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Introduction

The opening poem of Vergil's Eclogues, or Bucolics, and thus most likely the earliest poem we have by him. It begins his poetic development which would eventually culminate in the unfinished Aeneid. Features which would later become hallmarks of his style, such as the balance of nouns and adjectives in a Callimachean style, heavy borrowings from Lucretius, and high frequency of ellisions, are barely noticeable.

Nevertheless, the poem contains traces of all these elements. It is, as is apparent by the title alone, a pastoral in the tradition of Theocritus. The man characters are two shepherds, Meliboeus (as speaker marked M) and Tityrus (as speaker, marked T), conversing in the country-side while tending their flocks about their fortunes and the life of the city both have left behind.

The poem is written in the Vergilian hexameter; each line consisting of four feet of dactyls or spondees, followed usually by a 5th dactyl and a final spondee (actually a long and an anceps. The exception, which doesn't occur here, is the spondaic fifth, in which the line ends with a spondee in the fifth and sixth foot.

The Latin text is a combination of the versions given in the Oxford Classical Text of Vergil's works, edited by the late, great R.A.B. Mynors, and the version in the Cambridge commentary by Robert Coleman.


Latin Text

M: Tityre, tu patulae recubans sub tegmine fagi (1)
silvestrem tenui Musam meditaris avena;
nos patriae finis et dulcia linquimus arva.
nos patriam fugimus; tu, Tityre, lentus in umbra
formosam resonare doces Amaryllda silvas (5)
T: O Meliboee, deus nobis haec otia fecit.
namque erit ille mihi semper deus, illius aram
saepe tener nostris ab ovilibus imbuet agnus.
ille meas errare boves, ut cernis, et ipsum
ludere quae vellem calamo permisit agresti. (10)
M: Non equidem invideo, miror magis; undique totis
usque adeo turbatur agris. en ipse capellas
protenus aeger ago; hanc etiam vix, Tityre, duco.
hic inter densas corulos modo namque gemellos,
spem gregis, a, silice in nuda conixa reliquit. (15)
saepe alum hoc nobis, si mens non laeva fuisset,
de caelo tactas memini praedicere quercus.
sed tamen iste deus qui sit da, Tityre, nobis.
T: Urbem quam dicunt Romam, Meliboee, putavi
stultus ego huic nostrae similem, quoi saepe solemus (20)
pastores ovium teneros depellere fetus.
sic canibus catulos similes, sic matribus haedos
noram, sic parvis componere magna solebam
verum haec tantum alias inter caput extulit urbes
quantum lenta solent inter viburna cupressi (25)
M: Et quae tanta fuit Romam tibi caussa videndi?
T: Libertas, quae sera tamen respexit inertem,
candidior postquam tondenti barba cadebat,
respexit tamen et longo post tempore venit,
postquam nos Amaryllis habet, Galatea reliquit, (30)
namque (fatebor enim) dum me Galatea tenebat,
nec spes libertatis erat nec cura peculi.
quamvis multa meis exiret victima saeptis
pinguis et ingratae premeretur caseus urbi
non umquam gravis aere domum mmihi dextra redibat. (35)
M: Mirabar quid maesta deos, Amarylli, vocares
quoi pendere sua patereris in arbore poma.
Tityrus hinc aberat. ipsae te, Tityre, pinus,
ipsi te fontes, ipsa haec arbusta vocabant.
T: Quid facerem? neque servitio me exire licebat (40)
nec tam praesentis alibi cognoscere divos.
hic illum vidi iuvenem, Meliboee, quot annis
bis senos quoi nostra dies altaria fumant,
hic mihi responsum primus dedit ille petenti:
'pascite ut ante boves, pueri, submittite tauros'. (45)
M: Fortunate senex, ergo tua rura manebunt
et tibi magna satis, quamvis lapis omnia nudus
limosoque palus obducat pascua iunco.
non insueta gravis temptabunt pabula fetas
nec mala vicini pecoris contagia laedent. (50)
fortunate senex, hic inter flumina nota
et fontis sacros frigus captabis opacum;
hinc tib, quae semper, vicino ab limite saepes
Hyblaeis apibus florem depasta salicti
saepe levi somnum suadebit inire susurro; (55)
hinc alta sub rupe canet frondator ad auras,
nec tamen interea raucae, tua cura, palumbes
nec gemere aeria cessabit turtur ab ulmo.
T: Ante leves ergo pascentur in aethere cervi
et freta destituent nudos in litore piscis, (60)
ante pererratis amborum finibus exsul
aut Ararim Parthus bibet aut Germania Tigrim,
quam nostro illius labatur pectore voltus.
M: At nos hinc alii sitientis ibimus Afros,
pars Scythiam et rapidum cretae veniemus Oaxen (65)
et penitus toto divissos orbe Britannos.
en umquam patrios longo post tempore finis
pauperis et tuguri congestum caespite culmen,
post aliquot, mea regna, videns mirabor aristas?
impius haec tam culta novalia miles habebit, (70)
barbarus has segetes. en quo discordia civis
produxit miseros; his nos consevimus agros!
insere nunc, Meliboee, piros, pone ordine vites.
ite meae, felix quondam pecus, ite capellae.
non ego vos posthac viridi proiectus in antro (75)
dumosa pendere procul de rupe videbo;
carmina nulla canam; non me pascente, capellae,
florentem cutisum et salices carpetis amaras.
T: Hic tamen hanc mecum poteras requiescere noctem
fronde super viridi. sunt nobis mitia poma, (80)
castaneae molles et pressi copia lactis,
et iam summa procul villarum culmina fumant
maioresque cadunt altis de montibus umbrae.


English Translation

M: Tityrus, you lie beneath the shade of a wide-spread beech, (1)
and meditate with your slender pipes upon your woodland Muse;
We've fled the borders and the sweet fields of our native land.
We've fled our native land; Tityrus, relaxing in the shade,
now teach the woods to echo with your beautiful Amaryllis. (5)
T: O Meliboeus, it's god who lets us here enjoy the peace
for he will always be a god to me, how often has a lamb,
so tender, from our very flock stained red his altar?
He lets my cattle graze and wander, as you see, and he
permits me to play whatever I want on my rustic pipes. (10)
M: Indeed, I don't envy you, but rather wonder: everywhere,
in all the fields there is chaos; look how I, sick as I am,
myself still lead my goats; scarcely even this I lead, Tityrus.
Here among the dense hazel-bushes and even the little branches
on the barren rock, the mother gave birth and left her pride. (15)
Often the oak would have predicted, had my mind but seen,
this evil, as now I remember it, struck so often from the heavens.
But nevertheless, grant, Tityrus, that this one is our god.
T: I once thought that city, Meliboeus, they call Rome,
was just the same as ours, as foolish as I was, where often (20)
we shepherds used to drive the tender offspring of our flocks.
Thus just as I knew that puppies were like dogs, kids like their mothers,
I used to once compare great things with all things small.
In truth she held her head as high among the other cities
as the cypress groves, rising above the pliant way-faring trees. (25)
M: And what was so great, so worth seeing in the city of Rome?
T: Freedom, which, though late, looked on me in my sloth,
after my now-greying beard had already fallen to the razor,
nevertheless, it looked on me and came after a time, so long,
well after Amaryllis had us, after Galatea let us go, (30)
for (I'll confess it freely) while Galatea still held me
there was no hope of freedom, no care for my own possessions.
Though many times a victim was lead forth, out of my gates,
and many times fat cheese was pressed for an ungrateful city,
not once did I return home with my hands weighed down with coins. (35)
M: I used to wonder why, Amaryllis, you called the gods in sorrow,
you, for whom the apples were allowed to hang on your own tree;
But Tityrus was away. The very pines themselves, Tityrus,
and the very springs, the groves themselves were calling you.
T: What could I do? My slavery did not permit me leave (40)
nor once to worship elsewhere the ever-present gods.
Here I saw that very youth, Meliboeus, of twice ten years
for whom our altars constantly gave forth their plumes of smoke.
He alone first gave an answer to my long-prayed prayers:
"Pasture your cattle, boys, as once before; and yolk your oxen. (45)
M:How lucky you are, old man, that you'll have your fields
and they'll always be enough for you, although the naked stone
and marsh should cover all your pasture-land with muddy reeds:
Well-known grazing meadows will lure your heavy, fertile flock
and no diseases from a neighbouring herd will ever touch them. (50)
How lucky you are, old man, that among known, local streams
and the hallowed well-springs will you find your shaded rest;
Here you have flowers of the willow-groves, as ever, grown
on the borders of your land and gathered by Hyblaean bees
as often you fall asleep to the sound of their light buzzing (55)
Here the gardener sings to the breezes under a deep hollow,
And never all the while do the singing doves, your care,
or the turtle-doves stop their song from atop the airy elm.
T: Not before swift deer take pasture in the very heavens,
Not before the seas abandon all their fish upon the shore, (60)
before the exile on the wandering borders of the other's land,
the Parthian drinks the Saone, and the German so the Tigris,
will his appearance slip, forgotten, then from our heart.
M: But the rest of us went there to thirsty Africa,
part came to Scythia and the silted flow of the Oaxes (65)
and farther away, exiled from the whole world, to Britannia.
How long will it be before I see the borders of my home,
or wonder at the gabled roof of my poor, humble cottage,
and will I ever see my own domains, my fields, my grain?
Now some damned soldier holds the fields I tended so well, (70)
some savage has my crop. Look how this chaos destroys
these miserable citizens: we sowed our fields for this!
Go sow your pears, Meliboeus, and place order to the vines.
Go, my herd, once blessed, and go, my flock of goats
I won't after this be here, stretched out in some green cave, (75)
to see you far off grazing on a thorny mountainside.
I won't sing my songs anymore; without me now, my goats,
on flowering clover you'll have to graze, and on bitter willows.
T: But here you can take some rest with me for the night
under the shady branches; here, we have ripe apples (80)
and soft chestnuts to crack, and enough pressed milk;
already far off smoke rises from the high roof of the village
and from high mountain peaks the greater shadows fall.


Commentary

Congratulations if you've read this far. I'll try to add only what might be relevant to a reader of the English, though I'll cite the Latin text. Please let me know if I should add something.

Outline:

The poem is in the form of a conversation between the two shepherds while they are watching their flocks.

  1. 1-5 Meliboeus, and a description of the setting; Tityrus, lying underneath a tree, playing on his pipes.
  2. 6-10 The proposed reasons both can enjoy such leisure
  3. 11-18 Meliboeus' misfortune, troubles with the herd
  4. 19-45 Tityrus' younger days as a slave in Rome, and how he gained his freedom.
  5. 46-58 Meliboeus' bitter description of Tityrus' good fortune
  6. 59-63 Tityrus, oblivious to Meliboeus for now, continues to meditate on his patron, framed in a list of adynata.
  7. 64-78 Meliboeus' full troubles, description of his lost farm, the hard travels which have taken him from his home (a continuation of Tityrus' geography in the previous section).
  8. 79-83 Tityrus' invitation to Meliboeus as dusk falls on a panorama of the peaceful countryside.

5 Amaryllida From a Greek word, meaning something like 'sparkling one'; it isn't unusual to see a poet's lover named as his inspiration. Especially for a poetic, idyllic landscape, some sort of lover is always involved. Tibullus, in poem I.4 builds up a complex myth of country life with his girl.
6 deus "O Meliboeus, god made these pleasures for us"; the poem goes on to describe Tityrus' patronage, and the 'god' is probably an abstract promise of divine honors owed to his patron. There's been a great debate over whether the god mentioned is Octavian; this biographical reading is most popular, and sees in the poem a reflection of Vergil's (personified in Tityrus) loss of his farm, and recourse to the young Octavian to get it back.
19 Urbem quam dicunt Romam "The city they call Rome"; the phrase (as opposed to simply "Rome") removes the city and all its associated worries from the immediate setting, part of the pastoral ideal. To thus simply say "putavi Romam" would not only be unmetrical, but in poor taste.
27 Libertas "Freedom"; Tityrus is a former slave, and gained his freedom only through service in Rome. Meliboeus seems to be a citizen; there is a strong irony in their respective fortunes.
30 Galatea The name of Tityrus' old owner.
59-63 Obvious impossibilities; the unlikely geographic shifts of the two semi-nomadic peoples transitions to the displacement of the poor former farmer Meliboeus.


P.S. Incidentally, after bothering many of the fine folks in the Chatterbox a while back, it seemed the concensus was to node the whole shebang in one write-up. So it is written.

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