Thursday, December 08, 2011


Shepherd's Offering and Prayer

[For my friends Dave and Lorraine, who raise sheep on Dor Galen farm.]

Ovid, Fasti 4.735-776 (tr. James George Frazer):
Shepherd, do thou purify thy well-fed sheep at fall of twilight; first sprinkle the ground with water and sweep it with a broom. Deck the sheepfold with leaves and branches fastened to it; adorn the door and cover it with a long festoon. Make blue smoke with pure sulphur, and let the sheep, touched with the smoking sulphur, bleat. Burn wood of male olives and pine and savines, and let the singed laurel crackle in the midst of the hearth. And let a basket of millet accompany cakes of millet; the rural goddess particularly delights in that food. Add viands and a pail of milk, such as she loves; and when the viands have been cut up, pray to sylvan Pales, offering warm milk to her.

[747] Say, "O, take thought alike for the cattle and the cattle's masters; ward off from my stalls all harm, O let it flee away! If I have fed my sheep on holy ground, or sat me down under a sacred tree, and my sheep unwittingly have browsed on graves; if I have entered a forbidden grove, or the nymphs and the half-goat god have been put to flight at sight of me;

[751] if my pruning-knife has robbed a sacred copse of a shady bough, to fill a basket with leaves for sick sheep, pardon my fault. Count it not against me if I have sheltered my flock in a rustic shrine till the hail left off, and may I not suffer for having troubled the pools: forgive it, nymphs, if the trampling of hoofs has made your waters turbid.

[759] Do thou, goddess, appease for us the springs and their divinities; appease the gods dispersed through every grove. May we not see the Dryads, nor Diana's baths, nor Faunus, when he lies in the fields at noon.

[763] Drive far away diseases: may men and beasts be hale, and hale too the sagacious pack of watch-dogs. May I drive home my flocks as numerous as they were at morn, nor sigh as I bring back fleeces snatched from the wolf.

[767] Avert dire hunger. Let grass and leaves abound, and water both to wash and drink. Full udders may I milk; may my cheese bring in money; may the sieve of wicker-work give passage to the liquid whey: lustful be the ram, and may his mate conceive and bear, and many a lamb be in my fold.

[773] And let the wool grow so soft that it could not fret the skin of girls nor chafe the tenderest hands. May my prayer be granted, and we will year by year make great cakes for Pales, the shepherds' mistress."

pastor, oves saturas ad prima crepuscula lustra:    735
    unda prius spargat, virgaque verrat humum;
frondibus et fixis decorentur ovilia ramis,
    et tegat ornatas longa corona fores.
caerulei fiant puro de sulpure fumi,
    tactaque fumanti sulpure balet ovis.    740
ure mares oleas taedamque herbasque Sabinas,
    et crepet in mediis laurus adusta focis.
libaque de milio milii fiscella sequatur:
    rustica praecipue est hoc dea laeta cibo.
adde dapes mulctramque suas, dapibusque resectis    745
    silvicolam tepido lacte precare Palem.
"consule" dic "pecori pariter pecorisque magistris:
    effugiat stabulis noxa repulsa meis.
sive sacro pavi sedive sub arbore sacra,
    pabulaque e bustis inscia carpsit ovis:    750
si nemus intravi vetitum, nostrisve fugatae
    sunt oculis nymphae semicaperque deus:
si mea falx ramo lucum spoliavit opaco,
    unde data est aegrae fiscina frondis ovi:
da veniam culpae. nec, dum degrandinat, obsit    755
    agresti fano subposuisse pecus.
nec noceat turbasse lacus. ignoscite, nymphae,
    mota quod obscuras ungula fecit aquas.
tu, dea, pro nobis fontes fontanaque placa
    numina, tu sparsos per nemus omne deos.    760
nec Dryadas nec nos videamus labra Dianae,
    nec Faunum, medio cum premit arva die.
pelle procul morbos; valeant hominesque gregesque,
    et valeant vigiles, provida turba, canes.
neve minus multos redigam, quam mane fuerunt,    765
    neve gemam referens vellera rapta lupo.
absit iniqua fames: herbae frondesque supersint,
    quaeque lavent artus quaeque bibantur aquae.
ubera plena premam, referat mihi caseus aera,
    dentque viam liquido vimina rara sero.    770
sitque salax aries, conceptaque semina coniunx
    reddat, et in stabulo multa sit agna meo.
lanaque proveniat nullas laesura puellas,
    mollis et ad teneras quamlibet apta manus.
quae precor eveniant, et nos faciemus ad annum    775
    pastorum dominae grandia liba Pali."

Joseph Farquharson, The Shortening
Winter's Day is Near a Close

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