Writers Journey: Ancient Wisdom...

The Roman poet Virgil spent a great deal of time thinking about the life of a writer. In fact, his first major work spends many lines just dwelling on it. It is called The Eclogues and young Virgil wrote this daunting piece of work while looking for his patron in the arts. He rose to the eye of Augustus shortly afterward so the work has held some merit in the eyes of history. Questions of the writer’s life or the validity of art in the big picture are themes to be found all over The Eclogues which are set in a pastoral, idealistic setting in order to help overcome place and time and project the reader into a tranquil state for reflection. In Eclogue 3, two poets perform before a laboring farmer in the fields. Their names are Damoetas and Menalcas. They perform before the farmer named Palaemon. This farmer is busy irrigating his fields but he listens with some patience and attention to each poem recited by Damoetas and Menalcas. In the end, Palaemon can only admit that he likes both poems and then he wanders off to finish his tasks for the day because his fields are finally irrigated. Here, David R. Slavitt remarks in his discussion of Virgil, “Which doesn’t have an awful lot to do with art except to suggest that in the real world, it is difficult to get the attention of the public and almost impossible to hold on to it. The real world intrudes as represented by the farmer, who has practical concerns to deal with, is, at best, willing to listen but not much involved, and therefore – let us not kid ourselves – is not particularly knowledgeable either.” This insight dates to about the 1st...