The Works of Virgil (Dryden)/Pastorals (Dryden)/Book 6

The Sixth Pastoral.




Two young Shepherds Chromis and Mnasylus, having been often promis'd a Song by Silenus, chance to catch him asleep in this Pastoral; where they bind him hand and foot, and then claim his Promise. Silenus finding they wou'd be put off no longer, begins his Song; in which he describes the Formation of the Universe, and the Original of Animals, according to the Epicurean Philosophy; and then runs through the most surprising Transformations which have happen'd in Nature since her Birth. This Pastoral was design'd as a Complement to Syro the Epicurean, who instructed Virgil and Varus in the Principles of that Philosophy. Silenus acts as Tutor, Chromis and Mnasylus as the two Pupils.

First transferr'd to Rome Sicilian Strains:
Nor blush'd the Dorick Muse to dwell on Mantuan Plains.
But when I try'd her tender Voice, too young,
And fighting Kings, and bloody Battels sung;

Illustration of Pastoral 6, "I First transferr'd to Rome Sicilian Strains"

Apollo check'd my Pride; and bade me feed5
My fatning Flocks, nor dare beyond the Reed.
Admonish'd thus, while every Pen prepares
To write thy Praises, Varus, and thy Wars,
My Past'ral Muse her humble Tribute brings;
And yet not wholly uninspir'd she sings.10
For all who read, and reading, not disdain
These rural Poems, and their lowly Strain,
The name of Varus, oft inscrib'd shall see,
In every Grove, and every vocal Tree;
And all the Silvan reign shall sing of thee:15
Thy Name, to Phœbus and the Muses known,
Shall in the front of every Page be shown;
For he who sings thy Praise, secures his own.
Proceed, my Muse: Two Satyrs, on the ground,
Stretch'd at his Ease, their Syre Silenus found.20
Dos'd with his fumes, and heavy with his Load,
They found him snoring in his dark abode;
And seiz'd with youthful Arms the drunken God.
His rosie Wreath was dropt not long before,
Born by the tide of Wine, and floating on the floor.25
His empty Can, with Ears half worn away,
Was hung on high, to boast the triumph of the day.
Invaded thus, for want of better bands,
His Garland they unstring, and bind his hands:
For by the fraudful God deluded long,30
They now resolve to have their promis'd Song.

Ægle came in, to make their Party good;
The fairest Nais of the neighbouring Flood,
And, while he stares around, with stupid Eyes,
His Brows with Berries, and his Temples dies.35
He finds the Fraud, and, with a Smile, demands
On what design the Boys had bound his Hands.
Loose me, he cry'd; 'twas Impudence to find
A sleeping God, 'tis Sacrilege to bind.
To you the promis'd Poem I will pay;40
The Nymph shall be rewarded in her way.
He rais'd his voice; and soon a num'rous throng
Of tripping Satyrs crowded to the Song.
And Sylvan Fauns, and Savage Beasts advanc'd,
And nodding Forests to the Numbers danc'd.45
Not by Haemonian Hills the Thracian Bard,
Nor awful Phœbus was on Pindus heard,
With deeper silence, or with more regard.
He sung the secret Seeds of Nature's Frame;
How Seas, and Earth, and Air, and active Flame,50
Fell through the mighty Void; and in their fall
Were blindly gather'd in this goodly Ball.
The tender Soil then stiffning by degrees,
Shut from the bounded Earth, the bounding Seas.
Then Earth and Ocean various Forms disclose;55
And a new Sun to the new World arose.
And Mists condens'd to Clouds obscure the Sky;
And Clouds dissolv'd, the thirsty Ground supply.

The rising Trees the lofty Mountains grace:
The lofty Mountains feed the Savage Race,60
Yet few, and Strangers, in th' unpeopl'd Place.
From thence the birth of Man the Song pursu'd,
And how the World was lost, and how renew'd.
The Reign of Saturn, and the Golden Age;
Prometheus Theft, and Jove's avenging Rage.65
The Cries of Argonauts for Hylas drown'd;
With whose repeated Name the Shoars resound.
Then mourns the madness of the Cretan Queen;
Happy for her if Herds had never been.
What fury, wretched Woman, seiz'd thy Breast!70
The Maids of Argos (tho' with rage possess'd,
Their imitated lowings fill'd the Grove)
Yet shun'd the guilt of this prepost'rous Love.
Nor sought the Youthful Husband of the Herd,74
Tho' lab'ring Yokes on their own Necks they fear'd;
And felt for budding Horns on their smooth foreheads rear'd.
Ah, wretched Queen! you range the pathless Wood;
While on a flowry Bank he chaws the Cud:
Or sleeps in Shades, or thro' the Forest roves;
And roars with anguish for his absent Loves.80
Ye Nymphs, with toils, his Forest-walk surround;
And trace his wandring Footsteps on the ground.
But, ah! perhaps my Passion he disdains;
And courts the milky Mothers of the Plains.

We search th'ungrateful Fugitive abroad;85
While they at home sustain his happy load.
He sung the Lover's fraud; the longing Maid,
With golden Fruit, like all the Sex, betray'd.
The Sisters mourning for their Brother's loss;
Their Bodies hid in Barks, and furr'd with Moss.90
How each a rising Alder now appears;
And o're the Po distils her Gummy Tears.
Then sung, how Gallus by a Muses hand,
Was led and welcom'd to the sacred Strand.
The Senate rising to salute their Guest;95
And Linus thus their gratitude express'd.
Receive this Present, by the Muses made;
The Pipe on which th' Ascræan Pastor play'd:
With which of old he charm'd the Savage Train:
And call'd the Mountain Ashes to the Plain.100
Sing thou on this, thy Phœbus; and the Wood
Where once his Fane of Parian Marble stood.
On this his ancient Oracles rehearse;
And with new Numbers grace the God of Verse.
Why shou'd I sing the double Scylla's Fate,105
The first by Love transform'd, the last by Hate.
A beauteous Maid above, but Magick Arts,
With barking Dogs deform'd her neather parts.
What Vengeance on the passing Fleet she pour'd,
The Master frighted, and the Mates devour'd.110
Then ravish'd Philomel the Song exprest;
The Crime reveal'd; the Sisters cruel Feast;

And how in Fields the Lapwing Tereus reigns;
The warbling Nightingale in Woods complains.
While Progne makes on Chymney tops her moan;115
And hovers o'er the Palace once her own.
Whatever Songs besides, the Delphian God
Had taught the Laurels, and the Spartan Flood,
Silenus sung: the Vales his Voice rebound;
And carry to the Skies the sacred Sound.120
And now the setting Sun had warn'd the Swain
To call his counted Cattle from the Plain:
Yet still th' unweary'd Syre pursues the tuneful Strain.
Till unperceiv'd the Heav'ns with Stars were hung:124
And sudden Night surpriz'd the yet unfinish'd Song.

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