One-Act Plays
Comedies | Dramas | Playwrights | Cast-Size

a play in one-act

by Theocritus

The following one-act play is reprinted from Theocritus. Trans. C. S. Calverley. London: Bell and Daldy, 1869. It is now in the public domain and may therefore be performed without royalties.



COMETAS: Goats, from a shepherd who stands here, from Lacon, keep away:
Sibyrtas owns him; and he stole my goatskin yesterday.

LACON: Hi! lambs! avoid yon fountain. Have ye not eyes to see
Cometas, him who filched a pipe but two days back from me?

COMETAS: Sibyrtas' bondsman own a pipe? whence gotst thou that, and how?
Tootling through straws with Corydon mayhap's beneath thee now?

LACON: 'Twas Lycon's gift, your highness. But pray, Cometas, say,
What is that skin wherewith thou saidst that Lacon walked away?
Why, thy lord's self had ne'er a skin whereon his limbs to lay.

COMETAS: The skin that Crocylus gave me, a dark one streaked with white,
The day he slew his she-goat. Why, thou wert ill with spite,
Then, my false friend; and thou would'st end by beggaring me quite.

LACON: Did Lacon, did Calaethis' son purloin a goatskin? No,
By Pan that haunts the sea-beach! Lad, if I served thee so,
Crazed may I drop from yon hill-top to Crathis' stream below!

COMETAS: Nor pipe of thine, good fellow--the Ladies of the Lake
So be still kind and good to me--did e'er Cometas take.

LACON: Be Daphnis' woes my portion, should that my credence win!
Still, if thou list to stake a kid--that surely were no sin--
Come on, I'll sing it out with thee--until thou givest in.

COMETAS: 'The hog he braved Athene.' As for the kid, 'tis there:
You stake a lamb against him--that fat one--if you dare.

LACON: Fox! were that fair for either? At shearing who'd prefer
Horsehair to wool? or when the goat stood handy, suffer her
To nurse her firstling, and himself go milk a blatant cur?

COMETAS: The same who deemed his hornet's-buzz the true cicala's note,
And braved--like you--his better. And so forsooth you vote
My kid a trifle? Then come on, fellow! I stake the goat.

LACON: Why be so hot? Art thou on fire? First prythee take thy seat
'Neath this wild woodland olive: thy tones will sound more sweet.
Here falls a cold rill drop by drop, and green grass-blades uprear
Their heads, and fallen leaves are thick, and locusts prattle here.

COMETAS: Hot I am not; but hurt I am, and sorely, when I think
That thou canst look me in the face and never bleach nor blink--
Me, thine own boyhood's tutor! Go, train the she-wolf's brood:
Train dogs--that they may rend thee! This, this is gratitude!

LACON: When learned I from thy practice or thy preaching aught that's right,
Thou puppet, thou misshapen lump of ugliness and spite?

COMETAS: When? When I beat thee, wailing sore: yon goats looked on with glee,
And bleated; and were dealt with e'en as I had dealt with thee.

LACON: Well, hunchback, shallow be thy grave as was thy judgment then!
But hither, hither! Thou'lt not dip in herdsman's lore again.

COMETAS: Nay, here are oaks and galingale: the hum of housing bees
Makes the place pleasant, and the birds are piping in the trees.
And here are two cold streamlets; here deeper shadows fall
Than yon place owns, and look what cones drop from the pinetree tall.

LACON: Come hither, and tread on lambswool that is soft as any dream:
Still more unsavoury than thyself to me thy goatskins seem.
Here will I plant a bowl of milk, our ladies' grace to win;
And one, as huge, beside it, sweet olive-oil therein.

COMETAS: Come hither, and trample dainty fern and poppy-blossom: sleep
On goatskins that are softer than thy fleeces piled three deep.
Here will I plant eight milkpails, great Pan's regard to gain,
Bound them eight cups: full honeycombs shall every cup contain.

LACON: Well! there essay thy woodcraft: thence fight me, never budge
From thine own oak; e'en have thy way. But who shall be our judge?
Oh, if Lycopas with his kine should chance this way to trudge!

COMETAS: Nay, I want no Lycopas. But hail yon woodsman, do:
'Tis Morson--see! his arms are full of bracken--there, by you.

LACON: We'll hail him.

COMETAS: Ay, you hail him.

LACON: Friend, 'twill not take thee long:
We're striving which is master, we twain, in woodland song:
And thou, my good friend Morson, ne'er look with favouring eyes
On me; nor yet to yonder lad be fain to judge the prize.

COMETAS: Nay, by the Nymphs, sweet Morson, ne'er for Cometas' sake
Stretch thou a point; nor e'er let him undue advantage take.
Sibyrtas owns yon wethers; a Thurian is he:
And here, my friend, Eumares' goats, of Sybaris, you may see.

LACON: And who asked thee, thou naughty knave, to whom belonged these flocks,
Sibyrtas, or (it might be) me? Eh, thou'rt a chatter-box!

COMETAS: The simple truth, most worshipful, is all that I allege:
I'm not for boasting. But thy wit hath all too keen an edge.

LACON: Come sing, if singing's in thee--and may our friend get back
To town alive! Heaven help us, lad, how thy tongue doth clack!

COMETAS: [Sings] Daphnis the mighty minstrel was less precious to the Nine
Than I. I offered yesterday two kids upon their shrine.

LACON. [Sings] Ay, but Apollo fancies me hugely: for him I rear
A lordly ram: and, look you, the Carnival is near.

COMETAS: Twin kids hath every goat I milk, save two. My maid, my own,
Eyes me and asks 'At milking time, rogue, art thou all alone?'

LACON: Go to! nigh twenty baskets doth Lacon fill with cheese:
Hath time to woo a sweetheart too upon the blossomed leas.

COMETAS: Clarissa pelts her goatherd with apples, should he stray
By with his goats; and pouts her lip in a quaint charming way.

LACON: Me too a darling smooth of face notes as I tend my flocks:
How maddeningly o'er that fair neck ripple those shining locks!

COMETAS: Tho' dogrose and anemone are fair in their degree,
The rose that blooms by garden-walls still is the rose for me.

LACON: Tho' acorns' cups are fair, their taste is bitterness, and still
I'll choose, for honeysweet are they, the apples of the hill.

COMETAS: A cushat I will presently procure and give to her
Who loves me: I know where it sits; up in the juniper.

LACON: Pooh! a soft fleece, to make a coat, I'll give the day I shear
My brindled ewe--(no hand but mine shall touch it)--to my dear.

COMETAS: Back, lambs, from that wild-olive: and be content to browse
Here on the shoulder of the hill, beneath the myrtle boughs.

LACON: Run, (will ye?) Ball and Dogstar, down from that oak tree, run:
And feed where Spot is feeding, and catch the morning sun.

COMETAS: I have a bowl of cypress-wood: I have besides a cup:
Praxiteles designed them: for her they're treasured up.

LACON: I have a dog who throttles wolves: he loves the sheep, and they
Love him: I'll give him to my dear, to keep wild beasts at bay.

COMETAS: Ye locusts that o'erleap my fence, oh let my vines escape
Your clutches, I beseech you: the bloom is on the grape.

LACON: Ye crickets, mark how nettled our friend the goatherd is!
I ween, ye cost the reapers pangs as acute as his.

COMETAS: Those foxes with their bushy tails, I hate to see them crawl
Round Micon's homestead and purloin his grapes at evenfall.

LACON: I hate to see the beetles that come warping on the wind.
And climb Philondas' trees, and leave never a fig behind.

COMETAS: Have you forgot that cudgelling I gave you? At each stroke
You grinned and twisted with a grace, and clung to yonder oak.

LACON: That I've forgot--but I have not, how once Eumares tied
You to that selfsame oak-trunk, and tanned your unclean hide.

COMETAS: There's some one ill--of heartburn. You note it, I presume,
Morson? Go quick, and fetch a squill from some old beldam's tomb.

LACON: I think I'm stinging somebody, as Morson too perceives--
Go to the river and dig up a clump of sowbread-leaves.

COMETAS: May Himera flow, not water, but milk: and may'st thou blush,
Crathis, with wine; and fruitage grow upon every rush.

LACON: For me may Sybaris' fountain flow, pure honey: so that you,
My fair, may dip your pitcher each morn in honey-dew.

COMETAS: My goats are fed on clover and goat's-delight: they tread
On lentisk leaves; or lie them down, ripe strawberries o'er their head.

LACON: My sheep crop honeysuckle bloom, while all around them blows
In clusters rich the jasmine, as brave as any rose.

COMETAS: I scorn my maid; for when she took my cushat, she did not
Draw with both hands my face to hers and kiss me on the spot.

LACON: I love my love, and hugely: for, when I gave my flute,
I was rewarded with a kiss, a loving one to boot.

COMETAS: Lacon, the nightingale should scarce be challenged by the jay,
Nor swan by hoopoe: but, poor boy, thou aye wert for a fray.

MORSON: I bid the shepherd hold his peace. Cometas, unto you
I, Morson, do adjudge the lamb. You'll first make offering due
Unto the nymphs: then savoury meat you'll send to Morson too.

COMETAS: By Pan I will! Snort, all my herd of he-goats: I shall now
O'er Lacon, shepherd as he is, crow ye shall soon see how.
I've won, and I could leap sky-high! Ye also dance and skip,
My horned ewes: in Sybaris' fount to-morrow all shall dip.
Ho! you, sir, with the glossy coat and dangerous crest; you dare
Look at a ewe, till I have slain my lamb, and ill you'll fare.
What! is he at his tricks again? He is, and he will get
(Or my name's not Cometas) a proper pounding yet.


Browse more Plays by Theocritus