The Phenomena and Diosemeia of Aratus/Diosemeia

The Phenomena and Diosemeia of Aratus  (1848)  by Aratus, translated by John Lamb




WHEN thou behold'st in evening's western sky
Cynthia's thin face, scarce seen by mortal eye,
She then begins her monthly course to run
Through the whole annual circle of the sun.
Observe her on the fourth returning day:
She casts a shadow from her strengthen'd ray.
With half her lustre and eighth night she cheers,
And in eight more with beauty full appears.
Then, waning through the month's remaining space,
Each night she rises with diminish'd face.10

To mark the lengthening and the shortening day,
To trace the sun throughout his annual way,
The zodiac signs suffice. They also show
The times ordain’d to plough, to plant, to sow.
These all are taught by great immortal Jove,
Who orders all below and all above.

The prudent mariner oft marks afar
The coming tempest by Bootes’ star.
Some warn him, rising at the dusk of night,
And some, forerunners of Aurora’s light.20

Across these starry plains the God of day
Furrows with burning wheel his annual way.
From east to west he runs his daily race—
Rises and sets in no determin’d place.
These things thou know’st; and ancient men have told,
And trac’d in sacred characters of gold,
How Sol and Luna part again to meet
When the great cycle nineteen years complete.
Thou knowest all the stars that night rolls round
With great Orion, and his rabid hound.30
Their influence some o’er Neptune’s realm extend—
Others to Jove belong; and oft portend
Events forthcoming. These with care to scan
The task and wisdom of the prudent man.
Trust not in fragile bark, too rashly brave,
The calm but treacherous bosom of the wave.
Ofttimes at eve the balmy breezes blow,
And soft as milk the murmuring billows flow.
But ere again the rosy-finger’d hours
Unbar for Phœbus’ car the golden doors,40
The wild winds roar—tumultuous ocean heaves,
And hurls to mountain height his boiling waves.
By wise precaution thou may’st haply save
Thyself and comrades from a watery grave.
Yet oft the tempest rises unforeseen;
For short the foresight of the wisest men.
His secret plans in darkness Jove conceals,
Nor all his ways to mortal eye reveals.
Omnipotent is Jove—He may bestow
More wisdom on his creatures here below.50
For while his power extends through endless space,
He smiles propitious on our favour’d race.
Gives to the moon her varying silvery light,
Man’s guide and beacon through the wintry night.
Bids from the east each morn th’ unwearied sun
Through the high heaven his giant course to run.
And various other signs to mortals sends—
Warns them of danger, and events portends.

Those, who the weather’s various signs would trace,
Must watch fair Cynthia’s ever-changeful face:60
Mark her, when rising from the eastern waves—
Mark her, when in the west her limbs she laves.
If three days old her face be bright and clear,
No rain or stormy gale the sailors fear;
But if she rise with bright and blushing cheek,
The blustering winds the bending mast will shake.
If dull her face and blunt her horns appear
On the fourth day, a breeze or rain is near.
If on the third she move with horns direct,
Not pointing downward or to heaven erect,70
The western wind expect; and drenching rain,
If on the fourth her horns direct remain.
If to the earth her upper horn she bend,
Cold Boreas from the north his blast will send.
If upward she extend it to the sky,
Loud Notus with his blustering gale is nigh.
When the fourth day around her orb is spread
A circling ring of deep and murky red,
Soon from his cave the god of storms will rise,
Dashing with foamy wave the lowering skies. 80

And when fair Cynthia her full orb displays,
Or when unveil'd to sight are half her rays,
Then mark the various hues that paint her face,
And thus the fickle weather's changes trace.
If smile her pearly face benign and fair,
Calm and serene will breathe the balmy air;
If with deep blush her maiden cheek be red,
Then boisterous wind the cautious sailors dread;
If sullen blackness hang upon her brow,
From clouds as black will rainy torrents flow. 90
Not through the month their power these signs extend,
But all their influence with the quarter end.

A Halo oft fair Cynthia's face surrounds
With single, double, or with triple bounds.
If with one ring, and broken it appear,
Sailors, beware—the driving gale is near.
Unbroken if it vanisheth away—
Serene the air, and smooth the tranquil sea.
The double halo boisterous weather brings,
And furious tempests follow triple rings. 100
These signs from Cynthia's varying orb arise—
Forewarn the prudent, and direct the wise.

Next mark the features of the God of Day:
Most certain signs to mortals they convey,
When fresh he breaks the portals of the east,
And when his wearied coursers sink to rest.
If bright he rise, from speck and tarnish clear,
Throughout the day no rain or tempest fear.
If cloudless his full orb descend at night,
To-morrow's sun will rise and shine as bright. 110
But if, returning to the eastern sky,
A hollow blackness on his centre lie;
Or north and south his lengthen'd beams extend:
These signs a stormy wind or rain portend.

Observe, if shorn of circling rays his head,
And o'er his face a veil of redness spread;
For o'er the plains the God of winds will sweep,
Lashing the troubled bosom of the deep.
If in a shroud of blackness he appear,
Forewarn'd take heed—a drenching rain is near. 120
If black and red their tints together blend,
And to his face a murky purple lend,
Soon will the wolfish wind tempestuous howl,
And the big cloud along the welkin roll.

If when the Sun begin his daily race,
Or ere he sink in ocean's cool embrace,
The rays that crown his head together bend,
And to one central point converging tend;
Or if by circling clouds he is opprest,
Hanging about him as a vapoury vest; 130
Or if before him mount a little cloud,
Veiling his rising beams in murky shroud:
By these forewarn'd, within the house remain,
Charg'd is the air with stores of pelting rain.

If Phœbus rising wide and broad appear,
And, as he mounts, contract his ample sphere,
Propitious sign—no rain or tempest near.
Propitious too, if after days of rain
With a pale face he seek the western main.

When through the day the angry welkin lowers, 140
Hid is the Sun and drench'd the earth with showers,
Catch if thou canst his last departing ray,
And gain prognostics of the following day.
If by black cloud eclips'd his orb is found
Shooting his scatter'd rays at random round,
Send not the traveller from thy roof away—
To-morrow shines no brighter than to-day.
If with clear face into his watery bed,
Curtain'd with crimson clouds around his head,
He sink, that night no rain or tempest fear; 150
And morrow's sun will shine serene and clear.

If a black cloud eclipse the solar ray,
And sudden night usurp the place of day,
As when th' obtrusive moon’s dark orb is seen
Forcing her way the sun and earth between;
Or if Aurora tinge with glowing red
The clouds, that float round Phœbus' rising head;
Farmer, rejoice—for soon refreshing rains
Will fill the pools, and quench the thirsty plains.
If ere his limbs he rear from ocean's bed 160
His foremost rays obscure and dark are spread
On th' horizon's edge; forewarn'd take heed—
These signs the rain, or blustering wind precede.

And weather foul expect, when thou canst trace
A baleful halo circling Phœbus' face
Of murky darkness, and approaching near:
If of two circles, fouler weather fear.

Mark when from eastern wave his rays emerge,
And ere he quench them in the western surge,
If near th' horizon ruddy clouds arise, 170
Mocking the solar orb in form and size:
If two such satellites the Sun attend,
Soon will impetuous rain from heaven descend.
If one, and north—the northern wind prevails:
If one, and south—expect the southern gales.

Mark all these signs with an attentive eye,
But scan with utmost care the western sky;
For sure prognostics those which Phœbus gives
As to their rest his wearied steeds he drives.

Now mark where high upon the zodiac line 180
The stars of lustre-lacking Cancer shine.
Near to this constellation’s southern bound
Phatne, a nebulous bright spot, is found:
On either side this cloud, nor distant far,
Glitters to north and south a little star.
Though not conspicuous, yet these two are fam'd,
The Onoi by the ancient sages nam'd.
If when the sky around be bright and clear
Sudden from sight the Phatne disappear,
And the two Onoi north and south are seen 190
Ready to meet—no obstacle between—
The welkin soon will blacken with the rain,
And torrents rush along the thirsty plain.
If black the Phatne, and the Onoi clear,
Sure sign again that drenching showers are near.
And if the northern star be lost to sight,
While still the southern glitters fair and bright,
Notus will blow. But if the southern fail,
And clear the northern—Boreas will prevail.

And as the skies above, the waves below 200
Signs of the rising wind and tempest show:
When the long hollow rolling billows roar,
Breaking in froth upon the echoing shore;
And through the rugged rock and craggy steep
Whispers a murmuring sound, not loud but deep.

When screaming to the land the lone Hern flies,
And from the crag reiterates her cries;
Breasting the wind in flocks the Seamews sail,
And smooth their plumes against th' opposing gale;
And diving Cormorants their wings expand, 210
And tread—strange visitors—the solid land;
When from their briny couch the Wild Ducks soar,
And beat with clanging wings the echoing shore;
When gathering clouds are roll'd as drifting snow
In giant length along the mountain's brow;
When the light down, that crowns the thistles head,
On ocean's calm and glassy face is spread
Extending far and wide—the sailors hail
These signs, prophetic of the rising gale.

Thunder and Lightning in the summer show 220
The point from which the freshening breeze will blow.

Mark when athwart the ebon vault of night
The Meteors shoot their flash of vivid light—
From that same quarter will the wind arise,
And in like manner rush along the skies.
If numerous and from various points they blaze,
Darting across each other's path their rays,
From various points conflicting winds will sweep
In whirlwind fury o'er the troubled deep.

When from each quarter of the sky around 230
Blaze the fork'd lightnings, and the thunders sound,
Pity, oh, pity then the sailor brave,
Who ploughs in fragile bark the midnight wave.
The raging billows dash the welkin's brow—
Hisses the red bolt in the gulf below:
Jove on his head the pitiless tempest pours—
Beneath his feet the furious Neptune roars.

Refreshing showers or heavier rains are near,
When piled in fleecy heaps the clouds appear.

No weather fair expect, when Iris throws 240
Around the azure vault two painted bows;
When a bright star in night's blue vault is found,
Like a small sun by circling Halo bound;
When dip the Swallows as the pool they skim,
And water-fowls their ruffled plumage trim;
When loudly croak the tenants of the lake,
Unhappy victims of the hydra-snake;
When at the early dawn from murmuring throat
Lone Ololygo pours her dismal note;
When the hoarse Raven seeks the shallow waves— 250
Dips her black head—her wings, and body laves.

The Ox looks up and snuffs the coming showers,
E'er yet with pregnant clouds the welkin lowers:
Dragging from vaulted cave their eggs to view
Th' industrious Ants their ceaseless toil pursue;
While numerous insects creep along the wall,
And through the grass the slimy earth-worms crawl,
The black earth's entrails men these reptiles call.
Cackles the Hen, as sounds the dripping rill,
Combing her plumage with her crooked bill. 260

When flocks of Rooks or Daws in clouds arise,
Deafening the welkin with discordant cries;
When from their throats a gurgling note they strain,
And imitate big drops of falling rain;
When the Tame Duck her outstretch'd pinion shakes;
When the shrill screaming Hern the ocean seeks:
All these prognostics to the wise declare
Pregnant with rain, though now serene, the air.

When keen the Flies—a plague to man and
Seek with proboscis sharp their bloody feast; 270
When in the wearisome dark wintry night
The flickering torches burn with sputtering light,
Now flaring far and wide—now sinking low—
While round their wicks the fungous tumours grow;
When on the hearth the burning Ember glows,
And numerous sparks around the Charcoal throws:
Mark well these signs, though trifling yet not vain,
Prognostics sure of the impending rain.

If towers to sight uncapt the mountain's head,
While on its base a vapoury veil is spread; 280
If on the ocean's bosom clouds appear,
While the blue vault above is bright and clear;
These signs by shepherds and by sailors seen,
Give pleasing hope of days and nights serene.

When the blue sky and softly breathing air
Afford of lengthen’d calm a promise fair,
Then on these signs with watchful eye intent—
Forewarn’d—secure—the coming storm prevent.
And when with deep-charg'd clouds the air’s opprest,
Phatne, the spot that shines on Cancer's breast, 290
Attentive mark: if bright the spot appear,
Soon Phœbus smiles with face serene and clear,
Nor the returning rain and tempest fear.

When burn the Lamps with soft and steady light,
And the Owl softly murmurs through the night;
And e'en the Raven from her varying throat
Utters at eve a soft and joyous note:
When from all quarters in the twilight shade
The Rooks returning to th' accustom’d glade
Their lofty rocking dormitories crowd, 300
Clapping their gladsome wings and cawing loud—
Various and unharmonious notes they raise,
But all their notes are notes of joy and praise—
And when the Cranes their course unbroken steer,
Beating with clanging wings the echoing air:
These hail—prognostics sure of weather fair.

When the bright gems that night's black vault
But faintly shine—of half their radiance shorn—
And not by cloud obscur'd, or dimm'd to sight
By the fine silvery veil of Cynthia's light; 310
But of themselves appear to faint away,
They warning give of a tempestuous day.

No weather calm expect, when floating high
Cloud rides o'er Cloud: when clamorous cry
The Geese: when through the night the Raven caws;
And chatter loud at even-tide the Daws.
When Sparrows ceaseless chirp at dawn of day,
And in their holes the Wren and Robin stay.

When charged with stormy matter lower the skies,
The busy Bee at home her labour plies; 320
Nor seeks the distant field and honied flower,
Returning laden'd with her golden store:
Their high aerial flight the Cranes suspend,
And to the earth in broken ranks descend.
When the dull fire emits no cheerful rays—
With lustre dimm'd the languid torches blaze,
And the light cobwebs float along the air;
No symptoms these of weather calm and fair.

But why abroad to seek prognostics go,
When ashes vile foretell the falling snow? 330
When half consum’d the coals to cinders turn,
And with a sputtering flame the torches burn.
And hail expect, when the burnt cinders white
With glowing heat send round a glaring light.

Not signless by the husbandman are seen
The Ilex, and Lentiscus darkly green.
If an abundant crop the Ilex bear,
With blighting matter teems the vapoury air;
If with unusual weight its branches groan,
Then their light sheaves the hapless farmers moan. 340
Thrice in the course of each revolving year
On the Lentiscus flowers and fruit appear;
And three convenient times to farmers show
To break the fertile clod with crooked plough.
If at each time this tree with fruit abound,
Each time with stores will teem the fruitful ground.
And like prognostic yields the humble Squill,
Thrice flowering yearly by the purling rill.

When bounteous Autumn crowns the circling year,
And fields and groves his russet livery wear; 350
If from the earth the numerous Hornets rise,
Sweeping a living whirlwind through the skies,
Then close on autumn's steps will winter stern
With blustering winds and chilling rains return.
Pity the wretch who shelterless remains,
And the keen blast—half-fed—half-clad—sustains.

The prudent husbandman, while autumn lasts,
His precious seed on the broad furrow casts,
And fearless marks the marshall'd Cranes on high,
Seeking in southern climes a milder sky. 360
Not so the idle farmer, who delays,
And trusts to treacherous winter's shorten’d days.
He hears their screams and clanging wings with fear,
Prognostics sure of frost-bound winter near.

When Autumn's days are nearly past away,
And Winter hastens to assume his sway,
Mark if the Kine and Sheep at eventide
Toss up their horned heads; with nostril wide,
Imbibe the northern breeze, and furious beat
The echoing meadows with their cloven feet; 370
For tyrant Winter comes with icy hand,
Heaping his snowy ridges on the land,
Blasting Pomona's hopes with shriveling frost,
While Ceres mourns her golden treasure lost.

No grateful sight to husbandmen appear
One or more Comets, with their blazing hair—
Forerunners of a parch'd and barren year.

When numerous Birds their island home forsake,
And to firm land their airy voyage make,
The ploughman, watching their ill-omened flight, 380
Fears for his golden fields a withering blight.
Not so the goatherd—he their advent hails,
As certain promise of o'erflowing pails.
And such is human life—the Fates ordain,
That one man's loss should be another's gain.
Coming events men anxious seek to know,
Pregnant of joy to some—to some of woe.

The shepherd, as a-field his charge he drives,
From his own flock prognostics oft derives.
When they impetuous seek the grassy plain, 390
He marks the advent of the storm and rain;
And when grave Rams, and Lambkins full of play,
Butt at each other's heads in mimic fray:
When the horn’d leaders stamp the dusty ground
With their fore-feet—all fours the young ones bound:
When homeward, as the shades of night descend,
Reluctantly and slow their way they wend,
Stray from the flock, and linger-one by one,
Heedless of shepherd's voice, and missive stone.

The herdsmen too, while yet the skies are fair, 400
Warn’d by their Bullocks, for the storm prepare:
When with rough tongue they lick their polished hoof—
When bellowing loud they seek the sheltering roof—
When from the yoke at close of day releas'd
On his right side recumbs the wearied beast:
When keenly pluck the Goats the oaken bough;
And deeply wallows in the mire the Sow.

When through the dismal night the lone Wolf howls;
Or when at eve around the house he prowls;
And, grown familiar, seeks to make his bed, 410
Careless of man, in some out-lying shed:
Then mark: ere thrice Aurora shall arise,
A horrid storm will sweep the blacken'd skies.

E'en Mice ofttimes prophetic are of rain,
Nor did our sires their auguries disdain:
When loudly piping with their voices shrill,
They frolick'd dancing on the downy hill.
Sign too of rain: his outstretch'd feet the Hound
Extends, and curves his belly to the ground.

Before the storm the Crab his briny home 420
Sidelong forsakes, and strives on land to roam:
The busy household Mice shake up with care
Their strawy beds, and for long sleep prepare.

Each sign observe: more sure when two agree;
Nor doubt th' event foretold by omens three.
Note well th' events of the preceding year,
And with the rising and the setting stars compare.
But chiefly look to Cynthia's varying face;
There surest signs of coming weather trace.
Observe when twice four days she veils her light, 430
Nor cheers with silvery ray the dreary night.

Mark these prognostics through the circling year,
And wisely for the rain—the wind—the storm prepare.