Virgil’s Georgics with award-winning Poet David Ferry

Note: This program was broadcast on April 8th 2007 on WGBH.

Click here to read a review of the interview on PRX.

Noted Cambridge poet David Ferry has recently translated Virgil’s Georgics, and on ThoughtCast he joins Virgil scholar Richard Thomas, the chair of Harvard’s Classics Dept., for a detailed examination of this beautiful and insufficiently known poem. It is said to have taken Virgil 7 years to write, from about 36 to 29 B.C.


As such, The Georgics was written during a period of political instability and chronic civil war, and inevitably reflects Virgil’s dark, often pessimistic outlook on human nature. But at the same time, The Georgics (which means “agriculture” in Greek), is a celebration of nature and its ceaseless beauty. As Virgil describes the cycles of crops, the seasons, the weather — the birth, death and rebirth that mark the natural world — he provides us with a complex, realistic, painful but enduringly uplifting poem.
Click here: to listen (29 minutes).

Click here  to listen to a lecture by David Ferry on his Georgics translation at the Harvard Book Store.

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4 Responses to Virgil’s Georgics with award-winning Poet David Ferry

  1. Mark V. Basile October 30, 2010 at 7:24 pm #

    Thanks so much for reliable Cambridge citation on “realism” perhaps with a degree of hope intertwined in the essentially tyrannical period loosely which followed the Consulship of Cicero in 63 B.C. I am no classicist, but absent a real battle of Greece and Troy ca: 2000/1184 +/- B.C., the best known Vergil follows loosely in myth and the like the Homeric tale Illiad and Odyssey. I am interested in “realism,” and thanks so very much for your confirmation of this in the agricultural discussive and poetic.

    I have published/posted on and more recently under my full legal name as you have it on Sarah Palin’s A Time For Choosing the Italian derivations and lineages of our flag and namesake flowing from Amerigo Vespucci’s 6000 mile trip and his “New World” published in 1502/03. “On the hub of the half millenium ..” I begin. My douplet is America and Doveneck Jeannie. It is annotated poetry written essentially in the year 2000 to celebrate an essential half millenium in counterpose to the 1776 bicentenial. Problem is, as we read so unpleasantly in Seutonius, Democracy ended with the Ceasars, and Italian history, at least as a cohesive country became debased until perhaps the time of Garribaldi(sp?), Mazzini, Verdi and Victor Emmanuel. I also have a clip on Garibbaldi with a speech and some talk on art in A Time For Choosing. The Medicis were of utmost importance in Florence, but as regards a city-state, at that 1500 period, with Lorenzo the Great passing in 1492. My information is that the Vespuccis were placed sufficiently highly in Florence to be friends with the Medicis, though Amerigo himself retired and passed himself in Spain.

    I hope you have understood my interest, and I have been clear on the minute issue of “realism” during autocracy which led me to your site for verification of the nature of the Georgics and why it happened to interest me. You are welcome to contact me; again I am not a classicist but a modern essayist and playwright. As of yesterday, my written out resume was available under Google Search, Mark V. Basile, in an 11,000+ CHICAGO NOW publication. So you need not treat this comment absent my name. Very, very good site. And thanks not only to Cambridge but also to Harvard. MVB.

  2. Lisa May 17, 2010 at 4:02 pm #

    What is the recorded latin reading of the Georgics that is used at the beginning of the program? It occurs at the 1:00 minute mark. I would love to know if I can purchase it. Thank you.

  3. Shannon Wong Lerner April 28, 2010 at 12:06 am #

    Thank you for your informative program. I am using both classic and modern interpretations of Eurydice (Virgil and S. Ruhl) for an undergraduate performance theory/practice course. Your program peaked my interest to depart from my regular routine to the unknown terrain of Virgil. I plan to become a regular listener! Shannon Wong Lerner

  4. Kenyon Review Blog March 10, 2008 at 2:14 pm #

    In fact, as I learned from this excellent podcast interview with the poet David Ferry and the classicist Richard Thomas, the Georgics was probably not, even in its time, a functional manual. Farmers who could read Latin would sooner have resorted to manuals in prose. And, as Thomas notes, modern attempts at farming according to the Georgics have failed completely. When tried in the world, the poem’s testimony is not reliable.

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