Eclogue VI – Virgil

First my Thalia stooped in sportive mood 

To Syracusan strains, nor blushed within 

The woods to house her. When I sought to tell 

Of battles and of kings, the Cynthian god 

Plucked at mine ear and warned me: ‘Tityrus, 

Beseems a shepherd-wight to feed fat sheep, 

But sing a slender song.’ Now, Varus, I- 

For lack there will not who would laud thy deeds, 

And treat of dolorous wars- will rather tune 

To the slim oaten reed my silvan lay. 

I sing but as vouchsafed me; yet even this 

If, if but one with ravished eyes should read, 

Of thee, O Varus, shall our tamarisks 

And all the woodland ring; nor can there be 

A page more dear to Phoebus, than the page 

Where, foremost writ, the name of Varus stands. 

Speed ye, Pierian Maids! Within a cave 

Young Chromis and Mnasyllos chanced to see 

Silenus sleeping, flushed, as was his wont, 

With wine of yesterday. Not far aloof, 

Slipped from his head, the garlands lay, and there 

By its worn handle hung a ponderous cup. 

Approaching- for the old man many a time 

Had balked them both of a long hoped-for song- 

Garlands to fetters turned, they bind him fast. 

Then Aegle, fairest of the Naiad-band, 

Aegle came up to the half-frightened boys, 

Came, and, as now with open eyes he lay, 

With juice of blood-red mulberries smeared him o’er, 

Both brow and temples. Laughing at their guile, 

And crying, ‘Why tie the fetters? loose me, boys; 

Enough for you to think you had the power; 

Now list the songs you wish for- songs for you, 

Another meed for her’ -forthwith began. 

Then might you see the wild things of the wood, 

With Fauns in sportive frolic beat the time, 

And stubborn oaks their branchy summits bow. 

Not Phoebus doth the rude Parnassian crag 

So ravish, nor Orpheus so entrance the heights 

Of Rhodope or Ismarus: for he sang 

How through the mighty void the seeds were driven 

Of earth, air, ocean, and of liquid fire, 

How all that is from these beginnings grew, 

And the young world itself took solid shape, 

Then ‘gan its crust to harden, and in the deep 

Shut Nereus off, and mould the forms of things 

Little by little; and how the earth amazed 

Beheld the new sun shining, and the showers 

Fall, as the clouds soared higher, what time the woods 

‘Gan first to rise, and living things to roam 

Scattered among the hills that knew them not. 

Then sang he of the stones by Pyrrha cast, 

Of Saturn’s reign, and of Prometheus’ theft, 

And the Caucasian birds, and told withal 

Nigh to what fountain by his comrades left 

The mariners cried on Hylas till the shore 

‘Then Re-echoed ‘Hylas, Hylas! soothed 

Pasiphae with the love of her white bull- 

Happy if cattle-kind had never been!- 

O ill-starred maid, what frenzy caught thy soul 

The daughters too of Proetus filled the fields 

With their feigned lowings, yet no one of them 

Of such unhallowed union e’er was fain 

As with a beast to mate, though many a time 

On her smooth forehead she had sought for horns, 

And for her neck had feared the galling plough. 

O ill-starred maid! thou roamest now the hills, 

While on soft hyacinths he, his snowy side 

Reposing, under some dark ilex now 

Chews the pale herbage, or some heifer tracks 

Amid the crowding herd. Now close, ye Nymphs, 

Ye Nymphs of Dicte, close the forest-glades, 

If haply there may chance upon mine eyes 

The white bull’s wandering foot-prints: him belike 

Following the herd, or by green pasture lured, 

Some kine may guide to the Gortynian stalls. 

Then sings he of the maid so wonder-struck 

With the apples of the Hesperids, and then 

With moss-bound, bitter bark rings round the forms 

Of Phaethon’s fair sisters, from the ground 

Up-towering into poplars. Next he sings 

Of Gallus wandering by Permessus’ stream, 

And by a sister of the Muses led 

To the Aonian mountains, and how all 

The choir of Phoebus rose to greet him; how 

The shepherd Linus, singer of songs divine, 

Brow-bound with flowers and bitter parsley, spake: 

‘These reeds the Muses give thee, take them thou, 

Erst to the aged bard of Ascra given, 

Wherewith in singing he was wont to draw 

Time-rooted ash-trees from the mountain heights. 

With these the birth of the Grynean grove 

Be voiced by thee, that of no grove beside 

Apollo more may boast him.’ Wherefore speak 

Of Scylla, child of Nisus, who, ’tis said, 

Her fair white loins with barking monsters girt 

Vexed the Dulichian ships, and, in the deep 

Swift-eddying whirlpool, with her sea-dogs tore 

The trembling mariners? or how he told 

Of the changed limbs of Tereus- what a feast, 

What gifts, to him by Philomel were given; 

How swift she sought the desert, with what wings 

Hovered in anguish o’er her ancient home? 

All that, of old, Eurotas, happy stream, 

Heard, as Apollo mused upon the lyre, 

And bade his laurels learn, Silenus sang; 

Till from Olympus, loth at his approach, 

Vesper, advancing, bade the shepherds tell 

Their tale of sheep, and pen them in the fold.

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