The Idylliums of Theocritus: Preface.

The Idylliums of Theocritus. Translated from the Greek, with Notes Critical and Explanatory by Francis Fawkes, M.A.

Rev. Francis Fawkes

Francis Fawkes criticizes earlier translations, concluding that the Spenserian "Doric" is not appropriate to a translation of Theocritus: "It has been hinted to me by more ingenious judges, that if Theocritus was translated in the language of Spenser, he would appear to great advantage, as such an antique style would be a proper succedaneum to the Doric idiom. There appeared to me at first something plausible in this scheme; but happening to find part of Moschus's first Idyllium, which is a Hue and Cry after Cupid, paraphrastically translated by Spenser himself, I had reason to alter my opinion" p. xii. Thomas Warton, who thought differently, may have been one of the "more ingenious judges" alluded to; he is said to have assisted Fawkes in his translation.

John Langhorne: "There is hardly any Greek author of reputation that wanted a translation so much as Theocritus. It is impossible to read that of Creech with patience; and Mr. Fawkes might have spared himself the trouble of instancing the badness of that version in particular. Yet, under such disadvantages, the beauties of the Sicilian poet were well known even to those who were unable to read him in the original. He was the father of pastoral poetry, and all his sons have borrowed liberally from his stock, from Virgil, his eldest born, to the last of his imitators, our immortal Pope. Thus, affording materials to all his successors, he was partially known in their works; but still a full and careful translation was wanting to display his various merit, and such we are willing to esteem the work before us" Monthly Review 37 (September 1767) 206-07.

W. Davenport Adams: "Francis Fawkes, poet and translator (b. 1721, d. 1777), wrote a poem on Bramham Park, and Descriptions of May and Winter, besides translations of Anacreon, Bion, Moschus, Sappho, Apollonius Rhodius, and Theocritus. A volume of his Original Poems and Translations appeared in 1761" Dictionary of English Literature (1878) 220.

When I had formed a resolution of publishing a translation of this inimitable Greek poet, I intended to have availed myself of every elegant and faithful version of any particular Idyllium that fell in my way; and then have endeavoured, to the best of my ability, to make up the deficiency. With this view, I carefully examined Mr. Dryden, who has left translations of four Idylliums, the 3d, the 18th the 23d, and the 27th. There are many beautiful lines in the third, but take it altogether and it is a tedious paraphrase; for the original contains only 54 verses, which he has multiplied into no fewer than 127; particularly there are three lines, beginning et the 18th, [Greek characters]

Sweet black-ey'd maid, &c.

which he has expanded into twelve. Now though English heroic verse consists of no more than ten syllables, and the Greek hexameter sometimes rises to seventeen, but if upon an average we say fifteen, then two Greek verses is equal in point of syllables to three of English: but if a translator is so extravagantly licentious, he must lose sight of his original, and by introducing new thoughts of his own, disguise his author so that nobody can know him again. But Mr. Dryden has a far greater foible than this, which effectually prevents me from inserting any of his translations in this volume, which is, that whenever he meets with any sentiment in an author which has the least tendency to indecency, he always renders it worse; nay, even in these Idylliums where the original has given him no handle at all, he has warpt the simple meaning of Theocritus into obscenity. "Sed vitiis nemo sine nascitur"; no man had more excellencies as a poet than Mr. Dryden, therefore the hand of candour should draw a veil over constitutional blemishes.

In Dryden's Miscellany Poems there are seven or eight translations of other Idylliums, viz. the 2d, 10th, 14th, and 20th by W. Bowles; the 11th by Duke, and the 1st and some others by different hands; but none of these, I found, would suit my purpose: there are so many wild deviations from the original, such gross mistakes, and so many incorrect and empty lines, that they will sound very harshly in the polished ears of the present age. Fully satisfied with this inquisition, I then determined to undertake the whole work myself; considering that every translation from an ancient author, as well as every original work, is generally most agreeable to the reader which is finished by the same hand: because in this case, there is kept up a certain uniformity of stile, an idiomatical propriety of diction, which is infinitely more pleasing than if some different, though more able hand, had here and there interlarded it with a shining version, than if

Purpureus, late qui splendeat, unus & alter
Assuitur pannus.

I have been informed by some venerable critics, that Creech's translation of Theocritus was well done, and a book of reputation; that he thoroughly understood the classics, and had a peculiar facility in unfolding their beauties, and that if there was published a new edition of his translation, there would be no necessity for its being superseded by another. I beg leave to dissent entirely from these gentlemen, who probably having read Creech when they were young, and having no ear for poetical numbers, are better pleased with the rough music of the last age than the refined harmony of this; and will not easily be persuaded, that modern improvements can produce any thing superior. However Creech may have approved himself in Lucretius, or Manilius, I shall venture to pronounce his translation of Theocritus very bald and hard, and more rustic than any of the rustics in the Sicilian bard: he himself modestly entitles his book, The Idylliums of Theocritus done into English: and they are done as well as can be expected from Creech, who had neither an ear for numbers, nor the least delicacy of expression.

It will be incumbent upon me to make good this bold assertion, which I can easily do by producing a few examples. In the first Idyllium, he calls that noble pastoral Cup, "a fine two handled pot"; and the [Greek characters], the "tendrils" or "claspers" with which scandent plants use to sustain themselves in climbing, he transforms into "kids"; — "where 'kids do' seem to brouze." In the description of the fisherman, ver. 43, he has these lines,

The nerves in's neck are swoln, look firm and strong

Altho' he's "old," and fit for one that's "young."

Ver. 112. He makes Daphnis say to Venus,

Go now stout Diomed, go soon pursue
Go "nose him" now, and boast, my arts o'erthrew:
Young Daphnis, fight, for I'm a match for you.

[Greek characters] and [Greek characters], he renders, "Helick's cliff," and "Licon's tomb." — A little further on, and likewise in the 5th Idyllium, he turns nightingales into "thrushes."

Idyllium III. Where Olpis is looking out for "tunnies," he makes him stand, To snare his "trouts". — The girl Erithacis he calls "tawney Bess" — and Alphesiboea's mother, "Alphish's mother."

Idyllium V. ver. 11. He translates Crocylus into "Dick," and Idyllium XIV. Argivus, Apis and Cleunicus, into "Tom," "Will" and "Dick." Near the end of the 5th, Lacon says;

I love Eumedes much, I gave my "pipe,"
How sweet a kiss he gave; ah charming "lip!"

Then come successively the following delicate rhymes: "strains," "swans"; "shame," "lamb"; "piece," "fees"; "joy," "sky": afterwards he makes Comates say;

I'll "toot" at Lacon, I have won the "lamb,"
Go foolish shepherd, pine, and die for "shame."

Idyllium VII. ver. 120. He renders [Greek characters] parsley, thinking it the same as "apium," whereas it signifies a "pear."

Idyllium XI. He makes Polyphemus say of himself;

Sure I am somewhat, they my worth can see,
"And I myself will now grow proud of me."

He says of Cynisca, Idyll XIV. 23.

That you might light a candle at her "nose."

Idyllium XV. One of the gossips says to a stranger,

—You are a sawcy friend
I'm ne'er beholding t'ye, and there's an end.

And so there's an end of my animadversions upon Mr. Creech; were I to quote all his dull insipid lines, I should quote above half his book: this much was proper for me to say in my own vindication; and to add more might to some people seem invidious.

It has been hinted to me by more ingenious judges, that if Theocritus was translated in the language of Spenser, he would appear to great advantage, as such an antique style would be a proper succedaneum to the Doric idiom. There appeared to me at first something plausible in this scheme; but happening to find part of Moschus's first Idyllium, which is a Hue and Cry after Cupid, paraphrastically translated by Spenser himself, I had reason to alter my opinion. I shall transcribe the passage, that the reader nay judge whether such a version would be more agreeable than one in modern language.

It fortuned, fair Venus having lost
Her little son, the winged god of love,
Who for some slight displeasure, which him crost,
Was from her fled, as flit as any dove,
And left her blissful bower of joy above;
(So from her often he had fled away,
When she for aught him sharply did reprove,
And wander'd in the world in strange array,
Disguis'd in thousand shapes, that none might him bewray:)

Him for to seek, she left her heavenly house,
And searched every way, thro' which his wings
Had borne him, or his tract she mote detect:
She promis'd kisses sweet, and sweeter things,
Unto the man that of him tidings to her brings.
Fairy Queen, B. 3. ch. 6.

From this specimen I could not he persuaded to think that a translation of Theocritus, even in the purest language of Spenser, would afford any pleasure to an English reader: and therefore I have given him the dress which I apprehend would best become him. How I have executed this work, I leave to the decision of the candid and impartial, desiring they will allow me all the indulgence which the translator of so various and difficult an author can reasonably require; an author on whom there are but few Greek scholia published, only to the 17th Idyllium inclusive, and these often extremely puerile; an author on whom fewer notes have been written than upon any other equally excellent. Scaliger, Casaubon, Heinsius and Meursius frequently leave the most difficult passages untouched; their observations are sometimes trifling and unsatisfactory, often repugnant to each other, and now and then learnedly obscure: amidst these disadvantages I have endeavoured to conduct myself with the utmost caution; and if I may be allowed to speak of life following sheets, I will briefly explain what I have attempted to accomplish. First then as to the translation; I have neither followed my author too closely nor abandoned him too wantonly, but have endeavoured to keep the original in view, without too essentially desisting from the sense: no literal translation can be just; as to this point, Horace gives us an excellent caution;

Nec verbum verbo curabis reddere fidus
Nor word for word too faithfully translate.

A too faithful interpretation, Mr. Dryden says, must be a pedantic one: an admirable precept to this purpose is contained in the compliment Sir John Denham pays sir Richard Fanshaw on his version of the Pastor Fido;

That servile path thou nobly dost decline,
Of tracing word by word, and line by line;
A new and nobler way thou dost pursue,
To make translations, and translators too;
They but preserve the ashes, thou the flame,
True to his sense, but truer to his fame.

And as I have not endeavoured to give a verbal translation, so neither have I indulged myself in a rash paraphrase, which always loses the spirit of an antient by degenerating into the modern manners of expression; and to the best of my recollection, I have taken no liberties but those which are necessary for exhibiting the graces of my author, transfusing the spirit of the original, and supporting the poetical style of the translation. This is the plan, and these are the rules by which every translator should conduct himself: how I have acquitted myself in these points must be left to the determination of superior judges. As to the notes, which I found the most laborious part of my task, they are intended either to illustrate the most difficult, and exemplify the beautiful passages; or else to exhibit the various imitations of authors, which I look upon as an agreeable comment, for they not only show the manneris in which the ancients copied each other's excellencies, but likewise often help to elucidate the passages that are quoted. Upon a review of my notes, I have instanced too many passages from Virgil as imitations of Theocritus: what I have to say in my defence is, they appeared to me at the time to be similar, if they do not appear in the same light to the reader, they are easily overlooked: if I have in this respect committed a fault, this acknowledgment will plead in mitigation of it.

Besides these errours and mistakes, I am conscious of many more, though I hope not very material ones; those the learned and judicious, who are sensible of the difficulty of this undertaking, will readily excuse. This work has already met with the approbation of the best critics of the age, therefore what the worst may think or say of it, will give me no concern. I must acknowledge a fault or two "quas incuria fudit": there are, I believe, two or three proper names falsely accented: I have also mistaken the sense of my author in the first Idyllium, ver. 31,

This goat with twins I'll give, &c.

It should have been translated, "I will give you three milkings of this goat; [Greek characters], "that you may milk her three times)," not "the goat herself and twins," which would have been a most extravagant present from a poor goat-herd, in return for a song. The reader therefore may correct the passage thus,

Thrice shall you milk this goat; she never fails
Two kids to suckle, though she fill two pails;
To this I'll add, &c.

This mistake was imparted to me by the ingenious and learned Dr. Jortin, together with the following emendation; see note on ver. 57, "for [Greek characters] you read with Pierson, [Greek characters]; which, as to the sense, seems to be right. But, as the Ionic dialect is not often used in a Doric song, I should prefer the adjective [Greek characters], which is also a smaller alteration. As from [Greek characters] comes [Greek characters], so from [Greek characters]." I am much obliged to the same gentleman for the following short, but full account


"Whosoever shall carefully examine in Theocritus the composition of his verses, may perceive that, in his opinion, the nature of bucolic, or pastoral metre requires that the fourth foot of the verse be a dactyl, and that the last syllable of this dactyl be the end of a word, which must not run into the next foot. The first foot also should rather be a dactyl than a spondee, and the caesura is here likewise to he shunned. If after the fourth foot, there be a pause, of a comma at least, the verse will be still more elegant; as [Greek characters].

Thus the verses will abound with dactyls, which, together with the broad Doric dialect, gives a certain rustic vivacity and lightness to the poesy. But yet the above-mentioned rules, if they were constantly observed, would displease by a tiresome uniformity, and confine the poet too much; and therefore a variety is better, as in the line, [Greek characters].

And it is sufficient if the other structure predominate. These rules Virgil hath quite neglected; except in those verses of his eighth Eclogue, which are called, 'versus intercalares':

Incipe Maenalios mecum, mea | tibia, versus,


Ducite ab urbe domum, mea carmine, | ducite Daphnim.

For a further account of this matter, the curious reader is referred to the Memoires de L'Acad. tom vi. p. 238."


It may be asked, why I have not acted the part of a verbal critic in this performance? My reason was, that far more able men had considered Theocritus in that light. The late Mr. D'Orville, the author of the Critica Vannus, and Sicula, during his travels in Italy and Sicily, collated upwards of forty MSS. of Theocritus: his collation is now at Amsterdam. Mr. St. Amand, a few years ago, left to the University of Oxford a large collection of collations, which Mr. Thomas Warton, who has prepared a noble edition of this author, has the use of. Mr. Taylor, late Greek professor of Cambridge, left likewise a Theocritus almost ready for the press. In the public library at Cambridge there are some notes on Theocritus by Isaac Casaubon, written in the margin of Henry Stephen's Poetae Graeci; likewise manuscripts notes in the edition of Commelin printed in quarto; and also some notes by Thomas Stanley, the author of the Lives of the Philosophers: all these, and likewsie a MS. Theocritus are in the public library at Cambridge. There is also a MS. of the first eight Idylliums in Emmanuel college library. Mr. Hoblyn, late member for the city of Bristol, left behind him many notes and observations for an edition of Theocritus. Besides these, there are great materials for illustrating this author in private libraries.

As to the editions of Theocritus, which are very numerous, I think proper to say something; as we have but an imperfect account of them in Fabricius and Mittaire. Reiske, in the preface to his late edition of this Greek poet, has given us an account of the various editions, but this account is far from being satisfactory. The first edition of Theocritus was printed at Milan in the year 1493, the letter is the same with the Isocrates of the same place and date: see the catalogue of the Leyden library, page 251. The second edition was printed by Aldus Manutius at Venice in the year 1495; this is the only edition Aldus ever printed; there are some leaves cancelled in it, which is the reason why Reiske and others have imagined that Aldus printed two editions: Mr. Maittaire in the first volume of his Annales Typographici, page 244, has given us an account of these differences. In the year 1515, we have an edition by Philip Junta at Florence; and another in 1516, by Zachary Caliergus at Rome.

These are all the editions that came out before the year 1520. Besides these, and those mentioned by Reiske, which I have seen, there are some curious editions, viz. that of Florence by Benedict Junta, printed in the year 1540; the Basil edition of 1558, and the Paris edition of 1627, printed by John Libert. I have purposely omitted mentioning the others, as they are already taken notice of, either by Fabricius, Mattaire, or Reiske.

I cannot conclude this preface without paying my acknowledgements to those gentlemen who have kindly assisted me in this undertakihng. Dr. Pierce, the present Lord Bishop of Rochester, many years eminent for his critical disquisitions, has in the friendliness of conversation furnished me with several useful rules for conducting my translation. Dr. Jortin, has favoured me with a concise but full account of the old bucolic measure; and a few valuable notes. The celebrated Mr. Samuel Johnson has corrected part of this work, and furnished me with some judicious remarks. In a short conversation with the ingenious Mr. Joseph Warton, I gathered several observations, particularly in regard to the superiority of Theocritus to Virgil in Pastoral, which are interspersed amongst the notes. The learned Dr. Plumptre, Archdeacon of Ely, has, with great candour and accuracy, done me the honour to peruse and ammend every sheet as it came from the press. Dr. Askew, so eminently distinguished in his profession, as well as for a large and most curious, as well as for a large and most curious collection of the classics, and an intimate knowledge of them, and the sincerity of an an old acquaintance and a friend, gave me many various meetings, showed me every valuable edition of Theocritus that is extant, and furnished me with the account of some MSS. and scarce editions of my author, which were never taken notice of by former editors. Swithin Adee, M.D. and the Rev. Mr. John Duncombe of Canterbury, have at my own request, sent me several notes and strictures upon my performance, which are candid, and valuable. Mr. Burnaby Greene, author of Juvenal paraphrastically imitated, very obligingly supplied the Essay on Pastoral, and some ingenious observations: and Dr. William Watson lent me his friendly assistance in the botanical part. I could mention other eminent names of gentlemen who have corrected and improved this work;

—Each finding, like a friend,
Something to blame, and something to commend.

The list I have given, I am apprehensive, will appear ostentatious — however, I had rather be convicted of the foible of Vanity, than be thought guilty of the sin of Ingratitude.

[pp. vii-xxi]