Posted under Poetry
by Ovid (Roman poet 43 BC – AD 17/18)
The Golden Age
The golden age was first; when Man yet new,
No rule but uncorrupted reason knew:
And, with a native bent, did good pursue.
Unforc’d by punishment, un-aw’d by fear,
His words were simple, and his soul sincere;
Needless was written law, where none opprest:
The law of Man was written in his breast:
No suppliant crowds before the judge appear’d,
No court erected yet, nor cause was heard:
But all was safe, for conscience was their guard.
The mountain-trees in distant prospect please,
E’re yet the pine descended to the seas:
E’re sails were spread, new oceans to explore:
And happy mortals, unconcern’d for more,
Confin’d their wishes to their native shore.
No walls were yet; nor fence, nor mote, nor mound,
Nor drum was heard, nor trumpet’s angry sound:
Nor swords were forg’d; but void of care and crime,
The soft creation slept away their time.
The teeming Earth, yet guiltless of the plough,
And unprovok’d, did fruitful stores allow:
Content with food, which Nature freely bred,
On wildings and on strawberries they fed;
Cornels and bramble-berries gave the rest,
And falling acorns furnish’d out a feast.
The flow’rs unsown, in fields and meadows reign’d:
And Western winds immortal spring maintain’d.
In following years, the bearded corn ensu’d
From Earth unask’d, nor was that Earth renew’d.
From veins of vallies, milk and nectar broke;
And honey sweating through the pores of oak.
The Silver Age
But when good Saturn, banish’d from above,
Was driv’n to Hell, the world was under Jove.
Succeeding times a silver age behold,
Excelling brass, but more excell’d by gold.
Then summer, autumn, winter did appear:
And spring was but a season of the year.
The sun his annual course obliquely made,
Good days contracted, and enlarg’d the bad.
Then air with sultry heats began to glow;
The wings of winds were clogg’d with ice and snow;
And shivering mortals, into houses driv’n,
Sought shelter from th’ inclemency of Heav’n.
Those houses, then, were caves, or homely sheds;
With twining oziers fenc’d; and moss their beds.
Then ploughs, for seed, the fruitful furrows broke,
And oxen labour’d first beneath the yoke.
The Brazen Age
To this came next in course, the brazen age:
A warlike offspring, prompt to bloody rage,
Not impious yet…
The Iron Age
Hard steel succeeded then:
And stubborn as the metal, were the men.
Truth, modesty, and shame, the world forsook:
Fraud, avarice, and force, their places took.
Then sails were spread, to every wind that blew.
Raw were the sailors, and the depths were new:
Trees, rudely hollow’d, did the waves sustain;
E’re ships in triumph plough’d the watry plain.
Then land-marks limited to each his right:
For all before was common as the light.
Nor was the ground alone requir’d to bear
Her annual income to the crooked share,
But greedy mortals, rummaging her store,
Digg’d from her entrails first the precious oar;
Which next to Hell, the prudent Gods had laid;
And that alluring ill, to sight display’d.
Thus cursed steel, and more accursed gold,
Gave mischief birth, and made that mischief bold:
And double death did wretched Man invade,
By steel assaulted, and by gold betray’d,
Now (brandish’d weapons glittering in their hands)
Mankind is broken loose from moral bands;
No rights of hospitality remain:
The guest, by him who harbour’d him, is slain,
The son-in-law pursues the father’s life;
The wife her husband murders, he the wife.
The step-dame poyson for the son prepares;
The son inquires into his father’s years.
Faith flies, and piety in exile mourns;
And justice, here opprest, to Heav’n returns.