Virgil (P. Vergilius Maro) trans. Tim Chilcott
Prima Syracosio dignata est ludere uersu
nostra neque erubuit siluas habitare Thalea.
cum canerern reges et proclia, Cynthius aurem
uellit et admonuit: 'pastorem, Tityre, pinguis
pascere oportet ouis, deductum dicere carmen?
nunc ego (namque super tibi crunt qui dicere laudes,
Vare, tuas cupiant et tristia condere bella)
agrestem tenui meditabor harundine Musam:
non iniussa cano. si quis tamen haec quoque, si quis
captus amore leget, te nostrac, Vare, myricae,
te nemus omne canct; nec Phoebo gratior ulla est
quam sibi quae Vari praescripsit pagina nomen.

.....Pergite, Pierides. Chromis et Mnasyllos in antro
Silenum pueri sonmo uidere iacentem,
inflaturn hesterno uenas, ut semper, laccho;
serta procul tanturn capiti delapsa iacebant
et gratus attrita pendebat cantharus ansa.
adgressi (narn saepe senex spe carminis ambo
luserat) iniciunt ipsis ex uincula sertis.
addit se sociarn timidisque superuenit Aegle,
Aegle Naiadurn pulcherrima, iamque uidenti
sanguincis frontern moris et tempora pingit.
ille dolum ridens 'quo uincula nectitis?' inquit;
6soluite me, pueri; satis est potuisse uideri.
carmina quae uultis cognoscite; carmina uobis,
huic aliud mercedis erit? simul incipit īpse.
tum ucro in numerurn Faunosque ferasque uideres
ludere, tum rigidas motare cacumina quercus;
nec tantum Phoebo gaudet Parnasia rupes,
nec tanturn Rhodope miratur et Ismarus Orphea.

.....Namque canebat uti magnum per inanc coacta
semina terrarumque animaeque marisque fuissent
et liquidi simul ignis; ut his ex omnia primis,
omnia et ipse tener mundi concreuerit orbis;
tum durare solum et discludere Nerea ponto
coeperit et rerum paulatim sumere formas;
iamque nouum terme stupeant lucescere solem,
altius atque cadant summotis nubibus imbres,
incipiant siluae cum primum surgere cumque
rara per ignaros errent animalia montis.

.....hinc lapides Pyrrhae iactos, Saturnia regna,
Caucasiasque refertluolucris furtumque Promethei.
his adiungit, Hylan nautac quo fonte relictum
clamassent, ut litus 'Hyla, Hyla' omne sonaret;
et fortunatam, si numquam armenta fuissent,
Pasiphaen niuci solatur amore iuuenci.
a, uirgo infelix, quae te dementia cepit!
Proetides implerunt falsis mugitibus agros,
at non tam turpis pecudum, tamen ulla secuta
concubitus, quamuis collo timuisset aratrum se
et saepe in leui quaesisset cornua fronte.
a! uirgo infelix, tu nunc in montibus erras:
ille latus niueum molli fultus hyacintho
ilice sub nigra pallentis ruminat herbas
aut aliquam in magno sequitur grege. Maudite,
Dictacae Nymphae, nemorum iam claudite saltus,
si qua forte ferant oculis sese obuia nostris
errabunda bouis uestigia; forsitan illum
aut herba captum uiridi aut armenta secutum
perducant aliquae stabula ad Gortynia uaccae.

.....tum canit Hesperidum mīratam mala puellam;
tum Phaëthontiadas musco circumdat amarac
corticis atque solo proceras crigit alnos.
tum canit, errantem Permessi ad flumina Gallum
Aonas in montis ut duxerit una sororum,
utque uiro Phoebi chorus adsurrexerit omnis;
ut Linus haec illi diuino carmine pastor
floribus atque apio crinis ornatus amaro
Ascraeo quos ante seni, quibus ille solebat
cantando rigidas deducere montibus ornos.
his tibi Grynei nemoris dicatur origo,
ne quis sit lucus quo se plus iactet Apollo.'

.....Quid loquar aut Scyllam Nisi, quam fama secuta est
candida succinctam latrantibus inguina monstris
Dulichias uexasse rates et gurgite in alto,
a! timidos nautas canibus lacerasse marinis;
aut ut mutatos Terei narrauerit artus,
quas illi Philomela dapes, quae dona pararit,
quo cursu deserta petiuerit et quibus ante
infelix sua tecta super uolitauerit alis?
omnia, quae Phoebo quondam meditante beatus
audiit Eurotas iussitque ediscere lauros,
ille canit, pulsae referunt ad sidera ualles;
cogere donec ouis stabulis numerumque referre
iussit et inuito processit Vesper Olympo.
My earliest muse, Thalia, saw fit to play Sicilian
Songs, and did not blush to live among the woods.
But when I sang of kings and wars, Apollo tweaked
My ear and warned: 'A shepherd, Tityrus,
Should make his flock grow fat, but sing a fine-spun song.'
There will be, Varus, many eager to recite
Your praise, or write about unhappy wars.
But I'll take up a slim reed-pipe and speak of rural themes.
I do not sing unbidden. And yet if someone, someone seized
By love should read this too, it will be you, Varus,
Whom the groves and tamarisks will celebrate. No page
Could please Apollo more than one with your name at its head.

.....So, Muses, start ... Two boys, called Chromis and Mnasyllus,
Once came upon Silenus, in a cave. asleep,
Veins, as always, swollen up with last night's wine.
Nearby lay the garlands that had fallen from his head.
And by a well-worn handle a heavy tankard hung.
They set on him - for often had the old man teased them both
With promise of a song - and bound him with the garlands he had worn.
Just as they start to feel alarmed, Aegle comes up to help -
Aegle, loveliest of the nymphs - and, as he wakes, she paints
His brow and temples red with mulberry juice.
The trick amuses him, but 'Why the bonds?' he asks.
'Untie me, lads. You've shown your power, and that's enough.
So listen to the songs you want. They're your reward.
She'll get a different treat.' And with that, he starts to sing.
Then truly you could see wild beasts and satyrs dancing
To his rhythm, and rigid oak-trees rock their crowns.
Apollo does not bring Parnassus' crag such great delight,
Nor Orpheus so enrapture Rhodope and Ismarus.

.....He sang of how, through all the emptiness of space,
The seeds of earth and air and sea and liquid fire
Were forced together: and how from these first things, all else
Arose, and the soft globe of the earth began to take its shape.
How next the land began to harden, to keep the sea-god
In the deep, and gradually assume the shapes we know.
Then how the earth was dazzled by the new light of the sun,
And rain fell from the clouds pushed higher in the sky.
And how the woods began to grow, while now and then,
Some straggling animals wandered over unfamiliar hills.

.....Then he recounts the stones that Pyrrha threw, and Saturn's reign,
Caucasian eagles and Prometheus' theft, then adds to this
The fountain where the sailors shouted out for Hylas left
Behind, till all the shore re-echoed Hylas, Hylas.
Then Pasiphaë - so fortunate had herds of cattle never been -
He consoles in her passion for a snow-white bull.
Oh you unhappy girl, what madness seized you then?
Proteus' daughters filled the fields with phantom mooings:
But none of them pursued so foul a coupling with the herd,
However much each feared the plough's yoke round her neck
And often felt her soft, smooth brow for horns.
Oh you unhappy girl, you wander now among the hills,
While he treads down soft hyacinths beneath his snow-white side
Or chews the sallow grass beneath the ilex tree,
Or tracks some heifer in a herd. She cries to all the nymphs

Of Crete: 'Surround, close off the clearings in the wood.
Somewhere, perhaps, my eyes may chance upon
The wandering hoof-prints of a bull. Perhaps green grass
Has tempted him, or following the herd, he has been led
By heifers up to Gortyn's cattle-sheds.'

.....He sings about the girl who loved the golden apples.
And then of Phaethon's sisters, encased in moss and bitter
Bark, and raised up from the earth as alders tall.
He sings of Gallus, wandering by Permessus' stream,
And how a Muse once led him to Aonia's hills,
And how the whole choir of Apollo stood to honour him.
How Linus there, the shepherd of such sacred songs,
Whose hair was garlanded with flowers and bitter parsley leaves,
Told him: 'This reed-pipe - take it - the Muses give it you.
They gave it to old Hesiod long ago. His songs
Could draw the hardy ash-trees down the mountain side.
So tell now of the Grynean woods, and of their origins,
So that there'll be no grove in which Apollo glories more.'

.....Why sing of Scylla. Nisus' child, her white loins girdled
Round with barking fiends, who (so the story goes)
Harried the ships of Ulysses, and in the whirling depths
Tore off the flesh of trembling men with sea-dog fangs'?
Or how he told of Tereus' transformed limbs.
The gifts and banquet Philomel prepared for him,
The grieving wings on which she hovered there above her house,
And then her swift flight to the wilderness?
.....Silenus sang of everything that Phoebus once had mused upon.
And blest Eurotas heard and told its laurel-trees to learn by heart.
The valleys caught the music, and tossed it to the stars,
Until the evening star arose unwelcome in the sky,
And bade the sheep be counted back into their fold.

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Transl. copyright © Tim Chilcott 2006

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