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The Georgics by Virgil
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The Georgics

by Virgil

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English (7)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  All (9)
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71. The Georgics by Virgil
composed: 29 bce
format: 92 page Kindle public domain e-book (translator unknown)
acquired: from amazon in November
read: Nov 27 - Dec 3
rating: ??

This was much easier on me than the Eclogues. I could follow at the sentence level, and could follow the general themes, and, occasionally, get the references. And there is a nice story at the end on Aristaeus (a god I had never heard of), that includes a wonderful take on Orpheus and Eurydice, and that somehow made the whole book better. But, on the other hand, reading without notes (and reading a public domain translation without even knowing the translator), I was constantly lost. Names and nicknames and place names all passed me by, and somewhat odd English didn't help. Sometimes I would read a sentence several times until concluding that I just didn't understand enough of the words to make any sense of it.

About halfway through this I was able to get a translation by [[L. P. Wilkinson]] from my library. So the first half I read very slowly, struggling the whole way...and still mostly missing whatever points there were. The second half I steamed through, thinking I'll just re-read through Wilkinson. Oddly, that worked better for me...or maybe I just really liked Orpheus.

I'm finding this difficult to review without thinking on the introduction by [[L. P. Wilkinson]] in his translation, which I read after I read this.... in brief Virgil was doing a lot of things here, but mainly he is playing off [[Hesiod]]'s [Works and Days], and heavily under the influence of [[Lucretius]]'s epicurean manifesto - [The Nature of Things] (which I haven't read). The four books of poems form a romantic notion of farm life. Noxious things, like absentee landlords and slaves, aren't mentioned. This is about an idealized farmer running his own farm, and it's very much a celebration of this kind of life. Each book covers a topic - Book 1 farms and fields, Book 2 trees, Book 3 livestock (first large, then smaller), and Book 4 beekeeping. From Hesiod is the idea of giving advice directly to a person on farm management and from Hesiod, somewhat, is the method of how Virgil presents it. Book 1 takes heavily from Hesiod. From Lucretius is a love of extensive details and description - and this is where Virgil excels. The Georgics is considered the first descriptive poem.

It's not, however, a very good farm manual. One might kindly call it a simplification as it lacks critical detail, while giving some ridiculously fanciful advice. Virgil likely grew up on a farm, but he didn't go out and study farming, he studied literature. And it seems almost all his ideas come from the literary pool, as he references freely. That seems to be an important point. But the sense within the descriptions and the charm of them seems to be mostly Virgil's own, and maybe reflects his own experiences.

I read this while thinking about how Virgil might have related to his childhood farms and how, in the Eclogues, he openly mourned the farmers who lost their land. That is, after different stages in the various Roman civil wars, farmers were evicted from their land, and it was handed over veterans in reward for their service. This happened in the exact area, near modern Mantua, where Virgil was from. I like to think that Virgil saw these new comers coming in and taking over land they didn't know and thinking how they must be trying to figure out how to work this land. Could he, perhaps, have thought to give them a book of facetious and obvious advice, sometimes ridiculous, to sort of mock their ignorance of their poorly acquired land? Just my own silly idea....probably better left unsaid.
  dchaikin | Dec 4, 2016 |
I knew going in that this wasn't going to be action packed, like, say, The Aeneid, and it isn't. Actually, that's not quite true. In some places there is plenty of action – where the plague is setting in and everything is dying, where the cattle and horses are going mad with desire (not for each other, thankfully), where the young bull is being pulverized so that he will spontaneously combust into a swarm of bees, where Orpheus is very nearly rescuing Eurydice from Hades... there is really quite a lot of drama here. The drama is broken up, though, by sections in which we are milking goats, arranging shrubberies for bees, and grafting fruit trees. Disease, muck, and war alternate with idyllic stretches of lambs frolicking, bees buzzing among the flowers, and happy farmers resting under shady trees. I picked this up looking for more of the beautiful nature imagery I loved in the Aeneid, and I definitely found that, but the back and forth, between farming lessons, country-living fantasies, myths, and death & destruction kept things interesting. The different sections did not hold together particularly well for me, but I only read this once, with no explanatory material aside from the introduction, and I expect I'd have gotten more out of it if I'd put more in.

There were a few places where I found Fallon's modern colloquialisms and word choices jarring, but mostly the poetry was really lovely. Since I'm not competent to read Latin poetry, I've no idea how this is as a translation, but I do plan to keep an eye out for a different version – Fitzgerald's Aeneid had a more formal feel to it, and this felt a little to “folksy” to me, but maybe the two poems are just very different beasts. The language is very readable, anyway, and the footnotes are good (though I wish they'd been put at the foot of the pages). ( )
1 vote meandmybooks | Aug 6, 2014 |
This was the hardest book to read. I don't know why it was worse than any of the other classics, but it about killed me. Even illustrating the margins didn't help. Good luck ( )
1 vote Snukes | Jun 14, 2013 |
The Works and Days by the ancient Greek poet Hesiod was written around 700 BC. At its center, the Works and Days is a farmer's almanac in which Hesiod instructs his brother Perses in the agricultural arts. It also contains an outline of the mythology of the gods of ancient Greece. In the poem Hesiod also offers his brother extensive moralizing advice on how he should live his life. I mention this because The Works and Days was the poet Virgil's model for composing his own didactic poem in hexameters known as The Georgics. Like many of the Roman writers and artists, Virgil looked to the Greeks for a model. Works and Days shares with the Georgics the themes of man's relationship to the land and the importance of hard work.
The Georgics itself is a poem in four books, published in 29 BC. It is the second major work by the Latin poet Virgil, following his Eclogues and preceding the Aeneid. As its name suggests (Georgica, from the Greek word γεωργεῖν, geōrgein, "to farm") the subject of the poem is agriculture; but far from being an example of peaceful rural poetry, it is a more complex work in both theme and purpose.
The work consists of 2,188 hexametric verses divided into four books. Each of the books covers different aspects of the agrarian culture. Book One begins with a summary of the whole poem and typical obeisance to the gods and Augustus himself. In addition to Virgil's intention to honor Caesar he also honors his patron Maecenas. In the middle books he shares his lofty poetic aspirations and the difficulty of the material to follow.
Mirroring Hesiod Virgil describes the succession of ages of man emphasizing the tension between the golden age of Jupiter and the age of man. The focus on the importance of Augustus is fascinating as it adds a political aspect to what is primarily an arcadian poem. Throughout the poem the theme of man versus nature is present as is the relation of man to animals. I found the discussion of Bees and the similarities with human society in the fourth Book one of the most fascinating sections of this marvelous poem.
Always of interest to me are philosophical influences, and there were two predominant philosophical schools in Rome during Virgil's lifetime: Stoicism and the Epicureanism. Of these two, the Epicurean strain is predominant not only in the Georgics but also in Virgil's social and intellectual milieu. Both his friend,the poet Horace, and his patron Maecenas were Epicureans. The Georgics was also influenced by Lucretius' Epicurean epic De Rerum Natura, one of my favorite Roman texts. The combination of philosophy, arcadian poetry, mythology, and politics makes this work a beautiful compendium of Roman culture. ( )
  jwhenderson | Sep 8, 2012 |
Beautiful didactic poem, especially attractive section on bee-keeping ( )
  markbstephenson | Jun 12, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Virgil's "poem of the land" has shaped the way that English poets write about nature and the countryside since the Renaissance.
 

» Add other authors (119 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Virgilprimary authorall editionscalculated
Delille, ...Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Delille, JacquesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fallon, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ferry, DavidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gerhardt, IdaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gogh, Vincent vanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Janssen, JacquesDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lewis, C. DayTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilkinson, L. P.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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What makes the cornfield smile; beneath what star Maecenas, it is meet to turn the sod; Or marry elm with vine; how tend the steer; What pains for cattle-keeping, or what proof; Of patient trial serves for thrifty bees;- Such are my themes.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140444149, Paperback)

A eulogy to Italy as the temperate land of perpetual spring, and a celebration of the values of rustic piety, "The Georgics" is probably the supreme achievement of Latin poetry.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:56 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

"Newly translated by the poet and translator David Ferry, the Georgics is one of the great songs, maybe the greatest we have, of human accomplishment in difficult - and beautiful - circumstances, and in the context of all we share in nature." "The Georgics celebrates crops, trees, and animals - and, above all, the human beings who care for them. It takes the form of teaching about this care: the tilling of fields, the tending of vines, the raising of cattle and bees. There's joy in the detail of Virgil's descriptions of work well done, and ecstatic joy in his praise of the very life of things, and passionate commiseration too, because of the vulnerability of men and all other creatures to what they have to contend with: storms, and plagues, and wars, and all mischance."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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Yale University Press

2 editions of this book were published by Yale University Press.

Editions: 0300107927, 0300119860

Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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