Eclogue V: The Dialogue of Menalcas and Mopsus (Daphnis)

Eclogue V: The Dialogue of Menalcas and Mopsus (Daphnis) is in Eclogues.


Mopsus, since we’ve met and we’re both skilled,

you at breathing through thin pipes, I at singing verses,

why not sit here amongst this mix of elms and hazels?


You’re the elder, Menalcas: it’s right for me to obey you,

whether we walk beneath the shade, stirred by the breeze,

or enter the cave instead. See, how the wild vine,

with its wandering shoots, has spread about the cave.


Only Amyntas can compete with you among our hills.


Why, is he also trying his utmost to defeat Phoebus in song?


You begin first, Mopsus, if you’ve any praise for your flame

Phyllis, or for Alcon, or any quarrel with Codrus,

begin: Tityrus will watch the grazing kids.


I’ll try these verses I carved, the other day, in the bark

of a green beech, and marked with elegiac measure:

then you can order Amyntas to compete with me.


As much as the pliant willow yields to the pale olive,

as much as humble Celtic nard yields to the crimson rose,

so much, to my mind, Amyntas yields to you,

but say no more, boy: we have entered the cave.


‘The Nymphs wept for Daphnis, taken by cruel death

(hazels and streams bear witness to the Nymphs),

when sadly clasping the body of her son

his mother cried out the cruelty of stars and gods.

Daphnis, on those days, no one drove the grazing cattle

to the cool river: no four-footed creature drank

from the streams, or touched a blade of grass.

Daphnis, the wild woods and the mountains say,

that even African lions roared for your death.

Daphnis taught men to yoke Armenian tigers

to chariots, and to lead the Bacchic dance

and to entwine the pliant spears with soft leaves.

As vines bring glory to the trees, grapes to the vines,

bulls to the herds, corn to the rich fields,

so you alone to your people. Since the Fates took you,

Pales and Apollo themselves have left our lands.

Often fruitless darnel, and barren oats, spring up

in the furrows we sowed with fat grains of barley:

thistles and thorns with sharp spikes grow

instead of sweet violets and bright narcissi.

Shepherds, scatter the ground with leaves, cover

the streams with shade (such Daphnis commands),

and raise a tomb, and on it set this verse:

"I was Daphnis in the woods, known from here to the stars,

lovely the flock I guarded, lovelier was I."’


Divine poet, your song to me is like sleep,

on the grass, to the weary, like slaking one’s thirst,

in summer, in a dancing stream of sweet water.

You don’t just equal your master in pipe but in song.

Lucky boy, you’ll be the next in succession.

Still, I’ll sing to you in turn, in whatever way I can, and exalt

your Daphnis to the stars: Daphnis also loved me.


Could any such gift be greater than this to me?

Not only was the boy himself fit to be sung of,

but Stimichon praised your songs to me long ago.


‘Bright Daphnis marvels at Heaven’s unfamiliar threshold

and sees the stars and clouds under his feet.

Then joyful delight seizes the woods, and the fields,

Pan, and the shepherds, and the Dryad girls.

The wolf meditates no ambush for the flock,

nor the nets for the deer: kind Daphnis loves peace.

The un-felled mountainsides themselves send their voice

to the stars in joy: the rocks and woods themselves

now ring with song: ‘A god, Menalcas, he is a god!’

O be kind and auspicious to your own! See, four altars:

look, two are yours Daphnis, two more are for Phoebus.

Each year I’ll set up dual cups foaming with fresh milk

for you, and two bowls of rich olive oil,

and, most important, to gladden the feast with wine,

I’ll pour fresh Chian nectar from the bowls,

if it’s cold, before the fire, if it’s harvest, in the shade.

Damoetas and Lyctian Aegon will sing to me,

and Alphesiboeus will imitate the leaping Satyrs.

These rites will be yours, forever, when we purify our fields

and when we pay our solemn vows to the Nymphs.

While the boar loves the mountain ridge, the fish the stream,

while the bees browse the thyme, the cicadas the dew,

your honour, name, and praise will always remain.

The farmers will pay their dues each year, this way,

and you too will oblige them to fulfil their vows.’


What gifts can I give you, for such a song?

The breath of the rising south wind does not delight me

as much, nor the shore struck by the waves, nor those streams

that cascade down through the rock-strewn valleys.


First I’ll give you this frail hemlock pipe.

This taught me: ‘Corydon burned for lovely Alexis,’

and this too: ‘Whose is the flock? Is it Meliboeus’?


But you take this crook that, often as he asked it, Antigenes

did not carry off (and once he was worthy of my love),

a handsome one, Menalcas, with even bands of bronze.

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