J.W. Mackail, Select Epigrams from The Greek Anthology. Edited with a Revised Text, Introduction, Translation, and Notes
(London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1890), pp. 46-47 (from Introduction, § IX):
In revulsion from the immense accumulation of material wealth in this period, a certain refined simplicity was then the ideal of the best minds, as it was afterwards in the early Roman Empire, as it is in our own day. The charm of the country was, perhaps for the first time, fully realised; the life of gardens became a passion, and hardly less so the life of the opener air, of the hill and meadow, of the shepherd and hunter, the farmer and fisherman. The rules of art, like the demands of heaven, were best satisfied with small and simple offerings. 'The least of a little'3 was sufficient to lay before gods who had no need of riches; and as the art of the epigrammatist grew more refined, the poet took pride in working with the slightest materials. The husbandman lays a handful of corn-ears before Demeter, the gardener a basket of ripe fruit at the feet of Priapus; the implements of their craft are dedicated by the carpenter and the goldsmith; the young girl and the aged woman offer their even slighter gift, the spindle and distaff, the reel of wool, and the rush-woven basket.4 A staff of wild-olive cut in the coppice is accepted by the lord of the myriad-boughed forest; the Muses are pleased with their bunch of roses wet with morning dew.5 The boy Daphnis offers his fawnskin and scrip of apples to the great divinity of Pan;6 the young herdsman and his newly-married wife, still with the rose-garland on her hair, make prayer and thanksgiving with a cream cheese and a piece of honeycomb to the mistress of a hundred cities, Aphrodite with her house of gold.7 The hard and laborious life of the small farmer was touched with some-[p. 47]thing of the natural magic that saturates the Georgics; 'rich with fair fleeces, and fair wine, and fair fruit of corn,' and blessed by the gracious Seasons whose feet pass over the furrows.1 On the green slope Pan himself makes solitary music to the shepherd in the divine silence of the hills.2 The fancy of three brothers, a hunter, a fowler, and a fisherman, meeting to make dedication of the spoils of their crafts to the country-god, was one which had a special charm for epigrammatists; it is treated by no less than nine poets, whose dates stretch over as many centuries.3 Sick of cities, the imagination turned to an Arcadia that thenceforth was to fill all poetry with the music of its names and the fresh chill of its pastoral air; the lilied banks of Ladon, the Erymanthian water, the deep woodland of Pholoë and the grey steep of Cyllene.4 Nature grew full of a fresh and lovely divinity. A spirit dwells under the sea, and looks with kind eyes on the creatures that go up and down in its depths; Artemis flashes by in the rustle of the windswept oakwood, and the sombre shade of the pines makes a roof for Pan; the wild hill becomes a sanctuary, for ever unsown and unmown, where the Spirit of Nature, remote and invisible, feeds his immortal flock and fulfils his desire.5
3 Ibid. [Anth. Pal.] vi.98, ἐκ μικρῶν ὀλίγιστα.
4Ibid. vi. 98, 102; 103, 92; 174, 247.
5 Ibid. vi.3, 336.
6 Ibid. vi.177.
7 Ibid. vi.55; cf. vi.119, xii.131.
1 Anth. Pal. vi.31, 98.
2 App. Plan. 17; cf. Lucret. v.1387.
3 Anth. Pal. vi.11-16, and 179-187. The poets are Leonidas of Tarentum, Alcaeus of Messene, Antipater of Sidon, Alexander, Julius Diocles, Satyrus, Archias, Zosimus and Julianus Aegyptius.
4 Anth. Pal. vi.111, App. Plan. 188: compare Song iii. in Milton's Arcades.
5 Anth. Pal. x.8; vi.253, 268; vi.79.