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Georgics (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 26 Feb 2009
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Review from previous edition 'the combination of truth to the words Virgil wrote, natural vernacular speech and a general at-homeness on the land make Fallon's an inspired translation' (Seamus Heaney, Irish Times)
'magnificent new translation...Fallon is the perfect translator for the Georgics' (Bernard O'Donoghue, Times Literary Supplement)
'supple and assured new translation' (Jonathan Bate, TLS Books of the Year)
About the Author
Peter Fallon grew up on a farm near Kells in County Meath. He is a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, where he was Writer Fellow in 1994. He founded The Gallery Press in 1970 and has edited and published more than 300 titles. His own books include News of the World: Selected and New Poems (1978) and Tarry Flynn, a dramatization of the novel by Patrick Kavanagh (2004).
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Top customer reviews
Situated chronologically between the pastoral Eclogues and the epic Aeneid, these are poems about the land and farming - sometimes allegorical (the bees), sometimes little more than an agricultural manual.
Many other translations have rendered the verse dull (Penguin), even close to unreadable (Loeb), but Fallon has regenerated the text in an inspired fashion.
The introduction is a little slight, and the biography perhaps abbreviated with nothing later than 2002, thus ignoring the last 11 years of scholarship on the text - but there's a large enough literature for this to be no more than a minor niggle.
If you're unfamiliar with Virgil or Latin poetry more generally, this certainly isn't the place to start - but anyone who's been struggling to find a decent translation either for teaching or for general reading should look no further.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
I wasn't sure at first whether a long didactic poem on agriculture would be gripping, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading the "Georgics." Many of Virgil's images and descriptions of nature are meltingly beautiful, and the deeper philosophical stratum of this work produces a constant intellecutal tension--ultimately, this poem investigates to what extent "the good life" is possible in this world, what is the balance between good and evil, to what extent our good efforts and labors are rewarded, how we are to position ourselves spiritually in this ambiguous, hard-to-understand universe... From an ecological standpoint, Virgil examines how we are to relate and live in harmony with our environment. Many mythological stories are woven in, and Peter Fallon's notes help one understand historical and mythological allusions without any problem. The poem really is just brimming over with interesting content, and reading it to me felt like an utterly pleasurable meditative exercise. And I am truly grateful to Fallon for bringing this poem to me in a wonderfully "natural" and vivid translation, the best translation of the "Georgics" that I have been able to find.
I read the "Georgics" partly in order to understand Willa Cather's novels better, which allude to and are deeply influenced by this poem. Her works truly cannot be fully understood without a clear awareness of the Virgilian subtext. The "Georgics" are a supremely influential work of literature and should be read by anyone wishing to gain an in-depth understanding of the Western literary tradition.
The Georgics contains four small books. This entire edition - complete with introduction, translator's notes and line notes to help modern readers through the many references to Greek and Roman mythology - runs a mere hundred pages. Book I covers farming topics that range from crop rotation and when to fallow fields, to seed saving and developing a weather eye. Virgil suggests that "if the goddess of the dawn rises wanly from her consort's saffron couch, beware ..." This ancient advice sounds similar to weather guidance I learned as a teen on the New England Coast. "Red sun at dawning, sailors take warning." Book I ends with an eternal description of war and its effects on agriculture "For right and wrong are mixed up here, there's so much warring everywhere, evil has so many faces, and there is no regard for the labors of the plough....scythes and sickles have been hammered into weapons of war."
Virgil devotes Book II to the cultivation of grapes and olives while Book III discusses the breeding and care of domesticated animals. Virgil devotes Book IV to the keeping of bees. He encourages his reader to consider bees "a small society comprising systems worthy of our high esteem." He then describes the perfect site for a hive. It must be protected from winds, close to a tree-lined stream that provides shade and water. Near the hive "let all around be gay with ... spreads of fragrant thyme and masses of aromatic savory. Let there be gardens to amuse them with the scent of brightly colored flowers." Closely observing the habits of the hive, the author states that bees "mindful that winter follows ... set to work in summer and store what they acquire for the common good. Come night, the youngsters haul themselves back home, exhausted, leg-baskets loaded down with thyme."
Some would say that Virgil's verses, dense with out-of-date politics and mythology, is irrelevant to our modern lives. But I take a gardener's point of view here. In the garden, the presence of weeds does not mean the absence of flowers.
Georgics is a book to savor after a hard day's work in garden or field. When the air becomes still and the hammock beckons, open to find how your life matches that of an ancient peer. And heed his sage advice. "The farmer's chores come round in seasons and cycles, as the earth each year retraces its own tracks.... So cast no hungry eye on a big estate if you're inclined, but tend a small one."
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