The Georgics (Nevile)/Book 4
HONEY, the gift of heav'n, aerial dew,
I Sing; Mæcenas! deign this part to view:
Replete with wonder trivial things I'll trace;
The dauntless leaders, manners of a race,
The studies, people, battles, I'll relate: 5
Slight is the subject, but the glory great;
If adverse Deities my labour spare,
And with his aid Apollo crown my pray'r.
First for your bees a seat and station find,
On every side impervious to the wind, 10
Else sweets will load their little thighs in vain:
Nor let the wanton kids, and wooly train,
Frisk on the flow'rs, or roving heifer bruise
The springing herbs, and brush away the dews.
The merops and the speckled lizard drive 15
With back all-scaly from the luscious hive,
The plumy kind, and Procne, on her breast
That bears the marks of bloody hands imprest:
Wide all around they waste, and ravening seize,
To their keen young delicious food, the bees. 20
But near be mossy pools, and clear founts seen;
May rills swift-trickling sparkle thro' the green;
A palm, or olive spread his branchy arms
O'er their hive's portal; that, when first the swarms,
Led by new Kings, enjoy the sunny hour, 25
And from their chambers the youth playful pour,
The bank may tempt them with a cool retreat,
And the tree's shade afford a shelt'ring seat.
In the mid water (if it stand, or flow)
Stones of large size, and transverse willows throw, 30
To serve as bridges, where the bees may land,
And to the solar gleam their wings expand,
Should some late loit'rers rue bleak Eurus' blast,
Scatter'd, or whelm'd beneath the watry waste.
Let verdant Casia near the spot abound, 35
And strong Serpyllum fling rich odours round,
Thymbra with rank perfume the region fill,
And beds of violets drink the limpid rill.
Whether your hives be form'd of cork-tree rind
Hollow'd and sew'd, or pliant twigs intwin'd, 40
Contract their mouths; defence from colds and heats,
For these dissolve, and those congeal the sweets;
Alike both dreaded by the buzzing train:
Nor deem, they toil with ductile wax in vain
To close each chasm, or vacant of design 45
With flow'r and fucus all the borders line:
Hence are their hives with hoards of glue supply'd,
Clammier than birdlime, or than pitch of Ide.
Oft scoopt in earth, (if true, what Rumour tells)
They've rear'd their families in latent cells; 50
Clust'ring in concave pumices have crept,
And in a tree's worn trunk their station kept.
But of their hives do you each chinky pore
Smear with smooth clay, and strow thin foliage o'er:
Too near their dwelling let not yew-trees stand, 55
Nor burn red crabs, nor trust to fenny land,
Or where slime steams, or from some cavern'd rock
The voice reverberates with thundring shock..
Yet more; when Phœbus to the shades of night
Winter has chac'd, and with spring's op'ning light 60
All Ether brighten'd, issuing from their home
Strait with wild wing to woods and lawns they roam;
O'er purple flow'rets hang the pilf'ring throng,
And sip the runnels, as they sweep along.
Hence, thrilling with fine feelings, they impart 65
Food to their young: hence mould new wax with art,
And to a mass tenacious form the sweets.
Observe, when, swarming from their secret seats,
Floating in liquid air thick hosts you find,
A murky cloud slow-moving with the wind, 70
Still to soft waters and the leafy bow'r
They tend; here shed an aromatic show'r,
Bruis'd baum and vulgar honey-wort let fall,
And from the beaten cymbals tinklings call:
Lur'd by the scents they soon will settle there, 75
And, as they use, to their close cells repair.
But should they march to fight, (with loud alarms
For Discord rouses oft two Chiefs to arms)
Long, ere they move, the mob their minds betray,
Their hearts thick-throbbing for the promis'd fray:
Quick'ning the slow a brazen din runs round, 81
And a voice mimics the trump's broken sound.
Hurrying they throng, fast-glance their glist'ring wings,
And with their beaks new-edge their pointed stings,
Fit their light claws, in crouds their King enclose, 85
Circling his tent, and call aloud their foes.
Soon as the clear and cloudless skies invite,
Forth from the gates they rush, they mix in fight:
Air rustles wide; in one vast orb they're seen 89
Condens'd; their tumbling bodies strow the green:
Not thicker falls the rattling hail; nor pours
From the shook oak the mast in equal show'rs.
Thro' the mid armies with conspicuous wings
Flash, great of soul, tho' small of size, the Kings;
Resolv'd the fortune of the day to try, 95
Till the strong victor force the weak to fly.
Toss up a little dust, the tumults cease;
And all the fierce contention sinks to peace.
Soon as the Chiefs shall from the field retire,
Let the worse fall a victim to your ire, 100
A worthless waster, and the public bane;
Alone, unrivall'd, let the better reign.
With gold all-speckled, of majestic mien,
And glossy scales, superior this is seen;
That foul with sloth, inglorious thro' the throng 105
Drags languidly his bloated bulk along.
Nor less the subjects of two sorts appear:
Some rough and filthy, like a Traveller,
Who, from a sandy soil escap'd, by fits
From his parcht mouth the gritty gravel spits: 110
Others with golden splendors lucid glow,
And, as they glance, with equal spangles show
Their skins bedropt: this breed prefer; from these
In season due sweet honey you shall squeeze;
Yet not so sweet, as flowing free and fine, 115
Of pow'r to tame the taste austere of wine.
But when, their treasures slighted, they repair
From their cool cells to sport in fields of air,
Soon will you check their play, if from the Kings,
A task not difficult, you strip the wings; 120
Not one will dare to fly, aw'd by their stay,
Or snatch the standards from the tents away.
Let gardens lure, where saffron flow'rs exhale
Rich odours, wafted by the scented gale;
And with his sithe Priapus guard the place, 125
Watchful of thieves, and all the feather'd race.
Their hives with thyme neglect not to surround,
And pines, transplanted from the hilly ground;
Nor blush to wear your callous hands with toil;
Set thriving trees, and water well the soil. 130
Did I not purpose soon, my wand'rings o'er,
To furl the sails, and turn the prow to shore,
Haply the care of gardens I would here
Sing, and the rose-beds, bloomy twice a year,
Of Pæstum; celery's green banks describe; 135
How they and endive sparkling rills imbibe;
How cucumbers, as with curl'd stem they go
Crawling along the grass, protuberant grow:
Nor of late leaves Narcissus would pass by,
Nor thee, Acanthus! twining to the eye; 140
Nor shory myrtle; ivy, pale of hue:
Yes; I remember, when before my view,
Beneath Oebalia's tow'rs, where yellow meads
With fatt'ning moisture black Galesus feeds,
An old Corycian came, with little blest; 145
Of land a few waste acres he possest,
A spot, that render'd the vine's culture vain,
Unfit for flocks, nor arable for grain:
Yet he ev'n here white lilies planting round,
And potherbs scattering o'er the shrubby ground, 150
With poppy, vervain, added to his store,
Deem'd that the wealth of Kings could give no more;
And, late returning from his daily care,
Heap'd high his homely board with unbought fare.
In Spring he first the flow'r, in Autumn first 155
He gather'd fruits; and, when stern Winter burst
With cold the rifted rocks, and bound in frost
The gliding flood, ev'n then no time he lost;
But lopt th' Acanthus' foliage; nor would fail
To chide late Spring, and the slow western gale. 160
Hence in abundant swarms and teeming bees
He first would glory; from prest combs would squeeze
The frothy sweets: limes grac'd his scanty field,
And numerous pines; nor Autumn ceas'd to yield
Of fruitage to his wish as full a store, 165
As his rich boughs in earliest blossom bore.
Pear-trees, matur'd by age, he could dispose,
And elms, of riper growth, in order'd rows,
And thorns with plums then bending, and the plane,
Of shade to shelter Bacchus' social train. 170
But I forbear: confin'd in bounds too strait,
I quit the theme for others to relate.
Now learn the genius of the buzzing kind,
A gift and recompense by Jove assign'd,
When of arm'd priests by tinkling cymbals led 175
In the Dictæan den Heav'n's King they fed.
With them all lies in common; they alone
Of house and children property disown;
By settled laws direct their lives, and know
The joys a country and fixt seats bestow. 180
They for the winter toil, while summer reigns,
And hoard for all the produce of their pains.
By pact these watch for food, a busy crew,
And range the circuit; those bark's viscous glue,
Steept in Narcissus' tear, arrange at home, 185
The first foundation of the future comb;
This done, the ductile wax they next suspend:
Hope of the state the rising youth part tend;
Others the purest honey knead, and swell
With juice nectareous each distended cell: 190
Others by lot the portals guard, espy
By turns the clouds and vapours of the sky,
Or from the comers take the loads, or drive,
In firm array embody'd, from the hive
The lazy drone: the waxen labours glow; 195
The breathing sweets around rich odours throw.
As when in haste the black Cyclopean band
Forge from the molten mass the forky brand;
With bull-hide bellows these receive the blast,
And forceful send it; those in water cast 200
The metal hissing; Ætna gives a groan,
As the vast anvils on her back are thrown:
With mighty sway their arms in time they raise,
And turn with tongs the red ore various ways.
Thus, to compare small things with great, of gain
A love instinctive prompts the buzzing train, 206
Each in his function: those of riper age
To guard the towns, secure the combs engage,
And plan the Dedal cells: fatigu'd with toil,
At late eve laden with the fragrant spoil, 210
The youth return: for food they range the field;
Try, what fat teils, what arbutes, Casia, yield;
To ruddy saffron, hoary willows, fly;
And suck the hyacinth of purple die.
At the same instant all obey the hour 215
Of rest and labour: from the gates they pour
At morn; no pause: and to their homes again,
When Vesper warns them from the foodful plain,
Haste, and reflection take; an humming sound 219
The throng'd hive's door and margin runs around:
Crept to their cells silence all night they keep,
And, their tir'd limbs reposing, sink to sleep.
Nor will they far, a show'r impending, stray,
Or, Eurus threat'ning, tempt th' ethereal way:
Beneath their walls for water they repair, 225
Short rambles try, and pebbles lift in air;
As tottering boats take sand to stem the tide:
Thus poiz'd, thro' the void clouds their course they guide.
But chief you'll wonder, that they ne'er are led
To the soft pleasures of the genial bed, 230
Their strength unwasted by the lewd delight:
Nor are their young by throes brought forth to light.
From leaves and aromatic herbs the bees
With busy beak the puny people seize:
A King, and small Quirites they ordain; 235
Restore the palaces, and waxen reign.
Oft, as they roam, their wings on flints they tear,
And, self-devoted, breath their lives in air,
Laden with sweets: of flow'rs so strong the rage,
So full does glory all their souls engage. 240
Yet, tho' their life be bounded by the space
Of sev'n short summers, endless is the race;
The fortune of their house lasts firm thro' years,
And a long line of sires on sires appears.
Not Ægypt, nor the realms Hydaspes laves, 245
Lydia of vast extent, nor Parthia's slaves
Eye with such awe their King: while he remains
Safe in their sight, a perfect union reigns;
Dead, all is anarchy: wild rage impels
To spoil the stores, and rend the wattled cells. 250
Director of their works rever'd he stands,
Hem'd on all sides, the gaze of murmuring bands:
Born on their shoulders him in war they shield,
Court wounds, and perish bravely in the field.
Mov'd by these marks of genius some opine 255
That bees are gifted with a spark divine,
Shot from the Soul supreme: for God, they say,
Pervades land, ocean, and th' ethereal way:
Hence beasts, flocks, cattle, and the sons of Earth,
All draw the vital principle at birth. 260
Dissolv'd at length again all Beings roll
Back to their source: nor mortal is the soul,
But to her kindred Star each soaring flies,
Instinct with life, and mounts into the skies.
Presume not to unlock their proud retreats, 265
Nor tempt a passage to their treasur'd sweets,
Till from full mouth you spirt a stream, and drive
With waving hand smoke in the peopled hive.
Twice they compress the turgid combs, twice reap
The luscious stores; or, when, spurning the Deep
With scornful foot, the Pleiades uprear 271
On earth their lovely looks; or, struck with fear,
Receding from the drizzling finny Sign,
Sad in the wintry waters they decline.
Of bees provok'd dire is the wrath; their dart 275
Distils a poison in the punctur'd part;
Unseen the mischief to the veins fast clings,
And their lives issue, where they leave their stings.
But if an harsher winter you presage,
And dread of future wants your thought engage, 280
Touch'd with their sinking state, and vigour spent,
Who would delay with thyme their hives to scent,
And the superfluous wax to pare away?
For on the combs oft lurking lizards prey;
The cells with beetles swarm; the vacant drone 285
Feeds at his ease on dainties not his own:
The teasing tribe of moths has rais'd alarms,
Or wasp intruded with unequal arms,
Or last Arachne, curst with Pallas' hate,
Has hung with waving webs the darken'd gate. 290
Fear not to spoil them of their treasur'd store;
With keener pains they'll labour to restore
Their wasted wealth; the plunder'd combs with care
Fill, and from rifled flow'rs the rooms repair.
But should they languish with some dire disease;
(For human ills are incident to bees;) 296
By surest signs the sickness may be seen;
The colour chang'd, the visage lank and lean:
Forth from the cells are born th' infectious dead,
And with due rites the pensive pomp is led: 300
Or at their hive's throng'd door the feeble train
Cling, by their feet suspended; or remain
Listless and languid in their chambers pent,
With cold all-torpid, and with famine spent.
Then deep and low a drawling hum runs round; 305
As in close furnace rustling fires resound,
As Auster murmurs thro' the trembling trees,
As with the refluent tides whiz the vext seas.
But you with flamy gums perfume the place,
Nor fail by arts to rouse the fainting race, 310
Lur'd from their stands on wonted sweets to feed,
By honey, dripping thro' canals of reed:
Of galls the pounded savour proves of use,
Thyme too, dry'd roses, wine's concocted juice;
With these the fetid centauries combine, 315
And mellow'd clusters of the Psythian vine.
Beside, a flow'r there is, in pasture-ground,
Amellus call'd; the plant with ease is found;
For from one root arising you behold
Unnumber'd stems; itself shines bright with gold;
The leaves, around thick-sprouting, to the view 321
Give the dark violet's empurpled hue.
With wreaths of this the altars oft are hung:
Chew'd in the mouth it roughens on the tongue:
By swains 'tis gather'd in the close-cropt meads, 325
Where Mella his meand'ring current leads:
Let the roots, boil'd in odorous wine, be plac'd
Heap'd near the door, to bees a rich repast.
But on a sudden should your stock decline,
No hopes remaining of a future line, 330
Hear now th' invention of Arcadia's Swain;
How oft from putrid gore of bullocks slain
Bees were produc'd: the whole in order told,
Trac'd from the source it's glory, I'll unfold.
Where in Canopus' happy realms reside 335
A people, custom'd o'er their fields to glide
In painted skiffs, what time, above his shores
Rising, Nile empties his redundant stores;
And where, descending from Ind's tawny sons,
The River near the quiver'd Persians runs, 340
And feeds green Ægypt with black, oozy tides,
And rushing diverse in sev'n mouths divides,
All in this art's success, the region round,
Constant confide: hence first a spot of ground,
Small and contracted, they select; the place 345
With straiten'd walls, and narrow roof, embrace:
Four windows from each quarter of the sky
With rays of glancing light the room supply:
This done, of two years next they choose a steer,
Whose horns just curling o'er his front appear: 350
Forceful each avenue of breath they close;
Of the dead beast the bowels, bruis'd by blows,
Dissolve, the skin entire: beneath they spread
Of thyme, fresh casia, and green sprigs, a bed:
The body, thus dispos'd, is left confin'd: 355
This they perform, when with the western wind
The waves first ruffle; ere, by Spring new-drest,
The bloomy meads display their various vest;
Or swallow twittering, as she wheels her flight,
Suspends her dwelling on the rafter's height. 360
Meantime, fermenting in the ribs with heat,
The juices glow; and first, devoid of feet,
Insects in wondrous sort are seen; then throng
With rustling wings; and now, strong and more strong,
Tempt the thin air; till, as from summer-clouds 365
A rattling show'r, they've burst their way in crouds;
Or, from the twanging string as arrows fly,
When the light Parthians the first onset try.
Say, what God deign'd the secret to impart?
Say, Muse! from what beginnings grew this art? 370
The plains of Peneus Aristæus left,
By pine, and sickness, of his bees bereft;
At the stream's sacred source the sorrowing swain
Addrest his mother thus in plaintive strain.
Parent Cyrene! Parent! you, who haunt 375
This spring's deep bottom! why was I, who vaunt
Celestial lineage, (if, as you relate,
My Sire be Phœbus,) born the sport of Fate?
Ah! where is now a Parent's tender love!
Why was I taught to pant for joys above? 380
Lo! this poor pride of fragile life, the last
And painful produce of my labours past,
To many a trial due, ev'n while I boast
A Goddess-mother, to my hopes is lost.
Go! if thus weary of thy son's fair fame, 385
Go! blast my harvests, wrap my folds in flame,
Root up my thriving trees, the vast axe wield
At my young vines, and fire my planted field.
Beneath the channel of the stream profound
The Parent-goddess heard the wailing sound: 390
Circling her grot of Nymphs a busy train
Comb'd fleeces, tinctur'd with cerulean stain:
Here Xantho, and Ligea shril of tone,
Drymo, Phyllodoce, sit near the throne;
Down their white necks loose flow'd their glossy hair:
Spio, Cymodoce, Nesæe, there: 396
Her yellow locks Lycorias here display'd,
Near her Cydippe; this a spotless maid,
That fresh from the first pangs Lucina sends:
Clio with Beroe the Queen attends, 400
Daughters of Ocean, gorgeous to behold,
Both girt with painted skins, both bright with gold:
Thalia, Opis, Ephyre: there was found
Deiopeia of the marshy ground:
Swift Arethusa, huntress now no more: 405
'Mong these was Clymene, recounting o'er
The loves of all the Gods from Chaos' reign:
On Vulcan's fruitless cares then ran the strain,
Mars's sweet thefts, and wanton wiles: the song,
Their spindles turning, charm'd the list'ning throng.
Again his mother's ear the shepherd's moan 411
Struck: in amazement on her crystal throne
Each Nereid sat; first from her pearly bed
Rearing above the wave her yellow head,
Sister Cyrene! Arethusa cries, 415
Not without cause these wailing sounds surprise:
Lo! hanging sad o'er Father Peneus' deeps,
Your pride, your Aristæus stands, and weeps;
You, you he calls, and calls by name, unkind.
At this, new horrors seiz'd the mother's mind; 420
Hither conduct, conduct my son, she said;
This youth the threshold of the Gods may tread.
Strait, to prepare his way, on either side,
As thus she spoke, she bade the floods divide:
Arch'd like a mountain rose the waters round, 425
And in their bosom thro' the blue profound
Sent him secure: now crouding on his view
His mother's moist domains his wonder drew,
The leafy scenes, that rustle with the waves,
The lakes confin'd in subterranean caves: 430
Stun'd with the rapid roar distinct he ey'd
Beneath vast Earth the various streams that glide;
Phasis, Caïcus; deep Enipeus' source;
Whence Father Tiber first derives his course;
Whence Lycus flows, and Anio's currents stray;
And Hypanis o'er rocks bursts his rough way: 436
Whence too Eridanus, a bull in face,
Whose front two horns with golden splendors grace,
Than whom no River o'er the fertile plain
Pours with a tide more furious to the main. 440
Soon as the grotto, hung with pumice stone,
The youth had reach'd, and his vain griefs made known,
For him the Nymphs fresh water from the spring,
And towels of clipt down, in order bring,
Replace full goblets, heap the board with meats:
The Altars burn with aromatic sweets. 449
Of Lydian wine these bowls, the Goddess said,
Take, and to Ocean a libation shed.
Strait she invokes the Parent-god with pray'r,
Ocean, and sister nymphs, of whom these share 450
The charge of rivers, those of sylvan bow'rs:
Thrice liquid nectar on the fire she pours;
Thrice to the roof the flames aspiring shine:
Elate, and strengthen'd by the prosp'rous sign,
Thus she begins: in the Carpathian tides 455
Cerulean Proteus, prescient seer, resides,
Who in his car the boundless level sweeps,
By fishes drawn, and monsters of the deeps.
Emathia's ports, and his Pallene's bay,
He visits now; to him we reverence pay, 460
Ev'n Nereus honours him: his eye can see
All, that once was, that is, and e'er will be;
The boon of Neptune, to his care who gave
His herds, and Phocæ wallowing in the wave.
Him first, my son, with fetters you must seize,
Ere he unfold the cause of the disease, 466
And aid the cure: no precepts he'll declare,
Unforc'd, nor deem to soften him by pray'r:
The God once seiz'd, his wiles to render vain,
Stretch ev'ry nerve, and straiten ev'ry chain. 470
What time Sol brightens with a mid-day blaze,
And on the thirsty herbage pours his rays,
To the cool shade when panting flocks retreat,
Ourself will lead you to his secret seat,
Where you may take him, as with heat opprest, 475
Emerging from the flood, he sinks to rest.
But caught and bound by various shapes he'll try,
And forms of frightful beasts, to cheat your eye:
Instant a lion's tawny mane he'll wear,
A boar now bristle, now a tiger glare, 480
Now he'll devolve a dragon's scaly maze,
Or with sharp crackle burst forth in a blaze,
Or last in liquid lapse your hold betray,
And so glide melting from your arms away.
The more he turns himself, the God withstand 485
Firm and more firm, and torture ev'ry band;
Till chang'd he reassume the form, he wore,
When first you found him slumb'ring on the shore.
She spoke, and round him show'rs ambrosial shed;
O'er all his limbs the fluid fragrance spread; 490
From his smooth'd ringlets breathing odours came,
And strength with grace improv'd his suppled frame.
Scoopt in a mountain's side lies a vast cave,
Where by the driving blast the frequent wave
Dashing splits back to many a winding bay, 495
Recess to suff'rers on the watry way:
Within, screen'd by a rock's o'er-arching height,
The God retires: here, shaded from the light,
The Nymph in ambush seats her son, and shrouds
Herself at distance in surrounding clouds. 500
On India's sons now stream'd fierce Sirius' blaze,
And half the Globe had felt Sol's sultry rays;
Parcht was the grass; to mud the rivers turn'd
In thirsty channels to the bottom burn'd:
'Twas then the Prophet, rising from the wave, 505
Sought the cool shelter of his custom'd cave;
Scattering the briny dew the wat'ry throng
About him gambol'd, as he past along:
The Phocæ, basking in the sunny ray,
Stretcht diverse on the strand reposing lay: 510
He, (like some herdman of the hills, who calls
Back from the field his cattle to their stalls,
The night-star twinkling, while the lambs around
Bleat, and the wolves grow keener at the sound;)
The midmost on a rock, his scaly train 515
Tells, not unnoted by the watchful swain:
Scarce had the Seer compos'd his limbs, with cries
The youth springs forth, and binds him, as he lies.
By shapes portentous studious to evade
His wonted wiles the prophet calls in aid, 520
Chang'd to an hideous beast, a stream, a flame;
But when he found he toil'd with fruitless aim
To burst his bonds, the figure of a man
Once more he took, and baffled thus began. 524
By whose behests, presumptuous! art thou come?
Declare the cause, that brought thee to our dome.
Well, Proteus! well you know, rejoin'd the youth,
For who from Proteus can disguise the truth?
But cease your arts; my fortunes to restore,
Sent by the Gods, thy counsel I implore. 530
Thus he: the prophet with redoubled might
Writh'd round his orbs, that flash'd with azure light,
Gnashing his teeth tremendous, ere he spoke;
Then from his lips these fateful accents broke.
The Gods, the Gods pursue thee with their hate;
Of crimes like thine the penalty is great. 536
Orpheus, if adverse Destiny's decree
Resist not, calls down all these woes on thee;
(Far weightier woes thou well deserv'st to bear:)
For his lost wife he maddens with despair; 540
As near the river's sedgy side she strove
To shun by flutt'ring flight thy lawless love,
The Fair devoted saw not in her way
A snake, that couching in the deep grass lay.
The choir of Dryads for their sister dead 545
Fill'd with wild wailings every mountain's head;
Lofty Pangæa wept her early fate,
Proud Rhodope, and Rhesus' martial state;
A grateful tear the distant Getæ pay'd:
Hebrus, and Orithyia mourn'd the maid: 550
But he, to sooth his sorrows, warbled o'er
His woes, and lonely mus'd along the shore;
Thee, lovely Wife! he sung, when from the main
The Sun arose, thee, when he sunk again:
The mouth of Tænarus, Dis' gates profound, 555
He past, and grove with horror's gloom imbrown'd:
Ev'n to the Manes and dread King he went,
Accurst with hearts, that know not to relent.
From Hell's remotest seats lur'd by his lay 559
Mov'd the thin Shades, and Ghosts depriv'd of day;
Thick, as birds fly, when Vesper or a show'r
From mountains drives them to the shelt'ring bow'r:
Matrons, and men, and boys, a lifeless throng,
Swarm'd; and bold Chiefs majestic tow'r'd along:
Virgins, and youths, untimely on their pyres
Stretcht out, sad object to their sorrowing Sires. 566
Crown'd with unsightly reeds, and black with mud,
Cocytus round them rolls his dolesome flood;
The Lake abhor'd spreads slow her wat'ry chains,
And Styx with nine wide channels fast constrains. 570
Amaze ev'n struck Death's dark Tartarean bounds,
And Fiends, whose hair snakes thrid in venom'd rounds:
Hell's Porter gaping his three throats supprest,
And the strain charm'd Ixion's wheel to rest.
And now had Orpheus, measuring back his way,
Escap'd all perils: to the realms of Day 576
Pressing his steps advanc'd Eurydice;
Of Pluto's consort such was the decree:
When strait a madness seiz'd the Lover's mind;
Venial, in Hell were faults of venial kind: 580
Just at the light he stopt; in thoughtless trance
Wrapt, and by passion quite o'erpow'r'd, a glance,
Turning, on his Eurydice he cast:
Vain from that moment every labour past;
The Tyrant's league was void, and thrice around 585
Avernus' pool was heard a sullen sound.
Orpheus! she cry'd, what Dæmon could inspire,
To curse us both, so frantic a desire?
Again I go; Fate calls me from the skies,
And sleep eternal seals my swimming eyes: 590
Adieu! with deepest darkness cover'd o'er
I stretch my feeble hands, thy wife, alas! no more.
These words scarce finish'd, sudden from his view,
Like smoke with thin air mixt, she diverse flew;
No more to meet her Orpheus, who essay'd 595
Oft to reply, and catch her fleeting shade.
What, what remain'd? Hell's ferry-man deny'd
A second passage o'er th' opponent tide.
His wife twice lost, ah! whither shall he rove? 599
What plaint, what strain, the Ghosts, the Gods shall move?
Plac'd in the Stygian bark she shivering sail'd:
He, as Fame tells, sev'n months successive wail'd,
By Strymon's unfrequented wave, his woes,
Where a bleak rock's aerial mansion rose;
In chilly caves he mus'd, and by his song 605
Sooth'd the fierce beasts, and drew the trees along.
So Philomela in the poplar bow'r
Laments her offspring, lost in luckless hour,
Which some rude Rustic, callow as they lay,
From their warm nest observant snatcht away: 610
Percht on a bough, all night she weeps, her strains
Renews, and with sad wailings fills the plains.
No love, no joys connubial touch'd his soul;
Forlorn he roam'd, where Tanais' white waves roll,
O'er Hyperborean ice, o'er tracts of ground 615
Throughout the year in frosts Riphæan bound,
Mourning Dis' fruitless boon, and his lost Bride:
When, stung with rage at his disdainful pride
The Thracian matrons, 'mid the rites divine,
And midnight orgies of the God of wine, 620
Spread o'er the fields the Poet, piecemeal torn:
Then as his head by Hebrus' flood was born,
Rent from the marble neck, ev'n the cold tongue
And fault'ring voice Eurydice still sung;
Ah poor Eurydice! with last breath cry'd; 625
Eurydice the distant banks reply'd.
This said, the Prophet in his wat'ry bed
Plung'd; and the waves curl'd foamy o'er his head:
Not so Cyrene; to her trembling son
Uncall'd the Goddess came, and thus begun: 630
Be ev'ry care now banish'd from your breast;
See the sad source of this devouring pest!
Hence have the Nymphs, with whom she playful wove
The social dance in the sequestered grove,
Pour'd on your bees this plague: but haste, and gain
By gifts and pray'r the mild Napæan train; 636
Won by your vows their fury they'll forbear:
But first the rites in order I'll declare.
Select four steers, the stateliest of the breed,
Of ungall'd neck as many heifers lead, 640
That now on green Lycæus' summit graze,
At the Nymphs' shrines for these four altars raise;
Next from their throats the sacred torrent pour,
And leave the bodies in the branchy bow'r.
When the ninth Morn shall give her early ray, 645
To Orpheus' Ghost lethæan poppies pay;
With a slain calf hail the relenting maid;
A black ewe offer'd, seek once more the shade.
The youth strait executes, what she ordains;
Hastes, and erects four altars in the fanes; 650
Pride of the herd four stately steers he took;
Four heifers, all unconscious of the yoke;
And when the ninth Morn shone, due off'rings pay'd
To Orpheus' Ghost, he sought once more the shade.
When, strange to tell! a prodigy he sees; 655
Thro' all the victims' putrid entrails bees
Hum far within; from the rent ribs the throng
Burst forth, and sweep in length'ning clouds along;
To a tree's top in close array they tend,
And clust'ring from the pliant boughs depend. 660
While with war's thunders conqu'ring Cæsar awes
Euphrates' flood, to willing worlds gives laws,
Aspiring to Heav'n's heights, in humble strains
I sung of cattle, trees, and cultur'd plains.
'Twas then I Virgil my sequester'd seat 665
Fixt at Parthenope's belov'd retreat,
Deep in the studies of inglorious ease;
I, who with rural verse essay'd to please,
And with youth's boldness sung thee, Tityrus! laid,
Where a broad Beech spread wide her arching shade.