Thursday, June 18, 2015

Corydon’s Complaint

But Virgil’s songs are pure, except that horrid one
Beginning with ‘Formosum Pastor Corydon.’

Byron, Don Juan, I.42.

The shepherd Corydon burned hopelessly
for handsome Alex, darling of his lord.
He’d often go alone into a grove
of shady beeches, where to hills and woods
he’d longingly fling out his useless plea:

“O savage Alex, you ignore my songs!
Why won’t you pity me? You’ll make me die!
The sheep now flee beneath the cooling shade,
green lizards even hide in thornbushes,
and Thestilis grinds up her fragrant herbs:
garlic and thyme for heatstruck harvesters.
But while I trace your steps through burning sun,
the bushes buzz with crickets on my path.
Should I bear Amaryllis in your place?
Her gloomy rage and snooty pride? Perhaps
Menalcas, though he’s dark and you are fair.
(O handsome boy, these colors can deceive!
White privets fall; dark hyacinth gets plucked.)

“But Alex, ah! you don’t ask who I am,
nor how much sheep and snowy milk I own;
a thousand roaming lambs in Sicily,
that is, and fresh milk during cold and heat.
I sing the songs that Amphion used to sing
to woo his flocks on Aracynthus’ slopes.
And I am far from ugly. I just saw
my own reflection in the windless sea:
you’d love me more than Daphnis, lest it lied.

“If only you’d delight to live with me
in wild fields and humble cottages!
We’d spear the deer and drive the goats to graze.
Together in the woods we’d sing like Pan,
who taught us first to join our reeds with wax,
who tends the sheep and them who herd the sheep.
You’d gladly wear your lips down on his pipe
while we played songs Amyntas longs to know!
I have a pipe of seven sloping reeds
that old Damoetas gave me once. He said
before he died—this is now yours
Damoetas said, and dull Amyntas envied me.
I also have two little white-flecked kids
whom I discovered in a wild dale,
who drain a ewe each day. They’re both for you,
but Thestilis has longed to nab them both,
and I will let her, since you spurn my gifts.

“Come here, my handsome boy, for—look!—the Nymphs
bring basketfuls of lilies. Naïs fair
joins yellow violets and plucked poppy-tops
to narcissus and fragrant dill for you.
She weaves them all with cinnamon;
soft hyacinths with yellow marigolds.
And I’ll add tender peaches, white with down,
and chestnuts that my Amaryllis loved,
and yellow plums, for that fruit’s worthy too.
I’ll also pluck laurel, and myrtle leaves,
which waft sweet odors when they’re both bound up.

“But Alex flouts your gifts, coarse Corydon,
and if we judge by gifts, Iöllas wins.
But ah! I wound myself! My buds are lost
to southern winds, and boars thrash in my pools.

“I madly roam! The gods, too, roamed the woods,
and Trojan Paris. Give Athena towns,
and let me love the woods above all else.
The savage lion hunts the wolf, who hunts
the frisky goat, who hunts the clover-blooms,
and Corydon hunts Alex: each one dragged
by his own lust.

                            “Now look: the oxen pull
their yoked-up plows back home, and shadows creep.
But love still burns me: what can limit love?
What madness holds you fast, ah Corydon!
Your half-pruned vine still drapes the leafy elm.
At least make something useful: take some twigs,
perhaps, and tie them up with grass. 
You’ll find another Alex if you’re scorned.”

—Virgil, Bucolics, II. My translation.

Vergilius Romanus (an illustrated manuscript), 5th century.
Formosum pastor Corydon ardebat Alexin,
delicias domini, nec quid speraret habebat.
Tantum inter densas, umbrosa cacumina, fagos
adsidue veniebat. Ibi hæc incondita solus
montibus et silvis studio jactabat inani;

“O crudelis Alexi, nihil mea carmina curas?
nil nostri miserere? mori me denique cogis?
Nunc etiam pecudes umbras et frigora captant,
nunc virides etiam occultant spineta lacertos,
Thestylis et rapido fessis messoribus æstu
alia serpyllumque herbas contundit olentis.
At mecum raucis, tua dum vestigia lustro,
sole sub ardenti resonant arbusta cicadis.
Nonne fuit satius tristis Amaryllidos iras
atque superba pati fastidia? nonne Menalcan,
quamvis ille niger, quamvis tu candidus esses?
O formose puer, nimium ne crede colori;
alba ligustra cadunt, vaccinia nigra leguntur.

“Despectus tibi sum nec qui sim quæris, Alexi,
quam dives pecoris, nivei quam lactis abundans.
mille meæ Siculis errant in montibus agnæ;
lac mihi non æstate novum, non frigore defit.
canto quæ solitus, si quando armenta vocabat,
Amphion Dircæus in Actæo Aracyntho.
Nec sum adeo informis; nuper me in litore vidi,
cum placidum ventis staret mare. Non ego Daphnin
judice te metuam, si numquam fallit imago.

“O tantum libeat mecum tibi sordida rura
atque humilis habitare casas et figere cervos
hædorumque gregem viridi compellere hibisco!
Mecum una in silvis imitabere Pana canendo.
Pan primum calamos cerâ conjungere pluris
instituit, Pan curat ovis oviumque magistros;
nec te pœniteat calamo trivisse labellum.
Hæc eadem ut sciret, quid non faciebat Amyntas?
Est mihi disparibus septem compacta cicutis
fistula, Damœtas dono mihi quam dedit olim
et dixit moriens: te nunc habet ista secundum;
dixit Damœtas, invidit stultus Amyntas.
Præterea duo—nec tuta mihi valle reperti—
capreoli sparsis etiam nunc pellibus albo,
bina die siccant ovis ubera; quos tibi servo.
Jam pridem a me illos abducere Thestylis orat;
et faciet, quoniam sordent tibi munera nostra.

“Huc ades, o formose puer, tibi lilia plenis
ecce ferunt Nymphæ calathis; tibi candida Naïs,
pallentis violas et summa papavera carpens,
narcissum et florem jungit bene olentis anethi;
tum casia atque aliis intexens suavibus herbis
mollia luteolâ pingit vaccinia calthâ.
Ipse ego cana legam tenera lanugine mala
castaneasque nuces, mea quas Amaryllis amabat;
addam cerea pruna—honos erit huic quoque pomo—
et vos, o lauri, carpam et te, proxime myrte,
sic positæ quoniam suavis miscetis odores.

“Rusticus es, Corydon; nec munera curat Alexis
nec, si muneribus certes, concedat Iöllas.
Heu heu, quid volui misero mihi? Floribus Austrum
perditus et liquidis inmissi fontibus apros.

“Quem fugis, a, demens? Habitarunt dî quoque silvas
Dardaniusque Paris. Pallas quas condidit arces
ipsa colat; nobis placeant ante omnia silvæ.
torva leæna lupum sequitur, lupus ipse capellam,
florentem cytisum sequitur lasciva capella,
te Corydon, o Alexi; trahit sua quemque voluptas.
Aspice, aratra jugo referunt suspensa juvenci
et sol crescentis decedens duplicat umbras.
Me tamen urit amor; quis enim modus adsit amori?
A, Corydon, Corydon, quæ te dementia cepit!
semiputata tibi frondosâ vitis in ulmo.
Quin tu aliquid saltem potius, quorum indiget usus,
viminibus mollique paras detexere junco?
Invenies alium si te hic fastidit Alexin.”

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