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Bill Thayer

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This text of one of the


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

is in the public domain.

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 p465  Nemesianus
Second Eclogue

Idas: Alcon

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Young Idas and young Alcon had a burning passion for the fair Donace; both, ablaze in their inexperienced years, rushed with frenzied spirit into their love for Donace. Her they assailed together, when she was gathering flowers in the neighbouring garden vales and filling her lap with soft acanthus. Then first initiated, they both snatched the joys of Venus by a sweet robbery. Hence came love,​1 and the boys felt longings beyond their boyish age. Their years were only fifteen winters, yet they had the pangs of early manhood. But after her stern parents had imprisoned Donace, because her voice had lost its fine music, and its thickened sound caused anxious thought, because her neck grew coarse, and spreading blushes came and went and her veins showed larger,​2 then truly the youths made ready to relieve the burning heat of a love-enflamed heart with the sweet plaint of their minstrelsy — both of them equal in age and song, of well-matched comeliness, both smooth in cheek, both of unshorn locks. And beneath a plane-tree — Idas on the flute followed by Alcon in his verse — they poured out this solace for their sad plight.

 p467  Idas [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] "Ye Dryads who haunt the woodland, Napaean nymphs who haunt the caves, and Naiads whose marble-white feet cleave the watery strands, who nourish the gleaming flowers athwart the sward, say, in what meadow or haply 'neath what shade shall I find Donace pulling lilies with her rosy hands? Three succeeding days are now lost to me, while I have been awaiting Donace in the grotto that was our tryst. Meanwhile, as if this were consolation for my love or could heal my passion, my cows for three morns have touched no grass, nor sipped the waters from any stream. Calves stand licking the dry udders of their new-delivered mothers and fill the air with their tender lowing. And for myself, neither of soft sedge nor of pliant osier have I made baskets for the purposes of curdling milk. Why should I relate to you what you know?​3 You are aware I have a thousand heifers; you know my milk-pails are never empty. I am he to whom, Donace, you gave many a tender kiss, whose strains half-sung you did not hesitate to interrupt by seeking my lips, as they strayed o'er the reed-pipe.​4 Alack, alack, are you touched by no thought for my health? Paler than the box-tree and most like unto the (white) violet I stray. See, I shrink from all food and from the goblets of our loved Bacchus, nor do I mind me to yield myself to gentle sleep. Ah, without you,​5 to my unhappy sight lilies are grey and roses pale  p469 and the hyacinth has no sweet blush, nor do myrtle or laurel breathe any fragrance; but if you come, lilies will grow white once more, the roses be red, and the hyacinth regain its sweet blush; then for me will laurel with myrtle breathe fragrance forth. For while Pallas loves the olive-berries that swell with fatness, while Bacchus loves the vines, Deo​6 her crops, Priapus his fruits and Pales the joyous pastures, Idas loves you alone."

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] So Idas on the pipes. O Phoebus, recount what Alcon answered in verse. Over poetry Phoebus presides.

A. "O Pales, lady of the hills, Apollo of the pasture-land, Silvanus, lord of the groves, and my Dione​7 whose citadel is the lofty ridge of Eryx, whose province it is throughout the aeons to rivet the love-unions of mankind; what fate have I merited? Why has fair Donace deserted me? I gave her gifts, such as our friend Idas never gave — a tuneful nightingale that trills its songs hour after hour: and, although sometimes, when the little cage-doors — barred with woven osier — are opened, it can fly forth as if free and wing its way among the birds of the field, yet it knows how to return home again and enter its abode and prefer the cage of osier to all the woods that are. Besides, of late I sent her what spoils of the forest I could, a young hare and a  p471 pair of wood-pigeons. And after this, Donace, do you despise my passion? Perhaps you think it shame that the clownish Alcon should pine with love for you, I who lead oxen to their morning pasturage. Gods have fed herds of cattle, beauteous Apollo, skilled Pan, prophetic Fauns, and fair Adonis. Nay, I have remarked myself in a fountain's mirror of a morning, before Phoebus raised aloft the splendour of his uprising, and when no quivering light shone in the clear waters. As far as I saw, no down covers my cheeks; I let my hair grow; men call me more handsome than our Idas, and this indeed you were wont to say to me on oath,​8 while praising​9 the radiance of my cheeks, the milky whiteness of my neck, the laughter in my eyes and the comeliness of my manhood. Nor am I without skill on the reed-pipe. I sing on a flute whereon gods have sung ere now, whereon Tityrus made sweet music and so advanced from the woodland to the imperial city.​10 Me too on your account, Donace, the city will celebrate, if only the cypress with its cones be allowed to burst into leaf among the osiers or the hazel among the pines."

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] So the boys sang of Donace throughout the day until chilly evening bade them come down from the woods and lead the full-fed bulls to their stalls.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Cf. Grattius, Cyneget. 283‑284.

2 The reasons given are traditional signs of lost maidenhood.

3 Line 35 closely follows Calpurnius, Ecl. III.65.

4 Lines 37‑39 are copied from Calpurnius, Ecl. III.55 sqq.

5 Cf. 44‑48 with the passage which it imitates, Calp. Ecl. III.51‑54.

6 Deo is Δηώ, Demeter, the corn-goddess.º

7 Dione, strictly mother of Venus, is here identified with Venus, whose temple on Mount Eryx in N.W. Sicily gave her the epithet of "Erycina."

8 Line 79 is repeated from Calp. III.62.

9 With laudandŏ (80) cf. Nemes. Ecl. I.53, mulcendŏ.

10 "Tityrus" means Virgil. Among frequent reminiscences of the Eclogues one is appropriately near; line 86 is based on inter viburna cupressi of Virg. Ecl. I.25 [or link to English translation].

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