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This text of one of the
Eclogues

of
Nemesianus

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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p473 Nemesianus
Third Eclogue

Bacchus1

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Nyctilus and Mycon and likewise fair Amyntas were shunning the scorching heat of the sun beneath a spreading ilex, when Pan, fatigued in the chase, set himself to recline under an elm and gain strength by sleep's recreation. From a rounded bough above him hung his pipe. This the boys seized by stealth, as though they could take it to be a surety for a song, as though 'twere right to handle the reed-pipes of gods. But neither would the pipe sound its wonted music, nor would it weave its song, but instead of songs it rendered vilely discordant screeches, till Pan was awakened by the din of the strident pipe, and, now seeing them, said, "Boys, if songs ye call for, I myself will sing. No man may blow upon the hemlock stalks which I fashion with wax within Maenalian caves.2 And now, O God of the winepress, I will unfold in order due the story of thy birth and the seeds of the vine. Song is our debt to Bacchus."

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] With these words, Pan the mountain-ranger began thus upon the reeds: "Thee I sing, who plaitest vine-wreaths with berried clusters hanging heavy on thine ivy-circled brow, who leadest tigers with juice-soaked vine-branch, thy perfumed hair flowing o'er thy neck, truth offspring of Jove. For when Semele alone, save the stars of heaven, saw Jove wearing Jove's own countenance, this child did the Almighty Father, careful for future ages, carry till p475its full time and bring forth at the due hour of birth.3 This child the Nymphs, the aged Fauns and wanton Satyrs, and I as well, did nurture in the green cave of Nysa.4 Nay, the veteran Silenus, too, fondles his little nursling in his bosom, or holds him in his cradling arms, or wakes a smile with his finger, or woos repose by rocking him, or shakes rattles in tremulous hands. Smiling on him, the god plucks out the hairs which bristle on his breast, or with the fingers pulls his peaked ears, or pats with the hand his crop-horned5 head or his short chin, and with tender thumb pinches his snub nose. Meanwhile the boy's youth blooms with the coming of manhood, and his yellow temples have swollen with full-grown horns. Then first the tendril outspreads the gladsome grapes. Satyrs are amazed at the leaves and fruitage of the Lyaeus. Then said the god, 'Pluck the ripe produce, ye Satyrs, be first to tread the bunches whose full power ye know not.'

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Scarce had he uttered these words, when they snatched the grapes from the vines, carried them in baskets and hastened to crush them on hollowed stones with nimble foot. On the hill-tops the vintage goes on apace, grapes are burst by frequent tread, and naked breasts are besprinkled with purple must. Then the wanton troop of Satyrs snatched the goblets, each that which comes his way. What chance offers, their need seizes. One keeps hold of a tankard; another drinks from a curved horn; one p477hollows his hands and makes a cup of his palms; another, stooping forward, drinks of the wine-various and with smacking lips drains the new wine; another dips therein his sonorous cymbals, and yet another, lying on his back, catches the juice from the squeezed grapes, but when drunk (as the welling liquid leaps back from his mouth) he vomits it out, and the liquor flows over shoulders and breasts. Everywhere sport reigns, and song and wanton dances. And now love is stirred by the wine; amorous satyrs are seized with desire to unite in intercourse with the fleeing nymphs, whom, all but escaped, one captor holds back by the hair, another by the dress. Then first did old Silenus greedily quaff bowls full of rosy must, his strength not equal to the carousal. And ever since that time he arouses mirth, his veins swollen with the sweet nectar and himself heavy with yesterday's Iacchus.6 And indeed that god renowned, the god sprung from very Jove, presses the grape-clusters with his feet, enwreaths the spear-like thyrsi from the vine-wands, and proffers a mixing bowl to a lynx that drinks thereof."

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] So Pan taught the boys in the Maenalian vale, until night bade them drive together the sheep scattered o'er the plain, urging them to drain the udders of their milk-flow and curdle and thicken it into snow-white clots of cheese.


The Editor's Notes:

1 Bacchus is the subject of Pan's song: some editors prefer "Pan" as the title.

2 The Arcadian mountain-range of Maenalus was sacred to Pan.

3 The story of Semele's perishing amid the lightnings of Jupiter's tremendous epiphany and of the preservation of her child, Bacchus, in Jupiter's thigh till he reached the due hour of birth is alluded to in Nemes. Cyneg. 16 sqq.

4 Nysa, the fabled birthplace of Bacchus, was by some accounts placed in Arabia Felix, by others in India.

5 "crop-horned" (cf. "crop-eared") is meant to suggest the stumpy or cropped horns with which Silenus was represented. Wernsdorf, following Heinsius, took mutilum as "bald"; cf. turpe pecus mutilum, Ovid, A. A. III.249.

6 i.e. his debauch on the gifts of the Wine-god.


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Page updated: 15 Sep 07