Pomona et Vertumnus. Anaxarete.
VERTUMNUS AND POMONAUnder the scepter of Ascanius
the Latin state, transferred, was Alban too.
Silvius ruled after him. Latinus then,
wearing the crown, brought back an older name.
Illustrious Alba followed after him,
Epytus next in time, and Capys next,
then Capetus. And reigning after them
King Tiberinus followed. He was drowned
in waves of that Etrurian stream, to which
he gave his name. His sons were Remulus
and fierce Acrota—each in turn was king.
The elder, Remulus, would imitate
the lightning, and he perished by a flash
of lightning. Then Acrota, not so rash,
succeeded to his brother, and he left
his scepter to the valiant Aventinus,
hill-buried on the very mountain which
he ruled upon and which received his name.
And Proca ruled then—on the Palatine.
Under this king, Pomona lived, and none
of all the Latin hamadryads could
attend her garden with more skill, and none
was more attentive to the fruitful trees,
because of them her name was given to her.
She cared not for the forests or the streams,
but loved the country and the boughs that bear
delicious fruit. Her right hand never felt
a javelin's weight, always she loved to hold
a sharp curved pruning-knife with which she would
at one time crop too largely growing shoots,
or at another time reduce the branch
that straggled; at another time she would
engraft a sucker in divided bark,
and so find nourishment for some young, strange
nursling. She never suffered them to thirst,
for she would water every winding thread
of twisting roots with freshly flowing streams.
All this was her delight, her chief pursuit;
she never felt the least desire of love;
but fearful of some rustic's violence,
she had her orchard closed within a wall;
and both forbade and fled the approach of males.
What did not satyrs do to gain her love,
a youthful crew expert at every dance?
And also Pans their brows wreathed with the pine,
Silenus too, more youthful than his years,
and that god who is ever scaring thieves
with pruning-hook or limb—what did they not
to gain her love? And though Vertumnus did
exceed them in his love, yet he was not
more fortunate than they.
How often disguised
as a rough reaper he brought her barley ears—
truly he seemed a reaper to the life!
Often he came, his temples wreathed with hay,
as if he had been tossing new mown grass.
He often held a whip in his tough hand,
you could have sworn he had a moment before
unyoked his wearied oxen. When he had
a pruning-knife, he seemed to rear fine fruit
in orchard trees or in the well kept vines.
When he came with a ladder, you would think
he must be gathering fruit. Sometimes he was
a soldier with a sword—a fisherman,
the rod held in his hand.—In fact by means
of many shapes he often had obtained
access to her and joyed in seeing her beauty.
At length he had his brows bound with a cap
of color, and then leaning on a stick,
with white hair round his temples, he assumed
the shape of an old woman. Entering so
the cultivated garden, he admired
the fruit and said, “But you are so much lovelier!”
And, while he praised her, gave some kisses too,
such as no real beldame ever gave.
The bent old creature then sat on the grass.
Gazing at branches weighed down with their fruit
of autumn. Opposite to them there was
an elm-tree beautiful with shining grapes;
and, after he had praised it with the vine
embracing it, he said,
“But only think,
if this trunk stood unwedded to this vine,
it would have nothing to attract our hearts
beyond its leaves, and this delightful vine,
united to the elm tree finds its rest;
but, if not so joined to it, would fall down,
prostrate upon the ground. And yet you find
no warning in the example of this tree.
You have avoided marriage, with no wish
to be united—I must wish that you
would change and soon desire it. Helen would
not have so many suitors for her hand, nor she
who caused the battles of the Lapithae,
nor would the wife of timid, and not bold,
Ulysses. Even now, while you avoid
those who are courting you, and while you turn
in your disgust, a thousand suitors want
to marry you—the demigods and gods,
and deities of Alba's mountain-tops.
“But you, if you are wise, and wish to make
a good match, listen patiently to me,
an old, old woman (I love you much more
than all of them, more than you dream or think).
Despise all common persons, and choose now
Vertumnus as the partner of your couch,
and you may take me as a surety for him.
He is not better known even to himself,
than he is known to me. And he is not
now wandering everywhere, from here to there
throughout the world. He always will frequent
the places near here; and he does not, like
so many of your wooers, fall in love
with her he happens to have seen the last.
You are his first and last love, and to you
alone will he devote his life. Besides
all—he is young and has a natural gift
of grace, so that he can most readily
transform himself to any wanted shape,
and will become whatever you may wish—
even though you ask him things unseen before.
“And only think, have you not the same tastes?
Will he not be the first to welcome fruits
which are your great delight? And does he not
hold your gifts safely in his glad right hand?
But now he does not long for any fruit
plucked from the tree, and has no thought of herbs
with pleasant juices that the garden gives;
he cannot think of anything but you.
Have pity on his passion, and believe
that he who woos you is here and he pleads
with my lips.
“You should not forget to fear
avenging deities, and the Idalian,
who hate all cruel hearts, and also dread
the fierce revenge of her of Rhamnus-Land.
And that you may stand more in awe of them,
(old age has given me opportunities
of knowing many things) I will relate
some happenings known in Cyprus, by which you
may be persuaded and relent with ease.