Vergil’s 9th Eclogue


L: Feet got you going, Moeris? How does the way take you, into town?

M: Well Lycidas, we made it through alive, so that a stranger trying
(which is never cause for concern to me) to master my field, should’ve
said: ‘These things are my stuff; move abroad, you old settlers!’
Now do we get these flocks going, in our defeat, humbled — which
might not go so well — because Fate causes all things to turn.

L: Really, I heard for sure — where the hills start to turn to rolling,
and send the mountain-ridge off at a soft slope, on to the water
front and old time beech (now breaking at peaks) trees — that
your boy Menalcas plays by the rules in his compositions.

M: You heard it here, & it was famed: but our tunes do so well,
Lycidas, among the arms of Mars, as well as what people
do call doves from Chaon, with the eagle arriving. As the crow
was warning me from the evergreen oak not to fall, in any way,
into clever legalese before the hung jury, so neither will
Moeris, nor even Menalcas himself, let you live off of here. . . .

L: Oh no! Did such an evil deed happen to anyone? Too bad! Were
your comforts taken from us nearly right off with you, Menalcas?
So that someone might set the Nymphs to singing? Who would sprinkle
flowering plants on the earth, or bring shade from the verdant source
of the stream? Or your poems which I recently had a peek at,
should you take them with you to my own favorite Amaryllis?
“Tityrus, please put the lambs to pasture (It’s a short way.) while I’m on my
way back; once fed, take them to stream, Tityrus, and watch out for the
boar (which does go wild in the glen) in the midst of heading to meet one.”

M: Alright, & what Varo was singing, albeit unfinished, goes: “Varo,
only our native Mantua should surpass your own name,
poor Mantua too close to lowly Cremona, as singing
swans head to the heavens in sublime fashion.”

L: Just as your flocks flee from the Corsican yew, as the pastured
herd of cattle, when fed on clover, does swell at the udder,
so begin, if you have any starting point. And the Muses made me
a poet; the songs are mine too: the shepherds, they also
call me a prophetic seer, but I don’t buy it from them — for neither
did I seem so to Varius yet, nor to say things appropriate for Cinna,
rather as the goose resounding among conspicuous, the swans.

M: Really, that’s what I’m doing, and considering such to myself in
silence, whether or not I can even remember; it’s not such an unpopular
song: “Here you are, oh Galatea — now what kind of game is upon
the waves’ deep? Now shining spring-time, now the very earth pour
diverse flowers about the stream; here the brilliant poplar impends
over a cave, & the light vines do intertwine with shaded alcoves.
There you are — let the crazy rushing waters rage along the shore.”

L: Why, what poems did I hear you singing alone under the naked
night? I remember the tune, if I still have the words right: “Daphnis,
why don’t you respect the age-old origin of symbols? Look, at
the morning star of Caesar’s love goddess, the star in which
the crops rejoice with flowering plants, and by which the vine
deploys its coloring upon sun-drenched ridges. Plant the
pear trees, Daphnis: your young ones are picking the apples.”

M: Summer’s age moves everything, including the mind — I recall
how often I kept watch over lengthening sunshine days as a boy chanting:
so many of my songs are forgotten already that even one’s voice now retreats
from Moeris: the vanguard of wolves are looking at Moeris. But
still, Menalcas should’ve offered you these answers often enough.

L: You’re leading my desirable loves a long way off, making excuses.
And currently every level field lies open to you in silence, & look,
all the wind-swept airs of heaven have landed with a mild roar.
That’s why our way is so far in between, since it started to make its
appearance with Bion’s memorial marker. Here, where the farmers
put the crowding branches and bushes together, right here, Moeris,
do we sing: leave the kids here all the same — we’re still going to town.
Or, if we’re afraid that night-time may muster a rainstorm beforehand,
then let’s go sing verses as long as one can (The shorter way’s a pain.)
get away with it: to go singing as we go, I’ll relieve you by this torch.

M: No more, young man, do cease what we are doing that’s coming up now.
Let us recite verses even better in song, when the poet will have arrived!