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of Memnon bewail the son of the Morning, fluttering around his tomb, as they lamented for Bion dead.

Nightingales, and all the swallows that once he was wont to delight, that he would teach to speak, they sat over against each other 17 on the boughs and kept moaning, and the birds sang in answer, “Wail, ye wretched ones, even ye!”

Begin, ye Sicilian Muses, begin the dirge.

Who, ah, who will ever make music on thy pipe, O thrice desired Bion, and who will put his mouth to the 10 reeds of thine instrument? who is so bold ?

For still thy lips and still thy breath survive, and Echo, among the reeds, doth still feed upon thy songs. To Pan shall I bear the pipe ? Nay, perchance even he would fear to set his mouth to it, lest, after thee, he should win 18 but the second prize.

Begin, ye Sicilian Muses, begin the dirge.

Yea, and 19 Galatea laments thy song, she whom once thou wouldst delight, as with thee she sat by the seabanks. For not like the Cyclops didst thou sing — him 20 fair Galatea ever fled, but on thee she still looked more kindly than on the salt water. And now hath she forgotten the wave, and sits on the lonely sands, but still she keeps thy kine.

Begin, ye Sicilian Muses, begin the dirge.

All the gifts of the Muses, herdsman, have died with thee, the delightful kisses of maidens, the lips of boys; and woful round thy tomb the Loves are weeping. But Cypris loves thee far more than the kiss wherewith she kissed the dying 20 Adonis.


Begin, ye Sicilian Muses, begin the dirge.

This, O most musical of rivers, is thy second sorrow, this, 21 Meles, thy new woe. Of old didst thou lose Homer, that sweet mouth of Calliope, and men say thou didst bewail thy goodly son with streams of many tears, and didst fill all the salt sea with the voice of thy lamentation - now again another son thou weepest, and in a new sorrow art thou wasting away.


Begin, ye Sicilian Muses, begin the dirge.

Both were beloved of the fountains, and one ever drank of the 22 Pegasean fount, but the other would drain a draught of Arethusa. And the one sang the 23 fair daughter of Tyndarus, and the mighty son of Thetis, and Menelaus, Atreus's son, but that other, — not of wars, not of tears, but of Pan would he sing, and of herdsmen would he chant, and so singing, he tended the herds. And pipes he would fashion, and would milk the sweet heifer, and taught lads how to kiss, and Love

he cherished in his bosom and woke the passion of 20 Aphrodite.

Begin, ye Sicilian Muses, begin the dirge.

Every famous city laments thee, Bion, and every town. 24 Ascra laments thee far more than her Hesiod, and Pindar is less regretted by the forests of Bæotia. Nor so much did pleasant Lesbos mourn for Alcæus, nor did the Teian town so greatly bewail her poet, while for thee more than for Archilochus doth Paros yearn, and not for Sappho, but still for thee doth Mytilene wail her musical lament.

[Here seven verses are lost.]


And in Syracuse 25 Theocritus; but I sing thee the dirge of an Ausonian sorrow,

I that am no stranger to the pastoral song, but heir of the Doric Muse which thou didst teach thy pupils. This was thy gift to me; to others didst thou leave thy wealth, 27 to me thy minstrelsy.

Begin, ye Sicilian Muses, begin the dirge.

Ah me, when the mallows wither in the garden, and the green parsley, and the curled tendrils of the anise, on a later day they live again, and spring in another 10 year; but we men, we the great and mighty, or wise, when once we have died, in hollow earth we sleep, gone down into silence; a right long, and endless, and 28 unawakening sleep. And thou, too, in the earth wilt be lapped in silence, but the nymphs have thought good that the frog should eternally sing. Nay, him I would not envy, for 'tis no sweet song he singeth.

Begin, ye Sicilian Muses, begin the dirge.

29 Poison came, Bion, to thy mouth, thou didst know poison. To such lips as thine did it come, and was not 20 sweetened? What mortal was so cruel that could mix poison for thee, or who could give thee venom that heard thy voice? surely he had 30 no music in his soul.

Begin, ye Sicilian Muses, begin the dirge.

But justice hath overtaken them all. Still for this sorrow I weep, and bewail thy ruin. But ah, if I might have gone down 31 like Orpheus to Tartarus, or as once Odysseus, or Alcides of yore, I too would speedily have come to the house of Pluteus, that thee perchance I might behold, and if thou singest to Pluteus, that I 30

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might hear what is thy song. Nay, sing to 32 the Maiden some strain of Sicily, sing some sweet pastoral lay.

And she too is Sicilian, and on the shores by Etna she was wont to play, and she knew the Dorian strain. Not unrewarded will the singing be; and as once to Orpheus's sweet minstrelsy she 33 gave Eurydice to return with him, even so will she send thee too, Bion, to the hills. But if I, even I, and my piping had aught availed, before Pluteus I too would have sung.



The poet Moschus seems to have found no kindred spirit to embalm his memory in harmonious numbers; or if he had that fortune, it has not survived the oblivion which so remorselessly overwhelms the rest of his personal history. We reckon him a Syracusan, whose day was about the close of the third century before Christ. And he must have been contemporaneous with Bion, probably in age somewhat younger.” — Rev. 7. Banks.

The Lament for Bion is the third of nine Idyls (some of them very
brief) which constitute all that we have left of the poetical works of

1. thou Dorian water; and weep, ye rivers. See note 68, on Lycidas ; also notes 12 and 21, below. — all ye green things mourn. See note 16, page 34.

2. hyacinth. Hyacinthus was accidentally killed by his friend Apollo while playing at quoits. From his blood sprang the flower hyacinth, upon whose leaves appear to be embroidered the Greek exclamation of woe, år, ål:

" The hyacinth bewrays the doleful ai,
And culls the tribute of Apollo's sigh.
Still on its bloom the mournful flower retains
The lovely blue that dyed the stripling's veins."

Camoëns, Lusiad, ix.


"I am pretty well satisfied that the flower celebrated by the poets is what we now are acquainted with under the name 'Lilium floribus reflexis,' or Martagon, and perhaps may be that very species which we call Imperial Martagon. The flowers of most sorts of martagons have many spots of a deeper color; and sometimes I have seen these spots run together in such a manner as to form the letters ai in several places." John Martyn, 1755 (quoted by Rossetti). See also Lycidas, line 105, and Adonais, xvi. I. 3. Ye nightingales that lament:

“ So Philomel, perched on an aspen sprig,

Weeps all the night her lost virginity,
And sings her sad tale to the merry twig
That dances at such joyful misery."

Giles Fletcher, Christ's Triumph, etc. "And Philomele her song with teares doth steepe."

Spenser, The Shepheards Calender, November, 4. Arethusa. See note 15, page 17. See also Lycidas, 85 and 132. Milton calls Arethusa the “Sicilian Muse," and Virgil calls Sicily, the land of pastoral song, by her name.

5. Dorian minstrelsy. Pastoral songs. Theocritus, Bion, and Moschus all wrote in the Doric dialect. “Everything Doric was noted for its chaste simplicity.” Brewer. The Dorians were the pastoral people of Greece, and their speech was that of the simple country folk. See Lycidas, 189.

“ The Doric reed once more

Well pleased I tuned.” Thomson, Autumn. 6. Strymonian swans. Virgil, Georgics, I., refers to Strymonian

The river Strymon was the boundary between Macedonia and Thrace. It is related that the song of the musical swan (Cygnus musicus) resembles notes played on the violin. It was once a popular belief that swans sang when about to die.

“The comparison seemeth to be strange; for the swan hath ever wonne small commendation for her sweete singing. But it is said of the learned that the Swanne, a little before her death, singeth most pleasantly, as prophecying by a secrete instinct her neere destinie.” — Shepheards Calender, October, Glosse.

“Swans, you know, are said to sing most sweetly when they know that they are going to die; they rejoice that they are to go to the deity whose servant they are." Plato, Phædo, 77. “I will play the swan, and die in music.” — Shakespeare, Othello, v. 2.

" Makes a swan-like end,

Fading in Music.” – Merchant of Venice, iii. 2.
“There, swan-like, let me sing and die.” Byron, Don Juan, iii. 86.


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