Virgil — The Old Man at Tarentum

Georgics, book 4, lines 125–148

I saw an old man once — the memory returns —
whose home was at Tarentum,
where the shaded waters of the river Galaesus
refresh the ripening corn. He’d come there from Cilicia.
He had a few poor acres of abandoned ground,
not fit for tillage, nor for flocks, nor vines.
And yet he’d made of it a garden,
planting vegetables among the brambles here and there,
and flowers: flimsy poppies and verbena and white lilies.
In his own mind he had the wealth of kings.
He came home late at night, and on his table
laid a feast for which no money had changed hands.
He was the first to gather roses in the spring
and apples in the autumn.
When harsh winter was still splitting rocks with frost
and ice floes slowed the currents of the rivers,
there he was, already cutting wispy hyacinths,
impatient for the laggard summer
and the soft west breezes, slow to come.
So he was first to have a plentiful supply of bees,
emerging in great swarms; and first
to gather frothy honey from the combs he pressed;
his laurestines and lime trees flowered abundantly,
and all the fruits whose blossoms clothed his fertile trees in spring
arrived at ripeness in the autumn.
He would even plant established elms in lines,
pear trees hardened by the seasons,
blackthorns hung with sloes
and planes in leaf, to offer shade to thirsty passers-by.
But I must move on now; I haven’t space to tell you more.
Other writers, after me, will add their memories to mine.

Listen to this translation — read by Peter Hetherington

Virgil — Georgics, book 4, lines 125–148

namque sub Oebaliae memini me turribus arcis,
qua niger umectat flaventia culta Galaesus,
Corycium vidisse senem, cui pauca relicti
iugera ruris erant, nec fertilis illa iuvencis
nec pecori opportuna seges nec commoda Baccho:
hic rarum tamen in dumis olus albaque circum
lilia verbenasque premens vescumque papaver
regum aequabat opes animis, seraque revertens
nocte domum dapibus mensas onerabat inemptis.
primus vere rosam atque autumno carpere poma,
et cum tristis hiems etiamnum frigore saxa
rumperet et glacie cursus frenaret aquarum,
ille comam mollis iam tondebat hyacinthi
aestatem increpitans seram Zephyrosque morantis.
ergo apibus fetis idem atque examine multo
primus abundare et spumantia cogere pressis
mella favis; illi tiliae atque uberrima tinus,
quotque in flore novo pomis se fertilis arbos
induerat, totidem autumno matura tenebat.
ille etiam seras in versum distulit ulmos
eduramque pirum et spinos iam pruna ferentis
iamque ministrantem platanum potantibus umbras.
verum haec ipse equidem spatiis exclusus iniquis
praetereo atque aliis post me memoranda relinquo.