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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;        5
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,        10
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,        15
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.        20
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        25
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        30
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;        35
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,        40
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,        45
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,        50
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,        55
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,        60
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        65
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;        70
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,        75
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        80
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;        85
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        90
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        95
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.        100
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,        105
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.        110
 
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,        115
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.        120
 
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,        125
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,        130
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,        135
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!        140
 
 
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