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Poetry and Myth in Ancient Pastoral

Poetry and Myth in Ancient Pastoral: Essays on Theocritus and Virgil

Charles Segal
Copyright Date: 1981
Pages: 360
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zv49f
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  • Book Info
    Poetry and Myth in Ancient Pastoral
    Book Description:

    Collected in this volume are fifteen essays, previously published in a wide variety of journals, on the pastoral poetry of Theocritus and Virgil.

    Originally published in 1981.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5689-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. INTRODUCTION Poets and Goatherds, Forests and Consuls: Art, Imagination, and Realism in Ancient Pastoral Poetry
    (pp. 3-24)

    Despite multiple permutations and variations, pastoral poetry has proven remarkably durable and consistent in its long journey from ancient Greece and Rome to the culture of modern Europe and America. The bucolic poetry of Tasso, Milton, or even Mallarmé is far closer to its classical models than is, say, Shakespearean tragedy to Sophocles or the nineteenth-century novel to Apuleius or Heliodorus. In pastoral, perhaps more than in any other literary genre, the modern reader is impelled back to the ancient originals and is immeasurably helped by comparison with the ancient writers.¹

    The reason for pastoral’s fidelity to origins is probably...

  6. 1. «Since Daphnis Dies»: The Meaning of Theocritus’ First Idyll
    (pp. 25-46)
    Charles Segal

    The first Idyll of Theocritus is an extraordinarily closely knit and carefully constructed poem. Most of its second half consists of Thyrsis’ song about ‘the sorrows of Daphnis’ (τὰ Δάφνιδος ἄλγεα, 19), a cowherd-singer (cf. 128–129) who is ‘wasting away’ because of an unexplained struggle with love. Attempts to find reasons for Daphnis’ death have, on the whole, suffered from considering Daphnis apart from the rest of the poem¹. The present paper seeks to place Daphnis’ death in the perspective of the poem’s total structure and thereby to offer an interpretation of the Idyll as a whole. In so...

  7. 2. DEATH BY WATER: A NARRATIVE PATTERN IN THEOCRITUS (IDYLLS 1, 13, 22, 23)
    (pp. 47-65)
    Charles Segal

    In four poems of the Theocritean corpus a major character meets disaster either in water or in close association with water. At the end of Idyll 1 Daphnis ‘goes to the stream’ and dies. In 13 Hylas is drawn into a Nymph-haunted pool. In 22 Amycus fights his ill-fated match with Polydeuces beside clear, flowing water. In the pseudo-Theocritean 23 the arrogant boy drowns in an artificial pool.

    This common motif is especially interesting for the three genuine Theocritean pieces, for it reveals a single poetic sensibility spanning both the bucolicIdyllsand the so-calledepyllia. The tracing of this...

  8. 3. ADONIS AND APHRODITE: Theocritus, Idyll III, 48
    (pp. 66-72)
    Charles Segal

    In Theocritus’ ThirdIdyllthe amorous goatherd ends his love-plaint with a list of mythical lovers which includes Aphrodite and Adonis:

    τὰν δὲ ϰɑλὰν Kυθέϱειɑν ἐν ὤϱεσι μῆλɑ νομεύων

    οὐϰ οὕτως Ὥδωνις ἐπὶ πλέον ἄγɑγε λύσσɑς

    ὥστ’ οὐδὲ φθίμενόν νιν ἄτεϱ μαζοῖο τίθητι;

    And did not Adonis, as he fed his sheep upon the hills, drive the fair Cytherea to such frenzy that even in deathshe puts him not from her breast(III, 46-48, A.S.F. Gow’s translation).

    On the phrase emphasized above Gow comments, «The noun is hardly less surprising than the preposition, for its associations are maternal rather...

  9. 4. Simaetha and the Iynx (Theocritus, Idyll II)
    (pp. 73-84)
    Charles Segal

    For the ancients, who live close to the realm of myth and mythical personification, words and acts may have associations not immediately obvious to us because they form part of a pattern of thought which we no longer share. Especially in matters of ritual or magic the poet may exploit age-old associations and draw upon a sensibility and suggestibility in his audience which we have to make a special effort to recover. A recent analysis of the mythology of the iynx by Marcel Detienne allows us to appreciate one such neglected train of associations in Theocritus’ secondIdyll¹. First we...

  10. 5. THEOCRITEAN CRITICISM AND THE INTERPRETATION OF THE FOURTH IDYLL
    (pp. 85-109)
    Charles Segal

    If the critical re-evaluation of classical authors in recent years has brought nothing else, it has given us a humbling awareness of how difficult it is to arrive at a fully satisfactory reading of ancient pastoral poetry. The poet of theEclogues, seen less and less as merely a painter of dreamy landscapes or a contriver of political allegories, has emerged increasingly as a self-conscious artist whose conventional, but highly symbolic and allusive language embraces questions of man’s relation to art and imagination, to passion and work, to the potential for order and violence in his own being.¹ Is it...

  11. 6. Theocritus’ Seventh Idyll and Lycidas
    (pp. 110-166)
    CHARLES SEGAL

    In the Theocritean corpus Idyll 7 has always held a place apart¹). Until recently the principal task of interpreters was the “unmasking” of Lycidas, Simichidas, and the other characters. But even those who devoted themselves to this problem betrayed thereby their reluctance to let the poem remain at “the ordinary level of bucolic fictions”²).

    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 thereby of the figure of Lycidas³). The final...

  12. 7. SIMICHIDAS’ MODESTY: THEOCRITUS, IDYLL 7.44
    (pp. 167-175)
    Charles Segal

    OfIdyll7.44 Gow remarks, “The phrase has been suspected, and if taken at its face value is certainly odd. If allowance is made however for Lycidas’ playful mood and the faded character of both metaphors, it does not seem improbable.”¹ The particular phraseology, he suggests, is to be explained by the accompanying gift of the goatherd’s crook: “It seems probable that Lycidas’ choice of words is connected with his gift, and that he meansI give you my staff, a piece of wood as unblemished as yourself.” The phraseἐπ’ ἀλɑθείᾳcould mean merely “really and truly,” but more...

  13. 8. Thematic Coherence and Levels of Style in Theocritus’ Bucolic Idylls
    (pp. 176-209)
    CHARLES SEGAL

    It is the thesis of this paper that the seven genuine bucolic Idylls of Theocritus — 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11 — should be read not as isolated poems, but as the consciously varied expressions of a unified poetic vision and concern¹). The elements which compose the bucolic landscape and action of these poems are not to be regarded as parts of a static, decorative stage-setting of “little weight and complexity” and little differentiated from poem to poem, as they are in the “generic” approach of E. R. Curtius’ influential chapter on “Ideal Landscape” and more recently in...

  14. 9. LANDSCAPE INTO MYTH: THEOCRITUS’ BUCOLIC POETRY
    (pp. 210-234)
    Charles Segal

    ‘I no longer look uponTheocritusas a romantic writer,’ wrote Lady Montagu to Alexander Pope; ‘he has only given a plain image of the way of life amongst the peasants of his country ... I don’t doubt, had he been born a Briton, but hisIdylliumshad been filled with descriptions of thrashing and churning.’¹ Thanks to greater sophistication about the nature of pastoral and a better knowledge of Hellenistic poetry we have probably left behind forever the notion of Theocritus as the conveyor of a ‘plain image’ of rustic life.² The alternative is not, of course, the ‘romantic’...

  15. 10. VERGIL’S CAELATUM OPUS: AN INTERPRETATION OF THE THIRD ECLOGUE.
    (pp. 235-264)
    Charles Paul Segal

    The ancient critics objected thatEclogues4, 6, and 10 were not truly pastorals.¹ They were in a sense right, but failed to draw from their observations the significant conclusion, namely that Vergil intended to do more in theEcloguesthan reproduce perfect examples of the pastoral convention. His poems form a kind of dialogue not only with the pastoral tradition, but with the poetic tradition of the past as a whole. Recent studies of the SixthEcloguehave shown how expansively Vergil could conceive of the pastoral framework;² and the suggestion has been made that in some of the...

  16. 11. PASTORAL REALISM AND THE GOLDEN AGE: CORRESPONDENCE AND CONTRAST BETWEEN VIRGIL’S THIRD AND FOURTH ECLOGUES
    (pp. 265-270)

    The ram’s voluntary mutation of colors in E. 4.42—44 has been adjudged, with some justification, “grotesque”, “tasteless”, “facetious”¹:

    nec varies discet mentiri lana colores,

    ipse sed in pratis aries iam suave rubenti

    murice, iam croceo mutabit vellera luto...

    This scene of the miracles of the Golden Age, however, assumes a different significance if we recall that the previous Eclogue also described a ram and his fleece (E. 3.94 to 95):

    parcite, oves, nimium procedere: non bene ripae

    creditur; ipse aries etiam nunc vellera siccat.

    In the light of Virgil’s composition of the “Eclogue Book”, arranged with self-conscious attention...

  17. 12. TAMEN CANTABITIS, ARCADES: EXILE AND ARCADIA IN ECLOGUES ONE AND NINE
    (pp. 271-300)
    Charles Paul Segal

    One of the difficulties hampering students of Vergil’sEclogueshas been a certain loss of perspective about the relations between poetry and biography. While no one would deny that Vergil’s writing of theEclogueshas some definite relation to certain political circumstances, that relation is one of a poet and not an historian. It is the ability to transform personal experience into larger, more intensely significant terms wherein lies the distinguishing quality of the poet’s genius. The poet’s experience of the “actuality” around him is, as other men’s, rooted in the succession of historical events; but, if he chooses—or...

  18. 13. VERGIL’S SIXTH ECLOGUE AND THE PROBLEM OF EVIL
    (pp. 301-329)
    CHARLES SEGAL

    Eclogue6 is one of Vergil’s most ambitious and most difficult short poems.¹ Grand themes are its concern: passion, violence, cosmic and poetic creation, the relation between man and nature. No one formulation of the many subtle and complex relationships between these themes is likely to prove definitive, just as no one principle of unity for its bewildering exuberance of narrative material has emerged as entirely satisfactory. “No one can feel confident of exhausting all the possibilities of this poem or of understanding all that Virgil intended: it is the original creation of a fertile poetic imagination.”²

    There has been...

  19. 14. TWO FAUNS AND A NAIAD? (VIRGIL, ECL. 6, 13-26).
    (pp. 330-335)
    Charles Segal

    In one of the most charming passages in theEcloguesChromis and Mnasyllus, otherwise unidentified, see the drunken Silenus asleep in his cave; with the help of a naiad, Aegle, they bind him with his own wreaths and thus extort the song which occupies the remainder of the poem. Are Chromis and Mnasyllus shepherds, or are they satyrs or fauns ? Servius first affirms the latter (ad vv. 13 and 14), but then a few lines later (ad v. 34) contradicts himself and reverses that judgment. Editors have been divided. Heyne, for example, favored fauns, Conington shepherds.¹ Most modern scholars...

  20. 15. CAVES, PAN, AND SILENUS: THEOCRITUS’ PASTORAL EPIGRAMS AND VIRGIL’S SIXTH ECLOGUE
    (pp. 336-340)
    C. Segal

    According to Servius Virgil borrowed from Theopompus the motif of the captured Silenus as the narrator of philosophical or cosmic subjects (Serv.ad Ecl. 6.13; see Aelian,Var. Hist. 3.18).¹ There are, however, a number of similarities between the scene of Silenus’ capture inEclogue6. 13—26 and the Third and Fifth pastoralEpigramsof Theocritus which indicate that these poems, certainly as likely to be familiar to Virgil as Theopompus, may have suggested to Virgil some of the details of his setting.

    The SixthEclogueabove all is the place where one may expect a fusion of different...

  21. Index
    (pp. 341-348)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 348-348)