By Timothy Saunders
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Additional info for Bucolic Ecology: Virgil's Eclogues and the Environmental Literary Tradition
Upon the conclusion of Mopsus’ song, Menalcas promises to carry on where his companion had left off and raise Daphnis to the stars (Daphninque tuum tollemus ad astra; / Daphnin ad astra feremus 51-2). The word with which he begins his song, moreover, and which acts as an epithet for Daphnis is candidus. 32 Menalcas then at once places him at the threshold of Olympus, whereupon ‘Daphnis sees the clouds and the stars beneath his feet’ (sub pedibusque uidet nubes et sidera Daphnis 57). Finally, and in immediate response to this apotheosis, ‘the unshorn mountains toss their voices to the stars’ (ipsi laetitia uoces ad sidera iactant / intonsi montes 62-3).
A further figure for this within the poem is Menalcas himself. An apprentice in Eclogue 3, who aspires to sing a cosmological song, and a master poet in Eclogue 5, who there achieves that goal, in Eclogue 9 he comes to represent for both Lycidas and Moeris the achievements (and failures) of the past and the promise of the future alike. When, for instance, Moeris assures Lycidas that ‘Menalcas will nonetheless sing those things to you often enough’ (sed tamen ista satis referet tibi saepe Menalcas 55), his repetition of the word saepe in the same metrical position it had occupied a few lines above intimates that ‘those things’ Menalcas will often sing might well be the ‘long suns’ Moeris himself often used to hide in his singing (51).
41 For while his own verses are new (‘rather, I shall try out these songs, which recently I described on the green bark of a beech tree’ Immo haec, in uiridi nuper quae cortice fagi / carmina descripsi } / experiar 13-15), Menalcas’ are seemingly less so, since Stimichon had praised his song about Daphnis to Mopsus long ago (iam pridem Stimichon laudauit carmina nobis 55). Mopsus, moreover, replicates this inverted temporality in his own song: the epitaph that brings this song to a close and that marks the second stage of Daphnis’ ascent to the stars must evidently have been composed before the first stage, when he is lying dead.