March 25, 2010

Idylls of Theocritus

For my lit project, I read the Idylls of Theocritus.

Theocritus is widely considered the father of pastoral poetry, Virgil his most famous son. Shepherds and goatherds and cowherds sing in contest and blow a syrinx. And lovers pine for love, maidens for men, old men for young boys. Satyrs rape young nymphs. Polyphemus tends his flock. And everything is sweet and honey-dipped in the meadows and groves.

Theocritus is less sober and more naive than Virgil. Theocritus is less of a poetic force to reckon with. The collection of his poems that survive, some of them spurious, is rather eclectic, which might not help his reputation. Not all are bucolic paeans. There are laudations for men and gods and there are mini-epics, which are amusing and curious. Theocritus (like Callimachus) believes in the short poem form, and the mini-epics (a couple hundred lines at most) are abrupt passages seemingly torn from greater epics.

I have little to offer in sustained analysis of Theocritus, but do have a puzzle a quick google search failed to solve: how does one pronounce Theocritus? Does one stress the second syllable, as in Thee-ok-ruh-tus? Or does one stress the third, as in Thee-uh-kri-tus? Quite the puzzle. And, I am afraid, beyond me.


DG said...

even if i was doing this classics thing there'd be no way i could go at the pace you're going

i salute you

Ian said...

On the contrary, DG, I am going rather slowly. This poetry I have been reading is a breeze. The Idylls -- 30 poems total -- amounted to maybe MAYBE a total of 3 hours of reading time, and I mean slow, critical reading. I have been belaboring through Heroides since finishing Lucretius, and that too should be swift work (though not as swift as Theocritus). I can only accept your praise for the Aeneid, which I swallowed whole, but I have otherwise taken my time with this project (and I do have a lot of time).

DG said...

go watch hart of london

Anonymous said...

I'm impressed myself. But I am not an intellectual. Keep going, southamerican fruit.