Page images



The Argument.

When Virgil, by the favour of Augustus, had recovered his patrimony near Mantua, and went in hope to take possession, he was in danger to be slain by Arius the centurion, to whom those lands were assigned by the emperor, in reward of his service against Brutus and Cassius. This pastoral, therefore, is filled with complaints of his hard usage; and the persons introduced are, the bailiff of Virgil, Moris, and his friend Lycidas.


Ho, Moris! whither on thy way so fast?
This leads to town.


O Lycidas! at last

The time is come, I never thought to see, (Strange revolution for my farm and me!) When the grim captain in a surly tone

[ocr errors]

Cries out, Pack up, ye rascals, and be gone.' Kick'd out, we set the best face on't we could: And these two kids, to' appease his angry mood, I bear, of which the Furies give him good!


Your country friends were told another taleThat, from the sloping mountain to the vale,

[ocr errors]

And dodder'd oak, and all the banks along,
Menalcas saved his fortune with a song.


Such was the news, indeed; but songs and rhymes
Prevail as much in these hard iron times,
As would a plump of trembling fowl, that rise
Against an eagle sousing from the skies.
And, had not Phoebus warn'd me, by the croak
Of an old raven from a hollow oak,

To shun debate, Menalcas had been slain,
And Moris not survived him, to complain.


Now Heaven defend! could barbarous rage induce
The brutal son of Mars to'insult the sacred Muse?
Who then should sing the nymphs? or who re-

The waters gliding in a smoother verse?
Or Amaryllis praise that heavenly lay,
That shorten'd, as we went, our tedious way-
'O Tityrus, tend my herd, and see them fed;
To morning pastures, evening waters, led;
And 'ware the Libyan ridgel's butting head.'


Or what unfinish'd he to Varus read

Thy name, O Varus (if the kinder powers Preserve our plains, and shield the Mantuan


Obnoxious by Cremona's neighbouring crime),
The wings of swans, and stronger-pinion'd rhyme,
Shall raise aloft, and soaring bear above-
The' immortal gift of gratitude to Jove.'


Sing on, sing on: for I can ne'er be cloy'd;
So may thy swarms the baleful yew avoid:

So may thy cows their burden'd bags distend,
And trees to goats their willing branches bend.
Mean as I am, yet have the Muses made
Me free, a member of the tuneful trade:
At least the shepherds seem to like my lays:
But I discern their flattery from their praise:
I nor to Cinna's ears, nor Varus', dare aspire,
But gabble, like a goose, amidst the swan-like


'Tis what I have been conning in my mind:
Nor are they verses of a vulgar kind.
'Come, Galatea! come! the seas forsake!
What pleasures can the tides with their hoarse
murmurs make?

See, on the shore inhabits purple spring;
Where nightingales their lovesick ditty sing:
See, meads with purling streams, with flowers
the ground,

The grottos cool, with shady poplars crown'd,
And creeping vines on arbours weaved around.
Come then, and leave the wave's tumultuous roar;
Let the wild surges vainly beat the shore.'


Or that sweet song I heard with such delight; The same you sung alone one starry night. The tune I still retain, but not the words.


'Why, Daphnis, dost thou search in old records,
To know the seasons when the stars arise?
See, Cæsar's lamp is lighted in the skies,-
The star, whose rays the blushing grapes adorn,
And swell the kindly ripening ears of corn.

[blocks in formation]

Under this influence graft the tender shoot:
Thy children's children shall enjoy the fruit.'
The rest I have forgot; for cares and time
Change all things, and untune my soul to rhyme.
I could have once sung down a summer's sun:
But now the chime of poetry is done:
My voice grows hoarse; I feel the notes decay,
As if the wolves had seen me first to-day.
But these, and more than I to mind can bring,
Menalcas has not yet forgot to sing.


Thy faint excuses but inflame me more:
And now the waves roll silent to the shore;
Hush'd winds the topmost branches scarcely bend,
As if thy tuneful song they did attend:
Already we have half our way o'ercome;

Far off I can discern Bianor's tomb.

Here where the labourer's hands have form'd a bower

Of wreathing trees, in singing waste an hour. Rest here thy weary limbs; thy kids lay down: We've day before us yet, to reach the town; Or if, ere night, the gathering clouds we fear, A song will help the beating storm to bear. And, that thou mayst not be too late abroad, Sing, and I'll ease thy shoulders of thy load.


Cease to request me; let us mind our way:
Another song requires another day.
When good Menalcas comes, if he rejoice,
And find a friend at court, I'll find a voice.



The Argument.

Gallus, a great patron of Virgil, and an excellent poet, was very deeply in love with one Cytheris, whom he calls Lycoris, and who had forsaken him for the company of a soldier. The poet therefore supposes his friend Gallus retired, in his height of melancholy, into the solitudes of Arcadia (the celebrated scene of pastorals), where he represents him in a very languishing condition, with all the rural deities about him, pitying his hard usage, and condoling his misfortune.

THY sacred succour, Arethusa, bring,
To crown my labour ('tis the last I sing),
Which proud Lycoris may with pity view;-
The Muse is mournful, though the numbers few:
Refuse me not a verse, to grief and Gallus due.
So may thy silver streams beneath the tide,
Unmix'd with briny seas, securely glide.
Sing then my Gallus, and his hopeless vows;
Sing, while my cattle crop the tender browse.
The vocal grove shall answer to the sound,

And Echo, from the vales, the tuneful voice rebound.

What lawns or woods withheld you from his aid, Ye nymphs, when Gallus was to love betray'd, To love, unpitied by the cruel maid?

Not steepy Pindus could retard your course, Nor cleft Parnassus, nor the' Aonian source : Nothing that owns the Muses could suspend Your aid to Gallus :-Gallus is their friend.

« PreviousContinue »