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Virgil: The War-god pitiless moves wrathful through the world


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Virgil: On war and on peace


From Georgic I
Translated by Theodore Chickering Williams

So many wars
Vex the whole world, so many monstrous shapes
Of wickedness appear; no honor due
Is given the sacred plough; our fields and farms,
Their masters taken, rankly lie untilled;
Our pruning-hooks are beaten in hot flames
To tempered swords. Euphrates yonder stirs,
There wild Germania, to impious war;
Close-neighbored cities their firm leagues forswear
And rush to arms. The War-god pitiless
Moves wrathful through the world.
With not less rage Swift chariot-horses through the circus bound
With ever-quickening pace; the driver pale
Is vanquished by his team and waves on high
His helpless reins; no curb the chariot heeds.


From Georgic II

Blest was that man whose vision could explore
The world’s prime causes, conquering for man
His horde of fears, his certain doom of death
Inexorable, and the menace loud
Of hungry Acheron! Yet happy he
Who knows a shepherd’s gods, protecting Pan,
Sylvan of hoary head, and sisterhoods
Of nymphs in wave and tree. He lives unmoved
By public honors or the purple pall
Of kingly power, or impious strife that stirs
‘Twixt brothers breaking faith, or barbarous host
Of Dacian raiders from the rebel shores
Of Danube, or by Rome’s imperial care
And kingdoms doomed to die; he need not weep
For pity of the poor, nor lustful-eyed
View great possessions. He plucks mellow fruit
From his own orchard trees and gathers in
The proffered harvest of obedient fields.
Of ruthless laws, the forum’s frenzied will,
Of public scrolls of deed and archive sealed,
He nothing knows. Let strangers to such peace
Trouble with oars the boundless seas or fly
To wars, and plunder palaces of kings;
Make desolate whole cities, casting down
Their harmless gods and altars, that one’s wine
May from carved rubies gush, and slumbering head
On Tyrian pillow lie. A man here hoards
His riches, dreaming of his buried gold;
Another on the rostrum’s flattered pride
Stares awe-struck. Him th’ applause of multitudes,.
People and senators, when echoed shouts
Ring through the house approving, quite enslaves.
With civil slaughter and fraternal blood
One day such reek exultant, on the next
Lose evermore the long-loved hearth and home.

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