At Syracuse was our service to Thalia — the Grace
of pastoral ode, etc. — first established. Whenever I
should sing of kingships and battles, Cynthius
the shepherd would lend an ear, then advise: “A sleek
sheep is fit for feeding a shepherd, to recite a drawn-out tune.”
Now do I (for they are your people up top, Varus, who love speaking in
praise of you, and to conduct unhappy wars) modulate the pastoral Muse
on a rustic reed flute. I’m not singing without cause: all the same, if some-
body states also these claims — should one taken in love choose to, —
every grove will resound with your praises, in thanks for that tamarisk
of ours; nor is any other flowering plant more dear to Apollo than that
which the name of Varus does prescribe as page for his service.
Get going, Muses of Pieris! The young lads Chromis and
Mnasyllus came to look upon Silenus, the satyr, as he lay asleep
in the cave, hungover from last night, as ever: nearby were so
many garlands, which had slipped from his head, and
a heavy mixing bowl, hanging from a worn-down handle.
At the approach (’cause an old man is often made a fool of, for a song or two),
they threw their garlands off like shackles. Aegle made herself available and
overcame the fearful masses. Aegle, she’s the most lovely of the Naiad nymphs,[20
& for anyone viewing her face out of the blood-red mulberries, does she
decorate her brow with adornments. The young man asked, “How did
you get out of the cuffs?”, as she chuckled at the jest: “The young lads
let me out; it was enough to be able to be seen. Please consider the lyrical
pieces which you wanted; they are compositions dedicated to you,
with another form of hire, as such.” And so did Mnasyllus start up.
But then would you have seen woodland beasts and spirits at play,
also the peaks setting the imperturbable oaks into motion. The cave
of Parnassus took not so much pleasure in homage to Apollo,
neither did Mt. Rhodope, nor Ismara, wonder as such at Orpheus himself.
Now as it is, he used to perform lyrics on how the original seeds
of th’ earth and the soul and the sea were brought together out of a massive
void, likewise also with liquids and fire; just as beginnings all apply
to initial origins, so did the porous globe of the world come
to solidify; then did Nerea begin to stabilize the firmament,
and disclose the very sea, also by gradual degree to cause
the figures of beings to cohere; yet as the grounds stand in awe
at the new dawning day, let the rains fall even harder from the uplifted
cloud-banks, whenever the woods should start to stir, since
unlikely animals may wander over obscure mountain ranges.[40
Then he sang of the stones which Pyrrhus hurled, Saturn’s imperial
kingdoms, and the birds of Caucasus, as well as of Prometheus’ theft.
In addition to which, he added that the mariners called out for Hyla,
left off at some fountain’s source, until the entire shoreline echoed
with “Hyla, Hyla!”; and does he isolate Pasiphae, one lucky gal — if only
the pack mules had never been! — with the desire of a snow-white heifer.
Oh poor unmarried girl, what frenzied madness detained you?!
Proteus’ daughters filled the field with their feigned moo-ing; but none
of them were so uncivilized as to actually mate with a beast of burden,
though they were afraid of being put to death by the plough,
and often sought to put horns upon one’s fair forehead.
Oh poor unmarried girl, now you’re wondering lost in the
mountains: the cow does recline along its snow-white flanks,
over soft hyacinths, grazing on light green grasses beneath
the shady ilex, or following the trail among the crowding herd.
“Now you Nymphs of Dicte, oh Nymphs — do close
the woodland passes, to see if some traces of the cow’s
tracks might present themselvs to our eyes: perhaps
some cows had him led off, taken with green grass
or by following the herd, to the famed stables at Crete.”[60
Then does he sing of the young maid astounded by the apples
of the Hesperids, next of surrounding Phaethon’s beloved sisters
with moss from the bitter rings of bark, and setting the towering poplars,
from the ground up, right. He sings next of Gallus wandering past
the streams of Mt. Helicon, so that a sister of the Muses would take him
to the mountains of Aonia, and about how the entire chorus of Apollo’s
service rose up, to greet him; a song about Linus, the shepherd with the most
famed poem-writing skills around, adorned about his temples with flowers
and bitter herbs, singing, “The Muses offer you this victory flute, so
do accept it, before it goes to old-man Ascra the poet; he used to be able
to make the very ash-trees in the mountains stand on end with these reeds.
You should document the birth of the Grynean grove on this reed-flute,
so that there be not one valley where Apollo is more of a subject.”
What else is there to say, about Scylla, the daughter of king Nisus, who was
pursued by glittering infamy herself, belted with barking beasts about her waist-
line, as she harried the Cretan fleet, and off into the eddying whirpool,
to rip the distressed sailors into bits with hounds at the shore —
or to recite the tale of Tereus’ transformed limbs, which Philomela
served to him for a feast, as though offering him a present, on
which path she did seek the wild desert, with those wings[80
by which the unlucky female had flown over her royal abode?
The famed satyr Silenus, poetic as Orpheus (sic), declaimed on all these affairs as such,
like what lucky Eurotas heard when Apollo was strumming at the lyre, and how
he ordered his laurels to learn to record it (The valleys resounded until echoing
to the starlight.), reciting his work until sunset compelled the shepherds to give an account
of their flocks and their ranks, as Hesperus advanced about Mount Olympus.