The Golden Age in Pastoral: Eclogues 4.15-45

Virgil’s vision of the Golden Age of peace and prosperity is notable, to me, for its deep emotional resonances as expressed in the earthy imagery of the pastoral genre.  The visuals of abundant, surfeiting βιος [life] forms a hard contrast with the oft-repeated Civil War image of blood and gore soaking Italian fields.  So this Golden Age passage seems, interestingly, to come from a place not of triumph but of longing, which I believe is characteristically Virgilian.

Joshua Anthony

He will receive the life of gods, and will see the gods
mixed with heroes, and himself be seen by them
and will rule over a world appeased by his father’s virtues.

But first to you, child, the earth untilled
will pour forth gifts: wandering ivies with foxglove everywhere,
and colocasia mixed with laughing acanthus.
The goats will come home themselves, udders swollen
with milk, nor will flocks fear great lions;
your very cradle will pour forth sweet flowers for you,
the serpent, too, will fall away, and poison will fail the
deceitful plant, and Assyrian spice will spring up far and wide..

But as soon as you are able to read the praises of heroes
and the deeds of your father, and to learn what true strength be,
little by little will the field be gilt with grain
and the blushing grape weigh on wild thorns,
and hard oaks will sweat dewy honey

Nevertheless, there will remain a trace of ancient sin,
which will bid us to essay the Sea, to bind towns
with walls, to plow furrows into the earth.
Another Tiphys will there be, and another Argo
to bear chosen heroes; there will be, too, other wars
and sent to Troy another great Achilles.

Hence, when strength of age has made you a man,
the merchant himself will withdraw from the sea, nor
will the seaworthy pine change goods; all lands will bear all things.
The soil will not suffer the plow, nor the vine the scythe,
and the stout plowman will loose the bulls from the yoke;
nor will wool learn to feign many colors,
but the ram himself, in the fields, now with sweetly-blushing
purple, now with saffron, will change his fleeces,
scarlet will voluntarily clothe the grazing lambs.

ille deum vitam accipiet, divisque videbit
permixtos heroas, et ipse videbitur illis,
pacatumque reget patriis virtutibus orbem.
At tibi prima, puer, nullo munuscula cultu
errantis hederas passim cum baccare tellus
mixtaque ridenti colocasia fundet acantho.
Ipsae lacte domum referent distenta capellae
ubera, nec magnos metuent armenta leones;
ipsa tibi blandos fundent cunabula flores,
occidet et serpens, et fallax herba veneni
occidet, Assyrium volgo nascetur amomum.

At simul heroum laudes et facta parentis
iam legere et quae sit poteris cognoscere virtus,
molli paulatim flavescet campus arista
incultisque rubens pendebit sentibus uva
et durae quercus sudabunt roscida mella.

Pauca tamen suberunt priscae vestigia fraudis,
quae temptare Thetin ratibus, quae cingere muris oppida,
quae iubeant telluri infindere sulcos.
alter erit tum Tiphys et altera quae vehat Argo
delectos heroas; erunt etiam altera bella
atque iterum ad Troiam magnus mittetur Achilles.

Hinc, ubi iam firmata virum te fecerit aetas,
cedet et ipse mari vector nec nautica pinus
mutabit merces; omnis feret omnia tellus.
non rastros patietur humus, non vinea falcem,
robustus quoque iam tauris iuga solvet arator;
nec varios discet mentiri lana colores,
ipse sed in pratis aries iam suave
murice, iam croceo mutabit vellera luto,
sponte sua sandyx pascentis vestiet agnos.

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