More from Virgil’s farming Utopia
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.
See the illustrated blog post here.
You can follow all of our extracts from the Georgics in order in the selection here.
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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.