Discover more from Joel Bowman ~ Notes from the End of the World
A Roman Thanksgiving
Virgil's Georgics: Love and loss, life and death, man and nature...
Perhaps even these things, one day, will be pleasing to remember.
With the holidays nigh upon us, we count the tasks outstanding against the year’s twilight hours and discover, without surprise, that the former far outnumber the latter.
There are deadlines to meet... invitations to send... victuals to prepare... libations to sup... and of course, friends and family to gather near (such as geography and busy schedules permit).
No doubt you’ve plenty on your own plate, too. Allow us, therefore, to relieve one item from your brimming to-do list. Or at least, to offer up a humble suggestion, on behalf of one of our favorite poets...
Publius Vergilius Maro, known more commonly as Virgil, was born in 70 BC in what the Romans knew as Cisalpine Gaul, today’s northern, alpine Italy. Before he passed into the realm of the shades, just half a century later, Virgil had composed three of the most important poems in Latin literature: the Eclogues (or Bucolics), the Georgics, and of course the foundational epic, the Aeneid.
In this second work, which follows the tensions of the seasons and man’s struggle with, and eventual triumph over, the havoc and danger of the natural world, Virgil presents a masterpiece at turns didactic, elegiac, epic and even (as in the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice) epyllion. Loosely modeled on (the Greek poet) Hesiod’s famous Works and Days (composed around 700-650 BC), Virgil’s own poem muses on the classic, universal dichotomies of myth and reality, power and politics, cause and effect, heaven and earth, love and loss, life and death...
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Under a Tuscan Sun
Many modern moons ago, having once again taken to wandering the world as a homeless peripatetic, your flâneuring correspondent found himself holed up in the ancient township of Città di Cortona, in Tuscany.
The fortified hamlet sits atop a picturesque Italian hillside, which overlooks the same fertile plains as once viewed by the Etruscans... the Romans... perhaps even Virgil himself (who would have traveled south to Rome and onto the port city of Brundisium, modern day Brindisi, where he eventually gave up the ghost).
Perched on a fine little Juliette balcony, we lazed one afternoon under a late Tuscan sun, Sangiovese (literally: “blood of Jove”) within easy reach. Through the wrought iron we scanned the plains below, plowed through the ages by man and beast, tiny clumps and copses scattered between the fields, green and fallow. Virgil’s work lay open in our lap, Book I...
It is from the first book of the Georgics, in part a supplication to the Gods (as well as Augustus himself), that we recite our yearly Thanksgiving toast, remembering always those who went before us... as well as the halcyon days in Virgil’s birth country... and the longed-for future, when we will venture there once more...
A Thanksgiving toast, from Virgil’s Georgics, Book I
What makes a plenteous Harvest, when to turn
The fruitful Soil, and when to sowe the Corn;
The Care of Sheep, of Oxen, and of Kine;
And how to raise on Elms the teeming Vine:
The Birth and Genius of the frugal Bee,
I sing, Mecaenas, and I sing to thee.
Ye Deities! who Fields and Plains protect,
Who rule the Seasons, and the Year direct;
Bacchus and fost'ring Ceres, Pow'rs Divine,
Who gave us Corn for Mast, for Water Wine.
Ye Fawns, propitious to the Rural Swains,
Ye Nymphs that haunt the Mountains and the Plains,
Join in my Work, and to my Numbers bring
Your needful Succour, for your Gifts I sing.
(As translated by the English poet, John Dryden, 1631-1700)
P.S. Have you a favorite Thanksgiving oration? Leave it in the comments, below…
And finally today, some Holiday Housekeeping...
A brief note of gratitude to Fellow Flaneurs who wrote in to volunteer as advance readers for my own latest manuscript. Ernest Hemmingway used to famously advise: Write drunk; edit sober. And so, now that I’ve taken care of the first part...
No doubt there are plenty of flagrant flubs, virtual smears and fat finger moments in the ~80,000 words, so I am especially indebted to your keen, aquiline eyes. Truth be told, there was far more interest than I had anticipated. (Apologies in advance for those looking for goblins, graphics, car chases or paranormal teen bloodlust. Wrong book.)
Advanced readers can expect a PDF of the manuscript to land in their inboxes later today.
In other publishing news, this morning I submitted the (ahem... long overdue) files for the paperback version of my very first novel: Morris, Alive. Usually this takes a couple of days to clear proofing but the physical version should be ready in time for the holidays. I’ll let you know...
As you see, there’s plenty to keep us budding, independent authors busy, aside from actually writing the books themselves. If you’re looking for a way to support the starving artist community – short of purchasing a book, or two... – the next best thing is to like and share these weekly musings with the readers, writers and wanderers in your own life.
Were we to rely on the generosity of the gatekeepers in the legacy publishing business, we’d be on a Diogenes diet in no time flat. So it falls to you, the generous reading public, to pass the word along.
Happy Thanksgiving from your Modern Flâneur...