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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

The Lamentation for Bion

By Moschus? (fl. 150 B.C.)

Translation of Leigh Hunt

MOAN with me, moan, ye woods and Dorian waters,

And weep, ye rivers, the delightful Bion;

Ye plants, now stand in tears; murmur, ye graves;

Ye flowers, sigh forth your odors with sad buds;

Flush deep, ye roses and anemones;

And more than ever now, O hyacinth, show

Your written sorrows: the sweet singer’s dead.

Raise, raise the dirge, Muses of Sicily.

Ye nightingales, that mourn in the thick leaves,

Tell the Sicilian streams of Arethuse,

Bion the shepherd’s dead; and that with him

Melody’s dead, and gone the Dorian song.

Raise, raise the dirge, Muses of Sicily.

Weep on the waters, ye Strymonian swans,

And utter forth a melancholy song,

Tender as his whose voice was like your own;

And say to the Œagrian girls, and say

To all the nymphs haunting in Bistany,

The Doric Orpheus is departed from us.

Raise, raise the dirge, Muses of Sicily.

No longer pipes he to the charmèd herds,

No longer sits under the lonely oaks

And sings; but to the ears of Pluto now

Tunes his Lethean verse: and so the hills

Are voiceless; and the cows that follow still

Beside the bulls, low and will not be fed.

Raise, raise the dirge, Muses of Sicily.

Apollo, Bion, wept thy sudden fate;

The Satyrs too, and the Priapuses

Dark-veiled, and for that song of thine the Pans

Groaned; and the fountain-nymphs within the woods

Mourned for thee, melting into tearful waters;

Echo too mourned among the rocks that she

Must hush, and imitate thy lips no longer;

Trees and the flowers put off their loveliness;

Milk flows not as ’twas used; and in the hive

The honey molders,—for there is no need,

Now that thy honey’s gone, to look for more.

Raise, raise the dirge, Muses of Sicily.

Not so the dolphins mourned by the salt sea,

Not so the nightingale among the rocks,

Not so the swallow over the far downs,

Not so Ceyx called for his Halcyone,

Not so in the eastern valleys Memnon’s bird

Screamed o’er his sepulchre for the Morning’s son,

As all have mourned for the departed Bion.

Raise, raise the dirge, Muses of Sicily.

Ye nightingales and swallows, every one

Whom he once charmed and taught to sing at will,

Plain to each other midst the green tree boughs,

With other birds o’erhead. Mourn too, ye doves.

Raise, raise the dirge, Muses of Sicily.

Who now shall play thy pipe, O most desired one!

Who lay his lip against thy reeds? who dare it?

For still they breathe of thee and of thy mouth,

And Echo comes to seek her voices there.

Pan’s be they, and even he shall fear perhaps

To sound them, lest he be not first hereafter.

Raise, raise the dirge, Muses of Sicily.

And Galatea weeps, who loved to hear thee,

Sitting beside thee on the calm sea-shore:

For thou didst play far better than the Cyclops,

And him the fair one shunned: but thee, but thee,

She used to look at sweetly from the water;

But now, forgetful of the deep, she sits

On the lone sands, and feeds thy herd for thee.

Raise, raise the dirge, Muses of Sicily.

The Muses’ gifts all died with thee, O shepherd;

Men’s admiration, and sweet woman’s kisses.

The Loves about thy sepulchre weep sadly;

For Venus loved thee, much more than the kiss

With which of late she kissed Adonis, dying.

Thou too, O Meles, sweetest voiced of rivers,

Thou too hast undergone a second grief;

For Homer first, that sweet mouth of Calliope,

Was taken from thee; and they say thou mourned’st

For thy great son with many-sobbing streams,

Filling the far-seen ocean with a voice.

And now again thou weepest for a son,

Melting away in misery. Both of them

Were favorites of the fountain-nymphs: one drank

The Pegasean fount, and one his cup

Filled out of Arethuse; the former sang

The bright Tyndarid lass, and the great son

Of Thetis, and Atrides Menelaus;

But he, the other, not of wars or tears

Told us, but intermixed the pipe he played

With songs of herds, and as he sung he fed them;

And he made pipes, and milked the gentle heifer,

And taught us how to kiss, and cherished love

Within his bosom, and was worthy of Venus.

Raise, raise the dirge, Muses of Sicily.

Every renownèd city and every town

Mourns for thee, Bion: Ascra weeps thee more

Than her own Hesiod; the Bœotian woods

Ask not for Pindar so, nor patriot Lesbos

For her Alcæus; nor the Ægean isle

Her poet; nor does Paros so wish back

Archilochus; and Mitylene now,

Instead of Sappho’s verses, rings with thine.

All the sweet pastoral poets weep for thee:—

Sicelidas the Samian; Lycidas,

Who used to look so happy; and at Cos,

Philetas; and at Syracuse, Theocritus,

All in their several dialects; and I,

I too, no stranger to the pastoral song,

Sing thee a dirge Ausonian, such as thou

Taughtest thy scholars, honoring us as all

Heirs of the Dorian Muse. Thou didst bequeath

Thy store to others, but to me thy song.

Raise, raise the dirge, Muses of Sicily.

Alas! when mallows in the garden die,

Green parsley, or the crisp luxuriant dill,

They live again, and flower another year;

But we, how great soe’er, or strong, or wise,

When once we die, sleep in the senseless earth

A long, an endless, unawakable sleep.

Thou too in earth must be laid silently;

But the nymphs please to let the frog sing on;

Nor envy I, for what he sings is worthless.

Raise, raise the dirge, Muses of Sicily.

There came, O Bion, poison to thy mouth;

Thou didst feel poison; how could it approach

Those lips of thine, and not be turned to sweet!

Who could be so delightless as to mix it,

Or bid be mixed, and turn him from thy song!

Raise, raise the dirge, Muses of Sicily.

But justice reaches all; and thus, meanwhile,

I weep thy fate. And would I could descend

Like Orpheus to the shades, or like Ulysses,

Or Hercules before him: I would go

To Pluto’s house, and see if you sang there,

And hark to what you sang. Play to Proserpina

Something Sicilian, some delightful pastoral;

For she once played on the Sicilian shores,

The shores of Ætna, and sang Dorian songs,—

And so thou wouldst be honored; and as Orpheus

For his sweet harping had his love again,

She would restore thee to our mountains, Bion.

Oh, had I but the power, I, I would do it!