aleator classicus

Reading at Random in Classical Literature

Virgil, Georgics 1.316-321

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Virgil’s didactic poem on farming alerts the reader to the dangers of storms at harvest-time:

saepe ego, cum flavis messorem induceret arvis
agricola et fragili iam stringeret hordea culmo,
omnia ventorum concurrere proelia vidi,
quae gravidam late segetem ab radicibus imis
sublimem expulsam eruerent: ita turbine nigro
ferret hiems culmumque levem stipulasque volantis.

Often, when the farmer brought a harvester into his golden fields and was already cutting the barley with its brittle stalks, I have seen all the battles of the winds running together, so that far and wide they wrenched up the heavy crop from its roots and hurled it up high; so with its dark whirlwind the storm would carry both the light stalks and the flying stubble.

The grammar of the final clause is rather inelegant, continuing the subjunctive from the preceding clause when it doesn’t need to. But Virgil makes up for this by demonstrating his mastery of the hexameter in line 320. To quote H.H. Huxley’s commentary, ‘this half-line is remarkable for the effect created by the elision of consecutive molossi (words of three long syllables). If we represent the verse-beat by an acute accent and the stress-accent by a grave, the following effect is produced – súblìm(em) éxpùls(am) éruèrént’. [I’ve also marked in the elisions, which Huxley doesn’t.]

Written by aleatorclassicus

July 12, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Virgil

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