What makes the crops joyous, beneath what star, Maecenas, it is well to turn the soil, and wed vines to elms, what tending the kine need, what care the herd in breeding, what skill the thrifty bees — hence shall begin my song. O ye most radiant lights of the firmament, that guide through heaven the gliding year, O Liber and bounteous Ceres, if by your grace Earth changed Chaonia's acorn for the rich corn-ear, and blended draughts of Achelous with the new-found grapes, and ye, O Fauns, the rustics' ever-present gods (come trip it. Fauns, and Dryad maids withal!), 'tis of your bounties I sing.
And thou, O Neptune, for whom Earth, smitten by thy mighty trident, first sent forth the neighing steed; thou, too, O spirit of the groves, for whom thrice an hundred snowy steers crop Cea's rich thickets; thyself, too, O Pan, guardian of the sheep, leaving thy native woods and glades of Lycaeus, as thou lovest thine own Maenalus, come of thy grace, O Tegean lord! Come thou, O Minerva, inventress of the olive; thou, too, O youth, who didst disclose the crooked plow; and thou, O Silvanus, with a young uprooted cypress in thy hand; and ye, O gods and goddesses all, whose love guards our fields — both ye who nurse the young fruits, springing up unsown, and ye who on the seedlings send down from heaven plenteous rain!
Yea, and thou, O Caesar, whom we know not what company of the gods shall claim ere long; whether thou choose to watch over cities and care for our lands, that so the mighty world may receive thee as the giver of increase and lord of the seasons, wreathing thy brows with thy mother's myrtle; whether thou come as god of the boundless sea and sailors worship thy deity alone, while farthest Thule owns thy lordship and Tethys with the dower of all her waves buys thee to wed her daughter; or whether thou add thyself as a new star to the lingering months, where, between the Virgin and the grasping Claws, a space is opening (lo! for thee even now the blazing Scorpion draws in his arms, and has left more than a due share of the heaven!) — whatever thou art to be (for Tartarus hopes not for thee as king, and may such monstrous lust of empire never seize thee, albeit Greece is enchanted by the Elysian fields, and Proserpine reclaimed cares not to follow her mother), do thou grant me a smooth course, give assent to my bold enterprise, and pitying with me the rustics who know not their way, enter on thy worship, and learn even now to hearken to our prayers!
In the dawning spring, when icy streams trickle from snowy mountains, and the crumbling clod breaks at the Zephyr's touch, even then would I have my bull groan over the deep-driven plow, and the share glisten when rubbed by the furrow. That field only answers the covetous farmer's prayer, which twice has felt the sun and twice the frost; from it boundless harvests burst the granaries. Yet ere our iron cleaves an unknown plain, be it first our care to learn the winds and the wavering moods of the sky, the wonted tillage and nature of the ground, what each clime yields and what each disowns.
Here corn, there grapes spring more luxuriantly; elsewhere young trees shoot up, and grasses unbidden. See you not, how Tmolus sends us saffron fragrance, India her ivory, the soft Sabaeans their frankincense; but the naked Chalybes give us iron, Pontus the strong-smelling beaver's oil, and Epirus the Olympian victories of her mares. From the first, Nature laid these laws and eternal covenants on certain lands, even from the day when Deucalion threw stones into the empty world, whence sprang men, a stony race.
Come then, and where the earth's soil is rich, let your stout oxen upturn it straight-way, in the year's first months, and let the clods lie for dusty summer to bake with her ripening suns; but should the land not be fruitful, it will suffice, on the eve of Arcturus' rising, to raise it lightly with shallow furrow — in the one case, that weeds may not choke the gladsome corn; in the other, that the scant moisture may not desert the barren sand.
In alternate seasons you will also let your fields lie fallow after reaping, and the plain idly stiffen with scurf; or, beneath another star, sow yellow corn in lands whence you have first carried off the pulse that rejoices in its quivering pods, or the fruits of the slender vetch, or the brittle stalks and rattling tangle of the bitter lupine. For a crop of flax parches the ground; oats parch it, and poppies, steeped in Lethe's slumber. Yet by changing crops the toil is light: only be not ashamed to feed fat the dried-out soil with rich dung, and to scatter grimy ashes over the exhausted fields.
Thus also, with change of crop, the land finds rest, and meanwhile not thankless is the unplowed earth. Often, too, it has been useful to fire barren fields, and burn the light stubble in crackling flames; whether it be that the earth derives thence hidden strength and rich nutriment, or that in the flame every taint is baked out and the useless moisture sweats from it, or that that heat opens fresh paths and loosens hidden pores, by which the sap may reach the tender blades, or that it rather hardens the soil and narrows the gaping veins, that so the searching showers may not harm, or the blazing sun's fierce tyranny wither it, or the North-wind's piercing cold.
Yea, and much service does he do the land who with the mattock breaks up the sluggish clods, and drags over it wicker hurdles; nor is it for naught that golden Ceres views him from high Olympus. Much service, too, does he who turns his plow and again breaks crosswise through the ridges which he raised when first he cut the plain, ever at his post to discipline the ground, and give his orders to the fields.
For moist summers and sunny winters, pray, ye farmers! With winter's dust most gladsome is the corn, gladsome is the field: under no tillage does Mysia so glory, and then even Mount Gargarus marvels at his own harvests. Need I tell of him who flings the seed, then, hoe in hand, closes with the soil, and lays low the hillocks of barren sand? next brings to his crops the rills of the stream he guides, and when the scorched land swelters, the green blades dying, lo! from the brow of the hill-side channel decoys the water? This, as it falls, wakes a hoarse murmur amid the smooth stones, and with its gushing streams slakes the thirsty fields. Need I tell of him who, lest the stalk droop with heavy ears, grazes down his luxuriant crop in the young blade, soon as the growing corn is even with the furrow's top? or of him who draws off a marsh's gathered moisture with soaking sand — chiefly when, in changeful months, a river at the full overflows, and far and wide covers all with muddy coat, making the hollow ditches steam with warm vapor?
Nor yet, though toiling men and oxen have thus wrought in oft turning the land, does the rascally goose do no mischief, or the Strymonian cranes, or the bitter-fibred succory, nor is the shade of trees harmless. The great Father himself has willed that the path of husbandry should not be smooth, and he first made art awake the fields, sharpening men's wits by care, nor letting his realm slumber in heavy lethargy.
Before Jove's day no tillers subdued the
land. Even to mark the field or divide it with bounds
was unlawful. Men made gain for the common store,
and Earth yielded all, of herself, more freely, when
none begged for her gifts. 'Twas he that in black
serpents put their deadly venom, bade the wolves
plunder and the ocean swell; shook honey from the
leaves, hid fire from view, and stopped the wine that
ran everywhere in streams, so that practice, by taking
thought, might little by little hammer out diverse
Then first did rivers feel the hollowed alder; then the sailor numbered the stars and called them by name, Pleiades, Hyades, and Arctos, Lycaon's gleaming offspring. Then men found how to snare game in toils, to cheat with bird-lime, and to circle great glades with hounds. And now one lashes a broad stream with casting-net, seeking the depths, and another through the sea trails his dripping drag-net. Then came iron's stiffness and the shrill saw-blade — for early man cleft the splitting wood with wedges; then came diverse arts. Toil conquered the world, unrelenting toil, and want that pinches when life is hard.
Ceres was the first to teach men to turn the earth with iron, when the acorns and arbutes of the sacred wood began to fail, and Dodona denied men food. Soon, too, on the corn fell trouble, the baneful mildew feeding on the stems, and the lazy thistle bristling in the fields; the crops die, and instead springs up a prickly growth, burs and caltrops, and amid the smiling corn the luckless darnel and barren oats hold sway. Therefore, unless your hoe, time and again, assail the weeds, your voice affright the birds, your knife check the shade of the darkened land, and your vows invoke the rain, vainly, alas! will you eye your neighbor's big store, and in the woods shake the oak to solace hunger.
I must tell, too, of the hardy rustics' weapons, without which the crops could neither be sown nor raised. First the share and the curved plow's heavy frame, the slow-rolling wains of the Mother of Eleusis, sledges and drags, and hoes of cruel weight; further, the common wicker ware of Celeus, arbute hurdles and the mystic fan of lacchus. All of these you will remember to provide and store away long beforehand, if the glory the divine country gives is to be yours in worthy measure. From the first, even in the woods, an elm, bent by main force, is trained for the stock, and receives the form of the crooked plow. To the stem of this is fitted a pole, eight feet in length, with two mold-boards, and a share-beam with double back. A light linden, too, is felled beforehand for the yoke, and a tall beech for the handle, to turn the car below from the rear; and the wood is hung above the hearth for the smoke to season.
I can repeat for you many olden maxims, unless you shrink back and are loath to learn such trivial cares. And chiefly, the threshing-floor must be levelled with a heavy roller, kneaded with the hand, and made solid with binding clay, lest weeds spring up, or, crumbling into dust, it gape open, and then diverse plagues make mock of you. Often under the ground the tiny mouse sets up a home and builds his storehouses, or sightless moles dig out chambers; in holes may be found the toad, and all the countless pests born of the earth; or the weevil ravages a huge heap of grain, or the ant, anxious for a destitute old age.
Mark, too, when in the woods the almond clothes herself richly in blossom and bends her fragrant boughs: if the fruit prevails, the corn crops will keep pace with it, and a great threshing come with a great heat; but if the shade is abundant in the fullness of leafage, in vain shall your floor thresh stalks, rich only in chaff. Many a sower have I seen treat his seeds, drenching them first with nitre and black oil-lees, that the deceitful pods might yield larger produce, and the grains be sodden quickly, however small the fire. I have seen seeds, though picked long and tested with much pains, yet degenerate, if human toil, year after year, culled not the largest by hand. Thus by law of fate all things speed towards the worst, and slipping away fall back; even as if one, whose oars can scarce force his skiff against the stream, should by chance slacken his arms, and lo! headlong down the current the boat sweeps him away.
Furthermore, we must watch the star of Arcturus, the days of the Kids, and the gleaming Snake, even as they do who, sailing homeward over windswept seas, brave the Pontus and the jaws of oyster-breeding Abydus. When the Balance makes the hours of daytime and sleep equal, and now parts the world in twain, half in light and half in shade, then, my men, work your oxen, sow barley in your fields, as late as the eve of winter's rains, when work must cease. Then, too, is the time to hide in the ground your crop of flax and the poppy of Ceres; and high time is it to bend to the plow, while the dry soil will let you and the clouds are still aloft. Spring is the sowing-time for beans; then, too, the crumbling furrows welcome thee, Median clover, and the millet claims our yearly care, when the snow-white Bull with gilded horns ushers in the year, and the Dog sets, retiring before his confronting star.
But if for harvest of wheat and for hardy spelt you ply the ground, and if grain alone is your aim, first let the daughters of Atlas pass from your sight in the morn, and let the Cretan star of the blazing Crown withdraw ere you commit to the furrows the seeds due, or hasten to trust the year's hope to a reluctant soil. Many have begun ere Maia's setting, but the looked-for crop has mocked them with empty ears. Yet if you choose to sow the vetch or homely kidney-bean, and scorn not the care of Egyptian lentil, setting Bootes will send you no doubtful signs. Begin, and carry on your sowing to midwinter's frosts.
To this end the golden Sun rules his circuit, portioned out in fixed divisions, through the world's twelve constellations. Five zones comprise the heavens; whereof one is ever glowing with the flashing sun, ever scorched by his flames. Round this, at the world's ends, two stretch darkling to right and left, set fast in ice and black storms. Between these and the middle zone, two by grace of the gods have been vouchsafed to feeble mortals; and a path is cut between the two, wherein the slanting array of the Signs may turn.
As our globe rises steep to Scythia and the Riphaean crags, so it slopes downward to Libya's southland. One pole is ever high above us, while the other, beneath our feet, is seen of black Styx and the shades infernal. Here, with his tortuous coils, the mighty Snake glides forth, river-like, about and between the two Bears — the Bears that shrink from the plunge 'neath Ocean's plain. There, men say, is either the silence of lifeless night, and gloom ever thickening beneath night's pall; or else Dawn returns from us and brings them back the day, and when on us the rising Sun first breathes with panting steeds, there glowing Vesper is kindling his evening rays. Hence, though the sky be fitful, we can foretell the weather's changes, hence the harvest-tide and sowing-time; when it is meet to lash with oars the sea's faithless calm, when to launch our well-rigged fleet, or in the woods to fell the pine in season. Not in vain do we watch the signs, as they rise and set, and the year, uniform in its four several seasons.
Whenever a cold shower keeps the farmer indoors, he can prepare at leisure much that ere long in clear weather must needs be hurried. The plowman hammers out the hard tooth of the blunted share, scoops troughs from trees, or sets a brand upon his flocks and labels upon his corn-heaps. Others sharpen stakes and two-pronged forks, or make bands of Amerian willows for the limber vine. Now let the pliant basket be woven of briar twigs, now roast corn by the fire, now grind it on the stone. Nay, even on holy days, the laws of God and man permit you to do certain tasks. No scruples ever forbade us to guide down the water-rills, to defend a crop with a hedge, to set snares for birds, to fire brambles, or to plunge bleating flocks into the health-giving stream. Oft, too, the driver loads his slow donkey's sides with oil or cheap fruits, and as he comes back from town brings with him an indented millstone or a mass of black pitch.
The Moon herself has ordained various days in various grades as lucky for work. Shun the fifth; then pale Orcus and the Furies were born: then in monstrous labor Earth bore Coeus, and lapetus, and fierce Typhoeus, and the brethren who were banded to break down Heaven. Thrice did they essay, forsooth, to pile Ossa on Pelion, and over Ossa to roll leafy Olympus; thrice, with his bolt, the Father dashed apart their up-piled mountains. The seventeenth is lucky for planting the vine, for yoking and breaking in oxen, and for adding the leashes to the warp. The ninth is a friend to the runaway, a foe to the thief.
Yea, and many things make better progress in the cool of night, or when at early sunrise the day-star bedews the earth. At night the light stubble is best shorn, at night the thirsty meadows; at night the softening moisture fails not. One I know spends wakeful hours by the late blaze of a winter-fire, and with sharp knife points torches; his wife the while solaces with song her long toil, runs the shrill shuttle through the web, or on the fire boils down the sweet juice of must, and skims with leaves the wave of the bubbling cauldron. But Ceres' golden grain is cut down in noonday heat, and in noonday heat the floor threshes the parched ears.
Strip to plow, strip to sow; winter is the farmer's lazy time. In cold weather farmers chiefly enjoy their gains, and feast together in merry companies. Winter's cheer calls them, and loosens the weight of care — even as when laden keels have at last reached port, and the merry sailors have crowned the poops with garlands. Still, then is the time to strip the acorns and laurel-berries, the olive and blood-red myrtle; the time to set snares for cranes and nets for the stag, and to chase the long-eared hares; the time to smite the does, as you whirl the hempen thongs of a Balearic sling — when the snow lies deep, when the rivers roll down the ice.
Why need I tell of autumn's changes and stars, and for what our workers must watch, as the day now grows shorter and summer softer, or when spring pours down in showers, as the bearded harvest now bristles in the fields, and the corn on its green stem swells with milk? Often, as the farmer was bringing the reaper into his yellow fields and was now stripping the brittle-stalked barley, my own eyes have seen all the winds clash in battle, tearing up the heavy crop far and wide from its deepest roots and tossing it on high; then with its black whirlwind the storm would sweep off the light stalk and flying stubble. Often, too, there appears in the sky a mighty column of waters, and clouds mustered from on high roll up a murky tempest of black showers: down falls the lofty heaven, and with its deluge of rain washes away the gladsome crops and the labors of oxen.
The dykes fill, the deep-channelled rivers swell and roar, and the sea steams in its heaving firths. The Father himself, in the midnight of storm-clouds, wields his bolts with flashing hand. At that shock shivers the mighty earth; far flee the beasts and over all the world crouching terror lays low men's hearts: he with blazing bolt dashes down Athos or Rhodope or the Ceraunian peaks. The winds redouble; more and more thickens the rain; now woods, now shores wail with the mighty blast.
In fear of this, mark the months and signs of heaven; whither Saturn's cold star withdraws itself and into what circles of the sky strays the Cyllenian fire. Above all, worship the gods, and pay great Ceres her yearly rites, sacrificing on the glad sward, with the setting of winter's last days, when clear springtime is now come. Then are lambs fat and wine is most mellow; then sweet is sleep, and thick are the shadows on the hills. Then let all your country folk worship Ceres; for her wash the honeycomb with milk and soft wine, and three times let the luck-bringing victim pass round the young crops, while the whole choir of your comrades follow exulting, and loudly call Ceres into their homes; nor let any put his sickle to the ripe corn, ere for Ceres he crown his brows with oaken wreath, dance artless measures, and chant her hymns.
And that through unfailing signs we might learn these dangers — the heat, and the rain, and the cold-bringing winds — the Father himself decreed what warning the monthly moon should give, what should signal the fall of the wind, and what sight, oft seen, should prompt the farmer to keep his cattle nearer to their stalls. From the first, when the winds are rising, either the sea's straits begin to heave and swell, and on mountain-heights is heard a dry crash, or the shores ring a confused echo afar and the woodland murmur waxes loud.
Then, too, the wave scarce keeps itself from the curved keel, when the fleet gulls fly back from mid-ocean, wafting their screams shoreward, and when the sea-coots sport on dry land, and the heron quits its home in the marsh and soars aloft above the clouds. Often, too, when wind is threatening, you will see stars shoot headlong from the sky, and behind them long trails of flame, gleaming white amid night's blackness; often light chaff and falling leaves fly about and feathers dance as they float on the water's top. But when it lightens from the region of the grim North, and when the home of the East and West winds thunders, then the ditches overflow and all the fields are flooded, while on the deep every mariner furls his dripping sails.
Never has rain brought ill to men unwarned. Either, as it gathers, the skyey cranes flee before it in the valleys' depths; or the heifer looks up to heaven, and with open nostrils snuffs the breeze, or the twittering swallow flits round the pools, and in the mud the frogs croak their old-time plaint. Often, too, the ant, wearing her narrow path, brings out her eggs from her inmost cells and a great rainbow drinks, and an army of rooks, quitting their pasture in long array, clang with serried wings. Again, there are the sea-birds manifold, and such as, in Cayster's sweet pools, rummage round about the Asian meadows. These you may see rivalling each other in pouring the copious spray over their shoulders, now dashing their heads in the waves, now running into the waters, and aimlessly exulting in the joy of the bath. Then the caitiff raven with deep tones calls down the rain, and in solitary state stalks along the dry sea-sand. Even at night, maidens that spin their tasks have not failed to mark a storm as they saw the oil sputter in the blazing lamp, and a mouldy fungus gather on the wick.
Nor less after rain may you foresee bright suns and cloudless skies and know them by sure signs. For then the stars' bright edge is seen undimmed, and the moon rises under no debt to her brother's rays, and no thin fleecy clouds pass over the sky. Not now do the halcyons, the pride of Thetis, spread their wings on the shore to catch the warm sun, nor do the uncleanly swine think of tossing straw bundles to pieces with their snouts. But the mists are prone to seek the valleys, and rest on the plain, and the owl, as she watches the sunset from some high peak, vainly plies her evening song. Nisus is seen aloft in the clear sky, and Scylla suffers for the crimson lock. Wherever she flees, cleaving the light air with her wings, lo! savage and ruthless, with loud whirr Nisus follows through the sky; where Nisus mounts skyward, she flees in haste, cleaving the light air with her wings.
Then the rooks, with narrowed throat, thrice or four times repeat their soft cries, and oft in their high nests, joyous with some strange, unwonted delight, chatter to each other amid the leaves. Glad are they, the rains over, to see once more their little brood and their sweet nests. Not, methinks, that they have wisdom from on high, or from Fate a larger foreknowledge of things to be; but that when the weather and fitful vapors of the sky have turned their course, and Jove, wet with the south winds, thickens what just now was rare, and makes rare what now was thick, the phases of their minds change, and their breasts now conceive impulses, other than they felt, when the wind was chasing the clouds, Hence that chorus of the birds in the fields, the gladness of the cattle, and the exulting cries of the rooks.
But if you pay heed to the swift sun and the moons, as they follow in order, never will to-morrow's hour cheat you, nor will you be ensnared by a cloudless night. Soon as the moon gathers her returning fires, if she encloses a dark mist within dim horns, a heavy rain is awaiting farmers and seamen. But if over her face she spreads a maiden blush, there will be wind; as wind rises, golden Phoebe ever blushes. But if at her fourth rising — for that is our surest guide — she pass through the sky clear and with undimmed horns, then all that day, and the days born of it to the month's end, shall be free from rain and wind; and the sailors, safe in port, shall pay their vows on the shore to Glaucus, and to Panopea, and to Melicerta, Ino's son.
The sun, too, alike when rising and when sinking under the waves, will give tokens: tokens most sure will attend the sun, both those he brings each dawn and those he shows as the stars arise. When, hidden in cloud, he has chequered with spots his early dawn, and is shrunk back in the center of his disc, beware of showers; for from the deep the South-wind is sweeping, foe to tree and crop and herd. Or when at dawn scattered shafts break out amid thick clouds, or when Aurora rises pale, as she leaves Tithonus' saffron couch, ah! poorly then will the vine-leaf guard the ripe grapes, so thick the bristling hail dances rattling on the roofs.
This, too, when he has traversed the sky and now is setting, it will profit you more to bear in mind; for oft we see fitful hues flit over his face: a dark one threatens rain; a fiery, east winds; but if the spots begin to mingle with glowing fire, then shall you see all nature rioting with wind and storm-clouds alike. On such a night let none urge me to fare over the deep, or pluck my cable from the land. Yet if, both when he brings back the day, and when he closes the day he brought, his disc is bright, then vain will be your fear of storm-clouds, and you will see the woods sway in the clear north wind.
In short, the tale told by even-fall, the quarter whence the wind drives clear the clouds, the purpose of the rainy South — of all the Sun will give you signs. Who dare say the Sun is false? Nay, he oft warns us that dark uprisings threaten, that treachery and hidden wars are upswelling. Nay, he had pity for Rome, when, after Caesar sank from sight, he veiled his shining face in dusky gloom, and a godless age feared everlasting night. Yet in that hour Earth also, and Ocean's plains, and ill-boding dogs and ominous birds, gave their tokens. How oft we saw Aetna flood the Cyclopes' fields, when streams poured from her rent furnaces, and she whirled balls of flame and molten rocks! Germany heard the clash of arms through all the sky; the Alps rocked with unwonted terrors.
A voice, too, was heard of many amid the silence of solemn groves — an awful voice; and spectres, pale in wondrous wise, were seen at evening twilight; and beasts — O portent, terrible! — spake as men. Rivers halt, earth gapes wide, in temples the ivory weeps in sorrow, and bronzes sweat. Eridanus, king of rivers, washed away in the swirl of his mad eddy whole forests, and all across the plains swept cattle and stalls alike. Yea, in that same hour, threatening filaments ceased not to show themselves in ominous entrails, or blood to flow from wells, or lofty cities to echo all the night with the howl of wolves.
Never from a cloudless sky fell more lightnings; never so oft blazed fearful comets. Therefore once more Philippi saw Roman armies clash in the shock of brother weapons, and the Powers above thought it not unseemly that Emathia and the broad plains of Haemus should twice batten on our blood. Yea, and a time shall come when in those lands, as the farmer toils at the soil with crooked plow, he shall find javelins eaten up with rusty mould, or with his heavy hoes shall strike on empty helms, and marvel at the giant bones in the upturned graves.
Gods of my country, Heroes of the land, thou Romulus, and thou Vesta, our mother, that guardest Tuscan Tiber and the Palatine of Rome, at least stay not this young prince from aiding a world uptorn! Enough has our life-blood long atoned for Laomedon's perjury at Troy; enough have Heaven's courts long grudged thee, O Caesar, to us, murmuring that thou payest heed to earthly triumphs! For here are right and wrong inverted; so many wars overrun the world, so many are the shapes of sin; the plow meets not its honor due; our lands, robbed of the tillers, lie waste, and the crooked pruning-hooks are forged into stiff swords. Here Euphrates, there Germany, awakes war; neighbor cities break the leagues that bound them and draw the sword; throughout the world rages the god of unholy strife: even as when from the barriers the chariots stream forth, round after round they speed, and the driver, tugging vainly at the reins, is borne along by the steeds, and the car heeds not the curb!
Thus far the tillage of the fields and the stars of heaven: now thee, Bacchus, will I sing, and with thee the forest saplings, and the offspring of the slow-growing olive. Hither, O Lenaean sire! Here all is full of thy bounties; for thee blossoms the field teeming with the harvest of the vine, and the vintage foams in the brimming vats. Come hither, O Lenaean sire, strip off thy buskins and with me plunge thy naked legs in the new must.
Firstly, Nature has ways manifold for rearing trees. For some, under no man's constraint, spring up of their own free will, and far and wide claim the plains and winding rivers; such as the limber osier and lithe broom, the poplar, and the pale willow-beds with silvery leafage. But some spring from fallen seed, as tall chestnuts, and the broad-leaved tree, mightiest of the woodland, that spreads its shade for Jove, and the oaks, deemed by the Greeks oracular. With others a dense undergrowth sprouts from the parent root, as with cherries and elms; the laurel of Parnassus, too, springs up, a tiny plant, beneath its mother's mighty shade. These are the modes Nature first ordained; these give verdure to every kind of forest-trees and shrubs and sacred groves.
Others there are which Experience has in her course discovered for herself. One man tears away suckers from the mother's tender frame, and sets them in furrows; another buries in the ground stems, both as cross-cleft shafts and as sharp-pointed stakes. Some trees await the arches of the bent layer, and slips set while yet quick in their own soil; others need no root, and the pruner fears not to take the topmost spray and again entrust it to the earth. Nay, when the trunks are cleft — how wondrous the tale! — an olive root thrusts itself from the dry wood. Often, too, we see one tree's branches turn harmless into another's, the pear transformed bearing engrafted apples, and stony cornels blushing on the plum.
Up! therefore, ye husbandmen, learn the culture proper to each after its kind; your wild fruits tame by tillage, and let not your soil lie idle. What joy to plant all Ismarus with the vine, and clothe great Taburnus with the olive! And draw thou near, O Maecenas, and with me traverse the toilsome course I have essayed, thou, my pride, to whom of right belongs the chief share in my fame; yea, spread thy sails to speed over an open sea. Not mine the wish to embrace all the theme within my verse, not though I had a hundred tongues, a hundred mouths, and a voice of iron! Draw nigh, and skirt the near shore- line — the land is close at hand. Not here will I detain thee with songs of fancy, amid rambling paths and lengthy preludes.
Trees that of free will lift themselves into realms of light spring up unfruitful, but rejoicing in their strength, for within the soil is native force. Yet even these, if one graft them, or transplant and commit to well-worked trenches, will doff their wild spirit, and under constant tillage will readily follow any lessons you would have them learn. So, too, the sucker, which springs barren from the bottom of the stem, would do likewise, if set out amid open fields: as it is, the mother-tree's branches and deep leafage over-shadow it, robbing it of fruit as it grows, and blasting it in the bearing. Again, the tree which rears itself from chance-dropped seeds rises slowly and will yield its shade to our children of later days; its fruits, too, degenerate, forgetting the olden flavor, and the vine bears sorry clusters, for the birds to pillage.
On all, be sure, must labor be spent; all must be marshalled into trenches, and tamed with much trouble. But olives answer best from truncheons, vines from layers, Paphian myrtles from the solid stem. From suckers spring sturdy hazels, and the giant ash, the shady tree that crowned Hercules, and the acorns of the Chaonian sire. So, too, rises the lofty palm, and the fir that will see the perils of the deep. But the rough arbutus is grafted with a walnut shoot, and barren planes have oft borne hardy apple-boughs; the beech has grown white with the chestnut's snowy bloom, the ash with the pear's; and swine have crunched acorns beneath the elm.
Nor is the mode of grafting and of budding the same. For where the buds push out from amid the bark, and burst their tender sheaths, a narrow slit is made just in the knot; in this from an alien tree they insert a bud, and teach it to grow into the sappy bark. Or, again, knotless boles are cut open, and with wedges a path is cleft deep into the core; then fruitful slips are let in, and in a little while, lo! a mighty tree shoots up skyward with joyous boughs, and marvels at its strange leafage and fruits not its own.
Further, not single in kind are sturdy elms, or the willow, or the lotus, or the cypresses of Ida, nor do rich olives grow to one mould — the orchad and radius, and the pausian with its bitter berry. So, too, with apples and the gardens of Alcinous; nor are cuttings the same for Crustumian and Syrian pears, and the heavy volema. On our trees hangs not the same vintage as Lesbos gathers from Methymna's boughs: there are Thasian vines, there are the pale Mareotic — these suited for rich soils, those for lighter ones — the Psithian, too, better for raisin-wine, and the thin Lagean, sure some day to trouble the feet and tie the tongue; the Purple and the Precian and thou, Rhaetic — how shall I sing thee?
Yet even so, vie not thou with Falernian vaults! There are, too Aminnean vines, soundest of wines, to which the Tmolian and the royal Phanaean itself pay homage; and the lesser Argitis, which none may match, either in richness of stream or in lasting through many years. Nor would I pass by thee, vine of Rhodes, welcome to the gods and the banquet's second course, and thee, Bumastus, with thy swelling clusters. But for the many kinds, or the names they bear, there is no numbering — nor, indeed, is the numbering worth the pains. He who would have knowledge of this would likewise be fain to learn how many grains of sand on the Libyan plain are stirred by the West-wind, or when the East falls in unwonted fury on the ships, would know how many billows of the Ionian sea roll shoreward.
Nor yet can all soils bear all fruits. In rivers grow willows, in rank fens alders, on rocky hills the barren ash. The shores rejoice most in myrtle-groves. Lastly, Bacchus loves open hills, and the yew-tree the cold of the North-wind. See, too, earth's farthest bounds, conquered by tillage — the Arabs' eastern homes, and the painted Gelonians: trees have their allotted climes. India alone bears black ebony; to the Sabaeans alone belongs the frankincense bough. Why should I tell you of the balsams that drip from the fragrant wood, or of the pods of the ever-blooming acanthus. Why tell of the Aethiopian groves, all white with downy wool, or how the Seres comb from leaves their fine fleeces.
Or, nearer the Ocean, of the jungles which India rears, that nook at the world's end where no arrows can surmount the air at the tree-top. And yet not slow is that race in handling the quiver. Media bears the tart juices and lingering flavor of the health-giving citron-tree, which, if cruel stepdames have ever drugged the cups [mixing herbs and baleful spells], comes as help most potent, and from the limbs drives the deadly venom. The tree itself is large, and in looks very like a bay; and a bay it were, did it not fling abroad another scent. In no winds fall its leaves; its blossom clings most firmly; with it the Mede treats his mouth's noisome breath, and cures the asthma of the old.
But neither Media's groves, land of wondrous wealth, nor beauteous Ganges, nor Hermus, thick with gold, may vie with Italy's glories — not Bactra, nor India, nor all Panchaea, rich in incense-bearing sand. This land no bulls, with nostrils breathing flame, ever plowed for the sowing of the monstrous dragon's teeth; no human crop ever bristled with helms and serried lances; but teeming fruits have filled her and the Vine-god's Massic juice; she is the home of olives and of joyous herds. Hence comes the war-horse, stepping proudly over the plain; hence thy snowy flocks, Clitumnus, and the bull, that noblest victim, which, oft steeped in thy sacred stream, have led to the shrines of the gods the triumphs of Rome.
Here is eternal spring, and summer in months not her own; twice the cattle breed, twice the tree serves us with fruits. But ravening tigers are far away, and the savage seed of lions; no aconite deludes hapless gatherers, nor does the scaly serpent dart his huge rings over the ground, or with his vast train wind himself into a coil. Think, too, of all the noble cities, the achievement of man's toil, all the towns his handiwork has piled high on steepy crags, and the streams that glide beneath those ancient walls. Shall I tell of the seas, washing the land above and below? Or of our mighty lakes. Of thee, Larius, our greatest; and thee, Benacus, with the roaring, surging swell of the sea? Shall I tell of our havens, and the barrier thrown across the Lucrine, and how Ocean roars aloud in wrath, where the Julian waters echo afar as the sea is flung back, and the Tyrrhenian tide pours into the channels of Avernus?
Yea, and this land has shown silver-streams and copper-mines in her veins, and has flowed rich with gold. She has mothered a vigorous breed of men, Marsians and the Sabine stock, the Ligurian, inured to hardship, and the Volscian spearmen; yea, the Decii, the Marii, the great Camilli, the Scipios, hardy warriors, and thee, greatest of all, O Caesar, who, already victorious in Asia's farthest bounds, now drivest the craven Indian from our hills of Rome. Hail, land of Saturn, great mother of earth's fruits, great mother of men! 'Tis for thee I essay the theme of olden praise and art; for thee I dare to unseal the sacred founts, and through Roman towns to sing the song of Ascra.
Now give we place to the genius of soils, the strength of each, its hue, its native power for bearing. First, then, churlish ground and unkindly hills, where there is lean clay, and gravel in the thorny fields, delight in Minerva's grove of the long-lived olive. A token of this is the oleaster, springing up freely in the same space, and the ground strewn with its wild berries. But a rich soil, which rejoices in sweet moisture, a level space thick with herbage and prolific in nutriment (such as we may oft-times descry in a mountain's hollow dell, for into it from the rocky heights pour the streams, bearing with them fattening mud), land which rises to the South and feeds the fern, that plague of the crooked plow — this land will some day yield you the hardiest of vines, streaming with the rich flood of Bacchus; this is fruitful in the grape, and in the juice we offer from bowls of gold, what time by the altars the sleek Tuscan has blown his ivory pipe, and in broad chargers we present the steaming meat of sacrifice.
But if you are more fain to keep herds and calves, or to breed sheep, or goats that blight the plants, then haste to the glades and distant meads of rich Tarentum, or to such a plain as hapless Mantua lost, giving food to snowy swans with its grassy stream. There the flocks will lack nor limpid springs nor herbage, and all that the herds will crop in the long days the chilly dew will restore in one short night.
Land that is black, and rich beneath the share's pressure and with a crumbly soil — for such a soil we try to rival with our plowing — is, in the main, best for corn; from no other land will you see more wagons wending homeward behind slow bullocks; or land from which the angry plowman has carried off the timber, levelling groves that have idled many a year, and up-tearing by their deepest roots the olden homes of the birds — these, lo! leave their nests and seek the sky, but forthwith the untried plain glistens under the driven plowshare. For as to the hungry gravel of a hilly country, it scarce serves the bees with lowly spurge and rosemary; and the rough tufa and the chalk that black water-snakes have eaten out betoken that no other lands give serpents food so sweet, or furnish such winding coverts.
But if a soil exhales thin mists and curling vapors, if it drinks in moisture and throws it off again at will, if it always clothes itself in the verdure of its own grass, and harms not the steel with scurf and salt rust, that is the one to wreathe your elms in joyous vines, the one to be rich in oil of olive, the one you will find, as you till, to be indulgent to cattle and submissive to the crooked share. Such is the soil rich Capua plows, and the coast near the Vesuvian ridge, and Clanius, unkindly to forlorn Acerrae.
Now I will tell you how you may distinguish each. If you shall ask whether a soil be light or closer than is the wont — for one is friendly to corn the other to the vine; the closer to Ceres, all the lightest to Lyaeus — you must first look out a place and bid a pit be sunk deep in the solid ground then put all the earth back again, and tread the earth level at the top. If it fall short, this farm-land will be light, and better suited for the herd and gracious vine; but if it shows that it cannot return to its place, and if there is earth to spare when the pit is filled, the soil is stiff: look for reluctant clods and stiffness of ridge, and have strong oxen break your ground. As for salty land, the kind called bitter (unfruitful it is for crops and mellows not in plowing; it preserves not for the vine its lineage, or for apples their fame), it will allow this test: pull down from the smoky roof your close-woven wicker-baskets and wine-strainers: in these let that sorry soil, mixed with fresh spring water, be pressed in to the brim. You will see all the water trickle through and big drops pass between the osiers; but the taste will tell its tale full plainly, and with its bitter flavor will distort the testers' soured mouths.
Again, richness of soil we learn in this way only: never does it crumble when worked in the hands, but like pitch grows sticky in the fingers when held. A moist soil rears taller grass and is of itself unduly prolific. Ah! not mine be that over-fruitful soil, and may it not show itself too strong when the ears are young! A heavy soil betrays itself silently by its own weight; so does a light one. It is easy for the eye to learn at once a black soil and the hue of any kind. But to detect the villainous cold is hard; only pitch-pines or baleful yews and black ivy sometimes reveal its traces.
These points observed, remember first to bake the ground well, to cut up the huge knolls with trenches, and to expose the upturned clods to the North-wind, long ere you plant the vine's gladsome stock. Fields of crumbling soil are the best; to this the winds see, the chill frosts, and the stout delver, who loosens and stirs the acres. But men whose watchful care nothing escapes first seek out like plots — one where the crop may be nursed in infancy for its supporting trees, and one to which it may be moved anon when planted out, lest the nurslings should fail to recognize the mother suddenly changed. Nay, they print on the bark of the trees the quarter of the sky each faced, so as to restore the position in which they stood, the same side bearing the southern heat and the same back turned to the north pole; so strong is habit in tender years.
First inquire whether it be better to plant the vine on hills or on the plain. If it is rich level ground you lay out, plant close; in close-planted soil not less fertile is the wine-god. But if it is a soil of rising mounds and sloping hills, give the ranks room; yet none the less, when the trees are set, let all the paths, with clear-cut line, square to a nicety. As oft, in mighty warfare, when the legion deploys its companies in long array and the column halts on the open plain, when the lines are drawn out, and far and wide all the land ripples with the gleam of steel, not yet is the grim conflict joined, but the war-god wanders in doubt between the hosts: so let all your vineyard be meted out in even and uniform paths, not merely that the view may feed an idle fancy, but because only thus will the earth give equal strength to all, and the boughs be able to reach forth into free air.
Perchance you ask also what should be the trenches' depth. I should venture to entrust a vine even to a shallow furrow, but deeper and far within the earth is sunk the supporting tree, above all the great oak, which strikes its roots down towards the nether pit as far as it lifts its top to the airs of heaven. Hence no winter storms, no blasts or rains, uproot it; unmoved it abides, and many generations, many ages of men it outlives, letting them roll by while it endures. Stout limbs, too, and arms it stretches far, this side and that, itself in the center upholding a mass of shade.
Let not your vineyards slope towards the setting sun, nor plant the hazel among the vines, nor lop the highest sprays, nor pluck cuttings from the tree-top — so strong is their love of the earth — nor hurt young plants with a blunted knife, nor engraft wild trunks of olive. For oft from thoughtless shepherds falls a spark, which, lurking at first unseen under the rich bark, fastens on the trunk, and, gliding to the leaves aloft, sends to heaven a mighty roar; then, running on, reigns supreme among all the boughs and high tree-tops, wrapping all the grove in fire, and belching skyward black clouds of thick pitchy darkness; most of all, if a tempest from above has swooped down upon the woods, and a favoring wind masses the flames. When this befalls, the trees are without virtue in their stock, and when cut down cannot revive or from the earth's depths resume their olden bloom: the luckless oleaster with bitter leaves alone survives.
And let no counsellor seem so wise as to persuade you to stir the stiff soil when the North-wind blows. Then winter grips the land with frost, and when the plant is set suffers it not to fasten its frozen root in the earth. The best planting season for vines is when in blushing spring the white bird, the foe of long snakes, is come, or close on autumn's first cold, ere yet the fiery sun touches winter with his steeds, and summer is now waning. Spring it is that aids the woods and the forest leafage; in spring the soil swells and calls for life-giving seed.
Then Heaven, the Father almighty, comes down in fruitful showers into the lap of his joyous spouse, and his might, with her mighty frame commingling, nurtures all growths. Then pathless copses ring with birds melodious, and in their settled time the herds renew their loves. The bountiful land brings forth, and beneath the West's warm breezes the fields loosen their bosoms; in all things abounds soft moisture, and the grasses safely dare to trust themselves to face the new suns; the vine-tendrils fear not the rising of the South, or a storm driven down the sky by mighty blasts of the North, but thrust forth their buds and unfold all their leaves.
Even such days, I could suppose, shone at the first dawn of the infant world; even such was the course they held. Springtime that was; the great world was keeping spring, and the East-winds spared their wintry blasts, when the first cattle drank in the light and man's iron race reared its head from the hard fields, and wild beasts were let loose into the forests and the stars into heaven. Nor could tender things endure this world's stress, did not such long repose come between the seasons' cold and heat, and did not heaven's gracious welcome await the earth.
Furthermore, whatever cuttings you plant in your fields, sprinkle them with rich dung, and forget not to cover them with deep soil; or bury with them porous stone or rough shells; for the water will glide between, the air's searching breath will steal in, and the plants sown will take heart. And, ere now, some have been known to overlay them with stones and jars of heavy weight, thus shielding them against pelting showers, and against the time when the sultry dog-star splits the fields that gape with thirst.
When the sets are planted, it remains for you to break up the soil oft-times at the roots, and to swing the ponderous hoe, or to ply the soil under the share's pressure and turn your toiling bullocks even between your vineyard rows; then to shape smooth canes, shafts of peeled rods, ashen stakes and stout forks, by whose aid the vines may learn to mount, scorn the winds, and run from tier to tier amid the elm-tops.
And when their early youth has fresh leaves budding, you must spare their weakness, and while the shoot, speeding through the void with loosened reins, pushes joyously skyward, you must not yet attack the plants themselves with the knife's edge, but with bent fingers pluck the leaves and pick them here and there. Later, when they have shot up and their stout stems have now clasped the elms, then strip their locks and clip their arms — ere that they shrink from the knife — then at last set up an iron sway and check the flowing branches.
You must also weave hedges, and keep out all cattle, chiefly while the leafage is tender and knows naught of trials, for besides unfeeling winters and the sun's tyranny, ever do wild buffaloes and pestering roes make sport of it; sheep and greedy heifers feed upon it. No cold, stiff with hoar frost, no summer heat, brooding heavily over parched crags, has done it such harm as the flocks and the venom of their sharp tooth, and the scar impressed on the deep-gnawed stem. For no other crime is it that a goat is slain to Bacchus at every altar, and the olden plays enter on the stage; for this the sons of Theseus set up prizes for wit in their villages and at the cross-ways, and gaily danced in the soft meadows on oiled goat-skins.
Even so Ausonia's swains, a race sent from Troy, disport with rude verses and laughter unrestrained, and put on hideous masks of hollow cork, and call on thee, O Bacchus, in joyous songs, and to thee hang waving amulets from the tall pine. Hence every vineyard ripens in generous increase; fullness comes to hollow valleys and deep glades, and every spot towards which the god has turned his comely face. Duly, then, in our country's songs we will chant for Bacchus the praise he claims, bringing him cakes and dishes; the doomed he-goat, led by the horn, shall stand at the altar, and the rich flesh we will roast on spits of hazel.
There is, too, this other task of dressing the vines whereon never is enough pains spent; for thrice or four times each year must all your soil be split open, and the clods broken unceasingly with hoe reversed, and all the grove lightened of its foliage. The farmer's toil returns, moving in a circle, as the year rolls back upon itself over its own footsteps. And already, whenever the vineyard has shed her autumn leafage, and the North-wind has shaken their glory from the woods — already then the keen farmer extends his care to the coming year, and pursues the vine he had left, lopping it with Saturn's crooked knife and pruning it into shape.
Be the first to dig the ground, first to bear away and fire the prunings, first to carry the poles under cover: be the last to reap. Twice the shade thickens on the vines; twice weeds cover the vineyard with thronging briars. Heavy is either toil: "praise thou large estates, farm a small one." Further, rough shoots of broom must be cut amid the woods, and river rushes on the banks, and the care of the wild willow-bed keeps you at work. Now the vines are bound, now the vineyard lays by the pruning-knife, now the last vine-dresser sings of his finished rows: still you have to worry the soil and stir the dust, and fear Jove's rains for your now ripened grapes.
Olives, on the other hand, need no tending; they look not for the crooked knife or gripping mattock, when once they have laid hold of the fields and braved the breeze. Earth of herself, when opened with the hoe's curved fang, yields moisture enough for the plants, and teeming fruits, when opened by the plow. After this mode nurture the plump olive, favored of Peace.
Fruit-trees, too, so soon as they feel their stems firm, and come to their strength, swiftly push forth skyward with inborn force, needing no help from us. No less, meanwhile, does every wood grow heavy with fruit, and the birds' wild haunts blush with crimson berries. Cattle browse on the cytisus, the high wood yields pine-brands, the fires of night are fed and pour forth light. And can men be slow to plant and bestow care? Why need I pursue greater themes? The willows and lowly broom — they either yield leafage for the sheep or shade for the shepherd, a fence for the crops and food for honey. And what joy it is to gaze on Cytorus waving with boxwood, and on groves of Narycian pitch!
What joy to view fields that owe no debt to the harrow, none to the care of man! Even the barren woods on Caucasian peaks, which angry eastern gales ever toss and tear, yield products, each after its kind, yield useful timber, pines for ships, cedars and cypresses for houses. From these the farmers turn spokes for wheels, or drums for their wains; from these they lay broad keels for boats. The willow's wealth is in its osiers, the elm's in its leaves, but the myrtle and the cornel, that weapon of war, abound in stout spear-shafts; yews are bent into Ituraean bows.
So, too, smooth lindens and the box, polished by the lathe, take shape and are hollowed by the sharp steel. So, too, the light alder, sent down the Po, swims the raging wave; so, too, the bees hive their swarms in the hollow cork-trees, and m the heart of a rotting ilex. What boon of equal note have the gifts of Bacchus yielded? Bacchus has even given occasion of offense. It was he who quelled in death the maddened Centaurs, Rhoetus, and Pholus, and Hylaeus, menacing the Lapiths with mighty bowl.
O happy husbandmen! too happy, should they come to know their blessings! for whom, far from the clash of arms, most righteous Earth, unbidden, pours forth from her soil an easy sustenance. What though no stately mansion with proud portals disgorges at dawn from all its halls a tide of visitors, though they never gaze at doors inlaid with lovely tortoise-shell or at raiment tricked with gold or at bronzes of Ephyra, though their white wool be not stained with Assyrian dye, or their clear oil's service spoiled by cassia? Yet theirs is repose without care, and a life that knows no fraud, but is rich in treasures manifold. Yea, the ease of broad domains, caverns, and living lakes, and cool vales, the lowing of the kine, and soft slumbers beneath the trees — all are theirs. They have woodland glades and the haunts of game; a youth hardened to toil and inured to scanty fare; worship of gods and reverence for age; among them, as she quitted the earth, Justice planted her latest steps.
But as for me — first above all, may the sweet Muses whose holy emblems, under the spell of a mighty love, I bear, take me to themselves, and show me heaven's pathways, the stars, the sun's many lapses, the moon's many labors; whence come tremblings of the earth, the force to make deep seas swell and burst their barriers, then sink back upon themselves; why winter suns hasten so fast to dip in Ocean, or what delays clog the lingering nights. But if the chill blood about my heart bar me from reaching those realms of nature, let my delight be the country, and the running streams amid the dells — may I love the waters and the woods, though fame be lost. O for those plains, and Spercheus, and Taygetus, where Spartan girls hold Bacchic rites! O for one to set me in the cool glens of Haemus, and shield me under the branches' mighty shade!
Blessed is he who has been able to win knowledge of the causes of things, and has cast beneath his feet all fear and unyielding Fate, and the howls of hungry Acheron! Happy, too, is he who knows the woodland gods, Pan and old Silvanus and the sister Nymphs! Him no honors the people give can move, no purple of kings, no strife rousing brother to break with brother, no Dacian swooping down from his leagued Danube, no power of Rome, no kingdoms doomed to fall: he knows naught of the pang of pity for the poor, or of envy of the rich. He plucks the fruits which his boughs, which his ready fields, of their own free will, have borne; nor has he beheld the iron laws, the Forum's madness, or the public archives.
Others vex with oars seas unknown, dash upon the sword, or press into courts and the portals of kings. One wreaks ruin on a city and its hapless homes, that he may drink from a jewelled cup and sleep on Tyrian purple; another hoards up wealth and broods over buried gold; one is dazed and astounded by the Rostra; another, open-mouthed, is carried away by the plaudits of princes and of people, rolling again and again along the benches. Gleefully they steep themselves in their brothers' blood; for exile they change their sweet homes and hearths, and seek a country that lies beneath an alien sun.
Meanwhile the husbandman has been cleaving the soil with crooked plow; hence comes his year's work, hence comes sustenance for his country and his little grandsons, hence for his herds of kine and faithful bullocks. No respite is there, but the season teems either with fruits, or with increase of the herds, or with the sheaves of Ceres' corn, loading the furrows with its yield and bursting the barns. Winter is come; Sicyon's berry is bruised in the mill, the swine come home gladdened with acorns, the forests yield arbutes, or autumn sheds its varied produce, and high on the sunny rocks basks the mellow vintage. Meanwhile his dear children hang upon his kisses; his unstained home guards its purity; the kine droop milk-laden udders, and on the glad sward, horn to horn, the fat kids wrestle. The master himself keeps holiday, and stretched on the grass, with a fire in the midst and his comrades wreathing the bowl, offers libation and calls on thee, O god of the Wine-press, and for the keepers of the flock sets up a mark on an elm for the contest of the winged javelin, or they bare their hardy limbs for the rustic wrestling-bout.
Such a life the old Sabines once lived, such Remus and his brother. Thus, surely, Etruria waxed strong, thus Rome became of all things the fairest, and with a single city's wall enclosed her seven hills. Nay, before the Cretan king held sceptre, and before a godless race banqueted on slaughtered bullocks, such was the life golden Saturn lived on earth, while yet none had heard the clarion blare, none the sword-blades ring, as they were laid on the stubborn anvil.
But in our course we have traversed a mighty plain, and now it is time to unyoke the necks of our smoking steeds.
Thee, too, great Pales, we will sing, and thee, famed shepherd of Amphrysus, and you, ye woods and streams of Lycaeus. Other themes, which else had charmed with song some idle fancy, are now all trite. Who knows not pitiless Eurystheus, or the altars of detested Busiris? Who has not told of the boy Hylas, of Latona's Delos, of Hippodame, and Pelops, famed for ivory shoulder, and fearless with his steeds? I must essay a path whereby I, too, may rise from earth and fly victorious on the lips of men. I first, if life but remain, will return to my country, bringing the Muses with me in triumph from the Aonian peak; first I will bring back to thee, Mantua, the palms of Idumaea, and on the green plain will set up a temple in marble beside the water, where great Mincius wanders in slow windings and fringes his banks with slender reeds.
In the midst I will have Caesar, and he shall possess the shrine. In his honor I, a victor resplendent in Tyrian purple, will drive a hundred four-horse chariots beside the stream. For me, all Greece, leaving Alpheus and the groves of Molorchus, shall vie in races and with raw-hide gloves, and I, with brows decked with shorn olive-leaves, will bring gifts. Even now 'tis a joy to lead the solemn procession to the sanctuary, and view the slaughter of the steers; or to watch how the scene retreats with changing front, and how the inwoven Britons raise the purple curtains. On the doors I will fashion, in gold and solid ivory, the battle of the Ganges' tribe, and the arms of conquering Quirinus; there, too, the Nile, surging with war and flowing full; and columns soaring high with prows of bronze.
I will add Asia's vanquished cities, the routed Niphates, the Parthian, whose trust is in flight and backward-shot arrows, the two trophies torn perforce from far-sundered foes and the nations on either shore that yielded twofold triumphs. Here, too, shall stand Parian marbles, statues that breathe — the seed of Assaracus, and the great names of the race sprung from Jove, father Tros, and the Cynthian founder of Troy. Loathly envy shall cower before the Furies and the stern stream of Cocytus, Ixion's twisted snakes and monstrous wheel, and the unconquerable stone.
Meantime let us pursue the Dryads' woods and virgin glades — no easy behest of thine, Maecenas. Apart from thee, my mind essays no lofty theme; arise then, break through slow delays! With mighty clamor Cithaeron calls, and Taygetus' hounds and Epidaurus, tamer of horses; and the cry, doubled by the applauding groves, rings back. Yet anon I will gird me to sing Caesar's fiery fights, and bear his name in story through as many years as Caesar is distant from the far-off birth of Tithonus.
Whether a man aspires to the prize of Olympia's palm and breeds horses, or rears bullocks, strong for the plow, let his chief care be to choose the mold of the dams. The best-formed cow is fierce-looking, her head ugly, her neck thick, and her dewlaps hanging down from chin to legs. Moreover, her long flank has no limit; all points are large, even the feet; and under the crooked horns are shaggy ears. Nor should I dislike one marked with white spots, or impatient of the yoke, at times fierce with the horn, and more like a bull in face; tall throughout, and as she steps sweeping her footprints with the tail's tip. The age to bear motherhood and lawful wedlock ends before the tenth year, and begins after the fourth; the rest of their life is neither fit for breeding nor strong for the plow. Meantime, while lusty youth still abides in the herds, let loose the males; be first to send your cattle to mate, and supply stock after stock by breeding. Life's fairest days are ever the first to flee for hapless mortals; on creep diseases, and sad age, and suffering; and stern death's ruthlessness sweeps away its prey.
Ever will there be some kine whose mold you would wish to change; ever, I pray, renew them, and, lest too late you regret your losses, keep in advance, and year by year choose new stock for the herd.
Likewise for your breed of horses is the same choice needed. Only, upon those whom you mean to rear for the hope of the race, be sure to spend special pains, even from their early youth. From the first, the foal of a noble breed steps higher in the fields and brings down his feet lightly. Boldly he leads the way, braves threatening rivers, entrusts himself to an untried bridge, and starts not at idle sounds. His neck is high, his head clean-cut, his belly short, his back plump, and his gallant chest is rich in muscles. Good colors are bay and grey; the worst, white and dun.
Again, should he but hear afar the clash of arms, he cannot keep his place; he pricks up his ears, quivers in his limbs, and snorting rolls beneath his nostrils the gathered fire. His mane is thick and, as he tosses it, falls back on his right shoulder. A double ridge runs along his loins; his hoof scoops out the ground, and the solid horn gives it a deep ring. Such was Cyllarus, tamed by the reins of Amyclaean Pollux, and those whose fame Greek poets recount, the two steeds of Mars, and the pair of the great Achilles. Such, too, was Saturn himself, when at his wife's coming he fled swiftly, flinging his horse's mane over his shoulders, and with shrill neigh filled the heights of Pelion.
Yet even such a steed, when, worn with disease or sluggish through years, he begins to fail, shut up indoors and pity not his inglorious age. Cold is his passion when old, vainly he strives at a thankless toil, and whenever he comes to the fray his ardor is futile, as in the stubble a great fire rages at times without strength. Therefore note above all their spirit and years; then, other merits and the stock of their sires, the grief each shows at defeat or the pride in victory.
See you not, when in headlong contest the chariots have seized upon the plain, and stream in a torrent from the barrier, when the young drivers' hopes are high, and throbbing fear drains each bounding heart? On they press with circling lash, bending forward to slacken rein; fiercely flies the glowing wheel. Now sinking low, now raised aloft, they seem to be borne through empty air and to soar skyward. No rest, no stay is there; but a cloud of yellow sand mounts aloft, and they are wet with the foam and the breath of those in pursuit: so strong is their love of renown, so dear is triumph.
Erichthonius first dared to couple four steeds to the car, and to stand victorious over the flying wheels. The Thessalian Lapiths, mounting the horse's back, gave us the bit and circling course, and taught the horseman, in full armor, to gallop over the earth and round his proud paces. Equal is either task; equally the trainers seek out a young steed, hot of spirit and keen in the race; though oft that other have driven the foe in flight, and claim for birthplace Epirus or valiant Mycenae, and trace his line from Neptune's own ancestry.
These points noted, they bestir themselves, as the time draws near, and take all heed to fill out with firm flesh him whom they have chosen as leader and assigned as lord of the herd. They cut him flowering grasses, and give fresh water and corn, that he may be more than equal to the seductive toil, and no feeble offspring may repeat the leanness of the sires. But the mares themselves they purposely make spare, and when now the familiar pleasure first prompts them to union, they withhold leafy fodder and debar them from the springs. Oft, too, they rouse them to the gallop and tire them in the sun, when the floor groans heavily as the corn is threshed, and the empty chaff is tossed to the freshening Zephyr. This they do that by surfeit the usefulness of the fruitful soil be not dulled, or the sluggish furrows clogged, but that it may thirstily seize upon the seed, and store it deep within.
In turn, care for the sires begins to wane, and that for the dams to take its place. When their months are fulfilled and they roam heavy with young, then let no one suffer them to draw the yokes of heavy wagons, or leap across the pathway, or scour the meadows in swift flight, or stem the swirling current. They feed them in open glades and by the side of brimming rivers, where moss grows and the banks are greenest with grass, where grottoes may shelter them and the shadow of a rock be cast afar.
Round the groves of Silarus and the green holm-oaks of Alburnus swarms a fly, whose Roman name is asilus, but the Greeks have called it in their speech oestrus. Fierce it is, and sharp of note; before it whole herds scatter in terror through the woods: with their bellowings the air is stunned and maddened, the groves, too, and the banks of parched Tanager. With this monster Juno once wreaked her awful wrath, when she devised a pest for the heifer maid of Inachus. This, too — for in mid-day heat more fierce is its attack — you will keep from the pregnant herd, and will feed the flock when the sun is new-risen, or the stars usher in the night.
After birth, all care passes to the calves, and at once they brand them with the mark and name of the stock, setting apart those they wish to rear for breeding, to keep sacred for the altar, to set to cleave the soil and turn up the field, rough with its broken clods. The rest of the kine graze in the green pastures; but such as you will shape for the farm's pursuits and service, do you school while yet calves, and enter on the path of training, while their youthful spirits are docile, while their age is still pliant.
And, first, fasten about their shoulders loose circles of slender osier; then when their free necks are used to servitude, yoke the bullocks in pairs linked from the collars themselves, and force them to step together. Then let them now draw empty carts oft-times over the land, and print their tracks on the surface of the dust. Later, let the beechen axle creak and strain under its heavy load and a brass-bound pole drag the coupled wheels. Meanwhile you will not feed their unbroken youth on grass alone or poor willow leaves and marshy sedge, but on young corn, plucked by hand; nor will your mother-cows fill the snowy pails, as in our fathers' days, but will spend all their udders' wealth on their dear offspring.
But if your bent is more towards war and proud squadrons, or to glide on wheels by Pisa's Alphean waters, and in Jupiter's grove to drive the flying car, then the steed's first task is to view the arms of gallant warriors, to bear the trumpet-call, to endure the groaning of the dragged wheel, and to hear the jingle of bits in the stall; then more and more to delight in his trainer's caressing praise, and to love the sound of patting his neck. And this let him venture, soon as he is weaned from his mother, and now and again let him entrust his mouth to soft halters, while still weak and trembling, still ignorant of life.
But when three summers are past and the fourth is come, let him soon begin to run round the circuit, to make his steps ring evenly, to bend his legs in alternating curves, and be as one hard laboring: then, then let him challenge the winds to a race, and, skimming over the open plains, as though free from reins, let him scarce plant his steps on the surface of the sand — as when the gathered North-wind swoops down from Hyperborean coasts, driving on Scythia's storms and dry clouds, then the deep cornfields and the watery plains quiver under the gentle gusts, the tree-tops rustle, and long rollers press shoreward; on flies the wind, sweeping in his flight the fields and seas alike. Such a horse will either sweat towards the Elean goal, over the vast courses of the plain, and fling from his mouth bloody foam, or will bear more nobly with docile neck the Belgian car. Then at last, when the colts are now broken, let their bodies wax plump with coarse mash; for ere the breaking they will raise their mettle too high, and when caught will scorn to submit to the pliant lash, or obey the cruel curb.
But no care so strengthens their powers as to keep from them desire and the stings of secret passion, whether one's choice is to deal with cattle or with horses. Therefore men banish the bull to lonely pastures afar, beyond a mountain barrier and across broad rivers, or keep him well mewed beside full mangers. For the sight of the female slowly inflames and wastes his strength, nor, look you, does she, with her soft enchantments, suffer him to remember woods or pastures; nay, oft she drives her proud lovers to settle their mutual contest with clash of horns. She is grazing in Sila's great forest, a lovely heifer: the bulls in alternate onset join battle with mighty force; many a wound they deal, black gore bathes their frames, amid mighty bellowing the levelled horns are driven against the butting foe; the woods and the sky, from end to end, re-echo.
Nor is it the rivals' wont to herd together, but the vanquished one departs, and dwells an exile in unknown scenes afar. Much does he bewail his shame, and the blows of his haughty conqueror, and much the love he has lost unavenged — then, with a wistful glance at his stall, he has quitted his ancestral realm. Therefore with all heed he trains his powers, and on an unstrewn couch, among flinty rocks, lies through the night, with prickly leaves and pointed sedge for fare. Anon he tests himself, and, learning to throw wrath into his horns, charges a tree's trunk; he lashes the winds with blows, and paws the sand in prelude for the fray. Soon, when his power is mustered and his strength renewed, he advances the colors, and dashes head-long on his unmindful foe: as, when a wave begins to whiten in mid-sea, from the farther deep it arches its curve, and, rolling shoreward, roars thundering along the reefs, and, huge as a very mountain, falls prone, while from below the water boils up in eddies, and tosses black sand aloft.
Yea, every single race on earth, man and beast, the tribes of the sea, cattle and birds brilliant of hue, rush into fires of passion: all feel the same Love. At no other season doth the lioness forget her cubs, or prowl over the plains more fierce; never doth the shapeless bear spread death and havoc so widely through the forest; then savage is the boar, then most fell the tigress. Ah! it is ill faring then in Libya's lonely fields! See you not how a trembling thrills through the steed's whole frame, if the scent has but brought him the familiar breezes? No longer now can the rider's rein or the cruel lash stay his course, nor rocks and hollow cliffs, nay, nor opposing rivers, that tear up mountains and hurl them down the wave. On rushes the great Sabine boar; he whets his tusks, his foot paws the ground in front, he rubs his sides against a tree, and on either flank hardens his shoulders against wounds.
What of the youth, in whose marrow fierce Love fans the mighty flame? Lo! in the turmoil of bursting storms, late in the black night, he swims the straits. Above him thunders Heaven's mighty portal, and the billows, dashing on the cliffs, echo the cry; yet neither his hapless parents can call him back, nor thought of the maid who in cruel fate must die withal. What of Bacchus' spotted lynxes, and the fierce tribe of wolves and dogs? What of the battles fought by peaceful stags?
But surely the madness of mares surpasses all. Venus herself inspired their frenzy, when the four Potnian steeds tore with their jaws the limbs of Glaucus. Love leads them over Gargarus and over the roaring Ascanius; they scale mountains, they swim rivers. And, soon as the flame has stolen into their craving marrow (chiefly in spring, for in spring the heat returns to their breasts), they all, with faces turned to the Zephyrs, stand on a high cliff, and drink in the gentle breezes. Then oft, without any wedlock, pregnant with the wind (a wondrous tale!) they flee over rocks and crags and lowly dales, not towards thy rising, East-wind, nor the Sun's, but to the North, and the North-west, or thither where rises the blackest South, saddening the sky with chilly rain. Then, and then only, does the slimy "horse- madness," as shepherds rightly name it, drip slowly from the groin — horse-madness, which cruel step- dames oft gather, mixing herbs and baleful spells.
But time meanwhile is flying, flying beyond recall, while we, charmed with love of our theme, linger around each detail! Enough this for the herds; there remains the second part of my task, to tend the fleecy flocks and shaggy goats. Here is toil, hence hope for fame, ye sturdy yeomen! And well I know how hard it is to win with words a triumph herein, and thus to crown with glory a lowly theme. But sweet desire hurries me over the lonely steeps of Parnassus; joyous it is to roam over heights, where no forerunner's track turns by a gentle slope down to Castalia. Now, worshipful Pales, now must we sing in lofty strain.
First I decree that the sheep crop the herbage in soft pens, till leafy summer soon returns, and that you strew the hard ground beneath them with straw and handfuls of fern, lest the chill ice harm the tender flock, bringing scab and unsightly foot-rot. Passing hence, I next bid you give the goats much leafy arbutus, offering them fresh running water, and placing the stalls away from the winds towards the winter sun, to face the south, at the time when the cold Water-bearer is now setting, sprinkling the departing year.
These goats, too, we must guard with no lighter care, and not less will be the profit, albeit the fleeces of Miletus, steeped in Tyrian purple, are bartered for a high price. From them is a larger progeny, from them a plenteous store of milk; the more the milk-pail has foamed from the drained udder, the more richly will flow the streams, when again the teats are pressed. Nor less, meanwhile, do herdsmen clip the beard on the hoary chin of the Cinyphian goat, and shear his hairy bristles, for the need of camps, and as coverings for hapless sailors. Again, they feed in the woods and on the summits of Lycaeus among the prickly briars and the hill-loving brakes; and of themselves they are mindful to return home, leading their kids, and scarce able to overtop the threshold with their teeming udders. Therefore, the less they need man's care, the more zealously should you screen them from frost and snowy blasts, gladly bringing them their food and provender of twigs, and closing not your hay lofts throughout the winter.
But when, at the Zephyrs' call, joyous Summer sends both sheep and goats to the glades and pastures, let us haste to the cool fields, as the morning-star begins to rise, while the day is young, while the grass is hoar, and the dew on the tender blade most sweet to the cattle. Then, when heaven's fourth hour has brought thirst to all, and the plaintive cicalas rend the thickets with song, I will bid the flocks at the side of wells or deep pools drink of the water that runs in oaken channels. But in midday heat let them seek out a shady dell, where haply Jove's mighty oak with its ancient trunk stretches out giant branches, or where the grove, black with many holms, lies brooding with hallowed shade. Then give them once more the trickling stream, and once more feed them till sunset, when the cool evening-star allays the air, and the moon, now dropping dew, gives strength to the glades, when the shores ring with the halcyon, and the copses with the finch.
Why follow up for you in song the shepherds of Libya, their pastures, and the settlements where they dwell in scattered huts? Often, day and night, and a whole month through, the flocks feed and roam into the desert stretches, with no shelters; so vast a plain lies outstretched. The African herdsman takes with him his all — his house and home, his arms, his Spartan dog and Cretan quiver — even as the valiant Roman, when, arrayed in his country's arms, he hastes on his march under a cruel load, and, ere the foe awaits him, halts his column and pitches his camp.
Far otherwise is it where dwell the tribes of Scythia by the waters of Maeotis, where the turbid Danube tosses his yellow sands, and where Rhodope bends back, stretching up to the central pole. There they keep the herds penned up in stalls, and no blade is seen upon the plain, or leaf upon the tree; but far and wide earth lies shapeless under mounds of snow and piles of ice, rising seven cubits high. 'Tis ever winter; ever North-west blasts, with icy breath.
Then, too, never does the Sun scatter the pale mists, either when, borne on his chariot, he climbs high Heaven, or when he laves his headlong car in Ocean's crimson plain. Sudden ice-crusts form on the running stream, and anon the water bears on its surface iron-bound wheels — giving welcome once to ships, but now to broad wains! Everywhere brass splits, clothes freeze on the back, and with axes they cleave the liquid wine; whole lakes turn into a solid mass, and the rough icicle hardens on the unkempt beard. No less, meanwhile, does the snow fill the sky; the cattle perish, the oxen's great frames stand sheathed in frost, the deer in crowded herd are numb under the strange mass and above it scarce rise the tips of their horns. These they hunt not by unloosing hounds, or laying nets, or alarming with the terror of the crimson feather, but as their breasts vainly strain against that mountain rampart men slay them, steel in hand, cut them down bellowing piteously, and bear them home with loud shouts of joy.
Themselves, in deep-dug caves, low in the earth, they live careless and at ease, rolling to the hearths heaps of logs, yea, whole elm-trees, and throwing them on the fire. Here they spend the night in play, and with ale and bitter service-juice joyously mimic draughts of wine. Such is the race of men lying under the Wain's seven stars in the far north, a wild race, buffeted by the Rhipaean East-wind, their bodies clothed in the tawny furs of beasts.
If wool be your care, first clear away the prickly growth of burs and caltrops; shun rich pastures, and from the first choose flocks with white, soft fleeces. But the ram, however white be his fleece, if he have but a black tongue under his moist palate, cast out, lest with dusky spots he tarnish the coats of the new-born lambs; and look about for another in your teeming field. 'Twas with gift of such snowy wool, if we may trust the tale, that Pan, Arcadia's god, charmed and beguiled thee, O Moon, calling thee to the depths of the woods; nor didst thou scorn his call.
But let him who longs for milk bring with his own hand lucerne and lotus in plenty and salted herbage to the stalls. Thus they love streams the more, and the more distend their udders, while their milk recalls a lurking savor of salt. Many bar the kids from the dams as soon as born, and from the first front their mouths with iron-bound muzzles. What milk they drew at sunrise or in the hours of day, they press at night; what they drew at night or sunset, they carry off in baskets at dawn, when a shepherd goes to town; or they sprinkle it with a pinch of salt, and store it for the winter.
Nor let the care of dogs be last in your thoughts, but feed swift Spartan whelps and fierce Molossians alike on fattening whey. Never, with them on guard, need you fear for your stalls a midnight thief, or onslaught of wolves, or restless Spaniards in your rear. Oft, too, you will course the shy wild ass, and with hounds will hunt the hare, with hounds the doe. Oft you will rout the boar from his forest lair, driving him forth with the baying pack, and over the high hills with loud cry will force a huge stag into the nets.
Learn, too, to burn in your stalls fragrant cedar and with fumes of Syrian gum to banish the noisome water-snakes. Oft under sheds uncleansed has lurked a viper, deadly to touch, and shrunk in terror from the light; or an adder, sore plague of the kine, that is wont to glide under the sheltering thatch and sprinkle venom on the cattle, has hugged the ground. Snatch up in thy hand, shepherd, snatch stones and staves, and as he rises in menace and swells his hissing neck, strike him down! Lo, now in flight he has buried deep his frightened head, while his mid coils and the end of his writhing tail are still untwining themselves, and the last curve slowly drags its folds.
There is, too, that deadly serpent in Calabria's glades, wreathing its scaly back, its breast erect, and its long belly mottled with large spots. So long as any streams gush from their founts, so long as earth is wet with spring's moisture and showery south winds, he haunts the pools, and, dwelling on the banks, there greedily fills his black maw with fish and croaking frogs. But when the fen is burnt up, and the soil gapes with heat, he springs forth to dry land and, rolling his blazing eyes, rages in the fields, fierce with thirst and frenzied with the heat. May I not then be fain to woo soft sleep beneath the open sky, or to lie outstretched in the grass on some wooded slope, when, his slough cast off, fresh and glistening in youth, he rolls along, leaving his young or eggs at home, towering towards the sun, and darting from his mouth a three-forked tongue!
Diseases, too, their causes and tokens, I will teach you. Foul scab attacks sheep, when chilly rain and winter, bristling with hoar frost, have sunk deep into the quick, or when the sweat, unwashed, clings to the shorn flock, and prickly briars tear the flesh. Therefore the keepers bathe the whole flock in fresh streams; the ram is plunged in the pool with his dripping fleece, and let loose to float down the current. Or, after shearing, they smear the body with bitter oil-lees, blending silver-scum and native sulphur with pitch from Ida and richly oiled wax, squill, strong hellebore, and black bitumen. Yet no help for their ills is of more avail than when one has dared to cut open with steel the ulcer's head; the mischief thrives and lives by concealment, while the shepherd refuses to lay healing hands on the wounds, and sits idle, praying the gods to better all.
Nay more, when the pain runs to the very marrow of the bleating victims, there to rage, and when the parching fever preys on the limbs, it is well to turn aside the fiery heat, and within the hoof to lance a vein, throbbing with blood, even as the Bisaltae are wont to do, and the keen Gelonian, when he flees to Rhodope and the wilds of the Getae, and there drinks milk curdled with horses' blood. Should you see a sheep oft withdraw afar into soft shade, or listlessly nibble the top of the grass, lagging in the rear, or sink while grazing in the midst of the field and retire, late and lonely, before night's advance, straightway with the knife check the offense, ere the dread taint spreads through the unwary throng. Not so thick with driving gales sweeps a whirlwind from the sea, as scourges swarm among cattle. Not single victims do diseases seize, but a whole summer's fold in one stroke, the flock and the hope of the flock, and the whole race, root and branch. Of this may one be witness, should he see — even now, so long after — the skyey Alps and the forts on the Noric hills, and the fields of Illyrian Timavus with the shepherds' realm desolate, and their glades far and wide untenanted.
On this land from the sickened sky there once came a piteous season that glowed with autumn's full heat. Every tribe of cattle, tame or wild, it swept to death; it poisoned the lakes, it tainted the pastures with venom. Not simple was the pathway to death; but when the fiery thirst had coursed through all the veins and shrivelled the hapless limbs, in its turn a watery humor welled up and drew into itself all the bones, as piecemeal they melted with disease. Oft in the midst of divine rites, the victim, standing by the altar, even as the woollen fillet's snowy band was passed round its brow, fell in death's throes amid the tardy ministrants. Or if, ere that, the priest had slain a victim with the knife, yet the altars blazed not therewith, as the entrails were laid on; the seer, when consulted, could give no response; the knife beneath the throat is scarce stained with blood, and only the surface sand is darkened with the thin gore.
Then on every side amid gladsome herbage the young kine die or yield up sweet life by their full folds. Then madness visits fawning hounds; a racking cough shakes the sickening swine and chokes them with swollen throats. The steed, once victor, sinks; failing in his efforts and forgetful of the grass, he turns from the spring, and oft-times paws the ground; his ears droop, on them breaks out a fitful sweat — sweat that is cold as death draws nigh; the skin is dry and, hard to the touch, withstands the stroking hand. Such are the signs they yield ere death in the first days; but as in its course the sickness grows fierce, then the eyes blaze, the breath is drawn deep — at times laden with moans — their utmost flanks are strained with long-drawn sobs, black blood gushes from the nostrils, and the rough tongue chokes the blockaded throat. It has availed to pour in wine-juice through a horn inserted — this seemed the one hope for the dying. Soon even this led to death; they burned with the fury of fresh strength, and, though now in the weakness of death (Heaven grant a happier lot to the good, and such madness to our foes!), rent and mangled their own limbs with bared teeth.
But lo, the bull, smoking under the plowshare's weight, falls; from his mouth he spurts blood, mingled with foam, and heaves his dying groans. Sadly goes the plowman, unyokes the steer that sorrows for his brother's death, and amid its half-done task leaves the share rooted fast. No shades of deep woods, no soft meadows can touch his heart, no stream purer than amber, rolling over the rocks in its course towards the plain; but his flanks are unstrung throughout, numbness weighs upon his languid eyes, and his neck sinks with drooping weight to earth. Of what avail is his toil or his services? What avails it, that he turned with the share the heavy clod? And yet no Massic gifts of Bacchus, no feasts, oft renewed, did harm to him and his. They feed on leaves and simple grass; their cups are clear springs and rivers racing in their course, and no care breaks their healthful slumbers.
Only at that time, they say, were kine in those regions sought in vain for the rites of Juno, and chariots were drawn by ill-matched buffaloes to her lofty treasure-house. Therefore men painfully scratch the earth with harrows, with their own nails bury the seed, and over the high hills with straining necks drag the creaking wains. The wolf tries not his wiles around the sheepfold, nor prowls by night about the flocks; a keener care tames him. Timorous deer and shy stags now stray among the hounds and about the houses.
Yea, the brood of the great deep, and all swimming things, like shipwrecked corpses, are washed up by the waves on the verge of the shore; in strange wise sea-calves flee to the rivers. The viper, too, vainly defended in her winding lairs, perishes, and the water-snake, his scales erect in terror. The air is unkind even to the birds; headlong they fall, leaving life beneath the clouds on high. Further, even change of pasture avails no more; the remedies sought work harm; masters in the art fail, Chiron, son of Phillyra, and Melampus, Amythaon's son. Ghastly Tisiphone rages, and, let forth into light from Stygian gloom, drives before her Disease and Dread, while day by day, uprising, she rears still higher her greedy head.
The rivers and thirsty banks and sloping hills echo to the bleating of flocks and incessant lowing of kine. And now in droves she deals out death, and in the very stalls piles up the bodies, rotting with putrid foulness, till men learn to cover them in earth and bury them in pits. For neither might the hides be used, nor could one cleanse the flesh by water or master it by fire. They could not even shear the fleeces, eaten up with sores and filth, nor touch the rotten web. Nay, if any man donned the loathsome garb, feverish blisters and foul sweat would run along his fetid limbs, and not long had he to wait ere the accursed fire was feeding on his stricken limbs.
Next will I discourse of Heaven's gift, the honey from the skies. On this part, too, of my task, Maecenas, look with favor. The wondrous pageant of a tiny world — chiefs great-hearted, a whole nation's character and tastes and tribes and battles — I will in due order unfold to thee. Slight is the field of toil; but not slight the glory, if adverse powers leave one free, and Apollo hearkens unto prayer.
First seek a settled home for your bees, whither the winds may find no access — for the winds let them not carry home their food — where no ewes or sportive kids may trample the flowers, nor straying heifer brush off the dew from the mead and bruise the springing blade. Let the spangled lizard with his scaly back be also a stranger to the rich stalls, and the bee-eater and other birds, and Procne, with breast marked by her blood-stained hands. For these spread havoc far and near, and, while the bees are on the wing, carry them off in their mouths, a sweet morsel for their cruel nestlings.
But let clear springs be near, and moss-green pools, and a tiny brook stealing through the grass; and let a palm of huge wild olive shade the porch, so that, when the new kings lead forth the early swarms in the spring they love, and the youth revel in their freedom from the combs, a bank near by may tempt them to quit the heat, and a tree in their path may hold them in its sheltering leafage. In the midst of the water, whether it stand idle or flow onward, cast willows athwart and huge stones, that they may have many bridges whereon to halt and spread their wings to the summer sun, if haply the East-wind has sprinkled the loiterers or with swift gust has plunged them in the flood. All about let green cassia bloom, and wild thyme with fragrance far borne, and a wealth of strong-scented savory; and let violet-beds drink of the trickling spring.
Then, let the hive itself, whether it be sewn of hollow bark, or woven of pliant osier, have its entrances narrow; for winter with its cold congeals the honey, while heat thaws and makes it run. Either trouble is alike to be feared for the bees; nor is it with vain zeal that in their homes they smear the tiny crevices with wax, fill the chinks with paste from flowers, and keep a store of ghie, gathered for this very purpose, more binding than lime or the pitch of Phrygian Ida. Oft, too, if report be true, they have made a snug home in tunnelled hiding-places underground, and are found deep in the hollows of pumice rock, or the cavern of a decayed tree. Yet do you keep them snug, smearing the chinks of their chambers with smooth clay, and flinging thereon a few leaves. And suffer no yew too near the hive, nor roast the reddening crab at your hearth; and trust not a deep marsh or a place where the smell of mud is strong, or where the hollow rocks ring when struck, and the echoed voice rebounds from the shock.
For the rest, when the golden Sun has driven winter in rout beneath the earth, and with summer light unlocked the sky, straightway they range through glades and groves, cull bright flowers, and lightly sip the stream's brink. Hence it is that, glad with some strange joy, they cherish nest and nestlings; hence they deftly mould fresh wax and fashion the gluey honey. Hence when you look up and see the host, just freed from the hive, floating towards the starry sky through the clear summer air — when you marvel at the dark cloud trailing down the wind — mark it well; they are ever in quest of sweet waters and leafy coverts. Here scatter the scents I prescribe — bruised balm, and the honeywort's lowly herb; raise a tinkling sound, and shake the Mighty Mother's cymbals round about. Of themselves will they settle on the scented resting-places; of themselves, after their wont, will hide far within their cradling cells.
But, if haply for battle they have gone forth — for oft-times strife with terrible turmoil hath fallen on two kings; and straightway you may presage from afar the fury of the crowd, and how their hearts thrill with war; for the warlike ring of the hoarse clarion stirs the loiterers, and a sound is heard that is like unto broken trumpet-blasts. Then, all afire, they flock together: their wings flash, they whet their stings on their beaks and make ready their arms. Round their king, and even by his royal tent, they swarm in throngs, and with loud cries challenge the foe.
Therefore, when they have found a clear spring day and open field, they sally forth from the gates. There is a clash; in high air arises a din; they are mingled and massed in one great ball, then tumble headlong: no thicker is hail from the sky, not so dense is the rain of acorns from the shaken oak. In the midst of the ranks the chiefs themselves, with resplendent wings, have mighty souls beating in tiny breasts, ever steadfast not to yield, until the victor's heavy hand has driven these or those to turn their backs in flight. These storms of passion, these conflicts so fierce, by the tossing of a little dust are quelled and laid to rest.
But when you have called both captains back from the field, give up to death the meaner of look, that he prove no wasteful burden; let the nobler reign in the palace alone. The one will be aglow with rough spots of gold. For there are two sorts: one is better, noble of mien and bright with gleaming scales; the second squalid from sloth, and trailing ignobly a broad paunch. As twofold are the features of the kings, so are the bodies of the subjects. For some are ugly and unsightly, as when from out of deep dust comes the parched wayfarer, and spits the dirt from his dried mouth. Others gleam, and flash in splendor, their bodies all ablaze and flecked with equal drops of gold. This is the nobler breed; from this, in the sky's due season, you will strain sweet honey — yet not so sweet as clear, and fit to subdue the harsh flavor of wine.
But when the swarms flit aimlessly and sport in the air, scorning their cells and leaving their hives chill, you must check their fickle spirit from such idle play. No hard task is it to check them. Do you tear from the monarchs their wings; while they tarry, no one will dare to go forth aloft, or pluck the standards from the camp. Let there be gardens fragrant with saffron flowers to invite them, and let the watchman against thieves and birds, guardian Priapus, lord of the Hellespont, protect them with his willow-hook. Let him, to whom such care falls, himself bring thyme and laurestines from the high hills, and plant them widely round their homes; himself harden his hand with stern toil; himself plant in the ground fruitful slips and sprinkle kindly showers.
And in truths were I not now hard on the very close of my toils, furling my sails, and hastening to turn my prow to land, perchance, too, I might be singing what careful tillage decks rich gardens, singing of the rose-beds of twice-blooming Paestura; how the endive rejoices in the streams it drinks, and the green banks in the parsley; and how the gourd, winding along the ground, swells into its paunch. Nor had I been silent on the late-blooming narcissus, or the curling acanthus-stem, the pale ivy or the shore-loving myrtle.
For I call to mind how under the towers of Oebalia's citadel, where dark Galaesus waters his yellow fields, I saw an old Corycian, who had a few acres of unclaimed land, and this a soil not rich enough for bullocks' plowing, unfitted for the flock, and unkindly to the vine. Yet, as he planted herbs here and there among the bushes, with white lilies about, and vervain, and slender poppy, he matched in contentment the wealth of kings, and, returning home in the late evening, would load his board with unbought dainties. He was first to pluck roses in spring and apples in autumn; and when sullen winter was still bursting rocks with the cold, and curbing running waters with ice, he was already culling the soft hyacinth's bloom, chiding laggard summer and the loitering zephyrs. So he, too, was first to be enriched with mother-bees and a plenteous swarm, the first to gather frothing honey from the squeezed comb. Luxuriant were his limes and laurestines; and all the fruits his bounteous tree donned in its early bloom, full as many it kept in the ripeness of autumn. He, too, planted out in rows elms far-grown, pear-trees when quite hard, thorns even now bearing plums, and the plane already yielding to drinkers the service of its shade. But I, barred by these narrow bounds, pass by this theme, and leave it for others after me to tell.
Come now, the qualities which Jove himself has given bees, I will unfold — even the reward, for which they followed the tuneful sounds and clashing bronzes of the Curetes, and fed the king of Heaven within the cave of Dicte. They alone have children in common, hold the dwellings of their city jointly, and pass their life under the majesty of law. They alone know a fatherland and fixed home, and in summer, mindful of the winter to come, spend toilsome days and garner their gains into a common store. For some watch over the gathering of food, and under fixed covenant labor in the fields; some, within the confines of their homes, lay down the narcissus' tears and gluey gum from tree-bark as the first foundation of the comb, then hang aloft clinging wax; others lead out the full-grown young, the nation's hope; others pack purest honey, and swell the cells with liquid nectar.
To some it has fallen by lot to be sentries at the gates, and in turn they watch the rains and clouds of heaven, or take the loads of incomers, or in martial array drive the drones, a lazy herd, from the folds. All aglow is the work, and the fragrant honey is sweet with thyme. And as, when the Cyclopes in haste forge bolts from tough ore, some with ox-hide bellows make the blasts come and go, others dip the hissing brass in the lake, while Aetna groans under the anvils laid upon her; they, with mighty force, now one, now another, raise their arms in measured cadence, and turn the iron with gripping tongs — even so, if we may compare small things with great, an inborn love of gain spurs on the Attic bees, each after its own office.
The aged have charge of the towns, the building of the hives, the fashioning of the cunningly wrought houses. But the young betake them home in weariness, late at night, their thighs freighted with thyme; far and wide they feed on arbutus, on pale-green willows, on cassia and ruddy crocus, on the rich linden, and the dusky hyacinth. All have one season to rest from labor, all one season to toil. At dawn they pour from the gates — no loitering; again, when the star of eve has warned them to withdraw from their pasture in the fields, then they seek their homes, then they refresh their frames; a sound is heard, as they hum about the entrances and on the thresholds. Anon, when they have laid them to rest in their chambers, silence reigns into the night, and well-earned sleep seizes their weary limbs. Nor yet, if rain impend, do they stray far from their stalls, or trust the sky when eastern gales are near, but round about, beneath the shelter of their city walls, draw water, and essay short flights; and often they raise tiny stones, as unsteady barques take up ballast in a tossing sea, and with these balance themselves amid the unsubstantial clouds.
Yea, and you will marvel that this custom has found favor with bees, that they indulge not in conjugal embraces, nor idly unnerve their bodies in love, or bring forth young with travail, but of themselves gather their children in their mouths from leaves and sweet herbs, of themselves provide a new monarch and tiny burghers, and remodel their palaces and waxen realms. Often, too, as they wander among rugged rocks they bruise their wings, and freely yield their lives under their load — so deep is their love of flowers and their glory in begetting honey. Therefore, though the limit of a narrow span awaits the bees themselves — for never stretches it beyond the seventh summer — yet the race abides immortal, for many a year stands firm the fortune of the house, and grandsires' grandsires are numbered on the roll.
Moreover, neither Egypt nor mighty Lydia, nor the Parthian tribes, nor Median Hydaspes, show such homage to their king. While he is safe, all are of one mind; when he is lost, straightway they break their fealty, and themselves pull down the honey they have reared and tear up their trellised combs. He is the guardian of their toils; to him they do reverence; all stand round him in clamorous crowd, and attend him in throngs. Often they lift him on their shoulders, for him expose their bodies to battle, and seek amid wounds a glorious death.
Led by such tokens and such instances, some have taught that the bees have received a share of the divine intelligence, and a draught of heavenly aether; for God, they say, pervades all things, earth and sea's expanse and heaven's depth; from Him the flocks and herds, men and beasts of every sort draw, each at birth, the slender stream of life; yea, unto Him all beings thereafter return, and, when unmade, are restored; no place is there for death, but, still quick, they fly unto the ranks of the stars, and mount to the heavens aloft.
Whenever you would break into the stately dwelling and the honey hoarded in their treasure-houses, first with a draught of water sprinkle and rinse your mouth, and in your hand hold forth searching smoke. Their rage is beyond measure; when hurt, they breathe poison into their bites, and fastening on the veins leave there their unseen stings and lay down their lives in the wound. Twice they gather the teeming produce; two seasons are there for the harvest — first, so soon as Taygete the Pleiad has shown her comely face to the earth, and spurned with scornful foot the streams of Ocean, and when that same star, fleeing before the sign of the watery Fish, sinks sadly from heaven into the wintry waves.
But if you fear a rigorous winter, and would be lenient with their future, and have pity for their crushed spirits and broken fortunes — yet who would hesitate to fumigate them with thyme, and cut away the empty waxen cells? For oft the newt, unnoticed, has nibbled at the combs, the light-shunning beetles cram the chambers, and the unhelpful drone seats him at another's board. Or the fierce hornet has rushed upon their unequal forces, or the moths appear, a pestilent race, or the spider, hateful to Minerva, hangs in the doorway her loose-woven nets. The more their hoards are drained, the more eagerly will they press on to repair the ruin of their fallen race, filling up their cell-galleries and weaving their granaries with flower-gum.
But, since to bees as well hath life brought the ills of man, if their bodies droop with a grievous disease —and this you can at once discern by no uncertain signs: straightway, as they sicken, their color changes, an unsightly leanness mars their looks; anon forth from their doors they bear the bodies of those bereft of life, and lead the mournful funeral train; or else, linked foot to foot, there by the portal they hang, or within locked doors they linger, all spiritless with hunger and torpid with pinching cold. Then is heard a duller sound, a long-drawn buzz, as at times the chill South sighs in the woods, as the fretted sea whistles with its ebbing surge, as seethes in close-barred furnaces the devouring flame.
Then would I have you burn forthwith fragrant gum, and give them honey through pipes of reed, freely heartening them, and calling the weary to their familiar food. It will be well, too, to blend the flavor of pounded galls, and dried rose-leaves, or must made rich over a strong fire, or dried clusters from the Psithian vine, with Attic thyme and strong-smelling centaury. A flower, too, there is in the meadows, which farmers have called amellus, a plant easy for searchers to find, for from a single clump it lifts a vast growth. Golden is the disk, but in the petals, streaming profusely round, there is a crimson gleam amid the dark violet. Often with its woven garlands have the gods' altars been decked; its flavor is bitter in the mouth; shepherds cull it in meadows cropped by the flock, and by Mella's winding streams. This plant's roots you must boil in fragrant wine, and set for food at their doors in full baskets.
But if anyone's whole brood has suddenly failed him, and he knows not how to restore the race in a new line, then is it also time to reveal the famed device of the Arcadian master, and the mode whereby oft, in the past, the putrid blood of slain bullocks has engendered bees. From its fount I will unfold the whole story, tracing it back from its first source. For where the favored people of Pellaean Canopus dwell by the outspread waters of the flooded Nile, and sail about their fields in painted skiffs, where the borderland of quivered Persia presses close, and where the river parts its rushing stream into seven separate mouths, making green Egypt rich with its black sands — the river that has swept unbroken down from the swarthy Indians — all the country rests on this device its sure salvation.
First is chosen a place, small and straitened for this very purpose. This they confine with a narrow roof of tiles and close walls, and towards the four winds add four windows with slanting light. Then a bullock is sought, one just arching his horns on a brow of two summers' growth. Spite of all his struggles, both his nostrils are stopped up, and the breath of his mouth; then he is beaten to death, and his flesh is pounded to a pulp through the unbroken hide. As thus he lies, they leave him in his prison, and strew beneath his sides broken boughs, thyme, and fresh cassia. This is done when the zephyrs begin to stir the waves, ere the meadows blush with their fresh hues, ere the chattering swallow hangs her nest from the rafters. Meantime the moisture, warming in the softened bones, ferments, and creatures of wondrous wise to view, footless at first, soon with buzzing wings as well, swarm together, and more and more essay the light air, until, like a shower pouring from summer clouds, they burst forth, or like arrows from the string's rebound, when the light-armed Parthians enter on the opening battle.
What god, ye Muses, forged for us this device? Whence did man's strange adventuring take its rise? Aristaeus the shepherd, quitting Tempe by the Peneus, when — so runs the tale — his bees were lost through sickness and hunger, sorrowfully stopped beside the sacred fount at the stream's head, and with many plaints called on his mother thus: "O mother, mother Cyrene, that dwellest in this flood's depths, why, from the gods' glorious line — if indeed, as thou sayest, Thymbraean Apollo is my father — didst thou give me birth, to be hated of the fates? Or whither is thy love for me banished? Why didst thou bid me hope for Heaven? Lo, even this very crown of my mortal life, which the skilful tending of crops and cattle had scarce wrought out for me for all my endeavor — though thou art my mother, I resign. Nay, come, and with thine own hand tear up my fruitful woods; lay the hostile flame to my stalls, destroy my crops, burn my seedlings, and swing the stout axe against my vines, if such loathing for my honor hath seized thee."
But his mother heard the cry from her bower beneath the river's depths. About her the Nymphs were spinning fleeces of Miletus, dyed with rich glassy hue — Drymo and Xantho, Ligea and Phyllodoce, their shining tresses floating over snowy necks; Cydippe and golden-haired Lycorias — a maiden one, the other having but felt the first birth-throes; Clio and Beroe her sister, daughters of Ocean both, both arrayed in gold, and both in dappled hides; Ephyre and Opis, and Asian Deiopea, and fleet Arethusa, her arrows laid aside at last. Among these Clymene was telling of Vulcan's baffled care, of the wiles and stolen joys of Mars, and from Chaos on was rehearsing the countless loves of the gods. And while, charmed by the strain, they unrolled the soft coils from their spindles, again the wail of Aristaeus smote upon his mother's ear, and all upon their crystal thrones were startled. Yet, first of all the sisters, Arethusa, looking forth, raised her golden head above the water's brim, and cried from afar: "O sister Cyrene, no idle alarm is thine at wailing so loud. 'Tis even he, thy chiefest care, thy Aristaeus, standing sadly and in tears by the wave of Father Peneus, and crying out on thee by name for cruelty."
To her the mother, her soul smitten with strange dread, cries: "O bring him, bring him to us; lawful it is for him to tread the threshold divine." And withal, she bade the deep streams part asunder far, that so the youth might enter in. And lo, the wave, arched mountain-like, stood round about, and, welcoming him within the vast recess, ushered him beneath the stream. And now, marvelling at his mother's home, a realm of waters, at the lakes locked in caverns, and the echoing groves, he went on his way, and, dazed by the mighty rush of waters, he gazed on all the rivers, as, each in his own place, they glide under the great earth — Phasis and Lycus, the fount whence deep Enipeus first breaks forth, whence Father Tiber, whence the streams of Anio and rocky, roaring Hypanis, and Mysian Caicus, and Eridanus, on whose bull's brow are twain gilded horns: no other stream of mightier force flows through the rich tilth to join the violet sea.
Soon as he reached the bower with its hanging roof of stone, and Cyrene heard the tale of her son's idle tears, the sisters, in due order, pour on his hands clear spring-waters, and bring smooth-shorn napkins. Some load the board with the feast, and in turn set on the brimming cups; the altars blaze up with Panchaean fires. Then cried his mother: "Take the goblets of Maeonian wine; pour we a libation to Ocean!" And withal she prayed to Ocean, universal father, and the sister Nymphs, who guard a hundred forests and a hundred streams. Thrice with clear nectar she sprinkled the glowing hearth; thrice the flame, shooting up to the roof-top, gleamed afresh. With this omen to cheer his heart, she thus herself began:
In Neptune's Carpathian flood there dwells a seer, Proteus, of sea-green hue, who traverses the mighty main in his car drawn by fishes and a team of two-footed steeds. Even now he revisits the havens of Thessaly and his native Pallene. To him we Nymphs do reverence, and aged Nereus himself; for the seer has knowledge of all things — what is, what hath been, what is in train ere long to happen — for so has it seemed good to Neptune, whose monstrous herds and unsightly seals he pastures beneath the wave. Him, my son, thou must first take in fetters, that he may unfold to thee all the cause of the sickness, and bless the issue. For without force he will give thee no counsel, nor shalt thou bend him by prayer. With stern force and fetters make fast the captive; thereon alone his wiles will shatter themselves in vain.
I myself, when the sun has kindled his noonday heat, when the grass is athirst, and the shade is now welcome to the flock, will guide thee to the aged one's retreat, whither when weary he retires, so that thou mayest assail him with ease as he lies asleep. But when thou holdest him in the grasp of hands and fetters, then will manifold forms baffle thee, and figures of wild beasts. For of a sudden he will become a bristly boar, a deadly tiger, a scaly serpent, or a lioness with tawny neck; or he will give forth the fierce roar of flame, and thus slip from his fetters, or he will melt into fleeting water and be gone. But the more he turn himself into all shapes, the more, my son, strain thou his fetters, until after his last changes of body he become such as thou sawest when he closed his eyes at the beginning of slumber."
She spake, and shed abroad ambrosia's fragrant stream, wherewith she steeped her son's whole frame: and lo, a sweet effluence breathed from his smoothened locks, and vigor and suppleness passed into his limbs. There is a vast cavern, hollowed in a mountain's side, whither many a wave is driven by the wind, then parts into receding ripples — at times a haven most sure for storm-caught mariners. Within, Proteus shelters himself with the barrier of a huge rock. Here the Nymph stations the youth in ambush, away from the light; she herself, veiled in a mist, stands aloof. And now the Dog-star, fiercely parching the thirsty Indians, was ablaze in heaven, and the fiery Sun had consumed half his course; the grass was withering and the hollow streams, in their parched throats, were scorched and baked by the rays down to the slime, when Proteus came from the waves, in quest of his wonted grot.
About him the watery race of the vast deep gambolled, scattering afar the briny spray. The seals lay them down to sleep, here and there along the shore; he himself — even as at times the warder of a sheep-fold on the hills, when Vesper brings the steers home from pasture, and the cry of bleating lambs whets the wolfs hunger — sits down on a rock in the midst and tells his tale. Soon as the chance came to Aristaeus, he scarce suffered the aged one to settle his weary limbs, ere he burst upon him with a loud cry and surprised him in fetters as he lies.
On his part, the seer forgets not his craft, but changes himself into all wondrous shapes — into flame and hideous beast and flowing river. But when no stratagem wins escape, vanquished he returns to himself, and at last speaks with human voice: "Why, who," he cried, "most presumptuous of youths, bade thee invade our home? Or what seekest thou hence?" But he: "Thou knowest, Proteus; thou knowest of thyself, nor may one deceive thee in aught, but do thou resign thy wish to deceive. Following the counsel of Heaven, we are come to seek hence an oracle for our weary fortunes." So much he spoke. On this the seer, yielding at last to mighty force, rolled on him eyes ablaze with grey-green light, and, grimly gnashing his teeth, thus unlocked his lips to tell the fates:
"There is a god whose anger pursues thee: a heavy offence thou dost expiate. 'Tis Orpheus, unhappy one, who evokes this vengeance against thee — did not Fate interpose — far short of thy deserts, and wildly he rages for the loss of his bride. She, in truth, hastening headlong along the river, if only she might escape thee, saw not the monstrous serpent that before her feet, doomed maiden, hugged the banks amid the deep grass. But the band of her Dryad comrades filled with their cries the mountain-peaks; the towers of Rhodope wept, and the Pangaean heights, and the martial land of Rhesus, the Getae and Hebrus and Orithyia, child of Acte. But he, solacing love's anguish with his hollow shell, sang of thee, sweet wife — of thee, to himself on the lonely shore; of thee as day drew nigh, of thee as day declined.
Even the jaws of Taenarus, the lofty portals of Dis, he entered, and the grove that is murky with black terror, and came to the dead, and the king of terrors, and the hearts that know not how to soften at human prayers. Startled by the strain, there came from the lowest realms of Erebus the bodiless shadows and the phantoms of those bereft of light, in multitude like the thousands of birds that hide amid the leaves when the evening star or a wintry shower drives them from the hills — mothers and men, and bodies of high-souled heroes, their life now done, boys and unwedded girls, and sons placed on the pyre before their fathers' eyes. But round them are the black ooze and unsightly reeds of Cocjtus, the unlovely mere enchaining them with its sluggish water, and Styx holding them fast within his ninefold circles. Nay, the very halls of Hell were spell-bound, and inmost Tartarus, and the Furies with livid snakes entwined in their locks. Cerberus held agape his triple mouths, and Ixion's wheel was stayed by the still wind.
"And now as he retraced his steps he had escaped every mischance, and the regained Eurydice was nearing the upper world, following behind — for that condition had Proserpine ordained — when a sudden frenzy seized Orpheus, unwary in his love, frenzy meet for pardon, did Hell know how to pardon! He stopped, and on the very verge of light, unmindful, alas! and vanquished in purpose, on Eurydice, now his own, looked back! In that moment all his toil was spent, the ruthless tyrant's pact was broken, and thrice a crash was heard amid the pools of Avernus. She cried: 'What madness, Orpheus, what dreadful madness hath ruined my unhappy self and thee? Lo, again the cruel Fates call me back and sleep veils my swimming eyes. And now farewell! I am swept off, wrapped in uttermost night, and stretching out to thee strengthless hands, thine, alas! no more.'
She spake, and straightway from his sight, like smoke mingling with thin air, vanished afar, and, vainly as he clutched at the shadows and yearned to say much, never saw him more; nor did the warden of Orcus suffer him again to pass that barrier of the marsh. What could he do? Whither turn himself, twice robbed of his wife? With what tears move Hell, with what prayers its powers? She, alas! even now death-cold, was afloat in the Stygian barque. Month in, month out, seven whole months, men say beneath a skyey cliff by lonely Strymon's wave, he wept, and, deep in icy caverns, unfolded this his tale, charming the tigers, and making the oaks attend his song; even as the nightingale, mourning beneath the poplar's shade, bewails the loss of her brood, that a churlish plowman hath espied and torn unfledged from the nest: but she weeps all night long, and, perched on a spray, renews her piteous strain, filling the region round with sad laments.
No love, no wedding-song could bend his soul. Alone he would roam the northern ice, the snowy Tanais, and the fields ever wedded to Rhipaean frosts, wailing Eurydice lost, and the gift of Dis annulled. But the Ciconian dames, scorned by such devotion, in the midst of their sacred rites and the midnight orgies of Bacchus, tore the youth limb from limb and strewed him broadcast over the fields. Even then, while Oeagrian Hebrus swept and rolled in mid-current that head, plucked from its marble neck, the bare voice and death-cold tongue, with fleeting breath, called Eurydice — ah, hapless Eurydice! 'Eurydice' the banks re-echoed, all adown the stream."
Thus Proteus, and at a bound plunged into the deep sea, and where he plunged, whirled the water into foam beneath the eddy. But not so Cyrene; for straightway she spake to the startled youth: "My son, thou mayest lay aside thy heart's sorrow and care. This is the whole cause of the sickness; hence it is that the Nymphs, with whom she was wont to tread the dance in the deep groves, sent this sore havoc on thy bees. Offer thou a suppliant's gilts, craving grace, and do homage to the gentle maidens of the woods; for they will grant pardon to prayers, and relax their wrath. But first I will tell thee in order the manner of thy supplication. Pick out four choice bulls, of surpassing form, that now graze among thy herds on the heights of green Lycaeus, and as many heifers of unyoked neck. For these set up four altars by the stately shrines of the goddesses, and drain the sacrificial blood from their throats, but leave the bodies of the steers within the leafy grove. Anon, when the ninth Dawn displays her rising beams, thou shalt send unto Orpheus funeral dues of Lethe's poppies, shalt slay a black ewe and revisit the grove. Then to Eurydice, now appeased, thou shalt do worship with the slaughter of a calf."
Tarrying not, he straightway does his mother's bidding. He comes to the shrine, rears the altars appointed, and leads thither four choice bulls, of surpassing form, and as many heifers of unyoked neck. Anon, when the ninth Dawn had ushered in her rising beams, he sends unto Orpheus the funeral dues, and revisits the grove. But here they espy a portent, sudden and wondrous to tell — throughout the paunch, amid the molten flesh of the oxen, bees buzzing and swarming forth from the ruptured sides, then trailing in vast clouds, till at last on a tree-top they stream together, and hang in clusters from the bending boughs.
Thus I sang of the care of fields, of cattle, and of trees, while great Caesar thundered in war by deep Euphrates and gave a victor's laws unto willing nations, and essayed the path to Heaven. In those days I, Virgil, was nursed of sweet Parthenope, and rejoiced in the arts of inglorious ease — I who dallied with shepherds' songs, and, in youth's boldness, sang, Tityrus, of thee under thy spreading beech's covert.