Elegia sexta.

Ad Carolum Diodatum ruri commorantem.

Qui cum idibus Decemb. scripsisset, & sua carmina excusari postulasset si solito minus essent bona, quòd inter lautitias quibus erat ab amicis exceptus, haud satis felicem operam Musis dare se posse affirmabat, hunc habuit responsum.

Mitto tibi sanam non pleno ventre salutem,
Quâ tu distento forte carere potes.
At tua quid nostram prolectat Musa camœnam,
Nec sinit optatas posse sequi tenebras?

Carmine scire velis quàm te redamémque colámque, [ 5 ]
Crede mihi vix hoc carmine scire queas.
Nam neque noster amor modulis includitur arctis,
Nec venit ad claudos integer ipse pedes.

Quàm bene solennes epulas, hilaremque Decembrim

Festaque cœlifugam quæ coluere Deum, [ 10 ]
Deliciasque refers, hyberni gaudia ruris,
Haustaque per lepidos Gallica musta focos.

Quid quereris refugam vino dapibusque poesin?
Carmen amat Bacchum, Carmina Bacchus amat.

Nec puduit Phœbum virides gestasse corymbos, [ 15 ]
Atque hederam lauro præposuisse suæ.

Sæpius Aoniis clamavit collibus Euœ
Mista Thyonêo turba novena choro.
Naso Corallæis mala carmina misit ab agris:

Non illic epulæ non fata vitis erat. [ 20 ]

Quid nisi vina, rosasque racemiferumque Lyæum
Cantavit brevibus Tëia Musa modis?
Pindaricosque inflat numeros Teumesius Euan,
Et redolet sumptum pagina quæque merum.

Dum gravis everso currus crepat axe supinus, [ 25 ]
Et volat Eléo pulvere fuscus eques.
Quadrimoque madens Lyricen Romanus Jaccho
Dulce canit Glyceran, flavicomamque Chloen,

Jam quoque lauta tibi generoso mensa paratu,

Mentis alit vires, ingeniumque fovet. [ 30 ]
Massica fœcundam despumant pocula venam,
Fundis & ex ipso condita metra cado.

Addimus his artes, fusumque per intima Phœbum
Corda, favent uni Bacchus, Apollo, Ceres.

Scilicet haud mirum tam dulcia carmina per te [ 35 ]
Numine composito tres peperisse Deos.

Nunc quoque Thressa tibi cælato barbitos auro
Insonat argutâ molliter icta manu;
Auditurque chelys suspensa tapetia circum,
Virgineos tremulâ quæ regat arte pedes. [ 40 ]

Illa tuas saltem teneant spectacula Musas,
Et revocent, quantum crapula pellit iners.
Crede mihi dum psallit ebur, comitataque plectrum
Implet odoratos festa chorea tholos,

Percipies tacitum per pectora serpere Phœbum, [ 45 ]
Quale repentinus permeat ossa calor,
Perque puellares oculos digitumque sonantem
Irruet in totos lapsa Thalia sinus.

Namque Elegía levis multorum cura deorum est,
Et vocat ad numeros quemlibet illa suos; [ 50 ]
Liber adest elegis, Eratoque, Ceresque, Venusque,
Et cum purpureâ matre tenellus Amor.

Talibus inde licent convivia larga poetis,
Sæpis & veteri commaduisse mero.
At qui bella refert, & adulto sub Jove cælum, [ 55 ]
Heroasque pios, semideosque duces,

Et nunc sancta canit superum consulta deorum,
Nunc latrata fero regna profunda cane,
Ille quidem parcè Samii pro more magistri
Vivat, & innocuos præbeat herba cibos; [ 60 ]

Stet prope fagineo pellucida lympha catillo,
Sobriaque è puro pocula fonte bibat.
Additur huic scelerisque vacans, & casta juventus,
Et rigidi mores, & sine labe manus.

Qualis veste nitens sacrâ, & lustralibus undis [ 65 ]
Surgis ad infensos augur iture Deos.
Hoc ritu vixisse ferunt post rapta sagacem
Lumina Tiresian, Ogygiumque Linon,

Et lare devoto profugum Calchanta, senemque
Orpheon edomitis sola per antra feris; [ 70 ]
Sic dapis exiguus, sic rivi potor Homerus
Dulichium vexit per freta longa virum,

Et per monstrificam Perseiæ Phœbados aulam,
Et vada fœmineis insidiosa sonis,
Perque tuas rex ime domos, ubi sanguine nigro [ 75 ]
Dicitur umbrarum detinuisse greges.

Diis etenim sacer est vates, divûmque sacerdos,
Spirat & occultum pectus, & ora Jovem.
At tu siquid agam, scitabere (si modò saltem
Esse putas tanti noscere siquid agam) [ 80 ]

Paciferum canimus cælesti semine regem,
Faustaque sacratis sæcula pacta libris,
Vagitumque Dei, & stabulantem paupere tecto
Qui suprema suo cum patre regna colit.

Stelliparumque polum, modulantesque æthere turmas, [ 85 ]
Et subitò elisos ad sua fana Deos.
Dona quidem dedimus Christi natalibus illa,
Illa sub auroram lux mihi prima tulit.

Te quoque pressa manent patriis meditata cicutis,
Tu mihi, cui recitem, judicis instar eris. [ 90 ]

The Sixth Elegy

To Charles Diodati, after he had visited the country.

When he wrote on December 13th, he begged forgiveness for his verses if they were not as good as usual, since amidst the magnificent welcome of his friends he was not able to give serious attention to the muse. Here is the reply:

I, on an empty stomach, send you best wishes for good health, of which you, on a full one, may feel the lack. But why does your muse draw out mine, and not permit her to seek her wonted obscurity? If you wanted to know by song how I return your love and how fond I am of you, believe me you would search in vain to find out by this song, for our love cannot fit into short modes, nor does it walk perfectly in these lame feet of poetry. How well you describe the sumptuous banquets, the December hilarity and the joyous festivals which honor the God departed from the sky — the delights, the joys of the country in winter, and drinking French vintages near the cozy fire.

Why do you complain that poetry flees from wine and festival banquets? Song loves Bacchus and Bacchus loves song. Phoebus was not ashamed to wear fresh ivy berries and to prefer it to his ivy laurel. Often on the Aonian hills the crowd of nine shouts "Euoe" and joins in chorus with the Thyoneian rout. Ovid sent bad verses from the Corallian fields; there were no sumptuous meals there, and no fruit of the vine. Of what but wine and roses and cluster-crowned Lyaeus did the Teian poet sing in his brief measures? Teumesian Euan inspired the Pindaric verses, and each page reeks of consumed wine — then the heavy overturned chariot with a broken axle, and the rush of the horsemen, gritty with Elean dust. The Roman lyricist drunk with four-year-old wine sang sweetly of Glycera and of golden-haired Chloe.

Now also for you a splendid and plentiful table is prepared; it feeds your mind and warms your genius. Massic cups skim the fruitful vein and you pour out sweet verses from the cup itself. To those let us add the arts and great Phoebus to your inmost heart. Bacchus, Apollo, and Ceres are inclined towards one, alone. No wonder then that your songs are so sweet, brought forth by the three gods united.

Now also the Thracian lyre, gently inlaid with gold by a skilled hand, resounds for you, and the harp is heard in halls hung with tapestries and rules the feet of maidens by its tremulous art. At least let these scenes stay your muses and recall whatever too much drinking drives away. Believe me, while the ivory plucks the string and the holiday crowd fills the perfumed halls keeping time with the plectrum, you will feel quiet Phoebus stealing into your heart like a sudden kind of heat that penetrates your bones. And through a maiden's eyes and musical fingers Thalia will insinuate herself entirely into your fallen chest.

In fact, the light elegy is in the care of many of the gods, and she calls whomever pleases her to her lines. With Elegy stand Liber, Erato, Ceres, and Venus, and, next to his rosy mother is tender Love. For good dinner companions are valued by such poets, and very often old wine is ordered. But he who represents wars and heaven beneath a mature Jupiter and pious heroes and semi-divine rulers now sings the best in the sacred council of the gods, and now the infernal realm holding the howling dogs, let him live sparingly in the manner of the Samian teacher, and let herbs furnish his innocuous meals. Let glimmering pure water stand in a vessel made of beech, and let him drink sober draughts from the pure spring. Let it be added to this that his youth should be crime-free and chaste, his ways must be upright, and his hand without blemish. He should be of your type, O priest glittering with the sacred cloth and sacrificial water standing with the angry gods. By this rule wise Tiresias is said to have lived after his eyes were taken and Ogygian Linus and Calchas, a refugee from his accursed home, and Orpheus as an old man smote the wild beasts of the lonely cave. Thus Homer, spare eater and drinker of the stream water, sailed Ulysses through the wide sea and through the monster-making palace of Phoebus and Perseis, and through the shoals of the sirens, and through your houses, infernal king, where it is said swarms of shades are imprisoned by black blood. For truly the bard is sacred to the gods and he is priest to the divine. His secret heart and his lips breathe out Jove.

But if you will know what I am up to (if you, at least by custom, consider what I do of such importance to know), I sing to the peace-bringing God descended from heaven, and the blessed generations covenanted in the sacred books, the cries of the infant God who, stabled under a poor roof, dwells in the heavens with his father. I sing the starry axis and the singing hosts in the sky, and of the gods suddenly destroyed in their own shrines. We assuredly owe these gifts to Christ on his birthday, gifts which the first light before the dawn brought to me. For you also these reflective strains remain on my native pipes which, having been recited, you shall be my judge.


Translation by Glenn Buchberger and Thomas H. Luxon