Ptolemy and Theocritus

  Ptolemy . Pleasant art thou, Theocritos! The pair
Thou broughtest forward to our festival
Of yesterday, Praxinoe and Gorgo,
Are worthy pair for Aristophanes,
Had he been living, to have brought on stage:
Even grave Menander, wittiest of the wise,
Had smiled and caught thee by the hand for this.
  Theocritos . Ah! to be witty is hard work sometimes.
'Tis easier to lie down along the grass.
Where there is any, grass there none is here.
  Ptolemy . But here are couches where we may repose
And dream as easily. Thy dreams were all
For Sicily, about the Nymphs and swains.
  Theocritos . It seems an easier matter to compose
Idyls of shepherds and of little Gods
Than great heroic men.
  Ptolemy . Thou hast done both.
  Theocritos . Neither is easy. Grass in Sicily
Is slippery, scant the turf and hard to tread.
The sheep oft wonder, and crowd close, at sight
Of venturous shepherd, putting pipe to lip
And, ere he blow it, sprawling heels in air.
I have sung hymns; but hymns with fuller breath
Are chaunted by my friend Kallimakos.
  Ptolemy. Friend! O strange man! poet call poet friend!
 If my good genius brought thee hither, thanks
We both may pay him.
  Theocritos . Well indeed may I.
  Ptolemy . What! for disturbing dreams of Nymphs and swains,
And whispering leaves of platan and of pine?
Sweet whispers! but with sweeter underneath.
  Theocritos . No; but for banishing far different ones,
Such as were facts in our fair Sicily.
Had kings like Ptolemy been living then,
However far removed this empire lies,
Phalaris never had shut up within
His brazen bull the bravest and the best.
  Ptolemy . Kings have their duties: it concerns them all
To take good heed that none betray their trust,
Lest odious be the name, and they themselves
Fall thro the crime of one: the crowns they wear
Make some hot-headed, nearly all weak-eyed.
 'Tis written how this bull went close behind,
Bellowing his thunders, belching smoke and flame,
Wherever that king went.
  Theocritos . No fiction, sire,
Of poets, or historians, who feign more.
  Ptolemy . Pleasanter in our Ægypt be thy dreams!
Come, let me hear the latest; speak it out.
  Theocritos . Last night, beneath the shadow of a sphynx
I fancied I was lying, and I dream'd
Only of placid Gods and generous kings.
  Ptolemy . Knave! knave! on neither shall thy dream be vain.
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