Thursday, 11 November 2010



Sabidius' previous translations have included four books from Virgil's great epic, the "Aeneid", and in September 2010 an extract from Book IV of the "Georgics", which featured the tragic tale of Orpheus and Eurydice. Now he has translated below the whole of this delightful book. 

Publius Vergilius Maro (70-19 B.C.) was born at Andes, near Mantua, in what was then the Roman province of Cisalpine Gaul. After the battle of Philippi in 42, his father was compelled to give up his farm to discharged soldiers of the victorious triumvirs, but, after obtaining an introduction to Caesar Octavian, he managed to recover the family property. He then joined the literary circle of Octavian's confidant, Maecenas, who, recognising his sublime poetic talents, encouraged the progress of his career. Virgil's first work, published in 37, was the "Eclogues", or "Bucolics", ten short poems in hexameters in the 'pastoral' style of the Greek poet Theocritus. He then spent the next seven years perfecting the "Georgics", a didactic poem, in four books of hexameters, the ostensible purpose of which was to act as a Manual for Farmers in verse. This was published in 30-29. The first book dealt with Agriculture, the second with Trees, mainly vines and olives, the third with the rearing of Cattle and Horses, and the Fourth with Bee-keeping.  But, while it is plain that Virgil was really interested in the practical details of farming, and that he had a deep knowledge and love of the countryside, the purpose of the "Georgics" transcends any purely practical considerations. This exquisite poem reminds his readers of the ancient Romans' love of the land, and of the old farmer-heroes who went straight from the plough to fight Rome's enemies; it includes splendid descriptions of Italy and allusions to the great days of Roman history, and aims to give a new stimulus to the reviving patriotism of the age immediately after the Civil Wars, in line with the political programme of Octavian, better known to history as the Emperor Augustus (27 B.C. -14 A.D.) To this extent, therefore, the poem was less a serious manual to instruct farmers in the details of husbandry, but a book written to entertain, and to instruct in a moral sense, the First century B.C. equivalent of the general reader.

Just as he had consciously sought to model the "Eclogues" on the work of Theocritus, his model for the form of the "Georgics" was the didactic "Works and Days" of the Greek Eighth Century B.C. poet  Hesiod. In poetic terms, however, Virgil's principal influence was Lucretius (c.98-54 B.C.) whose great work, "De Rerum Natura", published when Virgil was a youth of sixteen, had an abiding effect on his development. Lucretius was the first great Roman poet, and the first to use the Greek hexameter metre with success in the Latin language, and the rhythm of Lucretius' verse with its dignity and beauty was the undoubted inspiration behind much of Virgil's best verses. The influence of Homer is also perceptible in  Book IV of the "Georgics", particularly in relation to the long episode or 'epyllion' (i.e. little epic) at the end of the book involving Aristaeus, the legendary 'master of the bees', Proteus, Homer's 'ancient of the sea', and the tragic tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, the poetic beauty of which provides a fitting culmination, not just for Book IV but for the work as a whole. This epyllion is no longer didactic in nature; rather it is an 'aition', a poem explaining the origin of a custom, in this case that of 'Bugonia', the legendary practice of generating bees from the putrefying carcasses of cattle. In terms of its practical contents, the main sources for the "Georgics" are Xenophon, Aristotle and Theophrastus (Greek), and Cato the Censor and Varro (Latin). With regard to bee-keeping, the ostensible focus of Book IV, much of the content is taken directly from Varro's "De Re Rustica", published in 37, seven years before the "Georgics", at about the time when Virgil commenced his composition of this work, with the encouragement of Maecenas, to whom he later dedicated it. Virgil worked tirelessly over a seven year period on perfecting the "Georgics", which many consider to be the most artistic piece of work of the poet, whom the Victorian poet laureate, Alfred Tennyson, called the 'wielder of the stateliest measure ever moulded by the lips of man'.

Ll. 1-7.  My subject is the bees.

I shall forthwith describe the heavenly gift of air-dropped honey. Look (kindly) at this theme also, Maecenas. I shall speak to you of a marvellous spectacle of a little state, and its great-hearted chieftains, and, in the order of a whole nation, its character, and its pursuits, and its clans, and its battles. The task (is) on a small scale; but the praise (is) not small, if the stern spirits permit a particular (poet to speak), and Apollo, having been invoked, hears (his prayer). 

Ll. 8-50.  The choice of a place for hives.

Firstly, an abode and fixed quarters for your bees must be sought, so that there may be neither an entrance for the winds [for winds prevent (them) from bringing home their food], nor may sheep and butting kids trample the flowers, nor may the heifer, wandering on the plain, shake off the dew and bruise the springing blades of grass. May the scaly back of the bright-coloured lizard also keep aloof, and the bee-eater and other birds, and Procne (i.e. the swallow), marked on the breast by her blood-stained hands; for these lay waste all things far and wide, and, flying, carry in their beaks (the bees) themselves, a sweet dish for their cruel nestlings. But let clear springs and pools green with moss and a shallow stream hurrying through the grass be near, and may a palm-tree and a huge olive-tree overshadow the porch, so that, when the kings lead (forth) the first swarms in their own spring-time, and the young ones, released from their honey-combs, play, may the neighbouring bank tempt (them) to take refuge from the heat, and may a tree in their path detain (them) with a leafy welcome. Whether your water stands still or flows, throw willow branches or hefty stones into its midst, so that they can alight on frequent bridges and spread their wings to the summer sun, if, by chance, while they linger (lit. lingering), Eurus (i.e. the East Wind) splashes (them) or, in headlong haste plunges them into the deep (lit. Neptune). Let green cinnamon and thyme, smelling far and wide, and a wealth of  savory, breathing heavily, bloom (all) around these, and may violet-beds drink the irrigating spring.

The hives themselves, whether they have been stitched for you of hollow bark or woven of pliant osier, may they have narrow entrances: for winter solidifies the honey with cold, and (summer's) heat thaws the same into liquid. Either effect is equally to be feared by the bees; nor in vain do they in rivalry smear the tiny crevices in the roof with wax, and fill up the entrances with pollen and flowers, and, for this very purpose, they keep the glue (which they have) collected, (which is) stickier than bird-lime and the pitch from Phrygian Ida. Often, too, if the report is true, they keep snug homes in holes tunnelled under ground, and are found deep in hollow pumice-stone and in the cavern of a rotten tree. But you should daub their leaky dormitories with smooth mud, closing (them) up (all) around, and throw scattered leaves on top. Neither allow a yew-tree (to be) too near to their home, nor burn reddish crabs on the hearth, nor trust a deep bog, or where (there is) the smell of stinking slime, or where the hollow rocks ring with a stroke, and, having been struck, the echo of the voice rebounds.

Ll. 51-66.  When the warm weather comes around, the bees begin to swarm.

Furthermore (lit. as to what is remaining), when the golden sun has driven winter in flight (lit. having been pushed) beneath the earth, and has opened up the sky to summer's light, forthwith they roam through the glades and forests, and harvest the bright flowers and lightly sip the surface of the streams. Hence, with I know not what sweetness, they joyfully nurture their progeny and nestlings, hence, with skill, they forge new wax and fashion the sticky honey. Hence, when you look up at the column, now having been sent forth from their hives, floating through the clear (air) of summer to the stars of heaven, (as) an observer, you will marvel at the dark cloud spreading on the wind: they always seek fresh water and a leafy shelter. Hither you must scatter the appointed scents, pounded balm and the humble herb of the wax-flower, and you must awake the tinkling sounds and shake about the cymbals of the (Great) Mother (i.e. Cybele). Of their own accord they will settle in the scented resting-places, of their accord they will hide themselves instinctively (lit. by their own custom) in the innermost cradles.

Ll. 67-87.  The signs of battle: the bees fight bravely.

But if they may have gone forth for battle - for often discord between two kings irrupts with great commotion; and at once you can (lit. it is permitted to) discern from afar the passions of the mob and hearts beating at the prospect of war. For indeed that warlike blare of raucous bronze rebukes the waverers, and a sound is heard imitating the broken brays of the bugles; then, they eagerly assemble between themselves and flash their wings, and they whet their stings upon their beaks and make ready their (strong) arms, and round their kings, up to the general's tent itself, they swarm thickly, and call upon the enemy with loud shouts. So, when a dry spring (day) and open fields are obtained, they burst forth from the gates: battle is joined (lit. it is run  together), a noise occurs, mingling, they crowd together into a large ball, and they fall headlong; (it is) not less thick than hail from heaven, nor does it rain so greatly with acorns from a shaken holm-oak. (The chiefs) themselves, (moving) through the midst of the battle-lines with their conspicuous wings, keep their great hearts beating in their tiny breasts, still truly resolute not to yield, till the strong victor has compelled either these or those to show (lit. give) their backs turned in flight. These disturbances of the spirits and these very great contests are repressed and (lit. having been repressed) lie quiet with the throwing of a little dust.

Ll. 88-102. The beaten "king" must be put to death.

But, when you have recalled both leaders from the battle-line, give up the one who seems to be the weaker to be killed, lest he be harmful (as) a prodigal; allow that the better one should rule in the empty palace. One will be aglow with markings stiffened with gold; for there are two kinds: this one (is) the better, conspicuous of countenance and shining with ruddy scales; that other one (is) unkempt with sloth and dragging ingloriously its bloated belly. As (are) the two-fold appearances of the kings, so (are) the bodies of their people. For indeed, some are shamefully squalid, like the traveller, when he comes parched from the thick dust, and spits out the dirt from his dry mouth; the others shine and flash with brightness, gleaming with gold and overlaid with even spots. This breed (is) the more capable, hence at the appointed time of the seasons you will strain sweet honey, nor (yet) so sweet as (it is) clear as well, and fit to tame the harsh savour of wine (lit. Bacchus).

Ll. 103-115.  You need to stop the bees from flying aimlessly.

But, when the swarms fly aimlessly and play in the air, and despise their honey-combs and leave their hives (to
get) cold, you must check their spirits from giddy play. Nor (is it) a great labour to check (them): you must tear the wings off the kings; with these lingering (at home), no one will dare to go on a lofty journey or to pluck the standards from the camp. Let gardens, fragrant with saffron flowers, invite (them), and let their sentry, the protection of Priapus of the Hellespont, preserve (them) against thieves and birds with his sickle (made) of willow-wood. Let (the bee-keeper) himself, to whom (there are) such cares, carrying thyme and pine-trees from the high mountains, grow (these) in broad belts around the hives; let he himself bruise his hands with hard work, let he himself plant the fertile shoots in the ground, and let him shed favourable rains over them.

Ll. 116-148.   A  digression on gardens.

And, if indeed I were not to furl my sails, (being) now at the furthest end of my work, and hastening to turn my prow to land, I might perhaps even sing of how the care of husbandry adorns fertile gardens, and of the rose-beds of twice-blooming Paestum, and in what possible way endives rejoice in their streams and the green banks in parsley, and (how) the gourd, having been twisted through the grass, swelled into a belly; nor would I be silent about the late blooming Narcissus, or the stem of the curling acanthus, and the pallid ivy and myrtles loving the sea-shore.

For indeed I remember that, under the high towers of Oebalia (i.e.Tarentum), where the dark Galaesus waters the yellow crops, I saw an old Corycian (i.e. Cilician) man, who had ( lit. to whom there were) a few acres of waste (lit. left over) land, that land not (made) fertile by (the toil of) oxen, nor suitable for flocks, nor fit for vine-yards, yet he, planting (lit. pressing) here and there among the thorn-bushes vegetables (all) around, and white lilies, and vervains and fine poppy-seeds, matched the wealth of kings, and, returning home late at night, he loaded his table with unbought feasts. (He was) the first in spring (to gather) roses and in autumn to pick apples, and, when gloomy winter was still cracking rocks, he was already shearing the locks of the tender hyacinth, chiding the late summer and the lagging west winds. Therefore, the same man was the first to overflow with pregnant bees and a full swarm, and to gather the foaming honey, the honey-combs having ben strained; he had (lit. there were to him) lime-trees and the very rich pine, and, as many as the fruits (with which) the fertile orchard-tree had clothed itself in early blossom, the same number the mature (fruit-tree) bore in the autumn. He also planted out in rows (lit. in line) well-grown (lit. late) elm-trees, and the very hard pear-tree, and blackthorns, already bearing plums, and the plane-tree providing shade for drinking (parties). But I myself indeed, restricted by unequal limits, (must) pass by (all) this, and leave these worthy (themes) to  others after me.

Ll. 149-218.  The nature of bees and their daily life. 

Now, come, I shall disclose the natures, which Jupiter himself has bestowed upon the bees, for the sake of which reward, pursuing the tuneful sounds of the Curetes and their clashing bronzes, they fed the king of heaven in Dicte's cave. Alone they hold their progeny in common, and shared houses in their city, and they pass their lives under mighty laws, and alone they recognise a native-land and fixed homes (lit. household gods); and, mindful of the coming winter, they experience toil in the summer, and lay up their gains for the common good, for indeed some watch over (the gathering of) food, and, a compact having been agreed, are exercised in the fields; some, within the confines of their house, lay the first foundations of the honey-combs, Narcissus' tears and sticky glue from tree-bark, and then suspend the clinging wax; others initiate the full-grown offspring, the hope of the tribe; some pack the purest honey, and distend the cells with liquid nectar. There are (those) to whom guard-duty at the gates has fallen by lot, and in turn they keep a look out for rains and clouds in the sky, or receive the loads of those coming (back), or, a column having been formed, they ward off the drones, a lazy herd, from their precincts. The work is hot, and the fragrant honey is redolent with thyme; just as when the Cyclopes hasten (to forge) thunderbolts from sticky lumps (of ore), some take and return air from bellows of bull's hide, and others plunge the hissing bronze in a trough; Etna groans, anvils having been placed upon (it); with mighty force, they raise their arms among themselves in measured beat (lit. in number), and turn the iron with their gripping tongs: not otherwise, if it is permitted to compare small things with great ones, an innate love of possessing urges on the Cecropian (i.e. Athenian) bees, each in his own sphere of duty. The town, and building the honey-combs, and moulding the cunning houses is a duty for the aged. But the younger ones betake themselves (homewards), exhausted, late at night, their thighs full of thyme; far and wide they feed on arbutus, and grey-green willow, and cinnamon, and ruddy crocus, and rich lime and dark blue (lit. rusty) hyacinths. Rest from labour (is) for all together, one toil (is) for all:  in the morning they rush from the gates; delay (is) nowhere; again, when the Evening Star warns them (lit. the same) to retire at last from their pasture in the fields, then they seek their homes, then they rest (lit. care for) their bodies; a sound occurs and they hum around door steps (lit. edges) and thresholds. Afterwards, when they have already settled themselves in their bed-chambers, silence is effected far into the night, and welcome (lit. their own) slumber takes possession of their weary limbs. But, with rain impending, they do not depart too far from their stalls, or trust the weather (lit. the sky) with the east winds coming rapidly; but safe around under the city's walls they fetch water, and try brief sorties and take up tiny pebbles, (and), as unstable skiffs in a tossing surf take ballast, they balance themselves by these (means) through the insubstantial clouds.

You will marvel that that custom has so pleased the bees that they neither indulge in copulation, nor enervate their languid bodies in love (lit. Venus), nor bring forth their offspring in travail; but they themselves gather their children in their mouths from leaves and from fragrant herbs; they themselves supply their king and small citizens (lit. Quirites), and remould their palaces and waxen kingdoms. Often, too, by wandering among hard rocks they bruised their wings and freely (lit. further) gave up their lives beneath their burden: so great (is) their love of flowers and their pride in generating honey.  So, although the end of a narrow life awaits themselves [for no more than a seventh summer is passed], yet the stock remains immortal, and for years the fortune of the house stands fast, and the grandfathers of grandfathers are counted.

Moreover, neither Egypt, nor boundless Lydia, nor the people of the Parthians, nor the Median Hydaspes so regard their king. Their king (being) safe, there is one mind among all; (their king being) lost, they break their loyalty, and tear asunder the built-up honey and wreck the framework of the honey-combs. He (is) the guardian of (all) their works, they admire him and they all surround (him) with a concentrated noise and pack tightly in crowds, and often carry (him) on their shoulders and expose their bodies in the battle, and seek through wounds a glorious death.

Ll. 219-227.  Are bees divinely inspired?

Through these signs and following these examples, some have affirmed that bees have (lit. there are to bees) a share of the divine mind and draughts of ether; for indeed (they say) that God permeates (lit. goes through) all, both lands, and expanses of sea, and the depth of the sky; hence flocks, herds, men and every kind of wild beast draws, each to itself, the subtle (breath of) life; hither, no doubt, all things are then restored and, having been dissolved, are brought back, nor is there room for death, but, alive, they fly into the rank of the stars, and climb the high heaven.

Ll. 228-250.   Spring and autumn honey-harvests.

If at any time you unseal their narrow dwelling and the honey preserved in its treasuries, first wash your face, having been sprinkled with a draught of water, and hold before (you) in your hand a torch with penetrating smoke. Twice (in the year) they gather the teeming produce, a harvest in two seasons, firstly when Taygete shows its comely face to the earth, and with her foot has repelled the spurned rivers of Ocean, or when the same star, fleeing before the watery Pisces, more sadly descends the sky into the wintry waves. Their anger is beyond measure, and, injured, they breathe poison into their stings (lit. bites), and, clinging to your veins, they leave their unseen darts, and in that wound lay down their lives. But, if you fear the harsh winter and spare their future, you will pity their bruised spirits and their shattered fortunes: but who will hesitate to fumigate (the hive) with thyme and cut out the useless wax (cells)? For often an undiscovered newt nibbles at the honeycombs, and the dormitories are infested with light-loathing cockroaches, and the drone (is) squatting idly at another's board; or the rough hornet joins battle (lit. intermingles itself) with ill-matched (lit. unequal) wings, or moths, a dreaded tribe, or the spider, hated of Minerva, hangs her loose web (lit. hunting net) in the doorway. The more exhausted they are, the more eagerly on account of this they will strive to mend the ruins of their fallen race, and will fill their cells (lit. gangways) and weave their granaries from flowers.

Ll. 251-280.  Diseases among bees, and how to cure them. 

But if, since life brings our misfortunes to the bees also, their bodies will languish with a sad disease - you will now be able to recognise this by no uncertain signs: forthwith the bees have another colour (lit. there is another colour to the bees); grim leanness mars their visage; then they carry out of the house the bodies of the dead (lit. of those bereft of light), and they conduct sad funerals; or they (i.e. the sick bees) hang about the entrances, linked by their feet, all listless with hunger and benumbed by the cramping cold; then a deeper sound is heard and they buzz in a long-drawn tone, as sometimes a cold South Wind sighs in the woods, as the anxious sea hisses with ebbing waves, (and) as a violent fire seethes, the furnaces having been closed: - at this point I shall urge (the bee-keeper) to burn the scent of galbanum, and to introduce honey through pipes of reed, (himself) even cheering, and calling the tired (creatures) to their familiar food.  It will be useful, as well, to mingle the pounded flavour of oak-apple and dried roses, or must thickened over a strong fire, or dried grape-clusters from the Psithian vine, and Cecropian (i.e. Attic) thyme and strong smelling centaury. There is also a flower in the meadows, to which farmers have given the name amellus (i.e. the yellow aster), a plant easy for seekers (to find); (the flower) itself is golden, but in its petals, which are clustered abundantly around (it), it shines purple (shot) with dark violet; the altars of the gods are often decked with wreathes bound with it; its taste in the mouth (is) bitter; shepherds gather it in the cropped valleys and near the winding waters of the Mella. Cook the roots of this in scented wine (lit. Bacchus), and place (it) in full baskets by the doorways.

Ll. 281-314.  An Egyptian method of renewing the stock.  

But, if the whole generation suddenly fails, and he does not possess a family whence he may renew a new stock, (it is) time to reveal the noteworthy discovery of the Arcadian master (i.e. Aristaeus), and by what means, bullocks having been slaughtered, the putrefying blood has often even now engendered bees. I shall unfold the tale from the first (lit. far back), retracing (it) from its earliest source. For where the favoured race of Pellean (i.e. Macedonian) Canopus dwells beside the inundating Nile, the river having flooded (lit. having been poured out), and sails around its fields in their painted skiffs, and where the border of quiver-bearing Persia presses close, and (where) the rushing river, having been carried down from the swarthy Indians (i.e. Ethiopians) still runs apart into seven different mouths, the whole region places its sure safety in this device.

Firstly, a small spot is chosen and (is) designated for this very purpose; this both a narrow roof of tiles and constricting walls confine, and they add four windows with slanting light in the direction of the four winds. Then is sought a steer already curving in respect of his horns on a two-year old forehead; his twin nostrils and the breath of his mouth are plugged, despite him struggling greatly, and, (he) having been killed with blows, his pounded flesh is mashed through unbroken skin. This is done with the West Winds first ruffling the waters, before the meadows can blush with new colours, (and) before the chattering swallow can hang her nest from the rafters. Meanwhile, the moisture in those softened bones, having been made warm, ferments, and creatures to be seen in wondrous wise, deprived of feet at first, but soon, buzzing with wings, they swarm, and more (and) more they take to the thin air, until, like a rain-shower having been poured from summer clouds, or like arrows from a quivering bow-string, if at any time the nimble Parthians first enter into battle, they burst forth.

Ll. 315-386.  Its invention: the story of Aristaeus.

Which deity, which one, Muses, fashioned this craft for us? Whence did this new experience of men take its beginning? The Shepherd Aristaeus, fleeing Peneian Tempe, as the story (goes), his bees having been lost both through disease and through famine, stood sadly at the sacred source at the brink of the river, complaining loudly, and he addressed his mother in this voice: "Mother, Mother Cyrene, (you) who occupies the depths beneath this whirlpool, why did you bear me in the illustrious line of the gods - if indeed my father is (he) whom you state, Apollo of Thymbra - to be despised by the Fates? Or whither (is) your love for me driven (away)? Why did you bid me to aspire to heaven? Lo, even this very crown of my mortal life, which skilful guardianship of crops and herds had hardly wrought for me endeavouring everything, I (now) abandon, (although) you (being) my mother. But, come now, and uproot with your very hand my fruitful orchards, bring hostile fire to my cattle-stalls, and destroy my crops, burn my seedlings, and wield a hard double axe against my vines, if such great weariness of my praise has taken hold of you."

But his mother, in her chamber in the deep river, perceived his sound. Around her the Nymphs were carding Milesian fleeces, dyed with the rich colour of glass-green, Drymo, and Xantho, and Ligea and Phyllodoce, cascading their locks over their white necks, [Nesaee, and Spio, and Thalia, and Cymodoce,] and Cydippe, and the golden(-haired) Lycorias, the one a maiden, the other then discovering the first travails of Lucina, and Clio, and her sister Beroe, both daughters of Ocean, and Ephyre, and Opis, and the Asian Deiopea, and the swift Arethusa, her arrows laid aside at last. Among them Clymene was telling of Vulcan's fruitless care, and of the tricks and stolen joys of Mars, and was recounting from Chaos (downwards) the countless (lit. thronging) loves of the gods. Captivated by her song, while the soft wool rolls down from their spindles, again the lamentations of Aristaeus smote the ears of his mother, and they were all transfixed on their glassy seats; but Arethusa, before the other sisters, raised her golden(-haired) head, peering over the top of the waves, and from afar (she cried): "O sister Cyrene, not for naught having been terrified by so great a groan, he himself, your own, your chiefest care, mournful Aristaeus, stands in tears at Peneus' ancestral wave, and calls you cruel by name." To her the mother, pierced to the heart by a strange fear, says, "Come, lead (him), lead (him) to us; for him (it is) lawful to tread the threshold of the gods." At the same time she bids the deep rivers to depart far away, by which the young man might effect his entrance. But the wave, having been curved into the shape of a mountain engulfed him, and took (him) in its mighty bosom and sped (him) beneath the river.

And now, marvelling at his mother's home and watery realm, and pools immured in caverns and resounding groves, he went on, and, stunned by the huge whirl of waters, he beheld all the rivers, separate in respect of their places, gliding under the great earth, both Phasis and Lycus, and the source whence deep Enipeus first bursts itself forth, whence (comes) father Tiber, and whence (come) the streams of the Anio, and Eridanus (i.e. the Po), with his bull's face and gilded in respect of his two horns, than whom no other river flows more violently through fertile farmland into the dark-blue sea. After he had reached (lit. it had been reached) into the roof of the chamber hanging with pumice-stone and Cyrene had discovered that her son's tears (were) needless, her sisters give (him) in order liquid spring(-water) for his hands and bring towels of cut cloth; others burden the tables with feasts and replenish the brimming wine-cups, the fires blaze with Panchaean fires (i.e. burnt incense), and his mother cries "Take up goblets of Maeonian wine (lit. Bacchus): let us pour a libation to Ocean." At the same time, she herself offers a prayer to Ocean, the father of (all) things, and to her sisters, the Nymphs, who have in their keeping a hundred forests, (and) who (have in their keeping) a hundred rivers. Three times she drenched the burning hearth (lit. Vesta) with clear nectar, three times the flame, having been made to flare up, flickered on the top of the roof. Fortifying his heart with this omen, she herself begins (to speak) thus:

Ll. 387-414.  Cyrene tells Aristaeus that he must seek out Proteus.

"There is in the Carpathian gulf of Neptune a seer, sea-green Proteus, who traverses the great sea in a chariot of two-footed horses also yoked to fishes. He is now revisiting the harbours of Emathia (i.e. Macedonia) and his native-land, Pallene; both we nymphs, and aged Nereus himself, venerate him; for indeed he knows everything, whatever is, whatever has been, (and) whatever things about to come soon are being drawn (towards us);  so, doubtless, this seemed right to Neptune, whose monstrous herds of (lit. and) shapeless seals he feeds under the sea. He must be captured in fetters by you, my son, so that he may explain the whole cause of the disease and that he may make the outcome favourable. For without force he will not give any counsels, nor will you bend him by beseeching; extend to (him) having been captured sheer force and fetters; around these his unavailing wiles will at last be broken. I, myself, when the sun will have kindled the midday heat, when the grasses are parched and the shade is now more welcome to the herd, shall lead you to the old man's hiding place, whither he betakes himself (when) weary from the waves, so that you may easily assail (him) lying in sleep. But, when you grasp (him) having been seized in your hands and in fetters, then changing shapes and visages of wild beasts will baffle (you). For suddenly he will become a bristly boar, and (then) a black tigress, and (then) a scaly serpent, and (then) a lioness with a tawny neck, or he will give the shrill sound of flame, and thus slip out of his fetters, or, having melted away into insubstantial waters, he will be gone. But according as the more he will turn himself into all shapes, so much the more must you, my son, stretch his bonds tight, until his body having been changed (back), he will be such as you saw (him), when he covered his eyes, sleep having been begun.

Ll. 415-452.  Aristaeus' encounter with Proteus.

She says this, and sprinkles around the liquid scent of ambrosia, with which she anointed the whole of her son's body; but a sweet odour breathed from his smoothed hair, and a supple vigour came over his limbs. There is a huge cave within the side of a hollow mountain, where countless waves are driven by the winds, and divide themselves into secluded recesses, sometimes a very safe anchorage for sailors caught (in a storm);   inside (it) Proteus covers himself within the barrier of an enormous rock. Here, the Nymph stations the young man in a hiding-place, turned away from the light, (and) she herself stands far back, obscured in a mist. (And) now the fiercely blazing Dog-star scorched the thirsty Indians, and the fiery sun had consumed the middle of his course in the sky; the grasses were parched (by it), and its rays baked into mud the warmed hollow river(-beds), with their dry mouths. When Proteus went from the waves, seeking his usual cavern, around him the wet tribe of the mighty deep, leaping about, scatters widely the salty spray; his seals stretch themselves in sleep here and there along the beach: he himself, like a sometime guardian of a cattle-stall in the mountains, when evening leads back the steers from the pasture to their home, and lambs rouse the wolves, their bleatings having been heard, he sits down on a rock in their midst, and counts up their number.

Ll. 453-527.  Proteus tells the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, wronged by Aristaeus.

"The wrath of some god is plaguing you (lit. the wrath of no god is not plaguing you); you are paying for a grievous sin: wretched Orpheus invokes these punishments upon you, less than what you deserve (lit. by no means because of your deserts), unless the fates are resistant, and he rages grievously on behalf of his wife having been assaulted. Indeed, while she was fleeing headlong from you along the river, the doomed girl did not notice before her feet in the long grass the monstrous snake guarding the bank. But the chorus of Dryads, equal (to her) in age, filled the tops of the mountains with their cries; the citadels of Rhodope and the heights of Pangaea wept, as did (lit. and) the martial land of Rhesus and the Getae and the Hebrus and Actian (i.e.    Attic) Oreithyia. He, himself, soothing his sorrowful love with a tortoise-shell (lyre), used to sing (of) you, his sweet wife, (of) you alone (lit. with himself) on the desolate shore, (of) you with day coming, (of) you with day dying. He even entered the jaws of Taenarus, the lofty portals of Dis, and the gloomy grove with its black terror, and approached the the Manes (i.e. the Shades, or the spirits of the dead) and their awesome king, and hearts not knowing how to be softened by human prayers. But insubstantial shadows from the lowest resting-places of Erebus and the phantoms of those lacking life (lit. light), (as) many as the thousands of birds (that) hide in the leaves (of trees), when evening or a wintry storm drives (them) from the mountains, mothers and men, and the bodies of heroes, finished with life, boys and unmarried girls, and young men laid on the pyre before the eyes of their parents; these the black mud and the ugly weed of Cocytus and the hateful marsh with its sluggish water encloses (all) around, and the Styx, flowing between (them) nine times, confines. Indeed, the very halls of Death and the innermost parts of Tartarus and the Furies, having interwoven snakes into their blue-green hair, were dumb-founded, and Cerberus, with his three mouths agape, kept still, and the wheel of  the circle of Ixion stood still in the wind. And now, retracing his foot-steps, he had avoided all hazards, and, Eurydice, having been restored (to him), following behind, he was coming to the upper air, - for in fact Proserpina had required this ruling - when a sudden madness took hold of the unwary lover, (a madness which) must indeed be worthy of pardon, if the Manes knew how to pardon: he halted, and now on the verge of light itself, alas! forgetful and defeated in his resolve, he looked back at his Eurydice. Thereupon, all his endeavour (was) wasted, and the condition of that merciless tyrant (was) broken, and three times the crash of thunder (was) heard in the pools of Avernus. She says, 'What madness, what very great (madness) has destroyed me, wretched (as I am), and you, Orpheus? Behold, the cruel Fates are calling (me) back again, and sleep is closing my swimming eyes. And now farewell: I am being carried away, surrounded by deepest night, and stretching (out) to you these helpless hands (lit. palms), alas no (longer) yours!' She spoke, and suddenly, out of his sight, like smoke mingling into thin air, she fled in a different direction, and she did not see him grasping in vain at shadows and wishing to say many things further, and the ferryman of Orcus (did) not allow (him) to cross again the marsh having been put in his way. What should he do? Whither should he betake himself, his wife having been snatched a second time? Indeed, she, already cold, was sailing (across) in the Stygian barque. For seven whole months in a row they say that he grieved under a lofty crag beside the waters of the lonely Strymon, and he unfolded these things in chilly caves, taming tigers and moving oak-trees by his song; just as under the shade of a poplar-tree a sorrowing nightingale laments her lost offspring, which a heartless ploughman, observing the chicks in the nest, had stolen; but she weeps (all) night (long) and, perched on a bough, continues her pitiful song, and with her sad laments she fills the region far and wide. No woman's love, not any marriage moved his heart. Alone, he roams over the Hyperborean ice-fields and the snowy Tanais (i.e. the river Don) and the fields of Rhipaeus, never free from frosts, lamenting the snatched Eurydice and the futile gifts of Dis; the Ciconian (i.e. Thracian) women, having been scorned by his devotion (to her), amid the sacred rites of the gods and the revels of Bacchus at night, scattered (the limbs of) the young man, having been torn apart, over the wide fields. Then too, (as) the Oeagrian Hebrus rolled (along), carrying in the midst of its stream his head severed from his marble neck, the voice itself and the frozen tongue, his life ebbing away, continued to call 'Eurydice, ah poor Eurydice!' The banks across the whole river re-echoed 'Eurydice'."

Ll. 528-547.   Cyrene tells Aristaeus to appease the Nymphs with sacrifices of cattle.

(Having said) these things, Proteus, both plunged (lit. gave himself) into the deep sea with a bound, and, where he plunged, he churned up the waves foaming beneath the whirlpool.

But not (so) Cyrene; for indeed she addressed her fearful (son) of her own accord: "Son, it is permitted (to you) to lay aside the cares (which are) sad to your heart. This (is) the whole reason for the plague, hence the Nymphs, with whom she used to excite dances on the high groves, have wrought wretched destruction upon your bees. You, as a suppliant seeking pardon, must offer up gifts and worship the gracious dell-nymphs; for indeed to your prayers they will grant pardon, and will let go their anger. But first I shall tell (you) in due order what is the method of supplicating. Pick out four exceptional bulls with excellent bodies, who are now feeding on the tops of your green Lycaeus (i.e. Arcadia), and the same number of heifers with unyoked necks. For these, set up four altars at the lofty shrines of the goddesses, and let the sacred blood fall from the (victims') throats, and (then) abandon the very bodies of the oxen in a leafy grove. Afterwards, when Dawn will have shown her risings nine times, you will send poppies of Lethe (i.e. Unmindfulness) (as) funeral offerings to Orpheus, and you will sacrifice a black ewe, and, revisiting the grove, you will venerate the appeased Eurydice with a slaughtered heifer-calf.

Ll. 548-566. The success of the sacrifice. Conclusion.

No delay; forthwith he eagerly performs the instructions of his mother; he comes to the shrines, he builds the prescribed altars, he leads (to them) four outstanding bulls with excellent bodies, and the same number of heifers with unyoked necks. Afterwards, when Dawn had exhibited her risings nine times, he sends funeral offerings to Orpheus, and revisits the grove. But here, suddenly, and wonderful in the telling, they behold a miracle: throughout the putrid entrails of the oxen, bees are buzzing from its whole belly, and are swarming forth from its broken ribs, and they are drawn away in immense clouds, and now they mass at the top of a tree and drop their cluster from its pliant branches.

I was singing this song about the cultivation of crops and flocks and about trees, while great Caesar was thundering at the Euphrates in war, and, (as) victor, was giving laws among willing peoples and essaying the path to heaven (lit. Olympus). Sweet Parthenope (i.e. Naples) was nurturing me, Virgil, at that time, flourishing in the studies of ignoble ease, (myself) who played with the songs of shepherds, and, emboldened by youth, sang (of) you, Tityrus, under the cover of a spreading beech-tree.

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