Eclogue VIII – Virgil

TO POLLIO, DAMON, ALPHESIBOEUS 
Of Damon and Alphesiboeus now, 

Those shepherd-singers at whose rival strains 

The heifer wondering forgot to graze, 

The lynx stood awe-struck, and the flowing streams, 

Unwonted loiterers, stayed their course to hear- 

How Damon and Alphesiboeus sang 

Their pastoral ditties, will I tell the tale. 

Thou, whether broad Timavus’ rocky banks 

Thou now art passing, or dost skirt the shore 

Of the Illyrian main,- will ever dawn 

That day when I thy deeds may celebrate, 

Ever that day when through the whole wide world 

I may renown thy verse- that verse alone 

Of Sophoclean buskin worthy found? 

With thee began, to thee shall end, the strain. 

Take thou these songs that owe their birth to thee, 

And deign around thy temples to let creep 

This ivy-chaplet ‘twixt the conquering bays. 

Scarce had night’s chilly shade forsook the sky 

What time to nibbling sheep the dewy grass 

Tastes sweetest, when, on his smooth shepherd-staff 

Of olive leaning, Damon thus began. 
Damon. 

‘Rise, Lucifer, and, heralding the light, 

Bring in the genial day, while I make moan 

Fooled by vain passion for a faithless bride, 

For Nysa, and with this my dying breath 

Call on the gods, though little it bestead- 

The gods who heard her vows and heeded not. 

‘Begin, my flute, with me Maenalian lays. 

Ever hath Maenalus his murmuring groves 

And whispering pines, and ever hears the songs 

Of love-lorn shepherds, and of Pan, who first 

Brooked not the tuneful reed should idle lie. 

‘Begin, my flute, with me Maenalian lays. 

Nysa to Mopsus given! what may not then 

We lovers look for? soon shall we see mate 

Griffins with mares, and in the coming age 

Shy deer and hounds together come to drink. 

‘Begin, my flute, with me Maenalian lays. 

Now, Mopsus, cut new torches, for they bring 

Your bride along; now, bridegroom, scatter nuts: 

Forsaking Oeta mounts the evening star! 

‘Begin, my flute, with me Maenalian lays. 

O worthy of thy mate, while all men else 

Thou scornest, and with loathing dost behold 

My shepherd’s pipe, my goats, my shaggy brow, 

And untrimmed beard, nor deem’st that any god 

For mortal doings hath regard or care. 

‘Begin, my flute, with me Maenalian lays. 

Once with your mother, in our orchard-garth, 

A little maid I saw you- I your guide- 

Plucking the dewy apples. My twelfth year 

I scarce had entered, and could barely reach 

The brittle boughs. I looked, and I was lost; 

A sudden frenzy swept my wits away. 

‘Begin, my flute, with me Maenalian lays. 

Now know I what Love is: ‘mid savage rocks 

Tmaros or Rhodope brought forth the boy, 

Or Garamantes in earth’s utmost bounds- 

No kin of ours, nor of our blood begot. 

‘Begin, my flute, with me Maenalian lays. 

Fierce Love it was once steeled a mother’s heart 

With her own offspring’s blood her hands to imbrue: 

Mother, thou too wert cruel; say wert thou 

More cruel, mother, or more ruthless he? 

Ruthless the boy, thou, mother, cruel too. 

‘Begin, my flute, with me Maenalian lays. 

Now let the wolf turn tail and fly the sheep, 

Tough oaks bear golden apples, alder-trees 

Bloom with narcissus-flower, the tamarisk 

Sweat with rich amber, and the screech-owl vie 

In singing with the swan: let Tityrus 

Be Orpheus, Orpheus in the forest-glade, 

Arion ‘mid his dolphins on the deep. 

‘Begin, my flute, with me Maenalian lays. 

Yea, be the whole earth to mid-ocean turned! 

Farewell, ye woodlands I from the tall peak 

Of yon aerial rock will headlong plunge 

Into the billows: this my latest gift, 

From dying lips bequeathed thee, see thou keep. 

Cease now, my flute, now cease Maenalian lays.’ 

Thus Damon: but do ye, Pierian Maids- 

We cannot all do all things- tell me how 

Alphesiboeus to his strain replied. 
Alphesiboeus. 

‘Bring water, and with soft wool-fillet bind 

These altars round about, and burn thereon 

Rich vervain and male frankincense, that I 

May strive with magic spells to turn astray 

My lover’s saner senses, whereunto 

There lacketh nothing save the power of song. 

‘Draw from the town, my songs, draw Daphnis home. 

Songs can the very moon draw down from heaven 

Circe with singing changed from human form 

The comrades of Ulysses, and by song 

Is the cold meadow-snake, asunder burst. 

‘Draw from the town, my songs, draw Daphnis home. 

These triple threads of threefold colour first 

I twine about thee, and three times withal 

Around these altars do thine image bear: 

Uneven numbers are the god’s delight. 

‘Draw from the town, my songs, draw Daphnis home. 

Now, Amaryllis, ply in triple knots 

The threefold colours; ply them fast, and say 

This is the chain of Venus that I ply. 

‘Draw from the town, my songs, draw Daphnis home. 

As by the kindling of the self-same fire 

Harder this clay, this wax the softer grows, 

So by my love may Daphnis; sprinkle meal, 

And with bitumen burn the brittle bays. 

Me Daphnis with his cruelty doth burn, 

I to melt cruel Daphnis burn this bay. 

‘Draw from the town, my songs, draw Daphnis home. 

As when some heifer, seeking for her steer 

Through woodland and deep grove, sinks wearied out 

On the green sedge beside a stream, love-lorn, 

Nor marks the gathering night that calls her home- 

As pines that heifer, with such love as hers 

May Daphnis pine, and I not care to heal. 

‘Draw from the town, my songs, draw Daphnis home. 

These relics once, dear pledges of himself, 

The traitor left me, which, O earth, to thee 

Here on this very threshold I commit- 

Pledges that bind him to redeem the debt. 

‘Draw from the town, my songs, draw Daphnis home. 

These herbs of bane to me did Moeris give, 

In Pontus culled, where baneful herbs abound. 

With these full oft have I seen Moeris change 

To a wolf’s form, and hide him in the woods, 

Oft summon spirits from the tomb’s recess, 

And to new fields transport the standing corn. 

‘Draw from the town, my songs, draw Daphnis home. 

Take ashes, Amaryllis, fetch them forth, 

And o’er your head into the running brook 

Fling them, nor look behind: with these will 

Upon the heart of Daphnis make essay. 

Nothing for gods, nothing for songs cares he. 

‘Draw from the town, my songs, draw Daphnis home. 

Look, look I the very embers of themselves 

Have caught the altar with a flickering flame, 

While I delay to fetch them: may the sign 

Prove lucky! something it must mean, for sure, 

And Hylax on the threshold ‘gins to bark! 

May we believe it, or are lovers still 

By their own fancies fooled? 

Give o’er, my songs, 

Daphnis is coming from the town, give o’er.’