Register Thursday | June 20 | 2019

Georgic I

(lines 43-78)

When Spring begins and the icelocked streams begin
To flow down from the snowy hills above
And the clods begin to crumble in the breeze,
The time has come for my groaning ox to drag
My heavy plow across the fields, so that
The plowblade shines as the furrow rubs against it.
Not till the earth has been twice plowed, so twice
Exposed to sun and twice to coolness will
It yield what the farmer prays for; then will the barn
Be full to bursting with the gathered grain.
And yet, if the field’s unknown and new to us,
Before our plow breaks open the soil at all
It’s necessary to study the ways of the winds
And the changing ways of the skies, and also to know
The history of the planting in that ground,
What crops will prosper there and what will not.
In one place corn grows best, in another, vines;
Another’s good for the cultivation of trees;
In still another the grain turns green unbidden.
From Lydian Tmolus, don’t you see,
Our fragrant saffron comes, from India
Our ivory, from soft Arabia
Our frankincense, our iron ore from the naked
Chalybian tribes, from Pontus castor oil
From the testicles of beavers, and from Epirus
The mares that are the mothers of the horses
That are born to win Olympic victories.
Nature apportioned it thus to diverse places;
So it has been from the very beginning of time,
When Deucalion threw the stones into the empty
Landscape and created stony men.
So, if the soil of the field you’re getting ready
Is rich and fertile, set your oxen to work
In early spring to turn the earth, and then
Let it lie waiting for summer’s heat to bake it,
So as to keep the weeds from flourishing
And interfering with the joyous corn;
But if the soil is sandy, leave it alone;
In early September it will be enough,
Just as Arcturus rises in the sky,
To rake it lightly, trying to keep what little
Moisture there may be from drying out.
And every second season let the land
Be idly fallow, so that what happens happens;
Or, under a different constellation, sow
The seeds for a crop of yellow barley, having
Uprooted and carried away the wild pulse with
Its quivering pods shaking with laughter, or
The pods of the slender vetch, or the rattling stalks
And branches of the bitter lupine plant.
Flax scorches the earth; oats scorch it too;
And poppies suffused all through with the sleep of Lethe.