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A dispute between townsmen and country folk
CORNIX spacerspacerFULICA

spacerCOR. Winter’s snows have come, the north wind is bellowing, and icicles hang from the roof. blue Having bedded his oxen the plowman is resting, and the ground lies asleep. blue His sheepfold shut up, the shepherd, snug in his cloak, idly beguiles the time, and seated before the hearth, sooty Neaera is cooking polenta. blue Now we commend the summer season, intolerable to us before; and wintertime, commended once in summer’s irksome heat, we now find displeasing. The presence of winter’s chill condemns the cold weather we once wished for.
spacerFUL. Every good thing, when it comes, is less than it seemed. Things hoped for seem great, just as distance makes a reflected light seem greater than it is.
spacerCOR. And every season has its own delights and joys. See how unkempt and ragged boys rejoice in the slaughter of a pig. Putting beans in the bladder they blow it up to make a ball. Then it resounds and darts about, driven now by their feet, now with their elbows, struck now head on by their clenched fists. If it falls, they loft it in the air again. The effort of running back and forth drives winter away. A simple ball defeats the icy cold. We, however, kept warm beneath the straw, pass the time better here while our milk is curdling, heated on the fire again.
spacerFUL. Still, winter reveals our poverty. blue A shortsighted lot, to be sure, are we young men! Carefree in summer we roam about forgetful of winter, and the piper has all our money. Then when the north wind returns from Scythia and the trees, stripped bare of their falling leaves, reveal the birds’ nests within them, we freeze with cold, our shoulders, backs, sides, and the soles of our feet all bare. And winter reveals our folly. The city man more wisely heaps up his pile of coins and warms his sides with skins from the fox and sheep, and from the spotted back of the lynx.
spacer COR. All men lack reason, we country folk aren’t alone in being arraigned. Indeed, a graver madness vexes city men. Yet Fortune, a mother to them, a stepmother to us, oppresses us sorely. Madness is an unlucky lot. Grant that I might have good fortune and I will be wealthy and a well–known townsman. All men will rise and listen to me; with bared heads the crowd will revere me; the multitude, the whole mob will consult me, even the judges, both the citizens and the city fathers.
spacer FUL. Ah, Cornix, Cornix, not Fortune but the mind itself makes a man wise. And God, not Fortune, gives man his power. Amyntas used to recount the reason.
spacerCOR. Nay, Fortune is God. But pray tell me what Amyntas recounted: in argument he was always clever and shrewd. But before you do, look briefly to the herd and stables. Go and return. Warmth is sweeter after cold. Go.

spacerFUL. [Going outside.] The snow is up to my knees. The roofs are scarcely supporting so much weight. The peak of the oven rises at its top in a pointed cone.
spacerCOR. Give late–grown hay to the herd. blue If a wall gapes wide, close its chinks with stubble. And when you return, be sure to stop up the door sill with dung. Besides the cold, no other plague is more harmful to a herd. [Fulica departs but soon returns.] What, already returned? Oh, why this unusual haste?
spacerFUL. Winter quickens my pace: in cold and heat I’m most nimble. [Settling down by the fire.] And after being in the cold it is pleasant to lie down in the warm hay and bury myself in its hollowed–out bed.
spacerCOR. Begin then and recount the difference between the country fellow and the city man.
spacer FUL. Our Amyntas used to say that thus arose so great a difference between the country fellow and city man:
spacerIn the beginning, when the world had first been created, the Framer of the heavens (for so Amyntas called God—I still remember the name!), joining man with woman in a bond of marriage, bade them be fruitful and taught them how to bring their offspring into being. They made ready for the task and faithfully fulfilled His commands—and would that, in eating the apple, His commandments had been observed! Eve became a mother and bore a boy and girl; and abounding yearly in like number of offspring, she vastly increased the beginnings of our race. After thrice five years God returned. While Eve was combing her children’s hair, she looked outside  from the doorway and saw Him coming. Adam was away. Free from care, he was pasturing his sheep. For as yet no one was mistrusted as an adulterer. But after the number of marriages increased, marital trust was betrayed, goats were made hornless, and wives were suspected by their jealous husbands. For whatever anyone does, he fears will be done secretly to him. Mother Eve blushed, and, having reckoned so many children a grave sign of too much desire, hastened to hide some of them. Among the hay she buried them and hid them in the chaff. Then, having entered the house, God blessed those within and said, “Woman, bring hither your children.” She bade her eldest children come forth. God smiled on them just as we smile on a bird’s tiny nestlings or on small puppies. And having rejoiced in the first of them He said, “Take this regal scepter. You will be a king.” But a sword and weapons of war he gave to the second child and said, “You will be a general.” And then He brought forth the citizens’ fasces and axes, centurions’ staffs, and Rome’s famous javelins. blue And when He had divided these distinguished offices among all her offspring, He stood in silence considering their mortal honors. Meanwhile Mother Eve, pleased by these favorable gifts, flew to the sheepcote and brought forth unbidden the children she had hidden there, saying, “These too are the dear pledges of my womb. You will deem them worthy, almighty Father, of some gift.” Their bristly heads were white with chaff, straw clung to their shoulders, yes and even spider webs, the sort that hang down from ancient ceilings. God smiled not on them, but troubled, with a sad countenance, He said, “You smell of hay, earth, and straw. Yours then will be the goad, mattock, and dibble, yours will be the plowshare and yoke, yours will be all things belonging to the fields. You will become plowmen and shepherds, yes and mowers, ditchers, rivermen, and herdsmen. But I will give some of you to the city to be poultry men, butchers, sutlers, bakers, and others of this kind accustomed to befoul their hands in toil. Sweat and serve your betters throughout your lives.” And having spoken in such a way, the Almighty returned to Heaven.
spacer Thus, declared Mantoan Amyntas, blue was created the race of servants, thus began the difference between the country fellow and the city man.
spacerCOR. I was always amazed if Amyntas spoke anything honest. He lived in the city, and city wags, whose only business is these foolish fables, are forever mocking us. They are always reviling country folk, for the city’s babbling and idle chatter invents such tales. Indeed, they aren’t ashamed to invent such trifles even about the gods above. This kind of joke carries its own reproof, and yet you are so naïve, your belly is so puffed out blue that you don’t consider that you are being sniped at by their ridicule. But let us also turn our thoughts for a little while to the folly of the city lest by chance you think that they live more wisely who gleam with gold and are resplendent in purple.
spacerWith my own eyes I have seen many men who proudly arrayed themselves and paced regally in the marketplace but whom hunger and poverty secretly oppressed in their homes. Certainly nothing is more foolish than that sort of people: feigned riches, but in their lives poverty, laziness, and sloth—what is this other than true folly? And I have even seen fathers (oh, shameful and unspeakable thing!) who, as long as they wished to laze about and live in splendor, prostituted their daughters with common husbands. What was ever more wicked? more treacherous? more foolish?

spacerFUL. But what if they can live by no other means?
spacer COR. Since they have as much spirit and strength as we, tell me why they can live by no other means!
spacerFurthermore, there are men whose frenzied diligence seeks vain riches where no man has ever found them. With potions drawn from herbs they bathe their copper coins and judge them changed into gold; and they are always pale in the black soot. Further, there are men who, as long as they desire the gold that lies hidden in the earth, toil in the study of magic and waste their time. What was ever more trifling, futile, and empty? They explore all manner of things thoroughly so as not to work the earth in the fields. So that they might do nothing, they try everything. They are always doing, they accomplish naught. Through usury city men extort an infamous living; they labor by force, fraud, and deception. In a thousand ways they scheme to seize wealth and honors. We pasture goats, sheep, and cattle. They feed hunting falcons and young hounds, fine horses and monkeys. The countryman is a pastor of sheep, the city man a keeper of birds and hounds. Which in your judgment is better and nobler? Which one, Fulica, is more useful? which produces greater wealth?
spacerFUL. But if greater wealth comes from our toil, whence then comes the city man’s great riches?

spacerCOR. From force, fraud, and deception. They labor by force, fraud, and deception. Madman! don’t you see how they cruelly oppress us? with what cunning they enthrall us? To ensnare us with words they think a sacred, a lofty, pious act. To this they impel their ears and eyes, their mouths and hands.
spacerFUL. Where did you gain so much expertise in the ways of the city? blue
spacerCOR. I learned it once when, having led my goats within the city’s walls, I walked through it crying out “milk for sale.” I stayed with a baker. Cunning he was, easily inclined to every kind of thievery and quick to pare the bottom off the unbaked bread with his knife. As he was well versed in the ways of the city, he himself betrayed its tricks to me, affirming that nothing was more wicked than the city. Indeed, he used to say that it had taught him how to steal.
Nay, there are even city men who squander on whoring the patrimony procured by their forefathers. What is fouler and more wicked? Tell me, where do you find the arts of adultery, murder, and sedition? Don’t they hold sway among city men and within city walls? Why are there kings who seek kingdoms through men’s wounds and who drive their subjects to their deaths? Why are there soldiers who fling their breasts against enemy arrows and pass through a thousand perils? For a paltry fee they give their lives—no madness is greater! Men value glory above their lives. But what are glory and praise? what is fame? what is honor?—the words and opinion of the mob! Time at length effaces all things; and when you have ceased living, all things vanish, just as light departs with the setting of the sun. Foolish are those men who vex the sea with their oars though they might live in the land of their fathers. Foolish is the man who trusts to the wind and waves; foolish he who has wealth but fails to spend it; most foolish the man who, to heap up a legacy for his children, holds himself back from spending what he has acquired, cheating his desires, and the man who leaves things to be done by his children that he himself could have done. Those who number the stars and think they are able to comprehend their fates, those men are fools. But, indeed, madder still than those is the man who pries into the nature of God and dares to train so feeble a glimmer on so immense a light. The faith of us country folk is better than the townsman’s. Constrained by reason, he gives his assent only with difficulty; but we believe in all things that are plainly expressed and light more tapers at our altars. The townsman has a faithless faith. God’s secrets never allow our minds to inquire into them. Should we need to understand the gods, they have the power to reveal themselves to us. But in truth, since they choose to hide themselves, why is it necessary to search after knowledge that they themselves who govern all things deny us to know? Moreover we give our alms more readily than does the townsman. For how much food is gathered from our fields in a few days by those men who celebrate mass and keep watch over our churches? I myself have seen the fruits of the countryside sought out and carried by fully laden boats (for such is rural piety) from the countryside within the city’s walls.
spacerThere is another incurable race of fools: lawyers, brawlers, and court tub thumpers—skilled in catching at coins and tyrants over the law. For money these men peddle their pleading. Dragging out cases and hanging up lawsuits for a long time is, so to speak, their harvest. And there is that equestrian race of doctorsblue that often don’t hesitate to touch forbidden veins and impose names by chance on sicknesses they don’t understand. These men, although they grope in darkness, are empowered to torment the sick and kill men with impunity. And indeed, those among the people who have control over and govern men, the more rights and greater license they have, the more they are accustomed to unleash their madness. Oh, where are those holy rulers and friends of justice and piety whom our fathers used to talk about before the hearth late at night? Now everything is going to wrack and ruin. Our pillaged churches lament their fate, the poor groan, and widows weep—and what is the cause of all this evil? Because desire stands in the place of law!
spacer FUL. This eruption of your anger, Cornix, transgresses the limits of honesty. You are accusing everyone of each of these crimes. Remember that innocent men also live in the city.
spacerCOR. Snakes live not in the land near Majorca (I forget its name) blue nor do owls dwell on Crete blue nor in Egeria’s grove dwells the horse with his resounding hooves—and the good man lives not in the town!

spacerFUL. A good man is a rare being and dwells in few places in the city and countryside. Virtue indeed is most rare.
spacerCOR. Fulica, you’re a madman!—you have as many enemies in the town as there are townsmen. They shear us, they fleece us, careless of our lives. They compel us to steal, then they themselves send us to the gallows. Right it is then that, if a thing is offered to our claws, we pluck it and deplume gently and carefully whatever we have snared. If someone sees these deeds, excuse them. If they are hidden, deny that they are thefts: the theft that stays hidden isn’t a wrong. Whatever the townsman possesses results from our labor and industry.
spacerFUL. Now you far exceed the bounds of reason and fairness!
spacer COR. Nay, Fulica, the city’s wickedness is defiling the entire world! Whence come over the land all those storms in summer, all that lightning, wind, floods, and hail? I remember seeing the earth shake, doors and roofs collapse, the sun obscured, and the moon darkened at night. blue Why does the darnel blue lord over the crops and the wild oat over the harvest? why does the grape turn all to tendrils? and why do the flowers of springtime perish in darkness? The city man’s wickedness is pregnant with all these evils, and it will in turn bring forth more. Whence come that fury of weapons and tumult of war that bring with them every kind of wickedness? The city is the fount and source of all evil. Lycaon came from the city. blue Deucalion and his  wife, Pyrrha, were countrybred. Lycaon brought a flood on the earth, Deucalion put an end to it. Lycaon put an end to the human race, Deucalion restored it. If (as men say) the earth is ever destroyed by fire, that horror will arise from the deeds of some city.
spacerFUL. Limit now, oh Cornix, this discourse of yours. For a long time now I have been hearing the shepherd boys talking about porridge. If anything remains to be said, speak of it after the midday meal. The hour urges us, having put aside all talk about the city, to enjoy our porridge.

The conversion of young men to the religious life,
When the author is already aspiring to enter religious orders

ALPHUS spacerspacerGALBULA

spacerALPH. Galbula, what do you think? Pollux, blue once a most skilled piper, as if suddenly touched by some god, has forsaken his pipe, coat, herds, and companions. His head hooded like a field lark, four days ago he retired into the ascetic’s cloisters. They say that while he pastured his sheep alone in the fields he saw some sort of divine apparition. I don’t remember the rest—but you, Galbula, what do you think?
spacerGAL. As our forefathers declared, when God established the beginnings of  things—I will sing now of great matters that Umber blue once related to me—He instituted farming and the keeping of flocks. blue The first tiller of the field was rude, savage, and harsh: like idle, rocky soil rebellious to the plow. But the first shepherd—a progeny most mild, like a ewe that lacks choler and that abounds in milk—kind he was, never harsh towards his fellows. Often from his own flock he laid a sacrifice on the altar. With a sheep or fatted calf but more often with a lamb he made his sacrifice and with great offerings solicited the favor of the gods. [20] He so advanced himself in their eyes, so bent their will that from the world’s beginning to this day the tending of sheep has been most pleasing to Heaven. Certain Assyrians blue —ah, I’ve forgotten their names! care has shattered my thoughts—God once made from shepherds into kings who, splendid afterwards in purple and gold, conquered proud nations in war. When on Trojan Ida Paris blue viewed the three goddesses —Paris or that other man who slew his boy before the altar blue —he was a shepherd. When Moses, terrified by the fire from heaven, blue came barefooted through the fields to reveal this miracle, Moses, plucked once from the river, was a shepherd. [32] An exile among the Greeks, Apollo traversed Amphrysus’ fields as a shepherd, the honor of his godhead put aside. When Christ was born in a stable, heavenly spirits sang to shepherds in their sheepfolds of the birth of God the Son. And when they had learned of the recent miracle of his divine birth, they were the first to see the newborn God of Thunder, blue and, before wise men and kings, the infant King of Heaven allowed shepherds to behold His cradle. God called Himself too a shepherd, blue and He called sheep those men of mild disposition and tranquil mind. [42] And lest you reckon these things empty dreams, coming recently from the city into the countryside I scanned all these matters in the paintings within a church. Sheep were pictured there and small lambs lay on the ground by their mothers. A great band of horsemen descended a mountain’s heights. Celestial diadems beamed with gold and held fixed the passing observer’s wandering eye. No wonder then if Pollux, our fellow, saw a divine spirit: the gods love cottages, sheep, and sheepfolds. God is present to the simple of heart, is offended by cunning.
spacerALPH. You answer truly. As surely as I hope the pastures may not be harmful to my flock, I too have seen that ass, stable, and ox. blue Now I recall the coming of that retinue. Further, I seem to see the Indian features of those kings bearing their gifts. But one thing, pray: tell me what sort of apparition appeared to Pollux? If you know, Galbula, let it not be burdensome to speak of the whole matter.
spacerGAL. I both know and am pleased to recount the story. It is a thing worthy to be told and heard, a pious, saintly act, a deed to be imitated.
spacer His stern, harsh father and domineering stepmother blue burdened Pollux sorely in his youth when that fresh time of life is wont to prompt sweet thoughts. And since his patience, weak from this longstanding burden, failed him and by no stratagem could he gentle their hatred, he resolved to attempt his escape. But one thing, though he wished to go, long held him: he loved too impetuously, for love is the universal error of youthful years. Love is a strong force, but cruelty a stronger. He went, and departing (for he used to recount his love to me) with a mournful look he lamented in words such as these:

spacer“Ah, my girl, will you allow tears to flow from your eyes when you see that you have been left behind by your lover, so dear to you? Will you sigh at all at my leaving? By chance will you ever cruelly forget me? Will your heart be able to grow so cold—that heart that has so often filled my eyes with tears? Will you not often sigh and become pale? Ah! I see her eyes, I see her tears and troubled heart. Alas, by what art will it be possible to hide so great a sorrow? A two–fold sorrow, hers and mine, is wracking my heart. blue But I can weep, which she is forbidden to do; and a fire long hidden rages still greater. Oh, you gods, keep her safe and sound for me so that when, my exile ended, I shall return to my native fields, my love may be made happy at least once before my old age.”
spacerSpeaking such words he was carrying out his resolve to flee, yet he wished to turn back—so great a love, so great a rage stirred him—but, his flight known to all, the die had already been cast. Under Hercules’ leafy boughs blue he sat wearied by mourning. And behold! a virgin crowned with a girl’s coronet, her face, hands, eyes, and manner most like to a nymph. blue And thus she addressed the grieving lad:
spacer “Dear boy, where are you directing your course? blue Turn around! You know not, alas, you know not where this path is leading you; and you dare wander in unknown places, thinking that throughout these grassy plains there are no snares or danger. You consider everything safe and, in the customary way of dull–witted youth, believe that what pleases also profits. Often a serpent hides coiled deep in the grass within the gentle shade. It is easy for him to strike the unwary. A tiny child extends his innocent fingers into the glowing fire, nor, unless he has already been hurt, does he understand its strength. This region blue has been wont to deceive those entering it with its pleasant approach. Pleasures it offers and delights. But for those who have entered, though nothing sad might be thought to remain, it supplies a thousand snares and displays a thousand perils. This path, when you have crossed that hill there, leads into a shady wood, blue the cruel hospice of wild beasts, a hideous place of decay and darkness. blue Whoever, deceived by this way, departs on it is forbidden to return. blue First his eyes are covered by a pitch–black band blue and then, dragged through all the grove, through thorny thickets, blue he is changed into the likeness of a monster. When he tries to roll his tongue and speak, he bellows. When he thinks to lift himself up, he walks four–footed on the ground and looks not up to the stars. A sable–surfaced lake takes up the depths of this gloomy valley, and a mountain looms large over its black waves. Dragged hence, men are hurled headlong into the deep abyss of its Stygian waters. blue And plunged thus into the swift whirlpool, they are swept into the Lower World and Erebus’ eternal shadows. blue Alas, how many shepherds, driven on through these winding ways, have perished with their flocks!
spacer “I myself, ever diligent, show the way. Here unwearied I stand watchful to bring aid. Therefore put an end to your delay. Flee the alluring palace of an imminent death. Seek a secure, secluded seacoast where, facing Idalian waves, blue in my honor Mount Carmel blue raises high in the air its head wreathed in green trees. To the patriarchs of old this place first provided caves and houses of trees within a grove thick with ilex. From this peak reverence for God comes, blue led off into your mountains, just as streams issue from an unceasing fount or many descendants from a single sire. Within the woods of this peak where the silver fir rises high, where the bark of the rich pitch–pine and terebinth oozes with resin, after you have successfully led a life of innocence, your youth will soon be renewed with the change of years. blue To a better place forever green shall I raise you. You will be the gods’ immortal companion. You will be allowed to move through Heaven among wood nymphs, mountain nymphs, and nymphs of the dells, nymphs decked with garlands of flowers and fragrant herbs; blue and you will be permitted to learn of the heavens both above and below.”
spacerHaving thus spoken, the girl departed into the insubstantial air. Pollux swore that at that moment his feelings suddenly changed and that the fury in his heart, straightway overcome, expired: just as a blaze will abate if the Po overflows and headlong spews all its waters into the burning fields. Thus cruel Love expired, who, so long as Pollux resisted the beginnings of love and was cool and timid in his desire, had often used up his whole quiver on the lad. And thus Pollux entered within the silent cloisters.
spacer ALPH. There are men whom the gods of their own accord favor even though they are unwilling to accept their gifts. And there are men towards whom the gods are hostile without cause or offense.
spacerGAL. The control we have over our sheep the gods have over us. It is enough for the countryside and its people to know this. Let the city be more loftily wise. Jannus, our priest, returning once from the city, taught this truth and said that he had read it in a large book. blue
spacerALPH. The sun is setting and scarcely touches Baldo’s top. blue It is time now for us too to retire with the tardy sun. Let it not grieve you, Galbula, to carry the packs. Light is my satchel, light too my wine bottle. In the evening it is small labor to carry all these things. At morn it is a heavy but a worthwhile burden. I myself will guide the flock. That will be my portion of the toil.

The piety of country folk

spacerCAN. Summer’s solstice having returned, Alphus, the rugged earth is parched by drought. The season counsels us to drive our herds as usual to the mountains where the dew is on the grass and the summer is more gentle.
spacerAL. Far away I see the airy mountains’ topmost peaks. But (I’ll confess the truth to you) what the mountains are like I know not, for I have always lived on the lowland plains and among lakes. With what crops do mountain fields abound? blue
spacerCAN. Oh, rude and barbarous soul! Having always lived near rivers like a coot amid muddy lowlands where there are bogs filled with frogs, gnats, fleas, and bugs, having dwelt among willows, sedge, and green reeds you dare to ridicule the mountains and esteem them a trifle. Whence flow the rivers? Where is so much marble quarried to found our churches? Where is glittering gold begotten? What earth produces yardarms for our boats? From whose herbs but the mountains’ come our medicines? From Baldo’s peak I have often gathered black hellebore blue —no medicine is better for my goats. Aegon from Val Sasina blue once gave me this herb when he was castrating swine and young sheep in the springtime. He gave it to me and said, “Keep this medicine as yours alone.” Tell me, where are there more chestnuts? where a greater store of acorns? In the high mountains I have beheld founts and pastureland, I have seen meat pies and thick polenta blue consumed. People are hardy there. Strong young men with big feet, shoulders toughened by toil, and sinewy arms, a shaggy, rugged band unwearied from carrying heavy loads—from mountain vales these men come together here to see to the cargos of our ships. No kind of man is fitter for the town. blue If you want to castrate bulls or split beech trees, if you want dung carried from your stables or wish to clean sewers or toilets or open gutters clogged with refuse or descend a deep well on a ladder, these men have both seasoned skills and hardy vigor. But why say more? They endure all kinds of work. For serving food in taverns, building fires, turning spits with a skilled hand and cleaning chimneys, for lugging cattle guts to the river and sweeping up unsightly dirt with a broom they are a most able race. And—what I greatly wonder at—under their heavy burdens they always bustle lightly about. They are born among hard flints and live along the steep mountain ridges. With their goats they dwell in the caves of wild beasts.
spacerMoreover, the passage to heaven is brief from the mountains’ heights. blue They raise their uplifted tops into the clouds. Some peaks rise above the clouds, I think they touch the stars! Men state that there is a place, where Titan rises from the sea, whose top (unless I have forgotten their tale) touches the moon. Moreover, a man lived there but he was banished afterwards for the wickedness of his gluttony, since he bit into every kind of fruit there and reserved none for the mighty God of Thunder.
spacerHence the gods and blessed patriarchs chose quiet dwellings in the high mountains: witness the Grande Chartreuse, Carmel, Gargano, Athos, Loreto, and Alverno; Sinai, Soracte’s peak, and Vallombrosa; blue the peaks renowned for the destiny of that aged Nursian, blueand Camaldoli, its blessed top castled by lofty firs. Others I omit, for it is not my intent to include every peak. Heaven’s dwellers oft resort to mountain peaks, but the swampy lowlands are frequented by duck, diver, and goose, by ibis, pelican, kite, and coot.
spacerAL. In praising the mountain regions so greatly why was nothing said about the crop and vine? All the same, these are the two greatest stays of human life. From their crags mountain people come to us to buy their barley. Grim of look they are and sooty, shaggy and lean, ragged and decrepit—the natives show the nature of a place! But what you said about religious devotion in the mountains brings to mind what men are saying about Pollux. What goddess (if you know), what nymph, Candidus, appeared to him? Tell me, for this quarrel we’ve begun is useless; more useful is a discussion kept to pious matters.
spacerCAN. Galbula, who along with you used to drive the sheep to pasture, could have told you enough of what you want to know.
spacerAL. Indeed, many things were recounted about Pollux; but of the Nymph herself he said nothing, nor do I remember to have asked. Now she entered my thoughts when piety was mentioned. And in truth, piety seems to me the greatest of her glories.
spacerCAN. She was neither wood nymph, mountain nymph, nor nymph of the fount.  From Heaven she came, queen of the gods above, mother of the God of Thunder, destined to bring peace to young men panting with emotion. blue She is waited upon by Tethys and life–giving Ceres, blue by Aeolus himself, who bridles the winds in his sea caves. God has lifted her above the fires of the  stars and the Sun’s winged horses and beyond glittering Cassiopeia. He has bound her sacred forehead with twice six stars and has cast the moon under her feet. blue
spacerAL. Candidus, you speak of wonders unknown ever to any shepherd. What’s Tethys? What’s glittering Cassiopeia? Who’s Aeolus, who bridles the winds in his sea caves? Who are the horses of the sun? Great and unknown matters you recount.
spacerCAN. Some are constellations, some gods of old. After Pollux had told me of them, he led me into a church and said, “That hallowed wall there will make everything known to you.” The wall was painted with many symbols and pictures. I do not remember all of them (for my memory is weak). I understood what follows only with difficulty while I turned it over again and again in my mind. Repeating a thing over and over is stronger than any other remedy.
spacer She has the power to drive the clouds from the dark sky. She can bestow streams of rain on the dry crops. When she wishes, she can release fresh springs into the hardened fields; when she wishes, she can seal up those founts she has released. Fields that are now infertile and bare of grass she can, if she wishes, change into rich land. When Scorpio receives Saturn’s chill star within his dismal house, if she wishes, hail will not destroy your barley nor will your house catch fire (since the sky is said to pour forth all these misfortunes at that time unto the earth from the raging stars). blue If she wishes, that maid will keep all these things safe for us. If she looks with favor on us, harvests will fill our granaries and breeding will always add twin lambs to our flock. If a sheep is barren and without fleece, with only a nod she can give it milk, fleece, and lambs. Indeed, she has the power to watch over our flocks and avert every sickness. There is no need now to follow Pan and the other gods of the fields whom men of old are said to have worshipped in vain. Around the Nymph’s altar I myself have seen hanging images of goats, carts, cattle, and sheep. Here I saw Jannus’ goat blue and recall reading a votive tablet inscribed with this verse: “This small offering Jannus rendered in return for his unharmed goat.” And while I was scanning the inscriptions, Pollux, his knees bent in prayer on the marble before the altar, sang this hymn:
spacer “Oh, Goddess who watches over the cities and fields, we pray you that the Po not overflow, that the screech owl not drain the blood of babes among the shades of night, blue and that evil spirits haunt not the crossroads. Goddess, smile on the farmer. Destroy the mole, that wicked pest with his molehills. When winter comes, remember, oh Goddess, to strew hoarfrost on the fertile crops lest the following year insect larvae gnaw at the grain. Guard his rich fig trees from the North Wind’s breath. Keep his beans from the crane’s bill and his grain from the marsh–dwelling goose. Keep cattle from the serpent, the farmyard from the fox and thief, skirret from the locust, vines from snow and hail. Guard the herd from the wolf’s strength and cunning. Protect crops from blight, puppies from rabies, our cottages from fire and lightning, bacon from theft by mice, ham from the soldier, green–growing gardens from caterpillars and sluggish—and sluggish...” (Alas! forgetting to follow what’s to be said, I can’t think of the rest. Oft a measure has brought back the words. blue Returning to the melody, perhaps I will dispel this forgetfulness from my mind. I’ll go back over the cadence.) “...bacon from theft by mice, ham from the soldier, green–growing gardens from caterpillars and sluggish snails...” (Alphus, see the power of melody? I recall the rest now!) “...keep our wine jars from the reechoing thunder, the new mothers in the herd from the cold and their calves from oppressive horseflies, and guard the hogs from quinsy lest the lads of the countryside lose their labor. Be present, oh Goddess, so that the drones harm not the swarm nor birds steal the millet nor fresh fleece pick up brambles nor the wool collect clinging burrs. Divine ruler of men, guardian of poets, divine repose for those who toil, balm for the mournful, and safeguard of the flock, nod assent, I pray you, to our prayers.”
spacer Thus Pollux prayed. Lingering by the door with my foot extended towards my staff, with exalted spirits I marked his orison and laid it up word by word in my memory.
Don’t you think, Candidus, that we ought to give something equal to Pollux’s great care for us, to the kindness of his prayer and his reverence for the gods? Herds grow by piety.
spacerCAN. Why shouldn’t we offer something? We ought to give our harrows.
spacerAL. You’re a rustic indeed: you said “harrows” [crates] instead of “thanks” [grates].
spacerCAN. “Harrows” and “thanks”—small difference. Something ought to be given—but not twice until Easter returns when the priests absolve us of the penance we have incurred.
spacerAL. What shall we give? The sacrifice of a calf is a grievous thing. A lamb or a hare?
Likewise, a goose is a praiseworthy offering.

spacerCAN. The season shows us the proper gift. Hares are the offering for winter, since they are unable to run in the snow. A goose suits the end of autumn at the beginning of November. Hazel nuts, fresh apples, and clusters of grapes are offerings for summertime. And suckling goats and lambs are the offerings right for spring. If at that time you spy among your late–born a sick and thin one that can’t live or be sold, let us (for it is enough if the gift be solemnly offered) let us offer that lamb.
spacerPollux himself, when I wished to return home after our meal, passed on to me a song on the Nymph’s solemn feast days blue and said, “If ever you are burdened by cares, sing over these verses. Look on this song as a balm for your thoughts:
spacer‘When Titan sinks downward from Leo and is entering the threshold of Virgo, then youths and grey–bearded old men rejoice in the Virgin,blue then did she pass over to the gods above and direct her course towards heavenly realms.
spacer ‘When throughout the world, three weeks days have passed, once more it is a feast day. blue The feast of her birth lights up her altar with tapers, the priest offers new made cakes. Libra is returning, hastening to make night equal with day. The fields of Ancona leap for joy. The Adriatic bears Illyrian and Chaonian ships. blue With their wares appear Tuscans, Umbrians, Venetians, Sicilians and travel in bands with their offerings to visit that church at Loreto. And when on its lofty hill they have fulfilled their vows, they direct their course to the market places with joy in their hearts.
spacer‘And when in his briefer course the Sun enters Sagittarius and the fields are chilled by consuming hoarfrost, Mary, cloistered within the penetrable cell for women in the temple, took God into her heart, her own parents wholly forgotten. blue
spacer‘And when, fleeing the bow of Chiron the centaur, the Sun languishes near the wintry Goat’s icy doorstep, let both men and women put on richly adorned apparel and joyfully celebrate that day when an aged father impregnated his wife’s womb with consecrated seed. For indeed that day brought to pass the blessed Nymph’s conception blue and forbade her to descend into our corruption. blue
spacer‘When the lamp of Phoebus flies under Aquarius’ rainbearing urns and is about to return to vernal days, being nearest at this point to spring, go then, all you young wives, light sacred fires on the altars, furnish them with incense and tapers, lead forth your procession: for then the virgin–mother brought fresh offerings into the temple.
    ‘When the Lord of the flock, blue shining in his golden, fleecy locks, begins to open the new year with warming west winds and to grant more hours to the day than to the night, let the winged Paranymph blue return to that room hidden from sight and deliver new instructions to the wondering girl. blue That feast day brings together all the people from the Tuscan hills, and to Florentine churches it calls folk dwelling on the banks of the Arno. Then too (but a short time before), a virgin, she was betrothed, blue and this day should be celebrated by delicate young girls. blue
spacer‘When Phoebus has been rolled forward under the edge of Cancer’s shell and the neighboring Dog Star brings sickness back, celebrate with incense a day of piety: for then Christ’s mother, a guest, returned from a mother to her own home. blue Around the altar hang the grainfields’ first fruits in honor of those two mothers.’”
  Pollux gave me these verses that, guarding his flock once in the mountains, he composed near the sheepfold while he pondered the scattered fires of heaven’s soldiery in the clear night. Concerning these matters too he gave me more verses, blue but Vesper, laying the sun at last to rest, allows me to sing no more.  

The ways of the Curia at Rome,
after his entry into religious orders


spacerFAUST. By what misfortune, Candidus, driven far from your fathers’ lands, have you come into these fields? Here are no pasturelands or rivers, no clear springs, secure sheepfolds, or shade. Yet flocks constantly pasture in these lands.
spacerCAN. Corydon, our fellow—who once kept many herds in this region and heaped up his savings—Corydon led me, Faustulus, to believe that the grass in those hills there would be wholesome for my flock. But after I saw the listless fields, lifeless stones, and dried–up springs, I regretted my long journey and leaving my homeland behind me.
spacerFAUST. Since it has befallen you to enter safe and sound into these Latin groves, by the right of our fellowship of old, you may enter my house here. My few acres of poor land yield me barely enough for my living. Yet such as it is, consider it yours. Perhaps some favorable destiny will come to you. Dame Fortune is much like the wind. Enter my hut of reeds until the heat of the day has passed. While the cattle, sunk down within the cool shade, are chewing their cud, lay aside your sheephook, lie down for a little while, refresh yourself with a drink.  Drink’s a necessity: for by drink we subdue this burdensome heat. Take hold of the cup, then—after a draught our words will flow finer. blue
spacerCAN. Crazed by so much heat, what man would refuse?
spacerFAUST. Wine lessens thirst and shields us from grievous thoughts. blue As it increases friendship, so wine fortifies our physical strength.
spacerCAN. This region—if this is local wine—grows good grapes.
spacer FAUST. Pour another cup! To drink once is to taste. A second drink rinses the mouth, the third cools a warm cheek, the fourth sets about disclosing armed warfare against thirst, the fifth brings the fight, the sixth is victorious, and the seventh (this is aged Oenophilus’ blue teaching) celebrates our triumph.
spacerCAN. It is a deed free from care to accept trustworthy advice. It is useful to lend an ear to an old man’s teaching. But though my thirst has been vanquished, my mind is still troubled and my cares remain.
spacerFAUST. Just as your thirst has been stilled, so too will be your troubled thoughts. Come, pour and drink the wine unmixed! This is the cure for your heartache, Rome uses this remedy for its cares.
spacerCAN. Each task and labor seeks a respite. Let the decanter repose for a little while, put on the stopper to keep out the flies.
spacerThe days here are not drenched by rain, damp night has no dew, nor can grass grow among the hard stones. Relentless famine, blue ceaseless toil, and the heat of the air have all wasted my flock. Their diseased breath scarce causes their weakened frames to move. Their haunch bones stick out, and meager bellies contract their hollow entrails. Here’s a ram that used to attack wolves with his forehead and horns. Now he is weaker than a ewe and more apt to flee than a fearful lamb. All this (but I was carried away too much by my burning desires) a crow foretold by a sign from the gods. Scarce had I stepped from my door when, bearing its unhappy omen, the bird came from my right and settled on the left side of my cottage roof; and calling out threateningly in a subdued voice, by its clear sign it held me from my journey. blue Alas, you hapless flock that used to abound in milk and offspring when you were allowed to pasture in our native fields. While you are looking for grass, you lose more vigor in journeying than you gain in pasturage. Here we both are wasting away together: you by your lean diet and I overcome by bitter cares.
spacer FAUST. Ah, the wealth of that land of ours! its flowery meadows and green fields! its pastures rich and fertile and its soil forever fruitful! its rivers everywhere running through farms and its brooks flowing through fields and gardens! On this side flocks, on that side fertile fields. Under the sign of Cancer when the sound of threshing everywhere fills the air and July burns with heat, the fields are green, hedges woven of pliant branches support their burden of fruit, and even among the brambles the wild herbs diffuse their fragrance.
spacerCAN. Ah, the sweet shade and soft murmuring of the groves! blue I remember gathering the delights of these with you in the cool shade close by the turtledove’s sighs and the songs of the swallow and nightingale when the orchards first begin to echo to the cicadas’ notes. A breeze, rustling among the leaves in the groves, came from the east, and above us a cornel tree stretched out its branches laden with berries. Lying on the ground I myself used to watch the sheep exult and the lambs contend eagerly against one another with their tender, new horns. After dreaming on the sward, sometimes, reclining on my back, blue I played my pipes or sang and sometimes, bent forward, I used to gather the gleaming red strawberries. blue
spacerFAUST. At that time you were able to live as a fortunate man and could be called blessed. blue But when fortune was good, you valued her cheaply— because as yet you had not known her harshness—and therefore she abandoned you. When she comes again (if by chance she ever returns), as vines cling with their upward–striving tendrils to the trunks of elms and squeeze them tightly, just so catch hold of her with your hand and, once you have caught her, don’t let her go. For she comes and goes, changes features, is inconstant in her image: like witches who men say wander among the shades of night. Like her looks, her intentions are changeable. Delighting in deception, she takes back what she’s given. She weighs nothing, all goes by chance. She rejects and despises men who fear her too much or are too wise in her ways.
spacer CAN. Whenever I remember the delights of my fathers’ fields, I am unable to endure so many troubles with a composed mind. But where are my thoughts bearing me? Struck down by a cruel misfortune, why, to torment myself further, am I pondering the happy times of old! May has come. The vine and lowly broom are blooming there. The fields having already bristled with wheat, the pomegranates are red with flowers and the hedges are fragrant with blossoming elder in my native land, among the fields by the Po and the Mincio’s pastures. But here the hills have not yet begun to put on their foliage. If in spring the soil here is languid, what will winter’s cold or the heat of summer’s solstice bring, seasons when the earth is white with icy hoarfrost or when the sky glows with consuming heat? Yet here there are herds with sleek coats and necks unmarked by the yoke, blue cattle whose foreheads are lofty with twin horns and whose breasts ripple with muscle. If they didn’t graze on good fodder, their bodies would not be sleek with so much fat.
spacerFAUST. These cattle—their heads raised higher off the ground, their legs long—devour everything: first the grass, then, their mouths uplifted, the leaves and tops of the tallest trees. And this peace–loving herd here, who crop only the grasses growing on the ground, is left to fast in barren fields.
spacerCAN. But why speak more of such things? For all living creatures the condition is the same: the larger ones always harm the smaller ones. Lambs are the wolf’s prey, gentle doves are the eagles’ booty. In the sea the dolphin hunts the harmless fishes. And how does this come about? (Indeed, it seems a monstrous thing.) If you viewed this place at a distance from some high cliff, you might call it rich land thickly arrayed in grass. But the nearer you approach it, the baser everything becomes. blue
spacer FAUST. Rome is among men what the owl is among birds. She sits on a tree trunk and, as if she were the queen of birds, summons the multitude from afar with her haughty commands. Ignorant of her deception, the crowd assembles. They wonder at her large eyes and ears, foul head, and the hooked point of her menacing beak. And while their nimble lightness bears them here and there on to the trees’ twig growth, a string ensnares the feet of some, twigs smeared with birdlime hold fast others, and all become spoils to be roasted on willow spits.

spacerCAN. Oh, this is good! Nothing more apt could be said. But look! over there a serpent is making its winding way through the dust blue and in its thirst smites the air with its outstretched tongue.
spacerFAUST. Candidus, keep the warnings I am giving you, holding them close within your thoughts. When you walk among the brushwood, protect your eyes with your hat: for the brambles stretch out long thorns, blue and their curved points tear a mantle to pieces. Don’t put down your sheephook; and remember to arm your pockets with many stones lest a new enemy suddenly take you by surprise. Put boots on your feet: thorn hedges filled with serpents lie in ambush with their bitter sting for men’s lives, and now the heat of the long days makes their venom keen. A thousand wolves and as many foxes dwell in dens in those valleys there. And—what’s dreadful and wondrous to tell—I myself have often seen men (so great is the violence of this region) assume the shape and ways of a wolf blue and rage among their own flocks, drenching themselves with the slaughter of their sheep. Their neighbors laugh at what is done, neither trembling at the crime nor preventing such bold acts. Moreover, often monsters of wondrous shape appear here which the earth, affected by evil influences, brings forth. And often dogs are transformed by so great a rage that they better even the wolves in slaughter, and those who were guardians take on a hostile intent and kill their own flock in the sheepfold. blue Men say that the Egyptians worshipped certain animals and held as gods many of the wild beasts.  blue That superstitious practice of theirs is less serious than ours. For here every kind of wild animal has his altar, a thing contrary indeed to the workings of nature and to God, who is said to have placed man once long ago above all living creatures.blue  Moreover, the heat of the year’s pestilential season often strikes, blue and the entire flock is laid low, languishing in their sickness here and there throughout the fields. The lamb, while it bleats near the udders of its dead mother, is dying, and the bull perishes under its hard burden. Nor is there a limit to the disease nor an antidote against the poison, but a house takes in death from its neighbor, and the contagion continually assumes greater strength. That foul plague rarely snatches away wild beasts; it always carries off the farm animals useful to man. With their savage teeth wolves dine on the slaughter within the sheepfolds, and wild animals grow rich on our losses.
spacerCAN. Alas, alas, with what haste my madness drew me into this misery! Grave madness it is to trust deceptive rumors. I had heard about Romulus’ hills, about the Tiber and the roofs of Rome, and my mind burned with zeal to see and lead my life among things excellent in so many ways. I drew near with part of my flock. Over mountain ridges in my madness I bore my tents and almost all my household goods along with the tools of a shepherd’s trade: my milk pails, cups, and bronze bowls, my cooking pots and that beechen ring that shapes our cheese—and this expense and all this labor I’ve lost! What should I do? Where should I turn? I’m denied the pasturage I hoped for—so many misfortunes, so many dangers on every side! To my huts of old am I forced to return, confessing that my venture went astray because of bad counsel; and again in heat and among mountain rocks must I endure long hours of toil. Alas, unfortunate flock! Oh, shepherd borne hither by an unlucky star! More excellent far were it not to have known of this land, better to have passed my days securely in my father’s house. Better to have grown old within the cool caves; and on the banks of the Po or in Adige’s fields or where the Mincio glides among green plains and familiar pasturelands, or where the Adda blue floats along in its glassy course, better far to have settled down and pastured my flocks on wholesome grasses. blue
spacerFAUST. Your credulity deceives you and mine deceives me from hour to hour. blue I myself have seen men who used to dwell on fortune’s peak fall when they sought things of praise and never rise from their troubles. Experience makes these men cautious. They explore matters beforehand and follow everything that men don’t extol: for those things that are better are wanting in praise. There are places—I don’t deny it—that retain their reputation and watch over their famous names (for all things are strong in their turn): Luna, Hadria, Troy, Salvia blue —places Umber blue often used to speak of—these exist now in their names alone, time has destroyed the rest. If only the renown of our homeland is perhaps less, in itself it is nonetheless better. In the whole world there is no one ignorant of how great is Rome’s glory. Her fame indeed remains, her former usefulness has passed away. Those springs blue by which the ancient pasturelands used to be moistened now lack water, their channels drained dry. Clouds pour down none of their rain, the Tiber does not irrigate the fields, time has worn down the old aqueducts, and both arch and fortress are collapsing in ruins. Hence, you goats, get you hence! Here reign lean famine and dull poverty! blue
spacer And yet here—for such is the rumor, and I have seen him myself—there is present a shepherd to help us, a shepherd who takes his name from a certain bird, blue a man rich in woolbearing flocks, most rich in land, a man who might overcome in song the bards of old and even Orpheus—Orpheus who drew the trees and rocks when he sang. This man exceeds other Latians in every virtue as much as the Po exceeds the Tiber or the Adda the Magra, blue the pliant willow the rush, the rose the thistle, or the poplar seaweed in the ocean. I think this man to be like him in whose honor Tityrus blue once long ago caused an altar to smoke twice six days. blue This guardian of the flock is more vigilant than Argus himself, more skilled not only than Daphnis but him who is said once to have pastured Admetus’ flock in the fields of Thessaly; blue worthy to watch over the whole flock of that master from Jerusalem and to succeed that father of old who, forsaking his nets, was shepherd of the Assyrian flock. blue This man has the power to protect the flock, dispel sickness, moisten the ground, bestow pasturelands, release springs, appease Jupiter, and keep away thieves and wolves. blue If he smiles with favor, stay. But if he denies his favor, drive forth your flock, Candidus, and seek greener pastures.

A controversy between observant and nonobservant brethren,
after his entry into religious orders

spacerCAN. The greatest discord, Bembus, blue now stirs shepherds who used to dwell on Jerusalem’s hills and in Galilee’s fields. On one side Batrachus, on the other side Myrmix blue say they stand ready to contend briefly against one another for your judgment unless you refuse to hear them or greater business recalls you. You yourself are a father of prophets. blue You know how to lay quarrels to rest and banish disputes and insults with soothing words. They say that you have even drunk of Pierian waters blue and have seen those goddesses who watch over that sacred fount, and those plains of Eurotas and Phocian fields blue where Apollo himself wreathed your temples with laurel and gave you as a gift the cithara: its strings and ivory plectrum.
spacerBEM. Speak, seeing that we are led to our warm fires by the winter’s days, a time when the weather forbids the flock to roam the fields and the north wind rages with its keen breath, when the ground freezes solid, when icicles hang thick from the roof and the streams’ icy waters flow sluggishly. blue Leisure is condemned when it has no tasks to perform.
spacerMYR. We shepherds, a hapless race, range about in the summertime, anxious for our flocks. But when the chilly rain keeps us among the sheepfolds, then quarrels and disputes arise.
spacerBAT. Those who dare to change the old ways (moreover, at their own discretion) and who live under no rules—those, oh Myrmix, are the men who are causing these quarrels within our own house.
spacer BEM. So you are quarreling about the long–established rite, the customs of your forefathers? Tell me, Batrachus, of their rules and ways. Tell me, why from Phoenician soil have you both entered our part of the world? I myself have seen those pastures, I have seen those rich, grassy marshlands. From Carmel’s heights a spring most rich in crystalline waters descends and with its noisy stream refreshes a thickset grove. And I have seen Jordan’s waters, blue where once long ago a very great shepherd, dipping his sheep, checked their ancestral scab. blue Coming here from Mount Lebanon, blue this river crosses Galilee’s fields and rises to the ample surface of a big lake. Its waters meet again, and again they flow into an open sea where a city was named for Tiberius the Roman. Its waters meet again and finally, Jericho left behind, they enter the infamous waves of Asphaltites’ flood. Whence is proof enough that I have seen your whole country. Speak and, after this, drown your strife at last.
spacerMYR. With his bold words Batrachus is forever forcing himself on us. Recklessly and with great daring he even prefers himself to me.
spacerBAT. I’ve forced myself on no one! I’ve advanced at the bidding of a judge.
spacerBEM. Put down your sheephook, Myrmix! Yes, and you too, Batrachus! You must plead not with arms but with tranquil thoughts. Speak, Batrachus. Meanwhile, Myrmix, restrain the rage in your mind to be more ready to answer. He who rages is a madman. And indeed, he who is a madman, impatient and embittered, rules neither his heart nor his words. What he says is hollow, what he attempts is foolish.
spacerBAT. Bembus, I’ll speak of our race and its beginnings. We came (as Candidus said) from Assyrian lands. Our father was Elijah, blue who with shepherds’ weapons endured every kind of evil, who drew fiery flames down from Olympus and ascended into the sky in a chariot.
spacer BEM. Noble and ancient stock this, and an illustrious progeny!
spacerBAT. Other shepherds of whatever number, roaming through every field, are streams sprung from our fount. blue We bequeathed the rules, we revealed the art of pasturing. How greatly those men err who, though of highest rank, dismiss this preeminence by following uncounseled zeal. We are the roots, others the branches. But we too, branches of our forefathers’ ancient roots, are decayed now by age. To shepherds Elijah left behind trustworthy rules which enable us to care for our flocks and know which pasturage is harmful, to discern invisible storms and lurking winds and to foresee wholesome and pestilent times. He gave us the signposts, he omitted nothing that has to do with the sheepfold. But that stream that flows from Carmel’s high cliffs blue —so shining once, its sweet waters so clear—its course changed (it’s apparent), now flows towards the south. But before (for the old channel can still be seen) it flowed towards the east. blue These men have made new courses, have abandoned the previous ones that our ancient fathers’ prudence gave to it.
spacerMYR. What is it to you if the stream runs in a new course or an old one, so long as it moistens the pastures with its life–giving waters? And why complain about the direction? The sun’s course is through the south. Better is the vine that looks to the south, better the grape gathered from Libyan hills.
spacerBAT. And better the yew tree that looks to the north!—for this reason better it is that our stream was able to flow down towards the north. blue You are a shepherd, and yet, having rashly abandoned the flock’s care, you speak of the vine as if the same rules governed the flocks and vineyards. You haven’t learned the distinctions of waters, grass, and winds or how injurious the south is to sheep—learn from Rome whether the south wind is harmful. Why is the fleece of Modena’s sheep dusky? blue And why are Clitumnus’ sheep white as snow? Why do Mantua and nearby Verona excel in soft wool? Whence come these various differences? From nowhere else but the region, the grass, and the water.
spacer BEM
. [Aside.] Candidus, take far hence (I beg you) both their sheephooks at once. I see that there is going to be keen warfare between them today. Take them in secret and carry them away. Hide them under the brushwood.
spacerBAT. But Bembus, I must talk to you. While we lived together and shared the flock—alas! how much disgrace, how many vexations the sheep endured! I wasn’t permitted to dip them in the river blue or (as is our custom) to shear off their fleece blue at the appointed times. Thorn hedges stripped the sheep and brambles cut their backs after they had been stripped. Their coats were rough with scab. Their bodies’ moisture was dried up by sickness. Sores crept throughout their frames. Much it matters therefore what grass the sheep crop, from what rivers they drink, and in what region they tarry. Tell me, Myrmix, why has the wool lost its ancient color? blue What has caused this new kind of fleece within the flock? Why are sheep black now that in happier years were gleaming white? Our customs, when changed, changed the color of their fleece!
spacerBut Bembus, I return to you. I’ll strive to conclude briefly. But, so that your judgment will be praiseworthy, I’ll speak the truth. You judge and I’ll recount the facts. A true account yields a true judgment. Having pondered so many losses and enduring them with great difficulty, we came to that fount, and my task it was to explore the stream from its highest reaches. You meanwhile, prudent Myrmix, were hunting birds’ nests or a small gazelle to give your beloved. blue
spacerMYR. See, Bembus, how he openly insults me? I foresee that this quarrel must be conducted with fists, not words. It is my custom to refute insults not with my tongue blue but my right hand.
spacerCAN. Truly, Batrachus, I cannot keep silent. You talk too much. Strife sharpens choler, and quarrels embitter the heart. You’re not dealing with a boy, nor is Myrmix a puny fellow. It is scarce safe to incite a man with impudent words.
spacerBAT. Pardon me, Myrmix. I wanted to say “aunt” [amitam] but some manner of mischievous error put “beloved” [amatam] on my tongue.
spacerMYR. You’re forgiven—but beware, lest your words provoke me again.
spacer BAT. Tumbling down from a high cliff, the stream’s channel had dug out a pool and levelled the enclosed waters with its banks. A whirlpool was there, shaded by a dark tangle of trees, and thick thorn hedges encircled the gloomy pool. blue A thousand kinds of venomous things I saw in that watery abyss, blue a thousand sorts of creatures on the shady margins along its banks, a thousand things that wound sinuously through the woods towards its waters. I was struck with terror, and running back to the sheepfold I began to turn over the straw with my three–pronged pitchfork. And, lo! a serpent blue raised its head, hissed with its three–forked tongue, and swelled open its jaws. A scorpion stretched out its spiteful claws. A big–bellied toad advanced towards me, and a viper rustled, moving through the straw. “Oh place,” said I, “harmful not only to the flocks but to the shepherds themselves!” Directly, having divided the flock in two, blue I departed in sadness from that abode to seek out better pastures. And through the fount’s old channel I led new streams  into fields where Aurora first unfurls her colors and towards sunrises gilded by returning Phoebus. blue Here my sheep are fertile in fleece, and rich are the pasturelands. Here the waters are without taint, the sweet springs without fault. This is the place where our youthful forefathers dwelt. The traces of their cells still remain: blue the well, the decayed logs driven in the ground seven feet apart, the hearth, the torn–up plot surrounded by a hedge.
spacerMYR. Frivolous men are wont to busy themselves with newfangled things. Surely it is for this reason that you have sought out new pasturelands, invented unheard–of streams, and want to be thought our new founder.
spacer BAT. Serious men are wont to busy themselves with their own interests. For this reason, Myrmix, you depart too much from seriousness. This newness isn’t newness but true antiquity. Our fathers’ reverence and piety, tainted by your frivolity and the well–known sloth of your fellows, has been restored and now surges anew. If then a man is raising buildings that are falling down and has tamed unfruitful fields, judge you that he should be condemned? We aren’t planting a second tree. Rather, a healthy slip is being engrafted on the trunk of the old one, wood dormant before is becoming productive again under our care.
spacerMYR. Though the grass might be made luxuriant for your flock and the waters be cleansed, nonetheless many lambs have perished with their mothers. Wolves and birds gorged with prey remember them well.
spacerBAT. ’Tis true—of those sheep infected with your fearful pestilence! Even from afar it harms those who look upon it, so much poison is in it, so great is the power of your venom. For this reason I am minded to depart still further from you. My flock endures these afflictions only because it has not yet withdrawn into the vast wilderness or departed far enough from you into the desert. blue
spacerMYR. You’re lying grossly, Batrachus, about my flock! Assuredly, your care for the affairs of others is unnecessary. Indeed, you’re rashly taking the side of an unjust censor. Why couldn’t I, who pasture anyone’s flock, look after these things? Is my house known only to you?
spacer BAT. Since Ethiopians are all soiled by blackness, that color is thought no blemish. It is the same among all of them, whether one visage condemns itself or another. Shepherd and sheep have the same impurity, the same scab, the same skin color.
.  Cease! Now I understand your quarrel well enough. Moreover, the day is ending and now the sun is hastening behind the highest mountain ridges. Hearken, oh aged offspring of a great race, to my judgment on your quarrel.
spacerMYR. Batrachus, you provoke me so often with your bold talk!
spacerBAT. Not I but the unfairness of your case greatly provokes you. Moreover, your mind, scarcely conscious of what is just, fears to receive judgment.
spacerCAN. When it is time to lay aside your hatred, your madness is again stirring up new quarrels! blue Will this brawling, born of constant ill will, continue then forever? What madness, what weakness in your head thus afflicts you? Aren’t you ashamed to indulge in this nonsense before so great a judge? Therefore with tranquil thoughts and hatred laid to rest listen to the final judgment of wise–spoken Bembus.
. Walk in the footsteps of your forefathers and keep up the old ways. Call back flocks wandering among the valleys and rocks, among the haunts of wild beasts. blue Build your huts again in the fields of old. blue