Saturday, October 24, 2020


Vergil, Georgics 1.22

Walter Savage Landor, "Second Conversation" between Samuel Johnson and John Horne Tooke, Imaginary Conversations, Vol. III (London: J.M. Dent & Co., 1909), pp. 400-451 (at 427):
Johnson. Here, take the Georgics; I usually carry them about me.

Tooke. Has Ovid, has Lucan, has any other Latin poet, written such balderdash and bombast as the nineteen verses in the beginning, at the close of an invocation already much too prolix? Why all these additions to the modest prayer of Varro, which he has versified? Here let me suggest a new and a necessary reading just above these lines:—
"Quique novas alitis non ullo semine fruges."
It must be uno, to avoid nonsense,—which is always a benefit, even in poetry,—and so represent wheat, barley, oats, &c.; that is to say "not only one kind of grain." The lines of the letter n and the double l may have been much alike in manuscript, and may have easily misled transcribers. I will not dwell upon the verses after
"Tethys emat omnibus undis;"
but really those eight appear to me like an excrescence on the face of a beautiful boy.

Johnson. They are puerile, are they?—a blemish, a deformity!

Tooke. In honest truth I think so.
So far as I can tell, no editor of Vergil even mentions Landor's conjecture.

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