Virgil, Horace, & Ovid

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.


  1. How are Virgil’s Eclogues each different in their approach to pastoral, the city and the countryside?  What is the significance?
  2. After reading the Eclogues, how would you describe Virgil’s emotional relationship to the countryside and/or the city?
  3. 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?
  4. 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.


  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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?



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19 Responses to “Virgil, Horace, & Ovid”
  1. Boggs, Kelley

    It seems obvious that Virgil doesn’t have high regards for the city because when Tityrus describes the city, he explains it in an innocent light. “The city which they call Rome, Meliboeus, I…thought was like this of ours…” (5). Tityrus feels that the city should be a more dignified and evolved form of the pasture, but he finds that it is savage and brutal. What solidifies that Virgil opinion of the city is when Meliboeus responds with, “Tityrus was gone from home: The very pines, Tityrus, the very springs, the very orchards here were calling for you!” (5) Somehow nature and Meliboeus had knowledge of the terrible city and how Tityrus would need to be called back in order to save him from corruption. The very spirit of the pastoral didn’t want to lose a good soul to the vile city.
    Not only this, but Virgil spends a great amount of time describing the poetic landscape. The scene is lush and ripe with fruits. “We have ripe apples, mealy chestnuts, and a wealth of pressed cheeses” (9). Tityrus implies that nature has provided all the food that a shepherd would need, and so there is no reason for one to leave the pasture. The time that is spent mentioning each ripe vine indicates the significance of nature in this poem. It also shows that Virgil has a love for the natural beauty of the landscape.
    The image that is the most vibrant and pastoral is the mention above about the ripe fruit and pressed cheeses. The apple evokes images of wandering through the grasslands and finding a small orchard and enjoying the fruits that nature has provided. A sense of slow comfort comes along with imagining how the apple changed from a flower to a beautiful and ripe fruit. As well, the pressed cheeses gives a sense of comfort. It takes time to milk cows, sheep, or goats, and it takes time to make the cheese. Though I only have experience in making yoghurt, I understand the process of pasturizing the milk and allowing the bacteria to take over the milk after several hours. Cheese takes more time to make, and thus, would provoke more patience. These practices give a really pleasant feelilng to the reader, though. They are slow and make a quality product. They teach how to take life slow and enjoy the bounty that spring offers us.

  2. Kate Jelly

    From all of the readings, there is an overarching sense of hierarchy that seems at odds with the idealized pastoral notions of equality and perfection. In the Eclogues, Amyntas ‘yields’ to Mopsus and Mopsus asserts his position as higher than that of his flock with the words: ‘Fair was the flock I guarded, but fairer was I, the master’. In Georgics, the importance of the Gods is emphasized with the words: ‘O gods and godesses all whose love guards our fields’; in ‘Country Joys’, Horace suggests the lofty position of the rural life in contrast to the military or the city and Ovid, in ‘Metamorphoses’ alludes to the symbiotic relationship of gods, man and everything ‘below’ man in the pastoral hierarchy-‘And though all other animals are prone, and fix their gaze upon the earth, he gave to man an uplifted face and bade him stand erect and turn his eyes to heaven’.

    In addition, a sense of pastoral insularity is a common theme, coupled with the notion of the harmfulness of outside influence. For example, in the first eclogue, Virgil, with the words ‘no baneful infection from a neighbour’s flock shall harm them’ implies an allegorical feeling of destruction. This interruption of a pastoral idyll is furthered in the fourth stanza of the first eclogue, when the prose becomes exaggeratedly punctuated, a sense of hardship is introduced, and the words ‘Away, once happy flock’ add to this nostalgic, yet threatening atmosphere. In ‘Metamorphosis’ too, Ovid supports Virgil’s depiction of harmful outside influences damaging the rural idyll, by suggesting that a key aspect of ‘the Golden Age’ was insularity and community-‘men knew no shores except their own’. As the ages progress, it is an outside influence, namely ownership and desire for wealth that pollutes the pastoral idyll. Thus, the sense of pastoral insularity, together with the somewhat contradictory notion of hierarchy-both among beings, and among spaces (such as the country and the city)-is perpetuated.

    Horace too suggests the potential harmfulness to the pastoral idyll of outside influences, but for him such influences seem to be human relationships. With the words ‘Amid such joys, who does not forget the wretched cares that passion brings?’, Horace suggests that the pleasure associated with nature is far greater than any pleasure that can be gained from human relationships, even passionate ones. He goes on to suggest that if a woman can fit perfectly into his idea of pastoral perfection then his vision of utopia need not be disturbed, but in any case, there is a lingering sense of true pastoral utopia being a solitary relationship between man and nature.

    Overall then, these readings provide a comprehensive, yet somewhat contradictory analysis of the way that men, gods, and nature fit into the pastoral puzzle. A symbiotic and cyclical relationship between these three entities is implied, and the words ‘it is well to turn the soil’ at the beginning of ‘Georgics’ can be seen as a metaphor for such a relationship. It is interdependent and relies on a balance between three distinct factors. Virgil, Horace and Ovid seem to agree that the introduction of an outside Other, whether it be uglier aspects of human nature, the encroachment of urban development and values, or simply human relationships that are at odds with traditional ideas of a pastoral utopia, is harmful and threatening, but perhaps inevitable.

  3. Sara Cassano

    Virgil’s eclogues explore the pastoral life in very different ways, both in significance and motive. In his first eclogue, Virgil shows two approaches to the pastoral life. While Tityrus has found peace and tranquility in his return to rural life, Meliboeus is forced to leave his home and find hospitality somewhere else. By this alone, one can see Virgil’s admiration and respect for the pastoral life, exemplifying Tityrus in a state of blissful leisure as he enjoys his return to the rural landscape and Meliboeus in a state of confusion as he reminisces about his life in the country before his departure. Tityrus, after experiencing the urban life in Rome, has chosen to spend the remainder of his life in the country, exploring Virgil’s feeling that, even after experiencing the “new world,” one will eventually return to the rural countryside and enjoy their pastoral setting even more than before.
    While Virgil’s first eclogue dissects the polarity of man leaving and returning to pastoralism, eclogue IV explores the rebirth of rural life after the corruption of the iron age, comparing it to the innocence and happiness of a child during infancy. The child described in Virgil’s eclogue will bring back the golden age, “under whom the iron brood shall first cease, and a golden race spring up throughout the world!” The return to pastoralism will “release the earth from its continual dread” and give humanity “the gift of divine life.” By comparing the re-birth of the rural life to the infancy of a child, Virgil is expressing the need for humanity to start from the beginning, before the birth of the iron age which, in his eyes, corrupted mankind. This stage of infancy will bring man to a state of leisure once more, appreciating the simplicity of pastoral life, free from the stress and chaos of urban life. Infancy brings forth a state of innocence, allowing mankind to erase the corruption of the iron age and return to the blissful peace of the countryside. In this eclogue, Virgil is describing his faith in mankind, that we can escape the power and corruption associated with urban life, and return to pastoralism.
    Virgil’s fifth eclogue explores yet another view on the pastoral life. In eclogue V, two shepherd’s Menalcus and Mopsus sing of the death of Daphnis, the inventor of pastoral poetry, and the praise and admiration he deserves for his contribution to society. Mopsus expresses the devastation that swept through the countryside after Daphnis’ death and “even African lions moaned over thy death” (37). According to the eclogue, through the death of Daphnis came the death of pastoralism, which is why these two shepherds mourn the death with such distress. After hearing Mopsus’ lament over the death, Menalcas shares his reverence and love for Daphnis, stating “Daphnis I will exalt to the stars; me. too, Daphnis loved. ” (39) The shepherd’s conclude by stating that as “long as the boar loves the mountain ridges, as the fish the streams; long as the bees feed on thyme and the cicalas on dew, so long shall thy honour and name and glories abide.” (41) Therefore, Virgil ends the eclogue by stating that, as long as life depends on the natural world, Daphnis’ pastoral legacy will never truly die.
    Therefore, Virgil’s eclogues explore the blissful return to pastoralism, the re-birth of pastoralism through infancy, and the fact that it is up to humanity and life in general to keep the pastoral countryside alive. Without remembering the importance of the pastoral life, the appreciation that comes from the rebirth and return to pastoralism will be forgotten, leading to a demise in the simple life. Through his writing, Virgil hopes to bring light to the importance of pastoralism and aid mankind’s preservation of such a beautiful aspect of life.

  4. Andrew Tran

    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?
    The satirical turn at the end of Country Joes serves as a way of further indicating that this perfect glorified view of the pastoral is only just a dream. The quick change of events here is the author’s way of slapping common sense into the narrator’s mind and our minds. We are seduced into seeing this scene of perfection through the view of an outsider. There is also a sharp distinction between the countryside and the city, “Happy the man who, far away from business cares, like the pristine race of mortals, works his ancestral acres with his steers, from all money-lending free; who is not, as a soldier, roused by the wild clarion, nor dreads the angry sea; he avoids the forum and proud thresholds of more powerful citizens”. All of these elements of point of view and the initial comparison between the city and country set up this uneasiness throughout the poem. We wonder why the narrator does not live the life of “happiness’ that he alludes to. I do not believe that the narrator’s credibility is being “cut down” here as the question asks because the narrator is attempting to show us a magical dreamlike state which is only just that, a dream. I do not believe that the narrator is truly trying to persuade us that the farmer or shepherd’s life is the path to happiness, but is rather presenting to us an idealized view of the pastoral in half-jest. The satirical turn at the end when he decides to stick to his current life is the metaphorical awakening from the dream.
    I do believe here that the dream that Alfius speaks about here is true in a sense for him. His life is not like the scene that he told us about. He sees a direct contrast to his current lifestyle and he “dreams” that perhaps he could live a life like that. The reality is that he could live a life like that if he wanted to. He is unwilling though to because I believe that he realizes that the country life is not the amazing end all to life. It helps here to know of Horace’s history as his father had owned a farm and he had also run away from the “pastoral” lifestyle. Dreams here are only dreams. It is comforting to let the mind wander and think what if, but moments like that are fleeting and transitory, and sooner or later reality takes precedent over this. All in all, I believe that Country Joys is a satirical mocking of the idealization of the pastoral. It is not mocking the pastoral itself, but rather the foolish and unfounded preconceptions that humans tend to harbor about things they are not familiar with.

  5. Bridget Cundelan

    There is an inherent tension within pastoral writing. As Gifford explains, the urban is a near necessary element in pastoral literature because it serves to emphasize the desirability of the countryside. On another level, pastoral literature contrasts the unadulterated innocence of childhood with the corruption of adult society. Thus, Horace’s background is crucial to the understanding of his poem, Epode ii, “Country Joys.” His childhood recalls the countryside not only because childhood is characterized by simplicity, but because Horace physically grew up on a farm. So, while I see Horace’s poem as being allegorical of mankind’s desire to return to an Edenic Golden Age, it also suggests a kind of nostalgia for the past. So in the poem, both Horace, “a soldier, roused by the wild clarion”, and the Usurer, one bound by “money-lending,” reflect upon a more simpler time and place (33).

    I believe that Horace’s poem is ultimately an allegory of the Natural Law corrupted by the Economic Law of laissez-faire capitalism. In fact, the economic and the natural are diametrically opposed. Nature operates from the logic of a gift economy—freely give, freely receive. It naturally provides all necessary components of life; food, shelter, leisure, companionship, and even beauty. Our very lives are gifts that we cannot purchase. Thus, if left to its natural state, we live in a world free of debt. Therefore, the financial market is but a broken image of the perfect natural economy that we are born into and participate in as children. Herein enters the Usurer, who is representative of market values, he loans money on interest. Moreover, economic driven society is corrupt and nature is the pure market. In the pastoral vision, the fluctuating seasons replace the fluctuations of the economy. Autumn “rears his head crowned with ripened fruits” (33), and the “wintry season brings rain and snow…sweet prizes!” (34). Rather than working for his own capitalistic self interests, one reciprocates nature’s free gift by “wed[ding] his lofty poplar-trees to well-grown vines,” “cut[ting] off useless branches with the pruning-knife, engrafting fruitful ones,” or “shear[ing] helpless sheep” (33). Finally, it suggests a restoration of the binary structure between male and female, where the wife assumes the role of cooking an “unboughtmeal” for her “weary husband”(34).

    In the end, the narrator seems to be convinced of the superiority of the pastoral life, “amid such joys, who does not forget the wretched cares that passion brings?” (34). Yet, “on the very point of beginning the farmer’s life,” he chooses continue his life as an Usurer. His poem is satirical; it reveals the desire to take up a pastoral lifestyle in the countryside as little more than a daydream. At the same time it is elegiac, it mourns the impossibility of a return to childhood, a Golden Age, or Eden, and instead suggests our inevitable decent into the iron age of adulthood and societal corruption.

  6. Sabrina Samedi

    In relation to Horace’s poem, Epodes ii, Country Joys, I think Horace is conflicted in terms of his views of the pastoral. He mixes both Gifford’s first and second definitions or rather types of the pastoral. I think Horace views nature as an escape or refuge from the Army: nature holds the image of the ideal and ironically what is calm and civilized in juxtaposition to what is chaotic, gruesome, distributing, and rather barbaric of the Army. Nature symbolizes what is familiar to Horace and what is comforting since his father owned a farm, which is an ultimate product of nature if not nature itself. Horace grew up in agriculture and a Sheppard type of lifestyle (i.e. the idealization of the nature). Thus nostalgia is also another reason for Horace’s admiration for nature and the pastoral. Horace obviously goes to the Army (i.e. a product or an organization formed by men to use weapons and nowadays machinery to kill others as a form of defense) as an adolescent/adult, but Horace spent his childhood in the countryside. The countryside works in connection to memoires of youth: a time when things were simpler and more enjoyable. As a child, Horace did not have to fight against other human beings or be responsible for defending his land; instead he could just enjoy it, literally speaking. He could take in the rewards of crops and substance from a bounty land. Therefore, nature and the pastoral is a reminder of youth, pleasant times, simplicity, and relaxation which is the foil to city life or what is urban, which is symbolized by mankind in terms of the army, cognitive dissonance, and adulthood. However, the fact that Alfius is too attached to his career and cannot leave the city for the countryside suggests that one is not trapped in the city. Since one remains in the city, voluntarily than it is not a confinement in juxtaposition to the rather escape-like and tranquil qualities of the countryside. Alfius decision to remain loyal to his career emphasizes the point that one must work to live and if he escapes to the countryside he may lose his job and not be able to afford to live (i.e. not be able to provide himself with necessities such as nourishment) therefore the countryside which originally acted as a refuge may end up hurting his livelihood if such use of the refuge is abused.

  7. catherine

    Virgil’s Georgics evokes a much more pragmatic relationship with nature than his earlier pastoral Eclogues. Whereas emotions run high in the former work, Georgics at times reads almost like a farming manual; “where the earth’s soil is rich, let your stout oxen upturn it straightway, in the year’s first months, and let the clods lie for dusty summer to bake with her ripening suns”. Further, while nature readily gives up its bounty in Eclogues; “Uncalled the goats shall bring home their udders swollen with milk”, in Georgics man triumphs over nature; “to discipline the ground, and give orders to the fields”. This echoes the earlier rhetoric of nature giving orders; “Nature laid these laws and eternal covenants”. The relationship between man and nature then seems to be equal in both the golden age and the age of work; in the former when nature was free-flowing and generous, mankind lived freeform, in the latter where nature is rule-driven so too is man. The products of the later world seem instinctively to be more satisfying after the toil of agriculture and perhaps nutritionally also. In Georgics it is corn, flax and oats that are harvested, in Eclogues the land offers up “dewey honey” “Assyrian spice” and “flowers for your delight”, comparatively more decadent and extravagant food unassociated with the everyday. Overall life in Georgics may not be such a constant state of ecstasy in the golden age but it still seems happy and simple, still in close proximity to nature and with no sign of money economies.

  8. Danielle Peeler

    Tityrus exemplifies Virgil’s attitude towards nature and the city. Virgil takes time to describe each miniscule detail of the landscape, which shows the reader that Virgil holds a high regard for nature’s beauty. Although Tityrus seems to believe that nature provides everything that one would need to survive, he doesn’t address the needs of a growing population. It is obvious that as man becomes more knowledgeable and efficient, there would be more needs outside of those that the pasture could provide. Tityrus would think that these influences from outside of the pasture are corrupt, however they are not necessarily negative. In the Georgics Book I, Virgil expresses that it is ok to harm nature because providing is nature’s purpose: “Come then, and where the earth’s soil is rich let your stout oxen upturn it straightway…” (28). He takes on the attitude that nature will help man in his quest to supply himself with necessities. For example, after farming, the sun will “bake” the crops. He also stresses the importance of replenishing that which man destroys, “…only be not ashamed to feed fat the dried-out soil with rich dung, and to scatter grimy ashes over the exhausted fields” (29). Overall, I believe that through his writing Virgil portrays that fact that we must preserve that which we came from. It is true that humans began in a serene pastoral lifestyle, however it is unrealistic to believe that the “sheppard” and farming life could remain intact as times change. Similarly, throughout Metamorphoses Ovid described the “everlasting spring” that is the golden age. Ovid believes that with each age that passed humans became more savage.

  9. Kevin Richardson

    Virgil’s depiction of the city directly connotes to Tityrus misconstrued thought of how he thought the city should be. In the eyes of Virgil, man evolved from the pastures into the development of cities. Such cities like Rome, where life is hectic, chaotic, busy and anything but primitive. This makes him uneasy to the idea that, “has man forgotten the roots of their fruits? “ By this I mean, has mankind forgot about the history of nature’s relationship with man, a relationship free of disruption, ultimately perfect in its form. Virgil acknowledges that Meliboeus and Tityrus, are two men affected by the development of mankind, but in separate ways. Meliboeus is interconnected with nature in such a way that his mind, body and soul are part of the land he grazes. His connection is his knowledge and his knowledge abides by the ideal that with Tityrus passage to the city could evoke the drying of fruit. This ideology is marked by Virgil’s description of the pasture providing a cornucopia of foods for shepherds; were everything is just enough and nothing more. The connection between man and nature is once again influenced by the result of such an embodied relationship. Crops of life come about with the contribution of man being part of the pasture, life is given and life is taken with each bite of the food harvested from the land. This foundation of life and symbolic death is conceptualized by the relationship man can choose to have with the land. Temptation to stem away from pastoral way of life, lingers over the hillside, where the pastures dissipate and urbanization of man is seen from the ground up.
    I really enjoyed Virgil’s representation of fruit. His use of poetic justice to describe the cycles of life of not just humans but the fruits of mans labor. Each thing that man has available to him, in a pastoral stance is from their contribution to the land they graze on. An apple takes time to grow from seed, to plant, to tree then to fruit. Once the life of the apple has its first breath of life, it can be taken away from the creator of its origin, the Sheppard. Life comes and goes in the pastoral landscape; the process of time is that of patience and fortitude.

  10. Nicole Patchi

    Virgil’s first book of Georgics does seem to stray from the mode of writing we saw in his Eclogues. The Eclogues evoke a sense that the springing forth of nature takes on a magical quality, one in which man need not be present. In Eclogue IV, Virgil uses certain diction to enhance this sense that man removed from nature will result in perfection. Virgil uses such phrases as “…earth untilled…, …uncalled the goats…, …unasked thy cradle…” (31) that evoke the antithesis of work. Man has no presence in this world except to benefit from the bounty of nature. To modernize again would result in another brutal war. Virgil’s Georgics do not entirely stray from the image portrayed in his Eclogues, but instead fits man within the context of nature. Where once the “…earth untilled pour forth…” (31) in Eclogues, now “That field only answers the covetous farmer’s prayer…” (85). Man now has a “…covenant…” (85) with nature, and a covenant denotes a two-way relationship. This is not to say that Virgil sees the city in a positive light, when speaking about the birth of the Iron Age he claims, “Toil conquered the world, unrelenting toil…” (91). However, the products of the city that are born from a greater investment in technology assist in the decrease of human competition and jealousy and an increase in individual contentment. Virgil affirms, “Therefore, unless your hoe, time and again, assail the weeds… vainly, alas! Will you eye your neighbor’s big store…” (91).

  11. Mackenzie Doss

    Throughout these works there is an intense sense of connection between individuals and their environments, with the idyllic pastoral scenario in the foreground. “Happy old man! Here, amid familiar streams and sacred springs, you shall court the cooling shade” (Virgil, 9). The emotional investment in one’s environment is so great that it becomes his/her god in a sense. Although Rome is the only god-like environment Virgil’s Tityus alludes to, there is enough mention of other deities, such as Ceres and Bacchus, to create an image of the “city” and “country” gods. This emphasis on deities could be offered up as allegorical concern with ones environment; it’s preservation an sustainment because of the economic, cultural and emotional value that it provides. It should be noted that Virgil’s first Ecologue has the footnote: “In this allegory Tityrus may represent Virgil, who went to Rome and appealed successfully to Octavian against the confiscation of his farm” (3). Therefore endowing ones environment with divinity not only serves the purpose of substantiating importance, but also of personifying the significance of power- especially power over ones environment. The “god” of Rome has power over the environment in which the pastoral thrives; there is a certain amount of recognition that the city/court can exert influence over the rural country. It therefore becomes important to legitimize, or at least attempt to create, a certain amount of power over ones environment. Virgil’s fifth Ecologue concerns itself with the idea of the shephard as master with the honor to Daphnis: “Fair was the flock I guarded. But fairer was I, the master” (37). This idea continues in Menalcas: “A god is he, a god, Menalcas! …As to Bacchus and Ceres, so to thee…shall the husbandmen pay their vows; thou, too, shalt bind them in their vows” (39). The idea of ritual comes into play as the consecration of power. If the ideal of the pastoral is a simplistic peaceful life, then we see the limits of human understanding as it comes into contact with nature- Man can only understand the natural world by man’s standards and cultural upbringing. And the culture of man demands a certain amount of control over ones environment, proven by power and consecrated with ritual. Alternatively, rather than ritual, one could say that stories and “prophesies” become a way to legitimize the right or inevitability of pastoral existence. The story of the baby boy in Ecologue four becomes a way of instilling the pastoral with a certain sense of inevitability- that mans final path should be one of healing, purging himself or his iron roots and returning to the golden age. Essentially the story of the baby boy isn’t so much a prophesy as it is an argument- The Virgin, Saturn, Apollo, Greek Heros, and Jupiter are all aligned with the figure of this child. In a sense the story is creating the ultimate hero: one born of innocence that represents the greatest, most powerful, and most beloved figures of the golden age. The progression of his life represents the dawning of the ultimate pastoral: where Virgil had previously had to acknowledge the power of the city, here he counters by providing a hero who can overcome it. The earth becomes a Utopian paradise with the child’s birth, but even as he grows: “The serpent, too, shall perish…yet shall some few traces of the olden sin lurk behind…next, when now the strength of years has made thee man…every land shall bear all fruits” (31). Essentially the boy is the natural overcoming culture- the country overpowering the city. Virgil is essentially arguing against the power of the city, introducing the potentiality of the pastoral state.

  12. britany

    The biggest change I noticed while moving through Virgil’s Eclogues was the increase in human agency. In Eclogue I, there is a more harmonious relationship between humans and nature/the gods. While humans watch over the land they do not exert dominance over it; it is more of a symbiotic relationship. For instance, Tityrus cares for the land and in return he is able to enjoy the surroundings as he sits under the shade of a birch tree like in the beginning. When he leaves Meliboeus explains that “The very pines, the very springs, the very orchards here were calling for [him]” (5). Nature is sad that Tityrus has gone because it needs him to care for it. Eclogue IV begins to discuss the return of the “golden age,” but not in the same way that we saw it in Hesiod’s Works and Days where humans are free from toil because the land willingly supplies them with everything. This “golden age” occurs because of the birth of a child and it is he who “shall sway a world to which his father’s virtues have brought peace” (31). Even though it is a return to the “golden age” where everything returns to its natural state (wool is not dyed, there is no ploughing of the land or pruning of the landscape), it is still brought on because a baby boy was born. By Eclogue V, things become chaotic as nature is disrupted by human influence. The “wild vine with its stray clusters has overrun the cave,” demonstrating that nature is struggling within itself (35). Furthermore, humans have become completely dominant over nature and receive acknowledgment for things that are actually just natural. Mopsus states “Fair was the flock I guarded, but fairer was I, the master” (37). He almost negates the sheep entirely and argues that the master is what is truly important about the scene. Humanity has now become vain and selfish, giving themselves more credit than is due.

  13. Eileen Finley

    Three particular images stand out to me because of their abilities to evoke or alter the sense of pastoral. These images are those including shepherds, food in abundance, and children.

    Shepherds evoke a sense of pastoral because their lifestyles depict such an integral part of what the bucolic genre is all about. They live in the country, the survive off of the land and the creatures that live throughout it, and they also have an utmost appreciation and respect for nature. This respect is conveyed in Eclogue V when they say to Daphnis, the inventor of pastoral poetry, “Long as the boar loves the mountain ridges, as the fish the streams; long as the bees feed on thyme and the cicalas on dew, so long shall thy honor and name and glories abide (74).” Through this respect for Daphnis, they show their respect for his principles and beliefs.

    Second, any time food or anything natural is described in abundance it evokes a sense of pastoral, simply because of the source of these positive rewards and nourishment. In Eclogue I, Tityrus talks to Meliboeus about the benefits of the country when he says, “ We have ripe apples, mealy chestnuts, and a wealth of pressed cheeses (80).” This talk of nourishment, amongst many other things, in abundance signifies to me a type of wealth that people who live pastoral lifestyles can attain from “Mother Nature.” We also see the characters mention different types of plants and flowers that grow in abundance. This shows the reader that one can be rich in other ways than material and frivolous goods.

    Finally, the child is definitely an additional sign denoting a sense of the pastoral. I believe this is because children are pure, simple, and full of life, which are all things that someone of a pastoral mind-frame would want their environments, as well as themselves, to emulate. Children have a consistent role in pastoral writing. In Eclogue IV, we see the commencement of the golden race signified by the birth of a child. This same child is mentioned throughout as having a wonderful relationship with the world around him, living in harmony with it, as well as benefiting from what it has to offer.

  14. AJ Manabat

    The satirical turn is an appropriate end to this depiction of the pastoral from a civilian’s point of view. It focuses the reader’s attention back to reality, the urban, and away from the fantasy of the pastoral. Horace goes into great, yet dream like, description of the lifestyle of a shepherd and how it contrast to the complexities of city life. In the countryside, Alfius “avoids the Forum and / proud thresholds of more powerful citizens” (Horace, lines 5-6). This calls attention to the factual bothersome issues of the urban. Away from the city, there are no assemblies of business or struggles due to a social hierarchical system. These examples of contrast strengthen the unrealistic features of the pastoral and the gap bridging these two realms. The idea or belief of pastoral through dream is the one medium that connects these realms.

    The credibility of the narrator is difficult to “cut down.” Alfius’ representation of his ideal pastoral should be credited due to the fact that there is no definite definition or image of pastoral. Without a clear model to juxtapose Alfius’ version, one cannot undermine his. The poems and short stories that depict pastoral imagery or lifestyles are hypothesized or desired archetypes. The point-of-view (Alfius’) is merely an additional tale of the supernatural idea of pastoral. All examples of pastoral are relatively equal in credibility due to the vague model of pastoral. The one standard that should be met in every representation of pastoral is the definition(s) that stem from Gifford. If this is implemented into the story, poem, painting, etc. then the portrayal is presumably credible.

    Yes, Alfius does showcase a desire or “real dream” for a pastoral existence. Although it seems clear he’s aware that his “real dream” is impossible from the start, this doesn’t impede on his representation. He highlighting of the sounds in nature are respectfully mythical and supernatural. Supernatural in the sense that they’re too natural at least in perception of an urban citizen. Alfius’ description in itself is dream like. “‘Tis pleasant, now lie beneath some ancient ilex-tree, now on the matted turf. Meanwhile the rills glide between their high bank; birds warble in the woods; the fountains plash with their flowering waters, a sound to invite the soft slumbers” (Horace, lines 24-29). This scene reminds me of the cliché instances of many films and literature. A character falls asleep, usually in an odd setting, where he or she drifts into a dream state. Within this dream, the surroundings are magical and obviously fictionalized. This dream is usually interrupted by an oddity or a contrasting event causing the character to wake-up. The narrator showcases this cliché by stating, “‘Tis pleasant, now lie beneath some ancient ilex-tree” which reflect the falling asleep (lines 24-25). Second, the reference to sounds of birds and water that “invite the soft slumbers” depicts the act of dreaming (line 28). Lastly, the abrupt contrast in imagery is seen in the following line. The narrator then states, “But when the wintry season of thundering Jove brings rains and snow…” is a solemnly cold setting that opposite the previous line. This is the interruption that awakens the narrator from his fantasy of pastoral. Even his dream of the pastoral (Epode II) incorporates an example of dream within that depiction.

  15. Emily-Ann

    Horace’s background definitely gives witness to his views on life when he begins right off the bat in Epodes ii with “Happy the man who…” and goes on to list the joys of the pastoral (365). He gives meticulous details of country life as Horace describes how to plant crops, steer cattle, and sheer sheep. This recount sounds like a genuine firsthand experience and as if only someone who grew up and worked on a farm could truly express. Though hard labor is necessary to thrive in the country, it pays off as Horace describes the pleasantness of sitting back and enjoying/absorbing nature, and gaining from the benefits of produce and profit from crops and animals. The fact that Horace’s father owned a farm gives the poem validity in knowing that its contents are not fabricated or fantasized, but that the things he said actually happened and are a vital part of pastoral life.
    Furthermore on his background, Horace dismembering himself from the army supports his views against organized groups and violence, which is not seen in the countryside from which he came. He idealistically prefers the pastoral over the city from the way he shows completeness and satisfaction in life through his poetry, and the satirical turn does not cut down the narrator’s credibility. His life is not perfect and this poem is a great example of pastoral as looking back to a time when things were perfect to Horace. He reflects fondly on his past and his background by the way he remembers it as and thus shares this through his literature with the audience from his current time of writing. It may be a dream, but dreams are made of up past experiences pieced together to make a scene or event of life that may possibly have occurred or will occur in the future.

  16. ashleigh

    Discussion 2—Virgil
    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?

    From his Eclogues to the first book of Georgics, it is obvious that Virgil’s emotional relationship to the countryside has changed drastically. In Eclogue IV, humans live in harmony with the earth. They do not take her bounty in excess and she freely gives what is needed: “. . . the earth untilled pour forth, as her first pretty gifts, straggling ivy with foxglove everywhere . . . Uncalled, the goats shall bring home their udders swollen with milk, and the herds shall fear not huge lions . . . The serpent, too, shall perish
    . . . and the false poison plant shall perish.” Not only are humans given what is needed to them, they are protected from the troubles of living within nature; nothing will harm them so long as they continue to live in perfect harmony with the earth.

    The change in Virgil’s emotional relationship to the countryside becomes apparent in the first line of Georgics, Book I. The words: ‘turn the soil, tending, care, and skill’ are all spoken. These words do not imply the same kind of relationship with nature that was previously felt; instead of humans living in harmony with the earth, they are exerting dominance over it. In this kind of relationship the earth does not give freely: “Toil conquered the world, unrelenting toil, and want that pinches when life is hard.” Because humans have failed to live in accord with the earth, they must now work for their resources. There are even instructions given as to what to do “. . . should the land not be fruitful . . .”–This question would not have even arisen in Eclogue IV. One last thing to notice is the sun is described as a tyrant in this work; not only does the earth not yield to human beings needs anymore, but it can actually hinder their ability to obtain what they desire. There is a dramatic shift in Virgil’s emotional relationship to the countryside from Eclogue IV to the first book of Georgics.

  17. roma

    One particular image that stands out and seems to truly celebrate the sense of the pastoral occurs in Eclogue IV of Virgil which declares, “But for thee child shall the earth untilled pour forth.. Straggling ivy with foxglove everywhere, the Egyptian bean.. the goats shall bring home their udders swollen with milk, and the herds shall fear not huge lions; unasked the cradle will pour forth flowers for thy delight. The serpent too shall perish, and the false poison plant shall perish.” This passage is in congruence with Gifford’s first definition of pastoral since it is clearly an idealized depiction of the countryside. The excerpt delivers an extraordinary sense of comfort and security to not just the child being addressed, but also to the reader, who sees that nature is a never ending supplier of food, beauty, and life. It is crucial that the earth is described as “pouring forth” in two different instances, indicating that it possesses great abundance and is happy to give what it has for human use and “delight.” Also noteworthy is how the well-known dangers and vices that occur inevitably in pastoral settings such as “lions”, a serpent”, and “poison” are things that are not to be feared, or things that will eventually perish. A passage that serves in altering our sense of the idyllically pastoral is found in Georgics Book I, it announces, “Yet ere our iron cleaves an unknown plain, be it first our care to learn the winds and the wavering moods of the sky, the wonted tillage and nature of the ground, what each clime yields and what each disowns…” The message of this passage is one that is starkly different from the first in that the emphasis lies on an acknowledgement that nature is a force that is very moody, always changing, and utterly unpredictable. The “iron cleaves” are a representation of human work and labor, which is something, according to the excerpt, that is necessary for the establishment and maintenance of a successful plot of land. Additionally, the fickleness and inconsistency that occurs in nature is manifest through the “wavering moods of the sky” and how some environments will support the growth of flowers and crops and others might “disown” the responsibility of doing so.

  18. hillary

    Virgil and Horace show the flux in opinion and relationship with the countryside. Virgil’s relationship with the countryside changes between his first and second writings. In his first writing nature and humans are living in harmony, with one another. It is a relationship where nature is offering and man is only accepting what she presents to him. This reminded me of the relationship that Adam and Eve had with the Garden of Eden. They had no expectation of what mother nature had to offer but floated through life in bliss. In Georgics man has taken on a much more decadent lifestyle and now works the land to eat from it. It is no longer up to mother nature but man’s hands which control what comes out of the land. Is this a matter of demand? More people, more fruits are needed to sustain? Or did the knowledge of farming and taking from the land someone corrupt humans to want and take more than needed? In Georgics they have failed to live in accordance with the land and now have to put great effort forth to get results. (Again much like Adam and Eve) It is interesting to think of human in this greedy way. For whatever reason throughout history we never seem to be satisfied with what is naturally handed to us but need more. The move to the city is one to progress. Life is more efficient, more ready-made. But that becomes unsatisfying and a longing of the past sets in. Horace too- does the honorable thing by serving in the army but is soon fleeing from his duties to return to the countryside and his life. While there is talk of leaving his worldly possessions and his career of usury- but cannot part with the material when it comes to the end of the piece. Is the pastoral purely fantasy or can one return to a more natural way of life even after being exposed to a more modern way of life?

  19. Eric Kiser

    Horace is claiming, through the juxtaposition of Alfius’ espoused dream and action, of the human universal to be able to construct an imaginary realm of perfect simplicity and harmony that is in reach. He looks upon this ideal that everyone tantalizes themselves with as either being in actuality out of reach and envisioned simply to transport themselves from the stresses and strains of their daily lives, or, as something that when it comes down to it no one actually has the courage to act upon it. In one sense he looks upon this nostalgia as a plea or bargaining with Nature to allow their to be such a simple answer, or refuge to escape to, in this case through the means of the Pastoral. In another sense he seems to be drawing out the fears inherent in humanity of being immobilized to act upon their ideals and dreams. For if one actually follows their ideal of that pastoral harmony with themselves and nature, and it doesn’t materialize; if they fail, then it becomes proven that their mundane life is truly all that their is. If one actually tries and is rebuked, denied, and unable to attain their ideal, then it becomes wholly and irrevocably shattered. It is a frightening prospect, and much easier to simply let it exist in one’s longing mind, and nostalgic dreams. I do not believe that Horace is making the claim that the Pastoral life would be less enjoyable then the urban life, but simply that it is either unattainable–a golden age that never existed; that cannot exist, or that people have become too entrenched in the urban life to be able to uproot themselves to enter upon the Pastoral ideal of simplicity. In the latter sense he seems to be saying that people have grown too accustomed to the urban life with all of it’s facets; that after a life of cultivating associative contexts, ritualized habits, and symbolic interactions–even if dull, or unpleasant, that there is conceptually, and culturally derived meaning from it that makes it not possible to abandon. Maybe even, Terrible in the sense of being too near the Sublime. At any rate, it seems clear that Horace is rendering the Pastoral as something that is better left preserved and in tact in the mind.