The Eclogues by Virgil.

Eclogues (also known as The Pastoral Poems and the Bucolics) is Virgil's first major work written around 44 B.C. - 38 B.C. (Georgics and then the Aeneid would follow). It is a beautiful collection of poems in the Greek tradition with a Roman setting, telling the stories of shepherds and other countrymen, and their lives and loves. It was, it's said, originally written in imitation of Theocritus' Idylls (3rd Century B.C.). 

There are ten poems:
  1. The Dispossessed (Meliboeus and Tityrus)
  2. The Passionate Shepherd to his Love (Alexis)
  3. Are these Meliboeus' Sheep? (Menalcas, Damoetas, and Palaemon)
  4. The Golden Age Returns (Pollio)
  5. Daphnis at Heaven's Gate (Menalcas and Mopsus)
  6. The Song of Silenus (To Varus)
  7. The Singing-Match (Meliboeus, Corydon, and Thyrsis)
  8. Damon and Alphesiboeus
  9. The Road to Town (Lycidas and Moeris)
  10. Gallus
The poems are not simply pastoral in theme but also political, with references to Augustus and Julius Caesar, and shows how the characters, from the shepherds to a host of gods and goddesses, see and cope with the great changes that abounded in the period in which Virgil wrote. The most famous poem of the collection, Eclogue IV, or The Golden Age Returns, is one of the best examples of this. Here it is in full (courtesy of The Internet Classics Archive): 
Muses of Sicily, essay we now
A somewhat loftier task! Not all men love
Coppice or lowly tamarisk: sing we woods,
Woods worthy of a Consul let them be.
Now the last age by Cumae's Sibyl sung
Has come and gone, and the majestic roll
Of circling centuries begins anew:
Justice returns, returns old Saturn's reign,
With a new breed of men sent down from heaven.
Only do thou, at the boy's birth in whom
The iron shall cease, the golden race arise,
Befriend him, chaste Lucina; 'tis thine own
Apollo reigns. And in thy consulate,
This glorious age, O Pollio, shall begin,
And the months enter on their mighty march.
Under thy guidance, whatso tracks remain
Of our old wickedness, once done away,
Shall free the earth from never-ceasing fear.
He shall receive the life of gods, and see
Heroes with gods commingling, and himself
Be seen of them, and with his father's worth
Reign o'er a world at peace. For thee, O boy,
First shall the earth, untilled, pour freely forth
Her childish gifts, the gadding ivy-spray
With foxglove and Egyptian bean-flower mixed,
And laughing-eyed acanthus. Of themselves,
Untended, will the she-goats then bring home
Their udders swollen with milk, while flocks afield
Shall of the monstrous lion have no fear.
Thy very cradle shall pour forth for thee
Caressing flowers. The serpent too shall die,
Die shall the treacherous poison-plant, and far
And wide Assyrian spices spring. But soon
As thou hast skill to read of heroes' fame,
And of thy father's deeds, and inly learn
What virtue is, the plain by slow degrees
With waving corn-crops shall to golden grow,
From the wild briar shall hang the blushing grape,
And stubborn oaks sweat honey-dew. Nathless
Yet shall there lurk within of ancient wrong
Some traces, bidding tempt the deep with ships,
Gird towns with walls, with furrows cleave the earth.
Therewith a second Tiphys shall there be,
Her hero-freight a second Argo bear;
New wars too shall arise, and once again
Some great Achilles to some Troy be sent.
Then, when the mellowing years have made thee man,
No more shall mariner sail, nor pine-tree bark
Ply traffic on the sea, but every land
Shall all things bear alike: the glebe no more
Shall feel the harrow's grip, nor vine the hook;
The sturdy ploughman shall loose yoke from steer,
Nor wool with varying colours learn to lie;
But in the meadows shall the ram himself,
Now with soft flush of purple, now with tint
Of yellow saffron, teach his fleece to shine.
While clothed in natural scarlet graze the lambs.
"Such still, such ages weave ye, as ye run,"
Sang to their spindles the consenting Fates
By Destiny's unalterable decree.
Assume thy greatness, for the time draws nigh,
Dear child of gods, great progeny of Jove!
See how it totters- the world's orbed might,
Earth, and wide ocean, and the vault profound,
All, see, enraptured of the coming time!
Ah! might such length of days to me be given,
And breath suffice me to rehearse thy deeds,
Nor Thracian Orpheus should out-sing me then,
Nor Linus, though his mother this, and that
His sire should aid- Orpheus Calliope,
And Linus fair Apollo. Nay, though Pan,
With Arcady for judge, my claim contest,
With Arcady for judge great Pan himself
Should own him foiled, and from the field retire.
Begin to greet thy mother with a smile,
O baby-boy! ten months of weariness
For thee she bore: O baby-boy, begin!
For him, on whom his parents have not smiled,
Gods deem not worthy of their board or bed. 
In this Virgil imagines a new golden age ushered in by Octavius, who would be the Emperor Augustus. This particular poem led to quite a cult following in which Virgil was seen as a kind of prophet, especially in the Middle Ages, which is why Dante in his Divine Comedy chose Virgil to be his guide through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven.

All in all I loved these poems but I did feel at a disadvantage at reading an old prose translation. I do intend to get a more modern poetry translation soon, but for now, even at this disadvantage, they are still some of my favourites. It's a beautiful work that has a magical hold, and I'm quite often drawn to them (I really must get a better translation, though!).

And that was my 12th title for the Deal Me In Challenge. Next week, at long last, a short story - A Haunted House by Virginia Woolf.

Comments

  1. brought to you in living technicolor!! i quite like the idea of purple sheep and red lambs romping about... not my business, of course, but i wonder how your house is faring?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's not too bad. More disasters (TV on blink, freezer apparently on the point of being on the blink), but the roof is mended. May have a wait for the heating though... But such is life. It was my birthday today and I had a great day, been out all day and it's really done me some good. Was getting very down about everything to be honest but I'm feeling re-energised :)

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    2. HAPPY BIRD'SDAY, O!!! and many happy returns... glad progress is happening...

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