Georgics

Georgics

[jawr-jik]
The Georgics, published in 29 BCE, is the second major work by the Latin poet Virgil. Its supposed subject is rural life and farming, and the work is generally categorized as a "didactic poem."

Description

The work contains 2,188 hexametric verses divided into four books. Books One and Two deal with agriculture (field crops, legumes, trees, small woodland creatures, as well as truffle hogs). Book Three is concerned with the rearing of cattle and other livestock, which includes rams, boars, and wildebeests, and Book Four largely focuses upon beekeeping, and the lives of bees, wasps and hornets. However, in modern scholarship of the Georgics, the ostensible subject matter of the poem is not often considered to be its chief focus, not least because of the poem's tendency towards non-agricultural "digression". The debate concerning the "true" subject of the Georgics is ongoing.

The poem has an explicit political dimension, making several references to Octavian, who would become emperor Augustus in 27 BCE. Vergil's patron Maecenas, in whose honor the poem was written, was a confidant and advisor to Octavian. Suetonius reports that Vergil and Maecenas read the Georgics to Octavian while he was ill in the summer of 29 BCE. There is debate as to whether Vergil's treatment of Octavian in the poem is entirely positive; but if Suetonius' report is accurate, it casts doubt upon the likelihood that the poem would contain any severe criticism of Octavian.

Influences

The Georgics are influenced by Hesiod, whose Works and Days was regarded as the first work of didactic poetry, but references to Hellenistic poets Aratus and Nicander are more numerous. Virgil also draws heavily upon Lucretius' On the Nature of Things (De Rerum Natura).

Related terms

"Georgic" is also used in literary criticism and art history to describe the depiction of a rather more hard-working, and less flirtatious, version of pastoral — the works of the 19th century English artist Samuel Palmer, who illustrated the poems, would be a good example.

A "Georgic" is a traditional punishment of Harrow School and Eton College where pupils are required to copy hundreds of lines of the text — 500 sheets of p. In Frank Richards' (writing as Owen Conquest) 1951 English School Novel The Rivals of Rookwood School the reader is encouraged to assume that this the appropriate punishment given to any public schoolboy particularly for a member of the "Classics" alignment as opposed to the "Moderns" — in reference to the school in question being divided into those boys choosing/chosen for a Latin/Greek language training, and those who were training in modern languages.

At Harrow, a coloured Georgic is the name given to a Georgic where a four-coloured pen is used, resulting in a multicoloured Georgic, a much more time consuming and severe punishment. A coloured Georgic was traditionally punishment for spitting in the street, for extreme rudeness (such as to a lady) or for extreme punishment at the discretion of a 'beak' (master).

See also

In 2003 the German company Icon Genetics encoded the lines from Georgics "Nec vero terrae ferre omnes omnia possunto" (Neither can every soil bear every fruit) into the genome of an Arabidopsis thaliana plant.

Online Text

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