ECLOGUE V: MENALCAS MOPSUS
Why, Mopsus, being both together met,
you skilled to breathe upon the slender reeds,
I to sing ditties, do we not sit down
here where the elm-trees and the hazels blend?
You are the elder, ’tis for me to bide
your choice, Menalcas, whether now we seek
yon shade that quivers to the changeful breeze,
or the cave’s shelter. Look you how the cave
is with the wild vine’s clusters over-laced!
None but Amyntas on these hills of ours
can vie with you.
What if he also strive
to out-sing Phoebus?
Do you first begin,
good Mopsus, whether minded to sing aught
of Phyllis and her loves, or Alcon’s praise,
or to fling taunts at Codrus. Come, begin,
while Tityrus watches o’er the grazing kids.
Nay, then, I will essay what late I carved
on a green beech-tree’s rind, playing by turns,
and marking down the notes; then afterward
bid you Amyntas match them if he can.
As limber willow to pale olive yields,
as lowly Celtic nard to rose-buds bright,
so, to my mind, Amyntas yields to you.
But hold awhile, for to the cave we come.
“For Daphnis cruelly slain wept all the Nymphs—
ye hazels, bear them witness, and ye streams—
when she, his mother, clasping in her arms
the hapless body of the son she bare,
to gods and stars unpitying, poured her plaint.
Then, Daphnis, to the cooling streams were none
that drove the pastured oxen, then no beast
drank of the river, or would the grass-blade touch.
Nay, the wild rocks and woods then voiced the roar
of Afric lions mourning for thy death.
Daphnis, ’twas thou bad’st yoke to Bacchus’ car
armenian tigresses, lead on the pomp
of revellers, and with tender foliage wreathe
the bending spear-wands. As to trees the vine
is crown of glory, as to vines the grape,
bulls to the herd, to fruitful fields the corn,
so the one glory of thine own art thou.
When the Fates took thee hence, then Pales’ self,
and even Apollo, left the country lone.
Where the plump barley-grain so oft we sowed,
there but wild oats and barren darnel spring;
for tender violet and narcissus bright
thistle and prickly thorn uprear their heads.
Now, O ye shepherds, strew the ground with leaves,
and o’er the fountains draw a shady veil—
so Daphnis to his memory bids be done—
and rear a tomb, and write thereon this verse:
‘I, Daphnis in the woods, from hence in fame
am to the stars exalted, guardian once
of a fair flock, myself more fair than they.’”
So is thy song to me, poet divine,
as slumber on the grass to weary limbs,
or to slake thirst from some sweet-bubbling rill
in summer’s heat. Nor on the reeds alone,
but with thy voice art thou, thrice happy boy,
ranked with thy master, second but to him.
Yet will I, too, in turn, as best I may,
sing thee a song, and to the stars uplift
thy Daphnis—Daphnis to the stars extol,
for me too Daphnis loved.
Than such a boon
what dearer could I deem? the boy himself
was worthy to be sung, and many a time
hath Stimichon to me your singing praised.
“In dazzling sheen with unaccustomed eyes
daphnis stands rapt before Olympus’ gate,
and sees beneath his feet the clouds and stars.
Wherefore the woods and fields, Pan, shepherd-folk,
and Dryad-maidens, thrill with eager joy;
nor wolf with treacherous wile assails the flock,
nor nets the stag: kind Daphnis loveth peace.
The unshorn mountains to the stars up-toss
voices of gladness; ay, the very rocks,
the very thickets, shout and sing, ‘A god,
a god is he, Menalcas’ Be thou kind,
propitious to thine own. Lo! altars four,
twain to thee, Daphnis, and to Phoebus twain
for sacrifice, we build; and I for thee
two beakers yearly of fresh milk afoam,
and of rich olive-oil two bowls, will set;
and of the wine-god’s bounty above all,
if cold, before the hearth, or in the shade
at harvest-time, to glad the festal hour,
from flasks of Ariusian grape will pour
sweet nectar. Therewithal at my behest
shall Lyctian Aegon and Damoetas sing,
and Alphesiboeus emulate in dance
the dancing Satyrs. This, thy service due,
shalt thou lack never, both when we pay the Nymphs
our yearly vows, and when with lustral rites
the fields we hallow. Long as the wild boar
shall love the mountain-heights, and fish the streams,
while bees on thyme and crickets feed on dew,
thy name, thy praise, thine honour, shall endure.
Even as to Bacchus and to Ceres, so
to thee the swain his yearly vows shall make;
and thou thereof, like them, shalt quittance claim.”
How, how repay thee for a song so rare?
For not the whispering south-wind on its way
so much delights me, nor wave-smitten beach,
nor streams that race adown their bouldered beds.
First this frail hemlock-stalk to you I give,
which taught me “Corydon with love was fired
for fair Alexis,” ay, and this beside,
“Who owns the flock?—Meliboeus?”
But take you
this shepherd’s crook, which, howso hard he begged,
antigenes, then worthy to be loved,
prevailed not to obtain—with brass, you see,
and equal knots, Menalcas, fashioned fair!