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This text of one of the
Eclogues

of
Calpurnius Siculus

published in the Loeb Classical Library,
1934 (revised 1935)

is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though, please let me know!

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p245 Calpurnius Siculus
Eclogue IV

Meliboeus: Corydon: Amyntas

M. [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Corydon, why sit you silent with a visage that bodes something ever and anon? Why sit you in an unwonted place, beneath this plane-tree at whose roots sprawl the prattling waters? Maybe you like the watery bank, where the breeze from the neighbouring stream assuages the heat of day?

C. [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] For long, Meliboeus, have I been pondering verses, verses of no woodland ring but fit to celebrate the golden age, to praise even that very god who is sovereign over nations and cities and toga-clad peace.1

M. [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Sweet of sound are your lays and 'tis not with cold disdain that Apollo looks upon you, young Corydon: but the divinities of mighty Rome are not to be extolled in the same style as the sheepfold of Menalcas.

C. [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Whate'er my song, though it seem boorish to a critic's ears and worthy of record only in my own village, yet, as things are, my awkwardness, even if lacking in poetry's polish and skill, must surely win approval for its loyalty. Beneath this same rock shaded by the nearest pine-tree, kindred strains to mine are composed by my brother Amyntas, whose neighbouring years bring his time of birth near to mine.

M. [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Ah! do you not now stop the lad from joining his reeds in bonds of fragrant wax, as with a father-like frown you often checked him when he tried to play on slender hemlock-stems? Not once alone, Corydon, have I remarked you giving advice like this: p247"Boy, break your pipes, forsake the beggarly Muses. Go, gather acorns instead and red cornel-cherries; lead herds to the milking-pails; loud in your cry through the city carry your milk for sale. What will the pipe bring you to ward off famine? Of a truth, no one repeats my lay save the wind-sped echo from yonder crags."

C. [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] This, I confess, I did say, Meliboeus; but it was long ago; our times are not the same now, our god is changed.2 Hope wears a more radiant smile; in sooth, it is your doing that I no more gather strawberries and brambles, or assuage hunger with green mallow. Your kindness feeds us with grain. You, in pity for our means and quick-taught youth, stop us from dispelling hunger-pangs with beech-nuts in winter. Lo! 'tis thanks to you, Meliboeus, that no complaint passes our lips: thanks to you we recline well-fed in care-free shade, and enjoy the woodland of Amaryllis.3 But for thee, Meliboeus, we should of late have looked upon the furthest, yea, the furthest shores of earth, Geryon's meadows exposed to the Moor's fury, where mighty Baetis,4 they say, with flowing currents strikes upon the western sands. Doubtless should I now lie an outcast at the world's end, oh, woe! and, but an hireling, among Iberian flocks should be playing on sevenfold pipe my unavailing scrannel tunes: no one would give a glance at my muses among the thorn-bushes: he himself, our divine sovereign himself, mayhap would never lend a leisured ear to me, nor hear, p249in sooth, the distant sound of my prayers at earth's furthest ends. But if perchance no sweeter melody attract your ear, if the songs of others fail to charm you more than mine, will you let the page I compose to‑day be corrected by your critical file? For not only have the gods given to you to tell husbandmen of coming rain-storms and of the kind of sunrise a golden sunset offers, but you are often the singer of sweet poetry,5 and now the Muse rewards you with Bacchic ivy-clusters, now fair Apollo shades your brow with laurel.6 But if you would show favour to my nervous attempts, perhaps I might make trial of those reeds which skillful Iollas7 presented me yesterday with the words, "This pipe wins over savage bulls, and makes sweetest melody to our own Faunus. It once was owned by Tityrus, who among these hills of yours was the first to sing his tuneful lay on the Hyblaean pipe."8

M. [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] You aim high, Corydon, if you strive to be Tityrus. He was a bard inspired, one who could on the reed-pipe outplay the lyre. Often, while he sang, beasts of the wild fawned in frolic near, and the oak came close and halted there: did he but sing, a Naiad would adorn him with red acanthus and dress with a comb his tangled locks.

p251 C. [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] He is, I own, a poet divine, Meliboeus, but mayhap Phoebus will not say me nay either: do you but favourably hear me; for we know how far Apollo is from slighting you.

M. [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Begin, my favour is with you; but take heed lest perchance your tinkling pipe breathe from boxwood as frail as is its usual sound whene'er the praise of Alexis is the theme. Rather these reeds, these far more you must pursue: press the pipes which sang of woods worthy a consul.9 Begin; have no doubt. See, your brother Amyntas comes too. In alternate refrain his voice will answer your verses. Draw out your lay: dally not: in turns resume the song. You first, Corydon, and you will come next, Amyntas.

C. [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] From Jove let every bard begin,10 whoso sings of the sky, whoso essays to describe the Olympian burden which Atlas bears. For myself, may I win a glad propitious smile from the imperial lips of him whose incarnate godhead rules our lands and whose youthful prowess rules the eternal peace.

A. [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] On me too may Caesar, with eloquent Apollo for comrade, look with favour: nor let him disdain to approach my hills which even Phoebus loves, which Jove himself protects; where blooms the laurel, destined to see many an imperial triumph, where rises too the laurel's companion-tree.11

p253 C. [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Even he, controller of the heavens in heat and cold, our father Jupiter himself, to whom you yourself, Caesar, now stand next, doth oft lay down his thunderbolt awhile to visit Cretan meads, and, in some verdant grot reclining, 'mid Dicte's forests listens to Curetic lays.12

A. [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Do you see how the green woods are hushed at the sound of Caesar's name? I remember how, despite the swoop of a storm, the grove, even as now, sank sudden into peace with boughs at rest. And I said: "A god, surely a god has driven the east winds hence." Forthwith the Parrhasian13 reeds let their notes go free.

C. [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Do you see how a sudden vigour thrills the tender lambs, how the ewe's teats are more heavily laden with abundant milk, however, just after shearing, the fleeces of the dams grow in luxuriant waves? This once ere now, I mind me, I noted in this valley, and how the shepherds said, "Pales has come."

A. [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Yes, and him doth all earth and every nation adore. He is beloved of the gods; as you see, the arbutus-tree pays him silent homage; at the sound of his name the sluggish earth has warmed to life and yielded flowers; invoke him, and in his honour the wood spreads thick its perfumed foliage, and the spellbound tree breaks into bud again.

C. [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] As soon as the earth felt his divine influence, crops began to come in richer abundance, where furrows erstwhile disappointed hope; at length the beans scarce rattle in their well-filled pods: no harvest is choked with the spread of the barren tare, or whitens with unproductive oats.

p255 A. [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] No more does the digger dread to ply the criminal spade:14 what treasure-trove of gold chance offers him he puts to use. Nor, as of late, does the ploughman, while turning up his acres, fear that an ingot may ring against the impact of his ploughshare;15 now openly he pushes on more and more with plough deep-driven.

C. [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] By his favour16 the cultivator can give to Ceres the first cornº-ears and to Bromius pour libation of wine till now unbroached; thanks to him the light-clad vintager tramples the bursting clusters and the village throng applauds their good mayor, who holds magnificent games at the meeting of the highways.17

A. [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] He it is who bestows peace on my hills. See, it is through him that no one prevents me, if 'tis my pleasure to sing or to tread the sluggish grass in triple measure. In choral dance too may I sing, and I may preserve my songs on the green bark; and no more do boisterous trumpets drown our reed-pipes' note.

C. [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Emboldened by Caesar's divine protection, Lycean Pan himself revisits the groves and Faunus reclines untroubled in the lovely shade. The Naiad bathes in the unruffled stream and, free from the risk of treading on human gore, the Oread courses swiftly o'er mountain-ranges, her foot unstained.

p257 A. [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] O ye gods, I pray you, recall only after a long span of life this youth, whom ye, I know it well, have sent us from heaven itself: or rather untwine his allotted skein of mortality and grant him celestial threads of the metal of eternity. Let him be a god and yet loath to exchange his palace from the sky.18

C. [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Thou too,19 Caesar, whether thou art Jupiter himself on earth in altered guise, or one other of the powers above concealed under an assumed mortal semblance (for thou art very God) — rule, I pray thee, this world, rule its peoples for ever! Let love of heaven count as nought with thee: abandon not, O Sire, the peace thou hast begun!

M. [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] I used to think they were but rustic lays which the sylvan deities bestowed on you — lays fit for cloddish ears; but what you have even now sung on well-matched pipes has so clear, so sweet a fall that I would not liefer sip the nectarous honey which Pelignian swamps are wont to sip.20

C. [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Oh! the songs of mine which run in humble verse would then, my Meliboeus, resound, if even on these hills I were called the owner of a homestead, if ever I had the fortune to see pastures of my own. Too often does malicious poverty pluck my ear and say, "The sheepfold is your task." But you, Meliboeus, if in spite of all you think that any of my poems are not to be disdained, then take them to the Emperor-God. For you have the right to visit p259the holy inner shrine of the Palatine Phoebus.21 Then you shall be to me such as he was who brought Tityrus22 of tuneful song from the woods to the queen of cities, showed him the divine powers, and said, "We will scorn the sheepfold, Tityrus, and sing first the countryside but, later, the weapons of war."

A. [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Oh, that a fairer fortune would look upon my labours and that the God in person would show favour to deserving youth! Yet meanwhile we will slay tender kid and prepare withal the courses of a hasty meal.

M. [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Take forthwith the sheep to the river. Now 'tis the raging heat of summer: now the sun curtails the shadows and brings them closer to our feet.23


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Cf. I.42 sqq.

2 i.e. an emperor has come to the throne, who favours poetry with his patronage.

3 The reference is to Virgil's formosam resonare doces Amaryllida silvas, Ecl. I.5.

4 The Guadalquivir in Spain.

5 For theories identifying Meliboeus see Introduction. It has been pointed out there that some take this passage as a reference to Seneca.

6 The reference is to tragedy (the ivy being sacred to Bacchus) and to lyric poetry (the laurel being sacred to Apollo).

7 Iollas, according to Wernsdorf, stands for a scholar or poet who had prompted the writing of the eclogues. Some have suggested one of Calpurnius' teachers, or even Theocritus — which conflicts with the idea that Tityrus is Virgil. Cesareo wisely refuses to identify Iollas, La Poesia di Calp. Sic., p174.

8 Ancient authority regarded the Tityrus of Virgil's Eclogues as representing the poet himself. The allusion in Hyblaea is to the pastoral poetry of the Sicilian Theocritus, which Virgil imitated: Virg. Ecl. X.51, carmina pastoris Siculi modulabor avena.

9 Virg. Ecl. IV.3, si canimus silvas, silvae sint consule dignae. The contrast is between the amatory poetry of Virgil's second eclogue entitled "Alexis," and the loftier tone of the fourth entitled "Pollio" after the consul of 40 B.C. and prophesying a golden age of peace. Here in Calpurnius the praises of Nero as "Caesar" correspond to the higher theme of the "Pollio."

10 A quotation from Virg. Ecl. III.60, which is in turn an echo of Theocr. XVII.1.

11 The oak, sacred to Jupiter, especially at the oracle of Dodona. With the laurel of victory there may be associated in the poet's mind the oak garland given for saving a citizen's life in battle.

12 Baehrens' allotment of stanzas is followed here. Giarratano gives 92‑96 to Corydon and thinks that Amyntas' corresponding stanza has dropped out here: he also postulates transpositions later in the poem. H. Schenkl gives 87‑96 to Amyntas so that he inverts Baehrens' allotment of stanzas from 97 to 121: he marks a missing stanza by Amyntas after verse 121.

13 Parrhasia, in Arcadia, was one of Pan's haunts.

14 Wernsdorf takes damnatos as "wretched," "miserable," because involving toil ("pro infelicibus, laboriosis, ut invisam [sc. fossori] terram, Hor. Od. III.xviii.15‑16"). Cf. "Hateful nights," damnatae noctes, Propert. IV.xi.15.º But a more likely sense is "criminal," "condemned," as a transferred epithet: i.e. the spade is now innocent because, even if it unearths treasure, this no longer brings a prosecution on the digger.

15 Treasure-trove had sometimes led to dangerous difficulties with the imperial authorities: see Juv. IV.37 sqq.

16 i.e. under the emperor's auspices, agriculture is in a position to honour the gods aright.

17 The Compitalia, celebrated at the shrines where crossroads met, were held at a date between the Saturnalia (Dec. 17) and Jan. 5. See W. Warde Fowler, Roman Festivals, 1899, pp279‑80.

18 i.e. let him remain a divine emperor in his residence on the Palatine Hill.

19 quoque is justified, as the last stanza is addressed to all the gods and this one to Caesar, i.e. Nero.

20 The allusion is to Ovid, who was born at Sulmo in the district of the Peligni.

21 The emperor was already associated with Apollo in verse 87. The palace was near the famous library of Apollo on the Palatine.

22 Tityrus means Virgil: under the patronage of Maecenas he turned from the Eclogues (e silvis, 161) to the Georgics (rura, 163) and, later, to the Aeneid (arma, 163).

23 i.e. it is the noontide of a summer day.


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Page updated: 11 Feb 09