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he regarded as necessary to the conduct of life in an agricultural community. But after prose writing had come to be studied, didactic poetry of this kind was no longer possible. It might linger on among the uneducated: but among the cultivators of composition as an art, those who wished really to instruct were sure to write in prose. Theophrastus took the place of Hesiod by the same law which gave the chair of Xenophanes and Empedocles to Plato and Aristotle. The Hesiodic form however remained after its spirit had passed elsewhere. The union of practical teaching with the charms of versification continued to be attempted by writers who forgot to ask themselves under what circumstances that union had first been realized. It was easy to produce something more systematic than the Works and Days, while the discovery of images appropriate to rural life, yet not unsuited to the dignity of the Muse, furnished a sufficient employment to the poet's fancy. The poetical grammarians of Alexandria were naturally attracted to a species of composition which, though perhaps incompatible with a spirit of profound criticism, has peculiar points of affinity to the temper of a critical age: and the Alexandrianizing poets of Rome were not unwilling to follow the example, The Phaenomena of Aratus found at least two distinguished translators : Lucretius and Manilius gave the form and colour of poetry to the truths of science, Virgil and Horace to the rules of art; and the rear is brought up by such poets as Gratius, Nemesianus, and Serenus Sammonicus. In the so-called Augustan age of English literature the same causes were seen to produce the same effects. We had Essays on Satire, Essays on Unnatural Flights in Poetry, Essays on Translated Verse, Essays on Criticism, Essays on Man: Arts of Preserving Health, Arts of Dancing, and even Arts of Cookery : the Chase, and the Fleece, and the Sugar-cane. Some of these the world has forgotten: others are still read with pleasure, not however for the precepts contained in them, but for the terse language and polished verse in which those precepts are enforced. But whatever may be their beauties, the Hesiodic spirit is absent from one and all alike. If we are resolved to track it to its lurking-places in English poetry, we must ascend to times more nearly resembling Hesiod's own, when old Tusser could write, not for critics, but for farmers, and the Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry were received as respectable poetry because they were known to be good sense.
Colonel Mure rightly remarks that the Works and Days might be more correctly described as a Letter of Remonstrance and Advice to a Brother. It is round the grasping, lazy, improvident Perses, péya rýmie Népon, as his brother calls him more than once, that the whole poem gathers itself, parts of it, it is true, being connected with him somewhat
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loosely, but never absolutely detaching themselves from him. Hesiod invokes the Muses, but it is that they may tell him of Zeus, and induce the great Father to see that human justice is rightly awarded, while he himself speaks to Perses the words of truth. Perses is no Maecenas, who, though he may have suggested the subject of the song, is addressed in it merely as a sort of ideal reader; he is a wrong-doer in whose mind a change has to be wrought, for his own sake and for the sake of others, and legend, fable, and precept are employed by turns to bring him to a sense of past misconduct and present duty. The subject is introduced, as it were, by a fresh leaf out of the Theogony, in which, however, the mythological element is subordinated to the moral, a description of two goddesses of strife, whom we may distinguish in modern language as Discord and Emulation, the first the source of war and misery, the second of honourable endeavour. But the moral is for Perses, who is warned not to waste time which a busy man can ill spare on the false strife, forensic wrangling, but to have the question of his own and his brother's inheritance settled by impartial arbiters, not, as at the last trial of the suit, by judges whom he had bribed. For him, too, is told the legend of Prometheus and Zeus, showing how Pandora first brought evil among mankind, who had lived till then untroubled by hard toil and grievous sickness, and concluding thence that there is no way of escape from the eye of Zeus. That tale being over, Perses is asked if he will hear another, and bidden to lay it up deep in his heart. Then follows the narrative of the five ages, in the last of which men are now living--an evil time, when father shall be at variance with child, guest with host, friend with friend, and brother with brother; when justice and conscience shall not be found in the hands of men, but the base shall supplant the more noble, speaking crooked words, and shall swear a false oath. One more tale is told, a very brief
addressed to kings and judges of the earth. It consists simply of a reply by a hawk to a nightingale struggling in his talons, and appealing for mercy, a reply which amounts to no more than that she is absolutely at his disposal and had better not resist; the intention doubtless being to put the case of oppression in all its naked repulsiveness, that human perverters of justice may understand and pause in their wrongful course. Passing from fable to a more direct mode of appeal, he again exhorts both Perses and the judges. The former is bidden to “look on this picture and on this ;" on the flourishing city of the just, where there are peace
and festal doings, where the oak carries acorns at its top and honey at its core, where the children resemble their parents, and none go on shipboard, for earth produces fruit enough, and on the unjust nation, which is ever wasted by famine and pestilence, ever cursed with barrenness in its homes, ever feeling the hand of Zeus in the loss of its
broad armies, of its walls or of its ships at sea. The latter are told that there are thirty thousand heavenly watchers over the affairs of men, who walk abroad over the earth, clad in mist, to see the right and wrong
that are done, and that Justice when outraged by human crime sits down by her father Zeus, and talks to him of the perverse heart of man, that a people may suffer for the unrighteousness of its kings. And now he quits justice, and dilates with equal emphasis and at still greater length on the second part of his thesis, the duty of work. The two are indeed closely connected, as the opposition is between living on others and living by a man's own exertion. The easy path of vice is contrasted, in lines that have become famous, with the up-hill path of virtue, steep and rugged at first, but smooth when the ascent has once been mastered. “Work then, Perses, like a man of gentle blood as thou art, that famine may hate thee as its foe, and august Demeter of the bright crown may love thee and fill thy granary with sustenance.” One terse proverbial saying follows another, to illustrate the broad distinction between the working and the unworking life: “Shame is found with poverty, bold
: ness with wealth: gain from the hand of rapine is not good, gain from heaven's band is far better :” while other maxims of virtue and prudence are intermixed, against violations of social and family ties, on neighbours, on gifts, on spending and saving, on women and children, ending with the assurance that if Perses' heart is set on wealth, he must work work
upon work. From this point the precepts assume a more definite and businesslike character in reference to agricultural life. The rising of the Pleiades is the signal for reaping, their setting for ploughing. A man should strip to sow, strip to plough, strip to reap, if he would have everything come up in its season, and not go begging to his neighbours. “It was thus that thou camest to me even now: but I will give thee nought; work, foolish Perses, work the work that the gods have assigned to men, that thou mayest not have to ask from others in vain : twice or thrice thou mayest obtain : but if thou troublest them further, thou wilt gain nought, and lose many words.” A house, a female slave, an ox, and household stuff are what a man should provide for himself, and that without delay, for delay fills no granaries. The rainy season of autumn is the time when wood is cut best: it is then that the various parts of the plough should be shaped, each from its proper tree. Two oxen nine years old should be chosen for yoking together, and the ploughman should not be under forty years : a younger man is always flying off to his companions. The cry of the crane is the signal for ploughing : before that everything should be in readiness. “It is easy to say, Lend me your oxen and your plough : and it is as easy to reply, My oxen have their own work to do.” Slave and master alike should put to their hand, the master guiding the plough, not without prayers to Zeus
and Demeter, while the slave a little behind gives trouble to the birds by covering the seed well up. The winter is the time for social meetings: but such things are not for idle waiters on fortune. While it is yet summer, a man should warn his slaves, “Summer does not last for ever : make barns for the corn.” But all should avoid the wintry sleet that pierces even the fur of shaggy beasts, the hide of the ox, and the hair of the goat, but cannot reach the sheep through its thick wool, nor penetrate the tender skin of the maiden that sits at home with her mother, or lies warm in bed, well bathed and anointed. Then is the time to go warm clad and thick shod, finish work early, and get home before the storm. At the rising of Arcturus the vines are to be pruned before the swallow appears; but when House-carrier (the snail) leaves the earth and mounts the trees, then the sickle should be sharpened and the slaves called early. “Morning cuts off a third of the day's work : morning makes way in travelling, and makes way in workingmorning, whose dawn sets many a man on his road, and puts the yoke on many an ox.” But when the thistle is in blossom, and the cicala pours its midsummer song from the trees, weary man must look for enjoyment-for a rock to shelter him, milk and wine to drink, and beef and kid's flesh to eat. As soon as Orion rises, the corn should be winnowed : that done, the slave should be turned out, and a spinster without a child fetched in, and the watch-dog fastened up for fear of thieves.
When Orion and Sirius are in mid-heaven, let the grapes be gathered : when the Pleiades and Hyades and Orion set, it is time to think of ploughing again. But it is a bad time for having a ship at sea, if Perses should think of sailing, as well he may, seeing that his father and Hesiod's sailed from Cyme to Ascra, a bad dwelling-place either in winter or summer, all that he might fly from poverty. For himself, Hesiod owns that he has had no great experience in ships : he has had a single voyage from Aulis to Euboea, when he went to Chalcis and won a tripod with ears there as a singing-prize : still, the Muses have inspired him, and he will give directions about this also. The best season for sailing is at the end of summer, but the mariner must hasten back and avoid the autumn rains: the other time is in spring, when the leaves at the end of the spray have grown to the length of a crow's foot : he will not, however, recommend it, as there is danger, though men persist in braving it, and it is terrible to die at sea. From sailing he passes to marrying, and from marrying to many smaller moralities and decencies of life, his directions about which occupy more than fifty lines, the sum of the whole being a caution to avoid ill report. “Ill report is a light load to take up, but a heavy one to carry, and a hard one to shake off:
6 qepéoikos, one of a number of descriptive adjectives which Hesiod converts into substantives, like Aeschylus’ ή αμίαντος, η ανθεμουργός.
for no report dies altogether which has been reported of many people : for it has something of the god in it.” The last series of precepts is about the lucky and unlucky days of the month, which are enumerated with a fullness contrasting strangely with Virgil's brief notice of the subject. “Different men,” concludes the old bard, “praise different days, but few have any knowledge: sometimes a day is a stepmother, sometimes a mother: wherefore blessed and happy is he that has knowledge of all, and works his work unblamed by the immortals, distinguishing omens, and avoiding occasions to transgress."
I have thought it worth to give this sketch of Hesiod's poem, endeavouring to preserve something of its colour as well as its form, that it may be seen how far removed it stands in its rude simplicity from the
pomp and circumstance of later didactic poetry, and how little Virgil understood of his author's genius or his own when he spoke of himself as singing the song of Ascra through the towns of Rome. The Iliad and Odyssey, if modern criticism will allow us to enjoy them in their integrity, might easily be shown to possess most of those requisites which the writer of the Aeneid and the grammarians whom he not improbably followed doubtless considered the invariable elements of an epic poem : but even though the Works and Days should be judged to have successfully resisted the solvent power of German analysis, its relation as a whole to the Georgics must still be regarded as one of contrast rather than of similarity. But where a poet avows himself an imitator, traces of imitation are not likely to be wanting in his work : and though Virgil has not followed Hesiod as closely or as constantly as he has followed Theocritus or Homer, the instances of resemblance between them in points of detail are neither few nor equivocal. Even the pervading philosophy, if so it may be called, of the Works and Days, the philosophy of labour, reappears, with no perceptible loss of reality, as the animating soul of the Georgics, though the plain directness with which it is enforced in the one affords a significant contrast to the artful dexterity with which it is insinuated in the other. The picture of the Five Ages doubtless suggested Virgil's lines on the transition from the reign of Saturn to the reign of Jove, which in their turn supplied some hints to Ovid when he set himself to reproduce the Hesiodic narrative at the opening of his Metamorphoses. The story of Prometheus has no counterpart in Virgil, except so far as it may have taught him that an episode may furnish an agreeable relief in didactic poetry, and so have given rise to the narratives which conclude his third and fourth books; but the moral of the story, the duty of submitting to a dispensation in which those who would live must labour, is identical with the lesson which he draws from his briefer view of the legendary antiquities of his subject. The description of the plough is from Hesiod, though the later poet, in