Wednesday 18 November 2009


“At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet.” – Plato

For Poetry Wednesday I continue Sunday’s theme of Eros, the ancient Greek god of love (the Cupid of the Romans) and his misadventures. Theocritus (born ca 300, Syracuse, Sicily - died 260 BC) the Greek poet supplies us today’s poem, it being his 19th Idyll. Little is known of his life and his surviving poems consist of bucolics and mimes, set in the country, and epics, lyrics, and epigrams, set in towns. The bucolics, his most characteristic and influential works, introduced the pastoral convention into poetry and were the sources of Virgil’s Eclogues and much Renaissance poetry and drama. Theocritus’s best-known idylls include “Thyrsis”, a lament for Daphnis, the shepherd poet of mythology, and “Thalysia” (Harvest Festival), which presents the poet's friends and rivals in the guise of rustics.

The 19th Idyll below is a charming vignette that looks at love and the pain it causes, but introduces the contrasting theme of the sweetness of honey. Love as both the sweetness of honey and the sting of the bee is an image well-beloved of the poets.

The Honey Thief

(Theocritus - 19th Idyll)

A wicked bee once filching Eros stung,
As from hive unto hive the sly god flew.
Looting the flower-sweet honeycombs among;
With finger-tips all pierced he cried and blew

His hand, and stamped upon the ground with pain,
And vaulted in the air; to Aphrodite
Sadly he came commencing to complain,
“Although the bee is small his wound is mighty.”

Then said his mother smiling, “Are you not
A creature small just like the bee, I pray?
But ne'ertheless it must not be forgot—
The cruel wounds you deal—how great are they!”

Jacqui BB hosts Poetry Wednesday

1 comment:

  1. Lovely poem! The analogy of the images of bee stings and the wounds of love's arrows is very good.