Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, IDYLL 11. THE CYCLOPS, by THEOCRITUS



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IDYLL 11. THE CYCLOPS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: And so an easier life our cyclops drew
Last Line: Ease came with song he could not buy with gold.
Alternate Author Name(s): Theckritos
Subject(s): Cyclops


AND so an easier life our Cyclops drew,
The ancient Polyhemus, who in youth
Loved Galatea while the manhood grew
Adown his cheeks and darkened round his mouth.
No jot he cared for apples, olives, roses;
Love made him mad: the whole world was neglected,
The very sheep went backward to their closes
From out the fair green pastures, self-directed.
And singing Galatea, thus, he wore
The sunrise down along the weedy shore,
And pined alone, and felt the cruel wound
Beneath his heart, which Cypris' arrow bore,
With a deep pang; but, so, the cure was found;
And sitting on a lofty rock he cast
His eyes upon the sea, and sang at last: --
'O whitest Galatea, can it be
That thou shouldst spurn me off who love thee so?
More white than curds, my girl, thou art to see,
More meek than lambs, more full of leaping glee
Than kids, and brighter than the early glow
On grapes that swell to ripen, -- sour like thee!
Thou comest to me with the fragrant sleep,
And with the fragrant sleep thou goest from me;
Thou fliest ... fliest, as a frightened sheep
Flies the gray wolf! -- yet Love did overcome me,
So long, -- I loved thee, maiden, first of all
When down the hills (my mother fast beside thee)
I saw thee stray to pluck the summer-fall
Of hyacinth bells, and went myself to guide thee:
And since my eyes have seen thee, they can leave thee
No more, from that day's light! But thou ... by Zeus,
Thou wilt not care for that, to let it grieve thee!
I know thee, fair one, why thou springest loose
From my arm round thee. Why? I tell thee, Dear!
One shaggy eyebrow draws its smudging road
Straight through my ample front, from ear to ear, --
One eye rolls underneath; and yawning, broad
Flat nostrils feel the bulging lips too near.
Yet ... ho, ho! -- I, -- whatever I appear, --
Do feed a thousand oxen! When I have done,
I milk the cows, and drink the milk that's best!
I lack no cheese, while summer keeps the sun;
And after, in the cold, it's ready prest!
And then, I know to sing, as there is none
Of all the Cyclops can, ... a song of thee,
Sweet apple of my soul, on love's fair tree,
And of myself who love thee ... till the West
Forgets the light, and all but I have rest.
I feed for thee, besides, eleven fair does,
And all in fawn; and four tame whelps of bears.
Come to me, Sweet! thou shalt have all of those
In change for love! I will not halve the shares.
Leave the blue sea, with pure white arms extended
To the dry shore; and, in my cave's recess,
Thou shalt be gladder for the noonlight ended, --
For here be laurels, spiral cypresses,
Dark ivy, and a vine whose leaves enfold
Most luscious grapes; and here is water cold,
The wooded AEtna pours down through the trees
From the white snows, -- which gods were scarce too bold
To drink in turn with nectar. Who with these
Would choose the salt wave of the lukewarm seas?
Nay, look on me! If I am hairy and rough,
I have an oak's heart in me; there's a fire
In these gray ashes which burns hot enough;
And when I burn for thee, I grudge the pyre
No fuel ... not my soul, nor this one eye, --
Most precious thing I have, because thereby
I see thee, Fairest! Out, alas! I wish
My mother had borne me finned like a fish,
That I might plunge down in the ocean near thee,
And kiss thy glittering hand between the weeds,
If still thy face were turned; and I would bear thee
Each lily white, and poppy fair that bleeds
Its red heart down its leaves! -- one gift, for hours
Of summer, -- one, for winter; since, to cheer thee,
I could not bring at once all kinds of flowers.
Even now, girl, now, I fain would learn to swim,
If stranger in a ship sailed nigh, I wis, --
That I may know how sweet a thing it is
To live down with you in the Deep and Dim!
Come up, O Galatea, from the ocean,
And, having come, forget again to go!
As I, who sing out here my heart's emotion,
Could sit for ever. Come up from below!
Come, keep my flocks beside me, milk my kine, --
Come, press my cheese, distrain my whey and curd!
Ah, mother! she alone ... that mother of mine ...
Did wrong me sore! I blame her! -- Not a word
Of kindly intercession did she address
Thine ear with for my sake; and ne'ertheless
She saw me wasting, wasting, day by day:
Both head and feet were aching, I will say,
All sick for grief, as I myself was sick.
O Cyclops, Cyclops, whither hast thou sent
Thy soul on fluttering wings? If thou wert bent
On turning bowls, or pulling green and thick
The sprouts to give thy lambkins, -- thou wouldst make thee
A wiser Cyclops than for what we take thee.
Milk dry the present! Why pursue too quick
That future which is fugitive aright?
Thy Galatea thou shalt haply find, --
Or else a maiden fairer and more kind;
For many girls do call me through the night,
And, as they call, do laugh out silverly.
I, too, am something in the world, I see!'

While thus the Cyclops love and lambs did fold,
Ease came with song he could not buy with gold.





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