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VIRGIL. THIS prince of Latin poets was born at Andes, near Mantua, about B.C. 70, and died B.C. 19. The present poem represents, under the allegory of two shepherds, his grateful delight at his restoration to the patrimony of which he had been deprived in the confusion and confiscation which took place after the great civil war was brought to an end, Tityrus being supposed to represent Virgil himself, Melibus a wanderer less fortunate, while Augustus Cæsar is alluded to as the "god" (a frequent term of adulation in the Roman poets), to whom Virgil was indebted for his restoration.
Where the broad beech an ample shade displays,
Your slender reed resounds the sylvan lays,
O happy Tityrus! while we, forlorn,
Driven from our lands, to distant climes are borne,
Stretch'd careless in the peaceful shade you sing,
And all the groves with Amaryllis ring.
This peace to a propitious god I owe;
None else, my friend, such blessings could bestow;
Him will I celebrate with rites divine,
And frequent lambs shall stain his sacred shrine.
By him, these feeding herds in safety stray:
By him, in peace I pipe the rural lay.
I envy not, but wonder, at your fate,
That no alarms invade this blest retreat;
While neighbouring fields the voice of woe resound,
And desolation rages all around.
Worn with fatigue, I slowly onward bend,
And scarce my feeble fainting goats attend;
My hand this sickly dam can hardly bear,
Whose young new-yean'd (ah, once an hopeful pair!)
Amid the tangling hazels as they lay,
On the sharp flint were left to pine away;
These ills I had foreseen, but that my mind
To all portents and prodigies was blind.
Oft have the blasted oaks foretold my woe,
And often has the inauspicious crow,
Perch'd on the wither'd holm, with fateful cries
Scream'd in my ear her dismal prophecies.
But say, O Tityrus, what god bestows
This blissful life of undisturbed repose?
Imperial Rome, while yet to me unknown,
I vainly liken'd to our country-town,
Our little Mantua, at which is sold
The yearly offspring of our fruitful fold:
As in the whelp the father's shape appears,
And as the kid its mother's semblance bears,
Thus greater things my inexperienced mind
Rated by others of inferior kind.
But she, 'midst other cities, rears her head
High, as the cypress overtops the reed.
And why to visit Rome were you inclined?
'Twas there I hoped my liberty to find,
And there my liberty I found at last,
Though long with listless indolence opprest;
Yet not till time had silver'd o'er my hairs,
And I had told a tedious length of years;
Nor till the gentle Amaryllis* charm'd,
And Galatea's* love no longer warm'd.
For (to my friend I will confess the whole)
While Galatea captive held my soul,
Languid and lifeless all, I dragg'd the chain,
Neglected liberty, neglected gain.
Though from my fold the frequent victim bled,
Though my fat cheese th' ungrateful city fed;
For this, I ne'er perceived my wealth increase,
I lavish'd all, her haughty heart to please.
Why Amaryllis pined and pass'd away
In lonely shades, the melancholy day;
*The names of two shepherdesses, supposed to be allegorically used for Rome and Mantua.
Why to the gods she breathed incessant vows;
For whom her mellow apples press'd the boughs;
So late, I wonder'd-Tityrus was gone,
And she (ah luckless maid!) was left alone.
Your absence every warbling fountain mourn'd,
And woods and wilds the wailing strains returned.
What could I do? to break th' enslaving chain?
All other efforts had (alas!) been vain,
Nor durst my hopes presume, but there, to find
The gods so condescending and so kind.
'Twas there these eyes the Heaven-born youth* beheld,
To whom our altars monthly incense yield.
My suit he even prevented, while he spoke,
Manure your ancient farm, and feed your former flock.
Happy old man! then shall your lands remain
Extent sufficient for th' industrious swain!
Though blank and bare yon ridgy rocks arise,
And lost in lakes the neighbouring pasture lies,
Your herds on wonted grounds shall safely range,
And never feel the dire effects of change;
No foreign flock shall spread infecting bane
To hurt your pregnant dams, thrice happy swain;
You, by known streams and sacred fountains laid,
Shall taste the coolness of the fragrant shade
Beneath yon fence, where willow-boughs unite,
And to their flowers the swarming bees invite,
Oft shall the lulling hum persuade the rest,
And balmy slumbers steal into your breast,
While warbled from this rock, the pruner's lay
In deep repose dissolves your soul away;
High on yon elm the turtle wails alone,
And your loved ring-doves breathe a hoarser moan.
The nimble harts shall gaze in empty air,
And seas retreating, leave their fishes bare,
The German dwell where rapid Tigris flows,t
The Parthian, banish'd by invading foes,
Shall drink the Gallic Arar, from my breast
Ere his majestic image be effaced.
But we must travel o'er a length of lands,
O'er Scythian snows, or Afric's burning sands;
This and the following allusions are simply poetical hyperboles, to express the impossibility of a thing.
Some wander where remote Oaxes laves
The Cretan meadows with his rapid waves;
In Britain some, from every comfort torn,
From all the world removed,* are doom'd to mourn.
When long long years have tedious roll'd away,
Ah! shall I yet at last, at last survey
My dear paternal lands, and dear abode,
Where once I reign'd in walls of humble sod?
These lands, these harvests, must the soldier share?
For rude barbarians lavish we our care?
How are our fields become the spoil of wars!
How are we ruin'd by intestine jars!
Now, Melibus, now ingraff the pear,
Now teach the vine its tender sprays to rear!-
Go then, my goats!-go, once an happy store-
Once happy!-happy now (alas!) no more!
No more shall I, beneath the bowery shade
In rural quiet indolently laid,
Behold you, from afar, the cliffs ascend,
And from the shrubby precipice depend:
No more to music wake my melting flute,
While on the thyme you feed, and willow's wholesome
This night at least with me you may repose
On the green foliage, and forget your woes.
Apples and nuts mature our boughs afford,
And curdled milk in plenty crowns my board.
Now from yon hamlets clouds of smoke arise,
And slowly roll along the evening skies;
And see projected from the mountain's brow,
A lengthen'd shade obscures the plain below.