by Eugene Field
(The exile Meliboeus finds Tityrus in possession of his own farm,
restored to him by the emperor Augustus, and a conversation ensues. The
poem is in praise of Augustus, peace and pastoral life.)
Tityrus, all in the shade of the wide-spreading beech tree reclining,
Sweet is that music you've made on your pipe that is oaten and slender;
Exiles from home, you beguile our hearts from their hopeless repining,
As you sing Amaryllis the while in pastorals tuneful and tender.
A god--yes, a god, I declare--vouchsafes me these pleasant conditions,
And often I gayly repair with a tender white lamb to his altar,
He gives me the leisure to play my greatly admired compositions,
While my heifers go browsing all day, unhampered of bell and halter.
I do not begrudge you repose; I simply admit I'm confounded
To find you unscathed of the woes of pillage and tumult and battle;
To exile and hardship devote and by merciless enemies hounded,
I drag at this wretched old goat and coax on my famishing cattle.
Oh, often the omens presaged the horrors which now overwhelm me--
But, come, if not elsewise engaged, who is this good deity, tell me!
The city--the city called Rome, with, my head full of herding and tillage,
I used to compare with my home, these pastures wherein you now wander;
But I didn't take long to find out that the city surpasses the village
As the cypress surpasses the sprout that thrives in the thicket out yonder.
Tell me, good gossip, I pray, what led you to visit the city?
Liberty! which on a day regarded my lot with compassion
My age and distresses, forsooth, compelled that proud mistress to pity,
That had snubbed the attentions of youth in most reprehensible fashion.
Oh, happy, thrice happy, the day when the cold Galatea forsook me,
And equally happy, I say, the hour when that other girl took me!
_Meliboeus_ (slyly, as if addressing the damsel)--
So now, Amaryllis the truth of your ill-disguised grief I discover!
You pined for a favorite youth with cityfied damsels hobnobbing.
And soon your surroundings partook of your grief for your recusant lover--
The pine trees, the copse and the brook for Tityrus ever went sobbing.
Meliboeus, what else could I do? Fate doled me no morsel of pity;
My toil was all in vain the year through, no matter how earnest or clever,
Till, at last, came that god among men--that king from that wonderful city,
And quoth: "Take your homesteads again--they are yours and your assigns forever!"
Happy, oh, happy old man! rich in what's better than money--
Rich in contentment, you can gather sweet peace by mere listening;
Bees with soft murmurings go hither and thither for honey.
Cattle all gratefully low in pastures where fountains are glistening--
Hark! in the shade of that rock the pruner with singing rejoices--
The dove in the elm and the flock of wood-pigeons hoarsely repining,
The plash of the sacred cascade--ah, restful, indeed, are these voices,
Tityrus, all in the shade of your wide-spreading beech-tree reclining!
And he who insures this to me--oh, craven I were not to love him!
Nay, rather the fish of the sea shall vacate the water they swim in,
The stag quit his bountiful grove to graze in the ether above him.
While folk antipodean rove along with their children and women!
_Meliboeus_ (suddenly recalling his own misery)--
But we who are exiled must go; and whither--ah, whither--God knoweth!
Some into those regions of snow or of desert where Death reigneth only;
Some off to the country of Crete, where rapid Oaxes down floweth.
And desperate others retreat to Britain, the bleak isle and lonely.
Dear land of my birth! shall I see the horde of invaders oppress thee?
Shall the wealth that outspringeth from thee by the hand of the alien be squandered?
Dear cottage wherein I was born! shall another in conquest possess thee--
Another demolish in scorn the fields and the groves where I've wandered?
My flock! never more shall you graze on that furze-covered hillside above me--
Gone, gone are the halcyon days when my reed piped defiance to sorrow!
Nevermore in the vine-covered grot shall I sing of the loved ones that love me--
Let yesterday's peace be forgot in dread of the stormy to-morrow!
But rest you this night with me here; my bed--we will share it together,
As soon as you've tasted my cheer, my apples and chestnuts and cheeses;
The evening a'ready is nigh--the shadows creep over the heather,
And the smoke is rocked up to the sky to the lullaby song of the breezes.
Last updated January 14, 2019