The meaning of this poem is unclear, as are the identities of the central figures of Littus and Viatona and their relationship to the narrator. However, the central conceit revolves around the story of Echo and Narcissus, recounted in Ovid, Metamorphoses III.340-510. Echo was a nymph cursed by Hera so that she could not speak, except to repeat the last few words said by someone else (hence her hame has been given to the aural effect in caves and other confined spaces); she fell in love with Narcissus but was rejected by him and her body wasted away, leaving her as a voice on the air. Narcissus, meanwhile, fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water, and became so transfixed that he could not leave the poolside; he too wasted away. At the end of each line Maitland echoes the aural effect of an echo (this has not been replicated in the translation). Metre: elegiac couplets.
1Fare age, muscosis 1 habitas quae in vallibus Echo,
carmine figenda est num Viatona. (E: tona.)
Est formosa quidem, sed formae splendor avarus.
Littus, eam quisquis primus amarat, (E: arat.)
5Vilius hac futuit tota vulgata Corintho,
haec rediviva nitet Scotica Thais. (E: ais.)
Quid mihi si dicat, 'cras mi Metalane venito,
aurea cum pallent sydera mane'; (E: mane.)
Ergo ego tam pulchram potero sprevisse puellam,
10a Veneris fructu men' 2 revocabis? (E: abis.)
Sic tibi Narcissus, 'faveas mihi candida virgo,
12virgo mihi faveas candida', clamet. (E: amet.)
Speak do, Echo, you who resides in mossy valleys, for surely Viatona shouldn't be hooked by a poem. She is indeed shapely, but her brilliance hungers for a shape. It was Littus, quite worthless (whoever he was that had first loved her), that had sex with her, after she had prostituted herself to all of Corinth. a Thais, b reborn as a Scot, here shines. What if she says to me, 'come to me tomorrow Maitland, at earliest dawn when the golden stars grow pale'; if I can thus reject such a pretty girl, will you not call me back from Venus' fruit? So let Narcissus cry out to you: 'snowy Virgin, please be kind to me; please be kind to me, snowy Virgin.'
1: 'muscosus' used in various declensions in Catullus, Carmina LXVIIIB.58; Propertius, Elegies II.19.30, II.30b.226, III.3.26; Vergil, Eclogues VII.45
2: Contraction for 'mene'.
a: Ancient Corinth was famed (or notorious) for its prostitutes.
b: 4th century BC Athenian courtesan, and mistress of Alexander the Great.