Trigger Warning: abduction, rape, sexism
Praefatio Dracontii discipuli ad grammaticum Felicianum, ubi dicta est, metro trochaico cum fabula Ylae:
Orpheum vatem enarrant ut primorum litterae
Cantitasse dulce carmen voce nervo pectine
inter ornos propter amnes, atque montes algidos,
quem benignus grex secutus cum cruenta bestia
audiens melos stupebat concinente pollice: (5)
tunc feras reliquit ira, tunc pavor perterritas
lenta tigris, cervus audax, mitis ursus adfuit;
non lupum timebat agna, non leonem caprea,
non lepus iam praeda saevo tunc molosso iugiter.
Arte sed, natura rerum quis negat concordiam (10)
hos chelys Musea totos Orpheusque miscuit.
Sancte pater o magister, taliter canendus es,
qui fugatas Africanae reddis urbi litteras
barbaris qui Romulidas iungis auditorio
cuius ordines profecto semper obstupescimus (15)
quos capit dulcedo vestri, doctor, oris maxima.
Nostra vota te precamur ut secundes, optime,
ante cuncta non recusans illud ipse pendere
non tua virtute laudes mente sed qua concinam.
Nos licet nihil valemus, mos tamen gerendus est. (20)
Ergo deprecantis oro cinge lauro tempora
II. Exp. praefatio trochaicis versibus dicta. Incipit Ylas.
Fata canam pueri Nympharum versa calore
in melius, si Musa mones: quis casus ademit
Alcidi comitem, solamen dulce malorum?
Fuderat Idalius gremio se forte parentis
Pinniger et colum violentis cinxerat ulnis (5)
oscula pura rogans. mater devota coruscos
indulget vultus roseoque est orsa labello:
"O mundi domitor, caeli quoque flamma tonantis,
numen posco tuum cuius sub iure vaporo,
per tua tela, puer, fecundis inlita flammis (10)
ut dies effectum votis de more parentis.
Nil rude, nate, precor nec supplex improba posco,
ardua non iubeo quamvis magis ardua vincas."
Ille refert matris disrumpens verba precantis:
"Magna iube, non ausa prius, sublimia manda (15)
o genetrix. Quo tela vocas aut quid petis uri,
quem divum modo forte iubes hominumve lacessi?
Exprime, flammetur. Quid fletu lumina tinguis?
Audeo, si cupias, ipsum flammare Tonantem
et dominum caeli facie vestire iuvenci (20)
oblitumque poli rursus mugire per herbas
confessus per prata bovem: cadat aureus imber
divitias ut tecta pluant, sit fulminis ales
ipse sui, satyrus cycnus Latonia serpens:
Alcmenam galeatus amet, mucrone coruscet (25)
et clipeo rutilante tonet dum miles adulter
coniungat noctes subtracta luce dierum.
si Pallas placeat, nostros iam sentiet ignes
virgo ferox sexu, fugiet viresque fatiscet
ut solas tracted reiecta cupside lanas (30).
Noster Sirius est ardor. Neptunus anhelans
aestuet inter aquas telo flammante per undas
igne meo vincentur aquae, fumantibus undis
tritones Galatea, Thetin delphines amabunt:
Quidquid fluctus habet totum succendo pharetris (35).
Sine, parens, optas homines his ignibus ustos
inlicitos violare toros, ut non pia-patris
oscula nata petat nec natus matris amator
dulce nefas cupiat frater vitietque sororem
privignoque suo potiatur blanda noverca; (40)
alter erit Perdicca furens atque altera Myrrha,
Iuppiter alter erit terris de fratre maritus.
Parva loquor. tauro, si iusseris, altera regis
flammetur coniunx reddetur et altera Phaedra."
At his laeta Venus vultus mutata renarrat: (45)
"Impubes lascive puer cui subiacet omne
quod natura creat, caelum mare sidera tellus
nemo notet Venerem quod supplex mater amorum
ignis opem de prole rogat. nam munere in isto
quamvis sit communis honor tamen, alme, fatemur (50)
hinc numen plus posse tuum. lamenta parentis
si placet ulcisci, paucis adverte, docebo:
nympharum, puer alme, chorus dum pensa revolvit
Penei sub fonte sui: pudet ore referre:
solis amata canit Clymene mea crimina nymphis (55)
meque suo prensam nymphas monet indice Sole,
Vulcanique sonant captivo Marte catenas.
Quis audire libet de nostra clade canentem.
sed si de nobis certe cantare placebat,
Iudicium Paridis vel nostros, nate, triumphos (60)
Cantarent fluidae carpentes pensa puellae.
Est gemitus haec causa mei. quas ure sagittis
corda vel illarum dulci continge veneno:
noscant quid sit amor, discant tua tela puellae.
Alcidis comes est comes puerilibus annis (65)
quem rubor ut roseus sic candor lacteus ornat
illi purpureus niveo natat ignis in ore
hoc puero viso Nympharum turba calescat.
haec illis sit poena nocens ut vota trahantur
ipsarum in longum donec pubescat amatus." (70)
ibat adhuc in verba dolor ni pinniger audax
dimittens matrem fricuisset cote sagittas.
arcu cinctus erat, dantur post terga pharetrae
accipit et flammas hominum divumque voluptas.
evolat armatus. vix caelum liquerat ales (75)
iamque tenet terras: sic currit mentis acumen.
ut venit ad fontem, lapidem proiecit in undas
concussit vitreo sonitus sub fonte puellas.
exiliunt cunctae, quaerunt quae causa quietas
sollicitet. Volucer fugiens nemus intrat opacum (80)
moxque dei vultus vestivit imago Naidis,
tendit membra puer longos ut crescat in artus
ut possit complere dolos ac iussa parentis
glauca pedes flutans vestis laxatur ad imos
candida diffusi ludunt per colla capilli (85)
Et vento crispante gradu coma fluctuat acta
frons nudata decet diviso fulgida crine
et velut invitos gressus pudibunda movebat
incedens fluxoque latent sub tegmine pinnae.
Misceturque puer Nymphis sub fronte puellae (90)
et causas perquirit Amor cur fonte relicto
terras cauta petit, facilis cui turba fluenti
rem pandit. periurat Amor quasi nescius esset.
Interea post bella suis Tirynthius ibat
victor ovans, cui iunctus Ylas pulcherrimus haeret (95)
gestans fulminei pellem cum dentibus apri
et licet invalidus haec pondera ferre laborat
ipse tamen gaudet quasi iam commune trophaeum
gestet et Alcides non solus fuderit aprum.
Horrent Alcidem Nymphae mirantur Ylanque (100)
Ex quibus una tamen cunctas adfata sorores
haec ait: "O faciles Penei numina Nymphae
dicite quando parem puerum natura dedisset.
Non fuit Hippolytus talis, non pastor ab Ida,
Nocturnae fulgore deae non pulcher Iason (105)
nec Bromius iam alis erit nec magnus Apollo.
Felix sorte sua cui talis semper imago
serviet et roseis recubans dabit oscula labris."
Cum nimium laudatur Ylas, se subtrahit ales
et profert arcum permiscens mella venenis (110)
armat tela dolis et spargit spicula Nymphis.
Pallescunt omnes, subitus rubor inficit ora,
tendunt membra simul, cunctis respirat hiatus
oris et ad crines digiti mittuntur amantum
incipiunt fari mediaque in voce resistunt: (115)
tot signis vulgatur amor. Clymeneque sorores
alloquitur: "Placet almus Ylas rapiatur in undas
ut sit noster amor. nec erit mihi crimen amanti:
Dione Paridem, Lycastum zelat Amazon,
Pulcher amatur Adon, Furias amat ipse Cupido: (120)
Quod caelum quod terra fretum quod sidera Pluton
exercent per saecla diu, cur Nympha veretur?"
Cum loquitur, cantabat Ylas fontemque petebat
hauriturus aquas. Urnam licet ipse tenebat,
ut puer est visus, faciles risere puellae (125)
et lautum venisse putant. placet omnibus idem:
vix urnam submisit aquis dextramque tetendit:
cum quo se Nymphae pariter mersere sub undas.
Expavuit sic raptus Ylas pavidusque petebat
herbida quo vitreum tellus perfuderat antrum (130).
Deiopea tamen cunctas hortata sorores
alloquitur puerum: "Non te decet ora rigare
fletibus, alme puer, ploret deformis imago,
non est flere tuum, mundum tibi nullus ademit.
Nos rosa, nos violae, nos lilia pulchra coronat (135)
nos Hyacinthus amat, noster Narcissus a undis:
fontigenis dat serta comis redimitque capillos
quidquid floris olet quidquid dant prata ruboris.
Tu noster iam sponsus eris sine fine dierum."
His dictis mentem pueri mulcebat amica. (140)
Interea furibundus adhuc Tirynthius ibat
et clamans quaerebat Ylan, cui littus et unda
Herculea cum voce sonant, et nomen amati
montes silva vocant, tantum fons ille tacebat
in quo raptus Ylas: cum iam remearet ad astra (145)
post factum pinnatus Amor matrique triumphum
adportaret ovans, vocem deus Herculis hausit
et gemitus quaerentis Ylan. cui gesta fatetur,
Alcidis comitem fontis rapuisse puellas,
ignibus Idaliis exutas Herculeas spes. (150)
Obriguit gemuitque simul clavamque remisit:
"O frustra nutrite puer, spectator ubique
virtutis per cuncta meae. Te teste pericla
saepe tuli cum victus aper, cum fracta leonis
colla Cleonae telo parcente necantur (155)
cum simul Antaeum rapui telluris alumnum.
Quis mihi sudorem lasso post proelia terget?
Quis comes alter erit cum dat fera bella noverca?
Quid matri narrabo tuae quae te mihi parvum
deposuit, pietatis inops quae pignora reddam (160)
cum conventus ero? Dicam tamen ipse parenti:
"Exulta, genetrix, nimium laetare, beata
ante parens hominis, pulchri modo numinis auctor."
From: Dracontius, his student
Re: The story of Hylas told in trochaic meter
Ancient literature tells us that the bard Orpheus sang a sweet song by striking his lyre string with a plectrum as he wandered among the ash trees, along the streams and cold mountains.
And a gentle flock of sheep followed him, accompanied by ferocious beasts. The animals, hearing the sweet songs played by his strumming thumbs (5), stood there amazed! Then the predators lost their appetite; the prey lost their panic. Tame was the tiger. Bold was the buck. Gentle was the bear. The lamb didn’t fear the wolf, the goat didn’t fear the lion. The hare—already caught—no longer feared the hound. But by his craft, Orpheus and his Muse-like harp brought harmony to things that nature kept apart.
O blessed father, O my teacher, you should also be praised with song! You are the one who brought a literary renaissance to our African city; you are the one who brought Latin culture back to the barbaric stage. I’m always amazed by your works, Professor! (15) The sweetest songs come from your mouth.
Sir, I pray that you indulge my prayers, and, as your wont, don’t reject my work. Praise me not out of your own kindness, but how I perform. Although I’m not very good, I must however try. (20) Therefore I beg you, please praise my work.
The Myth of Hylas
I shall sing of a boy’s fate overturned by the lust of nymphs. Please help me, Muse: what event took Hercules’ companion [comitem] away from him, the sweet comfort of his troubles?
Winged Cupid hopped into his mother’s lap. He wrapped his arms around her neck in an embrace, and asked her for a kiss. (5) His mother Venus kissed him on the cheek, then opened her rosy mouth to say, “O Champion of Heaven and Earth, I beg your favor! Cupid, by your weapons anointed with targeted flames (10), I beg you that you listen to your parent’s prayers. Son, I beg you a favor. It’s not a difficult task, even though you could easily accomplish an even more difficult one.”
Cupid interrupted his mother’s words. “Sure, mom, tell me what you need. (15) Who’s your target—a god or a person? Who’ll burn next? Tell me; they’re a goner! Why are you crying?
If you want, I can even make Jupiter himself burn with love! The Lord of Heaven will transform (20) into a bull [myth of Io], forgetting his stars. He’ll moo through the meadows, seeking a cow through the fields. Let his golden shower pour out wealth below, like rain over houses [myth of Danae]. Let him be a winged eagle [myth of Ganymede], or a satyr, or a swan [myth of Leda], or his own daughter [myth of Callisto], or a serpent. Let him love Alcmena [Hercules’ mother] disguised as a soldier, wearing a helmet, (25) a dagger, and a bronze shield, as the Thunderer wooes another man’s wife; let him extend the night by removing the light of day.
If you prefer, let Pallas Athena feel my flames. Although she is now a fierce virgin, let her flee her manly strengths, and let her crumble to my will. And she will toss aside her spear, and take up woman’s work [spinning wool]. (30)
My passion is my guiding star [Sirius].
Neptune, panting, burns amid his own waves; my weapons set him alight. Even water itself is conquered by my fire; in the boiling waves, Galatea will love the merfolk, and the dolphins will love Thetis. I’ll set aflame with my arrows whatever lives under the sea. (35)
Or, Mother, if you want me to kindle the hearts of men and make them do dastardly deeds with love, I’ll make an impious daughter seek her father’s kisses, or I’ll make a son become his mother’s lover. Or I’ll make a brother violate his sister, or I’ll make a loving stepmother be conquered by a stepson (40). There will be another Perdicca; there will be another Myrrha. There will be another Jupiter on earth, the husband of a sister. But I’ve said enough. If you want, another king’s wife will burn for a bull, and another Phaedra will return.”
 Delighted by her son’s words, Venus smiled and explained:
“Naughty boy, under whose tread is all that nature has created, (the sky, the sea, the stars, and the earth), let no one note that Venus, the mother of Love, was suppliant to ask her son for *fire*. Although we share this power, sweetheart, I’ll let you know (50) what you can do for me. If you want to avenge your parent’s lament, then listen up, and I’ll tell you, sweetheart:
Well, it shames me to say this, but there’s a flock of nymphs that hang out around Peneus’ spring. Clymene, the Sun’s beloved (55), gossips about my indiscretions to the other nymphs. She tells them that her own beloved Sun caught sight of me, when Vulcan chained me and Mars together, catching us in an act of adultery [Book VIII of Homer’s Odyssey]. She tells whoever she likes about my trauma. If they wanted to sing about me, son, then they could sing about my other deeds, like the Judgment of Paris or my other triumphs (60). These nymphs should get what’s coming to them. I’m really upset about this. So burn their hearts with arrows, or touch their loins with sweet poison. Let THEM know what love is; let these girls learn about your power.
Hercules has a companion [comes]: he’s tender in years (65). He’s red as a rose, he has a milky white complexion. There’s a scarlet flame of a mouth floats upon his delicate snow-white face. Once they see this boy, the crowd of nymphs will go wild! I pray that this will be their punishment for their guilt: let their prayers for fulfilment drag on and on until their beloved reaches adulthood (70).”
Still riled up by her words, the bold winged Cupid left his mother’s side, and got ready. He sharpened his arrowheads with a whetstone, armed himself with a bow, put a quiver on his back. Then he flew off, armed and ready.
In a flash he cut through the air and arrived on earth. When he got to the spring, he tossed a pebble into the water to disturb the water nymphs under the glassy waves. They rose up together, wondering what had disturbed the surface.
The winged boy fled to a dark grove (80) and soon transformed into another Naiad. He smoothed out, then lengthened his limbs to fulfill the charade and his mother’s orders. A sea green dress fell to his ankles; long hair fell down her tender neck. Her hair fluttered in the shivering wind (85) as she took each step. She removed the parts below that would get in the way of her gait, and hid her wings under her cloak.
The boy in disguise as a girl mingled with the other nymphs, and helped them look for the cause of the ripple. When Cupid asked them why they went onto the land, the easy-going crowd of nymphs told him. He pretended he didn’t know the reason.
While that was going on, Hercules had finished a recent battle and was making his way onwards, rejoicing in his victories. At his side was the beautiful Hylas (95); the youth was carrying the pelt and teeth of a cursed boar. Although he struggled under the weight of the prize, the youth was proud to be part of the victory, as if Hercules hadn’t killed the beast alone.
The nymphs shook in fear at the sight of Hercules, but lusted after Hylas (100).
One of the nymphs addressed her sisters:
“O cheerful nymphs of Peneus’ river, tell me how nature has ever made a boy equal to his one? Maybe Hippolytus? Nope. What about Paris? Nope. Jason (105), made beautiful the shimmer of the nocturnal goddess,? Nope. What about Bromius? Nope! Not even Apollo! Blessed is the one who gets to be ordered around by that pretty little face, who kisses those rosy lips!”
As he hears them praise Hylas, Cupid withdrew from the crowd, and readied his bow. Mixing honey and poison (110), he tipped his arrows with the potion and began shooting the nymphs. One by one they all went pale, then blushed. All at once they gasped, and ran their fingers through their hair, and tried to speak, (115) but faltered. Behold the signs of love!
Clymene told her sisters:
“So it’s agreed; I’ll drag the sweet Hylas into the water and he can be *our* [noster] love. It’s not such a bad act for a lover to do: Dione loved Paris; the Amazon loved Lycastus; the beautiful Adonis had his lover; even Cupid himself loves the Furies (120)! Why would a nymph be forbidden to do what Pluto did so long ago, what the heavens, and the earth, and the seas, and the stars all do?”
While she was talking, Hylas was singing to himself as he was bending over the spring, seeking the water. Although he held a jug, clearly intent on gathering water, the giggling girls (125) imagined that he would bathe there. The nymphs all agreed on the plan: as soon as he lowered the jug, dipping his right hand into the water, the nymphs grabbed him and pulled him underwater. Now captured, Hylas panics and desperately reaches for the shore (130).
Deiopea cheers her sisters on, and then tells the boy,
“Aww, don’t spoil your pretty little face with tears, sweetheart, you’re so much prettier when you smile. You don’t look pretty when you cry; no one will mar your beauty. Roses, violets, pretty lilies adorn us; (135) Hyacinthus loves us, Narcissus rises up from the waves to is adorn us. All the pretty flowers of the fields adorn our water-waving hair! You will now be our spouse until the end of days.” Saying this, his new lover [amica] soothes the boy’s mind (140).
And Hercules was running around in crazed panic, calling out for Hylas. The shore and the waves resound with Hercules’ voice; the forest echoes with the name of his beloved, but the spring where the youth was kidnapped remained silent.
Already the winged Cupid had returned (145) to the stars from his task on earth, and returned to his cheering mother.
But the god kept hearing Hercules’ voice, the upset tone and his searching cries for Hylas. So he told the whole matter to Hercules, and explained that the girls had stolen his companion.
Hercules’ hopes were dashed by Cupid’s words (150). He dropped his club and collapsed to the ground, crying,
“O youth raised in vain! You shared my victories, you witnessed all of my dangers as I took on each labor. You were there when I defeated a boar, when I spared the citizens of Nemea from death by breaking the neck of a lion (155). You were there when I snatched up Antaeus from his nourishing earth. Who bathed the sweat from my tired form after each battle? Who will be my companion when my stepmom [Hera/Juno] gives me new challenges? What will I tell your mother? She entrusted you to me when you were little—what will I say when I return home without you? (160) I will be the one to tell her. I will tell her, ‘Rejoice, mother, be super happy! You are more blessed than all parents, for you have created an angel!’ ”
Date: 455 – 505 CE
Dracontius was a Christian Latin poet from Carthage who lived during the 5th century CE. His works blend Greco-Roman mythology and Christian themes.
BYZANTINE / LATE LATIN