Four Erasures from Virgil

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[I have seen a wolf]

Bring Daphnis home, bring Daphnis home, my charms.
Moeris gave me these herbs and poison plants
That come from Pontus, where they grow aplenty.
How often I have seen how by their aid
He turned into a wolf loping away
Into the woods, and I have seen him use them
To call up ghosts out of their graves, or cause
The seeds one farmer just put down in his field
To fly away at night to grow in another’s.
Bring Daphnis home, bring Daphnis home, my charms.
Now, Amaryllis, take the embers out
And carry them to a stream, and turn around,
And throw them over your shoulder into the stream,
And don’t look back. Thus will I win back Daphnis,
Who doesn’t know what gods and charms can do.
Bring Daphnis home, bring Daphnis home, my charms.
O see! before they’re carried out the ashes
Suddenly, of their own accord, burst forth,
And the altar burns once more with quivering flames.
Let this be good.—I think it may be good.
The dog is barking down by the front gate.
Can I believe it, or is it that lovers dream?
Cease now, my charms, my Daphnis has come home!

[The dew is an O]

The cool shadows of night had scarcely gone
Away from the morning sky, just at the time
When the dew on the tender grass most pleases the flock,
When, leaning on his elegant olive-staff,
Damon began his song:
……………………………………..“Arise, O star
That greets the brightening day, while I lament
Because my sworn love Nysa has deceived me;
Although no help has come for me from them,
I call on the gods to witness as I die.
……….My flute, begin to play Maenalus’ song.
There’s music in the groves that grow upon
The sides of Mount Maenalus, music of Pan,
Who first called music forth from silent reeds,
The songs of shepherds telling of their loves.
……….My flute, begin to play Maenalus’ song.
Nysa given to Mopsus! What is it that
Lovers can hope for? Griffins and mares will mate,
And in the next age the timid doe will come
Down to the stream to drink along with dogs.
……….My flute, begin to play Maenalus’ song.
Let them light up the torches, Mopsus, they
Are bringing you your bride. The Evening Star
Is rising for you now from behind the mountain.
……….My flute, begin to play Maenalus’ song.
That she, who scorned all men, and scorned my goats,
My shepherd’s flute, my shaggy beard and eyebrows,
And thought the gods cared nothing for anything human,
That she should be the bride of such as him!
……….My flute, begin to play Maenalus’ song.
I saw you, when you were a little child.
Your mother was with you. I led you to the place
In our garden where there was the apple tree,
With dewy apples growing on the boughs.
I was just going on twelve, just tall enough
To reach up to the branches to pick the apples.
I saw, I saw, and I was lost forever.
……….My flute, begin to play Maenalus’ song.
I know what Love is. He was born on the rocks
Of Tmaros or of Rhodope or else
Far in the Garamantian Desert. Love
Is not of our blood and he is not of our kind.
……….My flute, begin to play Maenalus’ song.
Love taught a mother how to stain her hands
With the blood of her children. Tell me, Mother, which
Of the two of you was the crueler one? Which one
Of the two, was it, Mother, cruel Love, or you?
……….My flute, begin to play Maenalus’ song.
Let wolves run away from sheep, let golden apples
Suddenly be the fruit of mighty oaks,
Narcissus bloom on the boughs of adder trees,
And amber ooze from the bark of tamarisks;
Let owls complete with swans, and Tityrus
Compete with Orpheus—an Orpheus of the woods,
Let Tityrus be Arion among the dolphins.
……….My flute, begin to play Maenalus’ song.
Farewell to woods, let all be ocean now.
Headlong I’ll fall to my death from this high cliff.
My song be my last offering to you.
……….Thus ends, my flute, the song of Maenalus.

[I am spellbound in the field]


The muse of the shepherd Alphesiboeus and Damon,
At whose contending songs the very cattle
Were spellbound in the field, forgetting to graze—
The lynx was spellbound too, hearing the music—
And the rivers, spellbound, stood still listening—
I sing the Muse of Damon and Alphesiboeus.
Whether it be that you are passing by
The great rocks at the mouth of the river Timavus
Or sailing homeward along the Illyrian coast,
I long for the day when I shall be able to sing
In celebration of your victories,
And celebrate to all the world as well
Your Sophoclean music. These songs of mine,
In my beginning, are for you; and when
I come to the end, it shall be in your service.
Accept these songs written at your command;
May these few ivy leaves be among your laurels.

[Thus the softest wool]

Thus Damon’s song. Pierian maidens, come,
Help me to tell how Alphesiboeus replied.


“Bring water, and bring the ribbons of softest wool
To wind around the altar, and light the fire
Of aromatic woods and frankincense
To make the incense smoke, and I will with
Such magic strive to change my lover’s mind.
All that is needful now is a charm to sing.
……….Bring Daphnis home, bring Daphnis home, my charms.
Charms can entice the moon down out of the sky;
Ulysses’ men were changed by Circe’s charms;
Charms can cause the snake in the field to burst.
……….Bring Daphnis home, bring Daphnis home, my charms.
I weave the threads around your image thrice,
Three-colored threads, and carry the image thrice
Around the altar, for the god loves threes.
……….Bring Daphnis home, bring Daphnis home, my charms.
Weave, Amaryllis, weave, three threads around,
And make three times three-colored knots, and say
‘With these three threads I weave the chains of love.’
……….Bring Daphnis home, bring Daphnis home, my charms.
As in one fire this image made of clay
Grows hard and this of wax grows soft, so may
The heart of Daphnis melt for love of me.
Cast meal about, light bitumen pitch and burn
The crackling laurel boughs; Daphnis burns me;
This in the laurel fire may Daphnis melt.
……….Bring Daphnis home, bring Daphnis home, my charms.
May he be seized by such desire as that
Of a lovesick heifer longing for her bull,
Who weary and lost from following where he went
Lies down in the grass that grows beside the stream
That through the deep woods flows; weary and lost,
Forgetful of her home far into the night;
May he be seized by such desire as hers,
And I not care at all to be the cure.
……….Bring Daphnis home, bring Daphnis home, my charms.
These garments he, perfidious, left as pledges;
Now I commit them, earth, to you before
The threshold of my house; these garments are
The pledges that my Daphnis belongs to me.

Eclogue 8 from THE ECLOGUES OF VIRGIL by David Ferry. Copyright © 1999 by David Ferry.
Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.