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This text of one of the

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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 p259  Calpurnius Siculus
Eclogue V


[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] It fell out that the aged Micon and Canthus, Micon's foster-son, were seeking shelter from the blazing sun beneath a spreading holm-oak, when to give counsel to his fosterling the old man with shaky lips uttered these faltering words:

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] "The she-goats you see straying among the thickets and cropping with playful bite the dew-glistening grass, the flocks, Canthus, my boy, which lo! you see have left the mountain-side and are  p261 browsing on the herbage in the sunny meadow, these I, your aged sire, make over to you, while you are yet young. Take them into your own charge: now truly can you sweat o'er the task, now in my stead you can ply your active youth.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Do you see how the years now bring me a thousand plaints, and how the stoop of age leans on the staff? But learn the rules for your control over the lambs which stray to better purpose in the grassy meadows.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] In the fresh spring-time when birds will be already starting to twitter and the returned swallow daubing its nest with mud, you are forthwith to shift the whole flock from its winter fold. For richer then sprouts the wood with fresh-growing buds, and, as it revives, makes the beginning of summer shade. Then the glades are in blossom and the green year is born again. Then is Venus' time, when sparkles the warm glow of love and the wanton herd welcomes the leaping he-goats. But do not turn loose the flocks and send them into the meadows till Pales has been propitiated. Then build an altar of fresh sods and with salted meal invoke the genius of the place and Faunus and the Lares. Then let a victim stain the knives warm with blood: with it too, while it yet lives, purify the sheepfold.​1 Thereafter, you will, without delay, let the sheep roam the meadows and the goats the thickets, when the sun has risen, as soon as he has begun to surmount the hill here and has warmed the course of the matin hour. but if you chance to have leisure, while the sun melts the frosts  p263 of dawn, the morning flow of milk will fill the pails a‑frothing from the swelling dugs; and again the yield of milking at the evening hour will be pressed for cheese in the morning. Yet spare the younglings: let not thrift be of such moment that cheese for the market ruins the snow-white lambs.​2 For the young you will tend with supreme regard. And, when at night you visit the sheepfold, if any ewe lies enfeebled by recent lambing, be not ashamed to carry her on your own shoulders and to bear in your warm bosom the quivering lambs that cannot yet stand. You must not seek out grazing-ground far distant from your stalls, nor the food yielded by too remote a wood while the fickleness of the sky is carrying the spring season to its close. To be distrusted is the faith of spring: one hour she smiles coaxingly unclouded of brow; the next she brings rain-clouds with fog and bears away the luckless lambs in raging streams.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] But when long days bring the thirsty summer heats, when the weather is no longer changeable under an inconstant sky, then trust your flocks to the woodland, then seek for pasture at a greater distance; yet see that the herd goes out ere daylight. The moist air sweetens their food, whenever, as the east winds fall, the chill meadows are touched with night-dew and in the morning sparkling drops are on the grass. But as soon as the chirping tree-crickets shrill through the grove, drive your  p265 flocks to the waters, and do not allow them to range over grass and open fields without a respite;​3 but for an interval let them be protected by the oak which spreads the ancient shade. When, however, 'neath a westering sun, the ninth hour already begins to mark a cooling of heat, when it seems to be time for a late luncheon, set your flocks grazing again and quit the shady groves. Do not pen your herd in the summer sheepfold until the birds in their fragile nests think of wooing sleep and twitter their plaints with tremulous note.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] When the time is already come to shear the full-grown wool, the time to bind the greasy fleeces with swathes of rushes and cut the neck-tufts and rank beards of the-goats, yet first separate the herd; brand your flocks and pen together the sheep of similar wool, lest long go with short, smooth with rough, or white with dark. But when you find a sheep has bare sides after losing the covering fleece, take heed lest the skin has been hurt by the sharp shears and lest an inflamed sore has covered a secret poison beneath the unnoticed wound; unless the sore is opened with the steel, alas! the corrupted blood will eat away the wretched body by reason of the tender ulcer and will shrivel the bones into a crumbling mass. Here is my counsel; have the foresight to take with you native sulphur and the head of a sea-leek and strong-smelling bitumen, so that you may bring relief to such wounds. Be not without Bruttian pitch; if the back is torn, forget not to smear it with the liquid ointment;  p267 steep too a heavy mass of quicksilver in honey and sticky pitch in a cauldron, when you mean to stamp your name on the sheep, for the owner's name read on the shoulder will save you from serious law-suits.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Now also, while the field is parched and earth burning hot, while the marsh is seamed with cracks, scorched and seething in its plenteous mud, and the sun too powerfully reduces the slender herbs to dust, then it will be suitable to set on fire pale yellow gum-resin in the folds and purify your huts with the fumes of burned hart's horn.​4 Such an odour is enemy to noxious snakes; with your own eyes you will see the serpents' threatening mien collapse; not one can bare its crooked fangs, but, jaw powerless, each shrivels in weakness and, with its poison blunted, lies disarmed.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Now come, take heed how to manage the season of approaching winter. When the vineyard clears its rows, and the watchman, care-free, carries home the gathered grapes, then begin to prune the wood and its unwithered leaves. Now is there need to lop the tender twigs at the top of the tree, now to conserve leaves for the winter, while the sap remains, while the wood is green and the African wind does not yet dislodge the quivering shade. These leaves you will find it serviceable to bring out from your warm haylofts later, when the end of the year has confined your cattle to the fold. Thus must you strive amain; such is our work in due season. Vigorous industry and the shepherd's manly task ever come round again. Be not slow to mingle fresh boughs with dry and to supply new sap, lest  p269 biting winter swoop upon you with its rain-clouds and by excessive frost and drifts of snow prevent you from raiding the forest and from making bundles of leaves;​5 but in the heart of the valley you will prune the smooth ivy or pliant willow-copse.​6 With fresh green fodder, Canthus, you must allay the thirst of your flocks. No withered heap, stacked in however huge a pile, would avail them, if you lacked fodder of sprouts which are swollen with juicy sap and have some life-giving substance of fullest pith. Above all strew the chill ground with stubble as well as fallen leaves lest frost nip the sensitive body and waste the herds with deep-set disease.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Fain would I recall more precepts; for more remain. But now the late day falls; and, now that the sun is put to flight, the chill Night-Bringer​7 drives forth the summer hours."

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 A lustration-ritual could be carried out by solemnly leading round the victim before it was sacrificed.

2 i.e. your anxiety to sell must not divert to cheese-making the milk which the lambs need.

3 protinus is here taken in a time sense, leading up to interea (cf. Juv. III.140 protinus ad censum, de moribus ultima fiet quaestio): locally, it might mean "far and wide."

4 In ancient times a chief source of ammonia.

5 The passage urges the need to get green stuff betimes for the flocks before winter makes it difficult to bring it in from the woods.

6 i.e. if prevented by frost and snow from cutting other trees.

7 i.e. Hesperus, the evening star; cf. note on Eleg. in Maecen. I.129‑132.

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Page updated: 8 Feb 09