Georgics Book 4, lines 243 - 279

Love is the same for all

by Virgil

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 …

`

More Poems by Virgil

  1. Aeneas arrives in Italy
  2. Juno is reconciled
  3. Storm at sea!
  4. The Trojans prepare to set sail from Carthage
  5. Virgil predicts a forthcoming birth and a new golden age
  6. Laocoon and the snakes
  7. Aeneas saves his son and father, but at a cost
  8. A Fury rouses Turnus to war
  9. Signs of bad weather
  10. King Latinus grants the Trojans’ request
  11. Charon, the ferryman
  12. The death of Pallas
  13. Aeneas learns the way to the underworld
  14. Virgil’s perils on the sea
  15. Catastrophe for Rome?
  16. The Trojans reach Carthage
  17. New allies for Aeneas
  18. Aeneas finds Dido among the shades
  19. The farmer’s happy lot
  20. The Syrian hostess
  21. The natural history of bees
  22. The death of Dido.
  23. Rites for the allies’ dead
  24. Mourning for Pallas
  25. Turnus the wolf
  26. Aeneas reaches the Elysian Fields
  27. Help for Father Aeneas from Father Tiber
  28. Aeneas’s oath
  29. Vulcan’s forge
  30. Dido and Aeneas: Hell hath no fury …
  31. Dido’s release
  32. The Aeneid begins
  33. Jupiter’s prophecy
  34. Souls awaiting punishment in Tartarus, and the crimes that brought them there.
  35. The Harpy’s prophecy
  36. The death of Euryalus and Nisus
  37. Juno throws open the gates of war
  38. Rumour
  39. How Aeneas will know the site of his city
  40. Aristaeus’s bees
  41. Anchises’s ghost invites Aeneas to visit the underworld
  42. Dido and Aeneas: royal hunt and royal affair
  43. Turnus is lured away from battle
  44. The death of Priam
  45. The farmer’s starry calendar
  46. The infant Camilla
  47. More from Virgil’s farming Utopia
  48. The journey to Hades begins
  49. The portals of sleep
  50. Laocoon warns against the Trojan horse
  51. Virgil’s poetic temple to Caesar
  52. Aeneas is wounded
  53. Hector visits Aeneas in a dream
  54. Virgil begins the Georgics
  55. The Trojan Horse enters the city
  56. In King Latinus’s hall
  57. Aeneas prepares to tell Dido his story
  58. King Mezentius meets his match
  59. Palinurus the helmsman is lost
  60. Aeneas comes to the Hell of Tartarus
  61. Dido falls in love
  62. Mercury’s journey to Carthage
  63. Fire strikes Aeneas’s fleet
  64. Aeneas sees Marcellus, Augustus’s tragic heir
  65. Aeneas tours the site of Rome
  66. Aeneas’s vision of Augustus
  67. Aeneas’s ships are transformed
  68. Omens for Princess Lavinia
  69. Turnus at bay
  70. The Fury Allecto blows the alarm
  71. Aeneas joins the fray
  72. Aeneas rescues his Father Anchises
  73. Sea-nymphs