Georgics, by Virgil

I

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.

    O universal lights

Most glorious! ye that lead the gliding year

Along the sky, Liber and Ceres mild,

If by your bounty holpen earth once changed

Chaonian acorn for the plump wheat-ear,

And mingled with the grape, your new-found gift,

The draughts of Achelous; and ye Fauns

To rustics ever kind, come foot it, Fauns

And Dryad-maids together; your gifts I sing.

And thou, for whose delight the war-horse first

Sprang from earth’s womb at thy great trident’s stroke,

Neptune; and haunter of the groves, for whom

Three hundred snow-white heifers browse the brakes,

The fertile brakes of Ceos; and clothed in power,

Thy native forest and Lycean lawns,

Pan, shepherd-god, forsaking, as the love

Of thine own Maenalus constrains thee, hear

And help, O lord of Tegea! And thou, too,

Minerva, from whose hand the olive sprung;

And boy-discoverer of the curved plough;

And, bearing a young cypress root-uptorn,

Silvanus, and Gods all and Goddesses,

Who make the fields your care, both ye who nurse

The tender unsown increase, and from heaven

Shed on man’s sowing the riches of your rain:

And thou, even thou, of whom we know not yet

What mansion of the skies shall hold thee soon,

Whether to watch o’er cities be thy will,

Great Caesar, and to take the earth in charge,

That so the mighty world may welcome thee

Lord of her increase, master of her times,

Binding thy mother’s myrtle round thy brow,

Or as the boundless ocean’s God thou come,

Sole dread of seamen, till far Thule bow

Before thee, and Tethys win thee to her son

With all her waves for dower; or as a star

Lend thy fresh beams our lagging months to cheer,

Where ‘twixt the Maid and those pursuing Claws

A space is opening; see! red Scorpio’s self

His arms draws in, yea, and hath left thee more

Than thy full meed of heaven: be what thou wilt —

For neither Tartarus hopes to call thee king,

Nor may so dire a lust of sovereignty

E’er light upon thee, howso Greece admire

Elysium’s fields, and Proserpine not heed

Her mother’s voice entreating to return —

Vouchsafe a prosperous voyage, and smile on this

My bold endeavour, and pitying, even as I,

These poor way-wildered swains, at once begin,

Grow timely used unto the voice of prayer.

 In early spring-tide, when the icy drip

Melts from the mountains hoar, and Zephyr’s breath

Unbinds the crumbling clod, even then ’tis time;

Press deep your plough behind the groaning ox,

And teach the furrow-burnished share to shine.

That land the craving farmer’s prayer fulfils,

Which twice the sunshine, twice the frost has felt;

Ay, that’s the land whose boundless harvest-crops

Burst, see! the barns.

    But ere our metal cleave

An unknown surface, heed we to forelearn

The winds and varying temper of the sky,

The lineal tilth and habits of the spot,

What every region yields, and what denies.

Here blithelier springs the corn, and here the grape,

There earth is green with tender growth of trees

And grass unbidden. See how from Tmolus comes

The saffron’s fragrance, ivory from Ind,

From Saba’s weakling sons their frankincense,

Iron from the naked Chalybs, castor rank

From Pontus, from Epirus the prize-palms

O’ the mares of Elis.

    Such the eternal bond

And such the laws by Nature’s hand imposed

On clime and clime, e’er since the primal dawn

When old Deucalion on the unpeopled earth

Cast stones, whence men, a flinty race, were reared.

Up then! if fat the soil, let sturdy bulls

Upturn it from the year’s first opening months,

And let the clods lie bare till baked to dust

By the ripe suns of summer; but if the earth

Less fruitful just ere Arcturus rise

With shallower trench uptilt it — ’twill suffice;

There, lest weeds choke the crop’s luxuriance, here,

Lest the scant moisture fail the barren sand.

Then thou shalt suffer in alternate years

The new-reaped fields to rest, and on the plain

A crust of sloth to harden; or, when stars

Are changed in heaven, there sow the golden grain

Where erst, luxuriant with its quivering pod,

Pulse, or the slender vetch-crop, thou hast cleared,

And lupin sour, whose brittle stalks arise,

A hurtling forest. For the plain is parched

By flax-crop, parched by oats, by poppies parched

In Lethe-slumber drenched. Nathless by change

The travailing earth is lightened, but stint not

With refuse rich to soak the thirsty soil,

And shower foul ashes o’er the exhausted fields.

Thus by rotation like repose is gained,

Nor earth meanwhile uneared and thankless left.

Oft, too, ’twill boot to fire the naked fields,

And the light stubble burn with crackling flames;

Whether that earth therefrom some hidden strength

And fattening food derives, or that the fire

Bakes every blemish out, and sweats away

Each useless humour, or that the heat unlocks

New passages and secret pores, whereby

Their life-juice to the tender blades may win;

Or that it hardens more and helps to bind

The gaping veins, lest penetrating showers,

Or fierce sun’s ravening might, or searching blast

Of the keen north should sear them. Well, I wot,

He serves the fields who with his harrow breaks

The sluggish clods, and hurdles osier-twined

Hales o’er them; from the far Olympian height

Him golden Ceres not in vain regards;

And he, who having ploughed the fallow plain

And heaved its furrowy ridges, turns once more

Cross-wise his shattering share, with stroke on stroke

The earth assails, and makes the field his thrall.

 Pray for wet summers and for winters fine,

Ye husbandmen; in winter’s dust the crops

Exceedingly rejoice, the field hath joy;

No tilth makes Mysia lift her head so high,

Nor Gargarus his own harvests so admire.

Why tell of him, who, having launched his seed,

Sets on for close encounter, and rakes smooth

The dry dust hillocks, then on the tender corn

Lets in the flood, whose waters follow fain;

And when the parched field quivers, and all the blades

Are dying, from the brow of its hill-bed,

See! see! he lures the runnel; down it falls,

Waking hoarse murmurs o’er the polished stones,

And with its bubblings slakes the thirsty fields?

Or why of him, who lest the heavy ears

O’erweigh the stalk, while yet in tender blade

Feeds down the crop’s luxuriance, when its growth

First tops the furrows? Why of him who drains

The marsh-land’s gathered ooze through soaking sand,

Chiefly what time in treacherous moons a stream

Goes out in spate, and with its coat of slime

Holds all the country, whence the hollow dykes

Sweat steaming vapour?

    But no whit the more

For all expedients tried and travail borne

By man and beast in turning oft the soil,

Do greedy goose and Strymon-haunting cranes

And succory’s bitter fibres cease to harm,

Or shade not injure. The great Sire himself

No easy road to husbandry assigned,

And first was he by human skill to rouse

The slumbering glebe, whetting the minds of men

With care on care, nor suffering realm of his

In drowsy sloth to stagnate. Before Jove

Fields knew no taming hand of husbandmen;

To mark the plain or mete with boundary-line —

Even this was impious; for the common stock

They gathered, and the earth of her own will

All things more freely, no man bidding, bore.

He to black serpents gave their venom-bane,

And bade the wolf go prowl, and ocean toss;

Shook from the leaves their honey, put fire away,

And curbed the random rivers running wine,

That use by gradual dint of thought on thought

Might forge the various arts, with furrow’s help

The corn-blade win, and strike out hidden fire

From the flint’s heart. Then first the streams were ware

Of hollowed alder-hulls: the sailor then

Their names and numbers gave to star and star,

Pleiads and Hyads, and Lycaon’s child

Bright Arctos; how with nooses then was found

To catch wild beasts, and cozen them with lime,

And hem with hounds the mighty forest-glades.

Soon one with hand-net scourges the broad stream,

Probing its depths, one drags his dripping toils

Along the main; then iron’s unbending might,

And shrieking saw-blade — for the men of old

With wedges wont to cleave the splintering log; —

Then divers arts arose; toil conquered all,

Remorseless toil, and poverty’s shrewd push

In times of hardship. Ceres was the first

Set mortals on with tools to turn the sod,

When now the awful groves ‘gan fail to bear

Acorns and arbutes, and her wonted food

Dodona gave no more. Soon, too, the corn

Gat sorrow’s increase, that an evil blight

Ate up the stalks, and thistle reared his spines

An idler in the fields; the crops die down;

Upsprings instead a shaggy growth of burrs

And caltrops; and amid the corn-fields trim

Unfruitful darnel and wild oats have sway.

Wherefore, unless thou shalt with ceaseless rake

The weeds pursue, with shouting scare the birds,

Prune with thy hook the dark field’s matted shade,

Pray down the showers, all vainly thou shalt eye,

Alack! thy neighbour’s heaped-up harvest-mow,

And in the greenwood from a shaken oak

Seek solace for thine hunger.

    Now to tell

The sturdy rustics’ weapons, what they are,

Without which, neither can be sown nor reared

The fruits of harvest; first the bent plough’s share

And heavy timber, and slow-lumbering wains

Of the Eleusinian mother, threshing-sleighs

And drags, and harrows with their crushing weight;

Then the cheap wicker-ware of Celeus old,

Hurdles of arbute, and thy mystic fan,

Iacchus; which, full tale, long ere the time

Thou must with heed lay by, if thee await

Not all unearned the country’s crown divine.

While yet within the woods, the elm is tamed

And bowed with mighty force to form the stock,

And take the plough’s curved shape, then nigh the root

A pole eight feet projecting, earth-boards twain,

And share-beam with its double back they fix.

For yoke is early hewn a linden light,

And a tall beech for handle, from behind

To turn the car at lowest: then o’er the hearth

The wood they hang till the smoke knows it well.

 Many the precepts of the men of old

I can recount thee, so thou start not back,

And such slight cares to learn not weary thee.

And this among the first: thy threshing-floor

With ponderous roller must be levelled smooth,

And wrought by hand, and fixed with binding chalk,

Lest weeds arise, or dust a passage win

Splitting the surface, then a thousand plagues

Make sport of it: oft builds the tiny mouse

Her home, and plants her granary, underground,

Or burrow for their bed the purblind moles,

Or toad is found in hollows, and all the swarm

Of earth’s unsightly creatures; or a huge

Corn-heap the weevil plunders, and the ant,

Fearful of coming age and penury.

 Mark too, what time the walnut in the woods

With ample bloom shall clothe her, and bow down

Her odorous branches, if the fruit prevail,

Like store of grain will follow, and there shall come

A mighty winnowing-time with mighty heat;

But if the shade with wealth of leaves abound,

Vainly your threshing-floor will bruise the stalks

Rich but in chaff. Many myself have seen

Steep, as they sow, their pulse-seeds, drenching them

With nitre and black oil-lees, that the fruit

Might swell within the treacherous pods, and they

Make speed to boil at howso small a fire.

Yet, culled with caution, proved with patient toil,

These have I seen degenerate, did not man

Put forth his hand with power, and year by year

Choose out the largest. So, by fate impelled,

Speed all things to the worse, and backward borne

Glide from us; even as who with struggling oars

Up stream scarce pulls a shallop, if he chance

His arms to slacken, lo! with headlong force

The current sweeps him down the hurrying tide.

 Us too behoves Arcturus’ sign observe,

And the Kids’ seasons and the shining Snake,

No less than those who o’er the windy main

Borne homeward tempt the Pontic, and the jaws

Of oyster-rife Abydos. When the Scales

Now poising fair the hours of sleep and day

Give half the world to sunshine, half to shade,

Then urge your bulls, my masters; sow the plain

Even to the verge of tameless winter’s showers

With barley: then, too, time it is to hide

Your flax in earth, and poppy, Ceres’ joy,

Aye, more than time to bend above the plough,

While earth, yet dry, forbids not, and the clouds

Are buoyant. With the spring comes bean-sowing;

Thee, too, Lucerne, the crumbling furrows then

Receive, and millet’s annual care returns,

What time the white bull with his gilded horns

Opens the year, before whose threatening front,

Routed the dog-star sinks. But if it be

For wheaten harvest and the hardy spelt,

Thou tax the soil, to corn-ears wholly given,

Let Atlas’ daughters hide them in the dawn,

The Cretan star, a crown of fire, depart,

Or e’er the furrow’s claim of seed thou quit,

Or haste thee to entrust the whole year’s hope

To earth that would not. Many have begun

Ere Maia’s star be setting; these, I trow,

Their looked-for harvest fools with empty ears.

But if the vetch and common kidney-bean

Thou’rt fain to sow, nor scorn to make thy care

Pelusiac lentil, no uncertain sign

Bootes’ fall will send thee; then begin,

Pursue thy sowing till half the frosts be done.

 Therefore it is the golden sun, his course

Into fixed parts dividing, rules his way

Through the twelve constellations of the world.

Five zones the heavens contain; whereof is one

Aye red with flashing sunlight, fervent aye

From fire; on either side to left and right

Are traced the utmost twain, stiff with blue ice,

And black with scowling storm-clouds, and betwixt

These and the midmost, other twain there lie,

By the Gods’ grace to heart-sick mortals given,

And a path cleft between them, where might wheel

On sloping plane the system of the Signs.

And as toward Scythia and Rhipaean heights

The world mounts upward, likewise sinks it down

Toward Libya and the south, this pole of ours

Still towering high, that other, ‘neath their feet,

By dark Styx frowned on, and the abysmal shades.

Here glides the huge Snake forth with sinuous coils

‘Twixt the two Bears and round them river-wise —

The Bears that fear ‘neath Ocean’s brim to dip.

There either, say they, reigns the eternal hush

Of night that knows no seasons, her black pall

Thick-mantling fold on fold; or thitherward

From us returning Dawn brings back the day;

And when the first breath of his panting steeds

On us the Orient flings, that hour with them

Red Vesper ‘gins to trim his his ‘lated fires.

Hence under doubtful skies forebode we can

The coming tempests, hence both harvest-day

And seed-time, when to smite the treacherous main

With driving oars, when launch the fair-rigged fleet,

Or in ripe hour to fell the forest-pine.

Hence, too, not idly do we watch the stars —

Their rising and their setting-and the year,

Four varying seasons to one law conformed.

 If chilly showers e’er shut the farmer’s door,

Much that had soon with sunshine cried for haste,

He may forestall; the ploughman batters keen

His blunted share’s hard tooth, scoops from a tree

His troughs, or on the cattle stamps a brand,

Or numbers on the corn-heaps; some make sharp

The stakes and two-pronged forks, and willow-bands

Amerian for the bending vine prepare.

Now let the pliant basket plaited be

Of bramble-twigs; now set your corn to parch

Before the fire; now bruise it with the stone.

Nay even on holy days some tasks to ply

Is right and lawful: this no ban forbids,

To turn the runnel’s course, fence corn-fields in,

Make springes for the birds, burn up the briars,

And plunge in wholesome stream the bleating flock.

Oft too with oil or apples plenty-cheap

The creeping ass’s ribs his driver packs,

And home from town returning brings instead

A dented mill-stone or black lump of pitch.

 The moon herself in various rank assigns

The days for labour lucky: fly the fifth;

Then sprang pale Orcus and the Eumenides;

Earth then in awful labour brought to light

Coeus, Iapetus, and Typhoeus fell,

And those sworn brethren banded to break down

The gates of heaven; thrice, sooth to say, they strove

Ossa on Pelion’s top to heave and heap,

Aye, and on Ossa to up-roll amain

Leafy Olympus; thrice with thunderbolt

Their mountain-stair the Sire asunder smote.

Seventh after tenth is lucky both to set

The vine in earth, and take and tame the steer,

And fix the leashes to the warp; the ninth

To runagates is kinder, cross to thieves.

 Many the tasks that lightlier lend themselves

In chilly night, or when the sun is young,

And Dawn bedews the world. By night ’tis best

To reap light stubble, and parched fields by night;

For nights the suppling moisture never fails.

And one will sit the long late watches out

By winter fire-light, shaping with keen blade

The torches to a point; his wife the while,

Her tedious labour soothing with a song,

Speeds the shrill comb along the warp, or else

With Vulcan’s aid boils the sweet must-juice down,

And skims with leaves the quivering cauldron’s wave.

 But ruddy Ceres in mid heat is mown,

And in mid heat the parched ears are bruised

Upon the floor; to plough strip, strip to sow;

Winter’s the lazy time for husbandmen.

In the cold season farmers wont to taste

The increase of their toil, and yield themselves

To mutual interchange of festal cheer.

Boon winter bids them, and unbinds their cares,

As laden keels, when now the port they touch,

And happy sailors crown the sterns with flowers.

Nathless then also time it is to strip

Acorns from oaks, and berries from the bay,

Olives, and bleeding myrtles, then to set

Snares for the crane, and meshes for the stag,

And hunt the long-eared hares, then pierce the doe

With whirl of hempen-thonged Balearic sling,

While snow lies deep, and streams are drifting ice.

 What need to tell of autumn’s storms and stars,

And wherefore men must watch, when now the day

Grows shorter, and more soft the summer’s heat?

When Spring the rain-bringer comes rushing down,

Or when the beards of harvest on the plain

Bristle already, and the milky corn

On its green stalk is swelling? Many a time,

When now the farmer to his yellow fields

The reaping-hind came bringing, even in act

To lop the brittle barley stems, have I

Seen all the windy legions clash in war

Together, as to rend up far and wide

The heavy corn-crop from its lowest roots,

And toss it skyward: so might winter’s flaw,

Dark-eddying, whirl light stalks and flying straws.

 Oft too comes looming vast along the sky

A march of waters; mustering from above,

The clouds roll up the tempest, heaped and grim

With angry showers: down falls the height of heaven,

And with a great rain floods the smiling crops,

The oxen’s labour: now the dikes fill fast,

And the void river-beds swell thunderously,

And all the panting firths of Ocean boil.

The Sire himself in midnight of the clouds

Wields with red hand the levin; through all her bulk

Earth at the hurly quakes; the beasts are fled,

And mortal hearts of every kindred sunk

In cowering terror; he with flaming brand

Athos, or Rhodope, or Ceraunian crags

Precipitates: then doubly raves the South

With shower on blinding shower, and woods and coasts

Wail fitfully beneath the mighty blast.

This fearing, mark the months and Signs of heaven,

Whither retires him Saturn’s icy star,

And through what heavenly cycles wandereth

The glowing orb Cyllenian. Before all

Worship the Gods, and to great Ceres pay

Her yearly dues upon the happy sward

With sacrifice, anigh the utmost end

Of winter, and when Spring begins to smile.

Then lambs are fat, and wines are mellowest then;

Then sleep is sweet, and dark the shadows fall

Upon the mountains. Let your rustic youth

To Ceres do obeisance, one and all;

And for her pleasure thou mix honeycombs

With milk and the ripe wine-god; thrice for luck

Around the young corn let the victim go,

And all the choir, a joyful company,

Attend it, and with shouts bid Ceres come

To be their house-mate; and let no man dare

Put sickle to the ripened ears until,

With woven oak his temples chapleted,

He foot the rugged dance and chant the lay.

 Aye, and that these things we might win to know

By certain tokens, heats, and showers, and winds

That bring the frost, the Sire of all himself

Ordained what warnings in her monthly round

The moon should give, what bodes the south wind’s fall,

What oft-repeated sights the herdsman seeing

Should keep his cattle closer to their stalls.

No sooner are the winds at point to rise,

Than either Ocean’s firths begin to toss

And swell, and a dry crackling sound is heard

Upon the heights, or one loud ferment booms

The beach afar, and through the forest goes

A murmur multitudinous. By this

Scarce can the billow spare the curved keels,

When swift the sea-gulls from the middle main

Come winging, and their shrieks are shoreward borne,

When ocean-loving cormorants on dry land

Besport them, and the hern, her marshy haunts

Forsaking, mounts above the soaring cloud.

Oft, too, when wind is toward, the stars thou’lt see

From heaven shoot headlong, and through murky night

Long trails of fire white-glistening in their wake,

Or light chaff flit in air with fallen leaves,

Or feathers on the wave-top float and play.

But when from regions of the furious North

It lightens, and when thunder fills the halls

Of Eurus and of Zephyr, all the fields

With brimming dikes are flooded, and at sea

No mariner but furls his dripping sails.

Never at unawares did shower annoy:

Or, as it rises, the high-soaring cranes

Flee to the vales before it, with face

Upturned to heaven, the heifer snuffs the gale

Through gaping nostrils, or about the meres

Shrill-twittering flits the swallow, and the frogs

Crouch in the mud and chant their dirge of old.

Oft, too, the ant from out her inmost cells,

Fretting the narrow path, her eggs conveys;

Or the huge bow sucks moisture; or a host

Of rooks from food returning in long line

Clamour with jostling wings. Now mayst thou see

The various ocean-fowl and those that pry

Round Asian meads within thy fresher-pools,

Cayster, as in eager rivalry,

About their shoulders dash the plenteous spray,

Now duck their head beneath the wave, now run

Into the billows, for sheer idle joy

Of their mad bathing-revel. Then the crow

With full voice, good-for-naught, inviting rain,

Stalks on the dry sand mateless and alone.

Nor e’en the maids, that card their nightly task,

Know not the storm-sign, when in blazing crock

They see the lamp-oil sputtering with a growth

Of mouldy snuff-clots.

    So too, after rain,

Sunshine and open skies thou mayst forecast,

And learn by tokens sure, for then nor dimmed

Appear the stars’ keen edges, nor the moon

As borrowing of her brother’s beams to rise,

Nor fleecy films to float along the sky.

Not to the sun’s warmth then upon the shore

Do halcyons dear to Thetis ope their wings,

Nor filthy swine take thought to toss on high

With scattering snout the straw-wisps. But the clouds

Seek more the vales, and rest upon the plain,

And from the roof-top the night-owl for naught

Watching the sunset plies her ‘lated song.

Distinct in clearest air is Nisus seen

Towering, and Scylla for the purple lock

Pays dear; for whereso, as she flies, her wings

The light air winnow, lo! fierce, implacable,

Nisus with mighty whirr through heaven pursues;

Where Nisus heavenward soareth, there her wings

Clutch as she flies, the light air winnowing still.

Soft then the voice of rooks from indrawn throat

Thrice, four times, o’er repeated, and full oft

On their high cradles, by some hidden joy

Gladdened beyond their wont, in bustling throngs

Among the leaves they riot; so sweet it is,

When showers are spent, their own loved nests again

And tender brood to visit. Not, I deem,

That heaven some native wit to these assigned,

Or fate a larger prescience, but that when

The storm and shifting moisture of the air

Have changed their courses, and the sky-god now,

Wet with the south-wind, thickens what was rare,

And what was gross releases, then, too, change

Their spirits’ fleeting phases, and their breasts

Feel other motions now, than when the wind

Was driving up the cloud-rack. Hence proceeds

That blending of the feathered choirs afield,

The cattle’s exultation, and the rooks’

Deep-throated triumph.

    But if the headlong sun

And moons in order following thou regard,

Ne’er will tomorrow’s hour deceive thee, ne’er

Wilt thou be caught by guile of cloudless night.

When first the moon recalls her rallying fires,

If dark the air clipped by her crescent dim,

For folks afield and on the open sea

A mighty rain is brewing; but if her face

With maiden blush she mantle, ’twill be wind,

For wind turns Phoebe still to ruddier gold.

But if at her fourth rising, for ’tis that

Gives surest counsel, clear she ride thro’ heaven

With horns unblunted, then shall that whole day,

And to the month’s end those that spring from it,

Rainless and windless be, while safe ashore

Shall sailors pay their vows to Panope,

Glaucus, and Melicertes, Ino’s child.

 The sun too, both at rising, and when soon

He dives beneath the waves, shall yield thee signs;

For signs, none trustier, travel with the sun,

Both those which in their course with dawn he brings,

And those at star-rise. When his springing orb

With spots he pranketh, muffled in a cloud,

And shrinks mid-circle, then of showers beware;

For then the South comes driving from the deep,

To trees and crops and cattle bringing bane.

Or when at day-break through dark clouds his rays

Burst and are scattered, or when rising pale

Aurora quits Tithonus’ saffron bed,

But sorry shelter then, alack I will yield

Vine-leaf to ripening grapes; so thick a hail

In spiky showers spins rattling on the roof.

And this yet more ’twill boot thee bear in mind,

When now, his course upon Olympus run,

He draws to his decline: for oft we see

Upon the sun’s own face strange colours stray;

Dark tells of rain, of east winds fiery-red;

If spots with ruddy fire begin to mix,

Then all the heavens convulsed in wrath thou’lt see —

Storm-clouds and wind together. Me that night

Let no man bid fare forth upon the deep,

Nor rend the rope from shore. But if, when both

He brings again and hides the day’s return,

Clear-orbed he shineth, idly wilt thou dread

The storm-clouds, and beneath the lustral North

See the woods waving. What late eve in fine

Bears in her bosom, whence the wind that brings

Fair-weather-clouds, or what the rain South

Is meditating, tokens of all these

The sun will give thee. Who dare charge the sun

With leasing? He it is who warneth oft

Of hidden broils at hand and treachery,

And secret swelling of the waves of war.

He too it was, when Caesar’s light was quenched,

For Rome had pity, when his bright head he veiled

In iron-hued darkness, till a godless age

Trembled for night eternal; at that time

Howbeit earth also, and the ocean-plains,

And dogs obscene, and birds of evil bode

Gave tokens. Yea, how often have we seen

Etna, her furnace-walls asunder riven,

In billowy floods boil o’er the Cyclops’ fields,

And roll down globes of fire and molten rocks!

A clash of arms through all the heaven was heard

By Germany; strange heavings shook the Alps.

Yea, and by many through the breathless groves

A voice was heard with power, and wondrous-pale

Phantoms were seen upon the dusk of night,

And cattle spake, portentous! streams stand still,

And the earth yawns asunder, ivory weeps

For sorrow in the shrines, and bronzes sweat.

Up-twirling forests with his eddying tide,

Madly he bears them down, that lord of floods,

Eridanus, till through all the plain are swept

Beasts and their stalls together. At that time

In gloomy entrails ceased not to appear

Dark-threatening fibres, springs to trickle blood,

And high-built cities night-long to resound

With the wolves’ howling. Never more than then

From skies all cloudless fell the thunderbolts,

Nor blazed so oft the comet’s fire of bale.

Therefore a second time Philippi saw

The Roman hosts with kindred weapons rush

To battle, nor did the high gods deem it hard

That twice Emathia and the wide champaign

Of Haemus should be fattening with our blood.

Ay, and the time will come when there anigh,

Heaving the earth up with his curved plough,

Some swain will light on javelins by foul rust

Corroded, or with ponderous harrow strike

On empty helmets, while he gapes to see

Bones as of giants from the trench untombed.

Gods of my country, heroes of the soil,

And Romulus, and Mother Vesta, thou

Who Tuscan Tiber and Rome’s Palatine

Preservest, this new champion at the least

Our fallen generation to repair

Forbid not. To the full and long ago

Our blood thy Trojan perjuries hath paid,

Laomedon. Long since the courts of heaven

Begrudge us thee, our Caesar, and complain

That thou regard’st the triumphs of mankind,

Here where the wrong is right, the right is wrong,

Where wars abound so many, and myriad-faced

Is crime; where no meet honour hath the plough;

The fields, their husbandmen led far away,

Rot in neglect, and curved pruning-hooks

Into the sword’s stiff blade are fused and forged.

Euphrates here, here Germany new strife

Is stirring; neighbouring cities are in arms,

The laws that bound them snapped; and godless war

Rages through all the universe; as when

The four-horse chariots from the barriers poured

Still quicken o’er the course, and, idly now

Grasping the reins, the driver by his team

Is onward borne, nor heeds the car his curb.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:24