The Georgics of Virgil Bilingual Edition

A translation by David Ferry

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

224 Pages


Request Desk Copy Request Exam Copy
John Dryden called Virgil's Georgics, written between 37 and 30 B.C., "the best poem by the best poet." Newly translated by the poet and translator David Ferry, the Georgics is one of the great songs, maybe the greatest we have, of human accomplishment in difficult—and beautiful—circumstances, and in the context of all we share in nature. The Georgics celebrates crops, trees, and animals—and, above all, the human beings who care for them. It takes the form of teaching about this care: the tilling of fields, the tending of vines, the raising of cattle and bees. There's joy in the detail of Virgil's descriptions of work well done, and ecstatic joy in his praise of the very life of things, and passionate commiseration too, because of the vulnerability of men and all other creatures to what they have to contend with: storms, and plagues, and wars, and all mischance.


Praise for The Georgics of Virgil

"This is the best poetry of Ancient Rome, rendered by the best translator of modern America."—Peter Campion, Poetry
"John Dryden, who translated the poem into heroic couplets, gave a judgment—'the best poem by the best poet'—that is often cited. Less often noted is the challenge implicit in it: who would be the best translator of the best poem by the best poet? . . . Ferry is well-known for his versions of the Gilgamesh epic and of Horace's Odes and Epistles. His style is a contemporary version of Wordsworth and Frost, with a diction that does not wander into too high or too low a register. Accessible, sparing in its use of metaphor, it favors the delicate understatement, the quiet climax . . . Here is a translator who trusts his poet: a good many passages can be considered the most literal rendition into natural English that makes metrical sense . . . This translation responds to Dryden's challenge on its own terms. For the reader who wants the full effect, the Latin waits temptingly on the facing page; but for a living, lucid, readable rendition into English, Ferry's translation will do in a heartbeat."—Philip Thibodeau, Harvard Review   
"Ferry's translation of the enchanting Georgics is for poetry lovers like a drink of water from a country spring on a summer day. It's refreshing, invigorating, and almost intoxicating in the pleasure of discovery it offers. Where has Virgil's great work been all this time? Shoved aside in the canon of poetry as the study of Latin (and Greek) is taken up by fewer and fewer hands. And the Georgics were never the first of Virgil's poetry to be introduced to students of Latin. That place of honor was reserved for the Aeneid, Virgil's epic of the founding of Rome . . . The Georgics, [a poem of] four books written just before the Aeneid in about 30 B.C., are in the same hexameter, but rather than the long, stately pull you hear and feel from that great epic, [this poem's] verse is quick and precise, and may be understood more easily by modern ears . . . [This work might] well, in its vividness, in its exactitude, be [David Ferry's] most winning and impressive translation yet . . . In his illuminating introduction, [Ferry] points out the many echoes of the Georgics in English and American poetry—in Milton's Lycidas and Paradise Lost, in Spenser, in Shakespeare's songs, in James Thomson, in Keats, and especially in the works of Wordsworth, Frost, and William Carlos Williams . . . The Georgics are Virgil's tale of the fall of man from perpetual ease, from a time when wine flowed in the streams to the sweaty and painful reality of hard work. Its title, from the Greek, roughly means "the working of the earth," akin to Hesiod's Works and Days . . . To step into Virgil's work is like opening a door that gives way to a landscape that looks familiar in all its particulars—grass, trees, goats, streams, bees, clouds, hills—but is fundamentally different. No struggle between man and God, no singular fault of man and woman has made it this way; it just is . . . From time to time, Virgil [herein] retells one of the mythic tales. His account here of how Orpheus lost Eurydice forever in the underworld, when he disobeyed instructions and looked back to watch her following him, is one of the most affectingly beautiful versions ever written . . . The Georgics [primarily concern] the natural world and the daily life of man and the other creatures in it. Virgil's attitude toward his subjects is one of acceptance and joy . . . To glorify, to sing of things just as they are, was Virgil's great task in the Georgics. Ferry's task has been to present to the modern English reader Virgil's great and affecting [work] in all its grandeur and simplicity."—Anthony Day, Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Ravishing . . . [Ferry exploits] to perfection the resources of sound and rhythm . . . Always euphonious, often singable, and sometimes magnificent—truly worthy of the best poet's best poem."—William Mullen, The New York Sun

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

David Ferry is the translator of Gilgamesh (1992), The Odes of Horace (1998), The Eclogues of Virgil (1999), and The Epistles of Horace (2001), winner of the Landon Translation Prize--all published by FSG.
Read the full excerpt


  • A translation by David Ferry

  • David Ferry, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry for his translation of Gilgamesh, is a poet and translator who has also won the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, given by the Academy of American Poets, and the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, given by the Library of Congress. In 2001, he received an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 2002 he won the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award. He is the winner of the 2011 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. Ferry is the Sophie Chantal Hart Professor of English Emeritus at Wellesley College.