Idyll XIV. The Love of Æschines

by Theocritus


Hail, sir Thyonichus.
Æschines, to you.
I have missed thee.
Missed me! Why what ails him now?
My friend, I am ill at ease.
Then this explains
Thy leanness, and thy prodigal moustache
And dried-up curls. Thy counterpart I saw,
A wan Pythagorean, yesterday.
He said he came from Athens: shoes he had none:
He pined, I'll warrant,--for a quartern loaf.
Sir, you will joke--But I've been outraged, sore,
And by Cynisca. I shall go stark mad
Ere you suspect--a hair would turn the scale.
Such thou wert always, AEschines my friend.
In lazy mood or trenchant, at thy whim
The world must wag. But what's thy grievance now?
That Argive, Apis the Thessalian Knight,
Myself, and gallant Cleonicus, supped
Within my grounds. Two pullets I had slain,
And a prime pig: and broached my Biblian wine;
'Twas four years old, but fragrant as when new.
Truffles were served to us: and the drink was good.
Well, we got on, and each must drain a cup
To whom he fancied; only each must name.
We named, and took our liquor as ordained;
But she sate silent--this before my face.
Fancy my feelings! "Wilt not speak? Hast seen
A wolf?" some wag said. "Shrewdly guessed," quoth she,
And blushed--her blushes might have fired a torch.
A wolf _had_ charmed her: Wolf her neighbour's son,
Goodly and tall, and fair in divers eyes:
For his illustrious sake it was she pined.
This had been breathed, just idly, in my ear:
Shame on my beard, I ne'er pursued the hint.
Well, when we four were deep amid our cups,
The Knight must sing 'The Wolf' (a local song)
Right through for mischief. All at once she wept
Hot tears as girls of six years old might weep,
Clinging and clamouring round their mother's lap.
And I, (you know my humour, friend of mine,)
Drove at his face, one, two! She gathered up
Her robes and vanished straightway through the door.
"And so I fail to please, false lady mine?
Another lies more welcome in thy lap?
Go warm that other's heart: he'll say thy tears
Are liquid pearls." And as a swallow flies
Forth in a hurry, here or there to find
A mouthful for her brood among the eaves:
From her soft sofa passing-swift she fled
Through folding-doors and hall, with random feet:
_'The stag had gained his heath':_ you know the rest.
Three weeks, a month, nine days and ten to that,
To-day's the eleventh: and 'tis just two months
All but two days, since she and I were two.
Hence is my beard of more than Thracian growth.
Now Wolf is all to her: Wolf enters in
At midnight; I am a cypher in her eyes;
The poor Megarian, nowhere in the race.
All would go right, if I could once _unlove_:
But now, you wot, the rat hath tasted tar.
And what may cure a swain at his wit's end
I know not: Simus, (true,) a mate of mine,
Loved Epichalcus' daughter, and took ship
And came home cured. I too will sail the seas.
Worse men, it may be better, are afloat,
I shall still prove an average man-at-arms.
Now may thy love run smoothly, AEschines!
But should'st thou really mean a voyage out,
The freeman's best paymaster's Ptolemy.
What is he else?
A gentleman: a man
Of wit and taste; the top of company;
Loyal to ladies; one whose eye is keen
For friends, and keener still for enemies.
Large in his bounties, he, in kingly sort,
Denies a boon to none: but, AEschines,
One should not ask too often. This premised,
If thou wilt clasp the military cloak
O'er thy right shoulder, and with legs astride
Await the onward rush of shielded men:
Hie thee to Egypt. Age overtakes us all;
Our temples first; then on o'er cheek and chin,
Slowly and surely, creep the frosts of Time.
Up and do somewhat, ere thy limbs are sere.

Last updated January 14, 2019