In his poem about the farming life, Virgil comes to the mating impulse and, broadening out from his agricultural theme, he stresses that it affects all living beings alike, including humans. His human example is Leander, who in legend swam the Hellespont to be with Hero, his beloved, but subsequently drowned. With animals, he builds up to the example of mares, reputedly the most susceptible of all to sexual desire. The Glaucus he refers to is a character from Greek legend, who fed his mares on human flesh and was himself torn apart by them. The English translation is from John Dryden’s version of the 1690s.
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Omne adeo genus in terris hominumque ferarumque
et genus aequoreum, pecudes pictaeque volucres,
in furias ignemque ruunt: amor omnibus idem.
tempore non alio catulorum oblita leaena
saevior erravit campis, nec funera vulgo
tam multa informes ursi stragemque dedere
per silvas; tum saevus aper, tum pessima tigris;
heu male tum Libyae solis erratur in agris.
nonne vides ut tota tremor pertemptet equorum
corpora, si tantum notas odor attulit auras?
ac neque eos iam frena virum neque verbera saeva,
non scopuli rupesque cavae atque obiecta retardant
flumina correptosque unda torquentia montis.
ipse ruit dentesque Sabellicus exacuit sus
et pede prosubigit terram, fricat arbore costas
atque hinc atque illinc umeros ad vulnera durat.
quid iuvenis, magnum cui versat in ossibus ignem
durus amor? nempe abruptis turbata procellis
nocte natat caeca serus freta, quem super ingens
porta tonat caeli, et scopulis inlisa reclamant
aequora; nec miseri possunt revocare parentes,
nec moritura super crudeli funere virgo.
quid lynces Bacchi variae et genus acre luporum
atque canum? quid quae imbelles dant proelia cervi?
scilicet ante omnis furor est insignis equarum;
et mentem Venus ipsa dedit, quo tempore Glauci
Potniades malis membra absumpsere quadrigae.
illas ducit amor trans Gargara transque sonantem
Ascanium; superant montis et flumina tranant.
continuoque avidis ubi subdita flamma medullis
(vere magis, quia vere calor redit ossibus), illae
ore omnes versae in Zephyrum stant rupibus altis,
exceptantque levis auras, et saepe sine ullis
coniugiis vento gravidae (mirabile dictu)
saxa per et scopulos et depressas convallis
diffugiunt, non, Eure, tuos neque solis ad ortus,
in Borean Caurumque, aut unde nigerrimus Auster
nascitur et pluvio contristat frigore caelum.
Thus every Creature, and of every Kind,
The secret Joys of sweet Coition find:
Not only Man’s Imperial Race; but they
That wing the liquid Air; or swim the Sea,
Or haunt the Desart, rush into the flame:
For Love is Lord of all; and is in all the same.
Tis with this rage, the Mother Lion stung,
Scours o’er the Plain; regardless of her young:
Demanding Rites of Love; she sternly stalks;
And hunts her Lover in his lonely Walks.
Tis then the shapeless Bear his Den forsakes;
In Woods and Fields a wild destruction makes.
Boars whet their Tusks; to battel Tygers move;
Enrag’d with Hunger, more enrag’d with Love.
Then wo to him, that in the desart Land
Of Lybia travels, o’er the burning Sand.
The Stallion snuffs the well-known Scent afar;
And snorts and trembles for the distant Mare:
Nor Bits nor Bridles can his Rage restrain;
And rugged Rocks are interpos’d in vain:
He makes his way o’er Mountains, and contemns
Unruly Torrents, and unfoorded Streams.
The bristled Boar, who feels the pleasing Wound,
New grinds his arming Tusks, and digs the Ground.
The sleepy Leacher shuts his little Eyes;
About his churning Chaps the frothy bubbles rise:
He rubs his sides against a Tree; prepares
And hardens both his Shoulders for the Wars.
What did the Youth, when Love’s unerring Dart
Transfixt his Liver; and inflam’d his heart?
Alone, by night, his watry way he took;
About him, and above, the Billows broke:
The Sluces of the Skie were open spread;
And rowling Thunder rattl’d o’er his Head.
The raging Tempest call’d him back in vain;
And every boding Omen of the Main.
Nor cou’d his Kindred; nor the kindly Force
Of weeping Parents, change his fatal Course.
No, not the dying Maid who must deplore
His floating Carcass on the Sestian shore.
I pass the Wars that spotted Linx’s make
With their fierce Rivals, for the Females sake:
The howling Wolves, the Mastiffs amorous rage;
When ev’n the fearsul Stag dares for his Hind engage.
But far above the rest, the furious Mare,
Barr’d from the Male, is frantick with despair.
For when her pouting Vent declares her pain,
She tears the Harness, and she rends the Rein;
For this; (when Venus gave them rage and pow’r)
Their Masters mangl’d Members they devour;
Of Love defrauded in their longing Hour.
For Love they force thro’ Thickets of the Wood,
They climb the steepy Hills, and stem the Flood.
When at the Spring’s approach their Marrow burns,
(For with the Spring their genial Warmth returns)
The Mares to Cliffs of rugged Rocks repair,
And with wide Nostrils snuff the Western Air:
When (wondrous to relate) the Parent Wind,
Without the Stallion, propagates the Kind.
Then fir’d with amorous rage, they take their Flight
Through Plains, and mount the Hills unequal height;
Nor to the North, nor to the Rising Sun,
Nor Southward to the Rainy Regions run …