O fortunatus nimium, etc., a translation out of Virgil by Abraham Cowley
O fortunatus nimium, etc.
A TRANSLATION OUT OF VIRGIL.
Oh happy (if his happiness he knows)
The country swain, on whom kind Heaven bestows
At home all riches that wise Nature needs;
Whom the just earth with easy plenty feeds.
’Tis true, no morning tide of clients comes,
And fills the painted channels of his rooms,
Adoring the rich figures, as they pass,
In tapestry wrought, or cut in living brass;
Nor is his wool superfluously dyed
With the dear poison of Assyrian pride:
Nor do Arabian perfumes vainly spoil
The native use and sweetness of his oil.
Instead of these, his calm and harmless life,
Free from th’ alarms of fear, and storms of strife,
Does with substantial blessedness abound,
And the soft wings of peace cover him round:
Through artless grots the murmuring waters glide;
Thick trees both against heat and cold provide,
From whence the birds salute him; and his ground
With lowing herds, and bleating sheep does sound;
And all the rivers, and the forests nigh,
Both food and game and exercise supply.
Here a well-hardened, active youth we see,
Taught the great art of cheerful poverty.
Here, in this place alone, there still do shine
Some streaks of love, both human and divine;
From hence Astræa took her flight, and here
Still her last footsteps upon earth appear.
’Tis true, the first desire which does control
All the inferior wheels that move my soul,
Is, that the Muse me her high priest would make;
Into her holiest scenes of mystery take,
And open there to my mind’s purgèd eye
Those wonders which to sense the gods deny;
How in the moon such chance of shapes is found
The moon, the changing world’s eternal bound.
What shakes the solid earth, what strong disease
Dares trouble the firm centre’s ancient ease;
What makes the sea retreat, and what advance:
Varieties too regular for chance.
What drives the chariot on of winter’s light,
And stops the lazy waggon of the night.
But if my dull and frozen blood deny
To send forth spirits that raise a soul so high;
In the next place, let woods and rivers be
My quiet, though unglorious, destiny.
In life’s cool vale let my low scene be laid;
Cover me, gods, with Tempe’s thickest shade
Happy the man, I grant, thrice happy he
Who can through gross effects their causes see:
Whose courage from the deeps of knowledge springs.
Nor vainly fears inevitable things;
But does his walk of virtue calmly go,
Through all th’ alarms of death and hell below.
Happy! but next such conquerors, happy they,
Whose humble life lies not in fortune’s way.
They unconcerned from their safe distant seat
Behold the rods and sceptres of the great.
The quarrels of the mighty, without fear,
And the descent of foreign troops they hear.
Nor can even Rome their steady course misguide,
With all the lustre of her perishing pride.
Them never yet did strife or avarice draw
Into the noisy markets of the law,
The camps of gownéd war, nor do they live
By rules or forms that many mad men give,
Duty for nature’s bounty they repay,
And her sole laws religiously obey.
Some with bold labour plough the faithless main;
Some rougher storms in princes’ courts sustain.
Some swell up their slight sails with popular fame,
Charmed with the foolish whistlings of a name.
Some their vain wealth to earth again commit;
With endless cares some brooding o’er it sit.
Country and friends are by some wretches sold,
To lie on Tyrian beds and drink in gold;
No price too high for profit can be shown;
Not brother’s blood, nor hazards of their own.
Around the world in search of it they roam;
It makes e’en their Antipodes their home.
Meanwhile, the prudent husbandman is found
In mutual duties striving with his ground;
And half the year he care of that does take
That half the year grateful returns does make
Each fertile month does some new gifts present,
And with new work his industry content:
This the young lamb, that the soft fleece doth yield,
This loads with hay, and that with corn the field:
All sorts of fruit crown the rich autumn’s pride:
And on a swelling hill’s warm stony side,
The powerful princely purple of the vine,
Twice dyed with the redoubled sun, does shine.
In th’ evening to a fair ensuing day,
With joy he sees his flocks and kids to play,
And loaded kine about his cottage stand,
Inviting with known sound the milker’s hand;
And when from wholesome labour he doth come,
With wishes to be there, and wished for home,
He meets at door the softest human blisses,
His chaste wife’s welcome, and dear children’s kisses.
When any rural holydays invite
His genius forth to innocent delight,
On earth’s fair bed beneath some sacred shade,
Amidst his equal friends carelessly laid,
He sings thee, Bacchus, patron of the vine,
The beechen bowl foams with a flood of wine,
Not to the loss of reason or of strength.
To active games and manly sport at length
Their mirth ascends, and with filled veins they see,
Who can the best at better trials be.
Such was the life the prudent Sabine chose,
From such the old Etrurian virtue rose.
Such, Remus and the god his brother led,
From such firm footing Rome grew the world’s head.
Such was the life that even till now does raise
The honour of poor Saturn’s golden days:
Before men born of earth and buried there,
Let in the sea their mortal fate to share,
Before new ways of perishing were sought,
Before unskilful death on anvils wrought.
Before those beasts which human life sustain,
By men, unless to the gods’ use, were slain.
Other works by Abraham Cowley:
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Some works by other baroque authors
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