Esmeralda Carranza and Chris Murphy
Virgil: Eclogues I, IV, and V
In Virgil’s first Eclogue, Meliboeus meets Tityrus lying under a beech. He is puzzled by the latter’s leisure while he is presumably fleeing the country. “You, Tityrus, lie under your spreading beech’s covert, wooing the woodland Muse on slender reed, but we are leaving our country’s bounds and sweet fields (3).” Tityrus responds that a god has brought him this peace, and he reveals that this god is “the city which they call Rome (5).” He goes on to describe, in response to Meliboeus’ questions, how Rome had “cast her eyes upon me in my” old age and taken “many a victim [from] my stalls, and many a rich cheese… [but] never would my hand come home money-laden,” emphasizing a disconnect between rural work and urban economics (5). Meliboeus exclaims how lucky Tityrus is for being able to return to his land and die on his pasture, while meanwhile lamenting his misfortune of leaving his country and of leaving his “once happy flock! No more, stretched in some mossy grot, shall I watch you in the distance hanging from a bushy crag; no more songs shall I sing (9).” This Eclogue explores several interesting vantage points of the pastoral. On the one hand, Tityrus leaves the city to return to his rural home country. Similar to Gifford’s second definition of pastoral, his pleasure in the simple life is based upon urban experiences, and the comparison between the two accentuates their dichotomy. On the other hand, Meliboeus is forced out of his rural life and must search “the thirsty Africans… Scythia and Crete’s swift Oaxes” to find a new home (9). The typical pastoral movement from the town to the pasture is thus obscured, but the polar connection between the two is amplified.
In Eclogue IV, the narrator sings praises to the son of Jupiter, whose growth and maturity parallels a transition from the “golden age” to the “age of iron,” similar to Hesiod’s. However, whereas Hesiod described this cycle as historical, Virgil’s narrator tells of “the birth of the child, under whom the iron brood shall at last cease and a golden race spring up throughout the world! (29).” The process will thus begin anew. During the child’s infancy, “shall the earth untilled pour forth… straggling ivy with foxglove everywhere… Uncalled, the goats shall bring home their udders swollen with milk, and the herds shall fear nto huge lions (31).” Infancy evokes images of perfect harmony wherein earth provides, without labor, everything that man needs. However, as the child begins to learn and mature, when he “canst read of the glories of heroes and thy father’s deeds, and canst know what valour is, slowly shall the plain yellow with the waving corn, on wild brambles shall hang the purple grape […] (31).” In childhood, mankind will begin to till and work the land, and everything will be fruitful. This stage is merely a transition, for the narrator describes that “some few traces of olden sin lurk behind [from the contemporary race of iron], to call men to essay the sea in ships, to gird towns with walls… A second Tiphys shall then arise… a second warefare too… again shall a great Achilles be sent to Troy (31).” When the child matures into a man, the narrator describes that “even trader shall quit the sea… The earth shall not feel the harrow, nor the vine the pruning-hook…” and the world will move again into a state of paradise. The parallel between the unnamed child and the cycle of ages implies that the child will bring about a much more harmonious destination for mankind.
In Eclogue V, Menalcus and Mopsus, two shepherds, share songs while in a forest of hazel and elm trees. The song Mopsus shares introduces the death of Daphnis, who is often credited with inventing pastoral poetry (in Gifford’s first definition). Mopsus’ song claims that Daphnis “alone givest glory to thy people,” and the natural world has drastically degraded following his death; “luckless darnel springs up and barren oat-straws. Instead of soft violet… thistle rises up and the sharp-spiked thorn (37).” To remedy these occurrences, Mopsus implores shepherds to honor Daphis, for “Fair was the flock [he] guarded, but fairer was [he], the master (37).” Menalcus responds with a song that explains Daphnis’ placement in the stars brings a “frolic glee” to nature, and “The wolf plans no ambush for the flock,” and everything is peaceful (39). He also implores shepherds to continue honoring Daphnis, and he concludes by claiming that as long as there exists nature, “Long as the boar loves the mountain ridges, as the fish the streams,” Daphnis’ “honour and name and glories abide (39).” The two shepherds conclude by offering the other gifts of appreciation for sharing their music, a very typical pastoral image of leisure and wealth from nature.
Georgics, Book I
Virgil divides “Georgics” into four books, each discussing a specific type of rural labor, “tillage, planting, the rearing of cattle, and the keeping of bees (81).” Book 1 begins with a praise to various gods and to Caesar Agustus, to whom the narrator gives three options for glory: guarding the cities, becoming lord of the seas, or becoming a “new star to the lingering months (83).” The narrator proceeds to give explanations of how to care for the land, such as “feed fat the dried-out soil with rich dung… Thus also, with change of crop, the land finds rest, and meanwhile not thankless is the unploughed earth. Often, too, it has been useful to fire barren fields… whether it be that the earth derives thence hidden strength and rich nutriment, or that in the flame every taint is baked out […] (87).” In describing these skills, aside from asserting man’s georgic/agricultural relationship with the land, he evokes the Golden Age where work was unnecessary, in fact “Even to mark the field or divide it with bounds was unlawful,” and the subsequent transition to the current age (89). Unlike Hesiod’s “Works and Days,” the current age in “Georgics” is not a degradation nor an entirely new race, but it is accompanied by (or the byproduct of) man’s growing knowledge of, and desire for, the land and natural resources. “Then the sailor numbered the stars and called them by name… Then men found how to snare game in toils, to cheat with bird-lime… Toil conquered the world, unrelenting toil, and want that pinches when life is hard (91).” Though man has moved further from nature, not all of these changes, exploration and science for instance, are violent against nature.
- How are Virgil’s Eclogues each different in their approach to pastoral, the city and the countryside? What is the significance?
- After reading the Eclogues, how would you describe Virgil’s emotional relationship to the countryside and/or the city?
- After reading the first book of Georgics, would you say that Virgil’s emotional relationship to the countryside and/or city has changed? If yes, how?
- Which particular images stick out to you as evoking or altering the sense of pastoral? How do they do so?
Horace’s Quick Facts
Quintus Horatius Flaccus ( 65 BC – 27 BC Rome)
Father owned a small farm in Venusia
Horace joined the army under Brutus’ reign and claimed he saved himself by fleeing
The Epodes, ii Country Joys
Horace quotes narrator Alfius in the Lyric poem, Epodes ii, Country Joys. Here Alfius, a usurer, describes an appealing dream for him; leaving the city for the country. He says “happy the man who” doesn’t get involved with industrious work and engages only in agriculture and farming. Moreover, lucky those who get to relax and contemplate nature’s beauty. In the poem, he distinguishes the city from the country to make his point that the pastoral is better than the urban (Gifford’s second type of pastoral literature). Furthermore, Alfius comments on the golden age/Adam and Eve (“ the pristine race of mortals”) being the happiest people with everything provided for them by nature (“sweet Prizes”) and with no war and debt, which makes us think that he hates his job or sees usury as bad. However, we find out at the end of the poem in a satirical undercutting that Alfius is too attached to his career to leave it behind (“he called in all his funds upon the Ides—and on the Kalends seeks to put them out again”, which leaves us with the question of how Horace really feels about the pastoral.
Ovid’s Quick Facts
Publius Ovidius Naso ( 43 BC – AD 17/18 Rome)
Worked with the law for some time
Metamorphoses Book I
In the first book of Metamorphoses Ovid starts by describing the creation of life; earth and humans. Then he goes into detail about the five ages (golden, silver, brazen, iron, and human). The first age, the golden, is much like the golden age described by Hesiod in Works and Days. The golden age does not have cities, agriculture, ships, a court system and war. For them “spring was everlasting”; they had Otium/Pastoral. Then came the silver age, “lower in scale than gold”, for them spring was not everlasting and the three seasons were introduced: winter, autumn, and summer, for which they had to work to survive. Next came the brazen age which was leading to the “savage” age, the Iron Age. The Iron Age was filled with evil, “tricks and plots and snares, violence and curse love of gain”. This is when the beginning of labor started with the introducing of ships and agriculture. The golden age and “mother nature” herself fought the Iron Age to their disappearance and then came the humans. The humans were the “sons of blood”, “contemptuous of the gods, very greedy for slaughter, and passionate”. Metamorphoses Book I is similar to Hesoid’s Works and Days in the description of the ages; however, with more ages to discuss and less emphasis on the gods and their punishing. Here nature acts as a punisher.
- What can we say about Horace’s father owning a farm and Horace fleeing the army? Does it have any significance to the pastoral and Horace’s poem The Epodes ii, Country Joys? Do you think Horace prefers the pastoral over the city?
- What do you think of the satirical turn in Epodes ii, Country Joys? Does it cut down the narrator’s credibility; do you think the told dream is a real dream?
- Does either Ovid’s account or Hesiod’s account of the different ages and how humans came to be sound more real than the other, why?