The Old Man of Corycus

  The Old Man of Corycus


Virgil wrote the following piece over 2000 years ago but he displayed the same patronising attitude to the peasant gardener of his time as British TV gardening presenters do to contemporary cottage gardeners.

(Virgil wrote in Latin. I am not sure whose translation this is but am grateful to the University of Pennsylvania for making it available.).

An old man once I mind me to have seen-

From Corycus he came- to whom had fallen

Some few poor acres of neglected land,

And they nor fruitful' neath the plodding steer,

Meet for the grazing herd, nor good for vines.

Yet he, the while his meagre garden-herbs

Among the thorns he planted, and all round

White lilies, vervains, and lean poppy set,

In pride of spirit matched the wealth of kings,

And home returning not till night was late,

With unbought plenty heaped his board on high.

He was the first to cull the rose in spring,

He the ripe fruits in autumn; and ere yet

Winter had ceased in sullen ire to rive

The rocks with frost, and with her icy bit

Curb in the running waters, there was he

Plucking the rathe faint hyacinth, while he chid Summer's slow footsteps and the lagging West.

Therefore he too with earliest brooding bees

And their full swarms o'erflowed, and first was he

To press the bubbling honey from the comb;

Lime-trees were his, and many a branching pine;

And all the fruits wherewith in early bloom

The orchard-tree had clothed her, in full tale

Hung there, by mellowing autumn perfected.

He too transplanted tall-grown elms a-row,

Time-toughened pear, thorns bursting with the plum

And plane now yielding serviceable shade

For dry lips to drink under: but these things,

Shut off by rigorous limits, I pass by,

And leave for others to sing after me.