Theocritus, Idylls

LCL 28: 14-15

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THEOCRITUS

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IDYLL 1

IDYLL 1

Thyrsis and an unnamed goatherd elaborately compliment each other’s musical ability. The goatherd promises an ivy-wood cup, which he describes at length, if Thyrsis will perform his famous song about the death of Daphnis. Thyrsis does so and receives his reward.

Although there is no evidence that Theocritus designed this poem to begin a collection (see p. xiii), its concern with the origins and nature of bucolic poetry is evident. The opening courtesies (ll. 1‒11), full of alliteration, assonance, and parallel expressions, suggest that bucolic emerges from and complements the sounds of nature; at the close, reference to the rutting billy goat evokes earthier concerns after the mythical narrative of Daphnis. The cup of ivy wood (27‒56) is a bucolic equivalent of the Iliadic Shield of Achilles (18.478‒608), on which were depicted the whole cosmos and diverse aspects of human life. The third scene on the cup, a young boy plaiting a cage for tuneful crickets, represents a metaphor for poetic composition. Whereas in several of the bucolic poems two songs are set out for evaluation, here the song of Thyrsis is formally equated with a product in a different medium; the cup, song, and idyll, it is implied, share the same aesthetic. Pan and Priapus, gods absent from the Homeric poems, preside over a world in which love, song, and art combine in a

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.theocritus-idylls.2015