Indeed, if I were now not winching my sails upon the end

Of my journey, and was not hurrying to dock my ship,

Perhaps I would also sing of the cultivation which adorns

Fruitful gardens and the rose beds of twice-blooming Paestum,

And how endives rejoice in the rivers they drink,

And how riverbanks are green with parsley,

And how a cucumber snaked though grass swells into a paunch;

And I would not keep silent about Narcissus blooming late,

Or a branch of bent acanthus, and pale ivy, and shore-loving myrtle.

For I remember that, under the turrets of the Oebalian fortress,

Where the dark Galaesus waters yellow fields,

I saw an old Corycian, who had but a few acres of derelict farmland,

Tillage not fertile for cattle, nor fit for sheep, nor suitable for Bacchus.

Nevertheless, planting vegetables here and there in the brambles,

And white lilies, and olive branches, and slender poppy around them,

He matched his wealth with the lives of kings, and, returning home

Late at night, heaped his tables with feasts not costing him a dime.

He was first to pluck roses in spring and apples in autumn,

Even when gloomy winter was still splitting rocks with its cold,

And restraining streams of water with its ice,

He was already reaping the bloom of soft hyacinth,

Scolding summer for being late and the Zephyrs for loitering.

And so, the same man was first to be supplied with young bees and

A great swarm, and to collect foaming honey from pressed honeycombs;

His lindens and evergreens were most fruitful,

And as much fruit as his fertile tree donned in new bloom,

It held once matured in autumn.

He even scattered elms planted in a row,

And a hard pear tree, and blackthorns now bearing plums,

And a platane now serving its shade to drinkers.

But I, indeed, restricted by uneven spaces, pass over these things,

And leave them to for others after me to discuss.

Atque equidem, extremo ni iam sub fine laborum

vela traham et terris festinem advertere proram,

forsitan et, pingues hortos quae cura colendi

ornaret, canerem, biferique rosaria Paesti,

quoque modo potis gauderent intiba rivis

et virides apio ripae, tortusque per herbam

cresceret in ventrem cucumis; nec sera comantem

narcissum aut flexi tacuissem vimen acanthi

pallentesque hederas et amantes litora myrtos.

Namque sub Oebaliae memini me turribus arcis,

qua niger umectat flaventia culta Galaesus,

Corycium vidisse senem, cui pauca relicti

iugera ruris erant, nec fertilis illa iuvencis

nec pecori opportuna seges nec commoda Baccho.

Hic rarum tamen in dumis olus albaque circum

lilia verbenasque premens vescumque papaver

regum aequabat opes animis seraque revertens

nocte domum dapibus mensas onerabat inemptis.

Primus vere rosam atque autumno carpere poma,

et cum tristis hiems etiamnum frigore saxa

rumperet et glacie cursus frenaret aquarum,

ille comam mollis iam tondebat hyacinthi

aestatem increpitans seram Zephyrosque morantes.

Ergo apibus fetis idem atque examine multo

primus abundare et spumantia cogere pressis

mella favis; illi tiliae atque uberrima pinus,

quotque in flore novo pomis se fertilis arbos

induerat, totidem autumno matura tenebat.

Ille etiam seras in versum distulit ulmos

eduramque pirum et spinos iam pruna ferentes

iamque ministrantem platanum potantibus umbras.

Verum haec ipse equidem spatiis exclusus iniquis

praetereo atque aliis post me memoranda relinquo.

Translator's Note

My translation prioritizes maintaining the narrative and overall structure rather than producing a literal word-for-word translation. When possible, I retain the original word choice; for example, I preserve the use of Narcissus, Bacchus, and Zephyrs to stand in for daffodils, wine, and the west-wind respectively. These personifications maintain a degree of erudition that underlies Vergil’s poetry. Readers of this translation will benefit from prior knowledge of mythology to make sense of these references and the themes they imply; for example, the myrtle’s description as “sea-loving” is in part due to its connection with Aphrodite, who was born of the sea. Non-specialist readers, however, will also enjoy the passage for its aesthetic depiction of nature and everyday life, which I have tried to maintain by using commonplace names for plants, such as lindens and evergreens.

I take some liberty when translating the opening lines of the passage to maintain the sailing metaphor. Taken literally, the metaphor describes a sailor “hastening upon the end of their journey to turn their prow to the lands,” which loses some poetic vigour to modern readers, but when translated as “winching sails” and “hurrying to dock,” the image of a sailor rushing to return home after a voyage is reinforced, and the praeteritio that follows is clarified. A praeteritio is a digression from the topic at hand to one less relevant, in this case, from farming and beekeeping to gardening. The praeteritio is reinforced in the final line when Vergil states that he leaves this topic of gardening for others after him to discuss, so that he may return to the topic of farming and beekeeping. By transitioning from the arduous labour of farming to the flowery beauty of gardens, Vergil effectively weaves an idealized life of urbane, literary, and aesthetic refinement with rustic hardship. The effect is a seamless, yet paradoxical blend of pleasure and pain, work and leisure, and aesthetics and practical wisdom which modern readers will enjoy and relate to.

Mackenzie Leonard Hilton


In the Classroom