Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
My Heart’s Desire
By Virgil (70–19 B.C.)
From the ‘Georgics’: Translation of Harriet Waters Preston

MY heart’s desire, all other desires above,
  Is aye the minister and priest to be
Of the sweet Muses, whom I utterly love.
  So might they graciously open unto me
The heavens, and the courses that the stars do run        5
Therein, and all the labors of moon and sun,
  And the source of the earthquake, and the terrible swell
Of mounting tides, all barriers that break
  And on themselves recoil. Me might they tell
Wherefore the suns of the wintry season make        10
Such baste to their bath in the ocean bed, and why
The reluctant nights do wear so slowly by.
Yet if it be not given me to fulfill
  This my so great desire to manifest
Some part of Nature’s marvel, or ere the chill        15
  Of age my abounding pulses do arrest,—
Yet will I joy the fresh wild vales among,
And the streams and the forest love, myself unsung!
Oh, would that I might along thy meadows roam,
  Sperchēus, or the inspired course behold        20
Of Spartan maids on Taÿgetus! Who will come
  And lead me into the Hæmian valleys cold,
Where, in the deep shade, I may sit me down?
For he is verily happy who hath known
The wonderful wherefore of the things of sense,        25
  And hath trodden under foot implacable Fate,
And the manifold shapes of Fear, and the violence
  Of roaring Acheron, the insatiate;
Yet blessed is he as well, that homely man,
Who knoweth the gods of the country-side and Pan,        30
Silvanus old, and the Nymphs their sisterhood!
  Him not the purple of kings, the fagots of power,
Lure ever aside from his meek rectitude,
Nor the brethren false whom their own strifes devour,
Nor the Dacian hordes that down the Ister come,        35
Nor the throes of dying States, nor the things of Rome.
Not his the misery of another’s need,
  Nor envy of his abundance; but the trees
Glad unto his gathering their fruits concede,
  And the willing fields their corn. He never sees        40
What madness is in the forum, nor hath awe
Of written codes, or the rigor of iron law.
There be who vex incessantly with their oars
  The pathless billows of ocean; who make haste
Unto the fray, or hover about the doors        45
  Of palace chambers, or carry ruthless waste
To the homes of men, and to their firesides woe.
One heapeth his wealth and hideth his gold, that so
He may drink from jeweled cups and take his rest
  Upon purple of Tyre. One standeth in mute amaze        50
Before the Rostra,—vehemently possest
  With greed of the echoing plaudits they upraise,
The plebs and the fathers in their places set.
These joy in hands with the blood of their brothers wet;
And forth of their own dear thresholds, many a time,        55
  Driven into exile, they are fain to seek
The alien citizenship of some far clime.
  But the tillers of earth have only need to break,
Year after year, the clods with the rounded share,
And life is the fruit their diligent labors bear        60
For the land at large, and the babes at home, and the beeves
  In the stall, and the generous bullocks. Evermore
The seasons are prodigal of wheaten sheaves
  And fruits and younglings, till, for the coming store
Of the laden lands, the barns too strait are grown:        65
For winter is near, when olives of Sicyon
Are bruisèd in press, and all the lusty swine
  Come gorged from thickets of arbutus and oak;
Or the autumn is dropping increase, and the vine
  Mellowing its fruit on sunny steeps, while the folk        70
Indoors hold fast by the old-time purity,
And the little ones sweetly cling unto neck and knee.
Plump kids go butting amid the grasses deep,
  And the udders of kine their milky streams give down;
Then the hind doth gather his fellows, and they keep        75
  The merry old feast-days, and with garlands crown,
Lenæan sire, the vessels of thy libation,
By turf-built altar-fires with invocation!
And games are set for the herdsmen, and they fling
  At the bole of the elm the rapid javelin,        80
Or bare their sturdy limbs for the rustic ring;
  Oh, such, methinks, was the life the old Sabine
Led in the land, and the illustrious two,
Romulus and Remus! Thus Etruria grew
To greatness, and thus did Rome, beyond a doubt,        85
  Become the crown of the cities of earth, and fling
A girdle of walls her seven hills round about,
  Before the empire of the Dictæan king
Began, or the impious children of men were fain
To feast on the flesh of kindly oxen slain.        90
Ay, such the life that in the cycle of gold
  Saturn lived upon earth, or ever yet
Men’s ears had hearkened the blare of trumpets bold,
  Or the sparkle of blades on cruel anvils beat.
But the hour is late, and the spaces vast appear.        95
We have rounded in our race, and the time is here
To ease our weary steeds of their steaming gear.

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