Monday, February 27, 2012


Particularly Intelligible Now

T.S. Eliot, "Virgil and the Christian World," On Poetry and Poets (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1957), pp. 121-131 (at 125-126):
The fact that every major poetic form employed by Virgil has some precedent in Greek verse, must not be allowed to obscure the originality with which he recreated every form he used. There is I think no precedent for the spirit of the Georgics, and the attitude towards the soil, and the labour of the soil, which is there expressed, is something that we ought to find particularly intelligible now, when urban agglomeration, the flight from the land, the pillage of the earth and the squandering of natural resources are beginning to attract attention. It was the Greeks who taught us the dignity of leisure; it is from them that we inherit the perception that the highest life is the life of contemplation. But this respect for leisure, with the Greeks, was accompanied by a contempt for the banausic occupations. Virgil perceived that agriculture is fundamental to civilization, and he affirmed the dignity of manual labour.
Isaak Levitan, Evening in the Field

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