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TWAS night, and sleep had weighed down my weary eyelids, when this vision came to terrify my soul.

On the side of a hill looking towards the south was a grove thickly planted with oaks, and multitudes of birds found shelter amid their branches. Beneath was a wide expanse clad in freshest green, watered by a stream which flowed on with a sweet murmur.

Beneath the shade of a leafy oak I was endeavouring to avoid the heat, but it was hot even in the tree's shade. And lo, grazing on the jewelled meadow, a white heifer came in sight, a heifer whiter than fresh-fallen snow ere it has melted into clear water; whiter than the foam on the milk of the ewe that has just been milked.

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Near her was a bull, her happy mate. He lay down beside her on the thick green carpet; and as he lay thus at his ease, he slowly chewed the cud of tender grass. Soon, sleep robbing him of his strength, methought he lay his hornèd head upon the ground for very weariness.

Hither came a crow swiftly cleaving the air and, croaking hoarsely, lighted upon the green sward. Thrice did she plunge her ravening beak into the breast of the snow-white heifer, and then at length she flew away. But a black stain was on the breast of the heifer. And when she saw afar off bulls browsing on the pastures (for afar off other bulls were browsing on the pastures) she rushed away and mingled with them and sought out a spot where the soil was more fertile.

"Come," I cried, "come, interpreter of dreams, and tell me what, if indeed it hath a meaning, this dream of mine betokens." Then did the interpreter of the dreams of night ponder upon my dream, and thus at length he made reply. "The heat which thou wast fain to escape in the leafy shade, and which thou couldst not avoid, was the heat of love. The heifer is thy mistress, for of such whiteness is she. Thou thyself art the bull which was following his mate. The crow whose sharp beak tore at the heifer's breast was that old procuress who will corrupt thy loved one. The long hesitation of the heifer and her final abandonment of the bull means that thou wilt be left cold on thy solitary couch. The wound and the dark stains beneath her breast show that she is not free from the soilure of adultery."

Thus spake the reader of dreams; my cheeks were white and cold and the drear night spread out before mine eyes.


'Nox erat, et somnus lassos submisit ocellos;
    terruerunt animum talia visa meum:
Colle sub aprico creberrimus ilice lucus
    stabat, et in ramis multa latebat avis.
area gramineo suberat viridissima prato,
    umida de guttis lene sonantis aquae.
ipse sub arboreis vitabam frondibus aestum--
    fronde sub arborea sed tamen aestus erat--
ecce! petens variis inmixtas floribus herbas
    constitit ante oculos candida vacca meos,
candidior nivibus, tunc cum cecidere recentes,
    in liquidas nondum quas mora vertit aquas;
candidior, quod adhuc spumis stridentibus albet
    et modo siccatam, lacte, reliquit ovem.
taurus erat comes huic, feliciter ille maritus,
     cumque sua teneram coniuge pressit humum.
Dum iacet et lente revocatas ruminat herbas
    atque iterum pasto pascitur ante cibo,
visus erat, somno vires adimente ferendi,
    cornigerum terra deposuisse caput.
huc levibus cornix pinnis delapsa per auras
    venit et in viridi garrula sedit humo,
terque bovis niveae petulanti pectora rostro
    fodit et albentis abstulit ore iubas.
illa locum taurumque diu cunctata relinquit--
    sed niger in vaccae pectore livor erat;
utque procul vidit carpentes pabula tauros--
    carpebant tauri pabula laeta procul--
illuc se rapuit gregibusque inmiscuit illis
    et petiit herbae fertilioris humum.
Dic age, nocturnae, quicumque es, imaginis augur,
    siquid habent veri, visa quid ista ferant.'
Sic ego; nocturnae sic dixit imaginis augur,
    expendens animo singula dicta suo:
'Quem tu mobilibus foliis vitare volebas,
    sed male vitabas, aestus amoris erat.
vacca puella tua est--aptus color ille puellae;
    tu vir et in vacca conpare taurus eras.
pectora quod rostro cornix fodiebat acuto,
    ingenium dominae lena movebat anus.
quod cunctata diu taurum sua vacca reliquit,
    frigidus in viduo destituere toro.
livor et adverso maculae sub pectore nigrae
    pectus adulterii labe carere negant.'
Dixerat interpres. gelido mihi sanguis ab ore
    fugit, et ante oculos nox stetit alta meos.

Next: Elegy VI: To A River Which Has Overflowed Its Banks And Hindered The Poet, Who Was Hastening To His Mistress.