Jump to Content

Main Text


  • pg 26 Link 1pg 27 Thus far I have been singing of working the land, and stars in heaven.
  • Link 2So now I turn to you, Bacchus, you and the thick thickets people think of when they think of you,
  • 3and, while I'm at it, to what the slow-growing olive gives.
  • 4Be with me now, O Patron of the vine, here where your copious gifts abound,
  • Link 5where by your grace, in every autumn, the country swells with your full flower
  • 6and the vintage foams to overflow the vats.
  • Link 7Be with me now, O Patron of the vine, tear off your buskins
  • 8and come paddling with me in this season's musty dye!
  • Link 9Lesson one. The ways to propagate a tree are many.
  • Link 10Some take root on their own, with no one's help,
  • 11and put themselves about the place, throughout the plains,
  • 12by river bends—the supple willow and the bendy broom,
  • 13poplars, and a copse of sallies with their silver undersides.
  • Link 14But others spring from seeds they've dropped, such as the chestnut,
  • Editor’s Note15or that oak whose greenery adorns the groves of Jupiter,*
  • Editor’s Note16and the other one* that Greeks believe can tell what is to come.
  • 17And others still whose undergrowth shoots up along the root,
  • Editor’s Note Link 18the cherry and the elm, while laurels of Parnassus,*
  • 19seedlings still, shelter in their mother's shade.
  • 20These methods were first Nature's way for each and every tree
  • 21in woods and sacred groves to thrive and flourish.
  • 22Now there are other ways, found out by trial and error.
  • 23Some have taken slips from the parent tree's tender trunk
  • 24and landed them in trenches; some planted cuttings in a field,
  • 25their ends divided into quarters, held up by hardwood stakes.
  • 26  And there are others, forest trees, which call for layering
  • 27to come into their own at home in soil they're used to;
  • pg 2828 and others still which have no need for roots, and he who prunes them
  • 29doesn't have to wonder as he entrusts back to the ground a cutting
  • Link 30from the upper branches. Why, even when you've chopped an olive tree—
  • 31can you believe it?—buds burgeon from its seasoned stump.
  • Link 32How often have we seen the bough of one tree turned into another,
  • 33and none the worse for wear—the pear transformed to issue apples,
  • 34the plum branch blushing with its stonehard cherries?
  • Link 35So, come on, countrymen, and learn the character of every species,
  • 36make wild fruits sweeter through your care, and let no land lie waste.
  • Link 37What could proffer more reward than setting vines across the slopes of Ismarus
  • Editor’s Note38and covering the hillsides of Taburnus* with a cloak of olives?
  • Link 39And you, Maecenas, stand beside me now in this, the work I've taken on,
  • Link 40you to whom the largest fraction of my fame belongs by right,
  • Link 41have no second thoughts before the great adventure into which I've launched myself.
  • Link 42  Not that I could ever hope to feature all things in my verses—
  • Link 43not even if I had a hundred mouths, as many ways of speech,
  • Link 44and a voice as strong as iron. Stand by me now—as we proceed along the shoreline,
  • 45land close to hand. I'll waste none of your time with made-up rhymes,
  • 46or riddles, or prolonged preambles.
  • Link 47  Those trees which of their own accord rear themselves into the realm of light
  • Link 48mature unfruitful—that's a fact—though otherwise they're sound and strong,
  • 49and that's due to the quality of soil. And even these,
  • Link 50grafted to another or set carefully in a well-worked bed,
  • pg 29 Link 51 will outgrow their wildwood ways and with attentive care
  • 52will toe the line of what you have laid down for them.
  • Link 53In fact, those volunteers, sprouting from the base of trees,
  • 54will do the same, if you set them out, that is, in other spaces,
  • Link 55but if you don't, the parent tree's looming leaves and branches
  • 56will smother them and nip in the bud their whole ability to bear.
  • Link 57Indeed, that said, the tree that rears itself from windfalls
  • 58comes on half-heartedly and, preserving nought but shade for future generations,
  • Link 59its fruit will be a thing of nothing, its erstwhile flavour long forgotten,
  • 60and vines brought on this way bear only sorry sets of grapes, booty for birds.
  • Link 61  It's a fact and true—all trees cry out for work,
  • 62you'll have to train them in trenches, however trying that may be.
  • Link 63Olive trees fare best when grown on the trunk, vines by that practice
  • Link 64we've named layering, Paphian myrtles best from solid stems;
  • 65from slips, the healthy hazel, the mighty ash,
  • 66and the poplar out of which Hercules once made himself a garland,
  • Link 67just like the sacred oaks, the sky-high palm,
  • 68and the fir ahead of which lie disasters of the deep.
  • Link 69And, yes, through grafting, the shaggy strawberry dispenses walnuts,
  • Link 70and barren planes have borne a healthy pick of apples,
  • 71chestnut trees have sponsored beeches, and pear blossom whitened
  • Link 72manna ash, while underneath an elm sows have prospered on a feed of acorns.
  • 73These are not straightforward acts, grafting and implanting.
  • 74You see, when buds develop inside the bark and split its skin
  • 75a narrow pocket forms right on the knot.
  • Link 76To this you should affix the scion,
  • 77coaxing it to meld into the sappy rind.
  • 78But knot-free trunks you cut back all the way
  • Link 79and into the solid bole you etch deep wedges.
  • pg 3080 Next, insert those slips that are likelier to bear—and in jig time
  • 81a mighty tree is starting up to heaven, its branches jubilant,
  • Link 82astounded by new foliage and fruits which aren't its own.
  • Link 83And then you'll find there's more than one kind of elm,
  • Link 84and willow, and lotus tree, and the cypresses of Ida,
  • 85more than a single species of oily olive—
  • 86this comes in every shape and size and every shade of bitterness.
  • Editor’s Note87There are all sorts of apples in the orchards of Alcinous;* the shoot that grows
  • Editor’s Note88the pear from Crustumine wouldn't bear the Tarentine* nor those that are each one a handful.
  • Link 89Nor are they one and the same, the vintage grapes that drape our arbours,
  • 90as those they pick in Lesbos from the tendrils of Methymna,
  • 91or those in Thasos off the coast of Thrace, or paler breeds from Egypt.
  • 92Some suit a fertile soil, some a lighter sort.
  • 93Psythian makes best raisin-wine, while Lagean leaves you footless—just like that!—
  • 94and ties your tongue when you least expect it.
  • Editor’s Note95Purple grapes, or those that ripen first—and, oh, the fruit of Rhaetia,*
  • 96what song of mine could do you justice? Fine as you are, don't think yourself
  • Link 97the match of those stored in Falernian cellars. Aminnean wines, full-bodied with a long finish,
  • 98surpass that of Tmolus and even Phanae's finest, and, of course, the humbler Argite,
  • 99though none can rival this for its great yield
  • 100or all the years it lasts in prime condition.
  • 101  Don't think I would omit the wine of Rhodes, fit for gods
  • 102and saved till last, or Bumastus with its lavish clusters.
  • 103But there's no number for the sorts of wine nor names
  • 104for each of them, and little to be gained by trying to concoct the list.
  • pg 31105 Who'd know them all would know how many grains of sand
  • 106the west wind pitches through Saharan wastes,
  • Editor’s Note107how many waves* break on the Adriatic shore
  • 108when east winds smash against a fleet of ships at sea.
  • Link 109Not that every soil can bear all types of things.
  • 110Willows grow by river banks, alders root
  • 111in swampy depths, the mountain ash on stony heights.
  • Link 112Myrtles flourish by the shore, while—here it is—Bacchus adores
  • 113wide-open uplands, and yew a chilly northern aspect.
  • Link 114Turn your eyes to the ends of earth and those who till its acres—
  • Editor’s Note115the homes of Arabs in the east, Scythian tribes* with painted bodies.
  • 116Each nation has specific trees. None but the Indies grow
  • 117ebony, none but Arabia its sticks of incense.
  • 118What need is there for me—because you know already—to mention
  • 119fragrant resin exuded by the balsam or the pods of evergreen acacia?
  • 120Or the cotton fields of Ethiopia,
  • Editor’s Note121or how the Chinese* people comb silky fleeces from the leaves?
  • 122Or mention forests, contiguous to the ocean, that are another pride of India,
  • 123or at the last outpost of earth the trees so tall
  • 124that none could fire arrows to their tips, however hard he tries,
  • 125and there they're no mean marksmen when it comes to taking up the bow.
  • 126  That bitter fruit, the citron, with its aftertaste,
  • Editor’s Note127is a product of Media*—and there's no better help at hand
  • Link 128to wash the system of its toxins when,
  • 129with a mess of herbs and more malignant hexes,
  • 130a wicked stepmother spikes your drink.
  • 131The tree itself's a mighty one, the image of a laurel,
  • 132and, if it weren't for the discrepant scent it casts so far,
  • 133you'd argue it's a laurel. No wind can make it shed its leaves,
  • 134its blossom has a stubborn hold. The Medes use it to cure
  • Link 135foul odours in the mouth and treat shortness of breath in older people.
  • pg 32 Link 136  But neither the forests of Media, richest of lands,
  • 137nor glorious Ganges, nor even Hermus rattling with alluvial gold,
  • 138begin to match all that is due our praise in Italy.
  • 139          No, nor Bactra, nor the Indies, nor Arabia and all its sands opulent with incense.
  • 140  For this is land, this land of ours, no oxen ever turned with ploughs,
  • 141their nostrils flaring flames, nor where a dragon's teeth were sown,
  • Editor’s Note Link 142nor where a human harvest trembled—in ranks of helmets and serries of spears.*
  • 143Rather, it proliferates with produce and fine wines of Monte Massico;
  • Link 144olives abound, and bullocks in full bloom.
  • 145From here the warhorse struts across the battlefield.
  • Editor’s Note146From here, Clitumnus,* came the washed-white flocks and the bull that was
  • 147primed for the sacrifice, those animals that often bathed in your holy waters
  • 148and drew to the temples of the gods throngs who celebrated Roman triumphs.
  • 149Here it's constant spring—and summer out of season.
  • 150Twice cattle calve every year and twice the apple trees present their plenty.
  • 151  And—it must be said—there's no sign here of raging tigers or lions'
  • Link 152seed, breed, or generation, or of monkshood that tricks anyone unfortunate to pick it;
  • 153neither does the scaly serpent drag itself through the land
  • 154in endless circles or rear itself in threatening coils.
  • Link 155Think of the shining cities and the accomplishments of men,
  • 156towns created by such effort on steepling rocks
  • 157with rivers rumbling underneath their ancient walls.
  • 158Is there any need for me to mention the seas that wash above it and below,
  • pg 33159 or its great lakes—you, Larius, the greatest of them all,
  • 160or Benacus with crashing waves, just like a sea?
  • Link 161Is there any need for me to mention the havens and the reef's protection
  • Editor’s Note162of Lucrine,* as they aggravate the sea's resentments
  • 163where waves, repulsed, resound from far across the Sound of Julius
  • Link 164and drive Tyrrhenian tides through the channels of Avernus?
  • 165  Deep in the veins of this land silver shows, and copper mines;
  • Link 166its rivers run rich with gold.
  • Link 167Hers are the most intrepid men—fierce Marsians, and Samnite stock;
  • Editor’s Note168Ligurians, misfortune's friends; Volscian lancers*
  • Link 169and the Decii she produced; tribes of Marius and great Camillus;
  • Editor’s Note Link 170the battle-hardened Scipios,* and you yourself, Caesar, first of all mankind,
  • Link 171you who, already champion of Asia's furthest bounds,
  • Editor’s Note172rebuffs the craven Indian* from the arched portals of the capital.
  • Link 173Hail to thee, Italy, holy mother of all that grows,
  • Link 174mother of men—in your honour I plunge into material and measures
  • Link 175prized in days of old, daring to divulge the hallowed sources
  • Link 176and sing a hymn to works and days through the towns of Rome.
  • Link 177Now to the quality of land in any place—what's best about it,
  • 178its tints and textures, and its capacity for produce.
  • Link 179First that rugged country, those mean slopes,
  • Link 180stony soil, shallow loam, a world of brambles—
  • Link 181a happy home for long-lived olives.
  • 182One sure sign of such a place is oleaster in profusion,
  • 183its berries veritably blanketing the ground.
  • Link 184  But loamy land, that holds the spills of hills and rain,
  • 185a plain enhanced with plants and grass, proud teats of growth,
  • 186the like of which we're used to seeing when we gaze
  • 187down into deep valleys (into which, from heights of cliffs, rivers spout
  • pg 34188 contributing the gift of mud), or high, south-facing ground
  • Link 189that's liable to grow the curved share's foe—that is bracken—
  • 190such soil will one day proffer hale and hearty vines
  • Link 191and plenteous wine from bulging bunches,
  • Link 192a flood of grape juices, such as we pour for gods from golden goblets
  • 193as seen on altar carvings when a plump Etruscan plays his ivory pipe
  • 194and, on straining spears, we make our offerings of steaming entrails.
  • Link 195  That said, if rearing calves and fattening lambs is what
  • Link 196you care to do, or even goats that rip the roots of all that grows,
  • Link 197try the wooded fields and open spaces at Tarentum
  • 198and rolling plains such as Mantua was misfortunate enough to lose,
  • 199where graceful swans are flourishing in weedy waters.
  • Link 200There's no end there to feed and drink for stock:
  • 201what they crop in the course of one long day
  • 202dew will restore in the chill hours of one short night.
  • 203  As like as not, ground that's black when it's subjected to the share,
  • 204whose soil is friable (the sort we aim to reproduce by turning it),
  • 205that's best for corn; you'll nowhere see more waggonfuls
  • 206dragged home by struggling bullocks;
  • Link 207that, or lands from which a careless farmer carried timber off,
  • 208laid waste to woods that had stood tall for years on years
  • Link 209and wrecked the ancient habitats of birds by ripping up
  • 210roots and all. Their nestlings left, their mothers made for high sky,
  • 211but those once straggly acres blossom now behind your team.
  • 212  You'll get gravel in a hilly place, that scarcely serves
  • 213surfeit of lowly spurge or rosemary to feed the bees;
  • 214and riddled tufa, and chalk well worn by dour watersnakes,
  • 215make plain there is no other place supplying reptiles
  • 216with such fills of food as they prefer, nor proffering such hidey-holes as they'd kill for.
  • Link 217  Land that tosses off the whiffs of mist
  • pg 35218 and breathes in dew and breathes it out again at will,
  • 219and dresses always in its green attire,
  • 220and doesn't tarnish tools with rust or marks of minerals—
  • Link 221that's the land for growing vines to trail around your elms and for big yields of olives;
  • Link 222give it a go—you'll find it's in good heart for grazing
  • 223or for submitting to the plough's advances.
  • 224Among all that Capua possesses, it has that kind of land to work
  • Editor’s Note225along the ridges of Vesuvius, and Clanius whose floods dispeopled Acerrae.*
  • Link 226Listen. Here's how you'll tell the sort of soil you're dealing with.
  • 227If it's a compact one you need, or one more porous
  • 228(one's good for corn, one for vines,
  • 229dedicate the denser one to Ceres, the looser one to Bacchus),
  • 230trust your eyes to be the judge—and order that a hole be dug
  • 231deep in the ground. Then backfill all the earth
  • 232and trample flat. A shortfall?—it's a light soil,
  • Link 233fit for herds and flocks, or healthy vines.
  • 234A surplus?—leftover land when you've refilled
  • 235the trench—and you have heavy land on hand—
  • 236all that's in store is sods and clods and awkward ridges:
  • 237prepare to break that ground with sturdy oxen.
  • 238  As for that land that brings tears to the eyes, 'bitter' land as locals say
  • 239(inhospitable to harvests, that no amount of ploughing sweetens),
  • 240where vines won't live up to their name and apples aren't worth mentioning,
  • 241here's how you'll recognize it—reach to your reeky rafters
  • Link 242and take down the thickly woven baskets and wicker colanders for wine;
  • 243with fresh well water mix in that offending earth
  • Link 244and pack it to the brim; as you'd expect, the moisture
  • 245dribbles through in heavy drops.
  • Link 246The tip of the tongue of anyone who takes on to try it
  • pg 36 Link 247 will tell the tale, his turned-up mouth squirming with the taste.
  • 248And so, in short, a richer soil is tested, too—
  • 249toss it from hand to hand and it won't crack or crumble,
  • 250no, it clings to fingers just like pitch.
  • Link 251  Soggy soil gives massive growth, more than's natural.
  • Link 252Preserve me from such profusions,
  • 253or such excess when new shoots show!
  • 254Whether soil is light or heavy you'll know without a word.
  • 255A glance will tell black earth, or whatever colour
  • 256it turns out to be. It's harder far to figure out
  • Link 257earth that's cursed to be cold, though now and then giant pines,
  • Link 258poisonous yews, and dark climbs of ivy give a clue.
  • 259  Keep all this in mind. Let moisture burn off from the ground,
  • 260divide the uplands into trenches,
  • 261turn over any clods of earth to face winds from the north—
  • Link 262all this before you set your sprigs of vine. A crumbly soil
  • 263is best of all—broken down by grace of frosts and freezing winds,
  • 264and the ongoing toil of diggers who have worked the plot, perch by perch and rood by rood.
  • Link 265  But those whose eyes watch everything miss nothing.
  • 266Begin by searching out two soils that are the same in which to start your seedlings
  • 267in order that when, by and by, you transplant them
  • 268they won't feel any difference from what surrounds their mother tree.
  • 269What's more—you print the mark of compass points onto the bark
  • 270to show which way each used to face and know which bore the heat
  • 271of southern suns, which kept its back hunched to the north,
  • Link 272so deep ingrained are habits formed in younger days.
  • Link 273  Ask yourself, before you start, whether it's best to place your vines
  • 274on rising ground, or flat. If it's a fertile plain you plan to set
  • 275lay out your plants together. Close sowing won't put brakes on Bacchus.
  • pg 37 Link 276 But if it's land that rises up to touch the sky, or hills that reach into the distance,
  • 277be generous with room between the rows. Make sure that they run parallel
  • Editor’s Note278and still maintain right angles* with the boundary lines,
  • Link 279the way in war you'd often see a legion massed in ranks,
  • Link 280its cohorts standing—and standing out—on open ground,
  • Link 281aligned and at the ready, the everywhere just like a glittering stretch of sea,
  • 282and the flash of bronze, the clash of conflict still not started,
  • Link 283though the god of war roams edgily, in and out among battalions.
  • Link 284  Let all the avenues be equal,
  • Link 285not only so an idle eye might linger on the view
  • 286but because no other method gets the earth to give in matching measures
  • 287and grants the boughs free rein and the run of air.
  • 288  And you'll wonder maybe how far down to dig.
  • Link 289I'd be happy, I believe, to set the vines in shallow trenches.
  • 290But trees need to be driven deeper, and none more than
  • 291the dun must oak which holds its head to heaven,
  • 292with as much above the ground as its roots below delve into the pits of Tartarus.
  • Link 293And so it can't be overthrown by wintry weather, gusts of wind
  • 294or spills of rains, as it stands undaunted, outlasting lives
  • 295of sons and grandsons, a vanquisher of ages.
  • 296Far and wide it spreads its sturdy boughs, its branches hanging,
  • 297and in their midst its trunk, the mainstay of its massive shade.
  • Link 298  Whatever else you do, don't have your vineyard face toward the setting sun;
  • Link 299sow no hazels in the rows; don't pinch the main part
  • 300of the shoot, nor prune the topmost splays of trees—
  • 301they love the earth so tenderly—you mustn't brush against a sapling
  • 302even with blunt instruments; don't introduce wild olive stakes.
  • 303  For careless shepherds often cause a fire by letting fall a spark
  • 304that smoulders unobserved beneath the oily bark
  • 305and then runs riot among the leaves, racing
  • pg 38306 its rowdy roar as it chases sideways on and up,
  • 307lording it over every branch and the tips of every trunk,
  • 308enveloping the wood in flames and belching skywards clouds
  • 309of soot-filled smoke, the more so if a gale spins through
  • 310the forest roof and winds rush in to fan the blaze.
  • 311  When the like of this occurs, plants give up the ghost.
  • Link 312Burn grafted trees to the roots, and they're left with nothing left to give,
  • 313nothing their own. Cut to the quick, they'll never send the same green shoots
  • 314out from deep below the ground. Oleaster that's all leaf and little fruit stands to triumph.
  • 315  Pay no heed to anyone, however well he's versed in plant production,
  • 316who tells you to begin to plough rock-solid land while north winds still
  • 317bare their teeth. When winter seals the countryside
  • 318broadcast corn can't get a foothold in the soil.
  • Link 319It's spring's first flush that's best for sowing vines,
  • 320when that bright bird returns, the bane of lanky snakes,
  • 321or, if not then, the first cold snap of autumn, before the sun's
  • 322fiery steeds have touched on winter, although, in truth, the summer's gone already.
  • Link 323Spring it is, spring that's good to the core of the wood, to the leaves of groves,
  • 324spring that reawakens soil and coaxes seeds to fruitfulness.
  • Editor’s Note Link 325It's then almighty father, Air, marries the earth*
  • Link 326and penetrates her with prolific showers, and, their bodies joined
  • 327as one, unbridles life's potential.
  • Link 328  The woodlands off the beaten track reverberate with singing birds
  • 329and, right on time, cattle come into their season—
  • 330the countryside stands to deliver—and in the warmth of western breezes
  • 331the plains let down their very breasts; a gentle wash infuses everything
  • 332and new growth ventures to believe it's safe beneath the young,
  • pg 39333 still unfamiliar sun, and vine shoots fear no southern gales
  • 334nor roaring northerlies that scour rain clouds from the sky;
  • Link 335rather, they prompt their buds to boldness and leaves to colour
  • Link 336everywhere. That days were not that different at the dawning
  • 337of the world I can easily believe, nor proceeded differently.
  • Link 338Then it was spring, all basked in spring,
  • 339and winter's winds bit their tongue—
  • 340all this when livestock first unclosed their eyes
  • 341and man, begot of rocks, first held up his head,
  • 342with creatures loosed to roam woodscape and stars to ramble skies.
  • 343  Indeed, how could such tender growth survive vicissitudes
  • 344if there were not between the cold and warmth a spell of dreamlike quiet,
  • 345when heaven's kindness brought its gift of ease?
  • 346What's more, whenever you set down your slips
  • 347don't forget to land them well,
  • 348or dig in around them bits of pervious stone and broken shells.
  • 349It's known well that waters will soak through them
  • 350and their gentle vapours spread to pick the plants' spirits up.
  • 351Men have experimented by laying slabs and broken tiles
  • 352to offer them protection from the pouring rain or, even, on those days
  • Link 353the Dog Star's heat intensifies to parch and crack the soil.
  • 354  When you've your seedlings put to bed you've still to go over the ground,
  • 355time and again, up to where the vine appears, scuffling soil
  • 356with your clawed hoe, to plough the earth steadily
  • 357and steer your straining oxen up and down the vineyard rows.
  • Link 358Then prepare the pliant reeds, whittled sticks and stakes of ash,
  • 359the sturdy forked supports through whose assistance
  • 360they can begin to climb fearless of wind
  • Link 361and fit themselves to the crowns of elms.
  • Link 362And all the while they're putting out their fragile leaves
  • Link 363treat the shoots with gentlest care, and while their branches
  • 364venture high, given free rein in the sky,
  • pg 40365 don't even glance against them with the pruning hook's keen edge—
  • 366no, use your fingertips to pluck this one here, and that one there.
  • Link 367And in due course, when they've their arms around those trees
  • 368(a strong embrace), it's time to trim their tops, time
  • 369to crop their branches (prior to this they'll wilt before any iron implement),
  • 370impose your will and curb their wayward leaders.
  • 371There are hedges to be laid, to keep out each and any beast,
  • 372especially when the leaves are delicate and unaccustomed to attack,
  • 373winter's cruelty or the worst extremes of summer,
  • 374not to mention rampant buffalo and deer nibbling havoc there,
  • 375or sheep and brawly heifers that eat their fill.
  • 376No winter weather, its hardest frosts,
  • 377nor summer's heat that splits the stones,
  • 378did hurt to them to equal herds and flocks,
  • 379their toothmarks' harm, the scars they've inscribed in the bark.
  • Link 380  And they're the why, such transgressions, a goat is sacrificed
  • 381on every altar to the wine god—since our elders started to stage plays
  • 382and the sons of Theseus rewarded talent along the highways and the byways
  • 383and, with drink taken, took to hopping here and there,
  • 384a dance on greasy hides, and toppling in soft grass.
  • 385So, too, Ausonian settlers—who came from Troy—
  • 386recited their rough-hewn verse to entertain the masses,
  • 387and put on scary masks cut out of bark
  • 388and called on you, Bacchus, in rousing song,
  • Editor’s Note389and in your honour dangled from the tips of pines tender tokens.*
  • 390And it ensues that every vineyard crests and fills,
  • 391valleys teem, and deep ravines—
  • 392anywhere the god took in with his goodly gaze.
  • 393  Therefore, as is only right, we accord to Bacchus due respect
  • 394with songs our fathers sang and trays of baked offerings
  • pg 41395 and, led by the horn, the sacrificial puck is set before the altar
  • 396and his spewling innards roasted on hazel skewers.
  • Link 397  Still there's more to do in the upkeep of the vines,
  • 398the work that's never finished, for every year, three times or four,
  • Link 399you have to air the soil, by crushing clods time and time again
  • 400with your hoe's heel, and not neglect to relieve the whole plantation of its load of leaves.
  • 401The farmer's chores come round
  • 402in seasons and cycles, as the earth each year retraces its own tracks.
  • 403And even while the yard relinquishes the last, lingering leaves
  • 404and a northerly divests woods of their panache
  • 405the keen countryman is turning thoughts to the year ahead
  • 406and all that's to be done in it: with his curved blade he'll prune each branch
  • Link 407and shape it to his own design. Then, as soon as possible,
  • 408he'll rake the bed, set fire to his cuttings,
  • 409bring under cover vine supports and then, as late as late can be,
  • Link 410he'll draw the harvest home. Time and again, year on year,
  • 411vines bow beneath a cloud and sink into the grip of undergrowth—ever more to do!
  • Link 412So cast a hungry eye on a big estate if you're inclined, but tend a small one.
  • 413        What's more, you'll find throughout the woods rough sprigs
  • 414of butcher's broom and all along the river banks reeds needing to be trimmed,
  • 415and, elsewhere, willows crying out for your attention—that will keep you on the go.
  • Link 416Say grape branches are bound up, orchards finished with the pruning hook,
  • 417and the vine-dresser furthest down the rows starts to sing of work well done,
  • pg 42418 you've still to hoe the earth, to scuff and shuffle the light soil,
  • Link 419and keep a weather watch on the clusters as they ripen.
  • Link 420On the other hand, the olive thrives almost by neglect,
  • 421needing no encounter with hooked hoe or sickle blade
  • 422once it's found its feet in fields and faced the winds (and faced them down).
  • 423The earth itself, once it's been broken open, provides sufficient moisture
  • 424for growing plants to yield rich harvests in the ploughshare's wake.
  • 425That's the way you'll cultivate the best of olives—choice of Peace.
  • Link 426  Just as apples, as soon as they have sensed a surge of strength
  • 427along their trunks, stretch quickly for the stars all on their own—
  • 428they need no helping hand from us.
  • Link 429And all the while wild woodlands teem with fruits,
  • 430and the preserves of birds blaze with blood-red berries.
  • 431  Clover's cut for fodder. Deep woods provide pitch pines
  • 432that feed the evening fires and broadcast light.
  • 433Have men still second thoughts about setting seeds and the attendant cares?
  • Link 434What ties me to the theme of bigger trees? Broom and lowly willow
  • 435supply sufficient food for stock and shade for countrymen,
  • 436hedges for crop land and honey's essence.
  • Link 437What joy to feast my eyes on waves of boxwood by Cytorus
  • Editor’s Note438and on the stands of pine near Narycum,* what joy to set my sights
  • 439on fields no mattock ever scratched, that owe no debt to human effort.
  • 440Even in those fruitless forests found in the heights of Caucasus
  • 441which south-east winds assault and batter
  • 442each tree gives something of its own—the pines give timber, wood that's good
  • pg 43443 for building boats, the cypresses and cedars wood that's good for building houses.
  • 444And it's from here that countrymen procured turned spokes for wheels,
  • 445and axles for their waggons, and the long curved keels of their ships.
  • Link 446  No bother to the willow, a source of withies; nor to the elm, of foliage for fodder;
  • 447while myrtle shafts make sturdy spears, as do the cornel cherry's—
  • Editor’s Note448the best for war. Yews are best for the Ituraean bows.*
  • 449Soft lime and boxwood polished on a lathe
  • 450surrender to the shape the chisel's edge imposes;
  • 451while the alder, launched into its raging torrents, speeds sprightly
  • Editor’s Note452down the Po, and swarms of bees* set up their colonies
  • 453in hollow cork and the belly of a boast holm oak.
  • Link 454What offerings from Bacchus are more worthy of remembering?
  • Link 455Bacchus! He it was who gave cause to crime, he who smote
  • Editor’s Note456the maddened Centaurs* with a mortal blow—Rhoecus, Pholus,
  • 457and Hylaeus, the one who'd deranged the Lapiths with a power of wine.
  • Link 458  If they but knew! They're steeped in luck, country people,
  • 459being far removed from grinds of war, where earth that's just
  • 460showers them with all that they could ever ask for.
  • Link 461So what if he hasn't a mansion with gates designed to impress
  • 462and callers traipsing in and out all morning long.
  • 463So what if there's no rabble gawking at the entrance with its gaudy tortoiseshell veneer,
  • 464and tapestries with gold filigree, and bronzes plundered on a march to Corinth.
  • 465So what if their wool's merely bleached and not stained with Assyrian dyes,
  • Link 466and the olive oil they use hasn't been diluted with that tint of cinnamon—
  • Link 467no, what they have is the quiet life—carefree and no deceit—
  • 468and wealth untold—their ease among cornucopiae,
  • pg 44469 with grottoes, pools of running water and valleys cool even in warm weather,
  • 470the sounds of cattle and sweet snoozes in the shade.
  • Link 471There are glades and greenwoods, lairs of game,
  • 472young men wed to meagre fare but born and built for work.
  • Link 473Here, too, is reverence for god and holy fathers, and it was here
  • 474that Justice left her final footprints as she was taking leave of earth.
  • Link 475  And as for me, my most ardent wish is that sweet Poetry,
  • 476whose devotee I am, smitten as I've been with such commitment,
  • 477would open up to me the courses of the stars in heaven,
  • Link 478the myriad eclipses of the sun and phases of the moon,
  • Link 479whence come earthquakes, which are the reason deep seas surge
  • Link 480to burst their bounds before receding peacefully,
  • 481and are the why winter suns dash to dip themselves into the ocean
  • 482and are what causes long nights to last and linger.
  • Link 483But if I am not the one to sound the ways of the world
  • 484because my heart's lack of feeling stands in the way,
  • 485then let me be satisfied with rural beauty, streams bustling through the glens;
  • 486let me love woods and running water—though I'll have failed. Oh, for the open countryside
  • Editor’s Note487along the Spercheus, or the mountains of Taygetus,* its horde of Spartan maidens
  • 488ripe for the picking! Oh, for the one who'd lay me down to rest
  • 489in cool valleys of the Haemus range and mind me in the shade of mighty branches!
  • Editor’s Note Link 490  That man* has all the luck who can understand what makes the world
  • 491tick, who has crushed underfoot his fears about
  • Link 492what's laid out in store for him and stilled the roar of Hell's esurient river.
  • Link 493Indeed he's blessed, who's comfortable with country gods—
  • Editor’s Note494Pan and old Sylvanus,* and the sorority of nymphs.
  • Link 495High public office doesn't turn his head, nor regal pomp,
  • pg 45 Link 496 nor civil strife when friends and allies are at odds,
  • 497nor the Dacian league descending from the Danube,
  • Link 498nor even all concerns and cares of Rome, or any one provisional domain.
  • Link 499For those with wants he feels a sorrow, not envy for the ones with none.
  • 500The fruit on trees, all the country offers for the taking,
  • Link 501he'll gather. To cruel codes of law, or madding market places,
  • 502or the public record office—he simply gives no thought.
  • 503  Others rush in rowboats into uncharted waters, and race to take up arms,
  • Link 504they work their way into the inner courts and chambers of the king.
  • Link 505This man aspires to the sack of Rome itself, all its poor hearths and homes,
  • Link 506just so he might imbibe from cups inlaid with gems and sleep beneath the coverings of an emperor.
  • 507That man stockpiles a fortune while he broods on buried treasure.
  • Link 508This man looks on with open mouth at speakers in the forum, while that one is struck dumb
  • 509by the applause that punctuates the talk of senators and even common people,
  • Link 510and ripples all the way along the benches, while others still spill their brothers' blood
  • 511and ne'er a care. They strike out from the home place and forge a life in exile,
  • Editor’s Note512searching for warm welcome in a fatherland* beneath a foreign sun.
  • Link 513  A countryman cleaves earth with his crooked plough. Such is the labour
  • Link 514of his life. So he sustains his native land and those who follow
  • Link 515in his footsteps; so he supports a team of oxen and keeps cattle in good order.
  • 516All go and no let up—so that the seasons teem with fruit,
  • 517fields fill up with bullocks, and big arms of barley stand in stooks.
  • pg 46 Link 518They've overflowed the furrows, they'll burst the barns.
  • 519  Come winter, and the best of olives run spilling from the mills,
  • Link 520the pigs come back aglow on feeds of acorns, the arbutus tree
  • 521refreshes its pale foliage—and in such ways the autumn serves its bounty,
  • 522while up on open ground the vintage basks on boulders and ripens in the sun's caress.
  • Link 523  And all the while dear sons await each show of his affection,
  • 524his home remains a model of propriety, with milkers plunging
  • Link 525their four quarters, and kids delighting in lush pastures
  • 526and locking horns in playful jousts.
  • 527The countryman observes his holidays by taking ease out in the fields
  • Link 528with friends around a fire, garlands adorning goblets
  • 529from which they'll drink to you, Bacchus, as he arranges contests and competitions
  • Link 530for the hired help, hurling javelins at a target marked out on an elm,
  • 531and sturdy hands undress themselves for wrestling bouts.
  • Link 532  That was the life, and those the ways the Sabines cultivated in the days of old,
  • Link 533they, and Remus and his brother, so there could be no doubt
  • Editor’s Note Link 534that Tuscany would go from strength to strength* and Rome become
  • Link 535gem of the world, embracing seven hills inside a single wall.
  • Link 536In days before a Cretan king held sway, times
  • Link 537when sacrilegious races fed on sacrificial oxen,
  • Editor’s Note Link 538that was the life enjoyed on earth by splendid Saturn,*
  • Link 539when they were yet to hear the flare of battle trumpets
  • Link 540and the battering out of swords upon an anvil.
  • Link 541But we have covered vast tracts of matter and, besides,
  • Link 542it's high time that we released the sweating horses from their halters.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
15 the groves of Jupiter: his oracle at Dodona.
Editor’s Note
16 the other one: Virgil is distinguishing two varieties of oak: the English oak (quercus) and the durmast oak (aesculus).
Editor’s Note
18 laurels of Parnassus: Delphi, on Mt. Parnassus, was the prophetic shrine of Apollo, and leaves of his tree, the laurel, were chewed by the Pythoness for inspiration.
Editor’s Note
37–8 Ismarus … Taburnus: here and repeatedly in Book 2 Virgil combines and contrasts exotic places (Ismarus is a mountain range in Thrace) with Italian sites like Taburnus in Samnium.
Editor’s Note
87 orchards of Alcinous: the king of mythical Phaeacia, whose gardens and orchards are described in Odyssey 7.112–32.
Editor’s Note
88 Crustumine … Tarentine: from Crustumerium and Tarentum, in different regions of Italy.
Editor’s Note
90–5 Lesbos … Rhaetia: again Virgil lists popular wines from around the Mediterranean, the islands of Lesbos, Thasos, Chios, and Rhodes, and Egypt and Lydia (western Turkey). Lagean (line 93), from the Lagid dynasty of Ptolemies who ruled Egypt, alludes to Egyptian wine. Rhaetia (line 95) is the Roman name for Alto Adige and Tyrol, and this wine was a favourite of Augustus, according to Suetonius (Augustus 77). In contrast, Virgil cites Falernian (line 97), and wine from Aminnea (line 97), both from Italian Campania, as superior to the wines of Lydian Mt. Tmolus and Phanae in Chios.
Editor’s Note
105–7 how many grains … how many waves: Virgil's first comparison echoes a famous poem of Catullus (Cat. 7), measuring the kisses he wants from his Lesbia by the uncountable sands of Libya, but he has substituted the waves of the Adriatic for Catullus' second allusion to the countless stars of the sky.
Editor’s Note
114–15 the ends of earth … Scythian tribes: this choice of climatic opposites anticipates the fuller accounts of North Africa and Scythia in 3.339–83.
Editor’s Note
116–21 the Indies … Chinese: the Romans knew of these lands beyond their own empire only indirectly from the middlemen who traded spices from Arabia (Virgil names them with the Latin form of the name Sheba), rare wood like ebony from the Indian peoples of South Asia, cotton from East Africa, and silk from China. These places will be recalled in lines 136–9, where the Lydian river Hermus is cited for the gold panned from its stream.
Editor’s Note
126–7 the citron … product of Media: Virgil gives special treatment to the citron (malus Medica) as a cure-all against poison, bad breath, and breathlessness. Romans of his time identified the ancient Medes (line 134) with their contemporary enemies, the Parthians. Here and elsewhere in Book 2 he is drawing on the Greek botanist Theophrastus, and Pliny quotes him and partly corrects him in Natural History 11.278.
Editor’s Note
140–2 no oxen … serries of spears: the fire-breathing oxen and warriors born from dragon's teeth of mythical Colchis (and Thebes). Italy is free of mythical monsters, as it is less plausibly said to be of wild beasts and poisonous plants.
Editor’s Note
146 Clitumnus: a lake with sacred springs in Umbria where white oxen were bred for sacrifice to Jupiter and other gods at Rome.
Editor’s Note
159–62 Larius … Lucrine: praise of the northern lakes Maggiore and Garda is combined with praise for Agrippa's recent engineering feat of linking Lake Avernus and the Lucrine lake in Campania to the Tyrrhenian coast to provide an inland naval basin. His artificial harbour is also praised by Propertius (3.18), writing soon after 23 bce, but seems to have been abandoned within a generation.
Editor’s Note
167–8 Marsians … Volscian lancers: hill peoples of central Italy subdued by Rome and long since incorporated in her Italian confederation. The Ligurians from the north-west were brought under control in the second century bce.
Editor’s Note
169–70 Decii … Scipios: in listing Roman military heroes Virgil is not bound by chronology; the Decii won great victories over the Samnites and Etruscans in the fourth and third centuries: Camillus conquered Veii and defeated the Gauls at the beginning of the fourth century, the elder Scipio (Africanus Maior) defeated Carthage at the end of the third century and his adoptive grandson (Aemilianus) destroyed the city in 146 bce. Only Marius is recent, and he is mentioned here not only because he conquered Jugurtha of Numidia and defeated the Teutones and Cimbri, but as husband of Julius Caesar's aunt, he was virtually an ancestor of Octavian.
Editor’s Note
170–2 Caesar … rebuffs the craven Indian: this may refer to diplomatic overtures from India. It goes beyond any campaigning by Octavian or his deputies during the years 36–29 bce when the Georgics were being written.
Editor’s Note
224–5 Capua … Acerrae: Capua was chief city of Campania, the most sunny and fertile region of Italy with rich volcanic soils on the slopes of Vesuvius. The river Clanius and town of Acerrae are in the same region.
Editor’s Note
277–8 run parallel/and still maintain right angles: the vines should be arrayed like legionary soldiers, with those in alternate rows placed midway between those in the previous row so that the distance between individuals is equal in all directions—the quincunx formation.
Editor’s Note
325 almighty father, Air, marries the earth: the fertilizing union of sky and earth called the hieros gamos, or sacred marriage: Lucretius (1.250–3) also represents spring fertility as the union of father sky and mother earth; both may go back to Homer's description of the union of Zeus and Hera on an open hillside in Iliad 14.346–51.
Editor’s Note
380–9 And they're the why … tender tokens: tradition (reported by Varro in his De re rustica and his scholarly works on the history of drama) was that the Athenians (whose first king was Theseus) sacrificed a goat (tragos) to Dionysus in atonement for the damage done to his vines and performed the first tragedies (tragos + ōdē = goatsong). Compare Horace, Art of Poetry 220: 'The man who competed with tragic poetry on account of the worthless he-goat …' Virgil's account of the adoption of this custom by Italians is recalled by Horace in his 'Letter to Augustus' (Epistles 2.1), 139–67: 'The farmers of old, sturdy and happy with a small stock, after storing the harvest, easing their bodies at a time of festival, and their spirits enduring hardship in hope of its end, along with their sons and workmates, and their loyal wives made sacrifice to earth with a pig and Sylvanus with milk …'
Editor’s Note
437–8 boxwood … stands of pine near Narycum: Virgil first recalls Catullus 4, spoken by his yacht made of exotic box from the south coast of the Black Sea, then pairs it with pitch pine forests close to a small town in south Italy.
Editor’s Note
448 Ituraean bows: named from a people in northern Palestine. Only foreign, usually eastern, troops were archers, and their bows also came from the east.
Editor’s Note
452 swarms of bees: besides recalling a variety of trees, Virgil is setting the scene for the theme of Book 4.
Editor’s Note
456 the maddened Centaurs: a Greek myth (see Odyssey 21.295–304 and Ovid, Metamorphoses 12.210–535) told how Pirithous, king of the Lapiths in Thessaly, invited his neighbours the Centaurs to his wedding but they could not hold their drink and when one of them tried to kidnap the bride there was a great battle.
This is the first of a series of Thessalian legends invoked by Virgil, many associated with horse-breeding.
Editor’s Note
487 Spercheus … Taygetus: both idyllic wild places are Greek: the river Spercheus is Thessalian, the mountains near Sparta. The young women of Sparta exercised with men and were thought of as fearless hunters, but 'the one who'd lay me down to rest' in the next sentence is not a Spartan maiden but some imaginary deity who will transport Virgil to Thracian Haemus.
Editor’s Note
490 That man: the poet surely alludes here to Lucretius, who was proud of saving men from the fear of Hell by his Epicurean teaching that gods did not punish men for their sins and there was no afterlife. Lucretius also denounced the greed and political ambition which led to civil war at Rome (cf. Lucretius 3.59–73) in language close to Virgil's denunciation in lines 495–511.
Editor’s Note
493–4 with country gods—/Pan and old Sylvanus: cf. 1.16 and 20, and note. Sylvanus, god of the uncleared woodlands, is the god who would protect the wild trees discussed in lines 413–53.
Editor’s Note
511–12 a life in exile … in a fatherland: Virgil echoes his own language in Eclogue 1 (see Introduction), but it is not clear whether he has in mind here simple victims of political change or partisans who brought on their own exile by civil violence.
Editor’s Note
532–4 the Sabines … from strength to strength: the Sabines were Rome's neighbours in the hill region east of Rome: after the trick by which Romulus' men abducted the Sabine women, a retaliatory war ended in alliance and the sharing of the city between Roman and Sabine. Virgil probably speaks of Remus rather than Romulus for metrical reasons (he addresses Romulus in 1.498) rather than as a reminder of Romulus' alleged fratricide. Etruscan power was greatest between the eighth and early fifth centuries: Virgil probably has in mind the Etruscan dynasty of the Tarquins which ruled Rome and brought her new wealth.
Editor’s Note
536–8 before a Cretan king … by splendid Saturn: the Cretan king is Jupiter, born on Mt. Ida in Crete, and Virgil is returning to the revolutionary moment (described in 1.121) when Jupiter took away from mankind the easy living of his father Saturn's golden age. The last few lines recapitulate the marks of human decline from innocence, in the sacrifice of oxen, men's fellow workers, and development of weapons and warfare.
Link Settings


logo-footer Copyright © 2023. All rights reserved. Access is brought to you by Log out