Eclogue VIII: Damon and Alphesiboeus Compete

Eclogue VIII: Damon and Alphesiboeus Compete is in Eclogues.

I’ll sing the Muse of Damon and Alphesiboeus,
at whose match the cattle marvelled, forgetting to graze,
at whose song the lynxes were stupefied,
and rivers, altering, ceased their flow,
Damon and Alphesiboeus’s pastoral Muse.
But you, my Pollio, whether you pass mighty Timavus’s crags,
or travel the shores of the Illyrian Sea – will the day ever come
when I’ll indeed be free to tell of your deeds?
Will I be free to carry your songs to all the world,
worthy alone of Sophocles’s tragic muse?
From you was my beginning, in you I’ll end. Accept the songs
begun at your command, and let the ivy twine
among the victor’s laurels circling your brow.
Night’s cool shade had scarcely left the sky, that time
when the dew in the tender grass is sweetest to the flock,
as Damon, leaning on his smooth olive-staff, began.
Damon:
‘Lucifer, arise, precursor of kindly day, while I,
shamefully cheated of my lover Nysa’s affection,
complain, and call, still, to the gods, in the hour of my death,
though their witnessing these things has been no help to me.
My flute, begin the songs, of Maenalus, with me.
Always, Maenalus has melodious groves and sounding pines,
always, he listens to the loves of shepherds,
and to Pan, who first denied the reeds their idleness.
My flute, begin the songs, of Maenalus, with me.
Nysa is given to Mopsus: what should we lovers not hope for?
Griffins and horses will mate, and in the following age,
deer will come to the drinking bowl with the hounds.
My flute, begin the songs, of Maenalus, with me.
Mopsus, gather new torches: they lead the bride to you:
scatter nuts, bridegroom: for you, Hesperus quits Oeta.
My flute, begin the songs, of Maenalus, with me.
Wedded to a worthy man, while you despise the rest,
while my flute is hateful to you, my shaggy eyebrows,
and my goats are hateful, and my untrimmed beard,
and you think the gods have no care for anything mortal.
My flute, begin the songs, of Maenalus, with me.
I saw you, a little child, with my mother in our garden,
picking dew-wet apples (I was guide to you both).
The year beyond my eleventh had just greeted me,
now I could reach the frail branches from the ground.
As I saw you, I was lost! How a fatal madness took me!
My flute, begin the songs, of Maenalus, with me.
Now I know what Love is. He was born on Tmarus’s
hard stone, or Rhodope’s or furthest
Garamentes’s, not of our race and blood.
My flute, begin the songs, of Maenalus, with me.
Cruel Love taught Medea to stain a mother’s hands
in her children’s blood: a cruel mother too.
Was the mother crueller, or the Boy more cruel?
He was cruel: a cruel mother too.
My flute, begin the songs, of Maenalus, with me.
Now let the wolf itself run from the sheep, let tough oaks
bear golden apples, let alders flower like narcissi,
let tamarisks drip thick amber from their bark,
let shriek-owls vie with swans, let Tityrus be an Orpheus,
an Orpheus in the woods, an Arion among the dolphins.
My flute, begin the songs, of Maenalus, with me.
Or let all be ocean deep. Goodbye to the woods:
I’ll leap from an airy mountaintop into the waves:
take this as my last dying gift.
My flute, begin the songs, of Maenalus, with me.
So Damon sang. Muses say how Alphesiboeus replied:
we are not all capable of all things.
Alphesiboeus:
Bring water and wreathe these altars with soft wool
and burn masculine incense and rich herbs,
so that I might try to change my lover’s cold feelings
with magic rites: nothing is lacking here but song.
Bring Daphnis home, my song, bring him home from town.
Songs can even draw down the moon from the sky,
Circe changed Ulysses’s men with magic songs,
the cold snake in the field is burst apart by singing.
Bring Daphnis home, my song, bring him home from town.
First I tie three threads, in three different colours, around you
and pass your image three times round these altars:
the god himself delights in uneven numbers.
Bring Daphnis home, my song, bring him home from town.
Amaryllis, weave three knots in three colours:
Just weave them, Amaryllis, and say: ‘I weave chains of Love.’
Bring Daphnis home, my song, bring him home from town.
As this clay hardens and this wax melts
in the one flame, so let Daphnis with love for me.
Scatter grain, and burn the fragile bay with pitch.
Cruel Daphnis burns me: I burn this laurel for Daphnis.
Bring Daphnis home, my song, bring him home from town.
Let such love seize Daphnis, as when a heifer, weary
with searching woods, and deep groves, for her mate
sinks down by a rill of water, in the green reeds,
lost, and not thinking of leaving till dead of night,
let such love seize him, and I not care to heal him.
Bring Daphnis home, my song, bring him home from town.
The faithless lover once left me these traces of himself,
these dear tokens: that now on your threshold, earth,
I entrust to you: these tokens make Daphnis mine.
Bring Daphnis home, my song, bring him home from town.
Moeris himself gave me these herbs and poisons
gathered from Pontus (many grow there in Pontus),
I’ve often seen Moeris, with these, change to a wolf and hide
in the woods, often call ghosts from the depths of the grave,
and draw sown corn into other men’s fields.
Bring Daphnis home, my song, bring him home from town.
Take the embers out, Amaryllis, and throw them behind your head,
into the running stream, and don’t look back. I’ll attack Daphnis
with these: he cares nothing for gods or songs.
Bring Daphnis home, my song, bring him home from town.
See, while I waited to carry it out, the ash of its own accord
seized the altars with quivering flames. Let that bode well!
It means something for sure, and Hylax barks at the door.
Do I believe? Or those who love, do they create their own dreams?
Bring Daphnis home, my song, bring him home from town.

1884. William Holman Hunt Painter 1827-1910. Amaryllis.