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LIGHTLY had Daphnis sate down beneath a whispering ilex, and Corydon and Thyrsis had driven their flocks together, Thyrsis his sheep, Corydon his milk-swoln she-goats; both in the blossom of age, both Arcadians, ready to sing and answer verse for verse. Hither, while I covered my delicate myrtles from the frost, my he-goat, lord of the flock, had wandered down: and I espy Daphnis: seeing me in turn, Quick, he cries, come hither, Meliboeus! thy goat and kids are safe; and, if thou canst take holiday, rest under the shade: hither come the bullocks unherded across the meadows to drink; here Mincius lines his green banks with a fringe of soft rushes, and the swarming bees murmur out of the holy oak.

What was I to do? I had no Alcippe, no Phyllis to shut in the weanling lambs at home; and Corydon against Thyrsis was a brave match. However, I put aside my business for their pleasure. So both began their contest, in alternate verses, since such the Muses willed them to remember. These Corydon, those Thyrsis uttered in his turn.

Co.--Nymphs of Libethrus, our delight, either grant me such a song as my Codrus' own: his come next to the verses Phoebus makes; or if we cannot all of us attain, this shrill pipe shall hang from your holy pine.

Th.--Shepherds of Arcady, deck with ivy your rising poet, that Codrus may burst his gall with envy; or, if he praise beyond my need, bind my brows with foxglove, lest an evil tongue harm the hard to be.

Co.--This bristling boar's head to thee, maid of Delos, and the branching antlers of a long-lived stag little Micon offers. If this thy grace abide, all in smooth marble thou shalt stand, the crimson buskin laced round thine ankles.

Th.--A bowl of milk and these cakes, O Priapus, yearly is enough for thee to claim; thou art keeper of a scanty garden. {p. 283} Now we have fashioned thee in marble for the time: but do thou, if lambing-time fill up the flock, be there in gold.

Co.--Sea-Nymph Galatea, sweeter to me than thyme of Hybla, whiter than the swan, lovelier than pale ivy, so soon as the pastured bulls seek the yard again, if thou carest aught at all for thy Corydon, come!

Th.--Nay, but may I seem to thee bitterer than herbage of Sardinia, rougher than the spiky broom, more worthless than stranded seaweed, if to-day is not longer already to me than a whole year: go home from pasture, for very shame go, my cattle.

Co.--Mossed springs and grass softer than sleep, and green arbutus that covers you with thin shade, shielded the midsummer from the flock; now parching summer is coming, now the buds swell on the tough vine-shoot.

Th.--Here is the hearth and resinous billets; here the fire ever burns high and the doorposts are black with constant soot: here we care as much for the freezing North as the wolf for the flock's multitude, or rivers in flood for their banks.

Co.--Junipers and shaggy chestnuts tower up: under each tree lie strewn her fallen apples. All now smiles; but if fair Alexis be absent from the hills, thou wilt see even the rivers dry.

Th,--The field is parched, the dying grass thirsts in the distempered air; the wine-god denies the slopes the vine-tendrils' shade: at our Phyllis' coming all the woodland will be green, and heaven descend in glad and abundant showers.

Co.--Alcides takes most delight in the poplar, Iacchus in the vine, fair Venus in the myrtle, Phoebus in his own bay, tree: Phyllis loves hazels: while Phyllis loves them neither shall myrtle excel the hazels, nor Phoebus' bay.

Th.--The ash is most beautiful in the forest, the pine in the garden, the poplar by the river, the fir on the mountain heights: but if thou come back yet again to me, O fair Lycidas, the forest ash, the garden pine shall yield to thee.

These songs I remember, and how Thyrsis strove for victory in vain: henceforth Corydon, Corydon is ours.

{p. 284}

Next: Eclogue VIII.--The Sorceress