The Georgicsby Virgil
Virgil begins his poem with a summary of the four books, followed by a prayer to various agricultural deities as well as Augustus himself. It takes as its model the work on farming by Varro, but differs from it in important ways. Numerous technical passages fill out the first half of Book 1; of
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The Georgics is a poem by Latin poet Virgil, likely published in 29 BC.
Virgil begins his poem with a summary of the four books, followed by a prayer to various agricultural deities as well as Augustus himself. It takes as its model the work on farming by Varro, but differs from it in important ways. Numerous technical passages fill out the first half of Book 1; of particular interest are lines 160-175, where Virgil describes the plow. In the succession of ages, whose model is ultimately Hesiod, the age of Jupiter and its relation to the golden age and the current age of man are crafted with deliberate tension. Of chief importance is the contribution of labor to the success or failure of mankind's endeavors, agricultural or otherwise. The book comes to one climax with the description of a great storm in lines 311-50, which brings all of man's efforts to naught. After detailing various weather-signs, Virgil ends with an enumeration of the portents associated with Caesar's assassination and civil war; only Octavian offers any hope of salvation.
Chew's translation is, both in aesthetic and scholarly terms, an excellent piece of work. I find her approach refreshing and true to the spirit of the Georgics; her adventurousness strikes me as just the thing to rescue the poem from the appearance of blandness that a more straightforward style of translationese would inevitably, but misleadingly, impose upon it. This Georgics does not read much like any previous version of it. Chew helps the English reader to get a sense of Virgil's avant-garde poetics, which is the main thing that almost all translators of the Georgics work to eliminate, if indeed they are even aware of it. First-rate. --Joseph Farrell, Professor of Classical Studies, University of Pennsylvania
This is a translation with a difference, intended for readers without Latin. The most striking feature is the use of variations of type and layout. . . . Invocations are set out like memorial inscriptions; tasks or points to look for in animals come in the form of numbered or bulleted lists, assembling a plough reads like an instruction manual. Similes appear in italics, but so do the key words in some descriptive passages. The positioning of the text is used to illustrate the meaning of a quincunx, terracing, or the flight of a swarm of bees. These innovations serve to distinguish between what might be termed the poetry and the practical. Explanations are sometimes incorporated into the translation, which is in free verse, but mostly these are in the generous footnotes. . . . Chew has done considerable research into ancient and modern methods of husbandry and the notes concentrate on agriculture, astronomy, and botany. . . . Some [renderings] are particularly apt: 'the cicadas' complaining plainsong bursts the strawberry trees' for 'cantu querulae rumpent arbusta cicadae;' ''the murmur of the groves grows and grows' for 'et nemorum increbescere murmur.' . . . Chew should certainly achieve her aim of bringing the work to a wider readership. As she claims in her Introduction, 'Plain and simple, it is an American Georgics.' _Anne Haward, The Joint Association of Classical Teachers Review
My graduate seminar members and I enjoyed Dr. Chew's rendering of the Georgics immensely. We were delighted and instructed by her playful blend of argots and typefaces, and by her artful blend of information in the notes. This translation opened the poem for me all over againand it has long been among my favorites. Chew's translation offers a dazzling survey of musical styles in the poem. The fifteen of us send our thanks for her provocative and delightful achievement. -Thomas A. Goodmann, University of Miami
Meet the Author
Kristina Chew received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Yale University.
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