Principle of Work from Virgil’s The Georgics

An excerpt on the theme of why the Gods have given Man the lot of a labour filled existence.

Book I — lines 119-146

(L.P. Wilkinson’s translation)

“…And yet, for all the experience and all
The labour of men and oxen at the plough,
The wicked goose and those Strymonian cranes
Do Mischief, and the bitter-fibred endive,
Or overhanding trees. The Father himself
Willed that the path of tillage be not smooth,
And first ordained that skill should cultivate
The land, by care sharpening the wits of mortals,
Nor let his kingdom laze in torpid sloth.
Before Jove’s reign no tenants mastered holdings,
Even to mark the land with private bounds,
Was wrong: men worked for the common store, and earth
Herself, unbidden, yielded all more fully.
He put fell poison in the serpent’s fang,
Bade wolves to prowl and made the sea to swell,
Shook honey down from the leaves, hid fire away,
And stopped the wine that freely flowed in streams,
That step by step practice and taking thought
Should hammer out the crafts, should seek from furrows
The blade of corn, should strike from veins of flint
The hidden fire.  Then first upon their backs
Rivers felt boats of hollowed alder, then
Mariners grouped the stars and gave them names,
Pleiads and Hyads and the radiant Bear,
Lycaon’s daughter.  Now was found the way
To snare wild beasts with nets and birds with lime
And cordon off wide coverts with rings of hounds.
One lashes a broad river with a cast-net
Probing the depths, another drags through the sea
His dripping trawl.  Next hardened iron came
And the creaking saw-blade (for the earliest men
split wood with wedges) , and last the various arts.
Toil mastered everything, relentless toil
And the pressure of pinching poverty…”


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