Argument: "This eclogue contains a dispute between two shepherds, of that sort which the critics call Amoebaea, from [Greek characters], mutual or alternate. In this way of writing the persons are represented to speak alternately, the latter always endeavouring to exceed, or at least equal, what has been said by the former, in the very same number of verses; in which, if he fails, he loses the victory. Here Menalcas and Damoetas reproach each other, and then sing for a wager, making Palaemon judge between them. Menalcas begins the contention, by casting some reflections on his rival Aegon, and his servant Damoetas. Martyn. Vives, as usual, endeavours to allegorize this eclogue, and says that Virgil means himself under the fictitious name of Damoetas" (1753) 1:73.
John Dryden: "He is equal to his Sicilian Master, and observes like him a just decorum, both of the Subject, and the Persons. As particularly in the Third Pastoral, where one of his Shepherds describes a Bowl, or Mazer, curiously Carv'd. 'In medio duo signa: Canon, & quis fuit alter, | Descripsit radio, totum qui gentibus orbem.' He remembers only the name of Conon, and forgets the other on set purpose: (whether he means Anaximander, or Eudoxus, I dispute not,) but he was certainly forgotten, to shew his Country Swain was no great scholar" Works of Virgil (1697) 3.
MENALCAS. DAMOETAS. PALAEMON.
Are these, Damoetas, Meliboeus' sheep?
No; these their master Aegon bade me keep.
Unhappy sheep! yet more unhappy swain!
Whilst he Neaera wooes, but wooes in vain;
And fears lest I by fairer fortune blest
Should win precedence in the virgin's breast;
Lo! here an hireling wastes his master's gains,
And twice an hour of milk the cattle drains.
How lean, too deeply drain'd, appear the dams!
And cheated of their milk how pine the lambs!
At least to men this scoffing language spare;
We know that you — with whom — and when — and where:
We know the cave — 'tis well the nymphs were kind,
Nor to the deed thee leering goats were blind.
Ay, the kind nymphs, forsooth, no notice took,
When Mycon's vine I tore with wicked hook.
Or rather when, yon ancient beech below,
In spite you broke young Daphnis' darts and bow.
O swain perverse! nay, when the boy receiv'd
The gift, oh! how your jealous soul was griev'd!
'Twas well you found that way, or you I ween,
Had died in very impotence of spleen.
What daring scandal must thy master prate,
Since thou, his slave, canst talk at such a rate!
Did not I see thee, thief, steal Damon's goat,
While loud Lycisca gave the warning note?
And when I cry'd, — "See, where the rascal speeds;
Tit'rus take care" — you skulk'd behind the reeds.
The goat was mine, and won beyond dispute;
The lawful prize of my victorious flute.
Not Damon's self the just demand denies,
But owns he could not pay the forfeit prize.
You win a goat by music? did thy hand
E'er join th' unequal reeds with waxen band?
Vile dunce! whose sole ambition was to draw
The mob in streets to hear thy grating straw.
Howe'er that be, suppose we trial make?
I to provoke you more, yon heifer stake.
Two calves she rears, twice fills the pails a-day,
Now for the strife 'tis your's some pledge to lay.
You cannot from my flock a pledge require,
You know I have at home a peevish sire,
A cruel step-dame too — strict watch they keep,
And twice each day they count my goats and sheep.
But since your proffer'd prize so much you boast,
I'll stake a pledge of far superior cost.
Two beauteous bowls of beechen wood are mine,
The sculpture of Alcimedon divine;
Whose easy chissel o'er the work has twin'd,
A vine with berries of pale ivy join'd.
Full in the midst two comely forms appear,
Conon, with him who fram'd that wond'rous sphere,
Which points the change of seasons to the swain,
And when to plough the soil, or reap the grain.
These are my pledge; which yet with care I keep
Untouch'd, and unpolluted by the lip.
I have a pair by the same artist made,
Their handles with acanthus' leaves o'erlaid,
Where Orpheus in the midst attracts the grove—
But my first-proffer'd prize is still above
All we can stake; tho' yet my cups I keep
Untouch'd, and unpolluted by the lip.
Name your own terms, nor think the field to fly,
We'll chuse, for judge, the first who passes by—
Palaemon comes — let him the cause decide;
For once I'll tame an empty boaster's pride.
I fear the threats of no vain-glorious swain,
No proud Menalcas, nor his vaunted strain.
The song, Palaemon, with attention hear,
No mean debate demands thy listening ear.
Begin, since on the tender turf we rest,
And fields and trees in fruitful stores are drest.
The lofty groves their verdant livery wear,
And in full beauty blooms the laughing year.
Begin Damoetas; next, Menalcas, prove
Thy skill; the Nine alternate measures love.
Muses from mighty Jove begin the theme;
With mighty Jove all nature's regions teem:
With liberal hand he sows the plenteous plains,
Nor unpropitious hears my rural strains.
E'en me, mean shepherd, Phoebus deigns to love,
Sacred to him I rear a laurel-grove:
And still along my lavish borders rise,
His hyacinths of sweetly-blooming dies.
At me an apple Galatea threw,
Then to the willows, wily girl, withdrew;
Yet, as with hasty steps she skimm'd the green,
Wish'd, e'er she gain'd the willows, to be seen.
But unsollicited Amyntas burns
For me, spontaneously my love returns;
Unask'd the boy prevents each soft request,
Nor by my dogs is Delia more caress'd.
To the dear Venus of my love-sick mind,
Her swain a welcome present has design'd.
I mark'd the bough where two fond turtles coo'd,
And her's shall be the nest, and feathery brood.
Amid the woodland wilds a tree I found,
Its plenteous boughs with golden apples crown'd;
Ten, all I could, to my dear youth I sent,
And mean ten more to-morrow to present.
How oft with words so musically mild,
Has Galatea every sense beguil'd!
Some part, at least, to heav'n, ye breezes, bear,
Nor let such words be lost in common air.
In vain, Amyntas, you pretend in vain
To love; you treat me with unkind disdain,
If while you hold the bristly boar at bay,
I keep the nets, nor share the dangerous day.
Bid Phillis haste t' improve the genial mirth
Of this the day that gave her shepherd birth;
And when my heifer bleeds at Ceres' feast,
Iolas, come thyself, and be a welcome guest!
Phillis o'er every other nymph I prize,
Oh! how she took her leave with weeping eyes!
And as I went, "Dear shepherd," oft she cry'd,
And many a long adieu thro' the deep vales she sigh'd.
The wolf is fatal to the folded sheep,
With fatal force o'er trees loud tempests sweep,
Fatal the rushing show'rs to ripening corn;
To me more fatal Amaryllis' scorn!
Sweet are the vernal show'rs to swelling seed;
The flow'ry arbute to the weanling kid:
The tender willow to the teeming herd:
By me o'er all Amyntas is preferr'd.
Pollio approves, though rough, my rural reed;
Muses, an heifer for your patron feed!
Since Pollio deigns to build the lofty strain;
Feed him a bull that butting spurns the plain.
Let him who loves a Pollio's sacred name
Gain what he loves, and share a Pollio's fame:
For him let golden streams of honey flow,
And fragrant spices breathe from every bough.
Is there a swain that hates not Bavius' lays?
Be it his curse vile Maevius' verse to praise:
The same degree of madness might provoke
To milk male goats, or stubborn foxes yoke.
Ye boys that gather flow'rs and strawberries,
Lo! hid within the grass a serpent lies!
Graze not, my sheep, too near the faithless bank,
Scarce yet the ram has dry'd his fleeces dank.
Tityrus, thy kids too near the river stray,
Myself will wash them all some fitter day.
Boys, fold your sheep, 'tis vain to press the teat,
When all the milk, as erst, is dry'd with heat.
How lean my bull on yonder clover'd plain!
Love wastes alike the cattle and the swain.
Some heavier plague has made these lambs so lean,
What magic eye my tender brood has seen!
Tell me the place, where heaven's contracted bound
Appears to view but three short ells around?
Tell this, and thou my god of verse shalt shine.
Tell this, and lovely Phillis shall be thine:
O tell in what in delightful region springs
The flow'r that bears inscrib'd the names of kings.
Which to prefer perplexing doubts arise:
Neither have won, but both deserv'd the prize;
And all deserve alike, whose song can prove,
Like yours, how much they fear'd or hop'd in love.
'Tis time to cease, my boys: the streams restrain,
Enough the floods have drench'd the thirsty plain.