With rhythmic feet the meadow beat, while Vulcan, fiery red,
Heats the Cyclopian forge in Aetna’s pit.
’Tis now the time to wreathe the brow with branch of myrtle green,
Or flowers, just opening to the vernal breeze;
Now Faunus claims his sacrifice among the shady treen,
Lambkin or kidling, which soe’er he please.
Pale Death, impartial, walks his round; he knocks at cottage-gate
And palace-portal. Sestius, child of bliss!
How should a mortal’s hopes be long, when short his being’s date?
Lo here! the fabulous ghosts, the dark abyss,
The void of the Plutonian hall, where soon as e’er you go,
No more for you shall leap the auspicious die
To seat you on the throne of wine; no more your breast shall glow
For Lycidas, the star of every eye.
QUIS MULTA GRACILIS.
What slender youth, besprinkled
Courts you on roses in some grotto’s shade?
Fair Pyrrha, say, for whom
Your yellow hair you braid,
So trim, so simple! Ah! how oft shall he
Lament that faith can fail, that gods can change,
Viewing the rough black sea
With eyes to tempests strange,
Who now is basking in your golden smile,
And dreams of you still fancy-free, still kind,
Poor fool, nor knows the guile
Of the deceitful wind!
Woe to the eyes you dazzle without cloud
Untried! For me, they show in yonder fane
My dripping garments, vow’d
To Him who curbs the main.
Not I, but Varius:—he,
of Homer’s brood
A tuneful swan, shall bear you on his wing,
Your tale of trophies, won by field or flood,
Mighty alike to sing.
Not mine such themes, Agrippa; no, nor mine
To chant the wrath that fill’d Pelides’ breast,
Nor dark Ulysses’ wanderings o’er the brine,
Nor Pelops’ house unblest.
Vast were the task, I feeble; inborn shame,
And she, who makes the peaceful lyre submit,
Forbid me to impair great Caesar’s fame
And yours by my weak wit.
But who may fitly sing of Mars array’d
In adamant mail, or Merion, black with dust
Of Troy, or Tydeus’ son by Pallas’ aid
Strong against gods to thrust?
Feasts are my theme, my warriors maidens fair,
Who with pared nails encounter youths in fight;
Be Fancy free or caught in Cupid’s snare,
Her temper still is light.