Welcome to Augustan Georgic, a blog about georgic poems and georgic topics in the long eighteenth century!
‘Georgic’ is a genre or mode of poetry based on Virgil’s Georgics. As with most genres, ‘georgic’ is difficult to define. Essentially, georgic poetry teaches its readers how to do something – usually, but not always, some kind of agricultural work such as bee-keeping, apple-growing, or sheep-shearing – or generally celebrates labour.
In Britain in the late seventeenth and early-to-mid-eighteenth centuries (the ‘Augustan’ period), georgic enjoyed a renaissance. Dryden published an influential translation of Virgil’s Georgics in 1697, and there followed imitations including John Philips’ Cyder (1708), William Somervile’s The Chace (1735), and Christopher Smart’s The Hop-Garden (1752), to name a few. Elements of georgic also crept into other kinds of poetry, from Milton’s Paradise Lost to Gray’s ‘Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard’, and georgic continued to influence the writing of Romantic poets like Wordsworth and Clare.
The aim of this blog is to share an appreciation of that brief and bizarre georgic renaissance. I’ll be posting about the georgic poems that don’t get read much today, about the georgic influence on better-known works, and about the political, scientific, economic, and artistic contexts in which these georgics grew. I’ll also be asking why Augustan georgic might be important today: how can these poems help us to think about our relation to the natural world?
Tess Somervell is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Leeds.
Header image: Francois Vivares, 1709–1780, A View of Hopping Mill, Ware, 1745, coloured engraving on moderately thick, slightly textured, cream, laid paper, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection