Virgil — Aristaeus and the Bees

Georgics, book 4, lines 281–558

If anyone’s whole stock of bees has failed
and he has no idea how to revive the line,
he needs to learn how Aristaeus did it
long ago: a famous method, often used,
whereby new brood is generated
from the tainted blood of slaughtered bullocks.
Let me tell the whole long story, from the start.

In Egypt, whose inhabitants dwell happily
beside the quiet lakes formed by the flooded Nile
and sail around their fields in painted boats;
where the Persian empire borders, and the rushing river,
after flowing all the way from Ethiopia,
divides into its seven branches,
fertilising with black silt the verdant land:
in that whole region people put their trust in this technique.

They choose a place first that will serve their purpose:
small and narrowly confined. They wall and roof it in.
On each of its four sides
they make a window for the slanting light to enter.
Then they take a bullock, two years old;
the horns his brow has sprouted have begun to curve.
They stop his nostrils, block his mouth
and beat to death the poor beast as he struggles.
Then they pound the flesh, to soften it,
while being careful not to split the hide.
They leave him lying in his prison,
scattering beside him broken branches,
thyme and freshly gathered cassia.
This they do in February,
when the soft west wind first ruffles up the waves,
before the meadows blush with new spring colours
and the chattering swallow hangs her nest up in the rafters.
Now the moisture, warming in the softened bones, ferments.
Extraordinary creatures, with no feet at first,
but then with buzzing wings, assemble in a swarm,
and more and more of them attempt to fly,
until, like summer showers pouring from the clouds
or arrows shot from Parthians’ bowstrings
as the battle opens, they burst forth.

Which god was it, you Muses, who invented this device?
And how did men’s ingenious experimenting start?
The tale is told that Aristaeus was a shepherd who kept bees.
He left the vale of Tempe, by the river Peneus,
because his bees had died of hunger and disease.
He stopped beside the sacred fountain at the river’s source
and cried out, bitterly complaining to his mother,
‘Mother, oh Cyrene, you who dwell
deep in this river, if indeed Apollo is my father
and my parentage is glorious and divine,
why was I born, only to be hated by the fates?
Your former love for me, where has it gone?
Why did you bid me hope to have a place in heaven?
Here, although you are my mother,
I resign the best achievements of my mortal life,
these poor rewards for all the care and skill I’ve brought
to tending crops and cattle. Come now:
with your own hand uproot my pleasant woods,
set fire to my cattle stalls, destroy my crops
and burn my seedlings; take an axe — cut down my vines
if such contempt for me and for my honour has possessed you.’

From her chamber underneath the stream
his mother heard his cry. All around her
Nymphs were spinning fleeces from Milesia,
richly dyed a shade of glassy green…
Amongst them, Clymene was singing.
In her song she told how Vulcan, Venus’ husband,
found his wife in bed with Mars;
he wrapped the lovers in a net and then exposed them,
tangled up together, to the gods,
who only mocked him for his foolishness.
The amorous adventures of immortals,
as Clymene narrated them, are countless and as old as time.

Pleased with the song, the Nymphs
were winding soft thread from their spindles
when Aristaeus’ cry assailed his mother’s ear.
The sisters, seated on their glittering chairs, were shocked.
The first to lift her golden head above the waves
was Arethusa. She looked round, and called down to Cyrene,
‘Sister, you were right to be alarmed at this commotion.
It is your own belovèd Aristaeus,
standing sadly by the river, weeping
and accusing you, by name, of cruelty.’

Cyrene’s soul was smitten with strange terror
and she cried, ‘Oh, bring him to us, hurry!
It is allowed that he should cross the threshold of the gods.’
At her command the river parted wide
so that the youth could enter; and its waves stood up
like great curved mountains, forming
an enormous hollow which admitted him
and let him pass beneath the water.
So he went, and marvelled at his mother’s home,
her underwater kingdom, with its lakes confined in caverns,
with its echoing forests; he was stunned to hear
the mighty rush of waters, and amazed to see each river
following its course beneath the great weight of the earth…
When he reached his mother’s chamber
with its hanging roof of pumice,
while Cyrene listened to her son’s self-piteous complaint,
some of the sisters poured spring water on his hands
and brought soft towels to dry them.
Others loaded tables with a feast
and set out brimming cups of wine.
The altars blazed with frankincense. Cyrene cried,
‘Take up the goblets of Maeonion wine;
to Ocean let us make libation!’
Then she prayed to Ocean, father of all things,
and to the Nymphs her sisters, guardian spirits
of a hundred forests and a hundred streams.
Three times she sprinkled flowing nectar on the glowing hearth;
three times the flame blazed up again and reached the roof.
With this good omen to impart fresh courage to her son,
the mother spoke.

‘Out at sea, near Egypt, lives a seer.
His name is Proteus. His colour is sea-green.
Across the great expanses of the deep
he travels in a chariot drawn by fishes
and a team of horses with two legs.
At present he’s revisiting the ports of Thessaly
and Pallene, where he was born.
We Nymphs revere him; so does agèd Nereus himself.
The seer has knowledge of all things:
what is, what has been, what is soon to come.
For this was Neptune’s wish; and Proteus shepherds
Neptune’s flocks of monstrous underwater creatures.
First, my son, you must enchain him;
only then will he explain to you the cause of this disease
and bring about a happy outcome. Force him to it;
otherwise he’ll give you no advice; entreaty will not work.
It is a trial of strength; bind fast the prisoner;
his trickery will then exhaust itself in vain.
I’ll take you to his secret hideaway.
We’ll go there in the heat of midday, when the grass is parched,
when sheep have sought some welcome shade.
The old one will be weary then, and resting.
You can easily assail him while he lies asleep.
But when you lay your hands on him to chain him up,
he’ll try to get away from you by changing shape:
he’ll suddenly appear as different savage beasts —
a bristling boar, a fearsome tiger,
scaly dragon, tawny lioness;
or he’ll eject a spurt of roaring flame to slip his fetters
or he’ll melt between your fingers like clear water.
But the more he tries to change his form, my son,
the tighter you must bind him; after all of these disguises
he will finally resume the shape he had
when first he closed his eyes to sleep.’

Those were her words. She poured ambrosia in a fragrant stream,
anointing Aristaeus’ body with it, head to toe,
so that his hair was smoothed and perfumed
and his limbs made strong and supple.

There is a mighty cavern, hollowed in the mountainside,
where waves are driven endlessly before the wind
and break and roll into its inner recesses.
Sometimes the cave gives mariners safe refuge from the storm.
This is the place, behind a giant rock, where Proteus takes shelter.
Cyrene stationed Aristaeus here, out of the light
and ready for the ambush, while she stood apart, veiled in a mist.
It was high noon in summer, and the grass was scorched.
The riverbeds were dry; their mud was baking in the heat.
Up from the sea came Proteus, in search of his familiar cave.
Around him frolicked creatures of the deep,
splashing far and wide their salty spray.
Here and there, his seals lay down to sleep along the shore.
Just like the shepherd in the hills,
when evening brings the cattle home from pasture
and the bleating of the lambs excites the hunger of the wolf,
Proteus sat on a rock amidst his animals, and counted them.
Now Aristaeus saw his chance.
He scarcely let the ancient one compose his weary limbs
before he burst upon him with a shout, surprising him
and binding him with fetters where he lay.
Proteus of course did not forget his tricks.
He changed himself into all sorts of wondrous shapes:
he was a fire, and then a hideous beast, and then a flowing river.
But when these tactics failed and there was no escape
and he was beaten, he became himself again
and spoke to his attacker with a human voice.
‘Who told you, you presumptuous boy,
that you could break into our home?
What do you want from us?’
Aristaeus answered, ‘Proteus, you know already.
No one can deceive you; don’t try to dupe us now.
The gods have counselled us; we’re here to seek an oracle,
to understand the trouble that has come upon us.’
Hearing these words, the seer, surrendering at last
to inspiration’s agonising force,
his rolling eyes ablaze with blue-grey light,
gnashing his teeth in grim and helpless rage,
opened his mouth to speak the judgement of the fates.

‘The anger of a god pursues you, for your crime is great.
The punishment you suffer is far less than you deserve.
Unhappy Orpheus has brought it on you, in his fury
that his wife was stolen from him by your lust.
Fleeing headlong on the river bank, the poor doomed girl,
in desperation to escape you, failed to see
a giant water snake in long grass at her feet.
Her sisterhood of wood nymphs filled the mountaintops
with cries of sorrow. On the heights of Thrace
and by its rivers there was lamentation.
Orithyia, daughter of the king of Athens, wept.
Orpheus sought consolation for his aching heart
with music from his lyre. It was of you, Eurydice,
his own sweet wife, of you he sang along the lonely shore,
of you as day approached, of you as day departed.

He even ventured through the gorge of Taenarum,
past Pluto’s lofty gates, and crossed a terrifying murky grove,
until he reached the country of the dead, ruled by its fearful king:
the masters of that land, flint-hearted, are impervious to human
   prayers.
Moved by his song, up from the deepest settlements of Erebus
came insubstantial spirits, ghosts of those who live in darkness,
numbering as many thousands as the flocks of birds
that hide themselves among the leaves
when nightfall or a winter shower drives them from the mountains:
women and men, great heroes of the past, their lives now done,
young boys, unmarried girls
and sons placed on the funeral pyre before their parents’ eyes.
The marshes of the sluggish river Cocytus imprisoned them:
a landscape of black mud and ugly reeds;
beyond, the nine confining circles of the river Styx.
They listened.
What is more, the very house of Death, the lowest vaults of Hell,
the Furies with the purple snakes twined in their hair,
were spellbound by the music;
Cerberus stood still, his triple mouths agape;
the wind dropped, and the wheel of Ixion slowed down and stopped.

And now, as Orpheus retraced his steps,
avoiding every danger, and Eurydice,
the wife he had reclaimed, was following behind
— a stipulation Proserpina had required —
a sudden folly seized the careless lover,
folly crying out to be forgiven, overlooked. But Hell is unforgiving.
Having almost gained the light of day, desire overcame him
and unthinkingly, alas, he looked back at Eurydice,
now nearly his again.
That moment all his work was rendered vain,
the bargain he had made with heartless Pluto broken,
and a triple clap of thunder sounded in the marshes of Avernus.
Eurydice cried out, “What dreadful madness, Orpheus,
has brought catastrophe on you and me?
Look! The cruel fates recall me, and the sleep of death
is sealing up my swimming eyes.
Farewell now; they are bearing me away;
I am surrounded by the vastness of the night.
I stretch my hands to you, but they are weak
and — oh, alas! — they’re yours no longer.”
So she spoke, and instantly, like smoke that mingles in thin air,
she vanished from his sight a different way.
She never saw the youth again.
He vainly clutched at shadows,
with so many things he wished to say now left unsaid.
Charon refused to let him back across the Styx.

What could he do? Where could he go,
a man whose wife had twice been stolen from him?
Could his weeping move Hell’s rulers?
To which gods could he appeal?
Eurydice was dead and cold already,
floating on the Styx in Charon’s boat.
They say he wept for seven whole months,
day after day, beneath a lofty crag
beside the river Strymon, far from human habitation;
and that in cool valleys where he told his story,
savage tigers were affected
and the oak trees bent their heads to listen.
It was sorrow like the nightingale’s,
who sits in shadow in a poplar tree
and mourns her young ones’ loss, a cruel ploughman
having seen their nest and plucked her unfledged offspring from it;
all night long she weeps upon a branch,
repeating time and time again her piteous song
and filling all the air with poignant lamentation.
For him there was no thought of other loves, of other brides.
He wandered through the frozen North, alone,
along the icy river Tanais, across the Russian mountains,
grieving for Eurydice, now lost,
bewailing Pluto’s favour, suddenly withdrawn;
until he came to Thrace. Here the Ciconian women,
jealous of his pure devotion, while performing
holy rites and midnight orgies in the name of Bacchus,
tore the young man limb from limb
and strewed his broken body far and wide across the plains.
And as his head, now severed from his beautiful white neck,
was bobbing in the current of the river Hebrus,
still his tongue, though cold in death, and disembodied voice
with failing breath called to Eurydice, his poor Eurydice!
The banks gave back “Eurydice” the whole length of the stream.’

So Proteus spoke, and plunged down, deep into the sea;
and where he dived, he whirled the water
into foam beneath the turbulence.
Cyrene didn’t leave the frightened youth; she spoke to him at once.
‘Now put aside the trouble that afflicts your mind.
The cause of the disease is this, and this alone.
The Nymphs have done this dreadful damage to your bees
because Eurydice and they, in former times,
would dance together, far into the woods.
Now you must be a suppliant, and offer gifts,
and plead for peace, and venerate the gentle spirits of the woods.
They will respond to prayers; their anger will abate. But first
I’ll tell you how your act of penitence must be performed.
Take four choice bulls, the finest specimens
that now are grazing on the green heights of mount Lykaion;
and with them pick four heifers that have never felt the yoke.
Set up four altars for them by the noble shrines
made sacred to the goddesses,
and from the victims’ throats drain off the sacrificial blood,
but leave the bodies of the cattle in the leafy wood.
Nine days later, make an offering of Lethe’s poppies,
for forgetfulness, to Orpheus’ departed spirit,
kill a black ewe, and return to where the bulls and heifers lie.
By now, Eurydice will be appeased,
and you should honour her by slaughtering a calf.’

Without delay, he did his mother’s bidding.
He set up the altars by the shrines,
and brought the four choice bulls there
and the unyoked heifers. Nine days following,
he paid his funeral dues to Orpheus
and went back to the wood. And here
the mother and the son saw something wonderful:
a portent. In the paunches of the beasts,
emerging from their putrifying flesh, were bees,
which buzzed and swarmed out from the ruptured flanks,
drawn upwards in great clouds,
until at last they massed together on a treetop,
hanging in a cluster from the bending boughs.

Listen to this translation — read by Peter Hetherington

Virgil — Georgics, book 4, lines 281–558

Sed si quem proles subito defecerit omnis,
nec genus unde novae stirpis revocetur habebit,
tempus et Arcadii memoranda inventa magistri
pandere, quoque modo caesis iam saepe iuvencis
insincerus apes tulerit cruor. altius omnem               
expediam prima repetens ab origine famam.
nam qua Pellaei gens fortunata Canopi
accolit effuso stagnantem flumine Nilum
et circum pictis vehitur sua rura phaselis,
quaque pharetratae vicinia Persidis urget,              
et diversa ruens septem discurrit in ora
usque coloratis amnis devexus ab Indis,
et viridem Aegyptum nigra fecundat harena,
omnis in hac certam regio iacit arte salutem.

Exiguus primum atque ipsos contractus in usus              
eligitur locus; hunc angustique imbrice tecti
parietibusque premunt artis et quattuor addunt,
quattuor a ventis obliqua luce fenestras.
tum vitulus bima curvans iam cornua fronte
quaeritur; huic geminae nares et spiritus oris             
multa reluctanti obstruitur, plagisque perempto
tunsa per integram solvuntur viscera pellem.
sic positum in clauso linquunt et ramea costis
subiciunt fragmenta, thymum casiasque recentis.
hoc geritur Zephyris primum impellentibus undas,               
ante novis rubeant quam prata coloribus, ante
garrula quam tignis nidum suspendat hirundo.
interea teneris tepefactus in ossibus umor
aestuat, et visenda modis animalia miris,
trunca pedum primo, mox et stridentia pinnis,               
miscentur, tenuemque magis magis aëra carpunt,
donec, ut aestivis effusus nubibus imber
erupere, aut ut nervo pulsante sagittae,
prima leves ineunt si quando proelia Parthi.

Quis deus hanc, Musae, quis nobis extudit artem?               
unde nova ingressus hominum experientia cepit?
pastor Aristaeus fugiens Peneia Tempe,
amissis, ut fama, apibus morboque fameque,
tristis ad extremi sacrum caput adstitit amnis,
multa querens, atque hac adfatus voce parentem:               
‘mater, Cyrene mater, quae gurgitis huius
ima tenes, quid me praeclara stirpe deorum
(si modo, quem perhibes, pater est Thymbraeus Apollo)
invisum fatis genuisti? aut quo tibi nostri
pulsus amor? quid me caelum sperare iubebas?               
en etiam hunc ipsum vitae mortalis honorem,
quem mihi vix frugum et pecudum custodia sollers
omnia temptanti extuderat, te matre relinquo.
quin age et ipsa manu felices erue silvas,
fer stabulis inimicum ignem atque interfice messes,              
ure sata et validam in vites molire bipennem,
tanta meae si te ceperunt taedia laudis.’

At mater sonitum thalamo sub fluminis alti
sensit. eam circum Milesia vellera Nymphae
carpebant hyali saturo fucata colore…              
inter quas curam Clymene narrabat inanem               
Volcani Martisque dolos et dulcia furta,
aque Chao densos divum numerabat amores.
carmine quo captae dum fusis mollia pensa
devolvunt, iterum maternas impulit auris
luctus Aristaei, vitreisque sedilibus omnes               
obstipuere; sed ante alias Arethusa sorores
prospiciens summa flavum caput extulit unda,
et procul: ‘o gemitu non frustra exterrita tanto,
Cyrene soror, ipse tibi, tua maxima cura,
tristis Aristaeus nostri genitoris ad undam               
stat lacrimans et te crudelem nomine dicit.’

Huic percussa nova mentem formidine mater,
‘duc, age, duc ad nos; fas illi limina divum
tangere,’ ait: simul alta iubet discedere late
flumina, qua iuvenis gressus inferret. at illum               
curvata in montis faciem circumstetit unda,
accepitque sinu vasto misitque sub amnem.
iamque domum mirans genetricis et umida regna
speluncisque lacus clausos lucosque sonantis
ibat, et ingenti motu stupefactus aquarum               
omnia sub magna labentia flumina terra
spectabat diversa locis…

postquam est in thalami pendentia pumice tecta
perventum et nati fletus cognovit inanis               
Cyrene, manibus liquidos dant ordine fontis
germanae, tonsisque ferunt mantelia villis;
pars epulis onerant mensas et plena reponunt
pocula, Panchaeis adolescunt ignibus arae.
et mater ‘cape Maeonii carchesia Bacchi:              
Oceano libemus,’ ait. simul ipsa precatur
Oceanumque patrem rerum Nymphasque sorores,
centum quae silvas, centum quae flumina servant.
ter liquido ardentem perfundit nectare Vestam,
ter flamma ad summum tecti subiecta reluxit.               
omine quo firmans animum sic incipit ipsa:

‘Est in Carpathio Neptuni gurgite vates,
caeruleus Proteus, magnum qui piscibus aequor
et iuncto bipedum curru metitur equorum.
hic nunc Emathiae portus patriamque revisit               
Pallenen; hunc et Nymphae veneramur et ipse
grandaevus Nereus; novit namque omnia vates,
quae sint, quae fuerint, quae mox ventura trahantur;
quippe ita Neptuno visum est, immania cuius
armenta et turpis pascit sub gurgite phocas.               
hic tibi, nate, prius vinclis capiendus, ut omnem
expediat morbi causam eventusque secundet.
nam sine vi non ulla dabit praecepta, neque illum
orando flectes; vim duram et vincula capto
tende; doli circum haec demum frangentur inanes.               
ipsa ego te, medios cum sol accenderit aestus,
cum sitiunt herbae et pecori iam gratior umbra est,
in secreta senis ducam, quo fessus ab undis
se recipit, facile ut somno adgrediare iacentem.
verum ubi correptum manibus vinclisque tenebis,  
tum variae eludent species atque ora ferarum.
fiet enim subito sus horridus atraque tigris
squamosusque draco et fulva cervice leaena,
aut acrem flammae sonitum dabit atque ita vinclis
excidet, aut in aquas tenues dilapsus abibit.               
sed quanto ille magis formas se vertet in omnis
tam tu, nate, magis contende tenacia vincla,
donec talis erit mutato corpore, qualem
videris, incepto tegeret cum lumina somno.’

Haec ait et liquidum ambrosiae defundit odorem,        
quo totum nati corpus perduxit; at illi
dulcis compositis spiravit crinibus aura
atque habilis membris venit vigor. est specus ingens
exesi latere in montis, quo plurima vento
cogitur inque sinus scindit sese unda reductos,               
deprensis olim statio tutissima nautis;
intus se vasti Proteus tegit obice saxi.
hic iuvenem in latebris aversum a lumine Nympha
collocate, ipsa procul nebulis obscura resistit.
iam rapidus torrens sitientes Sirius Indos               
ardebat caelo, et medium sol igneus orbem
hauserat; arebant herbae, et cava flumina siccis
faucibus ad limum radii tepefacta coquebant,
cum Proteus consueta petens e fluctibus antra
ibat; eum vasti circum gens umida ponti               
exsultans rorem late dispergit amarum.
sternunt se somno diversae in litore phocae;
ipse velut stabuli custos in montibus olim,
Vesper ubi e pastu vitulos ad tecta reducit
auditisque lupos acuunt balatibus agni,               
considit scopulo medius, numerumque recenset.
cuius Aristaeo quoniam est oblata facultas,
vix defessa senem passus componere membra
cum clamore ruit magno, manicisque iacentem
occupat. ille suae contra non immemor artis               
omnia transformat sese in miracula rerum,
ignemque horribilemque feram fluviumque liquentem.
verum ubi nulla fugam reperit fallacia, victus
in sese redit atque hominis tandem ore locutus
‘nam quis te, iuvenum confidentissime, nostras               
iussit adire domos? quidve hinc petis?’ inquit. at ille
‘scis, Proteu, scis ipse; neque est te fallere quicquam;
sed tu desine velle. deum praecepta secuti
venimus hinc lapsis quaesitum oracula rebus.’
tantum effatus. ad haec vates vi denique multa               
ardentis oculos intorsit lumine glauco
et graviter frendens sic fatis ora resolvit.

‘Non te nullius exercent numinis irae;
magna luis commissa: tibi has miserabilis Orpheus
haudquaquam ob meritum poenas, ni fata resistant,              
suscitat, et rapta graviter pro coniuge saevit.
illa quidem, dum te fugeret per flumina praeceps,
immanem ante pedes hydrum moritura puella
servantem ripas alta non vidit in herba.
at chorus aequalis Dryadum clamore supremos               
implerunt montis; flerunt Rhodopeiae arces
altaque Pangaea et Rhesi Mavortia tellus
atque Getae atque Hebrus et Actias Orithyia.
ipse cava solans aegrum testudine amorem
te, dulcis coniunx, te solo in litore secum,               
te veniente die, te decedente canebat.
Taenarias etiam fauces, alta ostia Ditis,
et caligantem nigra formidine lucum
ingressus, Manisque adiit regemque tremendum
nesciaque humanis precibus mansuescere corda.               
at cantu commotae Erebi de sedibus imis
umbrae ibant tenues simulacraque luce carentum,
quam multa in foliis avium se milia condunt,
Vesper ubi aut hibernus agit de montibus imber,
matres atque viri defunctaque corpora vita               
magnanimum heroum, pueri innuptaeque puellae,
impositique rogis iuvenes ante ora parentum,
quos circum limus niger et deformis harundo
Cocyti tardaque palus inamabilis unda
alligat et noviens Styx interfusa coercet.               
quin ipsae stupuere domus atque intima Leti
Tartara caeruleosque implexae crinibus anguis
Eumenides, tenuitque inhians tria Cerberus ora,
atque Ixionii vento rota constitit orbis.

Iamque pedem referens casus evaserat omnes,               
redditaque Eurydice superas veniebat ad auras,
pone sequens (namque hanc dederat Proserpina legem),
cum subita incautum dementia cepit amantem,
ignoscenda quidem, scirent si ignoscere Manes;
restitit, Eurydicenque suam iam luce sub ipsa               
immemor heu! victusque animi respexit. ibi omnis
effusus labor atque immitis rupta tyranni
foedera, terque fragor stagnis auditus Avernis.
illa “quis et me” inquit “miseram et te perdidit, Orpheu,
quis tantus furor? en iterum crudelia retro               
fata vocant conditque natantia lumina somnus.
iamque vale: feror ingenti circumdata nocte
invalidasque tibi tendens, heu! non tua, palmas.”
dixit et ex oculis subito, ceu fumus in auras
commixtus tenuis, fugit diversa, neque illum               
prensantem nequiquam umbras et multa volentem
dicere praeterea vidit; nec portitor Orci
amplius obiectam passus transire paludem.
quid faceret? quo se rapta bis coniuge ferret?
quo fletu manis, quae numina voce moveret?               
illa quidem Stygia nabat iam frigida cumba.
septem illum totos perhibent ex ordine mensis
rupe sub aëria deserti ad Strymonis undam
flevisse, et gelidis haec evolvisse sub antris
mulcentem tigres et agentem carmine quercus;               
qualis populea maerens philomela sub umbra
amissos queritur fetus, quos durus arator
observans nido implumis detraxit; at illa
flet noctem, ramoque sedens miserabile carmen
integrat, et maestis late loca questibus implet.               
nulla Venus, non ulli animum flexere hymenaei:
solus Hyperboreas glacies Tanaimque nivalem
arvaque Riphaeis numquam viduata pruinis
lustrabat, raptam Eurydicen atque inrita Ditis
dona querens. spretae Ciconum quo munere matres               
inter sacra deum nocturnique orgia Bacchi
discerptum latos iuvenem sparsere per agros.
tum quoque marmorea caput a cervice revulsum
gurgite cum medio portans Oeagrius Hebrus
volveret, Eurydicen vox ipsa et frigida lingua,               
a miseram Eurydicen! anima fugiente vocabat:
Eurydicen toto referebant flumine ripae.’

Haec Proteus, et se iactu dedit aequor in altum,
quaque dedit, spumantem undam sub vertice torsit.
at non Cyrene, namque ultro adfata timentem:               
‘nate, licet tristis animo deponere curas.
haec omnis morbi causa; hinc miserabile Nymphae,
cum quibus illa choros lucis agitabat in altis,
exitium misere apibus. tu munera supplex
tende petens pacem, et faciles venerare Napaeas;               
namque dabunt veniam votis, irasque remittent.
sed modus orandi qui sit, prius ordine dicam.
quattuor eximios praestanti corpore tauros,
qui tibi nunc viridis depascunt summa Lycaei,
delige et intacta totidem cervice iuvencas.               
quattuor his aras alta ad delubra dearum
constitue, et sacrum iugulis demitte cruorem
corporaque ipsa boum frondoso desere luco.
post ubi nona suos Aurora ostenderit ortus,
inferias Orphei Lethaea papavera mittes,               
et nigram mactabis ovem, lucumque revises:
placatam Eurydicen vitula venerabere caesa.’

Haud mora: continuo matris praecepta facessit;
ad delubra venit, monstratas excitat aras,
quattuor eximios praestanti corpore tauros               
ducit et intacta totidem cervice iuvencas.
post ubi nona suos Aurora induxerat ortus,
inferias Orphei mittit, lucumque revisit.
hic vero subitum ac dictu mirabile monstrum
adspiciunt, liquefacta boum per viscera toto               
stridere apes utero et ruptis effervere costis,
immensasque trahi nubes, iamque arbore summa
confluere et lentis uvam demittere ramis.