ECLOGUE IV: POLLIO
Muses of Sicily, essay we now
a somewhat loftier task! Not all men love
coppice or lowly tamarisk: sing we woods,
woods worthy of a Consul let them be.
Now the last age by Cumae’s Sibyl sung
has come and gone, and the majestic roll
of circling centuries begins anew:
justice returns, returns old Saturn’s reign,
with a new breed of men sent down from heaven.
Only do thou, at the boy’s birth in whom
the iron shall cease, the golden race arise,
befriend him, chaste Lucina; ’tis thine own
apollo reigns. And in thy consulate,
this glorious age, O Pollio, shall begin,
and the months enter on their mighty march.
Under thy guidance, whatso tracks remain
of our old wickedness, once done away,
shall free the earth from never-ceasing fear.
He shall receive the life of gods, and see
heroes with gods commingling, and himself
be seen of them, and with his father’s worth
reign o’er a world at peace. For thee, O boy,
first shall the earth, untilled, pour freely forth
her childish gifts, the gadding ivy-spray
with foxglove and Egyptian bean-flower mixed,
and laughing-eyed acanthus. Of themselves,
untended, will the she-goats then bring home
their udders swollen with milk, while flocks afield
shall of the monstrous lion have no fear.
Thy very cradle shall pour forth for thee
caressing flowers. The serpent too shall die,
die shall the treacherous poison-plant, and far
and wide Assyrian spices spring. But soon
as thou hast skill to read of heroes’ fame,
and of thy father’s deeds, and inly learn
what virtue is, the plain by slow degrees
with waving corn-crops shall to golden grow,
from the wild briar shall hang the blushing grape,
and stubborn oaks sweat honey-dew. Nathless
yet shall there lurk within of ancient wrong
some traces, bidding tempt the deep with ships,
gird towns with walls, with furrows cleave the earth.
Therewith a second Tiphys shall there be,
her hero-freight a second Argo bear;
new wars too shall arise, and once again
some great Achilles to some Troy be sent.
Then, when the mellowing years have made thee man,
no more shall mariner sail, nor pine-tree bark
ply traffic on the sea, but every land
shall all things bear alike: the glebe no more
shall feel the harrow’s grip, nor vine the hook;
the sturdy ploughman shall loose yoke from steer,
nor wool with varying colours learn to lie;
but in the meadows shall the ram himself,
now with soft flush of purple, now with tint
of yellow saffron, teach his fleece to shine.
While clothed in natural scarlet graze the lambs.
“Such still, such ages weave ye, as ye run,”
sang to their spindles the consenting Fates
by Destiny’s unalterable decree.
Assume thy greatness, for the time draws nigh,
dear child of gods, great progeny of Jove!
See how it totters—the world’s orbed might,
earth, and wide ocean, and the vault profound,
all, see, enraptured of the coming time!
Ah! might such length of days to me be given,
and breath suffice me to rehearse thy deeds,
nor Thracian Orpheus should out-sing me then,
nor Linus, though his mother this, and that
his sire should aid—Orpheus Calliope,
and Linus fair Apollo. Nay, though Pan,
with Arcady for judge, my claim contest,
with Arcady for judge great Pan himself
should own him foiled, and from the field retire._
Begin to greet thy mother with a smile,
o baby-boy! ten months of weariness
for thee she bore: O baby-boy, begin!
For him, on whom his parents have not smiled,
gods deem not worthy of their board or bed.