Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Greek Bucolic Poets

THE PATTERN POEMS are ancient Greek poems composed in the "bucolic" tradition with verses designed to form a specific shape (such as a pipe, an egg, wings, altar, etc.) and with complimentary theme. The few surviving examples of the genre date mainly from the Hellenistic era (C3rd to 2nd BC) and are preserved in a section of the Greek Anthology of texts.

Since the structure of these poems is completely lost in translation, I have included the Greek texts here to illustrate the form. Several of the works are also mythological riddles along the lines of Lycophron's Alexandra.


This poem seems to have been inscribed on the wings of a statue – perhaps a votive statue – representing Love as a bearded child. The metre is the same as that of the Axe with the difference that the lines are to be read in the usual order. The poem also differs from the Axe in making no reference, except by its shape, to the wings of Love. Moreover it contains no hint of dedication. (Anthology XV, 24.)

Behold the ruler of the deep-bosomed Earth, the turner upside-down of the Son of Acmon,1 and have no fear that so little a person should have so plentiful a crop of beard to his chin. For I was born when Necessity bare rule, and all creatures, moved they in Air or in Chaos, were kept though her dismal governance far apart. Swift-flying son of Cypris and war-lord Ares – I am not that at all; for by no force came I into rule, but by gentle-willed persuasion, and yet all alike, Earth, deep Sea, and brazen Heaven, bowed to my behest, and I took to myself their old sceptre and made me a judge among gods.

1. "Son of Acmon" : Heaven.

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