First breathed my Muse the Syracusan strain,
Nor blush'd to dwell amidst the woodland train.
When, rashly bold, I struck the lyre to kings,
And war's achievements flutter'd o'er my strings,
With friendly caution Phoebus touch'd mine ear;
'Tityrus, to shepherds still their flocks be dear:
Still shrink the rural bard from lofty themes:
His modest pipe a lowlier lay beseems.'
Still, then, that lay be mine! There yet will be,
Varus, enow to sing of war and thee.
Nor flows my verse unbidden. Should the Muse--
Ah! should she win some fond eye to peruse;
Thee, Varus, shall our tamarisks give to fame:
Phoebus most loves the page that bears thy name.
Proceed, sweet maids. Within a cavern wide
Silenus Chromis and Mnasylos spied.
Heavy with sleep the aged tippler lay,
And swoln his veins, as wont, with wine of yesterday:
Slipt from his brow, unburst, his wreath was here;
There his huge goblet hung, with well-worn ear.
Oft cheated with the promise of a strain,
They seize him; and his chaplet forms his chain.
Ægle, the fairest of the Naiad throng,
Ægle the tremblers joins, who press the song;
And, as the wondering captive opes his eyes,
With ruddy mulberries his temples dyes.
'Why bind me, boys?' at last with smiles he cried:
'Loose me; suffice a demi-god descried!
The lay ye ask be yours; the lay to you,
To her another recompense is due.'
He sings! In measured step you then might see
Fauns and fierce beasts frisk to the minstrelsy,
And knotted oaks their tops in rapture nod:
Not with such glee Parnassus hails its god;
Less, when the Muses breathe from Orpheus' shell,
Feel Rhodope and Ismarus the spell!
He sung, how from the void immense combined
Their seeds earth, ocean, fire, and æther join'd;
And how, no more in wild disorder hurl'd,
Sprang from these elements the nascent world.
Its firmness how the soil, the sea its bed
Received, and gradual vegetation spread:
How the new sun o'er wondering lands arose,
And buoyant clouds their liquid wealth disclose:
How rising woods first cast their little shade,
And few the beasts o'er unknown mountains stray'd:
The stones of Pyrrha, Saturn's golden time,
Prometheus' penal vulture, and his crime:
And Hylas, whom his messmates loud deplore,
Whilst 'Hylas! Hylas!' rings from all the shore.
Happy had herds ne'er been, Pasiphäe next
He soothes, with love of her white steer perplexed.
Ah, wretched fair! what madness fires thy brain?
Though Proetus' maids with lowings mock'd the plain,
None ever coveted such foul embrace;
Oft though they fear'd the plough, and o'er their face
Trembling essay'd the sprouting horn to trace.
Ah, wretched fair! thy heart in absence pines:
He on soft hyacinths his side reclines;
Or in some shade reposed the cud he chews,
Or some congenial paramour pursues--
'Close, nymphs of Crete! ye nymphs, now close the groves:
Some friendly chance, as near my favorite roves,
May give the rambler to my longing view;
Some emerald pasture, bright with morning dew,
May lure his taste; or, as her willing thrall,
Some Gnossian heifer lead him to her stall.'
And now his verse laments the miser-maid,
By lust of the Hesperian fruit betray'd;
And now with mossy bark, to alders grown,
He girdles thy sad sisters, Phäeton.
Next Gallus, wandering by Permessus' stream,
Supplies the minstrel's desultory theme:
How to Aonia him a Muse convey'd,
And all the sisters rose, and reverent homage paid;
While Linus, shepherd he of sacred song
(Flowers, and wild parsley, twined his locks among),
Cried, 'Take this reed, the Muses' gift, before
To Hesiod given; with this 'twas his, of yore,
'Midst Ascra's glades to charm the hours away,
When woods their hills forsook to list his lay.
With this to hymn Gryneum's grove be thine,
Nor seem there bower to Phoebus more divine.'
Why should I tell, how Scylla's deed he sung--
Scylla the false, of royal Nisus sprung;
Or her, who girt with howling monsters shook
Ulysses' keels, and as the surges broke
In fearful thunders on that barbarous shore,
Their shuddering crews with savage sea-dogs tore?
Tereus' changed form; and, ere that change declared,
What foods, what gifts the vengeful dame prepared?
How fleetly to the desert she is flown:
How wing'd she skims o'er domes, ah! once her own?
All, all he chaunts, which erst the god of verse
Taught blest Eurotas' laurels to rehearse.
The echoing vales, as swell the notes along,
Throw to the skies the far-resounding song:
Till eve's bright star the folding-hour led on,
Bade count their flocks, and claim'd, constrain'd, th' ethereal throne.