Virgil's Georgics, ostensibly a guide to agriculture, and the most finished of Virgil's productions- indeed of all Latin literature - was written between 37 and 29 BC as the last phase of civil wars left Octavian in sole command of the Roman world. Social unrest, what happens when men do not work sensibly together for some common good, forms the backdrop to the Georgics, which is divided into four Books. The first opens with an invocation to the Muses, cites Maecenus and Octavian, deals with the growing of crops and weather lore, and ends with an extended prayer to Octavian. The second considers the cultivation of trees, especially the grape and olive, and contains a loving description of the Italian countryside. The third covers the rearing of animals, especially cattle, horses and sheep, and ends with the dreadful Noricum plague. The fourth is more mixed: it opens with a mock heroic description of bees and bee-keeping, moves into the epic style with the tale of Aristaeus and thence into the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. The ending has a short tribute to Octavian and a quote from Virgil's previous work, the Eclogues.
Called by Dryden the best poem of Rome's best poet, the Georgics combines agricultural instruction, political reflection, country lore, mythology and allegory. Its appeal, at the time and ever since, has been its poetry, that unique fusion of beauty and expressiveness. Virgil's style exhibits an extraordinary ear for texture, felicity of phrasing, movement, imagery, and metrical subtlety and combines these with great literary tact. 'The Georgics', said Addison, 'is some part of the science of husbandry put into pleasing dress, and set off with all the beauties and embellishments of poetry: in short an opportunity for these beautiful descriptions and images which are the spirit of life and poetry.'
The free e-book in pdf format includes the Latin text, glossary, notes on the translation and references. Corrected and revised in January 2014.