Silenus to a Young Satyr [poem by Louis Esson]

[Editor: This poem by Louis Esson was published in Bells and Bees: Verses (1910).]

Silenus to a Young Satyr

(Suggested by a Picture of Botticelli)

First, you will tread ripe grapes which bursting gleam
And bubble, oozing in pale purple stream.

Huge flagons you will quaff, wanton, carouse,
But nothing lose save sorrow; you will drowse

In amorous nook, and dream, tasting divine
Indolence, sleepy with the fumes of wine.

Then you will be a hunter, keen to snare
Squirrel and deer, brown nymph in lilied lair,

And twitch a maenad’s robe where graces glow
Like cherries peeping from a nest of snow.

The flute you’ll play, and make mad cymbals’ din,
Leap, riot, and dance, till stars no more can spin,

For you will follow Bacchus ever young
Aegean Isles and Indian Vales among,

And goat-hooved, twain-horned Pan; in wanderings
You’ll learn the causes and the trend of things.

Sturdy and joyous, earth-born, but no smart
Of mortal pain can pierce your gladsome heart.

Snub-nosed, tub-bellied, goat-like eared, with small
Stiff tail and bristly hair, though Hesiod call

Us ugly, good for nothing, poets know
We cracked the nuts of knowledge long ago,

And old Silenus, spite red bleary eyes,
Knows more of wisdom than the seeming wise.

Head over heels you tumble, just like that
I romped with Gods and Men ere I grew fat.

Bring wine, a gushing horn of wine, your master
Loves quick-wit youth; run fast, you rogue, fast . . . faster!


Louis Esson, Bells and Bees: Verses, Melbourne: Thomas C. Lothian, 1910, [pages 26-27]

Editor’s notes:
Bacchus = (also known as Dionysos) in Greek mythology, the god of wine and of the grape harvest

Botticelli = Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi (1445-1510), known as Sandro Botticelli, an Italian painter of the Florentine Renaissance

ere = before (from the Middle English “er”, itself from the Old English “aer”, meaning early or soon)

Hesiod = Greek poet, believed to have been active around 750 BC to 650 BC

maenad = in Greek mythology, female followers of Dionysus (the god of fruitfulness and vegetation, particularly known as the god of ecstasy and wine)

nymph = in Greek and Roman mythology, young beautiful nubile women, with a propensity to dance, sing, and frolic; they were a class of deity who were not immortal but had very long lives; the dwelling places of most nymphs were generally depicted as being forests, groves, and mountains, and in or nearby lakes, springs, and streams, although there were also sea nymphs

Pan = in Greek mythology, Pan was the god of shepherds, hunting, and music

satyr = in Greek mythology, a class of forest deity who appeared as part-man and part-animal, often depicted with heads and bodies like men, and with legs and tails like horses (or like goats, in Roman mythology), known for their drunkenness, lasciviousness, and robust partying behavior; may also refer to a man who is lascivious, a lecher, or who has strong sexual desires

Silenus = in Greek mythology, a companion of Dionysus (the god of fruitfulness and vegetation, particularly known as the god of ecstasy and wine) with the attributes of a horse (he was depicted as having the ears of a horse, sometimes also depicted with the tail and legs of a horse), who was usually drunk from the consumption of too much wine

spite = an abbreviation of “despite” (distinct from “spite”, meaning to regard someone with hatred or ill will; wanting to annoy, irritate, offend, or upset; a desire to defeat, harm, injure, or vex someone; to be full of petty malice; to hold a grudge)

twain = (archaic) two (from the Old English word “twegen”, meaning “two”); especially known for the phrase “never the twain shall meet” (from the line “Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet”, as used by the poet Rudyard Kipling, at the start of the poem “The Ballad of East and West”, which was included in Barrack-room Ballads and Other Verses, 1892)

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