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 Garden of Phyllion
By Aristaenetus (fl. 5th or 6th Century A.D.)
(Epistle III. Philoplatanus to Anthocome. From The Love Songs of Aristaenetus, 358 A.D. Translated by Richard Brinsley Sheridan)

BLEST was my lot—ah! sure ’twas bliss, my friend,
The day—by heavens! the live-long day to spend
With Love and my Limona! Hence! in vain
Would mimic Fancy bring those scenes again;
In vain delighted memory tries to raise        5
My doubtful song, and aid my will to praise.
In vain! Nor fancy strikes, nor memory knows,
The little springs from whence those joys arose.
Yet come, coy Fancy, sympathetic maid!
Yes, I will ask, I will implore thy aid:        10
For I would tell my friend whate’er befell;
Whate’er I saw, whate’er I did, I’ll tell.
But what I felt—sweet Venus! there inspire
My lay, or wrap his soul in all thy fire.
  Bright rose the morn, and bright remained the day;        15
The mead was spangled with the bloom of May:
We on the bank of a sweet stream were laid,
With blushing rose and lowly violets spread;
Fast by our side a spreading plane-tree grew,
And waved its head, that shone with morning dew.        20
The bank acclivous rose, and swelled above—
The frizzled moss a pillow for my love.
Trees with their ripened stores glowed all around,
The loaded branches bowed upon the ground;
Sure the fair virgins of Pomona’s train        25
In those glad orchards hold their fertile reign.
The fruit nectareous, and the scented bloom
Wafted on Zephyr’s wing their rich perfume;
A leaf I bruised—what grateful scents arose!
Ye gods! what odours did a leaf disclose.        30
Aloft each elm slow waved its dusky top,
The willing vine embraced the sturdy prop:
And while we strayed the ropened grape to find,
Around our necks the clasping tendrils twined;
I with a smile would tell the entangled fair,        35
I envied e’en the vines a lodging there;
Then twist them off, and soothe with amorous play
Her breasts, and kiss each rosy mark away.
Cautious Limona trod—her step was slow—
For much she feared the skulking fruits below;        40
Cautious—lest haply she, with slipp’ry tread,
Might tinge her snowy feet with vinous red.
Around with critic glance we viewed the store,
And oft rejected what we’d praised before;
This would my love accept, and this refuse,        45
For varied plenty puzzled us to choose.
“Here may the bunches tasteless, immature,
Unheeded learn to blush, and swell secure;
In richer garb yon turgid clusters stand,
And glowing purple tempts the plund’ring hand.”        50
“Then reach ’em down,” she said, “for you can reach,
And cull, with daintiest hand, the best of each.”
Pleased I obeyed, and gave my love—whilst she
Returned sweet thanks, and picked the best for me:
’Twas pleasing sure—yet I refused her suit,        55
But kissed the liberal hand that held the fruit.
  Hard by the ever-jovial harvest train
Hail the glad season of Pomona’s reign;
With rustic song around her fane they stand,
And lisping children join the choral band:        60
They busily intent now strive to aid,
Now first they’re taught the hereditary trade:
’Tis theirs to class the fruits in order due,
For pliant rush to search the meadow through;
To mark if chance unbruised a wind-fall drop,        65
Or teach the infant vine to know its prop.
And haply too some aged sire is there,
To check disputes, and give to each his share;
With feeble voice their little work he cheers,
Smiles at their toil, and half forgets his years.        70
“Here let the pippin, fretted o’er with gold,
In fost’ring straw defy the winter’s cold;
The hardier russet here will safely keep,
And dusky rennet with its crimson cheek;
But mind, my boys, the mellow pear to place        75
In soft enclosure, with divided space;
And mindful most how lies the purple plum,
Nor soil, with heedless touch, its native bloom.”
  Intent they listened to the instructing lord;
But most intent to glean their reward.        80
  Now turn, my loved Limona, turn and view
How changed the scene! how elegantly new!
Mark how yon vintager enjoys his toil;
Glows with flush red, and Bacchanalian smile:
His slipp’ry sandals burst the luscious vine,        85
And splash alternate in the new-born wine.
Nor far the lab’ring train, whose care supplies
The trodden press, and bids fresh plenty rise.
The teeming boughs that bend beneath their freight,
One busy peasant eases of the weight;        90
One climbs to where the aspiring summits shoot;
Beneath, a hoary sire receives the fruit.
  Pleased we admired the jovial bustling throng,
Blest e’en in toil!—but we admired not long.
For calmer joys we left the busy scene,        95
And sought the thicket and the stream again;
For sacred was the fount, and all the grove
Was hallowed kept, and dedicate to love.
Soon gentle breezes, freshened from the wave,
Our temples fanned, and whispered us to lave.        100
The stream itself seem’d murm’ring at our feet
Sweet invitation from the noon-day heat.
We bathed—and while we swam, so clear it flowed,
That every limb the crystal mirror showed.
But my love’s bosom oft deceived my eye,        105
Resembling those fair fruits that glided by;
For which I thought her swelling breast to clasp,
An apple met my disappointed grasp.
Delightful was the stream itself—I swear,
By those glad nymphs who make the founts their care,        110
It was delightful:—but more pleasing still,
When sweet Limona sported in the rill:
For her soft blush such sweet reflection gave,
It tinged with rosy hues the pallid wave.
Thus, thus delicious was the murm’ring spring,        115
Nor less delicious the cool zephyr’s wing;
Which mild allayed the sun’s meridian power,
And swept the fragrant scent from every flower;
A scent, that feasted my transported sense,
Like that Limona’s sweet perfumes dispense:        120
But still, my Love, superior thine, I swear—
At least thy partial lover thinks they are.
  Near where we sat, full many a gladd’ning sound,
Beside the rustling breeze, was heard around:
The little grasshopper essayed its song,        125
As if ’twould emulate the feathered throng:
Still lisped it uniform—yet now and then
It something chirped, and skipped upon the green.
Aloft the sprightly warblers filled the grove;
Sweet native melody! sweet notes of love!        130
While nightingales their artless strains essayed,
The air, methought, felt cooler in the glade:
A thousand feathered throats the chorus joined,
And held harmonious converse with mankind.
  Still in mine eye the sprightly songsters play,        135
Sport on the wing, or twitter on the spray;
On foot alternate rest their little limbs,
Or cool their pinions in the gliding streams;
Surprise the worm, or sip the brook aloof,
Or watch the spider weave his subtle woof.—        140
We the meantime discoursed in whispers low,
Lest haply speech disturb the rural show.
  Listen.—Another pleasure I display,
That helped delightfully the time away.
From distant vales, where bubbles from its source        145
A crystal rill, they dug a winding course:
See! through the grove a narrow lake extends,
Crosses each plot, to each plantation bends;
And while the fount in new meanders glides,
The forest brightens with refreshing tides.        150
Towards us they taught the new-born stream to flow,
Towards us it crept irresolute and slow:
Scarce had the infant current trickled by,
When lo! a wondrous fleet attracts our eye:
Laden with draughts might greet a monarch’s tongue,        155
The mimic navigation swam along.
Hasten, ye ship-like goblets, down the vale,
Your freight a flagon, and a leaf your sail.
Oh may no envious rush thy course impede,
Or floating apple stop thy tide-borne speed.        160
His mildest breath a gentle zephyr gave;
The little vessels trimly stemmed the wave:
Their precious merchandise to land they bore,
And one by one resigned the balmy store.
Stretch but a hand, we boarded them, and quaft        165
With native luxury the tempered draught.
For where they loaded the nectareous fleet,
The goblet glowed with too intense a heat;
Cooled by degrees in these convivial ships,
With nicest taste it met our thirsty lips.        170
  Thus in delight the flowery path we trod
To Venus sacred, and the rosy god:
Here might we kiss, here Love secure might reign,
And revel free, with all his am’rous train.—
And we did kiss, my friend, and Love was there,        175
And smoothed the rustic couch that held my fair.
Like a spring-mead with scented blossoms crowned,
Her head with choicest wreaths Limona bound:
But Love, sweet Love! his sacred torch so bright
Had fanned, that, glowing from the rosy light,        180
A blush (the print of a connubial kiss,
The conscious tattler of consummate bliss)
Still flushed upon her cheek; and well might show
The choicest wreaths she’d made, how they should glow;
Might every flower with kindred bloom o’erspread,        185
And tinge the vernal rose with deeper red.
  But come, my friend, and share my happy lot:
The bounteous Phyllion owns this blissful spot;
Phyllion, whose gen’rous care to all extends,
And most is blest while he can bless his friends.        190
Then come, and quickly come; but with thee bring
The nymph, whose praises oft I’ve heard thee sing—
The blooming Myrtala; she’ll not refuse
To tread the solitude her swain shall choose.
Thy sight will all my busy schemes destroy,        195
I’ll dedicate another day to joy,
When social converse shall the scene improve,
And sympathy bestow new charms on love.
Then shall the accustom’d bank a couch be made;
Once more the nodding plane shall lend its shade;        200
Once more I’ll view Pomona’s jovial throng;
Once more the birds shall raise the sprightly song;
Again the little stream be taught to flow;
Again the little fleet its balm bestow;
Again I’ll gaze upon Limona’s charms,        205
And sink transported in her quiv’ring arms;
Again my cheek shall glow upon her breast;
Again she’ll yield, and I again be blest.

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