Book: Daphnis and Chloe
Author: Longus, translated by Phiroze Vasunia
Publisher: Penguin (Little Black Classics series)
Format Read: Paperback
The grove was beautiful, full of trees and flowers and flowing water, and a single spring nourished everything…”
Longus, “Daphnis and Chloe”, translated by Phiroze Vasunia
Classified as an ancient Greek novel, “Daphnis and Chloe” is a pastoral romance, usually dated to the 2nd or 3rd century A.D. Not much is known about the author Longus. He does say that he was hunting in Lesbos, and that he found a painting in the grove of the Nymphs, and that he wove the story of the painting in words. And from those words came the story of the young man Daphnis, the goatherd, and the young woman Chloe, the shepherd.
Both of them were adopted – and both were suckled by animals for a short period of time. Dryas and Lamon, their fathers, are told in a dream to send their children off to become a goatherd and shepherd, presumably so they can meet. Neither father is happy about this choice of vocation, but the dream was sent by the Nymphs, and there can be no defiance.
“Daphnis and Chloe” is a simply told tale, heavy on the romance. Both protagonists are naïve and when they discover their feelings for each other, neither knows what to do. Which leads to some comical scenes. And of course they cannot take their eyes off each other, for has not Eros put a spell on them? But before that happy conclusion where they can finally be together, there are challenges. Rival suitors and fledgling jealously, and a disgruntled rival bemoaning the loss of his best cheeses. Raider attacks. A hint of the supernatural. Daphnis is handsome and Chloe is beautiful, and both are really, really awkward.
Also, the pastoral countryside, the customs of the time and the uniqueness of the religion of the area are all drawn out skilfully, providing a wondrous glimpse into an ancient time, beautifully told. The translation in this one is natural and fluid.
The Penguin Little Black Classics edition simply presents the text of “Daphnis and Chloe” – there are no introductions, or notes, or footnotes. I didn’t have a problem with that though because the story tells itself eloquently.
This book definitely grabbed my interest. Also, for me, “Daphnis and Chloe” was a happy read.