Virgil

Georgics: Book II

Arboriculture and Viniculture

Translated by A. S. Kline © 2001 All Rights Reserved

This work may be freely reproduced, stored, and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose.

Contents


BkII:1-8 Introduction

So much for the cultivation of fields, and the stars in the sky:

Now I’ll sing you, Bacchus, not forgetting the saplings

of woodlands, and the children of slow-growing olives.

Here, O Lenaean Father (here all is filled with your gifts,

the field flourishes filled with autumnal vine shoots,

the grape harvest foams in the brimming vats)

here, O Lenaean Father, come, and, free of footwear

plunge naked feet, with me, in the new vintage.

BkII:9-34 Methods of Propagation

Firstly Nature has various ways of propagating trees.

Some, unforced by Man, appear far and wide, on their own,

and colonise the plains and the winding rivers:

such as the pliant osier and the slow-growing broom,

the poplar and the pale silver-leafed willow:

others spring from fallen seed, like the tall

chestnut, the broad-leaved oak of Jupiter’s groves,

and the oak the Greeks consider to be oracular.

With others a dense thicket sprouts from the roots,

as in cherries and elms: even the laurel of Parnassus

springs as a tiny shoot, in its mother’s extensive shade.

These are the methods Nature first ordered: by these means

every kind of forest tree, shrub, and sacred grove flourishes.

There are others that practice has found out for herself,

in her own way. This man cuts shoots from the tender trunk

of the mother tree, and sets them in furrows: that one buries

stems in the ground, as cross-cut stakes and pointed spikes:

other shrubs wait to be bent in curved layers,

and the shoots gain life from their own soil:

others need no roots, and the pruner has no fear

of cutting the top, and trusting the tip to the earth.

Amazing to say, when an olive-trunk is cut,

an olive root thrusts itself out of the dry wood.

And often we see one tree’s branches harmlessly

given over to another’s, a pear altered to carry grafted apples,

and stony cornelian cherries blushing on a plum.

BkII:35-60 The Labour Required

So, farmers, work, oh, learn the methods proper to each species,

and tame wild fruits by cultivation, and never let your soil

be idle. Thrace delights in planting vines

and adorning great Tabernus with the olive.

And come, Maecenas, trace together the labour I’ve begun,

oh noble one, deservedly, the chief part of my fame,

set your sails to course over the open sea.

I don’t seek to embrace all in my verses,

not if I had a hundred tongues, a hundred mouths,

an iron voice. Come, pass by the nearest point of shore,

land is to hand: I’ll not hold you here with idle song,

through rambling ways and lengthy preludes.

Trees that lift themselves into the regions of light

spring up unfruitful, but are pleasing and vigorous,

since there’s a natural power in the soil: these too

if grafted, or transplanted in well-dug trenches,

will lose their woodland nature, and in careful cultivation

will not be slow to follow any pattern you wish.

And indeed the barren sucker that springs from the base

of the stem will do this if set in open ground:

now though it’s mother’s leaves and branches darken it,

inhibiting fruit as it grows, nipping it in the bud.

The tree that raises itself from scattered seed,

grows slowly, creating shade for our descendants,

its fruits degenerate, losing their former savour,

and the vine bears sad clusters, a prize for the birds.

BkII:61-108 Treatment Of Individual Species

Labour must be spent on them all, of course,

and all have to be set in trenches and tamed at great cost.

But olives respond best as boles, vines in layers,

Paphian myrtles from the solid trunk:

tough hazels spring from suckers, and the giant ash:

and the shade-giving tree that garlanded Hercules,

and Chaonian Jupiter, from acorns: so too the tall palm

rises, and the fir that will meet the dangers of the sea.

But the wild strawberry-tree is grafted with a walnut shoot,

and barren plane-trees have carried vigorous apple:

the beech has shown white with pale chestnut flowers, and the ash

with the pear’s: and pigs have crunched acorns under the elm.

Nor is the method of grafting and budding always the same.

Where the buds push out of the bark and burst

their tender sheaths, a narrow slit’s made in the knot:

in this they insert a bud from a different tree,

and teach it to grow into the sapwood.

Or, again, trunks without knots are split open,

and paths are cut deep to the core, using wedges,

then vigorous shoots admitted: and, in a little while,

a tall tree with fine branches rises to the sky,

wondering at strange leaves and fruit not its own.

Also the strong elms are not of only one species,

nor the willow, lotus, nor the cypresses of Ida,

nor do rich olives only grow in one form, there are

oval orchads, long radii, and bitter-fruited pausians:

and so with apples and the orchards of Alcinous: nor are cuttings

the same for Crustumian pears, and Syrian, or the heavy volema.

The same vines don’t hang from our trees

that Lesbos harvests in Methymna’s branches:

there are Thracian grapes, and the white Mareotic,

one suited to rich soils, the other to lighter ones,

and the Psithian, better for raisin-wine, and the light Lagean,

sure to trip your feet, and tie your tongue some day:

the ripe purple and the early-ripening, and what should I say

of you Rhaetic? Still yours don’t compete with Falernian cellars!

And there are Aminnean vines, their wine’s most certain,

to which the Tmolian bows, and the king itself, Phanaean:

and the lesser Argitis, that none can match

in quantity or in enduring so many years.

I wouldn’t pass you by, Rhodian, fit for the gods

and the second course: or Bumastus, your swollen clusters.

But there’s no final count of the many species or names,

nor indeed is it worth counting them all:

who wishes to know, will also want to learn how many grains

of sand, on the Libyan plain, are blown by the West wind,

or how many waves of the Ionian Sea reach shore

when an East wind strikes the ships violently.

BkII:109-135 The Effects of Climate and Location

Nor do all lands carry all kinds of plants.

Willows grow by rivers, and alders in dank marshes,

and the barren manna ash on rocky hills:

the coast delights in myrtles: lastly Bacchus’s vine

loves open hills, and the yew the cold North wind.

See, the furthest regions are tamed by cultivation,

the Arabs at home in the East, the tattooed Scythians:

country’s differ in their trees. Only India

bears black ebony, only Sabeans have frankincense.

Why tell you of the balsams that drip from perfumed wood,

or the berries of the evergreen acanthus?

Why mention the Ethiopian trees white with cotton,

or how the Chinese obtain silk from their leaves?

Or the jungles India bears nearer to the Ocean,

on that coast at the world’s end, where no arrows

can reach the air above the tops of the trees?

Yet that people’s not slow to handle the quiver.

Media produces bitter juices, and the lasting taste

of the healthy citron, which comes as an antidote,

and drives the dark venom from the limbs

if a cruel stepmother poisons the drinks,

mixing herbs with harmful spells, no one suspecting.

The tree itself is tall and looks like a bay

(and would be a bay if it didn’t give off

a different perfume): no wind makes its leaves fall:

its flowers are particularly lasting: the Mede

sweetens his breath with it, and cures old age’s asthma.

BkII:136-176 A Celebration of Italy

But neither the groves of Media, its richest soils,

nor lovely Ganges, nor Hermus full of gold,

compete with Italy’s glories, not Bactria, or India,

nor all Panchaea, rich with incense-bearing sands.

No bulls with nostrils breathing fire, ploughed this land

in order to sow the savage dragon’s teeth,

no human harvest bristled, thick with helmets and spears:

but dense fruit filled her, and the juice of Massica’s vines:

she contains olive-trees and pleasing herds.

Here the war-horse charges proudly over the plain,

here are your snowy flocks, Clitumnus, and, the noblest sacrifice,

your bulls, that, drenched in your sacred stream,

have often led Roman triumphs to the gods’ temples.

Here is continual spring, and summer in unseasonable months,

the herds breed twice, the trees are good, twice, for fruit.

And raging tigers are absent, and lions’ savage young,

no aconite deceives unlucky foragers,

no scaly serpent slides his huge segments over the ground,

or winds his vast length in coils.

Add to that all the towns, the work of human labour,

built up by hand on the steep cliffs,

and the rivers gliding by the ancient walls.

Shall I recall the seas that wash the land to east and west?

Or the vast lakes? You, Larius, our largest, and you, Benacus,

with the waves and roar of the surging sea?

Shall I recall the harbours, and the barrier across the Lucrine,

and the angry ocean sounding, far off, in mighty anger

where the Julian waves are repulsed

and the Tyrrhenian tide pours into the straits of Avernus?

This land has revealed streams of silver and copper mines,

in its deep veins, and has flowed with much gold.

She has bred a fierce race of men, Marsians and Sabines,

Ligurians used to hardship, and Volscian spearmen,

the Decii, the Marii, and the great Camilli,

the Scipios tough in war, and you, greatest Caesar,

who, having conquered Asia’s furthest shores, now drive

the cowardly Indians from our Roman strongholds.

Hail, land of Saturn, great mother of fruits and men:

for you I carry out this work of ancient art and praise,

and dare to unseal the sacred fountains,

and sing the songs of Ascra in Roman towns.

BkII:177-225 The Nature of Various Soils

This is the section on the nature of soils, the vigour of each,

its colour, and its natural powers for supporting growth.

Firstly, difficult ground and unkindly hills,

where there’s poor clay and gravel in the thorny fields,

enjoy Minerva’s groves of long-lived olives.

A sign of this is the wild olive, the oleaster, growing freely

in the same place, the ground covered with its fruit.

But a rich soil delighting in sweet moisture,

a level thick with grass, and deeply fertile,

(such as we’re often used to seeing in a hollow valley

in the hills: the streams flow into it from the high cliffs,

carrying with them rich mud), one that rises to the south,

and nourishes ferns, hostile to the curved plough,

this will one day provide you the strongest of vines,

and rich flowing wine: from it come fruitful grapes,

and the juice we offer in golden bowls,

while the sleek Tuscan blows his ivory flute at the altars,

and we deliver up the steaming organs in curved dishes.

If you’re more inclined to keep cows and calves,

or breed sheep, or goats that nip the plants,

search out the distant woodland pastures of rich Tarentum,

or such fields as those unfortunate Mantua lost,

feeding the snowy swans in grass-bordered rivers:

the flocks won’t lack clear springs or grazing,

and whatever the herds crop in the long days,

the cool dew will replace at night.

Earth that’s black and rich under the heavy ploughshare

and whose soil crumbles (such as we try for by ploughing)

is best for crops: you won’t see more wagons heading

home from any other, behind the slow oxen:

or the earth from which an irate farmer’s stripped the trees,

destroying groves untouched for many years,

and, with the deep-rooted trunks, tearing up ancient homes

of birds: they leave their nests and seek the skies,

but the virgin fields gleam under the driven plough.

For the barren gravel of the hill country hardly feeds

the bees with humble spurge-laurel and rosemary,

and the rough tufa and chalk haunted by black watersnakes

shows that no other land gives the snakes

such sweet food or such winding retreats.

The soil that breathes out thin mists, and steams fleetingly,

and drinks the moisture and discharges it at will,

that always clothes itself greenly with its own grass,

and doesn’t coat iron with rough and salty rust,

that will wreathe your elms with healthy vines,

that will be rich in olives, that you’ll find in cultivation

suited to herds, and patient under the curved plough.

Such is the soil that rich Capua farms, and the coast near

Vesuvius’s ridge, and Clanius, not friendly to worthless Acerris.

BkII:226-258 The Recognition of Soil Types

Now I’ll tell you how to recognise each type of soil.

If you want to know if it’s nature is lighter or denser

(since one favours corn, the other vines,

the denser Ceres more, the lighter Bacchus)

pick out a place by sight, and order a pit sunk deeply

in the ground, and replace all the earth again,

and level the surface of the ground with your feet.

If it’s deficient, the land is light and fitter for herds,

and the kindly vine: if it won’t fill its previous place

and there’s earth left when the trench is filled,

the earth compacted: expect resistant clods,

and dense ridges, and plough the earth with strong oxen.

As for salt-laden land, the kind called bitter,

(it’s unfavourable for crops, and does not mellow with ploughing,

adds nothing to a vineyard’s lineage, or an apple’s fame)

it will grant this proof: take your thickly-woven baskets

and wine-strainers from the smoky roof:

press that poor soil into them, with sweet spring water,

to the top: all the water will be forced out of course

and large drops will squeeze through the willow:

but the taste will clearly manifest itself, and its bitter flavour

will make anyone testing screw up their mouths.

Again we learn which soils are rich, precisely like this:

it never crumbles when split, in the hands,

but sticks to the fingers like pitch when held.

Moist soil yields taller grass, and is duly fertile

in its own right. Ah, may that over-rich soil not belong to me,

and not show its excess vigour in the first shoots of wheat!

A heavy soil reveals itself silently by its weight, as does

a light one: it’s easy for the eye to know a black soil,

and any obvious colour. But to detect a wretchedly cold soil

is difficult: only pine, gloomy yew, and black ivy

occasionally disclose traces of its presence.

BkII:259-353 Planting A Vineyard

Having noted this, remember to let the ground dry out well,

and raze large mounds by trenching, and expose

the upturned clods of soil to the North wind,

before you plant a fertile type of vine. Fields with soils

that crumble are best: the wind and cold frost

take care of that, and the digger who moves and shakes the land.

But if these men are to let nothing escape them,

they first identify similar plots, where the vines can be prepared,

early, for their supporting trees, or where they can be taken later,

and planted out, so they don’t suddenly reject the change of soil.

They even print on the bark the region of the sky each one faced,

so they can identically align the side that withstood

the southern heat, and that which was turned to the northern pole:

we grow accustomed to so much in tender years.

Consider first whether it’s better to plant the vines on the slopes

or on the level. If you’re laying out fertile fields on the plain,

plant close: Bacchus is no more sluggish in close-planted soil:

but if the soil rises in mounds and sloping hills, give the rows room:

and again, when the vines are set, let all the paths

be squared off neatly with a clear-cut boundary.

As in great battles often, when the legion deploys its cohorts

in a long line, and the column holds the open ground,

the troops ranked deep, and the whole plain far and wide

heaves with shining bronze, the grim conflict not yet joined,

but Mars wanders uncertainly between the troops:

so let all your paths be laid out equal in size:

not just so that the view might nourish idle thought,

but because only like this will the earth grant equal vigour

to all, and the stems be able to extend into free air.

Perhaps you’ll also ask what depth the trenches should be.

I’d even trust a vine to a shallow furrow.

But sink the tree deep in the earth,

the oak above all, which stretches its crown to the air of heaven,

as far as it stretches its roots down to Tartarus.

So that no storms, or gales, or rains uproot it:

it remains untouched, and, enduring, it outlasts

many generations and centuries of men as they roll by.

It extends strong trunks and branches to either side,

and itself, in the middle, casts a vast shadow.

Don’t let your vineyard slope towards the setting sun,

and don’t plant hazel among the vines, or attack

the top shoots, or take cuttings from the tip

(they prefer the ground so much) or damage young plants

with a blunt knife, or graft into trunks of wild olive.

Since often fire’s left behind by a careless shepherd,

fire that lurking, hidden under the rich bark,

seizes the trunk and climbing to the high foliage

sends a great roaring to the sky: then following

the branches and tall crowns, rules supreme,

engulfing the whole grove in flames, and throwing up

dark clouds of thick pitch-black smoke,

especially if a gale from above has descended on the woods,

and a following wind intensifies the burning.

When this happens the tree stumps are worthless,

and can’t survive being cut back, or resurrect

their previous greenness from the depths of the earth:

only the wretched bitter-leaved oleaster remains.

And don’t let anyone be so wise as to convince you

to turn the solid earth when a North wind’s blowing.

Since winter grips the soil with frost and won’t let a shoot

that’s planted then fix its frozen roots in the ground.

The optimum season for planting vines is when the stork

that enemy of long snakes, arrives, in the first blush of spring,

or in autumn’s first chill before the horses of the swift sun

touch winter, when summer is on the wane.

Spring benefits the leaves of the groves and woods,

in Spring soil swells and demands life-bringing seed.

Then Heaven, the omnipotent father, descends as fertile rain,

into the lap of his joyful consort, and joining his power

to her vast body nourishes all growth.

Then the wild thickets echo to the songs of birds,

and in the settled days the cattle renew their loves:

the kindly earth gives birth, and the fields open their hearts,

in the warm West winds: gentle moisture flows everywhere,

and the grasses safely dare to trust to the new sun.

the vine-shoots don’t fear a rising Southerly,

or rain driven through the sky, by great Northerly gales,

but put out their buds, and unfold all their leaves.

I can believe such days shone at the first dawn

of the nascent world, and took such temperate course.

That was true Spring, the great world passed its Spring,

and the Easterlies spared their wintry gales,

when the first cattle drank in the dawn,

and the iron race of men lifted their heads from the hard ground,

and wild creatures were freed in the woods, and stars in the sky.

And tender things could not endure their labour,

if this respite did not come between the cold and the heat,

and heaven’s gentleness welcome the earth.

What’s more, whatever cuttings you push into the earth,

sprinkle them with manure, and don’t forget to bury them with soil,

and dig in porous stones or rough shell:

then the water will slip between, and the fine air steal in,

and the sown plants will breathe. And some have been known

to cover them with stones, and large heavy tiles:

defending them against driving showers, and when the Dog-Star

brings its heat, splitting the cracked fields with thirst.

BkII:354-420 Care of The Vineyard

When the sets are planted it remains to you to break up the soil

at the roots, often, and to wield the heavy hoe,

or work the ground under pressure of the ploughshare,

and turn your labouring oxen between the vines themselves:

then prepare light canes, props from peeled sticks,

ash stakes and strong forks, by means of which

the vines can be trained to climb, scorn the winds,

and follow the upper layers of the elms.

And when the fresh leaves bud in their early youth,

be careful of their tenderness, and while the shoot pushes

joyfully skyward, growing with free rein in the pure air,

don’t touch the plants themselves with a keen blade,

but pick and pluck among the leaves with bent fingers.

Later when they’ve grown to clasp the elms with strong shoots,

then clip their foliage, and prune their branches

(before then they’ll fear the knife), and, in the end,

maintain a harsh rule, and curb their uncontrolled growth.

You must weave hedgerows too, and keep out all cattle,

principally while leaves are tender, and unused to suffering,

for besides severe winters, and the power of the sun,

wild oxen, and persistent roe-deer, toy with them,

and sheep, and greedy heifers, graze on them.

No cold, solid with hoar frost, or summer heat,

hanging heavily over arid crags, has done as much harm

as the herds, the mischief from their harsh teeth,

and the scars gnawed deep in the stems.

It’s for no other crime that a goat is sacrificed to Bacchus

on every altar, and that the old tragedies arrived on stage,

and the people of Theseus set up tributes to genius, in the villages

and at the crossroads, and danced joyfully in the soft meadows,

among the wine-cups, on the oiled goat-skin.

Likewise the Ausonian farmers, a people out of Troy,

act out rough verses, with unrestrained laughter,

and wear fearful faces, hollowed from bark,

and call to you, Bacchus, in joyful song, and hang

tender little masks on the tall pine-trees.

Then every vineyard ripens with plentiful fruit,

richness fills hollow valleys and deep glades,

and wherever else the god has turned his handsome face.

So, in the songs of our land, we’ll duly speak in Bacchus’s

honour, and bring him dishes of meats and sacred cakes,

and, led by the horn, the sacrificial goat will stand at the altar,

and the rich organs will be roasted on hazel spits.

There’s another task too of dressing the vines, over which

there can never be too much trouble taken: since three or four times

each year your soil must be turned and the clods broken

endlessly with a reversed hoe, and all the plantation

lightened of its leaves. The farmer’s work returns, driven

in a cycle, and the year revolves on itself over its own track.

And once the vineyard has shed its autumn leaves,

and the cold North wind has shaken the glory from the woods,

the keen farmer already gives thought to the coming year,

and attacks the vines he left, trimming them with Saturn’s

curved blade, and shaping them by pruning.

Be first to dig the ground, first to carry the off-cuts away

and burn them, and first to put the stakes away under cover:

be the last to harvest. Twice, leaf shadow thickens on the vines,

twice, weeds and briars cover the vineyard: either labour

is heavy: praise the large estates but farm a small one.

Also rough shoots of broom must be cut, in the woods,

and reeds from the river, along the banks,

and you’re kept busy tending the beds of wild willows.

Now the vines are tied, now they’re free of the pruning knife,

now the last vine-dresser sings of his finished rows:

still you must stir the soil, and trouble the dust,

and be fearful of Jupiter’s rain on your ripening grapes.

BkII:420-457 A Wealth of Trees And Plants

Olives, on the contrary, need no care,

they don’t require curved knife or stubborn hoe,

once they’ve clung to the fields, and endured the breeze:

the earth itself, opened up by the curved ploughshare,

gives enough moisture and heavy fruit.

Nurture the rich olive, like this, pleasing to Peace.

Fruit-trees too race skywards with natural vigour,

as soon as they sense that their trunks are firmly set,

and reach full strength, needing no effort from us.

Meanwhile ever wood’s no less heavy with fruit,

and the wild-bird’s haunts redden with crimson berries.

The clover’s grazed: the high wood provides pine torches,

so the fires of night are fed and pour out their light.

And do men hesitate to plant and tend the fields?

Why talk of the greater? Willows and humble broom

provide grazing for the sheep, shade for the shepherd,

a hedge for the crops, pastures for the bees.

And the delight of viewing Cytorus’s undulating boxwood,

or groves of Narycian pitch pine, the delight

of seeing fields that owe nothing to men or hoes.

Even the barren woods on the heights of the Caucasus,

storm-tossed, and shattered, endlessly by angry Easterlies,

give something useful in their way, good timber,

pine for ships, cedar and cypress for houses.

From them farmer’s plane spokes, and wheels, for carts,

and lay out curved keels, and ribs, for boats.

The willow’s rich in osiers, the elm in leaves: the myrtle,

and the cornel, good for war, make strong spear-shafts,

and yews are bent into Ituraean bows.

Smooth lime and box, turned on the lathe, take form,

and are hollowed out by the sharp steel.

So, the light alder, sent on its way, rides the foaming waves

of the River Po, and so the bees swarm and build

in the hollow cork-trees, and the hearts of rotten oaks.

What gift as memorable has the vine brought?

Bacchus even gave reason for offence: he caused the deaths

of the maddened Centaurs, Rhoetus, Pholos

and Hylaeus, who threatened the Lapiths with a heavy bowl.

BkII:458-542 The Joys Of The True Life

O farmers, more than happy if they’ve realised their blessings,

for whom Earth unprompted, supreme in justice, pours out

a rich livelihood from her soil, far from the clash of armies!

If no tall mansion with proud entrance disgorges a tide of guests

at dawn, if they don’t gaze at doors inlaid with tortoiseshell,

clothes threaded with gold, or bronzes from Ephyra,

if their white wool’s not dipped in Assyrian dyes,

nor the clear oil they use spoiled by rosemary,

still there’s no lack of tranquil peace, life without deceit,

rich in many things, the quiet of broad estates

(caves, and natural lakes, and cool valleys,

the cattle lowing, and sweet sleep under the trees):

they have glades in the woods, and haunts of game,

a youth of patient effort, accustomed to hardship,

worship of the gods, and respect for old age: Justice,

as she left the Earth, planted her last steps among them.

As for me, may the sweet Muses, supreme above all,

whose rites, I celebrate, stirred by a great love,

receive me, and show me heaven’s roads, and the stars,

the sun’s many eclipses, the moon’s labours,

where earth-quakes come from, forces that swell the deep seas,

bursting their barriers, then sinking back again into themselves:

why winter suns rush so to dip themselves in the ocean,

and what it is that holds back the slow nights.

But if the chill blood around my heart prevents me

from reaching those regions of nature, let the country

and the flowing streams in the valleys please me,

let me love the rivers and the woods, unknown. O for the plains,

for Spercheus, for Taygetus of the Spartan virgins’ Bacchic rites!

O set me in the cool valleys of Haemus, and protect me

with the shadows of mighty branches!

He who’s been able to learn the causes of things is happy,

and has set all fear, and unrelenting fate, and the noise

of greedy Acheron, under his feet. And he’s happy too,

who knows the woodland gods, Pan,

and old Sylvanus, and the Nymphs, his sisters.

The honours of the crowd, royal purple, won’t move him,

nor the discord stirring treacherous brothers,

the Dacians swooping down from perjured Danube,

the wealth of Rome, or doomed kingdoms: he neither

grieves in pity for the poor, nor envies the rich.

He gather the fruits that his trees and his fields

themselves have produced, and has not viewed

the laws in iron, the Forum’s madness, the public records.

Others trouble unknown seas with oars, rush on

their swords, enter the gates and courts of kings.

This man destroys a city and its wretched houses,

to drink from a jewelled cup, and sleep on Tyrian purple:

that one heaps up wealth, and broods about buried gold:

one’s stupefied, astonished by the Rostra: another, gapes,

entranced by repeated applause, from people and princes,

along the benches: men delight in steeping themselves

in their brothers’ blood, changing sweet home and hearth for exile,

and seeking a country that lies under an alien sun.

The farmer has been ploughing the soil with curving blade:

it’s his year’s work, it’s sustenance for his little grandsons,

and his country, his herds of cattle and his faithful oxen.

There’s no rest, but the season is rich in fruit

or his herds produce, or Ceres’s wheat sheaves

burden the furrows with their load, and fill the barns.

Winter comes: Sicyon’s olive is bruised in the mill,

the pigs come home fattened with acorns, the woods

give fruit from the strawberry-tree, autumn its varied yield,

and the grapes are dried high on the sunny rocks.

Meanwhile his dear children hang on his lips,

his chaste house guards its purity, the cows drop

milky udders, and the fat kids butt each other,

horn against horn, on the pleasant grass.

He himself has a holiday, and stretched on the ground,

with a fire in the middle, he calls to you, Bacchus,

offering a libation, while his friends garland the bowl,

or he sets up a target on an elm, for the swift spear-throwing,

or they strip their tough bodies for the country-wrestling.

The ancient Sabines once lived such a life,

and Remus and his brother, so Etruria grew strong,

so Rome became the loveliest of all things,

and enclosed her seven hills with a single wall.

Before even Cretan Jupiter held the sceptre, before

an impious race feasted on slaughtered oxen,

golden Saturn lived such a life on Earth:

before they’d yet heard the blare of trumpets,

or the sword-blades ring, laid on the harsh anvil.

But we’ve crossed a vast expanse of space, and now

it’s time to loose the necks of our sweating team.


End of Book II