And now to what remains!—Since I've resolved By what arrangements all things come to pass Through the blue regions of the mighty world,— How we can know what energy and cause Started the various courses of the sun And the moon's goings, and by what far means They can succumb, the while with thwarted light, And veil with shade the unsuspecting lands, When, as it were, they blink, and then again With open eye survey all regions wide, Resplendent with white radiance—I do now Return unto the world's primeval age And tell what first the soft young fields of earth With earliest parturition had decreed To raise in air unto the shores of light And to entrust unto the wayward winds. In the beginning, earth gave forth, around The hills and over all the length of plains, The race of grasses and the shining green; The flowery meadows sparkled all aglow With greening colour, and thereafter, lo, Unto the divers kinds of trees was given An emulous impulse mightily to shoot, With a free rein, aloft into the air. As feathers and hairs and bristles are begot The first on members of the four-foot breeds And on the bodies of the strong-y-winged, Thus then the new Earth first of all put forth Grasses and shrubs, and afterward begat The mortal generations, there upsprung— Innumerable in modes innumerable— After diverging fashions. For from sky These breathing-creatures never can have dropped, Nor the land-dwellers ever have come up Out of sea-pools of salt. How true remains, How merited is that adopted name Of earth—"The Mother!"—since from out the earth Are all begotten. And even now arise From out the loams how many living things— Concreted by the rains and heat of the sun. Wherefore 'tis less a marvel, if they sprang In Long Ago more many, and more big, Matured of those days in the fresh young years Of earth and ether. First of all, the race Of the winged ones and parti-coloured birds, Hatched out in spring-time, left their eggs behind; As now-a-days in summer tree-crickets Do leave their shiny husks of own accord, Seeking their food and living. Then it was This earth of thine first gave unto the day The mortal generations; for prevailed Among the fields abounding hot and wet. And hence, where any fitting spot was given, There 'gan to grow womb-cavities, by roots Affixed to earth. And when in ripened time The age of the young within (that sought the air And fled earth's damps) had burst these wombs, O then Would Nature thither turn the pores of earth And make her spurt from open veins a juice Like unto milk; even as a woman now Is filled, at child-bearing, with the sweet milk, Because all that swift stream of aliment Is thither turned unto the mother-breasts. There earth would furnish to the children food; Warmth was their swaddling cloth, the grass their bed Abounding in soft down. Earth's newness then Would rouse no dour spells of the bitter cold, Nor extreme heats nor winds of mighty powers— For all things grow and gather strength through time In like proportions; and then earth was young. Wherefore, again, again, how merited Is that adopted name of Earth—The Mother!— Since she herself begat the human race, And at one well-nigh fixed time brought forth Each breast that ranges raving round about Upon the mighty mountains and all birds Aerial with many a varied shape. But, lo, because her bearing years must end, She ceased, like to a woman worn by eld. For lapsing aeons change the nature of The whole wide world, and all things needs must take One status after other, nor aught persists Forever like itself. All things depart; Nature she changeth all, compelleth all To transformation. Lo, this moulders down, A-slack with weary eld, and that, again, Prospers in glory, issuing from contempt. In suchwise, then, the lapsing aeons change The nature of the whole wide world, and earth Taketh one status after other. And what She bore of old, she now can bear no longer, And what she never bore, she can to-day. In those days also the telluric world Strove to beget the monsters that upsprung With their astounding visages and limbs— The Man-woman—a thing betwixt the twain, Yet neither, and from either sex remote— Some gruesome Boggles orphaned of the feet, Some widowed of the hands, dumb Horrors too Without a mouth, or blind Ones of no eye, Or Bulks all shackled by their legs and arms Cleaving unto the body fore and aft, Thuswise, that never could they do or go, Nor shun disaster, nor take the good they would. And other prodigies and monsters earth Was then begetting of this sort—in vain, Since Nature banned with horror their increase, And powerless were they to reach unto The coveted flower of fair maturity, Or to find aliment, or to intertwine In works of Venus. For we see there must Concur in life conditions manifold, If life is ever by begetting life To forge the generations one by one: First, foods must be; and, next, a path whereby The seeds of impregnation in the frame May ooze, released from the members all; Last, the possession of those instruments Whereby the male with female can unite, The one with other in mutual ravishments. And in the ages after monsters died, Perforce there perished many a stock, unable By propagation to forge a progeny. For whatsoever creatures thou beholdest Breathing the breath of life, the same have been Even from their earliest age preserved alive By cunning, or by valour, or at least By speed of foot or wing. And many a stock Remaineth yet, because of use to man, And so committed to man's guardianship. Valour hath saved alive fierce lion-breeds And many another terrorizing race, Cunning the foxes, flight the antlered stags. Light-sleeping dogs with faithful heart in breast, However, and every kind begot from seed Of beasts of draft, as, too, the woolly flocks And horned cattle, all, my Memmius, Have been committed to guardianship of men. For anxiously they fled the savage beasts, And peace they sought and their abundant foods, Obtained with never labours of their own, Which we secure to them as fit rewards For their good service. But those beasts to whom Nature has granted naught of these same things— Beasts quite unfit by own free will to thrive And vain for any service unto us In thanks for which we should permit their kind To feed and be in our protection safe— Those, of a truth, were wont to be exposed, Enshackled in the gruesome bonds of doom, As prey and booty for the rest, until Nature reduced that stock to utter death. But Centaurs ne'er have been, nor can there be Creatures of twofold stock and double frame, Compact of members alien in kind, Yet formed with equal function, equal force In every bodily part—a fact thou mayst, However dull thy wits, well learn from this: The horse, when his three years have rolled away, Flowers in his prime of vigour; but the boy Not so, for oft even then he gropes in sleep After the milky nipples of the breasts, An infant still. And later, when at last The lusty powers of horses and stout limbs, Now weak through lapsing life, do fail with age, Lo, only then doth youth with flowering years Begin for boys, and clothe their ruddy cheeks With the soft down. So never deem, percase, That from a man and from the seed of horse, The beast of draft, can Centaurs be composed Or e'er exist alive, nor Scyllas be— The half-fish bodies girdled with mad dogs— Nor others of this sort, in whom we mark Members discordant each with each; for ne'er At one same time they reach their flower of age Or gain and lose full vigour of their frame, And never burn with one same lust of love, And never in their habits they agree, Nor find the same foods equally delightsome— Sooth, as one oft may see the bearded goats Batten upon the hemlock which to man Is violent poison. Once again, since flame Is wont to scorch and burn the tawny bulks Of the great lions as much as other kinds Of flesh and blood existing in the lands, How could it be that she, Chimaera lone, With triple body—fore, a lion she; And aft, a dragon; and betwixt, a goat— Might at the mouth from out the body belch Infuriate flame? Wherefore, the man who feigns Such beings could have been engendered When earth was new and the young sky was fresh (Basing his empty argument on new) May babble with like reason many whims Into our ears: he'll say, perhaps, that then Rivers of gold through every landscape flowed, That trees were wont with precious stones to flower, Or that in those far aeons man was born With such gigantic length and lift of limbs As to be able, based upon his feet, Deep oceans to bestride or with his hands To whirl the firmament around his head. For though in earth were many seeds of things In the old time when this telluric world First poured the breeds of animals abroad, Still that is nothing of a sign that then Such hybrid creatures could have been begot And limbs of all beasts heterogeneous Have been together knit; because, indeed, The divers kinds of grasses and the grains And the delightsome trees—which even now Spring up abounding from within the earth— Can still ne'er be begotten with their stems Begrafted into one; but each sole thing Proceeds according to its proper wont And all conserve their own distinctions based In nature's fixed decree.