ECLOGUE IX: LYCIDAS MOERIS
Say whither, Moeris?—Make you for the town,
or on what errand bent?
we have lived to see, what never yet we feared,
an interloper own our little farm,
and say, “Be off, you former husbandmen!
These fields are mine.” Now, cowed and out of heart,
since Fortune turns the whole world upside down,
we are taking him—ill luck go with the same!—
these kids you see.
But surely I had heard
that where the hills first draw from off the plain,
and the high ridge with gentle slope descends,
down to the brook-side and the broken crests
of yonder veteran beeches, all the land
was by the songs of your Menalcas saved.
Heard it you had, and so the rumour ran,
but ‘mid the clash of arms, my Lycidas,
our songs avail no more than, as ’tis said,
doves of Dodona when an eagle comes.
Nay, had I not, from hollow ilex-bole
warned by a raven on the left, cut short
the rising feud, nor I, your Moeris here,
no, nor Menalcas, were alive to-day.
Alack! could any of so foul a crime
be guilty? Ah! how nearly, thyself,
reft was the solace that we had in thee,
Menalcas! Who then of the Nymphs had sung,
or who with flowering herbs bestrewn the ground,
and o’er the fountains drawn a leafy veil?—
who sung the stave I filched from you that day
to Amaryllis wending, our hearts’ joy?—
“While I am gone, ’tis but a little way,
feed, Tityrus, my goats, and, having fed,
drive to the drinking-pool, and, as you drive,
beware the he-goat; with his horn he butts.“
Ay, or to Varus that half-finished lay,
“Varus, thy name, so still our Mantua live—
Mantua to poor Cremona all too near—
shall singing swans bear upward to the stars.”
So may your swarms Cyrnean yew-trees shun,
your kine with cytisus their udders swell,
begin, if aught you have. The Muses made
me too a singer; I too have sung; the swains
call me a poet, but I believe them not:
for naught of mine, or worthy Varius yet
or Cinna deem I, but account myself
a cackling goose among melodious swans.
‘Twas in my thought to do so, Lycidas;
even now was I revolving silently
if this I could recall—no paltry song:
“Come, Galatea, what pleasure is ‘t to play
amid the waves? Here glows the Spring, here earth
beside the streams pours forth a thousand flowers;
here the white poplar bends above the cave,
and the lithe vine weaves shadowy covert: come,
leave the mad waves to beat upon the shore.”
What of the strain I heard you singing once
on a clear night alone? the notes I still
remember, could I but recall the words.
“Why, Daphnis, upward gazing, do you mark
the ancient risings of the Signs? for look
where Dionean Caesar’s star comes forth
in heaven, to gladden all the fields with corn,
and to the grape upon the sunny slopes
her colour bring! Now, the pears;
so shall your children’s children pluck their fruit.”
Time carries all things, even our wits, away.
Oft, as a boy, I sang the sun to rest,
but all those songs are from my memory fled,
and even his voice is failing Moeris now;
the wolves eyed Moeris first: but at your wish
Menalcas will repeat them oft enow.
Your pleas but linger out my heart’s desire:
now all the deep is into silence hushed,
and all the murmuring breezes sunk to sleep.
We are half-way thither, for Bianor’s tomb
begins to show: here, Moeris, where the hinds
are lopping the thick leafage, let us sing.
Set down the kids, yet shall we reach the town;
or, if we fear the night may gather rain
ere we arrive, then singing let us go,
our way to lighten; and, that we may thus
go singing, I will case you of this load.
Cease, boy, and get we to the work in hand:
we shall sing better when himself is come.