134), from morning to twilight, [49] from haste (21-16) to rest (131ff.). As a journey, this must have meant a day’s walk; as a poem, the progress is made in two long steps.

         αὐτὰρ ἐγώ τε καὶ Εὔκριτος ἐς Φρασιδάυω
στραφθέντες χὡ καλὸς ᾿Αμύντιχος ἔν τε βαθείαις
ἁδείας σχοίνοιο χαμευνίσιν ἐκλίνθημες
ἔν τε νεοτμάτοισι γεγαθότες οἰναρέοισι.
πολλαὶ δ᾽ ἁμὶν ὕπερθε κατὰ κρατὸς δονέοντο
αἴγειροι πτελέαι τε· τὸ δ᾽ ἐγγύθεν ἱερὸν ὕδωρ
Νυμφᾶν ἐξ ἄντροιο κατειβόμενον κελάρυζε.
τοὶ δὲ ποτὶ σκιαραῖς ὀροδαμνίσιν αἰθαλίωνες
τέττιγες λαλαγεῦντες ἔχον πόνον· ἁ δ᾽ ὀλολυγὼν
τηλόθεν ἐν πυκιναῖσι βάτων τρύζεσκεν ἀκάνθαις.
ἄειδον κόρυδοι καὶ ἀκανθίδες, ἔστενε τρυγών,
πωτῶντο ξουθαὶ περὶ πίδακας ἀμφὶ μέλισσαι.
πάντ᾽ ὦσδεν θέρεος μάλα πίονος, ὦσδε δ᾽ ὀπώρας.
ὄχναι μὲν πὰρ ποσσί, παρὰ πλευραῖσι δὲ μᾶλα
δαψιλέως ἁμῖν ἐκυλίνδετο· τοὶ δ᾽ ἐκέχυντο
ὄρπακες βραβίλοισι καταβρίθοντες ἔραζε·
τετράενες δὲ πίθων ἀπελύετο κρατὸς ἄλειφαρ.

(VII, 131-147)

As in his evocation of the spring Bourina (6ff.), Simichidas animates the scene and makes it live around us. Part of this vividness is due to the variety of his observation and its particularity; part results from his appeal to all five senses. The description first places the travelers wholly at ease, resting full length on couches of rush and of the vine leaves that have been stripped in preparation for the later harvest of grapes. Relaxation and abundance coincide here as elements of that rustic luxury that characterizes the whole experience of the θαλὐσια. Simichidas and his friend are not only glad to have arrived (134): they have arrived at the very occasion of gladness.

Here is plenty of everything good. Plenty of trees, with breezes to stir them; plenty of pure water falling from the rocks. These motifs combine to recall the opening sweetness of Idyll I.

Ἁδύ τι τὸ ψιθύρισμα καὶ ἁ πίτυς αἰπόλε τήνα,
ἃ ποτὶ ταῖς παγαῖσι μελίσδεται, ἁδὺ δὲ καὶ τὺ
. . . .

διον ὦ ποιμὴν τὸ τεὸν μέλος ἢ τὸ καταχὲς
τῆν᾽ ἀπὸ τᾶς πέτρας καταλείβεται ὑψόθεν ὕδωρ.

(I, 1-3, 7-8)

The poplars and elms reproduce the foliage at Courina, with its local and genealogical significance (VII, 7-8, 135-136). Phrasidamus is appropriately blessed with scenery echoing that created by his heroic forebear.

The shade and springs offer a sustained refreshment. Out of the iterative murmur of boughs overhead and water below, Simichidas separates items in the living chorus. Each has its own distinctive habitat or niche, and each a distinctive verb to mark its singular timbre. [50]

τοὶ δὲ ποτὶ σκιαραῖς ὀροδαμνίσιν αἰθαλίωνες
τέττιγες λαλαγεῦντες ἔχον πόνον· ἁ δ᾽ ὀλολυγὼν
τηλόθεν ἐν πυκιναῖσι βάτων τρύζεσκεν ἀκάνθαις.
ἄειδον κόρυδοι καὶ ἀκανθίδες, ἔστενε τρυγών,
πωτῶντο ξουθαὶ περὶ πίδακας ἀμφὶ μέλισσαι.

(VII, 138-142)

Here the bees recollect the nurture of the goatherd in Lycidas’ song.

ὥς τέ νιν αἱ σιμαὶ λειμωνόθε φέρβον ἰοῖσαι
κέδρον ἐς ἁδεῖαν μαλακοῖς ἄνθεσσι μέλισσαι,
οὕνεκά οἱ γλυκὺ Μοῖσα κατὰ στόματος χέε νέκταρ.
ὦ μακαριστὲ Κομάτα, τύ θην τάδε τερπνὰ πεπόνθεις,

(VII, 80-83)

This cicada, proverbial for its singing, attracted this same constellation in the corresponding—closing—lines of Idyll I.

πλῆρές τοι μέλιτος τὸ καλὸν στόμα Θύρσι γένοιτο,
πλῆρές τοι σχαδόνων, καὶ ἀπ᾽ Αἰγίλω ἰσχάδα τρώγοις
ἁδεῖαν, τέττιγος ἐπεὶ τύγα φέρτερον ᾁδεις.

(I, 146-148)

This beautiful line functions as both a summary and transition. The air of dusk was filled with sound; now it is filled with fragrance, which the myriad fruits of the next three lines seem to shed.

ὄχναι μὲν πὰρ ποσσί, παρὰ πλευραῖσι δὲ μᾶλα
δαψιλέως ἁμῖν ἐκυλίνδετο· τοὶ δ᾽ ἐκέχυντο
ὄρπακες βραβίλοισι καταβρίθοντες ἔραζε·

(VII, 144-146)

They have dropped or been gathered from the branches that their ripe weight bends to earth, to present an almost comical embarrassment of riches as they roll about underfoot and alongside the reclining guests. The verb ἐκυλίνδετο is marvelously precise. The profusion of apples and pears now matches the profusion of leaf, water, insect, bird in the earlier section. Instead of sounding, they scent; but they have also their own lazy, repetitive benign motion. Simichidas and his friends are literally surrounded by harvest bounty. Above them, below them, beside them, saturating the senses and the very air, the πάντα … μάλα give off an aura of ripeness. The use of ὦσδε twice insists on the mode by which the season has identified itself to the senses, by which the abstractions θέρος and ὀπώρα have concentrated themselves into the particular perfume of apples, damsons, pears.

Odysseus in Book xix compares Penelope to a good king, equating the social and agricultural prosperity of the people. [55]

‘ὦ γύναι, οὐκ ἄν τίς σε βροτῶν ἐπ᾽ ἀπείρονα γαῖαν
νεικέοι· ἦ γάρ σευ κλέος οὐρανὸν εὐρὺν ἱκάνει,
ὥς τέ τευ ἢ βασιλῆος ἀμύμονος, ὅς τε θεουδὴς
ἀνδράσιν ἐν πολλοῖσι καὶ ἰφθίμοισιν ἀνάσσων
εὐδικίας ἀνέχῃσι, φέρῃσι δὲ γαῖα μέλαινα
πυροὺς καὶ κριθάς, βρίθῃσι δὲ δένδρεα καρπῷ,
τίκτῃ δ᾽ ἔμπεδα μῆλα, θάλασσα δὲ παρέχῃ ἰχθῦς
ἐξ εὐηγεσίης, ἀρετῶσι δὲ λαοὶ ὑπ᾽ αὐτοῦ. …’

(xix, 107-114)

The Phaiakians are praised as a skilled people, but the orchard of Alcinoös appears to flourish without care, by the gods’ gift independent of both calendar and labor.

ἔργα τ᾽ ἐπίστασθαι περικαλλέα καὶ φρένας ἐσθλάς.
ἔκτοσθεν δ᾽ αὐλῆς μέγας ὄρχατος ἄγχι θυράων
τετράγυος· περὶ δ᾽ ἕρκος ἐλήλαται ἀμφοτέρωθεν.
ἔνθα δὲ δένδρεα μακρὰ πεφύκασι τηλεθόωντα,
ὄγχναι καὶ ῥοιαὶ καὶ μηλέαι ἀγλαόκαρποι
συκέαι τε γλυκεραὶ καὶ ἐλαῖαι τηλεθόωσαι.
τάων οὔ ποτε καρπὸς ἀπόλλυται οὐδ᾽ ἀπολείπει
χείματος οὐδὲ θέρευς, ἐπετήσιος· ἀλλὰ μάλ᾽ αἰεὶ
Ζεφυρίη πνείουσα τὰ μὲν φύει, ἄλλα δὲ πέσσει.
ὄγχνη ἐπ᾽ ὄγχνῃ γηράσκει, μῆλον δ᾽ ἐπὶ μήλῳ,
αὐτὰρ ἐπὶ σταφυλῇ σταφυλή, σῦκον δ᾽ ἐπὶ σύκῳ.
ἔνθα δέ οἱ πολύκαρπος ἀλωὴ ἐρρίζωται,
τῆς ἕτερον μὲν θειλόπεδον λευρῷ ἐνὶ χώρῳ
τέρσεται ἠελίῳ, ἑτέρας δ᾽ ἄρα τε τρυγόωσιν,
ἄλλας δὲ τραπέουσι· πάροιθε δέ τ᾽ ὄμφακές εἰσιν
ἄνθος ἀφιεῖσαι, ἕτεραι δ᾽ ὑποπερκάζουσιν.
ἔνθα δὲ κοσμηταὶ πρασιαὶ παρὰ νείατον ὄρχον
παντοῖαι πεφύασιν, ἐπηετανὸν γανόωσαι·

(vii, 111-128)

This passage contrasts most strikingly with Odyssey xxiv. Laertes, too, has an orchard. Like Penelope, he must remain Alcinoös’ counterpart in Ithaca as long as Odysseus is away; and like her, he labors hard and without hope: time is his enemy.

οἱ δ᾽ ἐπεὶ ἐκ πόλιος κατέβαν, τάχα δ᾽ ἀγρὸν ἵκοντο
καλὸν Λαέρταο τετυγμένον, ὅν ῥά ποτ᾽ αὐτὸς
Λαέρτης κτεάτισσεν, ἐπεὶ μάλα πόλλ᾽ ἐμόγησεν.
. . . .
τὸν δ᾽ οἶον πατέρ᾽ εὗρεν ἐϋκτιμένῃ ἐν ἀλωῇ,
λιστρεύοντα φυτόν· …
. . . .
ἦ τοι ὁ μὲν κατέχων κεφαλὴν φυτὸν ἀμφελάχαινε·
τὸν δὲ παριστάμενος προσεφώνεε φαίδιμος υἱός·
‘ὦ γέρον, οὐκ ἀδαημονίη σ᾽ ἔχει ἀμφιπολεύειν
ὄρχατον, ἀλλ᾽ εὖ τοι κομιδὴ ἔχει, οὐδέ τι πάμπαν,
οὐ φυτόν, οὐ συκέη, οὐκ ἄμπελος, οὐ μὲν ἐλαίη,
οὐκ ὄγχνη, οὐ πρασιή τοι ἄνευ κομιδῆς κατὰ κῆπον.
ἄλλο δέ τοι ἐρέω, σὺ δὲ μὴ χόλον ἔνθεο θυμῷ
αὐτόν σ᾽ οὐκ ἀγαθὴ κομιδὴ ἔχει, ἀλλ᾽ ἅμα γῆρας
λυγρὸν ἔχεις αὐχμεῖς τε κακῶς καὶ ἀεικέα ἕσσαι. …’

(xxiv, 205-207, 226-227, 242-250)

But just as Penelope identified her husband by means of the tree that had formed the corner post of their fruitful marriage bed, so it is by means of orchard trees that Odysseus makes himself known to his father.

εἰ δ᾽ ἄγε τοι καὶ δένδρε᾽ ἐϋκτιμένην κατ᾽ ἀλωὴν
εἴπω, ἅ μοί ποτ᾽ ἔδωκας, ἐγὼ δ᾽ ᾔτεόν σε ἕκαστα
παιδνὸς ἐών, κατὰ κῆπον ἐπισπόμενος· διὰ δ᾽ αὐτῶν
ἱκνεύμεσθα, σὺ δ᾽ ὠνόμασας καὶ ἔειπες ἕκαστα.
ὄγχνας μοι δῶκας τρισκαίδεκα καὶ δέκα μηλέας,
συκέας τεσσαράκοντ᾽· ὄρχους δέ μοι ὧδ᾽ ὀνόμηνας
δώσειν πεντήκοντα, διατρύγιος δὲ ἕκαστος
ἤην· ἔνθα δ᾽ ἀνὰ σταφυλαὶ παντοῖαι ἔασιν—
ὁππότε δὴ Διὸς ὧραι ἐπιβρίσειαν ὕπερθεν.

(xxiv, 336-344)

Like Odysseus himself and all his family, this orchard enjoys no dispensation in time. But with spading and tending it bears regularly and, reaching across the generations in its profoundly social meaning, becomes a more enduring indicator of self than even the scar in the flesh.

A last scene of natural wealth elaborates this theme and deserves special attention as a source for Theocritus at the end of VII. [56] Complementing the human and semi-divine versions of the Odyssean orchard, this plantation flourishes in Hades. Odysseus in the Underworld sees a range of heroes and heroines, comrades and friends. The interview with Herakles, the last before his departure from Hades, is immediately preceded by a dire contrast. Three heroes appear in torment, not only confined by Persephone (as Herakles and Odysseus are not) but punished for their transgressions against the gods. Central in this trio is Tantalos.

                    καὶ μὴν Τάνταλον εἰσεῖδον κρατέρ᾽ ἄλγε᾽ ἔχοντα
ἑστεῶτ᾽ ἐν λίμνῃ· ἡ δὲ προσέπλαζε γενείῳ·
στεῦτο δὲ διψάων, πιέειν δ᾽ οὐκ εἶχεν ἑλέσθαι·
ὁσσάκι γὰρ κύψει᾽ ὁ γέρων πιέειν μενεαίνων,
τοσσάχ᾽ ὕδωρ ἀπολέσκετ᾽ ἀναβροχέν, ἀμφὶ δὲ ποσσὶ
γαῖα μέλαινα φάνεσκε, καταζήνασκε δὲ δαίμων.
δένδρεα δ᾽ ὑψιπέτηλα κατὰ κρῆθεν χέε καρπόν,
ὄγχναι καὶ ῥοιαὶ καὶ μηλέαι ἀγλαόκαρποι
συκέαι τε γλυκεραὶ καὶ ἐλαῖαι τηλεθόωσαι·
τῶν ὁπότ᾽ ἰθύσει᾽ ὁ γέρων ἐπὶ χερσὶ μάσασθαι,
τὰς δ᾽ ἄνεμος ῥίπτασκε ποτὶ νέφεα σκιόεντα.

(xi, 582-592)

All three are, of course, impotent before the gods’ wrath, but Tantalos neither labors like Sisyphos nor is torn like Tityos. The essence of his suffering is frustration. Hunger and thirst he must bear, but an eternity of these seems modest compared with his actual ordeal: to starve in the midst of plenty. Water literally surrounds him, laps at this chin—until he tries to drink. Fruit dangles at his outstretched fingertips—until he tries to grasp it. The length and detail of the description render vivid Tantalos’ isolated emptiness in a world otherwise full to overflowing.

Why should the Nymphs attract this prayer? Surely Demeter presides over the θαλύσια, present and future. Consideration of this question leads us to the second, and the larger, of the issues that theses lines involve.

νύμφαι Κασταλίδες Παρνάσιον αἶπος ἔχοισαι,
                                      … Νύμφαι
                                      …, ἇς ἐπὶ σωρῷ
αὖθις ἐγὼ πάξαιμι μέγα πτύον, ἁ δὲ γελάσσαι
δράγματα καὶ μάκωνας ἐν ἀμφοτέραισιν ἔχοισα.

(VII, 154-157)

For with these lines Simichidas closes the Idyll.

Yet although Thyrsis has performed for the Goatherd—and does not hesitate to claim from him the goat’s milk he was pledged (143-144)—his salutation is to the Muses, and the sweetness of his voice, announced at line 65, is rededicated to them with the promise of even greater intensity. The Goatherd confirms and elaborates this motif of sweetness as he concludes the Idyll overall, returning the theme to its primary status as established in the opening word and reemphasized periodically throughout. He, too, opens the poem in the direction of the future, in the form of a wish complementary to Thyrsis’ vision of sweeter song.

Simichidas credited the Nymphs as his teachers (VII, 92) and claimed as well to be Μοισᾶν καπυρὸν στόμα (VII, 37). If with this poem he demonstrates that he has grown into the latter role, may not the former remain true as well? If, like Daphnis, Simichidas is τὸν Μοίσαις φίλον ἄνδρα, τὸν οὐ Νύμφαισιν ἀπεχθῆ (I, 141), then his address to the Nymphs at the end of this poem partakes of Thyrsis’ χαίρετε … Μοῖσαι (I, 144) and his closing wish to repeat the θαλύσια amounts to a revision of ἐγὼ δ᾽ ὔμμιν καὶ ἐς ὕστερον ἅδιον ᾀσῶ (I, 145)—to the promise ‘As sweet a song hereafter may I sing you.’

Like Idyll I, the poem ends on the same note with which it began. But whereas in I this circular movement was qualitative and framed the description of the cup and the Daphnis song with a ring of thematic sweetness, in VII the circle closes in time. Reaching from the mythological past of Chiron and Heracles to that of Clytia and Chalcon, from that hero genealogically to Lycopeus and his sons, the Idyll has extended itself first backward and then horizontally in time. This last dimension, the “present” of the Idyll, embraces the long day of the θαλύσια, lingering over the noon encounter and prolonging the suspended moment of the actual feast. But as day and festival draw to a close, the poet suddenly intercepts our sense of loss. Leaving intact the linear narrative and its full momentum toward conclusion, he asserts once more the typical Theocritean frame. Dramatic in I, sententious in XI, the frame in this case displays an aspect of the ruling theme of VII. It is memory, and its perspective both detaches us from the imminent dissolution of the world of the poem and promises us—as Simichidas promises himself through his promise to Demeter, through his promise from the Nymphs and the Muses, the daughters of Memory—a return to that world. Theocritus’ mastery of time in this poem is both technical and thematic. He involves us so skillfully in the temporal levels of his narrative that we, too, at last fix the great winnowing fan [71] in the finished heap, punctuate ‘the end’—only to be swept back to the beginning with the reminder that the poet is entitled to a perennial da capo–and so entitles us.


[ back ] 1. If Gow’s geographical identifications are correct (1952, Theocritus II:131-133, notes to lines 1, 2, and 6 ff.), the spring lay well to the south and slightly west of the city, while Phrasidamus’ farm was due west.

[ back ] 2. Cf. Gow 1952, Theocritus II:133, note Idyll VII, 4.

[ back ] 3. Cf. Schiller’s remarks in his essay “On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry” (1800, J. Elias, trans. New York 1966), on the definition of the Idyll, not formally as a genre but as a “species” of poetry or a poetic “mode of perception” (p. 145). “The poetic representation of innocent and contented mankind is the universal concept of this type of poetic composition. Since this innocence and this contentedness appear (my emphasis) incompatible with the artificial conditions of society at large and with a certain degree of education and refinement, the poets have removed the location of idyll from the tumult of everyday life into the simple pastoral state and assigned its period before the beginnings of civilization in the child-like age of man. But one can readily grasp that these designations are merely accidental, that they are not to be considered as the purpose of the idyll, simply as the most natural means to it. The purpose itself is invariably only to represent man in a state of innocence, i.e., in a condition of harmony and of peace with himself and with his environment.

“But such a condition does not occur only before the beginnings of civilization, rather it is also the condition which civilization, if it can be said to have any particular tendency everywhere, aims its ultimate purpose. … For the individual who is immersed in civilization, infinitely much therefore depends upon his receiving a tangible assurance of the realization of that idea in the world of sense, of the possible reality of that condition, and since actual experience, far from nourishing this belief, rather contradicts it constantly, here, as in so many cases, the faculty of poetic composition comes to the aid of reason in order to render that idea palpable to intuition and to realize it in individual cases … Experience itself … supplies features enough for the depiction of which the pastoral idyll treats … What I am here criticizing in the [contemporary German] bucolic idyll applies of course only to the sentimental; for the naive can never be lacking content since here it is already contained in the form itself. All poetry must indeed possess an infinite content, only through this is it poetry; but it can fulfill the requirement in two different ways. It can be infinite in accordance with its form, if it presents its subject with all its limits, by individualizing it; it can be infinite according to its matter if it removes all its limits from the subject, by idealizing it; hence either by an absolute representation or by the representation of an absolute. The naive poet takes the first way, the sentimental the second. The first cannot fall short of his content so long as he remains faithful to nature which is always radically limited, i.e. infinite in relation to its form” (pp. 145-150). Emphasis is the author’s unless otherwise noted. For a treatment of Schiller’s terms ‘naive’ and ‘sentimental’ with reference to Theocritus and Vergil, see now the remarks of P. Alpers 1979, The Singer of the Eclogues, pp. 200-222 and particularly 204-209.

[ back ] 4. C. Segal 1974c, “Theocritus’ Seventh Idyll and Lycidas,” contends that “it is significant that Theocritus makes us see the bucolic world of Lycidas through the eyes of Simichidas, the narrator. He thereby presents Lycidas’ world in contrast to something else … the Idyll anchors us in Simichidas’ world and presents the encounter with Lycidas as an extension outward from that. This meeting, then, is not simply a balanced dialogue of opposites, but a reaching forth on the part of Simichidas into a foreign realm” (p. 35). This is in keeping with Segal’s prevailing view of the poem as a structure of bipolarities and antitheses (n.b. in particular pp. 63-65), rather than the reciprocities emphasized in my reading. In this, he extends and develops the point of view of Lawall 1967, Theocritus’ Coan Pastorals.

[ back ] 5. “In the Theocritean corpus Idyll 7 has always held a place apart. Until recently the principal task of interpreters was the ‘unmasking’ of Lycidas, Simichidas, and the other characters. … The notion of the ‘bucolic masquerade’ dominated interpretation to such an extent that even those who rejected it still retained the premises of the historical and biographical approach and clung to a literalist reading of the poem and therefore of the figure of Lycidas.” C. Segal’s remarks (1974c, “Theocritus’ Seventh Idyll and Lycidas,” pp. 20-21) introduce a discussion of this issue which includes a useful survey of the literature, supplementing Gow’s fundamental Preface to the notes to Idyll VII (1952, Theocritus II:127-131), especially “Lycidas and the ‘Mascarade bucolique’,” pp. 129-130.

[ back ] 6. Cf. Gow 1952, Theocritus II:4, note to Idyll I, 15 ff.

[ back ] 7. Epilogue to The Tempest, W. Shakespeare (c. 1611, in The Riverside Shakespeare, G.B. Evans, ed., Cambridge, Mass. 1974), pp. 1635-1636. Spoken by Prospero, the Epilogue combines the stances of character and actor in an appeal to the audience which recapitulates the themes of mutuality, community, and forgiveness which characterize the resolution of The Tempest (“O rejoice / Begin a common joy, and set it down/ With gold on lasting pillars: in one voyage/ Did Claribel her husband find at Tunis, / And Ferdinand, her brother, found a wife / Where he himself was lost; Prospero, his dukedom / In a poor isle; and all of us, ourselves, / When no man was his own” V.i lines 205-213, p. 1634) and presents them in terms of freedom and dependence.

Now my charms are all o’erthrown
And what strength I have’s my own
Which is most faint. Now ‘tis true,
I must be here confin’d by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got,
And pardon’d the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell,
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands.
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be reliev’d by prayer,
Which pierces so, that it assaults
Mercy itself, and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon’d be
Let your indulgence set me free.

This plea for applause, couched in the language of redemption, makes the very event of the performance an instance of the play’s central concern with reciprocity.

[ back ] 8. Cf. Gow 1952, Theocritus II:145.

[ back ] 9. T. Gunn, ed. 1968, Selected Poems of Pulke Greville (London), p. 75.

[ back ] 10. Gow 1952, Theocritus II:145, note on Idyll VII, 52-89.

[ back ] 11. Gow 1952, Theocritus II:145, note on Idyll VII, 52-89.

[ back ] 12. Cf. Idylls II, 40 and III, 17.

[ back ] 13. Whether Tityrus is also a herdsman, and whether he sings alone or to the accompaniment of the shepherd-pipers is not specified.

[ back ] 14. “Deep within the stock convention of virgin-bathing is a vision of human integrity, imprisoned in a world it is in but not of, often forced by weakness into all kinds of ruses, and stratagems, yet always managing to avoid the one fate that really is worse than death, the annihilation of one’s identity. In Achilles Tatius (Cleitophon and Leucippe) we are a very long way, in power and splendor, from anything like ‘I am Duchess of Malfi still.’ But we are in the same imaginative area for all that. If we want an image, or objective correlative, for this kind of integrity, there is an exquisite one in Sidney’s Arcadia (Book I, ch. Xiii [1590 ver]), where the heroine wears a diamond set in a black horn, with the motto attached, ‘yet still myself.’” (N. Frye 1976, The Secular Scripture, Cambridge and London, p. 86)

[ back ] 15. Cf. Empson 1960, Some Versions of Pastoral, pp. 5, 19, and especially 110-111.

[ back ] 16. Cf. Aristotle in the Nichomachean Ethics X, vii: ἡ τελεία δὴ εὐδαιμονία αὕτη ἂν εἴηἀνθρώπου, λαβοῦσα μῆκος βίου τέλειον: οὐδὲν γὰρ ἀτελές ἐστι τῶν τῆςεὐδαιμονίας. [ back ] “This constitutes the greatest happiness—provided it be granted a complete span of life; for nothing belonging to happiness can be incomplete.” English translation by H. Rackham 1934, Cambridge, Mass. and London.

[ back ] 17. Cf. Gow 1952, Theocritus II:152 on the irrelevance of the Comatas story.

[ back ] 18. Cf. Gow’s note (1952, Theocritus II:152) for contrasting interpretation.

[ back ] 19. Cf. the observations of L. Trilling 1972, Sincerity and Authenticity (Cambridge, Mass.), pp. 77-80 on Jane Austen: “But the judgments of Mansfield Park are not dialectical. They are uncompromisingly categorical …, pledged to the single vision of the ‘honest soul.’ It knows that things are not what they will become but what an uncorrupted intelligence may perceive them to be from the first. Seven years after the publication of the Phenomenology this novel tells us in effect that Hegel is quite wrong in method of judgment he propounds and exemplifies. It instructs us that the way to ‘nobility’ lies only through the explicit affirmation of this condition of being, not through its negation, that it lies through duty acknowledged and discharged, through a selfhood whose entelechy is bound up with the conditions of its present existence, through singleness of mind. … This disconcerts and discomfits us. It induces in us as species of anxiety. And how should it not? A work of art, notable for its complexity, devotes its energies, which we cannot doubt are of a very brilliant kind, to doing exactly the opposite of what we have learned to believe art ideally does and what we most love it for doing, which is to confirm the dialectical mode and mitigate the constraints of the categorical. Mansfield Park ruthlessly rejects the dialectical mode and seeks to impose the categorical constraints the more firmly on us. It does not confirm our characteristic modern intuition that the enlightened and generous mind can discern right and wrong and good and bad only under the aspect of process and development of futurity and the interplay and resolution of contradictions. It does not invite us to any of the pleasures which are to be derived from the transcendence of immediate and pragmatic judgment, such as grave, large-minded detachment, or irony, or confidence in the unfolding future. It is antipathetic to the temporality of the dialectical mode; the only moment of judgment it acknowledges is now: it is in the exigent present that things are what they really are, not in the unfolding future. A work of art informed by so claustral a view might well distress our minds, might well give rise to anxiety. And not least because we understand it to be saying that even “the reality of the reader himself is not, as he might wish to think what it may become, but ineluctably what it is now. This is a dark thought, an archaic thought, one that detaches us from the predilections of our culture. But when its first unease has been accommodated, it can be seen to have in it a curious power of comfort.”

[ back ] 20. Cf. λάρναξ as enclosure of Danaë in Simonides 37.1.

[ back ] 21. Cf. Gow 1952, Theocritus II:153.

[ back ] 22. Cf. Gow 1952, Theocritus II:129 in the Preface to his notes on Idyll VII: “The poem certainly leaves upon the mind some sense of mystery. One has the impression that in more than one place some point is made to which the clue is lost, and that as a whole the Idyll had more meaning for T.’s contemporaries than it has for us; and the goatherd Lycidas is certainly a puzzling figure.” Insofar as this is true, it is despite the organization of the poem which, as a whole, and in its songs—within—the song, maintains a direct and unambiguous sequence of reference. Many of the Idylls, especially the amoibean songs, are notable for their abrupt transitions and gnomic non sequiturs. In Idyll VII the connections are clear, but a part of the context seems to have vanished. This is probably the effect of time, as Gow suggests, although in the Idylls which are structurally puzzling, one suspects deliberate effect. Dionysus was not an Oriental god, but his Greek representation as a foreign deity stated an integral part of his role: embodiment of the powerfully new, the prodigiously alien. The pastoral Idylls (and certainly Vergil’s Eclogues) assume, by the same token, a degree of enigma as a strategy of the genre.

[ back ] 23. Cf. the similar elements of the setting, which frames the Daphnis song and description of the cup, in Idyll I, 1-26, 152-3.

[ back ] 24. Cf. T.S. Eliot, “A Cooking Egg” in his The Complete Poems and Plays, 1901-1950 (New York, 1952), p. 27.

I shall not want Honour in Heaven
    For I shall meet Sir Philip Sidney
And have talk with Coriolanus
     And other heroes of that kidney.

[ back ] 25. Liddell-Scott-Jones (Greek-English Lexicon With a Supplement, E.A. Barber et al. Oxford 1968), after noting uses of λάρναξ as a storage chest or household coffer, cite a number of instances in which it stands for the ark in which children were exposed (Simonides 37.1); Apollonius of Rhodes 1.622; Diodorus 5.62) and—with still more sinister implication for this passage—examples from the Iliad (XXIV, 795) and Thucydides (2.34) of the λάρναξ as a coffin or cinerary receptacle: hence the horror of being placed living in the λάρναξ (Lycophron 234 actually has the adjective λάρνακοφθόρος: “killing in a box or chest”).

[ back ] 26. Either the muse deliberately pours the nectar at this moment of crisis to attract the bees, or they respond to the sweetness with which the Muse had, in a past gesture, endowed Comatas. The common metaphor associating music and poetry with sweetness—of which honey is an archetype—may be seen in some variety in, for example, Idyll I: sweet piping (2-3); sweeter song (7-8); sweet voice (65); smelling or sounding honey-sweet (of pastoral pipes, 128); a reward of honey and honeycomb to fill the singer’s mouth (146-7). This final association is especially close to that of VII, 80-82, where the singer’s στόμα, because of its intrinsic (metaphorical) sweetness, is filled with the actual substance of sweetness: literal honey.

[ back ] 27. It is important to note that Idyll VII, as with all of Theocritus, is emphatically and consciously a literary composition, although it represents compositions that are still traditional oral performances/compositions in the songs of Lycidas and Simichidas.

[ back ] 28. Cf. H. Fränkel 1962 (M. Hadas and J. Willias, trans. 1973 New York and London) on Pindar as “the last of archaic lyric” poets: “It has been shown that the society for which Pindar worked believed in the unity of all values and that they were realized as examples in individual fields. In dealing with any such example it was tacitly assumed that the particular proof of worth, whatever it might be [e.g. an athletic victory], represented the unity of all, as in the corn-marker a single handful may represent the quality of a whole cargo. In each of his great choral odes Pindar sets forth the whole world of values—not in a theoretical outline of its basic features, but in concrete examples from its most important areas; and the proofs of worth may be adduced either at random or according to the accidental context of events. Any myth, represents the legendary past which contained all the models of what could happen. Every pious reference to the gods contained, in principle, all religious feeling. Timeless truths of a general nature are incorporated in the various maxims. The words of the poet serve to typify all skills and abilities, all thought and language. The particular occasion of the poem is of course alluded to; it provides the nearest illustration of the ability of values to realize themselves in any present set of circumstances. …The victory ode, then, has also the particular purpose of taking up the recent achievement into the realm of values and of bringing the victorious athlete to his due place among the noble company of famous men, heroes, and gods. Pindar’s art is thus an act of homage to values, and to human value [ἀρετή] in particular. Through this fact function also is more precisely determined. Values live in and upon the estimation that they enjoy; they have to be recognized and understood in theory, and realized and encouraged in practice; without this they would be as dead as a law that scarcely anyone knew or respected. It is the function of the poet, as the voice and conscience of the community, to make sure that the good is honored, and with correct judgment to allot praise and blame to men and things. … On behalf of the community the singer rewards the good that men do with sounding acclaim and undying glory, and thus animates those whom he addressed to ever continuing achievements. … [I]n Pindar’s choral odes the idea of the good and great achieves self-awareness and triumphantly displays its own significance. Promises and performance here become one. It is for this reason that Pindar’s art can so often and so explicitly speak about itself. Pindar’s poetry is a piece of life; it serves life and is nourished by life present and past” (pp. 488-490).

[ back ] 29. Perhaps the deliberate verbal echo of Idyll I, 138 in VII, 90 aims at a further counterpointing of Lycidas’ optimistic vision and Daphnis’ contrasting fate.

[ back ] 30. “The simile is loosely attached to its context; Galatea is light and inconsequent as thistledown, but her inconsequence is described in terms inapplicable to thistledown.” In this note to line 16, and in that to 17 which follows, Gow (1952, Theocritus II:112) appears to limit the terms of the simile to the “inconsequence” and trivial nature of the thistledown, although in his translation (I:53) “wanton” extends this notion. Surely the key idea is that of the volatility of thistledown, which adapts itself easily to an expression of fluctuating passion (cf. the image of the dry leaf which in Idyll XXX epitomizes subjection to the power of δολομάχανον … Ἔρον (25-26):

ταῦτα γὰρ ὦγαθὲ
βούλεται θέος, ὃς καὶ Διὸς ἔσφαλε μέγαν νόον
καὔτας Κυπρογενήας· ἔμε μάν, φύλλον ἐπάμερον,
σμίκρας δεύμενον αὔρας ὀνέμων ᾇ κε θέλῃ φόρη.

(XXX, 29-32)

The inconstant movement of Galatea is, however, not only emotional but literal and physical. Erratic approach and withdrawal are terms eminently well suited to the behavior of thistledown as different airs strike it. A term uniting the simile with relevance to passion is that of parching heat (16), an attribute of desire (e.g. VII, 55-56); while the metaphor of the “game” (18—cf. I, 97-98) of love is manifested on the level of the physical movement of the playing piece on the board, back or forth: approach and withdrawal.

[ back ] 31. On the various sources for this myth, cf. Gow’s Preface to his notes on Idyll VI (1952, Theocritus II:118).

[ back ] 32. Theocritus presents no version of the love triangle which in Ovid (Met. 13; perhaps his invention) depicts Polyphemos as the monstrous violator of innocent life and mutual love. The conflation of the threat of rape with the otherwise neutral “Beauty and the Beast” theme dictates such dark treatments as Ovid’s. Gow (1952, Theocritus II:118) asserts that “in T. … Polyphemos remains a Caliban,” whereas in fact Theocritus prepares an utterly dissimilar emphasis. In both VI and XI, he puts the lovers at a distance so discreet as to evaporate all miasma of miscegenation. Polyphemos’ aspirations to her bed are too absurd to hint of attainment. Far from communicating crude power, the Theocritean Cyclops is half-child (XI, 25-27, 67-71) half-dandy (VI, 34-38). This precisely identified adolescence (XI, 9) appears incapable of any but the most naive and fanciful action—much less violence. The traditional figure of Polyphemos is presented by Theocritus with deliberation: highlights and obscurities scrupulously manipulated in order to convey the poignancy and humor of the theme, with none of its sinister potential.

[ back ] 33. Cf. Gow 1952, Theocritus II:218, note to Idyll XI, 61: “T. is again thinking, with irony, of Odysseus, but Polyphemos himself has no reason to expect visitors. … ” As at XI, 52-53 and overtly at VI, 22-24, Theocritus refers to the events of Odyssey ix in order to establish them in the “future” of his own mythic episodes. The effect once again is less to recall Polyphemos’ violent capacity than to exorcise it from this pastoral treatment with a distancing allusion.

[ back ] 34. The Cyclops’ cannibalism is of course an aspect of their totally barbarous status: lawless, asocial, without assembly or tradition; ignorant of agriculture and irrigation; outside the world of reciprocal hospitality, since they never travel. Despite the whole world’s attention, Troy is meaningless to them (the Odyssey’s gloss on itself and its proper audience). Curiously, this barbarism serves as almost an extenuating circumstance. Polyphemos is repellant, flouts Zeus, and hasn’t the imagination to see a prophecy unfolding itself. Yet his actions lack the criminal horror of such acts of cannibalism as the Thyestean feat, or the murder of Pelops, even without the associated attempts to compromise the Olympians. Polyphemos swallows Achaeans the way Achaeans swallow goats or rams: both act appropriately as long as the prevailing code is accepted. The Odyssey accepts one and not the other: accordingly, Polyphemos is punished (cf. the quality of slaughter and reprisal on Helios’ island in xiii). But he is not unsympathetic in his suffering, and exhibits a species of innocence. The natural man here shows brutality, but not unreconstructed evil: Prospero would not acknowledge him as “this thing of darkness” (Tempest V).

[ back ] 35. Robert Frost, “Neither Out Far Nor in Deep” in The Poetry of Robert Frost (E.C. Lathem, ed., New York 1969), p. 301.

[ back ] 36. Gow 1952, Theocritus II:211, note to Idyll XI, 13 finds the connection between the Cyclops’ song and its frame perplexing, and views ἀείδων as the crux. His efforts to establish an occasion for the poem in the biographies of Theocritus and Nicias (see II:208-209, Preface to the notes on Idyll XI) may be considered independently of the present argument, which assumes the unity of the poem on internal and literary evidence.

[ back ] 37. Cf. the “wound” of Galatea (Idyll VI, 6), which is both provocative and punishing at the same time. Also, cf. Idyll VI, 88-89.

[ back ] 38. Cf. Gow’s note on the Ethiopians on Idyll VII, 113-114 (1952, Theocritus II:159-160) and also his notes on Idyll I, 66-69 (II:18) and I, 123-126 (II:26-27).

[ back ] 39. Gow 1952, Theocritus II:119 in the Preface to his notes on Idyll VI.

[ back ] 40. Daphnis, who bids farewell both to the wild animals he hunted (I, 115-117) and the tame ones he herded (I, 120-121), and by whom he is reciprocally lamented (I, 71-72; 74-75), makes his sole appeal to Pan (I, 123-126). But its terms seem to presuppose that Pan has no power over Eros (I, 128-130). In fact, since Aphrodite has won her Phyrric victory, Daphnis relinquishes his pipes; intact and unscathed, they pass (back?) into appropriate hands, though he must be borne into an alien realm.

[ back ] 41. On the notion of homecoming and its relation to identity, see the discussion below of resonances from the Odyssey in Idyll VII.

[ back ] 42. Cf. Idyll II, 94-101. Of course, the remedy she seeks only exacerbates her plight, in support of the contention of Idyll XI, 1-4.

[ back ] 43. Polyphemos’ “foul” looks yet attracted Galatea; Galatea behaves perversely in her coquettishness (perhaps even indulging in “foul play,” to acknowledge the metaphor of the game). Polyphemos has seen her foul deed (VI, 21-22), despite the camouflage of her beauty; he now will tease her by viewing her as foul (25) when she is in fact fair to him (33-34); the mirror of the sea shows him to himself:

. . .
καὶ καλὰ μὲν τὰ γένεια, καλὰ δέ μευ ἁ μία κώρα,
ὡς παρ᾽ ἐμὶν κέκριται, κατεφαίνετο, …

(VI, 36-37)

The play on “having an eye” is exhaustive and, as in Idyll XI, 61, culminates in an allusion to the Cyclops’ meeting with Odysseus (VI, 22-24).

[ back ] 44. Cf. the farewells of Daphnis at Idyll I, 115 ff. and especially at 132-136; also the future—decided and wished for—realities with which both Thyrsis and the Goatherd close Idyll I.

[ back ] 45. Cf. Odyssey i, 351-352.

[ back ] 46. Pan’s laughter is one of his initial attributes in the Homeric Hymn to Pan, where even as an infant he is ἡδυγέλωτος. This offsets the frightening aspects of his bestial appearance and above all delights his father, Hermes, and the other gods.

πάντες δ᾽ ἄρα θυμὸν ἔτερφθεν
ἀθάνατοι, περίαλλα δ᾽ ὁ Βάκχειος Διόνυσος·
Πᾶνα δέ μιν καλέεσκον, ὅτι φρένα πᾶσιν ἔτερψε.


C. Segal 1974c, “Theocritus’ Seventh Idyll links Lycidas and Pan, but with quite a different emphasis.

[ back ] 47. Cf. Hesiod, Theogony, 30.

[ back ] 48. This recognition makes retrospective sense of Idyll VII, 12, where the phrase σὺν Μοίσαισι can bear no anticipated relation to the description of a random acquaintance, a Cydonian, a goatherd. No piece of information in the account ties in with the allusion to the Muses until Simichidas’ sudden declaration at 27. But the good fortune of the encounter overall must have generated the reference to the Muses’ auspices at 12, which forms a kind of ring with the ἐκ Μοισᾶν ξεινήιον of the festival at 129.

[ back ] 49. The near-end point being noon.

[ back ] 50. The larks, silent at noon (Idyll VII, 22-23), have like the other birds become active around dusk. The emphasis on shade here might specify the long shadows of late afternoon.

[ back ] 51. The grapes were not harvested at the same time as the barley, but the crop is anticipated in the pruning away of the leaves (Idyll VII, 134) and in terms of the four-years-past vintage enjoyed when the πίθοι are unsealed (147, ff.). The concentration of retrospect and prospect in this present pleasure is characteristic of Idyll as a whole.

[ back ] 52. Gow 1952, Theocritus II:166, note to Idyll VII, 143.

[ back ] 53. This state of tension or balance underlies such modern poems as Keats’ Ode “To Autumn” and Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “Hurrahing in Harvest,” which begins, “Summer ends now’ …”

[ back ] 54. Cf. Finley 1965, Four Stages of Greek Thought on “the new language for the grace of the ordinary” (p. 87) which emerges particularly in the fourth century, and his examples (pp. 85-91), concluding with a reference to Theocritus’ Idyll VII.

[ back ] 55. This is his immediate response to her inquiry:

τίς πόθεν εἶς ἀνδρῶν; πόθι τοι πόλις ἠδὲ τοκῆες;

(Odyssey xix, 105)

She, in turn replies to his speech as a whole with a response to this opening praise:

‘ξεῖν᾽, ἦ τοι μὲν ἐμὴν ἀρετὴν εἶδός τε δέμας τε
ὤλεσαν ἀθάνατοι, ὅτε Ἴλιον εἰσανέβαινον
Ἀργεῖοι, μετὰ τοῖσι δ᾽ ἐμὸς πόσις ᾖεν Ὀδυσσεύς
εἰ κεῖνός γ᾽ ἐλθὼν τὸν ἐμὸν βίον ἀμφιπολεύοι,
μεῖζον κε κλέος εἴη ἐμὸν καὶ κάλλιον οὕτως.

(xix, 124-128)

He describes her in terms appropriate to himself, while she ties her own excellence and reputation to him. The reciprocity between them is of course central to the Odyssey and is, in effect, described by Agamemnon in xxiv, 192-198.

[ back ] 56. Gow (1952, Theocritus II) points to the verbal echoes in Idyll VII, 135 (note to this line of p. 164: “There is perhaps some reminiscence of Odyssey xi, 585”) and VII, 145 (note to this line of p. 166: “Odyssey xi, 585 [is] a passage which is here in T.’s mind”). He observes the dictional link but speculates no further on the connection.

[ back ] 57. Compare the central notion of inaccessibility with which J.H. van den Berg, following and elaborating upon Rilke, defines landscape as object in his stimulating discussion “The Subject and His Landscape,” chapter five of his The Changing Nature of Man: Introduction to A Historical Psychology (H.F. Croes, trans., 1961, New York). Of the background to Leonardo’s Mona Lisa he asserts: “it is the first landscape painted as a landscape, just because it was a landscape. A pure landscape, not just a backdrop for human actions: nature, nature as the middle ages, did not know it, an exterior nature closed within itself and self-sufficient, an exterior from which the human element has, in principle, been removed entirely. It is things-in-their-farewell, and therefore is as moving as a farewell of our dearest. … Almost unnoticed—for everyone was watching the inner self—the landscape changed. It became estranged, and consequently it became visible. In April, 1335, Petrarch climbs Mont Ventoux near Avignon, and was surprised and delighted at the view: he was seeing the landscape behind Mona Lisa, the ‘first landscape.’ … [But] things have moved further away from us so that today they reveal the distance far more than the emotion that goes with it. Petrarch was delighted; his delight was caused by his seeing a reduction. (Otherwise he would have seen nothing.) … Rousseau and Petrarch made us believe that theirs was a discovery of something worthwhile, of a valuable matter which people for some inexplicable reason had never seen before. That their discovery was the discovery of a loss only became apparent in the twentieth century” (pp. 231-234).

[ back ] 58. The superficial content of these paradigms lends them rustic associations: the mountain cave of Chiron and the sheepfolds of Polyphemos, whom Theocritus of course portrays as a benign Sicilian herdsman in Idylls VI and XI. These associations alone may account for the presence of the analogues at this point. In addition to the settings, the examples have in common the entertainment of a mortal and a monster (although Chiron is a wise and admired member of his volatile race). In the case of Polyphemos, it is hard to say whether he is host or guest; Odysseus serves him with wine in the Cyclops’ own cave, while the two carry on a discussion of hospitality (Odyssey ix, 354 ff.; cf. also their earlier discussion at ix, 259 ff.) in terms that Polyphemos demonically inverts. If we are to view the meeting of Lycidas and Simichidas as supernatural or uncanny, or if either Demeter or the Nymphs are to be thought of as literally present at the θαλύσια, then the motif of mortal/non-mortal association may be invoked here. (Compare, for example, the Goatherd’s implication at Idyll I, 15-18, that Pan might appear in person to vent his anger, if provoked.)

In any case, the dismal outcomes of these mythological draughts cannot be overlooked. Polyphemos is blinded as a direct result of his drunken vulnerability, and Chiron is wounded by Heracles in the general melee of drunken Centaurs. Antinöos, in Odyssey xxi, offers the related story of the Lapiths and the Centaurs as a cautionary tale:

οἶνός σε τρώει μελιηδής, ὅς τε καὶ ἄλλους
βλάπτει, ὃς ἄν μιν χανδὸν ἕλῃ μηδ᾽ αἴσιμα πίνῃ.
οἶνος καὶ Κένταυρον, ἀγακλυτὸν Εὐρυτίωνα,
ἄασ᾽ ἐνὶ μεγάρῳ μεγαθύμου Πειριθόοιο,
ἐς Λαπίθας ἐλθόνθ᾽· ὁ δ᾽ ἐπεὶ φρένας ἄασεν οἴνῳ,
μαινόμενος κάκ᾽ ἔρεξε δόμον κάτα Πειριθόοιο·
ἥρωας δ᾽ ἄχος εἷλε, διὲκ προθύρου δὲ θύραζε
ἕλκον ἀναΐξαντες, ἀπ᾽ οὔατα νηλέϊ χαλκῷ
ῥῖνάς τ᾽ ἀμήσαντες· ὁ δὲ φρεσὶν ᾗσιν ἀασθεὶς
ἤϊεν ἣν ἄτην ὀχέων ἀεσίφρονι θυμῷ.
ἐξ οὗ Κενταύροισι καὶ ἀνδράσι νεῖκος ἐτύχθη,
οἷ δ᾽ αὐτῷ πρώτῳ κακὸν εὕρετο οἰνοβαρείων.

(xxi, 293-304)

The connection between this violent and divisive result and the peace and harmony of the θαλύσια may be illuminated by certain of Marcel Mauss’ conclusions in his study of The Gift (1925), pp. 74-80:

In tribal feasts, in ceremonies of rival clans, allied families or those that assist at each other’s initiation, groups visit each other; and with the development of the law of hospitality in more advanced societies, the rules of friendship and the contract are present—along with the gods—to ensure the peace of markets and villages; at these times men meet in a curious frame of mind with exaggerated fear and an equally exaggerated generosity, which appear stupid in no one’s eyes but our own. In these primitive and archaic societies there is no middle path. One lays down one’s arms, renounces magic, and gives everything away, from casual hospitality to one’s daughter or one’s property. It is in such conditions that men, despite themselves, learnt to renounce what was theirs and make contract to give and repay.

But then they had no choice in the matter … [so] close together lie festival and warfare.

As the Tantalos story shadowed a negative dimension by which the satisfaction motif of Idyll VII might be highlighted, so these parallels adduced overtly may contribute, in the aspects of their stories here untold, to a total account of the harvest festival. Walter Burkert’s remarks on first-fruits offerings see this ritual as defined in terms of its alternatives (1979, Structure and History in Greek Mythology and Ritual, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, p. 53):

Gift-sacrifice is ritualized giving in a context of anxiety. There occurs, in the quest for food, a typical anxiety of success. … Established social hierarchies may prevent fighting but they are not immutable. In human societies, however, demonstrative abandoning or giving away will secure some empty space for the possessor of goods, to prevent the clash of greediness. This is the message of the ‘offering of first fruits:’ neither the precious Ego nor any human competitor is to get the first fruit … of the year.

In any case, Simichidas’ parallels contrast the social with the antisocial, and play (for the dancing Cyclops is undeniable humor) with the fundamental duality of wine as a mediating and an inflammatory force in social relations. Is it this ambiguity—as well as the charming conceit of quizzing the Nymphs—that dictates his interrogatory tone, as if these questions were indeed in question?

[ back ] 59. In addition to the several aspects of the Nymphs identified below, it may also be significant to compare the Naiad Nymphs whose sacred waters and ample cave not only mark the Ithacan harbor where Odysseus at last arrives, but provide him with a storehouse (Odyssey xiii, 102-112 and 344-360). In the dual orientation of their home, open to both gods and mortals from different directions, they provide a locus for the meeting of Odysseus and Athene; the two sit down in one shade (xiii, 372 ff.). Although Athene is the official guarantor of his prayer, Odysseus addresses it to the Nymphs, together with references to both present and future gifts.

[ back ] 60. Gow (1952), Theocritus II:168, note to Idyll VII, 148) discusses the difficulty of these lines and the implications of Castalia at length. Dover (1971, Theocritus: Select Poems, p. 165) in his note to the same line simplifies the issue:

One might have expected Theokritos to address the local Nymphs already mentioned (137); yet Kastalia is the spring at Delphi, below Mt. Parnassos. But in 154 it becomes obvious that the Nymphs on Phrasidamos’s farm are the ‘Kastalian’ Nymphs. Theokritus is treating the Nymphs not as local creatures but as true deities who can roam over the earth (cf. I. 66n.) and have a particular association with Kastalia, just as the Muses can be called Πιερίδες (X. 24) from their association with Pieria.

His assumption that all three references (137, 148, 154) are to the same Nymphs is, if not “obvious,” likely. Gow, however, will go only so far as the suggestion that (II:168, note to 148):

… the Nymphs of Castalia may be regarded as the fountain-nymphs par excellence, and therefore tutelary deities of this as of other springs vaguely dedicated to Nymphs. … It may … be observed that enquiries as to the nature of the wine served by Chiron to Heracles and by Odysseus to Polyphemos are suitably addressed to those in touch with the omniscience of the Delphian Apollo, and that the Nymphs of a Coan spring, unless they are closely connected with Castalia, can hardly be expected to throw light on the matter.

Dover’s interpretation is based on his reading of I. 66 ff. (“Whereas the Greeks usually regard nymphs as extremely localized minor deities, Theokritos here elevates them to the status of goddesses who can roam the world.” [p. 86, note to I. 66]).

At I, 141 τὸν Μοίσαις φίλον ἄνδρα, τὸν οὐ Νύμφαισιν ἀπεχθῆ, Daphnis is beloved of both the Nymphs and the Muses. The former are invoked as his (absent) protectors at the beginning of Thyrsis’ song (66-69), and the Muses are featured in every version of the refrain (from 64 on) as the goddesses who begin, sustain, and conclude the pastoral song. This collocation may offer support for an association of the Nymphs in VII with the Muses, who would ordinarily guarantee the accuracy of episodes that the archaic poet seeks to “throw light on” (see note 52 above). Gow (II:168, note to 148) notes the link between the Muses and Castalia in Latin poetry and mentions “a hymn to Apollo in Porph. Ant. Nymph. 8 (which connects the god with Naiads),” but concludes these references with the suggestion “that T. means, or hints, that the rustic banquet was accompanied by song.” He is not wrong in judging this possibility “far-fetched,” but the link between the Nymphs and the Muses here may have a different resonance, especially in view of Simichidas’ claim (90 ff.) to have learned his songs from the Nymphs, as if they were Muses. “The idea that one can be taught songs by the Nymphs,” states Dover (pp. 158-159, note to VII, 90), “takes the association of Nymphs and Muses, familiar to us from I. 66 ff., 141, a stage further, and virtually identifies their function.”

[ back ] 61. Gow observes (1952, Theocritus II:168-169, note to 154) that “the meaning seems to be mixed with water from your spring,” but admits the ambiguity of the Nymphs’ role. It would seem curious if they were supposed to be embodied in the water (i.e. that which is mixed into the wine) when they are simultaneously twice personified in direct address. The personification, together with the hyperbolic νέκταρ, suggests that, metaphorically, the guests were served divine drink by divinities.

[ back ] 62. Cf. Gow 1952, Theocritus II:49, note to Idyll VII, 157, and also Plate VIII B at the end of the volume.

[ back ] 63. See note 116 above.

[ back ] 64. Evidence for the overlapping function of the Muses and Nymphs has been pointed out above. Although it is the auspicious Nymphs whom Simichidas invokes at Idyll VII, 148 ff., we may note that the climax of the Idyll, which this invocation concludes, ensues directly upon Simichidas’ receipt of Lycidas’ stick, an emblem of connection with the Muses. The narrative compresses these events so that they occur within two lines of each other (129-131). This juxtaposition heightens the programmatic effect of the Idyll’s last episode, which is thus framed as the production of a singer who has just (in the narrative sequence) received his confirmation in or from the Muses (129).

Dover, following Gow (1952, Theocritus II:163, note to 129), considers the phrase ἐκ Μοισᾶν (129) “to be taken closely with ξεινήϊον: it is to the Muses that Lykidas and Simichidas owe the ξένος-relationship expressed in the gift” (Dover 1971, Theocritus: Select Poems, p. 164, note to 129). But in his own initial comments on Idyll VII, he acknowledges aspects of their connection that suggest that we should go beyond a general conclusion that fellow-musicians share, by definition, a ξένος-relationship (pp. 149-150):

… Lykidas speaks to Simichidas with the relaxed, slightly patronizing confidence of an older man speaking to a promising youth, and also presents him with a stick as a gift. This gift could not fail to remind any Greek of the famous incident in Hesiod, Theog. 29 ff. … Theokritos may mean to suggest that the relation of Lykidas to Simichidas is like that of a god or hero to mortal man; Lykidas is the source, the donor, of inspiration or poetic skill. It is interesting that they meet in the heat of the day; this was sometimes associated in popular belief with supernatural encounters, and Askelpiades (HE) 45.1 assumed, without any justification in the text of the Theogony, that it was the middle of the day when Hesiod met the Muses (on the whole question of supernatural encounters see M.L. West’s commentary on the Theogony ad. loc.).

This element still leaves [a] choice. … Theokritos may be acknowledging his debt to a particular older poet …, or Lykidas may be the symbol of the herdsman’s world from which Theokritos himself drew inspiration … Yet all identification of Lykidas with a real poet, even one otherwise unknown to us, seem to me unsatisfactory when I reflect on the relation between two data: first, the poet’s insistence that Lykidas was a real goatherd, and secondly, the great gap between the extremely tentative steps made by earlier poets towards bucolic themes (and we must remember that the Roman period, which possessed what we do not possess, regarded Theokritos as the inventor of bucolic poetry) and the full-blown development of bucolic which we encounter for the first time in Theokritos. For these reasons I incline to [the] interpretation …, according to which Lykidas is a symbol of the bucolic world from which Theokritos derived the fundamental ideas for a truly original genre of poetry. …

In legendary encounters between men and gods the gods are sometimes disguised. … [T]he first person whom Odysseus meets on his return to Ithaca is Athena in the form of a noble young shepherd (Od. xiii, 221 ff.). Similarly, the Muses who met Archilochus and turned him into a poet appeared to him as mortal women (Suppl. Epigr. Gr. XV. 517. II. 28 ff.). On the other hand, the Muses who met Hesiod were not disguised, and although Theokritos, who knew the Odyssey intimately, must have had Hermes and Athena and comparable divine appearances in mind when he described the appearance of Lykidas, it does not follow … that he means to give precedence to this element and to see or suspect something quite different from a goatherd behind the disguise humorously adopted from epic.

Lycidas’ stick is not given in an exchange of objects but is conferred as a gift due to Simichidas’ nature as Zeus has molded it. Lycidas as an agent of the Muses appears to acknowledge Simichidas as a (potential—he is at the time of their meeting still only an ἔρνος) agent of truth. This set of ideas is Hesiodic. Simichidas has claimed to be Μοισᾶν καπυρὸν στόμα (37) and ἀοιδός ἄριστος (38). But in view of Lycidas’ statement, may we not suppose that Simichidas, like Hesiod, does not fulfill his promise as a poet until after the gift of the stick? In that case his masterpiece would not be the Philinus song, which reaches the themes of society and ἁσυχία only tentatively in its closing lines. It was by far the best of his compositions at the time (94-95) of his meeting with Lycidas; but the goatherd’s song offered an example of characteristically pastoral attitudes that, we may suppose, Simichidas accepted in the same spirit with which he greeted the encounter and its outcome, the gift. All are under the Muses’ auspices.

[ back ] 65. “We sometimes find in dedicatory inscriptions the prayer that the prosperity occasioning the offering may be repeated; e.g. IG, i², 650 Φαρθένε, (i.e. παρθένε, Athene), … Τελεσῖνος ἄγαλυ᾽ ἀνέθηκε/ … ᾧ χαίρουσα διδοίης ἄλο (i.e. ἀλλ᾽) ἀναθεἶναι. Cf. 1, 144 f. and Herodias 4, 86 f. κὐγίῃ (= καὶ ὑγιείᾳ) πολλῇ / ἔλθοιμεν αὖτις μέζον᾽ ἴε᾽ ἀγινεῦσαι.” (Dover 1971, Theocritus: Select Poems, p. 166, note to Idyll VII, 155 ff.)

[ back ] 66. Cf. Dover 1971, Theocritus: Select Poems, p. 92, note to Idyll I, 144 ff. as fuller than Gow on this point.

[ back ] 67. See note 14 above.

[ back ] 68. Cf. Mauss 1925, The Gift, p. 34 (emphasis mine): “As we have seen, when gifts circulate … the return is assured by the virtue of the things passed on, which are their own guarantees. In any society it is in the nature of the gift in the end to be its own reward. By definition, a common meal … [or other gift] cannot be repaid at once. Time has to pass before a counter-presentation can be made. Thus the notion of time is logically implied when one pays a visit, contracts a marriage or an alliance, makes a treaty, goes to organized games, fights or feasts of others, renders ritual and honorific service. …”

[ back ] 69. Despite the skillful context, in which metaphorical honey and figs of genuine provenance are together adduced as the epitome of sweetness, it seems as mistaken to see the former as completely literal as it would be to see it as merely figurative. Certainly it functions, on one level, as the equivalent of the Aegilian figs. But the former view leads to such excesses as Dover’s remark (1971, Theocritus: Select Poems, p. 92, note to Idyll I, 146), “a mouth full of honey sounds rather sickening.”

[ back ] 70. For a differing and abbreviated but graceful emphasis on the Idyll’s conclusion, cf. M. O’Loughlin 1978, The Garlands of Repose: The Literary Celebration of Civic and Retired Leisure (Chicago and London), p. 49.

[ back ] 71. After the accumulation of resonances with the Odyssey in Idyll VII, the motif of the winnowing-fan is arresting. Here is the converse of Teiresias’ prophecy, the planting of the implement itself rather than the oar that, to inland vision, will appear like the threshing tool.

αὐτὰρ ἐπὴν μνηστῆρας ἐνὶ μεγάροισι τεοῖσι
κτείνῃς ἠὲ δόλῳ ἢ ἀμφαδὸν ὀξέι χαλκῷ,
ἔρχεσθαι δὴ ἔπειτα λαβὼν ἐυῆρες ἐρετμόν,
εἰς ὅ κε τοὺς ἀφίκηαι οἳ οὐκ ἴσασι θάλασσαν
ἀνέρες, οὐδέ θ᾽ ἅλεσσι μεμιγμένον εἶδαρ ἔδουσιν·
οὐδ᾽ ἄρα τοί γ᾽ ἴσασι νέας φοινικοπαρῄους
οὐδ᾽ ἐυήρε᾽ ἐρετμά, τά τε πτερὰ νηυσὶ πέλονται.
σῆμα δέ τοι ἐρέω μάλ᾽ ἀριφραδές, οὐδέ σε λήσει·
ὁππότε κεν δή τοι συμβλήμενος ἄλλος ὁδίτης
φήῃ ἀθηρηλοιγὸν ἔχειν ἀνὰ φαιδίμῳ ὤμῳ,
καὶ τότε δὴ γαίῃ πήξας ἐυῆρες ἐρετμόν,
ῥέξας ἱερὰ καλὰ Ποσειδάωνι ἄνακτι,
ἀρνειὸν ταῦρόν τε συῶν τ᾽ ἐπιβήτορα κάπρον,
οἴκαδ᾽ ἀποστείχειν ἔρδειν θ᾽ ἱερᾶς ἑκατόμβας
ἀθανάτοισι θεοῖσι, τοὶ οὐρανὸν εὐρὺν ἔχουσι,
πᾶσι μάλ᾽ ἑξείης. θάνατος δέ τοι ἐξ ἁλὸς αὐτῷ
ἀβληχρὸς μάλα τοῖος ἐλεύσεται, ὅς κέ σε πέφνῃ
γήραι ὕπο λιπαρῷ ἀρημένον· ἀμφὶ δὲ λαοὶ
ὄλβιοι ἔσσονται. τὰ δέ τοι νημερτέα εἴρω.

(Odyssey xi, 119-137)

This prospect, which Odysseus will recount to Penelope (xxiv 266 ff.), echoes the recent account of Elpenor’s funeral rite.

σῆμά τέ μοι χεῦαι πολιῆς ἐπὶ θινὶ θαλάσσης,
ἀνδρὸς δυστήνοιο καὶ ἐσσομένοισι πυθέσθαι.
ταῦτά τέ μοι τελέσαι πῆξαί τ᾽ ἐπὶ τύμβῳ ἐρετμόν,
τῷ καὶ ζωὸς ἔρεσσον ἐὼν μετ᾽ ἐμοῖς ἑτάροισιν.

(xi, 75-78)

In the context of Odysseus’ adventures it seems to represent a phantom burial, payment to Poseidon for the death at sea that Odysseus has evaded in the achievement of his κλέος. The ambiguity of Odysseus’ role, touched by both land and sea, is embodied in the oar he carries until it becomes unrecognizable, so far removed from its context. By planting it in that earth he enlarges the realm of Poseidon, but also neutralizes the latter’s claim. For Odysseus the oar will become a winnowing-fan, as he garners a ripe old age and a rich kingdom until death comes—breathing of the sea.

In the image as Theocritus employs it we find the same implications of prosperity and achieved peace, here compounded with the literal ambivalence of the Demeter figure and the elemental tension of life and death explicit in the harvest that she rules.

[ back ] 72. Gow 1952, Theocritus II:169, note to Idyll VII, 157 cites Cornutus, 28 on this point.

[ back ] 73. Cf. Burkert’s conclusion (1979, Structure and History, p. 54) on the subject of first-fruits offerings:

At the same time as [such offerings] turn into conscious giving, man’s anxiety about the future is both aroused and pacified. There is always reason for frightening anticipations, there is no guarantee for the outcome of … the crops growing in the fields. Foreshadowing future problems at the moment of success, redirected giving, demonstrative offering, will transform anxiety into expectation as if there were a partner subject to the unbreakable rule of giving and giving back: … a ‘god of vegetation,’ a ‘lord of life.’ … ‘Give, as I gave:’ these are the terms of ancient prayer. … Expectation of ‘reciprocal altruism’ definitely is a strategy for one’s own good. Still presupposing, as it does, some guarantee of universal stability it may claim to be called ‘religious’ even in a deeper sense.

Burkert here wishes to emphasize the necessary hypothesis of the divine ‘partner’ in this process. “Ritual has been defined as an action redefined to serve for communication. There is consequently an element of ‘as if’ … in … ritual” (p. 49). But after an analysis of the mythology of Greek Demeter, he emphasizes the distance that evolved after the Bronze Age between the divine and human worlds (pp. 140-141):

The Greek myth … ends with Demeter going to Olympus, to all the other gods; and there she is to stay. It is by the very duplication, but the double movement of the action—Kore descending and Demeter retreating—that this tale becomes entirely self-contained, completing the circle from separation to reunion within a close system of gods concerned solely with themselves; man is left out but for a marginal role. … Gods and men are not partners in these myths; the affairs of the gods and the sufferings of man are parallel spheres which do not meet, though the one is clearly mirroring the other. … Greek mythology assumes quite an individual form, freezing, as it were, into its own crystallizations. This was mainly due to the evolution of oral epic poetry … and the overriding influence which the Iliad of Homer acquired.

The aloof stance thus conceptualized for the divinity returns the status of ritual, as in the θαλύσια of Idyll VII, to that of an event with primarily human and social meaning, which the poet properly responds to and extolls as independent of religious ideology.

At the same time, the proximity of the distant god—as in the statue of beneficent Demeter, who takes her place for a moment on the pile of winnowed grain—has become poignant and precious, because it has become so rare. Nostalgia for such a moment, as a fleeting recapture of a Golden Age, has an extensive and firm foundation in Greek archaic mythology. It is indeed a homecoming that can only be painful in its impermanence, for one feature of the Golden Age in, for example, its Hesiodic treatments is the habitual feasting of gods and men together. This harmony is shattered by strife, which not only separates men from gods but continues to disrupt the unity of merely human societies. Nagy (1979, Best of the Achaeans) treats this theme exhaustively in his two chapters (11 and 19) on “Strife and the Human Condition.” In the latter he states (pp. 311, 314);

Evil or good éris functions as a prime definition of the human condition. It comes as no surprise, then, that éris is the overt catalyst for many of the major poems of the Hellenistic tradition. … The human condition is not only defined by éris; it is even caused by it. On the level of myth, this éris is formalized as one primordial strife scene that takes place at one primordial daís ‘feast’ shared by gods and men. There are various multiforms of this feast. … But, aside from such variables, there is also an essential constant: by disrupting the daís, the éris of the strife scene disrupts the communion of gods and men, thereby bringing to an end the golden existence of mankind.

Hesiod, whose accounts of the nature of Eris and of the Golden Age are central to such a formulation, is repeatedly alluded to in Theocritus’ portrayal of the bucolic poet in Idyll VII. An Aesopic version of the Golden Age added the feature that, in Nagy’s words, “animals had the same phoné ‘power of speech’ as men. … In other words, there had been in the Golden Age a communion of animals and men and of men and gods” (p. 314). Thyrsis’ song, in Idyll I, portrays the death of Daphnis as an event in which gods, men, and animals both tame and wild share an active and articulate interest. These fragmentary examples offer some idea of the detailed thematic study to which Theocritean pastoral might be subjected with archaic diction, myth, and ritual in view as potential parallels. In anticipation of such a rewarding study, it may be suggested here that the archaic hexameter tradition on which Theocritus builds in working out his new genre tends to elaborate the nature and consequences of strife—among them, of course, the opportunity for κλέος that defines the epic hero. Pastoral is anti-dramatic, anti-heroic, non-individuating, in the sense that even its ‘heroes,’ Daphnis and Comatas, are heroes of being rather than of action. (Cf. in this connection, Dover’s remark [1971, Theocritus: Select Poems, p. 164, note to Idyll VII, 126] that ἁσυχία connotes “not inactivity or lethargy …; in Thucydides ἡσυχία and ἡσυχάζειν are frequently contrasted with aggressive war.”) This orientation toward stability, peace, and an equilibrating rather than a dialectical reciprocity may be on some level a complementary response to the dynamism—the strife, glory, and passion—that comprised the archaic hexameter tradition. Perhaps the themes of social and individual integrity that Theocritus offers in the pastoral are most ingeniously cast in what was, on the one hand, the most conservative and, on the other hand, the most thematically uncongenial of traditions—precisely because the hexameter’s formal conservatism mirrored the extreme, indeed static conservatism of Theocritean pastoral values, which conversely took as their defining contrast the reigning themes of Homeric and Hesiodic poetry.