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Virgil — The Poet Envies the Farmers

Georgics, book 2, lines 458-489

If farmers only knew how fortunate they are,
they’d be the happiest of men! To them,
earth’s generosity abundantly supplies
an easy living from the soil, far from the violence of war.

They may not live in splendid mansions
from whose pompous entrances
emerge each morning crowds of hangers-on
who’ve paid respects to their protector;
they don’t covet doorposts gorgeously inlaid with tortoiseshell
nor garments threaded through with gold
nor costly vessels of Corinthian brass;
the whiteness of their wool has not been stained with Tyrian purple;
in their limpid oil there is no taint of perfumed cassia.

Moreover, they enjoy untroubled peace:
a life which doesn’t break its promises.
Many are its blessings: quiet pleasure in their broad domains,
their caves, freshwater lakes, cool valleys,
in the lowing of their cattle
and sweet sleeps beneath the trees.
They have woods and forests full of game.
On farms like these, the people, in their prime,
will bear hard work, content with little;
here the gods are honoured, and old age revered;
among such folk the goddess Justice
left her last departing footprints on the earth.

But I’m a poet, love-struck by the Muses,
sweetest mistresses of all. My foremost wish:
that they accept my priestly service and explain to me
the tracks and movements of the stars,
the differing eclipses of the sun and moon,
why earthquakes happen
and what forces move the tides,
why suns in winter dye the ocean red so hastily
and what obstruction slows the passage of the nights.

But if the mysteries of nature prove too deep for me to fathom,
let my pleasure be in country things:
in rushing streams along the valleys;
may I come to love the waters and the woods,
a private man, indifferent to fame.
Oh, for the open country,
for the river Spercheus,
and for the mountains of Laconia,
where Spartan girls perform their Bacchic rites!
Who’ll set me down in Thrace’s steepest valleys,
in the cool, and shield me from the sun
beneath the branches’ spreading shade?

Virgil — Georgics, book 2, lines 458-489

O fortunatos nimium, sua si bona norint,
agricolas! quibus ipsa procul discordibus armis,
fundit humo facilem uictum iustissima tellus.
si non ingentem foribus domus alta superbis
mane salutantum totis uomit aedibus undam,
nec varios inhiant pulchra testudine postis
inlusasque auro vestis Ephyreiaque aera,
alba neque Assyrio fucatur lana ueneno,
nec casia liquidi corrumpitur usus olivi:
at secura quies et nescia fallere vita,
diues opum variarum, at latis otia fundis,
speluncae vivique lacus, at frigida Tempe
mugitusque boum mollesque sub arbore somni
non absunt; illic saltus ac lustra ferarum,
et patiens operum exiguoque adsueta iuuentus,
sacra deum sanctique patres: extrema per illos
Iustitia excedens terris vestigia fecit.

Me vero primum dulces ante omnia Musae,
quarum sacra fero ingenti percussus amore,
accipiant caelique vias et sidera monstrent,
defectus solis varios lunaeque labores;
unde tremor terris, qua vi maria alta tumescant
obicibus ruptis rursusque in se ipsa residant,
quid tantum Oceano properent se tinguere soles
hiberni, vel quae tardis mora noctibus obstet.
sin, has ne possim naturae accedere partis,
frigidus obstiterit circum praecordia sanguis,
rura mihi et rigui placeant in uallibus amnes,
flumina amem siluasque inglorius. o ubi campi
Spercheosque et virginibus bacchata Lacaenis
Taygeta! o qui me gelidis conuallibus Haemi
sistat et ingenti ramorum protegat umbra!