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SYRISCA, the inn-keeper, her head bound with Greek kerchief, trained as she is to sway her tremulous limbs to the notes of her castanets, within her smoky tavern tipsily dances in wanton wise, shaking against her elbow her noisy reeds: 2 "What boots it to stay outside, when aweary with the summer's dust, rather than to recline on the thirsty couch of grass? There are garden nooks and arbours, mixing-cups, roses, flutes, lyres, and cool bowers with shady canes. Lo! too, the pipe, which twitters sweetly within a Maenalian grotto, sounds its rustic strain in a shepherd's mouth. There is fresh wine, too, just drawn from the pitched jar, and a water-brook running noisily with hoarse murmur; there are also chaplets of violet blossoms mixed with saffron, and yellow garlands blended with crimson roses; and lilies bedewed by a virgin stream, which a nymph 5 has brought in osier-baskets. There are little cheeses, too, dried in a basket of rushes; there are waxen plums of autumn's season, and chestnuts and sweetly blushing apples; there is Ceres' pure gift, with Love and Bacchus ;
1 This interesting little poem, written in elegiac couplets, was attributed to Virgil by the grammarian Charisius.
2 The castanets were made of pieces of reed or wood.
cf. viridante toro... herbae" (Aen. v. 388).
cf. Georgics, I. 17; Eclogues, VIII. 21.
5 As Achelous is used for aqua in general (cf. Georgics, I. 9), so Achelois is used for a water-nymph or Naiad; cf. Eclogues, II. 45, 46.
sunt et mora cruenta et lentis uva racemis,
sed non et vasto est inguine terribilis.
huc, Calybita, veni: lassus iam sudat asellus ; illi: Vestae delicium est asinus.
parce nunc cantu crebro rumpunt arbusta cicadae, nunc varia in gelida sede lacerta latet: si sapis, aestivo recubans nunc prolue vitro, seu vis crystalli ferre novos calices. hic age pampinea fessus requiesce sub umbra, et gravidum roseo necte caput strophio, formosum tenerae decerpens ora puellae.
a pereat, cui sunt prisca supercilia!
quid cineri ingrato servas bene olentia serta ? anne coronato vis lapide ista tegi?"
'pone merum et talos. pereat, qui crastina curat' Mors aurem vellens 'vivite' ait, 'venio.'"
25 huc M: huic S.
26 Vestae Vo88: vestrae.
28 varia M: vero S: vere L: vepris Ellis: veprum Haupt. 29 nunc] te Paris 8205. 31 hic S: eia or hia.
36 ista] ossa Ilgen. tegi] legi Wernsdorff, who refers ista to serta. Wouldst have them culled at the crowning of thy tomb?"
37 Vollmer gives this verse only to the traveller, making v. 38 an epilogue. Other editors carry the inn-keeper's speech through to the end.
there are blood-red mulberries with grapes in heavy clusters, and from its stalk hangs the blue-grey melon. There is the cot's guardian,1 armed with sickle of willow, but not to be feared is he, for all his huge groin.
25 "Come hither, priest of Cybele! Now thy wearied ass is sweating; spare him: the ass is Vesta's delight. Now with constant song the cicalas rend the thickets; now the spotted lizard lurks in her cool retreat: if thou art wise, lay thee down now and steep thyself in a bowl of summer-time,5 or in fresh crystal cups, if thou wishest them brought. Come; rest here thy wearied frame beneath the shade of vines, and entwine thy heavy head in a garland of roses, sweetly snatching kisses from a tender maiden's lips. Ah! away with him that has the sternness of early days! Why keepest the fragrant wreaths for thankless ashes? Wouldst have those limbs covered with a crowned tombstone?" 6 37 Set forth the wine and dice! Away with him who heeds the morrow! Death, plucking the ear, cries: Live; I come!'
2 Used jocularly, the galli or priests of Cybele having a reputation as vagabonds or beggars.
3 Because, according to the story, his braying warned Vesta of an assault by Priapus (cf. Ovid, Fasti, vi. 311 ff.). cf. Georgics, III. 328. i.e. one of unusual size. 6 Garlands were laid on tombstones; cf. Propertius, III. xvi. 23. The copa asks the traveller to have the wreaths used for a feast, not for a funeral. He is supposed to yield to her allurements, and, citing an Epicurean maxim, to fling discretion to the winds.
IAM nox hibernas bis quinque peregerat horas
Inde abit adsistitque molae parvaque tabella, quam fixam paries illos servabat in usus,
7 sentit H: sensit.
13 sed vix Bücheler: sed lux.
8 fumus] fomes Scaliger. 15 clavi H.
*Besides F, S, L, for which see note at the opening of the Culex, Vollmer cites P Paris 16236 of the 10th century; D: Paris 7930 of the 11th century; R = Vindob. 134
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). Other MSS. are cited by Ellis.