Latin Eclogues

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Vidimus in nigris albo patiente lituris
Pyerio demulsa sinu modulamina nobis.
Forte recensentes pastas de more capellas
tunc ego sub quercu meus et Melibeus eramus.
Ille quidem-cupiebat enim consciscere cantum                  5
“Tityre, quid Mopsus? Quid vult? Edissere” dixit.
Ridebam, Mopse; magis et magis ille premebat.
Victus amore sui, posito vix denique risu,
“Stulte, quid insanis?” inquam: “Tua cura capelle
te potius poscunt, quanquam mala cenula turbet.             10
Pascua sunt ignota tibi que Menalus alto
vertice declivi celator solis inumbrat,
herbarum vario florumque inpicta colore.
Circuit hec humilis et tectus fronde saligna
perpetuis undis a summo margine ripas                           15
rorans alveolus, qui, quas mons desuper edit,
sponte viam, qua mitis erat, se fecit aquarum.
Mopsus in his, dum lenta boves per gramina ludunt,
contemplatur ovans hominum superumquc labores;
inde per inflatos calamos interna recludit                          20
gaudia, sic ut dulce melos armenta sequantur,
placatique ruant campis de monte leones,
et refluant unde, frondes et Menala nutent”.
“Tityre,” tunc “si Mopsus” ait “decantat in herbis
ignotis, ignota tamen sua carmina possum,                      25
te monstrante, meis vagulis prodiscere capris”.
Hic ego quid poteram, cum sic instaret anhelus?
“Montibus Aoniis Mopsus, Melibee, quot annis,
dum satagunt alia causarum iura doceri,
sed edit et sacri nemoris perpalluit umbra.                       30
Vatificis prolutus aquis, et lacte canoro
viscera plena ferens et plenus ad usque palatum,
me vocat ad frondes versa Peneyde cretas”.
“Quid facies?” Melibeus ait: “Tu tempora lauro
semper inornata per pascua pastor habcbis?”.                  35
“O Melibee, decus vatum, quoque noinen in auras
fluxit, et insonmem vix Mopsum Musa peregit”;
retuleram, cum sic dedit indignatio vocem:
Quantos balatus colles et prata sonabunt,
si viridante coma fidibus peana ciebo!                              40
Sed timeam saltus et rura ignara deorum.
Nonne triumphales melius pexare capiuos
et patrio, redeam si quando, abscondere canos
fronde sub inserta solitum flavescere Sarno?”.
Ille: “Quis hoc dubitet? Propter quod respice tempus        45
Tityre, quam velox; nam iam senuere capelle
quas concepturis dedimus nos matribus hircos”.
Tunc ego: “Cum mundi circumflua corpora cantu
astricoleque meo, velut infera regna, patebunt,
devincire caput hedera lauroque iuvabit:                           50
concedat Mop sus”. “Mopsus” tunc ille “quid?, inquit.
“Comica nonne vides ipsum reprehendere verba,
tum quia femineo resonant ut trita labello,
tum quia Castalias pudet acceptare sorores?,
ipse ego respondi, versus iterumque relegi,                      55
Mopse, tuos. Tunc ille humeros contraxit et “Ergo
quid faciemus” ait Mopsum revocare volentes?”.
“Est mecum quam noscis ovis gratissima,” dixi
“ubera vix que ferre potest, tam lactis abundans;
rupe sub ingenti carptas modo ruminat herbas.                 60
Nulli iuncta gregi nullis assuetaque caulis,
sponte venire solet, nunquam vi, poscere mulctram.
Hanc ego prestolor manibus mulgere paratis,
hac implebo decem missurus vascula Mopso.
Tu tamen interdum capros meditere petulcos                    65
et duris crustis discas infigere dentes”.
Talia sub quercu Melibeus et ipse canebam,
parva tabernacla nobis dum farra coquebant.
Written on docile whiteness in black letters,
we saw harmonious chords milked for our use
from the Pierian breast. Beneath an oak
I chanced to be with Meliboeus dear,
numbering one by one our sated goats,                       5
when, pierced with great desire to know the song,
“Tityrus,” said he, “what does Mopsus wish?”
Mopsus, I smiled; but he insisted more.
So I, who love him, did no longer laugh,
but said, “You fool! You hardly supped at all:              10
let nothing but your goats perturb your mind.
Painted with varied hues of grass and blooms,
pastures are far away, unknown to you,
which Maenalus with its steep-falling peak
conceals now from the slowly setting sun.                 15
Humble and girt with leaves of willow trees,
and wetting both its banks with endless waves
down from its lofty source, a river bed
circles around them, and becomes at once
the docile duct of all the waters poured                      20
downward by the great mountain overhead.
Such is the world where happy Mopsus scans
all the vicissitudes of men and gods
while his herds gambol on the slow-grown grass;
and then through swollen reeds he lets the joy            25
of his deep-heaving soul outwardly flow
till his herd follows the sweet melody,
meekly the lions rush from mount to field,
the waves turn back, and Maenalus is calm
in all its forests.” “Tityrus,” he said,                            30
“though Mopsus sings in unfamiliar fields,
if you but tell me how, I yet may learn,
for all my straying goats, his unknown songs.”
Breathless was he; so what was I to do?
“While others, Meliboeus, strive to learn                     35
all of the clauses of the legal rights,
year after year has Mopsus vowed himself
to the Aonian peaks, thus growing pale
under the shadows of their awesome grove.
Soaked in prophetic founts, his entrails full                 40
of most melodious milk up to his lips,
he begs me to come forward to those leaves
that out of the transformed Peneid grew.”
“What will you do then,” Meliboeus asked;
“will you forever be a shepherd here,                          45
and show no laurel wreath around your brow?”
“The wind, dear Meliboeus, took away
all poets’ fame as well as name, and yet
the Muse still keeps our Mopsus wide awake,”
I answered him, when anger suddenly                        50
seized me, and made me add, “What hills and fields
would be re-echoing these bleating sounds
were I, my hair entwined with verdant leaves,
to strike a paean on this instrument!
But let me dread the country-side and woods              55
that know no gods. Is it not better far
to comb for victory this hair of mine
than hide its gray beneath adorning leaves
if to my native Sarnus I return?”
And he, “Why doubt it, Tityrus? Time flies—               60
look—and already these our goats grow old:
whose mothers, well before they were conceived,
we mated with their he-goats long ago.”
“When all the bodies flowing round the world,”
I then replied, “and all the souls that live                     65
within the stars and in the lower realms
will manifest themselves in this my song;
then, only then, if Mopsus will allow,
shall I with pride around these temples wear
ivy and laurel as a shining crown.”                             70
“What about Mopsus?” he inquired. And I,
“Can you not see how he rebukes the words
of this my Comedy, for sounding trite
on women’s winsome lips, and being such
as not to be accepted as their own                            75
by the Castalian sisters?” So I spoke,
and read your verses, Mopsus, once again.
He shrugged his shoulders and replied to me,
“To conquer Mopsus, what are we to do?”
“I have one sheep,” I said, “most dear to me,              80
so full of milk her udders drag her down.
Look how she chews beneath that mighty rock
the new-plucked grass! Disdaining flock and pen,
ever of her own will she comes back here
as none can force her to the milking-pail.                   85
Well, let me milk her now with these my hands:
I will to Mopsus ten full buckets send.
Meanwhile think only of your headstrong goats,
and learn to sink your teeth on hardened crusts.”
Such was the song I sang beneath an oak                 90
with Meliboeus, while our barley cooked 
inside the shelter of our little hut.



In the year 1319, while in Ravenna, Dante received an invitation from Giovanni del Virgilio, a well-known Latin poet and magister at the University of Bologna, to compose a Latin carmen in commemoration or celebration of one of the great historical events of that time. Del Virgilio promised that he himself would be proud to place the laurel crown of poet on his head, if Dante were to accept. Dante replied with a bucolic eclogue of 68 lines in which he politely declines and expresses his desire to seek poetic glory with the Commedia, on whose third “Cantica,” the Paradiso, he is still at work, and obtain the laurel crown in his native land. In the eclogue, the fictitious character Meliboeus represents a Florentine exile named Dino Perini (“the Pierian breast”); Mopsus is Giovanni del Virgilio and Tityrus is Dante himself. The heights of Maelanus is Bologna, the Sarnus is the Arno river. The “Peneid leaves” are the laurel leaves into which Daphne was transformed. The Commedia is alluded to as “one sheep”; “ten full buckets” refer to ten cantos of the Paradiso. The three cantiche are alluded to as “the souls that live/within the stars and in the lower realms.”

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