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Now had night completed ten of winter's hours, and with his crowing the sentinel cock had proclaimed day's advent, when Simylus, the rustic tiller of a meagre farm, fearful of stern hunger on the coming morn, slowly, from the cheap pallet whereon they were outstretched, uplifts his limbs, and with anxious hand feels his way through the lifeless night, and gropes for the hearth, which at last, not unscathed, he finds. From a burnt-out log still lingered a tiny stream of smoke, while ashes concealed the gleam of buried coals. Bending low his head, to these he applies his lamp aslant, draws out with a needle the dried-up wick, and with many a puff wakes up the sluggish fire. Rousing at last a gleam, though hard the task, he draws back, and with sheltering hand guards the light from the draught, while his key, peeping through, unlocks the closet-door. On the ground was outpoured a poor heap of corn: from this he helps himself to as much as the measure, which runs up to sixteen pounds in weight, would hold.
19 And now, faring forth, he takes his place at the mill and on a tiny shelf, firmly fastened for such
1 This idyll may be a rendering of a Greek poem by Parthenius. The subject had already been handled by Suevius early in the first century B.C.
of the 11th or 12th century; and M (embracing two Munich MSS., m and n, of the 11th or 12th century). are cited by Ellis.
lumina fida locat. geminos tum veste lacertos
alternatque vices. modo rustica carmina cantat
erat unica custos,
Afra genus, tota patriam testante figura,
22 tegmine S: tergore.
24 admovet. utrimque It.: utrique (utrumque H). 26 haec] hinc It. adsiduis H.
36 given by H and a few other MSS. but commonly regarded
needs on the wall, he sets his trusty light. Then from his garment he frees his twin arms, and, girt in shaggy goat's hide, with tail-brush he carefully sweeps the stones and hollow of the mill. Next he summons his two hands to work, dividing them between the two-fold tasks: the left is bent on serving the grain, the right on plying the mill.1 This, in constant round, turns and drives the wheel (the grain, bruised by the stones' swift blows, runs down); the left, at intervals, seconds her wearied sister, and takes her turn. Anon he sings rustic songs, and with rude strains solaces his toil; at times he shouts to Scybale. She was his only help, African in stock, her whole form proclaiming her country her hair curly, her lips swollen and her hue dusky, her chest broad, her breast hanging low, her belly somewhat pinched, her legs thin, her feet broad and ample. Her rough shoes were torn with many a rent. Her he calls, and bids her place on the fire fuel to burn, and over the flame heat cold water.
39 Soon as the revolving mill has filled up the measure due, his hand then transfers to a sieve the bruised meal and shakes it, and lo! the husks remain on the upper side. The corn, clean and pure, sinks down, filtering through the crevices. Then straightway on a smooth table he lays it out, pours o'er it warm water, packs together the now mingled moisture and meal, kneads it by hand till hardened and, the liquid subdued, from time to time sprinkles the heap with salt. And now he smooths off his vanquished
In ancient mills, corn was ground by means of two stones, the lower of which, called meta, was shaped like a cone. The lower part of the upper stone fitted the meta like a cap. Poured into a receptacle above, the corn passed through a small hole above the meta, and was ground on the sides of the latter.
levat opus palmisque suum dilatat in orbem
durati sale terga suis truncique vacabant, traiectus medium sparto sed caseus orbem et vetus adstricti fascis pendebat anethi.
ergo aliam molitur opem sibi providus heros.
Hortus erat iunctus casulae, quem vimina pauca
et calamo rediviva levi munibat harundo,
hic holus, hic late fundentes bracchia betae
65 plura] multa It.
66 ullius (ullus or huius) opus : Mähly deleted opus : illud opus Ellis, Curcio. recula Ribbeck.
75 This verse is lacking in the oldest MSS.
work, with open palms broadens it into its rounded form, and marks it in four parts, stamped in equal divisions.1 Then he puts it in the hearth (Scybale first had cleaned a fitting place), and covers it with tiles, heaping up the fire above. And while Vulcan and Vesta are playing their part, Simylus meanwhile in that idle hour is not slack, but seeks for himself another resource, and lest Ceres alone should not please the palate, he gathers dainties to add thereto. Near his hearth no larder hung from the ceiling; gammons and slices of bacon dried and salted were wanting, but old cheeses, their rounded surface pierced midway with rushes, were suspended in baskets of close-woven fennel. Therefore the prudent hero toils to provide himself with another
61 Adjoining the cottage was a garden, sheltered by a few osiers and reeds of slender stalk, ever springing up afresh: small in extent, but rich in various herbs. Naught did it lack that a poor man's need demands; at times the wealthy would turn to the poor man's stock for more. And naught did he spend thereon, but his daily toil was his guide: if ever rains or a holiday kept him idle in his cottage; if perchance the labouring plough was idle, that time fell to the garden. He knew how to set out various plants, to entrust seeds to the hidden soil, and about his plots to train some rills, conveniently near. Here throve cabbage, here beets, their arms far outspread, with rich sorrel, mallows, and elecampane; here skirret and leeks, that owe their name to the head,2 and lettuce that brings pleasing 1 cf. Aen. VII. 115.
2 The porrum capitatum as contrasted with the porrum sectile, the latter being our cut-leek or chives.