Virgil, Eclogue IV, The Messianic Eclogue

Hinc ubi iam firmata virum te fecerit aetas, cedet et ipse mari vector, nec nautica pinus mutabit merces; omnis feret omnia tellus. non rastros patietur humus, non vinea falcem; robustus quoque iam tauris iuga solvet arator; nec varios discet mentiri lana colores, ipse sed in pratis aries iam suave rubenti murice, iam croceo mutabit vellera luto; sponte sua sandyx pascentis vestiet agnos.


Next, when now the strength of the years has made thee man, even the trader shall quit the sea, nor shall the ship of pine exchange wares; every land shall bear all fruits. The earth shall not feel the harrow, nor the vine the pruning hook; the sturdy ploughman, too, shall now loose his oxen from the yoke. Wool shall no more learn to counterfeit varied hues, but of himself the ram in the meadows shall change his fleece, now to sweetly blushing purple, now to saffron yellow; of its own shall scarlet clothe the grazing lamb.


Virgil was a Roman poet (70-19 BC). Unlike the earlier writers who described the Golden Age as outside time, Virgil's Eclogue suggests that human progress might lead to a more affluent and leisured world in the foreseeable future. His fourth Eclogue, the Messianic Eclogue, is the clearest example of the shift from a timeless to a more historical view of a perfect world.

An eclogue is a 'pastoral' poem that idealises rural life. The term messianic suggests the promise of rescue or relief.

Taken from: Virgil Works
Author / Creator: Virgil (translated by Henry Rushton Fairclough)
Publisher: William Heinemann
Date: 1916
Copyright: By permission of the British Library Board
Shelfmark: 2282.d.35