MENALCAS DAMOETAS PALAEMONMENALCAS
Who owns the flock, Damoetas? Meliboeus?
Nay, they are Aegon's sheep, of late by him
committed to my care.
O every way
unhappy sheep, unhappy flock! while he
still courts Neaera, fearing lest her choice
should fall on me, this hireling shepherd here
wrings hourly twice their udders, from the flock
filching the life-juice, from the lambs their milk.
Hold! not so ready with your jeers at men!
We know who once, and in what shrine with you—
the he-goats looked aside—the light nymphs laughed—
Ay, then, I warrant, when they saw me slash
micon's young vines and trees with spiteful hook.
Or here by these old beeches, when you broke
the bow and arrows of Damon; for you chafed
when first you saw them given to the boy,
cross-grained Menalcas, ay, and had you not
done him some mischief, would have chafed to death.
With thieves so daring, what can masters do?
Did I not see you, rogue, in ambush lie
for Damon's goat, while loud Lycisca barked?
And when I cried, “Where is he off to now?
Gather your flock together, Tityrus,”
you hid behind the sedges.
Well, was he
whom I had conquered still to keep the goat.
Which in the piping-match my pipe had won!
You may not know it, but the goat was mine.
You out-pipe him? when had you ever pipe
wax-welded? in the cross-ways used you not
on grating straw some miserable tune
Well, then, shall we try our skill
each against each in turn? Lest you be loth,
I pledge this heifer; every day she comes
twice to the milking-pail, and feeds withal
two young ones at her udder: say you now
what you will stake upon the match with me.
Naught from the flock I'll venture, for at home
I have a father and a step-dame harsh,
and twice a day both reckon up the flock,
and one withal the kids. But I will stake,
seeing you are so mad, what you yourself
will own more priceless far—two beechen cups
by the divine art of Alcimedon
wrought and embossed, whereon a limber vine,
wreathed round them by the graver's facile tool,
twines over clustering ivy-berries pale.
Two figures, one Conon, in the midst he set,
and one—how call you him, who with his wand
marked out for all men the whole round of heaven,
that they who reap, or stoop behind the plough,
might know their several seasons? Nor as yet
have I set lip to them, but lay them by.
For me too wrought the same Alcimedon
a pair of cups, and round the handles wreathed
pliant acanthus, Orpheus in the midst,
the forests following in his wake; nor yet
have I set lip to them, but lay them by.
Matched with a heifer, who would prate of cups?
You shall not balk me now; where'er you bid,
I shall be with you; only let us have
for auditor—or see, to serve our turn,
yonder Palaemon comes! In singing-bouts
i'll see you play the challenger no more.
Out then with what you have; I shall not shrink,
nor budge for any man: only do you,
neighbour Palaemon, with your whole heart's skill—
for it is no slight matter—play your part.
Say on then, since on the greensward we sit,
and now is burgeoning both field and tree;
now is the forest green, and now the year
at fairest. Do you first, Damoetas, sing,
then you, Menalcas, in alternate strain:
alternate strains are to the Muses dear.
“From Jove the Muse began; Jove filleth all,
makes the earth fruitful, for my songs hath care.”
“Me Phoebus loves; for Phoebus his own gifts,
bays and sweet-blushing hyacinths, I keep.”
“Gay Galatea throws an apple at me,
then hies to the willows, hoping to be seen.”
“My dear Amyntas comes unasked to me;
not Delia to my dogs is better known.”
“Gifts for my love I've found; mine eyes have marked
where the wood-pigeons build their airy nests.”
“Ten golden apples have I sent my boy,
all that I could, to-morrow as many more.”
“What words to me, and uttered O how oft,
hath Galatea spoke! waft some of them,
ye winds, I pray you, for the gods to hear.”
“It profiteth me naught, Amyntas mine,
that in your very heart you spurn me not,
if, while you hunt the boar, I guard the nets.”
“Prithee, Iollas, for my birthday guest
send me your Phyllis; when for the young crops
I slay my heifer, you yourself shall come.”
“I am all hers; she wept to see me go,
and, lingering on the word, ‘farewell’ she said,
‘My beautiful Iollas, fare you well.’”
“Fell as the wolf is to the folded flock,
rain to ripe corn, Sirocco to the trees,
the wrath of Amaryllis is to me.”
“As moisture to the corn, to ewes with young
lithe willow, as arbute to the yeanling kids,
so sweet Amyntas, and none else, to me.”
“My Muse, although she be but country-bred,
is loved by Pollio: O Pierian Maids,
pray you, a heifer for your reader feed!”
“Pollio himself too doth new verses make:
feed ye a bull now ripe to butt with horn,
and scatter with his hooves the flying sand.”
“Who loves thee, Pollio, may he thither come
where thee he joys beholding; ay, for him
let honey flow, the thorn-bush spices bear.”
“Who hates not Bavius, let him also love
thy songs, O Maevius, ay, and therewithal
yoke foxes to his car, and he-goats milk.”
“You, picking flowers and strawberries that grow
so near the ground, fly hence, boys, get you gone!
There's a cold adder lurking in the grass.”
“Forbear, my sheep, to tread too near the brink;
yon bank is ill to trust to; even now
the ram himself, see, dries his dripping fleece!”
“Back with the she-goats, Tityrus, grazing there
so near the river! I, when time shall serve,
will take them all, and wash them in the pool.”
“Boys, get your sheep together; if the heat,
as late it did, forestall us with the milk,
vainly the dried-up udders shall we wring.”
“How lean my bull amid the fattening vetch!
Alack! alack! for herdsman and for herd!
It is the self-same love that wastes us both.”
“These truly—nor is even love the cause—
scarce have the flesh to keep their bones together
some evil eye my lambkins hath bewitched.”
“Say in what clime—and you shall be withal
my great Apollo—the whole breadth of heaven
opens no wider than three ells to view.”
“Say in what country grow such flowers as bear
the names of kings upon their petals writ,
and you shall have fair Phyllis for your own.”
Not mine betwixt such rivals to decide:
you well deserve the heifer, so does he,
with all who either fear the sweets of love,
or taste its bitterness. Now, boys, shut off
the sluices, for the fields have drunk their fill.