Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, IDYLL 3. THE EPITAPH OF BION, A LOVING HERDSMAN, by MOSCHUS



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IDYLL 3. THE EPITAPH OF BION, A LOVING HERDSMAN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Ye mountain valleys, pitifully groan!
Last Line: Could I charm dis with songs, I too would sing for thee.
Variant Title(s): Lament For Bion
Subject(s): Bion (2nd Century B.c.); Cyclops; Death; Epitaphs; Grief; Mythology - Classical; Orpheus; Dead, The; Sorrow; Sadness


YE mountain valleys, pitifully groan!
Rivers and Dorian springs, for Bion weep!
Ye plants, drop tears! ye groves, lamenting moan!
Exhale your life, wan flowers; your blushes deep
In grief, anemonies and roses, steep!
In softest murmurs, Hyacinth! prolong
The sad, sad woe thy lettered petals keep;
Our minstrel sings no more his friends among—
Sicilian Muses! now begin the doleful song.

Ye nightingales, that 'mid thick leaves let loose
The gushing gurgle of your sorrow, tell
The fountains of Sicilian Arethuse
That Bion is no more—with Bion fell
The song, the music of the Dorian shell.
Ye swans of Strymon, now your banks along
Your plaintive throats with melting dirges swell
For him who sang like you the mournful song:
Discourse of Bion's death the Thracian nymphs among

The Dorian Orpheus, tell them all, is dead.
His herds the song and darling herdsman miss,
And oaks, beneath whose shade he propt his head:
Oblivion's ditty now he sings for Dis:
The melancholy mountain silent is;
His pining cows no longer wish to feed,
But mourn for him: Apollo wept, I wis,
For thee, sweet Bion! and in mourning weed
The brotherhood of Fauns, and all the Satyr breed.

The tears by Naiads shed are brimful bourns;
Afflicted Pan thy stifled music rues;
Lorn Echo 'mid her rocks thy silence mourns,
Nor with her mimic tones thy voice renews;
The flowers their bloom, the trees their fruitage lose;
No more their milk the drooping ewes supply;
The bees to press their honey now refuse;
What need to gather it and lay it by,
When thy own honey-lip, my Bion! thine is dry?

Sicilian Muses! lead the doleful chaunt:
Not so much near the shore the dolphin moans;
Nor so much wails within her rocky haunt
The nightingale; nor on their mountain thrones
The swallows utter such lugubrious tones;
Nor so much Cëyx wailed for Halcyon,
Whose song the blue wave, where he perished, owns;
Nor in the valley, neighbour to the sun,
The funeral birds so wail their Memnon's tomb upon—

As these moan, wail, and weep, their Bion dead.
The nightingales and swallows, whom he taught,
For him their elegiac sadness shed;
And all the birds contagious sorrow caught;
The sylvan realm was all with grief distraught.
Who bold of heart will play on Bion's reed,
Fresh from his lip, yet with his breathing fraught?
For still among the reeds does Echo feed
On Bion's minstrelsy. Pan only may succeed

To Bion's pipe; to him I make the gift:
But lest he second seem, e'en Pan may fear
The pipe of Bion to his mouth to lift.
For thee sweet Galatea drops the tear,
And thy dear song regrets, which sitting near
She fondly listed; ever did she flee
The Cyclops and his song; but far more dear
Thy song and sight than her own native sea:
On the deserted sands the nymph without her fee

Now sits and weeps, or weeping tends thy herd.
Away with Bion all the muse-gifts flew—
The chirping kisses breathed at every word:
Around thy tomb the Loves their playmate rue;
Thee Cypris loved more than the kiss she drew
And breathed upon her dying paramour.
Most musical of rivers! now renew
Thy plaintive murmurs: Meles! now deplore
Another son of song, as thou didst wail of yore

That sweet, sweet mouth of dear Calliope:
The threne, 'tis said, thy waves for Homer spun
With saddest music filled the refluent sea;
Now melting wail and weep another son!
Both loved of fountains—that of Helicon
Gave Melesigenes his pleasant draught;
To this sweet Arethuse did Bion run,
And from her urn the glowing rapture quaft:
Blest was the bard who sang how Helen bloomed and laught:

On Thetis' mighty son his descant ran,
And Menelaus; but our Bion chose
Not arms and tears to sing, but Love and Pan;
While browsed his herd, his gushing music rose;
He milked his kine; did pipes of reeds compose;
Taught how to kiss; and fondled in his breast
Young Love and Cypris pleased. For Bion flows
In every glorious land a grief confest:
Ascra for her own bard, wise Hesiod, less exprest:

Bœotian Hylæ mourned for Pindar less;
Teos regretted less her minstrel hoar,
And Mytelene her sweet poetess;
Nor for Alcæus Lesbos suffered more;
Nor lovely Paros did so much deplore
Her own Archilochus. Breathing her fire
Into her sons of song, from shore to shore
For thee the Pastoral Muse attunes her lyre
To woeful utterance of passionate desire.

Sicelidas, the famous Samian star,
And he with smiling eye and radiant face,
Cydonian Lycidas, renowned afar,
Lament thee; where quick Hales runs his race,
Philetus wails; Theocritus, the grace
Of Syracuse, thee mourns; nor these among
Am I remiss Ausonian wreaths to place
Around thy tomb: to me doth it belong
To chaunt for thee from whom I learnt the Dorian song.

Me with thy minstrel skill as proper heir
Others thou didst endow with thine estate.
Alas! alas! when in a garden fair
Mallows, crisp dill, or parsley yields to fate,
These with another year regerminate;
But when of mortal life the bloom and crown,
The wise, the good, the valiant, and the great
Succumb to death, in hollow earth shut down
We sleep—for ever sleep—for ever lie unknown.

Thus art thou pent, while frogs may croak at will;
I envy not their croak. Thee poison slew—
How kept it in thy mouth its nature ill?
If thou didst speak, what cruel wretch could brew
The draught? He did, of course, thy song eschew.
But justice all o'ertakes. My tears fast flow
For thee, my friend! Could I, like Orpheus true,
Odysseus, or Alcides, pass below
To gloomy Tartarus, how quickly would I go!

To see and haply hear thee sing for Dis!
But in the Nymph's ear warble evermore,
My dearest friend! thy sweetest harmonies:
For whilom, on her own Etnæan shore,
She sang wild snatches of the Dorian lore.
Nor will thy singing unrewarded be;
Thee to thy mountain haunts she will restore,
As she gave Orpheus his Eurydice.
Could I charm Dis with songs, I too would sing for thee.





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