Pharmaceutria

  by: Virgil (70-19 B.C.)

    translated by Francis Wrangham

 

 

 

 

The tale of love Alphesiboeus sung
And Damon, when the heifer wondering hung
(Forgetful of her food) upon the strain,
And headlong torrents paused, nor sought the main;
And lynxes couch'd, to list the lay divine--
That tale to give posterity be mine.

 

O Pollio! whether now thou bend'st thy way
Where huge Timavus glitters on the day,
Or tread'st Illyrian strands: when, when will be
The happy hour that I may sing of thee;
To distant lands thy deeds of war rehearse,
And hymn thee lord of Sophoclean verse?
From thee the Muse began, with thee shall end:
Framed at thy bidding, to her song extend
Thy favoring smile; and O forgive the lay,
Which twines this ivy with thy victor-bay.

 

Scarce from the sky had night's cold shadow fled,
When herds delighted crop the dewy mead;
Propt on his staff, sad Damon thus begun:

 

'Rise, Phosphor, and lead on the lingering sun;
While duped by Nisa's love I mourn in vain,
And to the gods of broken faith complain:
For not a god, who witness'd, heals the wrong!
Yet, yet to them my parting strains belong--
Begin with me, my pipe, the soft Mænalian song.

 

'Still blooms on Mænalus the rustling grove,
And vocal pines resound the shepherd's love:
Still Pan is heard its echoing bowers among;
Pan, who first bade the reed its nots prolong--
Begin with me, my pipe, the soft Mænalian song.

 

'To Mopsus now is faithless Nisa given:
What may not lovers dread from angry Heaven!
Henceforth shall blend the griffin with the steed,
And dogs and trembling deer together feed.
Prepare thy torches, Mopsus, thou art wed;
Scatter thy nuts: for thee his Oeta's head
Hesper forsakes, and speeds the night along--
Begin with me, my pipe, the soft Mænalian song.

 

'Well worthy, Nisa, of thy conquer'd swain,
For whom thy other suitors met disdain;
For whom thou scorn'd'st my reed and humble herd,
My shaggy eyebrows, and my lengthen'd beard!
Nor deem'st the gods, resentful, visit wrong--
Begin with me, my pipe, the soft Mænalian song.

 

'First did'st thou to these doting eyes appear
Within our orchard's bound, thy mother near;
They little hands the dewy apples pile:
I was your guide--too happy I the while!
Just enter'd on my teens, with utmost stretch
On tiptoe rising I the boughs could reach:
I saw, I died, by passion borne along--
Begin with me, my pipe, the soft Mænalian song.

 

'Now know I Love's dire source: in Thracia bred,
Where Rhodope in tempests veils its head;
Or rock'd 'mid Garamantian crags to rest,
He tears, remorseless tears the human breast:
Not to our nature does the boy belong--
Begin with me, my pipe, the soft Mænalian song.

 

'Love taught the mother barbarous lore and wild,
To plunge the dagger in her guiltless child:
--O savage mother, who such lore could'st learn!
O boy, too savage, teaching lore so stern!
Savage alike who urged, and did, the wrong--
Begin with me, my pipe, the soft Mænalian song.

 

'Fly now, ye hungry wolves, th' unguarded fold,
And glow each oak with vegetable gold;
All gay with daffodils let alders tower,
And lowliest tamarisks weep their amber shower:
Vie owls with swans: let Tityrus Orpheus be;
Orpheus amid the woods, or in the sea
Arion, sovereign of the dolphin throng--
Begin with me, my pipe, the soft Mænalian song.

 

'Be earth one wat'ry waste! ye woods, farewell!
Headlong, amidst the sweeping surges' swell,
From some sky-piercing cliff I'll spring to death:
Accept these strains, thy lover's latest breath,
His dying legacy, withheld too long!--
Cease now, O cease, my pipe, the soft Mænalian song.'

 

Thus Damon: next Alphesiboeus' strain
Record, ye Muses! for our powers are vain.

 

'Bring water, and with fleecy fillet wreathe
This altar's frame, and bid rich incense breathe,
And vervain burn; that so my spells may fire
The cold swain's sense, and force him to admire.
Those spells, unseconded, will stamp his doom--
Bring from the city, bring, ye charms, my Daphnis home.

 

'The spell of verse can drag th' obedient moon
From heaven, when riding in her highest noon:
Ulysses' comrades with the numerous spell
Circe transform'd: cold serpents writhe and swell,
Compell'd by mighty song, and burst in foam--
Bring from the city, bring, ye charms, my Daphnis home.

 

'First, these three threads in mystic union join'd,
Three-color'd, I around his image bind;
And with that image circle thrice the shrine
(Uneven numbers please the powers divine!)
So may he at my potent summons come--
Bring from the city, bring, ye charms, my Daphnis home.

 

'In threefold knot now, Amaryllis, tie
The triple threads: and still, in tightening, cry;
'With these, love's knots, I knit him ne'er to roam'--
Bring from the city, bring, ye charms, my Daphnis home.

 

'As shrivels in one fire this moulded clay,
And melts the wax, so Daphnis melt away!
So shrivels in my love! the salted meal
Now sprinkle; burn the crackling bay: I feel
Harsh Daphnis fire me! Such his lot I doom--
Bring from the city, bring, ye charms, my Daphnis home.

 

'O seize him love like that, when far and near
The wearied heifer seeks her wandering steer;
And having languish'd much, and rambled long
The wide-spread forest's lengthening glades among,
Sinks by some sedgy stream: nor quits the grove,
Though night's late hours approach! Him seize such love,
Nor deign I his physician to become--
Bring from the city, bring, ye charms, my Daphnis home.

 

'To me these relics once the traitor left--
Dear relics! These I now, of him bereft,
Beneath my threshold, earth, to thee consign:
These, these again shall make the rover mine;
Though, far estranged, 'midst other scenes he roam--
Bring from the city, bring, ye charms, my Daphnis home.

 

'These herbs, these poisons cull'd on Pontic ground
(In Pontus, herbs of wondrous power abound)
Moeris bestow'd: and him I oft have view'd,
Changed by their force, in sylvan solitude,
Howl a fierce wolf; transport the bearded grain
From its first native to a distant plain,
And call pale spectres from the yawning tomb--
Bring from the city, bring, ye charms, my Daphnis home.

 

'Forth, Amaryllis, forth the ashes bear,
And o'er thy shoulder in the streamlet clear
Whelm them, with unreverted head: a spell
Of different kind his stubborn soul shall quell.
Nor gods he heeds, nor dreads the strains of doom--
Bring from the city, bring, ye charms, my Daphnis home.

 

'And lo! the altar gleams with quivering blaze,
Self-kindled, while my tardy hand delays
To bear the ashes to the destined flood:
Something it, sure, portends--O be it good!
May I, then, trust my heart's fond wishes?--Hark!
Loud at the door I hear my Hylax bark--
Or weave I love's light dream in fancy's loom?
No, cease, my charms; he comes--comes from the city home!


   More poems by Virgil