COMETAS. LACON. MORSON.
Goats, from a shepherd who stands here, from Lacon, keep away:
Sibyrtas owns him; and he stole my goatskin yesterday.
Hi! lambs! avoid yon fountain. Have ye not eyes to see
Cometas, him who filched a pipe but two days back from me?
Sibyrtas' bondsman own a pipe? whence gotst thou that, and how?
Tootling through straws with Corydon mayhap's beneath thee now?
'Twas Lycon's gift, your highness. But pray, Cometas, say,
What is that skin wherewith thou saidst that Lacon walked away?
Why, thy lord's self had ne'er a skin whereon his limbs to lay.
The skin that Crocylus gave me, a dark one streaked with white,
The day he slew his she-goat. Why, thou wert ill with spite,
Then, my false friend; and thou would'st end by beggaring me quite.
Did Lacon, did Calaethis' son purloin a goatskin? No,
By Pan that haunts the sea-beach! Lad, if I served thee so,
Crazed may I drop from yon hill-top to Crathis' stream below!
Nor pipe of thine, good fellow--the Ladies of the Lake
So be still kind and good to me--did e'er Cometas take.
Be Daphnis' woes my portion, should that my credence win!
Still, if thou list to stake a kid--that surely were no sin--
Come on, I'll sing it out with thee--until thou givest in.
'_The hog he braved Athene._' As for the kid, 'tis there:
You stake a lamb against him--that fat one--if you dare.
Fox! were that fair for either? At shearing who'd prefer
Horsehair to wool? or when the goat stood handy, suffer her
To nurse her firstling, and himself go milk a blatant cur?
The same who deemed his hornet's-buzz the true cicala's note,
And braved--like you--his better. And so forsooth you vote
My kid a trifle? Then come on, fellow! I stake the goat.
Why be so hot? Art thou on fire? First prythee take thy seat
'Neath this wild woodland olive: thy tones will sound more sweet.
Here falls a cold rill drop by drop, and green grass-blades uprear
Their heads, and fallen leaves are thick, and locusts prattle here.
Hot I am not; but hurt I am, and sorely, when I think
That thou canst look me in the face and never bleach nor blink--
Me, thine own boyhood's tutor! Go, train the she-wolf's brood:
Train dogs--that they may rend thee! This, this is gratitude!
When learned I from thy practice or thy preaching aught that's right,
Thou puppet, thou misshapen lump of ugliness and spite?
When? When I beat thee, wailing sore: yon goats looked on with glee,
And bleated; and were dealt with e'en as I had dealt with thee.
Well, hunchback, shallow be thy grave as was thy judgment then!
But hither, hither! Thou'lt not dip in herdsman's lore again.
Nay, here are oaks and galingale: the hum of housing bees
Makes the place pleasant, and the birds are piping in the trees.
And here are two cold streamlets; here deeper shadows fall
Than yon place owns, and look what cones drop from the pinetree tall.
Come hither, and tread on lambswool that is soft as any dream:
Still more unsavoury than thyself to me thy goatskins seem.
Here will I plant a bowl of milk, our ladies' grace to win;
And one, as huge, beside it, sweet olive-oil therein.
Come hither, and trample dainty fern and poppy-blossom: sleep
On goatskins that are softer than thy fleeces piled three deep.
Here will I plant eight milkpails, great Pan's regard to gain,
Bound them eight cups: full honeycombs shall every cup contain.
Well! there essay thy woodcraft: thence fight me, never budge
From thine own oak; e'en have thy way. But who shall be our judge?
Oh, if Lycopas with his kine should chance this way to trudge!
Nay, I want no Lycopas. But hail yon woodsman, do:
'Tis Morson--see! his arms are full of bracken--there, by you.
We'll hail him.
Ay, you hail him.
Friend, 'twill not take thee long:
We're striving which is master, we twain, in woodland song:
And thou, my good friend Morson, ne'er look with favouring eyes
On me; nor yet to yonder lad be fain to judge the prize.
Nay, by the Nymphs, sweet Morson, ne'er for Cometas' sake
Stretch thou a point; nor e'er let him undue advantage take.
Sibyrtas owns yon wethers; a Thurian is he:
And here, my friend, Eumares' goats, of Sybaris, you may see.
And who asked thee, thou naughty knave, to whom belonged these flocks,
Sibyrtas, or (it might be) me? Eh, thou'rt a chatter-box!
The simple truth, most worshipful, is all that I allege:
I'm not for boasting. But thy wit hath all too keen an edge.
Come sing, if singing's in thee--and may our friend get back
To town alive! Heaven help us, lad, how thy tongue doth clack!
Daphnis the mighty minstrel was less precious to the Nine
Than I. I offered yesterday two kids upon their shrine.
Ay, but Apollo fancies me hugely: for him I rear
A lordly ram: and, look you, the Carnival is near.
Twin kids hath every goat I milk, save two. My maid, my own,
Eyes me and asks 'At milking time, rogue, art thou all alone?'
Go to! nigh twenty baskets doth Lacon fill with cheese:
Hath time to woo a sweetheart too upon the blossomed leas.
Clarissa pelts her goatherd with apples, should he stray
By with his goats; and pouts her lip in a quaint charming way.
Me too a darling smooth of face notes as I tend my flocks:
How maddeningly o'er that fair neck ripple those shining locks!
Tho' dogrose and anemone are fair in their degree,
The rose that blooms by garden-walls still is the rose for me.
Tho' acorns' cups are fair, their taste is bitterness, and still
I'll choose, for honeysweet are they, the apples of the hill.
A cushat I will presently procure and give to her
Who loves me: I know where it sits; up in the juniper.
Pooh! a soft fleece, to make a coat, I'll give the day I shear
My brindled ewe--(no hand but mine shall touch it)--to my dear.
Back, lambs, from that wild-olive: and be content to browse
Here on the shoulder of the hill, beneath the myrtle boughs.
Run, (will ye?) Ball and Dogstar, down from that oak tree, run:
And feed where Spot is feeding, and catch the morning sun.
I have a bowl of cypress-wood: I have besides a cup:
Praxiteles designed them: for _her_ they're treasured up.
I have a dog who throttles wolves: he loves the sheep, and they
Love him: I'll give him to my dear, to keep wild beasts at bay.
Ye locusts that o'erleap my fence, oh let my vines escape
Your clutches, I beseech you: the bloom is on the grape.
Ye crickets, mark how nettled our friend the goatherd is!
I ween, ye cost the reapers pangs as acute as his.
Those foxes with their bushy tails, I hate to see them crawl
Round Micon's homestead and purloin his grapes at evenfall.
_I_ hate to see the beetles that come warping on the wind.
And climb Philondas' trees, and leave never a fig behind.
Have you forgot that cudgelling I gave you? At each stroke
You grinned and twisted with a grace, and clung to yonder oak.
That I've forgot--but I have not, how once Eumares tied
You to that selfsame oak-trunk, and tanned your unclean hide.
There's some one ill--of heartburn. You note it, I presume,
Morson? Go quick, and fetch a squill from some old beldam's tomb.
I think I'm stinging somebody, as Morson too perceives--
Go to the river and dig up a clump of sowbread-leaves.
May Himera flow, not water, but milk: and may'st thou blush,
Crathis, with wine; and fruitage grow upon every rush.
For me may Sybaris' fountain flow, pure honey: so that you,
My fair, may dip your pitcher each morn in honey-dew.
My goats are fed on clover and goat's-delight: they tread
On lentisk leaves; or lie them down, ripe strawberries o'er their head.
My sheep crop honeysuckle bloom, while all around them blows
In clusters rich the jasmine, as brave as any rose.
I scorn my maid; for when she took my cushat, she did not
Draw with both hands my face to hers and kiss me on the spot.
I love my love, and hugely: for, when I gave my flute,
I was rewarded with a kiss, a loving one to boot.
Lacon, the nightingale should scarce be challenged by the jay,
Nor swan by hoopoe: but, poor boy, thou aye wert for a fray.
I bid the shepherd hold his peace. Cometas, unto you
I, Morson, do adjudge the lamb. You'll first make offering due
Unto the nymphs: then savoury meat you'll send to Morson too.
By Pan I will! Snort, all my herd of he-goats: I shall now
O'er Lacon, shepherd as he is, crow ye shall soon see how.
I've won, and I could leap sky-high! Ye also dance and skip,
My horned ewes: in Sybaris' fount to-morrow all shall dip.
Ho! you, sir, with the glossy coat and dangerous crest; you dare
Look at a ewe, till I have slain my lamb, and ill you'll fare.
What! is he at his tricks again? He is, and he will get
(Or my name's not Cometas) a proper pounding yet.
Last updated January 14, 2019