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Daphnis, the gentle herdsman, met once, as legend tells,
Menalcas making with his flock the circle of the fells.
Both chins were gilt with coming beards: both lads could sing and play:
Menalcas glanced at Daphnis, and thus was heard to say:--
"Art thou for singing, Daphnis, lord of the lowing kine?
I say my songs are better, by what thou wilt, than thine."
Then in his turn spake Daphnis, and thus he made reply:
"O shepherd of the fleecy flock, thou pipest clear and high;
But come what will, Menalcas, thou ne'er wilt sing as I."


This art thou fain to ascertain, and risk a bet with me?


This I full fain would ascertain, and risk a bet with thee.


But what, for champions such as we, would, seem a fitting prize?


I stake a calf: stake thou a lamb, its mother's self in size.


A lamb I'll venture never: for aye at close of day
Father and mother count the flock, and passing strict are they.


Then what shall be the victor's fee? What wager wilt thou lay?


A pipe discoursing through nine mouths I made, full fair to view;
The wax is white thereon, the line of this and that edge true.
I'll risk it: risk my father's own is more than I dare do.


A pipe discoursing through nine mouths, and fair, hath Daphnis too:
The wax is white thereon, the line of this and that edge true.
But yesterday I made it: this finger feels the pain
Still, where indeed the rifted reed hath cut it clean in twain.
But who shall be our umpire? who listen to our strain?


Suppose we hail yon goatherd; him at whose horned herd now
The dog is barking--yonder dog with white upon his brow.


Then out they called: the goatherd marked them, and up came he;
Then out they sang; the goatherd their umpire fain would be.
To shrill Menalcas' lot it fell to start the woodland lay:
Then Daphnis took it up. And thus Menalcas led the way.


"Rivers and vales, a glorious birth! Oh if Menalcas e'er
Piped aught of pleasant music in your ears:
Then pasture, nothing loth, his lambs; and let young Daphnis fare
No worse, should he stray hither with his steers."


"Pastures and rills, a bounteous race! If Daphnis sang you e'er
Such songs as ne'er from nightingale have flowed;
Then to his herd your fatness lend; and let Menalcas share
Like boon, should e'er he wend along this road."


"'Tis spring, 'tis greenness everywhere; with milk the udders teem,
And all things that are young have life anew,
Where my sweet maiden wanders: but parched and withered seem,
When she departeth, lawn and shepherd too."


"Fat are the sheep, the goats bear twins, the hives are thronged with
Rises the oak beyond his natural growth,
Where falls my darling's footstep: but hungriness shall seize,
When she departeth, herd and herdsman both."


"Come, ram, with thy blunt-muzzled kids and sleek wives at thy side,
Where winds the brook by woodlands myriad-deep:
There is her haunt. Go, Stump-horn, tell her how Proteus plied
(A god) the shepherd's trade, with seals for sheep."


"I ask not gold, I ask not the broad lands of a king;
I ask not to be fleeter than the breeze;
But 'neath this steep to watch my sheep, feeding as one, and fling
(Still clasping her) my carol o'er the seas."


"Storms are the fruit-tree's bane; the brook's, a summer hot and dry;
The stag's a woven net, a gin the dove's;
Mankind's, a soft sweet maiden. Others have pined ere I:
Zeus! Father! hadst not thou thy lady-loves?"

Thus far, in alternating strains, the lads their woes rehearst:
Then each one gave a closing stave. Thus sang Menalcas first:--


"O spare, good wolf, my weanlings! their milky mothers spare!
Harm not the little lad that hath so many in his care!
What, Firefly, is thy sleep so deep? It ill befits a hound,
Tending a boyish master's flock, to slumber over-sound.
And, wethers, of this tender grass take, nothing coy, your fill:
So, when it comes, the after-math shall find you feeding still.
So! so! graze on, that ye be full, that not an udder fail:
Part of the milk shall rear the lambs, and part shall fill my pail."
Then Daphnis flung a carol out, as of a nightingale:--


"Me from her grot but yesterday a girl of haughty brow
Spied as I passed her with my kine, and said, "How fair art thou!"
I vow that not one bitter word in answer did I say,
But, looking ever on the ground, went silently my way.
The heifer's voice, the heifer's breath, are passing sweet to me;
And sweet is sleep by summer-brooks upon the breezy lea:
As acorns are the green oak's pride, apples the apple-bough's;
So the cow glorieth in her calf, the cowherd in his cows."
Thus the two lads; then spoke the third, sitting his goats among:


"O Daphnis, lovely is thy voice, thy music sweetly sung;
Such song is pleasanter to me than honey on my tongue.
Accept this pipe, for thou hast won. And should there be some notes
That thou couldst teach me, as I plod alongside with my goats,
I'll give thee for thy schooling this ewe, that horns hath none:
Day after day she'll fill the can, until the milk o'errun."


Then how the one lad laughed and leaped and clapped his hands for glee!
A kid that bounds to meet its dam might dance as merrily.
And how the other inly burned, struck down by his disgrace!
A maid first parting from her home might wear as sad a face.


Thenceforth was Daphnis champion of all the country side:
And won, while yet in topmost youth, a Naiad for his bride.