Scanned from Joseph J. Mooney (tr.), The Minor Poems of Vergil: Comprising the Culex, Dirae, Lydia, Moretum, Copa, Priapeia, and Catalepton (Birmingham: Cornish Brothers, 1916).

The Curses

THESE pieces were probably written by Vergil after he had been evicted from his farm and before its restoration to him. See [Phocas,] the "Life of Vergil," lines 107-123. Nothing is known as to the Battarus whom he associates with himself in making his imprecations. Probably he was a friend who was involved in the same misfortunes, or it may be the name was used to represent his father. Under the name of Lycurgus (line 12) he refers to the soldier who had appropriated his farm. It is enumerated among Vergil's works by Donatus and Servius, and is ascribed to him by MSS., and the circum stances referred to in it correspond with those of Vergil absolutely, and yet, in defiance of all this, many professors of Latin have for hundreds of years assigned the pieces to Valerius Cato! Since they knew more about it than Romans of A.D. 350, I can only liken them to the German professor who was wont to assert that he could "spik Inglish besser als de Inglish demselfs." Valerius Cato's circumstances, as disclosed in Suetonius's life of him, in no way correspond to those of the writer of this poem, and the only point of resemblance is that Valerius Cato wrote a poem called the Lydia.

O BATTARUS, in song let us repeat
Our farewell words, and let us sing again
Our parted homes and lands, the lands on which
We've imprecated curses, wicked prayers.
The kids shall sooner seize the wolves, the calves
The lions sooner seize, the dolphins flee
The fishes, eagles sooner flee the doves,
And turned the state's dissension backward grow,
And many things shall happen sooner than
My shepherd's pipe of reed shall not be free.
I'll tell the hills and woods thy wicked deeds,
Lycurgus. Barren shall for thee become
The joys of Sicily, nor shall for thee
Our elders' happy lands productive be,
May hills no pasture, seeds no crops produce,
The orchards no fresh fruits, the vine no grapes,
The woods themselves no leaves, the hills no streams.
O Battarus, let us renew this song
Again and yet again. Delusive weeds
Do ye, O Ceres' furrows, treasure up,
And may the pallid meadows yellow grow
While thirsting with the heat, unripened may
The apples hanging from the branches fall,
May leaves be wanting to the woods and to
The fountains moisture, but may not the song
That curses him be wanting to my reed.
These blooming wreaths of flowers of Venus with
Their variegated pride which tint the plains
With purple colour though a weed (depart,
Ye breezes sweet, ye fragrant breaths) the fields
Shall change to baleful heats and poisons foul:
May nothing sweet to eyes or nose be borne.
'Tis thus I pray, and may this song prevail
With prayers of mine. O best of woods, much sung
In triflings and in little books of mine,
So dense with patches of a lovely sward,
They shall be shorn of verdant shades: nor shalt
Thou joyful toss thy pliant leafy boughs
To breezes blowing through, nor, Battarus,
Shall it full oft return my song to me.
When with his iron the soldier's impious hand
Shall fell it, and the lovely shades do fall,
In them more lovely is that very fall,
The vainly happy logs of ancient lord.
Devoted in my little books it shall
The rather burn in fires from upper sky.
O Jupiter (for Jupiter himself
This wood has nourished) :it behoveth thee
That ashes may this wood be made. Then let
The strength of Thracian Boreas emit
His mighty blasts, let Eurus drive a cloud
With yellow darkness mixed, let Africus
O'erhang with heavy clouds that threaten rain,
With heavenly flames let lightning fire the wood.
When, glittering in the dark blue sky, O wood,
Thou'lt not again pronounce, as oft thou'st said,
"Thy Lydia." Let the flames in order seize
The neighbouring vines, the crops to them be fed,
And let the fire in scattered sparks across
The breezes fly and with the trees unite
The ears of corn, and let the wicked pole
Which measured out my little fields as far
As what were once my boundaries be burnt,
And everything to ashes be reduced.
'Tis thus I pray and may this song prevail
With prayers of mine. These invocations hear,
O waves, which with your waters beat the shores;
O shores, which breezes soft diffuse o'er lands
And let the sea migrate upon the fields
And fill the plains with floods and sand compact,
As with his fires doth Vulcan, son of Jove,
Prevent both fields and forage; be it called
A foreign sister of the Libyan sand,
A second Syrtis. Battarus, thou hast,
I bear in mind, this sadder song recalled.
They say that many fearful things do swim
I' th' gloomy sea, yea, monsters causing dread
By shapes unlooked-for oft when suddenly
Have bodies sunk within the raging main:
Let Neptune with his threatening trident drive
These hidden beasts, the inky tide o'th' sea
Reversing by the winds on every side,
And from the waves a sea-dog draw a corpse.
My lands may now be called a savage sea.
O sailor, thou must 'ware the lands on which
We've imprecated curses, wicked prayers.
If this we vainly pour into thine ears,
O Neptune, Battarus, do thou entrust
Our sorrows to the streams; for always kind
To thee the fountains are, to thee the streams.
There isn't aught which I may travel through
For further things ill-boding; all 's employed.
Ye running waters, wand'ring streams, return!
Return, and spread yourselves o'er plains opposed,
And let the brooks with fissure-making waves
On every side encroach, and let them not
Permit my lands to pass away from me
To vagrant soldiers. Battarus, thou hast,
I bear in mind, this sweeter song recalled.
When th'earth is quickly dried let marshes rise
Therefrom, and here let reeds be mown where once
We gathered thorns, and let the croaking frog
Possess the chirping cricket's former holes.
This sadder song again my pipe doth tell.
Let smoking showers from lofty mountains rush
And widely hold the plains with flood diffused,
And stagnant pools inimical, let these
Behind them leave to threat their present lords,
And drained from these the wave shall reach my fields.
Then let the foreign ploughman fish within
My bounds, a foreigner, who always doth
Advance to wealth by crime political.
O little plots of land, devoted ill
By crime o' th' Fates and thou, O Discord, who
Art always foe of citizens of thine.
A needy exile 1, though not condemned
To that, have left my lands in order that
A soldier deadly War's rewards may get.
Hence from a hillock will I look my last
Upon my lands, and into th' woods I hence
Will go. The hills will now my path oppose,
Oppose it will the mountains, but to seek
The plains 'twill be allowed. "O happy name,
Ye lands so sweet, and Lydia sweeter still,
Ye fountains pure and closes, fare ye well.
Descend the mountain slower, wretched goats,
The tender pastures known so well ye may
Not crop again. O father of the herd,
Do thou remain." Both first and last to us
Were these. I gaze upon the plains for long,
A hostage for me there remains on them.
Again, my lands, farewell, and fare thee well,
My dearest Lydia, whether thou wilt live,
Or if thou'lt not, wilt die with me, whiche'er.
O Battarus, on th' reed let us renew
Our final song. For bitter things shall sweet
And soft ones hard become, and eyes shall see
The black as white and right hand as the left,
The mishaps of the state shall it transfer
To strange communities, ere shall the care
Of thee depart from out my bones. Although
Thou hot, although thou cold shalt be, I'll love
Thee ever; for 'twill always be allowed
For me to think upon thy joys and mine.


I envy you, ye fields and lovely meads,
In this more lovely that my beauteous girl
In you doth sigh in silence for my love.
You now she sees, in you my Lydia plays,
She now addressed you, at you she now
Doth smile with darling eyes and hums my songs
With voice subdued, and in the meantime sings
What she to me in secret used to sing.
I envy you, ye fields, ye'll learn to love.
O fields too fortunate and happy oft,
In which she prints the marks of snowy feet,
Or plucks with rosy fingers grapes yet green
(For yet they do not swell with pleasant juice),
Or 'mid the variegated flowers, the dues
Of Venus, lays her limbs along and doth
The tender herbage crush, and parted there
My amours old shall stealthily recount.
The woods shall joy, the meadows soft and founts
So cool shall joy, and stillness shall be made
A solitude; the gliding streams shall pause,
Remain, ye waters! while my care expounds
Its fond complaints. I envy you, O fields;
My joys do ye possess, and now in you
Is she who was aforetime my delight,
But ill my dying members waste with grief,
And warmth departs by chill of death replaced,
Because my mistress isn't here with me.
There wasn't any girl upon the earth
More learnèd or more beautiful, and if
The story isn't false, my girl alone
(But, Jupiter, I pray thee hearken not)
Is worthy Jupiter as bull or gold.
O happy bull, the sire and ornament
O' th' mighty herd, a cow doth never, lairs
Apart from thee desiring, suffer thee
To low in vain thy sorrow to the woods.
O blest and always happy sire of kids:
For whether rugged mountains thou dost seek,
O'er boulders roaming, or it pleaseth thee
To scorn the forage fresh in woods or on
The plains, with thee thy happy she-goat is.
And to whatever place a male has gone
His female has been joined with him, and he
Has ne'er lamented interrupted loves.
Why, Nature, hast thou not been kind to me?
Why suffer I so oft a cruel grief?
When o'er the verdant world the pallid stars
Return and running in the place, O moon,
Of Phoebus and his golden orb, thou hast
Thy love' with thee, why isn't mine with me?
O moon, thou knowest what affliction is,
So pity one in trouble. Wearing it
Upon thyself, the laurel has declared
Thy love, O Phoebus. Everything ye are,
O gods, if not in woods, and Fame these things
Has told of you: a series of the gods
Doth bear the emblems of their joys with them,
Or sees them scattered in the universe;
A lengthy task it were to tell of these.
Nay, even when the Golden Age its years
Was rolling on, an equal state of things
Existed for the mortals living then,
I also pass this age and heroes by.
Through Ariadne's noted group of stars
We know how every maiden followed then
Her man, as though she were a captive maid.
O dwellers in the sky, how could our age
Have injured you whereby there should to us
Be meted out a harder state of things?
Was I the first who dared to violate
The spotless modesty and tamper with
The hallowed fillet of his girl, that I
Am forced by my untimely death to pay
The Fates? And O that of that deed my fault
Might be the first instructress: death would then
Be sweeter far than life to me. My fame
Would not be bounded, not by any time.
When I might say that I had stolen first
The pleasant joys of Venus, and from me
Had sprung the pleasure sweet. But wicked prayers
That our delinquency might be the start
Of secret love have not so much to me
Conceded. 'Ere unceasingly he false
Presentments of himself became, the joys
Did Jupiter with Juno taste, and stole
Delicious love ere either of them had
Been called a spouse. The stolen joys
Of secret love has Venus tasted, too,
With Adon hunting in secluded spots,
And with her male she then in tender grass
Rejoiced to crush the purple flowers on which
She lay; the goddess placing joys immense
Beneath his handsome neck. I think that Mars
Had then been kept apart from her in arms,
For Vulcan certainly was doing work
For him, and this was making foul with soot
Both cheeks and beard for that unhappy god.
Has not Aurora too successive loves
Bewailed, and blushing, with her rosy cloak
Concealed her eyes? Such things the gods have done:
And can I say the Golden Age did less?
What therefore god and hero did, why not
A later age? Unhappy I, who then
When Nature was so easy wasn't born.
O my unlucky lot in being born
In such an age as this and wretched race
Of men for whom desire is all too late!
My life! so great a pillage have they made
Of heart of mine that what I now remain
You with your eyes would scarcely recognize. Last modified 31 May 1998. This page maintained by David Wilson-Okamura. Email your comments to