Argument: "The subject of the following Eclogue is great, and the poet labour'd his composition accordingly; it is no less than the death of Julius Caesar, and his deification. Many reasons may be given, why by Daphnis is not meant Saloninus, the pretended son of Pollio, nor Flaccus, Virgil's brother. This Eclogue must have greatly recommended our author to the favour of Augustus. Ruaeus thinks it was written when some plays or sacrifices were celebrated in honour of Julius Caesar. The scene of it is not only beautiful in itself, but adapted to the solemnity of the subject; the shepherds sit and sing in the awful gloom of a grotto, which is overhung by wild vines" 1:99.
Since thus we meet, whom different fancies lead,
I skill'd to sing, and you to touch the reed,
Why sit we not beneath this woven shade,
Which the broad elm with hazles mix'd hath made?
Mine elder thou; 'tis just that I obey
What you propose; whether you chuse to stay
Beneath the covert of the branching trees,
Which shift their shadows to th' uncertain breeze,
Or rather in yon' cooling grot recline,
O'erhung with clusters of the flaunting vine.
Amyntas only can with you compare:
What if to sing with Phoebus self he dare?
Begin thou first; whether fair Phillis' flame,
Or Codrus' patriot quarrel be the theme;
Or skilful Alcon's praises swell thy notes:
Tityrus mean while shall tend thy feeding goats.
Rather I'll try those verses to repeat,
Which on a beech's verdant bark I writ:
I writ, and sung between: when these you hear,
Judge if Amyntas' strains with mine compare.
When the weak willow with the olive vies,
Or nard with the sweet rose's crimson dies;
Then may Amyntas with thy matchless strain:
Enough — for see! the solemn grott we gain.
Round Daphnis dead the nymphs in anguish mourn'd,
Witness, ye woods and streams, for ye their plaints return'd!
While his sad mother his cold limbs embrac'd,
Heav'n and the gods accusing in her haste.
No swain then drove his cattle to the flood;
No horse would taste the stream, or grassy food:
Thee, desart rocks, thee, vocal woods bemoan'd,
For thee with dreadful grief, ev'n Lybian lions groan'd.
Armenian tygers Daphnis taught to yoke,
And whirl the car obedient to the stroke,
To dance in frantic mood at Bacchus' feast,
And shake the spear with tender foliage drest:
As vines the trees, as grapes the vines adorn,
Bulls grace the herds, and fields the golden corn,
So Daphnis while he dwelt upon the plains,
Shone with superior grace among the swains.
Thee when the fates in vengeance snatch'd away,
Pales nor Phoebus deign'd a longer stay:
In vain we sow; the promis'd harvests fail;
While wretched lolium and wild oats prevail;
For violet soft, for purple daffodill,
Brambles and prickly burrs the meadows fill.
With boughs the brooks o'ershade, ye rural train,
With leaves and flowers bespread the verdant plain;
Daphnis these rites did for himself ordain.
With grateful hands his monument erect,
And be the stone with this inscription deck'd;
"I Daphnis here repose; fam'd to the sky,
Fair was my flock, but fairer far was I!"
O bard divine! as sweet thy tuneful lay,
As slumber to tir'd swains on new-mown hay,
Or as in summer's sultry drought to taste
Cool streams that bubbling o'er the meadows haste.
Thou even with Pan deserv'st an equal meed,
For skill to tune the voice or touch the reed.
Blest youth! who now shalt share that master's fame;
Yet will I strive th' alternate lays to frame:
Bid Daphnis' praises to the stars ascend,
For Daphnis lov'd ev'n me, his humble friend.
Thou can'st not please me more. — The youth thy praise
Deserv'd, and Stimichon approves the lays.
Daphnis with wonder mounts to heav'n on high,
Above the clouds, above the starry sky:
Hence, joy enchants the woods, and smiling plains,
Pales and Pan, the Dryads, and the swains;
No more the prowling wolf the cattle fear,
Nor secret toils deceive th' incautious deer;
The sylvan wars of cruel hunters cease,
For Daphnis loves an universal peace.
The desart mountains into singing break,
The forests and the fields in transport speak;
The rocks proclaim the new divinity!
A god, a god! the vocal hills reply.
O hear thy worshippers! four altars see,
For Phoebus two, and Daphnis, two for thee!
Two jars of fattest oil, each rolling year,
Two bowls of frothing milk to thee I'll bear;
The ritual feast shall overflow with wine,
And Chios' richest nectar shall be thine;
On the warm hearth in winter's chilling hour
We'll sacrifice; at summer in a bow'r;
Alphesiboeus tripping shall advance,
And mimic satyrs in their festal dance;
Damoetas there and skilful Aegon sing;
And constantly our off'rings will we bring,
Both to the nymphs when sacred rites are paid,
And when the victims round the fields are led:
While the cicada sips the dew, while thyme
The bees shall suck, while boars the mountains climb,
While fishes wanton in the wat'ry waste,
So long thy honour, name and praise shall last.
Those holy vows which on a solemn day,
At Bacchus' and at Ceres' shrine we pay,
Daphnis to thee shall rise each circling year:
Thou too shalt be invok'd and hear our pray'r!
What thanks, what recompence can my weak lay,
For such exalted strains as thine repay?
Not from fresh whispers of the southern breeze,
Nor gentle dashings of the calmest seas,
Nor from the murmuring rills, such joys I feel,
That gliding down the pebbly vallies steal!
But first receive this slender pipe, the same
That told poor Corydon's unpitied flame,
Who vainly sought Alexis' heart to move:
The same with which Damoetas fondly strove.
And thou, Menalcas, take this well-form'd crook,
With polish'd joints adorn'd and brazen hook;
Which ev'n Antigenes could ne'er obtain
Tho' worthy to be lov'd, a beauteous swain.