§ 1 I had crossed over swift-flowing Nava's cloudy stream, and gazed with awe upon the ramparts lately thrown round ancient Vincum, where Gaul once matched the Roman rout at Cannae, and where her slaughtered hordes lay scattered over the countryside untended and unwept. Thence onward I began a lonely journey through pathless forest, nor did my eyes rest on any trace of human inhabitants. I passed Dumnissus, sweltering amid its parched fields, and Tabernae, watered by its unfailing spring, and the lands lately parcelled out to Sarmatian settlers. And at length on the very verge of Belgic territory I descry Noiomagus, the famed camp of sainted Constantine. Clearer the air which here invests the plains, and Phoebus, cloudless now, discloses glowing heaven with his untroubled light. No longer is the sky to seek, shut out by the green gloom of branches intertwined: but the free breath of transparent day withholds not sight of the sun's pure rays and of the aether, dazzling to the eyes. Nay more, the whole gracious prospect made me behold a picture of my own native land, the smiling and well-tended country of Burdigala, the roofs of country-houses, perched high upon the overhanging river-banks, the hill-sides green with vines, and the pleasant stream of Moselle gliding below with subdued murmuring.
§ 23 Hail, river, blessed by the fields, blessed by the husbandmen, to whom the Belgae owe the imperial honour which Graces their city: river, whose hills are o'ergrown with Bacchus' fragrant vines, o'ergrown, river most verdant, thy banks with turf: ship-bearing as the sea, with sloping waters gliding as a river, and with thy crystal depths the peer of lakes, brooks thou canst match for hurrying flow, cool springs surpass for limpid draughts; one, thou hast all that belongs to springs, brooks, rivers, lakes, and tidal Ocean with his ebb and flow. Thou, with calm waters onward gliding, feel'st not any murmurs of the wind nor check from hidden rocks; nor by foaming shallows art thou forced to hurry on in swirling rapids, no eyots hast thou jutting in midstream to thwart thy course lest the glory of thy due title be impaired, if any isle sunder and stem thy flow. For thee two modes of voyaging are appointed: this, when boats move down thy stream with current favouring and their oars thrash the churned waters at full speed, that, when along the banks, with tow-rope never slackening, the boatmen strain on their shoulders hawsers bound to the masts. Thyself how often dost thou marvel at the windings of thine own stream, and think its natural speed moves almost too slowly! Thou with no mud-grown sedge fringest thy banks, nor with foul ooze o'er-spread'st thy marge; dry is the treading down to thy water's edge.
§ 48 Go now, and with Phrygian slabs lay out smooth floors spreading an expanse of marble through thy fretted halls! But I, scorning what wealth and riches have bestowed, will marvel at Nature's handiwork, and not at that wherein ruin wantons, recklessly prodigal and delighting in her waste. Here firm sands spread the moist shores, and the foot resting on them leaves no recording print behind.
§ 55 Thou through thy smooth surface showest all the treasures of thy crystal depths a river keeping naught concealed: and as the calm air lies clear and open to our gaze, and the stilled winds do not forbid the sight to travel through the void, so, if our gaze penetrates thy gulfs, we behold things whelmed far below, and the recesses of thy secret depth lie open, whenas thy flood moves softly and thy waters limpid-gliding reveal in azure light shapes scattered here and there: how the furrowed sand is rippled by the light current, how the bowed water-grasses quiver in thy green bed: down beneath their native streams the tossing plants endure the water's buffeting, pebbles gleam and are hid, and gravel picks out patches of green moss. As the whole Caledonian shore spreads open to the Briton's gaze, when ebbing tides lay bare green seaweed and red coral and whitening pearls, the seed of shells, man's gauds, and under the enriched waves mimic necklaces counterfeit our fashions; even so beneath the glad waters of still Moselle weeds of different hue reveal the pebbles scattered amidst them.
§ 75 Howbeit, though fixed upon the depths, the eyes grow weary with straying after fishes who in slippery shoals sport midway between. But their many kinds, their slanting course in swimming, and those companies which ascend up against the stream, their names, and all the offspring of their countless tribe, it is not lawful for me to declare, nor does he permit to whom passed the charge of the second element and the safe-keeping of the watery trident. Do thou for me, O Nymph, dweller in the river's realm, declare the hosts of the scaly herd, and from the depths of thy watery bed discourse of those throngs which glide in the azure stream.
§ 85 The scaly Chub gleams amid the weeds that deck the sands, of flesh most tender, full of close-set bones, and destined to keep fit for the table but twice three hours; the Trout, too, whose back is starred with purple spots, the Roach without pointed bones to do mischief, and the swift Grayling darting out of sight with his swift stroke. And thou, who after buffeting amid the gorges of crooked Saravus (Saar) where its mouth frets at twice three craggy piers, when thou hast been carried down into a stream of greater note, O Barbel, dost more freely ply an easy stroke: improving with declining life, to thee alone of the whole number of living things belongs an old age not unpraised.
§ 97 Nor shall I pass thee by, O Salmon, with flesh of rosy red, the random strokes of whose broad tail from the mid-depths are reproduced upon the surface, when the still water's face betrays thy hidden course. Thou, with breastplate of scales, in the fore-part smooth, and destined to form a course at some "doubtful dinner," endurest untainted through seasons of long delay thou distinguished by the markings of thy head, whose generous paunch sways and whose belly droops with rolls of fat. And thou, the Eel-pout, who o'er Illyricum, o'er the marshes of twice-named Ister art betrayed and taken through tell-tale streaks of floating foam, hast been carried to our waters lest the glad streams of Moselle should be cheated of so famed a fosterling. With what colours has Nature painted thee! Above, dark spots pick out thy back, and rings of saffron surround them; azure hue continues the length of thy sleek back; up to the middle of thy length thou art full-fleshed and fat, but from there right on to thy tail's tip, thy skin is rough and dry.
§ 115 Neither shalt thou, O Perch, the dainty of our tables, be unsung thou amongst fishes river-born worthy to be ranked with the sea-bred, who alone canst vie on equal terms with the rosy mullet; for not insipid is thy flavour, and in thy plump body the parts meet as segments, but are kept apart by the backbone. Here, too, doth he, jestingly known by a Latin proper name that dweller in the marshes, most deadly enemy to plaintive frogs Lucius (the Pike), beset pools dim with sedge and ooze: he. chosen for no service at banquets, is fried in cookshops rank with the fumes of his greasy flavour.
§ 125 Who shall not know of the green Tench also, the comfort of the commons, of Bleak, a prey for boyish hooks, of Shad, hissing on the hearth, food for the vulgar, and of thee, something between two species, who art neither and yet both, not yet salmon, no longer trout, and undefined betwixt these twain, art caught midway in thy life? Thou also must be mentioned amid the battalions of the stream, Gudgeon, no longer than the width of two palms without the thumbs, full-fat, rounded, and yet more bulky when thy belly teems with spawn Gudgeon, who art bearded like the tufted barbel.
§ 135 Now creature of the surface, shall thy praise be sung, O mighty Sheat-fish, whom, with back glistening as though with olive-oil of Attica, I look on as a dolphin of the river so mightily thou glidest through the waters and canst scarce extend thy trailing body to its full length, hampered by shallows or by riverweeds. But when thou urgest thy peaceful course in the stream, at thee the green banks marvel, at thee the azure throng of the finny tribe, at thee the limpid waters: in the channel a tide is rolled abroad on either hand, and the ends of the waves drive onward at the marge. So, when at times on the Atlantic deep a whale by wind or his own motion is driven to the verge of land, the sea displaced o'erflows, great waters rise, and neighbouring mountains fear to lose their height. Yet this this gentle whale of our Moselle is far from havoc and brings glory to the mighty stream.
§ 150 Now 'tis enough to have viewed the watery paths and to have told o'er the fishes in their glistening hosts and legions manifold. Let show of vines lead on another pageant, and let Bacchus' gifts attract our wandering gaze where lofty ridge, far-stretching above scarped slopes,, and spur, and sunny hill-side with salient and reentrant rise in a natural theatre overgrown with vines. So does the gracious vintage clothe the ridge of Gaurus and Rhodope,' and so Lyaeus decks the Pangaean hills, his chosen haunt; so Ismarus raises his green slopes above the Thracian sea; so do my own vineyards cast their reflection on the yellowing Garonne. For from the topmost ridge to the foot of the slope the river-side is thickly planted with green vines. The people, happy in their toil, and the restless husbandmen are busy, now on the hill-top, now on the slope, exchanging shouts in boisterous rivalry. Here the wayfarer tramping along the low-lying bank, and there the bargeman floating by, troll their rude jests at the loitering vine-dressers; and all the hills, and shivering woods, and channelled river, ring with their cries.
§ 169 Nor does the scenery of this region please men alone; I can believe that here the rustic Satyrs and the grey-eyed Nymphs meet together on the border of the stream, when the goat-footed Pans are seized with merry ribaldry, and splashing in the shallows, frighten the trembling sister-nymphs beneath the stream, while they thresh the water with unskilful strokes. Oft also, when she has stolen clusters from the inland hills, Panope, the river lady, with a troop of Oread friends, flees the wanton Fauns, gods of the country-side. And it is said that when the sun's fiery orb stops in the midst of his course, the Satyrs and the sister-Nymphs of the crystal depths meet here beside the stream and ply the dance in partnership, what time the fiercer heat affords them hours set free from mortal company. Then,, wantonly frolicking amid their native waters, the Nymphs duck the Satyrs in the waves, and slip away right through the hands of those unskilful swimmers, as, baffled, they seek to grasp their slippery limbs and, instead of bodies, embrace yielding waves. But of these things which no man has looked upon and no eye beheld, be it no sin for me to speak in part: let things secret be kept hid, and let Reverence dwell unspied upon, in the safe-keeping of her native streams.
§ 189 Yon is a sight that may be freely enjoyed: when the azure river mirrors the shady hill, the waters of the stream seem to bear leaves and the flood to be all o'ergrown with shoots of vines. What a hue is on the waters when Hesperus has driven forward the lagging shadows and o'erspreads Moselle with the green of the reflected height! Whole hills float on the shivering ripples: here quivers the far-off tendril of the vine, here in the glassy flood swells the full cluster. The deluded boatman tells o'er the green vines the boatman whose skiff of bark floats on the watery floor out in mid-stream, where the pictured hill blends with the river and where the river joins with the edges of the shadows.
§ 200 And when oared skiffs join in mimic battle in mid-stream, how pleasing is the pageant which this sight affords! They circle in and out, and graze the sprouting blades of the cropped turf along the green banks. The husbandman, standing upon the rise of the green bank, watches the light-hearted owners as they leap about on stern or prow, the boyish crew straggling over the river's wide expanse, and never feels the day is slipping by, but puts their play before his business, while present pleasure shuts out whilom cares. As those games which Liber beholds on the Cumaean tide, whenas he walks abroad over the planted hills of reeking Gaurus, or passes through the vineyards of smoke-plumed Vesuvius, when Venus, glad at Augustus' victory of Actium, bade the pert Loves enact in mimicry such fierce combats as the navies of the Nile and Roman triremes waged below Leucas and Apollo's hold; or as when Euboean barks repeat upon the waters of echoing Avernus the hazards of the strife at Mylae in the Pompeian War; or as the harmless onsets of boats and playful battles of the naumachia which the dark sea repeats in his green imagery while Sicilian Pelorus looks down; such the appearance which youth, river, skiffs with painted prows, lend to these merry lads. But when Hyperion pours down the sun's full heat, the crystal flood reflects sailor-shapes and throws back crooked pictures of their downward forms. And as they ply their nimble strokes with the right hand and the left, and throwing their weight in turn now upon this oar, now upon that, the wave reflects a watery semblance of sailors to match them. The boys themselves delight in their own counterfeits, wondering at the illusive forms which the river gives back. Thus, when hoping soon to display her braided tresses ('tis when the nurse has first placed near her dear charge the wide-gleaming glory of the searching mirror), delighted, the little maid enjoys the uncomprehended game, deeming she gazes on the shape of a real girl: she showers on the shining metal kisses not to be returned, or essays those firm-fixed hairpins, or puts her fingers to that brow, trying to draw out those curled locks; even so, at sight of the reflections which mock them, the lads afloat amuse themselves with shapes which waver between false and true.
§ 240 Now, where the bank supplies easy approaches, a devastating throng ransacks all the depths for fish ill-sheltered alack! by the river's sanctuary. This man far out in mid-stream trails dripping nets and sweeps up shoals of fish, snared in the knotty folds; but this, where the river glides with peaceful flood, draws his seins, buoyed up with floats of cork; while yonder on the rocks one leans over the waters which flow beneath, and lets droop the curved tip of his pliant rod, casting hooks baited with deadly food. All unsuspecting, the wandering finny tribe rush upon them agape; and when too late! their opened gullets feel the concealed barbs pierce deep within, they struggle, and their struggles are betrayed above, when the wand bends in response to the tremulous vibrations of the quivering line. Straightway the boy skilfully whisks his prey from the water, swinging it sidelong with a whistling stroke: a hissing follows on the blow, even as the breeze whines and whistles when sometimes a scourge is whirled through empty space and disturbs the air. The dripping catch flounders on the parched rocks and quakes at the deadly shafts of light-bringing day. Beneath his native waters, his strength endured: enfeebled by our atmosphere his life wastes away in the air he gasps. Now his weakening body quivers with feeble beats, now his nerveless tail endures its last throbs: his gaping mouth no longer closes: his panting gills give back the air they have drained and blow forth the death-dealing breath of day. Even so, when the blast fans a smithy-fire, the valve of wool which plays in the hollow of the beechen bellows alternately sucks in and confines the winds now by this hole, now by that. I myself have seen fish, already quivering in the throes of death, summon up their last gasp and, leaping high into the air, cast themselves with a somersault into the river beneath, gaining once more the waters which they never looked to find again. Thereat, impatient at his loss, the lad impetuously plunges in from on high, seeking poor fool to catch them as he swims. So Glaucus of Anthedon, the fisher of the Boeotian sea, having tasted Circe's deadly herbs, when he had plucked those plants cropped by his dying fish, plunged into the Carpathian sea, there to find a new home: that fisherman, so skilful with his hooks and nets, who ransacked Nereus' hidden depths and swept the surface which is Tethys' realm that spoiler tossed on the waves amid the shoals he once took captive. Such sights unfold themselves along the azure reaches of the river in sight of country seats which perched on the toppling summits of the rocks, are parted by the stream wandering on midways with winding curves, while lordly halls grace either bank.
§ 287 Who now can marvel at the waters on which Sestos looks down that sea named after Helle, daughter of Nephela; who at the waves, once bridged across from the Chalcedonian shore, a labour of the Great King where the channel with intervening waves forbids the lands of Europe and of Asia to clash together? Here is not the dread fury of that strait, not the wild turmoil of its north-western gales; here two may link interchanging speech, and weave discourse with alternating waves of sound. The kindly shores intermingle cries of greeting cries and almost the grip of hands: words which resound from either side Echo returns, speeding with them o'er the intervening waves.
§ 298 Who has the skill to unfold the countless embellishments and forms, and to display the architectural beauties of each demesne? Such work the flying man of Gortyn would not scorn — he who built that temple at Euboean Cumae and, essaying to reproduce in gold the fate of Icarus, was thwarted by a father's grief; nor Philo of Athens; nor yet he who won admiration from his foe by the devices with which he prolonged the famed struggles of besieged Syracuse. Perchance, too, even that company of Seven Architects, whose praise is told in Marcus' tenth volume, produced these marvellous works of human hands; perchance here nourished the craft of renowned Menecrates, and that skill which draws all eyes at Ephesus, or the genius of Ictinus displayed in Minerva's citadel, where is that owl painted with colours of such magic power as to lure to it fowls of all kinds and to destroy them by its stare. Here also may have been the designer of Ptolemy's palace, Dinochares, builder of the pyramid which towers up, foursided, to a point and itself devours its own shadow he who, when bidden to commemorate Arsinoe, the incestuous bride, poised her image in mid-air beneath the roof of her Pharian temple. For from the vaulted roof a lode-stone sheds its influence and by its attraction draws the young queen towards it by her iron-wrought hair.
§ 318 These, then, or such as these, we may well believe to have raised these splendid dwellings in the Belgic land, and to have piled these lofty mansions to be the river's ornament. This one stands high upon a mass of natural rock, this rests upon the verge of the jutting, bank, this stands back and claims the river for its own, making it prisoner in an enfolding bay. Yon occupies a hill whose bulk looms high above the stream, claiming free prospect o'er tilth, o'er waste, and the rich outlook enjoys the lands about as though its own. Nay, and another, though it rests its foot low down in the well-watered meadows, makes up the natural advantage of a mountain's height rearing its threatening steep until the soaring roof breaks in upon the aether, displaying like Memphian Pharos, its lofty tower. This has for its own the catching of fish imprisoned in the fenced flood between the sunny, grass-grown rocks; l this, perched upon the ridge's topmost crest, looks down with prospect just bedimmed in haze upon the stream which slides below. What need to make mention of their courts set beside verdant meadows, of their trim roofs resting upon countless pillars? What of their baths, contrived low down on the verge of the bank, which smoke when Vulcan, drawn by the glowing flue, pants forth his flames and whirls them up through the channelled walls, rolling in masses the imprisoned smoke before the scorching blast! I myself have seen some, exhausted by the intense heat of the baths, scorn the pools and cold plunge-baths, preferring to enjoy running water, and, straightway refreshed by the river, buffet the cool stream, threshing it with their strokes. But if a stranger were to arrive here from the shores of Cumae, he would believe that Euboean Baiae had bestowed on this region a miniature copy of its own delights: so great is the charm of its refinement and distinction, while its pleasures breed no excess.
§ 349 But how can I ever end the theme of thy azure tributaries,, or tell all thy praises, O Moselle, comparable with the sea for the countless streams which throughout thy length now into thee through various mouths? Though they might prolong their courses,, yet they haste to lose their names in thee. For, albeit swelled by the waters of Promea and Nemesa, Sura, no weakling stream, hurries to plunge beneath thy waves — Sura, who delights thee with the affluents she has cut off, and who enjoys ampler renown when wholly merged in thee and bearing thy name than if she blended with Father Ocean an outfall unworthy fame. Thee swift Celbis, thee Erubris, famed for marble, hasten full eagerly to approach with their attendant waters: renowned is Celbis for glorious fish, and that other, as he turns his mill-stones in furious revolutions and drives the shrieking saws through smooth blocks of marble, hears from either bank a ceaseless din. I pass by feeble Lesura and scanty Drahonus, nor turn to use Salmona's despised rivulet: long has Saravus, bearing ships upon the volume of his sounding waves, been calling me with all his robe outspread: far has he prolonged his stream that he might roll his wearied outfall beneath imperial walls. No whit beneath him is blest Alisontia who laps fruit-laden banks as he glides silently through rich corn-lands. A thousand others, according to the vehemence of each which drives him on, long to become thine: such is the ambition of these hurrying streams or such their character. But if to thee, O divine Moselle, Smyrna or famed Mantua had given its own poet, then would Simois, renowned on Ilium's coasts, yield place, and Tiber would not dare to set his glories above thine. Pardon, O pardon me, mighty Rome! Rebuffed I pray let Envy withdraw, and Nemesis who knows no Latin name! To thee, O Tiber, belongs this higher praise, that thou dost guard the seat of empire and the homes of Rome.
§ 381 Hail, mighty mother both of fruits and men! Thy illustrious nobles, thy youth trained to war, thy eloquence which vies with the tongues of Rome these are thy glories, O Moselle! And withal, Nature has bestowed upon thy sons virtue and a blithe spirit with unclouded brows. Not Rome alone vaunts her old-time Catos, nor does Aristides stand alone as the one only critic of Justice and of Right illuminating ancient Athens.
§ 389 But why, coursing along too freely with loose rein, do I, o'ercome with love, wear out thy praises? Put by the lyre, my Muse, striking the last chords which end thy song! The time shall come when, as I soothe my sorrows and cherish age that loves sunny nooks with the pursuits of inglorious ease, the glory of my theme shall commend me, when to their glory and renown I shall sing the achievements and native virtues of each hero of the Belgae: the Muses of Pieria shall spin me smooth songs of soft yarn and speed at looms fitted with fine-spun woof: our spindles also shall not lack for purple. Of whom then shall I not tell? I shall mention thy peaceful husbandmen, thy skilful lawyers, and thy mighty pleaders, high bulwark for men accused those in whom the Council of their townsmen has seen its chief leaders and a Senate of its own, those whose famed eloquence in the schools of youth has raised them to the height of old Quintilian's renown, those who have ruled their own cities and shed glory on tribunals unstained with blood and axes guiltless of slaughter, or who as prefects of second rank have governed the peoples of Italy and Britons, children of the North, and him who ruled Rome, head of the world, both People and Senate, bearing a title all but the highest, though he was peer of the highest: let Fortune haste at length to unravel her mistake, give him full draught of the prized cup already sipped, and give him back this time the substance of that proud dignity to be reclaimed by his illustrious posterity! But let the task lately begun be fully wrought, and, putting off the praise of famous men, let me tell of the happy river in its joyous course through the green country-side, and hallow it in the waters of the Rhine.
§ 418 Now spread thine azure folds and glass-green robe, O Rhine, and measure out a space for thy new stream: a brother's waters come to swell thee. Nor is his treasure waters alone, but also that, coming from the walls of the imperial city, he has beheld the united triumphs of father and son over foes vanquished beyond Nicer and Lupodunum and Ister's source, unknown to Latin chronicles. This laureate dispatch which tells of their o'erwhelming arms is but now come to thee: hereafter others and yet others shall he bring. Press on united both, and with twin streams drive back the deep-blue sea. Nor do thou fear to lose esteem, most beauteous Rhine: a host has naught of jealousy. Thou shalt enjoy endless fame: do thou, assured of renown, take to thyself a brother. Rich in waters, rich in Nymphs, thy channel, bounteous to both, shall stretch forth two branching streams from either bank and open ways for you both through various outfalls. So shalt thou gain strength to make Franks and Chamaves and Germans quake: then shalt thou be held their boundary indeed. So shalt thou gain a name bespeaking double origin, and though from thy source thou dost flow a single stream, thou shall be called twy-horned.
§ 438 Such is the theme I compass I, who am sprung of Viviscan stock, yet by old ties of guestship no stranger to the Belgae; I, Ausonius, Roman in name yet born and bred betwixt the frontiers of Gaul and high Pyrene, where blithe Aquitania mellows the native temper of her sons: great is my daring though my lute is small. Be it no sin for me to have touched lightly on thy holy stream with the poor offering my Muse affords. 'Tis not for praise I hanker: I sue for pardon. Many thou hast, O gentle stream, who use to trouble the rills of the Aonian maids and drain all Aganippe. But as for me, so far as the flow of my poetic vein shall serve when the Emperor and his sons (my chiefest care) shall give me my discharge from service as their tutor, and shall dispatch me, invested with the emblems arid dignity of the Ausonian consulship, home to Burdigala, my native land, the nest of my old age I will pursue yet further the praises of thy Northern stream. I will tell also of cities below which with voiceless channel thou dost glide, of strongholds which look out on thee from ancient walls; I will tell also of fortresses raised for defence in times of peril, now not fortresses but granaries for the unmenaced Belgic folk; I will tell also of prosperous settlers upon either shore, and how thy waters lap their banks midway between the toils of men and oxen, parting the rich fields. Not Liger shall prefer himself before thee, not headlong Axona, not Matrona, set as a border-line between Gauls and Belgae, not Carantonus himself whose stream is driven back by the Santonic tide. Thou too, Duranius, whose waters roll down from their chill mountain-source, shalt yield, and Gaul shall rank gold-bearing Tarnes in lower place; and, though he rushes madly 'mid wide-rolling rocks, yet shall Tarbellic Aturrus only pass into the dark sea when he has first done homage to the deity of sovereign Moselle.
§ 469 Horned Moselle, worthy to be renowned throughout foreign lands, and not to be renowned in those parts alone where at thy farthest source thou dost reveal the gilded glory of a bull-like brow; or where amid embaying fields thou dost wind thy peaceful course; or where below German harbours thou dost clear thy outfall; if any praise shall choose to breathe upon this feeble strain, if anyone shall deign to waste his leisure on my verse, thou shalt pass upon the lips of men, and be cherished with joyful song. Of thee springs and living lakes shall learn, of thee azure rivers, of thee ancient groves, the glory of our villages; to thee Druna, to thee Druentia, wandering uncertainly between her shifting banks, shall do reverence with all the Alpine streams, and Rhodanus who, flowing through that twofold city (Arelate), gives a name to the Right Bank; thee will I praise to the dark meres and deep-voiced tributaries, thee will I praise to sea-like Garonne.