GEORGICS OF VIRGIL, The. This work followed the 'Eclogues' and preceded the They were completed in 30 B.c., when the poet was 40 years of age. Their com position extended over a period of seven years, and they are called Virgil's most finished poem, though they have not enjoyed the popularity of the '1Eneid.) Quintilian says that rarely were more than a few verses completed in a day, and Gellius and Donatus have preserved the poet's own statement that he begot and licked his verses into shape after the manner of a bear with her cubs. Dryden called the 'Georgics' "the best Poem of the best Poet." Sellar says Virgil is the author of the only didactic poem the world cares to read. The word Georgics, Georgia, rewpyucti, means in plain prose, "Things of the Farmer." The poem consists of four books, with a total of 2,188 lines in hexameter. The first book con tains a general treatment of the cultivation of the soil and the raising of crops. The subject of the second is the nurture of trees and the vine. The third discusses the care of the vari ous animals belonging to the Italian farm. The fourth is devoted to the culture of bees. The subject was not new. Hesiod's 'Works and Days,' written upward of 1,000 years be fore Virgil's time, was almost as clearly the inspiration of the Georgics as the Homeric poems were of the (J'Eneicl) and Theocritus of the 'Eclogues.> Cato, who died in 149 n.c., had written a homely practical manual of agricul ture which attains to the interest of literature only because of its antiquarian character and its author's fame. Even before Cato, a Carthagin ian work on farming had been translated into Latin by order of the Senate. During Virgil's composition of the 'Georgics' themselves, Varro had written a treatise on agriculture in three books in the form of a dialogue. All of these and many more, especially Greek 'didactic works of the Alexandrian period, were known to Virgil, and contributed in greater or smaller measure to his information and inspiration. As might be expected, the 'Georgics,' in spite of their exquisite finish, suffer somewhat from lack of homogeneity. They are at the same time didactic and epic and lyric; they contain dull passages that have nothing poetic beyond their verse form, and passages of exceedingly beautiful and emotional description and story whose connection with the subject of agricul ture is hardly more than a matter of sugges tion. They are at the same time artificial and simple; they are full of sympathy with the life of the humble, and ornamented with barren Alexandrian conceits. They are at the same
time scientific and superstitious; in them the facts of experience and the scientific doctrines of Lucretius and the Greek specialists alternate with the traditional lore of miracles and por tents. They are at the same time the poem with a purpose, written at the suggestion of the court to encourage a aback to the soil" movement by glorifying the life of orchard and field and pasture, and the product of real poetic inspiration.
The inspirational quality of the 'Georgics' goes far toward compensating for their un evenness of texture. Many of the episodes in which the poem abounds are of the highest ex cellence. No one can forget the beauty of such passages as the story of Orpheus and Eurydice at the end of the fourth book, or the praise of country life at the end of the second, or the praise of Italy in the same book. It is this last passage which Andrew Lang has in mind when he speaks of "Virgil, in one splendid passage, numbering the glories of the land as a lover might count the perfections of his mis tress.* Such is the splendor of digressions and episodes like these that the reader is carried over the more prosaic realties without much loss of exaltation. They give the whole of the poem a strongly original and a strongly Roman character in spite of its many Greek features. It is full of the love of nature and of Italy, of sympathy with the simple manners, morals and religion of the farmer folk, of pride in the beneficent might of the Roman state. The 'Georgics> are really a national poem. Its ob ject, aside from the esthetic object of self expression on the part of a poet whose heart was charged with love for a beautiful native land and pride in a great civilization, was, as Merivale says, °to recommend the principles of the ancient Romans, their love of home, of labor, of piety and order; to magnify their domestic happiness and greatness; to make men proud of their country on better grounds than the mere glory of its arms and the extent of its conquests." If Virgil is the sacred book of the Romans, as Homer was of the Greeks, the Georgics may be called, in the phrase of Myers, °the Psalm of Italy." The 'Georgics' may be read in the verse translation of Dryden, or the prose translations of Conington, Mackail and Fairclough. For appreciation, see article 1ENEID, THE.