Georgics Book 2, lines 490 - 502 and 513 - 532

More from Virgil’s farming Utopia

by Virgil

More from Virgil’s charming, but not very realistic, paradise of a farming life. The comparison that he makes in the first three lines between the peace of mind that comes from happy life in the country, and that of the Epicurean sage who has acquired it by mastering philosophy, would have seemed a very bold one. The contrast he then draws with the ills and burdens of public life and the great city is in fact a back-handed compliment to his patron Maecenas, right-hand-man of the Emperor Augustus, whose life and work are set in just this arena.

The English is from John Dryden’s Georgics of the 1690s, and illustrates well how far even elegant and entertaining literary translations can be from the style and feel of the original.

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490 – 502

Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas

atque metus omnis et inexorabile fatum

subiecit pedibus strepitumque Acherontis avari:

fortunatus et ille deos qui novit agrestis

Panaque Silvanumque senem Nymphasque sorores.

illum non populi fasces, non purpura regum

flexit et infidos agitans discordia fratres,

aut coniurato descendens Dacus ab Histro,

non res Romanae perituraque regna; neque ille

aut doluit miserans inopem aut inuidit habenti.

quos rami fructus, quos ipsa uolentia rura

sponte tulere sua, carpsit, nec ferrea iura

insanumque forum aut populi tabularia vidit.

513 – 532

hic anni labor, hinc patriam parvosque nepotes

sustinet, hinc armenta boum meritosque iuvencos.

nec requies, quin aut pomis exuberet annus

aut fetu pecorum aut Cerealis mergite culmi,

prouentuque oneret sulcos atque horrea vincat.

venit hiems: teritur Sicyonia baca trapetis,

glande sues laeti redeunt, dant arbuta siluae;

et uarios ponit fetus autumnus, et alte

mitis in apricis coquitur uindemia saxis.

interea dulces pendent circum oscula nati,

casta pudicitiam seruat domus, ubera vaccae

lactea demittunt, pinguesque in gramine laeto

inter se adversis luctantur cornibus haedi.

ipse dies agitat festos fususque per herbam,

ignis ubi in medio et socii cratera coronant,

te libans, Lenaee, uocat pecorisque magistris

uelocis iaculi certamina ponit in ulmo,

corporaque agresti nudant praedura palaestra.

490 – 502

Happy the Man, who, studying Nature’s Laws,
Thro’ known Effects can trace the secret Cause.
His Mind possessing, in a quiet state,
Fearless of Fortune, and resign’d to Fate.
And happy too is he, who decks the Bow’rs
Of Sylvans, and adores the Rural Pow’rs:
Whose Mind, unmov’d, the Bribes of Courts can see;
Their glitt’ring Baits, and Purple Slavery.
Nor hopes the People’s Praise, nor fears their Frown,
Nor, when contending Kindred tear the Crown,
Will set up one, or pull another down.
⁠Without Concern he hears, but hears from far,
Of Tumults and Descents, and distant War:
Nor with a Superstitious Fear is aw’d,
For what befals at home, or what abroad.
Nor envies he the Rich their heapy Store,
Nor with a helpless Hand condoles the Poor.
He feeds on Fruits, which, of their own accord,
The willing Ground, and laden Trees afford.
From his lov’d Home no Lucre him can draw;
The Senates mad Decrees he never saw;
Nor heard, at bawling Bars, corrupted Law.

513 – 532

The Peasant, innocent of all these Ills,
With crooked Ploughs the fertile Fallows tills;
And the round Year with daily Labour fills.
From hence the Country Markets are supply’d:
Enough remains for houshold Charge beside;
His Wife, and tender Children to sustain,
And gratefully to feed his dumb deserving Train.
Nor cease his Labours, till the Yellow Field
A full return of bearded Harvest yield:
A Crop so plenteous, as the Land to load,
O’ercome the crowded Barns, and lodge on Ricks abroad.
Thus ev’ry sev’ral Season is employ’d:
Some spent in Toyl, and some in Ease enjoy’d. ⁠
The yeaning Ewes prevent the springing Year;
The laded Boughs their Fruits in Autumn bear,
Tis then the Vine her liquid Harvest yields,
Bak’d in the Sun-shine of ascending Fields.
The Winter comes, and then the falling Mast,
For greedy Swine, provides a full repast.
Then Olives, ground in Mills, their fatness boast,
And Winter Fruits are mellow’d by the Frost.
His Cares are eas’d with Intervals of bliss,
His little Children climbing for a Kiss,⁠
Welcome their Father’s late return at Night;
His faithful Bed is crown’d with chast delight.
His Kine with swelling Udders ready stand,
And, lowing for the Pail, invite the Milker’s hand.
His wanton Kids, with budding Horns prepar’d,⁠
Fight harmless Battels in his homely Yard:
Himself in Rustick Pomp, on Holy-days,
To Rural Pow’rs a just Oblation pays;
And on the Green his careless Limbs displays.
The Hearth is in the midst; the Herdsmen round⁠
The chearful Fire, provoke his health in Goblets crown’d.
He calls on Bacchus, and propounds the Prize;
The Groom his Fellow Groom at Buts defies;
And bends his Bow, and levels with his Eyes,
Or stript for Wrestling, smears his Limbs with Oyl,
And watches with a trip his Foe to foil.


More Poems by Virgil

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