God and the Land: The Metaphysics of Farming in Hesiod and Vergil

By Stephanie A. Nelson; David Grene et al. | Go to book overview

TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: HESIOD'S WORKS AND DAYS

I had wanted for a long time to do a translation of the Works and Days but had been deterred by some of the special features of the poem that make for difficulties in translating it. When Stephanie Nelson asked me to do a poetic version, so that, at least on the Greek side of her book on the Works and Days and Vergil's Georgics, the reader might have between the covers an English translation to refer to, the temptation proved too much for my misgivings. This was especially true because the manuscript of the book, which I knew well, seemed to present the Hesiodic poem in much the same fashion as I saw it. I thought that the translation might give some further illumination to the argument of the book and the book to the translation.

All the same, let me lay before the reader, especially the Greekless reader, some of the difficulties, as I see them, of making an English translation of Hesiod's Works and Days.Some of the trouble comes from the likeness to Homer and the remarkable difference. Both Homer and Hesiod wrote highly stylized poems, in a literary language--a version of Ionic--which was almost certainly never spoken. It is designed for literature, and especially for the hexameter line. After Homer and Hesiod it was used by the pre-Socratic philosophers and by Herodotus--in prose. The translation must take account of this formalized style. Again, the later Greeks, from the fifth century on, put Hesiod and Homer together as the beginners of their Greek culture, jointly, and they comment much less on the differences between the two. Aristophanes in the Frogs declares that both of them gave the Greeks much of their technical knowledge--Homer of how to train men of war, Hesiod of how to farm (1130 ff.). This certainly looks rather like some sort of comic absurdity. Perhaps both authors do contribute "useful" technical information, but it is very far-fetched to claim that drill and formations in war are really even much a byproduct of Homer as seen in the fifth century. I believe also that the ostensible didacticism of Hesiod in teaching his brother

-5-

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God and the Land: The Metaphysics of Farming in Hesiod and Vergil
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface: Man, God, Nature--And Farming v
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Contents xv
  • Abbreviations xvii
  • Translator's Note: Hesiod's Works and Days 5
  • Hesiod's Works and Days 9
  • Introduction: Hesiod, Poet and Farmer 31
  • 1 - The Composition of Hesiod's Poems 41
  • 2 - The Mythic Background 59
  • 3 - The Composition of the Georgics: Vergil's Farm 82
  • 4 - God 98
  • 5 - The Human Context 125
  • 6 - The Place of Nature 152
  • Notes 171
  • Bibliography 231
  • Index 247
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