Just as contemporaries dismissed the Southern Agrarian cause as unrealistic and quixotic, so later critics, however sympathetic, have portrayed the Agrarians’ conception of the South as a literary fancy devoid of reality or substance. Louis D. Rubin Jr. wrote that Agrarianism “can best be considered as an extended metaphor . . . the vision of poets,” which “held much imaginative appeal to Southerners and many non-Southerners as well.”1 Although commending the Agrarians’ reassessment of American society, Thomas L. Connelly also believed that they had “in their initial efforts . . . oversimplified the issue.” Threatened with a loss of identity and unable to find in “sawdust religion and cross burning” an emotional release for their hatreds and fears, which included communism, liberalism, science, foreigners, and blacks, the Agrarians maligned the idea of progress and championed a South of country towns, small farms, and independent yeomen. If only the cancer of modernity could be removed from southern life, all would again be well. It was in approving such facile diagnoses and spurious cures that the Agrarians exposed their fundamental confusion about the impasse that the South had reached by the 1930s. “Promoting measures to make the farmer self-sufficient and to restore his individualism may have had virtue,” Connelly allowed, “but not to hungry tenants.”2 The Agrarians’ prescription left blacks, sharecroppers, and workers perpetually downtrodden, with little hope of ever achieving better lives.

Scholars less friendly to the Agrarians than were Rubin and Connelly have derided them as misguided utopians who, resenting the triumph of the factory and the corporation, yearned to reestablish a preindustrial economy based on subsistence agriculture and who, opposing the efficacy of the modern nation-state, championed political sectionalism. The Agrarians were, in addition, neurotic xenophobes and hysterical racists.3 Haunted by an absurd fear of change and diversity, they entertained the unreasonable hope of sustaining an organic, unitary, homogeneous, agrarian society of white, yeoman farmers. The frightful “myth” they had inflamed consigned its victims to lives of poverty and grief. The obvious impracticality of such endeavors branded the Agrarians as reactionary idealists determined to revive the past and hinder the progress of man.4

These interpretations are misleading. The Agrarians distrusted a political and economic system they believed left human beings impoverished, oppressed, and desolate. Moreover, their apology for the South, though not in all save a few instances an effort to reconstitute the historic milieu of southern life, was more than a metaphor. It shaped and buttressed their rebuke of the present, offering a political, moral, and spiritual alternative to the dreary and agonizing condition of the modern world. “Our idea,” commented Andrew Lytle, “was not just to keep farmers on the land. Nor were we addressing only Southerners. . . . Our idea was to keep other professions and livelihoods sensitive to the agrarian way of life so that the institutions, the form and intent, and the ultimate meaning of a traditional and conservative society could set the tone and values for everything else. We wanted a society not only of farmers but also of agrarian teachers, agrarian businessmen, even agrarian bankers.”5 Such judgments did not utopians make. On the contrary, the Agrarians spurned the crusade for perfection indispensable to utopian movements. In this respect, Lytle’s thought was decidedly anti-utopian. Thomas More, Lytle acknowledged, was an exception among utopian writers. He had used his Utopia to reprove the policies of his sovereign and the attitudes and practices of his contemporaries.6 A more representative statement of utopian purpose was Tommaso Campanella’s La Città del Sole (City of the Sun). Published in 1602, eighty-six years after More’s volume, City of the Sun afterward exerted great influence on Condorcet, Diderot, Robespierre, Saint Simon, Fourier, and others in that company of totalitarian revolutionaries who sought not only to change the face of government but also to transform the nature of man.

Ironically, Campanella was himself something of an agrarian, having been born into a family of Calabrian peasants. Unlike Lytle’s yeoman farmers, Campanella imagined a heaven on earth arrived at by wholly secular means. Before he could realize his ambitions, he reasoned that a buona razza, a good race, had to be made ready, New Men and New Women worthy of the New World that they were poised to enter. In Campanella’s ideal city, a constant willingness to sacrifice for the commonwealth was the prerequisite of citizenship. As in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Soviet Russia, government officials rewarded the heroes of work and war in elaborate public ceremonies. Labor was a necessary evil, and those who shouldered the burden merited special recognition. Soldiers, too, were due singular esteem, for war was integral to spreading the totalitarian system around the world, so much so that for Campanella war became a sacred ritual over which officer-priests held sway. 

It was, however, the principal duty of the state not to exalt but to discipline the citizens, who, in turn, were obliged to be entirely subservient. No person, institution, or agency could be permitted to compete for their devotion. To that end, families were abolished, women were made communal property, and citizens worshiped at the altar of government. Spies alerted the ruling council to any act of insubordination or resistance that threatened the social and political order so that such treason, and those who perpetrated it, could be eliminated. A People’s Court condemned outlaws but not before inducing them to admit their guilt and welcome their punishment as the execution of justice. Crime and sin were identical, and anyone who committed an offense against the state was mercilessly put to death. The foremost duty of the ruler, whom Campanella, in a sardonic parody of Christianity, designated “Il Sole” (The Sun), was to purge the consciences of the people. To renovate the world, to master human nature, to bring about the brotherhood of man, demanded nothing less than absolute obedience to the state. Tommaso Campanella’s seventeenth-century dream became Andrew Lytle’s twentieth-century nightmare.

Much of the confusion about the Agrarians’ perspective originates from the belief that they wrote in the pastoral tradition. As Rubin observes, the Agrarians came

squarely out of an old American tradition, . . . that of pastoral; they were invoking the humane virtues of a simpler, more elemental, nonacquisitive existence, as a needed rebuke to the acquisitive, essentially materialistic compulsions of a society that from the outset was very much engaged in seeking wealth, power, and plenty on a continent whose prolific natural resources and vast acres of usable land, forests, and rivers were there for the taking.

Mark Lucas concurs, describing Lytle’s image of the farm as “a pastoral exaggeration of the good life on the land.”7 According to Thomas Connelly’s interpretation, the Agrarians “viewed the South, the Tennessee Valley in particular, as a Southern Eden.”8

But the Agrarians, and none more so than Lytle, abjured the pastoral tradition. For Lytle, the image of America as an earthly paradise was false; the New World had faltered in its redemptive mission. “When we remember the high expectations held universally by the founders of the American Union for a more perfect order of society,” he protested, “and then consider the state of life in this country today, it is bound to appear to reasonable people that somehow the experiment has proved abortive, and that in some way a great commonwealth has gone wrong.”9 The pastoral hope that America constituted a holy nation immune to the wages of sin and the ravages of time had, Lytle objected, undone the venerable convictions of human impotence and depravity. That unwarranted annulment had made the redemption from history and the regeneration of man the very ethos of America to which all Americans were induced to give unconditional, indeed evangelical, assent. Together these ideas became providential and assumed the form of revealed truth. As a consequence, Lytle charged, the main impetus of American thought had long been utopian. In America, the idea of utopia, which for Thomas More had been an unattainable “no place,” became confused with a community immanent in history, a prophetic intuition of the future to which Americans alone belonged as no other people ever has or can. The land of opportunity and possibility, America was always in the making and Americans were forever departing one paradise to enter another that was new and improved.

Lytle dissented. He recognized that it seemed traitorous, perhaps even heretical, to malign such self-evident truths. Was not America, after all, the most radiant beacon to shine forth in all the long, dark, sorrowful history of the world? It was dangerously misguided to think so. This misconception arose from the Gnosticism that had conditioned the American mind and dominated the American character. The Gnostic imagination, according to Lytle, disdained the stubborn realities of history in order to confirm the old lie that men, through their own agency, could alter the terms of existence. “We are caught between two conflicting world views,” Lytle confirmed, “which operate within and without our society.” The predominant “Faustian view” deceived men into imagining that they could “know the final secrets of matter.” Assuming the inevitability of secular progress, American Gnostics, who espoused “laissez faire in economics . . . faction in politics, social welfare in religion, relativism in history, [and] pragmatism in philosophy,” had anticipated the fulfillment of millennial perfection in the United States.10 The rational, egalitarian, and beneficent social, economic, and political order had rescued mankind from the uncertainties of history and the vicissitudes of nature; America constituted a perfect society of perfect men.

America, Lytle demurred, was not the City of God, the embodiment among nations of innocence and purity. History had compromised, if not discredited, the transcendent meaning and moral authority of America, fracturing the Christian drama and plunging Western civilization into an abyss of blood and darkness. Fully implicated in the spiritual estrangement, isolation, and degeneracy of modern man, America, Lytle concluded, had endangered “our common European inheritance,” which he and his fellow Agrarians now aspired to rescue.11 Like other twentieth-century writers, from T. S. Eliot to Flannery O’Connor to Walker Percy, Lytle struggled to formulate an alternate vision of order and meaning, which drew together the remnants of Christendom. Distinguishing between the temporal and the eternal, Lytle contested the assurance that men could be as the gods and that heaven could be made immanent on earth. No social or political realm, no human construct or arrangement, could replace the divine and the sacred. Human beings were finite and fallible, prone to error and to sin.

If there were to be redemption, men could be saved only by grace, which operates in and through history, but which emanates from beyond time. All human declarations, whether of independence or truth, were thus, in Lytle’s estimate, partial and circumstantial. Only the Gnostics in their rebellious arrogance could believe differently, for, as Lytle affirmed, “the mind which tries to reach knowledge only through the sensibility is satanic. To take the part for the whole, or to use it as an end in itself, creates a false illusion about nature and human nature. . . . It . . . obscures the truth and elicits the memory of that universal gray fog encompassing chaos and its silent lull.”12 Without the intuition of a divine order, modern men had assumed that the human will was invincible and human power absolute. But no one had the last word or exercised final judgment. History went on and on. Man could not see the whole of it. God alone knew how it would end.

Neither pastoral nor utopian, Lytle’s outlook was instead georgic and Christian. The literary antecedents to his version of Agrarianism were Hesiod’s Works and Days, Virgil’s Georgics, and the Old Testament. In fundamental ways, the georgic is at odds with the pastoral. According to the pastoral imagination, the natural world is idyllic, an Arcadian paradise, a gentle sylvan realm of beauty and peace. Georgic thought, by contrast, depicts nature as austere, cruel, and unforgiving, careless of human needs and desires. Originating with the Greek poet Hesiod (ca. 700 BC), the georgic tradition, wherein “the gods keep men’s food concealed,” is the ancient, pre-Christian equivalent of the Fall, which, among other misfortunes, brought a curse upon the land and condemned Adam and his progeny “in toil” to “eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken” (Gen. 3:17–19).13 For both the georgic and Judeo-Christian myths, labor was a curse, although essential if humanity were to survive; but such inescapable hardships also engendered the impetus to duty, forbearance, and piety. Farming occasioned a hard but virtuous life.

In the georgic worlds of Hesiod, Virgil, and Lytle, the weather is capricious, uncooperative, and often inclement. Nature, by turns, afflicts mankind with blistering heat and numbing cold, with violent storms and fierce droughts. Birds devour the seed before it has a chance to sprout; weeds strangle the crops; insects spoil the grain; epidemics kill the herds of sheep, goats, and cattle. Blight, pestilence, and famine lay waste to all that, through skill, intelligence, and fortitude, human hands have painstakingly built. “Countless troubles roam among men,” Hesiod mourns, “full of ills is the earth, and full the sea.”14 “So,” Virgil assents, “fate decrees that everything tumble into a worse state and slide swiftly backwards.”15 Notwithstanding the most assiduous human effort, nature remains intractable and order fragile, stealing always toward a chaos that men are powerless to reverse. Work, arduous, unremitting toil, alone keeps men from utter devastation, and even such vigilance does not ensure a beneficial outcome.

That awareness, Lytle conjectured, would be the demise of progressive, scientific agriculture. When the farmer “bought the various machines . . . he was told that he might regulate, or get ahead of, nature. He finds to his sorrow that he is still unable to control the elements. . . . Science can put the crops in, but it can’t bring them out of the ground. Hails may cut them down in June; winds may damage them; and a rainy season can let the grass take them. Droughts still may freeze and crack the soil.” The banks, mortgage companies, and corporations that seized the farmers’ lands when they defaulted on their loan payments were thus also bound to fail. What, after all, Lytle asked, did businessmen, eager to secure an immediate profit, know of agrarian life? Of what use were their statistical analyses and financial projections “before droughts, floods, the boll weevil, hails and rainy seasons?”16 Nature is, and will forever remain, superior to man.

Human beings, though, are not fully subject to the arbitrary dominance of nature. They have the means to offset their native deficiencies and have to learn to endure, however formidable, the uncertainties and misfortunes that beset them. Labor is their saving grace, enabling men to convert the wilderness into the fields and pastures from which to draw sustenance and into the households and communities from which civilization arose and grew. “Labor omnia vicit,” wrote Virgil. “Labor has conquered all things.”17 Cultivated landscapes rather than pristine wilds constitute the georgic ideal of beauty. But as with any human accomplishment, the mastery of nature is temporary, contingent, and incomplete. Work done today must always be repeated tomorrow. Yet, for Lytle, as for Hesiod and especially for Virgil, farming is a heroic activity and the farm the mainstay of civil society.18 There is no Golden Age, no Garden of Eden, no land of milk and honey, in which delights of the senses are free for the taking and men live in timeless, unhurried innocence. Since Pandora released evil into the world (Works and Days), since Jupiter vanquished Saturn and established a new order (Georgics), since the Fall, men have had to work, and never cease working, for their keep. Remarkably, despite these constraints upon their lives, they have often found pleasure, and even joy, in their exertions. Therein lay the peculiar worth and importance of farmers. Uncommonly prudent, frugal, discerning, vigilant, conservative, and wise, farmers accept their burdens and setbacks with an imperturbable composure, making the most of what God and their own labor have furnished them. Better than most they know the inconstancy of nature, and so respect its power to negate months, even years, of toil in a single moment. As men of pious humility, farmers, at the same time, rejoice in the bounty of nature if, as Lytle ruefully observes, nature happens to be generous for a season.

As men have increasingly lost sight of themselves and grown forgetful of their nature, the historic patience, modesty, and restraint of those who labor in the earth becomes as vital to nourishing the spirit as the crops they harvest are to feeding the body. Achieving only a provisional ascendancy over nature, farmers understand that all efforts to conquer and subdue it and to bend it to their will, all promises of utopia, end by revealing human impotence and folly. In their recurrent struggles with nature, farmers attain their dignity. Conscious that they are protagonists in the vast, transcendent drama of creation, death, and rebirth, farmers never lose faith in God, for, as Lytle notes, they encounter “constantly and immediately . . . a mysterious and powerful presence, which [they] may use but which [they] may never reduce entirely to [their] will and desires.”19 Farmers thereby also develop a sense of tragedy. They understand from hard experience how often men “eat their meat in sorrow” and how effortlessly they could “lose . . . all that is dear.” The world, as Lytle put it, is “not all teatty,” and nature sets the terms of the engagement. If men dare to tread beyond the confines that nature has imposed, if they violate their covenant with God, even “an agrarian . . . will be lost.”20 Among those who have endured this sorrowful destiny, Cain is the archetype.

Recounting the myth of the Fall, Lytle speculates that Adam, after his eviction, cherished the memory of the Garden. He and Eve were wayfarers now, bound to wander throughout creation without a home. Yet Adam’s recollections fortified and sustained him, and he began to clear and cultivate the earth, intent to emulate God and, as much as possible, to restore Eden. God at once apprehended Adam’s designs. “To make a crop and not to mind too much the sweat and work,” Lytle comments, “was not exactly carrying out the curse.”21 Jealous and angry, God elected to punish Adam a second time, and so visited the sins of the father upon the sons.

Like Adam, Cain was a farmer, while his younger brother, Abel, became a shepherd. In His resentment of, and outrage at, Adam’s act of defiance, God set brother against brother in what Lytle described as “mindless competition.”22 God had made man in His image and had endowed him with imagination, language, and power over the rest of creation. But man’s was a delegated power, and this limitation Adam had ignored, either through unfortunate happenstance or willful disregard. By permitting Adam to name the beasts, God had given him the power of life and death over them. He and his descendants could legitimately kill animals should the need arise to do so. God had not given it to Adam to name the flora, nor had Cain named his brother.23

Well on their way to regenerating a portion of the world they had lost, Cain and Abel made separate offerings of thanksgiving. God welcomed Abel’s tribute but rejected the sacrifice of Cain, for, according to Lytle, Cain had sought not to glorify Him but to overshadow his brother and to celebrate the fruit that, by his own labor, he had brought forth from the ground. Exalting himself beyond his proper station, Cain repeated the arrogant sin of his parents who thought they could live as the gods. Disheartened and insulted at God’s disapproval, he lured his brother into the fields, and there he killed him.24

The very ground that Cain had tilled with such diligence and care now cursed his name. Exiled from his farmland, Cain became a fugitive, condemned like his parents to roam without solace or rest. Cain feared that God, in banishing him from His presence, had also subjected him to violence. “My punishment is greater than I can bear,” Cain objected. “Whoever finds me will slay me” (Gen. 4:13–14). Touched by Cain’s anguished plight, God showed mercy, fixing a protective mark upon him. Cain survived and went to dwell east of Eden in the land of Nod, where his offspring instituted culture in the form of the arts and crafts, in ancillary imitation of God. Cain’s issue peopled the earth, and, Lytle concludes, “life . . . therefore took its design from Cain.”25 The abiding curse that he bore meant that the ground, which he had drenched in Abel’s blood, would yield its abundant gifts only with reluctance, and at times would deprive men of their use. Such is the lot of the farmer, who knows better than other men the consequence of arrogating to himself infinite power, which by right belongs only to God.

Those who live in traditional societies have accepted the curse, recognizing that in a fallen world life is predicated on death. Whether man or beast, all have to eat to survive, and to eat means to kill. The devout and God-fearing have, however, ennobled, and even sanctified, this unpalatable necessity in ceremony and ritual, which teaches a common respect for nature and its endowment. The American Indians, for example, that “most religious and conservative of peoples,” engaged in no indiscriminate slaughter. Refraining from even an inconsequential offense against nature, they first apologized to, and then sought the consent of, their prey before they killed it. Europeans taught the Indians to “make war on nature.”26 The agrarian life, in Lytle’s judgment, instills this same moderation, restraint, and discipline. Properly speaking, Lytle did not advance an ideal of civilization, since his protagonists, the independent yeoman farmers, do not live in cities. His was, rather, an ideal of piety toward man, nature, and God. He saw the limited application of reason, science, and technology as an admissible kind of progress, for he did not wish humanity to live forever mired in primitive superstition and fear. The use of reason, science, and technology to clarify the implacable is perilous if men go too far, as they always do, and resume their obsession with living as the gods.

* * *

Lytle’s Agrarianism was no pastoral reverie but a lucid and eloquent restatement of the georgic tradition that linked the moral value of farming to virtuous citizenship and moral order. Bound to the soil and exposed to the importunities of nature, farmers shun radical nostrums in favor of the tried and true. Theirs is, after all, a momentous and solemn responsibility: to care for the land and to husband the resources on which all life depends. The moderation, self-reliance, freedom, and independence that they personify—qualities nurtured in the seasonal round of planting and harvesting—also anchor republican government. When, for whatever reason, small freeholders are dispossessed of their land, as happened in the United States during the 1930s or in Rome during Virgil’s time, discord and chaos follow. The people are hungry and wretched, the countryside neglected and unkempt. The economy languishes; the state falters. Without the citadel of the small farm and the farmers’ staunch ethic of commitment, fidelity, temperance, and restraint, the commonwealth, defiled by greed and luxury, rent by foreign wars and civil strife, falls into anarchy, as Virgil beheld in the decline of Rome:

Here the good and evil have changed places: so many wars in the world, so many forms of wickedness, no honor for the plow, farmers conscripted, the mournful fields untilled, and curved pruning hooks are beaten into unbending swords.27

As Virgil had identified the political and moral disintegration of the Roman republic with the neglect of agriculture, so Lytle ascribed the disarray into which the United States had fallen to the abandonment of the small farm, the agrarian way of life, and the farmers’ tragic awareness of the limits that nature had imposed on human will and desire. ♦


Mark G. Malvasi is Isaac Newton Vaughan Professor of History at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia. His new book, The Finder and Other Poems, will be published later this year.

1      Louis D. Rubin Jr., introduction to Harper’s Torchbook edition of I’ll Take My Stand (1962), reprinted in I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1977), xxviii, xxxi. In the introduction he wrote for the 1977 edition of I’ll Take My Stand, Rubin qualified his argument in two important ways while retaining the essentials of his original conclusion. First, he pointed out that not every contributor was aware of “the metaphoric element.” Some, such as Donald Davidson, Frank Owsley, Herman C. Nixon, and Robert Penn Warren, envisioned the Agrarian program “as a literal and practical program, a specific course of action” (xvi). Second, Rubin noted that although “stressing the ‘metaphoric’ element . . . helped to prevent the anachronistic application of the racial attitudes of the 1960s to the unexamined assumptions of the 1920s, it also had the unfortunate effect of failing to give proper emphasis to the striking ‘practicality’ of another aspect of the Agrarian symposium”: the critique of the dangers that industrialism and capitalism posed to the spiritual welfare of modern man (xvii–xviii).

2      Thomas Lawrence Connelly, “The Vanderbilt Agrarians: Time and Place in Southern Tradition,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly 32, no. 1 (March 1963): 27, 31, 33.

3      Richard H. King, A Southern Renaissance: The Cultural Awakening of the American South, 1930–1955 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), see especially, 51–53.

4      Alexander Karanikas, Tillers of Myth: Southern Agrarians as Social and Literary Critics (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1966). For a critique of Karanikas’s thesis, see Edward S. Shapiro’s review in Southern Humanities Review 1 (1967): 199–202.

5      Andrew Nelson Lytle, From Eden to Babylon: The Social and Political Essays of Andrew Nelson Lytle, ed. M. E. Bradford (Washington, DC: Regnery Gateway, 1990), 240–41.

6      Ibid., 224.

7      Rubin, introduction to I’ll Take My Stand, xv; Mark Lucas, The Southern Vision of Andrew Lytle, (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1986), 16. See also Emily S. Bingham and Thomas A. Underwood, eds., The Southern Agrarians and the New Deal: Essays after I’ll Take My Stand (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2001), 7, 8, 19. The classic study of the pastoral tradition in American literature is Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964). On the differences between the georgic and the pastoral, and on the development of the georgic mode in seventeenth-century English literature, see Anthony Low, The Georgic Revolution (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985).

8      Connelly, “The Vanderbilt Agrarians,” 28. See also Robert B. Heilman, “The South Falls In,” in Allen Tate, ed., A Southern Vanguard (New York: Prentice-Hall, 1947), 122–35.

9      Lytle, From Eden to Babylon, 3.

10     Andrew Lytle, Southerners and Europeans: Essays in a Time of Disorder (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1988), 63.

11     Lytle, From Eden to Babylon, 185.

12     Lytle, Southerners and Europeans, 8, 15.

13     Hesiod, Works and Days, trans. by M. L. West (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 38.

14     Ibid., 40.

15     Virgil, Georgics, bk. 1, lines 199–200, trans. by Janet Lembke (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005), 9.

16     Lytle, From Eden to Babylon, 29, 32.

17     The Latin text is from H. Ruston Fairclough, ed., Virgil, 2 vols., Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1953), bk. 1, lines 145–46.

18     The Georgics contain numerous puns on the word cultus, meaning “tilled,” “cultivated,” and “civilized.” See Low, Georgic Revolution, 8–9.

19     Lytle, From Eden to Babylon, 42.

20     Ibid., 187–88, 31.

21     Ibid., 212. See also, 174–75.

22     Ibid., 211.

23     Ibid., 172–73.

24     Ibid., 198. Unlike Lytle, Genesis gives no reason for God’s acknowledgment of Abel’s and refusal of Cain’s offerings. As in Genesis, Virgil had also introduced into the Georgics primordial crimes that forever altered the human condition: Laomedon’s “false promise to the gods [Apollo and Poseidon] at Troy” (bk. 1, lines 501–4) and “an ungodly people” devouring the “slaughtered steers” (bk. 2, lines 536–38).

25     Ibid., 214.

26     Ibid., 176.

27     Virgil, Georgics, bk. 1, lines 505–8, p. 19.