non sibi sed toti

Classics Teaching Resources

Mosella by Ausonius


The Journey ; The Hymn ; Looking into the depths ; The Fishes ; The Vineyards ; The gods ; Reflections in the River ; Boatmen at Play ; The Anglers ; Riverside Villas ; Some of the Villas Described ; Tributaries of the Moselle ; A Salutation ; One day Ausonius will write of eminent Belgians ; The Moselle flows into the Rhine ; Ausonius on himself ; There is so much more to sing ; All other rivers will bow to the Moselle

The sculptured ship in Trier.

8. Boatmen at play

What a fine procession those boats and sailors make! When in mid-stream their oar-driven skiffs compete, Embark on various manoevres, and along green banks Lightly touch swelling shoots in the pruned fields, You watch excited steersmen leap on bow and stern, Groups of lads romping on the riverís surface; The day passes, you put play before your serious work; New delights drive out old cares. (It was games like these that Liber, Bacchus, saw On the Sea of Cumae, when walking On the cultivated ridges of sulphurous Gaurus, And through the vineyards of smoking Vesuvius,
Bacchus When Venus, overjoyed at Augustusí victory at Actium, Told the wanton Loves to play at fierce battles, Such as the fleets of Nile and triremes of Latium Fought beneath the Leucadian citadel of Apollinea, Or as Euboean boats, through echoing Avernus, Revive the dangers of Mylae in the war with Pompey: It is harmless collisions of boats, sea-fights in jest, Like those once watched in Pelorus in Sicily, That dark blue water renews under green reflection.) Itís a sight just like these that the saucy youths present, With boys, river, beaks of brightly painted ships. When Hyperion bathes them with his sunny heat, He shows the shapes of ships under the glassy water, And brings curved shadows of inverted bodies. And as to left and right nimble crowds move, And as their weights shift with alternating oars, So the river shows other sailors, wet reflections. Young boatmen delight in seeing their own images, Wondering at those deceptive reflected shapes. (Imagine a nurse, about to show her dear charge Her hair, carefully arranged. She brings the shining face Of a wide-relecting mirror to her for the very first time. The little girl gasps in delight at the new toy, And imagines that the form she sees is her twin sister. She kisses the gleaming, unresponsive bronze, Or examines the hairpins, or tries with her fingers To pull her quivering curls down to her forehead. Just so, the young sailors at the sport of shadows Enjoy the doubtful shapes, now real, now false.)
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