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VIRGIL (70-19 BCE): The Second Eclogue, or, Alexis


[Trans. John Dryden 1697]

The Argument

The Commentators can by no means agree on the Person of Alexis, but are all of opinion that some Beautiful Youth is meant by him, to whom Virgil here makes Love; in Corydon's Language and Simplicity. His way of Courtship is wholly Pastoral: He complains of the Boys Coyness, recommends himself for his Beauty and Skill in Piping, invites the Youth into the Country, where he promises him the Diversions of the Place; with a suitable Present of Nuts and Apples: But when he finds nothing will prevail, he resolves to quit his troublesome Amour, and betake himself again to his former business

Young Corydon, th' unhappy Shepherd Swain,
The fair Alexis lov'd, but lov'd in vain:
And underneath the Beechen Shade, alone,
Thus to the Woods and Mountains made his moan.
Is this, unkind Alexis, my reward,
And must I die unpitied, and unheard?
Now the green Lizard in the Grove is laid,
The Sheep enjoy the coolness of the Shade;
And Thestilis wild Thime and Garlike beats
For Harvest Hinds, o'respent with Toyl and Heats:
While in the scorching Sun I trace in vain
Thy flying footsteps o're the burning Plain.
The creaking Locusts with my Voice conspire,
They fry'd with Heat, and I with fierce Desire.
How much more easie was it to sustain
Proud Amarillis, and her haughty Reign,
The Scorns of Young Menalcas, once my care,
Tho' he was black, and thou art Heav'nly fair.
Trust not too much to that enchanting Face;
Beauty's a Charm, but soon the Charm will pass:
White Lillies lie neglected on the Plain
While dusky Hyacinths for use remain.
My Passion is thy Scom; nor wilt thou know
What Wealth I have, what Gifts I can bestow:
What Stores my Dairies and my Folds contain;
A thousand Lambs that wander on the Plain:
New Milk that all the Winter never fails,
And all the Summer overflows the Pails:
Amphion sung not sweeter to his Herd,
When summon'd Stones the Theban Turrets rear'd.
Nor am I so deform'd; for late I stood
Upon the Margin of the briny Flood:
The Winds were still and if the Glass be true,
With Daphnis I may vie, tho' judg'd by you.
O leave the noisie Town, O come and see
Our Country Cotts, and live content with me!
To wound the Flying Deer, and from their Cotes
With me to drive a-Field, the browzing Goats:
To pipe and sing, and in our Country Strain
To Copy, or perhaps contend with Pan.
Pan taught to joyn with Wax unequal Reeds,
Pan loves the Shepherds, and their Flocks he feeds:
Nor scorn the Pipe; Amyntas, to be taught,
With all his Kisses would my Skill have bought.
Of seven smooth joints a mellow Pipe I have,
Which with his dying Breath Damaetas gave:
And said, This, Corydon, I leave to thee;
For only thou deserv'st it after me.
His Eyes Amyntas durst not upward lift,
For much he grudg'd the Praise, but more the Gift.
Besides two Kids that in the Valley stray'd,
I found by chance and to my fold convey'd.
They drein two bagging Udders every day;
And these shall be Companions of thy Play.
Both fleck'd with white, the true Arcadian Strain,
Which Thestilis had often beg'd in vain:
And she shall have them, if again she sues,
Since you the Giver and the Gift refuse.
Come to my longing Arms, my lovely care,
And take the Presents which the Nymphs prepare.
White Lillies in full Canisters they bring,
With all the Glories of the Purple Spring:
The Daughters of the Flood have search'd the Mead
For Violets pale, and cropt the Poppy's Head:
The Short Narcissus and fair Daffodil,
Pancies to please the Sight, and Cassia sweet to smell:
And set soft Hyacinths with Iron blue,
To shade marsh Marigolds of shining Hue.
Some bound in Order, others loosely strow'd,
To dress thy Bow'r, and trim thy new Abode.
My self will search our planted Grounds at home,
For downy Peaches and the glossie Plum:
And thrash the Chesnuts in the Neighb'ring Grove,
Such as my Amarillis us'd to love.
The Laurel and the Myrtle sweets agree;
And both in Nosegays shall be bound for thee.
Ah, Corydon, ah poor unhappy Swain,
Alexis will thy homely Gifts disdain:
Nor, should'st thou offer all thy little Store,
Will rich Iolas yield, but offer more.
What have I done, to name that wealthy Swain,
So powerful are his Presents, mine so mean!
The Boar amidst my Crystal Streams I bring;
And Southern Winds to blast my flow'ry Spring.
Ah, cruel Creature, whom dost thou despise?
The Gods to live in Woods have left the Skies.
And Godlike Paris in th' Idean Grove,
To Priam's Wealth prefer'd Oenone's Love.
In Cities which she built, let Pallas Reign;
Tow'rs are for Gods, but Forrests for the Swain.
The greedy Lyoness the Wolf pursues,
The Wolf the Kid, the wanton Kid the Browze:
Alexis thou art chas'd by Corydon;
All follow sev'ral Games, and each his own.
See from afar the Fields no longer smoke,
The sweating Steers unharnass'd from the Yoke,
Bring, as in Triumph, back the crooked Plough;
The Shadows lengthen as the Sun goes Low.
Cool Breezes now the raging Heats remove;
Ah, cruel Heaven! that made no Cure for Love!
I wish for balmy Sleep, but wish in vain:
Love has no bounds in Pleasure, or in Pain.
What frenzy, Shepherd, has thy Soul possess'd,
Thy Vinyard lies half prun'd, and half undress'd.
(Quench, Corydon, thy long unanswer'd fire:
Mind what the common wants of Life require.
On willow Twigs employ thy weaving care:
And find an easier Love, tho' not so fair.

[JOHN DRYDEN, 1697]