Daphnis and Chloë

by Longus

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

I am sick for sure but what the malady is I do not know. I am in pain but can find no bruise. I am distressed but none of my sheep is missing. I feel a burning yet am sitting in thick shade.

So says Chloe on reflecting on the pangs of love she feels for Daphnis, although she has never heard of the word love nor of its meaning. Chloe, like Daphnis, was left exposed in the countryside as a child. She was raised in the wild and suckled by animals that took pity on her until she was discovered by shepherds. Consequently, both young people both were raised in close to a state of nature and adopted by simple rural parents. The poet uses this background of natural rural innocence to describe the power and bittersweet pangs of love as experienced by a girl who has no way of knowing what is happening to her.

Now Spring was ended and Summer begun and all things were at their prime. The trees were laden with fruit, the fields with grain. Pleasant was the chirping of the cricket, sweet the aroma of fruit, delightful the bleating of lambs. One might fancy that even the rivers in their gentle course murmured soft music, that breezes piped when they breathed upon the pines, that apples fell to earth out of love, and that the sun who is a lover of beauty stripped all things of their covering.

Here is a fine example of the classical Greek love of rustic nature in its raw and simple beauty. There is no need for the poet to resort to exotic settings, animals, plants, or events. The simple beauty of summer in the wilds with its sights, sounds, and smells delighted the ancient Greeks and Romans, who took natural rustic beauty to be under the protection of the nymphs and rustic gods like Pan and Dionysus, to whom they offered sacrifices when sojourning in the countryside. The celebration of the beauty of the natural world was reawakened in the Renaissance with the rediscovery and appreciation of classical Greek and Roman texts and art.

How did you dare perpetrate such a mad outrage? The fields which are dear to me are filled with the tumults of war. The herds of cows and goats and sheep which were in my peculiar care you have taken as plunder. You have dragged from the altars a maiden of whom Eros wishes to fashion a tale of love. You showed no reverence for the nymphs who were looking on, nor for me, Pan.

Here the rural god Pan chastises the leader of the raiders for impiety. He explains why he has been terrorizing them with mishaps and ominous sights and sounds to warn them to desist from their venture. He explains that they are interfering in a divine plan of the god Eros and have offended the nymphs and Pan. The poem uses the appearance of the god in a dream to teach his listeners to have proper piety and reverence for the rights of man and the sacred things of nature.

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