Eclogue I: The Dialogue of Meliboeus and Tityrus

Eclogue I: The Dialogue of Meliboeus and Tityrus is in Eclogues.

Meliboeus:

Tityrus, lying there, under the spreading beech-tree cover,

you study the woodland Muse, on slender shepherd’s pipe.

We are leaving the sweet fields and the frontiers of our country:

we are fleeing our country: you, Tityrus, idling in the shade,

teach the woods to echo ‘lovely Amaryllis’.

Tityrus:

O Meliboeus, a god has created this leisure for us.

Since he’ll always be a god to me, a gentle lamb

from our fold, will often drench his altar.

Through him my cattle roam as you see, and I

allow what I wish to be played by my rural reed.

Meliboeus:

Well I don’t begrudge you: rather I wonder at it: there’s such

endless trouble everywhere over all the countryside. See,

I drive my goats, sadly: this one, Tityrus, I can barely lead.

Here in the dense hazels, just now, she birthed twins,

the hope of the flock, alas, on the bare stones.

I’d have often recalled that this evil was prophesied to me,

by the oak struck by lightning, if my mind had not been dulled.

But, Tityrus, tell me then, who is this god of yours?

Tityrus:

Meliboeus, foolishly, I thought the City they call Rome

was like ours, to which we shepherds are often accustomed

to drive the tender young lambs of our flocks.

So I considered pups like dogs, kids like their mothers,

so I used to compare the great with the small.

But this city indeed has lifted her head as high among others,

as cypress trees are accustomed to do among the weeping willows.

Meliboeus:

And what was the great occasion for you setting eyes on Rome?

Tityrus:

Liberty, that gazed on me, though late, in my idleness,

when the hairs of my beard fell whiter when they were cut,

gazed yet, and came to me after so long a time,

when Amaryllis was here, and Galatea had left me.

Since, while Galatea swayed me, I confess,

there was never a hope of freedom, or thought of saving.

My hand never came home filled with coins,

though many a victim left my sheepfolds,

and many a rich cheese was pressed for the ungrateful town.

Meliboeus:

Amaryllis, I wondered why you called on the gods so mournfully,

and for whom you left the apples there on the trees:

Tityrus was absent: Tityrus, here, the very pines,

the very springs and orchards were calling out for you.

Tityrus:

What could I do? I could not be rid of my bondage

elsewhere, or find gods so ready to help me.

There, Meliboeus, I saw that youth for whom

our altars smoke for six days twice a year.

There he was first to reply to my request:

‘Slave, go feed you cattle as before: rear your bulls.’

Meliboeus:

Fortunate old man, so these lands will remain yours.

And they’re wide enough for you: though bare stone,

and pools with muddy reeds cover all your pastures.

No strange plants will tempt your pregnant ewes,

no contagious disease from a neighbour’s flock will harm them.

Fortunate old man, here you’ll find the cooling shade,

among familiar streams and sacred springs.

Here, as always, on your neighbour’s boundary, the hedge,

its willow blossoms sipped by Hybla’s bees,

will often lull you into sleep with the low buzzing:

there, under the high cliff, the woodsman sings to the breeze:

while the loud wood-pigeons, and the doves,

your delight, will not cease their moaning from the tall elm.

Tityrus:

So the swift deer will sooner feed on air,

and the seas leave the fish naked on shore,

or the Parthian drink the Saône, the German the Tigris,

both in exile wandering each other’s frontiers,

than that gaze of his will fade from my mind.

Meliboeus:

But we must go, some to the parched Africans,

some to find Scythia, and Crete’s swift Oaxes,

and the Britons wholly separated from all the world.

Ah, will I gaze on my country’s shores, after long years,

and my poor cottage, its roof thatched with turf,

and gazing at a few ears of corn, see my domain?

An impious soldier will own these well-tilled fields,

a barbarian these crops. See to what war has led

our unlucky citizens: for this we sowed our lands.

Now graft your pears, Meliboeus, plant your rows of vines.

Away with you my once happy flock of goats.

Lying in some green hollow, I’ll no longer see you

clinging far off to some thorn-filled crag:

I’ll sing no songs: no longer grazed by me, my goats,

will you chew the flowering clover and the bitter willows.

Tityrus:

Yet you might have rested here with me tonight

on green leaves: we have ripe apples,

soft chestnuts, and a wealth of firm cheeses:

and now the distant cottage roofs show smoke

and longer shadows fall from the high hills.

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