203. Daphnis and Chloe by ‘Longus’ (2nd century AD)

Plot: Young and innocent teens Daphnis (a goatherd) and Chloe (a shepherdess) fall in love in the idyllic rural countryside. My version was the Penguin Classic translated by Paul Turner (0140440593)

My thoughts:   A short and very easy read. I couldn’t help feeling for these sweet lovers who are so naive and innocent that they cannot work out how to do more than kiss and embrace despite being in charge of herds of animals through the year. One of the young wives in the village shows Daphnis how to make love (satisfying her own lust in the process) but he is so scared of hurting Chloe that he will not take things that far. Oh, and there are pirates, soldiers and suitors to escape, and birthrights to claim before the happy ending, where all are forgiven and the wedding takes place in the rural setting where even the goats are invited. (Not much of a spoiler really.)

Before I even got past the first paragraph of the introduction, this story had been described as “a masterpiece” (Goethe), “obscene” (Elizabeth Barrett Browning), “a most sweet and pleasant pastoral romance for young ladies” (George Thornley) and “mildly pornographic”. The truth is probably a blend of the last two descriptions, but very very mild. The youthfulness of Daphnis (15) and Chloe (13) is tempered by their mutual devotion to each other, their extreme innocence and the love and support of their parents and the Gods.

The peaceful and idyllic nature of the countryside is such an overwhelming presence in the story. Not sure about the apples though ….

“It was now the end of spring and the beginning of summer, and everything was at its best. There was fruit on the trees and corn in the fields ; there was a pleasant sound of grasshoppers, a sweet smell of fruit, and a cheerful bleating of sheep. You would have thought that the very streams were singing as they gently flowed along, that the winds were making music as they breathed among the pines, that the apples were dropping on to the ground because they were in love, and the sun was making everybody undress because he loved to see beauty”     pages 34-35.

“There was shade in summer, and flowers in springtime, and fruit in autumn, and delight all the year round”  page 96

Nothing is known of the author, or even if Longus was actually even a name. Perhaps he was the scriptwriter for the movie The Blue Lagoon.

Personal rating: Sweet. Easily a 7/10


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