Eclogues of Virgil (1908)/Eclogue 1

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The Eclogues of Virgil  (1908)  by Virgil, translated by John William Mackail
Eclogue I



Tityrus mine, reclining in the shade
Of spreading beech, thou canst invoke the muse
Of the still forest, with thy slender reed.
But we forsake our dear, our native fields,
We fly our country, Tityrus, whilst thou
In easy shelter, dost inform the woods
Of Amaryllis' charms.
Tityrus.O Melibœus
It was a god that helped us to this ease
Always a god to me; and from my fold
A tender lamb shall often, from this time
Be offered at his shrine; 'tis by his will
That, as thou seest, my cattle wander free,
Whilst I can here indulge in rustic song.
Melibœus.Indeed, I envy not, but wonder more
For in all parts the country is disturbed.
See, I myself, in weary mood, drive forth
My flock of goats—look! scarcely can I drag
This one along—she, just now, hath borne twins.
Hope of my flock! in thickest hazel copse.
But—having brought them forth—she left them then
On the bare rock, deserted. This our grief
I call to mind, erewhile was prophesied
To our slow sense, by lightning-scathed oaks
(As oft the crow from hollow ilex warns
Of black disaster.) Tityrus, now tell
Of this thy god, to us, who know him not.
Tityrus.The city they call Rome, O Melibœus,
I likened in my foolish mind to ours,
Where we are wont to drive our new-weaned lambs.
So one compares the little things with large
Kids with their mothers, puppies with their sires;
But, as the cypress towers o'er hedgerow shrubs.
So lifts fair Rome her head o'er other towns.
Melibœus.And what great cause led to thy seeing Rome?
Tityrus.The cause was Freedom; she though late did yet
At length regard her tardy follower.
Such long delay—his beard was whitening fast!
Until she looked, and after long time came.
Since Amaryllis holds and Galatea yields!
For I confess, whilst Galatea reigned
No hope of freedom had I, nor of gain.
Though many victims from my folds were sent
To the unthankful town, and from my press
Good store of cheeses rich, but never yet
With my hand full of coin did I return.
Melibœus.Ah, Amaryllis, I had wondered much
Why thou so sadly didst adjure the gods?
Why was the fruit left hanging on the trees?
Tityrus wandered far. Yes, e'en the pines,
The springs, the orchards, called for Tityrus.
Tityrus.What could I do? Not be from service free,
Nor find elsewhere the gods that give us aid.
Here, Melibœus, that young man I saw
To whom, year after year, our altars smoke
For twice six days: at once unto my prayer
He made reply: "My children, feed your herds,
And train your bulls, as ye have done of yore."
Melibœus.How blest is thy old age! thou hast the fields
That meet thy wants, albeit the pastures all
Are covered with bare stones, or marsh-grown reeds.
Thy breeding ewes will eat accustomed food
Nor from a neighbour's flock take any ill.
O fortunate old friend! Near well-known streams
And hallowed fountains canst thou woo cool shade
Near boundary hedge, where bees from Hybla, take
Their fill of honeyed willow-blossom, thou
By their sweet murmurous hum wilt oft be lulled
To softest slumber! Here beneath high rocks
The gatherers of leaves, with cheerful songs
Fill the high winds. Meanwhile thy turtle doves
And hoarse wood pigeons from the lofty elms
Make endless moan.
Tityrus.And so shall never fade
His visage from my heart: sooner than that
May the wild stags be pastured on the air
Or the sea waves cast fishes on the shore!
Or exiled Parthians, breaking bounds, shall drink
Of Arar's stream—Germans, of Tigris old.
Melibœus.But as for us, we turn our weary steps
Some to parched Africa, to Scythia some
Or to Oaxes, the swift Cretan stream
Or distant Britain, cut off from the world.
Ah me! shall I, long hence, my native land
Revisit, and with wonder gaze upon
My poor turf-covered hut, by scanty corn
Surrounded? Shall these oft-tilled fields be then
By lawless soldiery possessed? these crops
Of waving corn shall the barbarians own?
Lo! what great misery has discord wrought
Amongst us all! Ah to what end have we
Patiently sown our fields—for others' gain!?
Ha! Melibœus, wilt thou graft thy trees
Or set thy vines along in order now?——
Go hence, my she-goats, my once happy flock
Never again may I, from distant cave
Gaze on your frolics, hanging from the rock
Midst the thick bushes; no more songs I sing
Nor can I watch you, O my goats, whilst ye
Crop flowering cytisus, or willows harsh!
Tityrus.Yet, for this night with me, thou mayst repose
On green leaves heaped; good store of fruit have we
Of mellow apples, chestnuts ripe, and milk
Fresh-curdled: thou canst see afar the smoke
Rise from farm-roofs, the lengthening shadows too
From the high hills are cast: the day is done.