Verse > Anthologies > T. R. Smith, ed. > Poetica Erotica: A Collection of Rare and Curious Amatory Verse
T. R. Smith, comp.  Poetica Erotica: Rare and Curious Amatory Verse.  1921–22.
The Incantation
By Theocritus (fl. Third Century B.C.)
(From the Idylls; translated by James Henry Hallard, 1901)
*        *        *        *        *
I SAW, I maddened, I loved, deep-smitten unto the core,
And naught I recked of the pageant, my beauty waned away;
And how to my home I won I know not, but fever sore
Shattered me on my couch for many a night and day.
  Bethink thee, Lady Moon, whence came my love.        5
And oft would my flesh grow pale as saffron, and all my hair
Fell from my head; naught other than skin and bones was I.
To what old witch’s abode did I not often repair,
But get me no healing thence?—and the time went ever by.
  Bethink thee, Lady Moon, whence came my love.        10
Then to my slave at the last I uttered a word of sooth:
‘Thestylis, find me a cure for love and its grievous blight;
The Myndian hath me in thrall; go thou and watch for the youth
By the wrestling-school, for there to seat him is his delight.
  Bethink thee, Lady Moon, whence came my love.        15
And when thou see’st him alone, nod gently and say in his ear:
“Simaetha bids thee to her,” then lead him hither,’ I said.
Swiftly she hied her and brought me the smooth-limbed Delphis here;
And when I beheld him lightly over my threshold tread,—
  Bethink thee, Lady Moon, whence came my love.        20
Colder than snow I grew, and the sweat in a dewy stream
Brake from my brow, and not so much could I say to him
As a murmuring child may say to its mother beheld in a dream;
But like to a waxen image I stiffened in every limb.
  Bethink thee, Lady Moon, whence came my love.        25
And the cruel one looked upon me, then cast his eyes on the floor,
And sat him down on my bed; and sitting he thus began:
‘Simaetha, thy summons outstripped my coming here to thy door
As little as I the handsome Philinus once outran.
  Bethink thee, Lady Moon, whence came my love.        30
Yea, by sweet Love, I had come unbidden at fall of night
With boon-fellows two or three, and the dearest I could find—
In my bosom the wine-god’s fruit, on my head the poplar white,
Heracles’ sacred burgeon with fillets of purple twined.
  Bethink thee, Lady Moon, whence came my love.        35
And well for you both had it been had ye opened, for all youths say
That comely and fleet am I; and sleep my soul had assuaged
After but one sweet kiss; but had barred doors kept us away,
Then surely had torch and axe their warfare against you waged.
  Bethink thee, Lady Moon, whence came my love.        40
The Cyprian chiefly, I ween, my thanks for this boon hath earned,
And next, O my lady, thou that hast reft me from the fire,
Bidding me hither to come that am nigh to ashes burned;
For fiercer than Lipara’s flame is the flame of love’s desire.
  Bethink thee, Lady Moon, whence came my love.        45
Oft hath it scared from her bower the maiden with passion mad,
And the bride from her lord’s warm couch.’
                        He spake; I heard and was glad,
And took him, alas! by the hand and softly drew him alow
On the soft bed by my side, and our limbs began to glow,
And hotter became our cheeks and so sweetly whispered we …        50
But I need not babble all the story, O Moon, to thee.
Love’s rites were accomplished, and we both tasted of Love’s delight;
And ever till yesterday I found favour and grace in his sight,
As he did in mine; but today, at what hour the early Dawn
Up from the sea to the sky by her fleet-foot steeds was drawn,        55
The mother of Samian Philista the flute-girl hither came,
And told me of many things, but chiefly of Delphis’ flame;
But whether to girl or boy my love now his homage pays,
She knew not surely, she said,—this only: in some love’s praise
He aye bade pour of the unmixed wine, and fled in the end,        60
Vowing to deck with flowers the house of his ‘darling friend.’
These were her words, and true are they, for aforetime he
Came oft and would leave his Dorian oil-bottle here with me.
But, alas! twelve days have gone, yet I have beheld him not,
Sure he hath some new love and me hath he quite forgot.        65
But now shall a love-charm bind him; or, if he wrong me more,
And knock not at mine, by the Fates, he shall knock at Hades’ door;
For in my coffer, O Queen, drugs baneful and deadly lie
Which an Assyrian stranger gave me in days gone by.

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